Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Er Ling Ling Jiu.

Despite solar calendar observers' propensities to spend New Year's Eve in a haze of sour mix, sound-makers, and sadness, I spent my the last and first hours of 2008 and 2009, respectively, in a nongjiayuan (translation: "peasant family farmyard") on the edge of the JianKou section of the Great Wall.

I practically invited myself along with some friends for the voyage--a feat of bravery I have never attempted before, and yet it is somehow more acceptable for expats to do this, according to Cyndi.

We arrived at the Chinese version of a bed-and-breakfast (complete with three delicious meals cooked by the owners of the nongjia) at around 9PM, gazed at the uncanny masses of stars in the sky, lit fireworks, drank some Veuve Cliquot (most of my fellow NYE-ers are employed by embassies, multinational corporations, or are otherwise independently wealthy), and enjoyed the solitude of the village.

After a restless slumber on a kang bed (a stone slab heated by ever-dying coal embers underneath), we set off on a four-hour hike along a more "wild" part of the Great Wall. While most sections of the Wall have been restored with new, even stones and even handrails in some parts, JianKou has been left to nature's devices. Loose stones abound; weeds and trees have wormed their way into the cracks, making hiking somewhat treacherous. At one point, we had to climb a 10m-high vertical section which had probably collapsed many years ago.

I am so thankful for this crisp, clarifying beginning to my 2009. 2008 was nothing short of amazing in all aspects; I worry that I have spent all of my karmic collateral on one year and that the Year of the Ox will be filled with death, destruction, and bad haircuts. Nevertheless, I will approach it with the doe-eyed hopefulness I approached 2008.

Xīn nián kuài lè, everyone.

Also: http://www.reuters.com/article/oddlyEnoughNews/idUSTRE4BO0X420081225?feedType=RSS&feedName=oddlyEnoughNews&rpc=69&sp=true

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