Sequim’s Gigi Thompson, nee Giselle Payet, is a native of Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean.
She’s lived on the Olympic Peninsula for more than 40 years but arrived in an unusual way.
“I was a mail-order bride,” she says. Gigi, a beloved waitress at Sequim’s Sunshine Cafe, recently told her story, which began with a letter to the editor of the local newspaper in Victoria, capital city of the Seychelles.
“I was 19 when a gentleman in Port Townsend saw a program on Channel 9 on the Seychelles. He went to the library and did his research on the Seychelles and mail-order brides. Then he wrote to our local newspaper, in Victoria. A friend of mine wrote back to him and signed my name to the letter.
The gentleman from Port Townsend started writing, and I asked him how he got my address. That’s how I found out my friend wrote to him.
He wanted a picture of me in my bathing suit, but I was raised a good Catholic. You didn’t wear a swimsuit to the beach, you wore a dress.
He sent a picture of himself, sitting in a chair.
We talked more and he asked for my hand in marriage. I told him, ‘In my country, you come to my parents or you write them a letter.’ So he did, and asked for my hand in marriage. Then my mom and dad, the three of us, sat in the living room. They said, ‘You’re of age. It’s up to you.’
So I did.
No money was exchanged. He just had to sponsor me. I had all my papers, my green card. I spent three days and three nights on a liner going from Africa to New York, and then I flew from New York to Seattle. I was scared — I was terrified. The people on the plane were speaking so many different languages. I prayed the whole way.
I got into Port Townsend and eight days later married at Mount Vernon, Wash.
I was so sad, I cried the whole time.
It was the first time I would be with a man. No mom, no dad around. By that time I was 20.
I loved it (America) — all the buildings. It was amazing. I loved it ever since, especially here in Sequim.
Everyone has a story and now they have a place to tell it. Verbatim is a first-person column that introduces you to your neighbors as they relate in their own words some of the difficult, humorous, moving or just plain fun moments in their lives. It’s all part of the Gazette’s commitment as your community newspaper. If you have a story for Verbatim, contact Mark Couhig at firstname.lastname@example.org.