Since my last post so much has happened! This is going to be rather long... bear with me.

For lunch on my birthday, 2 of the Ghana boys invited my room mate and I for a surprise lunch. They were playing American music, had prepared delicious food - some of the best I have eaten here - and decorated with posters for my birthday. It was so nice! They told me that in Ghana hospitality is extremely important, and that what they did for me is a typical gesture for helping someone celebrate their birthday. They do it for everyone in the international dorm who celebrates a birthday, but it was still really nice.

That night, we went to our professor Li Laoshi's wedding banquet. We had a very difficult time waving down a taxi to go there. We waited for at least 20 minutes and of the few that passed they were all full. As a result, we were late - but they had waited for us! I couldn't believe it. As soon as we arrived they had us get in a picture with the bride and groom and then corralled us upstairs to the banquet room. They had posters for their wedding as if it was a hollywood poster movie. It was so neat!

The banquet hall was loud with a speaker on a microphone over the music, boisterous as if no one cared what the man on the loudspeaker was saying, full of techno lights and (like a lot of decorations here) very gaudy. They sat us in a table immediately in front of the stage. We were shocked that they had saved us one of the best tables in the house. Within a few minutes, a procession started with a flower girl and boy with the bride and groom walking behind them.

There were two women serving as bridesmaids who were clearly good friends with the bride who were dressed in normal dresses, which I thought was interesting. And the funniest thing about how people were dressed was that the groom had his keys hanging off of his pants on a keychain. It was adorable. And then there were bubbles.

As soon as the bride adn groom were up on stage, the servers began to run around and give each table liquor and cigarettes. That's the other thing, there was smoke everywhere. There are hardly any places in China that are non smoking, and lots of people smoke. The ceremony consisted of pouring a bottle of what I was assuming was wine into these cups that cascaded down into other cups. Nobody drank it though. Then the man with the microphone said some things in Chinese that I didn't understand and they looked like they were praying over several candles that they then lit together.

At that point the ceremony part was over, and food started coming out. Every time I thought they must be done bringing out food, they brought more. It was overwhelming. I don't know how any one table could eat all of that food. Fortunately for us, we had a few empty seats at our table and three men that are related to one of the party came and sat down and ate with us.

I'm pretty sure that in China the bride and groom don't eat, because very shortly after the ceremony had ended, they started going around the room with their parents and shot glasses and toasted with every table. They came by once with her parents and once with his. It turns out that one of the drinks was liquor and one was juice. My room mate tried both and let me know. When it came to my table, they passed out the drinks and toasted with us.

At festivities like this, the Chinese love to drink. A man came to the table and poured both of the boys who came with us a shot and took a shot with them (my room mate was offended that they left out all of the girls and didn't offer any of us shots. Myself and Meridith didn't care). After that first shot, they wouldn't take no for an answer from either of them. They just kept pouring them shots. Talk about pressure. At the end of the night (and it was all over within probably 1 hour), the guests were frantically going around putting leftover food in bags and taking cigarettes and liquor bottles from the tables that were unused.

We had prepared a HongBao (which is a red envelope filled with money which is a traditional gift for different occasions) for the bride and groom from our class, and were very excited to give it to him when we were leaving, but he refused. It was the saddest thing. We tried so hard to insist and he would allow us to. He kept saying we were students and his guests and that we are here to experiencing the culture and because we are students we don't have money so he won't take it. Nothing we tried worked in giving it to him. It was a disappointment.

I'm actually going to stop here and write a separate blog on my trip to Jinan. Thanks for listening!