Language of love transcends couple’s two cultures

By: Teresa O'Hanlon, Placer Herald Correspondent
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If love is patient and love is kind, then Abdul Hafeez of Rocklin had nothing to worry about. When the former exchange student from Pakistan moved to Rocklin in 1978, he had finished school, settled into his career and was more than ready to settle down. So many friends were eager to find him a nice girl. A valentine for the handsome Hafeez, whose soft umber eyes, generous smile and large heart sought out a soul mate. Time passed, but the patient Hafeez stayed single. In 1994 a friend asked Hafeez to join him on a family trip to South America in Medellin, Colombia. A get-away from work and who knows, maybe Hafeez would learn how to speak a little Spanish. It was the summer of 1994, a time when Medellin was springing back to life after the death of drug lord, Pablo Escobar. “There were drug-related killings everywhere and especially, Envigado, a suburb of Medellin, where Escobar and his mules frequented,” remembered Hafeez, who quickly forgot about the newspaper headlines after meeting friendly locals. “I was fascinated and was drawn to the culture and people by their joyous and party mood.” Hafeez was struck by the beauty of a young college student at his table while having lunch in downtown Medellin. “Amilbia looked very shy and spoke very little during the lunch ... I had to communicate with Amilbia through my hosts because of our common language barrier,” he said. With sign language as their only successful way of communicating, friends were shocked when the couple appeared to have an alluring attraction. “We had God and God is universal,” remembered Amilbia Hafeez, “We looked for other things more important. We found what is common instead of the differences in our culture and religion.” Within the first days of their relationship, Abdul Hafeez experienced culture shock during a visit to Amilbia’s home in Envigado when her ex-boyfriend, a cocaine trafficker, showed up with neighborhood policia. Screeching tires, screaming voices and hard knocks on the door sent the couple hiding in a back room as Amilbia’s mother convinced the angry mob that no foreigners were in the house. “All I could think was that nobody in California would ever know why I was found dead in a stranger’s home in Colombia,” recalled Abdul Hafeez. “I had heard real bad things about violent nature of narcotraffickers. I considered myself dead meat!” Fortunately the love between Abdul and Amilbia was stronger than the ruthless rebels roaming the streets of Envigado. With the blessing of her parents, the couple planned a secret wedding and married on Aug. 1, 1994. “Against all odds, it seems like we were both driven together by some cosmic force,” said Abdul Hafeez. “I was 38 and Amilbia was 21. We made Rocklin, Calif. our home.” Turn the pages of the Hafeez’s love story into a present day valentine and the couple will proudly show off their two handsome sons Assad, 24, and Aftab, 22, both college students who are well aware of their parents’ tale of two cultures. “Some very powerful lessons come from their story,” shared Aftab Hafeez. “I’ve always been taught to believe than anything is possible and to really have faith in your dreams.” Assad Hafeez said he is proud his father wrote out the story of how his parents met. “That’s been a really interesting aspect of our family,” he said. “We enjoy sharing our lives with each other and have really nice memories.” For Abdul Hafeez, this Valentine’s Day he is falling in love all over again. “In our first years of marriage, Amilbia and I learned that we had more strength and determination to make this marriage work in spite of our numerous differences,” he shared. “Our cultures were very different, our language was very different, and our age had big difference but what we had in common was very strong. Amilbia is beautiful, tolerant, and happy-go-lucky and of course, forgiving, which has made me enjoy life more each day.”