Analisse remembers how beautiful and geographically diverse the area she grew up in was – with both the Andes mountains and the Amazon rainforest close by. While she grew up in a small apartment with her parents and two brothers, her Grandma Lula had a big house with a huge yard they could play in – this is where she created her best childhood memories.
It was a Sunday tradition that the family would have lunch together, and Annalise loved helping her Grandma cook for everyone. Analisse doesn’t know why exactly, but after lunch, the family would all sit together and read the newspaper to one another aloud.
“My cousin would always read the horoscopes to everyone and we would laugh.”
A great fouth grade teacher named Mrs. Quinzio sparked Analisse’s interest in one day becoming an educator.
“It’s not that I remember exactly what she taught us, but it was the way that she taught. Ever since then I have wanted to be a teacher to inspire kids and be there for them – especially in the middle school years when there is a lot of change going on with them and their lives. I wanted to push them to become who they can become though they do not even know it yet.” (audio below)
Analisse attended an American school in Bolivia, had family living in Maryland, and an older brother at college in Massachusetts, so she had always planned on going to college in the US.
Analisse grew up playing football (soccer) with her dad and brothers. Every weekend they would go to a nearby field and play two on two. Analisse was excellent – so good that she ended up playing on Bolivia’s national team. She wanted to play soccer in college, but she also had other ambitions. Analisse found Connecticut College, a division three school, which seemed like the perfect place to play soccer and study to become a teacher. In 2004, at age 18, Annalise arrived in the United States on a school-sponsored student visa.
Analisse’s experience speaking English at school in Bolivia smoothed the transition to Connecticut. Her college soccer team was the other key factor in this transition. Immediately, it was like she had this family away from home. Her teammates’ parents cared for her.
“On long weekends or holidays when I couldn’t go back to Bolivia, they would take me in – ‘their adopted soccer child.’ I had all this support.”
Analisse’s first teaching job after graduating was at the Dual Language & Arts and Magnet Middle School in Waterford, Connecticut. The school has only 150 students, and everyone knows everyone. During English class, her students work on personal narratives. The students review examples of powerful personal narratives, discuss what makes them powerful, and then learn how to write their own. She is trying to inspire them to find ways to express the life experiences and insights they have already gained.
“When they come to me as brand new sixth graders, they have a lot of thoughts and feelings, but they don’t know how to put it into writing. We spend a lot of time making our stories powerful – making sure that the feeling the students felt when they went through whatever experience they are choosing to write about is transmitted through their writing.”
“I have one student who is writing about her brother who died last year. Every time she writes, she gets teary-eyed, but she is like ‘this is helping me go through all the feelings I’ve been feeling and not knowing how to talk about them.’” (audio below)
Aside from teaching, Analisse is an assistant coach of the women’s soccer team at Connecticut College – the same team she played for.
“Every time I put on my cleats and am out on a soccer field, there is a feeling that it brings back. I have grown up playing soccer my whole life.”
When Analisse first met Amy, another local teacher, they would go to Harkness Park on Sundays, to lesson plan together – or at least pretend to.
“We would bring a blanket and some food and write lesson plans. We ended up talking most of the time. I would have to go home after and actually do work!”
They were getting to know each other – and falling in love. Analisse will never forget the unique way Amy proposed to her. They were both into “letterboxing” (an outdoor hobby that combines elements of orienteering, art, and puzzle-solving). Amy hid five different boxes in Harkness Park. She asked Analisse to join her for a walk since she had found some new letterboxing instructions online. They followed the instructions and collected beautiful stamps around the park. While they were walking, it went through Analisse’s mind how this would be the perfect idea for an engagement. When they got down to the water, the last box contained a letter explaining the meaning of all the stamps. Analisse still hadn’t clued in that these stamps and the letters were about their relationship.
