The Urban Wanderer

Crossing Borders ~ Bridging Cultures ~ Traveling Responsibly

Finding Love Across the World

As many of you have followed my journey over the years, you may have noticed that finding that special someone has been a difficult task for me. Relationships would come and go, but I never found that person who I could connect with on a deeper level or that I would want to share the rest of my life with. I am not one to just settle and I had a firm belief that I would rather be single and happy than be unhappy in the wrong relationship. But as the years passed by and my 20’s turned into 30’s, I grew increasingly impatient and I felt like there was a void in my life. I remember more recently (probably my early 40’s) thinking to myself that I needed to rid myself of this hope of finding my partner. I am not sure if this makes total sense but I felt like the hope of finding someone weighed heavily on my mind and by always carrying this hope, it actually perpetuated the feeling of not being content being by myself. It was upon this realization that I shifted my thinking and started to feel more content with the idea of never finding a husband. Some people thought this was an unhealthy way of thinking, but for me it felt like self-preservation and I truly felt more at peace with life once I rid myself of the expectation of trying to find Mr. Right.

Now let’s rewind back to 2020 right before the pandemic hit us all. My friend and I went to Africa. Part of our trip we joined a tour that took us from South Africa, through Eswatini, Mozambique and then back to South Africa. It was during this tour that a group of us bonded and became such amazing friends. One of these friends was our tour guide, Liza. She was an incredible leader, but as the weeks went on we all knew she was an even more incredible human. Her wit, authenticity and kindness were just a few qualities that shone through. Saying goodbye to everyone at the end of the tour was incredibly difficult. I remember when we were all hugging goodbye, I was sobbing like a crazy person. It felt like I was leaving a part of me behind and I truly felt like my heart was breaking, especially when saying goodbye Liza. 

Now as this post is about finding love across the world, you can probably see where this is going.  There are a few hurdles to jump over before our happily ever after but I welcome you to join me on my journey and let me explain the last 2 years to you. 

Returning home in March of 2020 was surreal on so many levels. We were at the height of the world shutting down from Covid, so not only was I completely gutted about saying goodbye to someone who meant so much to me, but I was also returning to a ghost town. The life that I led before I left for Africa was nothing like when I returned. I was suddenly working from home. I was put in isolation from traveling and like everyone else in the world I was confused by what I was seeing on the news about the pandemic. My life, like so many others, had just done a complete 180!

Maybe saying that my life had done a 180 is an understatement. Let’s delve deeper into my personal life…For my entire life (a total of 42  years at the time), I was always a straight woman. I preferred watching Magic Mike over Showgirls to put it in movie terms. I never looked at a woman in a romantic way and I never even questioned my sexuality growing up. I was a straight woman with short hair. I mention the short hair because I had people question me throughout the years and it frustrated me that just because I had short hair and was single I must be on the ‘other team’. 

When I first met Liza nothing changed in terms of my thoughts around my sexuality. I knew she was gay and I knew that I loved her as a friend and a human. During the trip, she was completely professional and after the fact even admitted to fumbling her words around me and trying to stay away from me because she had a crush on me. I had no idea and I remember when once she fumbled her words, I merely thought she was just trying to make awkward conversation. As I mentioned before, a bond was definitely formed during the trip but at the time I thought of her as a soul sister. 

Because Liza was working in the tourism industry, Covid threw a real wrench in her career. All tours were stopped indefinitely and she no longer had a job to go to every day. Me on the other hand still had my job, but I was working from home which meant that I had time during my lunch break to Facetime with her every day. From the day I returned home we never missed a day talking to each other. Within a few months my heart grew fonder of this woman and I couldn’t explain my feelings to anyone. I was confused as I couldn’t figure out why a seemingly straight woman would be falling for another woman. Even though I grew up in a very liberal family who didn’t judge others for being gay, I was very afraid to admit my feelings to both myself and others. 

The first person I spoke to was of course Liza. Even though she was overjoyed at the time, she played it incredibly cool. She knew I was afraid and she comforted me by letting me know that what I was feeling did not need a label. It took a few months before I had the courage to let others in on what I was feeling. It is crazy to think back to this time because although I was incredibly happy that I had finally found the love of my life I was also nervous about how people would react. Looking back I know I was fortunate because I was at a place in my life where I felt confident in who I was and I knew that if people judged me I wouldn’t want them in my life anyway. However, the fear of not fully knowing how people would react or if the dynamics in my relationships would change weighed heavily on my mind. 

