Monday, April 5, 2010

T+K: An Island Love Story

February 25, 2010 was the night my life changed forever. This was the night that my fiancé, Tim, asked the question that all girls dream of hearing one day...

Tim and I met on the Fourth of July, 2008, at a Peace Corps gathering on the most beautiful beach in the world. This secluded beach (called Bahía de las Águilas) is reachable by a 20-min boat ride through radiant Caribbean blue waters and high cliffs. We were introduced during this fiesta, but we didn’t have a chance to talk one-on-one much. Over the next few months, we passed each other every now and then in the Peace Corps office or during other PC get-togethers, but the sparks didn’t really fly until that Thanksgiving. It was then that we were able to have a good long conversation and realized that we had a lot in common. Our first real date took place about a week later in Santo Domingo at a local pizzeria called Pizzarelli.

From our first date, the sparks blossomed into an exciting romance. We had to battle poor cell phone reception and 7-hour bus rides to visit each other, but despite it all, we found ourselves being pulled closer and closer together. Tim told me he loved me on February 24, 2009, and I eagerly told him likewise.

We spent the next year visiting each other when possible, meeting up in the capital, and even going to America together to meet each other’s families and friends. We got along amazingly well with everyone, and we couldn’t believe how perfectly God seemed to have prepared us for one another. It seemed to be destiny.

After the trip to the states, I became extremely busy in my site. I had four months to build 28 wood-burning cook stoves and create a functioning library in the local elementary school. Tim kept me sane through all his encouragement and pitching in to help. All the work got done, and then it was time for me to go. I didn’t want to leave the country in November as scheduled though. Tim still had until May to complete his service. I decided to extend my time in country, but I wanted to do something different. I also wanted to be closer to Tim if possible. So Tim asked a local priest if he knew of any projects in the south that would benefit from my service for the next 6 months. The priest responded by saying that he could use my help working in the surrounding one-room schools attended by mostly Dominican-born Haitian children living in the mountains to teach them about basic hygiene. My boss agreed that it was a worthwhile project, and Tim and I were thrilled that we’d be living only a 30-min motorcycle ride away from each other. Tim and I moved all my stuff across the country on public transportation in mid-November and I settled into my new home, living with an eccentric 77-year old woman. We celebrated our 1-year anniversary in December and began planning our return to America in May. Tim applied to grad schools and I started to look into the teaching job market, wondering where the future would take us. Little did I know, Tim had been plotting something special for months.

We went to the capital to discuss the Haiti earthquake relief work we had been involved with and to celebrate my 26th birthday. Tim asked if I wanted to go to Pizzarelli that night (Feb 25). I never turn down pizza, so I said of course. Earlier that day, Tim had been running around the city, supposedly shopping for my birthday present. It turns out that he had been preparing the final details of the proposal.

The whole plot started back in September last year when Tim contacted my high school friend, Christie (jeweler), about engagement rings. After months of secretive correspondence, Tim finally chose the perfect ring. The only problem was that the ring was in Michigan. How was he going to get it to the Dominican Republic? Tim’s dad happened to be in Grand Rapids for work, so he kindly picked up the ring from Christie. Unfortunately the mailing system to the Dominican Republic is unreliable and packages tend to “get lost” in transit, so our Country Director, Romeo, graciously allowed Tim to use the diplomatic postal service through the US embassy to ensure the ring’s safety. Tim received the ring on February 25, and he couldn’t wait another day to pop the question.

Tim was acting nervous on our walk to dinner that night, and it reminded me of our first date. After all, we were going to the same pizzeria as that memorable day. He was dressed nicer than usual with dress shoes and even hair gel. He also carried a mysterious package in his hand. I asked him why he was bringing a present with him to dinner, because my birthday wasn’t for two more days. Shouldn’t he wait? He told me that it was a belated Valentine’s Day/ anniversary of when we first said “I love you” present. I kind of rolled my eyes, but went with the flow.

When we arrived to the restaurant, only one other customer was there. Tim ordered a Margharita pizza before we even sat down, which I found odd. He then insisted on sitting at the table of our first date, which really made me curious. Then he asked if I wanted my present. Of course I did! He handed me over a blue bag, where inside I found a Dominican style photo album that can be bought at any tourist shop or major grocery store. I started flipping through the pictures, which went along with a silly, but beautiful poem that Tim had written about our relationship entitled, “An Island Love Story.” I could feel my heart beating faster as I turned the pages and became even more suspicious that something big was about to happen. It was too intimate of a gift to be a “just because” occasion. My hunch was confirmed when I turned to the last page and it read, “Kimberly Sue Dykwell, Will You Marry Me?” Nestled inside the opposite page was the most beautiful diamond ring I have ever seen. Tim says that I yelled out something like “What!” or “Wow!” but I really don’t recall. I started to shake and tears formed in my eyes as Tim dropped to one knee and told me how much he loved me. He said that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me and asked me again to marry him. I said yes right away and then couldn’t stop saying yes as he put the ring on my finger. It was a magical proposal. I am the luckiest girl in the world.

Tim and I can’t wait to share the photo album with family and friends when we get back to the states. We have yet to set a wedding date in stone, but we are planning for summer 2011. Hope to see you all in May!!

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