Getting married in Ecuador, on an island of the Galapagos, at the beach, while the sun is setting, a German with a Finn, knowing each other for just a couple of months and being the half of the time separated. If you expect with these ingredients an almost too cheesy lovestory - you are right, you will get it. But where to start? I explain in short words how we got there:
Last winter in November Annika (having a preparation course for her stay in Ecuador in Helsinki) and me (still tired after submitting my thesis) met in a bar, started talking and didn’t stop until the lights went on. When we separated then I thought first, what a nice night I had, but sad that we won’t see each other again, living in different cities. A week later I saw myself in an old russian regional train in the middle of nowhere in the north west of Finland. From now on we spent almost every weekend either here or here. After I wasn’t successful with a job interview in Berlin, my home - at least for the next few months - should be Helsinki. So we used the time for travelling, passed her birthday here, New Years Eve here and afterwards we went to visit our families here and there, and showed each other of course the world heritages of culture and nature of our regions. After 4 impressive, romantic and wonderful months the time arrived that she left as a volunteer to a place on the other side of the world. Both of us couldn’t really believe what happened, so that we found a compromise in a way, that she shortened her stay, and I found a job in Finland. Luckily we found this, this and that way to communicate with each other and we realized pretty fast and on the hard way, that we didn’t want to be without each other anymore. So we decided in April to get married at the beach of the Galapagos, during my planned vacation trip. But before we could kiss each other the first time as a married couple we had to pass all the obstacles of the German, Finnish and Ecuadorian bureaucracy.
After the decision we directly started to organize the required papers, and at this point we weren’t aware of how complicated it could be. First we tried to find out what kind of papers we actually needed. These were: a paper that we hadn’t been married before, our birth-certificates and our passports. Sounds easy. But then we needed an official translation of the first one and it’s validity had to be approved by the finnish and ecuadorian state. So we started getting the first paper from the finnish authority. This was so easy, as I just had to provide my bank-codes to identify myself in the system, Annika did the same, ordered the papers and within two days we had them in my post-box! Excellent! We tried to do the same in Germany and called the authority, which is in my case responsible for it - the “Standesamt Bochum”. Sadly I don’t remember the name of the insane person, who answered the phone, but when he heard our plans and I heard his “uffff” I knew that it would be complicated. I told him that we would already have the finnish papers, which said, that Annika is single and that I could send him the originals, and then he could, based on this and my data out of the german system, write the needed documents. His first reaction was: “Nooooo!” and that he wouldn’t trust the finnish authority, and that the law says, that he would have to prove it by himself - if in his proof he would do something different than requesting the entry out of the finnish system, which I wanted to send him, I don’t know. For this kind of proof we would need the passport of Annika or the original of a verified copy by a german authority in any country. A fax from the german consulate in Ecuador wouldn’t be enough, and he gave the reason for it by asking me a question like: “What would happen if I would proof something, and at the end the data wouldn’t be correct?!?”. I thought: “Nothing!”. But at this point of time I still tried it with patience. Tried to tell him that it makes it for us impossible because we would have only 5 weeks left and that we were willing to help where we could, but he said in the nicest way you can express the german mentality: “rules are rules”. So I agreed finally to this - but then he continued: He said that there were one other thing, namely that they didn’t have an own bank account and that they couldn’t do anything, before they wouldn’t have the money. So two possibilities, either transferring the money and waiting until they would have the extract of the general system, which takes in general 6 (!) weeks or paying cash. There was the point where I freaked out because firstly I couldn’t stand his bureaucratic stubbornness and secondly I wondered the fact, that there were neither trust nor competence at all on the german side, comparing it to the finnish system. I don’t remember what I said, but I became harsh and ugly, seeing our wedding-plans fail with the “no” of the german officials. But then Annika called the Galapagos and they said that I didn’t need necessarily the german papers and that the finnish would be enough to get married. I was sooo relieved to hear that. So at least we wouldn’t have to fight the german stubbornness.
With this knowledge Annika called the finnish consul in Ecuador, and he was really friendly and promised to arrange everything as soon as he gets the papers. So I went the next day to the post-office and within 3(!) days - it takes twelve times longer to transfer money to a german authority than a letter to Ecuador (!) - the letter was there and now we just waited for further instructions. Annika called again and he said that he would bring the paper to a translator and that it wouldn’t take longer than just a few days, and that we should wait. And we waited. After some time Annika tried to call him again and again, but he did not answer his phone anymore or it was switched off, so that we didn’t know what we should do as there were only a little bit more than a week left before I would come. So we decided that I would arrange the papers as well here in Finland. I had to find an official translator, to go with his stamp to the finnish ministry for foreign affairs and with this one to the ecuadorian consul here in Helsinki. This went quite ok, even though there was the small problem that the extract of the finnish system was in english and I had to reorder it for the official translation, but as the responsible in Vaasa combined trust with competence, they send it to me within 24 hours, so that this wasn’t so critical. So finally I got the last necessary stamp of the really friendly ecuadorian consul on the Thursday before I left the next day.
