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I Was the Best Man at a Bilingual Wedding in Beijing, China (Plus a Special Giveaway of Golden Coins for Chinese New Year!)

You’ll find photos of the happy couple below!

I spent a week in China at the end of January. Despite the fact that I’ve lived in Japan for more than 20 years, and China is a just a few hours away by plane, it was my first time there.

I went to China because a close friend from college was getting married in Beijing and he asked me to be his best man at the wedding. Though he’s American, and lives in New York, he married a Chinese woman that he met through his international travels for work.

The wedding was a very joyful event, and that joy was experienced in two languages, with an interpreter providing the necessary Chinese or English through the proceedings. I speak only a few phrases of Chinese—so, of course, I was happy that I could also follow along in English—but I felt quite at home with the bilingual nature of the wedding.

And joy, I recognized clearly, needs no language at all to be felt by the human heart. Joy is an emotion, an experience, that’s beneath language, beyond language, a universal force that underpins and empowers the very different lives we live out all across this earth.

Joy, perhaps, is our basic reason for being.

And joy, as I continually stress, is also the most effective fuel for generating happy progress on this bilingual or multilingual journey. 😉

My first experience of China

While the day of the wedding was the height of joy felt that week, the whole trip was a joyful experience for me. Above all, I loved spending time with my friend—who I had only seen in person two or three times over the previous 30 years—and making new friends, too. I felt so comfortable with these people, so relaxed. The truth is, I tend to be more of a loner in my life offline so this feeling of close camaraderie was deeply appreciated and savored.

At the same time, everything else about the trip—the hotel, the food, the sightseeing, the weather—was fantastic. I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I was planning this trip, but my first experience of China was so positive that I’m already considering ways that I can connect my work with the people there and make more trips to China in the future. (Feel free to reach out if you’re in China, or have contacts in China, and you could suggest some possibilities!)

32 pictures and a special giveaway

Here are some photos from my week in Beijing. They’re in roughly chronological order except for the wedding, which took place mid-week and has been bumped to the top.

Below the photos, you’ll find a fun giveaway of golden coins for Chinese New Year. (Chinese New Year starts today and lasts until February 19.) In fact, there will be two winners in this giveaway: the first name picked gets the golden coins and the second name picked, the runner-up, gets…well, you’ll just have to scroll down to see the special prize that awaits the second winner. :mrgreen:

Even without that cake, they make a very sweet couple.
In my small speech, I called their relationship “a shining symbol of friendship and love that has transcended distance and borders.”
We stayed at this hotel, where the wedding was also held.
Not far from the hotel is the lively 798 Art District, an old industrial site now full of galleries and shops.
I love art (my father was an artist) and I felt right at home in this part of town.
Beijing has an impressive skyline of tall buildings.
This building is the headquarters of China Central Television (CCTV).
We visited a sprawling outdoor market of antiques and art.
I bought my wife a beautiful little bottle from the Qing dynasty (1636-1912).
The Great Wall of China lies about an hour’s drive from Beijing. (Well, one small portion of the longer wall, which totals 21,196 kilometers in all, or 13,171 miles.)
I’m there on the right, with a new friend who came to the wedding from Thailand. (He attended the same U.S. high school as my friend who got married.)
Can you spot me in the shadows?
The Great Wall is a spectacular sight…but some sections are very steep and my legs were so sore the next day!
This is Tiananmen Square, a vast public square in the heart of Beijing.
Across the road from Tiananmen Square is the Forbidden City, the world’s largest palace complex.
The Forbidden City was home to 24 Chinese emperors from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty (1420 to 1912).
Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City are heavily guarded.
Constructed from 1406 to 1420, the complex consists of 980 buildings and covers 72 hectares (over 180 acres).
Two bronze lions—the female on the left, the male on the right—serve as guardians at this entrance.
There are 308 large vats on the grounds, like this one, which once held water for fighting fires. (But many of the wooden buildings still burned down over the years and had to be rebuilt.)
Beihai Park is on the north side of the Forbidden City and features skating (with special chairs and bicycles!) on this frozen lake.
These cute duck boats are waiting for warmer weather.
The Houhai district is an old neighborhood with narrow streets and traditional homes.
It now also has many small shops.
I found some beautiful ceramic tea cups at a shop in this area. (I seem to buy pottery everywhere I go and my collection no longer fits in our kitchen cabinets!)
These popular treats are sugar-glazed fruits (like strawberries with a candy coating).
A group of children ran up to me and wanted to show off their English skills. They were very cute and could carry on a basic conversation. From what I hear, there’s now a huge boom for English in China.
What a lovely doorway!
We saw a performance of Chinese acrobats and they did exactly this: 12 young ladies riding on one bicycle!
This stunt seems a little “easier.” (But don’t try it at home!)
Each performer was spinning multiple plates as they climbed up and down on one another.
Goodbye, China! But I’ll be back!

