Chapter 2 – The Preparation (Part I)


1

I have been toying with the idea of writing down all the tiny preparation details in a chronological manner and have decided against it. Firstly, a lot of them are boring and I doubt if I could stay up writing them down. Secondly, I want to present our story in a more entertaining manner and let the details flow into the story in their own ways. This is not a wedding preparation manual; this is for your entertainment, and mine too.

Just a bit of background here. Cynthia is an Indonesia and I am a Singaporean migrated from Hong Kong and we both work in Singapore. When we first started the wedding planning, the first question was: “where should the ceremony be in?” According to the Chinese tradition, we must hold our wedding ceremony at the groom’s place. According to the Catholic tradition, it should be held at the bride’s church. In a pure profitability standpoint, we should invite our colleagues and business associates and make sure that they don’t need to catch a plane in order to attend our wedding celebration. In a pure friendship standpoint, we should have our celebration in all three countries.

Ideally, we could start off our wedding tour having our religious ceremony in Indonesia, subsequently travel to Hong Kong for our custom ceremony, and finally return to Singapore for a celebration with our friends and colleagues.

In a practical standpoint, however, we don’t have tons of money parked at our banks to fulfil such a luxurious dream of ours. Likewise, we don’t have the luxury of time and energy to sustain all the travelling required. Organising a wedding party in one venue with the groom’s family in Hong Kong, the bride’s family in Indonesia and the bride and groom in Singapore will give us enough headache. Hence, moving our families across the borders should be kept to the minimum. Instead of diluting the resources we have, Cynthia and I both agree to focus in one place. Make it big, make it memorial.

To us, having our wedding ceremony held in Bandung, Indonesia, is a natural decision. The church in Bandung comes as a key deciding factor. It is a church where the Arianto family has spent most of their years attending the masses, and it shall be the church that Cynthia and I get married. The priest whom we have chosen for our wedding day is the same priest who married Cynthia’s parents; and it is the same priest who baptised Cynthia when she was still a baby. A nice coincidence indeed.

Our decision did not come without resistance. Resistance from my families as well as slight protest from our friends in Singapore. Explaining our situation to our friends was easy; explaining to my family was not. Emails each weighed thousands of words flew by between my sister, Lora, and me. A lot of rationalisation on either sides and a lot of debates as in what should or should not be done, what can or cannot be done took place. At the end of the discussion, Lora carefully and dutifully fed the filtered version of the essence of what I wish to say to my mother – to say that my mother and I was having cold war was not an exaggeration. I cannot remember the exact details of what happened afterwards. All I remember is a lot of phone conversations followed, a lot of misunderstanding between us and a lot of reconciliation work done by Lora. The situation went in circle until one day, Lora suggested that I should make a trip back to Hong Kong and sort things out once and for all. She also told me that this whole thing has gone up to her limit and doubted if she could take it anymore. Instead of me flying to Hong Kong, I flew my mother over to Singapore hoping that we could agree on some of the wedding details. Also, to let my mother to get know Cynthia better.

2

In parallel to this negotiation process with my family, Cynthia and I were busy with two things: setting our new home up and preparing myself to be a Catholic.

Although I am not old fashioned man, I believe that the first step in building a family is to have a roof over your head. It is more than just the feeling of: “I feel good because I provide”. It is rather the feeling of: “I feel ashamed if I can’t provide”. In the end, all my four years’ solid savings are flushed into the down payment of our new home. It is worth it. Cynthia only started working in Singapore for a year or so and she too contributed all her savings. It does not matter how much you contribute; it is the feeling of seeing your account balance drops from a respectable sum to a figure close to zero that counts. I have given everything for our new home and Cynthia, too, has given everything of hers. We have given everything to each other.

Shopping for the ideal home was not easy. At the end of our property hunting, we have chosen to live in the Bullion Park Condominium. The apartment is located at a high floor. It faces the swimming pool downstairs, the trees and flowers within the perimeter of the condominium, the greenery across the road, and the reservoir beyond the greenery. Occasionally, I can see the early morning mist hovers over the reservoir. The scene gives me much peace and joy at heart. At night, it is romantic to see the light coming from the country club next to the reservoir. The whole reservoir seems to have lighten up like a shipyard; except that there is no ship on water.

