Maya S. is currently a junior at SYA China. She comes to SYA from Choate Rosemary Hall (CT) and is a blogger for our Campus Reporter program. View more of Maya's work throughout her year abroad here.
Happy Chinese New Year!
It's the year of the Rooster! In China, the rooster is a sign of fidelity and punctuality, hence their significance as alarm clocks. At the end of January, I got to celebrate the New Year by eating plenty of dumplings, visiting local temple fairs, and watching CCTV's annual Spring Festival Gala. Though, the most exciting part of the New Year was definitely the fireworks.
I used to live in Chicago and would watch fireworks on the 4th of July but, I've realized that those were merely a murmur compared to the ones that exploded throughout Beijing. As soon as the clock struck midnight, the entire sky suddenly burst with bright, sparkling lights – in front of my window, in the far distance, in other buildings' reflections, and on the TV screen. From where I was standing, I counted 30 different locations where fireworks were being set off.
I learned that according to Chinese tradition, making a lot of noise during the New Year will drive away evil spirits. Hours later, when the noise finally died down, I certainly felt that Beijing would be free of any evil for a very long time.
Entering Tea Territory
After the New Year celebrations ended, everyone from SYA China headed to Yunnan. While there, the sky had been perfectly clear, and the sun was bright enough that I had to reapply sunscreen many times. After living in Beijing's frigid winter for so many months, I had forgotten how wonderful sunshine feels.
My favorite part of the Yunnan trip was living in rural villages. As an American high school student, accustomed to living in a fast-paced environment, I was very unfamiliar with the relaxed, simple culture of the villagers in Yunnan. This peaceful way of living, I soon learned, revolved mainly around tea. Essentially, growing tea is the villagers' occupation their entire lives. Every day, they tend to their thousands of tea shrubs, drink tea at every meal, and then sell their tea to larger markets in the city. The home I stayed in even had a nicely detailed, hand-embroidered portrait of a tea plant hung in the center of their wall.
The only way I can describe how people drink tea in China is "perpetually" because it never seems to end. No matter how much tea I drink, I am always served one more cup, thinking it's going to be the last one. I'm not complaining, though, the tea here is light, flavorful, and soothing. It was a pleasant surprise when my village host family gave me a bag of hand-picked tea leaves to take home with me.