I have stared at my computer screen for the past 15 minutes trying to figure out how to tell this story.
It needs to be told. Because, oh man's it's a good one. But I don't know if I can do it justice. There is humor, history, friendship, culture, thankfulness, sadness, growth, justice, and most importantly - love - in this story.
It's the story of my best friend's wedding. All 16 hours of it.
But it's also deeper than that. It's a story of inclusion. Of long-lasting and mature friendship. A story of language and patience and persistance.
It's a story where I find myself in a room of 250 Chi.nese people and don't feel strange, odd, or on display.
It's a story where I'm surrounded by people I love and just happen to not be the same culture/nationality/native language speaker as any of them.
So I guess it's mostly a story of realness.
So how do I tell this story? Let's start with some pictures from the pre-wedding festivities...
The story begins with a rainy bike ride to Michael's house where his closest friends and family were lounging and eating and doing whatever frantic things Asians do before weddings.
We ate and talked, I knew many of the people from the hospital, and then the "best best friends" got into rented Audi's decorated with flowers and wedding symbols. I got to ride in the wedding procession! My friend May and I and one of Michael's college classmates were in a car together. Michael's classmate works for a company who exports dog beds to Target. He turned around and asked me, "do you know Target?" I about tackled him with happiness and then got a touch homesick for a store where I can actually buy things conveniently.
At this point, Michael was in a suit and his bride, Li Er Su, was in traditional Chin.ese garments. (there were many costume changes).
We drove to the Grand Canal (that extends from HZ to Beijing) and got into a boat. We rode along the Grand Canal, past many famous HZ sights for about an hour. On board we ate fruit and took pictures and I people watched. Michael's uncle and I chatted for awhile and I told about 3 family members I will tutor their kids. (no choice but to say yes in that situation - but I doubt they will all call).
It was still raining, but everyone was in a great mood. I explained that rain on your wedding day is a good omen in America, and this seemed to make Michael happy. I overheard him explaining this to several people during the boat ride. haha.
After the boat docked, we got back into our flowered vehicles and had a procession to the hotel where the wedding party was located. We were 3 hours early. Apparently, the bride and groom's closest friends are just supposed to follow them around all day with periods of nothingness in between. Luckily, my dear friend May and I were together, so we had fun. We wandered around the hotel, talked, and held people's babies for them while they finished setting up the banquet hall.
One huge difference that I noticed was that the day was not all about the bride - but rather, the groom. Michael was Groom-zilla. He planned everything and was even telling people what to do when we got to the banquet hall. May told me it is because his bride, "is very young and cannot think about these things." She is 22 years old and incredibly soft spoken and mild in personality. I wish we could be friends, but it'll never happen. I'm too close to Michael and she's too scared of me (as a foreigner). Nobody seemed to pay any attention to her except her two bridemaids. The day was definitely all about Michael - just the way he likes it, haha.
Soon, the bride and groom disappeared to change into their wedding party clothes and May and I sat for another hour waiting for the guests to arrive.
In the quietness during this lull in the excitement, I reflected on how special it was to be a part of the "inner circle" of a Chi.nese wedding and how thankful I am for my close Chin.ese friends.
I thought about how in the past three years I've gone from foreign commodity to true friend. I thought about how none of this would have been possible without a long term commitment to Chi.na. I thought about the first time I met Michael - October, 2008. He climbed into the back of my mentor Caxie's car, gave me a bottle of wine, and asked me to be his English teacher. Little did I know then, but I was meeting one of the most pivotal people in my Chi.na life.
Three years later, I'm in the cars with flowers on top that I've seen almost every weekend since moving to Chi.na, following him to his wedding ceremony.
I am so thankful for the chance to be at my best friend's wedding. That just happened to be in Ch.ina.
(ceremony and the 6 hour after party re-cap to come tomorrow...)
walk slow. xoxo.