Hehe, well let's see. I remember reading the response Masumi had gotten from Australia's immigration department, refusing her application for a second working holiday visa. I remember the ensuing faxes and phone calls to try and sort out who was responsible for that decision. The decision, in any case, is "not merits reviewable" and my feedback wouldn't change a thing. I remember realising this and thinking, "What next?"
Sobering option number one - no visa, we can't be together. Adieu and thanks for all the memories. Sobering to say the least. I know Masumi had prepared herself to hear that from me.
Slightly less sobering option number two - just try to apply for some other sort of visa without changing our situation. But really, this wasn't an option. Masumi somehow overstayed her first visa - it's a long story, more fine print and red tape - and this put her in the unenviable situation of being automatically excluded from Australia for 3 years. Ouch. That exclusion period is an axe hanging over any visa application less than the full monty.
But I hear some of you say those magic words DE FACTO. That's all well and good, but you need to have been properly in that relationship for at least 12 months - Masumi and I lived together in Cairns for 11 months before she got kicked out. And it takes a whole lot of paperwork and proof besides. A de facto spouse visa pretty much amounts to declaring you're married anyway, without having the marriage certificate to prove it.
Which brings us to scary option number three – bite the bullet and get married, the full monty. And hope that, in every way, it works. From the time Masumi's visa was refused to the time I was due to leave Japan, we had exactly 7 days to discuss it, find out if it could be done, make a decision, and do it.
Only God knows why she loves me, but Masumi's been ready to marry me for some time now. I had a lot of soul-searching to do. In the midst of dancing down the streets of Tokushima, I thought about... well, lots of things. Other women who have been in my life, and who might be in my life. Family and friends – hers and mine. Language and communication. Jobs. The practicalities of living a life between two countries. The possibilities of this road or that. And whether I was ready.
I've known for a fair while that Masumi would make a great partner. She's great with kids and people, motivated, intelligent, and positive. She has a solid loving family in Tokushima. And it’s not like I’ve only known her five minutes – we've been friends for nearly six years, in fact. Living with her here in Cairns confirmed a lot of that. And being parted from her when she was forced to leave Australia earlier than expected was a good test. I missed her. I'd already started toying with ideas of proposing to her and honeymoons and stuff like that. The refusal of Masumi's visa just provided a catalyst, I think, a little something to bring the reaction to completion.
I had doubts – I still have them! It was scary – and it still is! I hadn’t prepared my heart for all this. But life is like that. In the end, I decided to go with what I've got. Which, fundamentally, is love.
My good friend Fenn, the original mountain JET of Tokushima, was on hand to provide sound advice about getting married as a foreigner in Japan. An Australian Consulate-General was just a bus ride away in Osaka to provide some necessary documentation. Masumi's father and I sat down for a chat on Saturday morning. I asked him for permission to marry his daughter, and he was gracious in giving it. I got the documents from Osaka on Tuesday. Masumi and I walked into the local town office on Wednesday morning and signed the papers. We walked out at about 10:30am, husband and wife. I still can’t believe it. :)
And then I had to get on a bus, which took me to a plane, which took me back to Australia. Alone. Hopefully not for too long. Sounds like a sad ending, and it was a bit sad, but really it was a fantastic couple of weeks in Japan and the beginning of a whole life of new adventures.
I danced in Naruto, for 4 days in Tokushima city, and for old time's sake down the main street of Ikeda. Masumi dances, too, by the way. She's with Uzuki-ren, a top group that rivals my own Tensui-ren, which makes for some fun rivalry at Obon! I caught up with all sorts of old friends – JETs, touch footy teammates, teachers, rafters, students, and a few besides. Masumi and I got in 2 days of rafting, too. Our guide down the main section of the river, a great Aussie by the name of Mezza, put it nicely when he congratulated us on our impending union – "Consolidating your marriage by going rafting, I love it!" This just before we drove the boat into a raging surf hole at Otaki and took a trip to flip city, yeah!
I think there'll be ceremonies of one sort or another in due course. We'll give you a little more notice for that! And we're already looking to set ourselves up for 10 months a year in Australia, the other 2 in Japan for the northern summer. We're flying mostly by the seat of our pants at the moment, but it seems to be all for the best so far. And it's certainly given me a reason to update my blog!
I'll post a couple of pictures here to round off the story - sorry, there are no wedding photos, because it really was just signing some papers, you'll have to wait for those! But let me finish by saying thank you. To all of you who have been a part of my life, who have brought me to where I am and brought Masumi to me. For all your support and understanding in this and everything. I'll be more than happy to follow up in person if you want to get in touch, probably best to use dave_cc at Hotmail in the first instance. I'm looking forward to hearing from you, to seeing everyone soon, and to introducing you to my lovely wife.
'Til then, lots of love,