Nina:
It's strange how things happen... you are trudging through the mundane weary lanes of life when suddenly, out of nowhere, love walks in and touches your life in a way that you know that nothing could ever be the same again...
>> Continued
 

 

 
     
 

 
 

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

Chapter 6 - "Finally" - September 2000

My long single life has finally come to an end. It was a good feeling to leave my apartment on September 3, 2000 knowing that I would not be returning a single man. That is not to say I would be returning married, at least in American terms, but I would be living with my Fiance. We are a couple.

  Sara and Chris in traditional formal
Chinese wedding costumes
  I am a very picky person when it comes to women, and I am not very social, so finding the right woman has been like hoping to find a four-leaf clover by staying indoors most of the time. All these years I attempted to find it by going out of the house - as everyone had always urged me to do - but lo and behold I found it my own way, from *within* my house, on my cozy Macintosh computer. They say that love won't just come to your door, you have to go out and find it. Well, love did come to my door - if you think of an internet connection as a door. So to everyone out there who is shy, the world has changed in your favor! It still won't happen quickly and there are a lot of pitfalls to avoid, but the internet is a wonderful place to look for a mate if you know how to communicate.

 

 



   

 

 
       
  When I arrived back in Taiwan again to pick up my Love, we toured around a little more, relaxing. Sara had been working very hard all summer, arranging the Wedding Dinner all by herself, which included inviting over a hundred friends and families. Suddenly all the work I put into moving my huge home office around my apartment (6 heavy desks with 6 heavy hutches, 400 books, several computers and lots of office equipment) looked like a walk in the park. I felt ashamed to complain that I was tired.

I had brought my Tuxedo to Taiwan and Sara picked up a beautiful dress from the same store where we had our photos taken (part of the package - no extra charge). She gave me some instruction as to what we do at the Dinner. And then the big day came...

"Our Chinese Wedding"

The Dinner took place in a large reception hall at a hotel. After we were dressed and all the guests arrived, Sara and I strolled in from a white canopy near the entrence and everyone cheered and threw glitter and ribbons and took photos. We sat at the end table with Sara's Grandmother, her mother's brother and his wife, her brother, her best friend (who made the corsages herself), and Gerd and Odd (who stood in for the Groom's family).

Many dishes of food were served on a huge "Lazy Susan" in the middle of the table that we could rotate around and choose from. I am a very finicky eater and I have fears of many Taiwanese dishes (most of the time I didn't recognize what was being served), so I dined slowly. Meanwhile groups of people would come gather behind is for a photo.

The two of us then walked around the room to each table with Champagne and they toasted us. I had no idea what anyone was saying, so I just smiled a lot and said "Sheah-sheah" (Thank-you in Chinese) with a modest bow. That's all I did the whole evening. Someone could have walked up and said in Chinese "You do not look like the right man for Sara, she could have chosen better," and I would have bowed with a big goofy smile and said "Sheah-sheah, sheah-sheah."

Sara and Chris at their Chinese Wedding in Taiwan

Sara's best friend Wendy (behind us on the right) is one of the first friends I met in Taiwan, back in November 1998. She is the person responsible for encouraging Sara to get on the internet and find a man, and pointed her to lavalife.com. Sara was in lavalife.com for only short time before stumbling upon my "Backrubber" ad.

Wendy is also a teacher of English to children, and speaks very good English in fact. She was originally a little concerned about our relationship before Sara and I met in person, afraid that she might have pushed Sara into dangerous territory. I think the original intention was for her to find a Taiwanese man that they could meet easily, not an American man. But Wendy became more comfortable after she met me.

Sara's families also trusted me, but so far the trust was more of a gesture of Good Will I think. They wanted to give me the benefit of the doubt, because they liked me and they trusted Sara's judgment. But they were all nervous, I feel, in a hidden way.

Although usually there is an exchange of rings during the party, we had already been wearing our rings, and were planning on doing the official exchange in our American wedding.