Giveaway for Chinese New Year!

There are two prizes, fresh from Beijing, in this giveaway, which means my kids will randomly select two winners!

The first name picked will receive this big bag of golden coins! (Okay, they’re really made of chocolate.)

Win this big bag of golden coins (made of chocolate)!

And the second name picked will receive this big bag of spicy chicken claws!

Or win this big bag of spicy chicken claws (made of chicken claws)!


The 2 winners in this giveaway are…

Deborah in the US

Angela in Italy

Congratulations to them both! (And, as it turns out, I have two big bags of chocolate coins so neither one has to take the chicken claws!) :mrgreen:

To enter the giveaway, just follow these three simple steps…

1. Share this post with others via social media. Use the sharing buttons on this page or simply copy and paste this link. (On Twitter, please add @bilingualmonkey to your tweet!)

2. Leave a comment below with the following information. (And please proofread your comment, before submission, to check that the information is complete.)

1. Your first name and where you live (Example: Adam in Japan)

2. Your children and their ages (Example: Girl, 14 and Boy, 11)

3. Your two (or more) languages (Example: Japanese, English, and Spanish)

4. Give an example of joy in your bilingual or multilingual journey. (Example: One of my favorite ways to promote joy—and exposure to the minority language—is by saying “dumb things.” For instance, just this morning I told my teenage daughter—who’s a bit on the short side and doesn’t keep her room very clean—that she’s breathing in the bad fumes from her unemptied trash can and this is “suppressing her growth hormones.” It was a fun and funny conversation and it also served the dual purpose of providing her with input in our target language while encouraging her to clean up her room! For much more on this “saying dumb things” technique, see Why Saying a Lot of Dumb Things to Your Bilingual Kids Is So Valuable to Their Language Development.)

3. All entries must be submitted by the end of Chinese New Year—that’s Tuesday, February 19 (Japan time). That evening, the comments will be printed out and cut apart to serve as entry slips for the drawing. The slips will be placed in a Hiroshima Carp baseball cap and I’ll have my kids each randomly select one winner. Remember, the first winner will get the golden coins and the second winner will get the spicy chicken claws. I’ll then contact the lucky winners by email and update this post with the results.

Thank you for “joining” me on my happy adventures in China! I look forward to seeing your entries in the giveaway! :mrgreen:


2 Responses

  1. Angela, in Italy
    Girl, 12 and Boy, 9
    English and Italian

    I get joy when our children correct their dad’s English! He is very fluent in English, but still makes mistakes, which our children are always quick to point out! It always gets a good laugh! Thank goodness he is not sensitive about it!

    Another area where I get joy is in my job, which is teaching English to children in China! Seeing your post today made me think of them and how amazing it is to have the pleasure of helping children other than just my own, learn the joys of being multilingual!

  2. 1. Deborah Terhune from Brazil. My family and I live in San Diego, Ca, USA.
    2. I have two boys: Frank, 6 1/2 years old, and Garrett, 3 years and 9 months old.
    3. Portuguese and English
    4. My bilingual joy is to have my boys communicate with my folks from Brazil without the existence of any language barrier. They feel very comfortable speaking Portuguese and also reading and writing it. When I witness such progress in their bilingual abilities, my heart swells!

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Welcome to Bilingual Monkeys!

I’m Adam Beck, the founder of this blog and The Bilingual Zoo, a lively worldwide forum for parents raising bilingual or multilingual kids. I’m also the author of the popular books Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability and Bilingual Success Stories Around the World. I’ve been an educator and writer in this field for 25 years as well as the parent of two bilingual children, now 19 and 16. I hope my work can help empower the success of your bilingual journey.

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