Drowning in the heat at San Salvador’s Consuma Fair [YQrtw Day 117 Aug 5]

welcome to consuma

Location: San Salvador, El Salvador

Today was my first full day in El Salvador. The hostel doesn’t provide breakfast so I lazed in bed until well past 9:30am.

The hostel owner, Ana* (her real name), was around when I was heading out. She told me about the Consuma Fair happening nearby and that the museum is right across the fair.

In the first week of August, El Salvadorians have a week of holiday in celebration of El Salvador del Mundo, patron saint of San Salvador. Consuma is part of this celebration.

Welcome to Consuma 2013
Welcome to Consuma 2013

I walked to the convention center where Consuma is held from July 25 to August 6. I bought an entrance ticket at 25 cents extra from a lady selling tickets. The other way was to queue for a long while and pay only US$1.50 but it wasn’t worth it.

The hall was rather full with visitors and exhibition booths. From the second level, I looked down at the booths. It had a strange mix of appliances, clothes, toys, phone and many other things. It felt like a Sitex fair gone wrong.

Exhibition hall at San Salvador's Consuma
Exhibition hall at San Salvador’s Consuma

I had a coffee at one of the booths before heading down into the hall. The place was so crowded that I had to move very slowly with the current of the crowd.

Based on the booths, I found El Salvadorians’ version of week-long fun strange. How fun it is when you are squeezing with 20 other people in a 5 square-meter space?

I thought I had seen enough when I saw the 10th clothes stall. I found the exit and went out into more exhibition halls and food booths.

I lost count of the number of exhibition halls. Some had a mix of food and clothes while others had cheap clothes that do not look attractive on any body. There was even fun fair games, one involving plates on waters and coin tossing.

Toss quarters into the plate and win soft drinks.
Toss quarters into the plate and win soft drinks.

I also passed by a large tent area which smelled of horses. They have horses at a fun fair!

By this time, I shouldn’t be surprised by anything else but I found a full-fledged amusement park with roller coasters and even a pirate ship. El Salvadorians really take their fun seriously.

Pirate ship at Consuma 2013
Pirate ship at Consuma 2013

Despite all the promised fun in the fair, I was feeling very uncomfortable due to the heat and the size of the crowd.

I checked my watch and was surprised to find that I was only there for 2 hours when it felt like I had spent the whole evening there. My head was pounding as I looked for the exit. Everyone else’s steps were too slow and they were between me and the exit to fresher air and the blinding sun. (I dislike the sun but I hate crowds more than the sun.)

Visiting San Salvador’s city center

After escaping the fair, I took a bus to the city center. The bus fare was cheap at 25 cents. I didn’t memorize the map so I wasn’t sure where I was supposed to get off the bus.

In the end, I followed the crowd and got off at the second bus stop after most of the people went off.

The streets of San Salvador’s center was different from where my hostel was. Here, things were dirtier. It didn’t look like a proper city center but more like an abandoned area populated with people.

I had lunch at a fried chicken place where there was thankfully Wi-Fi. I figured out the nearby landmark and saw the National Theater, the church of San Salvador, the National Library and other monuments.

I took a bus back and rested a while before walking to the shopping malls near the hostel. MegaPlaza mall was huge but under-visited. It looked very empty and some of the shops were not occupied.

I walked over to another mall which was even more depressing. I headed back to MegaPlaza where I had dinner until it became dark.

I debated if I should walk back to the hostel. It didn’t seem wise as it was also raining. In my head, I kept seeing passages in travel guides about the dangers of walking at night in Central and South America.

In the end, I took a cab and was given an over-fluctuated price. I bargained one dollar down. I reached my hostel after the taxi took many long turns.

The Wi-Fi on the second floor of the hostel has miraculously fixed itself. Thank San Salvador!

How Singaporeans celebrate Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year in Singapore's Chinatown

It’s Chinese New Year today! 恭喜发财!(Congratulations on earning loads of money!)

