Wednesday night was the university-wide Christmas party. Yes, Christmas party. In China. They don’t call it a holiday party because they aren’t celebrating anything except Christmas: they celebrate the commercialized, red-and-green, Santa hat-wearing Christmas that was sold to them as a packaged deal with western economics, but without cultural ties to religion or a certain person named Jesus.
The party was okay. It was crowded. Faculty are allowed to bring their families, and I learned that this doesn’t just mean spouse and children for the Chinese. It means uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents as well as spouse and children. Needless to say, there were tons of people I didn’t even recognize. I stuck to hanging out with other Language Centre people while I waited for Andy to arrive.
Then it was just me and him against the droves in poorly-formed queues that rarely moved because the Chinese don’t really wait in lines. They just kind of push their way in front of you to get what they want. (In places that enforce waiting in line, there are tickets like you would expect at the deli counter in the U.S.) This behavior is infuriating at first, having come from a culture where waiting in line, no matter how long, is what you do. But now that we’ve been here a few months, we’ve become less sensitive to it. We expect it and sometimes even defensively participate in the Chinese line-jumping antics in order to get what we need.
Wednesday night we needed food. We waited in the lines, though, to find semi-warm potatoes, unidentifiable meats, some salad, and bites of desserts that all looked like a variation of tiramisu. We ate what we could and made our way back to the open bar for another glass of wine. It’s the best we could do.