I've been away too long, I know...so sorry for leaving you hanging. Our house got hit by a frightening infection that we never got to identify, but was suspected to be Salmonella. Both my kids and my husband were very ill, but I was somehow spared. I spent a week and a half nursing my dehydrated patients; pretty scary, and draining. Thank God, all are healed now.
This is going to be a long one...take a seat. Now, where did we end last time...
We officially became an item on the 4th of July 2010.
The next six months were the most joyous I had ever experienced. We spent every free moment together. He would come over to the hospital while I was on call, bringing me chocolate at 2 am in the morning. Other days he would pick me up when my shift was over at 8 am and take me for breakfast, then drop me home to sleep. I had a grueling but strangely light schedule; I worked 24-hour shifts.
I'd go in, say on a Monday morning at 7 am, and leave on Tuesday at 8 am. Even after two years of working there, I never got used to that length of time, almost always on my feet. I worked in obstetrics, so if it wasn't a delivery, it was a difficult labour, or the antenatal clinic, a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy in emergency...the work was intense and nonstop. I loved it though; I still do. My heart is for women and babies. I actually had every intention to do specialize in obstetrics and gynaecology, but God's plans took me the exact opposite direction, LOL. Anyway, after the 24-hours at work, I would have the next 72 hours free. Three entire days! If I did the Monday shift, I wouldn't see the hospital until Friday morning. It was glorious. My colleagues in the department all had other jobs at clinics during their free three days, and would forever ask me why I was wasting away three full days of my week instead of making more money. I'd just smile and tell them it wasn't that much of a priority for me at the time; they would scoff and dismiss me. I didn't think it necessary to tell them I was truly, madly, deeply in love and wanted to be with my boyfriend forever and ever!
We did anything and everything. We visited restaurants all over Nairobi. We went to the museum. We attended concerts. Watched movies. Hang out with family and with friends. Both our parents responded well and speedily to our relationship, and that was a great blessing. In fact Bryan's dad sat him down after we'd been together for just two months and asked him what his intentions were. He said, "If you aren't planning on marrying that girl you're a fool. Make this thing permanent asap, or let her go so she can live her life." We clearly had him in our corner :).
Bryan and I never had a problem talking openly and honestly with each other. We had tough discussions over foolish mistakes we made when we were younger. We talked about life plans. Where would we want to live, how would we want to live. What did we want our marriage to teach other people. These conversations came naturally for us, they were never forced, and never uncomfortable. There was also never a doubt about getting married. I knew my waiting was done; he knew he had found his bride, and it never came up again. That sincerely surprised us; we just thought there would always be lingering second thoughts or even a nervousness as the wedding day neared but it never happened with us. We can't tell you how exactly, but it was definitely God's doing. That's why we got married so soon after we began to date.
Another thing that surprised me is how Bryan was ready to be married. He was 23 . I was quite worried I might have been forcing his hand here. I actually asked him if he was feeling rushed and pressured. He answered with a firm no; if we could have said our vows the next day we would have. And that was the end of that.
That December, Bryan had to move back to South Africa to start working. My sweet unemployed uni student had actually signed a job contract before he even graduated, at McKinsey and Company. He was supposed to have began working that very year we met; but he'd been away from Kenya 8 years and he really wanted a gap year at home to spend extended time with his family. He knew that once he got into the office at McKinsey, time to travel home would become short and hard to come by- it's a rigorous and unbelievably high pressure environment at the company. Little did he know, God was orchestrating events for him to come and find himself a wife.
So there we were; we had spent almost every day of the past six months together. People knew if you saw Bryan, Wambui was in the room as well. And now we were facing an indeterminate length of time apart. I know it sounds terribly corny, but I couldn't contemplate living in two different cities without bursting into tears. And what was tearing our hearts into pieces was that we just didn't know how long this was going to be a long distance relationship. We didn't know when we would ever be able to afford a wedding. The bubble of bliss we had been living in popped as reality hit us. We didn't have any money to fund a wedding. His job was a good one; he couldn't give it up and stay in Nairobi. I couldn't automatically transfer my medical licence and work in South Africa; that was one long and problem ridden process within their immigration department, not to mention expensive as well. We were stuck.
What did we do? Well, we prayed. We told God the desire of our hearts and waited for His will for us. We acted out in faith too. We set a date for our wedding for July 2011. That gave us six months to get a miracle. We drove him to the airport with his dad and small sister and said goodbye. I wept like it was a funeral. My now father-in-law walked to the car unable to deal with the awkwardness as we said goodbye to one another. I watched him go through security, pick his bags and then he turned back and mouthed, "I love you."
