A marriage made in Ivan

Hurricane Ivan would not have been the most romantic of times for most people, but for one couple the storm created their most romantic moment ever.

Hyatt Regency Hotel chef Howard Thorpe proposed to hairstylist from Eclipze Hair Design and Day Spa, Sissy Weber, right at the height of the storm at their residence in West Bay. The couple were married 15 January in Negril in Howard’s native Jamaica.

Describing the situation in the one-bedroom rented house during the hurricane, Sissy explained, ‘It was very scary. The air was flying through the roof and ceiling and we were scared they would fly off.’

The night before the storm, Howard had drilled holes in the ceiling to allow it to aerate and for water to drip down during the storm. However, despite the precautionary measures they had taken, the couple quickly moved to a walk-in closet in their bathroom, for shelter.

‘It just seemed like the safest place. It almost seemed like a room within a room,’ said Howard.

On Sunday morning, 12 September, the couple felt they had gone through a bad part of the storm, but feared the worst was yet to come.

Romantic backdrop

‘It was very uncertain, so I thought if we survived this we should spend the rest of our lives together,’ he explained.

The storm actually provided a type of romantic backdrop for the couple, as they had a mattress in the closet with them, candles were lit, and Howard was already on his two knees for the proposal, as was his wife-to-be.

The timing was just perfect, Howard thought, as marriage was something the couple would enter into eventually. ‘With the hurricane and everything it was just like, ‘why not?” he said.

As for Sissy, she was certainly taken aback by Howard’s timing.

‘Well, I didn’t expect he would ask me in the hurricane night,’ she was quick to point out.

But the proposal, which was promptly accepted by a delighted Sissy, who hails from an area near Stuttgart in Germany, really helped the bride-to-be through the remainder of Ivan.

‘She went from crying to laughing,’ said Howard.

Jamaican wedding

On 15 January the couple acted on their hurricane promise and married in Negril, Jamaica. Howard is originally from Hanover, nearby.

They married in the midst of family and friends at the tranquil setting of the resort Point Village. They have been together for three years and met through mutual friends in Grand Cayman.

Sissy, who first came to Grand Cayman to live over four years ago, did not know a word of English when she arrived.

Her friend Birgit Iff, also from Germany, was already here and persuaded Sissy to come and join her.

Sense of humour

So Sissy, armed with one English learning book, oodles of determination and a very good sense of humour, has now made many friends on the island and can chat away as though she has always spoken English.

‘When I began to work here I had not one word, but I had six months to prove myself and I was determined,’ she explained.

‘Everyone always laughs at things I say and then they explain what I said wrong. That’s how I learn,’ Sissy said.

‘My co-workers had such fun at things I say, but I never give up and I never took it personal,’ she laughed.

Howard has been in the Cayman Islands for nearly 10 years, spending two years on Little Cayman before moving to Grand Cayman.

And what does he think of Sissy’s new language ability?

‘She knows Jamaican more than I do. She’s Jamaican now anyway,’ he said.

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