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Friday, December 23, 2011

Making A List...Checking It Twice

In the spirit of Christmas, this week’s “how we met” story is about a couple who share their love with others every day.
Steve and Oddny Gumaer are the co-founders of Partners Relief and Development. Partners Relief & Development is a registered charity in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States, working with communities impacted by war in Burma. Partners relief strives to provide free, full lives for the children and refugees of Burma.

Do you know the Alanis Morissette song, 21 things? It’s a guitar led and gritty song about all the things she wants in a lover. The point, however, is not the merits of this rock song, it is that I had a list like this too.
In 1989 I decided that living with Phil Anderson, even though we were best friends, was not cool anymore. We lived on the fourth floor of Hua Mark Condominiums, just across the street from Ramkamhaeng University in Bangkok. Phil had this habit of blowing his nose in the shower between yodeling and doing bird-calls;every morning…really. It drove me nuts. He was also a large he, not a lithe she. He liked to eat Turian. I describe Turian, the fruit many Asians refer to as “the king of fruits”, as a cross between decomposing garlic and dirty athletic socks with a suspiciously urine hue to it. How much better would it be to wake up with Meg Ryan next to me than waking up to Phil with his Turian breath and bird calls? So I started hunting for Meg.

Remember that at this time I was still dressing like a 50 year old, wearing aviator glasses (they weren’t cool back then), and dressing in either grey or baby blue button up shirt-sleeves. The exception of course was the very stylish madras cotton ones, colored like a rainbow, reserved for special occasions. I wasn’t exactly Meg Ryan material.
Until then, I was on a girl moratorium. That’s right, no looking, no playing, no hanky-panky. I was a Christian now and I wanted to know God. Get to know Him, not her. Read about Him, not her. Think about Him, not her. So I prayed, fasted, and did everything I could do to get closer to Him. But Phil was the straw that broke the camels back. I was 20 and started thinking, just occasionally (like every 60 seconds) about sleeping in a room with someone other than Phil.

According to me my prospective bride had to possess the following qualities:

1. She had to like books. Not crap romance novels but real stuff like CS Lewis and Francis Schaeffer.
2. She had to be a runner and have a runner’s body.
3. Music had to matter to her. If she didn’t like Van Morrison, she wasn’t the girl.
6. She had to be dedicated to following God, no matter where He led us.
7. She had to be able to discuss opinions and world events intelligently.
8. She couldn’t be too petite or high maintenance, but she couldn’t be fat or have fat genes.
11. She had to want to live primitive and hard-core for the rest of her life.
12. She had to really turn me on!

There were more items on my list, probably 21 of them, but I can’t remember them all anymore. Every single girl I met was subjected to the list. I was ridiculous.

At the time, I was heading to Japan to join a team of Christian volunteers building a church in an area outside of Tokyo.When I got off the plane from Bangkok I met Oddny in arrivals. Earlier that morning she had drawn the shortest stick and so was on American pick-up duty. 

Oddny is the sort of girl that everyone loves. She is gentle and has an easy and endearing smile. Her voice is like renaissance music and she has a cute ski jump nose. Talking with her is like talking to your best friend,the one you don’t actually have but always wished for. We agreed to go for a run later that night.

Night fell and she was late. There was also a monsoon brewing outside Ichikawa so the streets were deep with water and sludge from the Mamagawa canal. It was nearly ten at night when she finally came home.
She walked in the door and I realized a few things at once:
Oddny is hot!
Oddny still wants to go for a run (Even though it’s late and stormy outside).
I had never thought of Oddny as a possible candidate for selection. I had never even interviewed her with my list. What was I thinking?
When she opened the door to the living room I felt as if an angel just landed from heaven with steam still drifting off her wings. Her hair was highlighted with white and blond hues, cut so short it reminded me of the lead singer of Roxette. Her lipstick brought out the fullness of her delicious lips. She said she was modeling for a magazine. I wanted to stand up at that moment and kiss her, throwing caution and my sacred list to the wind.
Then, she said she still wanted to run. I was incredulous. First of all, she was the very picture of my idea of physical perfection; second, she wanted to run even though it was late and ugly outside. What a girl!

We pounded through the lightning and rain for an hour, while I went through every one of my items on my list –and then some. Soaked to the bone, we got back to her door where I was still trying to sort through all the things I was feeling. I took off my shoes and said goodnight as we walked off our separate ways.
Tossing and turning in bed I went through the list in my head. She has a runner’s body, she likes Bob Dylan and Miles Davis, she has read as much as me, and likes to talk about politics and current events. She wants to keep living on the edge and loves God with her whole heart. And she definitely turns me on.

Now I had to get Oddny to fall in love with me! I just hoped that her list was more kind than mine.

Steve Gumaer  |  Partners Relief & Development ®