This week, we are having our first big Chinese holiday: National Week! We have taken the full week off of school and are excited to take part in this patriotic event! Especially since this one is a big one, celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the creation of the People’s Republic of China.
First off, what is National Week? It is the first week of October and celebrates the creation of the People’s Republic of China. It is very similar to the United States’ Fourth of July, but China takes off a week to celebrate! The official National Day is October 1st for those that are interested and marks the day (basically) all of China coming together under a new flag! I have been told that this day is one of the most important in China’s 2,000+ year history! I haven’t been in China for a major holiday like this so I am extremely excited!
Keep in mind that I live in the capital city of Beijing, so I may have a more unique experience on National Week than other places in China. But the city began decorating the city about two weeks ago! They began by putting these light-up decorations on all of the street lamps on major streets. I didn’t realize they were for the National Week because they didn’t have writing on them or anything, but I realized it a week later when they began putting up the GIANT displays on many street corners. What is cool is that each one is different. Some had a giant 70 on them, some had butterflies, or flowers, stars, etc. But I can’t remember a single holiday in Phoenix, Az that had so many large displays for a holiday! I don’t want to even think how much Beijing was paying for all of the fresh flowers to be replaced every day or two! Calvin and I would see workers out there during the day taking the wilted ones and replacing them with the brand new flowers. I mean, these displays have been up a week already! I am sure they will continue to be up during the rest of National Week.
Unfortunately, I won’t be able to physically go to Beijing’s celebration on October 1st. But in all honesty, most of my Beijing local friends won’t be able to go either! The parade that will be going on will not be able to be seen in-person by most except military personnel and high-ranking government officials (and those lucky enough to score an invite). I am told I will be able to watch it online and on tv, though, so I am excited about that. The airplanes and helicopters have been flying over several times in the last few weeks in the shape of ’70’ and painting colors in the sky in preparation of the parade! It is not just exciting for me, but the locals who all stop what they are doing to take pictures and post on WeChat. There should also be fireworks but I am not sure if I will be able to see the official ones from where we live.
So what does this mean for expats in China? Well I have noticed quite a few differences in preparation for the big holiday. One of the biggest is that my personal VPN is almost nonexistent right now. At school, the school’s VPN is working properly and I can access websites such as my blog, Facebook, Gmail, etc. However, when I get home, the VPN only works from Japan, Singapore, and Hong Kong. But the connectivity is horrible and barely works. Calvin and I have had to put our Modern Family marathon on hold because Netflix can barely function with the VPN cutting in and out. To ExpressVPN’s credit, they have been sending us updates and trying constantly to improve everyone’s connectivity to the outside world. But right now, China is limiting is severely. I am told this tends to happen around holidays and it is nothing out of the usual. Thank goodness I can write this after work on my school’s VPN otherwise I wouldn’t be able to get anything out to you guys. In fact, I wrote this blog several days earlier than releasing it because I knew I wouldn’t be able to publish it at home. Luckily we have DVDs and other things to keep us entertained at home but I couldn’t imagine being a regular expat without access to a VPN at work.
Other changes include drop-ins at our apartment by government officials. In fact, last week Korey was home and got a knock on the door from two strangers. They pulled out their Chinese-English apps and explained that they were from the government and had to ‘measure’ the apartment. He let them in and they took a few pictures, used a laser to measure a few rooms, and then left. They had badges but weren’t wearing uniforms or anything, just seemed like normal people. I also had a few coworkers that said they were visited by police and were asked to verify their passports and residency forms. Nothing dramatic, but I am told it is an attempted crackdown of illegal residency with the National Week coming up. I haven’t been visited by the police station (who are responsible for ‘checking-in’ foreigners when they visit China) but have copies of my family’s passports on my phone and residency papers just in case. We live literally next-door to one police station and they are always super nice so I am not at all concerned.
Due to National Week, many of the famous sights will be closed as well as major roadways for the parade. I just finished watching it and it was so much more than just a show of their military. They had gigantic floats and dancing, it was really amazing. There is so much going on in the capital city! My family will be using the week off to recoup, spend some family time together, and even head out of Beijing for a day to see Longqing Gorge! More on that later, but I wish all my fellow Beijingers a happy National Week!