Chapter 3 – The Preparation (Part II)

1

I tend to see our wedding preparation in two distinct portions. The first portion is about the paving of the walkway while second portion is about the decoration of the street itself. Part one talks about my making peace with my family, my journey in becoming a Catholic and all that we have done during our brief stay in Bandung. What follows is some serious shopping for the bride and groom. Our honeymoon plan comes first in our shopping list. No surprise I hope. While it is Cynthia’s dream to visit the Holy Door, which is located inside the St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and it is only opened once in 25 years’ time, it is also one of my dreams to visit Italy when I have – or pretend to have – some money to travel in luxury. We have found a travel agency and the whole package costs us a bomb; one huge atomic bomb.

The next on the list is the wedding ring. This is a challenge to us as we know nothing about jewellery and jewellery shops. We walked into some local jewellery shops and could not find the design we like. We then visited some branded jewellery shops. In Tiffany & Co., I have found the one I like – a simple wedding ring in gold – while Cynthia was disappointed at plain design. I want a design that can last; simplicity is the key.

I called up my friend, Annie, for help. During lunch hour, she took me to the Cartier store and there, rings are of trendy design. When I showed Cynthia the Trinity Ring – three rings in gold, bronze and white colour intertwine with one another – in the evening, I could see from the sparkle of her eyes that it was love at first sight. After some discussion with our mothers, we voted the Cartier ring out and bought the Tiffany ring instead.

It was only recently when I was browsing the dictionary for a particular word have I came across the dictionary definition of a wedding ring. It said :

wedding ring a usually plain, gold ring given by the groom to the bride at a wedding; a ring of the same or similar type given reciprocally by the bride to the groom.

As simple as that! A plain, gold ring! That could have save us a lot of time.

Initially, I was stressed up about my wedding suit for I have not started the shopping yet. Cynthia has her wedding dress sorted out while I am still waiting for that one push in order to get myself out of my laziness. With a stroke of luck, I was assigned for a one week business trip to Hong Kong. I was lucky because where else in Asia can compare to Hong Kong when we talk about the design and variety of men’s suit? In the end, I bought my wedding suit from Hong Kong.

And when I was worrying about the kind of shirt I should wear for my wedding day, my colleague, Robert, handed me two $25 vouchers for one of the tailor shops in Raffle Hotel. I tailor-made one, satisfied, and tailor-made another one.

Just several days before departing Singapore, I have finally made up my mind on the tie, the tie clip, the cuff link, the belt and the pair of shoes. All shopping was done at the last minute.

2

Way before the wedding day, we have thought about announcing our wedding in the Internet. Our ambition was high. At first, we wanted to build our own website and on the wedding day itself, have our pictures taken in a digital camera and upload the pictures to our website during the breaks. To be able to do that, we were thinking of bringing our laptop along and hooking up to the Internet via the mobile phone. In the end, we have concluded that the cost of the infrastructure and the logistic involved just did not make sense. Who on earth will log onto our website and view our wedding in real time? Not enough to justify the action.

Later on, we have found some good wedding websites that could potentially host our wedding in the cyberspace. We, especially Cynthia, went hot about this idea for a while but the momentum did not last. Something came up and we have put aside the idea.

And just a few weeks before we left Singapore, out of boredom, I have created a web page using the wizard provided by the Microsoft Front Page Express. I was ecstatic. Sometimes you have got to respect the power of boredom. It is the power of our own boredom that can unleash our hidden creativity beyond our imagination. It is at the state of boredom when our minds run at its full potential. All of a sudden, the potential has lain right in front of me. Programming, in general, is not new to me; programming in HTML (the language of the web page if to put it bluntly) is. This domain was alien to me. After my little experiment, it does not seems alien to me anymore.

Next, I need a place to host my website. Creating a web page that runs in your computer is one thing; putting your web page for others to see and click around is another thing. Time was running short so without much consideration and comparison between different home-page providers, I turned to Yahoo! – my all time favourite. After discovering that the index file is your default home-page, I then realised that publishing my very own website on the Internet is just a piece of cake.

When I have finished setting up my own website, I asked myself: why don’t I create our own wedding website instead? Although we have only had two weekends to do any serious web publishing, what the hack, it is now or never! Besides, someone in the web claimed that Flash, a tool that can make a real difference to the look and feel of your web-page, can be learnt in a weekend’s time. Three weekends before our wedding, I have downloaded the Macromedia Flash 5 evaluation copy from the Internet. I then installed the software and stepped through the tutorial. By the end of the same weekend, I have come out with the draft version of the About Us page. In the meanwhile, Cynthia was taking care of the meaty stuff (I sure know how to delegate!) like the Couple Profile, Wedding Logistic and Out of Town Guest Information. By the middle of the week, we have most of the raw materials ready. Three meaty web-pages from Cynthia, an introduction to us built using Flash, a FAQ page that was intended to be light and entertaining, and the wedding invitation front page thanks to Apple.com.

