Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Then and Now.......

At 3:30 this morning I dropped Peter off at the airport for him to begin his long trek back to Sierra Leone.  He'll be gone for 2 months.  As I was driving back from the airport I couldn't help but remember the last time we were separated for 2 months.  And I started to chuckle.  So I thought I'd share. :)

Peter and I started "dating", "talking", "getting to know each other" ...whatever you call it, in September of 2012, about two years into my living and working in Sierra Leone.  As per my tradition, I came back to the US every November for two months to spend the holidays with my family.   Peter and I lived very close to each other so for the two months that we knew each other before I left, we spent a lot of time together.

I headed down to Freetown a couple days before my flight so I could wrap up some things with my co-workers before I left the country.  I decided to invite Peter so he could meet everyone.  Yikes! I was nervous.  There was some hesitation on the part of my friends and family about this budding little relationship which I completely understood because I had a LOT of hesitation myself!!!  The cultures are so different! Our upbringings are so different! Are we just wasting our time?
Marie wasn't living with me at the time so the plan was for Peter and I to drive down, have dinner with my friends for the BIG INTRO and then the next day Peter and I would spend the day together at the beach.  A little farewell if you will.

Now I don't know how many "romantic comedies" you've seen.....but I've seen a lot.  And it doesn't take many Meg Ryan films to figure out that "beach time" equals "romantic time."  Picnics, romantic walks, the works.  I had it all planned out in my head.  Poor Peter didn't have a clue.  Apparently he'd never even watched "The Notebook!"  He had no idea that he was supposed to hold my hand as we were walking down the beach, or shower me with compliments and tell me how his heart was breaking because I was leaving and he didn't know how he was going to survive the next 2 months.  He was just having fun swinging in the hammock on the beach! Meanwhile I'm going over what seems to be a disaster of a "last date" before I left thinking, "What's this guys' deal?!?!?  Does he even like me?  Does he care at all that I'm going? I'm going to miss him....is this just no big deal to him?"  The final straw came that evening when I dropped him off at his brothers house and he hopped out of the car, gave me a friendly wave and said, "Take Care!"  Wait....what?!  "Take care??!!?"  I lost it.  I got to my friends house and just sobbed to them that "I can't do this.'" "This isn't what I want." "We're too different." Etc. Etc.
To be fair, the hammock was a lot of fun!

So now I had a problem.  I was flying home soon and wasn't going to get a chance to talk to Peter in person before I left but felt like I needed to let him know that I didn't think this whole relationship thing just wasn't going to work.  I didn't want it to be a shock to him when I got back. So I summoned my courage, pushed down my nausea and called him.  Here's the gist of our conversation.
Me:  "Hey Peter. So......I'm really sorry but I just don't think this is going to work.  (The tears have started now).  We're so different and it's not anybody's fault, it's just....I don't think this is going to work."

Peter: "..................................................................Emily, what happened!?!?"  (Poor guy just thought we had a great time at the beach and had no idea about the melodrama that was playing out in my head).

Me: Rambling at this point. "It's not your fault! You don't know know that you're supposed to hold my hand on the beach! And you just said 'Take Care' when we were leaving!!!  You don't know these things that I'm used to and it's not your fault, but it just isn't going to work!"

Peter: "............................. (He's way better at thinking before he speaks than I am).  Emily, It's true. I don't know about these things that you're talking about, but you can tell me and I'm a very fast learner!!"

Me: "Peter, that's not fair to you. It's not either of our faults.....but to explain all these things.....all these differences......it just sounds exhausting!"

Peter: "It's true that it won't be easy, but I believe that by the grace of God and with His help, we could have a marriage that would really glorify Him!"

I mean....what's a girls supposed to say to that??  Plus, I really liked this guy!

Fast forward several years and I can see that what happened that day on the beach was the first in what will no doubt be a long list of differences, both gender, personality and cultural that we will be navigating though out our marriage.  I remember when I got back to Sierra Leone after those first two months apart and was talking about Peter and our relationship with a Sierra Leonean friend of mine. I mentioned the meltdown that I'd had before I left with him just waving and saying "Take Care" as he hopped out of the car.  I was met with a blank look.  I tried to explain further.  He didn't say he was going to miss me, that he was sad I was leaving...nothing!  Another blank look. When she finally realized that THAT was what I was upset about, she started laughing.  "Ha! That is really not a problem for us......" Thanks....I'm realizing that!

While these differences can and are a challenge at times, we've also learned to laugh at them over the years.  The other day I worked a late shift so woke up in the afternoon.  (Now this is an embarrassing admission but I blame a. my pregnancy hormones and b. the fact that I was preparing to  lose my husband for 2 months....so keep that in mind when you judge my neediness).  I was laying in bed and heard Peter out in the living room. I asked him to come in and told him  I just needed a quick hubby snuggle before I got up.  (Like Marie does with me....and she's 6.  I know.  Pregnant. Leaving. Remember?)  As we were laying there I started laughing and said, "Can you imagine if you'd married a Sierra Leonean and she asked you to just come in to snuggle...in the middle of the day?"  He busted out laughing and said "That would NEVER happen!"  I'm laughing again as I write this....it's just so absurd!

We were right at the beginning. It's definitely not always easy, but Peter does foreign things like wash the dishes even though he's "the man" and snuggle with me in the middle of the day because he loves me and that communicates his love to me. I do foreign things like gut fish call his family and friends without any other reason except to "greet" because I love him and those are ways I can show him.

I feel like that kind of wraps things up in a nice neat little way.....which is the way romantic comedies are supposed to go..... but just isn't real life. So don't believe for a second that we don't know that we are only 9 months into a very long road.  The few years that we've been together have already had its share of tears, frustrations and anger when we just don't understand WHY the other person would do that, or think that way!!  In the last couple of months Peter and I have both remarked to each other that before we got married we each thought we would be excellent spouses because we had x, y, and z character traits. Our future spouses would be so happy for this or that!  It didn't take long into marriage before we were both confronted with sin and selfishness issues that were so well hidden even our closest friends and family couldn't see.  We couldn't even see them in ourselves!  Until they began hurting the other person.  But as Peter and I said when we first started talking about marriage.....if we decide to commit, that's it.  No going back.  We'll be happy or we'll be miserable, but we'll be married, so we might as well do the work to make it a happy one!  And we're SO thankful for our Helper who is even more invested in our marriage than we are!

P.S.  Yesterday I told Peter that although I realize that the misunderstanding regarding our first "goodbye" was purely cultural....and I was sorry to be high maintenance, I was still going to need more than a wave and a 'take care" at the airport this morning.  :) He just giggled.  I like this guy. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi, I came across your blog while looking for other apatos in Sierra Leone. I spent a year in a village outside of Bo teaching RME (Religious and Moral Educations) classes at several schools.
    I have enjoyed some of the cultural experiences you have recorded!!!
    Hope your able to return to Salone soon!