Tag Archives: wedding

This Truck Rolls Without Brakes

Since yesterday I talked about my long walk to visit the future in-laws, I thought today I’d talk about She Who Must Be Obeyed’s long walk. In her case, though, a flight was involved.

I had just finished my three years in Nou and was in a transition phase that involved going back to the USA for a new visa to be processed. As soon as I got the USA–there were a couple complicating factors involved–She Who Must Be Obeyed called me from Japan and pretty much invited herself to Salina for a visit.

I told my family about this and asked if it would be okay if she visited and the conversation went something like:

Me–Mom, She Who Will Eventually Be Obeyed is coming to the USA. Is it okay if she–
Mom–(on phone) Assemble the team. We have planning to do.

At that point, a truck was rolling and I pretty much lost control of SWWEBO’s visit. Old friends were assembled at the dinner table and they started planning a reception. As I half listened to what was going on behind me, I heard the reception growing and growing and growing. When it reached the point of renting a hall and inviting the Governor, I finally had to grab control of the steering wheel and point out the level of shock involved in arriving in a strange town and discovering a party in rented hall being thrown on your behalf by people you’d never met. Also, Bill Graves‘ hair was way too perfect for him to be much fun at a party.

You’ve never seen such an unhappy group of ladies in your life. (I suspect at least two of them never forgave me.)

Eventually, the plan was modified to a reception at my grandmother’s house with everyone arriving at staggered times to allow SWWEBO to acclimate to everyone. My only job was to casually announce the reception and make sure SWWEBO didn’t jump out of the car and run back to the plane.

When I told her, there was a brief moment where she eyed the door handle but she never jumped out. I then got to enjoy her reaction at seeing a Hardee’s chicken sandwich for the first time. She just stared at it for several seconds with an “is that all for me?” look. I said “Welcome to America” and “You can take half of it with you if you want.”

The staggered arrival reception went well and I was pretty much ordered to keep her around. More specifically, I was told I’d be an even bigger fool–interesting wording that–if I “let that one get away.”

So far, so good.

You Never Forget Your First Unrealized Technical Engagement

The US Peace Corps, whether it will admit it or not, has two basic mottos: “The toughest job you’ll ever love” and “For God’s sake, don’t embarrass your country.”

Therefore, one of the things the Peace Corps cautions you about is that you are expected to obey local customs involving courtship. This means that if you are caught “knowing someone” in a Biblical sense and her father invokes local laws, you are pretty much bound to obey them, especially if you are unable to escape the country in time. If this means buying her family seven cows, you will be expected to buy her family seven cows. If it means an AK-47 wedding, congratulations, welcome to the family. What stupidity hath brought together let no one tear asunder. Live long and prosper.

However, you expect all of this to be an active process. You don’t expect to blunder your way into it.

In my case, my host family basically set me up, as an “English teacher,” with one of their cousins (let’s call her Kay). She was 19 years old and gorgeous; I was smitten (and in culture shock) and we started having English classes. At first my host sister sat in with us, but eventually she would excuse herself and leave us alone. After a while, I started meeting Kay at an office building for private lessons and we even had an adventure escaping the building when we got locked in once.

Eventually I was invited to Christmas dinner (keep in mind, I’ve only been in the country five months at this point) and they let us spend lots of time alone.

Now, I’m convinced there are two kinds of people in this world: those who have a clue, and those who don’t. When it comes to women (actually, all personal relationships now that I think about it) I fit in neither category. I’m pretty much beyond clueless and often don’t see what’s going on around me. This is especially true when you throw in culture shock and a vague sense of being used for a blue passport.

Kay and I saw each other off and on after that, and then pretty much stopped seeing each other. I kind of missed her, but had other complications to worry about: mainly moving cities and schools.

Eventually, I made friends with an Albanian-American who was invited to join the Peace Corps in-country. One day we were rambling on about politics and I invoked the notion of “He needed killin'” laws” which I stole from a comedian whose name I’ve long since forgotten. The idea was you could kill anyone who needed killin’ (He raped a baby; he needed killin’ He dog-eared the pages of my new book; he needed killin’.) The Albanian-American said that he thought I needed killin’ for dating an Albanian woman and not marrying her.