After the experience with the building of the first Flash movie clip, I wanted more. Instead of having a static wedding invitation with just a pretty picture saying that we are getting married, hope to see you on our wedding day and share our joy, I wanted a small movie clip. Something fancy, something artistic. In my mind, I have formed all the scenes I wish to see in our precious little movie clip. A brief opening scene more like a little teaser follows by a scene on Bandung, presented in a light hearted way, hope to give the audience some idea on the beautiful side of Bandung, followed by a scene on the formal wedding invitation and finally, a closing scene on how we can be contacted. When I first proposed my idea to Cynthia, she was shocked and worried if we have time to realise such an ambitious thought.

I brought the laptop home every night and worked on it. By the second weekend before our wedding day, the raw version of the invitation in Flash was out. We were pretty impressed with the result. Cynthia gave some comments on how the clip can be improved and she was smart enough to stop me going when I became too obsesses with it. Sunday night, we put all the materials together and have them uploaded into my eWilf website. I called up my sister, Lora, in Hong Kong and asked her to be my first overseas tester.

On Tuesday, we have announced our wedding website to the our friends and colleagues by two separate emails; one sent by Cynthia and another one by me. On Wednesday, we were on the plane to Jakarta.

Here is another side note of mine. Thanks again to all of our guests who have visited our wedding website. The hit-rate on the whole subdirectory is over 700 and the index page, with the invitation in Flash, has a hit-rate of over 250. Considering that our combined mail list is less than 200 persons, we are certainly thrilled on this figure.

3

Twelve days before the big day, we left Singapore for Bandung. People asked why we have buffered such an ample amount of time for our wedding trip. My answer is that we don’t want to be strapped into the cockpit of the rocket just seconds before the lift-off. We want to make sure that all are going well and as planned.

It turns out that there are pros and cons in arriving early. On one hand, there are lots to be done. To name a few major ones, we have the wedding dress fitting, the production of the Nuptial Mass booklet, and some last minute shopping. On the other hand, we run the risk of not being able to adjust to the Indonesia environment. And true enough, we had a hard time adjusting to our stay in Bandung. We were not used to the dust and air pollution and we were not used to the food at all. Just days before the wedding day, all three of us – Cynthia, her mother and myself – fell sick.

Are you ready for the little adventure of ours in Bandung? Just sit back and relax; the rocket won’t be launched before we share all the preparations we had twelve days before the lift-off. Just sit back and relax while I now close my eyes and transport myself back to the few days before our wedding.

4

If I am to close my eyes and try to remember what has happened during our stay in Bandung, it goes something like this: the train station, a lot of bumpy ride cutting in and out of the Bandung traffic jam, printing of the booklets, guitar playing, plenty of sleep, people to meet, many people to meet. The images are very blurred and I doubt if I can remember the details. Why is it so blurred? Perhaps most of the time, my mind just wandered elsewhere.

Travelling to Bandung is not new to me; I have done it couple of times in the past. This time, we have decided to travel by train. In order to go to the train station, we have to take an airport bus. Maybe because we have arrived on a weekday, the airport bus to the train station is infrequent. When the bus finally arrives, passengers rush into the bus via both front and rear entrance. Carrying so many pieces of luggage, we have difficulties in competing with the rest of the passengers. Luckily, we manage to squeeze ourselves into the bus and find ourselves a place to stand. Whilst travelling by the airport bus is not new to us, standing all the way during the bus trip is. I further conclude that when you are relaxed and comfortable, time flies. The bus trip, seems to me, goes on and on with our destination still far from us. I have never realised that the distance between the airport and the train station is that long. All the while, I sit back and enjoy the scenery. I am a city boy and therefore, I am always fascinated by the farms and village houses and the animals I have spotted along the way. Reaching the Jakarta city is another scene. On the left, you see rows after rows of short houses; in the middle are all the flyovers bent in different directions crossing each other in mid air; on the right, the houses are shabby with a small dirty river (or drain) running inside the premises.

