For those of you bored, I'll do another installment of CRex and Korean In Laws. Wedding edition, Part I. It's a special one since I got married three times.
If you have no idea what the hell this is, see here. Scroll down to the Humor section and look for the Korean Saga. Also if you forgot who Little Sister is, you might want to scan those and brush up on it. Also posbang M-Wolverine when you get a chance, since he kept copies of those for me to restore.
As a general note I'm pleased to report we're back to more or less funny things. Parts 4 and 5 got kind of dark. When you get right down to it my wife's parents had been in an alien culture for a long period by that point and also were dealing with jet lag and a surprise boyfriend. People got grumpy and we went through the drama period. Those days are long gone, now when I visit I go drinking with the father and all is well. Her mother actually really likes my mother which has also smoothed some things over.
To begin with the first marriage was solely to avoid the whole HS1B and OPT issue. So the deal is if you're a foreign student and graduate, you get a year (OPT) to find a job. If you don't, INS tells you to get your ass out of the country. If you're an American dating someone on OPT time, it's kind of lose-lose. I've seen girls stressing out because they're 8 months into their year and their boyfriend still hasn't proposed. They're walking around going "Doesn't he love me? Doesn't he want to help me stay here?". Then if they do propose, they walk around all offended, "Oh he doesn't respect me. He doesn't think I can get a job and a green card on my own. He thinks the only way I can become an American is to marry one." I know who a guy who got yelled at for taking so long to propose and then yelled at for proposing based on the above. All in the span of 5 minutes, at the time he was on his knee in the Grand Hotel on Mackinac. She did take the ring and they're happily married, but he described OPT as the worst time in their relationship.
So I decided to run an end around on all this and suggested we go down and do the paperwork for tax reasons and so we could just get it out of the way before my girlfriend graduated and started the job search. I'm just romantic like that when it comes to getting married. "Look honey, I bought you a ring, now fill this form in so you can be my little tax write-off."
This leads to the citizenship interview. The one where you get split up and questioned about each other. It's the government way of attempting to make sure some foreigner isn't paying you to green card them in. It's also rather difficult to know exactly what it entails. You show up with bunch of proof of your relationship (photos, flight ticket stubs from trips we took together, etc) and then it all depends on which agents you get and how grumpy or biased against interracial marriage they are. I know couples that got the paperwork in one visit. Others got four or five rounds of fun and eventually had to call in lawyers.
I got one of the guys who apparently was going to be a pain. Despite all our photos and proof of a multiyear relationship, he wasn't buying it. He noted she was about to go on OPT and seemed convinced this was a paid marriage and forged all the photos in photoshop or something. We finally reached the question of "What she do?".
Me: "Well she's a PhD student at Michigan. About to graduate."
Agent: "Yes, but what is her research."
Me: "She's working on some projects with Aerospace and remote controls."
Agent: "You can't be close if you don't know what she researches."
Me: "Something military, she and her adviser drive to Dayton frequently and all I know is drone warfare. They don't tell me much else."
Agent: "She's not even a citizen, she can't work on that."
Me: "Actually since South Korea is a closely allied power, their citizens can work on certain level of projects."
Agent: "I don't believe you."
Me: "The officers she works with figured this would happen. One of them gave us his card and said you should call him with the questions."
So the agent gets on the phone and calls up the USAF. The officer asks to speak to us, so it ends up with the agent, myself, and my wife sitting in the room on speakerphone.
Officer: "So how's it going?"
Wife: "I was called some rude things to my face today. Not great." (Her agent was worse than mine as it turned out.)
Officer: "Oh one of those…" (there are some other foreigners working on this project, so I guess the military has had this happen before).
Agent: "We have some very valid concerns…"
Officer: "We'd be happy to provide 'supplemental' material to address your bullshit concerns. What are your GPS coordinates? I'm about to send up a drone for testing and I'd be happy to have it drop 'something' off."
Officer: "Look, you can do the paperwork or I can call my boss at the Pentagon and tell them a billion dollar project is going to be delayed because immigration is jerking one of our researchers around."
We left with all the paperwork.
The next part was getting married in Korea. The Korean tradition was you were married at the house of the bride. These days a lot of people do it in hotels or other venues were you can rent a wedding room, but due to the idea of the bride's parents kind of running the wedding it was agreed we'd do the first ceremony over there.
