After the madness of our Chinese wedding, the final task which Mr. Pompous Tourist Man had in mind for me was translating a speech or two for the opening ceremony of the “Lily Festival of Tourism and Culture” in our current home in rural China. Of course, like many other things this man had promised, a ‘few words’ didn’t even almost cover it, and as the days unwound, so did 3,000 Chinese words which were mine for the translating, along with a name change of my role from ‘translator’ to ‘host’.
After initially agreeing, I learned the event would be broadcast on TV, as well as streamed on the local WeChat subscription account. There would be nowhere to hide.
The Monday before Wednesday’s opening ceremony arrived and I still had not received all the translations, nor did I have any clue what I might be wearing for my first Chinese television appearance.
I got a call on Monday evening asking did I have time to come and choose a rental dress for the big night. I couldn’t really say no. Letting someone from China (where diamond encrusted crocs are a wardrobe essential) have a say in my dress was dangerous enough with my presence, let alone without it.
I was to meet another string to the tourist board’s bow at the dress rental shop which was in fact a bridal shop. ‘Choosing a dress’ involved standing up on the platform and stripping down, to have a the woman in the shop (who was definitely oogling never before seen white bosoms) help me into several dresses. The first two I tried on weren’t half bad- a midnight blue followed by a deep red. I emerged each time to find an unimpressed face on Ms. Dress Choosing Lady, followed by a “Mmm…What do you think?”. I mentioned how one dress didn’t flatter my arms terribly well to which she replied “Yes, we need to cover those arms.” Still, Ms. Dress Choosing Lady insisted on photographing me in each garment, irrespective of her disdain.
After trying on two dresses that weren’t too far from my normal taste, I knew what was coming. Ms. Dress Choosing Lady pushed the pink cupcake she had chosen under my nose once more. A mermaid tailed, fitted, powder pink dress…With a cape. Super.
When the day of the opening ceremony arrived, I roped my man into coming along with me to pick up the cupcake gown, expecting it to be in a dress-bag, which would be difficult to manage on my bike. Moments after arriving for collection, the almost two hundred euro cupcake was rolled up into a bundle and tossed into a plastic carrier bag to be taken away.
As the evening approached, Mr. Pompous Tourist Man rapidly became more infuriating, as he continued sending me “additions” and “changes” up to an hour before I was due to leave the house. I regretted volunteering to do my own hair and make up as I wrestled with a braid in one hand and bashed my phone off the wall in fury with the other.
The previous night’s rehearsal had only heightened my anxiety, as we sat for two hours, watching, only to be told “you won’t get to practice your hosting bit tonight”, before being beckoned onto stage to have an interview sprung on me in Chinese.
With just over an hour till I was to be on the stage, I tried to channel my inner zen. Cupcake on, ready to rock. Best snap a quick photo for the mammy.
Shortly after arriving I transformed from “the girl who gets frustrated and throws things” (sorry Craig) to “the girl who takes all the selfies”, as I magpied my way around the set, photographing myself with lights, decorations and cameramen alike.
Despite my anxiety, when it was time go on stage, I relaxed. I reminded myself that most of the viewers couldn’t understand what I was saying, and most of them were busy playing the Chinese equivalent of Candy Crush and waiting for the performers to listen to me anyway.
I had my clipboard, I was ready for anything.
Disaster struck quite early on, as the binder on my clipboard got stuck. Damn, modern fangled Chinese inventions… I could hear my counterpart getting to the end of his paragraph, as I wrestled with the binder, tugging the paper, pleading with it to come loose…motherf**ker. It would not budge. I could feel myself starting to panic. But there was no assistance coming, and a hell of a lot of translation left. I began trying to tear off the remaining paper with one hand, whilst trying to keep the clipboard steady with the other. I feared the camera had zoomed right in on me, as the audience watched- wondering what the hell I was doing. The shredding was too time consuming. I folded the paper and continued to read the translation upside down.
In the hurriedness of the affair I realised there were gaps in my translations where I had to adlib … The something communist something agricultural men of forest industry… The vice presidential chairman man of communism…
It was over. I didn’t fall on my face, freeze, or cry out in laughter at the nonsense of my own translation failures. I was being applauded, people were shaking my hand.
I have no idea how, but looks like I’d pulled it off.