Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Very 2 Feet Wedding Part 2: Houston

As you remember, we had an amazing Thai Buddhist wedding ceremony in Bangkok in June of 2015. But we have a wasn't legal.

Not that it couldn't have been, it just wasn't logical for us to do the paperwork at that time. Here's the deal.

I did a few interviews and began online training for a teaching license. I got a job in Houston and had to leave at the end of July to start training and professional development and all that super fun stuff that comes with starting a new career.

Rick, however, couldn't come with me. As a non-US citizen, there were some stringent rules regarding his entry into the country and we wanted to do things legally and carefully in order to protect ourselves. That was a dumb idea.

We did a lot of research and saw that we had a couple of choices for getting him into the country: a fiancé visa or a spouse visa. We knew we wanted to get married (or at least have the wedding) in Thailand but knew that we couldn't apply for a spouse visa until after we were officially married. We didn't have time to plan a destination wedding and give our families enough of a heads-up if we had it soon after we got engaged. We also knew that I had to be in the US in July.

If we wanted to get married legally in Thailand we wouldn't be able to apply for the spouse visa until AFTER the wedding. The visa process takes months; I had to be in the US only 3 weeks after returning from the wedding.

So, we thought about it and decided to apply for the fiancé visa ASAP and hope that it would be available by the time I had to leave.

We applied in mid-February. June (and the wedding) came and went, and still no word. July came and I went, and still no word.

Long story short, it was nearly a year from application to Ricky getting to the US.

Fiancé visa rules state that you have to get married within 90 days of the fiancé entering the US. I assume that's for couples wanting to have a, you know, real wedding. But we already had ours.

After getting a social security for the man, we went to get the marriage license, and a few days later went to get married.

Since we already had a big wedding and already considered ourselves husband and wife, we just wanted the piece of paper signed to make it official.

So, on February 17, I rushed out of work, picked up Ricky and drove downtown to the nearest judge that didn't require appointments. After security (metal detectors in the courthouse?) and a bit of meandering, we found a lady judge who was free.

The receptionist informed us that the judge charged a $70 fee for her time. We handed over the cash and were escorted to the courtroom. The receptionist asked if we had friends coming. Nope. Did we want pictures? Nah. We just wanted it done.

Miss Judge comes in.

Miss Judge: Hello there. Are we expecting anyone to witness today?
Us: Nope.
Miss Judge: Did you want anyone to come in and take photos for you?
Us: No, we're ok.
Miss Judge: ??
Us: Actually, we already had a ceremony a few months ago, with family and friends. It was in Thailand, very beautiful. We just couldn't get it done legally for a few reasons. Long story. We just want to be legally married.
Miss Judge: Oh really? Well, I guess I don't really need to say my whole spiel. I'll just sign it. And...let me just give you your money back.
Us: Wow, really? Thank you so much!

Miss Judge signed our certificate, handed our cash back and we were out the door and back to the car in less than 20 minutes.

Easiest wedding ever.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Very 2 Feet Wedding, Part 1: Thailand

When we got engaged in October of 2014, we knew we wanted a wedding that would be very "us." We also knew that this sort of wedding wasn't going to be very easy on our families, for a few reasons. We had to find neutral territory, both literally and religiously.

Ricky was raised Catholic in Ireland, and Talia was raised Mormon in the US. Neither of us have been truly practicing members of those religions for a few years and were worried about how our wedding would turn out if we went along with traditional expectations, so we really had to think strategically about the how, when, and where we would do it.

If we had the wedding in Ireland, we would most likely have had to do it the Irish-Catholic way. Since Ricky isn't practicing, the only reason to do this would be to uphold family tradition and involve the family priest. Since Talia isn't Catholic at all, she would have had to either become Catholic or promise to uphold the Catholic beliefs in the home, something she wasn't sure she felt comfortable doing. Her family would have been more than a little uncomfortable going to a Catholic mass and wedding, as well, she assumes.  But, Irish weddings are fun, with lots of music, food, and dancing. So there was that to think about.  And then only Talia's family and friends would have had to pay to travel.

If we had the wedding in the US, that would have opened up a whole new can of worms. Since Talia isn't a practicing Mormon anymore, they couldn't have the "expected" traditional temple wedding anyway, and without it, she was worried friends and family wouldn't come to a wedding that wasn't "real." Plus, weddings are a lot more expensive in the US and only Ricky's family would have had to travel. So unfair.

