It all started one lazy Sunday, lying on the couch, scrolling through good old News24 while Jen watched Greys. I opened a link to a competition that featured Bryan Habana and then read the instructions to Jen, “Write in 200 words why you deserve the opportunity to race the new British Airways Air Bus plane in order to stand a chance to win 2 return tickets to Europe.“
We heard a saying/story once that we will never forget: “Bob wanted nothing more in life then to win the lotto. He prayed every night and every morning and spent all day dreaming and talking about how great life would be if he won. He thought about it every second of every day and begged and begged relentlessly. One day, he cried out, please, please God, please let me win the lotto! One day, God responded. Please PLEASE my son, buy a ticket !!!!”
So of course, we entered. Jen, wrote the story for me, having a way with words to make sure it “stood out”. She went all out with the dramatics, how I had two ankle operations and am now faster than ever before, how it was my dream to take my girlfriend to Europe to propose (little did she know), and she even ended with, “on your marks, get set, pick me”! As corny as she felt it read, she obviously connected to someone in London as a week later I got the email. I was one of the 4 lucky people in the world to be flown to Durban to sprint against British Airway’s new A380 Airbus.
Jen drops me at the airport and I go join my other contestants (French, British and Israeli) at the Hotel in Durban. As the first runner, I went to the starting line at the airport runway and took my position next to the plane. As I started sprinting I could here the engine of the plane behind me, never thought I would race a plane, but hey, things could be stranger. I ran 200metres in roundabout 23.15 seconds. Jen and I obviously Facebook’d stalked the other contestants before hand, you know, to see what I were working with. The French guy definitely looked fast and of course he ran last at 4pm. Jen tried to send me encouraging messages while I waited, but 2 return tickets to Europe for a) South Africans earning Rands and b) a couple obsessed with traveling, is like waving a bottle of 14 year old whiskey in front a poor alcoholic.
As soon as the French man crossed the finish line, the timer, Bryan Habana (the fastest rugby player in the world) looked at his watch and then turned to me, smiling! I won!!
Watch the race on British Airway’s Youtube video – Man Vs Plane
With two free return business class tickets to London, Jen and I immediately started planning our trip! Europe was something very new to us as we had both previously travelled to mainly third world countries. Therefore, bucketlist cities had to be done – London, Paris, Dubrovnik, Venice, Rome!! Jen was beside herself, she was in her last year at UCT so we planned to go in her big mid year break (Summer in Europe). I knew straight away, this was the time !!!
It was honestly stress free and easy deciding to propose, but choosing a place on our trip to do it was almost impossible. We were going to some of the most romantic places in the world! I eventually decided on Venice when Jen almost started crying the day we booked our accommodation. Venice was 2 weeks in to our trip so I had to carry the ring around with me in the underlining of my backpack. I must have sweated a litre of water every time we went through a metal detector at the airports. The one time the alarm went off when my backpack went through the hand luggage tunnel and I swear the security guard looked at my backpack through the scanner and then back to my sweating face next to Jen and just smiled and pushed it through. I also had to always make sure it was the heavier bag out of our two backpacks so she would never insist on carrying it herself. A tip to any man out there planning a destination proposal, do it on like night 2 so you can relax for the rest of the trip!!
Of course, I always wanted to go on a Gondola in Venice, I am a hopeless romantic, but after walking around when we arrived and getting prices, I started telling Rudi that it was completely fine if we “los it”. I was quite surprised when he said no we have to go and how we only live once and money is not important, as he was quite happy with the “los it” attitude we had developed during our previous encounters with expensive touristy attractions in Europe, but hey, who was I to argue with a gorgeous man in Venice wanting to take me on a boat!
Converting Rands into Euros is no fun so we did a lot of sight seeing, walking and picnicking. In Croatia I had seen a beautiful dress in the window of a shop next to our guesthouse. The night before we left to Venice, Rudi bought it for me! Apparently my mom told Rudi before we left not to propose when I’m looking weird. Haha, yay for moms! After I put on my new dress I saw Rudi in shorts. It was cold outside and I was also feeling quite dressed up so I told him to quickly change to pants. He changed and then half way down the stairs he ran back up because he forgot his wallet (yes, anyone who knows Rudi will know this would probably never happen as he is way to organised and observant to forget literally anything, but Venice is very distracting). He had actually run back up to get the ring out of his shorts pocket and into the pants he was now wearing. My bad!
I’m going to make this part very short or I’m going to become way too soppy and boring, but basically, we got on a beautiful black Gondola, and off we went. I was secretly hoping that the man would sing to us, but as cool as that sounds in old movies, its probably really awkward!! While I was taking a photo of a bridge we were passing, Rudi turned around to the man to give him our GoPro. I immediately think, ahh he’s going to make him take a fish eye photo of the whole boat, so clever, so I smile at the man and turn back around to Rudi kneeling on the boat floor.
I still cringe when I think about my reaction. I wish I could say, I started “pretty crying” and jumped into his arms and said I do, but I can’t. I was in absolute shock!! When I say I wasn’t expecting a proposal, I don’t mean I didn’t know when in the trip or year he was going to ask me, I literally mean I did not think Rudi was even thinking about marriage yet. He hated speaking about it at all. He would occasionally speak about our children and when we were old but never marriage. None of his friends were married and we were pretty young so it’s not like the subject even came up besides the odd aunty or drunken friend. A few of my close friends all asked me if I was going to get engaged on the trip, and I was almost defensive in my reactions. I just thought the idea wouldn’t have even crossed his mind so I didn’t want him to feel awkward with these comments.
So when I turned around and saw him kneeling down, my immediate reaction to him was, “are you joking”? Then.. “Omg, are you joking, are you joking?” He carried on speaking and when I saw his chin tremble slightly as he persisted on, a thousand thoughts flooded my mind, “oh my word Jennifer Bailey, get yourself together girl, this is happening right now and it’s your once in a lifetime moment and you don’t even realise its happening and oh my word when did he decide this and who all knows and, oh my word Jennifer you aren’t even listening to what he’s saying!!!” Like I said, absolute shock! Eventually when I realised that the moment was right in front of me and that the man of my dreams was actually proposing, I said the first thing that came to my mind, “do you really want ME, to be your wife?” He said yes !! I said yes! It was everything.
The weirdest thing happened afterwards, we needed to get off the Gondola, like ASAP!! It’s so strange but we had just had the most emotionally insane moment and then all of a sudden you realise you are stuck on a tiny boat with a stranger standing behind you. I immediately felt the urge to get off so I could run around or jump or something other than calmly sitting on an unsteady boat. It started raining as soon as we got off and we were like two crazy people jogging around Venice, jumping on each other and drinking champagne straight out of the bottle! I went through shock, excitement, crying and now, after we eventually found a little romantic restaurant on the canal, in a game of 20 questions. It’s so crazy how one of the biggest moments and decisions in your life can be made and planned completely without you!