Thursday, December 10, 2009

Lucky 13

That was then...

Sometime around mid-December (exact date has never been determined), thirteen years ago, my husband and I started dating. Can you believe it? 13 years! I didn’t get to post back in July for our wedding anniversary, so I’ll write our “how-we-met” story now.

I was 22, and had just graduated from college earlier that year. After majoring in Spanish and studying abroad in Ecuador, I wanted to live abroad for a while longer and “perfect” my Spanish. (I put that in “ “ because it is hilarious that I once thought that my Spanish could be perfected—not because it was already perfect, but because it is hard to perfect a second language). I almost went back to Ecuador, because I had a job offer there. Yet, I was kind of itching to go somewhere new and had applied to a teaching job in Santiago, Chile… the end of the earth!

As I was walking to the mail room on campus to fax my acceptance letter to Ecuador, I checked my mailbox first (these were pre-email days folks) and found a job offer from Santiago. It all fell together very quickly: getting my work visa, making all of the necessary arrangements, getting a cheap flight (on Lacsa, which is/was the air equivalent of the famous chicken-buses of Latin America). I flew out on July 4, 1996 and landed at 2 in the morning on a very cold Sunday.

I taught English in a kind of shady under-paid operation. It had the worst “pedagogy” you could imagine and its entire reputation was based on the fact that it had to be good if the classes cost that much.

I am slow at making friends. I am even slower at finding decent dates. In high school I didn’t have a boyfriend at all, and didn’t date much. In college I dated someone twice my age, which is another story perhaps. I went out a bit in Chile, had a few very awkward experiences, and kind of decided that I did not understand the Chilean dating game (you do know dating is a game, right?—it just varies from country to country.)

I met my husband in November. He was 25 and had just graduated from college as well. He was getting ready to go to Rotterdam, Holland for a 4-month long seasonal job. His dad, figuring that English might be more useful, all around, than Dutch, had given him a graduation gift of a “private” (one-on-one) English class—every day for about 6 weeks.

When I was first notified of the class at work, I was annoyed. Grunt English teachers usually have kind of split-shift schedules, early morning and late evening, which is when most adults take classes. I had one 4-hour chunk during the day so when I was told that I would be getting a class right in the middle of it, I was unenthusiastic, at best, even when the secretary told me he was such a nice young man and that they would try to find another teacher if I was very unhappy taking it.

Well, after the first day, they heard no more complaints from me. The guy was sweet, attractive, funny in a shy kind of way, and had this je ne sais quoi about him, that kind of translated as tranquility.

It started out very slowly… after class we would both, coincidentally, be waiting for the elevator to leave the building: he to go home and me to go run errands or grab a bite to eat or just get out for a bit to walk around downtown. One day he asked me if I wanted him to accompany me to the post office and I said yes. And that is how we started hanging out after class. We’d go to art galleries or go get coffee or he’d come with me to run errands.

Then one day in class we were talking about the new Almodóvar movie that had just come out and I wanted to see and another movie that he wanted to see. We decided that I would go with him to see his movie if he would go with me to see mine. So we went to the Almodóvar movie (thinking back, I don’t know if we ever made it to see the movie he wanted, but that was not due to scheming, we did see a lot of movies (oh those were the days… wistful sigh… which are now over because of kids… resigned sigh)). After the movie, he rode the bus home with me (concerned for my safety) and then took a bus to his house.

The next day before class, he was sitting on the sofa waiting and I walked out from my early-morning class and saw him. I really wanted to touch him, nonchalantly, to make the greeting more personal. So I reached out kind of hesitantly, almost changing my mind, and touched his arm, lightning fast, and withdrew it, kind of embarrassed. This goes down in history as the most awkward touch of all times. We still laugh about it, though he thought it was sweet—or so he says.

Our next date we went to the beach to meet up with his sister and her boyfriend to do this jeep-parachute-parasailing(?) Kind of thing along the beach. We drove there the night before, late, and I remember stopping at a Copec (gas station) so he could get coffee. I watched him inside, amazed at how calm and composed he always was. (Of course, I know now, he was probably half-asleep at that particular point, narcoleptic as he is!)

The parasailing was a blast and we had our first kiss that weekend, so I think that was when it first became official. Of course, it didn’t really ever become officially official according to Chilean standards, where the guy kind of formally asks the girl to go out (le pide el pololeo). It probably isn’t even done anymore, but we got asked that quite a bit… if we were “officially pololos (bf/gf).”

I think what I most like about him was that there was no game. He liked me; he showed it; he told me, but without coming on prematurely strong; there was no “rico-suave-latin-lover” nonsense, (which is NOT as enjoyable as it sounds). He is sweet and gentle; he rarely gets mad, even if I deserve it and when he does, he doesn’t remember the next day. He reads me better than anyone else I know. He is a great dad. Every time I wanted to quit my doctorate, he told me he was dead set on having a wife with a Ph.D., so I had to keep going. Everyone loves him, even after meeting him once: he has that je ne sais quoi I mentioned, it is just uncanny. It takes people a bit longer to like me… if they ever do; I have a je ne sai quoi that works against me sometimes.

We have struggles, like all couples. We are both freakishly stubborn which is fun. Though I love his peace and serenity, if I come off even half as frenetic in my blog-life as I am in real-life you may have suspected that after 13 years that “tranquility” may also drive me a little insane sometimes, but that is another post.

This is now...

Can you tell what my catch-phrase of the day is?


Danielle said...

I love to read your blog! Thanks for providing some entertainment for me! What a cute story of how you met! Do keep writing...

mosey along said...

I was *just* thinking earlier today of how you asked me to write about how my hubby and I met. Your timing is awesome. (and I'll get to it, I promise...)

What a great read. You two sound like a great match - the whole "opposites attract" cliche makes me curl my lip sometimes, but in all honesty that balance between two people is sometimes what makes it all come together.

*sigh*. I love romance, and that first touch part was just yummy.

Eileen said...

this is so sweet! I think we're all probably harsher critics of our own personalities than is really necessary, and I'm sure you're a lovely person to be around. I'd guess you're opinionated and strong-willed. Got a space on your dancecard for a friend? We'll be thick as thieves.

Did I know you'd been in Ecuador? I was in Cuenca in the summer of 1996. Did we overlap?

Sweet story, and better than an anniversary update, more spontaneous!

Isabel said...

such a sweet post! I love the way you describe your husband. the love just oozes out. and "how we met" stories are always fun.

and this part: "Everyone loves him, even after meeting him once: he has that je ne sais quoi I mentioned, it is just uncanny. It takes people a bit longer to like me… if they ever do" I couldn't relate to you more on that. My boyfriend makes hearts melt when people meet him because he's just the sweetest most caring guy, but I think I can take a while for people to like...or dislike.

congratulations on 13 years together! those beautiful babies are a pretty nice testament to the strength of your relationship

Sara said...

Three things:
1. In the first picture you look a lot shorter!
2. There is no perfecting my Spanish? Dang...
3. I love this phrase "'rico-suave-latin-lover' nonsense". Nope. That stereotype doesn't really exist in Chile or anywhere for that matter. Dating is awkward and if someone has all the perfect moves then RUN!

Annje said...

Sara--I AM a lot shorter, in the second pic I must be standing on a rock. He's probably 9-10 inches taller than me. I am really little.

with the rico-suave-latin-lover-- I think maybe of the Cubans I have met, those pick-up lines so thick and syrupy that it is almost nauseating. It doesn't exist quite like that in Chile, but there is definitely a differnt kind of game being played complete with weird jealousy maneovers--I was just glad my hubs doesn't do any of it.