Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

We're Getting Married!

Dear Mumpus and Grumpus Readers,
      Your bloggers are getting married on Sunday and will be in Ecuador for our honeymoon for the next two weeks.  We will return to the US and this blog in December.  Until then, we'll leave you with the story of how we met.  Enjoy!

Everyday, people fall in love in Beijing—rarely, however, are those two people American Jews on their way to IKEA.

It was August 2007, and J.R. Siegel had just returned from a three-month backpacking trip around rural China and Burma and was getting ready to furnish his apartment in a traditional Chinese hutong.  His roommate, Gideon Kalischer, suggested that they take a female friend with them to IKEA to help pick out appropriate decor.  “It was obvious from how dirty this place was that we needed a woman’s touch to make the place livable,” recalls Gideon.  That friend was Allie Lipps, who taught English at the same university in Hebei Province as Gideon the previous year and had just moved into Beijing herself.  

“I had seen the apartment before I met J.R. and noticed he had an old bike rigged for indoor riding taking up most of his bedroom, so I was expecting him to be a little bit odd,” said Allie.  “After their cab picked me up, I remember thinking that he was a little cuter than I was expecting.  The only problem was that Gideon told me he was gay.”

The Beijing IKEA is an amazing place that brings together a melange of people ranging from rich expats to migrant workers who are looking for a nice place to relax and take a nap.  “As we walked around the IKEA, there was never an awkward moment, and I immediately knew that we had something special,” said J.R.

Mr. Siegel decided to ask her to dinner almost immediately.  “I didn’t think that we were on a date until he took me to a really romantic place in a public park, ordered wine and insisted on picking up the check,” said Ms. Lipps.  “Then I began to suspect that Gideon might have been wrong about his sexual orientation.”  

After dating for a few months, Mr. Siegel decided to make a big move and ask Ms. Lipps to celebrate Chinese New Year with him on Koh Lanta, a tropical island in Thailand.  “I knew that Allie had traveled through Southeast Asia before, so I figured that she’d be up for an adventure, and I wanted to make sure that we traveled well together,” said Mr. Siegel

Over a series of candlelit dinners, a snorkeling expedition and an elephant ride, the couple began falling in love.  After four more months in China and witnessing several Olympic events including the finals of men’s water polo, which Mr. Siegel had played at Yale, they decided that they’d had enough of China and returned home to the US.

Following a year in Washington D.C., during which at least one of them was unemployed and squatting in the other’s apartment the entire time, and a brief trip to Israel and Turkey, they decided to move to Boston together.  Mr. Siegel started an international business and energy policy program at The Fletcher School at Tufts University in September 2009, while Ms. Lipps began her Master of Public Health Program at Tufts in January 2010.

Mr. Siegel spent the Summer of 2010 researching the explosive growth of the off-grid solar industry in rural Bangladesh.  “Although I sweated off ten pounds and had a series of wonderful adventures in rural Bangladesh and Dhaka, the trip was missing something because Allie wasn’t there with me,” said Mr. Siegel.  “It was during a meal with an old friend from Australia that I randomly ran into on the streets of Dhaka that I decided to ask Allie to marry me when we met up in India.”  After weeks of searching, Mr. Siegel was able to find a ring thanks to the help of an elderly Bangladeshi couple that took him shopping.

While Mr. Siegel was frantically searching for a ring, Ms. Lipps was in an ashram in Rishikesh, India, practicing yoga and unwinding after a summer spent taking classes and wandering around Boston.  

On their second day together in India, the couple went to the Taj Mahal.  “I decided that I was going to ask her to marry me at the Taj, so once we got there I began looking for someone to take our picture.  I found a backpacker, explained that I wanted to propose to my girlfriend on the count of three, and went back to pose with Allie,” said Mr. Siegel.  “I wasn’t sure why he was talking to this random guy about how to use our point-and-shoot camera for so long,” recalls Ms. Lipps.  When Mr. Siegel dropped to his knee on three, she knew why.

They were supposed to have eight more romantic days together in India; however, two days after the proposal, Allie was the sickest she had ever been with two severe gastrointestinal infections, later diagnosed over a period of several months as Shigella and Giardia.  “Helping her find a bathroom every four hours wasn’t how I had envisioned our romantic vacation, but it was a good indication that I’d always be there for her,” said Mr. Siegel.

On Sunday, November 13th the couple are to be married by Rabbi Jeffrey Summit of Tufts Hillel at the Willowdale Estate in Bradley Palmer State Park, Topsfield, Massachusetts.  The couple is still living in Boston, where Ms. Lipps works as a Project Manager at the Stoeckle Center for Primary Care Innovation at Massachusetts General Hospital and Mr. Siegel works in Marketing for Quiet Logistics.  Since professional commitments are going to limit the couple’s overseas adventures for the foreseeable future, they recently started The Adventures of Mumpus and Grumpus, a multi-media blog that documents their adventures in New England and beyond.  “We’ve learned that the only things we need for a good adventure are a little imagination, something resembling a plan, and each other,” said Mr. Siegel.