Tag Archives: dancing

A Tour of Georgetown and Chinese New Year Celebrations

It’s been a busy weekend.  I’m really tired.  Simon is still asleep at 10:30am, so I’m guessing he is too.  The students, who are still adjusting to the time change, must be even more so.

The USM buddies planned an outing on Saturday to show off some of the neat sites of Penang.  Our family accompanied them as the students walked around the Botanic Gardens.  Simon was in a really great mood and managed to avoid the cactus garden this time, so hey–we’re getting better at this!

 

Friends at the Botanic Garden.

 

Peekaboo.

From there, we went to the Clan Jetties.  These jetties have a really interesting history.  In the late 19th century, many Chinese immigrants were arriving from Fujian Province, seeking work and an escape from the poor living conditions in their homeland.  (Note: Fujian Province is the northern neighbor of Guangdong Province, where we were living.) The men who arrived organized themselves by their originating villages and broad family groups.  The men labored as dock workers and, hoping to send as much money home as possible, they were looking for cheap real estate.  Rather than living on land, they expanded the piers and built small homes and shanties on stilts above the water.  Eventually, the men had enough money to send for their families and the jetties became homes to entire communities.  Six clan jetties–still bearing the names of their founding clans–still exist.  They are still used as residences but the piers are open to the public.

 

Simon took a liking to Afi, one of the USM Buddies who has been so kind to him.

 

USM Buddies.

 

Age of the Selfie.

 

After the jetties, we were hot and hungry.  We walked into central Georgetown, to the Little India neighborhood, and had a fantastic lunch at The Woodlands, a vegetarian Indian restaurant.  The people at my table ordered a bunch of dishes to be shared, and we all walk edge away, sated with delicious new foods.
In the evening, I invited the Gusties to join us as our family was headed to Georgetown for Penang’s official Chinese new Year’s celebration.  Many of the small streets were closed to traffic.  Big displays were set up around town and there were six stages with a variety of performances being held.

Unfortunately, just as the festivities were to begin, it started to rain.  There would be several cloudbursts throughout the night, just enough to keep us all damp.  Maybe it felt a little refreshing, after walking in the sun all day?

 

A rainy night.

 

“Look at all the pumpkins!”

It took a long time for our group to meet up–further proof that in future years, the program should make cell phone communication and transportation arrangements a higher priority.  We’re still learning.  But we eventually found each other.  Our group–the Carlins, the 10 Gusties, and Mindy (a USM buddy)–made our way to the Esplanade, which was the center of the festivities.  Several of us had our pictures taken with our zodiac animals.

 

Year of the Pig!

 

Year of the Dog!

 

I’m the only Horse in the group. And did I mention it was raining?

After that, our family split off from the students.  It was well past Simon’s bedtime but I wanted to stay out to see all the sights.  And he was having a great time, too.  One of the stages had a youth group performing traditional Indian dances.

Indian dancers.

 

They were followed by what had to be the highlight of the evening for me, the diabolo performance.  Diabolos are sometimes called “Chinese yo-yos.”  There’s a piece of string with two wooden handles.  Then you balance a double-coned yo-yo on the string and keep spinning to keep it balanced.  We saw them when we were in Chengdu and I was impressed at the time, but this was incredible.  Every time I thought the performers were on their “big finale” act, they came along and did something even more impressive.  I don’t often post videos, but these are too cool not to share:



Diabolo

It’s worth saying that they make it look easier than it is.  I’ve tried one of these before, and I couldn’t even keep the cones balanced on the string for 10 seconds.  Afterwards, Simon walked over to the troupe and picked up one of the yo-yos.  The leader of the troupe helped him spin the diabolo!  He was so excited and proud of himself.

 

Very proud of himself.


From there, we caught an Uber cab home.  It was after midnight and our kiddo was still awake.  We stayed up just long enough to get notification that our students had arrived home safely and then we fell into bed–we still had a busy Sunday ahead of us.

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Bang a Gong, Get It On

Strangers with candy, drunken transvestites, temple bells.  Another Carlin weekend.

So here is a rare thing:  Joel is writing a post!  

With the rain clearing, we braved the cold (it’s finally back up to 60’F) and took Simon to a park.  Like many(?) parks in Zhuhai, there are trails leading straight up a small mountain, one or more temples, areas for picnics, pingpong and basketball.  And of course, like every patch of Chinese greenspace, there are little kid rides.  Some are like carnival rides, others are just like the coin-fed ones in front of American grocery stores.  But, big or small, all rides have broken limbs or have lead-based paint missing from the eyes in a very Stephen King sort of way.

Scary-looking Power Rangers type of carnival ride.  Complete with broken seatbelts.
Scary-looking Power Rangers type of carnival ride. Complete with broken seatbelts.
The hilltop view from a park in Jida.  Zhuhai's harbor is to the right, and to the left is a slide that runs from the tower down through the forest to sealevel.  And yes, we are going back there to ride it!!!!
The hilltop view from a park in Jida. Zhuhai’s harbor is to the right, and to the left is a slide that runs from the tower down through the forest to sealevel. And yes, we are going back there to ride it!!!!

