Spring Festival, Beijing, China

I realize to blog is to be brief, but how do you summarize the first few days of a journey to the biggest celebration in the world in a country that has dynasties of information to learn about?

The Chinese New Year also known as the Lunar New Year is the biggest celebration of the year and I think in the world.  Don’t quote me on that one just yet. There are 320 million travelers in China this month and I am one of them excited to celebrate the year of the auspicious water dragon.

I remember as a child looking at the placemat of a Chinese restaurant, I’m a horse; I like horses, and that’s all I knew. I’m actually a snake but that’s because of when the lunar New Year was that year but neither here or there, the zodiac to be is the magnificent dragon.  Think about some things you associate with China and I’m sure the the dragon is one of them.  Now think about it being the year of the dragon and WOW that just amplifies the celebration!  The celebration that I came to experience is one through the eyes of my cameras.

Just as most things in my life; the plane rides alone are a story! Though entertaining, I do want to step away from the computer and enjoy day 3…

I wish I had more to say about the Forbidden City other than I was there, looked in the windows of what used to be, froze and took some photos, but I don’t. I found the walk to the Palace more interesting and definitely the events that followed.

Apparently there are many exits to the parks and places that I am visiting. After exiting on to a street that I had not seen yet I was convinced that all I had to do was walk around the Palace and I’d find my street. HA that’s funny, it’s called the Forbidden CITY for a reason, and I swear I could have frozen to a Popsicle by the time I found my way around that mote!

I think after last year, I can consider myself a well-traveled person with common sense.  I know to pack emergency items in case of lost luggage, and I did, only my emergency kit consists of photo gear. In my mind, everything else can be purchased; cameras, computers, external hard drives and memory cannot! Though I was wearing my cameras, I couldn’t help but daydream about the warm items that I should be wearing that waited for me in my luggage that would hopefully arrive that evening.  I wasn’t going to complain about not having my luggage as I barely made the plane. With 10 minutes to sprint with all my gear through almost 90 gates hearing last call for P something and JRIFIS for Beijing over the intercom, I was just glad I made it to China!

Now in China, what to do? Where do you find the celebrations? You don’t. You let them find you! Everything in my travels has brought me to this. You can make things happen or you can stop, look and listen and they will come to you! And they always do!

Exiting the wrong gate of the Forbidden City lead me to a town of red decorations, which lead me to my adventure. Ha, you can’t wonder everywhere it seems. I’m not sure of what was being yelled at me, but I do know that I quickly left the gated area that enticed me with its fancy decorations.

I still don’t know the name of the first park that I went to but I remember Bruce who wrote in Chinese 2 other locations for me to visit and I remember the overwhelming feeling of hope and joy that filled the air. People performed traditional dances of different dynasties, children played with these fun clicking pinwheels of dancing colors, there was calligraphy and art being auctioned, a tent of Buddha drawings and the most joyous of activities.

People of all ages played on the ice like it was a warm day at the fair.  Bumper boats, bicycles and sleds with Disney characters that you can ski on all on ice. ICE! Parents’ pushing kids on sleds, teenagers skiing into one another and couples biking on ice. The air was filled with everything that the New Year brings. Not the hangovers and resolutions we are accustom to, the Chinese New Year is that of life and hope. Each year is different as each zodiac brings a separate set of characteristics. The spring festival is spent celebrating with loved ones and lasts a month if you count the 2 weeks spent preparing for it.  It’s a family celebration. Picture a giant fair, only clean and never ending filled with happy people and you still probably couldn’t imagine what this is, I couldn’t not if I hadn’t seen it!

The day is slipping away from me and I still have so much to share.

Cabs, HA that is a joke. I spent 20 minutes of people cutting in front of me, cabs not stopping or just pretending they didn’t understand what I was saying as I know I speak in perfect Mandarin. LOL! The only ride offered was by an unmarked car, so I walked, I wasn’t sure where to, but I figured if I followed the mote, I’d find something that looked familiar…

Crossing the street, that’s entertainment all in itself. Take your lucky cricket, close your eyes and cross blindly because if you flinch you will get hit. Pedestrians do not have the right of way, not even when they have a walking sign!

I am so thankful for my wonderful door guys! All 3 of them are fabulous!  One wrote in Chinese, so sweet that I didn’t have the heart to tell him I didn’t know what it said, how to get to the subway. He was trying to save me money.  He did, but more importantly he saved me the frustration of trying to find a cab. I have to say that the Beijing subway is the easiest of the 5 countries subways I’ve been on. They have lights that let you know what stop you’re at; it’s brilliant! I traveled all of day 2 by subway. Funny, I’m always timid the first time I try it and after I do I can’t imagine traveling without it.  I felt that way in Thailand, France and England too.

I love how Asia has fitness parks!  Every city should have these! Even in freezing temperatures people come together outdoors for community and exercise! Weather you enjoy Martial arts, traditional dance, tai chi or fitness equipment that if you looked at too quickly you might think was a jungle gym, there is something for everyone!

Cami, if you’re reading this. Remember how with my cameras we were able to get on stage at the anniversary of the red shirts/yellow shirts revolt. Well, my cameras must be my magic. Among thousands of people at Ditan Park I couldn’t push my way to the front of the stage, and you know I tried! I photographed the people around me as that’s always what’s interesting to me, but realizing that I’m here for a purpose and that’s to document all aspects of this wonderful celebration I figured I needed to capture what was on stage. About six “rows” of people in was as far as I could push until I turned around, politely pushing my way back out and to the back of the stage. Showed them my cameras and a smile and some gentleman yelled at the guard and kindly waived me in. YES!!! I LOVE MY JOB!!!!

I think I said that repeatedly yesterday, I love my job, at least a dozen times I smiled at all the amazing things I’ve experienced through my lens through the years and even in this one day.

I can’t write it all, but please enjoy some photos from my first 2 days.

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