China Family Expat Experience 2008

Cold but dry – Chinese New Year looms

Feb 5, 2008 – Cristina

There have been some atrocious storms in the middle of the country, but here in Beijing we are dry and comfy, if not freezing when we go outside to walk the kids to school just 10 minutes.  The air temperature hovers around -5 most days, colder being about -10 (all temperatures quoted in Celcius, of course). 

Tomorrow we are traveling to Tokyo Japan for a 10 day visit, we’ll get to experience the craziness of the airport on the even of Chinese New Year.  Turns out that more than 100m folks travel by train, bus, air in the week of Chinese NY, when everyone is under traditional obligation to travel “home” to visit parents.  Since many city dwellers are transplants, lots of folks attempt to get home.  Our Ayi (maid) and laoshi (chinese teacher) have both gotten on trains already, and a coworker just im’d me to tell me he had arrived home after a 36 hour train ride–standing, since there were not seats to buy.  The congestion in the public transport must be insane, with that many folks travelling–and the massive storms in central China have made things worse given that train tracks are clogged with several feet of snow, and electricity is out in many places.

More from Tokyo in a few days, where we will have un-fettered access to the blog (which is blocked in China by the Chinese Firewall on the internet, making it harder to post entries).

Disneyland Japan Style

Feb 7, 2008 – Cristina

The boyos had no expectations about Disneyland.  The 6 kiddie rides at the Seattle Center = ultimate fun destination for Caetano, and at LegoLand last year Carlos had a meltdown (albeit he was jonesing to go home and work on his fresh Lego purchase). Forest and I grew up making regular pilgrimages to the Magic Kingdom; we wanted the boys’ first time to be great.

Disney Tokyo turned out to be an interesting choice rather than the California or Hong Kong venues.  Interesting because Tokyo itself is one big Toontown.  The crowd, all Japanese, 80% single young adults, 20% families (making the ratio of adults to children 95:5) came to Disneyland dressed in full amusement park regalia.  This means black patent leather spike heel boots and gold sequined mouse ears; school uniform jackets and baggy pants pulled down to there and Jack Sparrow mouse ears; short shorts with suede fur lined boots and a Stitch costume hood; Minnie Mouse ears and matching cape (on a 20-something guy).  Who needs Disney characters running around when you’ve got this on display?

I felt a little resentment at this crowd when they lined up for rides like the kiddie roller coaster and Pooh’s Honey Pot Hunt because the lines were 40-60 minutes minimum.  When I was a teenager, I would not deign to line up for Peter Pan or Pinnochio rides. But this crowd thought it was all cool. And I hear they come again and again.  It’s a place to hang out.

It was pretty great.  Caetano kept saying “I love this place.” Classics like It’s a Small World and Pirates are fresher then ever, especially seeing them through our kiddies eyes. Rides that are new to us (who haven’t been to Disney in over 10 years) like Buzz Lightyear and Winnie the Pooh were awesome.  Forest kept marveling at the technology of the 100-Acre Wood, which had cars that moved without rails, and maneuvered in complex patterns throughout a very interactive and “21st century” exhibit.

Can’t wait to go again.

Spring Festival 2008

Feb 21, 2008 – Cristina

The Spring Festival has finally drawn to a close. Traditionally the celebration lasts 4 weeks. Chinese school kids get all month off and go to school the rest of the year. In the professional world, people take at least a week off. In the States I have enjoyed many a New Year’s Parade, but had no idea how much this holiday means to Chinese. Think of it as Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year all rolled into one. It is a family holiday, and there are many migrant workers that see their families at only this time all year. People travel far and wide to reunite with parents (or in-laws if you are a woman). The traditions involve eating lots of dumplings, visiting fairs at temples, and lighting lots of firecrackers. Lots and lots of fireworks and firecrackers. Kids receive money in red envelopes and on the official new year day, they are not allowed to cry! Chinese people have lots of superstitions, and what happens on new year day sets the tone for the whole year. So you can’t let kids cry, you can’t fight with anyone, everything has to be just so.

Leading up to the holiday, people scurry about, getting ready for trips or celebrations. Lots of businesses close, including banks, and everything shuts down for awhile. In the States, you can rely on finding a Chinese restaurant open on holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving, and on the Chinese NY in Beijing, you get your fast food fix from the European restaurants!

