This picture shows Stefan and Nina together, after their compelling love story found its completion, after they had fallen in love, seen pictures of each other for the first time, met for the first time, married in Germany and moved to Peru… All of which happened in that order and within the space of a just a few months. Here’s how it all unfolded…
Once Nina had booked her flight to Germany, she spoke to Stefan and told him she was going to visit him. His reply was a mixture of, “You don’t have to do that… but I am happy that you are.”
During the next month and a half before they were due to meet, Nina and Stefan talked and emailed frequently. In that time, Nina realised that she had fallen in love with Stefan. She did not know quite why or how, there was no rational explanation, but her intuition guided her and, as she told her incredulous friends, “It just feels true and aligned. I simply have no doubt.”
Just before Nina was due to leave for Germany, Olga contacted her to ask that she attend an important dolphin conference in Peru. Olga’s plea was “Do it for the dolphins!” Of course, Nina could not refuse such a request so she arranged to go to Peru before heading to Germany.
Just before she left, she and Stefan spoke on the phone. It was during this phone call that Nina felt compelled to say to Stefan, “I need to tell you something before I jump on the plane…” Stefan replied, “Well go ahead, tell me.”
“I don’t know if I can, I feel too shy…” And he replied, “No, no, don’t be shy, go ahead.”
“I need to tell you I love you…” Nina said. “I love you too,” Stefan replied before he even realised what he was saying.
With that their phone call finished and Nina flew to Peru. Stefan meanwhile was left worried and stunned. “What does this mean?” were his thoughts. He had been married once and at this point had just come through a divorce. He did not know what or how he felt about Nina’s words, or indeed his own. He had to find out more…
Stefan attempted to reach Nina by phone. But he had no number for her in Peru. It took him two days of contacting all their mutual contacts in different countries before he was able to reach her. When at last they spoke, he asked her, “What did you mean by what you said. Did you mean like a sister says to a brother, or a lover says to a lover?” Nina was scared that he may not like the answer but she said, “Like a lover says to a lover…”
Stefan’s instant response was, “I’m so happy, I’ll sell everything and come and live with you wherever you are!”
Out of nowhere, having never met and never seen a photo of one another, Stefan and Nina had declared their love for each other. Furthermore, they knew that if they wanted to live together in Peru they would have to marry. They agreed a plan. They would meet at the airport in Germany, Stefan would greet Nina with a kiss, and if that one kiss felt right, they would move to Peru and get married.
And so they met for the first time at the airport… And they kissed… And three days later Stefan phoned Nina’s mother to ask for Nina’s hand in marriage.
It was not all roses. Both families were understandably uncertain of the idea. There were some tears, some looking at maps to see where in the world Peru was, some offers of plane tickets to allow them to meet and get to know each other better before taking such a big step… But this did not alter their decision. Nina returned to Washington DC, but very soon flew back to Germany to get engaged…
Shortly after that Stefan and Nina were married at Sababurg castle in Germany. This same castle had once inspired the Brothers Grimm to write Sleeping Beauty; a fairytale where the Princess lay awaiting the kiss of her perfect Prince. It was a truly beautiful day, complete with a horse and carriage secretly arranged by Stefan. Within three months Stefan and Nina had moved to Peru to start their new life together and their wonderful story continues to this day. They have now been married for 13 years, have two children and are still very much still in love.
However, this wonderful story is also most definitely real life. And just as life can bring miraculous events to us all at certain times, to remind us of the beauty of life, it also brings us the challenges, the ups and downs, the stresses, and the every-day-ness of things. Stefan and Nina are very fortunate that they found one another; two compatible souls happening to meet in this big, wide world. But after their fairytale romance and wedding they, like everyone else, also had to return to a normal life. At least, as normal as a conservationists’ life can get anyway.
Stefan and Nina were married in 1998. Since then they have lived and worked in Peru. They formed the conservation organisation Mundo Azul in 1999, have dived in some of the most beautiful places on the planet, investigated illegal dolphin killing, started an Eco-tourism company and worked on challenging community projects. On a daily basis they had to face, and still have to face, the struggles, the victories, the losses and the sacrifices of being involved in such demanding work.
But that is the start of a whole new subject. So, more on their lives and work in Peru with Mundo Azul next time…