He was gone.
Dad dropped me at my apartment and I was inconsolable for days. I missed Bryan constantly. Work became very difficult; I'd look down at my watch and think, "Around now he'd be on his way bringing me dinner." Whatsapp was just penetrating Nairobi then and my Nokia couldn't support it anyway, so all we had were sms, emails, and very expensive phone calls. Funny story: he got a company blackberry when he joined the Joburg office, and used it to call me every day. We talked every free minute we could get. Mostly between 10pm-2am. At the end of the month, he got slapped with a phone bill of 5,000 rand. That's 50,ooo shillings! 500 dollars! And this was after he had exceeded the company buffer of what I think was also 5,000 rand. It's hilarious now; and we did have a hysterical five minutes the day he called to tell me...but then that bill had to be paid for, with money we were saving for our wedding. It was painful.
God was incredibly merciful three months later. Bryan was sent for his first out-of-country project, in Nairobi...for six weeks. It was a miracle! And, he and his colleagues were put up at the snazzy Norfolk Hotel, so for six weeks I enjoyed every privilege I could never have afforded. I still can't to be honest, LOL! He arrived on a Thursday I think, but I only got to see him on Saturday. He invited me for brunch, which turned out to be a champagne breakfast out on the hotel patio. I looked at all the fancy-pancy patrons around us and wondered if they could tell I had taken my South B matatu into town. The pressure was real. Guys, I had never had a champagne breakfast. And it was good champagne, not that Chamdor sparkling juice you buy in Uchumi. On my days off, I'd meet him in the morning and spend the day alone watching movies in his room as he went to work. I ordered room service, I slept on that cloud they called a mattress. I was a princess, for free! Then in the evening I would take my matatu back to South B. Bonafide Cinderella. Could nobody please forward this to the Norfolk Hotel? I was young and foolish! Thanks Norfolk, you were instrumental in our love story.
The six weeks flew by and he was gone again. We were even more dejected this time around, because we realized we couldn't save enough money for the wedding by July. We were gutted.
For my birthday in June, he surprised me with a plane ticket. I excitedly got all my immigration matters in order. The day I received my visa I practically skipped out of the building; we hadn't seen each other in two and a half months, which felt like years! I landed in Johannesburg just past midnight; he picked me up and we drove slowly as he gave me a tour of Sandton where he worked. Then we drove to a suburb nearby called Randburg where he lived with two of his friends. I walked in and found them waiting for me, it was quite the welcome! I'll be forever grateful for the three of them, putting me up in their bachelor pad. I spent about 10 days there, being a tourist, doing touristy things, like eating way too much and riding roller coasters.
On my birthday we went for a romantic dinner, and I can't lie, I was sure he was going to propose. I mean, the restaurant had placed flower petals around the table, candle light, a bottle of champagne on the house, two waiters serving us...c'mon...a girl was READY. They poured the champagne, I looked into my glass to see a ring, there wasn't one. OK, no problem, he's just setting the mood. We had our main, ordered dessert. The plate was put in front of me and I did a quick scan for diamonds, nothing. Hmm, OK. I chewed each bite slowly...nope, nothing in there. Is he really going to send me back to Nairobi empty handed? He excused himself to go to the washroom. This is it Wambui, prepare thine self! He came back and asked for the bill. Aii....what is this now. We walked out of the restaurant; my hope fading. Maybe he's going to go down one knee at the car, you know under the stars and everything. That evening ended without a proposal. I lay awake that night so disappointed. Don't get me wrong, I was grateful for his birthday gift, a holiday in South Africa. And yes, we were getting married. But he had promised me a proposal, and a diamond ring. I really wanted the ring to console me over the next few months alone in Nairobi. Sigh.
A few days before I left, he was very distracted, one morning after another. He kept complaining about the winter weather. I didn't dwell on it, but he was definitely acting peculiar. The third morning, he woke me up very early. I was so grumpy. I had to leave for Kenya soon, the winter was practically in my bone marrow, and it was so very early!
"Come outside, let's go for a walk."
"Now?? Why????" I shouted.
"Let's just go for a short walk. We have such little time left together." He replied through the door.
"Do you realize how cold it is?"
"Wambui, put on some warm clothes and let's go."
Wow. OK. He had never spoken to me that way before; so final, like that's it, no discussion, get out, now.
I pulled on socks, a hoodie, winter coat, shoes, all on top of my pyjamas, and walked out of the house so annoyed.