So we knew we had to choose neutral territory - a place where both families had to travel - and a neutral ceremony - either nonreligious or a neutral religion.

We discussed China, since that was where we were living at the time. It would have been ok, though a bit expensive, but usually couples get their money back in "hong bao," red envelopes filled with money and given to wedding couple in lieu of gifts.  But then we realized that we didn't have enough friends - and definitely not enough RICH friends - for that idea to work. Plus, we were kinda tired of China.

Our next idea, and the one we finally settled on was Thailand. We loved our experiences there while we traveled, and having friends there would make planning a lot easier. We loved the country, and the food, and had good experiences with Buddhist monks there and all over SE Asia. So it was decided: June 11, 2015, Bangkok, Thailand, with a Buddhist ceremony.

We chose June because we knew most of our friends and family in education (as students or teachers) would be out of classes and more available, the 11th specifically because it was a Thursday and Talia always loved Thursdays, for whatever reason. We also wanted to get married before Talia had to leave China for work, starting as a teacher in Houston in July. Ricky still didn't have his fiance visa to come to the US so we really wanted to solidify our relationship before we were to separate for an undetermined amount of time.

So I began contacting hotels, wedding venues, and temples to try to get an idea of how much a tropical destination wedding would cost and what all we wanted to include. We knew the most important things for us were the food and the music. We didn't care about decorations or anything like that. We knew our guests - the few that were able to come - would want to have a good time and we were determined to give it to them.

It felt expensive as I looked up room rates at hotels, wedding packages, bands and all of that, but as I did more research I realized it was a fraction of what a western wedding would have costed.  We decided on having the reception at the Chatrium Riverside Hotel since they had the best value for the wedding package (food, decorations, mixers and available BYOB option, sound setup, etc) and decent room rates for a large group. It was a lovely hotel with gorgeous rooms and free upgrades to river view for all of our guests. It was fairly easy to arrange the reception.

The ceremony was another story. We wanted a Buddhist ceremony and did lots of research on if non-Buddhists could do it. It didn't seem like there would be a problem, since it was less a religious ceremony and more spiritual and cultural. It was pretty hard to organize from China, though. It was nearly impossible to contact any of the temples, and we still hadn't decided which one we wanted.

We were able to get a lot sorted before we got to Thailand. We decided to take the whole month of June off, which gave us about 10 days to make sure everything was organized, and we needed every second. The day after we arrived we met with friends that we originally met in Jinzhou. The wife was Thai and the husband was British. They were able to meet us at the Marble Temple, which we ultimately chose for its beauty and the fact that we knew other ceremonies had been done there before. She was kind enough to negotiate with the monks (yes, negotiate, like "donations" and things. It was pretty surprising.) for us and to help us arrange everything we needed. Apparently, there was a lot more we needed that we hadn't thought of. Flowers for the monks, along with donation envelopes, flower arrangements for the water pouring ceremony, and lunch for the monks.

We did run into a few minor emergencies with the drinks, the dress, and the band. But, nothing a few friends and phone calls couldn't fix without too many breakdowns. Plus, we got to do our share of riding around the city, massages, and swimming before the big day.
Planning a wedding is hard, guys. 

Seriously. So hard.
A few days before the wedding, our guests began to arrive. All of Ricky's immediate family was able to make it, along with a sister-in-law, a cousin and her boyfriend, an aunt, and a friend and his fiancee. On Talia's side, her parents and one brother (the only sibling out of 4 to come), a friend from high school, and a college friend and his boyfriend. Mutual guests included a few friends made in China, and our wonderful friend Alex and his beautiful Thai wife, whose translation skills got us through the day of the ceremony without looking like bewildered fools. Altogether, we were about 30 people.

We each had successful bachelor/ette parties and a wonderful meal at Alex's restaurant Que Pasa where our families met officially for the first time. It went off without a hitch.

The next day, we prepared ourselves for the ceremony.  We got ready together, and came downstairs together, to meet our guests in the hotel lobby. They were to take a bus we rented to the temple, while we left before them to get there early to make sure everything was prepared.  
Getting ready to get hitched.

