Friday, May 9, 2014

Ek trou! The Proposal Story

The words of Paulo Coelho could be the anthem to my fiancée and my love story. 

I travelled halfway around the world to meet him. To meet a man that only my heart knew existed. I say this because the draw to Africa, and to Botswana in particular, started long before my journey here. It had to be kismet. Once I met him, I knew. And I think he did too.

Then I had to search high and low throughout the city where we finally met in order to find him once more and to hear the words that would make the entire universe ours - "Will you marry me?"

No words needed to be spoken. Yes.

The story is a great one, though. Both the love story itself and the proposal. The latter is where this blog post takes us...

For months, my (then) boyfriend and our friends plotted the proposal. They met in secret to deliberate and to plan. It would be a scavenger hunt, with clues leading me to a number of significant places in our relationship. It was an activity my boyfriend and I had talked about doing for a long time. I wouldn't suspect a thing. It would be interactive, exciting, and utterly romantic - like a timeline of our nearly three years together. And it would be leading me to a spot where we would declare a lifetime more.

Travel along with me as I recount the tale of the most romantic and best thought out proposal ever told...

Clue One:

Hearing only a brief snippet of the song, I knew exactly where I was supposed to go. The week prior, my boyfriend and I had taken a lazy afternoon stroll to a park near his apartment complex. In the middle of the park was a large rocket ship installation and we had spent quite a bit of time around it, just talking about all the activities that could be done in the park and about how the city should utilize the space more. So I took off in the direction of the rocket and, sure enough, there was a clue attached just out of my short arm's reach inside the ship!

Clue Two:

What is a gourd? What is another word for a gourd? Where in the world could he be sending me?

With a little help from my friends, we deciphered the code! Before too long, we were jumping in the cars and headed to the Calabash, a local watering hole that was around the corner from his old house. Many a hot summer night was spent there, beer in hand with belly aches from laughing so hard. We often reminisce about our times at Calabash and smile. It was also a year of our relationship and probably the most pivotal time for us because it was then that we fell in love.

Clue Three: Following his directions, we uncovered clue number three...

It was fitting that he wanted me to drink a beer at Calabash before proceeding on to the next clue...

Inner city off-roading? We deliberated. There were very few places in Gaborone that would be considered "off-roading" and even fewer that are of any significance to us... bread and cheese? PIZZA! With that, we knew exactly where he was sending us... BULL AND BUSH!

Bull and Bush, or more lovingly referred to as B-N-B, is a restaurant and bar that we have spent a lot of time at over these last three years. It is where we used to go on weekends with our Irish friends and crew, where we play pub trivia, where we spent my 29th birthday, and where I ate a copious amount of margherita pizza! It absolutely had to be the place!

On our way to clue number four, the car-full of us girls danced and sang and rocked out. Cars pulling up next to us joined in the merriment, laughing and dancing from their vehicles. Even a duo of police officers smiled and waved and urged us on. Happiness was literally infiltrating the streets! It was beyond entertaining and one of the more fun car rides I have ever taken. Bless these ladies for making this drive (and the hunt) so ridiculously fun!

Clue Four:

We were right! The clue had led us to the right place! And after only a few seconds of confusion, I knew where the next clue was leading me... "Athos, Pathos, and Aramis" were cover for the three chiefs of Botswana and the Three Dikgosi Monument. But my main squeeze had more in store for us at BNB than merely finding the next clue...

He had arranged for pizzas to be waiting for us upon arrival - because who wants to go to the best pizza joint in town and not get to nom on some, right?! - and for a tray of "his and her" favorite shots. Yes, that means tequila (my favorite) and springboks (his favorite) were waiting on us. Wow. I later learned that he negotiated BNB to open two hours early for us specifically for this scavenger hunt. Talk about planning! It didn't take long for the group of us to eat two pizza and down the shots. And, with that, we were on our way to the monument!

Clue Five: "Are you Tija? ... Are you Tija? ..." "I'M TIJA!!!" The security guards at the monument had been waiting and were so excited when our car pulled up alongside the entrance gate! They were a part of something special and they knew it and were delighted to share in the joy of the hunt! Not gonna lie, I felt like a celebrity when I hopped out of the car and went bounding for the gate. Photo op with the fans?! But, really, it was exciting and I was full of energy.

The quest master, a friend of ours, gave me the "hint": "Endurance, like what you're going to need at the end of this..." And, with that, I knew where to go...

This monument means more to me than it does to my (now) fiancée and it significance is greater for me. He says he put it in to "throw me off" and "make me question what was happening" but it was fitting that he sent me here. For anyone that has been in the early stages of a relationship, there's a point where you wonder if you're compatible - can you sit in silence with the person, can you carry on a conversation with them, are you truly compatible? The first time he brought me here, I was wondering those things and had all those things proven to me. We had wandered to each element of the monument and been silent as we read the plaques, we had discussed them and their meanings, and we had been goofy and playful as we moved on. It meant something to me. And, having read each plaque with him, I knew exactly where "endurance" stood so I went running!

Clue Six: "The Ancient Westerosi King has a hospital named after him in Gabs"

This clue was harder. But there were only so many hospitals and clinics in Gaborone and only one that I knew had meaning to us... And this one was extremely special... BAYLOR. Get it, like Baelor Targaryen from Game of Thrones (his favorite series ever). That had to be it.

This is the site of the first time we met. Although we haven't spent a lot of time here since that day, it is probably one of the most precious places to me because this was the beginning of our love story.

The clue was nowhere to be found though... We looked around and couldn't find it... But then a breeze picked up and we heard something from the road behind us. There, having been swept away, was the clue!

Clue Seven (my lucky number): "Find the phytological stars amongst the green diamonds"

What in the world?! This dude is crazy with these clues!

We had to break it down... 

phytological... plants... Sanitas Nursery? 

but what about the green diamonds?... they are found in the Jwaneng mine... but that's three hours away... that doesn't make sense... hold on, whoa, wait a second, holy smokes... engagement! GET ME TO SANITAS!!!

Hint: "Find something unique to you at the nursery"... That could only mean sunflowers...

So I went searching... and searching... and searching...

After what felt like an eternity of scouring the nursery, I ventured to the Linnaeus Art Exhibition Area. And this is what happened next...


I traveled the world and then scoured the city for our hearts to meet. And I would do it over again forever and ever for eternity.

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