Its not because we were standing in the shadow of the world’s greatest tribute to love only a few days ago or that we are now sipping tea besides a scenic lake in the city deemed “the most romantic spot in all of India” that I am drafting up this entry. No, this expression of sentimentalities is due to the fact that today, I am celebrating my first year anniversary with my one and only.
I met Tim during my first few months teaching in South Korea. There’s no cliché “love-at-first sight” story behind this coupling. In fact, we would both agree it was anything but. However, I knew that something great was about to happen months before I even left home to start my first working year abroad. No doubt in my mind Tim was that great something meant for me.
We’ve been through our fair share this year, not only having to navigate the ins-and-outs of any fledgling relationship, but with the added challenges of dealing with life abroad and differing ideas of home, the unsettling question of the future was more imposing than ever before. As I prefaced, now we are in India, with 365 days of ups-and-downs under our belt, which should suggest a mini-happily-ever-after for the two of us. Halfway through my year, I decided that traveling the Asian continent after my contract was up was what I wanted most and after careeeeeeful, drawn-out deliberation on the matter, Tim committed to joining me, much to my disbelief. Not saying that because he’s not a man of his word but because this decision is serious – both time-consuming and financially draining – as in, its not for the faint of heart. But committed he has.
1. He’s a kid at heart.
What the heck is a band pic? Tim assures me it’ll be fun. He begins to engineer a shot where Cheyenne and I are looking aimlessly into the distance while the colorfully-tiled stupas of Wat Pho rise sublimely behind us. He’s tinkering with the self-timer settings while I’m posed awkwardly, feeling dumb at the display. Chey is super into it and here I am just trying to go with the flow. He runs towards us enthusiastically and takes his position among us. The click goes off and we all sit still for a second more to make sure the picture has been taken but the minute the second has passed, Tim runs over to the camera. He smiles with satisfaction. I have to admit, it did come out pretty nice. We end the day with twenty pieces in our “portfolio” and the new band name,
The air is heavy with heat. A dirty, meagerly clothed child is tugging at my skirt begging for money. It’s our first day in Delhi and my blood is boiling. We are parked in an auto rickshaw at a red light having fled the scene of a heated altercation with scam artists posing to be “tourist agents.” I feel enraged by the situation, upset by how menacing India is panning out to be. Tim tells me he how much he trusts my judgment and how from here on out, he’s giving me the reins to organize the trip logistics. While driving back to our hotel, I take time to reflect on how Tim let me cry my heart out at McDonalds while he handled the aftermath of the initial decision since I couldn’t and how after taking the time to sensibly think things through, he followed my lead when I needed to confront the con-men to demand what we rightfully owned. He never once demonstrated machismo except in order to protect my dignity. We were a team that day because we trusted in each other strengths in the face of our weaknesses.
3. He’s well-mannered.
It’s a six-hour journey down physically mind-jarring roads as our bus jolts with every divot in the road, like a tin can on wheels full of bobble-heads with uneasy faces. There are two girls who were informed much to their chagrin that they were sold overbooked seats and the only way they’ll be getting to Chitwan National Park is to endure six hours of painful bouncing and sharp turns seated in the dirty aisle. They unwillingly do so. Tim is sitting in an aisle seat and looks down at them sympathetically. As the chivalrous sort, he gets up and trades places with one of them. The next day, he’s suffering from a stiff neck, unable to fully extend his neck backwards. But he never ones complains or regrets his decision.
4. He’s protective.
“You know why I make you walk in front of me?” he says as we make our way through the heavily congested streets of Pahar Ganj. I’m irritated at the mass amount of ear-piercing honking and having to dodge every moving body be it a beggar or an auto-rickshaw or even a dumb cow. I disinterestedly ask why, more preoccupied with the road ahead. “So you won’t get hit.” I’m completely oblivious to the traffic coming at me from behind and he’s knowingly shielding me from harm.
5. He’s thoughtful.
We’ve decided to spend ten days volunteering in the humble, rural village of Changu Narayan. I spot him from the balcony with Bertrand at the farthest water tap. Tim’s washing the bedding from our new room by hand, which we undeniably know, have not been washed for months. For the past few nights, I’ve been suffocating in our current room from allergies that scratch my throat and have transformed my nose into a running spout. I’m miserable and suffering and Tim can see it’s taking a toll on my well-being. We request to transfer rooms as soon as one frees up at his suggestion. After hanging the linen to dry, he takes the massive fleece comforter from off the bed and beats it to free it from as much dust as he can. Just so I could sleep better.
6. He tries his best.
I whine, “Just one more take”, after three different snippets of me catwalking down the footpath leading to the Taj Mahal. He sees I’m dissatisfied so he presses onwards despite the knowledge that he might not fulfill my unreal expectations of the perfect shot. I give him a nudge and whisper, “Finish the food so it shows you like it,” even though he’s full and can’t bear to stomach anything else. But he knows my host mom is watching him awaiting his reaction. So that plate is made clear. I bought a ukulele. I don’t know how to play the ukulele. But Tim knows how to play the guitar so I think it’ll be a cinch for him to learn. On top of not knowing how to play, I’ve come to the realization I’ve accrued too much to carry. So he carries that ukulele 2,640 miles across the Asian continent. The pack on my back and the additional smaller, but nonetheless hefty, backpack guarding my front side is apparently burdensome. I’m struggling to walk any further. He takes the pack off my back before starting a harsh jaunt up the mountain face. Lasting barely ten minutes before we’re on flat ground again, he’s sweaty and short of breath, calves burning from the added resistance up the inclined path.
It’s the small things that count. That’s the most important lesson I’ve come to recognize in the past year. Tim loves me and he shows it. Everyday, I get to experience a love put into action rather than dressed up with words and presents. He prioritizes my needs and my happiness as I do his. This creates a perpetual synergy between us, reflecting a relationship overflowing with generosity, compassion, and even joy. Especially on a seven-month undertaking such as this where we are constantly with one another, those little things can either make or break us. But I am proud to know that as a team, we are golden: that this pairing is enduring despite being under considerable strain. All I know is that all I’ve ever wanted was someone who could give me lifetime full of adventures and I believe I’ve found just that.