Surreal Movie-like Moments in China

It’s morning and I’m barely awake, yet here I sit in my office in front of the computer, trying to work up the energy to walk upstairs to get some hot water for my coffee. See, we had a really interesting night last night and I stayed out way past my weeknight bedtime!

You know how you sometimes have moments in your life that are just too surreal to be believed and you think that you must be in a movie? Back in the West these times happen so rarely, you may have never even known that feeling. But in China these surreal “Fellini” moments, (as one of our friends calls them), happen with startling regularity.

Exhibit A: A random Thursday night at Shijiazhuang Airport. A group of instructors meet at the Russian’s for a big barbecue feast. We have a great time and eat a lot of great food. Then someone gets the smart idea of buying a bag of firecrackers. So we (or they, I was definitely on the sidelines on this one), proceed outside of the restaurant to set them off on the sidewalk, road, in a tree and strapped to the back of a bicycle while someone was actually riding it… (This is what you get when you put a bunch of bored grown-up boys together in rural China!) It made a ton of noise and smoke and was really cool. Those of you who have travelled to China know that fireworks are a part of everyday life and you can always hear or see some being set off somewhere in the distance at any time, day or night. Evidently on Spring Festival, which is the Chinese New Year, all you hear for 24 hours straight is fireworks.

Well, the night didn’t end there. After finishing up with the pyrotechnics, we started to make our way back to the hotel. There were about 10 of us at this point. As we rode by the Mansion Hotel, we heard very loud dance music coming from one of the buildings across the street. A few of the instructors stopped to investigate and before we knew it, the doors were thrown open, we were pushed inside, our jackets were taken from us, a beer was handed to us, and we were ushered out to the middle of a makeshift dance floor where we were cheered, applauded and forced to do a conga line. Evidently we had crashed a party for the workers at the Mansion. It was crazy how we suddenly became the guests of honor. They even gave us microphones and kept toasting us with beer.

I love dancing in China. There is absolutely no rhythm required, which is perfect for me. There is also no sense of self-consciousness. You just shake or move whatever you want however you want to whatever beat you feel. Anything goes. It truly is a place where you can throw your hands in the air and shake it like you just don’t care.

I’m not really sure how much time we actually spent there. We were just dancing like mad in the midst of all these Chinese. They were really nice and when we decided to leave, they played send-off music for us, formed a line, clapped and cheered and escorted us out to our bicycles.

To cap off the absurdity of the night, several instructors piled into the back of a small tricycle with a wagon on the back while another instructor rode a singing skateboard with blinking, colorful lights all the way back to our hotel. It was not unlike a warped circus parade.

Who says you can’t have fun in the boonies of China?


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