We missed out on some of the fun, since we went to Japan. But I was amused to see Chinese families in Tokyo on holidays as well. I took the boys to Disney Sea, and we ended up by happenstance eating at the Chinese restaurant. That’s where I ran into other “Zhonguoren” taking a break from the weird Japanese food offerings with familiar items like spicy tofu, dim sum and fried chicken with sweet sauce.

Celebrating the mid-seasons this way is very interesting. I think it makes more sense to view the winter and summer solstices not as the beginning of the season but the middle of the season and the mid seasons as the beginning. The darkest day of the year certainly never feels like the “beginning” of winter. And now that it is mid February, doesn’t it feel a bit like Spring’s around the bend? Well, it does here. The weather is warmer and our cats seemed like they wanted to mate, so we got the boy (Marbles) fixed. Over the course of the Spring festival he went from being a shy, skittish little thing to a big, sleek, panther-like predator. Maybe it was all the dumplings he ate….

More on Japan

Feb 21, 2008 – Cristina

Q: Why did we go to Tokyo, Japan for the Spring Festival?
A: Forest had a business trip there since Japan doesn’t celebrate the lunar new year. Tina and the boys needed some adventure so we turned it into a big vacation.
Q: Did Forest work the whole time?
A: No, Forest goofed off with us for the first 4 days and then worked his butt off doing a deal for the rest of the week.
Q: How did the boys like the food?
A: LOVED it. Great Sushi, Shabu Shabu (Cook your thin slice beef in a big pot of liquid), Katsu (fried pork cutlets with yummy sauce), Ramen noodles, Dumplings, Italian Food, El Torito. Mmmm, El Torito.
Q: What did you do with the boys in Tokyo?
A: Went to amazing toy stores, played with the crazy Japanese toys in the hotel, played hide and seek in Yogogi park, visited the Ghibli Museum (home of Totoro) went to Disneyland and Disney Sea, kept our shoes away from people and seats in the subways.
Q: How was Disneyland?
A: See our previous post
Q: What is Disney Sea?
A: It is the OTHER Disney Park with an aquatic theme that was awesome, beautiful, and fun. The rides were for bigger kids mostly, so we were denied entry onto the Raiders fo the Lost Ark ride and Journey to the Center of the Earth, but we loved 20 leagues under the Sea (Caetano calls it 19 steps into the Sea), Tower of Terror, climbing around a pirate ship and not waiting in long lines for anything.
Q: What did you do without the boys?
A: Spent a lot of money and time at the famous Harajuku crazy trendoid shopping area, went to see a Beatles tribute band at a club called the Cavern, where we freaked out on the Young John Lennon look alike and sound alike and laughed when the band stopped playing to tell jokes and stories in Japanese. Oh yes, we saw THE POLICE!!!! A truly lucky circumstance and really fun time. The band looked and sounded great (except for a few songs which they changed around and messed with too much). The crowd was the Japanese version of what would turn out to see the Police in the States. Old fogeys that either showed up in their work clothes or came in their tastefully non-conformist attire, drank beer, went wild reliving their youth. No drunken Karaoke, but we did have a drink at the bar from Lost In Translation where ScarJo’s character meets Bill Murray. That’s the hotel where we stayed, and it was swanky. Free gourmet chocolate every few days. Views of Mt. Fuji. Tokyo rocks.
Q: Were you glad to come back to Beijing?
A: Yeah. China is so different then Japan. So relaxed and free-wheeling. So dirty. But the food portions are big. It’s so much easier to communicate. Milk doesn’t cost $12 a glass anywhere. China has it’s faults, but for now it is home. But I do wish we had a toilet with heat, sprinklers, dryers and music. I do miss that.

