Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Louyang and Chinese Wedding

We spent the last week doing alot of prep-work for the wedding and sneaking in some sights and stops in between. We went to one of the world's oldest buddhist temples in Louyang, it was commisioned in 68 B.C. by the Emperor after two monks arrived from the West on White Horses with teachings and scrolls from India. Not far was hundreds of thousands of Buddhas carved into the side of a mountain, some as small as my fingers and some as large as a house. For all of these trips we hired a private driver to take us out of the city and around the surrounding areas, Louyang is considered small as it has a mere 3 million people.

The rest of the week was devoted to buying suits, shoes, wedding rehearsal, and preparation. The wedding was a combination of Jewish and Chinese, so I didn't really understand a thing that was said or done throughout the entire ceremony (except for the "I do's" at the end). A funny thing about Chinese culture is that they really don't tell you everything you need to know because they don't really know until it is time to act. We found out at 11 PM the night before the wedding about a tradition that the man cleans the house the night before the wedding for the bride's parents to visit after the ceremony (keep in mind this was after we spent the evening in a local bar watching a friend defeat a Chinaman on TV in a MMA match - not the most sober of evenings). A tradition I really enjoyed was before the processional we (all of the dudes) had to run upstairs to the ladies' hotel room and use our money, songs, and fists to force our way into the room. We then had to find the bride's shoes before we could take her downstairs, which my friend had to carry her down the 12 flights...granted he got to use the elevator. The wedding then HAD to start before 12 (another tradition) and once the ceremony was over and the glass was broken we partied it up until they kicked us out of the hall. The party did not stop there as we got a room at the hotel and carried on until everyone stumbled home or passed out.

I also want to pass some general knowledge about our trip to hina, but I also feel like I have learned too much to pass along so easily. Travelling and meeting new people are experiences that cannot be replaced by books or words. Just learning how ater is consumed has been an educational experience. I eat beef at almost every meal but I have not seen a hamburger or a teak in three weeks. The language has shaped the minds of the people so that pictures and characters that represent ideas and actions are more important than specific adjectives and adverbs to express detail. The population density in urban areas is astounding, its hard to be alone and the crowds can be overwhelming yet there is very little crime. The free market thrives with little to no regulation, we could buy beer in one shop, buy bbq meat across the street and consume all of the above in the shop where we buy the appetizers and side dishes. Low prices and high quality can go together, but the low prices associated with the low quality items are astoundingly lower, mere pennies on the dollar. You can always bargain for a lower price, in fact it is expected nearly everywhere, if you pay more than half of the sticker price then you are geting a terrible deal. Taxis are a way of life, a metro would be nice in many of these cities, but when there is such an efficient and cheap taxi service there is little motivation to add public transport. I still do not understand the tax system, since every business is run nearly exclusively on a cash only basis, I have gotten maybe four reciepts (including two from ATM's). There are many common products here that you rarely see in the U.S. - many fruits and vegetables I have never seen, spices and teas, an astounding amount of Jade, bags of watermelon seeds, bbq squid, a dizzying array of cell phones, and outrageous ice cream products (not really ice cream - maybe soy cream) with beans and seeds inside, but finding a gallon of milk is like finding the Temple of the Crescent Moon.

I have lots of pictures, but I am also missing some as I will need to collect from other friends that I am visiting with. I uploaded some pictures from the Shaolin Temple, the internet is slow at the hostel we are staying at so I only have time to get these few uploaded.


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