Kate and Jon

How We Met

Jon and I met our freshman year of college at Pacific Lutheran University in a Writing 101 class. Over the next four years we became really great friends but that was it. A few of our mutual friends would make comments that we’d end up together, but we both just laughed and thought: Yeah right! We’re just friends.

Of course, as good friends do, we kept in touch after graduation. A year into Jon’s graduate program we decided that we would try this whole dating thing (even though he was in Norway at the time!) It was probably the most challenging time in our relationship, but a year later he graduated and moved back to home to Washington state. That was nearly four years ago… And as they say, the rest is history!

How He Asked

Jon and I have been together for quite a while, and while I figured he’d be asking me soon, I did not think it would be on our trip to Cuba! We arrived in Havana, Cuba, on the evening of May 6, 2017, and met up with our friends, Nancy and Jeff, who were in Cuba on their honeymoon. Cuba was so amazing and overwhelming. I was trying to soak all of the sights, sounds, and smells in and not miss a moment. I just couldn’t believe we were in Cuba. This was something I had only dreamed about. On the morning of May 7, we had breakfast at our casa, wandered the neighborhood, and then met our classic car taxi. The four of us would take this car to Viñales where our trip would really start. I swear I took pictures of everything in the car and most everything on the entire 2-hour trip to Viñales. Again, all I can say was that for me it was surreal and unbelievable; I was in awe. We were sharing the freeway with horse-drawn carriages, new and old cars, and riding around in a classic car ourselves.

In true Cuba fashion, car rides can be an adventure, and just before we got to Viñales we got a flat tire! It was a quick fix and before we knew it, we were on our way again. The small town of Viñales was a breath of fresh air compared to the relative hustle and bustle of touristy Havana. Upon pulling up to our casa, we were immediately greeted by our host, Rosa, and made to feel at home. We settled into our rooms, grabbed a snack, changed clothes, and quickly hurried off to our first Cuban adventure: horseback riding. Growing up, I always loved horses, but it’s been years since I’ve ridden. I had been talked into the horseback ride a few months earlier when we were planning our trip with Nancy and Jeff. When I got there, I was suddenly overwhelmed thinking that this was a terrible idea because they are all experienced on horses while I am most definitely not. As everyone was being assigned a horse, I was getting more and more nervous… and said: I don’t think I can do this.

Of course everyone was quick to encourage me and once I got up there and rode for a few hours it wasn’t SO bad, but I was still pretty nervous and envisioning my untimely death. (Nancy had a terrible horse accident a few years back and I suddenly couldn’t get it out of my head.) I was convinced my horse was being more obnoxious and unruly than the rest and that it would certainly buck me off at some point. Nancy, Jeff, and Jon all kept saying some iteration of: You won’t die! The horseback ride was to take 4-5 hours and we would stop at a coffee farm to learn about the coffee growing and roasting process in Cuba as well as a tobacco farm to learn about the tobacco industry and organic, natural cigars made on the farms. The ride would culminate at sunset overlooking the Valle de Silencio. I was stoked when we made it to our first stop: the coffee farm. Not only had I survived thus far, but I got to take a break from riding and be on my own two legs. It was amazing. The coffee farm was great, too! We learned about the process the farm goes through to produce coffee as well as other products, like sugar cane.

We had some drinks (coffee, coconut drinks, lemonade, mojitos), I fought off some crazy chickens, Nancy and I used a Cuban outhouse, and before we knew it we were back on the horses again. The second stop, the tobacco farm, was not far up the road from the coffee farm. Nancy and I had a quick photo-shoot at the outlook, and then we all learned about tobacco farming and cigar rolling. We tried some of the organic cigars rolled on the farm and learned that Jon and I are not naturals when it comes to smoking cigars. Even the cool hat the farmer gave us to wear couldn’t help us. We’re hopeless. Nancy became very cognizant of the time because she wanted to make sure we were in place to capture the sunset. I didn’t think anything of it because if you know Nancy in real life you know that she is always after the best sunset photos. When she got on her horse she took off to get ahead while I was happy bringing up the rear; even after riding the better part of the day I was not ready to go at a run.

The last stop at the end of our horse ride was the sunset lookout. The lookout for the sunset was more of a watchtower; we had to climb up a structure multiple stories to get to the top. There were a few other folks there, including a gal originally from Seattle. After we chatted a bit, Nancy insisted we get photos and so Jon and I started posing for photos – Nancy with my cell phone and Jeff with my camera. Again, this was nothing unusual to me because I love the camera and wanted as many photos as possible.

After a few photos I felt Jon pulling on my arm a bit and was confused because, hello, I’m over here posing for photos – why are you pulling my hand? I kind of glanced to my right and for some reason saw he was down on the ground – why? – I felt inclined to keep looking and turned ever so slightly. I don’t know when it clicked he was down on one knee.

He was staring at me very intently and this is the rest of what I remember:

Jon: Kate, it’s been 10 years. Queue more confusion – it’s not been 10 years – we’ve known each other for 10 years but we haven’t been together for 10 years.

Jon: And it’s been 4 years together. Okay, this makes more sense. We have been together 4 years.

Jon: < says some other things that don’t register > Crap, he’s talking to me and I don’t have my body turned completely towards him. *Adjusts stance*

Jon: < more talking > I think he’s proposing. *Queue water works*

Jon: < still talking > I think he asked if I married him. *Shakes head yes*

Nancy: What are you going to say, Kate?

Kate: Si. Yes. I’m shaking my head yes! From there, there was lots of tears and laughs, me questioning if it was real or if I was dreaming. It was so surreal! After we celebrated at sunset, we rode our horses back down and off to our casa for dinner.

When our host found out that Jon proposed, she gave us flowers and was so excited for us. She went above and beyond to make our dinner amazing and memorable! You can read Jon’s version of the proposal here.