Santiago and Ava hit it off well when they met online. He made no bones about the fact he was interested, and while she tried to play hard to get, she couldn’t keep it up for very long. A natural friendship developed, and they only had one real obstacle to developing a relationship. Unfortunately that obstacle was the Atlantic Ocean.
The 39-year-old woman from South Africa and the 48-year-old man from Utah each had wounds. Santiago had seen his first marriage fail to work out, while Ava was very guarded from a previous relationship that resulted in raising her daughter by herself. But they were both willing to try and prepared to use all the resources of modern technology to make the most of this opportunity.
Of course they texted and made the most of their phone calls, talking for 3-4 hours at a time. But it was video chats that defined their courtship period. Santiago initiated the idea and Ava went and got a webcam. Even here there were challenges—“having an eight-hour time difference does something to your sleep patterns”, Ava said. Their “date nights” usually took place with her in pajamas with a laptop in bed, while he was still having dinner, be it Pizza Hut, Subway or whatever else he had brought in for the night. It was enough to make Ava a little hungry, before remembering that for her it was 3 AM.
The hours were tough on Ava in other ways, who had to be “reminded by my other half that I need to be responsible and make sure that I get in the last 3 hours of sleep before going to work.”
Both Ava and Santiago knew what they wanted out of this relationship and there were no games played with regard to intent and they both prayed that it all would evolve as God intended. Their first face-to-face meeting came in July, where she would join him for 17 days in the United States. If they felt like their love was validated, he would make a return visit to Cape Town.
The trip got off to a rocky start. A flight delay created a misunderstanding for when Ava’s plane would arrive in Salt Lake City, and she waited for an hour in the airport. “But it took one hug and kiss to know my heart is home,” she told CatholicMatch.
Their first date was to the parishes of St. Joseph and St. Mary which laid a solid foundation for 2 ½ weeks of what Ava called, “pure bliss, love romance…talking, laughing, crying…just being together.” She came to love his family, calling them “salt of the earth” people who loved God and shaped Santiago’s values.
It was one morning at breakfast, over a bowl of Special K, that Santiago leaned over and said “Quires ser mi espose?” Ava leaned back “Si, si.” Just a few weeks ago, Santiago did it more formally, getting down on one knee with a ring.
The engagement period has already been hectic and will continue to be so. They plan celebrations on both sides of the Atlantic and Ava is bringing her daughter to the United States. Video dating isn’t what Ava ever envisioned herself. But it’s what gave her and Santiago a fresh start on life together.