Guest post: A Very Happy Chinese New Year from Fuzhou!
This week Francesca in Fuzhou reflects upon her first Chinese New Year experiences…
Joining my Student’s Family for Chinese New Year
Before breaking up for the Spring festival holiday (typically taking place late January/ February and a time when all teachers have a break from work), my school ran an extra activity, offering students the opportunity to invite their school teachers home to share some festive joy. The idea is more a treat for the teachers, as it counters any loneliness we might feel given we don’t have families out here in China to share the New Year with.
I was extremely fortunate enough to have two of my students jump at the opportunity to invite me round, and even better – they wanted to teach me Chinese! (Specifically, New Year related vocabulary!!!)
I eagerly turned up at the student’s house to find the entire family of my student, grandparents included, sat and eagerly waiting to watch their loved one perform! We eased him in, letting him teach me how to say happy new year in Chinese, taking it in turn to sound out the characters. He even told me I was perfect at the end – whilst I know I was anything but (there are videos to prove this), his blind support was just what I needed! Without prompting, he then proceeded to hold conversations with me in English that exceeded our class work, and even offered me a whole table full of fruits! (I did have to correct though, that cherries are not named ‘bigger grapes’). But considering my student is only 4 years old, he performed magnificently, and showed that you’re never too young to start learning.
A Hiking Trip to the Stunning Wuyishan Mountain Region
And so began Spring Festival. I took a short trip down to Wuyishan in the Nanping province with a colleague from work. The mountainous region is known for its breath-taking scenery and difficult but rewarding hikes. The perfect way to de-stress and bring in the year of the Dog! We took on both the Tianyou Peak and the Dawang peak, which (unfortunately) were the most difficult. Dawang has multiple signs throughout the hike warning not to embark on the journey unless you are extremely fit and good with heights. Both my companion and I struggle with rather severe vertigo, but fortunately we can’t read Chinese, so did not have the sense to stop!
Bamboo River Rafting
It’s not easy to find much information on the remote area of Wuyishan online, even though it is a popular tourist location. Due to the firewall and the availability of much more popular locations for western people who speak no English (English is definitely limited in the city), finding anything to do was a task we had to take on by ourselves. One thing we could search for though, was information about the Bamboo river raft around the 9 bends and main peaks. One of the most well known facts/only facts available stated that the rafting should be done around sunrise, so that you can see the mist around the water under the fresh light of day, as it has a mystical effect. I can happily confirm, dear reader, that the view was something else and despite the early rise it was worth every second of bitter coldness. Being super early in the morning, every time our raft floated round a peak, we were plunged into the shadows and froze just a little more inside, risking pneumonia and certain death in return for a life changing morning. I 100% recommend.
Returning to reality was an easier transition than id expected when we left our tranquil slice of heaven. Due to it being Spring Festival, Fuzhou was a ghost town, most stores closed as the employees had returned home to be with their loved ones. I took the time to explore and got to know my town a little better. Recently opened, was a glorious little pie shop, named rather aptly ‘Piefection’. I took myself down there, purchasing a bold 4 different pies. They’re not the largest, but are also extremely cheap which means you can try all the different flavours without having to commit to just one! (I never like to commit to one, as a disappointing visit can put you off a restaurant altogether!). The lovely service combined with the wide variety of sweet and savoury flavours lends for a great experience, and in total it only ended up costing around £10. Whilst it is a little far out of the city centre, it would be rude not to pay a visit from time to time for their mince meat pie (a personal favourite!)
Fuzhou for Chinese New Year was a pleasant surprise, and the non stop fireworks/ festive cheer was contagious. My community guards and any remaining shop owners were all more than happy to stop for a chat, and has filled me with so much hope for the upcoming year, and everything I have left to experience in China.
Bring it on!
Francesca is an International Relations graduate of Loughborough University (UK) and is currently teaching in Fuzhou as part of the Teach China Graduate Program.