Back in Shenyang with only a few days to spare, we rested more than anything else. Everyone was pretty much spent by this point. I rousted Dad early one morning and we headed out of town to the east to do some birdwatching along the river. There were quite a few groups of cyclists going by – looking sharp with all the gear one would expect, but goddamn did they ever ride slowly. These were all retirees, and they were apparently more concerned with looking speedy than being it. Exercise is exercise, though, so good for them…
After the wedding ceremony things took on a much more bucolic character as we headed SSE out of Shenyang to the diminutive city of Benxi to visit Ma Li’s family, and my new In-Laws, in situ. This picture was taken in the guest room of Ma Li’s paternal grandparents. Their dilapidated apartment was remodeled over the summer and is leagues better now. From left to right: Ma Li, Shadow (first cousin), Grandpa, Grandma, Steven, Myself, Dad, Erin, Mom, Shenshen (3rd Uncle’s wife, Shadow’s mother), and 3rd Uncle (son of Grandpa).
This is it. Two years to the day from our first date – a cozy dinner at Four Clover (“Fo-ah Ku-ro-ba”) restaurant in good ol’ Beppu – Ma Li & I celebrated our marriage. Mind you, we had already been legally married for 2 weeks, but now it was time to party. We held our ceremony & reception at the Shenyang Trader’s Hotel – a posh place even by Western standards located in the center of one of Shenyang’s biggest shopping districts. All of my visiting family were able to stay in the hotel at a discount rate negotiated as part of the deal – convenient & economical!
Back from our whirlwind tour of Inner Mongolia, our party of 6 grew to a party of 8 with the trumpeted arrival of The Mullaneys – maternal grandparents of the bridegroom. We visited Ma Li’s mother’s university for a dinner that spared no expense. The university dining hall has 3 floors – the first two are for the riffraff (students) and serve the expected budget fare. The third floor, however, woah mama! Faculty & Administrators only please, and if you can dream it, we can cook it! The large wooden tray on the table is sashimi!
And this is how it begins… Mongolia, Inner… a road to… somewhere? The first 3 hours off the plane were spent like this, driving endlessly, bumpily through the Steppes. I must confess: lawnmower jokes were made. But who among us could restrain themselves in such an environment?
The angle of this photo gives the appearance that your brave narrator is strapped to the roof. Sadly, this was not so. I just have freakishly long arms.
The July 26th ceremony was only the mid-point of a two week long wedding extravaganza. Parents, siblings, and maternal grandparents all made the long trip over the North Pole to China. Aspects of the odyssey worth retelling have been broken down chronologically into six journal entries for your viewing pleasure. Breathtaking photographs narrated by gripping captions will carry you along our journey.
Part 1 – The Arrival
~16 hours trapped in a steel tube zooming over the North Pole… my parents had been there before when they visited me in Japan, but this was the longest flight Steven & Erin had ever taken in their lives by more than 10 hours. Nevertheless, they arrived in fine shape and Erin looked positively well-rested when she embraced Ma Li at the airport after not seeing her in nearly a year.
(I broke my elbow.)
Yes, it’s true. In a moment of extreme uncoordination, at a stop I began to keel over on my road bike and failed to get out of my toe clips in time to catch myself. Instead, I bravely attempted to cushion my landing with my left arm – aka “the T-Rex arm.”
Rather than break my fall though, it broke itself, leading to the intensely pleasurable saying “Wode gebo zhou guzhe le!” Say it out loud yourself. Go on, try it. Great fun!
This one’s going up a little late, but I’ve been busy. My first Lunar New Year has come and gone and I feel confident I can sum it up for you, the foreigner.
Lunar New Year consists of:
- eating Thanksgiving-sized meals twice a day for 3 or more days
- drinking amounts of alcohol that would only be appropriate at a State School
- giving hong bao to children (and me, this year at least, woo hah!)
- going back to work after a one week vacation feeling not the least bit rested
I think it’s a good holiday. Particularly because Chinese people don’t have as many long holiday breaks as Americans do during which they can go home and be with their families. Is it any good if one is actually looking for a rest? Hell no. Vacation this is not. It’s a family holiday – and family holidays are *never* restful. Just ask Chevy Chase.
Friday, February 8th – Lunar New Year’s Day + 1
After sleeping off the second day of partying at 2nd Uncle’s we packed up our stuff in the morning and headed over to Lao Ye’s apartment – Ma Li’s maternal grandfather. We arrived just after noon and soon settled down to yet another tremendous assortment of dishes for lunch. Ma Li’s eldest aunt and her family were in attendance, the only part of the Li Clan we had not yet seen this New Year’s holiday.
Thursday, February 7th – Lunar New Year’s Day
After the big party on LNY’s eve we needed to rest up a bit before the next round of debauchery. Ma Li and I spent the night at 2nd Uncle’s apartment and then lazed around until about 2 or 3pm before packing up and heading over to Lao Ye’s apartment with her mother. Lao Ye means “maternal grandfather” in Chinese, as opposed to Ye Ye, her paternal grandfather. Anyhow, we made it to Lao Ye’s around 3:30 and then it was time for another round of welcomes, long time no see’s, and introductions to still more members of the extended family. This time there was a whole new family for me to meet – Ma Li’s mother’s first cousin and his wife and son were there. I may have said it before, but in China one interesting result of the One Child Policy is that all first cousins are essentially considered to be brothers and sisters, and all distant cousins are never considered to be anything further than first cousins. Thus, I was introduced to this 2nd cousin of Ma Li’s as his soon-to-be older brother-in-law, and he was introduced to me as my soon to be younger-brother-in-law, and that was that!