If I say, “I did not speak any English when I met my husband.” It would not be true. Our story would have been far more romantic if that were the case, but I guess a semi broken English and a semi broken Spanish were good enough to spark love. When I look back fifteen years ago, I can see a Gringuito and a Bolivianita getting to know each other better. Speaking louder when misunderstood, pointing at things to clarify meaning and of course laughing a lot of each others mistakes. Perhaps these first communication steps were the ones that gave strength to our forever friendship. My limited English and his precarious Spanish were the first seeds to a bicultural life style that became stronger as we learn to know and love each other’s culture. We did not do translation work but we became expert interpreters. A little of English and a pinch of Spanish did the trick for a future together.
His End.- My husband’s first acquaintance with Spanish was in the USA while in college. A year of Spanish was enough to later decide a move to Bolivia and work in a Children’s home. His Spanish, when I first met him, was very poor. However, he took the time to learn the culture and was able to understand a lot of the language. He knew how to act, what to expect from the people and what the people expected from him. He is living proof that learning the culture of a place is as important as learning the same language. After we got married, he knew a lot about Bolivians. And had an advantage over me, not in language but understanding my background.
From 1998 to 2003 my husband lived and worked in Bolivia without any support. He would come back to the States and work for months at a time. Then go back to Bolivia and support the Children’s home in Santa Cruz and later La Paz. He is not the type of missionary that raises money for himself. Instead he is the missionary that gives of himself to others. Always following the will of God in his Life. At the end of 1999, in his search for further direction, he biked from Santa Cruz to La Paz. Thirteen days of pedaling and getting to know the arid mountains of Bolivia, helped him to realize that perhaps La Paz would be his next mission. It was 1999 when he first made contact with Hogar de Niños Alalay. Interestingly a few months later he lost all information about the orphanage.
My End.- When I met my husband, I already had finished three years of English studies at the Bolivian American Center in La Paz Bolivia (CBA in Spanish). Perhaps I could have studied Quechua or Aymara but, believe it or not, back then they were not as popular as today. Instead I decided to study English because I knew it would give me better job opportunities in my professional career. Besides, I had a whole Sabbatical year that life put in my path, and my father did not want me to waste it. He offered to pay for my English studies, and there is no way I could have said no to his generous offer.
Did I really want to live in an English Speaking country? No, I did not. I wanted to go to Spain or Chile and work on my Master’s degree. Rural Development was the area of my choice. But God had other plans for me. The language that I thought would help my career, was the language that perhaps helped the rest of my life. The time in the CBA institute, was the time that God set apart in preparations to a bilingual journey that was getting ready to start. I just needed to practice my English and help a Missionary to find Hogar the Niños Alalay’s phone number.
When two ends meet.- It was the end of 2000 and time for him to go back to La Paz, Except he did not have the information he had obtained a few years before. He did what the modern world was starting to do, search online and inquire. We found each other in a La Paz Yahoo groups. I was learning to chat. He wanted information about Alalay. I was able to get it and sent him an email with what he needed. The letter was in English. His reply was in Spanish. Just one mail, no more. In 2001 he went back to Santa Cruz, but he knew that his real call was in La Paz, so in February 2002 he ventured to La Paz. He remembered the mysterious girl that once provided him the orphanage information and decided to write to her.
Naturally I panicked, the missionary online was real after all. He wanted to meet and I was scared. I invited him for tea with my family on a Sunday afternoon. He came for tea, with a very poor Spanish and a big smile he knocked on my door. I opened that Bolivian door and with a very strong English accent I invited him in. The rest of our story was written in two languages and of course in the language of love.
Many people find it Romantic. I find it unique. Our trip to dual immersion started in Bolivia in February 2002 on a Sunday afternoon. Both trying to understand the other and starting a forever friendship. With time, my limited English became almost proficient. His precarious Spanish became excellent and without realizing we shaped our own bicultural family. A little of English and a pinch of Spanish were just the beginning of a forever friendship.