Thursday, May 23, 2013

i got invited to a chinese wedding!

hey hey hey! 

so last week i got invited to a chinese wedding (i'm fancy) and i was all hype to go- weddings mean tons of good things right? food, alcohol, pictures, cake, alcohol... ya know, all the stuff we in the west love to indulge in. and while i was super happy to be included in such a special occasion; i did not have a clue on what to bring as a gift. in america, i would just base my gift on how long/well i knew the couple and then go from there, but this was different. it was a traditional chinese wedding- i had to represent for the u.s. and bring something good to the table. oy vey decisions decisions. luckily my coordinator frances (the bride) invited other teachers from my school so they just told me that in china, red envelopes with money are given to the couple as a gift. the amount given should be even (pairs) and should not contain the number 4. so no giving 40 or 400 because the number 4 in chinese sounds like the word death (don't want that to happen). the rest of the teachers and i decided to give 200RMB each (a nice chunk of change if you times it together by the amount of people coming from our school).
envelopes usually look like the ones above
the next step was thinking about what to wear- should i go buy something? or should i just pull out my best outfit in my closet and hope for the best? i decided on the latter for 2 reasons; the first one being: i am trying to save money. my time is winding down here in china and i need to come home prepared to pay some serious adult bills (whomp) the second reason is: my ass is too big to fit into any of the clothes here. now, i have lost about 8 pounds since my arrival. not a lot of weight at all and i am still too plump to squeeze into a pair of jeans or dress made for a typical chinese woman. no way was i going to this wedding looking like a busted can of biscuits - no ma'am. no sir. after tearing up my closet, i found a nice red top and some leggings- this will have to do, i said. come to find out, i was almost over dressed for the occasion. the only rule to chinese weddings on what to wear is not wearing white- wearing white at a wedding in china if you are not the bride is considered bad taste. i can understand that completely because it's the same principle in america. chinese people like to be comfy when they party and i saw a lot of the guest in flat shoes and simple tops. no one was stealing the shine away from the couple.

once we arrived at the venue, it was a mad house. chinese people everywhere, lol. i had brief flashback of travelling during chinese new year and almost turned around and went home. trust me- one time battling against a billion people is enough. however, frances had invited me personally, i couldn't not go- shoot, i am the ONLY foreign teacher at my school- i bet a million dollars that everyone would notice my absence. so i sucked it up and went inside. what i saw could only be described as cinderella meets china. it was a real life fairy tale. i felt myself getting warm behind the eyes (ya know the feeling you get before you tear up) and i swallowed. in the main hotel lobby were huge tables filled with gifts for the bride and groom. 3 large wedding posters were posted up behind the tables- the couple's photos were shot on a beach, in a park, on a boat and in a temple. they looked SO happy. by the main entrance to the reception hall were a group of men in black. they were responsible for collecting the red envelopes at the door and counting the number of guest. when i made my way to the table i saw them glance at one another and then smile- "you must be the american" one of the guys said, "come" before i knew it i was running up the stairs to tell the bride i had arrived. frances looked so gorgeous in her greeting uniform- before the wedding starts, the groom and the bride will wait at different areas to greet the guest and thank them for coming. once i saw frances i went back downstairs to give in my envelope and sign my name to the guest book (i was guest number 300. YES 300) there were at least 400 people there for the wedding and i was so excited to see what would happen next.

frances in her uniform looking for her camera-
i caught her at a bad angle but she still looks beautiful  <3
when i walked into the main hall, there were two sides; one for the bride and one for the groom- i got super lucky and found a seat next to the front of the stage so i could see all of the action. there were about 200 people on each side- everyone stopped to look at me and say a endless amount of "hellos" i just smiled and looked forward to the time when everyone would focus on the ceremony and not me. there were 3 teachers from my school at my table so i could speak english (what a relief) my seat mates quickly explained what every symbol an gesture meant. on the table were 2 bottles of american soda- 2 bottles of baijiu (the white devil) and 2 kettles for tea. the servers would come around to collect garbage but you can serve yourself the drinks. i talked to the guest next to me and gave huge hugs to frances' mother and father. they looked so nice- i also got a chance to talk to the groom's grandmother and little nephew-the boy ended up giving me half of his chewed up piece of candy (we totally go together now) and i sang songs to keep him entertained. finally- after drinking my weight in pepsi- the lights were dimmed and it was show time! the announcer told everyone to take their seats and keep the central aisle clear for the wedding party. (at least that is what i guess he said because i don't speak chinese :-P) the lights came back on and out walked the groom- his american name is john- to the front of the aisle. he had his best friend behind him, the announcer (officially i don't know his title but he was the one making all the speeches at the time) he said a chinese blessing and out walked frances and her father- she was stunning. she wore a beaded white gown with a diamond necklace and tiara. the train of her dress was about 3 feet. everyone looked while the groom made his way down the aisle to collect his bride. unlike america where the bride usually walks down the aisle with her father- in china, the groom walks down the aisle to get the bride and they walk to the front of the alter together. after reaching frances, john got down on one knee and asked her father to allow her to come to the front. of course he said yes and together they went to the alter where the ceremony started. each of them said their vows and walked to the side of the alter. to a table with 2 goldfish in 2 separate tanks. as part of chinese culture, goldfish mean good luck and long life. each of them poured their goldfish into the same container. after that they cut the cake- another custom different than the west. once they cut the cake, the best man would give the speech followed by the maid of honor. the rings were exchanged and then they were pronounced husband and wife.....and i cried. yup- i don't even speak chinese but the love and spirit in the room was so wonderful that everyone was crying. the rest of the night can only be described as a legit wedding party...we drank, ate and sang songs. there was a lot of line dancing with the older people and the children basically ran around playing. each dish that was put on the table had a significant meaning to marriage and family. frances' grandmother told me that i must eat oysters for good "women's health" i'm guessing she meant all my lady lumps will function properly if i consume this seafood 0_0. gotta love old people- they do not give a damn about saying what is on their minds. unlike the american weddings i have been to, the bride and groom do not have an official dance together until after they return from their honeymoon and that event is for family and spiritual leaders only. overall i am extremely excited i got to be a part of this event - i will never forget it!
frances if you are reading this (she claims she doesn't but then again, she also claimed she wasn't getting married when i first met her and we see how that turned out huh, lol) i want to wish you a very happy and blessed marriage! thank you SO much for inviting me and allowing me to post these photos on my blog. i love you!