After passing the shabby area, we enter into the heart of Jakarta where, I believe, all the beautiful structures are. In contrast with the shabbiness of the city, some of the buildings in Jakarta are grand and artistic; malls are huge and office buildings are clothed with bright and shiny windows. Soon, the Monas, a tall monument with a big piece of gold resting on top of it, comes into our view. The Monas was built by the first Indonesia president. Some people said that the piece of gold on top resembled one of his mistresses sitting down with hair flowing down to the floor. The same piece of gold, to me, carries a different message. I don’t know the significant of having such a big piece of gold in the city centre and I tend to see a different vision; a vision that the wealth of the population being sucked by the government and some of the left behind form into a lump with the message from the government saying that : Look! That’s how rich we are!

The train station is located right next to the Monas. As usual, it is packed with commuters and the whole place is a chaos to me. What makes it worst is that it is undergoing some sort of renovation work. People shuttling into and out of the station accompany by the labourers in uniform carrying big suitcases on their shoulders. Waiting inside the lobby area, I feel like a piece of exhibition. Strangers approach us asking us if we want a transport. Having seen us waited for a long time, one security comes and asks where we are going. Most of them, the shopkeepers and some strangers lingering in the train station keep starring at us. I feel like a hopeless little animal surrounded by groups of vultures ready to have us savaged when the time comes.

What we are waiting for is not the next train to Bandung but Cynthia’s cousin, Lia. Carrying with her are the tickets we need to travel to Bandung. Three of us – Cynthia, her mother and I – arrive at the train station at 6:30pm and the train tickets we have bought in advance is for the train leaving the station at 8:30pm. Out of curiosity, I ask Cynthia how the arrangement is like. To my surprise, they have fixed the place to meet and the train schedule but they have not fixed the time to meet. All we can do now is to wait for the Lia to appear – our ticket to Bandung.

When the clock strikes eight, all of us become a bit tensed up. I bet those strangers around us spot that anxiety flickering brightly in our eyes. Again, out of curiosity – because I tend to leave everything to Cynthia when in Indonesia – I ask her when is the last train from Jakarta to Bandung. The answer, which I have half expected, is 8:30pm. I want to ask what will happen if we miss the last train to Bandung, but I resist asking the question knowing that we have no contingency plan at all. Once again, I do not see the faces of the strangers but the heads of the vultures.

Without Plan B, we just have to pray that Plan A works. We try to call Lia’s handphone but we can only reach her voicemail. Classic example to show that “things go wrong” is one big conspiracy. If something goes right in “things go wrong”, things don’t go that wrong. So, when you are in “things go wrong”, nothing goes right. 8:15pm and there is still no sign of Lia. We call her home in Bandung and her mother tells us that she is having dinner with her friends and should be arriving at the train station anytime from now. Well, it better be now because believe it or not, the trains in Indonesia are punctual; whistle blows and off it goes. By now, the lobby is getting quieter as most of the passengers are upstairs at the platform waiting for the train. All three of us, exhaust from more than two hours of standing, still waiting for that one thing that breaks us free from “things go wrong”.

Just ten minutes before eight-thirty, I have spotted Lia walking briskly into the station. Honestly speaking, I can think of nothing else but to thank God. Forget about the question why and let’s get ourselves up to the platform.

The train does not appear at 8:30pm; it is late for 20 minutes, a rare case to me. Once we board the train, it is a whole new beginning for us. Three of them have a hearty chat while for me, I entertain myself with the book “On Writing” by Stephen King on the way to Bandung.

5

One of the reasons why I am in this dreamy state, I think, is because I do not understand what is happening around me due to the language barrier; and due to the same reason, I seldom affect the environment around me. Hence, I just let it be, go along with the flow and simply enjoy myself in the city of Bandung.

Bandung is a nice city, a unique one. The beautiful scenic spots are located in the outskirts of Bandung. Cynthia had taken me for a tour a while ago when we were still dating each other. The tour still lies fresh in my memory. In that few days of the Bandung tour arranged by Cynthia, we have borrowed Lia’s family car and her driver and we drove all the way up to the Northern Bandung and all the way down to the Southern Bandung. Bandung is famous for her volcanoes and I have visited one of the famous ones. I can still smell the sulphur emitted from the crater. There are two places in Bandang that impressed me the most. The first one was a small lake on top of a volcano. The scenery was magical. The water was white perhaps due to the richness of the material contained in the lake. You could get real close to the lake and the ground around the lake were full of palm size spiky hard rocks. On the back of the lake was a small cliff with some plantation growing on it. Every five minutes or so, a cloud of mist gushed into the volcano blurring the vision of everyone on the top of the volcano. The air was fresh and chilling and it gave me an uplifting feeling.

