An eventful week of weddings, new friends and unrecognizable dishes for dinner!
Whilst having dinner one night with my Chinese Brother (Kelly) a young local girl came over to us, speaking English! After introducing herself as Li Ying Ying (now Lisa) she explained she would like to speak English with me and offered to help me with my Chinese. Within the next few days we met up and she took me to her home for lunch. Her father is a tax collector…and mother is a teacher, they have a wonderful and large apartment, much similar to mine. She has now become a good friend to me and we now spend quite a bit of time together!
I have developed a new favorite past time here, which is a massage and hair wash! For a mere 15 Yuan (1 pound 10p I think) you can get a head massage, arm and shoulder massage and have your hair washed! It's wonderful and so relaxing after a hard days teaching.
Recently I was invited to have dinner at my dance teacher's house (his name is Liuqi). His family speaks the local dialect in Xintian which happens to be the complete opposite from mandarin… Luckily I took my translator friend with me! The food was amazing and made me smile seeing the family tuck into the duck bones and feet whilst I opted for fried beef. I also had an interesting time explaining their queries of "why do foreigners never eat the bones? Hmm…well my answer being, there is no meat on the bones, our teeth aren't as strong and in the UK bones are for animals! They came to the conclusion it's because we don't know how to eat them… Thoughts on the message board please!
The meal was also attended by his parents, his sister, her family, his uncle, his aunt, their children, Liuqi, my translator and I! This wasn't because I was the main attraction, but because this is how people are in China. The families are so close and do almost everything together.
During this week one night at the night market during many ganbei's (as usual) Kelly's friend invites both Kelly and I to his wedding! So on Thursday after class I go along with Kelly. None of the guests had made any special attempt at dressing up, just the usual t - shirts and jeans etc. I think that it has something to do with the humid weather! So the afternoon started with a Xintian tradition of rubbing black shoe polish all over the grooms face! And even a smudge on the brides! I would be mortified! After the bride and groom greeted all their guests, on the door the women were offered sweets and chewing gum whilst the men offered free cigarettes. Inside the venue there were about 150 guests! We sat down to an enormous lunch of every kind of animal I had heard of… after Kelly filled my bowl with some interesting items it was ganbei all the way to celebrate! I met so many nice people. Kelly introduced me to two English teachers who have now also become good friends! I also met the groom's brother who is the Hunan KungFu champion! Quite a scary man to be honest! Very loud, wide eyes and strong! Good job my ganbei skills were up to scratch and were demonstrated with him and his father many times!
So after this feast, its time for the China tradition and its bed time! This quite frankly is much needed! So little worse for wear I return to my bed for a sobering sleep! Up again after a few hours to meet Kelly at the school gate (with a minor headache) and its dinner with the happy couple and their family and close friends. I felt honored.
Yes, it was Ganbei Ganbei Ganbei til your headache goes away! (aka hair of the dog) These Chinese need a lesson on savouring the beer and slowing down!!
There was one dish on the table which is unrecognizable…even Kelly did not know the meaning in Chinese! However…it was pretty tasty! Answers on a postcard please when you see the picture! After the meal it's KTV (karaoke) time. After KTV we are invited to see the grooms brother demonstrate some kung fu action at his school (yes…he is drunk…!) but still he was very good.
His wife also appeared with their 5 month old baby, which was the cutest thing I have ever seen. He seemed so happy in my arms and clutched my finger so tightly whilst we watched his father's kicking action. And a little thoughtful moment was had.
After the kungfu, it was time to witness another wedding tradition at the happy couple's home. All the guests ran inside and started to trash the couple's bedroom searching for money which had been hidden by the couple's parents! Hilarious! It was like watching a bunch of teenagers! Ok ok, yes I did join in, of course!
The men then raided the poor bride's drawers! And without any choice within five minutes the groom was sporting his new wifes tiny pants and bra! He was given a bowl and a spoon and then driven to the centre of town to beg for money!!!
The wedding day highlighted many cultural differences for me, between the UK and real China. Xintian is real China, Hong Kong is not). For example, the drinking culture and actions are entirely different to the UK. For a start the women rarely drink (I am an exception!). The women generally tend to hang around with each other, usually at home or KTV and the men hang round with the men. This is probably due to the fact that women don't really drink a lot, if anything. Drinking in the UK seems to have two almost hidden intentions. One is to get drunk. The other to find or generate attraction with another! Here, i think the aim is to show appreciation to your friends and just spend quality time together within the close community. This isn't to say that men and women don't want to hang out together at all. There almost seems to be mutual trust and not so much dependence on your partner or your relationship. Maybe that's why I am so suited to this place?!
The Chinese will generally have only one or maybe two girlfriends / boyfriends in their lives. Now there's a shocking comparison eh?! One night stands do not exist. It is also a common and cultural tradition that you marry before the age of 25 and stay with that person forever. Divorce does rarely happen but is nowhere near as common as the UK.
Another difference, you rarely see just two people out together alone having a quiet meal or drink like you do in the UK. There are always at least 3 or 4 people at each table. I have not yet seen a romantic meal for two or even two girls having a gossip over a bottle of pinot grigio. There are always many people together which I think accurately reflects the community spirit here. Xintian is a close and friendly town, there are no secrets! The people protect and care for each other innocently and as a foreigner this is so great to see. It's so reassuring. I love this town a lot and im very sorry that I will be leaving. But at the end of the day I am from another world, but am having the greatest time of my life on the planet that is China.
Back to work now! Would love to hear your thoughts. Also, there will be another blog very shortly! Ta ta! xxx Xie li.