Lots of Odds and Ends

Mar 16, 2008 – Cristina

The cruel Beijing Winter behind us, we look forward to a cruel Beijing Summer.  This Spring we look forward to lots of visitors: The Cristina’s sister and dear nephew, the kids’ Tata Emilio with Forest’s Chilean Aunt & Uncle, the whole Andy Casanueva clan from Santa Barbara, Forest’s buds Mark Sampson and Tobin D.  Who will be next on the list???? Who will be next to book their tickets and make it official???
One of the things we love most about Beijing is the kids school,  Western Academy of Beijing.  It could possibly keep us in Beijing longer than planned,  except we have to weigh its benefits against the life-shortening pollution situation.  After decades of living through Southern California’s smoggiest years on record, and a bronchitis filled year in Santiago Chile, my lungs had recovered in the clean San Francisco and Seattle environs.  Life in Beijing brings our lungs two shades black.   Truth be told, none of us have been really sick and even Carlos’ usual winter hack-fest was pretty tame this year.  However, returning to Beijing after being gone for a week was a little like going into a smoky bingo hall in the middle of a Spring afternoon.  You just smell the havoc.  After reading that the worst exposure to pollutants occurs while in traffic, at least I can rest assured that we are minimizing damage by walking to and from school every day, even more joyfully now that the weather is warm.
Forest and I spent a whole day at “WAB” this week for a Student Led Conference.  Carlos took us around to his favorite classes, and we spent time in his homeroom checking out all the cool stuff he does.  We even got to eat in the cafeteria!  Unfortunately, they didn’t serve the usual grub,  so we didn’t get to sample the vast array of starchy food that Carlos puts on his tray day to day.
Carlos is cranking away on reading.  He gets taken out twice a week to catch up with the other kids on writing and spelling. He enjoys the small group dynamic, the teacher makes him laugh and his confidence in writing stories is going up.  He loves performing arts and P.E., and has really clicked with his classmates. He has a really cute little posse of mates and they play imaginary adventure games at recess. His mind is quite mathematical and his Lego creations are fantastic. 
Caetano’s preschool program is remarkable too.  They have lots of freedom and a great little group dynamic of 12 4-year olds. They spend lots of time on practical concepts: light, nature, numbers, seasons, cooking. Their art is fantastic and they swim once a week, and do lots of creative projects.
Last month I had a meeting with 5 of Caetano’s teachers and a school counselor.  Bad news: it was about his naughtiness.  Not intimidating at all!! Good news:  it has gotten better.  The amazing thing:  feeling this real helpful community spirit among my 4 year old’s educators.  Even better: being able to talk to him about all this, seeing his changes, his effort, his pride in getting  “good notes” from teacher instead of who he hit or what he said, etc. etc.
The two of them crack me up all the time.  When Forest was gone for 16 days, my saving grace was having these two little team mates cooperating so well with me and making each day fun.
Part of the fun has been doing some interesting new things myself and having extra help around the house.  I am taking a jewelry making and drawing/painting class, both of which I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I can’t wait to buy beads at the big jewelry market now that I finally have tools and techniques to start with.  As much as I loved drawing and painting in high school, I am not inclined to sit and sketch or paint anymore.  I don’t feel like recreating anything I see in this way, or mixing paints to match the chroma or contrast.  I like making 3 dimensional things, like Carlos’ dinosaur robot model or papier mache pinatas. In my class, there was a woman there who kept making excuses for how bad she was and how un artistic she is and how hard this was for her and blah blah, and I kept wanting to ask her, “why are you taking this class if you know it isn’t for you?”  She knew she wasn’t going to discover anything new about herself.  She already decided she was bad at it.  Why do people do such things?
The kids have a new “ayi”, a Chinese woman who  picks them up from school and provides Mandarin commentary for every single thing they do.  I am hoping that her voice is becoming part of Caetano’s unconscious. Carlos can’t stand her and tunes her out completely. Caetano is becoming buddies with her.  We’ll see in a few weeks if he can start communicating with her two-way.  At Carlos’ school conference, we got to see how much work he does in Chinese class. His notebook was crammed with characters, names of animals, clothes, seasons, greetings.  He was able to read songs and poems in Pinyin (romanized phonetic version of Chinese words).  But he didn’t understand a thing.  One hour a day of Chinese he gets.  And none of it has sunk in. I get 4 hours a week and am able to communicate roughly with people who speak simply and slowly.  All Carlos can say is “hi” and “thank you.” 
Is he like the woman in the art class? Has he already decided he has no use for Mandarin? Or is his mind already being filled so many things that he would rather learn?  Is he past the magical age when your mind absorbs language like a sponge? Or is he perhaps retaining very much that we don’t know that at some later date will gestate and start to flower when he is ready?