each guest gets their own little souvenir 
the main entrance way 
the cutest guy in the room! (sorry john)
waiting for the ceremony to start- there was A LOT of people
my table guest, they are all english teachers at my h.s.
exchanging rings 
the goldfish ceremony
john & frances' wedding posters. beautiful! 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

china brings out the kid in me!

hello loves!
it is officially spring in china and i am SO happy that my apartment is cozy and no longer the ice box it was for the past month. so there is this phenomenon going on in china that strikes both fear and anger into the hearts of foreign teachers everywhere: english corners. apparently, most foreign teachers are subjected to this nightmare when they teach in china. an "english corner" typically consist of students of all ages and skill levels taking apart in a informal "lesson" during the evening or weekend.

i get the idea behind starting an english corner- the school wants to promote more english language discussion between the foreign staff and students outside the classroom and so having people attend a weekly meeting can strengthen the appearance of the school's mission for learning and growth- IN THEORY that is great. in reality: it sucks. lemme tell you why: first of all, english corners are usually very unorganized and sometimes can resemble a town hall meeting instead of a classroom. people with advanced to non existence english skills gather together around one foreign teacher trying to out shout each other. most of the attendees are not there to improve their english skills- they want a performance. most of them sit there expecting the teacher to wow them with stories or my favorite request: "dance like michael jackson". excuse me, sir! for i did not travel across land and sea to become your evening entertainment *insert self righteous face here*

yup- looks like a whole LOT of learning going on here...
as i have previously stated, i am the only foreign teacher in my school. so the joy of this wonderful assignment rest on my shoulders. will admit that i am much luckier than some of the other poor fools who need to host english corners OUTSIDE on a weekend afternoon or worse- multiple times a week (god how cruel) but i do have to host it for my school every friday evening (social life, what social life?) for the english teacher's kids. yup you read that correctly- i don't get a classroom of english students. i get a classroom of kids from the ages of 5-11 years old. good thing i love kids and i am not terrible at entertaining them, BUT, i specifically did not want to teach younger children for this reason: they. are. a. handful. maybe i need to take more vitamins or something, but by the end of the day, the only thing i have the strength to do is lay down. working with little ones means you have to be active- you have to jump and run and laugh and play and smile. whew!! i got tired just typing that. so, working with my colleague's kids in a "english corner" is not my first choice in the "what would you like to do on a friday night?" department. plus, have you ever tried to hold a kids attention for more than 20 minutes?! impossible i tell you. impossible!

this about sums it up!
which brings me to my second point, these things are not suggestions. they are mandatory. as in part of your job description. most schools look at english corners as a way to milk out more work from their foreign english teachers since they are paying us so well *insert sarcastic face* the chinese do not believe in giving up about 2/3 more of a monthly wage to a foreign teacher compared to a chinese teacher without making you work for it. that's right- don't expect to just teach your classes. but you must be prepared for and facilitate a bunch of strangers every week. because i have no choice in the matter- i make the best out of the situation i am in. i like to think of my english corners as a fun time where my little kids can play around and be free from the strict chinese school system they abide by everyday. it is a friday night for god's sake! so instead of teaching them things like, "hat, cat, dog, hello" -i teach them how to play all the childhood games i played when i was their age =)

this past friday we played: hangman, hot potato, hop scotch, mother, may i, and bingo (teaching them bingo was HILARIOUS) i basically just had them jumping around for an hour and then sent them home to their parents all wound up on an adrenaline kick (revenge is sweet) next week, i am going to take them outside so they can play freeze tag and i am so damn excited. the bottom line is: being a teacher in china sometimes comes with unexpected job responsibilities (next month, i plan on doing a post about 15 things you should know before teaching in china) and your attitude determines whether or not you are going to be positive or negative with that new opportunity. i still don't like teaching english corners and i doubt very much that i will agree to do one at another school if i decide to teach in china again. with that being said... i am going to spend the next 2 months planing out an epic water balloon/capture the flag fight for my kids as soon as the weather breaks 75 degrees! ok, so maybe i like "teaching" this english corner after all!

china brings out the kid in me!

p.s. HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!!!!!!!!! 
i want to wish a happy mother's day to all the mothers out there doing the best they can for their children. we appreciate you! 
i got my mom tickets to a concert for mother's day and i wish i could spend it with her but i know she is proud of me. although i'm a handful- she wouldn't have it any other way! i love you mommy <3

my mom and i. circa 1994.