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Our wedding takes on both the U.S. Government and Bin Laden

Go back to Phase One: Four counsellors.

We had received the blessing of the Betel Baptist Church of Timisoara, Romania, but we still had our doubts about our proposed intercultural union. Thus, once again it was back to the search for a counselor. If this progressive, urban and relatively educated church was ill-equipped for the task, we were convinced we would have to look to America. Thus, I called a friend who was a Christian psychologist. The prospect of doing all the work by correspondence was not what we would have chosen. However, after exhausting the resources in Romania, there was no other choice. Getting Aurelia a visa to the US would have been a long process with little chance for success. Thus, the choice was made for us.

My friend was willing to try to do the job despite never having worked long-distance. She realized that impartiality would also be an issue. Fortunately, she agreed to have us use the same book instead of starting over in a new one.

After a couple of months, it became obvious to her that being a long-time friend of mine was compromising her ability to be objective. This caused us to have to end our collaboration with our third counselor. Fortunately, she gave us a reference to work with Sandy, a professor at a Bible college in Oregon.

Sandy is a quiet, honest and open lady. Knowing that we were hiring a college professor, we were sure we were consulting with a very knowledgeable and responsible professional. This gave us the best experience we could have possibly received. This was quite a contrast to our previous experience.

Our sessions were extremely helpful as we worked through many obstacles and conflicts that were potentially hazardous to a marriage. After a few months working at a distance, we applied for a fiancée's visa so that Aurelia could accompany me for face-to-face interviews. In the process to get such a visa, the US government promises an answer within nine months. However, it seems like in our case, they must have lost count somewhere along the way. Or perhaps with the infamously poor secondary education that we have, their math skills had not progressed to being able to count. Regardless of the reason, the anxious engaged couple finally got approval after eleven long months. That very day, we booked our flights for one month later, thinking that the government's definition of "approval" would match Webster's.

True to their word, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (or INS) faxed the approval to the embassy in Bucharest. Now, if you are from the post 9/11 society, you might not know that the INS is what is now called the NCIS. (I guess the US government wanted its citizens to feel more secure, so they added a letter and thinking that it would confuse the terrorists, they mixed the letters up. You won't see that on 60 Minutes, that's just my theory. Why else would they take a well-established and meaningful acronym and jumble it? Another theory would be that some bureaucrat got the raise and new stationery she wanted by adding another letter. Don't laugh, civilians do the same thing with MD, DMD et al.)

As I have said many times already, nothing in my life is easy. I don't expect the straight and narrow to be easy. I have heard some pastors say, "When we get to Heaven, I think we are going to hear Jesus say, 'I never meant life to be so hard.'" I personally think he would more likely say to us Westeners, "Life was not meant to be so easy." I have heard a recent news report say that Americans have childoods that are so easy that they break down in tears when they are at work. That confirms what I hear from just about everyone who has lived in anoter culture. So when I writeof my escapades and adventures, I am not expecting sympathy, amazement or a nomination to sainthood. I hope to entertain the masses and warn the unsuspecting.

If it had been hard to progress toward marriage, it was about to get even harder, since the airline tickets we bought were booked on the absolute worst day in the nearly 100 years of aeronautical history, September 12, 2001. What are the odds of that, 30,000:1? With me its somewhere north of 50:50. However, I'm getting ahead of myself.

After a few days of not hearing from the embassy that was supposed to let us know that they had eceived the fax, I called them. They reported not having received it. So, it was up to me, one of their taxpaying customers to track it down. The INS gave me the fax number where they sent it, and that enabled them to track it down. So they told me that I was cleared to apply for her visa. I responded, "No, I don't think you understand, the INS has already told me that it was approved. We completed reams of documents, submited tax returns and bank statements, which they reviewed to approve us."

The pleasant lady said, "No, that was the approval to apply for the visa."

I answered, in bewilderment, "In my whole life I've never heard of submitting an application to submit an application." Bureaucracy at its finest, I thought. "So, what do we do next?"

"When can you come for your interview?" she asked.

"When the INS told me the visa was approved, I bought our airplane tickets, so we have only three weeks to get everything done. So when do you think we should meet?"

Although they initially said it couldn't be done, the La Brie charm and persistence prevailed upon them to do the ethical thing and live up to their promise. Finally, the day before our flight, we journeyed to Bucharest to finish the last stage of the process, an interview.

There are few Americans who don't remember where they were and what they did the day the Twin Towers came down and I am not one of them. The architecture that surrounded us didn't draw from the memorability of that day. The US embassy in Romania is in a beautiful large house, a vila as the Romanians would call it. Even in its pre-War on Terror condition, it was very secure. A large metal gate surrounded it, with constant surveillance via cameras and Marines patrolling its perimeter. A visitor had to have a US passport and an appointment to enter. Those fortunate enough to enter had to pass through scanning devices and leave all electronic devices outside. Although it probably has little historical value other than in its present function, it looks historical. A carved dark wood interior and a stately curved wooden stairway makes it stand out as one of the more regal embassies I have enterred.

We were in the embassy most of the day and boredom took its toll on us visitors. Only the architecture made the wait somewhat supportable. Eventually, 4:30 was approaching and we began to get anxious about whether Aurelia would be interviewed and approved before our flight the next day. Finally, our number was called and we approached the window. We had researched what all gets covered in the interview to see if the fiancee has proper motives and will return home by the time the visa expires.

Instead of an interview,when we were called to the plexiglass teller window, I received only one question, "Did you hear that a plane hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?" I thought the man was joking and laughed, expecting a punchline. For how can one plane crash into two buildings 300 miles apart? The punchline became a punch to my waistline, as the official said, "No, I'm serious. Here is your fiancée's visa. Go home, we are shutting down the embassy." We were fortunate to have been scheduled then and not a day later. Who knows how long it would have taken otherwise.

Phase Three: Getting married backwards.

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