Vevay’s April Cooper was having some fun playing a game on a social media site in September of 2010 when she began a conversation with a woman who was also playing the game in her hometown in Australia.
Vicky Weisz was homebound and recuperating, and when she struck up a social media conversation with April Cooper, the two immediately hit it off.
“I had recently undergone major surgery, so I couldn’t do anything for six weeks,” Vicky Weisz said. “So I spent a lot of time on the Internet, and I discovered these games on Facebook, one of them was ‘Big City Bingo’. We bumped into each other. April posted a message that said ‘good luck, everyone’, and I sent back ‘good luck’, and that was the start of an amazing journey.”
That long distance friendship led to all sorts of amazing journeys, the biggest of which culminated last week when Vicky Weisz and husband, Jeff, came to Vevay for a visit and to finally meeting April Cooper face to face after nearly four years.
Vicky Weisz said that she and April exchanged email addresses and became friends on Facebook, and continued to develop their friendship – a half a world away.
“We had a lot of fun in those games,” Vicky Weisz laughed. “People used to laugh at us because we came up with the weirdest, strangest things. There was a lot of banter that went back and forth, and people would log in there just to see what we were saying.”
At that time, the two friends only knew each other online – they didn’t even know what each other looked like.
“My original picture (the tiny profile photo that comes up in the game site) wasn’t even a picture of me, it was a picture of flowers,” April Cooper said. “Eventually I put a picture of myself, because she asked me to.”
After becoming friends on Facebook, the two chatted whenever they were online, as well as learning about each other from reading information on their profile pages and seeing the comments of others on their Facebook pages.
“In 2012 we planned a trip to the states, but we went to the West Coast,” Vicky Weisz said. “We would have loved to come here then, but it was just so far.”
Vicky said that she and Jeff plan a vacation each year, sometimes bigger trips and other times smaller ones; and this year the couple were planning on traveling to China.
“I had all of the brochures and everything, and Jeff said, ‘I don’t want to do that’,” Vicky Weisz said. “I said, ‘What do you want to do?’ and he said, ‘Let’s go to New York’, and I said ‘okay’.”
When Jeff Weisz began to look at a map of the United States, he pointed out to his wife that Indiana wasn’t all that far away from New York.
“He knew that I had always wanted to meet April, but I never thought it would happen,” Vicky Weisz said. “He looked on the map and said Indiana’s not really that far away, and we decided it was our chance to meet April.”
For Indiana residents, New York doesn’t appear to be the “stone’s throw” that Jeff and Vicky Weisz concluded, but remember they had a 26-hour flight from Australia to New York.
After making some travel plans, Vicky Weisz asked April Cooper if she and Tom Conroy would be willing to put the couple up for a couple of days if they made the journey to Vevay – and that question was quickly answered.
That was August of last year, and since that time April Cooper admits that she’s been really excited about finally getting to meet her friend, and plans began being made immediately for the visit.
“I got up and started cleaning and rearranging,” April Cooper laughed. “I was getting ready then. It’s so exciting and wonderful to have them here.”
The couple began their vacation in America in New York City, where they encountered some interesting and new adventures.
Jeff Weisz had his luggage disappear on the flight over, forcing him to do some shopping after getting off of the plane (as of press time, the bag is still AWOL).
From New York, the Weisz’s took the train to Washington, D.C. for a couple of days; and it was in Washington that the couple encountered something that they hadn’t experienced before –
“It was so cold on the day we arrived in Washington, it was bitter, and we were all wrapped up,” Vicky Weisz said. “We were hungry so we got directions to a restaurant just a brief walk from our hotel. We were sitting there having a late lunch, and it was raining, and I looked outside and I saw these little things falling. Jeff said, ‘that’s snow’; and I said, ‘No, it can’t be. I can’t be that lucky’.”
But she was.
As they watched the snow get more and more heavy, the couple decided it was time to go outside.
“I touched my first snow, my first snow ever. It was pretty awesome,” Vicky Weisz said. “I had never seen snow before.”
“She made a snowball, and then she came in and she began to cry,” Jeff Weisz said. “That’s how emotional it was for her to see it snow. She made me take pictures of the snowflakes falling on her.”
