Minnesota To Manila: Rand And Lee’s Love Story

rand and lee stenhjem

The famous line “I had to go see about a girl” from Good Will Hunting must’ve been on Rand’s mind in 2022 when he finally visited the Philippines to meet Lee.

Rand Stenhjem, 64, and his wife Lee, 48, started talking on a dating site in 2018. Rand was instantly interested in her. “I loved her smile and this funny picture of her wearing a shirt on the beach that said supermodel,” he stated. With Lee working in Oman at the time and Rand living in Minnesota, they began to email and talk through WhatsApp constantly.

In 2020, after about two years of talking online, Rand was planning a trip to Asia where they would go to Tokyo and then visit Lee in the Philippines. But COVID-19 had other plans, “A week or two before we were set to leave, they shut down the airports. It was a total relief because I would’ve been stuck in South Korea.”

With airports shut down and the widespread panic of COVID-19 at the time, Lee stopped talking to Rand for a short period “I was just so worried about the pandemic,” she stated.

Things settled back down for Rand shortly after, as Delta and Hilton fully refunded his flights and hotels from the trip, and he and Lee were back to talking normally again.

Fast forward two more years to May 2022, and Rand was ready to go to the Philippines again with a friend. He bought two business class tickets for him and his friend that cost about 10 grand each. “All I could think about was the brutal flight,” since wheelchair accessibility isn’t the best on flights. For Rand, comfort was a sacrifice he was willing to make to see Lee in person. “We had been talking for four years, so it was about time to see if there was something real between us.”

The 24-hour flight with two stops before landing in Manila was a battle with discomfort; as Rand was transferring onto an international plane in Chicago, his seat collapsed as he was being seated. The seats were also too small for him – forcing him to sit at awkward angles for all of the flights.

When he finally landed in Manila, all his discomfort had paid off when he saw Lee holding a sign for him. But the challenges of the trip didn’t stop when he got off the flight. “Accessibility has a different meaning over there,” he stated. The SUV they rented was hard for him to get in and out of causing his friend to do loads of heavy lifting to get him in and out of the vehicle.

Once everything had been figured out it was time to spend time with Lee. After spending only one day together, Rand proposed. “She had a ring before we went to meet her family.”

Rand stayed in the Philippines for four days; most of the time they spent eating Filipino food which Rand loved. “He loved most of the food, but hated anything with fish sauce,” Lee joked. The two had an amazing trip together further confirming their love for one another.

Upon Rand’s return to America, another battle began. Now that they had met in person, they had finally completed all of the steps for a K1 Visa application. On June 17th, 2022, Rand submitted the paperwork which said it would take about four months to go through the system. Months after months went by and the wait time just kept extending. “We were just bummed out,” Rand stated.

Finally, after 13 months the initial Visa paperwork had gone through. The process didn’t stop there; Lee still had to go through medicals, obtain a police report from Oman, and interview with both the U.S. and the Philippines. “There was just all kinds of crap we still had to do.”

“My sister went through this same process in 2019, and it only took about six months, so we were discouraged,” Lee stated.

On January 11th, 2024, after a one-and-a-half-year wait since Rand had proposed, Lee finally got her visa and arrived in Minnesota. When she arrived, she experienced snow for the first time.

Today, Rand and Lee are living happily in Apple Valley, Minnesota, and are inseparable. “She hates when I go to work in the office and is always asking if I’m busy.” They enjoy playing card games, watching movies, and going on long walks together. “I call him Superman, I love his eyes and he’s always making me smile and laugh,” Lee grinned. “She is so caring and always excited to do anything that I want to do even if she has no interest,” Rand responded.

Rand and Lee hope to get a place in Arizona in the future, so they can spend winters in the warm weather and enjoy more long walks together in the sun.

He is very optimistic about the future of wheelchair accessibility on flights with advances in technology and would love to travel again, “The good thing about humans is you forget about bad shit. I think I’m ready for another trip again, but if you asked me a year ago I would’ve said no way.”

Rand has been a customer at Rollx Vans since, 1994. He loves the company’s dependability and customer service, “If my van has a problem I bring it to Rollx and it gets fixed right then and there.”

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