A couple of weeks ago, as I was hanging out in my PJs at 5pm on a Thursday afternoon, winding down from a long day of classes, I received a phone call from one of the several people at this school I have to answer to, asking was I home. Moments later she appeared in my unsuspecting kitchen, complete with a stack of unwashed dishes which I tried to block with my body as she spoke to me.
A member of the local tourist board had approached her to ask if myself and my lovely other half, Craig, would participate in a Chinese wedding fair. She mentioned they also wanted a ‘performance’ out of us, as well as me to act as translator. One date was mentioned to us, a Saturday, and I was assured the translations would be sent well in advance, so shortly after agreeing- we were asked to come immediately to take a photograph with this man (a true sign of sealing the deal in China).
Of course it was taken placed directly in front of the teacher’s residences, to make sure the school maximised their opportunity for free advertisment.
Just days after agreeing to take part, this thing grew legs. Tentacles. Long, flailing tentacles… as we went from giving up our time one Saturday to spending two week day mornings this week and two week day evenings the next. As he mentioned rehearsals, special outfits, performances, hair and make up and that the tourist board “didn’t have any money”. This chap was taking the piss. I’m all for joining in for the craic, and most certainly for a tale to tell, but I teach at school during the day, I teach online in the evening- I didn’t have time for such shenanigans. I expressed my regret had having to decline, but explained I originally believed it would just be a one day commitment and I didn’t have much more time beyond that.
Shortly after declining, I was ambushed in another surprise attack on my home (living on campus really has its drawbacks). I was well and truly buttered up. I was told how much fun it would be, how everyone would get to know me (I am the only white skinned female in the county, I think we have that covered) and how it really wouldn’t be so troublesome. After several more conversations between the teacher at my school and Mr. Pompous Tourist Man, suddenly it seemed that the money they didn’t have was abundant. He mentioned that one of the national TV channels- Jiangxi TV- would be coming to film the event. I had requested a fee for the translations, and gave them a quote per number of words. This was suddenly no problem. Along with that I was offered a very handsome fee. Our participation was beginning to look more valuable.
After a nice bit of money was waved closely to our nostrils, we found ourselves back on the Chinese Wedding bandwagon, and in the negotiations we managed to weasel ourselves out of the ominous “performance” that had been mentioned several times.
The night before rehearsal the first, we received our traditional Chinese wedding outfits, which to my delight, included a robe with a waistcoat for my groom, and a jacket and skirt for me.
The first rehearsal started at 8am sharp and whatever illusions we had about this being a small production (which would be fitting for the small rural town of Wanzai) were quickly smashed to bits. Here we were, in a village park at 8am on a Sunday morning, and this gigantic stage was lurking behind me.
The money they “didn’t have” had certainly gone a long way.
We were gently eased into rehearsal, sitting down and watching some extremely bossy woman with an earpiece and an attitude problem shout at several women holding different props. When it became time for the couples to participate we joined the back of a line, thinking we’d be moved. To our delight, we were virtually ignored (aside from the odd giggle from another participant at the mere sight of us). The idea was for each of the enrolled couples to have simultaneous ancient Chinese wedding ceremonies. After going through the motions once, which included being led on the end of a ribbon by Craig to our standing position, bowing to one another, having an ancient hairpiece shoved haphazardly into my well plaited hair, drinking imaginary tea together and then “saying vows” (which for us was of course a series of grunts and mumbles), we felt confident enough that the following day with an audience wouldn’t be too tricky. Although shortly after feeling momentarily relaxed, the host approached us “I’ve been told you guys will need to stand on the stage.”
Ah yes. That’s more like it.
Stay tuned for Part Two…To be continued…