Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New Adventures

In May, I returned to the U.S. from Guatemala. I was obviously sad that my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer (3 years and 5 months!) had come to the end and devastated at having to leave Donal behind (for now), but I was also really ready to start moving forward with the immigration process and to find out what I had been missing all those years outside U.S.

Technology was definitely VERY different including new things like tablet PCs, kindles, and smart-phones that were accessible to the general public. I spent a great deal of time deciding whether I needed a data plan or not and decided I wasn't quite ready to make that transition yet. I haven't regretted it once. The Southcenter mall renovation is also SO overwhelming.

Many things haven't changed. Although my friends are sporting new significant others, new houses, new cars, and new children in many cases, who they are and why I love them has thankfully not changed. I am here at my parent's house which also hasn't changed and the weather is comfortably dreary.

All in all, I am settling into life in the U.S. nicely. I have a job which is a HUGE challenge (in a good way). The cat, after an overwhelming in-cabin journey (my fellow passengers were thankful that the kitty whining was drowned out by the engine noise) to the U.S. and a harrowing near-fatal liver infection, is also loving his new life.

Donal and I are settling into the long-distance relationship as well. The first month was pretty easy (we had been apart that long before on previous visits I made here) and the second not-so-easy. I am thankful for international calling plans and Skype which allow us to talk or text almost every day. It is hard not to be able to see each other but we both know it is only temporary and will be SO worth spending the rest of our lives together.

That is a short update on whats been going on. Next time I will update you on the immigration process and WEDDING PLANS. Hasta Luego.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

On the Table

Here in the U.S., we don't talk about marraige with people we are dating. In general, people don't even mention the "M" word for months if not years. Our culture is caught up in doing things at the "right" time, in following the right procedure. Don't kiss to soon or he'll get the wrong idea, don't say I Love You until you're sure she'll say it back, don't mention marraige with the first 6 months (or the 6 years) or he'll freak out.

Let's face it: we all think about it. After a certain age, everyone you date is automatically evaluated for marraige potential (I'm talking girls and guys here) and anyone who doesn't make the grade is basically a waste of time. How soon does marraige cross your mind? The first date? Second date? After a month? I'm willing to bet that in the first few dates you both have thought about it. If you add it up, you've probably spent days of your adult life thinking about the kind of person you want to marry and in the first few dates, you wonder how that person matches up to your qualifications. We can't help it...but we could NEVER EVER tell them about it.

In Guatemala, things are a little different. Like I mentioned before, publicly dating is a really big deal. People sneak around for years and even if everyone knows they are dating, if it isn't public it isn't serious and people pretend they don't notice. In a town of 2,000 people a tall blonde person tends to get noticed a little. By the time I started dating Donal, I was a bit of a local celebrity. People paid attention to what I did, marvelled at it, and speculated about it to all of their neighbors. So, even before we started dating, they were asking: Is Donal your boyfriend? How does he treat you? Have you met his family?

Are you going to marry him and take him back to the United States to live with you forever and have white-skinned babies?

A simple "I haven't really thought about it." or "I'm not sure yet." didn't satisfy the curiousity of 2,000 townspeople and the question was asked over and over and over. It's the same way that people spend hours obsessing over whether two celebrities are really dating each other when a photographer catched a picture of them lunching out in L.A. The magazines speculate, people talk about it, and the reporters will keep asking them about it until they get the answer they want.

So, my point is, marraige was on the table in our relationship from day one. Since everyone around us was asking, it naturally became a part of our conversations. From the very beginning we talked about what we wanted from our future spouses, the possibility of him moving or me staying in Guatemala. We always knew that if at one point we realized we couldn't marry each other, the deal would be off. It wasn't awkward or uncomfortable; it was actually a huge relief. I didn't have to worry about when the appropriate time to bring it up was or if he would react badly. Other people broke the ice for us and we could happily swim in the waters of relationship honesty.

People ask me when I knew that I would marry Donal and it's a hard question to answer. There was no magic moment when I "knew" we would be together forever. In some ways, I always knew I would marry him. After months of letting it be on the table it became a normal part of my plans without me even making a decision. I never found any reason why I shouldn't marry him. Instead, I got to know him better and found a million reasons why I should and it gradually took over my thinking and confirmed the thoughts we had already shared: we would get married. I don't think proposals should be complete surprises or that guys should doubt whether she will say "Yes" or not. We talked about it from day one and when we decided to get engaged it was something we decided together as the logical next step toward the future we both wanted...together.

