Editor’s Note: There’s a lot of talk about #AOFamily. It usually means about how we all look out for each other, but sometimes it means that two AO members find love, too. And in this extraordinary case.. one of our AO members found love on an #AOAway trip. Below is Justin Liberty’s (yes, LIBERTY) story of how he met his wife while traveling to Brazil for the 2014 men’s World Cup with American Outlaws.
On Friday, June 20th, a few days before Manaus, one of the AO guys at our hotel rented a car. He had one extra spot and invited me to come along. We left around 10am and drove around Natal, exploring the outskirts and getting a little lost in the rural areas as well as the touristy areas. After our all day adventure we stopped at one of the more famous churrascaria’s in Natal, Fogo e Charma.
As you know these places are all you can eat and tons of meat! We ate ourselves at least three months pregnant and headed back to the hotel around 8pm. Upon my return, my roommate Victoria, was getting ready to go out. She was one of the few being filmed by the AO documentary crew. When I walked in she started asking me to join her and maybe not word for word but it was something like this:
V- “Do you want to go out with us tonight to dance the local dance? Forro. They’re going to be filming us there.” …Forro, pronounced like Foe-hoe, is a typical dance in the North East of Brasil.J- “No, I’m good. I feel about 3 months pregnant, since we just ate at a churrasco.”
(I guess I should have premised it by saying, I don’t like clubs, I don’t drink that much, nor do I like dancing all that much. She knew this too, but…)
V- “Dude, you’re in Brasil…you have to go out! And, we’re only going for an hour or two so we can get some good shots before it gets too crowded.”J- “only 2 hours? But I’m so full and pregnant”V- “Yeah, just a few hours and you can work it off dancing.”
J- “Ooooookaaaaaaay, I guess I’m in…”
(Best decision I ever made!)
We headed out to the club around nine. When we arrived the club was not open and did not open until 10. So we had to wait a bit and while waiting we went to a bar around the corner to have a drink.
There we met up with the other people being filmed, Duncan and “Hot mess”, as well as Jim and the rest of the film crew. As soon as 10 hit we finished our drinks and headed back to the club. Outside there was a little pow-wow between the film crew and while they were talking the rest of us headed in. When we headed in, we walked down a ramp towards the first bar area on the right. The brasilian music was bumping, the colored stage lights and strobe lights where lighting up the club. There was very few people in the club, only around 30-40 people at this point as it was still early in the night.
When we arrived at the bar area we had to buy drink coupons from a guy and then we could use the coupons to get a drink from the bar. We all got our drinks and decided to walk towards the outside patio, but on our way towards the patio I noticed a few ladies standing at the edge of the dance floor occupying one of the few tables in the club.
One of them was wearing a white dress, she had the light shinning on her as she stood out from the crowd and I thought she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Nonetheless we just continued on our journey to the outside patio where we all sat and started talking. Then the translator that was with the film crew came in and said to me “have you danced with anyone yet?”, I replied no. Then she said “you need to learn how to dance Forro.” and asks “do you see anyone you want to dance with?”, I replied and pointed “yes, that gatinha in the white dress”.
Gatinha in Portuguese directly translated means kitten, but when describing someone and in slang it means “cute”. So without hesitating or saying anything the translator walked over to the group of ladies and spoke to them. I could see all there heads turn and eyes come my way, I knew she went to ask them if they could teach me to dance. Specifically asking the girl in the white. I could see her reaction from afar… she was shaking her head no. A little disappointed but no problem; nothing invested. When the translator return she said that “the girl in the white does not want to dance but her friend does and is willing to dance with you.”
So I said ok, what the heck, I’ll learn how to dance Forro with my two left feet. I approached the girls, gave an embarrassing nod to the other two ladies (lady in white included), and met the girl who was going to teach me, Renata. She didn’t speak any English so we proceeded to learn the dance rather than try a conversation. A little shy or embarrassed, along with my nervous sweaty palms, I think I danced with her like you would dance with someone in sixth grade. A good amount of space. That could also be because of my two left feet and that I kept stepping on her toes.
Either way, I couldn’t wait for the song to end, so that I could end the agony. It wasn’t so bad, but it wasn’t good either. Afterwards I said thank you or muito obrigado to the lady and headed back outside to our table where everyone was posted. When I got back I am not sure what got into me but I felt very unsatisfied with what happened and I could not get this lady in white dress out of my head. I joked with the table a bit, telling them I went and danced. They laughed as I told them how horrible I was. Then I looked to Jim and said “dude, you want to learn how to dance forro? Lets go back to these ladies.” He was excited and said something like “let’s do this”. So we headed back towards the ladies. When we got there I introduced him to Renata, so that she could teach him how to dance. Then almost instantly I turned to the lady in the white dress and began to try my luck in my broken Portuguese and asked 4 simple questions:
J- “Oi, como vai voce?” (Hi, how are you?)G- “Tudo bom, e voce?” (All good, and you?)J- “Bom, como se chama?” (Good, what is your name?)G- “Gabriella, e voce?”J- “Eu sou Justin. Fala ingles?” (I am Justin, Do you speak english?)G- “Yes, not very good.”
Thaaaaaaaaaank God for that, otherwise it would have been a very difficult and different ending to this conversation.
J- “Whew, thats a relief. Do you like summer or fall weddings?”G- “Weddings?”J- “Yes, do you like summer or fall weddings?”G- “I don’t know, why do you ask?”J- “So I know when to plan ours.”
As corny as that sounds she found me charming and let me hang around. I looked over at Jim and smiled as I saw him trying to communicate with Renata. After that moment I completely forgot about everyone else that I was with that night. I completely forgot that I was in a club. I swear to you, it was like a scene out of a movie – when everything fades away from the background and just focus’ on the two main actors. It was perfect. The night was a blur and flew by as Gabriella and I talked, we danced and we laughed and we smiled, a lot. I remember Jim checking in and Victoria checking in a couple times to make sure I’m ok. I always gave a big smile and a thumbs up! Victoria then checked in when they were leaving at 2am as I decided to continue the night into the wee hours of the morning.
The night continued to fly by, and the next time we looked at the clock it was 5am and Gabriella’s friends were ready to go. We had to say goodbye, not knowing if we would see each other again. Reason we weren’t sure is because we were both from out of town. She is from a city three hours south of Natal, called Joao Pessoa, visiting her friends from college for the weekend and had work on Monday. I was only there for the World Cup, and I knew that I was leaving late Saturday night to fly to Manaus for the USA vs. Portugal game and we wouldn’t be back until early Monday morning.
As we said goodbye and I had kissed her goodnight, I asked if I could add her on Facebook and continue to talk to her. I only had my iPad with me at the hotel so literally my only way to keep in contact with her would be Facebook but I still had to wait until I got back to the hotel. She said yes and as she was walking away she yelled back at me “two L’s”. A huge smile on my face and definitely love struck. As soon as I got back to my room at 6am I found her on Facebook, added her and sent her a message. We’ve talked every day since then!
That is just the first day we met. The second day story is funny/crazy too.
Since that day, as I mentioned we’ve talked every day. Once I returned to the US we talked via WhatsApp and Skype. In August she came out to San Diego and stayed with me for about three months until she went back home late October. I just quit my job and headed down to be with her in Brasil. Then travelled throughout in Brasil and to Europe for the next six months.
Editor’s Note: Turns our she likes spring weddings actually. Justin and Gabriella married in March 2016!