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GUIYANG - In the eyes of 26-year-old Amanda Raman from the United States, the Spring Festival celebration this year retained its essence - family reunions - even as it highlighted the drastic changes China has undergone.
It was her seventh Spring Festival in the country.
Six years ago, Raman was invited to celebrate in Xiaohewan village, in Anshun, Guizhou province, the hometown of her Chinese friend Chen Xuelian.
"I bought Chinese couplets and red lanterns and prepared red envelopes for the children before the trip based on what I knew about Spring Festival," she said.
In 2013, Raman entered Guizhou University to learn Chinese. Upon graduation this year, she decided to stay in China. She found a job as an English teacher in Kunming, in neighboring Yunnan province.
The morning she set out with Chen, she was astonished by the hectic crowds in the train station.
"It feels like every Chinese person is here," she recalled. "I was in complete shock and struggled through the crowd to the entrance."
However, she was deeply touched by what she saw when they arrived at Anshun West Railway Station.
"People returning home were hugging and talking to their families and friends with great excitement. At that moment, I came to understand why Chinese people travel great distances home for Spring Festival," she said.
On Lunar New Year"s Eve, all members of Chen"s family gathered from near and far and sat together around a stove. At the reunion dinner, they watched the holiday gala on TV and recounted their experiences as migrant workers in distant cities.
Although she understood only a little of what they were talking about, Raman could sense the strong connections in their joyful smiles and the festive atmosphere.
"A Chinese saying says that "We don"t go home just to celebrate Spring Festival; it is the homecoming that is the traditional celebration." I finally understand what it means now," she said.
For this year"s Spring Festival, Raman paid another visit to Chen"s hometown.
"We can take the high-speed train this year," Chen had told her.
Last year, a high-speed railway line connecting Guiyang and Anshun was put into operation. Technologies such as facial recognition and big data have also been applied to ensure safer and easier trips.
At Anshun West Railway Station, it takes a passenger three seconds to pass the ticket gate by scanning their ticket or ID card and looking into the facial recognition screen.
"It"s a real miracle! High-speed trains are fast and cost less than the trains in my hometown," Raman said.
Now, it only takes half an hour for them to arrive at Chen"s hometown. Six years ago, it took four.
When arriving at Chen"s home, Raman found the village familiar but also different: It had become an attractive place for tourists.
Two-thirds of the households there now operate inns and agritourism resorts, while 90 percent of the local young migrant workers have returned to start their own businesses, pursuing their dream of living a better life.
"The travel rush is not only a marvel of transportation but also the epitome of the rapid development of China," Raman said. "But with the drastic developments, what remains the same is Chinese people"s yearning for reunions with their families during Spring Festival."
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