Mars & Deborah 3:
As Deborah went to the departure hall to fly out of Adelaide I knew that the next few months were going to drag on slowly and that I would miss her like crazy. I just didnt want her to go but that was the reality of the situation. When she got back...
>> Continued
 

 

 
     
 

 
 

She's From:   Taiwan
He's From:     United States

Chapter 5 - "Changes" Fall 1999 to Early 2000

The eye surgery was a great success. It took place on August 18, only 4 days after Sara flew home. I tried to make it earlier so that Sara could be with me, but the doctor just couldn't, so the timing wasn't right.

  One of Chris and Sara's studio wedding photos
  Getting home by myself from Long Island was interesting, as everything was very blurry right after the surgery - I took a cab, then a train, then a cab. I slept the rest of the day, and when I woke up in the morning I could see very clearly. 

I went nowhere for the "Millennium" festivities on New Year's Eve, 1999 because I had to save up some money. I stayed home and watched everything on TV, which was good enough for me, considering it was NOT the dawn of the new Millenium for another year - despite all the hype. I had a lot to do at home anyway. I was setting dates in the year 2000 that would be the most important of my life. And Sara's.

 

 



   

 

 
       
  When Sara flew again to New York on January 28, 2000 I got to see her without corrective lenses, and it was a wonderful feeling! But there was a harder change to make, and that was corrective surgery on my left big toe joint at the Podiatrist. We scheduled the surgery to take place after Sara had been here a week, so we had time to do some things together that were important.

The surgery itself was relatively painless. It was the recovery that was difficult. I wore a surgical shoe and used crutches, and the first few days after the surgery were very painful. I spent long sleepless nights with my foot elevated. Since I wore a special bandage and my foot had no stitches (to minimize scarring) I had to soak my foot in a vinegar solution every day with the bandage still on. Sara helped me through all of this without hesitation, serving me food in bed, cleaning the house, preparing my medicine, and assisting me when I had to go to the doctor to have the bandage redressed. She was wonderful. I felt proud that our future children would have such a great mother! 

"Promises"

November 1999 was the 1st Anniversary of our meeting in person for the first time! It's amazing how time flies. I mailed Sara a Promise Ring for this occasion. It was the first ring I had ever bought. The very first thing Krissy asked was, "Why didn't you just get her an Engagement Ring?" Well I would have, except that Sara wants me to buy the "official" rings from her sister Sophie, a Jeweler in Taiwan, so I needed to plan a new trip to Taiwan for this. 

Also, after considering American and Taiwanese marriage traditions (which have variations we could choose between), we decided that we would get each other wedding rings and "skip" the engagement rings. And finally, I hadn't officially asked to marry her yet. I wanted to do this in person, not over the internet.

But due to the tight INS schedule we had to follow, we had to set some dates, even though the formalities were not complete. We decided that we would get married on the 2nd year anniversary of our meeting in person - which would make the date November 25, 2000. Her teaching contract with the schools in Taiwan expire in August so she planned on immigration in September.

We decided to have two traditional wedding ceremonies. The first would be a Chinese ceremony for her friends and family in Taiwan to attend. The second would be an American ceremony for my friends and family here in America. As far as the INS is concerned, it's only the American one that counts. 

Then there's the question of who should marry us in America. (The Chinese ceremony doesn't have anyone officiating - it's more like a formal dinner party.) My friend John Fischer, the Rabbi who took me to Israel in 1993 with a tour group and whose web site  I developed and maintain voluntarily, was the most logical choice. I contacted him and he agreed to marry us. And that meant we would have a Jewish style wedding. As I was raised Protestant and Sara was raised Taoist this should be a very interesting ceremony! He asked us to meet him for pre-marital counseling, so I arranged our first meeting to take place the weekend before my foot surgery. It was a quick Florida trip but we had our meeting and came away with some homework to do before the next meeting, which was scheduled for after her immigration to America.

"Shopping"

February 2000 was a very practical, down-to-business trip for Sara. By the time she returned home, we realized that the next time she would be back in New York it would be for good. We had begun our paperwork to apply for a K-1 "Fiance" Visa, and after several months it was approved! The primary rule we had to worry about was that we had to be married in the U.S. within 90 days of her immigration date. That works out perfectly because November 25 is within 90 days of our charted date for Sara's big entry into the U.S.: September 11, 2000. 

