At least I have squid on a stick

Last week was the Dragon Boat Festival, which was good fun. There was a boat race, food stalls, colorful wristlets and anklets, and the usual drunken revelry that accompanies any special calendar date. I woke up early, and by 5:00AM, I was at the St. Sophia Church to meet some friends from work who would accompany me to the festivities. Before you ask, it's not really a church anymore, but a museum housing a miniature model of the city. I'm told that each time a new building project takes place, they must also provide a model to the museum.

The morning crowd at the cathedral was light, but still impressive. Many were the tired party animals sobering up from the night before. There were other animals as well: uncollared dogs running about and playing ball or perhaps some ancient Chinese variant that modern ball is derived from. Some dogs here are collared, but the majority I've seen haven't been. The pets seem well-to-do, and there aren't canine corpses littering the street, so it seems to work alright. Maybe all the dogs that couldn't handle the freedom already got street-sweeped once, and this is the generation smart enough to make it past natural selection.

The night before, I was told that the main pedestrian road (with all the beer gardens) was packed shoulder-to-shoulder, and there seemed to be evidence of this from the periodic mountains of garbage on our walk to the Flood Monument for the boat race. Some people get pissy when you say "China is dirty." That's probably because dirty is an ambiguous word but one that's always negative. My white-to-brown tranny socks are testament to the fact that Harbin is dirty. Yes, every morning coming out from my apartment, there's a lot of generic filth... and snot... and broken glass. I'm quite fond of watching it slowly change - who knows what tomorrow will bring, spike-traps? Still, you can't say the government isn't trying. There are people sporting the reflective-orange and walking about the middle of the road armed with nothing more than a broom and dust-pan. Indeed, these people are literally street-sweepers.

Stay in school, kids - English may be hard, but consider the alternatives.

Of course, even the most vigilant sweeping wouldn't be able to compete with the awesome bit of culture-slap I had when we finally made it to Stalin Park (the Flood Monument is in the center, the park lines the river). My companions and I were walking about the crowd after seeing enough of the race. Amidst this bustling group of people, there was a young girl - she could have been in my 5-7 year-old class, for all I know - fidgeting about and getting some advice from her parents. Without warning, she drops her pants, squats forward, and proceedes to power-wash the sidewalk. Thank St. Sophia it wasn't my dirty shoes that caught it. Crowd's reaction: casually walk around encroaching puddle of urine, unflinching. My reaction: we're in the one place in Harbin with grass, trees, and (unsurprisingly) dirt all around us, and your daughter is pissing on the sidewalk that a thousand people are using right this instant.

Anyhow, there are pictures (of the festival, not the tinkling tyke) to put up, but I've got work tomorrow and it's already quite late. If you want to learn some more about China, consider reading about Tiananmen as it is both timely and relevant to my next topic.


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