LOVE AND AWAY
Via Wahome Thuku
WHAT would you do if your spouse relocated to Europe, leaving you behind in Kenya and your chances of a reunion dimming by the day? Or what would you do if you are the spouse who had relocated?
This is the story of James Ngigi and his wife Carole Njeri (pictured)
After completing her studies several years back, Carole began her hustles in her home town of Githunguri, Kiambu District. Then her luck came calling. In 2008, she obtained a Green Card to live and work in the USA. That same year and same place (Githunguri), she met James and the two “became an item”.
April 2010 Carole flew out to the USA to start her new life, landing there for the first time on April 28 to be specific. By then, James had already left for South Africa to pursue his business interests. Just like that, the love birds had been separated by fate.
In November 2011, Carole flew from the USA to South Africa where she briefly reunited with her sweetheart. They had tried to keep the ship afloat for all those months.
While there, James popped up the big question and the girlfriend said yes. The two were engaged. A few weeks later, Carole traveled back to the USA and James returned to Kenya. The two kept in touch as they had always done.
From 2012 James began the hustles of organizing and preparing for their wedding set for the following year, doing virtually all the preparations with the help of friends and family members as Carole was abroad. The entire responsibility of planning and organizing the wedding was solely in his hands.
In May 2013, Carole flew back to Kenya just in time to attend her ruracio (the dowry ceremony).
“When I returned to Kenya, James and his family came to my home for ruracio” Carole told me in an interview last week.
On June 7, 2013 Carole and James celebrated a colourful wedding in Nairobi.
“Where did you subsequently go for the honeymoon,” I asked her.
“Actually we just traveled around the country since there was no enough time to honey moon,”
Indeed there was no much time. A week after the wedding, Carole flew back to the USA to start making plans for her husband to join her.
Little did she know it was going to be the most frustrating struggle with the American immigration bureaucracy, putting the biggest test and challenge to her new marriage.
“My biggest challenge was loneliness. Being away from my husband and the negative comments I’d get from friends and married couple trying to discourage me. I ended up losing a lot of “friends” and basically kept to myself,” She adds, “Because I was a green card holder it took longer to process my husband’s paperwork and we had only been married for less than an year when I filed the documents,”
On the other hands, some of her friends were already guaranteeing her that the arrangement would never work.
“They would bring up examples of other couples who had tried to do the same thing and ended up breaking or things getting real ugly,” she says. “At first I’d get angry and argue trying to prove them wrong but realized that wasn’t working so I would just nod to whatever they were saying and end with “well, ain’t you glad you are not us”
How they were going to keep the marriage and the flame burning was the biggest question.
“We texted each other all the time and Skyped every day for 3 hours or more. Basically any time any of us wanted to get in touch with the other we would,”
“Did you discuss with James about all these comments you were getting from friends?”
“Yes we did. He was going through the same thing. So we had to be there for each other for support and all and have a little laugh about the whole thing,”
In November 2014 (some 17 months after her wedding and her one week honeymoon) Carole flew back to Kenya for Christmas holiday. At that time, she was still trying to process her husband’s migration papers. And for the first time since June 2013, she fell in the hands of the man of her love.
“How did it feel, reuniting with the love of your heart?” I asked her.
“I don’t know how to explain it,”
“Please try,” I insist.
“After a long flight, when you look up to see your husband waiting and you forget how tired you are and then when you hug each other and you are home, so content and nothing else matters. It was a feeling of contentment,”
I met Carole and James twice that holiday in Nairobi, once on a coffee date and the second time, they had encountered a fraud issue with Western Union.
“During that holiday, did people here ask you about what you intended to do with about the future of your marriage?” I asked her last week.
“No, they just asked me when I’m going back. She says when in the US, Kenyans kept asking her when she would return to Kenya. And when she was in Kenya, they kept asking when she would be flying back to States…that is Kenyans for you.
By the time Carole flew back to the US in January 2015, the best had already happened to the couple, she was several weeks expectant.
“I was in Kenya when I found out that I was going to be a mom,” she says.
On August 20, 2015 their daughter was born in America. The father only received the news.
Carole says after returning to the US, she did not have any more fears that the husband would never join her.
However the wait for the reunion was going to be even longer this time.
“I did not have any fears this time. I just became impatient because there was a baby on the way and I also needed my husband to be with me,”
Carole ensured that James was fully updated on her welfare and the baby’s growth through Skype, texts, photos, calls… name them.
“Did you feel like she was missing dad’s presence?”
“Yes. And also him missing out on all the milestones she was hitting.”
Around August 2016, after more than two years of waiting, they received a letter from the US embassy confirming they had received all the documents and would inform them on the interview date.
Finally, James attended the interview on September 1, 2016 and was successful. After five days, James received the long awaited visa to travel to the US. Few days later, Carole received him at the airport in her home State.
“How did you feel?” I asked Carole.
“Relief,” was her one-word response.
Carole says the reunion was joyful. She says her husband had long prepared to relocate and to settle in the US.
She says her friends were excited about the news.
“We only told the ones who had stood by us, family and close friends,” she told me.
Why did it take that long to reunite the family?
“When they (immigration people) ask for documents, they take 3 months to get back to you, and then they ask for more and take one or more months to get back with you …also, if you miss to send one of the docs they ask for, it delays your case,” Carole explains.
Did you fever fear that James might never come to the US?
“Yes I did”
“What went on in your mind then?”
“After the wedding, the first months/year was the hardest. And with the process dragging itself, I sometimes found myself wondering whether we did the right thing or I should have just moved back to Kenya,”
So what kept her holding on to distant love for over four years?
“I love James, he is my soul mate and also my friend so it was easy,” she says.
“Did the thought of relocating back to Kenya ever cross your mind?
“Yes it did. Just so I could be close to James and my family. It was by God’s Grace. We prayed for us and the whole process everyday otherwise we wouldn’t have made it without Him,”
AND THEY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER