Thursday, February 19, 2015

What Year Is It, REALLY?????

 20 February 2015

I tried to find what number year it is in the Chinese year system, but the years aren't numbered.  The name of the year is definitely the Year of the Goat (or Ram, or Sheep) plus the name of a celestial body, though I can't seem to find that info right now.  Anyway, so it isn't something like the Jewish year which makes this 5775.  It might be the Jupiter Goat, or the Big Dipper Goat.  I'll keep trying to find this info.

We're in a small building that has several stores and a bakery at the street level, a storage room between the ground floor and the upper storeys, and four apartments, one on each floor.  We're on the top floor, with access to a terrace on the roof. 

The people in the first apartment have this trash can outside their door - we came home one evening to find them burning paper, in the can, upstairs in the stairwell, on their landing.  With the fire extinguisher nearby.  The lady apologized, we told her it was okay, rushed around the flaming can, and hurried up the stairs which were quickly filling with smoke and bits of ash.  Just what one needs, right?

Then there was the day the apartment one level down from us had incense going in all three of their little shrine things outside their door.

It's an experience you don't get in a boring old hotel, that's for sure!!!

The New Year's Day parade was schedule for 8 PM over in Kowloon, sort of near the ferry terminal and where the cruise ships dock.  We figured it made sense to take the ferry in the late afternoon, and walk around a while just enjoying the people and the crowds before getting a bite of dinner and then watching the parade.  We had a little brochure from a tourist center, complete with a map of the parade route, so we were fairly confident we could do this, no problem.

We enjoyed the people, many of the young children dressed in traditional Chinese clothing of silk brocade (or maybe polyester brocade) - boys almost always in blue or red, and girls nearly always in pink or red.  Red is the color of the young in much of this part of Asia, not necessarily gender related.  The little boy wasn't happy with his outfit, he really hated the hat, and he wasn't happy with his dad encouraging him to pose for the crazy tourist lady.  I don't know if he was reluctant about the photo, or just irritated with the whole thing.  But I love the way the photo turned out, it just reflects the whole situation of his father putting the hat on, the kid grabbing it off his head, over and over.  Poor kid!

The little girls were happy to pose, and their mothers thanked me for taking their photo, LOL!  And the little girls all said "Happy New Year!" in unison.  

So we had a great time with the crowds - it was really packed around the shore area of Kowloon, where people were gathering for the viewing stands (tickets were pricey, but sold out), or to watch the troupes get set up for the parade.  I caught the dragon as the group ran over to get organized!

So the parade route was to start near the clock tower at the Kowloon coast, head north on Canton Street, turn east on Haiphong Street, and then head south on Nathan Road, the big shopping street.  We had walked around Nathan Road with our friends last week, so we kind of knew where to go.  We walked, looked, enjoyed, and watched the sun go down.  Had a quick light meal at a coffee shop, and settled down to watch the parade on Nathan, sitting on a retaining wall right by the road.  Couldn't quite find Haiphong street, but the road here was closed so we figured this was part of the parade route.  We waited.  And waited.  And more waiting.  

The parade was due to start at 8.  About 9:15, we heard music, but nothing came by.  I finally started looking up and down the street, and realized that we could see float crossing Nathan several blocks downhill!  So we hurried down to the intersection, and jammed ourselves into the crowd, eventually working our way to maybe three people away from the barriers at the intersection.  Not the best view, but we could see bit of the parade.  

We got there just in time for the lion and dragon dancing, and caught a few of them.  Since this was toward the end of the parade route, they weren't really dancing, especially the back half of the lions.  It must be difficult to do an entire parade route bent over being the back end of a lion or dragon!

Then a giant balloon sheep came around the corner, followed by girls and young women dressed in blue, with sheep headdresses.  The floating sheep was great, but the sheep headdresses were just too funny!

There were a few bands, including one from Moscow.  I preferred the local band with glow sticks around the sax and trumpet mouths, and LEDs lighting up the Sousaphones!  (Richard and I sang along with a few of the melodies, like "You're Just Too Good To Be True."  We got some strange looks from the other parade goers, since we were the only ones singing, but we had fun.)

A few dance troupes in silver and black, or all gold glitter, and then the mocko jumbie ballet ladies!  Okay, stilt dancers - but in the Caribbean, stilt dancers are called mocko jumbies, so that's what they are to us, after 20+ years there.  There were maybe eight or ten women in floaty chiffon dresses, on maybe three meter stilts (maybe 9-10 ft tall), towering above the crowds and they gracefully pirouetted and tiptoed down the street.  They had ballet shoe designs on the ends of the stilts, so it really looked as if they were en pointe.  With the arm movements and the twirling and the floating dresses in rainbow colors, it really did look like they were a ballet troupe hovering over the road!

Our second favorite group came next, a few "Queen of the Bands" from St. Lucia, in the Caribbean!  The Queen and King of the Bands are performers in troupes who wear the most elaborate costumes, often with wings and tails and cantilevered architectural projections that are covered in feathers and glitter and beads.  These costumes are so heavy that the wearer is actually in a small cage with wheels, and the costume is attached to the cage, so it rolls along as the wearer dances inside.  And of course this makes the wings and tails and layers shimmy and shake with the dancing.  The three ladies were gorgeous, like giant glittering butterflies dancing down the street!  We cheered for them, our neighboring Caribbean Islanders!  (And Mr Dour Policeman kept getting into all of my photos!)

There was also a great African dance and drumming troupe, with a few African men and mostly Hong Kong residents in African cloth (mostly wax prints from either West or East Africa) - and strangely, a bunch of women in fake grass skirts, a few dancing in a more African style but most doing more of a Pacific Islands hula type of thing.  They were pretty funny, but the drumming was great and resonated down the street as they continued along the route.

Then the final float turned the corner, sort of a stack of gift boxes with a few rams and ewes in all kinds of cheerful bright colors, smiling at us.  The little kids all around started shouting "Baaaaah baaaah baaah" noises every time there were sheep floats, and so they started up their chorus again.  It was hilarious, between the children and the blue or orange or fuschia or emerald green sheep, some with leering gazes and some with long curly eyelashes.  We were surrounded by anthropomorphized sheep!

About this time Richard pointed out that we were on Humphrey Street.  This was where the parade crossed from Canton to Nathan.  On Humphrey Street, not Haiphong Street.  Unless Humphrey is English for Haiphong.  But we have no way of knowing, as is often the case.

We walked with the crowd (more like we were pushed down the street along with the crowd), and finally made our way to the ferry.  Only to learn that the ferry to Wan Chai stopped running about 8 minutes ago.  So we took the ferry to Central, and figured out how to get to the train, took the subway to our neighborhood stop, and slowly walked back home, exhausted.  We walked over seven miles, and still had the five floors to walk up to the apartment.

Other than waiting for the parade in the wrong location, and not having a great view, we had a great time!  It was bright and colorful and a little crazy, the way parades always are!  We were our usual New-Yorkish selves, discussing the floats and troupes, cheering or applauding the ones we liked, and singing along with music even though no one else was.  And yes, it was jam-packed with people, but we both had our money safely under our coats, and we're both quite willing to push back if people push around us.  (Hey, we're from New York!  We don't take being messed with.)

We may just name this the Year Phebe And Richard Can't Find the Parade!

Today we're resting a bit, then heading out for the fireworks tonight!  And there are three barges with fireworks in the harbor, so we're assuming we'll have better views!

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