Pizza Slices, Cheap Wine in Plastic Cups and Sydney Harbour at Midnight
Hello, everyone! I hope this e-mail finds you all well! I know most of you already know the beginning of the story I’m about to tell, but because I haven’t spoken with quite a few of you in… well, YEARS! (Wow! time flies when you’re on the other side of the planet!), I’ll give a little bit of the background details:
Kang (pronounced “Kang” as in “kangaroo”) and I met in 2008 while teaching at an international school in Beijing. Since then we’ve moved to two different apartments, fostered three cats and adopted three others (our “children”: Nigel, Luna and Wally), traveled to southern China, Boston and Sydney (twice), and gone through most of the ups-and-downs that all couples face.
The real story, however, begins on February 6, 2010, when we departed Beijing for our second visit to Sydney… (see pictures on http://swilliams.shutterfly.com/ album: “Australia 2010”)
We had found the cheapest flight that involved a night’s stopover in Manila, Philippines. Never been there! Another country to pin on my Facebook “Cities I’ve Visited” page! I found cheap accommodation that looked reasonably close to the international airport… Perfect! Or so it seemed…
I left a snowy Beijing with a sinus infection and a box of tissues in hand. Greeted by warm Pilipino evening air, we hopped into a taxi to take us to our convenient, humble abode…. which turned out to be NOT so convenient, a whole LOT of humble, AND booked on the wrong date. As it turned out they were fully booked and we were turned out onto a rather sketchy stretch of Pilipino residential streets.
Luckily, we found a place with vacancy, had a romantic dinner of KFC (which they served with rice instead of the traditional mashed potatoes, biscuits and gravy– How dare they!), and crashed for the night. 5AM rolled around and Kang was greeted with an eye infection! Lovely!
We were told morning rush-hour traffic in Manila could be brutal, so we decided to give ourselves two hours to reach the airport. We made it in 15 minutes. With hours to spare, we had plenty of time to get through the intensive security checks required of any flight entering Australia due to the strict regulations of both the Customs and Border Protection Service and Quarantine and Inspection Service (I thought Aussies were supposed to be laid-back and that a simple “Gday, mate” would suffice! Jeez!) I made it through the two security checkpoints, no problem. Kang ran into some problems at the second check because they suspected his pink eye could be some sort of infectious disease. He was pulled aside and sent to a specialist to assess the situation, and meanwhile security told me to wait in the restricted zone while our luggage was pulled off the flight because there was a good chance we wouldn’t be on that flight! You’re kidding me! After an hour that seemed more like an eternity Kang returned with good news… we could board our flight as planned!
We arrived in Sydney giving each other high-fives for getting there in one piece… prematurely… When we tried to pick up our rental car, we ran into yet again a bit of drama: Kang’s license was to expire the next day, and my own driver’s license was at the time traveling to Sydney via my mother, not due to arrive until days later. We had no valid driver’s license to be able to rent the vehicle… Stuck at the airport at 11PM! After a bit of negotiating with a pleasant (::insert sarcasm here::) receptionist who clearly needed a vacation of her own, we were able to take the car for a 24-hour period so that Kang could renew his license at the RMV the following day and then re-register the vehicle with the new license. UGH! Talk about D-R-A-M-A!
Safely in Sydney with the drama behind us, we stayed with Kang’s mother, father and sister for a few days, introduced Kang’s parents to my mother and her travel-mates, celebrated Chinese New Year with both sides of Kang’s family, rescued an abandoned kitten (who we named Lucy) and then drove up to Coff’s Harbour to meet my mom and brother. We had a nice week of sun and crazy tourist antics – we even got to meet the Sydney Rabbitohs and Russell Crowe! We strategically packed up our minivan (six people and about eight pieces of luggage!) and headed back to Sydney, where we said goodbye to my family and hello to a bit of some much needed one-on-one time. After a relaxing massage and some bargain shopping we picked up a couple slices of take-away pizza, a bottle of Aussie chardonnay and some plastic cups, and headed down to the Pyrmont wharf for a romantic twilight dinner. (See attached picture – Unfortunately our camera was out of commish so these people are not actually us, but it is the EXACT same location!)
On February 24, sometime around midnight, Kang dropped to one knee and (between my own fits of surprised and happy tears) told me he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me and pulled out my grandmother’s wedding rings, sent to him in Beijing by my mom months earlier!! Of course I said YES! (Otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this e-mail now, would I?) We’re so very excited to see what the future has to offer us, and we’re especially lucky to be able to share our happiness with all of you!
As for our future plans, we’re in the process of applying for the K-1 Fiance visa for Kang and if all goes well, we’ll be back in Boston to get married sometime late this summer! For those of you in Boston, I can’t wait to see you! And for those elsewhere on the globe… Australia, China, Bolivia, Canada, etc, thank you for being a part of our lives! We love you all and we wish you all the happiness we have found ourselves! ☺
<3 Stephanie and Kang