The nations that matter are those that export culture; China is one of those. Particularly this time of year and around the Pacific Rim; because it’s Chinese New Year. On Sunday, I marched in the big Vancouver parade.
There aren’t that many pictures of me on this blog, but here’s one.
I was there because my 7-year-old is in a Mandarin-bilingual program with a couple of wonderful super-high-energy teachers who organize this sort of thing, and I recklessly checked the “will volunteer” box.
They told us paraders that we ought to smile for the (many) cameras and in fact that was easy; at every moment of the hour-and-a-half or so, the crowds by the street were smiling and waving and taking pics and generally having a blast, so how could you not smile back at them?
The bilingual program just started recently and so far only extends up to Grade 3, so the kids’ routine is pretty basic, but they make up for it in cuteness. Chinese parade performance does not partake in this twenty-first-century gender-balance stuff; the boys charge around and wave bright-colored flags, while the girls do a demure flower dance.
The kids don’t seem to have any issues with the girl-dance vs boy-dance thing, just their postmodern parents.
Enough with the good cameras; the rest of the shots are taken with my Nexus 5 while marching. Since more or less half of the huge number of people out to watch the fun were shooting away, why shouldn’t I shoot back at them?
Pop quiz: When you get tens of thousands of people out for a fun event, conveniently lined up at the edge of the street, who might you think that would attract? Answer: politicians! And boy, were they out in force: The mayors of Vancouver and a few burbs, our Provincial Premier (Americans: think governor), her opposition, Canada’s own Official Leader of the Loyal Opposition, and so on. They all dress up in Chinese outfits (hey, me too: that tunic in the first picture cost me $50 the day before the parade in some random Chinese-imports store) and of course, hand out Red Envelopes which Wikipedia foolishly says contain money; well of course that goes on too, but mostly they contain candies and treats along with a political or commercial message. Kids, every ethnic group, learn fast, and pounce on them like piranhas on raw meat.
I don’t want to sound cynical because I generally approve of this sort of old-fashioned press-the-flesh politics; and note with pleasures that the parties that usually get my vote were better-represented than the others.
Some of you may be wondering a little about the cultural-appropriation thing, which gives me a chance to brag about my home-town: Apparently, It just isn’t an issue here. And yeah, some of the Mall Santas are Asian. That word “Asian” — we use it all the time here even though it means how you look, offering no useful information where your family came from (Vietnam? Taiwan? Japan?) or your station in life.
Because in Vancouver (and up and down the West Coast generally) our billionaire philanthropists and vicious gangster hoodlums are both multi-colored, which pays an unexpected dividend: Cheap ethnic humor.
For example, my Ingress social network, necessarily local, partakes of an extremely variegated gene pool. Two of our leading players are named Henry; one a beefy white guy, the other a skinny Asian, which creates loads of separated-at-birth and which-Henry-was-that joke opportunities. Also, once in our strategy channel, on a cold day we were wondering who an opposing attacker was and one of our Asian guys said “White guys in toques all look the same, who could tell them apart” and eventually had to admit that that was pretty funny. Partly because we kinda do.
Let’s look at more pix from inside the parade.
Both of these pictures feature Vancouver’s Old Chinatown, which is becoming something of an anomaly. I’ve been to Hong Kong and Shanghai each more than once, and I’d know where to find this kind of neighborhood in Hong Kong but not Shanghai. The inhabitants are on average kind of old, and their kids may be “Asian” but are primarily West-coasters who like being in a city but want a bit of green space; they don’t live in Chinatown, or even shop there that much. Dim Sum joints are becoming hipster “supper clubs”; it’ll be interesting to watch how that plays out.
And I’ve been watching for a while; I went in 1984 and took pictures on film, assuming you haven’t already had enough camera options.
When we got home, both I and the second-grader had pretty sore feet and were glad of a friend’s La-Z-boys in front of the Super Bowl. But also glad to have paraded. Vancouver’s more a Traditional than Simplified kind of place, so 新年快樂! and 恭喜發財! (I can’t pronounce either properly); I hope yours and mine both go well.