From there, it was onto a plane and the trip to Vevay so that the two long distance friends could finally meet face to face.
“We walked through the airport for what seemed like miles, and we turned the corner and Jeff said, ‘There’s April’,” Vicky Weisz said. “I looked up and she was about to push the security man out of the way. We were both pretty excited. It’s been a pretty amazing journey.”
And Vicky is still amazed by the whole thing.
“You know, you can meet some ordinary sort of people on Facebook, and that’s not what it’s intended for,” she said. “The intention is to meet people and enjoy a friendly relationship, but to actually meet someone from the other side of the world, and to feel so comfortable with them. April and Tom, we just feel so welcome.”
Jeff and Vicky Weisz live in Queensland, Australia, in a city of about 38,000 people named Gympie, about a two-hour drive north of Queensland’s capital of Brisbane, which is on the East coast of Australia near the Coral Sea.
Jeff Weisz works in manufacturing; and Vicky Weisz is a registered nurse. They moved to Gympie about 19 years ago from Southern Australia - a move of about 1,800 miles – because their son’s asthma required that he live in a warmer climate.
They have just finished summer back home in Australia, and are now headed into Autumn. They pointed out that their Autumn isn’t much like our fall, because it stays pretty warm through the seasons. The day they left the temperature was 100-degrees Fahrenheit.
Winter is about three weeks long.
“She kept saying, ‘I hope it snows when we get there’,” April Cooper said with a laugh. “And I kept saying, ‘no you don’t’.”
To sample just how far away the two friends are, Gympie, Australia is 14 hours ahead of Vevay, Indiana, meaning that as the couple sat around the patio table and Tom Conroy and April Cooper’s house at 11 a.m. Friday morning; it was 1 a.m. Saturday morning back home.
“When left our home, it was 7 a.m. on Wednesday, and we flew to Sydney; and then to Los Angeles and then to New York, plus all the time in between, and when we flew into New York it was 5 p.m. on Wednesday,” Vicky Weisz smiled. “But it’s going to take us over two days to fly back home.”
After their visit here, the couple will be traveling to Toronto, Canada for a couple of days to visit a friend who used to live near them in Australia, and then it’s back to New York before ending their month-long vacation and heading back to Australia.
“But this was the focus, this time with April,” Vicky Weisz said. “April said, ‘Vevay’s not very big and there’s not much to do’, but that’s not what we came for at all. We came to get to know each other, and it’s working.”
“I told her on the phone the other day, ‘would you please get over that New York stuff and that Washington stuff and get to Vevay?'” April Cooper laughed.
Another little oddity?
They had never actually spoken to each other before, so neither had any idea what the other’s voice sounded like.
“She had to ring me, because we had not spoken before,” Vicky Weisz said. “Not on the phone, we have not spoken in all of that time. April heard my voice for the first time when we had a big hail storm in December, so I did a little bit of recording with my iPad and I posted it on Facebook, and April said, ‘oh my God, I’ve heard your voice for the first time! I’ve heard you speak!'”
While they’re in Vevay, there’s lots of things planned for the friends to do.
On Thursday night, their first night in Vevay, they went to Jefferson-Craig Elementary School for the elementary drama club production.
“It was so funny, we loved it,” Vicky Weisz said. “All those little kids. It was wonderful!”
On Friday they toured Madison, and then they came back to take in all of the “First Friday” events in downtown Vevay. They also did some walking around town, and an excursion to Belterra was also planned.
On Saturday the couple were the guests of honor at a big cookout/party/celebration at Tom and April’s home; complete with some Australian goodies supplied by the Weisz’s.
The couple also got a ‘taste’ of the area, as they enjoyed biscuits and gravy for the first time ever on Friday morning, something unknown in Australia.
“Just getting to know each other and spending time together, that’s what we’re enjoying the most,” Vicky Weisz said.
“The best part about it, is in America the people have been so, so friendly,” Jeff Weisz said. “When we were in New York and I lost my luggage, all I had was what I had with me on the plane. The next day we had to go and buy some clothes, and everyone was just so helpful in helping us get to where we needed to be and find what we needed to find.”
“We’re just going to play each day by ear,” April Cooper said of the Vevay visit. “We’ll decided what we want to do, or we’ll just kick back and enjoy visiting.”