Another place of my liking was a restaurant in one of the farmland. Cynthia told me that the milk was fresh there. The decoration of the restaurant was simple built using wooden planks. Right besides the restaurant, you could see cattle grazing under the sun. A feeling of serenity. As I said, I am a city boy; seeing a cow chewing grass less than a meter away from me was quite an experience. I swear I could almost see the saliva dripping from its mouth.

I have not been back to either places lately and I hope that they are still as beautiful as the first time I visited. I am sure they still are. Bandung did not change much in the last 50 years; and it will stay the same for the next 50 years.

If what forms the outskirts of Bandung are the volcanoes and the animals, what forms the Bandung city centre is another story. From the structure of some of the buildings in the city centre, you may realise that the architecture was influenced by the Dutch during their colonisation couple of hundreds of years ago. All along I was puzzled by the way that the Indonesians drive. It was a complete culture shock. Cars in the roundabout have to give ways to the cars entering the roundabout; and the cars from the main road have to watch out and sometimes give ways to the cars from the side road. It is only recently when I have a chat with a Dutch colleague of mine do I realise that back in their home country, that is how the Dutch drive.

The traffic of the Bandung city move in a special rhythm. The cars, the buses, the motorcycles, the cyclists and the people crossing the road with their paths intertwine with each other’s paths moving in one rhythm, in one heartbeat. No strict traffic rules are needed; the movement of each individual is only governed by the space available, the proximity between each other, and is facilitated by the horning sound as a warning signal to each other – except the pedestrians who do not horn but to give hand signal instead. Humans and machines are alike. And when the light turns green, rows of vehicle cough out thick layer of fume. Pedestrian cough too, not out but with the dust on the street (Definitely a horror to see pedestrian cough out dust).

This is the scene I see everyday when I am shuttled between places in Bandung. Going around places in Bandung is never easy. The ride is bumpy and the traffic is chaotic. There is only that much you can accomplish in a day. By two o’clock, we usually return to home and have an afternoon nap; to get recharged for the rest of the day.

6

In the times when we are not outdoor, each of us will have a standard set of activities at home. Cynthia and her mother always glue to each other catching up lost time as Cynthia is now working out of the country. I am happy for them as I can see that the mother and daughter bonding is strong. I wish that I could be so strongly bonded to my family too. Eric, her younger brother, has started working so we do not have much chance to do things together. During my previous visits, we played computer games together, he showed me some electric guitar techniques and we chit-chatted with things that were fun.

In my spare time at Cynthia’s home, I check email once in a while and I play some songs with Eric’s acoustic guitar. Sometimes, it is quite uplifting to read some of the wishes from our friends from all over the world. Really a pity that they cannot make it to our wedding celebration but that is just life. To the least, people know that we are getting married. I am guilty of turning down a lot of wedding invitations from my friends and relatives in the past five years. In fact, I have only attended one in Singapore.

I have not brought along my songbooks to Indonesia. The only way for me to have some guitar entertainment is for me to pick some songs off from the Internet. I promise myself that when I have time, I shall post all my frequently played songs into the Internet so that I can retrieve them wherever I go. If in not so far the future I can post my guitar into the web and get it back wherever I go, that would have been perfect. And if that day finally comes, I will post myself into the web and pop out anywhere in this world I wish to go. Well, technology is not quite there yet.

Before I arrived at Bandung, I have been trying to look for the guitar chords for one of the songs I heard in the church called “The Jubilee Song”. I searched through the web and could only find the lyrics of the song. It is frustrating because the guitar chords for most of the popular songs nowadays can be found in the Internet. This song I am looking for is supposed to be the official hymn for the Catholics for the year 2000 but searching through the Catholic websites yielded no result. All the same, I can find the lyrics but not the chords. By the work of boredom, I have worked out all the chords during my stay in Bandung. The guitar chords used turn out to be quite a standard set of chords and I should them worked out long time ago had I put my heart on it. I am overjoyed and post my precious findings onto my homepage immediately. Next, I submit the URL (web address) to the major search engines and I hope that someone in the world will benefit from my finding too.

