In March 2010, during one of our usual Wednesday lunches, my friend Joann Stora first mentioned a new Romanian friend named Alexandra Bleoanca.
Joann had read a book called "When Will There Be Good News?" by Kate Atkinson, and gave it five stars on GoodReads.com. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Alexandra Bleoanca had chosen "When Will There Be Good News?" as the subject of her master's degree thesis. During her research, Alexandra happened across Joann's posting. Alexandra contacted Joann by email.
Over the following weeks, their interactions via email and Skype branched from books to lives, and kept growing. Thus began an enduring friendship between a Romanian student and a retired KINK radio traffic manager in Vancouver.
I enjoyed Wednesday updates on the progress of Alexandra's dissertation and her receipt of a master's degree in English from the University of Bucharest, her return to permanent residence with her mother in Râmnicu Vâlcea, Romania, and her new job as an accountant for a small chain of drug stores. Eventually, there was talk of Joann going to Romania or Alexandra meeting Joann in England. But in the end, Joann decided her days of international travel were over. If Alexandra could get her passport, visa and ticket, Joann would host Alexandra's stay in Vancouver.
Naive to post-9/11 travel restrictions, Joann and I and another friend, Susie Novinger, delighted in planning Alexandra's itinerary: Multnomah Falls, Mount St. Helens, the Washington and Oregon coasts, Pittock Mansion, a train trip to Seattle to visit the Space Needle, and on and on.
Back in Romania, Alexandra was settling into her new job and resisting a girlfriend's suggestions of a blind date with the proverbial perfect guy. More interested in visiting Joann in America, Alexandra ignored her friend's urging and instead concentrated on her passport and visa applications.
Eventually, the passport process took Alexandra to the end of a long line at the Institutia Prefectului Building in Râmnicu Vâlcea. While awaiting her turn at the window, Alexandra was unaware of the stir taking place behind the scenes. She had unwittingly become the object of security camera scrutiny.
Encouraged by a colleague to "check out the hot girl waiting to pick up her passport," 29-year-old Principal Inspector Officer Bogdan Boharu-Predescu took his cue and stepped out to chat with the beautiful Alexandra. Alexandra found Bogdan too handsome and herself too shy for any significant exchange.
But Bogdan, a university graduate with a master's degree in international business, was far from deterred. On the contrary, the brief encounter left him smitten. Two days later, the same girlfriend who had been so confident made the official introduction of Alexandra to Bogdan Boharu-Predescu. He was the man she had identified weeks earlier as the perfect match for Alexandra!
One month later, bad news arrived. Alexandra's visa to the United States had been denied. Grounds for the refusal were stated as insignificant ties to Romania to ensure return. Joann appealed to Sen. Patty Murray for reconsideration, but her petition was unproductive. The U.S. would not allow Alexandra to enter the country. Joann was left to enjoy the role she'd played in Alexandra's and Bodgan's budding romance — which ignited in the passport office, where Alexandra went because of Joann's invitation to visit Vancouver.
Discouraged by the denial, we lunch buddies nonetheless found Alexandra's itinerary too special to discard. We turned our disappointment into amusement over lunches at the various destinations we had hoped to share with Alexandra. At each spot, we purchased maps and souvenirs and snapped pictures, which Joann devotedly forwarded to Alexandra in Romania.
In December 2011, came the news of Alexandra and Bodgan's engagement. Joann special ordered two identical handmade garters from Oswego, N.Y. To honor Joann, the couple got married on her birthday, July 5, 2012. One of the lacy blue garters became a treasured keepsake of Alexandra; the other an equally treasured possession of the adolescent boy who caught the feminine undergarment and staunchly refused all offers of purchase from older, more eligible bachelors.
There was a lot of good news going around. But the really good news finally arrived at the end of 2012. With Alexandra now sufficiently tied to Romania, the American Embassy in Bucharest approved her visa.
On Friday, June 21, Bogdan and Alexandra Boharu-Predescu will touch down at Portland International Airport for a three-week stay. We lunch buddies can't wait to take them out to lunch!
Everybody Has a Story welcomes nonfiction contributions, 1,000 words maximum, and relevant photographs. Email is the best way to send materials so we don’t have to retype your words or borrow original photos. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 180, Vancouver WA 98666. Call Scott Hewitt, 360-735-4525, with questions.