"Esperanto Success Story" by Ben Stevens
This article originally appeared in Esperanto USA, February 2001.
As much as I like to avoid "krokodiladon", the message of this story isn't for those who already know the value of Esperanto, but for those who are still sort of playing with the idea, wondering if it's worth the time and effort. So, for them, I'm writing in English.
Back in 1993, I picked up Esperanto as merely another linguistic project. I figured if I was already studying several of the languages from which it was composed, why not learn it, too? It was just for knowledge, for fun. Like most Americans, I was entirely ignorant about Esperanto's purpose, the century of history it contained, and its practicality in real life. In other words it was an abstract concept for me, devoid of life.
Life... Fast-forward to the present, and we find that a new life is about to be introduced in this world. A real, tangible, live little person who would not have come into existence without Esperanto.
In 1997, I was a Spanish major at a small university in Pennsylvania - a place so small, it didn't have exchange programs to Spanish-speaking countries. I felt that to be serious about my studies, I would have to spend some time abroad. A professor suggested a small university in central Mexico, in the city of San Miguel de Allende. Since my university was useless in this matter, I knew I had to find someone else to help me get there. I didn't know anyone in Mexico, so it occurred to me to take a chance and look for Esperantists there. Using the online Esperantist address list (http://home.wxs.nl/~lide/adresaro.htm), I found a few possibilities. I got two or three replies to the e-mails I sent. The only one who could help me was Ana Luisa Velasco.
As a member of the Pasporta Servo, Anita had been inviting guests from around the world into her home for years. By the time I showed up in Mexico City in June 1998, she had everything planned out for me: museum trips, get-togethers with other Esperantists, and more related to my original goal, the bus to San Miguel. During my short stay there, we formed a friendship like no other I had known before. After I returned to the U.S. we kept in touch on line.
In the fall of 1999, already graduated from college and working as a programmer, I was in what you could call a "Dilbertesque" rut. I felt I needed to go someplace where I could relax. So, I headed back to San Miguel. I gave Anita rather short notice that I'd need some help getting through Mexico City again, but she was ready for me when I got there. We're still not quite sure how it happened, but within just a few days, we could tell that something was changing between us. I hadn't planned on staying very long, but the days sort of dragged out into weeks. Our friendship was becoming something else.
I did eventually make it to San Miguel, but Anita and I visited each other on weekends. We started planning to live together in San Miguel. Unfortunately, the paradise of San Miguel is no place to find a job, so my plans there fell through. I was almost prepared to go back to my family in Pennsylvania, but Anita invited me back to her place and got me hooked up with a programming company in Mexico City. And that sealed our relationship. A couple of months later, we made it official by getting married, and now we're getting ready to raise a second-generation Esperantist.
As my story should suggest, I can't overstate how important Esperanto has become in my life. I used to feel uncomfortable when people would mock Esperanto. "Nobody speaks it." "It's not a real language." It made me nervous because I didn't have any first-hand evidence of how real it is. But now, whenever I hear, "It's a waste of time," I just crack a smile, because I know that for my wife, myself and my baby, those few months I spent studying Esperanto were the best investment of time in my life.