Marrying a Peruvian guy from the jungle was not something I’d ever imagined. And marrying a bookish American girl was not something my husband had ever pictured, either. When we met, I didn’t speak Spanish and he didn’t speak English. So, how exactly did we end up together?
Here’s the Story…
My life-long friend Rebekah and I both graduated early from college. She spoke Spanish but hadn’t studied abroad; I had majored in education but wasn’t quite ready to settle down. Through a friend I found out about a small Christian school in “the high jungle of Peru,” whatever that was. It sounded exciting. Who doesn’t want to say they’re moving to the high jungle for a while? And so we moved to Moyobamba, Peru to teach English at Annie Soper Christian School.
The First Year
The headmaster at the time at Annie Soper, David, just happened to be a Scottish pastor and married to a local Peruvian, Martha. In exchange for volunteering at the school, they kindly offered for us to stay with them. We arrived by plane to a nearby larger city and drove two hours through the night to Moyobamba.
We had our tea– this was going to be great: does it get better than Scotland mixed with the jungle?– and tucked in for the night, the night air breezing in through the screens. Several of Martha’s siblings were housed in the room next door, one of whom was my future husband Pocho. Unbeknownst to me, that night he arrived late from work. As he passed our room, he heard someone snoring so loudly he thought to himself, “That’s weird. I thought they said two girls were coming to teach for a while.”
Pocho and I became friends, and washed dishes together after the mid-day meal. Somehow we chatted, with the fumbling Spanish I was starting to acquire. I liked the fun, gracious way he had about him, and thought I detected some sort of interest… maybe. He wasn’t flirtatious like many guys I’d met there, but was kind and easy to be with.
Teaching was incredibly challenging for both Rebekah and I, but when the five months were up I wasn’t ready to leave. I finally spoke enough Spanish to somewhat control my classes and be useful to the school. I was sad to see Rebekah go, but I called to change my ticket and settled in for the rest of the school year.
As the year went on, there was interest between Pocho and I. But the obstacles were there, too: cultural differences, some spiritual difference, and… we lived in the same house, for goodness’ sake! How awkward would a break-up be? Besides, I was about to leave. I made it clear it wouldn’t work. My last week arrived, and I began my good-byes. Something checked me, though, and I suddenly had an overwhelming sense that somehow my time in Peru was not done.
I told the school I’d be back the next year. And so, thankfully, it was not adios after all.
The Second Year
The next year was different. David and Martha moved to Scotland and we scattered to different houses. By then I had lots of wonderful friends and could get around well. I’d been dating a bit here and there, but I suspected Pocho still liked me. Casual dating seemed too risky for good friends like us and I was afraid I would hurt him; so, in my typical not-so-savvy-with-relationships fashion, I started avoiding him and causing all sorts of confusion between us.
Fast-forward halfway through that year. I was something of a mess spiritually, but Pocho’s life was taking a new turn. He was being discipled intensively and was growing by leaps and bounds, and leading the music and meetings for the young people at our church. I remember going to a meeting one Saturday night and seeing the energy he brought and how he made people feel welcome. This was interesting.
I don’t know how to describe it, except that suddenly I saw him. But I had no idea what he thought of me by then. I was pretty sure I’d ruined what I could have had, and that he’d long written me off.
Luckily for me, that very week two of our good friends got together, and out of nowhere we were inadvertently double dating, playing cards late into the night, going to eat anticuchos and grilled plantains from the Señoras with their roadside stands. It was so much fun to be with Pocho again. I knew it was up to me to say something, because I had been the one to call off anything we could have had.
That weekend a group of friends got together to play basketball at the local pool. My basketball skills are less than desirable, but a chance to hang out with Pocho? Yes, please. About 10 minutes into the game I tripped and fell headlong into the pavement, nose first. It broke–I found out later– and though it hurt like crazy, what I remember was instinctively looking for Pocho. But he stood off to one side, uncertainly, and it was my fault he wasn’t with me like I wanted. I put a cold popsicle on my bleeding nose and mouth and sat by the pool. We got on motorcycles to go eat afterward, and I went along. Had there been a mirror I might have thought twice. Perhaps I thought my swelling face might evoke pity.
After dinner, Pocho offered rides home to me and to another friend. “If he drops me off last and we’re alone,” I thought, “I’ll see if we can talk.” He did. We went to a park, and there– bloody lips and swollen nose and all– I told him how I felt and wondered if he felt anything for me anymore.
He did. It was actually our second kiss, which though not advisable was perhaps best due to the condition of my face this time. “Ow. Um, ca you jus kiss ze bohhom yip? Ow.” The first month we dated I had two black eyes and a lovely white cast on my nose.
We dated for five months, and on New Year’s he asked me to marry him, knowing I was about to leave. I said yes. The official proposal was six months later in June, when I came to visit for the summer.
A ton of paperwork later, we went to the U.S. Embassy in Lima in November and were granted a fiance visa for him. I had less than a month’s notice to get our wedding together and find a place for us to live! He arrived to meet my family and the U.S. for the first time, three weeks before our snowy December wedding.
It has been quite the adventure! Though this is not something we could have planned or imagined, God has been good to us. Of course we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, but who does? This year I stood at my husband’s oath ceremony to become a U.S. citizen and watched him sworn in. There are a lot of vows and signatures surrounding an international marriage. We came from opposite sides of the hemisphere, but our wedding vows were just like everyone else’s: for better or worse, till’ death do us part… and so we are now one.