Sheltering in Seal Beach

Greg and Saritha Miller are housing Columbian residents, Andrea Arroyave and Andres Hoyos, while they are stuck in the U.S. during the pandemic. Courtesy photo

A Colombian couple found a place to take shelter when they could not go home because of the pandemic: Seal Beach.

One night in mid-April, Greg and Saritha  Miller were watching Colombian TV in their Seal Beach home. The Millers do this regularly, as Saritha  is Columbian.

On that particular night, the program broadcast a story about Colombians who found themselves in the United States with no way home because the Colombian government had shut its boarders.

“The Government of Colombia has closed all international travel in and out of Colombia and restricted internal domestic travel within Colombia,” according to web page for the U.S. Embassy in Colombia.

Greg Miller said he wondered out loud if they could help out.

Miller said his wife emailed the Colombian consulate in Los Angeles.

That same night, the consulate provided the Millers with a phone number for a Colombian couple then located in Los Angeles—Andrea Arroyave and Andres Hoyos. The Millers spoke with the other couple briefly over the phone.

Greg said they had enough money for three days when they called the Seal Beach couple.

On Thursday, April 16, they drove from LA to Seal Beach.

Greg said the two couples clicked immediately.  They played a game until about 2 a.m.

Saritha  Miller essentially serves as a translater, as their guests don’t speak English. “I know a little Spanish,” Greg said.

Greg said he gave them a couple of pre-paid $60 Visa cards.

On Saturday, April 19, he said he doesn’t know if their visit would last one week, a month or couple of months. Greg said they love Seal Beach.

“They walk with us and our dog down Main Street,” Greg said.

As of April 18, the Millers planned to take the couple sailing.

The Sun asked if Saritha  could translate Andrea Arroyave and Andres Hoyos’s story for the paper. Saritha  sent her translation of their story in an April 20 email.

“We came to the US in January & driving across the Big US we had no idea how big the problems were with the virus,”  Andrea and Andres said.

“When we learned that we needed to return to our Country of Colombia, the airline we had tickets on had stopped flying & refused to refund our money,” Andrea and Andres said.

They lived in a Los Angeles house that rented rooms. According to Andrea and Andres, the owner would not allow them to speak or walk around the house after 10 p.m. They paid $31 for a day in advance.

According to Andrea and Andres,  people were cold and looked at them “differently.” They had the impression no one in LA cared about them.

When they left LA, they had paid for two days rent in advance. According to Andrea and Andres, the owner of the Los Angeles house refused to reimburse them the money for the two days.

“We were asking the Colombian consulate for help for several days because the resources were running out and we would have nowhere to sleep, no food, the consulate told us that the solution was to go to a shelter but we were afraid to get it for the covid19,” Andrea and Andres said.

“But on Wednesday night we received a call that our situation would change, someone offered to help us,”  Andrea and Andres said.

Andrea and Andres were concerned. They were worried this might be a joke or worse yet that someone might take away their passports and make them work without pay.

(For their part, the Millers were a little worried, too, as they didn’t know anything about the couple that they were going to meet. But if you’ve read the story this far you know it seems to have worked out for everyone.)

Andrea and Andres thought about it and came to the conclusion that they they didn’t have many options and they feared the offer wouldn’t be available the next day. The called back Saritha  Miller, who said they were waiting for Andrea and Andres.

They couldn’t believe two strangers would open their doors to them.

The Millers gave them and address in Seal Beach, a city Andrea and Andres did not know.

“We got closer and when we saw the sea and the beach we were relieved with hope,” Andrea and Andres said.

“We arrived at the turquoise blue house on 7th street and we were greeted by 2 dogs and a very nice couple, without physical hugs but with hugs from the heart we greeted each other,” Andrea and Andres said.

“We walked the neighborhood, calm, friendly, fabulous weather, sea, Seal Beach is a little paradise, the neighbors are so kind they meet each other, everybody says hi with a smile,” Andrea and Andres said.

They felt safe. They felt that miracles really do exist.

“Two hours after arriving we saw a neighbor arrive with a delicious pie, smelling so good,” Andrea and Andres said.

The Colombian couple marveled at how kind and warm Seal Beach people are.

Andrea and Andres are hoping for a happy ending to their story. They hope the consulate will help them to return. However, according to Andrea and Andres, the airline has  not responded and their savings from their holiday are gone.

For now, they are thankful to Greg and Saritha Miller. “We are protected, we have a roof, sweet home and we have a new family, new friends and we never forget the Seal Beach hospitality,” they said.