No products in the bag.

Long Distance – final part

With barely a month to the wedding, Kingsley went house hunting. He would call to ask my opinion as he went about and when he finally found the house he felt would do for our first home, he scheduled a meeting with the agent so I could see it before the rental deal was sealed. The landlord had some renovating to do to make it ready and it was clear we wouldn’t have time to furnish it before the wedding but we were happy and totally at peace about this house.

We decided we weren’t going into any debt in the name of having an elaborate wedding ceremony. We worked with our budget and with some benevolence from friends and relatives. We weren’t under any pressure and we refused to be put under pressure by well meaning loved ones who tried to push for more guests, souvenirs, a longer train, and so on. We would rather have a small wedding, than have a big one and then go home to weeks of being unable to meet our basic needs.

A few days of compassionate leave made it possible to travel to Abuja with some time left for last minute preparations for the wedding – hair, dress fitting, and our pre-marital counselling crash course. Yep! Crash course – it was done and dusted in less than four hours. You see, our residing in different cities and the moves to Lagos just before the wedding made it logistically impossible to fit into our home Church’s counselling sessions. No adhoc session was organized either. Another church was kind enough to organize this crash course for us and it was a blast. The pastor confirmed that we had read wide on the subject of relationships and marriage so he focused on critical issues – money, sex, love, submission, and God. Then he sent us to a hospital for the pre-marital medicals. That pastor really took a chance on us, and I’m glad we didn’t disappoint him.

I woke up on Saturday, December 22, 2007 and said to myself, ‘I am getting married todaaaayy!’ I was determined to be absolutely happy for the entire day. No photographer, MC or DJ was going to upset me. I got up, got ready and left for Church. Our family members and friends showed up from across the Country and we had a happy celebration, after which we retired to the Chancellery Hotels in Abuja for our very brief honeymoon cum Christmas holiday. We were both due back at work on Thursday, December 27.

We travelled back to Lagos the day after Christmas and I received great news from my office – my leave had been extended and I was to resume on January 2, 2008. God was gracious. Over the weekend, we got the keys from the landlord and moved into our home. We moved in with two suitcases – one for me & one for my husband – and a newly purchased mattress which served as couch, dining table/chair and bed. For the first few nights, my wrappers served as drapes and we had the most fun in an empty house. Now I completely understand that song by Nadia Fay that says Home is where you are, home is where I wanna be, wherever you are, you can come home to me’.

That’s how we began our journey together… and now, mops, brooms, pots, plates, cutlery, curtains, TV, furniture, cars, and three wonderful children later, all we can say is ‘God has been good to us’ and we are ever so grateful for His first show of love to us in sending his only son to die for us in order to redeem us even when we didn’t deserve it or ask for it… even when we didn’t realise we needed saving. And now that same love overflows in our hearts, helping us to love each other through thick and thin, and to forgive each other again and again.

This journey is still on and we’re enjoying every bit of it.

Long Distance – Part 2

You couldn’t possibly imagine my joy when we arrived Nigeria. I was unperturbed by the harsh weather in Abuja at that time of year. It was HOT and my then fairer skin was getting it… a warm welcome home indeed. Kingsley was working in Akure, a town about 438km away. A few days into my return, I travelled there to see the place for myself. After all, our first home was going to be there.

You see, Kingsley has asked for my hand in marriage before I left for my Masters. On a bus enroute Lagos from Abuja, he took me by the left hand, and said my fingers were beautiful, then he asked me to give him my ring finger. That was such an impossible request and I went on to explain why. Well, later that night, while reminiscing on our time together, I realized what he was really asking. I called to say ‘yes’ and to tell him that that was the ‘weirdest proposal ever’. I mean, what happened to getting down on your knees in the presence of complete strangers and holding out a beautiful ring? This guy was just so unconventional. He felt really smart. I remember him having a good laugh and saying ‘So you finally got it’.

Akure was not what I expected. It wasn’t as modern, as beautiful or as organized as Abuja, and it was a far cry from the cities in Europe. I was also disappointed when I found that there was no multinational oil company there. I came to the conclusion that if we were to make this work, I would have to work with what was available. They had schools and I really enjoyed teaching during my National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) so I decided I would start out as a teacher, then use my time after work to build a flour confection business and probably transition to doing business fulltime.

Kingsley planned to rent a three bedroom apartment he found in a relatively organized part of town. Its rental value was thirty thousand Naira per annum. The town’s taxi service was cheap and it was easy to get around even if you didn’t own a car. We thought we would save money over a few years and buy a fairly used vehicle.

