November 30, 2012
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I’ve been sleeping with hot water bottles every night for a week already.  Wish me better luck against the cold than last year.


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Wedding traditions

November 27, 2012
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Sabrina told me this morning about some interesting Chinese wedding traditions she learned from her tutor.  Some of these are actually featured in my wedding photos, but an outside observer might guess these things were just being done because of the rain.

First of all, it is tradition to go to the couple’s new apartment before the wedding.  So, that wasn’t just a showy thing they did because their apartment was so nice.

It’s also tradition to start the day off at the bride’s parents’ house.  When the couple left the house, the groom carried the bride to the car.  We thought that might have just been for kicks, or because the cobblestone street was covered with muddy water, but that’s actually a tradition that’s supposed to prevent all the good luck from the parents house from seeping out through the bride’s feet.

Finally, the use of umbrellas: As the groom carries the bride, there must be an umbrella over her to prevent the good luck from driving away that way. Basically, brides are leaky vessels of good luck, and you’ve gotta keep them off the ground and cover them up.

It’s kinda convenient how well these traditions fit into a rainy day.

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November 27, 2012
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We’ve started auditioning kids for Seven Grooms for Seven Sisters.  After just the first day, there are already some pretty awesome kids.  But there are so many to sift through.  It can be a little hard communicating with students who don’t have foreign teachers and aren’t accustomed to interacting in English.  For example:

Me: (holding up an audition slip) Did you fill out this paper?

Girl: (reading slip).  Baby.

Me:  These are on the chair outside.

Girl: (starts singing Justin Bieber’s “Baby.”)

Me: Okay… after we finish, please go do one of these papers.

Girl: (starts walking towards the door)

Me: No, no, no!  First read and sing for us.  Stand there (miming all the while).

Girl: (manages to make it through the reading and singing)

Me: Okay.  What’s your name?

Girl: Baby.

Me:  No, not the song’s name.  Your name.

Girl: (looks confused) Baby.

Alex: Uh… Rachel, her name is Baby.

Me:  Oh… Thanks, Baby! Bye-bye!

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The whole kit and kaboodle

November 26, 2012
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I’ve been to two Chinese weddings before, but the one I went to today was the most interesting yet.  It was the wedding of our neighbor’s daughter.  We got to participate in this one as part of the inner circle, so we got to see the whole process through from breakfast at the parents’ house (they have a small room at the school and a nice big house on the Old Street) to a quick stop at the bride and groom’s (future?)  apartment (apparently just for the purpose of showing off how awesome it was), to the wedding itself, to the disposal of leftover food afterwards. I guess they see us as part of the family now, plus, it’s always exciting to have foreigners present.

Things started with a bang at 7 am at the bride’s parents’ house on Wan’An Old Street.  But we didn’t arrive until 8:20ish.  The fireworks were still exploding when we got there.

We were served tea-eggs, tea, and noodles, all of which was delicious.  There were 包子 (meat-filled buns) too, but I didn’t eat any for fear of upsetting my stomach.  You see, not only were we attending this wedding, but we were also providing a portion of the entertainment.  I can’t eat too much before a performance.

After hanging out there for a while, the groom carried the bride to a car, and the wedding procession drove to the apartment where the bride and groom would live together.

Being in a procession was pretty exciting.

Anyways, we arrived at this huge apartment complex, went up a lot of stairs, and put plastic things over our shoes so we could go into this beautiful apartment.

I’m not entirely clear on whether they had already been living there or not.  It was a really nice apartment, though!  After everyone had a good look at it, and I was practically force fed another tea-egg by some relative of the bride, we took the above picture with the bride and then went to the hotel for the reception.

I didn’t even know there was a Ramada in Tunxi, but that’s where the reception was.  Kinda.  It was at the associated conference center.  We went in and took picture with our neighbor, the bride’s mother, before continuing on to the hall.

As you can see, there was a nice, long, carpeted runway, which we took advantage of when we walked up for our performance later on.  After a long time of eating appetizers, we saw the bride and groom come in and cut cake, pour wine, etc.  They presented gifts to their new in-laws (scarves for the mothers and gloves for the fathers).  The father of the bride spoke, as did the newly-retired Party Secretary from our school.  Finally, the ceremonious part was over, and it was time for entertainment.

A week or less before the wedding, our neighbor had asked us if we could sing an English song, and if Sabrina could sing a Chinese song.  We agreed.  Then, just two days ago (after I goofily did the Gangnam Style dance at Thanksgiving dinner where my neighbor was in attendance) she asked me if I would do a dance.  Why not.

We were called up, and we ate up the attention, walking down the runway, waving to the audience.  I played the ukulele while we sang Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours.”  I stumbled a little once, but I was overall very happy with my musical performance.  I feel like I redeemed myself for some unfortunate piano recitals of my childhood.

Mr. He, an English teacher, performed a traditional Chinese song after us.  Then, I danced kind of ballet-style to Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You.”  I enlisted Alex’s help at the end of my performance.  He’s a natural.

Sabrina’s Chinese song had super-star quality, as always.

