The central heating has been off for a couple of weeks now, so I think we can say spring is officially here. It strikes me as a bit of a misnomer to call the Chinese New Year festivities "Spring Festival" when there's still rather a lot of winter weather to come. Anyway, the heating is off now and we’re coping fine. I had been dreading it happening, a bit afraid that the apartment would be cold, it would be hard to get up in the mornings, etc., but it’s okay. I’m still wearing winter clothing, but sometimes dispense with the jacket to go to the shops.
The atmosphere is still very dry. The childish amusement at the static electricity has palled a bit. You know the sort of thing - making our clothes “reach out" after taking them off, undressing in the dark and watching the sparks fly, and turning over in the middle of the night and seeing the sparks fly off the quilt! I brought my crocs from home, but the one day I wore them round the apartment the static was so bad I thought I might do myself an injury. The freezer bags instantly wrap themselves round my wrist when I tear them off the roll. The chairs zap us getting in and out, we zap each other if we get too close. Friends tap the nearby wooden cupboard before touching the door handle when leaving … I think we’re all a bit over it now.
The city is suddenly greening. Trees and shrubs that have looked like dead sticks since we arrived are now bursting with green shoots or covered with blossom. Beautiful fragrant lilacs all round campus. People congregate outdoors on weekends and in the evenings. Whereas earlier nobody dallied outside, now kids on bikes, kite flyers, rollerbladers, walkers are out on the campus running track, basketball courts and the concrete spaces outside apartment buildings. Doting grandparents with their (sole) charges congregate on the footpaths and in the parks.
New fruits are appearing in the markets and streetstalls – watermelons, strawberries, mangoes and mulberries. I even saw nectarines (my favourite) one day, but I’m told to wait a month and they’ll be better and cheaper. On the downside, walnuts (Owen’s favourite) appear to be going out of season – they’re getting scarcer and more expensive, now $10 a kilo.
Recently several more tents appeared on the road running down the hill from our apartment building. I thought maybe it was a new batch of workers for the road construction below, which continues unabated, but yesterday dozens of little wooden boxes were deposited across the road from our apartment and continue in a string round the bend and all the way down the hill. Bee hives. That explains all the bees flying around. Returning from the shop this morning I caught a glimpse of a large drum and set of scales inside one of the tents – so I’m hoping this means we’ll be able to buy fresh honey on the side of the road before long.
We're a bit excited right now. Some of the family are coming for a three week visit, arriving tomorrow, so we're off to some of the must see places. Can't wait to see the grandchildren's reaction to China, and of course the Chinese reaction to them.