“These people have been to the same places we have been! We should be friends with these people! Then the letter mentioned going to Harkness for picnics, and that’s when I started crying and was like ‘this is us!’ Amy reached into the backpack and got out our engagement necklaces.” (audio below)
Future in Jeopardy
When Analisse tried to renew her work visa in 2011, her lawyer made a small clerical error and submitted the wrong employer ID number. This mistake would prove to be costly: putting Analisse’s future in the United States in jeopardy. By the time she became aware of the error, the deadline had passed, and her visa had expired.
“In April 2012, I got a call from my principal saying that I needed to come back to school. She was crying and hugged me and said, ‘you can’t come back to work on Monday. Your work visa expired, and you need to leave the country in ten days.””
Analisse flew to Bolivia and started the renewal process. There were so many forms, and at the time, Bolivia was going through political turmoil. Strikes were frequent, making it hard to get to the consulate. Analisse was also trying to help Amy plan their American wedding – which was to occur in a matter of months – yet she didn’t know if she would ever be able to return to the US. Amy and Analisse began to discuss the idea of moving to Canada together. In the end, Analisse got her visa and returned to the US one month before her wedding.
Their wedding took place in the Harkness Park amphitheater in June 2012. Analisse’s parents were not supportive of the marriage, but Amy’s were. Analisse’s uncle, aunt, and cousin were the only people from her side of the family who came – but the amphitheater was full of her friends and coworkers on a beautiful sunny day.
“There was so much love at our wedding. I was sore the next day from dancing so much!”
Analisse’s cousin read a poem in Spanish, and the vows were bilingual. There is a pizza place in New London called Two Wives Pizza, so they thought it was appropriate to head there after the ceremony. Over time, Analisse’s parents’ have become more supportive of their marriage and they are all rebuilding the relationship. Analisse isn’t sure what changed exactly but out of the blue they said they would like to see Amy too when they visit.
When they married, Analisse was still in the US on a work visa. Even though the state of Connecticut recognized the marriage, federally, due to the Defence of Marriage Act, it wasn’t. This prevented Analisse from applying for a green card through marriage. In 2013, when they repealed this federal act, Analisse started the process of applying for a green card. It was a lot of paperwork and required proof that they are actually together. In their package, they included emails, pictures, and letters. A friend recommended that they bring notes from people who know them as a couple. They admit they over-prepared, and once again, Amy surprised Analisse.
Amy created a Facebook group for all of their friends, asking them for letters to support their green card application. These letters focused on Amy and Analisse’s relationship and how each of these friends knows them as a couple. Amy gathered all of these letters, put them in a book, and invited the friends to Harkness Park to present the book to Analisse. When Analisse looks at this book she feels overwhelmed with love.
“Amy texted me and said ‘Want to go to Harkness and walk? Oh, by the way, wear your green button-down shirt.’ I’m walking down that path, and I see this whole group of people all wearing green, and I see Amy emerge from there, and I stopped and was like, ‘this is my party.’ I got the book and probably cried for the rest of the time.” (audio below)
Amy can’t imagine her life without Analisse. When Analisse had to leave the country before their wedding it gave her a glimpse of what that would be like.
“We were both crying the entire month that she was gone. That made our wedding that much more meaningful, and the green card that much more meaningful. I don’t think people realize how hard it is to do legally. To us, it is like, no wonder people come here illegally because it is hard. You really have to have a work connection or relationship with someone to come to this country. You can’t come and just expect to be a citizen. A lot of US citizens think, ‘well why doesn’t that person just become a citizen?’ It’s not that easy, and people don’t understand that.” (audio below)
Analisse and Amy would like to see a lot of change with the immigration process. So much depends on whether you can afford a good lawyer, something Amy stresses is so essential for other people to have when trying to get a green card.
“For a lot of people coming from South and Central America, it is no wonder they are coming here illegally: it’s hard, expensive, and you have to have a lot of connections.” (audio below)
*Update: Since the interview, Analisse is no longer teaching, and is now the strength and conditioning coach at Connecticut College. The Connecticut Sun WNBA team also recently hired Analisse as the head strength and conditioning coach!
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© Photos and text by Colin Boyd Shafer | Edited by Kate Kamo McHugh. Quotes edited for clarity and brevity.