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A Date, A Plan, A Canal

by Melanie Wetzel

At the beginning of a relationship, individuals use dates to get to know each other ... as individuals. But not so long thereafter -- about the time a spare toothbrush starts residing in someone's medicine cabinet -- dates become much more elaborate, involved tests: will your special someone fit in with your family? Your interests? Your decorating taste? (Let's face it: you did not take Mr./Ms. Maybe to your cousin Fred's wedding because you thought s/he would enjoy it.)

But I say that scattered dates are not the best way to determine if two people have what it takes to stay together in motion sickness and in health. Let me suggest a long vacation together, preferably in a foreign country. Canada doesn't count.

My pet example: Central America on $25 a day. From the Yucatan to the Panama Canal, you'll see thousands of small but significant Right-or-Flight signals.

  • If you think you'd love that girl no matter what, ride a $4 bus from Guatemala City to San Salvador with her.
  • If you think you have found the strongest, bravest man in the world, see how he handles a night in a thatched roof shack in the jungle.
  • She joins in the dancing at a traditional festival: good sign. She requests the Macarena: run, don't dance.
  • He tries to learn a few words in Spanish: good sign. Unless he is Cheech.
  • If she tapes the money, traveler's checks and passports behind the dresser in the hotel, she is sensible and cautious. Unless she tells you that they are still there after your 6-hour bus ride to Managua.
  • The ultimate test of lasting love? If you can get through the Tegucigalpa airport together, you can get through anything together.

Melanie Wetzel has lived in Honduras for three years. She thinks stateside dating is for wimps.

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