Felix and Ellen - An International Union
Updated: Sep 16, 2020
Falling in Love
(Ellen) I arrived in Nairobi, Kenya in 2008 as the Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy. About three weeks in, after my staff began setting up appointments with people they thought I should meet, Felix came in for a meeting. He told me his story and pitched his idea. He was looking for support to show the film he had just done – A Grandmother’s Tribe. I sat across the table from him and thought ‘wow, he is hot!’
We did fund the project and he and I became good friends. It was clear that we were interested in each other but because of our business relationship, we couldn’t pursue anything.
Felix – I remember meeting her and that beautiful green dress she was wearing. I thought, ‘this is my time, and I’m going to tell my story.’
Ellen – the film launch was a huge success in Nairobi and other places. As all of that came to a close, we started to date. Things got a little complicated but, fast forward …. By the next year, we were engaged.
Laundry and Other Challenges
Ellen - One of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten is that there are some things that your husband is going to do different from you and if you can learn to accept and move on (even though you will never like it,) your life will be much better and easier. His way may be different, but it’s fine. That’s as true when it comes to laundry as it is raising children.
Felix – My challenge early on we grew up in two different worlds. In a family, even twins are different; everyone acts their own way. She’s come to accept the way I do laundry, just as she trusts me in the kitchen. She knows I’m one of the best cooks and a good kitchen manager.
Ellen – One example is that (in general,) Kenyans don’t swear and they find it more objectionable than they we do in the U.S. While I wouldn’t say I have a potty mouth, there are times where in my opinion, it just helps the situation, I’ve learned to do it in my head. It was so offensive to him and so I changed.
Felix – When men come to this country, we bring values and beliefs of male dominance, and that becomes a huge challenge in the first world. I’m one of few who tried to break the stereotype. And being married to a white woman, people said, ‘oh did you marry her, or did she marry you?’ but I say screw you. At the end of the day, you can’t be lonely when you have someone you love around you all the time. That has kept us going in good times and bad. Simple things like house chores, those core things can make or break a family.
On Being an Interracial Couple
Ellen – When my family found out about Felix they asked, ‘are you sure you want to marry an African? Stereotypically they will be with more than one woman, that kind of thing.’ And Felix heard from his family, ‘are you sure you want to marry a White woman? You’ll be divorced in a year.’ We laughed about that. So yes, there are cultural differences whether you grew up in the South or the North, or if you grew up in a family that was middle class vs upper class, all of that. The other issue for us is how children are raised here vs in Kenya.
Felix – yes, we may disagree, but these days, Ellen will send a link.
Ellen – I’ve learned that he may not hear me when I tell him I’ve learned this or read that, but if I can give him a 3rd party who has a PhD next to his name, Felix will listen. And of course, I could be angry that he wouldn’t listen to me, or I can ask ‘how can I get him to listen to me?’
Felix – In every union, I picture it as an aircraft or boat. There has to be balance. Without it, the ship will sink or the aircraft will crash. There must be a balance.