On Monday I had one of the weirdest experiences I’ve ever had in my life. I’m still recovering from the shock of it.
I’d had a wonderful morning checking out Helsinki, which I can’t wait to describe in more detail in my next blog post, and felt a little giddy being in Europe again for the first time in five years, in a city that was completely new to me. I even had a fleeting moment that brought me right back to being on the cusp of 21 and arriving on a warm day in London, which was the first place I visited when I went abroad for the first time in June 2002. (I turned 21 a few days later in Amsterdam; I obviously like being away for milestone birthdays.)
So the feeling I got from walking around the streets of Helsinki on Monday morning was a blast from the past – but that was nothing compared to the huge blast that I got on the plane.
On the same afternoon flight from Helsinki to Stockholm was one of my ex-boyfriends…that’s so weird, right? I haven’t seen him or spoken to him since we broke up almost three years ago. What makes this stranger still is, I actually saw him from a distance on the street when I was back in Sydney recently and crossed the street straightaway to avoid the awkwardness of an encounter; but there was absolutely no avoiding him on the plane because I had to brush past him on the way back to my seat – I merely lifted my eyebrows to acknowledge his presence and as he looked at me I saw that his face actually paled. As weird as it was to encounter each other on the other side of the world, we didn’t exchange a single word and it’s far better this way.
In my last blog post I wrote, “Crazy to think that three years ago I didn’t even know that [he] existed; and now I can’t imagine my life without him.” Because exactly three years ago, I was going through a horrible time with said ex-boyfriend until about July 2008 when I finally extricated myself after a thankfully brief relationship. By the time I met my now-fiancé a few months later, I was well on the way back to being my old self, though the road to recovery hasn’t been easy because of other curveballs that came rocketing my way.
Although this chance meeting was just a very odd coincidence, the timing is the stuff of bad Hollywood flicks because it came hot on the heels of us getting engaged. Yes, engaged! He proposed to me on my birthday in Bali last week by spontaneously giving me my birthday present soon after we arrived at the beautiful Villa Sarna, just outside of Ubud. The box was distinctively from Tiffany & Co, with the white ribbon around an aqua blue box. I didn’t think it was an engagement ring because he seemed pretty casual about it all; but even so my heart beat a bit faster. Some months ago I had actually suggested a combined engagement and thirtieth birthday present would save him a few bucks, haha, and had dropped some heavy hints about wanting some nice jewellery. But I really had no idea that he would take me up on my offer though I did have a faint suspicion that something was in the works. When I opened the box there was a beautiful pearl bracelet inside and as I lifted it out he chose that moment to propose to me.
We’ve long been talking about a very concrete future together, so it was a confirmation more than a ‘proposal’ as such. More a let’s-do-it rather than a how-about-it. He didn’t get on one knee with a ring etc, he simply chose a moment where we laughing together and happy to be reunited after a few eventful weeks apart. Afterwards we sat on the balcony drinking some chilled Oyster Bay sauvignon blanc that I had brought all the way from Australia (thanks Janelle!).
Not to take away from the sense of occasion, especially because the congratulations have been pouring in and we’ve enjoyed sharing the hews…but I’ll divulge here that I actually really get rather freaked out by this kind of stuff; we both do. A big white wedding is definitely not on the cards. After the initial excitement of the proposal wore off, we spent quite a lot of time talking about what it all meant, and how this changed things for us, if anything. It felt so grand and overwhelming to even talk about being ‘engaged’ let alone being fiancée/fiancé. I guess even in this day and age, being engaged does carry real significance still, even though the formalities don’t necessarily mean to us what it might mean to others. Anyway, the long and the short of it is, I’m now engaged to the greatest guy in the world – I am eternally grateful that he’s in my life, and that shock meeting on the plane only confirmed at just how lucky I am to have found him and how far I’ve come in three years. In my last post I reflected on what an amazing year it’s been but in fact, the past three years in particular has been an intense period of personal growth, with a lot of lessons and a lot of learning along the way. I think the universe in its teasing way gave me a little poke on Monday to remind me of all this.
The rest of our time in Ubud was lovely; Villa Sarna was absolutely divine and our next hotel Saren Indah was very restful too, overlooking rice paddies by Monkey Forest Road.
Another thing I loved about being in Ubud was watching people fly kites, including home made ones out of garbage bags, and it reminded me of my own childhood flying kites made out of plastic bags and bamboo skewers. For someone who grew up in Australia, the first half of my life has distinct similarities with typical kids in Asia because we didn’t have much money.
For my other half, being in Bali was also a welcome change, because Bali is overrun with Australians and it was kind of like being at home in some ways rather than being in Asia. We spent a really chilled afternoon at the very cool Kafe on Jalan Hanoman and it was exactly like being at a cafe back home in Sydney. Ubud is far from the oasis of calm that I experienced when I visited in 2007, in part due to Eat Pray Love, but it was still a chilled out place. We discovered lots of great places to eat, including a place that is famous for delicious babi guling (roast pig). We visited there for a big lunch with our friend Hannah, who happened to be in Bali at the same time and came up for the day to visit us from where she was staying, and it was lovely to see her.
On Sunday afternoon we separated at the airport in Bangkok; he returned to Chiang Mai and I went into Bangkok to hang out with a friend, before catching the overnight plane to Helsinki. I’m now in London before going to Paris tomorrow, which is where we’ll see each other again in a few weeks time. Since we parted, this is my solo adventure — and I’m savouring every moment of it.