The transaction of the apartment took three months to complete; thanks to the complex procedures introduced by the policy. It was by the end of March have we finally received the keys to the apartment. On the same night, our interior designer and renovation contractor, Nelson, visited our new place, making measurements and finalised on the detail work plan. We have heard a lot of horror stories about engaging the wrong contractor and Nelson came from the recommendation of Sam, one of my best friend in Singapore. A month or so before this memorial night, we interviewed Nelson and he has impressed us as a trustworthy person. He has given us the confident that he can get the job done. Basically our requirements were simple. The renovation has to be completed in one month and worked within our budget, total demolition of the two bathrooms and kitchen, the replacement of most of the doors, and some touch up work if deemed necessary.

After Nelson’s visit to our new place, the scope of work has expanded slightly. In the end, we have decided to have the floor of the living room hacked off, to have the parquet floor of both bedrooms polished, and to repaint the whole apartment.

In the next day, Nelson took us to choose the tiles for the bathrooms, the kitchen and the living room. Fortunately, Cynthia and I have similar taste. Therefore the process did not take long – Nelson, however, thought otherwise. As for the bathroom utilities, he gave us the measurements and we handled the shopping on our own.

Choosing the tiles is easy, choosing the toilet bowls, long bath, sinks, water taps, shower head, toilet mirrors, etc., is at a higher difficulty level. The tiles has virtually no practical use; they are just there for us to see. So, we choose the tiles by seeing which combination is most pleasing to our eyes and we make purchase based on what we see. Buying toilet utilities is different. They could be pleasing to the eyes but may not be practical at all. Besides, these items once fixed cannot be changed. Whether you like to use them or not, you have to put up with them in years to come.

After the toilet utility episode, we have the kitchen utility episode. The sink, stove, oven, refrigerator, washing machines, drying machines and many more. We have never done any research on electrical appliances and hence, all these items were new to us. In the end, we travelled all over Singapore comparing brands and prices and made purchase to the best of our knowledge. By the time we got over the nightmare of choosing the kitchen utilities, selecting the light fixture was a breeze. Having my mother with us during this period of time was definitely a bonus. Like it or not, the older generation have seen so much and most of the time, they really know what is better and what is not.

During the first few days of renovation, we visited our apartment after our long day work. Besides checking the work progress, the purpose of such a visit was to take some measurements of the dimension of the rooms. These figures were important for our furniture shopping.

Knowing that all the electricity was cut, we brought along a torch. The scene was unforgettable. When we first opened the door, we were greeted by a big pile of sand – supposed part of the raw material for the making of cement – in the middle of the living hall. All the floor tiles were hacked off. The wall tiles too were gone. The old wallpaper was stripped off the wall. Most of the doors were gone. The place looked so raw to us and sure it was dusty too. Cynthia complaint that she could taste the dust each breathe she took. I didn’t blame her. For me, I was too amazed at the condition of our new home. Standing next to the pile of sand with the windows all opened, I felt as though I was in the middle of a building under construction. Although I could not see well in the dim torch light, I could feel the dancing of the fine dusts around us.

Sometimes, you have got to believe in miracles. The renovation was complete on time and we all moved into our newly renovated apartment on May 1. With the help from our friends, Sam and Choon Yong and their partners, we have relocated our home on a rainy day.

3

Cynthia is a Catholic and I was not. I have nothing against Catholicism as I was brought up in a Catholic school. In fact, I think it is a beautiful religion. Sometimes, I think God brings me back to the Catholic faith by uniting us in one. I was so close of becoming a Baptist (I can’t remember correctly, it could be something else) when I was in England. But I did not. At first, I accompanied Cynthia to attend weekly mass in Kuala Lumpur. After listening to those sermons weeks after weeks, I began to understand Bible in a different way. Self-study didn’t get me far. One of the beauty of the Catholic religion is that no matter which church you attend, the preaching message is the same throughout the world. The passages being read are the same, from day 1 to December 31. Therefore, even when we were having our holiday in Cameron Highland, we did not miss the Sunset Mass. And it is this faith that binds us closer to each other; something in spirit we share in common.

The decision of joining the Catholicism was entirely my choice. I wanted to receive the Communion together with Cynthia in our Nuptial Mass. Most importantly, I wanted to start our new life together in the same faith. Definitely by the work of God as part of His plan to unite us, we managed to locate a priest, Father Loiseau, who was willing to give me a crash course on Catholicism. Normally, the course lasts a year; mine lasted just a few months. Before the lesson, we would read two chapters from the text book given, document down the study notes, complete the Q & A session and fax the notes and the answers to Father Loiseau. During the weekly meeting, he would discussed the materials with us reading our answers and comment accordingly. The night session was always better than the morning session. In the morning session, the priest seemed to preach with his eyes half closed and with a side glance, I could see that Cynthia was about to doze off to sleep. While for me, I fought hard to have my eyes opened.

