In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I am pleased to present a 2-in-2000 to reinforce the idea that everyone in the universe is in a relationship except for you, which explains why you’re reading the Features section, and also why you’re drinking gin in the mornings now. But I digress: the point is that I sat down with Ebryonna Wiggins ’12 of Clifton Park, N.Y. and James Mathenge ’12 of Nairobi, Kenya to talk about the language of love. (Readers beware: if you are at all allergic to cuteness, what follows will probably cause you severe anaphylactic shock.)
How long have you guys been dating?
Ebryonna Wiggins: Since Oct. 4, so five months.
You guys are entrymates, right? How’s that going, is that awkward?
EW: Not at all, actually. We’re actually in the FRS, in Willy F, and everyone in our entry is pretty tight. They respect us as an entry, so they respect us as a couple as well. We don’t do the sexile thing – I actually have a single, he has a double with his roommate, but his roommate is fantastic.
Did you make a formal announcement to the entry?
James Mathenge: We’d gone out for a week, and it had become apparent that something was happening. That first week our Facebook [relationship] status had changed that same day, but we still maintained we were dating different people in Mission or something like that. But after one week I told her, “let’s come out.”
EW: [Laughing] Note that he said he told me.
You didn’t think it was a good idea?
EW: It’s not that I didn’t think it was a good idea, I just wanted to wait a little bit.
So how did you break the news?
JM: Entry snacks. Good old entry snacks.
I’m curious what it’s like coming from such different cultural perspectives. Do you listen to the same music?
JM: She’s picking up on my Kenyan collection. She copied part of my music without my knowledge. One time I’m in her room and I heard a Kenyan song playing and I was like “Okay, where’d you get that?”
Were your parents educated abroad?
JM: I am the first person in my clan to come to the states for education.
JM: Basically my whole extended family.
How many people is that?
JM: Sixty, 70 people.
I have to ask: what do you think about that child of Kenya, Barack Obama?
JM: I think it’s a building thing. I think it is something that is building hope in so many kids especially in those disadvantaged places back home, or somewhere in Asia. I would say this: there is not a better time to be here than now.
Any Valentine’s Day plans?
EW: It’s kind of bittersweet. He’s going to be away in Pittsburgh for a Williams Christian Fellowship conference.
JM: It’s like I’ve been telling her the past few days, she makes every day a Valentine.
[Note: boyfriends like this should be outlawed, because they make the rest of us look bad.]
On that cheesy note, do either of you have a favorite thing about each other?
EW: He’s always smiling. He’s really happy, and other people notice that too. He’s very optimistic. He helps me to be optimistic as well.
JM: I think this lady is very down to earth. She is open to me in ways that I didn’t think she would be. [Coming to Williams from Kenya] has been really tough in that sense, but she’s been really strong.
Oct. 4 is coming pretty fast. Did you guys know right away that you wanted to be with each other?
EW: Can I tell this story?
JM: Please do.
EW: Actually when we first got here, I was sitting on one of the chairs, and he came in late because his plane came in late, and he sat down on the arm of the chair next to me. And the first thing I thought was: who is this person and why is he sitting so close to me? Then one day he was sitting in Paresky, and I guess I walked up behind him and I kind of just gave him a kiss on the forehead, and I guess that was the first time that twinkle kind of came into his eye.
Have you met the parents already?
JM: I’ve met her two parents and her two brothers. Older brothers. I tell you it’s tough meeting protective older brothers. Every time I met her mother she was like: she is my daughter.
Did he pass?
EW: My parents will always be protective. Their thing is: until there’s a ring on that finger, that is our job.
What’s the biggest challenge for your relationship?
JM: I think the whole cultural thing. To hit the nail on the head, that I am African and she is American, African American. It’s been a bit of a struggle with the family.
EW: There was a slight language barrier with the Swahili, his native language.
You speak Swahili?
JM: English, Swahili and Kikuyu, I’m trilingual. I also speak a fourth language, which is the language of love.
You should teach me a thing or two about that last one. I’m not so fluent in that dialect.
JM: She got a small pocket Swahili dictionary. That’s amazing. She’s always throwing these words to me.
EW: I’m picking up some words. When he’s talking to his friends on campus in Swahili, I can kind of get a sense of what they’re saying.
Say something for me in Swahili.
EW: Of course Nakupenda is I love you. And then: “mimi na wewe – wewe tu.”
What does that mean?
EW: “Me and you- only you!”