PREPARATION AS A BRIDESMAID
I hope you enjoyed what will be my last "CHINA Year 2" Blog!
Coming up: South Africa, Summer in the USA, & CHINA Year 3!
On June 10th I had the privilege of serving as a bridesmaid in the bridal party of my friend J in Qingdao. I was so honored when she asked me to be in her wedding. She was actually the first national friend I made when moving to China. I had been in country for 2 months when we ended up being week-long roommates as chaperones on a middle school trip around Shandong Province. Therefore, my first impressions of China, and my many questions in regards to those impressions, were kindly answered and enlightened by J.
Last year, I used to ride the bus home from school with her and was excited when she first talked about reuniting with a former classmate – now her husband – through a school safety trip to Shanghai.
PREPARATION AS A BRIDESMAID
My roommate Grace and I were both asked to be bridesmaids and had fun preparing for the wedding together. Some of the hilarity of the wedding lies in getting our bridesmaids dresses.
When I saw the pictures of the dresses I told J, “I don’t know if that dress is going to fit me. You must remember that I do not have an Asian body.”(read: There’s a lot more of me to fit into clothes than you find on your average Asian girl, haha). J assured me it was no problem and she would order me the largest size dress. I ended up trying on an Chinese dress marked at 3XL… (a humbling reminder to me that size should not determine happiness), but I found myself a little worried when it was too small! This is why when I visit America I spend a lot of money on clothes. It’s feels impossible to find things that fit me in China. The 3XL was sent back and I ended up wearing a Chinese 5XL!
REFLECTION: I share this story, first because I think it’s kind of hilarious. I’m definitely not a tiny, but imagining I would ever wear a 5XL… it’s all about perspective and I feel it’s a good lesson to share. What do clothing sizes even mean? I see my students (and to be honest adult women in my life as well) who put a lot of their confidence and identity in what size dress or pants they wear. It’s a number that doesn’t really mean anything. What matters is being healthy and taking care of the physical body that the Father has given to you. I share this story second to give you an insight into just another unique occurrence in my life as a foreigner in China.
Now to the wedding!
The rehearsal was what you would expect. Figuring out who would enter when and stand where, the order of the ceremony, etc. However, when some of the logistics were being decided I ended up having a conversation with some of J’s friends (they spoke English). One of the girls asked me about my beliefs on marriage. She herself revealed she didn’t believe that a marriage that lasts was possible. I found myself sharing that the reason J and her fiancé are making the commitment to one another isn’t just about love and romance, but based on a shared spiritual foundation that I also believe. I was able to give her insight on this good news and felt humbled that my Father had perhaps called me to be at this late night wedding rehearsal perhaps in order for this conversation alone to happen. I ask you to remember this girl in your thoughts* as I feel she was really curious how someone could truly believe in a marriage that lasts based on these principles.
The morning of the wedding was the most fun. Grace and I arrived at the hotel (the bridal party and a majority of the guests stayed in the hotel that night) in our bridesmaids gowns at around 7 AM. J had been up since 4 AM preparing.
Most Chinese weddings are held in hotels (due to their being very few ch-rch buildings in China – the ones that do exist being run by the reigning powers). I attended the rehearsal dinner at a restaurant around the corner from the hotel that was hosting the wedding. We had a very traditional Shandong meal with lots of variety of meats (mainly types of fish, oysters, and mussels) with some steamed vegetable sizes such as celery, cauliflower, and cabbage. The dinner was filled with people (not just immediate family and bridal party) as the bride and groom organize the dinner for all friends and family who are attending the wedding from out-of-town. We then went to the hotel to rehearse for the wedding. J and her fiancé had a wedding party of seven bridesmaids and groomsmen each.
A Chinese bride will wear many dresses on her wedding, having anywhere from 3-6 outfit changes throughout the day.
A Chinese bride will typically start out in a traditional red Qipao dress on the morning of her wedding. Red is a lucky color in China, representing happiness, love, honor, etc. Qipaos will also be decorated with gold designs in the hopes of bringing the couple future wealthy. J wore a gorgeous 3 piece headpiece on her head that are usually worn by a bride in a Chinese wedding.
The bridesmaids posed for photographs with J. Then J was situated on the bed in her hotel room. After a while all her friends and family show up and crowd into this tiny hotel room. The bridesmaids were asked to hide her shoes somewhere in the room (more on that shortly). Then all the friends and family stand in the doorway of the room blocking the way of the groom and groomsmen when they arrive at the door to “pick up” the bride. Upon the grooms’ arrival, the friends and family being to grill the groom with questions!
