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Zhu Qin Zhe
Having stayed in China for over six months, I am finally going back to Stockholm in a week’s time. I heard that it is still snowing up there, whilst spring has already arrived down in South China. It keeps raining, all the time, and I can hardly get my shoes dried and clothes exposed to the sun.
People ask me if I miss Sweden after being away from the tranquil land for so long. I can’t describe the feeling, for I have homes in both countries, and there is no such a place called “being away from home” as they all say. The only difference is that I have different social networks, and we talk about different matters.
In China I go out often, whilst in Sweden I mostly stay indoors. For me, Sweden is quiet and suit for writing – my job, and China is more like a place where I am able to grab the projects for further cooperation. I am happy in both places, but I would miss either one, whenever I am faraway from her for some time.
Honestly speaking, however, I do feel a bit worried about not being able to concentrate as I am in China, yet I also feel worried about not being able to see anyone around up there in Sweden. Therefore, I will have to do the exchange every now and then, so as not to forget about my schedule, my goal and my own dreams.
Anyway, I do wish that I could return to China sometime soon. I look forward to having all of the projects I am trying to connect right now worked.
Just like there is always a concert held at Skansen in Stockholm at the Christmas' Eve each year, there is or, should I say, are always a gala or even galas broadcast on China Central Television and other Chinese satellite channels in the week of the Chinese New Year's Eve, or even the week that follows the Eve. On the exact night of Chinese New Year's Eve, it has been, for the past thirty years or so, CCTV gala that is watched across the whole China. It has more or less become a tradition for most of the Chinese families, just like the tradition of the Kalla Anka in Sweden - The family members gather around the table and eat up a lot of food. When the clock strikes 20 sharp the gala starts, and the family members would move themselves away from the table seats and sit down in front of TV and watch the program altogether. Unlike Kalla Ankan, the program lasts for 4.5 hours and consists of lots of singing, dancing, crosstalks and short theater plays. According to the statistics, the CCTV New Year gala is definitely the most watched program throughout the whole country.
Other satellite channels would also fix something like a New Year gala, but they, as I wrote in the last paragraphy, are never aired on the same day as the CCTV gala. They would be broadcast probably a couple of days earlier, a week earlier, a day after, or a week after the New Year's Eve. In the media aspect, it can be interpreted that the satellite channels do not want to collide with the most watched program, because it has already been a fixed thing that the audience will watch the CCTV gala anyway, and the side channels would not attract much audience.
I remember that when I was a little girl, I would join with my family and watch the whole program without getting tired at all. However, the older I become, the less interest I have in watching the program until the end. Same with many of my Chinese friends and relatives. It could be that the program is getting less and less interesting in their eyes, and I understand that even if you miss the first-time broadcasting, you can still watch the replay the next day, on the same channel, or on the Internet.
But don't think that Chinese people would stop gathering up on the New Year's Eve. It is still their tradition, but probably they celebrate it in a different way, talking instead of watching, for example.
The fifteenth day after the New Year's day is the traditional Lantern Festival in every place in China. The ways to celebrate this day does not vary regionally. Or to be more exact, almost everyone in the country sticks to the idea that a bowl of sweet glutinous riceballs should be eaten on this particular day of the New Year.
In a usual case, I would stay with my family in Longyan until the Lantern Festival finishes, at least that was what I had done during the past three years when I started to go back home for the Chinese New Year instead of just staying here in Sweden. And when the time comes, everyone in the family would gather up for an equally big feast as what we eat fifteen days earlier on the New Year's Eve- chicken, fish, ducks, pork, beef etc- nothing would be missing. People set as much firecrackers as possible on this day, too, since it is the last day of the New Year holiday, and there would be no more firecracker-sellers appearing on the street from next morning on. Therefore, according to my memories, Lantern Festival is a very important day for Chinese people to celebrate with their families, and they would regard the day as much as they do to other reunion-holidays.
However, this year, I spent the Lantern Festival in Beijing instead. It surprised me a great deal that Beijing people hardly think tat that this day is of any importance. Many Beijing local families would spend the day as any other ordinary day - no special dishes, no gatherings, no visitings, oh maybe some firecrackers but they are not as much as in my hometown. I asked my Beijing-born friend why Beijingers do not seem to be so interested in celebrating Lantern Festival, he replies to me: " Beijing people have begun to think very little of such traditional holidays nowadays."
