Eye of the Chicken
A journal of Harbin, China

This month in pictures
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Who knows where the time goes? This month has passed in a blur . . . Sorry for the radio silence; I've gotten lots of positive comments about this blog so you'd think I'd be more consistent about writing it. But a strange feeling is coming over me. As the time for going home gets closer and closer, it's almost like I hope that being immobilized will prevent that eventuality from happening. If I don't write, time won't pass.

I pretty much alternate between wanting to leave immediately and wanting to stay longer. Interesting and fun things are going on at home; my husband, the Real Estate Magnet (spelling deliberate) has bought another house, this one in East Lansing. I really want to be home to play with it Right Now, because now it's summer, and although it'll be there to entertain me (us) when I get home, that'll be in the fall, not nearly as much fun. I miss, miss, miss North American summer. Winter here was wonderful but I didn't get nearly enough of it, and spring and summer have just made me miss my home. As my friend Janice Freeman pointed out a while back, it's not like there's nothing to do outside here in the summer - but there really isn't much chance to do the things I like to do: To whit, go on long bike rides, or canoeing or camping, or (best of all) swim laps at an outdoor pool and then sit poolside reading trashy novels.

So on the surface, I'm conscious that at this point, I'm just kinda waiting to go home. But under the surface, I'm occasionally noticing how accustomed I have begun to life in this city, this place. I know there are things I'll miss, and I have this feeling that there are even more things I'll miss that I don't know about yet. Example: The swimming pool may be indoors, but it's a scant block away from me.

And I've gotten completely used to taking buses everywhere, and having about 547586799780789 fresh fruit markets within a two-block radius of my apartment. And there's always something to do or see here . . .

Here's a short pictorial synopsis of what I've been doing and seeing for the past month.

For one thing, at the beginning of June, everything started to green up. The bushes out in front of the dorm flowered, and it appears they are rosebushes of some sort.



The topiary near the second campus is getting more defined.




Scary-looking, huh? When you read those sensationalized headlines that tell you that China is going to grind us in the dust, come back and look at these pictures . . .

At the beginning of June, there was the Dragon Boat Festival. The boat part is a bigger deal in southern China than it is here, but it was still pretty cool. The festivities started on Sunday night; the idea is, it's a celebration of summer. At night people gathered along the Songhua River (many intending to stay up all night), because at sunrise, you're supposed to run barefoot through the grass. These days - and I am not making this up - sunrise comes at about 4:30 am, so I knew I would never make that. I got a hotel room down by the river, though, because there were boat races at 7:00 am the next day. Lara came down with me to help me check into the hotel, and we wandered the riverbank, and discovered a REALLY huge party.



People were selling stuff everywhere.



The best part, though, was the lanterns. At about 11:30, people started lighting lanterns and letting them rise over the river.


After watching a while, Lara and I decided we had to do that, too. The deal is, the lantern is made out of some flimsy paper-like fabric, and there's a wire circle at the bottom, strung with two string "crosshairs." You put a lump of wax in the crosshairs, then light the wax, and the whole thing floats upward like a hot-air balloon (which is more or less what it is).



I burned mine, but hers made a successful ascent.

At one point, we counted 75 lanterns in the air. The effect was just magical:


It feels like watching hope rise, silent and sure . . .

And then, promptly at 1:30, the police announced that there would be no more lanterns released. And there weren't. We saw a few people try to light them (the scofflaws!) but the candles were summarily snuffed by the cops. It was very orderly, actually. The lantern-bearers didn't seem surprised and the cops didn't seem angry. Just a little end-of-festival ritual, I guess . . .

The boat races were a wash for me, though. The weekend turned out to be very expensive, because while we were wandering the crowds, my phone got stolen . . . so I had no alarm by which to wake up the next day. Since I went to bed at about 2:30, there wasn't much chance of making a 7 am boat race. My neighbors were exceedlingly noisy at about 7:30, so I roused myself and walked down to the river, but by then everything was over - the trash cleared, the people nearly gone. When I saw all the uniformed cops march in formation and get into their police bus and head off, I knew the event was done.

I'm going to post this now, and then do another entry with the rest of the month in pictures, so y'all aren't eternally frustrated waiting for this page to load. Hold on . . .

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