Leaving Rwanda wasn’t nearly as easy as it had been to get in. You see Rwanda, in an effort to encourage tourism, doesn’t charge a fee for a visa. So when I entered, I simply had to get my passport stamped. Uganda’s policy is different. They require a $50 fee and since every penny I had was stolen I had no way to pay the fee.
We stood pleading with the immigration official, explaining our situation to no avail. You simply can not enter Uganda without paying the fee, he told me. I am sorry for what happened to you but we can make no exceptions. “What should we do then?” We asked, desperate for an answer out of this impossible situation.
He turned to Joseph, “since you are African you don’t have to pay, you can go. Leave her here and you go get the money to pay her fee.” The idea was unthinkable, it would take him two days at best to get back to Uganda, get the money and get back to me. In the meantime I was in a no man’s land between borders. I had no way to get back to the city and no place to stay if I did make it back, I had no money and nothing to eat. It was simply out of the question. “I will not leave her” Joseph said adamantly.
“Then find someone else here who will give you the money” the immigration official said callously before moving on to the next person in line.
We decided to try the bus driver, we found him loading passengers back on the bus, they were getting ready to leave and we literally had minutes to figure this out. We explained the situation to him and asked him to loan us the money until we got back to Uganda. We can pay you as soon as we get there we assured him.
We approached the conductor on the bus (this is as assistant of sorts to the driver) We asked him and he also refused. You will not pay he said, people always say they will pay and then when we get them back they leave and never bring me the money. “I will leave something with you, I promised, something that I will have to come back for. When we give you the money you can give it back to us.”
He thought about this for a minute. What will you give he asked. I searched through my belongings looking for something that would do and my eyes rested on the shiny new engagement ring on my finger…
I hesitated, I will give you my ring, I told him.
“No” It came out in perfect unison from both Joseph and the Conductor. I was a little relived.
“My camera, then” I said suddenly remembering that I had a camera that might be worth something to him. He agreed, took my camera and gave us the money. We were the last people back on the bus. My heart was beating and I felt like crying.
As we drove a sales man stood up and began putting on something of a show advertising his healing products with magical capabilities. He spoke fluently in five or six languages, none of which I could understand. Finally he turned to me and asked in English, “do you understand what I am saying,” I shook my head.
Do you speak any language besides english?
I admitted that I didn’t
He had a playful smile on his face, and I knew I was about to be the butt of one of his jokes. See that man sitting next to you? He asked, “say to him Nkwagala” he told me. (that word means I love you in Luganda) I laughed to myself. I may not know Luganda, but I knew that word. People around us were watching and snickering to see if I was going to fall for his joke.
I turned to Joseph and took his face in both hands, Nkwagala Nyo I said, adding emphasis on the Nyo (very much) I said it with my sweetest sappiest, love-sick voice I could, so that everyone would know that yes, I knew what that word was and yes I DID very much love him and the joke was on the salesman. The bus erupted in laughter.
“If you want to see what love looks like, look at these two,” he told the passengers.
We arrived home just in time for fast sunday and we decided that our fast would be devoted to Joseph getting a visa so that we could have our planned wedding in the Salt Lake Temple in Oct.
All day we went without food and prayed for our request. By evening as I went to bed, I felt so uneasy that I couldn’t sleep. I got up and started researching the visa process. Everything I read terrified me. People who had been separated for years as they waited for a visa, reports of complications and difficulties in obtaining a visa. The feelings that I had as I stood at the border being told that Joseph would have to leave me, and feeling so loved and reassured as he refused. We had found a way and we would do it again. But I knew one thing…I couldn’t leave him either.
I finally fell into a restless sleep and woke with one thought on my mind. Call the man who left you his number in the taxi several weeks ago. I had met a man who was a government official. He had given me his number and told me to contact him if I needed anything during my stay. I didn’t know what he could do to help but I called him.
Turns out he was just a few minutes away from where I lived passing through on his way to Jinja and he agreed to stop and talk to me. He did and I explained my situation. Just marry him here and then wait together for the visa he told me. You can wait here until he gets it and then you don’t have to leave him.
It would mean marrying outside of the temple, it would mean marrying without any member of my family present and no friends of mine would be there. It would mean giving up on all the dreams and plans I had for my wedding. But it would mean that I wouldn’t have to leave him. It was the only option. I thought it over all day and that night when Joseph came to Lugazi to see me I sat him down.
“I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I think we need to change our plans” I told him. His face looked weary, hesitant and slightly scared at what I was going to say next. His normally smiling face was serious.
I paused, for dramatic effect and swallowed hard, knowing that what I was about to say was going to make him so happy.
“I don’t think we should get married in October,” I told him. ” I think we should get married here, at the end of this month!”
He looked at me as though he wasn’t sure he had heard me right. I explained my thought process to him, but before I could even finish he had crushed me in a bear hug. Joseph normally has a radiant smile, but his smile that day was like something I had never seen before! We talked about our changed plans, it felt good, it felt peaceful, I knew it was fast but it didn’t feel fast. It felt right.