LiveLine Issue 10 - How Brussels Changed Our Lives

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Extract from LiveLine's Issue 10


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    Six years of courtship, six months of planning and finally six days in Brussels to kick-start a lifetime of happiness. For the benefit of those who were not there to share in the memorable experience, I recount the twists and turns of my proposal journey as I travelled halfway across the globe in June to pop that all-important question.

  • trAVel TALES

    Itwas called Mission brussels. When i learnt last year that gracia whom i can now officially call my fiancee - had secured a place in her universitys journal-ism trip to europe, it set me thinking. We had been dating for some five years and i felt that we were both ready to take our relationship to the next level after her graduation. i first worked out my budget and then rounded up my closest buddies to help brainstorm on how i could propose. Many chipped in with ideas on the e-mail thread i started and i was grateful that my best friend, Wee teck, even decided to fly there with me to share in the moment.

    DAY 1: PRE-PRODUCTIOn PLAnnIngAfter a heart-warming send-off at the airport by our excited friends, Wee teck and i arrived in brussels, capital of belgium, on a Friday afternoon. the plan was to do a recce of the grand Place, the location where i intend to propose.

    grand Place, or grote Markt, is probably the most well-known landmark in brussels. home to the citys town hall, the grand market square dates as far back as the 15th century and has withstood massive bombardments by the French. since both gracia and i are history buffs, i thought the choice of location would be ideal.

    We sat at the square to observe the human traffic and began talking to locals to determine the perfect time to propose. A belgian policeman told me the square is usually crowded with tourists during the day and evenings. When i explained that i was planning to propose to my girlfriend, he tried to dissuade me as he didnt believe in marriage. Propose? Why would you want to do that? he asked jokingly. but i was unfazed.

    the rest of the day was spent satisfying our tummies. there is an abun-dance of seafood in brussels because of her proximity to the coastal areas. one must-try is mussels, which go fabulously well with their famous belgian fries. because of the large population of turkish migrants, one will also find plenty of Middle-eastern favourites among which the doner meat kebab is also a must-try. if you are there, dont forget to sample belgian waffles which come with a variety of toppings and are probably the best in the world!

    DAY 2: PRE-PRODUCTIOn PREPARATIOnone more day to d-day as gracia flies in with her journalism group from berlin tomorrow. After sev-eral hours of serious preparation work, Wee teck and i decided to give ourselves a well-deserved break by doing a tour of brussels on bicycle.

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  • the administrative centre of the european union, brussels, with her rich blend of French and Flemish culture, boasts picturesque medieval streets, lively squares, beautiful boulevards and impressive monuments that all add to the citys unique character.

    We took in sights of the gothic st Michaels cathedral; the Manneken Pis fountain with its world-famous bronze sculpture of a naked boy urinating into a basin; Palais de Justice, the ancient court building; the royal Palace, and many more, including the colourful Maga Zin-neke street parade that showcaseds props and floats creatively crafted out of used or wasted materials.

    there were buskers everywhere and i

    thought it would be great to get a bus-ker to add to the atmosphere tomor-row. to my dismay, i was told that bus-kers werent allowed to perform in the square. shucks!

    DAY 3: LIgHTS, CAMERA & ACTIOn!d-day! i was up bright and early, all

    excited to spend the morning picking up my proposal props. With a mental check-list, the two of us headed downtown to buy flowers. to our horror, it slipped our mind that it was sunday and the florist we visited two days ago wasnt open. We started to panic and quickly cycled around in search of another flower shop. Fortunately, we found a small store with what i thought had the most beautiful flowers in the world. they were big and the colours were fascinating. Pedaling around town with the red roses in my front basket invited curious stares from many ladies. Walking back into our hotel room with huge bouquets of roses in

    our arms must also have been a peculiar sight. but it really didnt matter.

    next, i thought good flowers ought to be accompanied by good chocolates. since belgian chocs are arguably the

    best in the world, we decided on a heart-shaped chocolate from leonidas as it best represents my intention of giving my heart to her.

