说吧，说我愿意！ Just Say "1)Ja"
A fair amount of pressure accompanies the statement, “I’m looking forward to the best day of my life.” When the day in question is one’s wedding day, the pressure gets 2)ratcheted up even higher. And, there’s the unfortunate fact that such a positive, hopeful statement is occasionally met with cynical suspicion. It’s as if “I’m looking forward to the best day of my life” flies right off the 3)cliche-o-meter.
Already a light mist of suspicion had accumulated around my fiancee and myself, due to her immigrant status. But I was NOT indulging in sarcasm and the implication that we were getting married for anything but the purest reasons was 4)downright insulting. If my sincere, hopeful utterances did not convince everyone, it simply didn’t matter. I was too busy being the 5)giddy American guy, heading over to Austria, to the scenic 6)Tyrolean Alps, to marry a funny little Thai woman named Toi.
Western Austria is quite possibly the loveliest place on Earth. And the 7)chapel in which I was to be married was prominently pictured on postcards.
Despite the 8)idyllic setting, to hint that this wedding was to be dictated by tradition would be wholly inaccurate. Toi grew up in both Thailand and Austria and has a Swiss-born but Austrian-citizen father, and a Thai mother. Meanwhile, my mother is 9)as American as apple pie. Before we’d really thought of ours as an “international wedding,” we had a house full of Austrian, Swiss, Thai, and American people, eating dinner and attempting to find common ground. Extraordinary Thai dinners and numerous bottles of Austrian white wine went a long way toward bringing the cultures together, but as expected, the real connection was the English language. Europeans and Asians will 10)coyly apologize for their “bad” English (which is, of course, much better than our 11)butchering of their respective languages), but I suspect that, deep down, they really, truly are laughing at the rather 12)cute linguistic 13)ineptitude of their American counterparts.
Our wedding service was to be bilingual, with a Catholic priest performing the service in German, and a 14)Lutheran pastor doing the English honors. The chapel itself, hundreds of years old, was tiny. It was formal, yet inviting, and in it we found a 15)quartet waiting for the correct moment to transform the chilly chapel into a miniature classical concert.
Somehow I had been made to believe that I would be saying my wedding vows in German. So, as the priest sped through the readings in German, I found myself attempting to play back his last six to eight words and subsequently say them, with correct pronunciation, in my head. By the time I realized he was as lost as I was (he was following the “English” 16)protocol from a 17)pamphlet), it was time to answer a few quick questions, of which I remember exactly one. Stumbling over his English, the priest became slightly frustrated while attempting to ask a question about how we’d raise any future children. I waited. Finally, uttered more as a statement than a question, he blurted out, “18)Kinder?” (“Children?”) Not understanding exactly how to respond, I hesitated.
“Just say ‘Ja’!” he commanded.
The audience erupted with laughter. So I did it. I just smiled and said it: “Ja.”
Afterwards, our wedding service was euphemistically described as “entertaining” and “interesting,” which, I suppose, is a lot better than simply “nice” or, 19)heaven forbid, “boring.” To further 20)muddy things up, internationally speaking, I sang Stand By Me to my new bride at the reception, and followed it by butchering the 21)venerable tradition of the Austrian waltz.
It wasn’t until later that the unintentional wisdom of “Just say ‘Ja’!” really dawned on me. Here we were, a 22)motley mix of American, Thai, Austrian and Swiss people. It didn’t matter whether or not we spoke certain languages. We got through the service with a mixture of respect and curiosity, and we’d get through the reception the same way. We were a newly created community whose 23)solidarity had been 24)engendered by the most basic, most universal language: love.
Together we had dined, conversed, taken pictures, given gifts, experienced, learned, laughed, and, for some, even cried. We had just said “Yes” to sharing our lives and our families with each other, and we had survived it all in a multicultural environment. We were a world, 25)albeit temporary, without politics or religious 26)grievances. Love had linked more than the bride and groom; it had linked cultures, it had linked worlds. The best day of my entire life? Ja. A wedding day that can, in a small but powerful way, represent a model for humanity? Please, please! Just say “Ja!”