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Of Crazy Clothes and Campers, Fish Frys and Fair Trade Festivals: A Love Story (Part 5/10)

(for Part 1, click here)

Early in our marriage, Andy longed for travel for different reasons. First and foremost, his family didn’t do much of it during his childhood. His extended family was all within a couple hours’ radius, so there was no need to go far. That was convenient, since his dad owned a fast food restaurant which consumed much of their lives. Even camping trips had to stay close enough to town that Dad could drive back in to work each day. Fortunately, Andy’s mom had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and art and beauty, so even within the acceptable radius around their hometown, she took the kids to museums and parks and gardens and historic sites to learn and experience all they could—while still getting home in time to make dinner.

Actual travel for Andy only came initially via church youth group trips and choir tours. These bus trips were highly programmatic and involved very little in the way of exploring or unexpected adventures, but they definitely whet his appetite for more.

The summer between the 10th and 11th grade, Andy finally got to fulfill his desire for serious travel, and internationally at that. Combining his love for independence and adventure, his limited knowledge of Spanish, and his heart for serving in Christian ministry, Andy actually convinced his parents—an amazing feat itself—to allow him to spend a month or so on his own working with a ministry in San Diego that supported various churches, orphanages and other ministries in Mexico. He traveled back and forth across the international border, doing whatever work needed to be done, sleeping wherever was available—even under the stars on the roof of a flat-top house. His Spanish language skills improved dramatically in the most natural way—by engaging in conversation out of necessity. By the time he returned, he was forever changed. A life of comfort and material wealth in the United States held no interest for him anymore. He wanted to go and see and learn and do.

By the time he and I met in our early twenties, my own desire to leave behind the trappings of the typical American dream was also firmly cemented. I had chosen Intercultural Studies as my major at Biola University and had traveled quite a bit through my connections at the Student Missionary Union office on campus. My own high school Spanish classes, as well as college coursework in Latin American history and culture, had likewise given me a heart for the people south of the border. Just as our friends had predicted, Andy and I were indeed a good match.

Together, we started our travel dreams strong. Shortly before we became engaged, I learned of an opportunity for aspiring teachers to travel to the highlands of Papua New Guinea to complete half of their student teaching requirement at an international school there. I was an aspiring teacher. My coursework had allowed me to complete not only the Intercultural Studies requirements, but also the classes I needed to become a high school social studies teacher. Andy and I had begun to speak seriously of marriage, though. This was not a good time to leave the country.

When I mentioned it casually, however, Andy immediately encouraged me to go. Knowing my heart and my interests, he nearly insisted upon it, even though it meant we would be apart for an entire school term—and well before the days of instant communication. It would mean several months of handwritten letters via those thin blue aerogrammes, each one taking two weeks to reach their destination over the sea. We decided I should go, so off to PNG I flew, spending the bulk of our engagement in a place I had previously known only through the pages of National Geographic.

We were married in the fall after my return from Papua New Guinea, and immediately began preparations for a trip the following summer to the Philippines. Our church had a Filipino fellowship that met on its campus, and the two churches were collaborating to assist a church in Manila with an extensive project, one in which the presence of foreigners would actually be perceived by our hosts as a great asset. We spent the bulk of that next summer living in the guest room of a Filipina nursing supervisor and her family in Manila. It was an amazing experience that convinced us all the more that this was the type of life we wanted, going into our future together.

But then . . . normal life happened.

(for Part 6, click here)


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