Like any other formal Chinese banquet, this night’s banquet too contains a traditional twelve course meal.  A glass top lazy Susan is placed atop each of the tables and the food is served in large platters or turins. I obviously don’t remember all that was served, but most likely there was Shark Fin soup, various sea food dishes, which may have included abalone and shrimps, pork, beef and chicken and some unrecognizable gooey and slimy dishes whose origins I am afraid to ask. The white slippery lumps of meat that I pick up from one of the platters could be anything. I think of the skinned snakes dangling down in Taiwan’s snake alley, freshly slit lengthwise from the head to its tiny tail, the hot blood dripping over a dozen or so little cups the size of the shot glasses waiting to catch the spewing blood and several young men eagerly picking them up and chugging up while the blood is still fresh and hot, for it’s believed that the fresh snake blood makes you more virile.

Without giving it much of a thought, I follow their gestures and try my best to negotiate the shiny lacquered chopsticks without dropping or dripping the morsels I have managed to trap in their jaws, and lower them gently inside the little bowl placed in front of each one of us, before swiftly shoving the food inside my mouth. Just the way they do it. Some of what I eat is delicious, some I am not sure about and some undetermined. I wish all through the meal for some fried rice with which to mix some of what I am eating. But traditionally, rice is always served at the end of the meal just like in the North and the West India. So I try to wash it all down with San Miguel  beer. The lazy Susan keeps turning, the food keeps coming in. It takes about two hours before rice appears, thus signaling the end of the courses.

Traditionally, there are no drinks served with a Chinese meal, but soon as the meal has ended, the bride and the groom get up from their tables and begin their rounds to greet each group, a bottle of Hennessey XO in hands, toasting each one of the guests. From table to table, and at times from person to person, they toast and must drink bottoms up. I am absolutely amazed at how much the newly weds must drink over the course of the night. And they still float and maneuver the narrow aisles between the tables with that permanent smiles pasted over their faces, listening and telling jokes. Not only do the bride and the groom, but also the bridesmaids and the groomsmen and the close family, swirl around the hall,  back slap and talk loud and then down yet another shot of Hennessey.

As they begin to fold up the tables and just when I think the evening has come to an end, the  mahjong tables replace the dining tables and as if the cacophony of the people screaming and shouting and backslapping weren’t loud enough, the sliding back and forth of and bashing against each other of the mahjong tiles is deafening. But the mood is jovial and the downing of Hennessey continues. Now the bride and the groom have split up and are tending different tables, sort of like the division of labor. How can  you even begin to stand straight after those many shots of cognac?  But they do, and do it in style.

While the groom is busy at one end of the hall, on the other end the bride is surrounded by some of the groomsmen and other young male friends. I notice that there is a lot of giggling and horseplay going on between the bride and the men surrounding her, mainly the men teasing and roughhousing the bride while even attempting at some blatant groping – pinching of her ass, rough flash-quick squeezing of her breasts through the bridal gown. The advances the bride constantly tries to fend off in good humor. I see one of them lift her long wedding dress, another grope her above the waist. Just fun and games.

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