    With just a few hours to go, i made a call to derrick my other trusty helper whos part of the arriving journalism group to check that everything was going as planned. the group had just

    touched down and i was assured that gracias companions had all been briefed to play along with the surprise. Apparently, her professor had even told her they would be heading to the grand

    Place after dinner to witness a torch pro-cession that takes place every first sun-day of the month!

    As Wee teck and i got ready in our ho-tel room, i felt both nervous and excited

    as the hour drew closer. After recording my proposal speech into my iPod shuffle, we decided to run through the sequence of events.

    heres the game plan: Wee teck was to find a little girl or boy to pass gracia the iPod, a blindfold, and an instruction card to put on the blindfold and listen to the iPod. When she takes off her blind-fold, i will already be there, and we will be surrounded by rose petals and tea-light candles on the ground, with music serenading from Wee tecks laptop.

    like all stories, things somehow have a knack of not panning out according to the script. Firstly, it was difficult to find any young lad or lass because it was late on a sunday evening. Most people de-clined our request as they were scepti-cal of what we were trying to do. After a few failed attempts, we finally found two teenage girls who sportingly agreed to help.

    the items were delivered to gracia, but as it turned out, she was terrified and wondered why two strangers would give her an iPod out of the blue. she refused to listen to the iPod despite promptings from her friends and professor.

    Meanwhile, Wee teck and i were hid-ing at the other end of the square, un-aware of what was going on over at her side. it didnt look like things were going as planned, but Wee teck had to make his move as he was supposed to prepare the petals, candles and music. As he ap-proached the group, he realised then that gracia had not put on the blindfold. And oops!seeing Wee teck appear in europe probably shocked the wits out of gracia, but my quick-thinking buddy managed to urge her to put on the blindfold. As she listened to the iPod, he led her to the doors of the grand Place where i was waiting.

    Along the way, more unscripted

    events occurred. the bag of rose petals accidentally tipped over and had to be scooped up again by Wee teck and der-rick. When they finally reached the right spot and proceeded to scatter the petals, the candles could not light. As the pro-posal recording was only a few minutes long, gracia soon began taking off her blindfold, and alas, it was too late to do anything else.

    With the bouquet of roses in my hand and the ring, i knelt down and asked: Would you like to spend the rest of your life with me? she said yes without hesitation, and i got up to give her a big hug to applause and cheers from her friends and curious passers-by. it was such a fantastic feeling of both joy and relief.

    At last, it was a wrap. Mission Ac-complished!

    Brussels, with her rich blend of French and Flemish culture, boasts picturesque medieval streets, lively squares, beautiful boulevards and impressive monuments that all add to the citys unique character.

    to my great pals who made this possible with their support, id like to say a big thAnK you!

    7Proposal Tips 1. MAKE IT A SURPRISE you should, even if marriage had already been discussed. dont as-sume yes to be a foregone conclusion, or that romanticism can be dispensed with since shes going to marry you anyway. give her your best.

    2. gET HER PAREnTS BUY-In its important to have the blessings of her parents. i was fortu-nate to have understanding future in-laws who gave me tremendous moral support.

    3. KnOW HER RIng SIZE Absolutely critical! itll be disastrous if she cant fit into the ring you bought. i did it by taking note when we bought our last ring together (We usually buy a couple ring every year).

    4. REHEARSE even four simple words can be difficult to utter if you dont practise. run through the sequence of events, and seek others input. should you hug before slipping on the ring? When to give the flowers? Which knee should you be kneeling on?

    5. BRIng ALOng A BUDDY Must be someone trustworthy, like Wee teck, who helped me every step of the way during the trip. nothing beats having someone close to share your joy with.

    6. KISS (KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID) - one lesson i learnt: never make the proposal event overly elaborate. theres beauty in simplicity, so cut down on fancy surprises.

    7. SnAP LOADS Of PICTURES its only going to happen once in a lifetime! besides, you can include them in your wedding montages.

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