Just the other day I was thinking how much I miss blogging on a regular basis. Life got busy and I let it go. On my last entry, someone commented on their struggles with a long distance relationship. I know the heartbreak well!
Back in January I started doing some serious praying and even contacted a church in Hawaii which has prayer warriors in order to get back to my Ben. By the middle of February, I had bought a ticket to Nigeria. We quickly scheduled our wedding date and got all the preparations done. There was a flurry of activity which ensued over the next month!
I was talking to a good friend, Kaitlyn, about how to get to Ben. The money was here, but I didn’t have the time off available at work. I was terrified to ask for the time off in order to go get married. The long months of stress had worn me down emotionally and I was cracking at the seams. I requested a six week leave of absence from my job in order to take care of myself. Part of my self care included going to see my love! Getting some movement again in bringing us together again. Kaitlyn told me, in essence, that God brings us true love rarely and that is what I have with Ben. Do whatever I have to do to marry this man! After that conversation, my decision was that no matter the cost,I was going to marry this man! I put in my request the next day and got confirmation a few days later. I have never been so willing to do whatever it takes to have what I want before. God provided for me in the ways I needed.
I arrived in Lagos, Nigeria on March 5, 2012. The flight was long and exhausting. I was 2nd to the last person to pass through immigration and customs. The wait was unreal. I think the last hour in the airport was one of the hardest times in all my life! When I walked out the doors, I panicked when I didn’t see him at first. There were people trying to get me in a taxi and carry my bags. A moment later, I heard my name. Seeing him face-to-face was siimply amazing! It’d been 18 months since we’d seen each other. We picked up right where we left off last time. No time had elapsed and there was not a moment of awkwardness or uncertainty. We hugged so long there on the sidewalk that a guard was telling us to take it home!
I met my brother-in-law for the first time at the airport. He was away in school when I was there the first time. I was so happy to see him there with Ben! Upon arrival at the house, Mom was walking through the gate just as we pulled my suitcases from the trunk. The hugs and reunions were so special! In those first few hours, I got to see nearly all the family. I was astonished at my young sister-in-law. She was only 9 the last time I saw her. Now 11, she is a young lady and extremely beautiful! She was so excited to see me. She was telling me that all day at school she’d been telling her friends that her sister-in-law was arriving from America.
I stayed in Nigeria for 22 days. The first week of my stay was not very exciting, but extremely busy! We only had three weeks to plan our wedding prior to my arrival, so that first week was full of wedding details. The taylor came and fit my dress and took it for alterations and embroidery. Ben and the taylor were negotiating price and what work was to be done. I didn’t understand a lot of the conversation. To me, it sounded like they were on the edge of going to blows! I asked Amaka if they were arguing. She laughed at me and said they were only negotiating. When I got my dress back a few days later, I was amazed at how lovely it really is! He had added hand embroidered purple detailing with a fringe.
Two days before the wedding we went goat shopping. We went across town to a goat market with Ben’s brother, Placid and his wife, Coco. What an experience that was! There were hundreds of goats tied to traughs bleating. I was appauled at their treatment. What kind of life is it for a goat to be tied up with only about 18″ wiggle room waiting to be bought for slaughter?! Placid found the perfect goat and dickered with the man on the price. $200 for a big goat. They hog tied the goat and put him in the trunk of the car! I told them to turn up the radio so I couldn’t hear him kicking and crying. The three of them laughed at me, but come on now… I’m a California city girl! I couldn’t watch them slaughter the goat the next day. I knew if I did, I’d never be able to eat it!
The following morning, I got up to the sounds of about 10 guys downstairs in the yard slaughtering the goat. I stayed upstairs for a long while. Curiosity finally got the better of me. I’m really glad I went down! This was one of the true African cultural things I experienced on this trip. The goat was already dead and on a fire when I arrived on scene. I stood with my hands on my hips looking at this not sure what to think. I decided it wasn’t so bad and joined in on the fun and celebration of the day. By the time they actually butchered the goat for cooking, I was pretty immune to it all. I joked with the photographer that he should take a picture of me holding the goat’s head. Well, the joke was on me when everyone cheered me on until I did it. It’s one of my favorite pictures from that day!
We got married on Thursday, March 15, 2012. My mom called us at 4:30 am to wish us well and start the day off for me with love from family. It was really hard getting married without any of my family or friends being there. A few days prior, we watched the “Mama Mia!” video. I had to leave the room when Meryl Streep is holding her daughter and helping her prepare for her wedding day. The emotions and tears overwhelmed me. I knew it would be hard, but I had no idea it would be like that! So, having mom call me first thing that morning meant a lot to me…. to both of us, really.
Getting dressed was a group project. Ben helped me put my dress on. I did my own hair and make-up. Placid cinched the tie on my dress. One of the aunties straightened it all out. Mom gave me her red royalty earrings to wear. Coco loaned me a hairpin she wore at her wedding a few weeks earlier for the something new, something old, something borrowed, something blue tradition. The end product was amazing! I hadn’t planned what jewelry to wear and it just kind of fell into place that morning.
The wait at the Federal Marriage Registry at Ikoyi was long! We arrived at 9am and weren’t married until a little before noon. The morning looked like it might rain. The day ended up being ungodly hot! I was getting a little cranky and ready to go home by the time they called us up for our turn. Funny how quickly my mood and attitude changed when it was our turn!
The ceremony was very different than an American court marriage. The vows are similar, but different in ways that are more meaningful to me. The offciant told us how to sit, stand, hold each other. It seemed a little riduculous when I was watching the couples ahead of us. It did when we were doing it, too. Afterwards, looking at the photos and the video I am glad he had us do it his way! It added to the meaning of the ceremony. For a court marriage, it lasted about 15 minutes and he didn’t rush us through. We were given our special moment and allowed to honor it. I value that a lot. With so many civil marriages here, you have 5 minutes and it’s done. Move it on out!
I can’t get over “washing” the official who married us. We paid really high costs for our marriage both in fees and bribes prior to the ceremony. He demanded bribes from each of the wedding party. I was the first to give him Naira and he tossed it back at me telling me I had to give more! This was not giving him an offering for his services. This was a straight out bribe! Ben had to give him even more that next Monday when he went to pick up our marriage certificate. The corruption is unreal!
The interview process prior to the marriage was a little intense, too. When Ben set the date, they told him we’d have to under go some counseling. We had no idea what this would entail. We got there and sat before this man who asked us all of these questions about the validity of our marriage, how we met, our courtship, where we’d live, our financial plan, what foods I would cook for my husband in the States, plan for children, am I sure I don’t have any children, and finally, how we planned on making our marriage work and being good and loving to one another. The process was a little intimidating, though not terrible. The worst part was when we had to do it again the day of our wedding with yet a different man! I can’t believe they asked me if I’m positive I don’t have children from a previous relationship! Why on earth would I lie about having children? And I’m pretty certain that I’ve never gone through labor or pregnancy.
The party was so much fun! All of my life, I have wanted to have a party-party. You know the kind… dancing, music, singing, drinking. A party which wasn’t just sitting around talking and eating with some laughs. I finally had the party I have always wanted! I got to be young and the center of attention. I had a camera or video camera in my face for the entire day, but I honestly didn’t mind most of the time. Everyone there wanted to dance with me and talk to me. I can’t think of another time in my life where so many men wanted to dance with me… and all of them good looking! Of course, my husband was the most dashing of them all!!!
Speaking of my dashing husband, he just woke up and it’s time for our video chat. Tell you more later!