This week’s Beginning of Us story comes from Sarah over at Twins Make Five. Sarah blogs all about family life with her three children and her story literally takes us across the world and back again. Over to Sarah…
When I finished university in 2001 I was desperate to have an adventure. I signed up to an organisation that organised work placements for students overseas. My ambition was to learn to speak Spanish so said I would go anywhere Spanish speaking. Little did I know that this would be the start of the story of us.
Rolando ran that English department of a learning institute in Ecuador, South America. He decided that it would really help the more advanced students to have a native English speaker teaching them. Rolando contacted the student placement organisation and picked out my profile. This is how I ended up on a plane to South America – nervous at the prospect of becoming an English teacher.
Arriving in Ecuador was a culture shock and was completely overwhelming. I was unbelievably nervous on my first day at work. My first conversation with Rolando was a disaster. He asked me what teaching resources I’d brought from the UK. I hadn’t brought anything (to be fair I hadn’t been asked to). Then he said he was worried that my accent was too British for the students to understand. This really annoyed me! I was thinking if you didn’t want someone who sounded British why did you recruit me? The last straw was when he asked me if I could speak a little bit more American so that students could understand me! By the end of this conversation my fragile confidence had disappeared and I thought Rolando was an idiot!
However very quickly after that I realised that Rolando was a great guy and we became really good friends. We used out hang out between classes and take trips to the beach during siesta time. He was such good fun and enthusiastic and all of the students loved him. We are very different. Rolando is really loud and sociable where as I’m a bit of an introvert.
We got together at the works Christmas party in a very cheesy Latino night club, lots of cheap whisky had been consumed!
We had a complete blast together. We used to travel a lot at the weekends to different beaches along the coast staying in back packer hostels along the way. There was lots of salsa dancing and all night parties. I lived in a tiny flat with a roof terrace. It became the place where everybody wanted to hang out. I met Rolando’s massive lovely family and got really close to them. They were such exciting times and we were head over heels in love with each other. I knew in the back of my mind I wasn’t going to live in Ecuador forever but we didn’t really talk about the future too much.
We just focused on living in the moment.
I stayed in Ecuador for just over a year before my visa and money ran out and it was time to go back to reality in the UK. We were both completely heartbroken. I cried most of the journey back to London. We knew our relationship was more than a gap year romance but didn’t really know how it was going to be possible to be together. It was the days before Skype and Facetime and there was a 6 hour time difference so it was a challenge to keep our relationship strong. A date night involved typing conversations to each other on MSN messenger!
I went back to Ecuador on holiday. We were taking a early morning walk on the beach to watch the sunrise when Rolando proposed. I said yes in a heartbeat. We didn’t know how it was going to be possible but we knew we wanted to be together forever. After an 18 month struggle to get a VISA Rolando arrived in the UK. The Home Office, in a very unromantic way, only gave us 2 months in which to get married. We had a very hastily arranged registry office ceremony. It was a real rush and there were very few fancy touches but it was perfect.
Our life is very different from the heady days of sunny beaches and mojitos. We now live permanently in the UK and Rolando became a British citizen last year. After 11 years here Rolando still hates British winters and says that enduring the frosty February days proves how much he loves me! We have three beautiful Anglo- Ecuadorian children together. Our home life is a mix of Rolando’s Latino traditions and typical English family life. We have weathered plenty of storms together over the years. I genuinely believe that the difficulties we went through to be together have made our relationship stronger. It will be our 11th wedding anniversary this year – I really look forward to seeing what the next chapter in the story of us will hold.
Thanks Sarah for sharing your story. It’s great to hear how relationships can form across different cultures and it sounds like you have been through so much – but achieved a huge amount too. You sound like such a happy family!