Every now and then, capturing the moments I experienced, I will compose a music for the occasion. The inspiration does not come until the second last night of my stay at Cynthia’s place. I have managed to come up with a song for us. The melody is light and easy and the lyrics are playful; talking about the little things we do to each other and how we dance together as lovers. The title of the song, “Swing … We Do”, may sound strange, but it does go along well with the meaning of the song. Cynthia is so touched that she cries when I first sing to her. This, is not what I am expecting. Couple of fortunate (or unfortunate) people in the world have the privilege (depending on how you look at it) to listen to the premier performance of my new songs. It is hard for me to understand how my audiences feel. Do they like it? Are they suffering deep inside? But I can tell you how I feel: My heart always beats faster than normal, very fast indeed. In fact, the excitement always overwhelms me. Most of my privileged audiences will give me valuable comments such as: it is weird, it is a bit too sad, it is so “you”. For Cynthia, it is all different. She gives constructive comments and she is supportive throughout. I can see from her eyes that she is telling the truth. What is magical about playing to her when the song is first written is that the song sounds different from the way it was first composed. It is as though the body is there and Cynthia fills it up with a soul of its own. Very hard to explain, only experience can tell.

For the rest of the time when I am done with the emails and the guitar playing, I am into booklet production. We need to produce a booklet for our guests during the Nuptial Mass. Later on, I realise that we need to produce another one for the prayer session the day before our wedding day. During the end of the month, Eric has to work late and Cynthia’s mother is busy with the wedding preparation. I feel lucky that we have arrived early. Making the booklet is no trivial tasks. The format need to be fixed; some parts need to be rewritten; and the most challenging of all, besides translating the whole booklet from Indonesian language to English, is to print the booklet in booklet form. Our computer in Bandung does not have the capability to do so. Eric and I search through the web and we have found a software that can potentially answer our prayer. We have it installed and the software is not at all intuitive to use. Like every software in this world, it has its own features. The printing process is tedious. First, You click a button in Microsoft Words that, I presume, fires off a set of macros. Some window prompts will appear asking you tons of technical questions like margins, paper size, how would you like to shrink the fonts, pictures, tab-space and so on. The program will then format the whole document screwing up the indentation setting and sometimes the fonts towards the end of the document. You are then given a chance to fix all the problems and place some new page breaks as you wish. When all are ready, click the button again and answer another set of onscreen questions like in which way your printer prints the document. After answering all the technical questions, keeping your fingers crossed and all you can do is to hope for the best. Since it is a double-sided printing process with automatic page rearrangement (for booklet, the first and last page is printed on the same piece of paper), you have to feed the printed document into the printer and have the other side printed as well. The result is a nicely made booklet.

Printing the booklet is a challenge. Translating the material is another challenge too. Although we have placed a special request to the priest that part of the mass that involves my active participation to be written in English, most part of the mass is not. I will have a hard time to understand what we are praying for. Cynthia patiently translates the mass word-by-word; she reads while I type. At the end of the translation, I am a happy man – I understand fully what the mass is all about. Thanks to online Bible, I am able to translate the two readings as well for we have forgotten to bring along our English Bible.

One last major task we need to do is to plan our wedding day. In Singapore, I heard from friends that people usually appoint one of their best friends to be the program director and leave everything to him or her. In our case, this role is played jointly by Cynthia’s mother and Eric. I want to help so I volunteer to draw up the plan in Excel spreadsheet with the hours running on the top and the key persons running on the left. The key persons are easy to identify. We have the bride and groom, that is Cynthia and myself, our mothers, Eric as my best man, and Ike to be the maid of honour. Important guests including my sister, Lora, and her boyfriend George, as well as Lia. Finally, we have the wedding car driver, the rented car driver for the transport of my family and we have the camera man and the video man. The challenge is to shuttle all the key persons to the right place at the right time.

Cynthia’s makeup and hairdo appointment is at 3:00am in the morning and will last until 7:00am. My makeup (more like touch up) appointment is at 5:00am and at the same place as Cynthia’s. Our mothers and Lora’s makeup and hairdo appointment is from 4:30am to 7:00am at Yoss, somewhere near to the hotel my family is staying at. My best man is supposed to arrive at the hotel at 7:30am, so are the camera man and the video man. Cynthia and her mother need to return home in order to get ready to welcome the groom. The maid of honour, in the meanwhile, should be there in order to help the bride to dress up. George, being the supposed luckiest of us all, only need to be ready at 7:30am when the groom’s team is supposed to leave the hotel.

In the first draft of the plan, we have only included the key events such as the mass at 11:30am, photo-shooting appointment at the studio at 2:00pm and the wedding dinner at 6:00pm. When we first discussed the plan with my mother on the phone, she told me that we need to include the tea ceremony, a Chinese tradition that signifies the bride and groom’s formal admission to the family. Okay, no problem. All we need to do is to incorporate her request into the plan and have the ceremony immediately after the home ceremony at 8:00am back in my mother’s hotel room.

None of us is very satisfied with the plan. For one, the bride needs to get up at 2:30am in the morning! What kind of wedding planning is that? But a plan is a plan and if there is nothing else we can do about it, we just have to pray for a good night rest the night before.