Meanwhile, I had 2 trips to Taiwan to plan for the year. My first trip would be to meet her families, have professional studio wedding photographs taken, and buy our rings... Not to mention, I would ask her to marry me! I had no idea exactly when and how I would ask her, but I wanted it to be romantic. I would have to figure it out when I got there.

So I traveled to Taiwan for my second time on May 20, 2000. This time I didn't make the mistake of waiting for Sara on the wrong side of Customs! However, Sara had to wait for a long time anyway because our plane was forced to land in Tokyo, Japan for equipment repairs, so the flight was very late. But when I got down the escellator, there she was, just as I saw her the very first time!

Then we went shopping, shopping, and shopping, and boy was I tired!

"Photographs"

In Taiwan, there are many businesses offering professional wedding photo albums and gown rentals and everything as a package. The price is very reasonable in US Dollars, so we went to one of these businesses to have our photos taken in their studio, and out on different locations. They had a huge wardrobe of gowns and tuxedos for us to change in and out of during the day, and in the end they produced a beautiful large wedding album.

Sara had gone to one of these studios the year before she met me on the internet to have her own photograph taken. She was not getting married to anyone of course, and in fact wasn't even dating. But she said she wanted to have the photos taken while she was still "young and beautiful" because she didn't know if she would ever meet the man of her dreams. It was her dream to do have a shoot someday with her fiance, and now it was finally happening!

(Some of the beautiful photographs of Sara you may have seen in Chapters 1-3 were from her original photo-shoot.)

The photo at the top of this page is our favorite. Sara says that everyone points out how happy I am in this photo. I joke with her and say that it's because I was glad to be lying down for a change - my feet were killing me in those dress shoes!

"Family, Friends and Food" - May 2000

It was amazing how many family members I met in just a week and a half. Sara's Grandma, pictured here in front of the house where they live, was probably the most important. She rules the house. But she took an instant liking to me and would giggle when she saw me. Her Grandma - who is her father's mother - is very short, and is Sara's only surviving Grandparent.

Sara's mother passed away from colon cancer several years before I met her. Sara's father, who suffered a stroke on Christmas of 1998 (an event that almost prevented Sara from flying to see me in February 1999) was in a wheelchair now. Sara's brother and younger sister also live in the house, and they were all very nice. Her younger sister, Meng Chin, agreed to be Sara's Maid of Honor in the American wedding. It would be Meng Chin's first visit to the United States. Meng Chin doesn't speak very much English so it would be an adventure for her.

Sara took me to see uncles, aunts, cousins and even the families of her older sister Sophie's husband. Most of them lived in Feng Yuan or otherwise close by, with a few living in Taipei about two hours away. The families would usually give me Chinese Tea, or sometimes we would all go to a restaurant together. Most of the time, they could not speak any English, or sometimes just a few words, so Sara had to do a lot of translating. This took some practice. Sometimes in the confusion Sara would turn to me and say the same thing her family would ask me, but still in Chinese!

The Taiwanese food is mostly sea food, but often not the kind of sea food I'm used to. There are lots of dishes I have never eaten, nor can I eat without a couple visits to a Shrink. :-) And yet I never saw any of the legendary cuisine Americans joke about - like Cat, Dog or Snake. Those kinds of foods are more of a Mainland China dish, which is a poorer and much more populated culture. Nonetheless, for my own sanity I asked Sara to take me to an American eatery now and then, when we were alone. Such as Friday's.

Chris and Sara's wedding rings

"Rings"

Sara's older sister, who chose the English name Sophie, is married to a jeweler in Taipei. They were very nice to us, giving us money, paying for our hotel in Taipei, and of course letting us keep our bags in their store while we were out touring around. Then it came down to choosing and buying our rings. She would buy me a ring and I would buy Sara's, and Sara already had both of the picked out!

Although it is traditional for the man to surprise his girl with a ring of his own choice, I have found it good advice to plan the engagement and allow the girl to choose her own ring. She will be much happier with a ring of her own taste than to be surprised. And Sara has good taste - she chose a nice setting that, if viewed from the sides, appears to be two hearts joined at the bottom, holding a 0.64 carat diamond.

Sophie and her husband have two children, Amy and Perry.

