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I'm marrying a Masai warrior!

Miles away from home, Jessica was surprised to lose her heart in remote Africa

Looking around at the vast, arid land, I felt so alone. What am I doing here? I wondered.

It was July 2008 and, at 25, I was in Africa, a long way from home. After university, I had decided to volunteer at a kids day-care centre in Tanzania. But it was hard work and very emotionally draining.

'You're doing a good thing,' said Mama Marandu, my boss.

'Thanks,' I nodded.

Teaching the kids English, I started to find happiness in life's simplicities. But at the end of each day, back at the house I was staying in, I'd feel unsettled.

Standing outside were two Masai warriors and they looked terrifying. They wore red cloaks, held long threatening sticks and hanging by their thighs were giant machetes.

But I knew I'd better get used to them. After all, they were there for my own protection.

'How's it going?' I asked cautiously one night. 'Well, thank you,' one of them replied in surprisingly good English.

I discovered his name was Zak and he was 25, like me.

'I live three hours away,' he said, explaining he regularly made the trip back to his village. 'That's incredible,' I replied, thinking how I would complain about my 30-minute commute at home!

The more I spoke to Zak, the more I liked him. He was kind-hearted and had a great sense of humour. Over the weeks I spent hours by the gate, chatting to him.

And although it was completely irrational, I slowly began developing feelings for Zak. Don't be crazy, I told myself. He's from a completely different world to you.

But even as my head pointed out the impracticalities, my heart was telling me something was bringing us together for a reason.
In the end it got too much.

'I really like you,' I told him nervously one night.

Then he took me in his arms. 'We will be together forever,' he breathed. And as I rested my head against his muscled chest I knew he was right.

That night was the start of our whirlwind romance. The friends I'd made in Tanzania all loved Zak and as we spent more time together, I fell more in love.

One day, Zak took me to his village to meet his family. It was in the middle of nowhere, with just a few huts nestled in the dirt. 'They've never seen a white person before,' Zak chuckled as curious children ran up to touch my blonde hair.

We stayed the night and his family gave me the only bed in the village. I was so touched.

'They're such good people,' I told Zak. 'They liked you too,' he replied.

After three months, it was time to return to Australia and I was heartbroken. I'd fallen so hard for Zak, the thought of not being with him was unbearable.

'This isn't goodbye forever,' I told him tearfully.

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'God will bring us together again,' he nodded, kissing me.

Back home in Australia, I was able to phone Zak but it wasn't the same. I couldn't even talk to anyone about it as nobody really understood.

'A Masai warrior?' one friend frowned. 'Are you crazy?'

Only my mum got it when she spotted the sparkle in my eye.

'You really love him, don't you?' she smiled. 'He has a beautiful heart,' I nodded.

But in January the following year, Mum passed away. I was an emotional wreck and needed to escape. I went to the only person I knew could help. Zak.

'I knew you'd come back,' he said, comforting me.

'Come visit me in Australia,'I replied. 'I want you to see where I grew up with my mum.'

'I would love that,' Zak agreed.

So a few months later it was his turn for a culture shock.

I paid for his flight and after an agonising wait for his visa, Zak arrived in Brisbane for his nine-month stay.

Meeting him in the arrival lounge, he looked shocked. 'It's all so different,' he mumbled as I threw my arms around him. The plane's TVs and the western food had baffled him.

Driving home, Zak stared out of the window at the neon lights. 'It's incredible,' he gasped.

But Zak's habits from home didn't disappear. One morning, he spent ages getting dressed into his Masai clothes for a day at the beach. 'I bought you some board shorts, if you'd like to try them instead,' I giggled.

He tried eggs for the first time and munched on his first McDonald's cheeseburger.

He was blown away by the differences between our countries. 'I like it here,' he smiled. But that didn't mean he wasn't missing home. One morning, I realised he'd spent the entire night sleeping outside. My heart melted. 'It's what I'm used to,' he shrugged.

Another day, I walked in to find him fixated by a TV documentary about Africa.

I knew he was incredibly homesick. 'Why don't you go back for a while?' I suggested.

I loved having Zak there, but still grieving for Mum, I wasn't giving him the attention he deserved. It wasn't fair. 'This isn't the end for us,' Zak promised, hugging me at the airport.

'I know,' I nodded. Despite the enormous differences we faced, something told me we would be together forever.

Two weeks later, I realised I was right. I was pregnant!

But how? I frowned, shocked. I'd been on the pill and Zak and I had always been careful. It didn't make sense but then, nor did my falling for a Masai warrior in the first place!

http://www.thatslife.com.au/e2shop/uploads/4032/masai2.jpg

'This is the happiest day of my life,' Zak choked when I told him over the phone.

We knew the future wouldn't be easy. It would take months for Zak to get another visa for Australia and the baby would have to be fully immunised before we could go to Zak.

We'll make it work, I told myself. We weren't going to give up that easily.

On August 15, I gave birth to our son, Joshyua. As his tiny fingers curled around mine, I knew we'd be okay.

'He's beautiful,' Zak smiled when I sent him a photo.

As we waited for another visa for Zak, we set up our own volunteer organisation, Aussie African Volunteer Adventures.

I ran things from Australia and Zak was on the ground in Africa to make it work there. Africa was a huge part of my life now and I wanted to do all I could to help.

Today, two years after my first trip to Tanzania, my life has changed dramatically.

Little Joshyua is three months old and I plan to take him with me to Tanzania next year so Zak can finally meet his son. We want to get married here in March 2011.

It's hard to predict how things will work out but one thing is certain, with a Masai warrior watching over us, Joshyua and I will always be loved and protected.

For more information, visit Aussie African

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