Being in love with a foreigner: A bit of our story.

May 09, 2015

Photo Credit: Katrina Massey
Its not something you would obviously guess about Reece and I to quickly scan a photo of our family (we're both white and very middle-class looking), but we come from two entirely different worlds.  Not like Dan and Serena from Gossip girl 'Upper East Side vs Brooklyn' type of worlds... I mean we grew up across the actual world from one another in two completely different cultural contexts.

My piece of that story begins as a 15 year old who heard about a three week long youth trip to South Africa.  My best friend, Katrina, was convinced that South African men had the most attractive accents and I asserted that Australians were far superior.  The fact that I was fifteen really does bear repeating at this point.  Maybe I will add a little facepalm just to highlight my embarrassment looking back.  Clearly, at the time, my interest in the trip was not piqued for some adolescent romance-trolling motive, I just wanted to see some of the world and doing it with a bunch of young church people seemed the safest way.  One day my Australian cowboy would sweep me off my feet astride his noble kangaroo, but for now, lets see what the African fuss is about.

There was some fund raising (aka digging around the recycling for bottles like a homeless person), generous benefactors, and a job at Mcdonalds involved.  In the end, though, my first proud plane ride ever in life was from LAX to Washington Dulles airport en route to Johannesburg via Dakar just days after my 16th birthday.  I was on my way across the world and it was really good to be alive.

Fast forward 2 years almost to the day.  Let that pin drop on the google map and zoom right in on me. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaall the way down to - yep. Back in South Africa. This time I was involved in a gap year program and falling for a local like a total cliche.  He was tall.  His shoulders were broad.  He was a jock; terribly sure of himself with a certain Je ne sais quoi.  Neither of us really can say how it happened, except that we knew it was happening almost simultaneously, like we were reaching for each other at precisely mirrored speeds.  

We shared a birthday (weird, I know), so we used that as an excuse to plan this over the top themed party.  It was definitely one of the greatest times of my life.  Canadians aren't so into big birthday parties.  If you're a Canadian and reading this thinking "I don't think that is true, I've been to some decent-sized birthday parties", you obviously haven't been to a South African 18th birthday.  Or a 21st.  Or a 30th...40th...50th.  Big parties are a thing.  I once helped make invitations for a 21st party that hosted more guests than my wedding.  Isn't it wonderful?  There is such a rich sense of occasion for everything that makes one so very glad to be alive.  The overly social extrovert in me lapped this fanfare up like a Saint Bernard after a hike through the Alps.

After that party, after the connection and knowing there would be no backing out, we synchronized.  We were in each other's sights at all times and it felt unnatural not to be so.  This is the beginning of love, so sweet and intoxicating in its possession.  I miss the high, but definitely not the logistics.

Speaking of logistics, that is really the only tricky part.  Being in love is easy.  Taking two lives and making one out of them when they're not really programmed the same way, is both silliness and a worthy challenge.  

Over 500 hours on Skype
Over 139,000km flown
One threatened deportation
Always taking the 'foreigners' line at border crossings.
100 pages of forms, letters and instructions to complete a permanent residency application
Hours watching youtube videos on how Hockey works: still counting.

These are just four of the many ingredients to marrying someone not from your homeland.  It sounds kind of glamorous now, but going through it was like wading through quicksand while texting.  So awkward and kind of existentially terrifying at age 18.  Is it possible to not regret a thing, but also definitely not recommend this to anyone else?  That feels like the very definition of being a hypocrite.  I was young young YOUNG and made a crack ton of mistakes.  Then I learned a lot of things about life from those mistakes so hopefully at 25 I'm beginning to break even.

That is all I got.

See you Monday ;)

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