As I said in a previous post, 2012 is the year of the dragon. In Sydney there have been loads of festivities to welcome it in. I see that I haven't written in 10 days, and I guess it is an indicator of how full my life is now, that 10 days is too long to try to cover in one post. So I will just focus on the Chinese New Year (CNY), and I will try to do another, extra, post later this week.
Last Sunday, the 22nd, David and I went out in the morning with an American couple that we met through our old friends back home. I had heard that the Chinese Friendship Gardens were open and having some dancers. We went there with the girls when we visited Sydney in 2004. It was really beautiful and interesting, and at that time we were practically the only people there. This time, because of the celebration, there was a queue, and they were limiting the number of people in at one time. We waited about half an hour, and even with all those people, it was still really beautiful and peaceful. The plants are all perfectly maintained, the rocks are chosen for their character and balance, the architecture transports you to a different time and place, and there is signage all around that explains the significance of each element. I will definitely go back again just to hang around. They have also put in a tea room/cafe since the last time we were there, so all the more reason to sit and stare out at the fish swimming around under the trees.
At a park near by, there were food booths, decorations, and a stage with entertainment. We saw the dragon dancers and watched a noodle eating contest. I had some yummy veggie dumplings and Neva had a Chinese burrito. We also saw them making fresh mung bean noodles from a big block of clear goo that they dug out with a special holed spoon. Because there is such a large Chinese population here, there are lots of Chinese youth and community organizations. I don't know what the politics are around who gets to be in charge or participate, but it seemed that there was a range of groups involved and attendance was good.
The hugest turnout, however, was for the closing parade on the 29th. I was really excited to get a note on facebook from a friend who just moved here from Arizona asking me to meet her down at the parade. (I know, you are wondering what is another person from Arizona doing moving to Sydney at almost the same time? It is partly coincidence, partly the flow of opportunity and the state of the world. Maybe I'll tell that story some other time.) Anyway, no one else wanted to go with me, so I was happy to have a new friend to go with. I felt a little like we were a couple of white girl, escapees out on the town for a wild night.
It was so crowded when I got there, an hour before the parade, that I was worried we might not find each other, even with our cell phones (what did people do before this convenience?). We staked out a spot about three layers of people back from the street where we could still see well enough. People were packed in and not afraid to squeeze in front of us, so we had to get pretty close even though it was really warm and muggy out. Once the parade started though, everyone was focused on the sparkles, and drums, and ribbons, and costumes. One of the coolest things was a dragon, lit from within, made of restaurant dishes. That is it at the top of this post. I think it was done by some people at The Carriage Works as a tribute to all the great Chinese restaurants in Sydney. There were couples dressed like 1950s movie stars, doing ballroom dancing, and teen-agers doing kung fu. Everyone seemed to have a good time, babies and old people alike, and when it ended at 9:30, the streets emptied miraculously quickly. Nicole and I stood in the middle of what is usually one of the busiest streets in Sydney, empty at that point and still blocked from cars. We could look up and down the street and see confetti and remnants of the parade. We were also finally able to glimpse the projected movies and animated artwork on the sides of buildings that were part of the festivities.
There were other things planned that I wanted to get to, but didn't make. I wanted to see the emerging Chinese artist exhibit at the town hall, and I wanted to see the lion dancers and the fireworks. Next week-end there will be Dragon boat races in Darling Harbour, and I hope to make it to those.
It just started to rain as I was leaving and the wind was kicking up and cooling things down nicely. I spoke to an old Chinese woman on the bus who told me that this new year dragon was a water dragon. I didn't know what the significance of that was, but I liked the idea that the dragons could be individualized and have different personalities and characteristics. I also think a water dragon is perfect for Sydney with all the swimming, surfing, and boating that goes on here. I definitely feel a design idea coming on for embroidery, screen printing, maybe even tattoo?