For many of us, an early-in-the-relationship deal breaker might be a loved one moving to another country for work. But what happens, when, like April, your love moves to Egypt, and then things fall apart? What happens to your relationship? What happens to your future plans? How do we evaluate and re-evaluate when the truly life-changing happens and all in an instant? This is April’s story of how she found herself in the land of wedding planning, and what she’s learned through crisis and multiple continents.
The inevitable interview question: “Where do you see yourself in five years?” If you would have asked me that a couple years ago, I might have talked about where I see my career taking me, potentially going back to school to get a law degree or maybe buying a house. But now? Now, my answer would be much different… I had been dating Shaun for a year when he got a job offer to move to Egypt. Up until that point, we had been dating somewhat seriously but had never discussed our plans for the future out loud. I knew there was a possibility of him moving away from Wisconsin since he had just graduated from his masters program and was on the job hunt. I was always secretly hoping he’d find a great job in Madison and we could keep on keeping on the way we had been. Prior to the Egypt offer, I was the most stressed about an interview he had in Seattle. (Ohmigosh! It’s so far away!) Little did I know Seattle really should have been the least of my worries. We were in Florida on a long weekend vacation when he got the interview offer, and I initially was so mad that this terrible news (for me) had to come right at the beginning of our vacation. But, it turned out to be the best thing that could happen. It forced us/me to actually talk about where this was heading. And, after a night of wine-fueled conversations about everything from student debt to babies, it was decided. We were going to see this through to the end. Whatever that may be. In November of 2010, Shaun moved to Cairo while I stayed back in Wisconsin. Our plan was that I wouldn’t move to Cairo unless I really couldn’t handle the long distance. I couldn’t. I couldn’t handle it at all. I give kudos to those in long-term long-distance relationships, especially the military wives. I don’t know how you do it. I was applying to jobs in Egypt by the end of November, only three weeks after Shaun had left. I was ready to move to Egypt, but I still clung to an idea that I must have a job lined up first. And ideally a job that wouldn’t be a complete detour from my current job. And would ideally further my career. These lofty ideals ended up being just that, and the job hunt turned out to be pretty fruitless.
Finally, I decided to throw caution to the wind and move to Egypt ASAP regardless of the job prospects. Oh yeah, we officially got engaged on New Years Eve while Shaun was back in the US for the holidays. He asked my dad for permission and everything. I gave my notice at work on January 28, a Thursday. The next day (literally, the.next.day.), I woke up early to call Shaun before I left for work. No answer. Not on Skype either. I turned on CNN and started my morning routine, and the first thing I saw was someone getting shot in the chest by a rubber bullet in Tahrir Square in central Cairo. The country was in the midst of a popular uprising that would eventually topple their 30-year dictatorship. Minutes later, I found out that all forms of communication, phone and internet, had been shut off by the Egyptian government.While I felt sympathetic to the Egyptian people, I couldn’t help but be terrified about what might happen to my fiancé. This was my nightmare. I spent the day at work responding to emails and phone calls from family and friends. No, I had not heard from him today. Yes, I hope he is ok too. Yes, I am sure he’s fine. We’ll see what happens…. I quickly rescinded my notice (which turns out was happily accepted by my superiors) and checked the news every fifteen minutes looking for a positive update. A day later the phone lines and internet were turned back on, yet the situation in Cairo was continuing to deteriorate. Not knowing whether things would take a turn for the worse, Shaun evacuated Egypt and returned to Wisconsin where we would spend two long months living in limbo in my studio apartment. At this point, the plan had gone completely out the window. Our new plan was just to be together. No matter what.
Finally, Shaun was cleared to return to Cairo in April, and we were thrown back into the same conversations we had had the summer before. Was he going to go back again? If so, was I going with him? What would I do there? Was it safe for me? After some minor wavering, I decided to take the leap and move to Cairo for real in June of 2011, almost a year after we knew this was a possibility. I eventually got a job working in the same US government office as Shaun, and we have had one hell of an adventure traveling the world and growing up together this past year. If I’ve learned anything from this past year, it’s that things don’t always go according to my plan, and il hamdo li lah (thank God) for that. I know if my life had gone according my plan thus far, it sure as hell would not be as great as it is. Where do I see myself in five years? I will be with Shaun. Other than that, why waste energy trying to plan? I would rather enjoy the now… and my plans never work out anyway.
Photos by: Lexia Frank