Our first date… We arranged to meet at Waterloo station, and of course I was running late. I anxiously waded through the crowded station looking for him. I checked the time…uuugggh, 20 min late! Will he be irritated at my lateness? Great way to make a first impression Eulanda! I finally found him at our agreed upon meet-up spot. He was reading the paper, and hadn’t yet seen me. I relished this moment of catching him unaware. As I came closer, he looked up and gave me the hugest smile (dimple to dimple). Perhaps I’d been holding my breath, because my next inhale was deep and completely relieving. We headed out of the station after having a quick chat.
He’d made plans at two different restaurants, depending on what I fancied eating. I decided on Mexican food at Las Iguanas near South Bank. The conversation flowed quite easily, despite the noise and business of the atmosphere. We headed over to a coffeshop, and we finally got to talk more in depth. The place was practically empty. Here, we talked about everything under the sun…or moon, rather. Family dynamics, travel, cultural differences (him growing up in Nigeria & me in America), and so much more. We hit a quiet spot in the conversation, and I told him, “You know, you are a very special person…” I caught myself. It’s almost as if a lifetime flashed before my eyes. I’d only known this man for two weeks, but yet, here I was having flashes of birds, bees, travels together, shared laughter in old age…..together.
Everyone who has spent quality time with Eulanda can testify to her warmth, sincerity, depth, versatility and her endearing and engaging personality. It is impossible to walk away from Eulanda without having her infectious smile permanently imprinted in your mind or her resonating laugh lifting your soul. I was drawn to her from the moment I met her and found myself longing for our next meeting right after the last. Although we come from two different cultures and backgrounds, I found that I was able to connect with her values, faith, experiences and dreams so effortlessly. Every moment spent with her brought fresh conviction that she was ‘The One’ and by mid 2013, after much thought and prayer, I was convinced that I had met a truly special woman with whom I wanted to share the rest of my life.
I’ve never been one of those super talented ‘organised romantic types’ with the uncanny ability to plan surprise gifts and secret events to the minutest detail without the beneficiary somehow catching wind of such plans. I knew that I faced a challenge of planning a proposal that would be unique and memorable but also a pleasant surprise. There were two significant events coming up for Eulanda; her birthday and her graduation and I knew that I wanted the proposal to happen around one of those two events but had no clear idea which one it would be.
Eulanda and I share a number of things in common including a love for travelling. Coming from two different continents and different cultural backgrounds has created a healthy dose of wanderlust between us. Whenever circumstances permit, there’s nothing we love more to do than to hop on a plane and get lost somewhere on sandy beaches, city walks or the great outdoors. I imagined that the proposal would happen on a weekend away somewhere in Europe but could not decide where. I wanted it to be in a city that provided a heady fusion of history, culture and romance while providing an opportunity to experience unique sights, sounds and tastes.
Barcelona was the first candidate. Fortuitously, that summer, her mom and dad were flying into London from the US to attend her graduation ceremony and we had planned to visit Barcelona with them after graduation weekend. I nursed a secret hope that the proposal would happen there. Unfortunately, due to some unforeseen work commitments, I had to pull out from that trip at the last minute. We were both disappointed for different reasons; she because I wouldn’t be sharing the joys of Catalonia with her and me because my proposal plans had to be delayed.
Buoyed by the knowledge that I had the support of two of the people she loves and respects most in the world (and whom I look forward to calling Mom and Dad), I decided to re-strategise around her birthday later that summer. As it turned out, a good friend of mine had earlier in the year extended an invitation to us to visit him in Oslo, the Norwegian capital. As neither of us had ever been to Scandinavia, I decided to plan something around that trip.
We arrived in Oslo on a Friday. Our friend had called to say he would be out of town for most of that weekend. This meant that we had to show ourselves around the city. With our maps and Oslo 72 hour City Pass in hand, we set out to explore this amazing land of the fabled Vikings. We caught the metro towards central Oslo from Töyen. My plan was to use that first day to scout possible locations for the proposal. We had thought about doing a Fjord cruise (a hop on/off tour between Oslo City Hall, the Opera House, Bygdøy and Tjuvholmen) so we headed towards City Hall where the tour boats depart from. However, on the way there Eulanda complained about feeling sick so the tour idea had to be scrapped. As we had started the day late and there wasn’t much daylight left we opted to walk along Aker Brygge which was right next to the City Hall. That is how I stumbled on ‘The Place’.
