Me and Chairman Mao
  Gong xi fa cai!
For those of you who don't speak Chinese, that's the way people here in Shanghai say Happy New Year. I'm not sure what the exact translation is, but it basically means "I hope you make more money next year!" Nice sentiment, don't you think? Based on that, I'm sure it won't surprise you to learn that, in other parts of China, people in Shanghai are considered very materialistic. Who would have guessed?

(Side note: In fairness, I should point out that the "Gong Xi Fa Cai" saying migrated up to Shanghai from Hong Kong, which makes complete sense if you ever go to Hong Kong, since--as far as I could tell--Hong Kong island is filled almost exclusively with high-end shopping malls. In contrast, up north in Beijing and places like that where money is apparently of no concern to anyone, they go with a more standard greeting that actually means Happy New Year. How this complete lack of care for all things financial in the 'Jing fits in with our former place at the Home of Tycoons--isn't having loads of money sort of a tycoon prerequisite?--I have no idea, but if I figure it out I'll let you know.)

Anyway, Spring Festival / Chinese New Year continues, as do the fireworks. We got a break last night because it was raining, but the night before that was the worst yet. (Note that those of you who enjoy being kept awake all night long by loud, exploding sounds would substitute "best yet" there.) A few days ago I learned that certain days over the Spring Festival are devoted to specific gods, and Thursday happened to be the day of the wealth god. As you can imagine, in a city where the standard New Year's greeting is "I hope you make more money next year," this was a pretty big day, what with everyone wanting to welcome in the wealth god.

Of course, the real trick here is that--if you want to be technical about it, and apparently people here do--the day actually starts at midnight, so if you want to welcome in the wealth god, you have to do it starting at 12:00 AM on the dot. And how do you welcome in the wealth god? You guessed it--with as many fireworks as you can possibly light off at one time! And while I can't be sure about where the wealth god actually makes his home, based on the fireworks dispersion pattern I witnessed, I would guess he lives pretty much directly outside our bedroom window.

Seriously. Remember the other day when I mentioned that some fireworks detritus hit our window while we were watching? Same thing, except this time stuff was hitting our bedroom window. And not just some stuff, but a lot of stuff--like a "person throwing a handful of pebbles at your window" amount of stuff. Needless to say, it's even better when this stuff hits your bedroom after you've already fallen asleep, having spent a large portion of the night at one of the city's Irish Bars. (Give it up for O'Malley's, yo!) For those of you who have never experienced this scenario--AKA, all of you--I will just say that being jolted out of a fairly sound, alcohol-induced slumber by a combination of the sound of 10,000 firecrackers going off at once and a bunch of crap from the gigantic firework that just exploded about 20 feet from you hitting your window is a pretty shitty way to wake up. I know, I know--who would have thought?

In any case, the show lasted about 10 minutes, and was pretty nice--aside from the unnerving proximity of said fireworks--and then we fell back asleep. I was about to write that things have been pretty quiet since then, but lo, the rhythmic booming of large explosives going off somewhere nearby has just reached my ears, so never mind. Seriously, it's like a war zone around here when the fireworks go off: continuous explosions, the cloudy sky lit up for miles in every direction, and so on. Add in some tracer fire, and I'd start thinking I was hanging out with Peter Arnett in that Baghdad hotel room back during the first Gulf War. (For those of you who don't remember back that far, that was the Gulf War where the rest of the world actually supported what we were doing, and where we won. Although it was still about oil, of course.) (Can you tell I just watched Syriana a few days ago?)

But whatever. Without even further ado, here are some fireworks pictures from the last few days. The first is out the window of the wine bar we were hanging out at on New Year's Eve. For the record, pretty much all the random fireworks on the streets were this big. At least this big:

Some pictures taken from our living room window of a firework (one of many) being set off between all the buildings here at the Oriental Manhattan. Looks safe, doesn't it?

If you've ever wondered what a big firework going off about 25 feet away from you at eye-level looks like, today is your lucky day:

(Side note: The light in the top-right corner is the reflection of the light in our living room, since I took the picture through the window. You know, rather than opening up the window and risking being hit by flaming debris. You'll forgive me, I'm sure.)

Another eye-level picture, this one bigger and closer! Truly, the fun never stops:

Tomorrow is the last day of Chinese New Year--on Sunday, everyone has to go back to work. (I know, Sunday? It makes more sense than you think, trust me.) And that means that, as far as I know, tonight will be the last night of fireworks. I can't say I'm sad. I mean, one night of fireworks is cool, two is sort of fun, the third night is slightly amusing, but after that ... well, let's just say it will be nice to be able to sleep through the night. Although, of course, I still hope I make more money next year ...
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