7

After reading through the booklet, we have realised that there are two things we need to do. Firstly, there are dialogues between the priest and us and in my opinion, it is best to recite the dialogues beforehand. I find it bizarre to read the marriage vow from the booklet. We are supposed to exchange the marriage vow in the presence of God; not reading sentences to one another from the booklet! Secondly, besides the rings, we need three items to be blessed by the priest and to take home as a gift from God. They are the cross, the bible and the rosary. Cynthia’s mother has got us a rosary from Lourdes, France, but we neither have the cross nor the bible.

In the Nuptial Mass, There are three major dialogues that require our participation. The first one is easy; we just need to reply: Yes, I have … I will … I will (and not I do … I do). The third one is also easy; an intuitive dialogue. All I have to do is to pick up the blessed ring and say: “Cynthia, take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity, in the name of the father, and of the son, and of the holy spirit.” This part is easy because more than half of the sentence I have already known by heart. In the beginning of our daily prayer, we always start with: “In the name of the father … etc.” The idea is intuitive; why do we exchange the wedding ring? Answer: wear it as a sign of my love and fidelity! Simple as that. When Lora learnt the meaning of the exchange of the ring, she was amazed by the deep meaning behind it.

The part that is difficult to me is the marriage vow. For the entire week in Bandung, I have been reciting the vow privately wherever I go; in the car, or at the mall. It goes something like this: “With the help and guidance of God’s blessings, in the presence of the priest, the witnesses and all of you here, I, so and so, take thee, so and so, to be my lawful wedded wife/husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish, till death do us part.”

As I confessed at the beginning that I am never proud of the power of my memory; I mean it. I am hopeless in remembering the vow. The sentence is long, very long. I always get mixed up the sentences; even right at the first part of the vow. Instead of “with the help and guidance of God’s blessings”, I sometimes say it as “with the blessing of God’s help and guidance”. To me, both phrases make certain sense to me. The key is, if I recite the third word correctly, i.e. help, the rest of the phrase will be fine.

The next part of the sentence is visual and I can relate to it almost instantly. In my mind, I see the priest in front of us, the witnesses besides us and all our friends behind us. So, I have no problem with it.

Next, we have our names in the vow. In the first version, we have “Wong Kin Fai Wilfrid” as my name. We then revised it to “Wilfrid Wong Kin Fai” for consistence’ sake so that the baptised name is in the front. This, of course, confuses me and half of the time, I get it in the wrong order. Cynthia’s name is a bit tough on me; I am not at all used to her baptised name and also not entirely comfortable with her middle name too. Her middle name is Irina and her baptised name is Valeria. Therefore, in replacing the “so and so”, we have “Valeria Cynthia Irina Arianto”. Saying that in one go, I can easily go out of breathe. Sometimes, we laugh at each other halfway through the vow during our frequent practice.

The rest of the phrases gives me much headache. It is easy for me to forget the phrase “from this day forward”. Don’t ask me why but I just cannot remember visually how this flows. “To have and to hold” is another tricky phrase. What do we have and what do we hold? Compares to “to have and to hold”, “to love and cherish” is easier on my memory department. To love Cynthia and to cherish Cynthia, I can relate; that is what in my mind all of the time. But to have Cynthia and to hold Cynthia is definitely not my style. Yeah, I am having you baby?! Perhaps to hug Cynthia and to kiss Cynthia, I can relate better.

“Till death do us part”, I believe, is a common phrase; so I have no problem in memorising the last part of the sentence. In fact, better, worse, richer, poorer, sickness and health are often mentioned in the movies too. What makes it difficult for me to remember is the irregularity of the layout of the phrase. “For better and for worse” to me is talking about something positive and then negative. Better is good and worse is not so good. “For richer and for poorer”, is again, something positive and then negative. Being rich is good and being poor is not so good. “In sickness and in health” is the opposite! (Health is better off than sickness, no?) Not only does the vow switches the polarity of the what it is saying, the word “for” is replaced by “in”. How challenging the marriage vow is!

Getting the marriage vow mainly relies on our effort. Getting the bible and the cross is beyond our control. The bible has to be in English. Otherwise, how am I supposed to read it together with Cynthia in the future? As for the cross, we have driven a long way to finally realise that the shop that sells religious goods is closed down and in the midst of relocating itself next to the Cathedral. They do carry an imported cross but it cost a fortune and it is all in metal.

