|| Weekend in Prague brings lovers together
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Darren Low's immigration background, like many, is a love story.
He met his American-born wife, Aimee, in Prague in November 2005. A native of Dundee, Scotland, he was in the Czech Republic with friends for the weekend. She was there to visit a friend.
They talked for a couple of hours the night they met and the next night before she returned to the United States. They stayed in touch with emails and phone calls, and he made his first trip to the States on New Year's 2005-'06.
Even though they had spent little time together, "the minute we saw each other it was like, 'Wow, we've been together forever,'" Mr. Low said. "We continued kind of flying back and forth. I had a pretty good job that allowed me to take a week here and two weeks there. I would sometimes surprise her, and sometimes she'd know."
He said he and Aimee were in Italy while on a European road trip, when she suggested they get married. "So I knew I had a good one there when she took the initiative."
They were married in a Chicago courtroom in February 2007 and had a "paper plate" reception meal in the Daley Center in Chicago, before spending the rest of the day moving Aimee from her loft condo to her mother's house in Moline.
In March of that year they honeymooned by motorcycling from Scotland down the European continent, with him telling her "great memories" of seeing the Brandenburg Gate as an Army cadet.
In April of that year, they went to South Africa because "I wanted to let Aimee see the world I've seen," Mr. Low said.
They returned to the United States in July 2007, and Mr. Low was granted a work permit and Social Security number in October. He said the hardest thing was not being able to work until he got his Social Security card.
"I'm a great believer there's work there if you want to work. If you're selective about what you want to do, then you narrow your choices down," said Mr. Low, who qualified for a 10-year permanent resident card in2010.
Mr. Low worked 10 years for Tesco, Scotland's largest retailer, and spent his last three years there on the road.
"I put 275,000 miles on in three years," he said. "It was a good thing I got a new car every 60,000 miles. I'd probably still be working for them if I hadn't moved here. I loved training and coaching people and teaching them a simpler or better way to do things. There shouldn't be walls between knowledge — it should be there for everyone to use."
Mr. Low's first job here was at a Hy-Vee before he got a job working as a liaison with a company that contracts with John Deere. He now is an IT security analyst for another company that contracts with Deere.
He would like to get a job at Deere because of its good reputation.
"I'm kind of on step two of a three-step process," he said.
In 2008, the couple had their first child, daughter McCartney, followed by son Aiden two years later. Both were baptized in the same Scottish church their father was baptized in 41 years ago.
Also in 2008, Aimee Low opened Mint Green Boutique. The couple recently bought the old Stone House in the Village of East Davenport and moved the clothing store there.
Stone for the building was quarried before 1860, Mr. Low said."It's great. You know houses in Scotland are built from stone. Now here's me from Dundee. What's the chances of that happening?"
Mr. Low said he recently learned that a James McIntosh, of Dundee, Scotland, was a founding member of Davenport and opened a retail store there. He saidDundee is similar to the Quad-Cities in that it's a multi-city region along the River Tay.
Mr. Low was a sergeant instructor in the Scottish Army Cadet Force when he was 18 and was in the Black Watch Regiment, Parachute Regiment and Scottish Yeomanry, primarily reservists helping educate young kids on military practices.
Locally, he organized a small indoor co-ed soccer league called "Beyond the Baseline" three years ago and plays in a men's league organized by the city of Davenport.
He also does a lot of work for the Quad Cities Celtic Festival and has been the radio/TV voice for the games because of his Scottish brogue.
Mr. Low said the different policies, taxes and rules between the states are confusing, and the American health care system concerns him. He said that if he were seriously ill, he would return to Scotland for treatment.
He said a percentage of a person's salary in Scotland goes toward health care, but when a resident visits a doctor, there are no deductibles or co-pays. He said if people want private insurance on top of that, they can get it.
In contrast, when his wife had a baby here, he said the hospital could bill 12 hours for a procedure that only took one hour. "It puts the fear of God in me, it does. It should be standard costs that are transparent to everyone."
Mr. Low said that in 2014, the Scottish people will vote on whether to become an independent country again.
"Research shows how Scotland is being bled by England," he said. "Scottish people have always been known to be very resilient, always seen the good in things. We've had to suffer a lot. We don't have our own country now; it's the United Kingdom.
"I'm not British, I'm not English, I'm Scottish, and you'll hear a lot of people say that constantly. I'm looking forward to standing alone again.
"The Scottish are a very happy bunch," Mr. Low said. "They'll always raise a glass of cheer to you, always wish you well. Clans, bagpipes, kilts, that's what makes us different."
-- Location:Western Europe, islands -- including the northern one-sixth of the island of Ireland -- between the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea; northwest of France.
-- Population:63,047,162 (July 2012 estimate). No. 22 in the world.
-- Languages:Scots (about 30 percent of the population of Scotland), Scottish Gaelic (about 60,000 in Scotland), Welsh (about 20 percent of the population of Wales), Irish (about 10 percent of the population of Northern Ireland), Cornish (some 2,000 to 3,000 in Cornwall).
Source: CIA World Factbook.