My Marriage and the Unfolding of Peruvian Society
Confession time: my reasons for studying abroad in Peru run deeper than my desires to learn about Latin American culture and to live in the developing world.
In fact, it even explains my month-long hiatus from blog writing.
When I first came to Peru during the summer of 2014, I came to do mission work in an area about two hours south of Lima with my home church.
Many great things transpired over those days, but the most impressionable aspect of that trip was a young Peruvian named Abraham, who was one of our interpreters. Even though he was getting paid for his time with us, it was clear that he would have done his job for free, simply because he loved serving other people. With every act, his eyes lit up with kindness and compassion. Even though we were simply friends during that trip, I knew that he would eventually be my future husband.
After I returned to the States, we maintained our friendship through Skype, and we eventually decided to enter into a long-distance relationship together. Little did I know that I would travel back to Peru in a few months to spend Christmas break with him and his family.
We were soon engaged, knowing fully in our hearts and minds that we were each others’ future spouse. Our entire relationship was a series of open doors, and we were sure of our decision to marry. However, we were frequently met with criticism and backlash, sometimes out of love and other times, of hate. The strangeness of our relationship did not fall well with some—it being international, interracial, and bilingual; our young age; etc. The list of grievances was seemingly endless. Strangers and friends alike said many hurtful things towards us. Yet despite our trials, we pushed forwards. Our true friends stayed by our side, supporting us, and our fair-weather friends dropped by the wayside.
Months rolled on, and we saw each other next in Haiti, in order to do mission work. Abraham was SO excited to finally participate in missions—not as an employee, but as a regular participant. Seeing him give his time and energy to devotedly help others only confirmed my decision to eventually marry him. Following the trip to Haiti, I visited him and his family for two months.
The weeks passed by, and it came time for me to leave. Leaving Abraham at the airport that time was on of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I knew that this would be the last time that I would leave him, since we would be getting married the next time around, but I think that’s what made that goodbye so difficult. Leaving the most important person in my life for an undiscerned amount of time proved to be nearly impossible, but I had to do it so that I could continue school.
SIX MONTHS passed by, and we finally reached the end of missing each other. I arrived about two weeks prior to the program start date, and we ferociously gathered all of our papers together in order to be married on March 11th, 2016.
We had to do many things, such as translating my documents, purchasing the rings (a legal requirement here), and running a marriage announcement for a local newspaper. Occasionally throughout the process, we received looks of pity and disapproval, much like the negative experiences I had in the States, but the worst instances were yet to come.
While we were collecting our paperwork from the Town Hall so that we could begin the visa application process for Abraham, we encountered many unfortunate instances of corruption.
Our “friend” at the Town Hall, who had helped us with the entire marriage process (in regards to collecting the correct paperwork from each of us), knowing that we were in a bit of a rush, decided to take advantage of our need and our resources. In order to obtain the marriage certificate in a timely manner, he requested a rush fee, which was expected. However, he also “strongly suggested” that we include thirty soles (about ten dollars) to pay for the lunch of the man in charge of releasing official documents, as an expression of gratitude.
Since this guy had been very helpful and honest with us from the start, we trusted him, which was a mistake. From there, he knew that we were beginning the very expensive process of applying for a visa to the United States, so he decided to help himself to our desperation and our wallets.
Although we had the copy of our marriage certificate, we still needed to have it approved by a different office in Lima in order to submit it to the Embassy. Our friend told us that this process usually takes two to three months, but for a small “fee” of one hundred dollars, he would gladly use his connections in the office to speed up the process. At this point, we realized that he was being dishonest with us, and he was asking for a bribe. We were worried about the length of the process, but we decided that we would rather delay the paperwork in the name of honesty than to support this man’s corruption.
Abraham and I went to the office ourselves, and while we were there, we asked about costs and the length of the process. In order to receive the official documents, we needed to pay about fifteen dollars, and we would receive them in ten business days. At that point, we knew that not only had we been lied to regarding the process, but we had been asked to pay an outlandish bribe that would have costed us more money than necessary.
We rejoiced in our decision to remain honest, but we were met with more corruption in the weeks to follow. We needed to have our marriage certificate officially translated, so we contacted the man who had translated my documents for the wedding. I had an uneasy feeling about his services, since he was referred to us by our “friend” at the Town Hall, but we decided to call anyway. In order to translate all twenty-eight words on our certificate, he was going to charge us one hundred soles, which seemed outrageous. We were unsure, but we decided to call a translating business to compare quotes, and our worst feelings were confirmed. They would charge us sixty soles.
Normally, services will have a little variance in pricing, but only by about fifteen soles. Since our original translator was charging so much more, we knew that he was just taking advantage of us and our situation. Needless to say, that man has lost our business.
I really do love living in Peru, and thankfully, my positive experiences have outweighed the negative ones. However, I have learned that the more you invest yourself in any given culture, the more it will reveal itself to you—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Peru has its fair share of good people and bad people, just like the rest of the world. The important thing is to remain fighting the negativity and the corruption, so that the world might be a better place.