Me and My Bro
I was debating when I should return home from multi-year trip around the world.  I really didn't want to ever return, but that wasn’t going to be, so I considered which date to go back home.  I figured that I should at least be back for my brother’s wedding if for no other reason than he chose me to be his best man.  When we were younger my brother Eric and I didn’t get along so well.  We’ve gotten along pretty well now that we were older and he had matured to the level that I had attained years ago.  However, I know that he didn’t choose me because he was closer to me than some of his friends rather that I was least worst of his options.  Eric’s friends aren’t known for their classiness and would tell some tasteless story or quite possibly would be too drunk to stand up by the time the toast came around.  My brother knew that I would be off the wall, but at least I wouldn’t be off-color.  To the best of my memory, this is how my toast went:

Most of you don’t know me, but I’m Eric’s older brother, Craig.  I’ve just returned from a three-year trip around the world.  I’ve been to 20 different countries, including staying in my friend’s village in Fiji and going to places where I was the first tourist ever and younger kids were afraid of me because they hadn’t ever seen a white person.  I hiked in the Himalayas and slept on the Saharan sands under a full moon.

One place I went was the highlands of Scotland.  People there still identify themselves by their clan.  One clan, the Campbells (this is brides maiden name), are not well liked as they often collaborated with the English.  I thought of Fran when I saw a sign in a hotel that said, “No itinerant peddlers, dogs, or Campbells allowed.”

I also went to highlands of Papua New Guinea.  In New Guinea, there is a tradition of “bride price.”  The groom will give $800-1200 to the bride’s family along with traditional gifts of bows and arrows, birds of paradise feathers, stone axes, and some shells.  There is also a gift of pigs.  In a typical village wedding, you must give at least five pigs in order not to insult the bride or her family.  You must remember, that pigs are a status symbol in New Guinea.  Well, I was thinking that if Fran wanted to try something else, she could always go to New Guinea and I’m sure that her dad could certainly negotiate bride price in which he would receive 20 pigs…and if he was skillful enough, I bet he could probably get at least 25 pigs, possibly even 30 pigs, for her.

I was in India for three months.  Things are the opposite there in that the bride’s family must pay a dowry to the groom’s family. I understand that this is done in that it is viewed that the family is losing a son to the marriage.  Yet, we don’t view it like that.  We don’t think of us a losing a son or brother, but we are gaining a sister.

I was gone for several years and now my journey is over.  As for Eric and Fran, their journey is just beginning and nobody knows where it will bring them.

Later in the reception, a number of people congratulated me for the best wedding speech they had heard.  Eric and Fran really liked it too.  It certainly wasn't what either of them expected.  One guy said to me, “When you started talking about your travels I thought ‘You’re supposed to be talking about them, not yourself...this is the worst toast ever!’  And then I understood where you were going.  It was finest speech I’ve ever heard.  Most wedding speeches are just awful with people talking about the dumb things they did together or about relationships, but there you were talking about how many pigs she was worth!”