I am sorry to have allowed so much time to pass, but it's been a busy week or so and connections to the internet have not always been optimal. As I write these lines, we are now in Guilin--I'll write more about that later. Today's subject is the February 8 wedding of Andrew and Xian Na, which turned out to be a fascinating and quite exciting occasion. Today I will focus upon just a few moments of the process, and add more in a later post. Xian Na's parents live about one hour outside Chongqing in a quite rural environment. One consequence of this location is that the entire community contributed to, took part in, and attended the wedding. Xian Na's parents organized what amounted to a two-day feast for everyone in the area, so the actual wedding saw perhaps 200 people--relatives, neighbors, co-workers--gather for the event. The wedding itself represented a sort of compromise between Chinese traditions and some innovations. The bride wore red, of course, and was as beautiful as any bride could wish to be. Andrew, too, wore red, looking very handsome in a jacket that he had tailored especially for the occasion. These two stood on a slightly elevated platform behind which hung a red banner with their two Chinese names inscribed upon it; and a red carpet covered the area where they stood, and reached out to the assembled guests. Xian Na's parents and Jill and I sat along the edge of the red carpet. The essence of the ceremony involved several stages. Aaron, a good friend of both bride and groom from Chongqing--who speaks both English and Chinese, introduced the bride and groom, told their story, and introduced all four parents. Then the bride and groom exchanged vows, Andrew giving his to Xian Na (in Chinese) and Xian Na giving hers to Andrew in English. Then both bride and groom participated in the tea ceremony, when both bride and groom kneeled before the parents, first to Xian Na's parents, then to Jill and Dan, giving both parents cups of tea, expressing appreciation for all that their parents had done for them, and pledging fidelity to them in the future--and received hong bao (red envelopes with cash) from each of the four parents. Then the two fathers each took the microphone to say a few words (all this being translated by Aaron), in effect giving their blessing to the couple. Then people set off various "poppers" with confetti splayed over all everyone. And then the serious eating began--about which I'll write more another time. Such a skeleton description does not approach all that the wedding represented, and I'll try to add more another time. But, despite our anxieties about something so unfamiliar to us, we felt ourselves so warmly welcomed. More than that, we felt such joy to see how much Andrew and Xian Na love one another, and felt so glad that we could be present for and share in this important moment in their lives.