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  • Last modified 26 days ago (Sept. 21, 2017)

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Couple’s long-distance relationship began at Centre

Staff writer

Centre junior C.J. Thompson was just being a welcoming friend last year as he helped exchange student Haizea Diego improve her English.

Little did they know that helping would develop into a close emotional relationship that would take C.J. to Spain for six weeks this summer. Now, they are trying to preserve that relationship while being thousands of miles and an ocean apart.

After he attended a barbecue given by her host parents, Tony and Jennifer Hett, they began hanging out together at friends’ houses and ball games.

“After dating two months, we just clicked,” C.J. said.

His sister suggested he should visit Haizea in Spain the next summer.

It was a big decision to make so early in a relationship, but he was confident enough to apply for a passport, which he received in six weeks, then booked a flight. His brother bought his ticket.

C.J. said at first, he was attracted to Haizea by her physical appearance.

“She was beautiful,” he said. “She had a beautiful smile, and I loved her accent. That was the best, her accent.”

As he grew to know her, he learned that she also had a beautiful personality.

“She was nice, not just nice to me but nice to everyone,” he said. “She was funny, too.”

They went to two homecoming dances and junior/senior prom together.

Haizea returned to Spain at the end of the school year, leaving C.J. with high expectations of seeing her again soon.

He left June 21 for Haizea’s hometown of Mungia, population 17,000, in the Basque region of northern Spain.

C.J. stayed with Haizea and her mother in their apartment. Her father lived in another apartment, but they were together often.

C.J. met the whole family including grandparents on both sides, aunts and uncles, and cousins.

“It was unbelievable how inviting they were to me,” he said. “From the airport on, it was nothing but bliss.”

The first two weeks C.J. was there, it was rainy. Luckily, there was a Basque festival going on, featuring many concerts, so C.J. and Haizea spent time going to concerts and partying. She also took him sightseeing.

She introduced him to her friends, who were accepting and curious.

“It only took a week and a half for them to start treating me like one of them,” he said.

When the sun came out the third week, C.J. and Haizea started going to the beach, a 10-minute bus ride away.

Haizea, an avid surfer, taught C.J. how to surf. He said it wasn’t easy and took a while to learn.

“She was very patient with me,” he said, “but this was something I really wanted to do, so I stuck with it.”

One week, the couple took a road trip with her father to France. They stayed at a different beach each night and surfed.

They ended up in Paris, where they spent one and a half days visiting the Eiffel Tower and other sights.

They also visited a love lock bridge, where they each inscribed their names on one half of a padlock, attached it to a special panel, and threw the key in the water.

“It was very romantic,” C.J. said.

In his fifth week in Spain, C.J. and Haizea went to the coastal town of Laredo, where her grandparents live, and C.J. met another whole group of Haizea’s friends.

They played at the beach every day and partied in the bars at night.

As his time in Spain drew to a close, C.J. didn’t like to think about leaving. He spent the last week visiting his newfound friends and saying goodbye.

Haizea’s father took them on a five-hour drive to Madrid, where C.J. was to meet his plane. It was a sad trip.

“We were heartbroken,” he said. “It was pretty depressing, but we agreed not to break down until the airport.”

When they arrived, they discovered that C.J. would have to go through security even before getting to the boarding gate, so it was a quick separation, allowing only for a quick hug and kiss.

“She’s watching me go through security, and I’m looking back at her, and we’re both crying our eyes out,” he said.

He returned to the States on Aug. 4, and now they are working hard to maintain their long-distance relationship using Face Time and telephone. They talk every day.

So was the trip worth it?

“Yes,” C.J. said. “The experience of being in a foreign country wasn’t the biggest thing for me. I went there for her and to be there for her. It was priceless to go see her.”

The future is uncertain, but they plan to see each other again next summer.

“We’re trying to make it work,” C.J. said. “We are taking it day by day.”

Last modified Sept. 21, 2017

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