The day began with one of my 2am wake ups where I start thinking and, once I do that, sleep is out of the question. On this Saturday morning, my thoughts surrounded my career and what to do about it. A cup of Starbucks sometime around 3am, and by 6:30 I was able to sleep again; post-morning-coffee naps, once the thinking stops, are some of my most peaceful rests of all.
By 8:15 I was jolted awake with the memory of a planned Skype call with my good friends Dan and Peggy out in Seattle. They are coming to visit us in March and I enjoyed our hour-long talk, catching up and planning their adventures in Tanzania.
It was a slightly gloomy morning and Karl and I almost didn't go to Mbudya, but we had been planning for some time on going to this small tropical island off the north coast of Dar es Salaam, the ferry a mere 15 minute bajaj ride from our house. The day was warm, and the clouds offered a nice break from the endless Tanzanian sun, so we went.
We packed a modest picnic of PB&J, Pringles, Primal Strips, water and our new picnic blanket handmade locally, one of the few purchases we've made in Africa. The boat ride was calm and the island pleasantly unpopulated. We wandered up the leeward side and found a nice spot to pitch the blanket and enjoy lunch. I can't remember now what we talked about? Hermit crabs that we noticed, the cleanliness of the beach, whether the tide was coming in or going out. It was just a Saturday, after all, like any other...
We sat for a bit and decided to walk further up the beach, towards the end of the island. We came to a flat, rocky patch and the trail permitted no further on foot, so we donned our snorkels and fins and left our backpacks on the shore. The water was shallow, crystal green and blue. Not too many fish to speak of, but the water allowed pleasant flopping and snorkeling. We could see the end of the island, beyond which lay the broad openness of the Indian Ocean.
We stopped at the island's end, knees in the sand, and watched the beautiful line of waves breaking over the submerged reef in the near distance. Tankers and container ships beyond, lined up waiting for port.
What happened next my human brain was unable to fully store in memory, but I have clear sensations that help me recapture most of the moments: I was partly on my knees and partly sitting, Karl was sitting with his flippers out in front of him. With every passing wave, we gently rocked around and were never static or solidly planted on the ocean floor. I had a beautiful view and was daydreaming of surfing. We hugged, kissed, and got gently tossed around with the movement of the great ocean, comparatively calm in our protected waters.
Karl started to talk. He was saying something about it being time to put things into place, or something like that. He was looking at me and I at him and I could hardly believe what was unfolding. He had his mask and snorkel on top his head, his flippers nosing out of the water as he bounced around. He looked ridiculous and perfect. I had my mask and snorkel on top my own head, my hair a disastrous mess, my eyes squinting as the sun was making its presence known at last. I could picture what we both looked like, and it was great. Like two happy children playing in the water. I started giggling uncontrollably, suddenly so shy or bashful or some such ridiculous emotion around this man whom I've shared my life with for more than three and a half years. I began to tear up and cry even as I couldn't stop giggling and smiling.
He was smiling as he asked. He said it simply, "Abigail, will you marry me?" Aaaahhh, all I did was hug him. I was feeling and sensing and experiencing, aware primarily of my physical body, embracing him and feeling how wonderful it felt, how well we fit together, how natural, how safe, how good.
Water girl that I am, a proposal couldn't have been better that this. And I was so surprised! So happily surprised! So happy that it was a surprise. My thinking self, the one that gets me up at 2am, was hardly to be found, but she did break through with a message that there was something I must articulate. "Yes," I said, smiling big and bursting with joy.