In which Aaron is named Official Wedding Translator, and so we use this as an excuse to buy fun new clothes.
19.01.2008 -5 °C
Yesterday, Aaron and I headed into Beijing to meet up with Steve and Amy (my colleague, the physics teacher, and his wife - as far as the court is concerned, but not officially according to the church, yet) for lunch. After lunching, and a long, pointless wander through one of the fancy shopping malls downtown (Amy bought a shirt; I was bewildered at the variety of jackets available), we met up with Amy's parents, aunt, and wedding host. Aaron will be translating for the host from Chinese to English so Steve, his best man, and his parents have some idea of what's going on. Aaron will also translate Steve's father's toast from English to Chinese. We sat down with Amy's family, had some tea, and discussed the down-to-the-minute itinerary for the church ceremony and traditions at the banquet. The ceremony and traditional gift-giving and speeches at the banquet must be done by noon (but guests can eat and drink for several hours afterwards). The funniest question that was asked was to Steve, "How much can you drink?" The bride and groom are supposed to drink with each guest, and whenever asked. They can pass those drinks along to their wedding party (though Steve and Amy have only one attendant each) or to other friends. Aaron was told not to drink, so luckily, Steve has lots of other colleagues attending! I won't be taking any of those drinks for him - hard liquor here is disgusting and horribly strong.
After this meeting, Aaron and I went to the Silk Market, hoping to find a jacket for me to wear to the wedding. We had heard that the Silk Market was two streets lined with shops selling fabric and tailor-made clothes. What we found was an exact replica of the Ya Show clothing market on San Litun Street. ("Pretty lady, you want a cashmere?") There were a few booths doing tailor work, but I refuse to pay someone to yell at me, make me feel cheap and make me a poor quality, over-priced garment. We hightailed it out of there, and asked some ladies selling scarves on the street where the real Silk Street markets were. They had all been moved into that building some years ago, apparently... They pointed us to another building down the street, which turned out to be a slightly smaller copy of where we had just been. Aaron spotted a little, deserted-looking shop nearby called "Linda's Tailoring and Alterations" or something, so we went in. Linda turned out to be a friendly and helpful Chinese lady who makes Western and Chinese suits, dresses and jackets. It was exactly the kind of shop I had imagined - quiet, no yelling, no pressure. I picked out a style of jacket that is mid-thigh length, has slightly wide sleeves, and a stand-up collar (not really Mandarin style), with the Chinese knot-style buttons in front. I chose a gorgeous brown silk fabric with blue phoenixes, trees and flowers on it. Aaron chose a navy pinstripe fabric and a Western-style suit.
Linda measured us and noted what we wanted. She asked me lots of questions, but I think she already knew the answers. Did I want slits down the sides of my jacket, or closed sides? I hesitated for a while, thinking. Then she said, "Probalbly slits would look better because of..." and then she patted my bum. Yes, Dad, a Chinese tailor told me I have a fat ass...
We go back this week to try our new clothes on. Pictures soon! I'm sure we paid more than we would have if we had bought something at the Silk Market (Aaron and I have a pact not to tell how much - someone always claims that whatever you spend, no matter how little, it was too much), but I'd pay more for quality, really great service and a good atmosphere.
Today, we went to the train ticket office to try to get some tickets down south, but were told that we needed to wait until 10 days before our departure date. Hopefully we can secure some tickets next weekend!