As a side note with international travel, I can't stress how awesome ANA is. I'm not associated them in anyway (aside from having all kinds of frequent flier miles with them). Basically imagine an American 777. Now replace the grumpy 40 year old stewardesses who give you a dirty look when you ask for the entire can of Coke instead of some tiny cup of it with a bunch of 20 something year old Japanese girls who somehow keep a perky smile on their face for an entire 13 hour flight. You also get a show when it comes to take off.
The stewardess start closing up the overhead bins. Our plane had the kind where you have to push the entire bin up to secure it. So this featured a tiny little girl valiantly trying to close a bin that Americans filled with a good 100 pounds worth of carry on luggage. Eventually a guy in that row notices the stewardess is struggling, unbuckles, and closes the bin for her. If the guy fails to notice you'll hear a progressively louder series of cute little squeaks as she indirectly tries to get the guy's attention. She moves to the next row and it repeats. For the entire length of the 777. It's stupid, but also damn funny. Sadly some of the ANA flights actually have tall stewardesses, so it isn't every flight.
So I eventually herd my family onto the plane (my father has never left the country before so it takes some prodding to get him to go the ROK) and head off to my doom, errr wedding. My wife's family has decided I'm likable enough. I'm still not entirely in until I aid in the production of a grandson, but they like me well enough. I think they accepted their daughter isn't in a terrible hurry to return to Korea, which is fairly patriarchal and she's too rebellious to be happy with it, and as far as round eyed devils go, I'm not that bad.
There are a variety of pre wedding traditions in Korean, centered around gift and money exchange. Since I'm not Korean and the whole thing isn't exactly traditional the only one we opt to follow is Sansu. The exchange of wine and food between families, which comes close to leading to disaster.
My family had brought a number of American things. For example: Michigan dried cherries, beef jerky, Grand Traverse Cherry Vodka, and Irish Whiskey due to our Irish roots. The problem begins when Little Sister manages to confuse the Cherry Vodka with flavored soju. Since soju normally runs around 20% abv she's used to putting down a bottle of soju and not feeling much pain (soju also comes in smaller bottles). In Korea they do all kinds of flavored sojus. Yogurt, strawberry, lychee, etc. You get a carafe of it and drink it (Tomokun also does this in Ann Arbor). I realize Little Sister has put down 2/3s of a bottle of vodka about the time she stands up on the bar, proposes a toast to our happiness and promptly face plants off the bar and onto the tile floor. Luckily without any visible injuries since a stool breaks her fall (to a degree).
My wife and I are tasked with take her out for some noodles and sober her up. We're in the cab when Little Sister loses it and pukes all over the place. The driver calmly opens the glove box and hands us a pack of cleaning wipes and an airplane style barf bag. We then get informed there is a standard fee for vomit cleaning. We also get a lecture on how we should have told him she was drunk and he could just have given the bag and avoided the see.
As it turns puking in cabs isn't all that uncommon in the party districts of Seoul. The driver isn't mad about the puke, it's a standard job hazard I guess, just mad we didn't ask for a bag. I'm not saying Korea has a drinking problem, but when they have standard fees for drunk vomiting, they probably do.
We pour a combination of Pocari Sweat (a Korean energy drink) and ramen into Little Sister to get her functioning again, perhaps too functional. Since we're out she demands we do some clubbing and karaoke. She calls in my wife's older sister and the four of us hit the town.
The real fun starts at karaoke club. A couple friends of my older sister in law met us at the club and we have a pretty good group going. I'm a big fan of the older sister because she works as a model/back-up dancer. So she has lots of friend who run on the tall side for Korean girls. They always want to dance with me since they have a hard time finding guys significantly taller than them. So of course I have to dance with them, you know to be polite.
Little Sister excuses herself out to the bathroom and returns twenty minutes later with four other girls. Rather scantily clad karaoke helpers. She proudly announces this can be my Korean bachelor's party and then points the helpers my way, with my wife standing right beside me. As to what a karaoke helper is, the way it works is you pay for some girls to help you come in and sing the songs. This is cover for you to get a look at the girls and negotiate some extra services after karaoke (prostitution). You don't have to get anything extra and there isn't any assurance the girls will accept your offer anyway. It's just a time when you scope each other out.