That's where things got interesting.

We got into a taxi from the hotel, and the hotel guy told the driver where to go. After we got in we realized he hadn't put the meter down. Well. that was wrong. We told him to put the meter down and he said no. Too much traffic. 400 baht. 400 baht isn't really all that much money, in western terms, but we weren't thinking in western terms. We hadn't been for quite a long time. So it was a lot, and it was too much. We told him to take the meter. He said no. He pulled over in the middle of terrible traffic. and told us to get out. We did. Ricky slammed the door and it bounced open again. The driver got out of the car and started coming after us. There was a bit of pushing and shouting and eventually he left.

What a way to start a wedding morning.

We debated getting another taxi or a moto-taxi or a tuk-tuk. We walked a bit and were able to get a taxi that used the meter and it took about 50 baht to get to the temple. All of our guests were already there and we were stressed out. We also suddenly realized that our ceremony wouldn't be in the main part of the temple but a small room off of the monks' dwelling areas. That was a surprise but we went with it.                
Nothing's going to bring us down today!
We sat down, helped out by our Thai friend and her guidance. The monks entered in their saffron robes. We sat next to each other, in gilded chairs, our hands pressed together in front of us and the monks began to chant. Immediately, I (Talia) felt calm. Their voices washed away all of the stress of everything we had been doing to get ready for this moment.

I sat, serene, next to the man that would be my husband. Our guests sat behind us, fanning themselves in the heat. They may have been bored, or hot, or tired, but I was loving this.

There was a bit of moving around, lighting a candle, kneeling before the monks, more chanting. It was the most beautiful thing.

The monks finished their part and sat to eat the meal we had provided. Then we knelt behind an altar and our guests participated in the water ceremony, and also of tying Baci strings around our wrists, and three dots of white clay were placed on our foreheads while a string connected two yarn crowns on our heads.
A friend pours water onto Ricky's hands.
So happy!
Our amazing guests who made a long journey to see our wedding.
The ceremony ended and we left to take photographs outside the main temple building, and then we all left on the bus back to the hotel in order to rest, change, and dry off from the sweat-inducing heat of the morning.
Just married!

And the rest of the day went as perfectly as you could imagine a wedding day to be. There was no stress about cake or flowers or decorations or first dances. Instead...

We had lunch at the hotel. And then we went swimming. Yep. We all went to our rooms, changed, and went down to the pool for a swim. I tried to keep my hair as dry as possible, but wasn't even stressed about that. After swimming, we went back to our rooms to change again and head up for the pre-dinner cocktail hour. We chatted and hung out for a while, and then headed to dinner. We enjoyed some delicious traditional Thai fare, including my favorite - tom ka gai. Then, tables were moved back, the band set up, drinks were brought out and we started the real party.

By then I had changed out of my dress - sweat does a real number on pure silk and I was afraid the dress wouldn't hold up. So I got into a nice-ish dress and some flats, ready to dance. And dance we did!
Our unintentional first dance. 

Our music was provided by a Bangkok supergroup, with help from the amazing Curtis King, who we met in Dalat, Vietnam during our last travels. He was kind enough to let us bring him out and play for us.  And it was exactly the music and party we could have every hoped for. Even the guests got up and played, including, of course, Ricky.
Ricky's ready to rock.

We didn't follow any western wedding traditions for the reception: no bouquet or garter toss, no first dance (intentionally) or father-daughter/mother-son dances, no cake - although we did have ice cream brought out unceremoniously halfway through.

The night ended when our reservation time for the even room was finished and we took the party outdoors to sing and talk together. Our guests were happy, we all had fun, and we were finally married.

Sort of.

Stay tuned for Part 2 to find out more!

EDIT: I almost forgot an important part! How much did all of this cost and what did it include?

Our 5 Star hotel bill was about $5,500-ish for:
2 nights stay in the hotel for 30 guests and ourselves (for three nights)
AMAZING breakfast buffet for 2 mornings for everyone.
Wedding dinner and service
Personalized sign
Sound system
Reception hall rental for 5 hours
Cocktail hour in the lounge
Mixers and beer (we provided our own wine and liquor)

We then spent around $1000 more on miscellaneous wedding related things:
Bus rental and taxis
Donation to monks and temple
Lunch for monks
Flowers for monks
Flowers for water ceremony
Family meals

Wedding clothes for both of us (custom made suit and custom designed dress with several alterations)
About $500

Ebony bands for both of us from Ian Gill: $60

We aren't including our own travel and extra days stay in Thailand. We also helped fly out some family members so they could be there, but we also aren't counting that.  If we were, the total would be around $10-11k. Still not bad.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

We're Baaa-aaaack!

