Well this week seems to be comparison week! As Facebook reminded me today, this time last year me and Izzie were having adventures with the family of one of the teachers at the school (The rise of DaiSi). This time all of the foreign teachers at 42 were invited to a colleagues home for a Chinese lesson and party since we were unable to go to her wedding a couple of weeks ago. We’d spent the days before having many conversations on what would be appropriate gifts to bring, settling on brownies, chocolates, fruit, and a house plant. Gifts and hangovers in tow, we set off in the rain to Lily’s house, slightly apprehensive about what exactly was going to happen once we arrived.
Naturally we had trouble finding her apartment, and ended up in the wrong building knocking on the wrong persons door…but soon enough Lily found us and proudly forced her absolutely adorable nephew to introduce himself to us in the rain. After hesitatingly telling us that his name was Nemo, we were whisked upstairs and quickly met her husband and Nemo’s father. Then it was straight into the Chinese class, which was basically just learning what various things in the house were called. This lesson had a slight twist however – as Lily was teaching us Chinese, Nemo was learning the English equivalent (with a little help from Umar)! Whilst this lesson was happening, the other half of our group were aimlessly wandering downstairs lost, and 3 junior students from the school were taking photos. Although according to the itinerary, we were supposed to have an hour of Chinese class, it ended up taking around half that time, so once more of her family members arrived it was party time!
This being my first party in a Chinese persons house, I was more than a little curious about what exactly was going to take place. It turns out it was a great, if a little unconventional, hangover cure consisting of loud music, snacks, and games. Lily and another teacher from school cooked some traditional food for us, and we were treated to a dance performance from Lily’s brother-in-law who teaches dance to University students. This performance opened up a can of worms for us however, and we were badgered for at least 10 minutes to sing or dance or perform in some way. Luckily we’re all equally stubborn and untalented which meant that no foreign performance took place. Our absolute refusal to sing meant that later, when we were playing a game with the students who were acting as waitresses, we all paid extra attention to avoid the forfeit of singing!
After lunch we watched the video of Lily’s wedding. Whilst this might sound boring, I found it really interesting. They had paid a company to make an elaborate video of their wedding day and it came out as a sort of hybrid of a documentary, home movie, and game show. The man who was in charge of the day was acting as a TV show host, and Lily’s husband kept fast-forwarding the parts where he spoke at length. It was like a documentary because Chinese weddings are so different to British ones, and the parts which showed the traditions were things that I have only seen on documentaries on China. Being a wedding video, it’s not that strange for it to be like a home movie, but some of the shots didn’t really belong in the video – shots of people looking bored, cars breaking down, and people milling about and waiting. I loved watching the video and Nemo-spotting! After the video finished it was time for a walk in the park and photo shoot. I’d been dreading this part but it turned into a right laugh trying to get Nemo and Lily’s niece to be in photos and being in candid photos taken by Nemo!
I woke up on Saturday with a headache, feeling like death, and really not wanting to go to a Chinese lesson/party. But in the end I had a great day with my friends, felt so welcomed by Lily and her family, and had laughed so hard I cried. Both experiences with Chinese families have taught me that when you are invited somewhere by Chinese people, you should always say YES!