Children asked questions like, “Who are you?” and “Why are you here?” To which the groom replied, “I am here for love!” Then the brides friends and family asked questions like, “Who will wash the dishes?” and “Who will do the cooking?”. Then came the more personal questions in which the groom is having to “prove” himself worthy of the bride. “What is the bride’s favorite verse?”, “What is the bride’s love language?”, “What is your favorite thing about the bride?”, “What is the bride’s favorite thing about her job?”, the questions went on and on. Some of the friends and family gave the groom challenges to complete! “15 push-ups!”, “Sing the bride a love song!”
Meanwhile, J was sitting out of sight inside the room listening to his answers. If she didn’t like an answer she could make him elaborate or do the challenge better. J teased her husband-to-be by telling him his singing was bad. If the groom “fails” a question or challenge, his groomsmen are there to help him out. When J told him his singing was bad the groomsmen got beside the groom and sang a song together with him until J approved it. This time was full of a lot of laughter, but also provided a heartfelt insight into the couples love and connection. I was told in some other Chinese weddings the groom even brings little red packets (of money) to pretend to “bribe” the friends and family into letting him through to reach the bride.
Finally, the groom reached his bride sitting on the bed. Except! The bride cannot be married because, as you heard earlier, her shoes have gone missing! The groomsmen scour through the room trying to find the brides shoes so that she can be married. One shoe was found inside a lampshade. The other was on top of a the high hotel curtain rods. The groomsmen lifted up one of the men in order to be able to reach it. It was so funny to see these grown men running around looking for the shoes like a childhood game of hide and seek. Finally, the groom was able to put the shoes on his bride and lift her off the bed. The wedding could now begin!
BUT! The bride had to change into her second outfit now! J’s second outfit was a traditional white wedding dress. She looked like a princess. The ceremony began, not too different from what you would expect in a western wedding.
The bridal party marches in. A group of flower girls and boys come down the aisle (all children of J’s international co-workers at our school) and two of them carried a sign that said in English “Here comes the bride”. J was then escorted down the aisle by her mother (J’s father passed away when she was young). The rest of the ceremony included a message from J’s fellowship leader, a choir made up of brothers and sisters whom she fellowships with, words of encouragement from married friends who the couple look up to, vows by the couple and the exchanging of rings. The wedding itself was mostly in Chinese, but a few parts were translated into English for the many foreign friends J had in attendance.
Two “differences” in the ceremony included a moment when the groom and bride honored their parents by performing a ritual tea ceremony and verbally thanked their parents for investing in them and preparing them for this life step. The bride and groom also opted to perform a duet together at the wedding and sing a spiritual song about the Father’s love. It was lovely and such a unique, personal touch to the wedding.
After the ceremony, there was time for attendees to take pictures with the newly married couple. Then J was off to change into her next dress before the wedding banquet. The wedding banquet, catered especially for friends and family from out of town, welcomed any and all guests with a great feast of all different foods.
It was a really special experience to get to share in J and her husband’s special day. I loved witnessing the Father’s presence in their joining together. The cultural experience of the day was so much fun and I learned a lot about the way the Chinese value family and in all things hope to honor those people who have invested in their lives. I’d like to get better at that. I hope you will keep J and her new husband in your thoughts as they begin to live out their lifelong commitment and seek to follow in the path of JC, setting an example to those around them, as well as, future generations.
Thanks for reading!
I hope you enjoyed what will be my last "CHINA Year 2" Blog!
Coming up: South Africa, Summer in the USA, & CHINA Year 3!
Nothing Says Hurricane like the End of the School Year
After “Robin Hood” ended in mid-May the school year propelled itself like a hurricane toward its conclusion. I could barely catch my breath with the rush of final projects, final preparation, clean-up, class parties, end of the year events, such as awards ceremonies, Fine Arts Galas, and graduations (not to mention I celebrated my 28th birthday!).
With the end of another school year, I find myself once again saying goodbye to friends and co-workers. In both my departments (English and Fine Arts), I am one of only two people staying through this year. Last year, my departments were basically untouched by the leaving season. This year, it’s everyone except me and one other person (The English Department is made up of 5 people and Fine Arts has about 6 full time staff). It will certainly be another year of change and transition next year. Our school, just as they did last year, is once again getting a whole new administrative team… which has me both nervous and hopeful.
I am most sad to say goodbye to my English Department Head. He has been a mentor and friend for the two years I’ve been in China. His children are some of my favorite people to spend time with and his wisdom and guidance in the department will be missed greatly. Surprisingly (but I guess not surprisingly for those who have lived the expat life), with the exit of so many staff members this year, next year I will be the “longest” remaining staff member in the English Department. It’s amazing how in two years you can go from being the new kid in the class to the one “in the know”.