We’re back on Day 2 of our Chinese New Years in Different Countries series.

For today, two Singaporeans will share their take on how people in the country celebrate Chinese New Year.

Leaving the country during CNY

First up is Therese from The Nomad Damsel.

A cursory flip of the local newspapers during the month of January reveal that some Singaporeans do start planning for their Chinese New Year trips shortly after the New Year, and local travel agencies are milking it as much as they can. These travel agencies and their counterparts in other countries will come up with 4-day trips to China/Hong Kong/Taiwan for ‘the authentic Lunar New Year feel’ and even a 4-day getaway to 8 different cities in Europe. 4 days in 8 cities – I saw this advertisement on the 2nd floor of the People’s Park Complex in Chinatown. I wonder if it is humanely possible to see anything but greenery while travelling to so many places.

A study by Mercer in 2011 shows that Singaporeans have one of the lowest number of annual holidays in the world – we beat some countries in Asia when it comes to annual holidays, but we have half the number of holidays compared to the Europeans. So it is no surprise that Singaporeans tend to combine the use of their precious annual leave and state holidays so they are able to spend more time in the host country. Chinese New Year is a prime travelling period as everyone gets two days off work regardless of their ethnicity group. One aunt told me, “If I am to spend money either by travelling or by giving red packets to kids, I would choose to travel. I would prefer to spend money on something I like to do better.”

Of course, there are many Singaporeans who do enjoy spending time with members of their extended family during this festive period, but this is becoming a rare situation as parents might prefer to spend as much of their leisure time with their family instead of the former group of people.

Staying in the country during CNY

Next up is Phebe from thetravellingsquid. She also has an interesting post on 10 Reasons Not To Travel During Chinese New Year.

I always love Chinese New Year because I don’t have to go to work and school. I’m not a big fan of visiting relatives as I am an innately shy person, so finding topics to make small talk can be quite a challenge. Nonetheless, I have some relatives who like to debate on government policies. They fall under a different class in society compared to my family, and it is always nice to listen to their point of view of things.

The relatives on my mother side are not as well-off, but they have always welcomed us to their four room/ three room homes with open arms. It may be a little congested and uncomfortable sitting on tiny, foldable chairs squeezing in front of the TV, while trying to balance a plastic plate filled with food on one hand, and a can of soft drink on a coffee table which is almost filled with pineapple tarts and jars of tiny crispy prawn rolls.

What I like best about Chinese New Year is to watch these afternoon matinée at my relative’s house comprising dated Chinese love/ CNY movies. Stuff like Stephen Chow movies or Infernal Affairs allow me to pass time and relax, without worrying that I should be spending my holiday on more useful things. I also like to indulge in bak kwa [Note from YQ: dried barbequed meat. yum yum.]and beer at the same time, which is not the most healthy option. A friend attests to swapping beer for wine. It’s more healthy and goes well together too : )

I have been away during Chinese New Year on a solo trip to India last year, and it’s not the most joyous of all occasions. I remember feeling very lonely, not because there was no festive atmosphere at all in India, but because I was without the company of my friends and family. Scooting off to discover far lands may seem ideal during the CNY holidays, but I rather stay in Singapore to receive the warmth and blessings from friends, family and even from relatives that I meet only once a year.

Phebe's CNY was spent at Jama Masjid in Delhi
Phebe’s CNY was spent at Jama Masjid in Delhi

Do you travel overseas or stay at home during CNY?

How Chinese in Myanmar celebrate Chinese New Year

I don’t usually reblog posts but this topic is timely and from my friend Nicole.
Happy Chinese New Year!

Nini's broadcast station

Chinese New Year is not an official bank holiday in Myanmar but Chinese people normally take leave from school or work to celebrate the 2-day cerebration – the New Year Eve and the New Year Day.

