Last night, Wednesday December 21st, the Huaqiao government hosted a Christmas party. They invited local business owners and foreigners in hopes that we would get to know each other. We were invited by Isaac’s school and we had no idea what to expect! We were more than pleasantly surprised.

We were picked up from the school by a fancy bus hired to transport us to the hotel. As soon as we arrived, we were greeted with an open bar and delicious buffet! The guests were mainly Chinese businessmen, a few Indian businessmen and a bunch of teachers, their spouses and several children.

First we ate sushi, tuna sandwiches, goose live pate, shrimp, fruit, dumplings and way too many delicious desserts. Once we were full, a beautiful Chinese hostess explained the evening’s program which started with an introductory speech by a man who is the equivalent of Huaqiao’s mayor. He spoke about how much Huaqiao has developed in recent years and it was really inspirational.

Then came the performances! It was an interesting mix of a Chinese women’s choir singing English Christmas songs, ancient Chinese dancers, a magician and a fascinating face-changing performer! After the official performances anyone could come on stage – the reward for speaking/preforming was an adorable stuffed toy!

The principal of Kang Chiao, Isaac’s school, gave a moving speech about how much Huaqiao changed since she arrived to start the school four years ago. An enthusiastic older Chinese man sang a beautiful song and a Tai Chi master performed a routine that shook the ground. Even Isaac went up, dragging me with him and sang Silent Night! We got a bear that has a nose instead of one eye, so cute! ❤

It was a truly wonderful event that changed the way I feel about China. I have had a hard time not speaking the language, having people stare at me for looking different and I’ve felt very isolated. This party made me see things differently and finally feel at home in Huaqiao. It came at the perfect time – I will no longer be working from home and will have a chance to explore the area more and maybe even meet some locals!

Many teachers chose not to go to this party and I can understand why they were apprehensive. It’s been one of the busiest weeks of the school year, the weather was bad and no one really knew much about the party. A government-organized event doesn’t have the same ring to it as an expat party in Shanghai. But it truly was the best party we’ve been to in a long time!

I almost forgot to mention that you are likely to get richer at a Chinese party. In the past, red envelopes were given to people with money in it. This Christmas party was a bit more modern… everyone joined a group on WeChat (Chinese WhatApp) and the host would send clickable red envelopes for guests to click on! Isaac and I got a total of $15 from 5/6 red envelopes. You have no idea how many dumplings we can buy with that much money!

We wish all of you Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!