I know last time I said my trip to Yunyang was the most fun I’ve had since training, but this trip to Yunyang proved to be filled with tons of excitement and adventure.
My counterpart, Tina, had her wedding today in her hometown of Yunyang and invited the English department of our college. Unfortunately only two other teachers, Summer and John, and I were able to make the trip – most of the other teachers had gone home already for the holidays. The trip there was fairly slow, as John is a new driver and drove probably half the speed limit the entire way there. Yunyang on the bus is about an hour away but with the way John drove, we needed a potty break before we got there.
Tina and her new husband greeted us at the door, which warranted several pictures from strangers. It’s rare to see laowai attend weddings.
John guessed that about 600 people were at this wedding, which meant that not everyone could sit in the main hall, which was fine by me. That meant that 600 people wouldn’t be taking their eyes off of the wedding to stare at the foreigner. The wedding was held at a hotel, and several floors were reserved as banquet rooms.
I hear ours was a special room – we got couches and a nice bathroom in addition to a huge banquet table.
All the guests received red envelopes with 18 yuan inside! Hooray~
Tina’s wedding was far from anything I would call Traditional Chinese, and far from anything I would call Traditional Western. They played the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song before she walked down the aisle, and as she walked, a crowd gathered behind her in the aisle. Fire shot out from the stage and confetti popped and covered everyone’s food.
With so many guests, we barely got to see Tina and the whole thing was very fast-paced. Most of the guests left after an hour. The couple did, however, enter our banquet room to toast us with white grape juice. If it were a smaller wedding, they would toast us with baijiu which I can only describe as Chinese moonshine. I helped myself to some grape juice instead. The other guests in our banquet room (I knew none of them) helped themselves to two bottles of baijiu and quickly started bullying one another to drink more. By the end, they were all red-faced and I felt it was time to leave.
John mentioned taking the old highway back to Wanzhou, so we headed out on a different road, where we could see more of the countryside. There are many small “villages” sprinkled about, where old buildings seemed as if they’re about to crumble, and many already have. I loved the scenic route, as we encountered several streams and waterfalls as well as farms and livestock.
At one point, John pulled over so I could take a picture of a beautiful fresh mountain spring.
He said he was going to do something illegal for us and went off-road and out of sight, which left both Summer and I confused.
After several minutes he returned with a small moving creature – a crab!
I wondered what crabs were doing in the middle of a bunch of mountains, but John insisted that this was an untouched habitat for them and they were safe there. They hide under the bridge after it rains.
After about half an hour driving around after our crabventure, John realized that maybe this wasn’t the road back to Wanzhou. He pulled over to ask a woman which way to Wanzhou, and she pointed to a very slick and muddy unpaved road. Off we went, Summer and I scared for our lives that we would slide off the mountain and die.
Luckily John was extra careful and slowly but surely we made it through the long and narrow mud road.
That wasn’t the end of our adventure, though. Once we finally hit the main road back to town, John saw a fruit stand and pulled over to buy some fruit. The catch was, you picked your own. It all happened so quickly, but within seconds, the three of us followed a worker and I was hiking up a slippery and muddy mountain to pick my own grapes. The worker was very proud of his grape-picking basket, as it was made out of a bag that came from the United states.
The trail up the mountain was so steep and muddy that we all had to hold hands to make sure nobody slipped and fell to their doom. There were makeshift stairs made of bricks but with all the rain and mud they did little to help, as they slid all over the place. Panting and hearts racing, we reached the vineyard and were greeted with a spectacular view.
Summer pointed out that it was a good thing that I changed my shoes that morning, because my nice black boots would not have had enough traction to let me slide up and down the mountain with ease. On the way back down, John tied some dried plants to my feet for better traction. It didn’t help much, as I effortlessly slid down the muddy mountain side as if I were skating.
In the end, it was worth it. We were rewarded with several bags of grapes and they were sweeter than you would find in the local markets, but that just might be from the labor we put into getting to them and picking them. John recalled a story from Aesop’s Fables about the fox who couldn’t reach a vine of grapes. The fox remarked that the grapes were probably sour anyways, and he didn’t want them. We couldn’t get enough of the grapes we picked ourselves!
We finally made our way to Wanzhou, with one last stop to go. John stopped by the Yangtze river so we could enjoy the scene and our fresh grapes. He recalled how different the river is now that the dam has been built. He said he liked the old river much better, as it was smaller and livelier, and much clearer. It made me wish I could have seen the old Yangtze.
This eight hour adventure with Summer and John was great. Besides the slow driving, I enjoyed getting lost and getting to see lots of mountains up close. It was nice not having to think about planning tomorrow’s class – it made me enjoy today so much more.