There are a few different types of Chinese in Myanmar – mainly Hokkien and Cantonese. But we also have some Hakka and Yunnan Chinese. We all celebrate Chinese New Year in slightly different ways – for example, the ritual of worship, the temple that we visit, etc. Since majority of the people in Myanmar is Buddhist, the ritual includes mostly worshiping different god and visiting different temples.

I will share with you how my parents celebrate Chinese New Year in Hakka way.

On the New Year Eve morning, we worship to the heavenly god (拜天神). For this ritual, we have to prepare 1  cup of wine, 3 cups of tea, 3 types of meat

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How Malaysians celebrate Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year lantern

Today is Chinese New Year eve, the second most important day of Chinese New Year (CNY).

CNY eve dinner is an important time for family to gather together, eat good food and be nagged by elders. [Note to YQ: Do not be a patronizing aunt when you grow up.]

Enough bitterness, I want to share a two-part series of collaborative posts to mark CNY.

Early this week, I asked on Facebook for information on how different people celebrate Chinese New Year in different countries. For the feature, I was planning to have many Chinese folks in different countries to talk about their traditions.

Unfortunately, not many random strangers on the internet took up the challenge. I guess this might also be a good thing since it makes the post more cosy.

How Malaysians overseas celebrate CNY

First up is Max Yam from maxayam.blogspot.sg. Max is a fellow Sabahan who lives just a 5 minute car ride away from my house.

On Facebook, he commented

To wanderers like us, Chinese New Year is about travelling, travelling home, and leaving home again… again and again… we seem to appreciate ‘home’ when we are away, but we are getting blur about the meaning of ‘home’ eventually…

His note struck a chord with me since I felt homeless for a period of time even though I had a permanent place to lay my head both in Malaysia and Singapore.

How my family celebrates CNY

Since CNY is about the family, I will share what my parents, my sister and I do during CNY.

On CNY eve, it’s the obligatory CNY reunion dinner. I am thankfully seated at the children table where there is less drama.

After our meals, my uncle will give his words of wisdom to anyone who’s listening, interjecting his sentences with, “You understand what I’m saying?”.

Other relatives will politely ask me what my job is even though we’ve been through this for many years. At the end, everyone gathers for a group photo.

On CNY proper, my family heads to the Buddhist temple to pray. Based on the traffic jam and the madness of looking for parking, I think it’s really auspicious to visit the temple on the first day.

Next stop is the KK branch of Tzu Chi. My other uncle and his family are devoted members of the charity/group. My family hangs around, eating some noodles and peeling oranges.

There is usually a lion dance as well.

I then spend the rest of the CNY period visiting other family friends or relatives. Oh, we also receive angpow (red packets) from married people. Hurray for the singles!

Chinese New Year is supposed to last until the 15th day. However, in the modern world, we only get two days of public holiday.

How do you celebrate Chinese New Year?

Travelling back in time at Jidai Matsuri

When AirAsia was having a promotion for Japan in February last year, I chose to travel in mid-October, thinking I might catch the red leaves season.

Unfortunately, I was too early for the red leaves.

Pitiful red leaves

Fortunately, I was in time for the Jidai Matsuri, a Japanese festival I have been hoping to catch for a long long time.

Jidai Matsuti, or the Festival of the Ages, is a long parade where people dress up in period costume (sometimes representing historical characters) [inset Japanese history fan girl cheer here] stroll through a fixed path from the Old Imperial Palace to the Hei’an Shrine.

It’s one of the three major festivals in Kyoto and falls on October 22 yearly. The parade is to celebrate the move of Japan’s capital from Kyoto to Tokyo way way back. (You know what Wikipedia is for.)

I arranged our Kansai trip so that we will be able to watch the parade. Our hostel receptionist advised us to take the subway since some roads are blocked.

When we reached the subway station nearest to the starting point of the festival, there were a lot of people. Following not very clear road signs, we found ourselves next to the stoney path of the Old Imperial Palace.

There are paid seats but we didn’t get those so we sat on the stones along with the old uncles and aunties.

