Oh, boy. This scene could have resulted in disaster.
An open well, four kids, and a semi-literate 20 year-old foreigner who didn’t have the language skills to tell a real adult if a kid fell down the well, let alone call for help.
But it was all cool. In fact, these kids were my saving grace on Chinese New Year’s Eve, 1991.
I’d all but invited myself to visit Mr. Chen, the tour guide on my first trip to China a few years earlier. I learned the hard way that when someone in China gives you an open invitation to visit, don’t choose the week of the Chinese New Year.
If the Chens felt put out by my presence, they never showed it. They took me to their relatives’ home outside Nanjing, which is where this photo was taken, and to Mr. Chen’s father’s home, which I blogged about yesterday.
On New Year’s Eve, the Chens and Mr. Chen’s brother and sister-in-law (with whom we were staying) engaged in 20 heated games of mah jong. They played all night. Like until the sun came out.
Before they sat down at the mah jong table, though, they parked me in a small room with a television where I spent a few hours with a couple of the kids in this photo. We watched CCTV’s Chinese New Year’s Eve television extravaganza. It was like Sonny and Cher on steroids: singing, dancing, and skits performed by both military and civilian celebs.
This television show has become the central focus of Chinese New Year celebrations. It ends at midnight, with a countdown that puts New York’s Times Square to shame. Then amateur fireworks erupt across the country and last until the mah jong games conclude just before breakfast.
I love my sleep, so I was perfectly content to hang out with the kids and go to sleep after midnight when they turned in, blocking out the click-clack of the mah jong tiles in the adjacent room.