Zhonghe Festival
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Zhonghe Festival
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March 9, 2008

We traveled down bumpy dirt roads, past wide fields. I wonder how our big van is going to make it. On the way to our destination, Terry explains that the market we are going to is held in honor of the lunar calendar holiday on February 2nd. On the second day of the second month of the year, the Zhong He festival celebrates an ancient agrarian tradition marking the awakening of the dragon that controls the rain and water. The festival is to usher in plentiful rains to nourish the crops. We are visiting this market to see this traditional fold tradition as well as the various mud toys sold there.  I do not think any of us were prepared for what we were about to experience.

We park alongside a dirt road and walk back towards a small collection of homes in the middle of wide-open fields. There are cars parked alongside the road and many motorcycles lined up at the entrance. The market is packed. Vendors are selling everything from sox to oranges, handicrafts to meat skewers, hair products to kite. It is absolutely dizzying. [Of all the things to see, we are definitely a main attraction. It is truly hard to move through the market because so many people surround us. The team splinters and I follow Mike Diaz. He is easy to spot standing six feet five inches, a head taller than the crowd. At one point several team members and I duck behind a vending station to take a breath from the throngs of people. We stand there for a few minutes until Terry and Li tell us the vendor has asked us to move because people are crowding his station to stare at us and we are hurting his business.]

As we are walking, Terry points out the various mud toy vendors. They seem to be selling lots of mud toys. We stop at one vendor selling mud toys in the shape of monkeys, tigers, and dolls, who tells us they made hundreds of these toys and only have a handful left. Even though we only stayed a few hours at the market, the experience was intense and pretty exhausting. Once back in the van, Terry handed out candied crab-apple sticks and oranges they bought for us at the market.

- Sarah Long

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