Visiting My New Campus (Chenggong) and Celebrating Christmas Eve

This morning, I met my professor at the gate of Yunnan Nationalities University and then took an hour long bus ride to Chenggong city, where my classes will be next year. When we got off the bus, I felt like I entered a suburb in the arid parts of California. The buildings were new, as well as magnificent (Chinese and Western mixed architecture), and the foliage felt out of place and small. I forgot to take pictures while walking around campus. The large buildings were made of the same colors; brick red, blue, white, and charcoal black, and materials; tile, stone, and brick. The campus was large with so much space separating the buildings. While we walked to my advisor’s office, we passed through large outdoor halls that were desolate. This place was so big, but where were the students? I later found them outside of the dorm building.

My advisor had to attend a meeting, but two of her students escorted me around and showed me the Ethnic Minority Museum on campus. The top floor was a history of the school, as well as pictures of ALL the administration. In one of the dozen rooms, there was a large portrait of Chairman Mao with the Wa people of southern Yunnan province. One of the students mentioned that Chairman Mao admired the Wa for their beautiful dances. However, he confronted one of their traditional customs with an iron fist, that custom being the sacrificing of humans to the gods. He viewed this as backward and it contradicted his mission to develop the nation. He made that custom illegal and it still is to this day. I thought that story was interesting. I’ll have to ask Dr. Wu more about that later, her research focus is on the Wa people.

I met Dr. Wu after her meeting and we headed back to Kunming city. I planned to meet friends that night to have Christmas Eve dinner. We met up at Salvador’s (a popular Western bar and restaurant in Kunming) and had a feast of Western food: Spaghetti with pesto sauce (x2), Spaghetti with tomato sauce, Cheese Quesadilla, Tuna Quesadilla (leftover from another table), fried goat cheese sticks, nachos, and Belgium waffle with ice cream and maple syrup. Not like home, but it was a nice change from the spicy rice noodles and pickled vegetables that I’ve been eating lately.

From there, we heard of an epic snow fight that was happening in the city center. We decided to check it out and found ourselves in a crowd of youth that were shooting fake snow from aerosol-like cans at random bystanders and participants. At first it was fun…


Fake Snow Battle in City Center

but my friends and I are foreigners, we became prime targets. People would shout “laowai! (foreigner!) and  shoot fake snow foam at the back of our heads, but the most traumatizing part of the experience was when some young prankster would scream from somewhere around me “MERRY CHRISTMAS” (in a poor accent) and shot me right in the face and eyes. That’s when I decided, I needed to get out of the war zone. We had to run through the epicenter to find sanctuary at a hostel.

I was not expecting to celebrate Christmas Eve like this. When we got to the hostel, I looked from the balcony and watched the cacophony continue. People were laughing as they shot foam and hit people with balloon maces and others screamed by being attacked by a mob of young Chinese boys with puffy hairstyles. I suspect they don’t know what Christmas is about. Supposedly Kunming is especially unique in this aspect, very few cities have this kind of two-day Christmas celebration.

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