I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


So, basically I was a huge IDIOT (and pretty much really annoying). Donal and I spent MONTHS as "just friends." We really liked each other, spent all of our time together, and I spent most of that time saying "I don't want a boyfriend...let's just be friends...". Part of that was because I was being wierd and part of it was that I thought having a boyfriend would give me a scandalous reputation around town (something the Peace Corps had warned us about). I also thought it was pointless because I knew I would leave Guatemala someday and I didn't want anyone to get hurt.

(embarrassed face)
Ok, I have to admit: I was also being stubborn because someone in my Peace Corps training class had (and I don't know why they thought this) voted me "most likely to marry a Guatemalan." The Peace Corps traning director told us that 2-3 out of every training class end up fulfilling that role. At the time I emphatically denied any truth in the prediction and I later stubbornly tried to avoid situations (like dating a Guatemalan) that could lead to the fulfillment of the prophesy.

All this was floating around in my head making me more and more confused about what I really wanted with Donal.

Meanwhile, people around town started to notice. I should mention that most towns in Guatemala suffer from an illness called "small-town-itis" which causes people to watch each other like hawks and gossip about like their isn't anything better to do (because there really isn't). So, while I was saying "Let's just be friends" everone in town was saying "Did you hear that Andrea's dating Donal?".

I should also mention that in Guatemala, meeting someone's family and admitting that you are dating is a REALLY big deal. Young people meet up in secret for years until they finally tell their parents about it. You can go to any Guatemalan town during the late evening and see dozens of secretly-in-love couples making out on dark street corners safely hidden from their family's knowledge. So, me wanting to be "just friends" with Donal looked to the average townsperson like the normal secret-dating ritual performed by everyone else.

So, I finally got annoyed of saying I wanted to be "just friends", worrying about my reputation, denying my feelings, and hearing from everyone else that I really WASN'T "just friends" with Donal, I decided to go for it. I threw myself overboard into waters I knew might hold dangers like scandalous reputations, future heartbreak, "I-told-you-so"s and inter-cultural conflicts.

...and I am SO glad I did!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Getting to Know You

So, Donal and I had met, but we didn't see each other again for several weeks. Finally, I decided (don't remember why) to stroll down the street-less-traveled and I ran into Donal. We made plans to hang out (as friends).

In small-town Guatemala, there is not much to do at night. Basically all hanging out/dating/going out at night takes place either by hanging out on the street corner and eating tacos, or if you have a car, driving around in circles (AKA cruising). So, Donal picked me up and we started driving around and getting to know each other. It wasn't like dating. I really liked Donal but I was going through a phase where I was totally sick of guys and really just wanted some guy-friends. So I obsessively mentioned how much I did NOT want a boyfriend during every conversation and we just hung out.

At this point, we were both (after talking about it since) really attracted to each other and really convinced that nothing could ever work out between us. I actually have entries in my journal that say things like "there is no future with Donal." I guess it just goes to show that you never know what God's plan for your life is. I sure didn't see it coming. It took a few weeks of circling around town and around our feelings before the opportunity arose for a real date.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Beginning

I met Donal in May 2008.

I had been through 3 months in Peace Corps Training and was working on my 2nd month living in Cabrican, my work site. I had made a few friends in town, but was still feeling a little lonely and missing home.

Now, you might wonder...in small town Guatemala, how did it take us 2 months to run into each other? The thing is, I didn't spend a lot of time walking aimlessly around town at that point. There are two main roads in town. The road that Donal's house and store are on happens to not be the road that I normally traveled. The internet cafe I used and the stores I shopped in were all on the other road. So, I spent 2 months in site without ever even walking down the road he lived on. Donal says now that he saw me ONE time during those 2 months and thought I was too pretty to talk to=).

I always went to the same internet cafe in those days. One of the teachers at the schools I worked at owned the internet and gave me a little discount. So, I spent a lot of time there writing e-mails to family and friends and everything. Naturally, I started being friends with the guy that worked at the internet cafe, Abner. We never hung out or anything, but every time I went there we said hi and chatted a little.