Since Father Loiseau was going to have a long holiday after June, he wished to baptise me before his holiday. And I was baptised on 31 May 2000. From that day onwards, I have become, in the Catholic community, Brother Wilfrid.

Catholicism is beautiful due to various reasons. It is beautiful because there is a feminine side of the religion. It is beautiful because there is full of hopes and encouragement. It is beautiful because it is universal. There is a feminine side because we believe that Mother Mary plays a part in our faith. After all the revelations witnessed by people in the past, reading all the literature related to Mother Mary, it is hard to deny the significant of this feminine side of the divinity. It is hopeful because we believe that souls will be purified (in Purgatory) and subsequently enter the Heaven. Therefore, the people on earth pray that their faithful departed will one day enter the Heaven in union with God. In turn, when they make it to Heaven, they will pray for us who are on earth. Our belief in the Angels and Saints brings us much joy. We know that some of us have demonstrated great faith when they were on earth and if the Pope, the holiest amongst us, said that they have made it to Heaven and become Saints, they must be in Heaven. And if Heaven is good and Saints are good, there is no reason why they won’t be hearing our prayers and helping us through our difficulties. Lastly, the fact that all Catholics practice the same faith, hearing the same teaching throughout the world gives me a sense of unity on earth. Unity on earth that leads to unity in Heaven.

And that is all I wish to say about Catholicism.

4

With the help of Lora – and a big donation to my telephone company for all the overseas calls – the relationship between mother and I has improved. I have finally convinced her to pay a visit to us in Singapore using her free air ticket rewarded by the air mileage accumulated. Although our relationship seemed brighter then before, I have not had a chance to ask her to choose a wedding date for us for there was still a lot of groundwork to be done. Chinese believe that certain days are good for marriage and other days are not. Since Cynthia’s mother did not have a clue about this particular Chinese tradition, this honourable task naturally rested on my mother’s shoulders.

In mid March 2000, Cynthia and I have set off to Indonesia with one mission in mind: sort out as much wedding detail as possible. However, without a wedding date, there was no way we can book the venue of the wedding dinner and the time of the mass. Days went by and we have no choice but to wait.

We visited the wedding dress designer, who is the best in Bandung, and he took Cynthia’s measurement. All we have to do is to send in the wedding dress design and he can make her wedding dress in a week’s time. We visited the makeup and hairdo artist as well. Cynthia’s mother and the artist did all the talking most of the time. Since no one has translated the conversation to me, I hardly knew what was going on. I guessed that something was agreed upon, maybe the price, maybe the schedule. We have also visited all the nice hotels in Bandung checking out their bridal rooms. More days went by and we still have not had an answer. To make it worse, my mother would be flying to China for her coming holiday.

Just the night before she went off to China, she told us that November 5 was a good day to get married. Immediately after I put down the phone, I was dancing around the living room. Cynthia joined the dance and her mother looked happy too. November 5 turned out to be a popular date for wedding because some of the venues were fully booked by the time we got there. In the end, we have chosen Hotel Horison. The open parking area is generous in space making the hotel looks less restricted by the surrounding. There is a gong – an Indonesia version of course – at the entrance of the hotel. After greeted by the sound of the gong, guests will then be greeted by the traditional Indonesian music played by three musicians at one of the corners of the lobby. The roofing is built using dark wood, a typical Indonesia style, and there is a huge chandelier hanging from the ceiling. In the middle of the lobby, there is a large pot of fresh flower; a circumference in excess of six persons joining hands in hands in a circle. The reception area is on the left hand side of the lobby and the café is on the right. Straight ahead is the lift lobby.

As a side note, on the day itself, 28 wedding cars of Mercedes Benz make were rented out from the one and only wedding car company in Bandung. That excludes those couples who did not rent a Benz for their wedding.

By the middle of April, my mother visited us in Singapore. The physical distance between us must have played a big part in the isolation of our emotion. The visit helped. It is hard to imagine how one lives his life when miles apart. The best way is to experience with one’s life.

Slowly, my mother began to accept the way we live. One day, she even followed us to the church and attended the mass together. It was during Lent. I still remember at the beginning of the mass, all three of us waved the palm leaves in the air to welcome the statue of Jesus on the cross carried by the altar boy followed by more altar boys, the deacons, and the priest coming from the entrance of the church all walking slowly towards the alter. I briefly explained the act to her but I doubted if she could fully understand the significant of what the celebration was about – 2000 years ago when Jesus entered Jerusalem. Despite the fact that we are different in faith, we waved in unity and joy.

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