Today is our twenty second wedding anniversary. We are spending it over 4000 miles apart.
The toughest part for both of us has been the trans-continental split in the family. We have been apart for over almost six weeks and will be for almost two months more. The challenge of the Myeloma and its treatments for me. The challenge of sorting, selling, packing up and leaving for Anita. Jobs we would have done together, done alone. Conversations limited to FaceTime and WhatsApp, subject to the vagaries of internet connectivity. We battle on regardless but it’s been tough.
I knew about Anita before I met her. I knew her parents first. They had joined my church and were part of the Mission Support Group (MSG). Anita was an NGO worker in Malawi, on a two year secondment with Emmanuel International (EI) , delivering a program of preventative health care to villagers in a region of Malawi to the south and east of Zomba.
I ran the drama team at church and we were asked to be involved in the planned service at church. I had always had an interest in Africa and so the stories of the work and activities were intriguing.
I met Anita in the flesh at the Twenties group in January of 1994. She had recently returned to the UK and was seeking out a new church. She arrived later than I and sat on the one free seat in the room, next to mine. We ‘hit it off’ straight away and our friendship grew quickly. Early on she came and shared her Malawi experiences with the group and soon became part of the group.
Many in the Twenties group were pairing off at this time as time went on I’d find myself in Anita’s company more and more and enjoyed a fabulous days at Billing Aquadronr and later American Adventure Theme Park. We started going out in June of 1984 and we’re engaged by August of the same year. I proposed in Swanage, where we were on an impromptu holiday at Youth Hostels on the south coast. Even though strong hints had been dropped it was the most nervous Italian Meal I’d ever had.
Wanting to do things properly/ traditionally I waited almost a fortnight to officially ask Anita’s dad. Since he was away in Hong Kong and Anita and I helping out with EI on a holiday club in Kent for a week almost directly travelling on from Swanage, it took time. We bought a ring in Winchester and then hid it away for a fortnight.
We were married on May 27 of 1995 at St Mary’s Church in Bletchley. The best day of my life. In so many ways your wedding day is a blur, but the weather stayed good and we had family and friends from across the world to share the day with us.
We had plans to return to Africa early in our marriage. Anita had a strong desire to return overseas, I had always had an inclination to teach abroad. Life got in the way. Perhaps I was a bit afraid of the challenge. I had a house and a mortgage, a settled job and had gained promotion. Anita was training to be a Nursery Nurse for the first year of our marriage, having started during our engagement. We settled, we had children, we moved to a bigger house. We changed jobs, I moved from science teaching into ICT became head of ICT in Thame. Anita moved from nursery nursing into educational administration at the Open University. Life was settled and it took almost 18 years to reignite the desire to go to Africa. Even so there were steps along the way
This is not the first anniversary we have spent apart. Eleven years ago I was in Africa whilst Anita remained in the U.K.
My school had links with The Gambia and I decided to join a teacher exchange group which spent 10 days or so in the country, soaking up the culture and spending tone in the Brikama Upper Basic School. I had an amazing time. So it seems we are on an 11 year cycle!
Were it not for my father’s diagnosis of Motor Neuron Disease and death in August 2006 we might have made plans to go then, but it was a raw time and I wanted to support mum.
In July and August of 2013, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Vietnam and Cambodia with my school as a World Challenge Leader. Three weeks exploring these countries, their cities, jungles and cultures. I realised that I liked the tropics and enjoyed the overseas life.
From this experience we made plans and started looking for overseas jobs, either Far East or Africa. In January of 2014 I applied for and was shortly offered the job in Mwanza – you can read all about the preparations and life in my other blog Tanzalongs starting with the first blog Wow!
We have had almost three great years out in Africa, plans for much longer. The fact that it has been cut short has been a bitter pill to swallow.
We will see where life leads though for a while, at least we must remain in the UK. I believe that God had a plan to bring us together, to take us to Mwanza and now to bring us back again. What it is remains to be seen.