Triple Wedding. Sort Of.

Y’all, I kind of attended a triple Asian wedding yesterday.

Technically, it wasn’t a wedding, it was a four-hour “engagement ceremony” in which three couples exchanged rings, vows, and were charged to love and honor one another for the rest of their lives. So, you know, pretty close. (So close that a local friend even asked me during the ceremony if this meant that the couples were now husband and wife! I had to check–again–for final confirmation, but the answer is no. Not yet.)

I jest, but it was truly one of the sweetest things I have ever attended and I was so honored to get to be there for the big day. Some of our dear friends hosted the party on a nearby mountainside overlooking our town. It was a special time for the three couples to be celebrated by their college friends and the intimate community they have been a part of here. Later, each of the couples will return to their hometowns, scattered all over this huge country, for formal, family weddings. But things here are not the same as things in America, and few, if any, of their friends from their college years will be able to participate.

The character pictured above means “double happiness” and is traditionally used in Asian weddings to signify the joint happiness of the bride and groom.

Our friends outdid themselves with decorations. I’m not sure how many hours went into setting up but seeing the loving care and thought that went into making this day so special for the “brides” and “grooms” nearly brought me to tears.

The three couples before their grand entrance! Red is the traditional wedding color here and although many (most?) couples today end up wearing a Western-style white gown on their wedding day, I think these pink dresses were an homage to Asian tradition.

Rings! Since this was just an engagement and not a wedding, there was a point during the ceremony where each boyfriend/fiance/groom (soooo not sure how to refer to these couples) one-by-one got down on his knee in front of the crowd and officially popped the question. The guy was then, in turn, given his ring by his new fiancee.

There’s the double happiness thing again. I didn’t notice it until a couple of hours into the ceremony but the streamers are actually made of the double happiness character as well.

One of the beautiful brides.


Arrival

Baby sister is in town!

OK, so she’s not so much a baby anymore (although Michael claims that when I call her on the phone I still talk to her like a small child), but Helen arrived laaaatttteee Tuesday night with a group of students from the State. They’ll spend six weeks at our university, studying the language and learning the culture.

Thus far Helen’s made it through one lost (now found) suitcase, several Asian meals, and day one of language class. Last night she came over for chicken salad,  Skype (hey mom!), and debriefing me on her impressions of Asia after one-and-a-half days.

Helen is doing a great job adjusting. It is always so funny for me to take a step back and see life here through the eyes of someone who is fresh off the plane. There are so many everyday eccentricities that are now commonplace for me but which stand out to newbs. This was so clear yesterday as Helen told me about her day. She met a new friend. This girl’s name was Green. To me that’s no biggie–English names here are always eccentric. (Favorite ever self-given English name? Gas Ball. The kid was going for Balloon, but just translated the word directly into English, which, as we can all see, didn’t turn out so well.) Anyway. This new friend, Green, spent about three hours showing Helen and another American friend around the university campus: the tracks, the classrooms, grocery stores, little boutiques. Hospitality here is a take-no-prisoners sport. When you meet a new friend, they are not only willing, but eager, to sacrifice their whole day to help you out. When I was in college, I hardly noticed the foreign exchange students, and certainly never thought of  throwing my plans to the side in order to show someone around. Helen’s also been amused by the almost British accents which many fluent English speakers have, freaked out by a few bugs, and shocked by what a rock star Americans are here.

I’m so thankful that Helen is here, and so grateful that she’s taking Asia in stride. Life here is odd, and sometimes the reaction of new people to this place makes me defensive about this culture I love and where Michael and I have chosen to make our home. Yeah, it’s weird. Yeah, there are some (lots?) of cultural things that are not only annoying and bothersome, but downright wrong. True, sometimes we’re forced to take part in the charade of saving face and back-rubbing and we’re often granted a front-row seat to corruption and favoritism. But–but–I am continually humbled by the love and hospitality which my Asian friends show me. And while it’s difficult to understand the importance of relationship here (loosely translated, this means “I do something nice for you, then it’s your turn to do something nice for me), in the States I have rarely, if ever, given or experienced the care and concern which Asians regularly shower on near-strangers.


Engaged

First, and before I forget, did I ever mention that my sister is getting married? Amy is getting married Oct. 8th, and we are so excited for her and Lee. Hurray!

Second…. this just happened.

Audrey lives just down the street from us and is one of our dear friends. Jordan lives in a city a few hours away and we have loved getting to know him this year as he came to visit Audrey. Over the weekend as we were visiting in the city where Jordan lives, he popped the question and Aurdrey said yes!

After they finished getting engaged, they came to meet us for a surprise engagement party. Sarah and I had so much fun decorating, and Valerie (our resident culinary expert) coordinated the food. It was such a joy to celebrate the engagement of these two

Congratulations Jordan and Audrey! Much love!


Spotted

Poor unfortunate soul.

This is about what our friendly neighborhood husky looked like before (courtesy of Google images).

This is the after.

Poor pup. Not only did his owners shave him down for the summer, but when they realized it was a little cool outside just immediately slapped this ladies’ blouse on him. Ouch.


Sports Day

It’s at least a month after the fact. But oh well.

What could inspire a large group of (straight, at least mostly) teenage boys to don midriff-baring, one-shoulder cobalt blue costumes? Duh! The annual sports meet. (OK, let me be clear: actually, over here, there are probably lots of things that would make these guys wear these outfits.)

The sports meeting is a yearly mainstay at college campuses in Asia. It’s like a whole year full of intramural sports pushed into a three-day period. Everyone gets out of class, and competitions–in everything from jumping rope to rugby to potato sack racing–are open to everyone who’d like to participate. At the beginning and end of the meet, most of the colleges within the university sponsor their own performance. I can’t remember which college the guys pictured above are from, but to their credit they drew gasps of “Wah–sexy!” from the girls who let me watch the opening ceremonies with them.

Here they are again, just in case you didn’t get a close enough look at all that sexiness.

The performances this year consisted of lots of costumes, several dragons, acrobatics, and mass performances. It reminded me a lot of Greek Sing in college: all the participants practice intensely for weeks preparing for their three minutes of glory.

Interestingly, and sadly, the standards are very rigorous. A friend of mine, who is by no means a big girl, told me that her college informed her just a few days before the big show that she would not be allowed to participate in the performance because her costume was too tight. Girls here are under an amazing amount of pressure to stay thin and feminine. Although Asians tend to communicate indirectly, it is not taboo here to tell someone that they have gotten “more fat.” Thankfully, it makes me laugh: that’s a good thing because weight change (whether it be over winter holiday or just observed in old pictures) is regularly commented on.

Back to the sports meet. All the students sit with their classmates, and cheer intensely for their school when they rush the field for their performance. These hand-clappers (???) pictured below must be the Asian equivalent of pompoms.

These girls reminded me a little bit of Minnie Mouse, although I’m not sure exactly why. Did she wear a similar outfit? I honestly can’t remember.