I returned to Abuja to live out the rest of my spinster days. My M.Sc. result was finally communicated via email and I was thrilled to see that all my hard work paid off. I graduated with distinction and I rushed home to share the good news with my family. I also informed Kingsley about it. My elder sister always told me to keep my options open so I went ahead to submit my application to about ten companies in Nigeria. Feeling like ‘hot cake’, I thought I would have an overwhelming influx of interview invitations. Surprisingly, I got no response.

I picked up my old income stream – making cakes – and that kept my cash flow up. Then a friend of mine came to town for an interview at an Environmental Solutions Company. I went along with her and after wowing the examiners, I was offered a job. She got an offer too but the salary was not enough to cover her relocation from Port Harcourt so she turned it down. I started what I considered a ‘place holder’ job while waiting for something more interesting to come up.

One day, my mother went to visit some friends and returned with a newspaper that contained employment adverts. One of the juicy opportunities was from the No. 1 company I wanted to work for. I submitted my application and continued with everyday life – work, cakes, choir and other music rehearsals, church programs, and so on.

Soon enough, I was invited for an aptitude test… and then an interview, after which I was asked to stay for another interview, with a number of candidates eliminated at each stage. Finally, I had my medical screening. My place holder employer first threatened to fire me when I asked for permission to go for these tests. But when I got the employment letter for my dream job, they offered me a pay raise to entice me to stay. No way, Jose! I put in a month’s notice and began to prepare to resume my new job in Lagos on November 1, 2007.

Around the same period Kingsley went for a training organized by his office. At the end of it, he was posted to Lagos and was to resume on October 31, 2007. The companies we were to work for had branch offices in other States in Nigeria. This was definitely beyond coincidence. This amazing orchestration of events to grant me the desire of my heart was clearly a divine intervention, an answer to prayer in its truest form.

Good bye, Akure. Hello, Lagos!

Long Distance – The Story

No, I didn’t want to leave my sweetheart… but I had to. It was a painful decision to make. I had experienced a miracle and now it was time for me to do my part.

I always wanted a Masters’ degree and after the required exams to study in the US, I was asked to send my result to three schools of my choice. A few weeks, later, I got a message from one school to pay a fee of seventy five dollars for my application to be processed. Believe it or not, $75 was an impossible amount for my family to come up with at that time. If we couldn’t even pay the processing fee, how would we pay the tuition and handle the other financial needs?

I prayed a simple prayer in the bathroom when I got back from the cyber cafe… God I want to do my Masters and the only way it will happen is if you make a way because we can’t afford it…. I also put in a few lines about what I would like to study. Some weeks to months later, my sister found out about a scholarship opportunity. I got the forms, took the test and was one of the hundred awardees that year. The Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) handled all the application processing and logistics and they covered every single expense – air fares, lodging, feeding, warm clothing, computing devices, communication costs and so on. We were totally pampered by the Nigerian Government.

So off I went to Europe. Kingsley, along with my family and a few friends, saw me off to the airport. Many big hugs later, I joined two other scholars and we boarded the plane. I had a picture of Kingsley and myself nicely framed. I wasn’t going to forget his face for any reason whatsoever. It had a permanent position on my bedside table. I also went along with all the love notes he had written to me. I think that is a fine art that is getting lost in this era of much easier communication.

I took time to write down my dream for 2007 – from graduating with distinction, to returning to Nigeria, getting a job, getting married to Kingsley, and so on. I pasted it on the wall in my room. A friend of mine came into my room and had a good laugh when she saw it. Then she asked the rest of our Nigerian colleagues to pray for me so Kingsley wouldn’t break my heart. They all knew where my heart was.

Staying in touch was hard. At first I had to go out in the cold to make calls, then later we had skype in Europe but it wasn’t really working back home… then I started getting tired of having to recount my experiences over the phone. I wished he could be there to share those moments with me. So I prayed again. This time I said, ‘Dear Lord, I really want to live with my husband after we get married. I don’t want to have to do a long distance marriage. I don’t want us to be apart… Please make a way’.  

February 2007 came and I returned to Nigeria. My fellow scholars and I were super excited. People wondered about that. I don’t know why the others were excited but I was going to see Kingsley after so long and remember my dream? All those wonderful things were to happen in Nigeria in 2007. So, yes! I was excited.

To be continued…

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