HONG KONG, China
October 12, 2008
The second wedding was last night.
I strode into the ballroom of Shangri-la at Pacific Place in Central Hong Kong. For whatever reason I tried to carry myself as if my usual existence were frequently attending black-tie affairs--rather than frequently searching for cheap places to spend the night with a rucksack on my back.
"I'm here for Joyce and Thomas' wedding," I delivered to the young, gown-clad woman with a guest list lying in front of her. "David Wong."
She scanned the guest list repeatedly.
"What was your name again? David Wong?"
I took a look myself. My name was nowhere on the guest list.
"There must be some sort of mistake. I've been invited by the parents of the bride. They told me I was to be seated at the table alongside brothers of the bride's mother. Is there some other list?"
Other gown-clad women with guest lists drew closer, examining the master list. My name wasn't listed. What could have happened?
"Wait a second... there isn't any chance I'm listed under my Chinese name, is there?"
"What is your Chinese name?"
I decided not to take a chance on mangling the Cantonese pronunciation of my own name. I drew out a business card instead.
"Oh! Wong Tso-Kong. Here you are: Table 31."
Joyce is the second of my second-cousins whose wedding I've attended in one week's time. This occasion was beyond chi-chi, held in a setting more formal than the wedding I attended one week ago. This time around I realized something: Hong Kong weddings follow a formula.
Last night's routine was identical to the one I observed one week ago. A video montage presented images of bride and groom since infancy. Two emcees cross-talked with each other in Cantonese. A traveling toast--the core wedding party flitting from table to table--was held once again. The bride made multiple outfit changes. The banquet was exactly thirteen-courses.
Which is not to say that the wedding banquets were carbon-copies of one another. The unique--and sweetest touch--of last night's wedding was groom Thomas on acoustic guitar. In a beautiful voice he belted out an original composition professing his love for Joyce. That must have taken balls.
After the wedding, I took the MTR back to Auntie Eleanor's flat. That's where I've been crashing over the past several days. While in-transit I called Mom using a mobile phone with a cheap Hong Kong-based SIM card.
For somebody with her prognosis, Mom sounded chipper beyond belief. "I swear that I can feel all the positive thoughts everybody out there has for me. I can't believe that you're considering cutting your trip short to spend time back in Seattle. It's really not necessary..."
Stoic. Let's all remain stoic.