For the bible, my Godmother in Singapore comes to the rescue. She plans to attend our wedding in Bandung but will leave Singapore in a much later date. We call her up, explain our situation and she gladly help us to bring an English bible into Indonesia. As for the cross, I turn to my sister who is still in Hong Kong for help.

Lora is not a Catholic and it takes me some time to explain to her the specification of the cross. We want a wooden cross with the statue of Jesus in metal crucified in the middle of the cross and on top of Jesus, there is a plate saying INRI. The size of the cross should fit half of an A4 paper. Although Lora is not a Catholic, like me, she was brought up in a Catholic school. Just one day before my family left for Indonesia, making use of the half day leave she has taken, Lora went to the store that she vaguely remember of when she was still a student quite a while ago. Inside the shop, there are a wide range of selection; Jesus comes in different facial expressions and difference body shapes. We communicate via mobile phone and in the end, Lora bought two crosses for us to choose from.

8

Nobody want to fall sick just days before the wedding day but we cannot help it; we all fall sick at the same time. Must be something we have eaten. I first start to have diarrhoea. The next day, Cynthia’s mother gets it and finally, Cynthia gets it too the day after. By the time Cynthia has fallen sick, my condition has been improved. I think it must be a virus attack; gastric flu is my best guess. We are feverish and tired and on the third night after the virus first attacked me, I drive us all to see the family doctor. We are given some anti-biotic and some medicine for our stomachs.

After sleeping for 12 hours on Thursday night, Cynthia feels much better. While for me, after travelling for 12 hours on Friday, I feel worse.

9

Convincing my family to attend our wedding in Bandung is tough. The reputation of the social stability of Indonesia is all time bad. Thanks to CNN and all the world-wide media broadcasting teams, people think of Jakarta as a place of violence and riot. When seeing some real bad outbreak of violence in some remote island of Indonesia, the immediate impression or conclusion is that the whole Indonesia is in chaos. What people tend not to consider is that Indonesia, having the world’s third biggest population, is large. It is not a perfect society and in such a diverse society, no doubt we see friction amongst people. Yes, there are demonstrations in the Jakarta city from time to time and yes, people sometimes get violence. But no, you won’t go there because people in the city know where the demonstrations are. Unless you are a journalist, your driver will not even bring you there.

Another misunderstanding between my family and I is that Bandung is near to the airport in Jakarta. It may only take a quarter of an hour to fly from Jakarta to Bandung; it is difficult to travel by land because there are mountains between the two cities. Going by train takes three hours and going by car easily takes five hours.

George wants to join our wedding celebration in Bandung partly because he does not feel safe to let my sister to travel in Indonesia alone with my mother. The only constrain is that he has only got three days leave. After long discussion with my sister, the only way we can work this out is to have my family leaving Hong Kong on Friday morning, transit in Singapore – as my mother wants to stay with us for a while after our wedding, and arrive at Jakarta in the early afternoon. George and Lora then will have to leave Jakarta at night and to catch an early plan in Singapore the next day.

On Friday, I travel with Eric in a Kijang, a very popular 8-seaters car in Indonesia. A comfortable Kijang I must stress. My experience with long distance travelling in Indonesia is that you have got to travel in a comfortable vehicle. Otherwise, your back and your butt will hurt like crazy. We stop by Puncat and have our “Bachelor Lunch”. This bachelor lunch idea just came about the day before. Just the two of us sitting in the restaurant with a name that translates to “A Return To Nature”. Feasting upon the view of hills after hills of tea plantation, we have our lunch on the hilltop. The air is chilly and just when we are about to finish our lunch, the surrounding turns foggy. Soon, we cannot see any tea plants. We finish our lunch and continue our journey. After five hours of car racing (the driver suffers from diarrhoea too, what a coincidence!), we have reached the Jakarta airport – thank God – in one piece.

The airport lobby is crowded with people all staring at one exit where their friends or families are supposed to come out after passing through the immigration checkpoint and the custom. Once passengers clear the custom area, they can either exit to the left or to the right. For sure I have not told my family about this and judging that most of the crowd is on the right, we wait there too. I hope that they will go where the big crowd is. Several flights land at the same time. More and more passengers start to emerge from the exit.

In spite of all the horror stories heard about the Indonesia immigration checkpoint and the custom, my family comes out of it fine. No one search their bags and no one hassle them for money. My mother was so worried that she wanted to leave all her precious jewellery behind and to purchase some fake ones instead. We get out of the airport and into the Kijang we leave Jakarta for Bandung. The drive turns out to be more pleasant than what my family have anticipated. They are mentally prepared for a real rough drive but to my surprise, they have experienced worse when travelled to China. They may be fine and excited throughout the trip but for Eric and I, our backs hurt a bit after 12 hours of travelling.