So, one day, I went to the internet and one of Abner's friends was in there using the internet as well. His name was Donal. So, while we all used the internet, we started talking and joking around. I have no idea what we talked about, but when it got to be closing time, the two of them invited me to go eat dinner with them. I said yes.

We went to a cafe in the neighboring town and ate dinner and kept talking and joking. I had a lot of fun, although I don't remember what we even talked about. I remember when we were in the car on the way back to town they asked me to sing a song to them and I did. I thought they were both a lot of fun and thought we might have dinner again someday.

There was no exchange of phone numbers, no future plans. I still didn't have a reason to go down the street less-traveled in town. Two weeks would go by until I would even see Donal again.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


The moment you have all been waiting for.

Ramirez-Stanaway productions proudly presents the engagement play-by-play that took the breath away of your favorite leading lady....

Valentine's Day Eve 2010. Dinnertime. The best and maybe only good Indian Restaurant south of the border. Empty restaurant. Two nervous lovebirds nervously choke down their spicy lamb curry and cashew chicken. Tension is in the air.

So, let's just say I was suspicious. I know there are a lot of guys that do their very best to give their girls a heart attack with surprising proposals. Other guys are not admired for their subtlety and we love them for it. This belonged to the second group.

The week before, there were lots of ring questions. Not your typical walk-through-the-mall-and-tell-me-what-you-like kind of questions, but more like "ok, so you like white gold, right?". There was also the ring-trying-on for finger size and little clues like "I am planning a REALLY good Valentine's day present for you..."

So, let's just say...I was hoping. Right before dinner, Donal said something to the effect of "I'm going to go buy you a ring, I'll be right back..." and my hopes were confirmed.

Then there was the excruciating wait through dinner. We got to the restaurant and sat down, ordered food, and tried to distract ourselves until present-opening time. We took away some of the tension by taking some really ugly pictures with funny faces that I have been forbidden to publish.

Then, it was finally time to open presents. I received a little gift bag with Snoopy on it ( Who doesn't love Snoopy?) and inside was a gold box. Inside the gold box was a little ring-shaped box. Donal took the ring box out for me and opened it. Dum Dum Dum

He said "Tu eres la cosa mas bonita que me haya pasado en la vida y si algun dia tenemos que estar aparte, quiero que sea por que Dios haya llevado a uno de nosotros al cielo." Which means: You are the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to me in my whole life and if someday we have to be separated, I want it to be because God has taken one of us up to heaven.

I know, right? I am pretty sure after that (kind of a blur) there was a yes and some kisses involved. AH!

After some resizing for large American fingers, I had my beautiful ring on my finger and I was ENGAGED!

Two years ago when everyone insisted I would marry a Guatemalan I thought they were crazy! Who would have thought?

So, we don't know where, when, or how, but Donal and I love each other and we are GETTING MARRIED!

Thursday, February 25, 2010


It has been quite awhile since I last wrote of my blog. Life in Guatemala fell into kind of a routine and with nothing new and exciting to write about other than the cats....(I know you all were left riveted by the previous article on cat depression...) I neglected my blog. Fortunately, there have been lots of new and exciting changes lately, so I thought I might start writing again.

In case you are still on the edge of your seat about Aslan's cat-depression, it was a false alarm. His friend came back and the depression passed. Despite a small problem when he got cut on some barbed wire and we had to make an improvised cat-cone out of cardboard for him so he could heal, the cat is fine.

In other news...Donal and I (remember him?) got engaged!!! I'll tell you the whole story in my next entry, I promise.

Also, I was invited to extend my Peace Corps service another year to be something called a Volunteer Leader. That means I will have to move closer to the city so I can spend my time visiting current volunteers and helping with trainings and documentation.

So, in a few weeks I will be starting a new life with a new job in a new town. A few weeks ago I was getting ready to go home to the U.S. I was looking for jobs, talking about what I was going to eat....and now, everything has changed. I will be in Guatemala one more year and when I do go home next year, I will be making plans to get married and make it possible for Donal to be there with me. How exciting! More details and the full exclusive story to come!