For the most part, the most important people in my life reacted with love and support which I am incredibly grateful for. There were some growing pains for a few, but it only lasted a few months. I think people could see how genuinely happy I was and that outweighed the shock of it all.  Even now I can admit my sexuality is slightly complicated. I fell in love with a human, not a gender. I don’t identify as lesbian or bisexual but if people need to label it as such to make it easier to understand, then I am A-OK with that too. 

The next hurdle was trying to navigate our relationship and logistically figure out how we were going to be together. Cape Town, South Africa couldn’t be further from Edmonton, Canada and the 9 hour time difference didn’t make connecting easy. The first choice was deciding whether I would move to South Africa or if Liza would move to Canada. There were a few deciding factors: I have held a job for 20+ years and in this time have been collecting a pension. I also own property in Canada which although I am still paying a mortgage on, it is a bigger tie to Canada. Earning the Canadian dollar over the South African rand goes much further as well. By earning the Canadian dollar we will have the ability to travel back to South Africa more often than if we both were earning the rand as it may take years to make enough to travel back to Canada. Lastly, we had to look at the safety and corruption of South Africa. South Africa is still a 3rd world country and sadly safety, healthcare and corruption would all be an issue if we lived there. 

So Canada it would be…but now what? You would think it would be easy. Liza could come over as a tourist for a while right? No. Liza could get a working visa right? No. After speaking to an immigration lawyer we were quickly struck with how difficult it would be for Liza to even come into the country. Now combine that with Covid restrictions and the process becomes even more complicated. Even if she was to come as a tourist she would need a visa. A tourist visa is costly and it is not cut and dry. She would need to prove she had a large sum of money in her bank account, a stable job to return to and a reason to tie her back to South Africa. As we were about 8 months into the pandemic (and international travel was banned) all these things were nearly impossible. The only other option was marriage. What?? Marriage? Even though we knew that we were going to be together for the rest of our lives it was a bit of a jump and a shock to think about so quickly. As we let the information sink in we both knew without a doubt what we wanted to do. We wanted to be together and if that meant speeding up the timeline of our relationship, then we were both going to jump in with both feet together. 

So the wedding planning began…where, when, how? Initially we planned our wedding for February of 2021. I bought my dress, we booked the location in Cape Town and booked my flights. Even though the wedding was going to take place in South Africa and probably be missing most of ‘ my people’ we both wanted to have a ceremony and make it as special as we could. 

As the months went by and 2020 crept on we missed each other deeply. We both vowed that if borders opened up and I was able to go to South Africa, I would go for a quick visit prior to the wedding. In October 2020, our wishes came true and South Africa opened its borders to international travelers. Within a week I booked my ticket and planned to be there by the end of the month. Even though we were well past the ‘popping the question’ stage Liza planned to properly engage when I visited her. We were beyond excited to see each other again and I was counting down the days until I left. 

And then Covid reared its ugly head again…Canada’s numbers were increasing rapidly and South Africa wouldn’t allow Canadians into the country anymore.  With so much anticipation we both were completely devastated by this news. We agreed that if borders happen to open up again and I was able to travel before our wedding we would simply just get married on paper and continue with the ceremony as planned. We were terrified that the uncertainty of international travel would get in the way and the only way we could get started on Liza’s immigration process would be if we were legally married. 

I must have had a horseshoe up my arse because within a few weeks Canadians were allowed back into South Africa. I booked my ticket and was landing in Cape Town within days. Our meeting was just like out of a movie, we ran towards each other in slow motion and gave each other the biggest hug of all times.  On second thought, our first kiss was through a mask so maybe it wasn’t like the movies at all! 

