So much is happening in the world right now… there is so much pain and anguish and injustice and it is much more important than my pregnancy or this blog. I want to take a moment to say unequivocally that I support these protests. Black lives matter. And we need systemic change and we need it NOW.
But, if you are in the mood for a break from the news and the outside world...
Would you like to hear a love story?
My pregnancy has been blissfully uneventful these days, which means there isn’t much to write about!
I’m 32 1/2 weeks pregnant and it’s all smooth sailing.
So, I’ve decided to write a piece about my husband and I. After all, there wouldn't be a reason for this blog without him and it has taken a lot for us to get where we are.
Don’t worry, I promise you it’s not as simple as boy meets girl, falls in love, etc. For better and worse, our relationship has never had the luxury of being so uncomplicated.
It all started a little over eleven and a half years ago. If you’ve been following my blog, you may already know that I just turned twenty-nine. So...that’s right! I met my husband when I was 17. In September of 2008, in Israel.
Israel has what’s called a kibbutz. That is where David and I met. A kibbutz is a communal village that was created as a sort of utopian society back in the early 1900s (read: hippies.) Originally, most of them were farms. Now, some have branched out into other sources of income. For instance, our kibbutz had date and banana farms. But, its main source of economic sustainability came from its bed & breakfast and its large restaurant, which drew hundreds of tourists and locals a day.
The most incredible thing about a kibbutz, though, is that it allows for volunteers from all around the world to work in exchange for delicious food and a beautiful place to live.
Not to mention, the opportunity to meet amazing people from around the world and make friendships that will last the rest of your lifetime!
I arrived in Israel when I was seventeen, fresh out of high school. I had graduated a year early with the express purpose of travelling the world. I had known for years that my first destination would be to work on a kibbutz like my Dad had done in the 80's. After some research, I learned that the earliest you could get a volunteer visa was at seventeen and a half. So, that’s when I went.
Now, there are two ways you can go to work on a kibbutz in Israel. You can either pay a placement agency to arrange a spot for you or you can just show up at the Kibbutz Placement Center office (KPC) in Tel Aviv and hope.
Mind you, I’d never even stayed at an overnight summer camp growing up! The longest I’d been away from home was for a weeklong trip to D.C. when I was in 6th grade. So, being that this was my first time leaving the country, I wanted to have my ducks in a row. I chose to use a placement agency.
When I arrived at the KPC to receive my placement, the woman told me that I would be working on a kibbutz not far from Tel Aviv. But, as she prepared the paperwork, she suddenly frowned. “Oh no,” she said. “You’re not 18.”
“I know… I’m seventeen and a half. I went through the KPC office in New York.”
“But, you cannot get a visa until you are 18.”
The funny thing is, I was so shell-shocked—a sheltered seventeen year old girl, having never even been to a public bus station before, let alone a foreign country—that I actually remember thinking to myself: You know what, it’s okay if I have to go home. At least I tried.
But, instead the woman told me to wait while she made some phone calls. Eventually, she told me that she had called in a favor with a friend. I would be going to Kibbutz Ein-Gev along the Sea of Galilee (or the Kinneret in Hebrew.) “It is one of the most beautiful places in the whole country,” she told me. And she was not wrong.
So, it was by complete chance that I came to Ein-Gev. Or perhaps, it wasn’t chance.
David was one of about twenty other volunteers. He was from Manchester, England and twenty-three at the time. I’d be lying if I said it was love at first sight. There was a large age gap between us and that seems like a much bigger deal when you’re seventeen.
And, of course to this day, I still get people asking me if I fell for him because of the accent.
My answer: Absolutely not at all!
It was completely disillusioning for me, in fact. There I was, a typical American anglophile who, like many, worshipped the English accent.
I had finally met my first Brit… and he sounded nothing like they do on TV.
In fact, I could hardly understand a single word that he said!
No, our romance was far more gradual and, dare I say real, than love at first sight. We became good friends and it grew from there.
When I first arrived, he was actually interested in a friend of mine, Jenny, from Sweden. They’d been exchanging some mild flirtations all week building up to the Summer Party that would be held on Friday.
