Our First Chinese Wedding

Location: Jian’ou, Fujian Province, Chinaedit00

We visited China recently to attend the  wedding of one of our closest friends (formerly translator and life-saver). Davi and his blushing bride Cherry graciously invited us back to spend a week with their family and friends to celebrate with them. Naturally, we accepted their invitation!

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We packed our bags with our finest dress clothes and stuffed our suitcases with gifts for the happy couple. We weren’t sure precisely which day the wedding would be on, but we booked our trip for a few weeks. We quickly realized that we knew absolutely nothing about attending a Chinese wedding. We didn’t know if there was a ceremony, what activities to expect or what to wear. As a result, we ended up embarrassing ourselves quite frequently.

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Thus we bring you this post about one of the most fascinating weeks of our lives. Here are some things we learned and some things that happened to us. Perhaps they will help you out if you ever find yourself in the unlikely position we were in.

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Back to China

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Location: Jian’ou, Fujian Province, China

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China is a country where everything changes and nothing ever really changes. Where the old meets the new and the future mingles intimately with the past. It’s been more than 2 years since we left China, but the country welcomed us back with open arms.

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William Gibson once said something to the effect of: the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed. As a corollary to that, China is where the future is happening in real time. You can go there and watch a government and its people leapfrog over half a century of entrenched infrastructural decisions and come up with something that addresses their needs in a more innovative way.

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With a quick overnight stay in Fuzhou, we took the newly constructed fast train back to Jian’ou for the wedding of our dear friend and translator (more on the Chinese wedding experience in our next post). Now Davi is an English teacher himself with an apartment, car, and a beautiful new wife who we were meeting for the very first time.

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From the Recipe Book: Traditional Red Bean Mooncakes

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Mid-autumn Festival (中秋節) or Moon Festival is the harvest festival. It comes once a year on the night of the full moon from September to early October- the 15th day of the 8th month on the Lunar calendar. It has been celebrated in China and Vietnam for centuries and is one of the four most important Chinese festivals. Everyone has the day off to spend with friends and family, eat mooncakes, and sit outside to enjoy the beauty and splendor of the full moon. The holiday has a spiritual quality that comes from the ancient love story a beautiful woman named Lady Chang’e who ascended to the moon and became a celestial being representing fortune and peace.

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But, mooncakes, though.

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Raleigh/Durham- City of Oaks

Location: Raleigh, Durham, Carrboro and Chapel Hill, North Carolina

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We had less than 2 days, but our mission was to see as much of our little corner of North Carolina as we could. Our plan was to visit Chapel Hill (since I would be attending UNC), Carrboro (known fondly as Chapel Hill’s hippie cousin), Raleigh (the State’s growing capital), and Durham (an entrepreneurial hub for young professionals). Too many flights made our experience a little haggard, a little tiring, but we managed to pull out all the stops. These areas are conveniently located within 30 minutes of each other, so we rented a car and got to seeing the sights.

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China 101- The Most Important Meal of the Day

Location: Jian’ou, Fujian Province, China

I can say with much sincerity that one of the things we miss the most about China is the food and the food culture. Especially breakfast, which I think most Chinese people would agree is the most important meal of the day. One of the most common responses I get to photos from our journey is: “That’s what you guys ate for breakfast!?”

In Jian’ou, breakfast is the time the city hummed with life. Everyone would venture out to one of the hundreds of local breakfast shops to start their day off right (and maybe catch up on a little gossip and get a glimpse of the resident foreigners). More people would routinely eat out for breakfast than lunch or dinner combined. And seriously, what do Chinese people eat for breakfast? If you’re coming to China expecting a piece of toast, bacon, oatmeal, pancakes, or some cereal in the morning you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

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Pacific Northwest- The Best Return

Location: Seattle, Washington, Blaine, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

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Now, although this post doesn’t represent any of our travels around Asia, it was possibly a bigger adventure than any other that we had this summer. It was the first time we had set foot on our home continent in over 14 months, and yet it was completely unlike the North America that we were used to. The one that we had left- flat, unchanging. It was lush and vibrant and filled with all of our favorite things. We were in awe at the amount of greenery we saw when our plane touched the ground.

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The Dancing Ladies

Location: Jian’ou, Fujian Province, China

When we were living in China, one of the greatest things we noticed were the different forms of exercise. Not having widespread affordable healthcare available to the entire population makes keeping one’s body fit (even into old age!) a huge priority. It was so admirable to see how active elderly people in our community were. They would do play ping pong, pool, or badminton. They would also wake up early to perform Tai Chi sequences on their roofs and climb mountains (often times backwards, as is the tradition in China). They would take advantage of the local terrain whenever possible- living in a mountainous region made it easier- and it was oftentimes a community effort. The best part was, they would always find new ways to make it fun.

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