What It’s Like to Buy Your Bride

After the decline and collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, overseas jobs for ex-pats seemed plentiful if you could tolerate a little rougher lifestyle. Once the divorce from my cheating wife was finalized in early 1988 I left the US with a few possessions (a suitcase, passport, and cash) and took a contract job. The initial contract was for a year, but as it turned out I would not be coming back to the US for a lot longer time than that.

After a few months on the job, I began to informally teach evening English classes for students who wanted to practice speaking and reading. One young man, in particular, seemed keen about building up his vocabulary but after several weeks of attendance just suddenly quit. I thought that was the last I would see of him and quickly forgot all about it.

Sometime later I received an in-country letter from someone unknown to me, in the letter (and in her native language) a pretty young lady introduced herself to me as the male student’s younger sister. Enclosed in the letter, which her brother insisted she write, was a very modest photo of herself. She was 22-years-old, auburn shoulder-length hair, a trim figure, and brilliant green eyes, but most importantly, she was still living in her father’s house. We began a regular correspondence and traded a few more pictures; my study of her language increased considerably at that point since she spoke not a word of English.

After making arrangements with her brother, I took vacation time and stopped by her village to meet this lady in person. When I arrived in town he alone met me at the bus station and laid out some ground rules for meeting his sister (many more rules would come later) for the first time. Our first meeting at the garden was odd, he talked almost non-stop but she said next to nothing during the entire evening. Sitting directly across from me she would not look me in the eye but kept her head slightly bowed while we were there, but twice I caught a glimpse of her beautiful green eyes sneaking a look at me. Much later he told me that her place was to be seen but not necessarily heard at the first introduction.