Real Life

‘I found love online’

Having a traditional Maori wedding in China to a bridegroom from Cameroon meant Hilda HolyMake spanned three continents on her big day. But considering the 44-year-old searched the world for four years to find her perfect man, a regular wedding back home in Auckland was never on the cards.

Both wearing korowai (traditional Maori feathered cloaks), Hilda and Colins Ndango (32) of Cameroon in Africa exchanged vows in the Chinese city of Xian, where Colins teaches English.

“We were told we were the first foreigners to be married in that city and, to my knowledge, we are the only New Zealand Maori and Cameroonian married couple in the world,” says Hilda.

If it wasn’t for the internet, it’s highly unlikely the pair would ever have met. Feeling jaded after years of meeting unsuitable men, the mum-of-four decided to try her luck with an overseas-based dating website.

However, Hilda had heard the horror stories about internet romances and, at first, she was suspicious of Colins. “I know to ask the right questions,” she says. “I’m getting on in age a little bit and I knew I didn’t have time to play games.”

After grilling Colins ruthlessly about his motives, Hilda was convinced she had found the real deal in the young African teacher – and Colins felt the same about the New Zealander.

“It became clear that we were a perfect match,” says Colins.

After seven months of communicating by email and telephone, Hilda and Colins realised they’d fallen in love and even before they had met in person, they decided to get married.

Hilda took the plunge and flew to China. “I took a risk,” she acknowledges. “But every moment we walk in this world we’re taking risks. I spent $3000 to get on a plane to fly across the world to meet a man, and people were asking, ‘What if the person you meet at the airport isn’t the one you expected? What if he doesn’t turn up at the airport at all? What if he is a terrorist and wants to kidnap you?’

“But I’d done my homework. We had been talking on the phone four times a day. I also knew that there were idiots online who claimed to look like Brad Pitt when they were really some ugly monster.”

For Hilda and Colins, meeting at last was everything they had hoped for – and more. They spent the next eight days in each other’s arms.

“Everything about each other was exactly what we expected. We felt like we had known one another for 20 years or more,” Colins says.

Just eight days later, Hilda was back in New Zealand working as a clinical manager for the Maori mental health service while planning her wedding. Their ceremony at a Xian registry officein January was everything the couple had dreamed of and they spent an idyllic two months together, only to be parted again.

Colins is now moving to New Zealand and Hilda is longing for his arrival. “It’s the most difficult thing to be so in love, get married and then have to turn around and say goodbye. We knew that was the case when we got involved, but it won’t be long before we can start our new life together and we can’t wait.”

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