A few days ago, it was Valentine ’s Day. “Oh , don’t remind me!” I can hear you shout with disgust. I understand. Valentine’s Day is a day with noble intentions: A special day set aside to remember and celebrate the love and relationships in your life. But for so many it has become a painful reminder of the pain and sadness caused by relationships (or the lack thereof). I personally feel that this day has been ruined by commercialism and so my wife and I do not really celebrate it. For us, doing things when we feel like it, and not when commercialism dictates, works best. In the spirit of St. Valentine’s, this blog is all about the successes (or disasters, as you will see) of love and relationships. Of course, if it was not for my bicycle, I never would have met my wife.
When I first arrived as a young student at Imperial College in London, it was like I have come to another planet. Everything was overwhelming. Settling in was extremely tough. My first accommodation was at a place run by the Opus Dei. If you have read the Da Vinci Code, you can imagine that there were very strict rules and curfews in place. It was a good arrival point to London: This place gave me all that I would need in terms of accommodation, housekeeping and food on the table. But I am an independent person and so with no specific complaints, I wanted to get out from there to live life by my on rules. I got myself a one bedroom flat. As a consequence I could not always afford bus or tube fares but would do the 2-hour commute every day from North London to South Kensington by bicycle.
I had worked very hard to get where I was. I certainly did not have time for dating or much socialising. Studying was the focus and that suited me. My parents were always very worried about me because I could not dance. In Colombia, if you cannot dance, then your romantic prospects are doomed. They paid for lessons in the hope that I would learn how to dance but to no avail. Two bad ears and two left feet are not a good combination. I had a sister, who was also my best friend and close confidant for many years. She tried to teach me to dance. Unfortunately, she was also unsuccessful. When my sister died (perhaps a story for a later time) I threw myself into my studies for a very long time. I did not really mind to be honest. I did not want to deal with the outside world and it was my way of keeping my mind occupied.
All that changed of course when, one day, by chance I literally stumbled upon the girl that was to become my wife. I was cycling back home from a tough day at the university. My mind was especially occupied. I would often use my cycling time to work out difficult problems I would come across in my studies and for stress relief. That day was no exception. I would be so deeply engaged in thought at times that I would even cycle past my destination by mistake (something that also happens if I take another form transport). Although, I did not pass the flat on that day, instead something much worse happened. Luckily, this occurrence actually ended up to be quite wonderful in the end.
I was cycling through Hampstead Heath, a beautiful park in London. A girl was sitting nearby on a bench, reading a book. She was one of many people on that gorgeously sunny day out reading and enjoying the sunshine. As I was cycling through, I cycled into one of the many ponds dotted around! This particular girl went over to see if I was okay. I was all wet and I felt very embarrassed. “Are you okay?” she asked, and then I said something that was completely out of character. (Don’t ask me how this came out of my mouth!) “I am okay” I replied, “…but I think we need to meet again when I am dry”. She looked at me in silence and for a moment I thought that I had just made a colossal mistake. But to my astonishment, she smiled. And it was one of the most beautiful smiles I have ever seen. “Okay” she said and we exchanged details. The rest, as they say, is history…
Sometimes the biggest accidents in life lead to the greatest discoveries. This girl turned out to be the love of my life. We have been married for close to 9 years now and we have a wonderful little girl. I have been really lucky to have found her.
A lot of things have happened during the last weeks. Training is going well (despite the bad weather we had last week). Many Rotary Clubs around the UK have offered their help and support. All these contributions (as well as a detailed account of my training) deserve a single blog post, so that is what I intend to do for the following blog posts. Please keep coming back and of course, keep on donating!