I protested that we’d never actually done anything (remember: buying cows; AK-47 wedding; beyond clueless; also Albania still has vendetta killings) but he started listing off what had happened: they’d let us be alone in and out of the house; they’d made me a big dinner; etc.) When I responded with what amounted to a clever “Yeah? So?” He said that basically meant we were engaged in the eyes of her family.

I was one part “so f@#king wha?t” and one part “do I need a gun?” and one part “Is there a gun pointing at me right now?”

In the end I just let things remain where they were. I never got over the notion that her family were interested in that blue passport, but that’s more a comment on my sense of self than on them.¬† There was a brief moment near the end of my service where we started hanging out again, but it was the end of my service so it went no where.

I have no idea where Kay is now. I hope she’s doing well.


Once Wedded Thrice Ceremonied

Fourteen years ago today I married She Who Must Be Obeyed after some paperwork, a bit of confusion and a small temper tantrum. We count that as our first wedding ceremony and our official anniversary. Ten months later we’d finally be finished having weddings.

The initial confusion was a result of us actually researching the issue of marriage rather than following our instincts. The instructions seemed simple: bring paperwork XYZ for both partners and the foreign guy needs to bring his Residence Card. In neither the English nor the Japanese instructions we read (from different sources) was a passport mentioned. In fact, for foreigners with visas, the Residence Card and not the passport is considered the official ID. We packed up all our stuff–sans passport–and headed to Niigata for our marriage.

Of course, local officials immediately demanded a passport. We showed every instruction and guide book we had, in two languages, and that my passport number was, in fact, on my Residence Card. After careful consideration, the staff sent us away and went off, we thought, to process our marriage documents. We returned a while later to find the man we’d been arguing with talking on a phone. I cringed for a moment because I feared we were about to encounter¬†wakarimasen dekimasen and The Phone Rule. Unfortunately I was correct.

A few minutes after that, the official showed us a passage in a book that said they could accept a passport. We then entered a brief Bible Verse Context Debate. I pointed out the passage before that passage stated that the passport could be accepted IF NO OTHER ID EXISTED. They said: “Yeah, how about that. Passport please.” We filled out everything we could and, once I got home, I mailed a copy of my passport to them and they backdated our marriage to May 26th.

About three months after that we flew to the USA and brought along She Who Must Be Obeyed’s family (known as They Who Look At Dwayne And Shake Their Heads And Sigh). We had a church ceremony after events that, like all things to that point, involved bureaucracy and my late paternal grandmother leaving her church over their bull– er, their bureaucracy. The church we ended up in, though, was great and everyone had a great time. Everyone decided that my brother-in-law was actually Jackie Chan and he exploited the confusion for a great many free drinks and a part in at least one straight to video movie (something like that). We then had a nice honeymoon, minus They Who Look At Dwayne And Shake Their Heads And Sigh, in Vancouver, Canada.

Finally, in March of 2001, we brought my mother and step-father over to Japan for our Japanese ceremony. From what I’ve heard, the Japanese ceremony and reception were great and that my mom actually sang for the first time in years. However, Japanese custom required She Who Must Be Obeyed and me to miss most of the ceremony whilst we changed clothes. It was one of those situations where everyone is all smiles as you bow and exit the room and then once the doors are closed the smiles disappear and they start shouting “move your ass move your ass clock is ticking clock is ticking you’re not the only one getting married here today maggots move your ass move your ass.”

My years of acting classes had prepared me for quick changes and putting on smiles for the crowd as soon as the door opens. However, it didn’t prepare me for missing my own wedding dinner. Granted, they brought food out for us, but then the speeches started which meant we weren’t supposed to eat. Luckily, my short 10 days in Air Force Officer’s Training School taught me to eat fast, meaning I actually got to finish my meal. Although they would bring the scraps to our hotel room, She Who Must Be Obeyed never actually got her entire meal. Instead she got stuck with me which, well, yeah. Well.

We then had two beautiful girls who, after some careful discussion, especially recently, we’ve decided to keep. At least for now.