Long Distance

26 August 2015

This week marks the end of our relationship as we have known it- Poriot and I.

I am so happy about it; I don’t know what to say! We are not breaking up- for those of you nay-sayers who love drama, God forbid. That’s not it. No, what’s happening is that Poriot is moving to Nairobi, which will bring to an end our long distance marriage. Yay!

After four years of working in separate towns and having two houses, we will for the first time, actually live and work in the same city and one house, not two or three. I say, our relationship as we have known it because though I met Poriot while I was still here in Kenya- (we met at Alliance Francaise, in a French class, I speak some French, he doesn’t speak much beyond Bonjour, but at least he got a wife from the class) – we actually started dating while I was already a student in the US.

For years, from 2005, we survived on phone calls, SMSes and emails. Those were not days of WhatsApp, and international calls were not cheap. He had to go to a call bureau to call me, and I would have to buy calling cards to call him. He would have to go to a Cyber cafe to send me emails- which he did on a daily basis. Guys, if you are trying to woo a lady, that is what effort looks like, take it from me. For years we lived for the summer break- the three months when I would be home in Kenya doing internships, touching base with family and friends, but also, refueling my relationship with this Beau that my heart had fallen for. Many, many times, we needed more than a phone call, more than an email to communicate what we really felt. But many, many, many times, all we had was exactly that- phone calls , SMSes and emails.

Post College, I came ‘nearer’, I was working in South Africa so at least we were on the same continent and I could afford to come home much more often. But still, it took a flight to get to each other. We planned our wedding over email, Facebook inboxes, SMSes and phone calls. We fought through the same medium and reconciled through the very same. Good things happened and bad things happened, both major and minor, to us as individuals and to us as a couple, but we went through all of them together, through the distance, despite the distance.

When I came back home 6 years post the start of our courtship, essentially to marry him, we thought, Ahhh, finally, we can live together! But that was not to be. He was stationed in Ole Nguruone, four and a half fours drive away from Nairobi; and I had found a job in Nairobi. So we still had two houses- but at least we were on the same time zone and could call on Safaricom. Seriously, Safaricom, we owe you.

After our wedding, we stayed home together for over a month. He was on accrued annual leave, and I was going to start my job in September (we got married on July 30th). We spent the days unpacking gifts, reading wedding greetings cards, arranging the few pieces of furniture we had, looking at wedding pictures, visiting people, attending plays and concerts, and getting used to the idea of being married. It was hands down the most blissful six weeks of my life.

When we came back from our honeymoon, we drove to Ole Nguruone to go collect some household things that we would use for our new house in Amboseli South C. I had never been to Olee so it was also a good opportunity to know where my husband worked. The climate is very cold in Ole Nguruone, and on the day we went, it was cold like nobody’s business. Prior to that I had had ideas of maybe just finding a school to teach at or an NGO to work with in the area so that we could actually live together, but it was so cold that all notions that I had of ever living there evaporated or condensed, whichever it is that happens when it is extremely cold.

So what followed was more years of long distance relating. I remember the day he left to go back to Ole, it was 6th of September 2011, and I came home in the evening from work, I felt such a void in the house that I cried. No jokes. I cried tears. I called him and told him that one of us would have to move and that if he couldn’t get a transfer, I was going to resign and become a stay-at-home wife until I found something else, so long as I didn’t have to spend my evenings alone. Well, the next morning, I thought about that decision with a bit more sense and a little less dramatic emotion and realized that it was not such a brilliant idea. Shoot me- I was a young new bride totally in love and terrified of living alone for the first time. Anyway, be that as it may, we survived because look, four years later, here we are. Actually it’s been 2015-2005. Ten years of long distance loving.

Recently, when I went to SA, we had another test. We had gotten used to calling each other all the time, and being accessible to each other- except when he’s in theater or something. When I got to my room at ALA (African Leadership Academy) that first night and I didn’t have the WiFi Password yet and so I couldn’t WhatsApp or call or email, I thought I’d go crazy. I texted him, “How in heaven did we do this for six years? I can’t survive.” He replied, ”Yah, I don’t know, I don’t know how we did it”. It was unfathomable to me, and yet we had done it and come out victorious on the other side- that is, if you consider marriage a victory in a long-term relationship- I do! (Pun intended) We survived the 26 days that I was away for but by the time I came back home I felt that I could not have done a single day extra away from him- and now our two babies.

The thing is, you can never really get used to long distance. You still worry. You wish you could wake up in the same room, watch 7 o’clock news together. Weekends means so much more because they are all you have- that’s why we go almost everywhere together. Phones are your lifeline so when the network is down, or coverage is poor, it is not funny. Now in the era of WhatsApp it’s become easier, I can take pictures of something and send them to him to show him, for instance, exactly how his son is trying to fly off the couch like Superman. It still excites me to see on my phone screen that it’s Poriot calling, even though we talk Lord-knows how many times a day. If there’s ever a delay where he needs to leave home a day earlier, or spend an extra day away from home, and vice versa, it casts a shadow on everything because any time we have together is so limited and precious!

In ways, this has actually helped us value each other more. As a result of dating and being married long distance, we treasure every minute we have together and we have learned to pick our battles. You don’t get the luxury of sulking and pulling your lower lip to show how upset you are when you have an argument because guess what, he can’t see you! You can’t be careless with your words because words once written on SMS or email cannot be erased.

Of course there’s the issue of trust. I have known and will always know that there are more beautiful amazing etc. women out there, and that every time he is away from me, there is a chance of meeting them- and vice versa. But that’s where you have to let go because if you sit and imagine how many beautiful girls he is seeing every minute he is away from you, you will go mad for sure. And I have no intention of killing myself so young- and then the women can really have him! Over my dead body (Haha, another pun, get it?)

People ask, Can it be done? It is do-able? I mean, yes, it is…but with a lot of effort, discipline, trust and commitment. If you decide that this is the person who soothes your heart, then you make it work, distance or no distance. We have come this far, and I am grateful for all the trials and strength that it’s brought our way, but it hasn’t been easy at all, don’t be fooled. I am ready to have him come home so that for once, we can wake up in the same house for let’s say even 14 days consecutively!

I thank God for keeping him, us all, safe during all those hours on the road, on the air and all over. I thank God also for giving us the grace and patience to persevere the torture of not being together full time- okay torture is a strong word, let me say, the challenge… I thank God for giving us the ability to be okay with a WhastApp message for a Good Morning hug and an Email to say I’m sorry instead of a nice long chat over a meal. I am grateful for all that, but I am most grateful for the fact that this week, we shall begin the non-long-distance phase of our relationship. I hope we can stand each other!!! There’s that side to it too, isn’t there? But I’ll take that any day. Any day. In fact, I can’t wait. Poriot, welcome home.

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