Since it's been nearly three years since our last post, we thought we would let you know what's happened.

2 Feet got married!

We also ran a 10k in North Korea, went camping at the Great Wall, got another dog, were separated for a terrible 6 months, are currently in the US suffering through inefficient immigration red tape, have gotten our first tattoos, and are somewhat settled for the time being.

I can't wait to write up posts of all of the great (and not so great) things that have happened in the past couple of years, especially if they can help anyone out who is experiencing similar situations.

Sneak peak of the 2 Feet Wedding!

As you may have guessed, one does not start writing on their travel blog again if one does not plan on traveling soon. Wanderlust has indeed set in again, and we are looking forward to our next big trip. We have ideas, but nothing concrete yet, but hang on - we will keep you posted with what's in store.

For the time being, please enjoy the coming posts in our game of catch-up, and please bear with us as we update the look of the blog. We'll be going through some changes until we find a good look :)

Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Dealing with the Side Effects of Long Term Travel: A Failure's Guide

I was in the bathroom this morning getting ready to go to the supermarket with Ricky. I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt and some slide-on shoes. My hair went into a ponytail, with a headband to keep back the flyaways. I slapped on some mascara and some deodorant and was ready to go.

And then it hit me.

Nothing has changed.

During the nine months we were traveling I looked pretty much the same—ponytail (when my hair was long enough), t-shirt, simple shoes, tiny bit of makeup, and looking barely presentable to go into public. 

I realized that I was living the side effects of long term travel. They are unavoidable.  Sometimes I find myself forgetting to change clothes after a couple of days.  I have to remind myself to change my shirt. I forget that I can do laundry when I want, and I have enough clothes to wear while I wait for other ones to dry.

And days like today I forget that I’m not traveling anymore and I can actually take a little bit of time to style my hair (though I’m getting close to chopping it all off again), or put on some makeup, or even make better clothing choices.

One thing that Ricky and I both suffer with as a side effect of traveling is that we’ve forgotten the value of money. We’ve used so many different currencies while constantly mentally changing it over to dollars or Euros that we forget what things are actually worth. That resulted in a lot of stupid purchases when we first got to Beijing. We spent 1200 rmb for curtains and 550 for a rug. That’s about $300 dollars that we actually needed to spend on things we, you know, need. 

And it’s a constant thing.  Our priorities are pretty messed up right now, because what we valued while we were traveling (the occasional ice cream, a nice meal to keep us sane after days of fried rice), isn’t what we should value now. We spend too much money on McDonald’s because we can, when we really don’t want to spend any more money than we have to for dog food.

Basically we are terrible people with imaginary money to burn.

 So hopefully we’ll get a handle on this real-people thing we call life and I might actually put on some make up or do something with my hair.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Super Domesticity Girl to the Rescue, Or My Transition from Vagabond to Martha Stewart

Just a couple of months ago, I was on the road. I was hanging out with macaques, eating cobra, and having my arm covered in giant black scorpions. I was riding a motorbike through Vietnamese mountains and taking pictures with endangered species. I was snorkeling in Thailand and wandering through ancient temples. So, with all this in mind, my question is this:

When did I become so damn domestic?

It hit me the other day that things have changed dramatically in my life. I was so proud of my productive morning: I walked the dog, did the laundry and the dishes, and baked homemade bread. And I liked it (well, aside from the dishes part). What the hell happened in my life??

Ricky and I ended our travels because we were a bit traveled out. We were at the point where we just wanted to wear real-people clothes, and be able to shower every day, and sleep in the same bed every night, and not have to live out of a backpack. We were just ready to settle down a bit.

But I had no clue I would enjoy it so much. Since we have arrived, I have loved cooking in my own kitchen, and taking care of the dog, and sitting in my huge armchair in the evenings and watching some TV.  It just feels right, right now. After nine months of traveling, it’s just nice to take a break.

