August 21, 2010 Wedding day part 3 – The Ceremony

After an eventful morning, it was finally time for our wedding! (If you’re just joining the story now, you need to go back about 6 years to when I met The Penpal while I was living in Japan)

Our wedding ceremony was held at St. Theresa’s Roman Catholic Church in West St. Paul, just north of Winnipeg. We picked the location because of the priest, the fantastic Father Mike. The small town prairie church also fit with our modest, sensibly sized wedding. Neither one of us wanted a lavish, fairy tale ceremony with hundreds of people. We ended up with a humble, intimate gathering of about 100.

Father Mike had known me for years, and when he learned that I was engaged, he insisted that he perform our wedding. I was raised Catholic, but I’m not what anyone would consider “active” in the church. The Penpal was not raised anything close to being Catholic. I brought this up with Father Mike, but he was not deterred at all. He even promised to learn Japanese if we asked!

During our marriage prep Father Mike contacted Catholic priests in Japan to get recommended readings and suggestions for a good bilingual bible. BTW – bible translation is a subject big enough for its own blog post. We didn’t end up making him learn Japanese, but we did teach him how to say “stand”, “sit”, “kneel”, and “pray” in Japanese to help The Penpal’s parents through the ceremony.

The ceremony itself was short and meaningful. We had readings in English and Japanese, and then Father Mike gave a brief speech about how The Penpal and I could share love with the world by being a good example for others. A common criticism of Catholic weddings or funerals is that the ceremony can be more about church and not enough about the people. Father Mike is an excellent speaker, and his sermon was just right for the occasion.

Other than being surrounded by family and friends, one of my favourite things about the wedding ceremony is that our photographer managed to capture what is possibly the only picture in existence of my father-in-law smiling. We obviously did something right 🙂

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August 21, 2010 – Wedding day part 2 – Ripped pants

After an eventful start to my day which included communication problems and property crime, I returned home to start getting myself mentally and physically prepared for my wedding. The bride’s side of the family went to my sister’s house to get ready, while I was joined by Best Men Hippie and Triple D at my apartment.

We played video games and enjoyed a beer while slowly getting ourselves presentable for the wedding. (No, I don’t usually drink in the morning). Hanging out with my friends was a great way to keep me calm. Eventually we were all dressed and looking good, happy that our rented tuxes still fit despite getting measured a few months earlier. Right before we went out the door, Triple D decided to show us how comfortable and well fitting his pants were by jumping around. He assured us that there was no way the pants would possibly rip.

They ripped.

With an hour before the wedding, 30 minutes by car to the venue, one of my best men had completely ripped the crotch out of his rented tuxedo pants. We surveyed the damage which one of us accurately and inelegantly described as a “pants vagina”. The place we rented the tux was completely in the wrong direction from the church. I didn’t own a sewing kit, so Triple D suggested that we should try to buy one at the nearby Shopper’s Drug Mart.

Osborne Village Shopper’s Drug mart is always very busy. Hippie circled the parking lot while Triple D ran into the store, pants ripped wide open, to find a sewing kit. By the time we finally found a parking spot he had returned with purchase in hand. We were starting to seriously run out of time, so Triple D decided to make his repairs while we drove.

For anyone who hasn’t had the “pleasure” of driving in Winnipeg, the roads are generally in terrible shape. The temperature ranges from -30 in the winter to +35 in the summer, which is not easy on the road surface. On any other day, the cracks and potholes are merely an inconvenience. For Triple D, who was trying to stitch up the pants he was wearing while jammed in the front seat of a 2 door Toyota Echo, it presented a bit more of a challenge. Hippie, being a good friend, drove as fast as possible, suddenly swerving around the biggest holes. Somehow, despite the additional difficulty, Triple D successfully repaired the giant, gaping hole in his clothing just before we arrived at the church.

With a few minutes remaining before the ceremony started, Hippie pulled out a small football. Inspired by the cinematic classic “The Room”, we spent our last few minutes before the ceremony throwing the football very short distances to each other while wearing tuxes. Success!

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August 21, 2010 – Wedding day part 1 – Confusing breakfast

This morning, the day of my wedding, I suddenly woke up at 6:30 am with a panicked thought: “what are my in-laws doing about breakfast?”.

This is unusual for two reasons: I don’t usually wake up before 7, and I rarely consider the breakfast choices of my in-laws. However, somewhere in my subconscious my brain realized that The Penpal’s parents (who don’t speak any English) had moved from a hotel with a breakfast buffet to a hotel where you needed to order breakfast from an English only menu.

I woke up The Penpal and she tried unsuccessfully to call her parents’ hotel room while I got dressed. I knew that my in-laws were early risers, so I assumed they would be trying to eat soon. Since we couldn’t get a hold of them on the phone, I decided to go to the hotel.

I rushed out to the car trying to wake up the Japanese speaking part of my brain when I noticed that I was unable to open the driver’s side door with my key. Waking up early without coffee, it took me a minute to notice that the lock had been damaged by an unsuccessful break-in attempt. I added “police report” to my already brimming mental to-do list and went in through the passenger door.

I got to the hotel, parked, and went directly to the restaurant. I told the hostess at the door that I was looking for my in-laws. She said that there was nobody in the restaurant other than an older, Chinese looking couple. Since “Chinese” is the default guess in Canada for any Asian looking people, I correctly claimed them as my family and was shown to the table.

