There's No Place Like Kansas City

New parents, Camille and Jorge Soto, both 24, had a new addition to their family when their daughter, Lisa, was born almost four months ago. Originally from Asunción, Paraguay, he is a financial risk analyst at Ernst & Young. She is a substitute teacher at Académie Lafayette, a French charter school, as well as a part-time chef at André’s Confiserie Suisse, a Swiss restaurant and confectionery. She is also pursuing a graduate degree in education at the University of Missouri-¬Kansas City. The two live in the Valentine neighborhood of Kansas City, and though they have already tied the knot for immigration reasons, they will celebrate their wedding this coming October.

FORWARD: How did you meet and come to live together?

CAMILLE: Jorge and I met at the library at Kansas University. I was studying Spanish with some girls, and we heard him talking in a different language at another table. We were so bad at Spanish that we couldn’t figure out if he was speaking Spanish or Arabic, so we started giggling. He came over to our table and started helping us. He was so nice and friendly that we asked him to come to our class as a guest speaker. We fell in love very shortly after.

As far as living together, Jorge and I both fought very hard to find him a job and a visa to stay in the country. We are very blessed to be able to reside together as a family.

JORGE: We started living together after coming back from our trip to Paraguay together. We had a terrible accident during our time there, and I broke my femur. Little I knew I would not be able to walk for 10 months. When we came back to the U.S., it was time for my last semester at KU. Camille found a job at the Boys & Girls Club in Lawrence, Kansas as well. We thought the best thing we could do was start living together — she would be the one motivating me to keep going every morning, a true-life savior.

How did you find your home?

JORGE: After we were done with school, the next step was finding a job. Luckily enough, I found what I was looking for in Kansas City two months after I graduated. Our lease ended on January 31, 2014, so we moved to Camille’s mom’s in February. We stayed there more [for] the next three months, as I was still recovering from my injuries and it was hard for me to move around. Once I got better, we finally moved to our new apartment in midtown, which was really close to our jobs. Camille was able to walk to work — it was perfect!

Who takes out the garbage?

CAMILLE: Jorge! Diapers included!

JORGE: It is a team effort, I would say. Camille puts the garbage right outside of our door in the hallway. Next morning, I am the one taking in out while I am leaving for work.

How are household chores divided among you?

Camille: Jorge is very tidy, so he doesn’t leave a lot of messes. I do all the cleaning and cooking, but he is very patient if it doesn’t get done. Oh — he does organize our storage closet every time I destroy it. He’s a great organizer.

JORGE: Again, Camille is the super girl here. She does pretty much all the chores in the house. I would say that I am the one vacuuming, though. That’s my main chore. Additionally, I am also the one in charge of our finances.

Who makes breakfast?

CAMILLE: I always make breakfast, but Jorge isn’t a big fan. He eats pancakes without syrup, which is just sad.

Describe your typical week.

CAMILLE: Sunday is family day, so we don’t make plans. Monday through Friday I wake up at 8:00 as Jorge is leaving for work. I am usually snuggling with Lisa in bed, and he kisses us both goodbye. I remind him to take the lunch I packed for him, and Lisa and I head downstairs to the gym, where she watches me run on the treadmill. The rest of the day I take care of Lisa and work on my homework during nap times. On Monday and Friday evenings, as well as Saturdays, I work at André’s while Jorge or my dad spends time with the baby. On Wednesday nights I hang out with my friends and bring Lisa so they can play with her. Jorge and I love to watch shows at night and have dinner together. Our time alone is rare and really special.

JORGE: I get to work at 8:30 a.m. and normally leave at 7 p.m. Once I am back, I will always try to spend my time with my beloved Camille. We usually watch a movie or one of our TV shows. On Fridays I play soccer as part of a weekly amateur soccer league. On Saturdays, Camille works as the chef of a restaurant. That being said, we always try to find at least one day of the week to go out and have dinner together. Finally, Sundays are always “reserved” for Camille’s dad. We both believe Sunday is the best day of our week.

What’s the most unusual thing we’d see on your household budget?

CAMILLE: Techie toys from Best Buy and the Apple Store. Jorge is a compulsive buyer when it comes to new tech gadgets. He has to try out the latest thing! He even tried to convince me that we could use a Jibo [robot] or a Pepper! It’s funny, because I can barely work the TV.

JORGE: I have a personal budget just for electronics [gadgets] every month. That does not mean I would buy a gadget every month, but it is definitely an option for me! I am a tech geek.

What do you love the most about the space you live in?

CAMILLE: I like that it’s unique. In Kansas City, hardly anyone with a family lives in an apartment. One of the first questions people asked me after finding out I was pregnant was if we were planning to move. You could just see the concerned looks when we told them we weren’t. It’s a smaller space than people are used to here, but we love it.

JORGE: The apartment is a little tight for Camille, Lisa and me. I would say that’s the best part, though. I feel it makes us even closer.

What’s the one story that gets told and retold in your home?

