Early in the afternoon of Friday, 30 November, 2007, lzh and I and all those involved in the planning and running of our wedding sat down, utterly exhausted, at a few empty tables and finally got some lunch.
Looking back, I can't see what it was that I had to do that left me so shattered. All I did was follow orders- go here, get in this car, go that way, do this, do that, say this, say that... pretty easy, really. But I was utterly exhausted. I don't think I want to imagine how those who had real jobs to do were feeling. Lunch eaten, everything was packed up and we all went our separate ways.
There's something very sad, almost tragic, about the sight of a restaurant after a wedding. It looks something like a battlefield the day after, silent, deserted. Yeah, anyway, we left. lzh and I, my parents and Roubaozi walked back across the square to our hotel.
There's something slightly awkward about using a hotel room as the wedding chamber (新房), but our only other option was heading straight back to Beijing, and considering how exhausted we both were, I'm glad we didn't. And of course, my parents, being tourists, needed looking after. And we wanted my parents to go out to the village and spend some proper time with lzh's family.
That was perhaps the scariest part of the whole trip. I mean, rural Beijing is still mostly poor and underdeveloped. I mean, Yanqing county town is quite nice and really very well appointed, but the villages, even the fringes of the county town, are, well, basic. And cold, in the winter. But then I got to thinking of the stories of growing up in small town New Zealand in the 50s and 60s that my parents had told me, and I thought, well, they'll probably cope just fine. Apart from the temperature, they've dealt with all of this kind of thing before. Well, apart from the temperature and squat toilets. And talking to my parents, they seemed pretty keen to go out and spend a night in the village. And lzh's parents, her mum in particular, seemed very keen to have my parents come out and visit.
So, late on Friday afternoon, having gotten ourselves rested and as recuperated as possible, we wandered off to the supermarket. We didn't want to repeat the breakfast disaster of that morning, so we made sure we had edible food.
And then on that Saturday morning, 1 December, 2007, we got up and gathered in Mum and Dad's room for breakfast, then got our stuff together, moved it down to the lobby, and checked out while lzh went off looking for a miandi to take us out to the village.
The drivers waiting by the hotel quoted the utterly absurd price of fifty kuai, so lzh told them precisely where they could put their fifty kuai and their crappy little miandi and went off to where the village drivers normally gather up by the old Central Market (since torn down to make way for some commercial development that is currently under construction)- I guess one thing should be made clear: The miandi and other not-strictly-legal but tolerated taxi drivers working different parts of Yanqing gather in different parts of the county town. It's always possible to get a miandi going your direction, but if, for example, you ask one of the Kangzhuang drivers who gather on the north side of the Dongguan square, outside the KFC, to go out to Xiangying, he's going to quote you a higher price than a regular Xiangying driver waiting whereever it is the Xiangying drivers wait. So having mentioned the Central Market, those who know Yanqing can probably guess which township lzh's village is in.... But anyway, she went up there and found a driver willing to come back to the hotel, pick us up, and take us to the village for the regular fare.
So we piled in and off we went, taking the back roads along the river bank to avoid the trucks on the highway. And we arrived. And we piled out of the miandi and into the house. And then lzh and I got a day and a night and a morning of hard core, intense, non-stop translation practice. Actually, that wasn't as tiring as I expected. And both sets of parents seemed to like each other and would probably have gotten along much better if they weren't so totally reliant on translators. And Mum and Dad seemed to actually enjoy their brief stay in the Chinese countryside. Well, I think they would've preferred warmer weather, but otherwise they seemed to enjoy it.
So Saturday was spent around the house. On Sunday morning we had to put Roubaozi on a miandi for the county bus station fairly early- he had a plane to catch to get back to his job in the wilds of Jiangsu. Then we took Mum and Dad on a walk through the fields and up to the new carpark and lookout at the base of the mountains, from where they got a reasonable view out across the village.
But, like Roubaozi, we, too, had to get back to Beijing that Sunday. Well, we didn't have to rush, having no plane to catch, but I needed to be in class at eight the next morning. So lzh arranged for a classmate of hers who earns a bit of extra income as a "taxi" driver to pick us up at midday. And Mum and Dad wanted to be able to say that they had not merely seen ad they drove through and under the Great Wall. They wanted to be able to say they'd climbed it, too, gotten up close and personal with the wall. Well, there we were in Yanqing, heading back to Beijing, and so we did the obvious....
So yes, I finally succumbed. I had to. Force of circumstance. It's not so easy to stop at Shuiguan or Juyongguan when you're heading south from Yanqing, not unless you want to take the back roads or too huge backtracks, and that just didn't make any sense. Fortunately, a Sunday afternoon outside peak season isn't too bad a time to visit the tourist hell that is Badaling.
And then we got back to Beijing, and for the next three days I worked while my wife and my parents went shopping.
And so ended the long weekend of the wedding. Intense, and awesome, and a huge amount of fun.