Me: "Fuck you cherry vodka, fuck you very much."
My wife: "Well she already paid for them, so it's just wasted money if we kick them out."
Me: "So you yell at me when I'm polite and dance with your sister's friends, but you want me to keep the hookers?"
Wife: "I don't like wasting money."
Me: "By that logic if I get a mistress, buy her an expensive handbag, you're okay with me sleeping with her? Because otherwise I'd have just wasted money on the handbag?
Wife: "It's only wasting money when I say it is."
So that was my Korean bachelor party. My wife's sister younger sister hiring hookers for me, in the presence of my wife and her older sister. My friends back in America didn't even get me a stripper, a trip to a strip club, or anything of that nature (We did the ever classic drinking and camping thing, my friend got drunk, fell asleep in a kayak and woke up on the Au Sable River five miles downstream from the campground). Nope, my hookers came from a 18 year old girl. Hooray. Even better her dad may have slipped her the money to cover it. I guess he thought it would be funny.
The girls were actually cool. They were happy enough to party with us and work as waitresses. They'd duck out and grab more beer, noodles, or snacks when we ran dry. One of them also appeared to work out a business deal with one of the single male friends since the two of them left early. I ended up doing Empire of State Mind and Live your Life with one of the girls who spoke solid English. As a group we all did Lollipop.
As we're walking out of karaoke we happen to walk past a pair of white folk, likely Americans teaching English based on their look. I'm surrounded by a pack of girls, the two guys are on their own. One of the guys is wearing a tOSU ball cap.
*guy turn around with a big smile on his face: "I-O!"
Me: *gestures at the girls* "Hail to the Victors!"
A moment of silence as the Bucknut stares at me and then I lead the girls (well the ones who can speak English) in "It's great to be…a Michigan Wolverine!". He just turns around and walks away. Ah rivalries, how you define us.
The night ends though with Little Sister passing out, likely due to the fact she started drinking again at karaoke. By night I mean about 5 am, Koreans go hard. At Michigan of course we think a party night is hitting the Jug at 11 and leaving three hours later when it closes. Then if you're really on a roll you go have a couple drinks at someone's house. In Korea you hit the night market around 8 or 9, then you hit the clubs, then a break for food, and then back out. One of my in-laws explains to me he keeps a spare suit in his office so he can go directly from the clubs to work. He staggers in, changes, and sleeps it off. He doesn't get in trouble since his boss and his boss's boss are doing the same.
I'm sitting there on a bench with her head in my leg and her snoring away while my wife and the older sister go check the subway map and get some water to pour into Little Sister. I'm about half a beer away from either vomiting up my internal organs or passing out myself. I'm just peacefully floating around in that drunken haze when two shadows fall across me. I glance up and see a pair of Korean cops staring at me.
Me: "So officers, what can I do for you?"
Officers: *glares of death at me with the teenage girl passed out on me*
Me: "I know this looks like date rape, but I swear it isn't."
I'm separated from her and over against the patrol car by the time my wife returns to straighten everything out.
The actual wedding is smooth (thankfully). We do the initial ceremony with me in a tuxedo and my wife in an American wedding dress (they caught on in Korea). The ceremony itself is quick since a long ceremony would just delay the guests access to the feast and the booze. She then changes into a traditional outfit for the feast. The food is a lot better than most American weddings, its a real banquet with entire fish and the like. The only hitch is that the Christian branch of her family is confused as to the lack of a Christian ceremony. They get that my wife isn't Korea, but they couldn't get their head around the fact I'm American and not Christian. All Americans are supposed to own guns and be Christian it seems. To keep the peace we let one of her cousins, who is a Minister, do a simple little ceremony on the tail end.
After the ceremony and feast, the younger section of the wedding party hits a bar. My father in law rented out the entire bar for us, so we had the place to ourself for 4 hours and had a good time. it was murder on my liver because I had to drink with everyone at the feast (individual toasts with all the males present) and then another round of toasts at the bar with everyone. At the feast first I went around the tables and toasted everyone. Then everyone came up to the table and toasted me. All one on one, with about 40 guys there. I reached the point where I was faking taking sips of soju to survive. Luckily Little Sister was not fully recovered from her introduction to vodka and passed out early on rather than engaging on another spree of hooker hiring.
And thus I was married on one of the two continents where I had to have a ceremony.