Jenny was one of those girls who was a self-proclaimed ‘hot mess.” She told me and our other friends that she was scared she would do something she’d later regret.
“I always do that with guys. I mean, I like Dave...but, I just don’t know! So, if you see me doing something stupid at the party like kissing him, just… smack me!”
I’d been there for about a week by the time of the party, which was held at the local pub. The drinking age in Israel was eighteen, but everyone just assumed I was old enough. Now, I had never drunk before. So, when it came time to order my first drink, I had no idea what I wanted. That’s why I waited for my friends to order and said, “I’ll just have what she’s having.” It was a vodka red bull.
I sipped on this ONE drink pretty much the whole night and was absolutely wasted.
I didn’t realize that people from all around the Kinneret had come for this event. I assumed that every person there lived on the kibbutz. Which is why I went up to every single person in that crowded pub and introduced myself, “Hi, I’m Kelsey; I’m a new volunteer!” I only found out the next day that hardly any of the attendees actually lived on the kibbutz with us.
So, there I was. Drunk for the first time, dancing the night away. At some point, I saw David and Jenny dancing alongside me. They kissed. I remembered what Jenny had said, so I tapped her on the shoulder.
As my friend turned around, I slapped her as hard as I could, right across the face!
She was furious! “What the HELL, Kelsey?!”
I shrugged. “You told me to slap you.”
“Well, I didn’t mean NOW!”
Spoiler alert: it didn’t exactly work out with Jenny and David after that. After having spent some more time with her, he realized that he actually didn’t like her all that much. (Luckily for me!)
In the coming month, David and I became good friends. There was one night after the pub where I went back to his room and we just talked for three or more hours. Eventually, our roommates began dating and certainly took the credit for “setting us up” but David has always maintained that he had liked me for a while by then.
There are lots of amazing stories to share from our time together on the kibbutz. But, I’m going to have to fast forward a little… our story is only just getting started!
After six months on the kibbutz, we made a plan so that we could stay together. He would go back to England to save money and join me in America as soon as he could. Our goal from there was to save up and travel the world. David had family in Australia, so we would begin our adventures there. We would work to save more money and then travel around Europe. Then, we would end our travels back at his home in the UK.
Our first roadblock came when we realized that earning money together in the States was going to be a huge challenge. David wasn’t legal to work, which was something we naively had not considered. It took us much longer than we planned, but eventually we earned enough for our plane tickets. By that point in time, David had already overstayed his visa by about five months.
Australia was another shell-shocking experience for me. By this point in time, I was almost nineteen and I was slightly less sheltered than I had been when I went to Israel... but not by much. We were both very young and still incredibly immature in our own ways, but me especially so. Unfortunately, shortly after arriving at his grandparent’s house in Brisbane, it became apparent that our relationship was just not working. We split up and I flew back home.
I spent the next several months in the throes of a classic first heartbreak. Not only was my relationship gone, but in my mind, also all of my dreams for travel. I could not imagine touring around Europe alone.
Then, one day, I realized that it was precisely because I was so afraid of this that I had to do it. Which is why I made a plan to travel around Europe on my own that summer.
Everyone thought I was crazy, but I travelled making zero plans along the way. Not even hostel reservations. What I wanted more than anything was to have complete freedom. If I liked a city, I would stay; if I didn’t, I would keep on moving. I discovered that I really enjoyed travelling alone. Not only was it incredibly liberating, but it forced me to mature in ways that I wouldn't have had I been travelling with a partner. After all, there was no one to rely on but myself. It brought out the best in me.
To fast forward a little bit again, I met up with David a few times over the course of my six months travelling around Europe. At the end of it all, we decided that we wanted to give it another go. So, I went back to the States and we decided to maintain our relationship long distance.
The following summer, in 2011, I arranged to sublet an apartment in Manchester for a couple of months. I flew there on a one-way ticket, unsure of when I would want to return home. Unfortunately, border control does not accommodate spontaneity. I could tell by the way the ticket agent grumpily asked me, “Where is your return ticket?” that it was a serious matter.
So, foolishly, I lied. “I just haven’t printed it off yet.”