In the entire time I have known him, The Penpal’s father has never looked happier to see me. They had wandered into the restaurant expecting to see a buffet and were given menus instead. After an awkward conversation between themselves and the waitress, they had managed to place an order for bacon, eggs, and tea. The food arrived as they were explaining their side of the story.

Does everyone’s wedding day start of like this, or is it just me?

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Now what?

This blog has been the story of my 3 year journey to teach English in Japan.

I originally kept a blog from 2003-2006 to keep my friends and family up to date on what I was doing overseas. Starting in 2013 I began reposting my original blog, but with all of the posts rewritten to add more detail and information that I couldn’t discuss at the time. I had the best intentions of posting everything exactly 10 years after it originally happened. Thanks to a combination of life changes (primarily new job and becoming a parent), the whole process took about an extra year and a half.

Now what?

My original blog only covered my time teaching in Japan. Since that time The Penpal moved to Canada, we traveled, had some run-ins with immigration, got married, and became parents. Some of these events have already been covered, but I haven’t written about others yet. I’m planning on writing posts on some of the more memorable things that have happened after my original blog ended. Stay tuned – there’s more to the story yet!

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November 17, 2006 – Full Circle

Prior to my return from Japan to Canada, my parents had found an apartment for me. The apartment came with two sets of keys. Each of my parents took one set so they could have access to drop off my stuff.

My mom had given me her set of keys when she took me shopping yesterday, however my dad had forgotten to hand over his. Instead of making a trip into Winnipeg to drop them off, he gave them to his friend Randy who was coming to Winnipeg and would deliver them to me.

I arranged to meet Randy at the Second Cup coffee shop at the corner of River and Osborne, just down the street from my new apartment. I got there early and grabbed coffee and a window seat. As I was drinking my coffee, my friend Junk just happened to walk by the window. He noticed me, stopped, and came running into Second Cup to say hi.

Since my return to Canada 2 days earlier, I had been busy and jetlagged so I hadn’t yet reached out to any of my old friends. Junk was the last of my friends that I had seen when I moved to Japan. He had surprised me by coming to the airport to see me off when I left Canada 3 years ago. It was fitting that he was the first friend I saw when I came back to Canada; I felt like my travel had finally come full circle!

It was coincidental that Junk just happened to be walking by at the same time that I was in Second Cup. Even more coincidental was the fact that Junk and Triple D were sharing an apartment just down the street from my new place! I was happy to be living so close to some of my old friends; it truly felt like I had returned home.

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November 16, 2006 – I mailed my stuff to the wrong address!?

I woke up in the morning 9,000 km away from where I slept the day before, my brain still 14 hours ahead of local time. My plan for the day was to buy a bed, a computer, and unpack my apartment as much as possible.

After my experiences rebuilding a used computer in Japan, I decided to spend some of my teaching money on a brand new computer that I could plug in and use. I picked one up at Future Shop. The ease of our purchase prompted my mom to buy a new computer to replace her old, problematic one. Our commissioned salesman was a happy guy.

Our next stop was Best Sleep Center, where I picked out an incredibly comfortable queen sized mattress and box spring. We managed to arrange delivery for the next day. This was my first time ever picking out a mattress that someone else would be using – it was a bit stressful! I hope The Penpal likes what I chose.

When I was giving the address for bed delivery I suddenly realized that I had made a huge mistake: my street address is 395, but when I had mailed 5 boxes of stuff from Japan to Canada I had given my address as 359.

The 5 boxes represented the stuff I wanted to keep after 3 years of living in Japan. I had paid over $400 to ship it to the wrong address!! NOOOOOOOO!!

As soon as I got home I called Canada Post to explain my situation. Because of the delivery method I had chosen, I couldn’t officially change the delivery address. Canada Post said they would contact both the Winnipeg distribution and the local post office to let them know of the change, and hopefully someone would notice before attempting delivery. This was not at all reassuring.

Remember friends: when mailing all of your stuff back home, MAKE SURE YOU ARE MAILING IT TO THE CORRECT ADDRESS!!

(2018 Update 1) A few weeks later I received all of my boxes at the correct address. Thank you Canada Post!!

(2018 Update 2) After 10 years of use, a few adventures, and several unfortunate encounters with a barfy kid, we are finally going to replace the mattress. Otsukaresama mattress-san!

 

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November 15, 2006 part 3 – Hello Canada

After 3 years of living and working in Japan, flying home was pretty sad. Having said that, I would much rather be sad than airsick for 10 hours like the poor woman who sat next to me on my flight to Vancouver. It’s not really fair to say that she sat next to me: she spent most of the flight running to the bathroom. I felt bad for her, and thankful that I have never had serious problems on a flight.

A few hours away from Vancouver we flew into a huge storm that kept the plane bouncing. We were delayed on our landing as the storm was so bad that only one of the runways was open. I’m happy that we weren’t redirected to a different airport.

Unlike the flight to Vancouver, my flight to Winnipeg was quick and uneventful. Thanks to the wonders of international time zones, I arrived in Winnipeg about 15 minute before I left Japan. My parents and sister were waiting for me in the arrival area carrying a huge Canadian flag. It was good to be home!

My mom and sister had found an apartment for me before I came home, but since there was almost no furniture in it yet, I went back to my parents house for the evening. My parents live in the “city” of Portage la Prairie, about 70km west of Winnipeg. On the drive I got my first taste of reverse culture shock, fascinated by people driving on the right and the huge open spaces between cities. It’s going to take me a while to adjust!

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