Excited participants frequently ask us what kind of stories people tell in the StoryCorps MobileBooth. As Facilitators, it’s difficult to identify specific themes because we hear all kinds of stories on a wide variety of topics. In Waco, TX, however, I heard quite a few stories about love and first meetings.
Ruben Paul Salazar, 39, met Rachel P. Salazar, 43, online, but in a very unusual way. On January 10, 2007, Ruben was at work checking his email. He noticed a message from someone he did not recognize and realized that he had been included in a chain of emails that were meant for someone else. Looking closely, noticed that the intended recipient, Rachel P. Salazar in Thailand, had an email address that, except for two digits, was almost identical to his. He forwarded this email it to its appropriate recipient and added a cheerful message:
“Hi Rachel. Hola prima, hello cousin! It seems as if this message came to me instead of you. I’m in Waco, TX, USA. It’s good to hear biodiversity is such an important topic around the world. Have a great day! -Ruben P. Salazar, Chicano, cyclist commuter, community artist. P.S. How’s the weather in Bangkok.?”
So began a long-distance exchange of emails that turned two strangers a world apart into friends. “I thought, here’s an interesting situation, let’s see how far I can take it,” Ruben told Rachel during their StoryCorps interview, explaining why he kept replying to her replies. Eventually those emails became online-chat conversations, that then became letters, that turned into phone calls. “I was really happy that I was making a new friend. It wasn’t everyday that I would meet another R.P. Salazar, especially not halfway around the world, ” said Rachel who is from the Philippines but was working in Thailand at the time.
“When I would be getting to work, you would be leaving work and I always felt it a little imposing on you and that I was preventing you from going home,” Ruben confessed, “but you stayed with me.” As their relationship grew, their conversations became more intense and serious, and it was not uncommon for them to spend six hours at an internet cafe or to have four-hour-long international phone calls.
Everything changed when Rachel, who had been planning a trip to the U.S. to see relatives in California, decided to stop first in Texas. After emailing and talking on the phone for eight months they finally met in person and spent eight days together in Waco. Two days before Rachel had to go back to California, Ruben proposed.
“Deep in my heart I knew it was coming. It was the right thing and it was the best thing,” she told him during their interview. Rachel said yes, and they got married on November 24, 2007 at a local Unitarian Church here in Waco. At the time of their StoryCorps they had just celebrated their three year anniversary!