Wedding in Changchun
24 Aug 2005
I just attended my friend John’s wedding over the weekend, in Changchun, China. Changchun is pretty far north. It’s north of North Korea, and probably the farthest north I’ve ever been in China. It was a great time to be there; I got to trade Shanghai’s sweltering August heat for Changchun’s crisp early autumn weather. Not a bad deal.
The wedding was nice. It was the first Chinese-style wedding I’d been to for one of my non-Chinese friends. Despite all the horror stories of Dongbei baijiu chugging I’d been fed, the drinking really wasn’t too bad. Yeah, a few of my old ZUCC buddies were ensnared by the evil stuff, but I think they wanted to be martyrs. Or to have baijiu horror stories to tell. Or both.
I was also asked to play interpreter for John’s parents, as most of the ceremony was in Chinese. I was happy to do that, of course, although I felt a little unqualified. Interpretation is hard work! Fortunately, what I was translating into English was not too hard: the host’s good wishes for the happy couple, the bride’s father’s speech to the guests, and even John’s speech in Chinese. It was an honor to be the one translating John and his bride’s love story for his parents, but I had to choose my words carefully. The emotional effects of my every word were plainly visible on his parents’ faces.
What I wasn’t exactly prepared for was to interpret John’s father’s speech into Chinese for all the Chinese guests. Fortunately, he had it written out and let me take a look at it beforehand. It was written in a straightforward way that could be translated without loss of emotion even by an amateur like me. The crowd liked the speech. No one threw tomatoes at me.
My interpretation failure came a little later when they asked me to come up again and do some more interpretation into English. I don’t know if they were testing me or what, but when I got up there, the host just started spouting chengyu after chengyu that I had no hope of understanding, much less translating. I was utterly clueless, and yet, there I was, on stage with a mic: the interpreter. It went something like this (luanma used for chengyu I didn’t understand–I still don’t know what was really said):
> Host: 弐尗曑暪! (grinning and gesturing at the couple, then looking at me)
> Me: Ummm… “This is a happy day!” (I hear a few giggles from the crowd)
> Host: 戼枩枀毜! (grinning even bigger)
> Me: “…very happy!” (the Chinese guests are laughing now.)
> Host: 仴仺佷凷! (triumphantly)
> Me: “Ecstatic!” (at least most Chinese guests wouldn’t understand my last word!)
All in all, a very fun, interesting, educational experience.
Congratulations to the newlyweds!