Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Song and Dance in Dandong

Last weekend, the summer interns and I took a 2-hour road trip to Dandong, the largest city on the Chinese - North Korean border. The main tourist attractions are all related to the Korean War, so our first stop was the broken bridge over the Yalu River.

Me, with some kind of weaponry of unclear origin:

Tiff, me and Em, posing as brave Communist footsoldiers. It got a laugh from the crowd.

One the west side of the river, China:

And on the east, North Korea:

In most cities in Northeast China you can find several North Korean government-owned restaurants, which serve Korean food and put on song-and-dance shows. The food is so-so, kind of a mix of Chinese and Korean, but the show is ridiculous. This video is tiny, but it's an all-female North Korean rock band in sequined suits, with several girls dancing around in traditional hanboks:



The grand finale was an "audience participation" number, so of course we allowed them to drag Baron onstage. Also, all audience participants wore Mardi Gras masks, and the North Korean dancers wore bunny ears. Photographic evidence:

Poor Baron :)

After lunch, we tried to go on a tour of the Yalu, but the flooding had created too much silt, so the usual tour was closed. however, we found another boat farther upstream that would be able to give us a short tour. It wasn't directly across from the North Korean city of Sinuiju, so the landscape was less interesting.

However, in the picture below, which is of North Korea, you can see the fence that was constructed to keep out border crossers, and you can also see the roof of a North Korean army lookout post -

Tiffany and Emily, with China and the Great Wall behind them. No, the Great Wall is not in the background of every picture of China, but there does happen to be section of the Great Wall in Dandong.

More North Korea:

Our boat driver, who had some really interesting stories, but we only caught about every 5th word, due to the thick accent.

View of Dandong countryside, from the Great Wall:

After climbing the Great Wall, we stopped by the Museum Commemorating the War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea. Yes, this museum actually exists, and that is the official name. It's built on a hill overlooking Dandong. From this picture, you can see the Yalu River through the buildings. The low, mint-green building is in North Korea.

The museum was helpful enough to provide English translations of its anti-American propaganda. I especially love how they place the United Nations in quotations.

Thank goodness we did away with the pro-American worship with our fear-mongering!

The final display in the museum:

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Liu Jing's Wedding

The wedding of the summer! Our lovely local employee Liu Jing got hitched on July 18th at the local Wan Xing Hotel. It was quite the event, with over 500 guests, easily, plus 3 dress changes, 1 smoke machine, 10 rowdy Americans, and glass after glass of baijiu liquor.

Here's Scott, Starbucks in hand, scoping out the venue prior to the ceremony:

Prior to the ceremony, we were laughing about the staff's insistence on practicing the simple task of carrying the trays to the tables. That is, until one of the guys veered left when he should have veered right. I guess some people really do need the practice.

The entire ceremony was videotaped with a boom. Seriously. If I were Chinese, I might just elope!

Of course, any wedding in China would not be complete without Coke, Sprite, baijiu, watermelon seeds, and cigarettes. But not every wedding has a blurry Sternberg!

Consular ladies! Wangbo, Jina, Fengying, Yang Yang, Xiao Cai, Ms. Chong, and Liu Chang:

Awwww, miss you guys!!! Scott and Yuri:

Beth, with Chinese Beth:

Liu Jing with her husband on stage:

Next, the parents of the bride and groom gave speeches on stage, in front of a photo montage of the families. It was really impressive to see just how much their lives have changed.

After the moving speeches by the parents of the couple, we bust out with a choreographed dance number to Chris Brown's "Forever." Yes, this actually happened.

We got most of the consular section staff to participate, so we had 12 people in total. Brandon, Beth, and I spent several days together choreographing the dance and teaching it to the rest of the section.

Scott, digging deep, back to his roots freestylin on the streets of Miami:

The dance incorporated glowsticks, but you can't really see them in this picture. It was fairly epic.


Liu Jing's father came over to thank us for coming. Here he is, looking like he's about to launch into some serious pontification:

Liu Jing's mother, toasting (L-R) Dannielle, Emily, Brandon, and Beth:

Bride and MOTB:

The bride and groom make the rounds after short ceremony, toasting the guests and thanking them for coming. Guests are given a small favor, and men get cigarettes as well. Also, it only looks like she doesn't have a hand because the picture is blurred. I'm still trying to figure out how to take good pictures of people without using a flash, which I hate.

Brandon, with the bride in dress #3. Gorgeous!

Yuri, a happy blur :)

Delicious food! We filled up on meatballs, fish, fried rice, red bean paste, and lots of other dishes.

Clearing away the tables as the guests depart. The entire affair was extremely short by Western standards, lasting less than two hours from start to finish.