Early October 2017
One Chinese man may have said to the other:
“If you break the seal, I’ll open the box and we will share ONLY one mooncake. You get half and I get half…deal?!”
The pair sat across the aisle from me on the packed bus headed to Pingnan. An instant after the exchange of words, they committed the act, breaking the seal of an intended gift box, halving and devouring their share of a single mooncake while giggling like mischevious children.
When their eyes met mine, I was like “share the wealth…” and gave them a grin. Truth is, dealing with the massive amount of people at the bus terminal left us all drained…
Moon Cakes are a small circular pastry that comes with a variety of fillings and may even contain yolks from salted duck eggs. The dessert is usually shared with family during this special holiday. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mooncake
They were headed home for the Mid-Autumn Festival, along with millions of other people, to visit family and friends back in their home towns-usually in rural areas. One thing I’ve discovered in China is that during major Chinese holidays, all forms of transportation are booked quickly and every seat is filled – in airplanes, trains, and buses. My local friend, Emma had warned us about this Exodus-like flocking of millions of people who were going back home for the National Holiday.
Along with this years Festival celebration, her cousin would be getting married as well. Wanting to give us a cultural experience, my buddy and I (2 conspicuous Americans) joined along for the bus ride back into rural China for a memorable time with her family. All three of us anticipated events of the upcoming days while the bus chugged along into the late night.
Next morning the wedding festivities were underway…A handful of people (us Americans included) joined the groom at a hotel in town to retrieve his bride. The beautiful bride and her party would be showered with red packets full of money and the couple would play a cute game of ‘Groom finds her hidden red high heel shoes’. These activities would have to take place before convincing her to accompany us back to the grooms home village.
Accomplishing the task; back in the village, the bride walked the length of the main road (for nearly a mile in the recently found red heels) past the main temple to pay respect to the groom’s ancestors. Arriving at the main residence, fireworks were set off and we proceeded to enjoy delicious traditional Chinese dishes of duck, turtle, fish, vegetables, pork, chicken, noodles, rice, soups… I’m talkin’ about a huge variety of food! To accompany the meal, we shared a few rounds of rice wine in cheerful celebration.
I was in food heaven and enjoyed tasting the new flavors. Literally, all the tastes in the flavor spectrum were offered along with a variety of textures. This is what I love about Chinese cuisine (authentically prepared Chinese food). The experience is like a celebration for your senses in a unique way. You enjoy the aroma, the different flavors along with the different textures that you break down while chewing (even sometimes not chewing).
This was my first time eating turtle meat and I gotta say, its really good. Slightly tough and a little gamey flavor. Props to the many chefs who prepared the vast quantity of food for the many guests – and with such great flavor and awesome presentation!
Throughout the day all the guests were in high spirits and we all shared moments of laughter and smiles. This was a once in a lifetime experience and I can only hope that I’d be able to partake in another Chinese wedding in the future.
During the rest of our visit to Pingnan (in total 3 days) we enjoyed many activities. Too much for a single blog post.
Other highlights include:
- A homemade BBQ with Emma’s cool family within the courtyard of her mother’s traditional style home.
- An excursion out on a trail that led past an ancient cemetery on a hillside.
- Further along on this excursion, discovering a shady commercial pig farm operation that produced massive animals (presumably using scientific applications in their production methods)
- A sundown walk through the vast plots of farmland for the large community as the owners walked back home from working the fields. (Where I saw the oldest man I’ve ever seen in my life walking/dragging his weary body out of a field of sweet potatoes)
- Experiencing celebrity-like status while in the central shopping district of hundreds of thousands of people enjoying a free concert and local fashion show (presumably for the people coming home for the festival). Many people wanting pictures with us Americans. Even posing while holding their babies.
- An afternoon swim in a nearby mountain resort where hundreds of locals gather for the weekend.
- Eating many delicious foods.
- (e-bike offroading) Driving an electric bike in the countryside through areas where they were preparing the rugged landscape to make way for a newly paved road.
All in all, the whole experience happened quickly and my time out in Pingnan was an absolute pleasure. The kindness of the people, the scenery, the food, the whole experience is something I could have never ever dreamt up. I recall Emma sharing with me that for most people, Zack and I were the very first foreigners they have ever seen…If I was ‘alien-like’, I sure wasn’t received as such. It was more like they have known me for a long time, like a friend coming home for the holidays…grubbing on mooncakes and all…