It was pretty adorable how a crowd of small children with their parents phones/other video devices ran up to the stage to record us.  That’s Chinese paparazzi for ya.

After we performed, there were some children’s games, and some adults were dragged up on stage to do the Gangnam style dance with their kids.  Finally, the show devolved into some guy trying to sing karaoke, and people drifted away.  A bunch of little old ladies went table to table, collecting any uneaten meat.  Nobody seemed interested in the vegetables, though, so we gathered up some of those.  We then funneled the delicious broth from the chicken soup into an orange juice bottle we’d first rinsed out with tea.  About four waiters looked on in amused horror.  I’m thinking another batch of stuffing might be in our future.

When I say, “we” I mean me and Alex.  Gabe and Sabrina were a little embarrassed.

Finally, everyone else had gone, and the bride waved us over to sit at her table with the family.  After sitting there for a little while, congratulating everyone, and playing with the gorgeous bouquet of roses, we climbed on the stage and did a photo shoot with some stray children.

All in all, a great day, and one of those things that can only happen in China.

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The Xiuning 2012 Thanksgiving Menu

November 23, 2012
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Deviled eggs


Saucy fried chicken

Sweet potato bread

Sweet potato bread stuffing

Mashed cauliflower and carrots

Pasta with tomato and corn sauce

Roasted potatoes and carrots with rosemary


Sweet potato pie


The cafeteria gave us 8 dishes to supplement what we made, but at the end of the night, it was mostly our dishes that had been eaten, and the cafeteria food was largely untouched.  They also gave us a huge pot of rice, which nobody ate.  One teacher even commented, “I was going to eat rice, but now that I’ve eaten this bread, I don’t want to eat rice anymore.”

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A memorable Thanksgiving

November 23, 2012
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Honestly, I was dreading this Thanksgiving dinner.  As you can guess from my lack of blog posts this week, I was even busier than usual.  We’re officially going to be producing a gender-bending rendition of the misogynistic American classic, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” this year, and we’ve been script-writing, script-translating, and audition-scheduling.  Plus we had ten people from the national government come by to inspect us.  And that meant I had to clean my room.  Those who have ever seen my room, you know how long this takes.

During Thanksgiving last year, we had a bunch of officials and teachers come over.  I couldn’t remember their names or titles and I couldn’t think of a suitable conversation topic that I’d have the vocabulary to sustain.  My overall feeling of stress and incompetence last year are best represented by the moment when I stood awkwardly behind the principal, afraid I would mispronounce “principal” and it would come out as “Miss” (they sound kinda similar in Chinese).  I stood there and swayed as I tried to force myself to get over my shyness and insecurities and serve him a slice of pie.  I ultimately just walked away.

Despite my early misgivings and embarrassing memories, this year turned out to be a really memorable (in a good way) holiday!

Just look how much fun everyone had:

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Stuffing from scratch. In China, no less.

November 23, 2012
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It may not be the most photogenic food, but it sure is delicious.  I was going to make a vegetable soup and bread, but when I accidentally doubled my bread recipe and started having doubts about making something so cumbersome as a giant pot of soup (and Gabe kept commenting that someone should make stuffing), I decided I may as well turn my soup into a British style mashed cauliflower and carrot dish and turn the broth I’d been simmering for four hours and the extra bread into stuffing.

It worked.  I can make stuffing.  That’s awesome!

Enjoy your day-after-Thanksgiving leftovers, everybody.

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Just because there’s a street there today…

November 17, 2012
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… don’t expect it to be there tomorrow.
That’s China.
And this is Xiuning.

Yeah, we had a four lane road.  I guess we’re gonna have a six lane one in the future… but right now, it’s somewhere closer to 3.  But lanes are a flexible concept here, so let’s not be too specific.

If you ever want to shoot a zombie apocalypse movie, keep rapidly-developing China in mind as a possible filming site.  There’s already tons of ripped up things that could pass as “destroyed by zombies” here.

Back to the point, though, the worst part is that they tore out the bus stop I used to use to get back to school.  Now you have to walk an extra half a block and climb across the rubble.  I’ve been feeling less motivated to go into Xiuning lately.

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Sold in the school store

November 17, 2012
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The school store sells some crazy shit.  And you can bet I wouldn’t be using language like that on a blog where my parents make up half the readership unless I could back it up with some solid evidence:

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Pole dancing in rural china

November 16, 2012
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I finally made it to one of the pole dancing classes at the local gym.  I have to say, it was more fun than belly dancing or jazz, the two classes I had previously taken there.

Alex was a great sport and went along with me.  He was the only boy in the class, but men couldn’t hope for a better representative in a pole dancing class.

Would I go to this class again?  Sure.  If I happen to be in Tunxi on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday night.  But I don’t think I’d go out of my way for it.  The main issue is that there wasn’t enough space in the room to practice the left side without kicking other students, and we only did the right side as a group, so I’ve been feeling a little unbalanced ever since.

Anyways, I’m glad to check this off of my Rural China To-Do List.

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