XXV. the actual visit to USS.
See the rest of the photo album here.
It was crucial that we secured the Subaru Impreza (Huiyi’s mother’s car) for the day and Huiyi used her birthday trump card to ensure that. She picked me up in the morning, not knowing that I had barely three hours of rest the night before; I was tying up all the loose ends of what would be the most exciting day of our courtship so far.
We ate a simple breakfast of chai tow kuay and chwee kuay at Ghim Moh Market. Then we drove to Telok Blangah Road and parked the car behind Seah Imm Food Centre, displaying a dashboard full of coupons to ensure that we didn’t receive a parking summon when we returned from USS.
Then I asked her if she wanted to take the bus or the monorail into Sentosa. It would have been my third time if we took the bus but I had to pretend that it was my first time attempting to enter USS. She opted for the monorail.
We entered USS together – her first time and my third – and I felt so terrible and guilty having to act surprised, astonished and impressed by all the sights and sounds we were taking in.
- “Let’s try to find the map of this place.” (I could navigate USS with my eyes closed.)
- “Look, Kungfu Panda! Let’s take a picture with him!” (This was my third time seeing Po.)
- “This place is really cool uh? I didn’t know it’d be so crowded.” (I knew all along.)
- “We can pick up a couple of souvenirs at the gift shop later if you want.” (There’s nothing nice in there.)
- “Huh? We’ve walked one round already? USS is smaller than I thought!” (Same thing I told Rudith… Twice!)
- “Let’s look for the washroom.” (I pretended to study the map.)
- “Dear, what’s Universal Express Pass?” (I wanted to answer my own question…)
- “Shall we have lunch at Coffeebean instead?” (I wanted to avoid the overpriced and overrated restaurants in USS.)
After we queued up for and completed our first ride (Shrek in 4D), we decided that we should each pay $30 extra and purchase the express pass. And we were glad we did because we took all but two rides and didn’t get a chance to revisit a ride! More importantly, the $60 spent helped to prevent disappointment; the only ride that urged for a repeated attempt was Battlestar Galactica. The other rides simply did not justify the waiting time.
Next chapter: the rain on my parade.
XVIII. the birthday that nearly ruined the proposal.
There weren’t many people who knew about the proposal. I wisely decided to keep it from her parents because I wasn’t confident that they could contain their own excitement and keep this secret from her, but I chose to confide in her brother, Xianyi, instead.
The reason why we couldn’t visit USS on Thursday was that we celebrated her birthday with her family on that evening. And the reason we deliberated for a week was that she was trying to arrange for an evening where her parents, brother and his girlfriend, as well as both of us were all available.
It was so trying that she had nearly wanted cancel the family dinner. And Xianyi, another unsung hero in this story, couldn’t intervene as much because he was supposed to help me keep it a secret. He skipped a school lesson to ensure that he was available on that Thursday evening for the family dinner, and missed a birthday (or farewell) party on Friday evening to ensure that his parents were home. More on that later but know that these are important pieces of information.
Normally, a boyfriend would pay special attention to his girlfriend’s birthday. But this dinner was so low-key to the extent that I forgot to buy a birthday cake on Thursday and had to trouble Xianyi to do it for me instead. My mind was focussed on one thing only – the proposal. I was surprised that Huiyi didn’t suspect anything from my lack of preparation for this birthday dinner.
Anyway, we celebrated Huiyi’s birthday on Thursday with her family at Peony Jade and this left Friday cleared for us to spend the day at Sentosa, as well as to have a private birthday dinner at Privé. Initially she wanted to dine at Lawry’s (and I had already made reservations for two) but I convinced her that Privé would be a better choice, simply because of location.
“Wouldn’t it be nice to have dinner by Keppel Bay Marina? I read reviews on hungrygowhere.com and apparently Privé’s got quite good ratings. Shall we try a new restaurant?”
Once again, she nodded and even told me that she had been to KBM a few times with her colleagues. I played along and told her, “Cool, then you can bring me around after dinner since you know the place better than I do.”
Now by this time, you might have realised that the original proposal plan had modified significantly, because she decided to take leave on her birthday to spend a day at USS together with me.
The original plan was to propose at MBC, then head to Lawry’s for dinner. But I had to throw that idea away, as well as the office surprise by her girlfriends. Why? Well, she wasn’t going to be at work that day! A major modification, but it was still fundamentally the same idea.
