At the request of one of my readers, I will now tell the tale of how I met the lovely girl who would go on to become my dear wife.
In 1981, two of my old friends from college and I were all free for part of the summer, I was 25 years old. I had applied to go to work for Uncle Sam and was going through a long and involved application process, the two of them were in graduate school. We talked over going somewhere, and I volunteered to research trip ideas. Three weeks later I suggested Peru, as it was cheap and looked like an interesting country. My friends accepted, and so we went to Peru for five weeks (I will tell other parts of this story in the future, tonight I will tell just the most important part!).
The three of us were in Cuzco (the capital city of the Inca Empire) one cold morning, preparing to board the train to the famous ruins of Machu Picchu. We had assigned seats and boarded as soon as we could, it was COLD at 6:00 AM and at 10,500 feet up... Trains and buses in Peru (like here) have two abreast seating, which meant that one of us always had to sit next to the "stranger". And it had to be either or my friend who spoke Spanish (our other friend did not). That day it was my turn.
We found our seats early and waited for train to fill and start the 4 and 1/2 hour journey to the ruins of Machu Picchu. Soon after we had seated ourselves, a pretty young Peruvian gal stopped at my row and studied her ticket. I looked at mine. There was some confusion as to who was supposed to sit on the aisle or the window. I just ended it by just asking her to take the window seat. I had this little idea that "maybe she was off to visit her sick mommie in Quillabamba", the last stop of that train, as she was not dressed like a tourist.
The train left the station, began its switchbacks up over the mountains to the north of the city, and then it was all downhill from there, right along the Urubamba River, the sacred river if the Incas. Because of the very early departure, we had not had breakfast... I was beginning to think about eating, when it might happen and how... I remembered I had a big bar of chocolate in my bag, so I took it out and opened it. "Blick" as I broke off a row, and offered it to my friend R, and "blick" again as I offered a row to H. I then found myself in a quandary...
I had earlier been reading up on Peru, and its conservative social culture (remember this was 1981). The three of us were trying very hard not to be obnoxious tourists. I did not know the proper thing to do. To offer my neighbor a row of the chocolate to my neighbor or not. Here in America of course, we have that old saying: "Don't take candy from a stranger." I had no idea if such an offer would be considered offensive or not. I really had no idea. After mulling this one over a few moments, I decided to be a neighborly all-around good guy (like I am) and offer her a row. If she took offense, I would immediately apologize and do the 1981 version of STFU after!
So, I offered the chocolate, and she accepted it. She explained that the three of THEM (she was chaperoning her sister and her sister's fiancé therre to Cuzco & Machu Picchu) had not eaten either. We talked just a bit, not much though. Pretty little thing! When we arrived to Machu Picchu, she went off with hers and I went off with my two friends. The three of us had several hours to explore the ruins, but got separated. About 40 minutes before the train's departure, I saw a LONG line for the buses to take everyone back down to the bottom of the valley, next to the river. I did NOT want to take the chance that I would miss the train, so just hauled ass down the mountain, half running half walking. 800 feet down. Once I arrived to the train I found that was early, but all sweaty and dirty. I walked upriver around a bend, took off my undershirt and rinsed it in the river and gave myself a sponge bath in the cold water. I then squeezed the water out of my undershirt the best I could, and went aboard the train, and hung up my undershirt to dry, knowing that it then be COLD again in Cuzco when we arrived back that evening.
Passengers started arriving again, including my two friends. We quizzed each other on where they had climbed to and what they and I had seen. And the Peruvian girl came back as well, to the same seat next to mine. I excused myself to her about hanging my undershirt to dry, and I hoped it would be dry enough to put back on before Cuzco. The train pulled out right on time.
On the return part of the trip, we started to converse more, a lot more. She told me that she was a secretary (what's a secretary I can hear the younger readers say...) in Lima, working for Proctor and Gamble's operations there in Peru. I told her that I was waiting to hear back from the government re my next job. We then went on to talk about this and that. It was hard for me, as my Spanish was not as good then as it is now. If you do not know a foreign language fairly well, it is hard to talk for four hours... At one point she told me that she had lived in London for over a year. I thought about that for a moment, and then told her, in English, "If you LIVED there more than a year, then YOUR English is going to be better than MY Spanish! Let's talk in English!" She then told me, no, that I was in a Spanish speaking country, and that was that.
As we neared Cuzco, I knew I had a decision to make... I was the "least macho" of three of us guys, and yet there was an opportunity to ask out a nice young lady (when in Lima) and score a psychological point vs. my friends! So I did ask her for her phone number. She gave it to me, her work number. We then said goodbye there at Cuzco station. We did indeed get together there in Lima for a date!
And that is how I met the great love of my life, and mother of our child!