Our preparation for this wedding reception/party started a little out of step. We weren’t sure what to wear, what to bring as gifts, what to expect – anything. Rob’s phone conversation with one of his students went something like this: “What should we wear? . . . Oh no – not where – wear like clothing . . . whatever makes us comfortable? Should we at least have button-down shirts? . . . ok ok, we’ll figure it out. Well what should we bring as a gift? . . . oh ok, no money? . . . what was that? . . . an amulet? Ok, we’ll figure that out too…” Didn’t bode too well.
Turns out that my white button-shirt and slacks were way too dressy, and I walked out of our room into the hallway to be greeted by a chorus of “whoa’s” and “ha – very handsome” (by which they meant “formal”). So I went back to change into jeans and a striped shirt. Also, we didn’t have an amulet.
11:20am We arrived somewhat awkwardly and are shepherded into the banquet room, calm but for small chatter and the air of anticipation. Everyone smiled very sweetly, and it was clear that no conversations in English were going to happen beyond our small group of students.
11:28am We took our seats at two of the closest tables to the stage.
11:30am We were poured hefty mugs of Saigon Green beer.
11:31am A toast was proposed at the table and someone blurts out “100%,” which means drain your glass. The mugs are immediately refilled, and I mean immediately.
11:33am Another toast was proposed and the Chief Accountant tapped the bottom of his glass, indicating another “100%” The mugs are quickly refilled.
11:35am Another toast, this time beginning with “100%” and punctuated by a loud “Bo Hai Ba Yo!” – One Two Three Drink!
11:38am Another toast, another 100%…so far, no Jet Set Zero member has proposed a toast, nor will one ever at this wedding. The revelry was all by the Bank staff, aka our students. They were having a grand old time, and we were along for the ride. Also, no other table even has beers nor have voices other than ours rose above the ambient chatter.
11:39am One of my students – the lead enabler in the group – turned to me, jabs a finger in my direction, and says, “Tonight I will kill you! You will all die!” By which she meant that she’d drink us under the table. Another person from the bank warned us that she was the “strongest drinker in our department.” We were hesitant about all the drinking, but the bank staff knew the bride intimately and they were proposing all the toasts. And we weren’t going to back down in the face of such a challenge from Miss Ta. It was on!
11:40am – 12am We lost track around the 12th toast, all of which were “100%.” The wedding reception hadn’t formally started yet and so far, no one other table has raised a toast. At some point, I turned toward the camera and said “This whole affair will be a trilogy for us. First, a spectacle. Second, a debacle. Third and finally, shame, our shame.” Even if our students were becoming the life of the party, it still felt odd, almost inappropriate, to participate as their “teachers.”
The Chief Accountant and the department’s mighty drinker led us on toast after toast after toast. All 8 members of the bride’s family visited us with a broad smile, a hearty handshake, and another “100%.” We did have food throughout it all, but one would think that Saigon Green was aperitif, appetizer, main course(s), and dessert.
The whole reception climaxed with group karaoke, which in fact was a concession to them all encouraging Jet Set Zero to sing solo. They wanted an English song, so we called out “I Will Survive” – an inside joke reference to previous Karaoke nights together. It wasn’t until later that we realized how inappropriate that would have been to sing at a wedding…at any rate, we didn’t sing “I Will Survive” nor did we even sing a song in English. Rob, Brian, and I stood at the back of the group on stage clapping in some parody of rhythm, watching the hall slowly empty of guests. I think I saw 1 person clapping when I focused on the crowd to get them clapping with us, but the rest either wouldn’t make eye contact or were getting up from their seats. Our one consolation was that the groom was almost doubled over laughing – a genuine laugh of having good times. So we made the wedding couple and their families enjoy what was otherwise a mild early afternoon. It all sounds a bit alcoholic and debaucherous, but again, we didn’t initiate any of it. When in Rome…
Also, I once heard another table give a cheers…but only once.
The bride and groom were beautiful together, standing showered in confetti and then little bubbles that poured from the ceiling. It was quite an adventurous wedding party, which is what we’re told they should be. The focus was on everyone having a fun time in collective celebration, and the bank staff definitely acted like members of the family.