The Story of The Swedish African

A note I wrote after a week of meeting my Swede. I called him Aardvark.

Around three years ago, my life story was turned inside-out, upside down and on its head at a set of rubbish bins in the south of France.

Not quite the place you would expect your whole life to change in an instant but then again, when you read this story, you wouldn’t be even nearly surprised.

I was at an awkward stage of my life at the time; ex-corporate ad woman turned coffee-making deckhand. And I was on one of those confused, ‘find yourself’ journeys where you go through life with no plans and no expectations with the hope that a lightning bolt will strike out of nowhere and give you some sort of direction.

The Mediterranean season was finishing off and I was in two minds about working on a crocodile farm back home or back-packing through South America. Either way, I was hell-bent on finding any reason not to go back to a real job, where I’d be put into a small, claustrophobic box and told to run at the hamster wheel, stand behind a white picket fence, wait for a diamond ring and wave at the 2.2 kids across the street.

One thing was for sure: I certainly didn’t expect to meet the love of my life that day at the rubbish bins on Quay Mole Sud in Antibes, with him stood there in his Swedish-ness and me stood there in my African-ness; and a smile because we both knew a story was about to begin…

Many, many, many absinthes later, I fell asleep outside his boat, snuggled up on the dock. And quite unceremoniously, I lost my shoes that night.

He invited me to Paris. (We still have arguments about who invited who to Paris but for the sake of my South African prissiness: he invited me to Paris). It was two days of frogs legs and film star romance and then suddenly it was a goodbye kiss and hope to see you again sometime soon, somewhere nearby.

The early days: meeting up in Paris, September 2012
Early days: meeting up in Paris, September 2012

The first year we spent apart, cracking away at long distance and playing cat and mouse across the globe. I think we spent ten nights together in that first year. I went to work in Tanzania, he crossed the Panama Canal, we met up again in Colombia. It was a real geographical mess. An adventure nonetheless and just enough time to fall in love in a Caribbean city called Cartagena.

In the second year, we took some time off to see each others’ countries and meet each others’ families. And of course, to see if we really liked being together. Until that point, I didn’t know how he liked his tea or if Swedes even drank tea. It was a fun, fun time. And then we moved to France.

If you’re unafraid of the unknown, you will be rewarded.

In this third year, we tried to make an ordinary life, something that proved a bit trickier than expected. So we gave up on the ordinary and just made a life instead. We got engaged on Christmas Eve in Sweden and married on Valentine’s Day in France.

And here we are, three years on, celebrating the first of September as the start of our story as a Swede and an African.

The point of this post is this, a lot has changed in three years. A lot can change in three years.

I am not special or different for finding an interesting path in the woods. The story of The Swedish African could really happen to anyone, at least anyone who is open enough to walk down an interesting path in the woods.

Cartagena, Colombia for a whirlwind few days. February, 2013
Cartagena, Colombia for a whirlwind few days. February, 2013

In some ways, I look back on it and feel like I could not have written a more wonderful story if I had tried. Life’s surprises are so great, God really is so good and in the end, if you’re unafraid of the unknown, you will be rewarded. Often I remind myself that life favours the brave.

To sit in your living room and expect one big, bold adventure is to die while you live. You don’t need bucket loads of money to make it happen. You just need to get off the couch. Now, not tomorrow.

And certainly, an adventure can happen anywhere, even at a set of rubbish bins in the south of France.

Happy, happy anniversary my love.