by Jasmine Jones.
There is value to travel. Studies have shown that money spent on travel will make you happier than money spent on material goods; that no matter how short a trip, post trip happiness far outlasts the time spent away; that travel reduces anxiety and develops your social skills; and that it makes you a smarter problem solver. But one thing we often overlook is that travel increases the intimacy between friends and partners and, even if you travel solo, increases the chances of you finding your many soulmates! So, don’t let the concern of being alone hold you back. Take that trip and see whose path serendipitously crosses yours! That is exactly what our guest poster, JASMINE, did on a trip to Nigeria years ago. Read on for more details about her love on two shores. 🙂
The proposal was unexpected, but so totally us. We had been in a long distance relationship from the start. I, living in Yola Nigeria working as a Human Resources Deputy Director with the American University of Nigeria, and he, an IT technician based in Abuja working for a government agency during a heated political turnover. We met through a mutual friend who, much to his chagrin I imagine, never expected us to hook up. But somehow our spirits were meant to find each other at that point in time and we connected. I honestly wasn’t expecting it to last very long. I only had six more months left of my tenure in Nigeria, and was mentally and physically ready to relocate back to the US and continue my path in higher education towards a Master’s degree in Public Health.
I was slowly starting to fall in love without knowing it. I left Nigeria, he stayed in Abuja. We managed communication through WhatsApp, Skype – which was seedy due to poor phone networks, and phone conversations when we could squeeze in time between school, work, family, and the time difference. I told him, “let’s see how the next six months goes.” Six months passed, and we were still together. The loneliness crept in and brought on depression; this was coupled with reverse culture shock and trying to fit into a morphed reality which was so foreign to me – being four years removed from American society and 18 years since I last lived in Philadelphia. I felt isolated from my childhood friends who were busy with their personal lives and my family who struggled with their own challenges. I missed the comfort of my love.
We longed terribly for each other for eight long, grueling months. Finally, the long distance cloud broke as we were both able to afford a short reunion trip to Johannesburg in March of 2015. Getting into South Africa was stressful in itself, and my fiance almost didn’t make it due to some immigration issues. But the stars were aligned in our favor, he was cleared, and we were reunited. We spent seven wonderful days together exploring the city, eating everything in sight, taking selfies, making out in the back of cabs, and generally enjoying each other’s presence. One afternoon, after a light rain shower, we witnessed a double rainbow. I jokingly said that the rainbow must be the spirit of his father, who had passed late in 2014, giving us his blessing for our future together. He just smiled and kissed me. A year later we would witness the same double rainbow during a holiday trip to Kenya. I like to think that it wasn’t a coincidence, but a spiritual symbol of our love.
Our last evening in Johannesburg ended at the airport. Crowded and somewhat stuffy, I stood behind a long line of people waiting to check in. An airline representative came up to me and asked to see my reservation. As I flashed her my phone with all of my information, her face turned urgent and she shuffled me to the front of the line. Apparently, my flight had commenced boarding and I had less than 30 minutes to make it past security and to my gate before it closed. My boyfriend watched from behind the “passengers only” rail, and I signaled him over to inform him that I had to go – right now. His eyes shifted slightly, nervously; he appeared anxious that our final moments were hurried. My attention was split between wanting to hold him and making sure my bags were checked.
He caught my eye and wanted to know if he could ask me something. I said, sure.
He dropped down to one knee. My breath caught and everything paused around us.
He pulled out a beautiful ring from his left pocket, and asked me to marry him.
I said yes, of course, and we kissed.
People clapped around us. I was in shock. I definitely wasn’t expecting that. And I had a plane to catch! I didn’t want to let go, but also didn’t want to be stranded in South Africa. The embodiment of our relationship. Constantly being put in a state of not wanting to let go, but having to because we have futures to build, alone but side by side.
Since that beautiful, bittersweet moment, we’ve been planning our next steps. I want to finish school before marriage, and we’ve agreed that I would move back to Nigeria to close the gap. Our relationship has not been easy. There were many moments of tears, frustration and loneliness. But we relish in the moments we have together, and we remind each other everyday of our mutual love and devotion. It takes a lot of patience, flexibility, and a great deal of trust. Believing in our love, respecting each other, embracing the uniqueness of our relationship and what works for us, and being independent while standing strong at each other’s side, I believe, are the ingredients that drive our relationship to flourish.