Thursday, May 27, 2010

Two for the Challenge

Once more dear friends, into the breech we go. Time for Mama Kat's Writer's Challenge. This week I am tempted by prompts 1 and 2 - to wit:

1.) Describe a time when you had difficulty communicating with someone who speaks a different language than you. (inspired by Jen from Hamster Central)
2.) If you could do your wedding over, how would you do it? (Inspired by this tweet “I am watching TLC’s wedding shows and this makes me want to get married again. Same groom but a totally different ceremony.” by Jen@BuriedWithKids)

#1 - I was designated to give a presentation to a visiting team of Korean executives. They were all high muckety mucks and I was the designated expert in the topic area. Nothing too out of the ordinary.

But then corporate began to get worried. So we got a crash course in doing all the right things in the visitors culture. Things like always presenting your business card facing them so they could read it (a sign of respect), etc. Accept the gift they will present to you in appreciation for your time, let corporate deal with the ethical issues after the visitors have gone, etc. What no one thought through was that the visitors would have almost zero knowledge of the English language. Couple that lack with the fact that my talk was on computer and network security, a technical area full of jargon and engineering acronyms, and I'm sure you can see a disaster looming on the horizon.

Sure enough, the visitors arrived at our site in the middle of nowhere, clearly a high up executive team. I have never seen so many $2000 suits in one room in my life. Of course I am in khaki's and a short sleeved shirt. Really impressive.

Fortunately, there is a junior gofer with the visiting team who can manage a little pidgin English who will attempt to translate my talk for the suits. Since I have a white board plus diagrams, the talk gets started. And then immediately side-tracked. Turns out that, at that point in time, the cultural moires in Korea left the executives unable to fathom the idea that someone might attempt to use a resource they were not authorized for. In particular, the mainframe system running their multi-billion dollar company had no password. Only those who should be using it would dare to try, no need for user ids or passwords. Once I got my jaw off the floor and managed to pantomime "bad guy" and "unauthorized access", we were ready to continue.

When I got to the concept of outward facing systems and the "no man's land" between them and internal systems, communication came to a stand-still. I could not seem to convey the idea of "no man's land" in any way shape, or form. Finally in a fit of desperation, I called it the De-Militarized Zone (DMZ). The entire visiting team had light bulbs go over their heads - they all knew very well about DMZ given the division between North and South Korea.

I'm not sure how much knowledge the visitors took home with them, but DMZ became the standard terminology in the security area within a couple of years. After all, letting a scientist or engineer see an acronym leads to immediate use.

I did get a nice gift from the visitors:
The doodads on the tie clasp and cuff links are plated versions of the highest capacity memory chip dies in the world at the time - the company had just put them into production at the time. (The curious can figure out the company by reading the silk print in the back of the box. {*grin*})

#2 - I don't think I would change a thing about our wedding. To understand why, let me re-print this story.

Some background is in order before we get to the gist of the tale. Now would be a good time to put your Coke down if you are prone to snorting all over the keyboard!

L and I got married here in Colorado in the midst of going from New Hampshire (undergrad) to California (graduate school). L had arrived in Colorado well ahead of me to attend to such minor details as the wedding arrangements and her ring and all the showers and ... You get the idea. She was undergoing a whirl of showers and preparation and worry. Pretty stressed to say the least.

In the mean time I was journeying from New Hampshire with a friend from college with all our earthly goods in a U-Haul behind his old clunker of a car. To make the trip more exciting, we decided to visit the Smokey mountains on our way to Texas to drop his stuff off at his home. Now let me remind you that this was 34+ years ago and there was no such thing as a cell phone, for which I am eternally grateful. Otherwise I am sure I would have been on the phone to L hundreds of times a day. {*grin*}

Nelson, the friend I was traveling with, and I finally hit Colorado a couple of days before the wedding. He and some other friends from college were staying in the upstairs of mom and dad's house. Since we had a day free before the wedding, we all piled into Nelson's car and headed for Rocky Mountain National Park for the day since they had never been there. Of course L was stuck back down in the flatlands doing wedding type things. (Do you detect a pattern here?)

The day of the wedding, mom and dad's house was a total zoo. Mom was the cake decorator for the wedding, so we had wedding cake everywhere on every flat surface to be found. In addition, mom and dad's house only had one bathroom, so mom, dad, my brother, myself, and all my friends sleeping upstairs in the attic were sharing the one bathroom as we got ready. Then to top it all off, mom discovered that some of the wedding mints had gone bad. So there we are all sitting around the kitchen table molding mints like mad as we got ready for the wedding. Your only exit from the mint making line was when your turn in the bathroom was called. It may sound a bit insane, but some of my friends thought that the panic drill of sitting around the table stuffing and pressing the molds to create new mints, switching positions as the bathroom cycled, talking and laughing, half dressed for the wedding, was one of the high points of the wedding.

When I finally arrived at the church and joined up with my groomsmen, we were shuttled off to one of the warren of little rooms in the upstairs of the church. So we got to sit there and talk and wonder what was going on and when they would come to get us to get the show on the road. Unfortunately the young lady that put us in the room forgot to tell anyone else where she put us and as the time for the wedding to begin came and went, we were still sitting serenely and visiting without a clue. At long last, my future FIL happened to open the door and spot us. I think he was both relieved to have found us and disappointed - his money was on the groom (me!) having cold feet and departing post-haste.

The wedding itself went off without a hitch. Well except for the fact that I was reading the ceremony from the reverend's book upside down as he did the service and just about got lost when he skipped a bit. It is amazing how moved and shaken one is when those vows are finally said in front of all.

After the wedding, we had a reception in the church dining area. That was where the cake and mints and the food and basically a lot of visiting was going on. L and I were the oldest grandkids on both sides and were blessed to have our our grandparents in attendance. Thus there were a lot of pictures and people to be talked to at the wedding and reception. Our wedding was not small, it seemed like thousands but was probably more like 250-300 people. Once the cake was cut and the first wave of hunger assuaged, it was time for the party to get going. This was an early afternoon reception at the church with dinner that night over at MIL and FIL's.

At this point you have to know that L's maid of honor (her lifelong friend) and my best man (a friend of mine and L)are both all out jokesters. In addition, I have a huge crew of uncles that all love to give one and all a ribbing just to see them squirm. In fact it was after I first took L to a Christmas scrum at my grandpa and grandma's house and she was able to handle being around the uncles without killing me that I knew I had a real keeper.

The aforementioned crew of jokesters and fun loving rowdies then decided it would be a great idea to chivaree the bride. So the groomsmen and maid of honor, my brother, my uncles, and any other guilty looking souls they could corral kidnapped the bride. They didn't inform my new MIL and FIL of what they were doing either. So there I was surrounded by all the females at the wedding (and in on the whole affair) in an apparent flirt fest and no sign of their daughter who had just gotten married to me.

The rowdy crew took L to the local cemetery and tied her to a headstone. Then they just left. After they had left her there for a while, they came back and took her to the lowest and cheapest cowboy bar in town. So L got to drink and dance with all the toothless old cowboys in the place. And of course all of these impressive events were captured on film for later enjoyment. While that was going on, I was beginning to get the 3rd degree from my FIL, since he was convinced I knew what the heck had happened to his daughter. Boy was I happy to see the crew return with L in tow.

That evening we had a picnic type affair at MIL and FIL's house. I remember the line going out and around the house and down the block. It was a great good time for all. It was also funny because as I was standing in line with a friend I had first met in college in New Hampshire, he turned to me and said "I've been in this house before! It used to belong to the XXX family didn't it?" Sure enough it had - turned out that he used to get sent out to the wilds to stay with the XXX's in the summers. Talk about a small world.

L and I were staying in town for a few days before heading off to California, so we were at mom and dad's in the sewing room (it had been the room shared by my brother and I until we shuffled up to the larger space in the attic). But all those friends there for the wedding were staying in the attic now. The only way from the attic into the rest of the house was (you guessed it) through the sewing room. In addition, remember that mom and dad's house only had one bathroom and the only way to get there from the attic was through the sewing room where L and I were ensconced. We heard nary a peep from the captive guests in the attic all night - of course that may be because we were busy doing other things. {*grin*} In any case, L and I had to be up moderately early in the morning and elsewhere, so we got up and left, not even thinking that we should have perhaps shouted up the stairs that the coast was clear to the bathroom. You wouldn't believe the razzing I have gotten about that from the attic captives over the years.

The upshot of all this is that L and I have a litterally priceless wedding album. Any time friends drop by, all we have to do is bring it out and everyone relives one of the best times ever. And because of the chivaree and cowboy bar and the attic and the mints and ... Everyone has their own unique memory from the event. And those that weren't there can't believe they missed such an outrageous good time. Don't you wish you had been there?


  1. Your memories of your wedding are so fun...and the pic is priceless!

  2. That is a fun wedding story! Sounds like a constant party. I love it!

  3. Boy, your meeting with the Korean exec reminds me when I was till working at an apartment here. We used to have plenty of them around and yeah, they can be pretty "high muckety mucks " like you said hahaha.
    You had one heck of a wedding! WOW what precious memories! :D

  4. Ha, Look at the confident groom.

    Glad you surived the Smokies trip unscathed. We seem to always have troubles going through there--roads closed to rock slides, traffic tie-ups, engine overheating, etc.

  5. I have read about your wedding before and I LOVE the story. Lovely picture.

  6. What a fun wedding story! so much better than the typical "picture perfect" day.

  7. Technical jargon is always difficult to understand, so glad you could use something that they could identify with.

    The wedding sounded like a blast. Thank you for sharing,

  8. I do wish I had been there!! You guys know how to have a good time!

  9. What great stories! I'm amazed at how you made it through that meeting with those Korean execs. I agree...anything that involves technical jargon is impossible to translate. At least it they ended up leaving happy....though a bit confused maybe. They did give you a nice gift though :)

    I love your wedding story! It sounds like it was so much fun! It's really cool that L actually went along with getting tied up to a headstone and then going to a cowboy bar afterwards! I'm sure there are brides who are too caught up with wanting their wedding day to be perfect that they forget to have fun sometimes. L sure is a keeper!

  10. I can not believe they did not have passwords. Wouldn't it be great if we lived in a world where passwords were not necessary?

    Yes, I do wish I had been at your wedding. Love the picture.

  11. Glad that your FIL didn't get too riled up about his "missing" daughter! Funny story.

  12. Wonderful wedding story. Glad I don't even know you IRL! Or, more accurately, don't know your family!


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