An epic romance before Skype

Posted in different parts of Nepal, Peace Corp volunteers Amy and Curtis communicated by letters - and a romance slowly began to take shape on the pages.

It was all but impossible for Amy Bleakney not to notice Curtis Hartenstine during their Peace Corps orientation. "He's a really tall red head, was one of the only guys there and had his hat pulled down low," Amy said, recalling the 2001 meet up for volunteers headed to Nepal. "I thought, 'Wow, he's really shy.'"

The next day, determined to strike up a conversation on their flight from San Francisco, Amy made a comment about the book that Curtis was reading: A Violet of Shyness in Their Eyes. "It's about a Peace Corp experience in Nepal, so I took that opportunity to be like "Hey, I just read that book, too!"

"Meanwhile, I'd been spying on her for thousands of miles," laughed Curtis, who recalls switching seats with another volunteer so he and Amy could sit together on the next flight. "I found myself next to her playing cards, discussing our hopes and anxieties about what life in Nepal would be like. Time went quickly and then we were approaching the airport. She leaned over my window seat to see the view and we touched casually. I remember hoping that I'd get posted to live in a community near this girl."

The calm of the aeroplane faded quickly though after they landed in Nepal. "Nothing prepares you for the chaos of Kathmandu," Curtis said. "You go straight to the Peace Corps compound where they give you all these immunizations and a briefcase of medical supplies, and that's your 'Welcome to the country.'"

Amy and Curtis were in separate training groups - hers in youth development and his in forestry - only seeing each other occasionally. "Our relationship evolved slowly," Curtis said.

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