In the beginning of our travels, though, I didn’t think I would need a break. I felt like I could wander the world forever without stopping. I had heard of those permanent vagabonds that somehow manage to hitchhike their way across continents and I thought “I could totally do that! I never want to settle down! I have everything I could ever need, right here on my back!”

However, after 6 months, I was just about ready to call it a day. Granted, 6 months is a dang long time, but I didn’t expect to feel that way so soon. But the stress of travel was getting to me. We weren’t on holiday anymore. I was enjoying it, but it was rough some days.

Even then, it’s a little strange to me that I am enjoying normal life so much. I have a job, I’ll be starting school in a month, and I make homemade pancakes. It’s weird, and it’s not. It feels good and normal. And until Lady Wanderlust calls me again, I think I’ll just enjoy it, because, really, I make some awesome pancakes.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Happy Family: Pets and Apartments (Also, a shoutout for adoption)

So, we're pretty much settled in. We have our TV and our bikes, but we can't really get some of the other things we would like, since our paycheck wasn't for a full month. Ah well.

Here are a few pics of the apartment.

Me, cooking the first meal in our kitchen that was apparently made for elves or something.

Handsome Ricky cleaning the windows. He even did the outside. We're 17 storeys up.

Not the cleanest living room. But at least there are comfy chairs, even though they are so far apart. And look at our classy dining table!

So there's that.

But also, our beautiful little lady dog. We adopted her from a local shelter. They guess she was abandoned by her owners when she got pregnant. She's affectionate and house-trained (huzzah!).

We called her Gimley, but no, she is not a red-headed stubborn dwarf. She's got white hair and blue eyes and so much energy. Here are some pics.

The second time I met li'l Gimley. She immediately jumped into my lab, probably to escape the other 40-something dogs at the shelter.

Chilling on our new carpet. 

Hanging out together after our respective showers. 

So adorable! Or is it totes adorbs? Something like that.

Her new favorite spot, sitting right above my head. She sometimes sneaks me ear kisses when I'm not paying attention.

Like I said, she's really affectionate, though more so with me than with Ricky, so far. I do most of the walking and feeding and bathing and stuff (which we had agreed upon a while before we got her), and I actually quite enjoy it. I love that she loves me so much, even when I have to put her out on the balcony during the day or have to wash her. She's quick to forgive. 

Now for the good part. ADOPT!!! Adopt a pet if you're looking for one! My first pet was a mutt we adopted from the pound, and she was a happy puppy and led a nice, long life. I loved her so much, and was devastated when my dad told me she passed away around Christmas time of 2011. 

It makes me so happy to see how happy Gimley is, and what a good life we can give her. They treated her and all the other dogs very well at the shelter, but it's not the same as having family. 

If you are looking for a pet, there are so many ready for adoption. And don't rule out the older dogs. Gimley is about 2 we think, and it's nice not to have to worry about housetraining or general puppy destruction. Just take your time to hang out with a few dogs and find one that suits you and your lifestyle, and you could end up with a new happy member of your family.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Making a Home and Other News

So, we're basically settled in Beijing. Except for...well lots of things really.

See, we spent a lot of our leftover travel money on things to help us settle in and feel like home. I mentioned before that our apartment is oh-so-small, but we're doing our best to fix it up. So far, we've purchased curtains, a carpet, 2 folding chairs, some tupperwares, plates, cups, bowls, some Ikea storage drawers, and a few trashcans.

But we still have a lot on our plates to do. We had hoped to get a little more into the Beijing thing, but we pretty much have to wait til payday to get things started. Here's our to-do/get list:

Gym memberships
Electronics to be fixed (camera, e-reader)
Guitar amp
A dog (getting closer!)
Picture frames

That's all I can think of at the moment but I know that there's got to be more.  I just know it.

But in other news, do you realize how cool Beijing is! There is no shortage of things to do. This week, for example is the Beijing International Film Festival. Unfortunately we just discovered it yesterday, and the closing ceremony will be held the day after tomorrow. But we're planning on going tonight to check out the scene, and find out how we can get to the closing ceremony because wouldn't it be great to hang out with Keanu Reeves, Jackie Chan, and the cast of Iron Man?