CAMILLE: Before dating, Jorge came to talk to my Spanish class in college. We all had to ask him a question in Spanish for practice. Somebody asked him if he played an instrument, and he told us about the four instruments he played. We were all very impressed, including the professor. It was total bs: Jorge has no musical talent whatsoever!

Who is first to get up when your child starts crying?

CAMILLE: Jorge sleeps through everything! I have a special ear for Lisa, and the tiniest fidget will have me up and ready to hold her.

JORGE: That would be Camille — especially at night. She just needs to hear a squeak to wake up. I don’t even stand a chance, as she is already taking care of Lisa before I can even open my eyes.

What would you serve at your ideal Sunday brunch?

CAMILLE: Eggs Benedict, fruit and Maine-style blueberry French toast. Also, excellent coffee, of course.

JORGE: Eggs benedict with mimosas. That’s all I need.

Do you have an ideal Sabbath dinner?

CAMILLE: I work on Friday nights, so dinner is usually standing up. eating a grilled cheese in between orders. We do have a family meal on Sundays, though, during which we try to do nothing but enjoy being a family.

JORGE: Not really. To be honest, an ideal dinner would be one with Camille by my side. And then again, that’s all I need.

Who’s your favorite Jewish comedian?

CAMILLE: They just added “Seinfeld” to Hulu, so I have been dying of laughter on a daily [basis]. I also enjoy Larry David because he’s so much like my dad that it hits close to home. For stand-up, Myq Kaplan is very funny.

JORGE: We have been watching “Seinfeld” lately. This is a show I did not know about before coming to the U.S., so it is fairly new to me. Jerry is definitely one of my favorites.

What is your favorite room in your home?

CAMILLE: I like the kitchen. No matter if I’m behind with everything else, I always cook for my family and friends.

JORGE: Our bedroom. Great lighting, not to mention I get to be right next to Camille.

What is your favorite piece of art or photograph in your home?

CAMILLE: I painted a picture for Lisa right before she was born, of a little Lisa sitting on a tree swing, watching the sunset. It reminds me of all my adventures on my grandparents’ farm, and all of the life and decisions Lisa has ahead of her.

JORGE: I have two that I love — both painted by Camille. First, a painting where you can see a little girl on a swing with the twilight in the back; this girl represents our daughter. Second, a painting where you can see “El Palacio de los Lopez.” which is the equivalent of the White House in Paraguay.

What is your happiest or saddest memory in your home?

CAMILLE: Without question, finding out that I was pregnant. I took the test in the bathroom and wouldn’t let Jorge watch. I opened the door, elated, and Jorge gave me a wide smile and a big hug. Best thing in the world.

JORGE: Happiest — having our daughter, Lisa, smiling, sleeping and living with us. Saddest — our car accident two years ago.

Describe your home life in three words.

CAMILLE: Evolving, sweet, learning.

JORGE: Family is everything.

If you could change one thing about where you live, what would it be?

CAMILLE: In the winter we can’t control the heat, and being on the 10th floor, it can get preeeetty toasty. I could probably live without that.

JORGE: The kitchen. I want Camille to have a bigger space to do what she wants. An island in the kitchen would be great.

If you could change one thing about your Jewish practice, what would it be?

CAMILLE: I wish that our temple would follow churches’ examples when it comes to community involvement. I like helping, and I wish there were more opportunity to do so.

JORGE: I am not Jewish, but I would definitely be more into the traditions, as I am planning to learn more about Judaism and the culture itself.

Is there an active Jewish community near you? If not, how do you create your own?

CAMILLE: I think most of the Jewish community is southwest of us, in Overland Park. You have probably heard about the Jewish community center in the news. But we have a great little Reform temple here that is very sweet.

JORGE: There is one 20 minutes away from where we live. We are currently looking for more opportunities to develop a sense of community, especially now that Lisa is with us.

What’s one thing you do that defines your Jewish identity?

CAMILLE: I have extremely high morals. I always try to do the right thing and avoid judging others. I believe that being a good person in this life is the greatest achievement, and I definitely learned those values from my Jewish family and culture.

JORGE: I am not Jewish, although I am proud to be living with [a Jew].

Does being Jewish distinguish you from others around you? If so, how?

CAMILLE: There is definitely nothing like being Jewish than being Jewish.

What one moment stands out in your mind when you felt most connected to Judaism?

CAMILLE: A few days before Lisa’s birth, I scheduled a rushed meeting with Rabbi Alan Londy to become members of the New Reform Temple. After an emotional week, I broke down sobbing in the meeting and could barely speak. I am a very private person, and I never show emotion like that. That this part of Lisa’s culture was not lost was very important to me. I couldn’t believe how comfortable and at home I felt in this rabbi’s presence. A day or two after, I ran into him and his wife at a pizza parlor, and they gave me a big hug, calming my pre-labor jitters.

If you would like to participate or nominate a household please contact HomeLands editor Maia Efrem at Efrem@forward.com.

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