Still fresh from the train, I arrive at the farm with Lin and head to the kitchen to put my bags down and get a bite to eat for lunch. I meet a Belgian guy named Stephen and also a Russian woman named Yu. After lunch, I make sure to stay active so I don’t give myself a chance to crash in the middle of the day and mess up my sleep schedule. So, I go out with the volunteers to hang lanterns for the New Year. I meet the last two volunteers, a Russian man named Nick and a Canadian woman named Clara. Another family member who I met very briefly during my last visit, Linxi, is the the leader of our volunteer group. She tells us what to do, when to do it, and helps us with anything that we might want.
The next morning, Linxi brings us all to a wedding of a close family friend. It takes us a few hours to walk there and then as we arrive at the house in the middle of this rural farm area, we instantly become the celebrities of the event. I can’t find the bride or groom anywhere. As long as they are paying attention to us, it’s okay. I mean, how important is a bride and groom at their…oh, wait. After being introduced and given tea, we join a group of people circled around a fire. It’s quite cold here, not like Beijing, but there isn’t much indoor heating, so we have little protection. Still no bride or groom. Maybe we’ll draw names out of a hat.
After a few hours, people start to gather toward the front of the house for the arrival of the bride and groom. Apparently they are on the third and most important day of their celebration. They pull up in a BMW and are instantly surrounded by people. Hey wait, what about us foreigners!? I was just starting to get used to all that attention again. How quickly fame flees.
There are enough cigarettes to choke a small army here, some chocolate, and in the red box is their local vodka-like alcohol called Bai Joe.
The couple is slowly making their way into the house and every time they stop, they throw red envelopes into the air. The envelopes have the Chinese character for happiness and are supposed to symbolize good luck for the New Year. Oh and did I mention they have money in them!? So, people are really aggressive and push each other to get as many as they can. I thought it was fun at first until some young men get too aggressive and push children and women aggressively out of the way. I just back off and watch. A few Yuan isn’t worth losing my dignity. Maybe I just don’t get it, but many people also back off and those guys are collecting almost all the envelopes, with not so much as a passing thought to turn around and give one to the small girl they almost just pushed off her feet.
Next, we go upstairs and the couple runs into their bedroom. Everyone is waiting outside the door and I get uncomfortable thinking that this maybe should be a time to have to themselves. Then, again, this is their third day of celebration, so maybe they are sick of each other already. Suddenly, some of the young men start banging on the door and next thing we know a red envelope slides under the door. (I’m thinking the note says, “Hey, I’m busy in here.”) One guy jumps down onto the ground and again knocks the kids away so he can get on all fours to collect all the envelopes coming through. (The next note says, “I’m the only one who is supposed to be banging here.”) (Then the next note says, “I am holding a loaded gun and will shoot the next person who bangs on my door.”) (Enough stupid jokes? Okay, back to the story) It’s hard to keep laughing at it any more, these guys are more animal than man.
Eventually, the couple opens the door and, believe it or not, everyone charges into the room and starts jumping on the balloon-filled floor. (At least I think they are balloons. Oh my god…safe sex is one thing, but this is clearly over-done.) This part is much more fun and because there’s no money involved, the kids are safe, if not slightly scarred from seeing a purple Teddy bear in a pink bed surrounded by multi-colored condoms.
Then back down to the yard where we take a table and begin to eat. The food is wonderful and after the tenth dish, some alcohol, and the dessert, I stretch back and let everything expand; I’m done. Well, clearly they’re not because they keep bringing out more dishes. They bring out so many more, the dessert seems more like an appetizer now. Each one is equally delicious and strange, so of course I have to at least try them.
The dishes come so fast that some new dishes were set on top of others that we hadn’t finished yet. Finally it all comes to an end and we all go back to the fire to relax.
After a few more hours we walk back to the farm and buy some locally made cookies on the way with our new red envelope money.