World Mom’s Blog has recently posted about how and where their contributers met their partners. They have asked their readers to do the same so I thought it would be a good time to tell the story of how my husband and I met. It’s my favorite love story and of course I’m not biased.
I was working as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kamakechi Village, a rural community in north western Zambia. It was a pretty remote village located 74 km (46 miles) from the nearest town (which was also very small) on a dirt road that was not passable by vehicle during parts of the rainy season. There was no public transportation. People got to town on foot or by bicycle and we didn’t see many vehicles. Occasionally there would be a visit from the Ministry of Health and more rarely the Ministry of Education. Vehicles always drew a crowd in Kamakechi. My only means of transport was a bicycle and it was an 8 hour arduous ride on sandy roads to the nearest town.
One day a friend and I were smearing (putting another layer of soil on) my house which was made of mud bricks with a grass roof and we were both covered in the mud we were using for repairs, when we heard a vehicle. It stopped on the road right near my house and we heard people calling that it was Baina Kamona, our neighbor who had gone away to teachers’ college. We washed up to our elbows and ran up to the truck to greet her. I was helping her off the back of the Bedford when I heard someone greeting me in a proper English accent. I turned around to see a tall white man who asked me who I was and what I was doing here. I was so embarrassed to meet this handsome man covered completely with mud. I told him who I was and that I lived here. He said, “no you don’t – I live here and if you lived here I would have known about it.” I told him I most certainly did live here and I pointed out my house that I had been busy smearing. We argued the issue for some time and I often joke that our relationship started with a fight and that we’ve been fighting ever since. Eventually I learned that he was a safari guide working in a National Park to the south of where I was staying. When he got back to the safari lodge he put together a parcel of goodies including some Cokes and chocolate along with a tin of mussels and some biscuits. I had absolutely no idea what to do with the mussels but I appreciated the gesture and was thrilled to have the Cokes and chocolate. We started writing letters to each other and a friendship developed quickly. He eventually admitted that he hadn’t even noticed me that day we met except that his colleague who had been sitting next to him said, “do you see that white woman?” Dorian looked through his rear view mirror at me and couldn’t tell that I was white under all that mud but eventually he noticed my eyes. I found out that he had a great reputation with the people in my community and asked why they hadn’t mentioned him to me before, they told me they assumed I knew him and that actually they thought he was my brother. We were the only white people for many miles so of course we were related.
At the time I had a long term boyfriend in Mexico and Dorian and I were just friends. When my parents wanted to come visit me he organized us all a fabulous high-end safari and he was our guide. He didn’t tell me this until years later but he had used all his hard earned complimentary bed nights to make that trip happen and it was a magical holiday for me and especially for my parents who had never been to Africa before and I don’t think had ever done anything that would be considered so high-end. My mother immediately noticed that there was a connection between us and she told me that she thought Dorian liked me during that trip. I laughed at her and said, “Mom, he works in tourism. He is paid to act like he likes people.” I did confide in her that we had a very easy friendship and that I felt like I’d known him forever and she told me, “but Jody, that’s what it feels like when you meet your soulmate.” That comment of course made me laugh even harder as I reminded her of my boyfriend.
When I finished my Peace Corps service I wanted to visit my sister who was studying in Israel on my way home and I found an exceptionally cheap flight from Harare to New York City via Cairo so I decided to book a long layover in Cairo and backpack through Egypt on my way to meet my sister. I knew Dorian was staying in Harare for the off season so I contacted him and he invited me to come stay with him. I took a bus to Zimbabwe and we had a great week together before I left. We promised to keep in touch but I thought that would be the last time I saw him.
I went home and then immediately to Mexico to see my boyfriend who I hadn’t seen for over two years. We got engaged and I thought the rest of my life was pretty much mapped out, but then he broke it off suddenly. I was heartbroken but eventually I picked myself up, got a job, and moved to New York City. All this time Dorian and I kept in touch but there was nothing romantic between us. I eventually started dating but I hated it. I rarely met anyone that I felt enough of a connection with to go on a second date. I was feeling frustrated and I went to spend a weekend with one of my best friends who lives on Staten Island. I was telling her how I wasn’t meeting anyone and that if I had to be honest the only person I could really see myself with was this guy I met in Zambia and how unfair it was that in all likelihood I would never see him again.
Just after our talk I got on her computer to check my email and there was a really beautiful message from Dorian telling me that he was feeling exactly the same way I had just told my friend I was feeling. It was probably the oddest coincidence of my life. I wrote back that if that’s the way he feels he should come visit and we would see if there was really something there. He still picks on me about that email. He had laid out his feelings so poetically and I had written back with three blunt lines. That must have been a little too real for him because he wrote back with a bunch of excuses why he couldn’t come that off season but that maybe the next one. I didn’t let him off easy and sent back another short and to the point email telling him that his excuses were lame and that if he was serious about anything he had said in his message he should come and that I couldn’t promise where I would be or who I would be with a year down the line. He came. We hit it off amazingly well and had a long distance relationship for a year. Then he came for three months the following off season and proposed. That time when he went back to Africa, I followed two weeks later. We were married a year after that and we celebrated our eighth anniversary in May.
Dorian likes to tell people that it was love at first sight for him but that it took him two years to convince me. How he could have fallen in love with the sight of me covered in mud from head to toe I will never know but he tells me it was my smile. All I know is that I am so lucky that he was so persistent and I was so blunt. We complement each other well and while I still don’t know if I believe in soulmates, if I did – he is definitely it.