The Story Corps mobile booth is in Houston for a month, until Dec 19. Today I went with my Peruvian friend Vilma Burwick to the Story Corps booth to record an interview with her about her very interesting life.
Vilma was born in a remote village in the north of Peru. She had a large family, and they were very close. She really did walk two hours to school every morning, and two hours back. When she went to high school, it was three hours. Her father really valued education, and he encouraged her to study.
When she finished high school, she went to Lima to go to the university there. She worked to support herself while she was in the university, and she became a lab technician at a hospital. But she wanted more opportunity, and she decided she wanted to move to the United States at some time, but she didn't know how she could make it happen.
Vilma cared for the children of a family that sometimes traveled to the United States for vacations. On one of these trips, Vilma had a long layover in the Houston airport. A mysterious man kept talking to her and flirting with her. She was scared, but after a while she came to sort of like the man. When she got back to Peru, he had sent her a lot of emails! They were in English, but she got a dictionary and translated them. She wrote back to him, partly in Spanish, and he had a dictionary too, to figure out what her emails meant. Fifteen months after she met Keith Burwick in the Houston airport, she came to Houston and, reader, she married him.
Vilma had to learn English, so she watched American soap operas and read as much as she could in English. She started attending ESL classes at HCC, which is where I met her. Now she's on her way to a four-year university, to study microbiology. And she became an American citizen. She's an American success story.