Roll up those taxi windows, drag your bags through security… this only comes every ten years. Beijing’s bitter wind welcomed 2270 delegates yesterday to shine their shoes and take their seats in a room booked for the “18th National Congress”. While the U.S. lets out its breath to enjoy another four years under Obama’s leadership, China prepares itself for a new president and premier (7 of the 9 current Politburo Standing Committee members are retiring this year). Xi Jinping, the likely candidate to replace President Hu Jintao, emphasized four main questions to be addressed at this year’s conference, namely: What flag will we wave? What path will we follow? And in what state of mind? To continue advancing towards what kind of goals? (我们党将举什么旗、走什么路、以什么样的精神状态、朝着什么样的目标继续前进) Specific, I know. Citizens wait eagerly to see what solutions the committee generates for problems like insufficient health care, inflated real estate, and the growing gap between the rich and poor. As news stations flash snippets of animated discussions over round mahogany tables, the mysterious lure of the national government grows in the eyes of the people. Local and provincial governments may be corrupt or unfair, but loyalty towards the national government is a tradition that stretches back thousands of years, born from the people’s innocent dependency and undying hope in a power that remains faceless. Just as religion presses followers to have faith in what they cannot see, a government too can round up millions of supporters if only by providing a mirage of hope.
Thanksgiving 2012 kicked off with me inviting all of my coworkers to a glorious feast at Subway— which hosts the only reasonably priced turkey dinner in town. The invitation was formally sent, as it should be on a holiday, via the Chinese instant messenger “QQ”, along with this meaningful cartoon:
which states… “Comrades: let’s find a time to drink a little!” I think the cartoon did the trick— I was able to round up four coworkers to accompany me tonight for Subway’s turkey and Dairy Queen’s “cute little cones with tails” (in the words of my coworker). It meant a lot that they came, especially since two had prior arrangements that they chose to either forgo or show up late to.
So it all made for an interesting and quirky evening, as Thanksgiving tends to be when you’re in a land without ovens or pies or glorious stories of peace between different races that may or not be true— oh wait, they have those here.
On a more serious note, watching my coworkers– or friends, really– make an effort to help me celebrate Thanksgiving, I was reminded of how simple the holiday is. It’s purely about love– between family, friends, or even the street vendor who waves to you each time you pass. The human act of going out of one’s way to be with another and bring them joy is enough to fill hearts with warmth, no matter how trivial the meal or how random the location may be. As I prepare to bid this year’s Thanksgiving goodbye, I wish all of my family and friends back home a wonderful day spent with loved ones. I’m thinking of you and send you my love!🙂