Once on the Galapagos we went directly to the office, and found three women organizing the register office, who easily could be basis for a comedy show about the office life as such. The protagonists were “la directora”, who started the job the week before we arrived and two assistants, who tried with all their power to opponent against “la directora”. Firstly she sent us to copy all our stuff, then she proved our papers, and after more than half an hour of “proving” and comparing the 5 lines of the law with our papers, she could verify, that the three papers each of us needed were there. Talking to us she always stopped, when she was talking about her assistants, making strange gestures with her mouth, which we responded with a nodding of sympathy and without understanding anything, but hey, she was the person who would decide about our wedding. She was the personalized incompetence and poor you if you ever have to handle with such a person. Finally we could agree on the date (5th of june) but not on the time, so that we postponed this discussion to the next meeting, where we had to bring as well the documents of our witnesses. Knowing the papers all right and the date set, finding the witnesses was almost fun. We started to plan our week on the Galapagos, which brought us to a travel agency, which arranges snorkling trips there. The office was lead by a girl from switzerland, who spoke german and who agreed directly to be our witness as she married her husband there a short while ago. The husband, coming from the Galapagos, agreed as well and he wanted to arrange everything in the office, which failed because of missing papers, which they couldn’t know before. Then they pointed us to a veterinarian clinic, where a lot of students were working. There we found two witnesses, who were willing to come with us to the beach on friday afternoon. With the copies (colorado(!)) of the passports of our witnesses we went back to the office to set up the papers for the wedding. Then an assistant asked for my parent’s name and I told her, but she demanded some official paper, which proved this. Luckily I had my birth-certificate in the hotel, but not translated. “La directora” said that this shouldn’t be a problem, and we should be lucky that she is the responsible person as she has a sense of languages. The first thing she said when she read the paper a bit: “Ahhh…that’s English!”. Haha…what a comedy! But at least she accepted it. She accepted it finally too, that we proceed the ceremony a six in the evening! So everything seemed to work out smoothly at the end.
Then the wedding day. We passed the first part of the day, as you can see in the photos, relaxing at the beach, reading and enjoying the sun, being exited what was waiting for us in the evening. We arranged with “The Girls” from the registry office that we will be there at two again, to see if everything is fine. When we arrived there at two they opened the conversation with: “Sorry, but we have a problem”. The problem was that the most incompetant, arrogant, ignorant person, with a sense for languages was fired the same day, so that she couldn’t do the ceremony. Now we got nervous, but we were witnesses of the final battle in the war between the two assistants and “la directora”. “La directora” said, that this is all over a political game, and that she doesn’t have a chance there as she is not coming from the same island. Her mother, who was every day with “la directora” in the office to support her, did it this time as well. But the assistants took over the situation and offered to handle the ceremony as replacements. After that everything went as smoothly as we wished it would have been since the beginning.
At quater past five we took two taxis, one for Annika, picking up the officials, and one for me, the photographer (who never came, but a replacement) and the witnesses. I arrived first at the beach and I was so damn nervous, that I need the pictures to really remember these moments. Annika in the wonderful dress came to the beach a bit later and the ceremony could begin. Besides the witnesses, all the students and doctors working in the clinic came to the beach to support us. The sun was setting and we gave each other the famous “si” and the first kiss as a married couple. Then we exchanged rings. Finally we read the vows we had prepared for each other, and Annika surprised me as she had prepared hers in german. This was the most emotional moment for me of the whole ceremony. I had problems to sign the papers because of being so nervous and having so shaky hands. After the ceremony we opened a bottle of champain and almost every guest at the beach gave us some thoughts on our way. All the stress was forgotten and all in all it was such a privte, cosy, and wonderful atmosphere - I will never forget. The others left then slowly the place and Annika and me stayed there for an hour realizing what happened, surrounded by the moon and the sky full of stars. We ended the day with a wedding diner (lobster), wine, deserts, and a cocktail and can look back now on a really nice day and on a perfect start into our life as a married couple.
We planned and decided everything by ourselves, but there were a lot of people who supported us, kept the secret while we didn’t want to make it public and stood by our side. So thanks to both our families, who accepted our decision straight away and were so happy with us (especially Marvin who fell in love with Annika the first day he met here in Paris), thanks to Florian, Matthias and Sabine, who had to listen to me whining around the first time Annika was away and gave me the kicks in my ass I needed. Thanks Mareike for being so supportive and for your understanding when you were here. Thanks to Johanna for the nice blog entry for Annika, which let me even cry. Thanks Maria for the incredibly nice letter in german. Thanks to our witnesses, who directly promised us to come to the beach. Thanks to everyone who has sent congratulations afterwards. And last but not least, thanks Annika for your trust, your patience and your love, and for the incredible and wonderful time we are always spending together.