As the world’s eyes turn towards Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, I’m getting excited not just for the football on display but for a passion of a different kind. I’m heading to Brazil for the World Cup Final, and the week after that, I will be getting married. In Brazil. To a Brazilian.
It has now been about 2 years since an Aussie scientist walked awkwardly into a bar in Brasilia at lunchtime in his suit and waited for the arrival of a Brazilian diplomat and his wife to ask them for their daughter’s hand in marriage. They were rather surprised, but both families now being convinced, and my fiancee and I happily living together in Sydney, the deal will soon be sealed in Portuguese and English.
We are to be married in Brazil in the amazing Sanctuario Dom Bosco, Brasilia. Even though neither of us were particularly religious (I’m not even baptised), when we first laid eyes on this Catholic church we just knew it would be the building. It is quite unlike any church one has ever seen. The interior is lit by blue-filtered sunlight through the enormous blue stained-glass windows, and there’s an incredible Murano-glass chandelier. If the morning weather is good, the light inside the church will be amazing.
However, the decision to get married in Dom Bosco was not without complication, especially since neither of us were Catholics. My father-in-law’s friendship with the Apostolic Nuncio to Panama helped us to get in touch with the Apostolic Nuncio to Canberra (basically the Vatican’s Ambassador to Australia). He, in turn, put us in touch with a charismatic Irish priest and philosopher residing at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney. Father Michael told us he was quite concerned when first contacted by the Nuncio, since such contact normally entails either big trouble or a promotion to Bishophood “and I knew I wasn’t due for a promotion”. He promised us we’d be the “fastest flying Catholics on wheels”, which was a good thing since the wedding was less than 6 months away.
We met regularly with Father Michael for several months to discuss religion. I was surprised to find the discussions extremely interesting. He has a degree in philosophy, and together with my background in science and natural philosophy, there were many fundamental discussions of humanity and the cosmos. In particular, the history of the holy books, the disciples, and religion itself was enlightening as was the description of the functions and design of churches and cathedrals.
We met in the residence of Cardinal George Pell who assisted the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse at the time and now lives in the Vatican with the Pope. At one point during our meetings the Cardinal himself burst in to investigate the origin of the animated discussion taking place inside. I can only laugh now to think of the surprises life throws up sometimes, and all this to a boy never baptised.
We also were required to sit a 3-week “marriage preparation” course. These are required by the Catholic Church given that divorce rates are now around 50%. I expected maybe a priest lecturing us about family planning to avoid abortions and the like. And again my trepidation was misplaced – the instructor was a qualified marriage counselor who regularly used the Lord’s name in vain, provided peppermints at each evening’s session and was passionate about the psychology of men and women.
I don’t often talk about these things on Confiscated Toothpaste, because while I am something of an attention-seeker my fiance is quite private. I have previously referred to her by my nickname for her– The Babs.
Truth be told, the Babs and I first got engaged years ago. We met in 2005 while I was studying for my PhD in Sydney. She was an undergraduate and we met one night during a school pub crawl, and then again when we both did salsa lessons. I was enamoured, but she ended up going back to Brazil to complete her studies. Neither of us could forget the other, and in 2006 when I went to live in the US for the first time and had my US college experience at Uni of Delaware, I did the first of many trips to Brazil with a couple of surfboards. Being fairly ambitious I asked her to marry me on top of the Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain) in Rio de Janeiro. Though she said yes, she later moved to the US and with me stuck back in Australia to finish my PhD the distance issues became too much for us to manage.
Despite the geographical challenges, we kept in touch and later made it work. We now live and (sometimes) travel together.
We’ve since become quite friendly with Father Michael and he was even invited to my surprise birthday bash at a cinema bar in Sydney. My surprise party was typical of the colour that Babs has brought to my life – it was by far the most confusing experience of my life to date. On the pretext of a movie date we went to the local cinema where I was surprised to find several friends from the other side of Sydney at the bar. “What on earth are you doing here?” I asked indignantly. “You know I live just around the corner right? Where was my phone call?” Over the next 30 minutes, various work colleagues and cousins showed up until I was 99% sure that this could not be mere coincidence. Unbeknownst to me, Father Michael arrived on a bus at the cinema but was unable to find us and went home. This is a pity, as the only thing that could have made the gathering of acquaintances more eclectic would have been the addition of a Catholic priest!
I am excited about this World Cup. It will be a great spectacle! There are, of course, valid concerns about the ethics of hosting such an event, but you watch the stimulus of this event on the economy and morale of the country. I expect to be spending much time in Brazil in the coming years, so I am curiously watching the way Brazil responds to the hosting of the 2014 World Cup and the Olympics in Rio in 2016. Brazil is a wonderful country with a rich culture and I am just as excited to make it my own as I am to marry my dream girl.
I’m also acquiring 7 beautiful new nieces and nephews to add to the 3 nieces I already have in Australia!
Have you got a relationship story from the road? Perhaps you even married someone from a different culture? I’d love to hear from you!