Monday, February 29

Another Chinese Wedding

I am so fortunate.  During my days teaching English in Shaoxing, China, I made great friendships not only with the other "foreign" teachers, but with students.  It is eight years since my first contact in Shaoxing, and two students who were there at the time invited me to their weddings.  I attended one in December, 2015, and one in February, 2016.

Despite the fact that they were in the same province of China, the weddings were quite different in many ways.

Here is the post about the first one. 

My young friend, whom I will record as "R", was the bride for Wedding No 2.  She first came to Australia  in 2010, and has been again since.  I spent the first five days in Shaoxing, which I will write about later, and on the sixth day, I went to the campus of Yuexiu University of Foreign Languages, and met up with my friend R, who was there with two friends to take me to Cixi.

I had been to Cixi back in 2014, when I visited her and stayed with her in her home.  It was a short 2 or 3 days from memory.

This time I asked to be booked into a hotel, so that I would not be "in the way of wedding activities" but she promised me an apartment or hotel and until I arrived I was unsure of where I would be staying.

As it turns out the family company had an apartment, and I stayed there.  We went to the supermarket and bought a few things, and I was subsequently ensconced in the apartment.  I had water to drink, some snacks to eat, coffee, paper cups, but no spoons to mix the coffee, and no way of heating/boiling water.  I found a jug in the belongings of one of the staff, and found my way to a local supermarket and bought a teaspoon.

The outside temperature was around 1 - 4 degrees during the day, so I wore my heavy coats when out and about.

My apartment was in this housing block - a little to the left of the photo, on the 3rd floor.

The wedding was held in the factory, which was transformed into a wedding venue with red felt carpet, many tables with red tablecloths, and fancy red chairs.  You'd be hard pressed to recognise it as a factory.  There was a stage, a catwalk, and "arbour"!  Gold and red everywhere!  Some 600 people attended the luncheon.

The caterers operated out of marquees in the car park.  There were some formalities as the bride was given away by her parents.

The bride changed in the office above, and almost ran through the factory to the outside and the red carpet that was on the car park from the factory gate to the door of the factory.

There was a lot of excitement, plenty of photos taken as the bride and groom entered the factory and the ceremony started.

Yours truly was asked to be the "Marriage Celebrant" and I had to stand before all and read some prepared notes (which I had arranged to be totally edited from the "English" stuff I was originally given.)  An interpreter repeated each of my sentences in Mandarin.  An odd experience that is for sure.

The tables were all full of food, which seemed to keep coming.  Plenty to eat.  Guests were given a box of goodies, which I will detail later.

The bride ready for the event.

Walking from the factory gate.

The bride and groom

On the stage
Following the ceremony in the factory there were giveaways - children were given soft toys and an amazing array of entertainers, some who were famous opera singers performed.

A little boy watches on as the entertainers pose for a photo.  They all performed solo.

The next step of the performance was the journey to the bride's home.  She changed into another wedding dress, and the groom had to come and "take her away".  There was some games as the groom was initially denied access to the bride, but then when he got into the bedroom, he kneeled before her and offered her flowers.

Fireworks.  I haven't mentioned them.  At the factory at the beginning of the day's events, and as the bride left, and when they arrived in front of the bride's house.  Later, more fireworks. 

Around 10 black cars with red ribbons on the doors and red stickers on the windscreens, left after more fireworks and headed to the groom's family home.  I was in one of the black cars!

On arrival at the groom's village, which was about 45 minutes drive away, there were more fireworks.  We initially went inside, and I spent an hour or so upstairs as the bride was prepared for the next event, which was a dinner at a restaurant/hall nearby.

Wedding guests walked through the Village, following the bride and groom to the upstairs venue, where we ate another array of foods.  There was no ceremony.  Folk ate and then left.  In fact for much of the night children played on the stage with balloons, and the folk sat playing with their mobile phones.

Afterwards, we walked back to the house, sat in the bedroom while the bride chatted with a few folks.  Then cars took folk back to Cixi and I was taken to my apartment.  Sleep came quickly.

Walking to the hall 
The stage area

The bride in traditional outfit

Sunday, February 28

Seat Belts and the Chinese

I have just spent over two weeks in China.  I went especially for a former student's wedding and stayed longer to look around the city where I once lived.  That was the plan, but I never got free time as my generous hosts took me to many Spring Festival Events. 

