Happy 9 years of marriage.
Mummy - thanks for keeping me alive.
Daddy - thanks for teaching me English.
I love you two.
I attended the wedding of one of my oldest Kunming friends today. I've known Leah for over 10 years - first as a fellow teacher at Robert's School and later as one of a handful of folk who have tried to teach me Chinese in the past [Kelly, on the right, is another!].
It was a small and nicely informal affair which meant I could catch up with Leah and some other old friends I've not seen in many years.
JD and I enjoyed a very relaxed and, in many ways, un-Chinese wedding last Saturday. My old friend Lilly Pu married Cedic - a French guy - in a lovely restaurant next to the Green Lake. We arrived at 2pm as instructed and I was pleasantly surprised to find my British work colleague Tom and his Chinese fiancé there too. Neither of us realised we both knew Lilly. It was good to have an extended chat with him as we usually only meet briefly for work maters. Nice guy. JD soon made friends with 2-3 Chinese children and spent the afternoon running around and playing with his toys. Later, there was a short ceremony, some very nice food, and the wedding cake.
It was kind of my parents to send Ava and I a Wedding Anniversary card, received yesterday. A bit bewildering though, as we were married at the end of July, 2011. But my parents are not to blame - the postmark clearly shows it was stamped on 2nd July. So it took 4½ months to arrive here! No idea why, as the address was in Chinese as well as English and I usually get post through in about 3 weeks. Still, better late than never I guess!
One of the four places where Ava and I had our 2-day "professional wedding photoshoot" a year ago was Guandu's Old Town. After having some pictures taken with the local senior citizens at one of the temples there [see above], we promised to return later with some prints for them. I've felt guilty ever since as, although we made the copies, we never went back to pass them over. So, with a free day on my hands today and Ava in Shenzhen on business, I made the 3-bus, 1½ hour journey back to Guandu to track the oldies down and fulfil the promise. Unfortunately, the rear of the temple is now locked up and there were no OAPs in sight. The monk couldn't help, but an incense seller outside recognised two men in the photos and promised to pass them all on for me. A quick bowl of noodles, a takeaway of some local speciality Guandu Baba (pancake things) for Ma-in-Law and it was back to the buses for the trip home. Mission accomplished!
We had our wedding DVD delivered today, plus some lovely photos.
We realise now that, whilst we thoroughly enjoyed our fabulous wedding celebration at the Grand Park Hotel, we missed quite a lot in the excitement of the day.
The photo above shows me entertaining our excited bridesmaid with some impromptu magic.
Later, we failed to fill more than four glasses of the "fountain" with our rather flat champagne [above], while the photo on the left shows the aftermath of an unexpected confetti explosion during the ceremony! You can see more of our favourite photos by clicking here.
The bosses of my school, Robert and Rachel, helped us a lot with our wedding. Rachel compered the half-hour ceremony, while Robert agreed to give something of a best man's speech. Even the non-English speakers were laughing along as he projected a number of doctored photos onto the wall, allegedly chronicling my many secret, high-profile, romantic liaisons! (P.S. Did you spot Angelina's tattoo?)
A flavour of our (third!) wedding, today. It went really smoothly despite all sorts of possible pitfalls. People were very complimentary about the bride's beauty (3 clothes changes!), the delicious buffet food, the distinctive decorations (designed by Ava) and the fun and informality of the ceremony. More information and photos to follow.
Ava and I put this afternoon aside to visit some hotels and restaurants to see if anywhere grabbed us for our Chinese Wedding celebration First in line was the five-star, well-located (but surely too expensive) Grand Park Hotel, one of the best hotels in Kunming. But after half an hour with their "wedding sales manager" we both felt we needed to look no further. Their buffet price was half what we expected it to be, with lots of little extras thrown in (free drinks, invite cards, night in the honeymoon suite, etc). I was also impressed by the large "PH" on their rotating restaurant (they say it's for Park Hotel group, but I know it's for Paul Hider) and their fundraising links with "World Vision" - a charity I have long supported. So Ava paid our deposit [see photo below] and we are all booked in for Monday evening, the 10th of October. Plenty of organising still to do, though a lot less than a western wedding.
Jiajia and I enjoyed a fabulous wedding celebration today. Ava coped admirably with the daunting task of meeting 100+ friends and family, and maintaining her smile. For me it was trying to place the multitude of guests from so many different spheres of my past life - college, work, social, relatives, etc. It was so kind of so many folk to travel large distances to join with us on our special day. If you were one of them - thank you!