Beijing in Party Dress

Jul 30, 2008 – Cristina

This blog has been woefully neglected!  No updates in months due to many wonderful visits from family and friends, some trips around China, including Xi’an, Yunnan province, Shangri-La and remote parts of the Great Wall.  We went home to the States—San Francisco and Seattle—for 2 weeks and saw loved ones there. 
After one year in China, I experienced only mild culture shock in the US.  The cities felt so static compared to  Beijing’s constant state of transformation.  I’m used to all the building, erecting, planning, planting, hedging, blooming, booming. 
Now the capital has her party dress on with breath bated for 8-8-08.  Beijing doesn’t have Olympic Fever, but Olympic dreams, and they’ve covered the land like a soft blanket of giddy hope.  A slumber party to last the rest of Summer.  Fresh paint, banners and garden beds Ornament every boulevard and highway and all the parks’ landscapes are buffed, guilded and meticulously landscaped. There’s bustle in the hedgerow.  Bricks and dust have been replaced by glass and modernism with the launch of splashy new buildings.  A rainbow of Olympic signs proclaiming world unity and victory for all cover yesterday’s humdrum billboards hawking condos malls and luxury lifestyles (for few).
The city is not frenetic but serene, like in an Olympic trance.  Maybe it’s just the delicious dry heat of summer that has everyone ambling along.  Nobody knows what Beijing will be like when the party is over, but for now we groove to the rhythm of cicadas clacking, dragonfly wings flapping and of waiting.

Summer has Ended

Sep 16, 2008 – Cristina

Summer officially ended in Beijing last weekend with the Moon Festival, or the Mooncake Festival as Carlos called it. We celebrated Fall’s arrival, the full moon, a drastic change in weather, and unique semi-bland/semi-sweet/sticky/ornately packaged pastries.

The Paralympics will end soon. Many of us don’t pay attention to the games for physically challeged folks, but it’s pretty big deal and very engaging. Stadiums filled up and tickets were hard to get. We caught wheelchair basketball and seated volleyball on TV. Quite a few friends went to games, and wheelchair rugby or “murderball” as it’s known is a favorite. Very impressive athelticism and spirit.

Nothing compares to the world Olympics of course. I think a billion people in China watched the spectaculater opening ceremony on TV. I hope you saw it. The closing ceremony was boring. Too many speeches. And the segment introducing London 2012 Olympics reminded me of Waiting for Guffman. Bad. A great way to make Westerners look like decadent fools.

Beijing stood still for a little while during the games. Half the cars were taken off the road every day, construction ceased, a lot of locals and expat residents got out of town, and the Casanueva family took over the city!

Andy, Laura, Emilio Chico, Will and Camila stayed with us for most of the month and we toured of Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Longshen, Guilin and Beijing’s own Ya Show market.

We took off a few days after the opening, so we hit some big sites in town just before the tourists poured in. We joined crowds on Wanjing pedestrian shopping street, watching and cheering the Chinese soccer team, playing on huge jumbotron TVs. Our visit to the Great Wall was “enhanced” by a group of Brazians carrying around a boombox full of samba, waving a big flag and wearing silly outfits.

Walking from the Great Wall to a restaurant down the road, a small group of Chinese boys waved Will and Emilio over for a game of B-ball on their funky little neighborhood court. All of them were thrilled and E was a great ambassador of the sport, giving good tips and letting one little guy take lots of shots. I’m sure it sounds corny, but it was the olympic spirit in action: cross cultural sharing, caring and commuicating through athletics.

On our trip we saw games on TV, and were dismayed that most coverage included China, so the early USA basketball games were missed, but we saw a lot of Michael Phelps, the gymnasts, the Russian pole-vaulter, and gee, I’ve never been so interested in weight-lifting, but I just love those Chinese women medalists!

The party was in full swing when we came back to the city, and we crossed paths with many many athletes in the clothes markets. Andy went to a tattoo parlor and had to get in line behind players from around the world getting inked with olympic rings.

we had a hard time getting tickets to events and refused to pay ridiculous scalpers’ prices, but we did get to the Bird’s Nest (the brand new National Olympic Stadium) for track and field.

We got 6 tickets, not together, and left the little kids at home. After our long vacation, I knew they couldn’t hang. All they wanted was to be home with Camila and play. Camila told her mom that she didn’t want to go because “I’m young and I’ll probably get another chance to go to the olympics, and you won’t, so you should go mama.” They turned on TV and looked for us in the stands!

What I tell folks considering moving to China

Sep 23, 2008

I get a lot of friend’s of friends emailing me re: “we are thinking of moving to china, what can you tell me” and I thought I would publish some of those thoughts to our blog so that in future I can just point people to this entry!