Snow. A light blanket of snow. Such a surprise, so beautiful. But no, I'm not going to act like everything is alright. You've dragged me out of a warm bed, at an unacceptable hour, you have me walking in icy temperatures, and you have refused to give me a ring. I'm not smiling at you, I'm not holding your hand, no.
So there I am, marching in the army of the Lord, way ahead of him. He's saying things like 'look how blue the sky is this morning', 'look at these beautiful trees', 'oh what a lovely stream down there'...I'm just marching, not saying a word. After a short while it occurs to me he's stopped speaking, and I can't hear his feet crunching the leaves behind me. I whirl around in a huff and a puff.
Behind me, is a man, one knee in the snow, holding up a black velvet box, with a diamond ring.
It's all fuzzy from here. I know I screamed and burst into tears. Then I ran up to him, ugly cry in full swing, speaking incoherently, I don't even know what I was saying. He started to talk...and I genuinely have no memory of anything he said. But I heard the last line: "Will you give me the greatest honour of becoming my wife?"
My heart was racing so fast I could barely breathe. I just kept crying saying over and over, "Oh baby! Oh I can't believe it! Lord Jesus you have been faithful!", pacing back and forth, jumping up and down...I was a mess.
"Sweetheart, you haven't answered me yet." He whispered with earnest eyes, and his right knee now soaked in the wet grass.
"Yes! Yes! Yes!"I exclaimed, kneeling down beside him hugging him, screaming, laughing...oh! What a moment it was. We prayed together, still kneeling, then stood up laughing hysterically, and sat on a nearby bench. He was laughing at my red reindeer nose from all the crying, and my wild hair which I hadn't bothered to comb during my tantrum. We went out for breakfast, I called my sister, my mum, my girlfriends. He called both our dads. (I forgot to mention when he was in Kenya last, he took my father out for a meal and asked him for my hand in marriage, and my dad said yes, hallelujah.)
We rescheduled our wedding to December of that year, 2011. We weren't willing to wait any longer. I had been accepted for my masters in maternal and child public health at Wits University in Joburg, my classes starting in January 2012. We knew for a fact, if I moved to South Africa, as his fiancée, living in campus housing, with his apartment ten minutes away...we would be shopping for baby clothes within the year. My friends, we weren't going to make it; living in a foreign city with no accountability? Recipe for disaster. Even if it came down to signing a marriage certificate at the Attorney General's office, we were doing it. We were leaving for South Africa as a man and wife in six months. Period.
Things moved very quickly afterwards. He came back in August for our traditional wedding ceremony, then returned to work. Even then, we hadn't planned anything. No venue, no caterer, tents, nothing. Why? After doing the math of our two plane tickets to Joburg together in December, the deposit on our new apartment, my masters tuition that we were covering alone? We didn't have much left. That was already about $7,200. The final blow was Bryan's brother's wedding, set for November, which we only learned about in September. We hadn't really told anyone yet about our December plans, so they had no idea when they picked their November date. Bryan was his best man; very proudly so. We decided I wouldn't attend the wedding, because it was all the way in Adelaide, Australia. When Bryan came back, our savings were now less $3,ooo. We had nothing but pennies left. The wedding was not going to happen.
I wept for days. I couldn't believe it. Waiting another year?! Live in the high risk situation of both being in Joburg, attempting to live apart? It was impossible.
One day, Bryan called and asked me if I would be OK with an attorney general's wedding. I accepted with a very heavy heart. My uncle sat my parents down and made them see it not as a let down, but that we were trying to honour them by not just moving in together. Bryan's folks were alright with it too. We went to see how the government office looked. As we walked in, a couple we knew were walking out. They had just gotten married. I stood on those steps and couldn't go in. I just didn't want to become a wife in that building. We abandoned that story.
We realized one morning, the thing that had held us back all this time, was the Kenyan wedding template: 500+ guests, tents and tables, catering services, hiring a venue. We obviously couldn't afford it.
Then we had a radical thought. How about we have a wedding out of town, with only our families present, along with our groomsmen and bridesmaids we had already picked ages ago?
Mad, isn't it? In the African context especially. We still don't know how we pulled it off, but we know God's power was felt throughout. Somehow, God convinced our parents to go along with it, albeit with a river of tears from the mommies. God softened the hearts of most of my uncles, for their daughter to be married without them present. It was unbelievable.