Aker Brygge is a popular area in Oslo with a shopping mall, apartment buildings and offices, art, famous restaurants, bars and a theatre. We learned that this unique sea-front boardwalk (formerly the site of shipyard for over a century) is one of Oslo’s primary attractions. Two things endeared us to the area. Firstly the architecture, which is a distinctive combination of old, venerable shipyard buildings and modern, beautiful, futuristically designed buildings and secondly the pier at the end of the main thoroughfare (Stranden) which announces its presence in the midst of some incredible Norwegian architecture before jutting out into the Oslo Fjord.
As we walked towards the pier, I was busy scanning restaurants for THE special dinner on Saturday night. Eulanda loves most types of seafood and being in Norway, I hoped we would be spoilt for choice. My hopes were realised when I spotted, out of the corner of my eye, a sign that read Lofoten Fiskerestaurant which translates into ‘Fish Restaurant Lofoten’. I made a mental note of the name and address of the place and kept walking. We explored more architecture and eventually reached the end of the pier where we sat down to enjoy the golden evening sunshine and watch its soft beams caress the gentle ripples on the Fjord. She put her head on my shoulder and as we held hands, I knew this was The Place where I would ask her to marry me. It just felt so perfect. As we caught the tram back into town to explore the iconic Oslo Opera House, I plotted the next day and its culmination in the proposal.
Saturday was spent mostly outdoors. Glorious weather and a now fit again Eulanda meant that we could take the boat to Bygdøy, also known as ‘The Museum Island’. Bygdøy is great for walking and cycling. We opted for the former and checked out installations at The Viking Ship Museum, The Kon-Tiki Museum (a must-see!) and The Holocaust Center. The experience though incredible was simply a build up to what I hoped would be an even more incredible evening.
Washed, dressed up, engagement ring in my pocket and table booked, we headed back to Aker Brygge and Lofoten Fiskerestaurant. The evening progressed beautifully. Great food, background music and a gentle ambience meant that we could talk without shouting to be heard. As the main meal came to an end and we polished off our desserts, I shared a passage of Scripture which had inspired me earlier that week. It read, “Then the Lord said to me, “You have made your way around this hill country long enough; now turn north…””. I felt that God was leading me to tell this incredible lady that it was time to take our relationship to the next level. I knew that my message would resonate with her and was pleased when she agreed with me. Being the intuitive person that she is, she might have thought that I would go down on one knee there and then but I wasn’t going to miss the moonlight surprise at the end of the pier.
Just then, fireworks began to go off right outside the restaurant. It turns out that a party nearby had organised the treat for their guests. I joked to Eulanda that the fireworks were my idea for what I felt was a special night for us. I grabbed her by the hand and rushed her out of the restaurant to watch the spectacular display. As the evening breeze whipped up the curls of her hair, I led her towards The Place. It was quiet but for a few other couples also enjoying the view. The moon was high in the sky and its beams reflected a silver pattern on the Fjord like a musician playing a Beethoven symphony on a grand piano. We sat at the same spot where we had watched the sunset the night before and in the quiet of the evening, I seized my moment. I played back the conversation we had shared at the restaurant about moving things to the next level. And then, in what I hope was one fluid motion, I grabbed her hand, went down on one knee, whipped out the ring with my other hand and asked Eulanda to marry me. She laughed then she cried and then the butterflies in my stomach did the Azonto dance as she said yes.
The rest of the trip to Oslo passed by in a blur. Visits to the famous Munch Museum, the Holmenkollen Ski Jump and dinner with our friend (shout out to the Baale of Oslo!) were interspersed with excited discussions about plans for the future and Eulanda trying to get used to the strange ring that had appeared overnight on her finger.
The months since the proposal have been full of excitement and anticipation. Neither of us knows what the future holds but we trust that The One who holds our future in His hands will guide us on this journey upon which we are about to embark. I’m confident that whatever comes, or wherever we may find ourselves, I will be sharing every moment with my friend and soul mate.