Being together was incredibly easy and I knew without a doubt that this was the woman I wanted to marry. When Liza popped the question we were staying at an Airbnb. She set up these little signs asking me to follow them until I got to the end. When I got to the end there was a box and in it was a puzzle. (Yes, I am one of those puzzle nerds). When I built the puzzle it read ‘Will you marry me’ in Afrikaans. Liza got down on one knee and asked me to marry her but I couldn’t let her be on one knee without me, so I got down on my knees too and it was such an unforgettable moment. That day was made even more magical as we spent the day on Boulder’s Beach soaking up the sun and watching the penguins go about their day. 

Only a couple of days later was our official wedding day. Our engagement was incredibly romantic but our wedding day was … let’s just say not quite so much. It started with an early morning drive to a town called Grabouw where we were to have an appointment with the Department of Home Affairs. By the time we got there the line up was down the street. We knew we had an appointment but it felt wrong to barge up to the front when others had been waiting for hours. Eventually we were ushered into the building and told to wait for an officer to call us in for an interview. It was funny because when the officer called us into his office, he was confused because he didn’t have a record of our appointment. We could see a daytimer laying on the desk and right there in front of our eyes were both our names. There was a lot more commotion and finally a lady was called in to give our interview. Liza and I were separated and I had to go in first. Basically the interview was to ask us questions separately to determine the legitimacy of our relationship. We thought the questions were going to be difficult but the only piece of personal information I had to know was that Liza has a brother. All the other questions were about myself. Liza went in after me and her interview was shorter than mine. We were given the green light and our official papers were stamped. Next we had to make our way to our Officiants house to seal the deal.

We found our Officiants online and were excited to use them as they had raving reviews. The more we exchanged information with them prior to the wedding however, the more we realized that they were highly disorganized and not entirely professional. When we realized that we were going to first get married on paper before our ceremony we quickly decided that we would no longer have them officiate our ceremony as well. This decision was only solidified when we got to their house. Firstly when we got there, neither of the ladies were even home. We sat there on their front porch waiting for quite some time before they rocked up. Their reason for not being home was that they needed to get some coffee. Next they brought us through their house and although I can say I usually don’t judge a messy home, this was a bit beyond messy. The place itself felt dirty and disorganized. There was nowhere to sit so they took us to the back yard. I was happy to get some fresh air even if I was surrounded by dog feces. Their washroom had towels laying everywhere and to top it off, there was a teddy bear sitting on top of the toilet. All I could think about was all the germs that were probably trapped in that teddy bear from flushing the toilet each time. 

They had all the official paperwork there and guided us through our ‘I do’s’ but while doing so also admitted to being high. At one point a random lady also showed up to be our witness, bless her heart – we will never know who our witness ever was!! In the end we dipped our thumbs in ink and signed the papers making us wife and wife. Even though the situation was far from what we anticipated for our wedding day, it truly was memorable! 

The next two weeks flew by. As my departure day drew closer, I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. The thought of being apart again was excruciating.  What made our good-bye’s tolerable however, was knowing that I would be back in just over a month for our wedding celebration. 

As with most situations during the pandemic, things didn’t go according to plan. Sadly, less than a week before I was to board the plane to go back to South Africa for our wedding ceremony, the Canadian government shut down all international travel once again. Looking back I see this time as an emotional rollercoaster. It was heartbreaking to have to cancel our wedding but it was such a relief that we did go forward with our nuptials when I had visited the month prior. Even though the wedding was a no-go, we could move forward with getting the ball rolling and start the immigration process for Liza to move to Canada. 

We did our research on how to move forward with applying for Permanent Residency. The cheaper option would have been to apply ourselves, however the process is lengthy and we heard first hand from others who had gone through it that if you miss even one detail, your application would be rejected and this only would draw out the process even longer. Our number one priority was being together as soon as we could so we hired the most amazing Immigration Officer. She knew exactly what we needed and worked with us to make sure that every T was crossed and every I was dotted. We had to gather pages and pages of information that provided proof of our relationship. Things like phone call records, text messages, photos, letters from friends etc. Without her guidance I feel like it would have been incredibly overwhelming. Once we submitted our information it was a waiting game. 

