Today is International Women's Day 2012

I can't recall when I first became aware of International Women's Day, but know that for quite a few years have attended functions on this day.  I also remember that once or twice (I really can't recall) I went in the International Women's Day Fun Run around South Brisbane - I doubt if I will ever do that again!

At this time though I recall two amazing events - in China.  First of all, recently I have become aware of  Qiu Jin (1875-1907) an I have the documentary about her extra ordinary life.  I wish I had known more when I was in China.

The first International Women's Day event I attended in China, was on March 8th (ofcourse) 2008.  I had been in China for only a few weeks, when a glamourous invitation arrived for me inviting me to an event to celebrate this day.  We were (all the foreign teachers were invited, though some were unable to attend) to meet in SPT Street on campus, where we were met by a row of huge buses.  

We boarded and first were taken to the Shaoxing Friendship Centre, where were shown the amazing collection of gifts from sister cities from around the world, and heard a few speeches before we boarded the buses again.  We were told we were going to a 'match' factory.  Curious. Wondering what excitement we would find there, but it turned out to be a "mattress" factory.  Far from being 'ho hum' it was extra ordinary.  This was the factory - and it was huge with an amazing 'campus' with gardens, staff quarters, and glamourous hall for events.  But first we were taken upstairs into the show room.  No cameras were allowed!  Darn!  

There was a row of display motel rooms - full of glitz, glamour and luxury.  It turns out that this factory provides beds, and other furniture for some of the 7 star accommodation places around the world.  We were in awe as we ventured into each room.

Then we went to the showroom floor to see hundreds of beds and mattresses all on display. 

We were ushered downstairs again, into the hall, where we were all seated in a semicircle.  Maybe 120 men and women, and we listened to a range of speeches.  All with English interpretation by Julian Zhu who was an official with the Shaoxing government.  One of our own teachers, Sherrol Tait from Canada, spoke on behalf of the foreign teachers.

Afterwards we were treated to an array of performances by traditional dancers and musicians.  At the end we were invited to 'dance' with one of the Chinese dancers, and I was a bit annoyed that none of the younger fitter girls would dance, so it was me, in the spirit of supporting the Chinese for such events, that joined the lone dancer and made a terrible attempt at dance.  I might add, that I was dressed in heavy laceup shoes, several layers of clothing including a heavy coat - hardly dance wear!  In the end I did my own version, and Julian, who I saw later on several occasions always referred to me as the "blonde disco dancer"!

The formal part of the day over we were ushered to one of the many dining rooms adjacent to the 'grand hall' where tables for 10 or so were set up.  Each room had a significant government official at the table.  We were treated to a right royal dinner of many courses!!!  And Shaoxing wine.  I was to learn here about "gunbei".  There is a protocol which I am unsure, but the senior people walk around the table and pour a drink for the person they are 'recognising' and they stand, raise their glass, and say "gunbei" before downing the contents of the glass.   One can imagine that at the end of the event, it would probably not be wise to drive a car!!!

At the end of the event we were given gifts to take home, so as we boarded the buses for the return journey we could peep in our 'goodie bag.'  

What a day!  (And I was told later by students that my 'performance' was on television.  Cringe.  Cringe.)

The next time I was in China for International Womens Day was 2010 - and this time it was an event at the Shaoxing International Hotel.  Again a lot of glitz and glamour and performances by comedians, dancers, singers and musicians playing traditional instruments.

One of the other Aussie teachers and I sang "I am Australian" - being such a poor performer and avoiding any such experience, I was limited.  In any case we did it!  Followed by a huge buffet lunch and more 'gunbei' with Shaoxing wine.

This year it will not be as glamourous  and I will have to pay my own way, and there will be no generous gifts, and no 'gunbei'.  Still I will enjoy morning tea at Wynnum State High, and dinner at the Waterloo Bay Hotel with friends.

Happy International Women's Day.


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