Fear shone in Karena’s eyes as she stared up at the metal rungs fastened into the cliff known as the Tour d’Ai - Via Ferrata. After a 45 minute hike to the base of the climb,
her fatigued mind was trying to figure out the safety system and harness. She stared up at the route, which ended at 7,650 ft elevation, took a deep breath and with Drew’s encouragement, started to climb. With every rung her exhilaration increased. Drew followed and took in the awe-inspiring journey while enjoying Karena’s contagious excitement. After completing the last segment of the climb they took a few minutes to enjoy the view of the Alps and Lake Geneva from above the clouds. then the storms started rolling in. Their run down the mountain was an exciting finish to their grand adventure.
Even though their meeting and first date had gone so well, Drew was still hesitant about how the relationship would grow while he was traveling in Africa. They exchanged a few emails over the course of the next two weeks and then planned their first "Skype Date." That first call lasted over 4 hours and would become the norm for the rest of their long distance dating. Over the next year, they spent thousands of hours connecting through
conversation games such as “second thought” and “ask a question.” They would end every conversation by praying for each other, their families, friends and particularly their relationship. Bad internet connections, dropped calls, power outages, inconvenient time differences, and opposing work schedules were just a few of the hurdles overcome by Drew and Karena with help from their new and sometimes annoying friend Skype.
Karena was on the verge of tears as she sat in the middle of LaGuardia airport looking at the departures board flashing canceled. An ice storm in the south and an impending blizzard in NewYork was canceling thousands of flights. After 8 months apart, Drew and Karena had planned to meet in Charleston for Valentine’s Day. Now it seemed impossible. While talking with her Dad, he said, “Hang up the phone and go find Drew at JFK.” Wearing a sundress and jacket, she braved sub-zero windchills and the NewYork bus system to transfer to JFK. As she arrived she realized she had no information about Drew'sflight or where in the airport he would be. As she walked through the doors she stopped and saw Drew sitting on his suitcases. Shocked and confused, Drew was unsure whether to scream with delight, tackle her in hugs or just stare at the beautiful sight. Thanks to some friends of Drew's, they were able to find housing and spend the evening sight seeing. Sometimes un-expected delays end in a perfect Valentine’s Day date.
Meeting the Parents
The flat plains of Kansas rolled by as Karena and Drew sat on the Amtrak train back from Kansas. In three weeks, they had traveled from Charleston to Louisville to St Louis to Garden City and were now heading back. Along the way they visited family and friends.
It was the first time they spent time together with their families. It was a time of growth and learning as they played games, laughed, heard stories, and occasionally slipped away for a few quiet moments together. Hand-in-hand, they talked about how different each of their families were. Drew's family with their plans and questions countered by their competitive card games. Karena's family with their laid-back, play-it-by-ear attitude and constant playful joking. Though their families operated very differently, they both noted how grateful they were for their upbringings. Because of their families, they had developed personalities and viewpoints that made them fit together so well.