We picked Nanyuki. I drove out with my roommate one morning, a month before the wedding. Barney's restaurant is one of my favourite in the world; I discovered it during my medical internship. It's built next to the Nanyuki Airfield, facing Mount Kenya...it is such a beautiful place, and we wanted to get married there.
We walked in and asked for Karina the owner. I had found her email address online and messaged her saying we wanted to have a wedding at her restaurant. She replied and said it had never happened before, but she was willing to meet me. We sat down and she opened her notebook. Karina had already planned a menu; I hadn't even asked her to do that. She had a soup starter, a barbeque for mains(beef, chicken, pork and lamb), rice, potatoes, pasta salad, salsa, creamed vegetables,the works. She had a dessert, which I now can't remember. We just sat there as she talked, my heart sinking with every minute, because there was no way we were going to afford this sophisticated menu.
When she was done, I asked, "Umm, so how much are you going to charge?"
"Well, how many guests are you expecting?"
"40 max." (that included one couple each for our parents, and the camera crew.)
She looked at her notebook again, quiet for a minute.
"OK, what do you think about $10 per head? We can negotiate if it's too much."
Guys. KSh1,ooo for a three course meal! I then asked her how much she would charge us for hiring the venue.
She laughed, "That's ridiculous. Why would I do that?"
"Would you be alright if my sister and I did the decor, or do you have your own people? I'd like to make one long table with place settings for all your guests."
"Would you mind if she and I bought flowers from a friend of ours nearby, you know, to make the restaurant all pretty, and for the table?
"Do you have a wedding cake? No? I could bake it for you, if you're alright with that. My sister and I are just so excited to have a wedding here."
We were there less than an hour before we got into the car and headed back to Nairobi. Karina, literally handed me the most gorgeous wedding on a plate. In 45 minutes, everything was set: venue, food, cake, flowers, everything. And all I paid her was that KSh40,000. She even threw in our wedding cake for free. The woman was incredible.
On 23rd December 2011, 6.30 am, Bryan's parents came to get me at my parent's house. I'd spent the night there with my bridesmaids. We all got into our convoy of cars, dressed down, our wedding clothes in suitcases. Bryan and his boys were already in Nanyuki, they had left Nairobi at 4 am. Karina set up her large office at the restaurant as a dressing room. She even brought a large stand-alone mirror from her house. My mom got me into my wedding dress, made by my designer friend, Ruth who had charged me only KSh 18,000. I got a FB inbox months later asking me where I had imported my dress from.
Bryan and George, his best man, went looking for a place in Nanyuki to change into their suits. George had landed from Switzerland at 1 am that morning. They found a tiny motel on the highway. The owner, a little old lady opened one of her rooms for them to dress up. Afterwards she gave them tea and mandazis. She didn't want my groom fainting from low blood sugar mid- ceremony.
It was time. Karina got out her home theatre system, and began to play the song we had picked. My parents walked me out of the office, and onto the lawn. Bryan stood down the aisle, looking at me. The moment is immortalized for us. It was like we were the only ones there. Right then, a large plane landed on the airstrip right behind us. Our wedding video has a long inaudible section, because the plane took so long to power off. It was hilarious. We were all laughing.
Our childhood pastor, Edward Ondachi married us as we stood under the biggest blue sky, and the mountain behind us.
We ate ourselves silly that day. Karina and her sister transformed Barney's into a palace ball. She shut down the restaurant for the day; we had it all to ourselves.
George's mum covered the drinks bill, instead of people paying for their own orders. Planes landed all day as we celebrated.
At 5 pm, we were done. We were married. We had had our wedding. Our grand total? KSh 168,000. $1,680. Yes, you read right. We never even got to 200K.
Bryan and I sat on a log, his jacket around my shoulders,watching the sun set.
I had a tearful goodbye with my parents and siblings, bid farewell to our friends, and hugged Karina. George got us into a car, drove us to a hotel he had organized for us for the night.
It was done. We were now Mr and Mrs Kariuki. And by the grace of God, we got there having not had relations.
Our biblical foundation for getting married that fast was 1 Cor 7:9- "...But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion."
Friends, there's nothing wrong with being honest with yourselves. If you can't, you can't. Get married already ;-).
And there ends the story of how we came to be.
P.S- We went looking for Karina during our first visit back from South Africa. Our hearts were broken to hear that she had sold Barney's and moved back to England. Still looking for you Karina! We have a gift for you.
-Our photographer and friend was Ben Kiruthi. His work is amazing!
Christian, wife, mom, doctor, and an alien on earth, on my way to the city of God.