"Hey I'm an interesting person"
Those were the first words coder ever said to me. That was in 1998. I was up late, in my "bedroom" at my Sister's house, my second home. It was dark, the room only illuminated by the iridescent glow of the computer monitor, where I sat, my fingers flying over the keyboard as I struggled to keep up with 5 conversations at once.
I was chatting to my new friends, the ones I had made after the break up of a 5 year relationship, where I had turned to the computer, and chat rooms to fill the void. But it wasn't in sorrow or sadness, as I was the one who broke off the relationship that just wasn't working anymore. It was something I really enjoyed, I could meet new and interesting people without having to put myself in awkward social situations. I never was that party girl, I am shy around new people, I don't like to dance, I don't like getting drunk.
So amongst all of the pop up text messages, from people I had talked to many times before, came one from 'Shepherd' that said simply "Hey I'm an interesting person". Well what was another conversation to keep up with? I loved immersing myself in my online world. My screen name was 'Skinnygirl', maybe that had something to do with the amount of messages I would often receive...
My favourite spot to be in 1998. I remember this photo being taken, I was chatting to Coder at the time!
I think it was March. We used to chat everyday on the computer, using an instant messenger called ICQ. I would turn the sound up before going to sleep so the message sound "uh oh!" would wake me up. We would chat, and play games, like gomoku and checkers.
Then we started emailing each other, we made plans for him to visit Australia. At first I didn't think much of it, -every- single one of my online friends had told me at one stage or another that they have always wanted to visit Australia.
But then he got a job, at a big office, doing long hours, just to save up money to come. This was a big (HUGE) deal, he wasn't the most motivated 21 year old, which he himself, plus his parents, will concur. He would email me from work, using 'code', as personal emails were a big no no. "I look forward to talking to you at the company meeting".
In April, I had another one of my online friends come for a visit. Coder was worried the whole time, as I had even gone on a mini holiday with this other person, nothing romantic at all (from my side). Turns out this guy was borderline psycho (I even mentally made note of where the camping knife was on our last stretch of road driving together) and I ended up leaving him for dust at the first chance I had, my parents having to bail me out with an airfare (a whole other blog post.. coming soon I promise).
Having surviving that 'unusual' experience, my family were naturally very concerned about the next visitor, again from America, but hopefully not an axe murderer (yes that term was used..). I assured them he wasn't, we had such a deep connection that I just knew.. I just knew.
We started to talk on the phone, I loved listening to his soft American accented voice, he loved my harsh brash Australian accent (blergh). It was all exciting and there was an unspoken (at first) hope that we would continue as nothing was different after we met in person. And then the phone bills started to roll in.... $900 worth, just from his end!
We counted down the days, talked everyday (mostly now via email!). On August 4th 1998 my Brother in Law drove me to Adelaide (5 hours), where we stayed overnight at a family friends, then picked Coder up at the airport the next morning. I was nervous, excited, stressed, scared, and even feeling a little ill. And I wasn't the one flying into a foreign country as-well! Plus I had my brother (in law) with me.
When we saw each other, for a few seconds it was only a little awkward, we had already spent countless hours wondering what it would be like. We had agreed weeks before that we would hug, so there was no feeling weird when we met.
Coder spent 6 months with us in Broken Hill, though we did take a few little side trips, to Adelaide and Tasmania.
October of 1998, wildlife park in Tasmania.
Coder had his 22nd Birthday in Australia.
Me and Miss T, 1998.
Family holiday to Adelaide, 1998. Don't you just love the hair?
Christmas 1998, Broken Hill. My Brother-in-Law, Miss T, Sister, Coder, Jessie the dog and myself. Note the PJs that Miss T is wearing, Pichu now wears them! They have been passed down through 8 children! How's that for thrifty!
In February 1999, Coder went back to Florida. And I went with him!
This is us with 'Ian' the Yorkie in 1999. We are at the front of Coder's parent's house in Florida, I have set my Nikkomat 35mm to self timer for this pic, using black and white film.
Altogether, between returning home for visa renewals and babies being born (my Sisters), I spent 3 years in Florida. I did get homesick a lot, having never lived away from my family before, moving countries was certainly a way to throw myself in the deep end.
In 2000 I came home for the birth of my second niece.
It was the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers, and the anthrax mail threat (in Florida) that was the last straw. I was going home. Coder didn't want me to go.
"So come with me!"
It was decided.
I arrived home in December 2001, Coder stayed longer to sell the car and tie up loose ends before arriving back in Broken Hill in March 2002. We were engaged at the end of 2002, married in April 2003, and our first son was born in February of 2004.
So there you have it!
We met online, we were early adopters of the online dating scene, though totally not in any conventional or intentional way. Next April will be our 10 year wedding anniversary, will have to try not to forget that one I suppose (we are both as bad as each other!).
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