It’s a War Zone! It’s a Zombie Apocalypse! Oh… Yeah… It’s Chinese New Year.

I’m in the midst of writing a blog update about my first night in Shanghai, but I felt the urge to post this update because tonight was the Chinese New Year. The Wikipedia page does a really good job of explaining it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_New_Year, but for those without the patience for that, I’ll just say that this is the most important holiday in China, and the actual festival goes on for a couple weeks. In short, this is a big freaking deal. The past few days leading up to the festival have been interesting because most businesses have been closed – the few that are open are fast food restaurants like McDonalds and KFC or establishments that cater to ex-pats, with the exception of an occasional small market. This has made finding food difficult, but the upside is that the streets have been nearly void of cars, bikes, mopeds, and pedestrians. I felt as though I had strolled into a zombie apocalypse film as I walked through the streets to find lunch today; where there are usually thousands of unnecessarily loud people scurrying about, perpetual horns honking, and numerous mopeds trying to run me over on the sidewalk, there were few traces of life other than a pair of children playing badminton in the eerily empty streets. This quiet and piece was welcomed for I knew that within a matter of days it would all be replaced with the noise and air pollution of eight million people and their respective modes of transportation. While I enjoyed the lunchtime walk, my silence was quickly stolen by the sounds of fireworks in the distance. By 2:00pm, the sounds of firecrackers could be heard as a somewhat constant white noise. By 4:00pm, it sounded as though I were holed up in a bunker in the middle of a war zone. This would go on for the next 9 hours until things started to die down around 1:00am. There are still several fireworks going off outside as I type this (it’s 3:00am now), but it has calmed down enough that I should be able to sleep with earplugs in. What was most impressive about all of this, however, was the view from the top of my apartment building as the clock struck midnight. I assumed that the fireworks display would be rather exciting, but I don’t think I could have prepared myself for how fantastic it would be to see thousands of fireworks simultaneously fired amongst skyscrapers in the center of a huge city. I didn't have a camera to record the scene, but the picture posted above is one I found online, and it’s from part of the city I’m in so you’ll have an idea of how intense it was. I also found video footage that somebody took of the fireworks display here in Nanjing in 2009: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOswG9QAN6o From the looks of their footage, it seems that they’re right in the same part of town as me, so this footage is actually pretty close to what I saw tonight. Skip ahead to about 3:00 in the video to get an idea of what kind of experience I had. Also, take note of the fireworks exploding right next to the cameraperson – since I was on the roof of a ten story building, this was happening to me as well because people were lighting off fireworks from the ground next to the apartment building. The whole experience was somewhat surreal, and I realize it’s very difficult to explain it in a way that makes it real for others, but suffice it to say, it was absolutely fantastic. I’ll be posting another blog soon that details the reason I didn’t have a camera to document the fireworks this evening, so keep checking back and I’ll keep posting updates. Xīn Nián Kuài Lè!