The afternoon of the first day of the Chinese New Year, the tradition requires a visit to relatives and ancestors but for obvious reasons our program is different.
We planned a bike ride along the river Yulong, through a valley created by these karst mountains that you can see everywhere. There are about fiteen of us, 3 lucky guys with a mountain bike and others with a city bike.
We pedal for a quite a while and it’s nice because, although we’re all following the same person, we are not all close together but it feels like we’re taking a solo trip, eyes glued to this unique landscape. Coming out of Yangshuo we gaze at the overlapping silhouettes of the mountains. Their vertical development, with an almost non-existent inclination, makes them a favorite destination for climbers around the world but deceives our eyes making them seem more distant than they are.
By pedaling for a little bit you can quickly get to the feet of one of these giants that until a few minutes earlier seemed miles away. We cross small rice paddies and remains of houses that look like construction sites. In the courtyards of the farms the hens peck food and gunpowder leftovers, the solitary old men laugh at us, the people who play cards say hi.
After a few kilometers we find a small pagoda and we stop for a break. Some of us stay bent on their knees for a few seconds, pull back their backs and curse at their bike seats. For the rest of the time we took silly pictures and threw stones in the river. The way back passes through isolated streets along the river, so we can fully enjoy its beauty.
For the evening of the Chinese New Year first day the tradition calls for a dish called Hot Pot. It is a recipe dating back to the Ming dynasty: in a pot the water simmers with some spices, soy and chilli. When it reaches a temperature close to that of the sun, you can dip the ingredients. These can be mushrooms, tofu, potatoes and strange tubers, meat, fried bread ball, vegetables, dumplings. Pretty much anything.
The nice thing about the hot pot is that we all eat together but we don’t eat the same thing. Everyone can compose his own personal hot pot by throwing in the pot what he wants. We wash the vegetables, clean the table and make room for the pots and dishes.
We all give a helping hand. The dishes are arranged on the wooden table following a precise order, or so it seems to me. We use the same pot in 5 people and we look at our things going up and down, submerged by brackish water.
At the end we eat so much but we there are still lots of leftovers, as always happens in China. We speak a little here and there, randomly, food-drunk. There is some music in the air, an almost imperceptible background like the one you hear in the cafes and it looks a little like Christmas but it’s Chinese New Year.
But this day cannot slip away this way and, therefore, some students decide to gift the Omeida community 130 Yuan of firecrackers.