SO today we had to be up and ready to catch taxis to the countryside by 9am. I had also been woken last night with the suggestion that if I could have some sthings packed to take out that would be good too, so I was up and showered with my main back pack packed and ready to go for 9am. I seem to be getting better at packing the bag (the fact that I have to wear like 7 pieces of clothing at a time certainly takes some bulk out of the bag) and I also am planing what things I can jetison along the way to make room for souvenirs and presents... My boots I wore to the wedding are definitely one thing and I think I will also leave my ug boots behind as although they are helpful to wander around the house in, hopefully once I get on the tour I'll pretty much be outside looking at things or asleep.
I'm not really sure what I expected of Tonys parent place but it was a pleasant 20 minute drive out to the countryside. The scenery is not techincally beautiful being the middle of winter but there is still somethin to be said about dead trees and snow on the ground that makes you look twice and appreciate their beauty all the same. The driving is just as nuts as the day we drove from Jinan to Dezhou, and its kind of funny when you think about it. I guess its a bit like how NT has no speed limit and less accidents than states with strict speed limits. Its kind of organised chaos, if you need to overtake, channel Nike and just do it. If you choose to go into the other lane and theres a car coming, no worries just honk or flash your lights (they will too) ad they's veer onto the shoulder, aboutthe size of another lane. The other option is you can just pass on the shoulder as well.
When we arrived, Tonys parent and little brother were waiting for us out the front and fought to help take our bags in. There was the obligatory funny looks as you all know I cu a distinct figure at home so you can imagine how different I look over here. The first thing that is pointed out is my height and later when some aunties came around they were fascinated by the width of my thighs... (I translated as tree trunk legs). We have also amaze some relatives by showing how tall Matthew and Dad are in comparison to me.
The house is a shopfront where they sell kind of basic building stuff, like sand, paint and then behind the shopfront is a little granny flat kindof building with Nikki and Tonys room on the left and the room I am staying in (the God Room, where theres a little alter for giving the gods cigarettes and liquor) on the right. They are very nice rooms with some beautiful timber wardrobes in each. Nikki and Tonys bed also has a very impressive headboard. The beds are basically a similar frame to ours, with a thin mattress, and then you layer blankets on top, some for sleeping on and some for sleeping under. Nikki gave me a lesson in making the bed and which blankets I could sleep on and under.
Our next task was to start sticking up the stickers and banners Tony had bought from the market and other decorations. Despite there being about 5 of us brought out to help, we weren't really all that much so we sat in the "wedding room" (nikki and Tony room - has a heater) waiting to be called to do a job. There was also a steady supply of relatives poppingby for a bit of a sticky beak and to meet me (and this was when hey kept poking my legs and trying to wrap their hands around them) which I probably found just as amusing as they found me.
We then headed over to the restaurant where the wedding would be tomorrow to have lunch. Again, out came the beer and I was sufficiently recovered from my birthday to be able to manage this custom. We were also siting mostly with women and so it was more sipping than skolling today which made it a bit easier. Its also very cold which of course means no need for fridges but the biggest risk with having todrink the whole glass (if someone says ganbei or gala) is that it freezes your teeth.
As usual lunch was a fanatstic array of different foods, including he regular bean dishes, fish, chicken and one of Nikkis favourites, a variation on the potato scallop - potato layered with meat and then battered in a type of tempura bater and fried. These ae definitely very nice although as I was to discover later in the week, very filling and har to eat too many as it stps you from being able to pick all meal giving the illusion that you are still eating.
Nikki and the girls made a few toilet stops, but again I was able to hold on (aother reason to be happy we were only sipping beer) and didn;t have to experience what they all said wasn't a particcularly clean squatting hole.
After lunch we headed back to the city to wait for the final foreigner (Sam, a british teacher who use to work with Nikki in PUtian but now lives in Shanghai) and Tony came back just to organise our rail tickets to Beijing (he NIkki and I will leave on the 30th and Mel an Liam are heading up on the 27th). ONce he had finished this job he was back to the country side to finish with the decorating and puttting up stickers, and he would stay there until morning when he would come to pick up Nikki for the wedding.
The girls had planned to go to the hair place to have trials for te morning as weren't really sure, in particular how we would go with my hair, but also just in general what the planwas for our hair do. So armed with a photo onMels camera taken of a photo on Tonys computer his Cousin picked us up ad took us in. The boys had headed out to organise some lunch/dinner as Sam had just arrived and not eaten.
Again the language barrier defeated us and it turnd out we had just gone in to show them the photo and no trial would happen. Wait till tomorrow I think was the gist of the conversation. We all also learned that we would be going to the hair place rather than what Nikki had understood the plan to be of them coming to us in the morning. It worked out v=better anyway as there were about 5 or 6 girls working at the shop rather than 1 or two who would have come to us.
Seeing as we now had some time to kill, Gemma and Mel went to get Gemmas nails done, and Nikki and I did some window shopping and then I think the nerves started to settle in and Nikki felt a bit sick so we headed home, went to the corner shop next door and grabbe some noodle bowl (2 minute things) for dinner.
Back at the hotel NIkki decided to try on her white dress so we fixed/decidd to accept the slightly different way it sat on her hip and hung up the hoop along with making sure everything was ready for the morning. I think I failed in my bridesmaid duties a bit as when Nikki went fishing for compliments I just smiled and nodded rather than gushing...