My family is fascinated by virtually everything they see on the street; the stalls selling fried food and noodles by the street and the fruit stalls that sell a wide variety of fruits such as banana and pineapple. My mother is amazed by the freshness of the banana while George and Lora are more amazed by the fried food sold along the street. They even suggest to get out of the car and to have a walk along the street. They are crazy! Tourists are fearless! My answer to them is : Look! Do you see any Chinese walking on the street?

I think my family enjoy their stay in Bandung. On Saturday, we take them out for souvenir shopping. We enter the shop empty handed and come out of it with hands full of bags of handicraft. To them, everything is so cheap. The bill turns out to be about 1.3 million Rupiah. Quite expensive in the eyes of an Indonesian but since they come from Hong Kong, everything is a real bargain. The shop does not accept credit card so we have to pay by cash. Eric and I come up with cash totals up to 1.2 million Rupiah. Whatever we owe the shop, we promise to return and make the payment later.

10

Just days before our wedding day and before my family’s arrival to Bandung, I go along with Cynthia and her mother to visit the tombs of her grandparents and the tomb of her father. I have been to that graveyard before. About a year ago, her grandmother and her uncle (Lia’s father) have passed away within months away from each other. Cynthia and I went back to Bandung to attend their funerals. They were both buried in the some graveyard.

I believe in Heaven and Purgatory. Everyone knows what Heaven is. Purgatory, to my understanding, is a place or state in which souls are after death purified from venial sins. Very few people in this world go to Hell. Only the extremely evil ones do. Once I asked Father Loiseau, the priest who gave me the crash course on Catholicism, that if killing someone is a mortal sin, and if committing suicide involves killing, the one who commits suicide must have died with a mortal sin. Worse still, the poor guy has no chance to make confession; in that case, what is his chance of redemption? Father Loiseau laughed and replied that few people in this world commit suicide with a clear mind; there is always an element of insanity. I am much enlightened.

Back to the visit, I am certain that her grandparents and father exist somewhere out there and to me, it is important to ask them for their blessings as well. The drive to the graveyard is long. Lia and her mother travel with us and we buy some flowers on the way to the graveyard. Crawling through the traffic jam caused by the obviousness – five lanes traffic squeezes into two lanes going over the railway track, I know we are close to the destination when the serenity touches me.

We drive on a small hilly path with the greenery on either sides. We drop Lia’s family first and park our car next to a small road leading to our destination. There was heavy rain this morning so we are expecting to walk on some muddy roads. For that reason, Cynthia brings along her slippers. Bandung has been raining almost everyday. The weather pattern is that we have some sunshine in the early morning, early afternoon is cloudy and the rest of the day is rainy most of the time. At times, I worry that our wedding day could be wet.

The carnations we bought come in three colours – red, pink and white. First, we visit her grandmother’s tomb. A simple one with a cross embossed on the raised round with a decent tombstone. Across the road, there are some elaborate tombs come with huge building structures; I wonder why do people build such a beautiful structure on Earth when all souls are supposed to be singing in Heaven. (Okay, I take it back. It is to show respect.) Some are very primitive; just a lump of soil with a white wooden cross standing.

We lie the carnations in a sign of the cross and spread the pedals all over the tomb. We then knee down and each of us say a silence prayer. My communication power with the souls and divine power is nothing compares to Cynthia. Before coming to the graveyard, I say to myself that I am here to ask for blessing. If there is no lightning strikes or thunder rolls, I take it as a yes.

After paying respect to her grandmother, we move onto her grandfather’s tomb just next to her grandmother’s one. The same ritual is repeated. No lightning strikes and no thunder rolls; one bright sunny day. Next, it is her father’s turn. We walk a distance and arrive at his tomb; same ritual and same answer.

I maybe waiting for answer in form of lightning and thunder, but Cynthia’s experience is a whole lot different than mine. At the tombs, she see her grandparents grow in glory and they appear to be happy. Cynthia tells them that we are going to get married and the date is Nov 5. They reply in a joyful tone saying “We know.” I believe Cynthia’s vision and I feel happy that someone up there approves our marriage too.

11

Looking back, we have had a long list of preparation. I am glad that everything turns out the way they are supposed to. If to turn back time, we would have done the same thing we have. Perhaps, I may want to squeeze in some time for some good exercise before the wedding day.

Okay, all the ground work is completed. The rocket is hot. Are you ready for the launch? 10 … 9 … 8 …

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