It is the Year of Goat. The Chinese New Year arrived on the 18th of February. According to the tradition, family gather together for a huge dinner, where chicken, fish, seafood, ducks, pork and beef are all served. Since it is the Year of Goat according to the Chinese horoscope, most Chinese families would serve lamb meat to bring auspiciousness. We did not, however, make any lamb dishes only because none of us likes lamb meat so much. So we sticked to the usual conventional food dishes. We did what most Chinese families from Longyan do for the New Year - we set firecrackers on the New Year's Eve, at 12 o'clock, in the morning of the first day, nothing very special until yesterday, the 3rd of the New Year week, we experienced something different. We went to visit a friend and her family who are the very authetic Hakka folk. The Hakka folk have quite a different New Year tradition than we from Longyan Folk. First of all, the visitors ought to bring a variety of presents to the people they are paying a visit to, and the presents should be of folk characters - meaning that they consist of home-made New Year food, fruits and most importantly - a set of firecrackers. The firecrackers should be set at the door of the host's home so as to create a loud noise. The louder the noise is, the more welcomed the guests are, the happier the hosts are, and the prouder the hosts are too. The more firecracker crumbles are accumulated in front of the door, the more it means that host guests have got in hospitality. So it is noisy all over the town, making it impossible to talk or walk around in peace and completely safety.
According to the Hakka customs, the hosts ought to present the guests at least 5 dishes more than the numbers of the guests. We had 9 people in the visit, therefore the hosts ought to serve at least 14 dishes, which was completely realized when the host cooked us more than 20, and we became completely stuffed in stomach in the end.
Going back to my hometown in Longyan for the Chinese New Year has been a tradition for me since three years ago. I returned to Beijing on 26th of January and stayed in Beijing until February 6th. Beijing is not a very pleasant city to live in, to be honest. Misty, chilly, windy and crowded are four very exact adjectives used to describe the current city of Beijing. I got food poisoning, and suffered from dried air and hoarse throat after just a couple of days staying there. It is colder than Stockholm, and more expensive in many things as well. But Beijing does make me feel nostalgia at some point, given that I am after all part of home.
On February 6th I flew home to Fujian. It is cold down in Longyan even, and in the house without radiators attached to the wall I suffer from unbearable coldness. It is the year of goat and everything around is decorated with the images of different types of sheep, lambs, goats and rams etc. Funny, it is not a tradition that people take lamb as the main course at the New Year dinner. Fish, chicken, and ducks are still the dominant meat dishes on the food table.
Two Chinese friends of mine came to Sweden for a ten-day visiting trip. They asked me to be the guide since they were not very sure about their abilities of the English languages. I accepted their request and have been helping them during their whole time here in the Stockholm. Even though we are in an ok friendship, still I find it disappointingly boring to be their guide who has to cater to their interest. Yes, what makes me so tired of hanging out with them is that they, in common with many Chinese tourists who come to European countries, focus only upon the shopping of souvenirs, luxurious goods, and photographing of the architectures or objects that could be the most representative symbols of Sweden, intending to show to their friends on the social network websites that they have been to this country for at least one time.
When it comes to coffee and food, they would only choose Starbucks (though I recommend Expresso House since it is like a Swedish Starbucks) and Burger King or Chinese restaurants that serve terrible Chinese food, though I kept saying that they ought to try Swedish restaurants and Swedish food, which, according to them, is too creamy and exhausting in the taste of their mouth. When they finished the shopping they seem to be satisfied, and would not want to explore anything more than that.
Personally, I think Sweden is very beautiful for its winter snow and the classical European cultures and, most importantly, the nature. I think that tourists, especially Chinese people who are living in a polluted environment,should get themselves to taste the fresh air and nature and explore more of the original and essential cultures of the land, rather than regard it as a shopping paradise. It would bring away a lot of fun, A LOT,to be honest.
"Sweden is beautiful," admitted my friends, " but it is not maganificent enough for me to wow, so I chose to shop instead. It is even more practical."
"What kind of scenery can be wowed?" I asked curiously, though I already guessed about the answer.
"Like those very maganificent, significent and mass-scaled beauty of nature, like big canyons or something in the U.S.A", they replied.
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