This weekend marks the lunar Mid-Autumn Festival here in China (15th day of the 8th lunar month). Aside from the new day off of work we get this coming Monday we also get to enjoy a large bright moon, moon cakes, and for me and my wife time spent with our daughter as we will be traveling to Guangzhou. My wife has been there for a week on business and I will leave on Friday.
We have some Hagen Das ice cream moon cakes for when we get back to Shanghai and I have some to take with me to Guangzhou. Moon cakes are traditional dessert cakes filled with different kinds of things and enjoyed while watching the full moon rise. I won’t be singing any songs or reciting any poems but will be enjoying the time with family and take in the festivities. Moon cakes are exchanged quite a bit here, I have already taken a box to work to share with all my co-workers. The holiday is very traditional and important in Chinese culture and fun to share in as much as I can.
There is a funny story to my getting of moon cakes this week. I was unable to find the correct location this past weekend, still woefully terrible in my speaking of Chinese but I can understand much more then I could last year. Anyway, I got help to find a location to pick up the box of cakes last night. The location was just off the largest tourist area of down town Shanghai, this is important for later. I got turned around a few times and thanks to the super aggressive massage peddlers, female one night companions, and street vendors I was able to finally get back on track and get to the location just before they locked the doors.
Walking back to the subway station at East NanJing Road so I could get back home I decided to go to Burger King around the People’s Square station, the largest subway station and at the center of the down town area. On the way I was strolling among the hordes of Chinese and foreign tourists with my box of moon cakes, work bags, and being a bit haggard I seemed to look like an easy mark. I noticed some flash of blue as I was walking along listening to Rage Against the Machine and when I looked to my left found a women about my age signaling for me to take my ear phones out.
Have any or you ever been to a store with a high pressure pushy sales staff person? Well, in the middle of the tourist area this girl started asking me for drinks, dinner, chatting, ice cream, you name it she wanted to go do it. I politely tried saying no, quite often and always not being absorbed. I mentioned wife, daughter, work, sleep, none of it was an excuse worth while. The woman finally decided to show me strong arm sales, literally. She grabbed my arm and started pulling me then pushing me towards this restaurant or that bar and the more I resisted the more physical she got. At this time I noticed the small guy who was intently watching from a safe distance and when he noticed me looking at him got really nervous and trying to turn away but not. Now I have been here for a couple of years and I am not naive enough to not know what was taking place here. I was just surprised that the tactics here were much more aggressive then in Thailand at the bars there, and this is the middle of the neon tourists area! Needless to say I said no so many times, in 5 languages with only 1 left I could use if need be, and was left alone after 10 minutes of doing everything except shove or push this woman. So with the moon cake episode completed I at least have an amusing story to tell.
For my Asian readers, how will you be spending Mid-Autumn festival this year? Traveling home or spending the time with friends out on the town? With a long weekend there will be opportunities to do either or and if your family is close by both. What does Autumn Festival mean to you and your favorite memory of it as a kid. For my Western readers, check out the Wikipedia or Google Chinese Autumn Festival or Chinese Moon Cakes and try some of the recipes for something different to try. One thing that is cool about the festival, if you are single it is a good opportunity to get a date or reason to go out and spend time alone watching the moon, and if you are apart you can watch the moon and know your friend can do the same in a different location at the same time.