Light at the end of the Tunnel

WEEK 5

Saturday, Sept. 19, 2009

The day started early, and with much on our plates.

am: Meet at headquarters. Flowers to be cut & prepped. Phoas go sailing.

noon: Thai food with the Phoas & Chongs

after lunch: completion of the bouquets

Mommy & Daddy go back to the shit-ting hole to ensure that our things are moved to the right room.

3:30 pm: mani/pedi

5 pm: shower for dinner

7 pm: Japanese food with the Phoas & Chongs

after dinner: last minute to dos

At least that was the plan.  It went more like this.

am: Met at headquarters. Roses were de-thorned, de-leafed, shortened & then fed. That took longer than expected. The Phoas & the Chongs didn’t go sailing.

1 pm: Thai food with some of the Phoas & Chongs was pushed back.  Thai food was edible but not palatable.

after lunch: Jee Ma, Ta Mai, cousin TT, my younger sister and I went back to headquarters to assemble the bouquets – 4 bridesmaids’ and the bride’s.  Cousin TT misses Toronto film fest to hang out with the girls and to be “abused” by us. Had trouble trying to figure out how to tie the bouquet and boutonnière.  But eventually managed it.

Bridesmaid's bouquet

Bridesmaid's bouquet

Mommy & Daddy went back to the shit-ting hole to ensure that our things were moved to the right room.

Cheh & Unc. D went to Budget to add him to the car so that on the day of, Unc. D can be the chauffeur of the day – at least for the Phoas and the Chongs.

4:30 pm: mani/pedi was rescheduled.  The sisters had a great time and spoke about the possibility of a wedding next year… First, we have to find a willing man.

My mani wasn’t that good.  I had bubbles like the surface of the moon on my fingernails and they had to fix it.  Of course we were running late for dinner. After my sisters stopped a taxi, I ran out of the salon with tissue paper still wedged between my toes.

We hurried back to headquarters only to discover that the entire clan was missing. Fortunately, we called the shit-ting hole only to find that my parents never left the room since the move. We ran down to the garage, tissue paper from my left foot unraveling, and pulled the white beast off the lot to fetch my parents.

No shower. We were late.

7:30 pm: Japanese food with the Phoas & Chongs on Adelaide E Street: Jee Mai, Unc. D & the girls – cousin I & M • Ta Mai • Unc. Tak, Auntie LK & one son – cousin K (the other was left behind in Edmonton as Uni was starting on Monday) • the Chongs • cousin MK & cousin TT

By the time we got there, we were terribly late and the remaining tissue paper on my right foot finally fell apart in front of the restaurant. Humiliated and tardy we strolled in and sat on the tatami.

Dinner @ Nami with the Phoas & the Chongs

Dinner @ Nami with the Phoas & the Chongs

after dinner: We headed back to headquarters. Mommy ironed the wedding gown, while Ta Mai helped with the extra long gown. Daddy worked on the double happiness candle wrap. I worked on the reception desk’s flower arrangement. Cousin MK & TT worked on the seating chart. Unc. D and cheh worked on the chauffeuring logistics. We all had our work cut out for us.

We were about to leave at 1:30 am when my younger sister realized that my father didn’t fold the golden cranes yet.  Tired and exhausted, we stumbled back into the shit-ting hole at 2 am.

Sunday, Sept. 20, 2009 – 20092009: D-DAY

First order of business: our FREE breakfast from the hotel.  Can’t go wrong with that.  Except that we were snubbed by the wait staff. In case you’re wondering about the name of the hotel, it’s Paris H’s namesake.  There.  I’ve said it.

My parents went ahead of us, as we were prepping to go out right after breakfast.  When we bumped into them at the restaurant, they were on their way out, but swiping coffee and Tazo tea bags (by the paperbag-full).  I say, GOOD FOR THEM!

Then cheh and I ran off to Chinatown on Spadina Street to find a hairdresser.  We struck gold with the first salon we walked into. However, we had to search for little clips and pins for our curls.  We walked from one end of Chinatown to the other end hunting for blings.  Nope.  Nothing. Nada. No cute clips. We forced ourselves to settle on crappy black pins.  When the store owner rang us up, he asked us if we wanted a plastic bag. Of course we did.  Trick question.  He said, “That would be 5¢.” We looked at each other in horror.  5¢?! I won’t even pay 1¢ for it.  We said, “NO!” in unison. We walked out the store, still hoping that we could find the elusive pin.

We finally decided to ASK if there were hair accessories stores around. In a “normal” Chinatown, these stalls are lined up from one end of the street to the other. Sadly, we found out too late that this was the “old” Chinatown. Everything else moved to a suburb, Markham. We were finally directed to a mall where we found our clips!

Off to the salon we went. Hair washed, dried, curled and set for $27.  Can’t go wrong. An hour later, we were all done up, but still in Chinatown.  We dashed back to the hotel to shower, but first we had to protect our freshly curled hair.  Most hotels offer shower caps without even being told to.  We actually had to ask for it, not once, not twice, but four times. Never mind that we looked like grannies after that.

Got dressed and make-up done in an hour, with only one bathroom.

Unc. D was waiting for us when we came out of the hotel.  Family. Can’t beat that.

Arrived back at headquarters, and my younger sister was getting her make-up done.  We were just sweating it out. (How does it go from 50-80º in 2 seconds?) Then the rest of the family started rolling in.

Makeup is done on the bride

Makeup is done on the bride

The first batch of the family packed into the limo heading towards THE location. The Chongs, Jee Mai, Ta Mai, cousin TT & MK, and one more bridesmaid were the first to arrive.  During the ride, we were assigned duties, some were told just minutes before reaching the destination. I found out I had to decorate the cake, besides making sure that everything was in order and guarding the boudoir with my life.

In four days, I acquired new skills.  I am a florist, cake decorator, events manager and a security guard. I can probably open shop after this. First victim – cousin TT.

While the cousins and aunts put up the center pieces on the tables and decorated the hall, the sisters dressed the bride. Daddy hung the Chinese lanterns in the front entrance of the manor and pine cone balls in the garden, which he made since the day they arrived in the US.

After that, cheh and I headed downstairs to assist in the set up/decoration of the dining area and went looking for the cake to be decorated. Knowing what the roses went through (it went from the bathtub, to the kitchen sink, my hands, my aunts’ hands, back into a pail filled with plant food and back into my hands again), I swore I would not eat the cake. Unfortunately for me though, my mom decided to pack a HUGE piece of cake back from Toronto to NJ (where it’s sitting in the fridge now).

The Cake decorated by yours truly

The Cake decorated by yours truly. Photo courtesy of JLim

Then the ceremony started. It was a beautiful garden wedding and even the weather was cooperating, since the bridesmaids wore next to nothing. We were all clad in burgundy dresses, some just barer than others. Under my ultra long skirt, I had sparkle-ly gold a-go-go platform shoes that gave me my much needed height.  The rest had muted khaki stilettos on. Yes, beauty knows no pain or cold weather.

The bridesmaids courtesy of JLim

The bridesmaids.  Photo courtesy of JLim

Then my parents walked down the aisle with my sister. As they were “giving” her away, my mother started crying. Having the front row seat, I saw it all and that got my tear ducts rolling. Then TnT said their vows and the groom started weeping.  Each and everyone of the bridesmaid, having witness this, began bawling too.

Mommy, daddy and the bride

Mommy, daddy and the bride

The traditional Chinese tea ceremony took place right after the reception. This is where the bride and groom “earn” their keep.  And I think they definitely did. My younger sister got pearl necklace and earrings from her older sisters and brother-in-law, AND ang pows (red packets). My parents too gave the newlyweds jewelry and money.  The rest of the relatives gave them fat ang pows.

The hired photographer just stood around, not knowing what to do since no one was posing for the imbecile.

Jee Mai and Unc. D during the tea ceremony

Jee Mai and Unc. D during the tea ceremony

Schedule was tight, and we still had photos to take before dinner and before sundown. As the temperature slowly dipped, the wedding party took multiple but same pictures.  By the end of the photo session, we were all hungry and definitely frozen.

The Chongs. Photo courtesy of JLim

The Chongs. Photo courtesy of JLim

The first course was broccoli rabe in fusili pasta and baked tomatoes. The vegetable was very bitter and the pasta had no taste.

Main course. Most of them seated on our table ordered the grilled sea bass.  It was ok. Cheh got an ultra fishy one.  But the balsamic vinaigrette on the salad and red peppers was acrid.

Dessert was a plum pastry with a scoop of ice cream. Ice cream was good.  Can’t go wrong there.  The plums on the pastry were tart to a fault. It is worse than eating dried sour plums. Even the ice cream couldn’t help the plums. It just stung.

Before the main course, Cheh and I gave our speeches/performance.

My speech:

All these years, you have always been the apple of my eye. I will do everything and anything for you. (I choked up and started crying. Useless I tell you)

I became plump because you could never finish your own food – least you got scolding from mommy
I braved the darkness (even though I were equally or more frightened) to go upstairs with you
I looked a fright in school because I spent more time primping you instead of myself
I broke my nose because I wanted to go to the doctor’s with you
I have a zillion songs on my iTunes because I never know which ones you would want

My role as her protector will never cease.  But, it will now be shared with you.

Promise that you will finish her unwanted food (which is very unlikely these day) and gain a few pounds in the process
Promise that you will brave the night OR the shopping mall so that she can have what she wants
Promise that you will look a mess so that she can look her best
Promise that you will break something just to be with her
Promise that you will download – legally or illegally – all the songs that her heart desires
Promise that you will love her even more than I can and ever will.

Finally, promise that you will embarass yourself just so she knows how much you really care

With this, we sung 愛很簡單 by DT.  I missed a few chords on the guitar and couldn’t remember the harmony.  But the bride was crying.  Good? or Bad?

Ingrid Michaelson’s “The Way I Am” was supposed to follow the Chinese song. But I opted not to do to it.  Too chicken.

Then it came time for my father’s speech. I can’t quite remember the exact words to it, but it was powerful and on point.  In it, he thank my mom for raising three girls with him – not an easy feat. He went on to say that he wasn’t well-versed in the English language, but proceeded to quote Rudyard Kipling, “East is east, and west is west, and never the twain shall meet.” The meeting and union of TnT was a fusion of east and west and most importantly, 緣份 yuan fen – fate or a chance meeting that brings people together, a predestined relationship.

He then bestowed three wishes upon them:

1. 早生贵子 – zao sheng gui zi: to give life to a precious newborn

2. 白頭諧老 – bai tou xie lao: to grow old together till the whites of the hair shows

3. 步步高陞 – bu bu gao sheng: to rise steadily up in one’s career

In a room full of native English speakers, scattered with bilinguals and trilinguals, he blew everyone away with his eloquence and deft intertwining of two different cultures and languages. The speech ended with a rousing standing ovation. Keep in mind, the speech was ad libbed.

After all the speeches were given by the Chongs, we had people from both sides of the family approaching us, telling us that we sure know how to make them cry.  Mission accomplished.

The Chinese friends and family even came together to do a traditional “YUM SENG!” in three rapid successions. When the final “Yum Seng!” was roared, even the Donnelly friends and family were joining in the cheer.

More pictures from the wedding – Courtesy of NTeh

When the bride and groom took a breather up in the boudoir, I gave them additional gifts: the KidRobot Munny pair and a scrapbook photo album of their courting.

The Opposites

The Opposites

The night didn’t end there.  The after party brought everyone, including my reserved dad, Ta Mai, cousin TT and K onto the dance floor.  We danced a little, but mainly did the cleanup and packing of everything in the boudoir.  What a day!  Another late night out with the family without the hubs.

Monday, Sept. 21, 2009

As of today, I have officially not spoken to hubs for 4 days straight. But he knew the schedule that we were keeping. We were drained. So when he finally got a hold of me early in the morning, I was surprised. Surprised that he was even up so early and that he even called seeing as how we were heading back the next day.

Today’s agenda? Final meeting with the relatives for dim sum in Chinatown before we went our separate ways the following day. Some of my cousins took the early flight out to get back to work and recuperate for Tuesday.  We met Unc. Tak at our hotel and together, we walked to Chinatown.

There, we bought longan, dragon eyes, for 88¢/lb. I thought the lady was going to ask me if I wanted plastic bags for an extra 5¢.  If she did, I would have told her to put it in our hands and carry it off like that. It was just as well she didn’t. Anyway, Cheh and I wanted to get the longans for the family on Sunday, but seeing as how we had no time, we got them on Monday instead.

Dim sum was for 15 people, including the official couple. Cheh and I overestimated their portions and ordered entirely too much food. So much so, that when the final dish was served, they were all groaning.  I have never seen the Phoas reject food before. An honest mistake that became a GOOD mistake. We were supposed to have dinner at an Italian restaurant but that was canceled. Instead we had leftover dim sum for dinner at headquarters.  That was good, as it gave everyone a chance to relax and not overeat for once.

My problem wasn’t overeating. My problem was, where there is input, there has to be output.  And I definitely wanted to return to the shit-ting hole after lunch, to use it for its EXACT purpose. Of course, we had errands to run before heading back there. The entire entourage left for headquarters. Only Cheh and I lingered around Chinatown to shop for MORE food for the travel back to Joisey.  Even though we were, technically, sate, and I needed to use the toilet, we were craving bubble tea. We kept telling each other there was another tea shop closer to the end of Chinatown and closer to our hotel. Of course, that wasn’t the case. When we were finally ready to make our purchase, there was no bubble tea to be found. It also began to rain. Never mind that I REALLY needed to go to the toilet then.

So, we ran, in the rain, back to the hotel, without our bubble tea, but with enough pastries to feed a battalion of army. I have never been happier seeing a CLEAN toilet in my life.

After that, Cheh wanted to go to Eaton Center – by a free shuttle. We ended up walking there. What a waste of time and energy.  It is absolutely impossible to shop for anything in Canada. Even the things on sale were above $150. Daylight robbery. No wonder people come into the US just to shop. I would too.

Since we couldn’t buy anything, we decided that we could at least “splurge” on finding bubble tea in the mall – you know they will drain your blood on this one. After scouring the mall for bubble tea, we were only too happy to find one. We ordered lychee bubble tea and a berry concoction. Then we were served our drinks – minus the bubbles. Lychee Bubble Tea without bubbles. So why is it called Lychee BUBBLE tea?! It should just be lychee syrup. If we were only a little sterner on ourselves, we would have stood there and argued it out with that dude. However, we were tired and our spirits were dejected. All we wanted were bubbles. We swallowed our diminishing pride and paid the extra 50¢ for bubbles in our Bubble tea. Suckers.

Then we left the mall to catch the free but elusive shuttle back to headquarters. It never came. But we saw Hard Rock. We dashed across the street like it was our grandfather’s road and quickly made our purchases. After waiting for the shuttle for another 20 minutes, we realized that we totally missed the shuttle’s route. We hailed a cab. So much for FREE transportation.

Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2009

Shit-ting hole gave us a wake up call at 5 am. That was the start of our arduous trek back to Joisey.  We have never been this tired. Four consecutive days of late night and over time finally took a toll on us. Instead of the 10 hours that we took to get to Toronto, the return trip was very much expedited. It took us 9 hours, even though it was raining and our concentration was waning.

Before we left Toronto, we had to make a stop back at headquarters, because someone accidentally packed wedding gifts with us. Nothing important – just two cans of wild rice soup, a wooden dead duck and a cheap bottle of wine. But that was the first time that we actually saw CN Tower – 5 days later.

The first comment that I got when I reached home was, “Wow! You are a mess.”  Basket.

Jessie gave me a warmer welcome.

Wednesday, Sept. 23 – Friday, Sept. 25, 2009

Hardest three days back at work.  Could not keep my eyes opened.  Friday couldn’t have come sooner.

When Friday rolled around, I suddenly found all my energy back again.  Ah!  The weekend sounds like heaven.

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