  • Cristina and I arrived not speaking a word of Chinese. It is difficult to get around in taxis and restaurants without Chinese, but you can stick to English speaking/western friendly places the first few months while you take some language classes. My wife and I now both speak passable conversation Chinese, and certainly enough for ordering food, getting around taxis, haggling at markets, etc. the language is a blast to learn, and not impossible at all (we didn’t learn to read mind you, just speak). We both did 3 hrs a week with a private tutor for several months, fyi, but there are group classes as well.  Learning chinese has easily been one of the highlights of my adult life, great fun, great intellectual challenge, great window to gaze through into this amazing culture.
  • Beijing city has two major expat areas as far as living: Chaoyang district, downtown skyscraper condos, or Shunyi, which are “villas” (houses) in compounds. We live in Shunyi because of our kids school, as do most families with kids that are here attending one of the two major international schools that Americans flock to: WAB and ISB (our boys at WAB, both school are fantastic). Living in Shunyi is fine, but it is pretty much the sticks, with very few restaurants and activities outside of the school and the housing compounds—about 15 minutes by car to the city which isn’t bad. Chaoyang would be a blast, and if we didn’t have young kids we would have gone for that immediately, great place to live, in the middle of a great big cosmopolitan city.
  • There are a ton of public parks here that are lovely and full of nice walks, boating, and rides/carnival games for kids, so a lot of our weekends consist of “brunch in the city and outing to some park or other”. We also have lots of kid social things like baseball, swimming classes, etc., so a lot of our lives revolve around the kid rhythm. I have some friends here who are single/swingers and they are expats, happy to hook you up with them for more feedback on that scene if that is more your thing… word is that the club scene is great, lots of students in town, and plenty of upscale swinging type sophisticate childless adults to cavort with.
  • Restaurants are awesome… this is a food lovers dream. So many restaurants, all kinds of food. A lot of our outings in the evenings without kids revolve around trying new food joints.
  • Cost of domestic help is very very low, so you’ll likely have a fulltime maid to help with house and or kids, not necessarily live-in unless you want that (we don’t). we also have a driver for our car. Ballpark for these fulltime staff is about $200-300 USD each… so factor that in to your experience, it is a big change from the USA to have domestic support like that (and it can be really great!). My wife and I go out at least 1 night a week, sometimes 3 times, leaving the kids at home.
  • There is great arts scene, theater, live music, lots of galleries and lots of modern art. When you are here, go to visit the “798 Art Community”, a section of town where old factories have been turned into about 100+ private small art galleries… great scene, great stuff going on—there is a real palpable vitality to the place/city.
  • We have internet and broadband at home, as does everyone (biggest internet community in the world, here in china) and therefore a lot of our “media” comes from the web. We have TV and cable at home but don’t watch (we aren’t tv people). Movies in theaters is not a big thing here, in the USA we would see on average 5 movies in theaters a month, here we have seen 2 in 1 year. However, DVDs are $1 each and plentiful, so we get DVDs of recent films we can’t see in theaters, and get TV shows that way as well (just watched the Mad Men series this week, enjoyed). We sometimes read the ChinaDaily, the communist party propaganda paper, it is fascinating (in english) and challenges all of our assumptions about “freedom of speech” which is billed to us in the US (hint: we are far leaning leftists politically and socially, and can’t stand our current administration).
  • Shopping for food: there is a series of grocery stores that cater to expats with products that only foreigners want (eg: peanut butter, tortillas, pace picante sauce, corn flakes, etc.)—one is called Jenny Lu’s, we shop there near our house (3 min walk) and the other obvious one is french conglomerate Carrefour, which is a mad house but has everything.
  • Health: there are western doctors at various western focused clinics, we go to Beijing United, good stuff; dentist here has better equipment and more modern training than our dentists in the US. If we had emergency of any kind and had to go to hospital in beijing we would have no concern, all the doctors are American or Canadian expats. If we were in countryside, however, that’s another story…
  • Shanghai sucks (relative to beijing)—it is a big bright shining exciting city, but it has no soul. We almost moved there instead of beijing, we are SOOO glad we came to beijing. This place is FULL of amazing history and art, and surrounded by thousands of years of historical towns/etc. Shanghai is a 100 year old port city with a strong western influence—nice place to visit, and certainly a viable option, but I’m a big beijing promoter J
  • Rest of China rocks: we do periodic tours/outings with the kids and without to various parts of china; we have been here a year and have seen Xian, Guilin, Hangzhou, Hong Kong, Lijiang, Shangrila, and various beijing suburbs. We are just scratching the surface. The country is great to travel across, good accommodations, cheap! A good 3 star hotel in a town might run $40-50 a night; a 4-5 star hotel in a 2nd tier city will be $100 USD. Food in smaller cities is cheap, great food is everywhere.
  • Negatives: the air pollution is really really bad. Traffic at rush hour can be nasty. That’s the only two negatives. I stay off roads at rush hour, and we have swiss made air purifiers in our home throughout the house and we keep them on 24hrs a day (as do many expats) to address the air pollution. I lived in Santiago Chile for many years and got very ill from the air there several times, have not had trouble of that kind here. But I wouldn’t want to live in this city for more than 3-4 years just on the air quality concerns.