Rocky pavement

Mom waited at our “seats” while I went off to take pictures of the performers.

Some people also brought their dogs along.

It took a while of waiting before the event started. The two obasan (aunties) in front passed us coffee candy while we waited. That was sweet of them.

The announcement of the start of the parade came and I waited excitedly.

Some ladies had a banner congratulation Kyoto’s 1300th birthday as a capital.

And a man carried a flag announcing JIDAI MATSURI.

The parade started with the Meiji period when the country was westernized. Then the more fun costumes followed.

The women of Jidai Matsuri

I’ve always been fascinated by famous women in history because fewer women than men are recorded in history. I want to know how they overcome gender inequality to have a place in history books.

I want to know what sort of power they have over the men and their children. How can this power translate to our modern world?

It seems to me that Japanese history has many wonderfully romanticized female figures–some arepoets, writers, great beauties or wives of famous men.

Murasaki Shikibu, author of The Tale of Genji
Princess Kazu
Daughter of Ki no Tsurayuki
Ono no Komachi
Kudara-O-Myoshin

Reflections of Jidai Matsuri

The procession was oddly solemn. No one cheered, not even when the popular historical characters like Sakamoto Ryoma stroll by.

I wanted to stand up, clap and holler “BRAVO!” but didn’t because everyone else was quiet. The only time when the audience was lively was when a band comes along playing music.

Also, I regret not having internet to google every character that I do not recognize because of my very shallow knowledge of Japan history. It would be more exciting to know who that man in blue pants is.

Tips for viewing Jidai Matsuri

  • Take the subway to the location: Some roads are closed for the procession so your best bet is the underground.
  • Bring a stool or something to put your butt on: If you are in the rocky grounds at start of the parade, a stool would help your butt from being too painful.
  • Bring food and drinks and an umbrella

Have you been to any celebrations with period costumes? How was it?

This blog post was inspired by BootsnAll’s Indie Travel Challenge weekly travel blog project.

Week 27 of the Indie Travel Challenge is all about celebrating: There are many reasons to travel and many moments make traveling special. Have you ever traveled to another country during a new [to you] holiday? If so, what was special about it?

Other festivals and Japan transportation tips:

Celebration by accident: Feast of Saint Eulalia, Barcelona

I was in Barcelona this February for a work trip. It was the very first time I was in Europe.

Before flying off, I read up on the festivals happening in the Spanish city. I was disappointed that the Feast of Saint Eulalia was on February 12 and that I would miss it by just one day.

I reached the city early in the morning. My hosts were still flying over so I had the chance to wander around the town.

Many shops were still closed and the weather was chilly. I walked to the tourist center and looked at the beautiful European buildings. 

On my way back to the hotel, I heard lively music and wondered what street musician was making such a racket.

I ran down the empty alley toward the music. To my delight, the citizens were having a parade. I didn’t miss the celebration after all!

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Lively trumpet and drums played throughout the parade. I stayed on, staring at the giant figures and the happy people.

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Here’s a snap of some guy escaping his giant whateverthatis

I left the parade in the alley and wandered off again. I was also lucky enough to catch the human tower mentioned in the guidebook.

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When my hosts finally arrived, the celebration had ended. *evil laugh*

 

This post is part of BootsnAll’s 30 Days of Indie Travel Project: Day 7: Celebrate.

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The rest of my posts for the project can be found here.

 

 

Baby crying contest

Interesting festival

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Took a break from updating yesterday. It’s my birthday after all

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Yesterday in Tokyo’s Sensoji, they had their annual baby crying contest. Parents bring their babies to the temple. Sumo students would carry the babies and try to make them (the babies) cry. The louder you cry, the healthier you are.

I read that the tradition started waay back when babies didn’t survive that easily. Weak babies didn’t cry that much while healthy babies kicked and screamed. So it’s good to give your kid a scare so that it’ll grow up healthy.

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