Back to school

The Spring Festival is over and by now I’m almost certain that it’s some kind of mass psychosis. During all the 15 days of celebration there have been fireworks and yesterday the car alarms rang one last time to welcome the new year. I’ve heard that one person was killed and many others injured by fireworks during the festival.

Today classes started again. I’ve jumped up a level since last semester so things are a little different now. I have 2 mandatory courses and 4 selectable courses, in total 20 hours per week. I’ve only had one subject today, so I don’t know yet how things are going to be, but it seems that the level is OK anyway. One seriously cool thing is that I have no less than 5 North Koreans in my class. All of them are men over 40 and some or all of them are teachers. What’s more, all of them wear badges with the beloved leader Kim Jong-il (or maybe his dad, I haven’t looked closely). Given that North Koreans generally can’t leave their country I had never expected to see them in real life, much less talk to them. I’m not sure why but it’s kind of exciting!

Shellshock Festival

Tonight is the Spring Festival (the Chinese new year) and it’s like a war zone. Starting at nine o’clock people began building up to an ear-deafening frenzy of fireworks and firecrackers which was simply unbelievable. The firecrackers were bigger, louder and more dangerous than any I’ve seen before:

Gunpowder smoke and metal oxides created a mist that lay thickly on the streets. The really big fireworks triggered a few car alarms, adding to the feeling that the world was coming to an end. I’ve been told that the Spring Festival is a traditional family holiday, but first and foremost I will remember it as a celebration of shellshock. These video clips don’t quite do justice to the scene, but they’re something to look at anyway: