Les Mean Girls

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Les Mean Girls

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Getting married in Mexico is complicated-the long version. Day 3: Getting married!

I slept surprisingly well and woke up pretty much ready for the day.  I took a nice long shower and got dressed, and was tidying up a bit when something caught my eye near the door.  Coming closer to examine a dark smudge, I found this:

And this:

The front desk seemed unconcerned about the “insectos en mi habitacion,” but when I showed them the pictures they decided it was worthy of immediate attention.

Mom, Marianne, Jayme and I went in to Bacalar at 8 to pick up some flowers for the tables and a few extra decorations for the photobooth.  We found some pinatas, but unfortunately we had to give up on sombreros and sarapes.

The final, final, official documents arrived at approximately 9:00 am.  Simon et al. arrived sometime around then and as guests began to arrive in earnest, we started getting ready for the big event.

Malia helped me fold programs, and I gave Simon’s sisters their silly sombrero fascinators. Of course, I forgot to give them the nice corsages I’d had made for them and also forgot to give them the programs ahead of time.  Ah, well.  I started trying to decorate the ceremony site; fortunately Walter, Malia, Sarah, Louisa, Katie, Serena and lots of others got involved immediately and made the place look nice.

All of the running around, greeting people, decorating, and generally freaking out makes a person awfully hot and sweaty.  Lucky for me, there was a large lake nearby to solve this problem.

When I got back to my room to start getting ready, the termite infestation had been reduced quite a bit.

Somehow Simon and I were back in the room at noon, and managed to see 12/12/12 12:12:12 together.  We commemorated it with a kiss, then I kicked him out.

The rest of the day was a bit of a blur for me, but a few things stuck out in my mind.  The first is that my bridesmaids were awesome.  I was in all of their weddings, and I’m fairly sure I was completely useless to them, but they were all amazingly helpful and calming presences.   From hairdo rescues to lipstick freshenups, they were exactly what I needed. My brother and brothers in law were sort of the silent heros of the gig, and made it possible for my sisters to take part by taking care of the kids and being generally great guys.  Simon’s sisters were also really helpful and game for just about anything.  They traveled the furthest (30 hours for Sarah) and missed finals (Serena) to be with us, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have such wonderful sisters in law.

The last thing I’ll remark upon, because I won’t talk too much about the wedding itself, is that when we were all gathered together just before the procession started, it hit me.  All of the months of planning, worrying, stressing out, and translation nightmares had culminated in this moment.  Everybody was actually there, and our crazy idea had actually worked.  The bridesmaid dresses really did look great on all of them, my mom looked gorgeous, and the flower girls were The. Cutest. Thing. Ever.  I almost lost it when I saw them.  And Jackson took his ring bearing duties so seriously that I worried he wasn’t having fun (he told me a few days later that he wished it was still the wedding, which made my week). The bagpipes started playing right on time, and we were ready.  The ceremony was beautiful and the rain held off until an hour after the reception started.  Getting married in Mexico was complicated, but it was totally worth it.

Getting married in Mexico is complicated-the long version. Day 2.

We felt pretty good at the end of the first day, and got a little overconfident about the pace we could set on Day 2.  After all, we only had to drop off the translations, grab the finalized documents from the Civil Registry (8:30 am), and meet with the judge (5:00 pm).  We made tentative plans to travel back to Majahual to see our families for lunch, pick up the best man and the photographer, and be back at the hotel by 3:00 pm for a quick rehearsal.  I was pretty excited.

The beginning of the day should have been an indication of the way the rest of it would go. We were up early in order to meet Elizabeth by 8:00. Simon went out to order breakfast at 7:30, and I started getting ready.  It was right when I was completely undressed that I heard it: running water.  Horrified, I looked toward the bathroom and saw a mass of water flowing down the stairs and straight for the hem of my wedding dress, both of our suitcases, and a variety of scattered clothing, speaker equipment, and wedding decorations on the floor.  Working quickly, I moved as much stuff onto the beds as I could while throwing all of our towels on the water.  This left no time to find any clothing to put on myself, as every time I dashed towards my suitcase (now buried under everything we owned), I would notice something else in the path of the flood.  I finally threw a chemise over my head and ran out the door to find Simon.  Not wanting to shout “the toilet is overflowing!” across the entire hotel, and also not keen to run across the pool deck and into the restaurant in my nightgown, I struggled in vain to mime “I need help!” using large hand gestures from about 100 feet away.  Simon continued to talk to Armando while giving me quizzical eyebrows.  I finally gave up and yelled “COME HERE PLEASE!”  After becoming fully aware of the situation, Simon went to the front desk and told them “we have a flood in our room.”  Fortunately, Armando was able to talk to them in more detail and I managed to get dressed and eat so we could take care of the last of the paperwork.

Sign of things to come?

During breakfast, we were told that Mexican wedding ceremonies last at least an hour.  This was news to us, as we had read that all Mexican ceremonies have to be secular and fall under strict guidelines.  In fact, we had been planning to have Simon’s sisters speak for a bit of filler so that our guests would feel they got their money’s worth.  An hour standing outside in the Mexican sun!  There were going to be some angry kids, and lots of gringos falling out all over the place.  We decided we needed some parasols and/or fans.

On the way into Bacalar, we were given our medical records: clean bills of health for both us.  But, when we arrived at the Civil Registry office, we got some bad news.  One of the forms we had filled out prior to arriving in Mexico, a form that had the names, addresses, occupations, and dates AND places of birth of us, our parents, and all four witnesses was not acceptable and had to be completely redone.  We settled in at a local cafe so that Elizabeth could begin the painstaking process.  I went for a quick wander to look at flowers, and the form was finally completed by around 10 am.  It was then back to the Civil Registry to make sure the paper was in order.  We meet up again with the Stern Lady, who suddenly became extremely sweet and asked us if she could have a photo of us for their wall.  She explained that we were the first foreigners to get married there, and so they were learning what to do along with us.  She apologized for any confusion.  We then had to pay somebody, presumably for the license, which took another hour to complete.  At this point we realized our dreams of meeting up with our families in Majahual were not going to happen.  After all of this was done, we were walking back to the car when Elizabeth told us that our birth certificates “live in Bacalar from now on.”  We stopped walking.  After some flabbergasted conversation, we realized that she meant that our translated birth certificates would be filed and stay at the Registry office in Bacalar.  We started walking again.

Lab results

Local flower arrangements

When we arrived back at the hotel, we were pleased to find that our room was dry and clean, and that the maid staff had even put a few romantic touches on the place (which also meant two extra towels!).

We then coordinated with my mom, Will, and Alex so that they could get to the hotel by 3:00 to do a quick rehearsal.  Since we had a couple of hours to kill, we decided to make a quick rum run to the Free Zone between Mexico and Belize.  We wanted a few bottles of One Barrel for the reception, and they only sell the stuff in Belize.  We also thought we could pick up fans/parasols and some more decorations for the photobooth.  This was an unmitigated disaster.  It’s a long story, but we ended up paying a guy to get us out of there (and to get us some extremely overpriced One Barrel) because 1) we neglected to go through immigration, 2) none of the shops in the Free Zone sold One Barrel and the guy went into Belize to get it, and 3) Simon didn’t have his exit visa on him.  Simon threatened to stay in Belize because he seemed to think that it was all my fault.  I fed him some plantain chips and a coke and he agreed to come back to Mexico, but still contends that it was all my fault.  At least we had some rum to show for it.

We arrived back at the hotel just in time to meet with the gang, and then a surprise group of visitors arrived: all of my siblings and their kids!  They had gone to a ruin and decided to stop by on their way back.  While in the jungle they were caught in a deluge, so everyone was a bit soggy.  We got in a quick practice, made some tactical decisions, and Alex figured out his camera placement setup.

The judge arrived shortly afterwards, and was just a really lovely man.  He and his translator showed us the written ceremony, which turned out to be exactly what we had hoped for.  It was thoughtful and sweet, with just enough American/English touches to make it recognizable as a wedding.  When I asked how long the ceremony would take, he responded, “10 or 15 minutes.”  We breathed a giant sigh of relief.  Simon and I thanked him profusely, and he said that he only requested that we come back in five years to renew our vows.  Finally, something was going right.

And then, Stern Lady showed up. And she was stern again.  There were several spelling mistakes on the translated documents (my name was spelled Ivi, and they got Simon’s last name wrong again among other things).  These issues seemed to be fixable, until we got to my place of birth.  On one form it said I was born in Dubach, Louisiana, but on another it was listed as Ruston.  This was not good.  This was bad.  Es terrible, no es posible.  Cannot fix it, it is on the birth certificate, we do not know what to do.  The wedding is tomorrow and the forms need to be finalized tonight.  By this point we had quite a crowd, and my brother, who was thoroughly amused by the pronunciation of our hometown (Rrrrroostone), was obliged to tell the story about how I was born in a car in Dubach, but brought in to the hospital in Ruston post-delivery.  They did not seem amused.  After a few more minutes and explanation, Stern Lady said “Ruston esta cerca de Dubach? Ah, ok!” Once they realized that Ruston and Dubach were neighboring towns in the same state, we got the final Si on the Mexican No No Si dance.

It looked like we were actually going to get married.  Simon headed back to Majahual to spend the evening with his family, and Mom, Marianne, and Jayme stayed at Bacalar with me.  Malia and Walter arrived, along with a few extras and we settled in for a nice night on the lagoon.

Up next: The wedding day (in case you forgot Mexicans take weddings seriously, you will be fingerprinted. During the ceremony)

Low effort toddler games

This is going in my “Aunt Ivy” arsenal.

1. Do You Like My Hat?

Oh, my God, I can’t believe I’m even telling you this one. I can’t. It’s so easy. Just put something on your head which is not normally found on heads. A book. A sweater. A piece of toast. Then say, super proudly, “do you like my hat?” And the toddler will WIG OUT. The first thing babies learn after coming into the world, apparently, is that things do not go on heads. After they yank it off your head, put it back on, or put a new object back on your head, and say EVEN MORE PROUDLY: “Do you like my hat?” Repeat.

2. Imma Push You

This one was inspired by the comedian John Mulaney. It’s probably better not to explain the provenance to your sister, but you can watch the routine here (NSFW). At any rate, this one is dead easy: you’re sitting, type-type-typing, the toddler stands in front of you, you say (in a fake-threatening voice): “IMMA PUSH YOU.” Then you take the flat of your hand, and you place your hand on their chest, and you knock them over. They love it! They giggle hysterically. Repeat until they throw up from joy, then pass them back to mom.

The rest are at The Hairpin

Getting married in Mexico is complicated-the long version. Day 1.

My secret ambition is to become a travel writer, so a few years ago I started keeping a small notebook on me at all times to jot down quick notes.  I like the little moleskine mini notebooks- they are small (about the size of my smartphone) and easy to carry in any little bag.  When we traveled somewhere new, or at least new for me, my goal was to keep a daily log of my impressions and funny things that happened.  Generally, I was really good about doing this for about 4 days, then would inevitably forget/get lazy and stop writing. Which is a shame because going back through my few days of notes a year or two later inevitably makes me giggle and remember events that I otherwise would have forgotten about (amusing taxi drivers, ways to remember our street name, etc).

During the wedding/honeymoon I redoubled my resolve and am proud to say that I kept up with my journal entries for the entire trip, with only a few days off due to exhaustion or lack of time (first links can be found here).  Because of that, I hopefully will remember most of the craziness that was involved with getting hitched in Bacalar, Mexico.

I underestimated the amount of stress involved with coordinating the movements roughly 70 people in a strange country, especially when our accommodations were well out of cell phone range.  Saturday and Sunday were chaotic, and our families all met each other right around the time that Simon and I really needed to leave (which is to say, at 9 pm on Sunday).  I said hi and bye, and we dragged ourselves south to The Hotel Laguna Bacalar. Fortunately, Alex had his camera and I was able to live vicariously though his pictures of everyones’ interactions.

Monday, December 10th.

We met with Elizabeth (the wedding coordinator) at 7 am, and drove into Bacalar to start all of the official necessities. At 7:30 we had our blood drawn at the health department.  This was the first time we would encounter what we came to call the Mexican “no, no, si” dance, or more accurately “no, no, no, welllllllll… ok.”  Firstly, the Mexican government takes marriage very, very seriously.  There are no cutting corners, and all of the paperwork has to be submitted and filed in a very specific manner, with very specific people and timelines.  But!  When you get to the office or the person or the place where these specific things need to be done, they will inevitably tell you that whatever you are asking for is impossible.  There will be much shaking of heads and frowning and looking at watches.  After a second “no, no es posible,” and a few more rounds of frowning and generally negative feedback, their resolve will start to falter, and then, finally, the person will give in and give you whatever it is you needed in a timely fashion.  

After our blood was drawn, the lab technician told us to come back for the results on Wednesday morning; there was no way to get the results before Wednesday.  But of course we were getting married on Wednesday and all of the paperwork needed to be done by then.  Elizabeth explained this, they talked for a bit, and then the lady said, “ok, come back at noon.”

At 8:30 am we had an appointment at the Registro Municipal Matrimonio, with a woman we called Stern Lady, who must have been the clerk of courts or something similar.  She wore red lipstick, lots of torquoise jewelry, and frowned a lot.  There was quite a bit of copying and very serious conversation about our documents.  Simon’s second middle name would prove to be one of the more confusing aspects of our documents for the Mexican officials; they really wanted him to be Simon John Brackley-Gulak.  We were eventually told that our (Apostilled) birth certificates had to be officially translated, and that there was only one translator in all of Chetumal that could do the translation.  So, after breakfast we picked up Martha (the hotel manager) and Lulu (masseuse-cum-translator), and drove to Chetumal to “look at the cake” and find the translator for the documents.

Elizabeth and Martha

Around 10:30 we arrived at the pasteleria, and it was at this point I realized that they were expecting us to pick out a cake- not look at one that had already been ordered.  You should imagine a giant folder full of pictures of exactly what you would expect most Mexican wedding cakes to look like- giant, tiered, and amazingly tacky.  I started to hyperventilate a little, but with some help from the ladies we managed to order a sheet cake with a simple flower in the middle.  We were still hoping that the cake would be tres leches, but they were hesitant to do this because they said it would spoil.  They were also not terribly pleased about the timeline- December 12th is a major religious holiday celebrating the virgen de guadalupe in Mexico, involving lots of pilgrimages between churches.  We encountered these pilgrimages at all hours on the roads and highways-people on bikes, joggers, groups of joggers followed by trucks full of relief pilgrims.

But, back to the task at hand.  The oddest thing about the cake shop was that all of the bride and groom cake toppers had blonde hair and blue eyes.  Anyhow, the cake ordered and paid for, we set off to find the translator.  An hour later, we finally located the office and found that, of course, nobody was there.  After much cell phone use, writing of notes, and texting, it was decided that we would kill some time at the local shopping mall.  Simon and I wanted to try to find some candies for favors, get some cash out, etc. and the ladies were keen to find some handbags.

At 2:30, having made contact with the translator, we drove back to the her now occupied office.  This lady took one look at our birth certificates, looked at her watch, frowned and said that all of the offices were closed and there was no way for her to get all of the necessary things that needed to be done.  No way.  Absolutely not.  She continued to flip through our paperwork, look at her watch, and shake her head.  Nope, the offices aren’t open.  Not possible.  More flipping through paperwork, more watch-looking, and then “well, these aren’t terribly complicated.”  Flipping of papers, looking at watch, frowning.  “Ok, come back at 4:30.”

On the drive back, Elizabeth said, “Ivy (pronounced eevee). Estas cansada (are you tired)?”  I said, “si, un poco.”  “From the stress?”  I laughed, “si!”  Elizabeth: “me too.”

We were too late to pick up the medical results, so Elizabeth sent somebody from the hotel to get them for us.  Let me repeat, some guy who we’ve never seen went to the medical offices and picked up a manilla folder containing the certificates with our names, addresses, blood types, and HIV and hepatitis results on them.

Having made great strides that day, we headed back to Bacalar to drop off the ladies and pick up Stix and Ilona, the lone Brits in town.  We swung back into Chetumal for what we hoped would be a straight forward hand off of our translated birth certificates.  There was a bit of a delay as expected, but the translator did finally produce beautifully sealed and very proper documents.  We headed to the bayfront for a sundowner and a ceviche.  Our day successfully completed, we retired to the pool side bar at our hotel for a few beers and good company.

Up next, Day 2: revenge of the misspellings.

Marriage

So far the worst thing about marriage is other married people.  Actually, it’s only married men, when they are not in the presence of their wives.  If we have any sort of argument in front of married men, we get “Oh, watch out! You’re really married now!”  Or “Hoooo boy! Welcome to married life! Just say yes to whatever she says!”  It’s like they’re gleeful that someone else has been duped into their club.

One of my male coworkers recently asked when I was changing my name on Facebook. I told him that I wasn’t legally changing my name, but he could call me whatever he liked. Now he calls me Mrs. Gulak behind my back, then pretends to be in trouble when I overhear him.

So far the best thing about marriage is that people keep giving us cash.