One big change I know is awaiting me next year is the loss of Middle School Theatre. I was told in March, pretty suddenly, that the upcoming administrative team was making some major changes to scheduling and staffing when it comes to the secondary program. A long story short… I was told that my middle school theatre program was being cut from the middle school curriculum. The schedule made it impossible for me to teach the class and my department head was against going fully extracurricular. Needless to say, I was absolutely devastated by the decision. I chose to come to Qingdao because I wanted to do middle school theatre. I can teach English Language Arts anywhere in the world, but I felt called to reach middle school students (the community that surrounds them) through the opportunity of Middle School Theatre. Whilst I understand the decision based on a desire to not burn out our staff with responsibilities (we’re a small school accomplishing a lot of things that giant schools do), it was honestly the most heartbreaking outcome of this school year for me. The admin gave me an option to teach only middle school English Language Arts or to teach ELA in combination with a fundamentals Theatre course at the high school level. I said yes, of course, as I have really discovered how much theatre means to me… despite the excitement about this class, I am really grieving the loss of middle school theatre.
Due to this major change and my conviction that the L-rd called me to Qingdao to min-ster to students through the platform of acting and drama, I have changed my contract to one year (ending in June 2020). I don’t know what the L-rd has in mind for me, but despite my feeling of loss I am working hard to be positive and move forward with this high school class with enthusiasm and passion. I have named the class FOPA, Fundamentals of Performing Arts. The vision is that through this year long class we will study everything from spoken word performance, poetry, monologues, pantomime, scene cuttings, musical theatre and dance, improv, to Blackbox theatre. Though the course is not performance based (there will be no big show this year), my department head and I are hopeful to take these performances to the streets and stage during the school day. My department head, and friend reminded me, “G-d calls us to be faithful in the little things, so that when we show our commitment He will then give us the opportunity to be faithful in even greater things.” I am holding onto this as I mourn. As of right now I have five students enrolled in the high school course, all of them are 10th graders who during my first year in China were 8th grade students involved in “The Jungle Book”. That was comforting to me.
The Seasons Change
I really love Qingdao. If I haven't said that enough this year with all the craziness, I want to say it right now. I never could have imagined I'd love living in a city of millions of people between the mountains and the ocean, but I really love my city. I didn't get out much with my camera this year, but my goal for next year is to take as many pictures as I can of this breathtaking city. To be honest though, I do prefer Qingdao during spring, summer, and fall over winter. That ocean wind just chills me to the bone. I am happy to enjoy my final days in this glorious weather before heading to the sunny Carolinas!
Reflecting on the 2018-2019 School Year
I want to take a quick moment to reflect on this year in its entirety. The beautifully good, the painfully bad, and the imperfectly in between.
I am now preparing to be a bridesmaid in my friend’s wedding. My friend, we’ll call her J, is the first Chinese friend I made when I moved to Qingdao. I feel so blessed and honored that she has asked me to stand beside her on her special day. I am also super excited to be able to share with you all about some wedding traditions in China!
The day after the wedding I will head back to the USA for my first summer home in two years. I will be traveling up and down the east coast for the course of my seven weeks "home". I hope to get to see many of you (but also rest and get some much longed for Benji time). Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in reaching out!
Love and blessings, friends!
Thank you for reading through another year with me!
But Joseph said to them,
“Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result—the survival of many people."
"For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"
Having reached my one year anniversary of moving to China, I celebrated by going on a weekend trip to the city of Yantai. Yantai is in the same province as Qingdao, though it lies about three hours north by train. It is on the other end of the Shandong Peninsula. It is another coastal city that lies across the Yellow Sea from the Koreas. Yantai is also home to one of my school’s seven sister schools across China.
An article by China Today describes Qipaos in the following way:
“Most of them were made of silk, and embroidered, with thick laces trimmed at the collar, sleeves and edges. The dress empresses of past dynasties wore them. Their style of dress was noted as the highest of standards for Chinese women for several thousand years. [The] Qipao characterize[s] Chinese women's modesty, softness and beauty. Like Chinese women's personality. Like many fashions, the beauty of Qipao stands away from others. Stunning is one of its features from the collar, loop, chest, waist and hips to the lower hem. Qipao completely shows off a woman's figure” (SOURCE).
“When I see the rainbow in the clouds, I will remember the eternal covenant between G*d and every living creature on earth.” Then G*d said to Noah, “Yes, this rainbow is the sign of the covenant I am confirming with all the creatures on earth.”
“Above this surface was something that looked like a throne made of blue lapis lazuli. And on this throne high above was a figure whose appearance resembled a man. From what appeared to be his waist up, he looked like gleaming amber, flickering like a fire. And from his waist down, he looked like a burning flame, shining with splendor. All around him was a glowing halo, like a rainbow shining in the clouds on a rainy day.
This is what the glory of the L*rd looked like to me. When I saw it, I fell face down on the ground, and I heard someone’s voice speaking to me.”
Fans Of Faith
If I Made Movies
Third Culture Kid