Simon toddled around and had lots of fun, and we found an incredibly long slide – as in you need a cable car to get to the top – but we needed to return to meet friends for a birthday dinner.  Another bus ride means another ride where people give Simon candy.  A one year old.  Choking-sized hard candy in little plastic wrappers.  And this happens EVERY single bus ride.  This weekend, Simon got a total of 10 pieces of candy over 4 bus rides.  And here is a picture of one of the more unusual treats given Simon, this time by a young woman.  Clearly, it is an extremely appropriate choice to give a boy with poor depth perception and spastic motor skills.

Two of the ten pieces of candy that Simon received.  Note the long pointed wooden skewer, just right for poking out eyes!
Two of the ten pieces of candy that Simon received. Note the long pointed wooden skewer, just right for poking out eyes!

We had ridden the bus back to our apartment in Tangjia to celebrate the birthday of an intern at the college.  Earlier in the week, Simon and Susie had visited the campus, and had met the international English teaching assistants.  These are recent graduates on their first job, and are mostly from a bunch of Minnesota colleges (including Gustavus). So this whole crew of expats went out for dinner in the fancy reserved room at Wang’s, the Dumpling King.  And, once again, we had a fantastically delicious meal.  Just like a local, I balked at our 90-yuan bill, thinking, “well, I guess it’s a special occasion.”  And like an expat, I later realized that this tab converts to just $15 in the U.S.  It was very fun to hang with Westerners and hear about their Spring Festival travels.

Susie and Simon were down for the night, but a few of us continued the birthday celebrations along Bar Street in southern Zhuhai.  It was a lot like going out clubbing in the U.S., except that it really, really wasn’t.   We shared a cab-ride down to the bars, first picking up a 6-pack of Tsingtao to share on the way in a yes-this-is-legal-here sort of way.  (FYI, Chinese canned beer has the old-fashioned razor sharp pull-tabs that I only vaguely remember from my childhood).  Then we hit the club.

We arrive at Club Soho in Gongbei, just as the balloons were falling from the ceiling.
We arrive at Club Soho in Gongbei, just as the balloons were falling from the ceiling.

And by club, I mean a very large, very crowded bar with balloons and performing singers – Chinese guys in two-tone sparkling suits and winged sneakers belting out Barry Manilow-style tunes in Mandarin, while dozens of drunk women raise their hands and sing along.  One member of our crew was not into dancing as much, and secured us a tiny table.  Then the performer’s stage sinks into the floor, the DJ in her aluminum-foil style bikini spins European club music, and the dancing begins.  In a club of 150 or more, the entire dance floor measures maybe 10 x 20 feet … and there we are, all six Westerners, dancing as the stage again rises up for maximum crowd exposure.   Soon there were about 30 people jammed onto the little stage. It was very fun, although the women got tired of the MANY drunk Chinese frat boys trying to get freaky in a supremely awkward way.  Also awkward was when my newfound Chinese friends offered me a big giant mystery shot. I downed it, only to discover that it was tea, not whiskey.  Yeah, I gotta work on those language skills.

Club Soho's vocalist, belting out tunes in his half silver, half black 3-piece suit and winged hightops.
Club Soho’s vocalist, belting out tunes in his 3-piece suit (right side silver, left side sparkly black) and winged sneakers.  FYI,  I want this outfit for my next birthday.

A little after 1 a.m. we find our friend with the table, who is now taking care of a very, very inebriated transvestite who is more or less passed out.  Her girlfriend asked us to go party with them, but we politely declined…well, except for the guy who had held our table.  He stayed behind to celebrate with his tablemates.  But as for me–well, this old man was tired and got home at about 2 a.m. My day was made even better by a brief e-chat with Lisa Heldke, who happened to be online (after all, it was broad daylight in Minnesota).

The next day had more sunshine and thus more Parks and Recreation.  We took Simon to Bailiandong Park in central Zhuhai.  This one had everything.  A pond for eel-fishing, more creepy-ass amusement rides, a “Dancery Area,” and an awesome row of barbecue pits.

I was looking forward to the fun until I read Rule 6.  Might as well go home now....
I was looking forward to the fun until I read Rule 6. Might as well go home now….

Plus, the religious sites up the mountain were cool: a sacred spring, three different hillside temples, and a ceremonial gong-sounding bell.  According to the instructions (translated by iPhone apps), you are supposed to strike the bell three times – for health, long life and abundant money.  Bang a gong?!?  Get it on!!

Simon and I rang this together  (after donating to the Buddhist temple that it belongs to).
Simon and I rang this together (after donating to the Buddhist temple that it belongs to).
Awesome playground at Bailondong Park.
Awesome playground at Bailondong Park.
This pond has it all...paddleboats, electric boats, and eel fishing. Could there be some fisherman out for a pleasure cruise on these eel-infested waters?  Inconceivable!
This pond has it all…paddleboats, electric boats, and eel fishing. Could there be some fisherman out for a pleasure cruise on these eel-infested waters? Inconceivable!
Simon and Susie toddle along while watched by every single passerby.
Simon and Susie toddle along while watched by every single passerby.