Our original plan was for a two-day visit to Guilin with one overnight. Curry and Erica had a prior engagement and we were going to go back to Yangshuo while they attended a family party. Never leave it past the Chinese to surprise you with their hospitality; when Curry’s family heard that we were guests in town, we were invited to come to the party as well.
As we sat in a western style coffee shop, Curry and Erica filled us in on all the details. Anya and I had invited them so that they could try an Irish Coffee. Erica did not care for the Irish Coffee but did fall in love with the chocolate mocha. This was Erica and Curry’s first time with western or European style coffee and we ordered one of everything on the menu. It was fun watching their reactions as they tried different coffees.
Curry’s Godfather had just purchased a new home and he was having a party to celebrate. As Curry and Erica explained the details of the party and the customs involved – gift giving – etc., we listened with great curiosity. “You must never give shoes as a gift, this is a great insult.” “Hmm…. I thought to myself, make a mental note, no shoes as gifts…” Erica continued, “And you should never give a watch as a gift.” When asked why, she explained that a watch signified time and that by giving a watch, you might be implying that the person will die. This is also bad luck.
“So, what is a good gift?” I asked to which Erica replied, “Oh, cash is always good.” She went on to explain that cash is given in a small red envelope. “How much does one give?” Erica further explained that the amount given varies depending on how rich you are, how well you know the person, their social standing, and the importance of the occasion. A marriage gift would be larger than a house warming gift and a 50 year birthday gift larger than say 47 years.
While we sipped our coffee, Curry said that he would run to the “red envelope store” to get an envelope for his gift to the Godfather. I guess they have a shop that specializes in making these envelopes. We said that we would like to give a gift as well and Curry agreed to get us an envelope also. Apparently, the envelope has the gift giver and recipient’s name on it and some greeting or wish of good luck. After Curry brought out envelope back, I snapped a photo of it (above).
When we arrived, all of the guests buzzed around us like we were rock stars. Curry and Erica had pulled a rabbit out of the hat by bringing along some westerners to the party and everyone wanted to come over and greet us and learn more about us and to find out why we were at the party. The Godfather’s family was so nice to us and everyone made us feel so at home. A large party room on the second floor of a restaurant was reserved for the party and we made our way there and were seated at one of the large tables. I asked Curry to pose with his Godfather so that I could capture a photo.
Godfather spared no expense and had two massive tables covered in food. We ate and ate and drank and then ate some more. Toasts were ongoing and the table kept rotating and we pulled from each dish as it passed by in continuous movement. I cannot even begin to remember all of the different dishes and exotic appetizers. The food was wonderful and everyone talked and laughed and ate.
Eventually, we all posed for photos as two dozen cameras were passed around and everyone had a few on their own cameras. It was a beautiful night spent with a beautiful family and I was so happy to have been invited into their world and have one of their special nights shared with me.
Later, Godfather ordered more wine (watch out for the rice wine – it is strong!) and toasts were made again and again. If someone yells out “Gan-bey,” be careful, that means “bottoms up!” and you have to finish the whole glass!
Just when I thought the part was over, I was told that we were heading to the second phase of the party – to see Godfather’s new house (the cause for the celebration). We captured a group shot heading down the stairway back into the main hall of the restaurant.
As we walked out of the private party room to the main hall of the restaurant, everyone looked up – westerners are not too common in Guilin and we received a lot of stares. I shot a pic of the restaurant and included it so that you can see what a typical Saturday night at a popular restaurant in China looks like.
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