Months went by without a word and every now and then our immigration officer would send us directives to do the next step. By August of 2021 Liza was scheduled to have her physical. We were told that this meant that we were near the end, which brought us so much excitement. It just so happened that I was visiting her in South Africa at that time as well. We were able to go for a road trip through the Garden Route all the way to Addo Elephant National Park. Our 3 weeks traveling around South Africa, visiting with Liza’s friends and family was pure bliss. Although everything about being together was amazing I have to admit that there was this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that this was only temporary and soon I would have to go home without my wife. Leaving her was excruciating and the only sliver of hope we held onto was that we were at the end of the immigration process…or so we thought. 

I returned home in August, but August turned into September, October and then November with no word. We celebrated our 1 year anniversary apart having to share our gift to each other over Facetime. We still held hope that by Christmas we would get the green light and we could book Liza’s ticket to Canada. However, Covid reared its ugly head again when Omicron was first discovered in South Africa. There were more delays and of course I was incredibly disappointed. 

In late January we finally got the call that we had been waiting for for over a year. Liza had been approved for Permanent Residency in Canada and now we could move forward with sending her passport away for the final stamp. The floodgates broke and my tears of happiness could have held Noah and his arc!! For about a month I was like a kid on Christmas morning – waiting for Liza to get her passport back so we could book her flight. Once we did that I just crossed my fingers and toes that she would stay healthy and not test positive so that she could board that plane and finally come home to me.

February 21, 2022 will forever be etched in my memory as the day I felt whole. I arrived at the airport and paced around way too early, but when my soulmate walked through the gates I couldn’t contain my excitement. Anyone reading this who has had to endure a long distance relationship can understand how long each day feels without your person by your side. Add in the uncertainty of the pandemic and not knowing when we would be able to see each other again and it amplified the feelings by 100. It is crazy to think about this time as it really was a test to us both, but the minute she was in my arms it all washed away and I felt like I was living in a dream.

People ask if there have been growing pains or are there things that we have had to get used to now that we are living with each other. I can honestly say that ‘lifing’ with my wife is incredibly easy. We have so much fun together and fit into each other’s lives so perfectly. Of course I had to adjust to buying things like toilet paper twice as often but that is as far as the growing pains actually go. Liza has had to adjust to living in a completely different country where so many things are not the same as South Africa. When she first arrived she was in awe that not everything wasn’t fenced in or behind burglar bars. Or when she walked into a grocery store she could spend hours looking at the cereal aisle as there are so many options. But this would be her story to tell so maybe I should get her to write a post about what it is like moving to the other side of the world. 

Fast forward 6 months from the day she arrived and we were finally celebrating our long awaited wedding ceremony. Although we didn’t have Liza’s loved ones physically there, we knew that they were there in spirit cheering us on. It was a perfect summer day and we were able to have the entire ceremony and reception at a local restaurant. My sister Jennifer was a key to helping us pull the day off. She made all the decorations, our bouquets and even our cakes…yes cakes plural. I had one of my closest friends of 37 years fly in from San Francisco and even her parents flew in from Hong Kong! 

Our ceremony was held outside on the patio and when the song ‘Favorite Place to Go’ by Layup started to play my dad took my arm and together we walked down the aisle. I have to admit that I feel like I had a little bit of ADHD at that moment.  Instead of looking straight down towards my glowing bride, I couldn’t help but look at all my loved ones and be in complete awe that they were all there for us. My dad was the star of the show as he held many hats that day. Because we were already legally married in South Africa we were able to have him be our Officiant. From walking me down the aisle, to officiating and then being our Emcee, he really took the role of Father of the Bride to a whole new level! The ceremony was perfect (apart from when I was crying so hard while trying to get through my vows that I had a string of snot hanging from my nose).  

For the reception, we were able to have our own private room in the restaurant. It was a tight squeeze to have all 43 guests in there but we wouldn’t have wanted to have it any other way. It is incredibly humbling to stand before your most important people in your life and feel how much love and support you really have. Standing there with the love of my life by my side and my loved ones smiling around us is a moment that I will never forget and one that will forever be etched in my memory. 

So how do I end a blog post like this one? I feel like my love story is one that I could have never foreseen. Sometimes the unexpected is far more incredible than what we could ever envision for ourselves. I waited a very long time to find my soulmate and my life partner but every experience that I went through in my life led me to her and for this I couldn’t be more grateful.

4 responses to “Finding Love Across the World”

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