After our toasts at each table, we stood at the exit as guests filed out and they greeted us one last time. She held a tray of candies, I held a tray of cigarettes, and guests would choose what they wish on the way by. This is also part of the modern tradition. Sara said goodbye to many of her long-time friends and family members, as this would be the last she would see them for a long time. It was both happy and sad for all of them.

"Exchange of Rings"

Sara and I decided to wear our wedding rings since May, when I proposed to her on the beach. We didn't have engagement rings, really. We did have another set of rings that we gave each other (Promise Rings), but as far as our hearts were concerned, we were married already. We've always been married. We wore our rings during the Chinese Wedding Dinner in September, but obviously we took them off before our American Wedding in November, and put them on each other during the ceremony.

Sara's ring is a .64 carat diamond set in a pair of hearts that join at the bottom. Mine is a White Gold band set with a .20 carat diamond embedded deeply inside.

"Traditional"

The traditional formal Chinese wedding was quite elaborate and even more involved than the formal English weddings, although I think the English formal weddings have survived the years more successfully.

Once upon a time, the Chinese bride would be carried in a procession, hidden inside a sedan chair like the one shown below. Some of these sedan chairs were much more elaborate than this however, highly decorated with symbols. The color red played a very important symbolic role in the Chinese weddings, found liberally in both the bride and groom's wedding costumes, as seen in the studio pictures we took for fun.

When the sedan chair reaches the home where the Bride would live with her husband, fireworks would be set off to frighten off evil. Many of the symbols on the sedan chair would serve the same purpose, or conversely, to bring good fortune.

The purpose of the sedan chair is so that the Bride's feet never touch the ground since she is dressed for the wedding, as that would also be bad luck.

"Baptism"

The day after our Chinese Wedding Dinner was the last day of Sara's life in Taiwan. She had arranged to have herself Baptised on this day. I actually didn't know about this until just a week or two prior, She chose a small independent Christian church not far from her home.

Unlike Christians, Taoists and Buddhists are not insecure about who believes in what. Sara's families were mostly very Taoist, and some had large shrines with collections of gods. (So little did I know about Taoism that I thought they were Buddhist until I was told otherwise.) But her families were not only accepting of her conversion to Christianity, they approved it. In this culture it is expected for the wife to adapt the lifestyle, religion and culture of the husband. But I made Sara understand that she should not do this for tradition, she should only do this if she wanted to - this is a personal thing, not a marital thing. She understood.

My mother, who is very Christian, felt very honored by Sara's gesture of faith, and its timing. Sara had no idea how important this was to my mother, who of all the family on my side was the most concerned with my marriage.

"Immigration"

We had packed about 8 bags. Probably the most difficult part of this was the formal farewell to Sara's Grandmother and Father. Sara's little sister Meng Chin and her friend Hua helped us get the bags to the bus station, and from there we took a towncar limo to the airport in Taipei. Sara's older sister Sophie met us there with Amy and Perry. As before, the kids were all over the hairy exotic foreignor they called Uncle Chris. Amy loved my hat and was fascinated by my nose - she said it was too big. (In fact I got that a lot from children in Taiwan.) Perry - like most boys - was more interested in my digital video camera.

When Sara and I finally departed, there were tears. Sophie was very sad to see her sister move out of the country, but happy for our marriage.

Although I wished we could have flown 1st Class, we sat in "Economy" Class all the way back to JFK Airport in New York where I had a towncar limo waiting there to take us home to White Plains. We were exhausted.

"New Home" - Fall 2000

Sara settled into my apartment and made herself at home very quickly. She spent the following months trying to adjust to her new life. The change did cause some health problems that are stress related, but we got through it okay. We were very satisfied with our choices and felt proud of each other and of ourselves.

Sara quickly found things to do while I was away at work every day. She discovered the YWCA down the street and joined up, then landed herself volunteer work at its Daycare Center. She also took English As Second Language classes there, and from other students she learned about local churches where they have even larger classes of that sort. She began to attend these English classes at the churches, and networked her way into a free English school where she could study English more formally. And that was just the beginning. I was amazed at how quickly she built up her network and began growing roots. Within just a few months she had friends all over the area, many of them from Taiwan, Japan, and other countries. This would later prove to be very helpful...

Meanwhile, we flew to Florida for our second visit with Rabbi Fischer, and ordered our Marriage Certificate from the County Clerk. With Mom's help arranging the Wedding in Florida, we sent out all our invitations, and made our Wedding Favors. Suddenly it was November, and the Big Week was upon us...

"Thanksgiving" - November 2000

Once again, Thanksgiving Day was upon us, and once again I had a lot to thank for. It has been officially 2 years ago this day that I met my wife-to-be for the first time, a day I made an embarassing mistake and waited an hour for her before going through Customs. On Thursday, November 23, 2000 we were confident and relaxed. Well, mostly relaxed. Family has converged, and never have we seen some of these people together in one place at one time before.

We had our Thanksgiving at the Yacht Club restaurant. Sara's sister Meng Chin managed to arrive on time for this, and got to experience an American tradition for the first time. She did not speak English very well, so Sara translated for her. Interestingly, just as I had a hard time with the food at the Chinese Wedding Dinner, Meng Chin had a hard time with the American food. It is not just the food that is different, it is the way it is prepared.

The next day - Friday, November 24, 2000 - would be the Wedding Rehearsal. As it would be a Jewish style wedding in a Presbyterian Church, nobody was quite sure what to expect!

"Rehearsal"

As all of my family are Protestant Christian, or otherwise just familiar with American style Weddings, and all of Sara's guests had only seen American Wedding on TV and were otherwise just familiar with Chinese style Weddings, a Jewish Wedding was a learning experience for all of us. As you might remember, Sara and I chose this style because the Rabbi was a good friend of mine and I have respect for the Messianic Jewish cause. I also enjoyed the idea of my families and friends learning something outside of their own traditions! 

Rabbi went through all the rituals we would have to remember under the Huppah. Mick, now my Best Man, suddenly found himself with a lot to do. He had to put the glass under my feet to crush (and remove it) and place the Tallit around our shoulders (and remove it). We all met at the Woodlawn Presbyterian Church on Friday afternoon before Shabbat (Rabbi's service at the Synagogue), where Mom and the gals had prepared a Huppah. They did a great job, especially for a group who had never even seen one before! Rabbi walked us all through what we were supposed to do. Most people are familiar with the "crushing of the glass" - but there was a lot more. 

As I would walk down the aisle with my parents, Sara's parents could not be here because her Mother had passed on and her father was too crippled to leave his house. So her Maid of Honor and Bridesmaid would escort her down the aisle.

There was to be the Signing of the Ketubah and the Veiling of the Bride prior to the ceremony, the circling of the Groom by the Bride at the start of the ceremony, and the wearing of the Tallit during the Blessings which would be chanted in Hebrew by the Cantor.

My original Best Man, Paul, called in sick just before the Rehearsal. So Mick became my Best Man, and Joe became my Groomsman. I called Joe at the last minute and asked if he could join us in the rehearsal on Friday afternoon. He was originally going to attend as a guest, but to find out suddenly that he was IN the wedding with only 24 hours advance notice was a little startling for him! But he was a trooper, and I enjoyed having him up there with me.

Afterward, we all went to a restaurant in the Hotel where Sara and I would stay when we are first married. This was our Rehearsal Dinner. Then, Mick and I took off on our own, and I wouldn't see Sara again until the Ceremony! Mick and I went to see the end of Rabbi's Shabbat services, visited with a few people, and then around Midnight we went to see a movie. I had no Bachelor's Party because I refused to have one. It was far more relaxing to hang out with an old friend, talk late into the night about our dreams and ambitions, and see a good movie (Unbreakable). I guess I just relax differently from other men!

"Chris"

>> Continued in Part Seven.