Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The problem with marrying a foreign gal

At 10:40 this morning, Louise's flight took off for South Africa. Check-in went smoothly. So did the security line. And the pat-down was, as always, thorough. For Louise, too. Onboard she'll eat surprisingly decent food while crammed into a small seat at the rear of the aircraft. With any luck, this flight won't include a vomit-spewing neighbor, like her last trip across the ocean. And if it does, perhaps the flight crew will at least clean it before the smell overwhelms every man, woman and child within 25 feet.

I can track the flight online and watch a crudely rendered plane as it goes over a blue screen for hours and hours and hours. She'll arrive tomorrow, after nearly 24 hours of travel. She'll remain there for several weeks, basking in the African sun while I eat frozen pizzas and bowls of beef stew she made before her departure, meals she prepared with the discipline of a survivalist stocking up on canned goods in the underground shelter.

Getting married to a foreigner has had its benefits. For instance, Louise always brings back exotic spices that liven up every meal, especially dishes involving potatoes. Then there's the accent. And thanks to her I've enjoyed some world travels, twice venturing to Cape Town, one of the most beautiful cities in the word in one of the most fascinating countries in the world. Without her, I'd still consider a 1999 trip to Tijuana to be the highlight of my international travel experience. Being around her opens my eyes to other cultures and lands. I get to see America through someone else's eyes, someone who came to this country with no money but a lot of courage. I get to teach her about American history, the good and the bad, while she teaches me about South African history - the bad and the good. Marrying a foreigner: I recommend it to everyone, and not just those involved in green card scams.

But there's a downside. I'm forever grateful that Louise is now my family. But I'll always regret that our two families - the Fury clan of Minnesota and the Farias of Cape Town - are strangers to each other. My folks met Louise's mom at our wedding but none of the other family members on either side have ever mingled. Her brothers have never met my sister, her father-in-law has never met my dad. Louise gets to see my family once or twice a year, but I only get to see hers once every two years. If either of us disliked our in-laws, this might not be a bad thing. Unfortunately - er, fortunately - we do like our in-laws. We love them. If I had a brother, I couldn't imagine having any more fun with him than I do with Louise's brothers, Anthony and Daniel. In many ways they're complete opposites, but when it came to welcoming me into their family, they were exactly alike. They taught me about cricket, and rugby and showed me that I'm incapable of keeping up with them on the golf course or in a pub. Yet it's been a year since I visited them and will be another 15 months before I see them again. My liver is grateful, but I'm not.

My nephews and niece love when Louise visits with her magical nanny bag and she loves visiting Minnesota, even though she doesn't really function too well if the temperature there isn't between 66 and 68 degrees. She can sit for hours at the dining room table, talking with my mom about anything and everything. Yet it's been seven months since she was in Minnesota and might be six more before she returns.

We're our own family now. Shawn and Louise. But it's still tough knowing our respective families only know each other through old pictures and new anecdotes. Marrying a foreigner means that, for several weeks each year, I have to return to the life of a bachelor while the person I cherish more than any other in the world spends time with the family that misses her more than words can describe. Marrying a foreigner means spending the holidays apart, as she celebrates Christmas half a world away and welcomes the new year six hours earlier. I'm happy she gets to spend this time with her mom, stepdad, siblings, nieces, grandma and aunts and uncles. And I'm happy that I'll get to spend Christmas with my parents, sister, niece, nephews and aunts and uncles. But it's always difficult when being with our families means being apart from each other.

Marrying a foreigner has its benefits. It's just a bit more difficult to appreciate them when she's in her native land and I'm in mine.

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