A boy weaves down a road bordered with neat gardens and pitches a newspaper onto the front lawn of a house. There is a sound of a click and the automated sprinkler system starts up, soaking the newspaper. A middle-aged man pulls out of his driveway. “Bye daddy,” chirrup some girls cutely. Nope, it’s not a scene from a movie. It’s a scene from my new life.
And yes, for those forlorn ten loyal blog readers who have faced months of silence from this blog, it is a bit of a jump from my former existence in Bolivia. I did warn you a few blogs ago, but never had a chance to properly explain myself.
I blame it all on Goethe and a Venezuelan brothel.
Goethe because he captured the truth: "That the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.”
And the Venezuelan brothel because that is where I ended up inviting a Californian lass called Juliette to stay with me whilst traveling to the World Social Forum in Caracas, Venezuela in January 2007. How the cheap hotel ended up to be a brothel is another story, but the inauspicious start led to a friendship that blossomed into romance, and which led me to head out to live with Juliette in the countryside outside Cochabamba in 2007.
Where Goethe and the brothel finally came together was in January this year, when I proposed to Juliette and she replied Ari puni ("of course" in Quechua). You know at that moment that your life will never be the same, but I never realized how much it could change so much.
Goethe got it right. Any doubts I had before proposing disappeared as my love for Juliette deepened. And suddenly a whole string of events started unraveling from that first decision. Just as a starter, soon after the decision to marry, Juliette instantly became pregnant. I always knew the Cochabamba valleys were fertile.
And strangely, as my commitment to Juliette bound together, our certainty about being in Bolivia started to unravel. Whilst we treasured much of our time out in the countryside, we had missed some close friends and felt unsettled by our inability to put down roots in terms of a place to live. With the pregnancy, Juliette started to miss her family too, and wondered about our ability to cope with raising our first child in difficult living conditions without the support of family.
Gradually, the unraveling thread led us to decide to give birth to the baby in California and to get married beforehand in Britain.
When we finally voiced the decision in our hearts, we have been on almost a constant transition ever since. Packing and unpacking, farewells and flights, ceremonies and rituals, a lurching between tears and laughter. It was very painful saying goodbye in Bolivia, only softened by the fact that we both hope to return to live at some point with our family in the future.
The power of public ritual helped too: with an amazing Andean blessing by Lake Titicaca that both celebrated our time, friendships and love of Bolivia, and then in the UK, where a wedding accompanied by drums, piñatas, African singing and Bolivian weavings and coca leaves connected our new joint lives with the friendships and family that have nurtured us over more than 30 years.
So here we are, one day after arriving from Britain, living a scene from the Truman Show, in a small leafy University town called Davis in California. Except of course there is no dome or TV show that we plan to stay in. Instead I hope we continue listening to Goethe who after talking about the unforeseen events that happen because of decisions, ended with the famous rallying cry of living life to the full: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."