That was the first (but certainly not the last) time that I would be sent to what I affectionately refer to as the “timeout corner.” It is a very small room enclosed by glass windows directly next to customs. It is positioned so that everyone that has just come off their plane has nothing to do but stare at you and wonder what sort of trouble you're in while they wait in line to get their passport checked. Drugs? Bombs?
I waited there for not just one, but at least two planes’ worth of people to go through the border control before, finally, the grumpy man came back. “You don’t have a return ticket, do you?”
Twenty year old idiot that I was, I hadn’t realized that with everything being electronic, they could easily check these things. “No,” I admitted sheepishly.
“Procrastination?” By the look on his face, I knew this answer did not suffice.
I’d gathered that I couldn’t say the truth, so instead I naively fibbed again, “Because my boyfriend wanted to buy it for me.” Instantly, I knew that this sounded like I had no money, which they also didn’t like, so I quickly followed it by adding, “I have the money for it! He just insisted. And we weren’t exactly sure when to book it for, so we decided to wait.”
“Right.” The agent gathered all of David’s contact information. I told him that he’d be waiting for me at the arrivals. Then, the grumpy man told me to wait a while longer. Eventually, he escorted me downstairs to the baggage area, now empty of all passengers, where my luggage waited. Then, another two customs officers came to search my belongings.
Thankfully, these men seemed far more cheerful than the grumpy ticket agent. The three of us were chatting very casually. “Are there any contraband items that I should know about here, love?” they eventually asked me.
“No,” I said. Then, after a moment of thinking, I added, “Well I do have a small pocket knife and some pepper spray.”
Their faces changed. I’d forgotten that knives were illegal in England. I had travelled back and forth with both items during all of my European travels and had never had an incident. But, then again, they’d never had reason to search my checked luggage before.
“Right. Wait here just a minute.”
They called in the transport police. When the police arrived, they were carrying GIANT guns. Like AK-47 type guns. Luckily, they were very good-humored officers. The difference between American and British police officers was astounding. We were all joking around and having a really nice chat. Finally, after one of them got off the phone with his boss, he told me they were going to have to bring me to the station. It was clear that the officers found this unnecessary, but that those were the rules.
“One question, though,” I asked. “So, after I go to the station, will I have to come back here and still potentially be deported?”
“One second,” the officer said. And he walked over to the grumpy ticket agent who had been sullenly watching this from a corner. I could see the two of them have a heated exchange.
Finally, the grumpy man stomped over to me and shoved my passport back into my hand. “The next time you come to the UK, it had be with more than a one-way ticket or you will be sent back!”
David was still waiting for me by the arrivals. After six months apart, we finally had our reunion! It was just with a police escort.
I was let off with a formal warning at the station. I still like to laugh about it now, though. If I hadn’t been travelling with those contraband items, I would have been deported that day.
The next few months were absolutely incredible for us. By the end of that summer, we had decided that we wanted to stay together no matter the cost. We both knew that the easiest way to accomplish this would be to get married.
We were a little worried about David having overstayed his visa in America, but we hatched a brilliant plan to circumvent this problem. In all of my back and forth with the grumpy border agent, one of the things I noted was that he kept talking about an “onward ticket.” So, after mountains of research about appropriate visas, I realized that if David flew to the States on a fiancé visa and had an onward ticket for travel, say to Canada perhaps, that customs would see that he had no plans of staying in the country.
So, that was it, then. We were going to get married in Canada, in Niagara Falls.
So... you probably think that's it, right? We got married. Happily ever after. The end.
Not even close.
As I said, easy and simple is something we've never had together.
Maybe you're clever and you can already guess what's about to happen. But, I'm going to leave it for my next post....just to keep this from getting too obnoxiously long (I know I'm already teetering right on that edge!)
I hope you like the break from the usual pregnancy stuff. And, even better, that maybe this was a small reprieve from the chaos of the world around us.
If this wasn't your cup of tea, don't worry. I'll be back to my usual pregnancy talk soon! And please feel free to read some of my older posts in the meantime.
As usual, I'd love to hear what you think! Tell me your story. How did you and your significant other meet?
I'm Kelsey! Proud Iowan native, world traveler, writer, wife to the most incredible husband, and now soon to be mother