21 November 2006

Anna's Wedding

Two weekends ago, one of the Chinese teachers in our school got married. Chinese weddings are huge deal and very elaborate. I have a problem with taking too many pictures, so I'm splitting this post into five sections to make it more manageable.

Section One: General Wedding Pictures-
Let me first attempt to give some meaning to the event that it a Chinese wedding. This all comes with the disclaimer that I really don't know much about this at all and most of the information came from the bride in the weeks prior to the wedding. Here most weddings occur in hotels, not churches. The couple greets the guests in the hotel lobby and the guests sign in and proceed upstairs to the banquet hall. The couple arrives to the hall with much fanfare, where an MC greets them and conducts the ceremony. The meal is then served and the couple goes around to be congratulated by each table. There is no dancing, just good company and great food.

Jamie, me, and Megan greeting Anna and her husband as we entered the hotel.

Their car all decorated for a quick escape at the end--sadly no rice throwing or bubble blowing.

Wedding photos are a HUGE deal--they get all fancied up to take the pictures (I think theirs could be in a magazine or something)

The slightly tacky stage--bright colors are a must.

The head table for the couple and their family. Theirs was the only table with red coverings--red being the color of good fortune.

The altar with fruit to honor the traditional gods.

Some of the wedding favors on our table--five packets of cigarettes.

The ceremony, complete with balloons.

The couple going around to greet the guests after the meal.

Section Two: Food-
They go ALL out for the wedding meal. It is a symbol of prestige and class and the only the very best delicacies are served [Read: Food most Americans don't/won't eat ever.]

The kitchen that prepared all the food (notice the poultry hanging in the windows).

The Chinese version of the Love Boat or something (still not really sure what the purpose of this was--it just held some of the food, I guess).

Part I: Assorted seafood that I don't know the names of.

Part II: Assorted seafood that I don't know the names of.

Part III: Assorted seafood that I don't know the names of. (Oh wait! Pretty sure those are sea urchins, I take it all back...)

The fish in the aquarium on the left were HUGE--I would not mess with those fish, they were pretty scary.

Part IV: Assorted seafood that I don't know the names of.

Now that was all food that was displayed before we sat down for lunch. Here comes the actual food we were served for the meal. [Disclaimer: Not for the weak of heart or stomach. Also not for those who are going to eat food in the next 15 minutes. Be warned!]

A whole lobster.

Jellyfish. (Not how I would have imagined it to look like, but I have been assured that what it was.)

A whole fish.

A noodle dish complete with octopus legs (that's what's sitting off on the side of the plate).

Soup of turtle and chicken head.

Okay--deep breath. Time for number three.

Section Three: Three Dresses-
A Chinese bride wears multiple dresses during the few short hours of the ceremony and meal. One dress is usually bought while the others are rented. The first dress is a traditional Western-style wedding gown, the second is more traditional Chinese, and the third is...well, I guess, just the third.

The first dress to greet the guests as they come in.

Her hair and dress have completed changed into a more traditional Chinese style.

Anna showing off her ring.

Dress number three: A beautiful pink silk business suit.

Section Four: Group Pictures-
What better occasion for taking group pictures?

Jamie, Jessica (the admissions administrator), Megan and I. Jessica and Jamie have been meeting this semester and they often discuss questions about the Truth. Please think about them and their growing relationship.

The American teachers at Wuxi Oriental International School: Bill, Tena, me, Megan, Karri, Lindsey, Jamie, Daniel and Beth.

Some of us girls goofing off.

Laughing with our Dean of Students, Mrs. Tang (we have affectionately nicknamed her Mama Tong).

Section Five: Random Pictures-
The next two pictures have absolutely nothing to do with the wedding, but I thought I'd throw them in, just in an attempt to make this the longest post ever!

Our students come to school in a variety of school buses. They aren't the traditional idea of school buses though--no yellow twinkie with a flashing stop sign on it or anything. Think more along the lines of a rented minivan that they call a school bus. There are three little (yes short, but not that kind of short school bus!) buses and one giant (like Greyhound charter) bus. A few weeks ago the big bus was late picking the students up from school. The powers that be called and found out it was having trouble (side note: it was raining real bad that day) and that it most likely wasn't going to make it all the way out to us. Plan B went into motion: The other school buses would come back and make a second trip. This wasn't quick enough for some students (they had called their parents when the ordeal first began), so the security guard had to go out into the rain and get some taxis. Yes, the school sent some of the students home in taxis. In the rain. 5 and 6 students all crammed in. Plus a Chinese teacher. That is what I called craziness.

Mama Tong chasing after the taxi in the rain to give it last minute directions.

So I found the Chinese equivalent to Whoppers--woohoo! The best part--they're from Anglicism!?! Yeah, not sure how a candy can be from a religion, but we can pretend.

That's all I got and I think that's plenty :)


19 November 2006

The Ping Pong Tournament

So the Chinese are super serious about ping pong. It is one of the activities that our students can play after lunch and numerous students are pretty good, so the school decided to create a ping pong tournament. It started off as something for the students, with separate pools for the girls and the boys. Our middle school and high school ruled in that tournament, with one of my 6th grade homeroom students winning for the boys and one of our German students winning for the girls.
Then the coordinator decided to involve us teachers. Normally that would be a good idea, but we have two groups of teachers, the Chinese, who are really good at table tennis and the Americans, who aren't terribly talented (at all!). Trying to be fair, the first round paired a Chinese against an American, which resulted in almost all of the Americans being eliminated. Then, to help even the playing ground, they redid the pairings to have the Americans playing each other. Either way, I lost big time. I played the first grade Chinese teacher who beat me quite quickly and then I played Lindsey who beat me just as swiftly (she grew up with a ping pong table in her rec room). Needless to say, I don't terribly enjoy playing, but I tried to be a good sport and I even scored a few points in the process :)

Our Admissions administrator, Jessica, playing Megan with our smiley security guard looking on.

Our Dean, Mrs. Tang, playing Fiona, the art teacher, with our principal keeping score.

The Americans teachers chillin' after getting beat.

I've said it before and I'll repeat it again here, the biggest surprise in teaching this year has been how much I love teaching science. I never enjoyed the natural sciences or math in school and I was really nervous to teach it. Overall, the best experience by far has been teaching these two hours a week. The students love to do "experiments" (it's hard to call them actually experiments because we're not following true scientific procedure, but oh well). Right now we are studying energy (light, sound, heat, electrical, potential, kinetic, etc.) and last week it was really sunny. When I saw that, I made up a light and heat energy experiment on the spot--the pyro use-a-magnifying-glass-to-burn-stuff experiment and the kids loved it. Our hypothesis was that the green or the red paper would burn quickest. They were so patient and tried very hard to get it to burn. Some of them were successful and then a few of them had the genius idea of finding a black marker and coloring the paper. Then they were all successful and that's why I love science class.

One of my homeroom students trying to light the pink paper on fire.

Our Taiwanese student trying her luck at some more paper.

Success! That's black marker with a hole burned in the middle (in case you can't tell :)

One of my other homeroom students trying his luck at the colored black paper.

Two of the Korean girls trying so patiently to get the black paper to catch on fire--I don't think they were successful because the sun disappeared towards the end of the period, perfect timing!

I do love it: A day in the life of Rachel=ping pong and science. Could it get any better?!?


18 November 2006

A Weekend in Shanghai

A few weekends ago, a group of us went to Shanghai. It was a wonderful weekend away because it was a welcomed change of scenery. The highlights from the weekend were:
  • Riding the train for the first time--much quicker than a coach bus and all around more convenient.
  • Staying in a new youth hostel.
  • Great Italian, Chinese, and Mexican coupled with some spirits and yummy desserts (we certainly got our fill of nice food).
  • Stocking up on the latest English editions of Newsweek and buying new books.
  • Meeting new friends and experiencing their gracious hospitality.
  • Taking a tour of the Huangpu river at night.
  • Observing Shanghai from the Jinmao Tower--the fourth tallest tower in the world!
  • Enjoying the small things in life (a soft bed for two nights, finding gummi bears, attending an International Fellowship, riding the subway).

Here are the highlights in photos:

The Ferrari store--they sold only Ferrari merchandise, no cars.

It wasn't Krispy Kreme, but it was a darn good old fashioned doughnut (my favorite!)

The bowtie making itself known to the fastest growing car market in the world (Beijing sells 1000 new cars a day and I'm sure the number is similar in Shanghai).

A traditional market in the Old Town.

A not-so-traditional store trying to blend in.

The sides of the buildings are used as ads, that's why they are all colorful.

The Shanghai skyline lit up at night.

The intricate wood on the boat.

The way the light reflected on the water was just gorgeous.

Another similar picture, I know, but I can't help myself, it's just so cool (and it took me forever to get it to turn out right, I had to rest the camera on the railing to get it still enough).

I do love Shanghai, it's a totally different feel than Wuxi and I like switching it up a bit every once in a while.

Megan and me goofing around at the Mexican restaurant (she's flashing the new version of the peace sign that we picked up from watching Chinese music videos on the bus).

Looking down from the Jinmao Tower (the other tower with the two balls is the Oriental Pearl tower which makes the skyline of Shanghai very distinct).

A tree with lots of wishes for good luck attached to it.

Needless to say, the air quality on this particular day wasn't the best.

The construction of another very tall building close to the Jinmao.

Only 10550 km to Los Angeles!

Even though it was a bit muggy, the view was still pretty cool.

The Jinmao sports the world's tallest restaurant, post office, and hotel. This picture is taken looking down into the atrium of the hotel (the hotel itself starts at like the 40th floor).

It is pretty trippy to look down and it sure makes an awesome picture.

The tower is so tall that it couldn't even fit in a picture taken from the ground looking up.

It's always nice to get away for the weekend and I'm so lucky that it's possible to do a quick trip into the big city.

Come to visit China--both Wuxi and Shanghai ;)