Today was an exceptional adventure. You could, in some way, now consider me a local Chinese. Today is National Day, the celebration of China’s Independence (Oct 1, 1949) and I was at Tiananmen Square (天安门) to watch the flag-raising. Along with the other locals who went there to watch, one of the guards mentioned that he expected at least 100,000 people to arrive. Me and my friends rushed to catch the bus and also the last trains all the way to Tiananmen. Upon our arrival, we spotted the already somewhat crowded area around Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City. From the place where we initially arrived at, I could already spot the front doors of Forbidden City, just across the road.
After buying small China flags at 1rmb each, we moved further towards the center of the area. Past more people seated on newspapers, past rows of public toilets and people selling food, we reached the outside of the National Museum of China. There was a somewhat smaller crowd in this area. My flatmate had gone to ask the guards what time we would be allowed to cross the other side from underground, but we were apparently not allowed to cross from underground.
Right there where the entrance of the National Museum was, there was even a sign announcing something about the Shanghai Expo. Seeing that sign made me wish I was there in Shanghai to attend the expo, but then it’s kind of expected that many people would be flocking to Shanghai for the National holidays, and all the buses, trains and planes would be full. As well, many people have told me that it is somewhat not worth it to go to the Expo because most of the time spent there would be more for lining up for the buildings. I want to go to Shanghai for the holidays to visit friends and just to look around the city as well though. Oh well, maybe next time. I still have issues about money spending as well~
The lining up bit was pretty scary. We saw a group of people lining up so we thought they were the group ready to line up to cross to the other side (where the flagpole was). Yes, we were right about that bit, but there was a small fence blocking and due to the number of people who wanted to go there, there was a bit of pushing. Of course, later, the military guards were shouting in Mandarin. Poor me who couldn’t understand what they were shouting. Luckily, my friend could understand so she would translate for us, something like “No pushing, safety first before your excitement” or “No going over the fence or else” and other things that seem scary amidst the excited group. Eventually though we were able to cross to the other side. When we got there, we found out we were the first batch of people allowed into the square! Amazing! So our “discomfort for about 30 minutes-1 hour” had its advantages as well. There was a bag-checking place but us who were at the back were able to get through it later on when the guards decided that “what the heck, just pass through because this’ll take forever”. There were guards positioned on the each side of where the people were passing, making a way to where we were suppose to end up (which was right in front of the flagpole area). We ran through that entire thing because there were people behind (Batch 2 of those crossing from the other side) who were coming up behind us.
When we got to the main square, we were so close to the flagpole. Like we were in about the 5th row of people seated on the ground. You could really see the flagpole (more or less) up close [see picture above]. A great feat for some foreign students in Beijing, if I do say so myself. Haha. During that entire situation though, me and my friends were speaking in Tagalog so a lot of the people around us were curiously looking at this bunch of Chinese-looking people speaking some weird language. Haha. There was even this one group of guys looking at us and speaking to each other in Mandarin saying that “we couldn’t understand them” because they were talking about us and we were not really reacting to their statement. So in Tagalog, we just talked to each other going “Hah! You think we can’t understand, that’s what you think, that’s what you think.” Hilarious situation really. It didn’t help that 2 of my friends were wearing their Tsinghua University jackets/sweatshirts.
So seated on the ground or on newspapers (thankfully Justin – my flatmate, had one in his bag, so I got to sit on that instead of the ground), we waited for 5/6am for the flag-raising. We tried our best to sleep on the ground or on each other, staving off the cold with body heat and jackets. The rest of the local Chinese were doing the same, which made it feel a bit better as we were not alone in enduring that kind of situation. The flag went up at about 6…after which seemed like forever, especially with us waking up every now and then to make sure our things were still okay, or to move our feet which were hurting from our sitting position, or maybe to stand up and stretch. When the flag was finally up, they also released some birds which encircled the flagpole as they were released. It was a sight to behold.
Another interesting thing was how they rushed us outside after the whole ceremony. As we were leaving, the cleaners came in quickly to clean the ground littered with so much trash (like bottles, newspaper, food scraps). Before we even left the square, they had already practically finished cleaning up everything! How efficient! At the same time, the guards were still ushering us out and telling us in Mandarin not to dilly-dally (or it at least sounded that way). We weren’t able to leave the area right away though as we later found out that the subway stations to Tiananmen (East and West station) were closed so we had to go to Wangfujing, where we decided to have breakfast. Noticeably, there were tons off tourists (out-of-Beijing visitors) and other people who had also arrived from Tiananmen to see the flag-raising.</p
Definitely a memorable day. In some way, I can now truly call myself a local. And to think that in the Philippines, I’ve never seen the flag-raising at memorable places like Luneta or something. Not even on Independence Day. And, I wouldn’t think of wasting hours waiting in line for them to raise the flag there. Haha.