Summary: People are super friendly. The country is alive, pulsating. Anything is possible, the future is exciting, change is everywhere… This is the center of the social and economic changes that society and the planet are facing in the next 50 years, both in good and bad sense. Being here, living here, you will immediately get it and be wiser about the world as a result. It is an amazing experience, I can’t recommend highly enough.

Going Home… to China

Nov 7, 2008

I’ve been traveling like a mad man these last couple of weeks, and hobbling through my ongoing foot injury/problem, not to mention nurturing a nasty “beijing lung” (a cough that spews green phlegm, that i just can’t shake).

In the past 5 weeks I’ve been in Seoul, Tokyo, Singapore, San Francisco, Redmond, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt.  I’m so sick of traveling, i don’t think i want to get on a plane again, at least not till next year!

So it is with great pleasure that i now contemplate, from the Frankfurt airport, that i get to go “home” to Beijing.

Chinese Wedding

Dec 15, 2008 – Cristina

Forest and I had the honor of attending a Microsoft colleague’s wedding! It was a great cultural mashup, starting with the email invitation arriving one week before the date and casual dresscode.  We were told only the bride and groom needed to dress up.  I didn’t believe it, such absurdity went against all my Latina instincts; I wore a skirt and heels and felt ridiculous.  I should have heeded our Chinese friend’s advice and not my mother’s wisdom about erring on overdressing versus underdressing. No big deal, worse faux pas have been committed at weddings, including by me, at my own wedding.

Anyway, the wedding was in the ballroom of a big Yunnanese hotel. The floral centerpieces were beautiful and the table settings included a bottle of wine, a jug of Chinese liquor (beijiu, strong rice wine) and a plate of cigarettes. We gave a wedding party member our red envelope stuffed with 888 kuai (lucky number). We sat with Forest’s buddy and his family.  After the guests settled in, the bride and groom entered to much fanfare and camera flash. I think there were like 3 videographers and 2 photographers. Jijia, the groom wore a suit, she a beautiful white dress, Western style.  He had prepared an outstanding multimedia presentation chronicling their childhood and then courtship.  The two spent a long time in long-distance relationships as they both worked overseas after college.  Much of the history was lost on us as we only got a bit of translation. But it was fun to see the pictures. Also, Jijia created an incredible design using parts of their names and a symbol that looked like a bird in flight. This was incorporated into much of the day’s decoration, signage and party favors.

Ceremony was simple and secular.  An old family friend delivered a speech and some homilies.  Mother of the bride wrote a beautiful poem, recited by the father.  The young couple borrowed a Western tradition of jointly cutting a huge frilly multi-tiered cake and posing for a picture with knife in hand. Our friends’ little boy was excited about that part, but after later investigation, he reported that the cake was fake! The last part of the ceremony was my favorite.  The two sets of parents served tea to the couple, and the bride and groom drank tea with their new in-laws and officially started calling them “mother” and “father.” I thought it was a nice ritual of bringing new relatives together.

Our Chinese friends told us that modern weddings are mostly made up from scratch, borrowing from Western and Chinese traditions.  Weddings of this fashion are pretty new in China. Before Mao, weddings were arranged by families and brides whisked off to become the groom’s family property, so I’ve read in American fiction! But since the revolution, until the recent economic boom, marital unions have by necessity been a modest and pragmatic affair. I identify with the urge to embrace cultural traditions while trying to express ourselves in a modern way. Is cutting a fake cake any more or less hollow then a wedding ceremony conducted in “Cat in the Hat” cadence, or having dad “give away” a financially and socially independent woman?

After the guests started feasting on such delicious courses (really!) as fermented tofu, sea cucumber soup, goose liver, chicken feet, beef and garlic fried rice, roasted meats and other goodies, the bride changed into a traditional red Chinese dress, and the couple went around with their parents toasting the guests at each table.   Most of the family is in the North of China, and a ceremony was already performed there.  This reception was mostly to include one of the parents military buddies, party comrades, and the couple’s local Beijing college classmates and work colleagues. Like any wedding the world over, it was fun, full of hope and promise, and a few of dad’s drunk buddies.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s