The first family I stayed with chauffered me to many family homes to celebrate.  It was mostly enjoyable, but being the only English speaker at most events made it challenging.

My host family were always good and wore seat belts.  As did I.  It is a habit for me, as in Australia we MUST wear a seat belt or risk the wrath of the Police and a fine.  In China, it is also the law to wear seat belts, but many Chinese do not like to do so.

I recall, and I have written about this, that in 2010 my driver was "insulted" when I put my seat belt on.  I was sitting in the front seat of his car.  He argued that he was a safe driver and there was no need to wear the seat belt.  A few weeks later, when I got into the car I noticed he was wearing the seat belt.  I asked him why.  Sheepishly he told me that he had been fined for not wearing it!

This trip, in Cixi, (south of Shanghai near Ningbo) my companions/drivers seldom wore seat belts.  In fact, they went to great lengths to avoid wearing them.  All the cars I travelled in were high-end cars - Mercedes, BMW, Lexus etc.

I saw a couple of the drivers with the seat belt done up, but they were sitting on it.  In the wedding cavalcade, in which I sat in a BMW, I went to put the seat belt on, but couldn't.  It had a little metal thing in the seat belt which worked to delete the ringing of the seat belt warning sound.

The photo above is the item used to delete the seat belt warning sound.

Often I would be in a vehicle for long distances and the warning sound continued throughout the journey.  It annoyed me.  

I spoke to my friend about it.  She does not like wearing a seat belt as she claims to be a safe driver.  As someone who bribed the examiner when she failed her test and was subsequently granted her drivers licence, I was wary!

Isn't it easy to use the seat belt?  Yes, it is, but they don't "LIKE" it.

I don't think my discussion with her on the safety issue will change her mind.  Perhaps if I go back to China, I will find out.

Friday, February 26

Sorry Readers. No posts

It was the first and last time that I did not travel with my laptop.  I reasoned that I could manage with my tablet on my trip to China.  As it turned out, I was unable to get the tablet to work with the VPN.  I even tried a second one, but still no success.  Google is difficult in China.  Banned actually, and accessing Blogger, Google, Gmail, is almost impossible. One has to use a VPN, which I managed on my phone, but for reasons unknown to me, they did not work on the tablet.

I spent hours trying to make it work but gave up.  So, I will have to recount my amazing adventure to China with stories and pictures now that I have returned home to Australia.

I was fortunate to be invited to two weddings in China.  One in December which I have reported on, and the second in February, which I am about to report on.  I regard myself as very honoured to attend, and in fact, I took part in the latest wedding.  

This time, as it was Chinese New Year, I had some challenges.  The airfare I was originally quoted was expensive, and I chose to fly with Scoot, a new airline based in Singapore and associated with Singapore Airlines.  I normally fly with them or Cathay Pacific if I wish to go via Hong Kong.  The price was too tempting, but as I have been told, you get what you pay for.  I will explain my challenges with Scoot in a later post.

The flight left from Coolangatta Airport, so I stayed with my son the night before the flight, and drove down early in the morning.  All was well, and I parked my car at Ezyparking, and they took me to the airport.  All was well.

We were late arriving in Singapore and I had a mad dash from one side of the airport to the other, but managed it.  Rather sad that I could not do some shopping as I had hoped!!!

I arrived in Hangzhou late at night - around 11 pm and had advised my hosts that I would stay in a hotel overnight, to save them the travel late at night.  I stayed in a great hotel, New Century Zhejiang Xiaoshan Hotel but had challenges getting there.  It was supposed to be "near the airport" but the taxi took me the long way round and we had a dispute about the fare.  Luckily the hotel knew what was going on, and "rescued" me after I had paid what I considered to be an excess anyway.  The hotel people agreed with me.

Check in was quick, and I was soon ensconced in my room, and very quickly showered and climbed into bed.  

I slept well, and after a wonderful breakfast I set out to Shaoxing.  I caught a taxi to the bus station, bought my ticket with 10 minutes to the next bus, and set off.  It was not the usual bus that I was familiar with, but took me on a different and longer route.  When I arrived in Shaoxing, Joanna and Nancy were there to meet me.