Despite minimal preparation (on our part, at least) the day went really smoothly and was full of memorable highlights - the venue (unorthodox perhaps, but with plenty of space to spread out), the bouncy castle (which kept young'uns and a few young-at-hearts happy), my brothers' drama "speech" (all lies, I tell you), the costume changes (Jiajia got through three dresses during the day and looked stunning in all of them - thanks Jo and Krista!), the picnic (guests bringing their own food saves so much hassle and expense!) and the ceremony (mixing formal and informal, traditional and less traditional, Chinese and English, religious and secular - thanks Dad for juggling all that!). Thanks too to all the youngsters who helped with the dress-holding, confetti throwing and car-mangling!
The decorations were expertly arranged (thanks, sis-in-laws) - no mean feat in a building that size. And the cake that my parents sorted out was a fabulous creation, and tasty too. Dave and Andy did such a great job planning and running the day. I doubt many folk would have realised that the final schedule was only decided on the evening before, and the ceremony itself was rehearsed for five minutes just half an hour before the first guests arrived!
The day rushed by for us, but is full of happy memories, aided by the 1000 photos the guests kindly copied for us before they left. Despite having technically got married a couple of months earlier in China, this will be the day we look back on in future as our wedding day.
For more wedding photos, click here.
Jiajia and I got our joint photo taken this morning. It's one of the many requirements before the local government will issue a Marriage Certificate. It took two minutes to snap the picture and then a further twenty minutes for the technician to alter it on his computer to make us look younger and less blemished! A very Chinese procedure. We hope to get our Certificate by the end of this month, although we've heard rumours that we will also both need a medical exam to check we have the requisite working parts!! Let's hope not!
The hotel opposite my flat ofen hosts weddings. The red dragon-adorned shape on display above the steps [see photo] are the Chinese characters for "double happiness". Less welcome, perhaps, is the fact that hotels often book two weddings at the same time, leading to the odd sight of two couples facing each other outside the entrance, trying to work out whose guests are who. I'd find that quite demeaning, but it seems commonplace and acceptable here.
Me: "I have an Affidavit appointment"
Receptionist: "After David? David who?"
Once the initial confusion was overcome, my paperwork was completed smoothly by 10.30am, leaving me 14 hours before my flight back to Kunming. So I headed for Ci Qi Kou Ancient Village:
This is a Ming Dynasty town an hour from ChongQIng which has been preserved and restored. Some streets were clearly for tourists, selling a variety of trinkets, but walk further and things start to look a little more authentic and "lived-in".
The highlight for me was the BaoLun Temple in the centre of the old town, overlooking the hustle and bustle. It was very peaceful and, at 1500 years old, pleasantly faded. The contrast between ChongQing's modern and ancient was very evident [see photo, left].
I flew an hour to ChongQing today to get proof from the British Consulate there that I'm not already married, and for them to formally "publish the banns" for Ava and my wedding! This plush hotel (next to the cheaper one wher I was staying!) was a good omen. The "Ocean of Morality Big Hotel" decided to go with the Cantonese "Hoi Tak" romanisation rather than the Mandarin "Hai De". I knew I should have copyrighted my Chinese name [see blog banner].
ChongQing is a huge city, with a population rivalling Bejing or Shanghai. It's situated on hills surrounding the YangZi River. Sounds idyllic? It's not. It's an eyesore - highrise buildings everywhere, a construction frenzy and permanently covered in a haze of smog which leads to more spitting that I've seen in a long time. Oh, and it's earthquake prone, too. After tracking down the Consulate for tomorrow's visit (it is closed today for "Sweep the Tombs Festival") I took one of ChongQing's famous cable cars, linking the hill on one side of the river to the opposite peak. I'm sure it is safer than it looks!
I had invited myself to Rob and Rachel's house (my bosses) this evening to watch Everton (my team - the Blues) play Liverpool (Rob's team - the Reds) live on his satellite-connected TV. It was the usual tough and frenetic derby match, spiced up by an early red card for one of the Liverpool players, and a late one for an Everton player.
My celebrations at the first sending-off [see photo] were short-lived however, as Liverpool quickly scored a scrappy, but winning, goal. Still, as Ava said later, "You lost the match, but you kept your job!".
I had been to a (dull) wedding before arriving for the big event. Rob and Rachel had been to a Foreign Expert's banquet earlier in the evening where, quite amusingly the "Robert Norfolk" namecard had been written as "Bobert Nofork"! Gotta love that!
I found this stretch limo blocking the gate to my flat the other day. All decked out for a wedding, as you can see. I've been invited to a wedding myself this weekend. Never much fun, but I said I'd go as it's an old friend. More exciting is the prospect of watching Liverpool v Everton live on satellite afterwards at Rob's (my boss) flat. He's a Liverpool fan, I'm an Everton fan - I may lose my job, but.... come on you Blues!
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