"The Moment"

Well it all comes down to this moment. Already it has been 2 years since Sara as "Tulip28" met me as "Backrubber" on WebPersonals.com, and during that time our relationship grew progressively closer and stronger. With Sara I have felt a mysterious familiarity like I've known her forever, and yet a perpetual newness makes me feel every day the same as I did when I met her for the first time. What kind of magic is this? Nobody ever said Love was like this. I thought Love was that feeling of sweaty palms and butterflies in the stomach and these jealous feelings that spring out of nowhere for reasons that are not worthy. But none of these things have I felt. Instead I feel that she is a part of me that has always been there but which I had never seen before.

Sara took me to a luxury hotel on the beach in North Taiwan, and we took a Penthouse room overlooking the ocean. It was very beautiful. So I asked her to walk with me on the beach. And I decided to bring my video camera and tripod.

We strolled along the beach, listening to the surf, watching the rolling clouds, and there was nobody else around. A beach like this in America would never be so empty on a day like today. I told Sara, "Stand here for a minute." I then proceeded to set up my tripod and video camera and started rolling, pointing at Sara with the ocean as a backdrop. I went out to her on camera, I got down on one knee... And would you like to watch the rest? I have uploaded the video here. You will need the free Quicktime plugin from here to watch it. 

"Engaged"

Life felt different for us somehow. Two people who had been single for so long have finally become engaged. I felt amazed that this had finally happened to me.

Before and after our engagement we spent a lot of time together seeing parks and centers in and around Taipei, basking in our relationship. Taiwan, as you can see, is a verdant forestland like Florida, with much the same humid climate but mountainous like California. 

We didn't get to do a lot very quickly as I tend to develop foot pain easier than the normal person, an embarrassment I have had to deal with since I turned 30 that was caused by my flat feet. But we were not in a hurry. We were strolling together and enjoying our first few days as an officially engaged couple, proudly wearing our rings so that everybody could see! And as usual, people did look - this is not New York, mixed couples are not seen often here.

We saw more of Sara's family, such as her late mother's brother's family. They took us to a large dinner at a Chinese restaurant along with Sophie and her cute kids Amy and Perry (my future Niece and Nephew in laws).

"Birthday"

After we returned to Feng Yuan again, we visited Gerd and Odd. Sara's old friend Wendy stopped in and they had a surprise birthday party for me (see photo below). I turned 35.

Gerd and Odd have been living in Taiwan for some years now, and were becoming more fluent in speaking Mandarin. I wonder what Mandarin with a Norwegian accent sounds like?

Gerd and Odd would be attending our Chinese Wedding Dinner, which would take place in September, and they would sit near me at the Bridal table because they would be the only attendees beside me who were not Taiwanese - and of course they could speak English really well which would make things a little easier for me. Odd would use my video camera to tape the dinner.

"Tea House"

Before I left for home, Sara introduced me to a group of friends at a traditional Chinese Tea House. The best way to describe it is a hidden garden of fountains and fish with paths and bridges leading around to various eating rooms where you take off your shoes and sit on the floor on mats around a very low table. They serve just two standard lunch trays and of course a variety of teas.

The elderly gentleman who accompanied us is the founder of a charity to which this group belongs, which is known internationally and has offices all around the world. He passed away in March, 2001.

"Our Last Wait" - Summer 2000

Either we were getting used to saying good-bye at the airport, or else we knew it was the last time we would have to do it - because the next time we would see each other, it would be forever! 

We had covered a lot of ground. We had our wedding pictures and they looked great! She met all my family, I met all hers. She had a Chinese Wedding Dinner to plan and I had my credit card to pay off. 

Dates were set and things were moving smoothly. The INS approved our application for Sara's K-1 "Fiancé" Visa. The Chinese Wedding Dinner would take place on September 9, 2000 (based on American time). Sara's immigration date would be September 11, 2000. 

We had also chosen Wedding Cookies (which cost me almost as much as my computer) during my visit. These traditional cookies would be given to all the guests to the Dinner. I knew nothing about the modern Chinese Wedding tradition, but I wasn't nervous. 

During the Summer I spent my time rearranging my house to accommodate two people. I had never lived with anybody since I moved out of my father's house in 1985 during college, and I had accumulated a mass of books and collectibles, and my home office wasn't just a simple desk with a computer either. I also bought her an orange iMac (her favorite color) so that she would have a computer and maintain contact with her friends and family back home. I installed the Chinese Language on it, and in Taiwan I bought a Chinese keyboard (also orange) for the iMac. I set up her own home office area near a window where she would like it. For my final touch I bought a little orange silk flower and laid it on her keyboard, with a "Welcome Home" card standing nearby... 

"Chris"

>> Continued in Part Six and Part Seven.