At the AmphurBy David S. Wills
August 23, 2011
There’s the romantic side of getting married, and then there’s the ‘wedding’ itself…
When I’m nervous I yawn, and the more nervous I am the more uncontrollable my yawning becomes. Right now I’m not tired, but I’m yawning once every twenty or thirty seconds
The man behind the desk is smiling at us and stamping papers. There are hundreds of papers and he’s stamping either side, in carefully chosen places, without looking down. The speed is incredible. He looks about seventy and I wonder for how many years he has been here, stamping these same forms in the same places.
I’m getting married today. Like, right now. Right this minute. It’s happening now, after months of planning, of waiting. There is no priest, no vows, no dress… Just a guy stamping papers quietly and smiling while I yawn like an idiot.
We’re already wearing our rings – only on the wrong hands, and after we go outside we’ll switch them over. I wonder how it’ll feel on the other hand. I got used to it pretty quickly on my right. It’s tight, though. I can’t get it off by myself. Only Amy can pull it off.
Our witnesses are a couple of translators. One doesn’t seem to speak much English, and is sitting quietly. The other speaks fluently and is falling in love with Amy because she was born in Korea and, for her, Korea is the epitome of cool.
And so now, as I am in the process of being wed, watching the papers near completion, Amy is trying to explain to this girl that Korea is not “the most perfect country” on earth, and that Korean pop stars are to be pitied, not worshipped. “In fact,” she explains, “the people are all batshit crazy. It’s in our blood, especially the women.”
And I yawn again. And again.
“I can speak a little Korean,” the girl says. “Saranghaeyo! Oppa!” She’s trying to convince us, in spite of having never been to Korea, that it’s the most wonderful, romantic place on earth.
There’s a couple behind us, waiting patiently. They were ahead of us earlier, offering help with the translation issue, but somehow they fell behind.
So many white men marrying Thai women, many with visible bumps on their bellies. So many I wonder if we skipped ahead by virtue of our passports. The surly bitch at reception didn’t like us, but she really didn’t like the couple when they asked if they could help us with translation. The Koreaphile is her friend, I think. A cheap scam.
“Korean men are so sensitive,” she tells us. “And the women are so beautiful. Such white skin.”
I yawn again. It’s making my eyes water. Didn’t think I’d cry when I got married.
Saw a woman last night with her half-white baby, wandering the streets of Soi Rambuttri. An extremely drunk American took her baby and played with it as she told us the daddy was no longer around. She seemed to know all the drunken middle-aged white guys, but none of them had brought her to the amphur.
The man is still flipping through the papers, checking, stamping, asking our translator questions like, “How long have you lived together?” and “Why do you want to get married in Bangkok?” Nothing too probing, but it seems to indicate where the next stamp goes.
“I went to Korea once,” the girl tells us. “It was so clean. Well, I was just at the airport, actually…”
There’s a sign on the wall that says, “Happy New Year!” It’s July 13th. Even in Asia New Year was many, many months ago.
The old man is looking at me and smiling and I try desperately to avoid eyecontact. I fear that he suspects we are doing something wrong by marrying here. It seems that half the people married here are foreigners, but never do they have two foreigners marrying each other.
And then, suddenly, he’s done.
“You’re married,” the translator tells us as the old man smiles again. “Congratulations.”
We are, indeed, married. No grand ceremony, just the stamping of papers over talk of K-pop.
This is great. I yawn too when I get nervous and, sometimes, when it really gets bad I’ve been known to start sneezing.
That photo, though, couldn’t help but put a smile on my face. Congratulations and Happy New Year to both of you!
Cheers. I don’t know why it happens, but the annoying thing is that people begin to figure it out, and inevitably it comes to, “Hey, why so nervous?” Which, of course, makes it worse…
Well, you know. I can’t really imagine you doing it any other way. Thailand and K-Pop. It fits. Though I do have to admit I’m somewhat offended that I didn’t have the opportunity to regretfully decline an invitation to your Western wedding. Preferably in Scotland where people not only pronounce their Rs, but (mostly) correctly.
And that’s just compared to England.
I get the yawning, too. It’s a form of hyperventilation. My mom took me to the doctor for it when I was younger, thinking I had asthma. In addition to the yawning, I take a lot of sharp, quick breaths that sound like I’m being shocked or surprised every few minutes.
It only very rarely happens to me any more, but when it does, it’s always in times of excessive anxiety. Like, not scary enough for a panic attack, but too nervous for my body not to react.
And welcome to the nightmare and har har har and so on. 🙂
The Western ‘wedding’ was really just an excuse to put on a kilt. Both of us had always said we’d never get married, but then when it came down to it we realised we did want to get married, just without the wedding. Neither of us enjoy being the centre of attention particularly, and so we elected for signing the papers (which turned out to be thousands of papers over three or four days) and a garden party (which my mother gladly took charge of and turned into what basically amounted to a mini-wedding).
The language and pronunciation was, of course, a constant source of amusement and misunderstanding. Amy’s used to my accent, but when we headed up into the highlands… even I got lost sometimes.
From what little I’ve heard of your accent, it’s just barely audible.
There was some TNB video…anyway, you sounded all but American. And it’s those rhotic Rs.
To most Americans, the number one indicator that they’re talking to someone from another continent (or Boston) is the conspicuous absence of all R sounds following a vowel.
“Cah,” “runnah,” “evah,” etc.
I’ve mentioned this before.
I’m not great about being the center of attention, either. I’m certainly an introvert, and the pomp and circumstance of our traditional wedding left me utterly exhausted, both mentally and emotionally. Physically, it just left me with a hangover.
Unless one is REALLY an uber-social people person, weddings are essentially an exercise in masochism. And booze tolerance.
You’ve never heard me drunk… the accent comes out a bit then. And I suppose it comes out a bit when I’m in Scotland, trying to explain to the man at the museum that I’m a local and so I am eligible for a discount.
I had some marriage magic that prevented me from being hungover. I even woke up after my bachelor’s party without a hangover. Now that’s some crazy fucking shit right there.
Ah yes. In Hawaii it’s the “Kama’aina” (“child of the land”) discount, and we get it all over the islands.
My husband was born and grew up on the mainland and has a decidedly Minnesotan accent, but you can’t tell it by looking at him, and he does a really great impression of a native pidgin speaker.
In the UK that’s not really common, but in St. Andrews it’s the done thing. In fact, it’s probably the only place they could get away with it. Everywhere else it’s called discrimination. But in St. Andrews we’ve had American tourists for so long that it’s just “tradition” to let the locals on the golf courses and in the museums for cheap.
Is it OK to admit that I’m slightly disappointed? I expected an anecdote about some drunken debacle or an attempted shit-needling (which that kilt is primed for). Let’s face, it you do have a reputation to live up (down?) to.
But hey – mazel tov! Enjoy it! Maybe Amy can keep you out of trouble.
Well, the whole honeymoon thing lasted for about six weeks and here I just focused in on the two ‘wedding’ itself – the process of getting married. There was plenty time for shenanigans.
Actually, it was fairly tame by my standards. I did fall off a motorbike, and I did get stuck in a landslide… but none of these are actually as exciting or interesting as they sound. Marriage is keeping me well behaved.
WOW! So great. I’m glad you went traditional kilt with a side of K-Pop. It wouldn’t be right any other way.
You and my dog yawn when stressed. He yawns and yawns and yawns in the car. He yawns at the vet. You should have had him as your sidekick at your wedding; he would have at least comforted you in yawning companionship.
It’s cute when animals yawn. I’ve trained my cat, Berry, to yawn. It’s weird… If I make eye contact for a while and then open my mouth very slowly, she’ll yawn. It upsets her because she doesn’t know what’s happening.
I love the kilt! That’s you, right? (I’ve actually never seen a picture of you, besides your gravatar, which reveals nothing, but I always pictured you as a tall brunette.)
What a nutty tale.
Congratulations on your marriage, David! Sounds like the best is ahead of you.
Hmm… I’m only tall in Asia, unfortunately. Here I’m a freakin’ giant when I walk down the street, but back in Scotland I’m just another little short guy. And yes, I normally have brown hair but the day before getting married Amy and I got drunk and decided it would be funny if I bleached my hair. Cue the stories of ruined towels when I did the same thing as a teenager…
Amy is lovely. You look wonderful together. Congratulations!
Did your hair turn blond from nerves?
My hair actually used to be blond when I was a kid, and it still gets blonder and blonder with the sun… but unfortunately this was a case of getting drunk next door to a hairdresser.
That will change, now that you’re married!
An actor friend of mine just moved to Korea, where he’s been working nonstop. It’s kind of unbelievable. He couldn’t get arrested in the States, but he’s flying here and there all over Asia on modeling jobs, acting jobs, and so on. (He’s Caucasian.) He recommended that I move to Korea, telling me I, too, could get work there, which I very seriously doubt, but I thought of you immediately when he said that.
Funnily enough, even I’ve been asked to model. It doesn’t pay that great unless you get lucky, but caucasians can find that kind of work pretty easily. My friend got his first job yesterday in China – $500. He was just sitting in a bar and someone said, “You’re tall. How about you pose for my magazine?” There was even a big scandal a few years ago in Korea (or rather, non-Korean people considered it a scandal; Koreans didn’t care) because they had an advert featuring “black” people. Actually, the company had hired two white guys and blacked them up. They were too scared of genuine black people to hire them…
As much as I’d like to advise you against Korea, it would be interesting to hear your thoughts. And it would probably be a financially wise decision on your part.
Welcome to the club. Start making babies.
Fantastic. Seriously. Wish I was there for the reception. The Changs would have been on me.
Chang’s not a bad beer. I also quite liked Beerlao. Basically, any beer that comes in a giant bottle.
Shades of a young Billy Idol!
Having said that, I’m not sure how you should take it, much less how I intended it. Actually, it’s a compliment- ride it like a horse.
Congrats on the great news. The process of formalizing wedlock there is pretty forking different from the western rites, as you well know. I can’t believe they let you in there with your Sgian Dubh. Or is yours plastic?
I’m again fascinated by the cultural interplay you continue to witness over there- particularly the obsession with Korean culture. Is that sort of outlook widespread, or is that woman uniquely – fixated?
Well done, man. Best wishes to the both of you.
The kilt photo was taken in Scotland shortly after the wedding in Bangkok. I don’t think you’d be allowed on a plane with a Sgian Dubh these days.
The “Korean Wave” as they love to call it is actually pretty substantial for some disturbing reason. All it is, really, is Korean bastardisation of western culture, repackaged and sold to other Asian countries. The funny thing is that Korea hates other Asian countries. All they want are westerners to love their music and TV shows. But it’s only the Asian countries that have so far fallen for it.
Compliments on the attire. You two look lovely. Sorry for the belated congrats. I wish you all of what’s good and lovely about marriage and none of the bad. Any marriage that begins with a little K-Pop talk can only get better. Mwah!