兔来兔走又一年 / Rabbits Come, and Rabbits Go

兔来兔走又一年

今年二月初,我在北京过的农历新年。除了放松一下身心,我发现自己还在琢磨今年这个兔年是会风平浪静、尽在掌握,还是意外频生,防不胜防?换句话说,这只兔子是只四平八稳、蹦蹦跳跳的兔子,还是只好像被饿狗追着在野地里乱窜的野兔呢?

我很享受北京寒冷干燥的天气、香喷喷的饺子、阖家团圆的气氛,以及连绵不断的炮竹声。从中我总结出,世界好像已经发生了改变,进入了一个新的时代。变数和不可预见频发,并且已经成为常态,而非例外。其变化的速度和进程本身似乎也在改变。兔年来了又走,现在的兔子已经今非昔比了。

新年伊始,既祈求好运又未雨绸缪似乎才是明智之举。二月初,也许我们还对此将信将疑,但从那时起,来自世界各地的爆炸性头条新闻就彻底打消了我们的疑虑。这些消息包括史上罕见的天灾悲剧、惩罚性的极端天气、起伏不定的市场走势和始料未及的政治动荡等等。

北京的农历新年充满了祥和的气氛——除了满大街的烟花炮竹之外——令人身心放松。每年这个时候,都会有大批人员离京返乡,前往全国各地,还有越来越多的人会出国度假。

这大概也是北京每年唯一一次远离车马喧嚣的日子。在这几天(特殊的)日子里,你可以从容穿梭于这个庞大的城市。要在平日里,经历漫长的堵车之后,你会感觉头上刚剪的头发似乎又长了,而脚下到了该换袜子的时候了。这也让人回忆起曾经的北京,那时唱主角的还不是交通拥堵。

像我们这样上世纪七十年代曾经在北京生活过的人都还记得,那时自行车是马路的主宰。驴车、马车、公交车、卡车和小汽车的数量都没有两轮自行车多。

到了晚上,北京的大街小巷一片漆黑。由于是在黑暗中行车,有些司机养成了不断按喇叭的习惯,显然是为了提醒骑车人和行人靠边儿。有些司机还一边开车一边闪动大灯,同样也是为了这个目的。实际上,这种视听手段用在行车安全上还真是新奇,只是我并不相信它会有什么效果,尤其是在当年的交通状况下。

如今,新年假期清空了马路,以至于令人想起那个淡泊宁静的年代,而它本身就是一种美德。

虽然这几天北京的路面清净了,但又充斥着连绵不绝的炮竹声。只有在这段时间,北京人可以购买烟花炮竹,并不分昼夜地燃放。

请别误会我的意思。我很喜欢烟花炮竹,因为它能给新年增添很多喜庆喧闹的气氛。

城里一夜之间就出现了许多商贩,叫卖一切可以爆响的东西,从红色的大挂鞭、像烟卷儿粗的炮竹,到一米多高的火箭炮应有尽有。虽然鞭炮燃放的时候五彩缤纷,但在我们普通百姓手里,确实非常危险。

春节里,除了燃放鞭炮以外,北京和二十年前的香港比较类似,很多商铺和饭馆都会关门歇业,人们必须提前采购食品,安排饮食。

随着北京在假期逐渐发展成人口输出地,香港已经变成了净输入地。现在香港的经济在很大程度上依赖于旅游收入,特别是来自大陆的游客。因此,与过去不同,川流不息、如饥似渴的游客让香港的商店和饭馆都在节日开门迎客,只有些小卖部还会关门。

在我准备离京返港的时候,我心里盘算着下一步的行程(将要前往气候截然相反的北美和南美)以及新的一年。我的直觉告诉我,这个兔年将会发生更多意想不到的状况。

Rabbits Come, and Rabbits Go

I spent this year’s early February Lunar New Year holidays in Beijing. While enjoying the holiday and relaxing, I found myself wondering whether this Rabbit Year will be one of those relatively even-paced, predictable ones, or one which brings big, bold surprises. In other words, the kind of rabbit with a steady, bouncing gait; or one of those wildly bounding hares criss-crossing the landscape in erratic leaps and bounds as if being chased by a hungry hound.

As I enjoyed Beijing’s cold, dry weather, delicious dumplings, family gatherings and around-the-clock fireworks, my conclusion was that our world seems to have turned a corner. We’re already into a new era, in which higher levels of volatility and unpredictability are the routine, rather than the exception. The pace and tenor of change itself seems to have changed. Rabbits come and rabbits go, but we seem to have a new kind of rabbit on our hands now.

It seems wise to begin each new year hoping for the best while preparing for the worst. Any doubts about the wisdom of that which we might have had during early February have since been dispelled by the steady progression of dramatic headlines from around the world, involving tragic natural disasters of historic proportions, punishing extremes in weather, see-sawing markets, unexpected political instability, etc.

The Lunar New Year holiday in Beijing was quiet — except for the pyrotechnics in the streets — and relaxing. It is the big window in the annual calendar when Beijing exports vast numbers of its residents to their home towns, all over China, and increasingly, to holiday destinations abroad.

It is also about the only time each year that Beijing’s wild traffic is tamed for a few days. For those few days, it becomes possible to go from one end of that great city to the other without needing a haircut and a change of socks because you just spent so much time stuck in traffic. It brings back memories of the way Beijing used to be, before the dictatorship of the traffic jam.

Those of us who spent time in Beijing during the 1970s recall the days when bicycles ruled the roads. Mule and horse carts, buses, trucks and cars were dwarfed in numbers by comparison with the massive tide of 2-wheelers.

At night, the city and its streets were dark. Some drivers were in the habit of honking their horns constantly as they drove in the darkness, ostensibly to warn bicyclists and pedestrians of their approach. Some also switched their headlamps on and off as they drove, no doubt for the same purpose. This was an innovative audio-visual approach to driving safety. I suspect it was quite effective, especially given the low motorized traffic levels of that era.

The New Year holiday nowadays empties the roads to such an extent that one thinks back to those quieter, simpler days, which in itself is something of a virtue.

While Beijing’s roads nowadays may be much quieter for those few days, there is ample compensation in ambient noise levels provided by the constant, around-the-clock fireworks. Residents are permitted to purchase and ignite them for a few days and nights, only during this period.

Don’t get me wrong. I like fireworks, and they add a highly festive, raucous, colorful, celebratory effect to the New Year holiday.

Street vendors suddenly pop up in the downtown area, selling everything explosive, from big double strings of red, cigarette-sized firecrackers to meter-long bottle rockets. These big fellas are spectacularly beautiful when shot off at night, but dangerous in the hands of us ordinary folks.

With the exception of the fireworks, Beijing during the New Year holiday has something in common with the Hong Kong of 20 years ago. A lot of shops and restaurants close, so you have to plan ahead on foodstuffs and eating arrangements.

Just as Beijing has grown into a major exporter of people during this holiday period, Hong Kong has become a net importer. Its economy is now highly dependent on tourist income, especially from mainland visitors. So, unlike the old days, the stream of hungry tourists ensures that most shops and restaurants stay open, with the exception of small neighborhood establishments.

By the time I was about to leave Beijing for Hong Kong, while thinking about upcoming travel plans (to the weather extremes of North and South America), and reflecting more generally on the year ahead, my gut feeling was that this particular Rabbit Year would bring more than its fair share of surprises.


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兔来兔走又一年 / Rabbits Come, and Rabbits Go》上有 10 条评论

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