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A Lesson From the Zhanyi Name Change Ceremony

March 25, 2011

My Burnt Shirt

My company has three water treatment plants in Yunnan, all of which are in smaller municipalities. One of them is located in Zhanyi, which is technically part of Qujing City (the Chinese definition of city is very different from the Western one). Zhanyi’s Construction Bureau, for some reason unclear to me, decided to make a slight change to their name, gengming. Thus they hosted a ceremony, dianli, to commemorate the event, which of course required fireworks.

After a few minutes of the (male) leaders congratulating themselves on their accomplishments and women workers in red qipao‘s (a Chinese slender dress with a high slit on each side) handing them gifts on platters, someone yelled at a man on the side of the stage. He lit a 30 foot high ring of firecrackers being held up the sort of vehicle that electricians use to fix problems with the electrical wires.

It seems like everyone, in typical Chinese fashion, underestimated the power of the firecrackers and the strong Yunnan wind, as the crowd of people immediately dispersed, covering their ears and shielding their faces from the firecracker debris exploding through the air. I was hit on the side of the head by something immediately, which caused me to run away like a baby. The politicians tried to stand as motionless as possible, squinting through the smoke and the debris, and visibly uncomfortable from the loud cracks and pops, but trying not to look like babies in front of the TV cameras.

After the firecrackers were done scaring away the evil spirits, the crowd began to return to their original places, as the wind picked the debris up and wafted flaming firecracker wrappers into everyones’ faces. A few minutes later, things chilled out, and we began paying attention to the people speaking again.

Then, the leader of the Yiliang Plant at which I work, said to me (in Chinese), Oh! Tim your shirt’s on fire!

Ahya, I bought this shirt just for this job.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Allyson permalink
    March 25, 2011 21:41

    Oh no! I’ll buy you a new one for your birthday. And, I want to see pics of the stuff you had made at the tailor. Xo

    • Tim Quijano permalink*
      March 30, 2011 13:21

      Unfortunately, the tailor must have lost my measurements because she made it for someone dad’s size. I’m going to take it into another tailor to ask if they can help with it.

  2. Nell Quijano permalink
    March 30, 2011 10:48

    Another “Only in China” moment! You did a great job of describing the chaos. You would think that having invented firecrackers they’d have the quantity issue under control.

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