Tuesday, May 1, 2007

May Day

Happy May Day! Or, as it is here in China, happy International Labor Day. (Am I right in thinking that we used to make a bigger deal about May Day in the U.S.? Didn’t we dance around the May pole or something? Did we give up May Day so that people wouldn’t think we were communists, sympathizing with the workers?! Or did we come to associate it with disaster -- Mayday! Mayday!) This is the start of “Golden Week,” as this holiday is called. The only thing that seemed to mark it as a holiday for us was that everything was VERY crowded, and the girls didn’t go to school. But to try to make it festive, we did go to the zoo in Zhongshan Park. (The faux dino bones stand in front of the zoo).

Walking through the park to the zoo was an adventure – it was quite crowded, and we ran into two of Maya’s classmates along the way. As we were walking, I distinctly heard a child’s voice yelling, “Maya!” And when Maya saw her classmate, she ran up and gave her a big hug. And then I was amazed that it happened AGAIN! Obviously, the park is the place to go on May Day.

The park has lots of little kiosks selling bubbles, so we passed lots of groups making bubbles. At each group Zoe and Maya had to chase after the bubbles to try to catch them or pop them – always great fun. Everyone was very nice about it, with grownups blowing more and more bubbles just so the girls could keep playing!
The zoo was small, and your typical Chinese zoo. That means no attempt at natural habitats, very small enclosures, and animals not typically found in zoos in the U.S. We saw a pig and a pony, and then there was this exotic animal:

The zoo did have a tiger and a black leopard, a pygmy hippo, and two red pandas [Note to self: when taking pictures of animals behind chain link fence, do not use auto setting. The camera focuses on the fencing, which comes through nice and clear, leaving the animals behind the fence in a blurry fog!]. The most interesting animals were the peacocks. We couldn’t get very close, though, because everyone else found them interesting, too. I always find Chinese zoos depressing, but the girls had a great time.

After the zoo, we stopped for a ride on the carousel, and then watched some performers on roller blades dance to disco music! The girls have been working on copying their moves ever since.
We then left the park and hopped the bus to Wal-Mart – big mistake! Wal-Mart is right next to the train station, and lots of people travel during Golden Week, so the place was packed! We headed straight for the food court in the mall next to Wal-Mart, where I learned a valuable lesson: Look for a table BEFORE buying a huge bowl of noodle soup. It is impossible to move fast enough to snare a table ahead of the other vultures waiting for someone to finish and leave while holding a steaming bowl of noodle soup precariously balanced on a tray! We eventually found a place to perch on the outdoor balcony – a small set of stairs. Lots of people stared as we sat there on the floor, making me empathize with the zoo animals, but at least we all got fed!

On the bus home, the three of us were sitting in the 3-across seats in the front. As the bus got crowded, I put Maya on my lap, as usual, to make room for someone else to sit. Two people tried to sit in that one available seat, and the loser plucked Zoe out of her seat, and then sat down with Zoe on her lap! Zoe was pretty tickled, and proceeded to ignore Maya and me seated next to her. I think it played into her “like a real Chinese girl” fantasy to be seated on the lap of a Chinese woman!

This evening, we checked out the restaurant that shares our apartment building’s courtyard. Although it is the closest restaurant to us, we haven’t been before (mostly because Tian, our waiban, dismissed it as a touristy place). It was quite good! We had abalone steamed in tea, Chinese broccoli, salted chicken served with the head (of course!), and rice. They had a menu with English translations, and there were a number of dishes I’d like to try – and a number of dishes I hope to avoid, like the one called “Local Earthworm Dish!” Here's Zoe with her new friend, Chicken Head! (This did not stop either girl from chowing down and gnawing chicken bones clean!)

Our table was near a small stage, so the girls had to perform. Mrs. Dean, you’ll be glad to know they are both still practicing their ballet, though we seem to dance with more enthusiasm than grace! (But they definitely put the roller-blade dancers to shame!).

We're looking forward to seeing what Day Two of Golden Week has to bring!


mimifrancoise said...

I was glad you wrote an entry before I left for camp. It seems that nothing fazes the girls. I know many who would not eat a bite if the head of fish or fowl showed up on their plate. Thanks for the photos too.

Anonymous said...

I too remember making May Day baskets with flowers for the neighbors when I was in grade school. I don't think that I am much younger than you are! Perhaps between the communist connotations and the rural or provincialism, May Day was deemed too "un-hip?"

H. Whitaker

Zartman said...

Wal*Mart on May Day? How ironic?!

Sorry- you know I have to give you a hard time every now and then.

malinda said...

LOL! In defense of this Wal-Mart trip, I'll offer the excuse that we needed to buy batteries. Remember that I just bought batteries for my camera on Sunday? Well, they gave out already. There is so much counterfeiting in China, including counterfeit batteries, that buying some things at smaller shops offers little guarantee that they will last. At least Wal-Mart has a bit better quality control over name brands.

Anonymous said...

I can remember in elementary we
had a May pole with long streamers
and did a dance to wrap them around it. What did happen to having fun on May day in the USA?
Boy, you brought back some memories
from my childhood. A little than you.

Anonymous said...

My advice, stick to the chicken heads! While in Huebui in 2003, we were "entertained" by some government and orphanage officials (often times one in the same!)On our last day there, they took us to a very upscale restaurant where we were served all kinds of exotic foods meant to impress us. It must have cost a fortune which REALLY annoyed my daughter (she has a non profit and works with the orphanages). Anyway, the ONLY thing I truly ate looked like noodles and with each one I took I kept trying to convince myself they WERE noodles, but they were definately worms of some kind, no mistaking the segmented bodies! VERY NASTY! We couldn't even get bottled water. Try washing worms down with a warm corn milk of some kind! Watching those men consume piles of sardines, heads and all, was almost more than I could stand. We loved the food in China, but obviously don't have the tastebuds for upscale Chinese cuisine!
Judy/KS (Yahoo friend of your mom's)