(I couldn’t get) Sunset by the (beach, so instead I got sunset by the) bay – check. I was good to go.
Next chapter: the inception – the surprise within a surprise.
XIV. the other ideas that were rejected.
My first knee-jerk reaction was to return to the Southern-most Point of Sentosa. It was a significant location for Huiyi and I as we shared some wonderful memories there during the time that I courted her (before she agreed to be my girlfriend). I also considered returning to MBC or to the nearby Labrador Park…
But it was already Monday evening when I canned the USS idea and I only had one Tuesday evening left (before cell group at 8:30pm) to recce one last location. Wednesday and Thursday evenings were no-go and Friday was it! I pressed the panic button a million times but honestly, I really thrived on the adrenaline. I am certain I perform better under stress.
And since I was no longer going to propose in USS, I had to find a way to sell the two tickets I bought for Gideon and Caleb to recoup losses. I texted a number of my friends to ask if they were interested but it was too last-minute for anyone to make it. Thank God Lionel came to the rescue and kindly agreed to sacrifice his Friday lunch break to head into USS to help tout my pair of tickets away with minimal loss. He didn’t disappoint and even made a small profit because he managed to sell it at a higher price to tourists who couldn’t enjoy the DBS discount. And to top it off, he even drove to Peony Jade on Thursday evening to collect the tickets from me. I just had to ensure that we did not see him when we were there.
There were other literally sky-high ideas I had considered – to propose on top of Marina Bay Sands (MBS) or The Pinnacles @ Duxton. It was way too costly to do it at the Sky Park of MBS and to request for logistical permission and access would be a nightmare so I took that idea out. When Huiyi and I were at The Pinnacles earlier this year, I also assessed the place and deemed it unsuitable for my proposal because I couldn’t find a single power point in the entire Sky Garden on the 50th floor.
Next chapter: the final excursion that decided my destiny.
fast-forward 17 years.
Dinner tonight was an event 17 years in the making. Catching up with DL over a simple dinner was delightful and nostalgic to say the least. How does anyone actually get up to speed on nearly two decades of life? The last time we were close was when we were together in Primary 4 in Anglo-Chinese Junior School. These were the same two kids who, being equally short, partnered each other at the front of the class queue; the two 8-year-old kids who sneaked into Sentosa alone after school and accomplished it with cunning and enterprise beyond their age; and the same two kids who, from such vastly different family backgrounds, shared such pleasant childhood memories.
So, how do you catch up on all those years? Simple – by testifying God’s goodness over the years and by spurring each other on in ministry. You blend in common history to project a linked future. I think it’s no coincidence that these same two kids now share a passion for young people and worship; it is almost divinely appointed that these two boys now do their bit to introduce change, make a difference and leave a legacy in their church; it was affirming that these two boys, now men, subscribe to the same leadership concept and in them both resides a strong desire to impart to a younger generation.
Unlike other “old friends” whom I’ve caught up with over the years, I felt that with DL and I, there was no need to prove to each other how far we’ve come – there was no worldly comparison of one another’s achievements and experiences. I told myself, before the dinner, that if we were to spend the next couple of hours reminiscing old times, the friendship would remain in the nineties. I never expected to feel so comfortable with DL – I’d like to think that there was little or no pretense in our interaction; it was like finding a brother that I’ve always had, but lost contact with through the years. My testimony and spiritual journey was the antithesis of DL’s – a dramatic turnaround juxtaposed against traditional obedience; yet both end up 27 years later, serving the same God with similar fervour.
Instantly, I knew that this meet-up set the tone and manner for all future meet-ups with old friends, at least that is what I’d desire. There was an exchange of ministry, of knowledge, of experiences, of struggles and victories. It was more honest and candid than I had expected it to be. Our 2.5-hour dinner tonight made 17 years feel short. At the end of the day, I took home one thing – that God is indeed good and faithful and would use us for His glory wherever we are and have been. I rejoice with DL’s young marriage and the impending birth of the child in his wife’s belly this October.
I encourage you then, when you meet up with old friends in time to come, not to share about how good you’ve become or the great things you’ve accomplished, but to share with each other what God has done in your lives and how good He is indeed. And watch how God connects the people who love Him. You could never go wrong with that approach. I already look forward to the next time God brings DL and I together.