Friday, February 14

Calm and just a bit jittery

Guest Blogger: Karl

It was overcast, unusual for mid-day, coastal Tanzania. We took a ferry to the marine reserve Mbudya Island just off the coast. There were three other passengers and two crewmembers on the twenty-foot wooden boat that looked like it had made the trip 10,000 times before. The ocean was unusually calm and just a bit jittery. I had always imagined I would be a nervous wreck on this day. You see, I am going to this island to propose to Abigail, a proposition for forever. I could be a nervous wreck, or tense trying to make everything perfect, or preoccupied looking for some sign of the right moment, but that’s just not me. I remained present for the day, calm and just a bit jittery.

We picnicked with a hermit crab. We smiled a lot, and laughed a lot. We walked over an ancient coral reef that had grown around a giant clam and then was pushed up out of the ocean thousands of years ago. We scared a school of fish and dozens of them jumped into the air at once. We walked along the shore until the ocean called us in. Adorned with mask, fins and snorkel, away we went. To our surprise, two-foot deep shallows surrounded the southern part of the island. We saw a spiny starfish species and conch-shelled snails for the first time. It was both uncomfortable and exhilarating to be a few inches from this undersea paradise.

February 8th was a beautiful day. The jitters showed up. What if you don’t find the right moment? What if she wants to go back before you can ask? What if she steps on a sea urchin? Swimming through sea grass, I calmed myself. You cannot find the perfect moment; you must make the perfect moment. I remained present. Abigail sat up to watch the Indian Ocean break waves on a distant reef. It felt natural to sit next to her, face her, and ask loudly and certainly. I was struck that it felt so comfortable and right, even before … SHE SAID “YES”! We celebrated by flopping around – looking ridiculous – gently nudged by waves.

When we had taken our last long silent look at the horizon from that special spot, we were both overcome with the urge to tell our friends and family immediately. Hand in hand we began our swim back to shore. Signaled by a scream of surprise through her snorkel, an eel was the first to congratulate Abigail. We awaited the returning ferry in a sea-cave talking about our wedding day.

Wednesday, February 12

Engaged, and bursting with joy

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.