28 August 2012

Our Engagement: How it Happened!

First things first, I want to say thank you all so, so much for all of the congratulatory comments and emails.  It made our engagement that much more special and exciting and we both enjoyed reading through your messages over and over again as they came pouring in.  It once again made me appreciate being part of such a special community and left me feeling so blessed to have met so many amazing people from all across the globe.  So again, thank you!

I thought today I would share a bit more about our engagement :)

Early in August, Jurg let me know that he wanted to treat me to a weekend away at a game lodge for our anniversary {four and a half years to be exact!}.  He told me that he'd been looking for a lodge for quite some time, but hadn't been able to find "the place" yet and asked me to also join in on the hunt.  I quickly came across Wild and Free Private Game Lodge and we agreed that it looked like the perfect retreat for a weekend full of delicious food, game drives, and rest and relaxation.


... I would be lying if I said that I didn't suspect something might happen when Jurg spilled the beans about our weekend away.  I'm usually the designated trip planner out of the two of us, so the mere fact that he was attempting to plan something on his own was out of the ordinary.  Combine that with the fact that it was in celebration of our anniversary and the fact that he wouldn't let me split the cost of the accommodation with him, and I definitely thought a proposal might be on the cards.

Still, I couldn't be certain.  The two of us had never been ring shopping together or anything, so the anticipation building up to that weekend was absolutely killing me.  I decided not to let anyone in on my hunch {except for my co-worker} in case it didn't end up happening.

We arrived at the lodge late Friday evening and by Saturday morning I was seriously doubting my intuition about a possible engagement.  Jurg was just acting so normal.  We enjoyed a delicious dinner Friday night and were up with the sun on Saturday for an early morning game drive.  That afternoon we lounged around the pool and read our books and Jurgen looked as though he didn't have a care in the world.  That evening he even made a point of making sure we would be back from our sunset game drive in time to catch the rugby game.  Maybe it's just me, but I feel like if I was about to commit myself to someone for the rest of my life, rugby would be the last thing on my mind!  Oh, Jurgen.

In any event, that night we had dinner with the other guests out by the fire and then headed in for the night.  Once we got back to our room, I did notice that Jurg seemed to be acting slightly strange.  At one stage he said my name like he wanted to ask me something, but after I responded he just stared at me with this conflicted look on his face and then changed the subject to something irrelevant.  That night before bed we soaked in the jacuzzi and stared up at the milky way in search of shooting stars, all the while talking about how wonderful the weekend had been and how we didn't want it to end.

We finally headed for bed with still no sign of a proposal.  Since we were checking out the following morning, I went to sleep convinced that this indeed was not going to be "the weekend" after all, but told myself that it had still been an incredible weekend nonetheless.

Sunday morning, Jurgen shook me awake while it was still dark outside.  Despite my pleas that it was too early to get out of bed, he insisted that we wake up in time for sunrise since it was our last day on the reserve and since he wanted to make sure we that we maximized our weekend away.  I stumbled out of bed and onto our balcony only to discover a bottle of champagne and two champagne flutes.  We soaked in the jacuzzi as we waited for the sun to peak over the hills and Jurgen started to re-cap our relationship {in the most adorable way}.  He included lots of mushy details and said all of those things that make a girl's heart go pitter patter.

And then, just as the sun started to creep into view, he was down on one knee saying the words that made me melt into a million pieces.

.... And of course... I answered with a resounding Yes! 
{I think I must have said yes at least ten times} 
as he placed the most gorgeous ring {that he designed himself!} on my finger. 

 After the initial moment had sunk in there were lots of hugs and kisses and jumping up and down and general giddiness to be had.  We phoned our parents to let them in on the good news and then headed to the main deck for a nice champagne breakfast before phoning any of our friends or extended family.  Throughout breakfast I just kept saying over and over again things like "Oh my gosh, we're engaged!" - "This is so exciting!"- "I can't believe we're getting married!" and Jurgen just kept nodding and saying "I know" with his cute little smirk.

On the way home we finally sent out a mass text message to all of our South African friends and family, and it was only after that, when all of the calls and messages started pouring in one after the other, that the whole thing truly started feeling real.  That night as I made the rounds with my American peeps over Skype, it was the perfect cherry on top to what was already, quite possibly, the best day of my life thus far.

And yes, I can now say with absolute certainty, that it really is as magical as everyone says it is.

Since last Sunday we've been basking in the excitement of being newly engaged and are planning to host a little celebration with all of our Jo'burg friends as soon as I get back from the States.

Pretty soon I'm sure I'll be thrown into the craziness that is planning an international {and multi-cultural} wedding, but for now I'm still getting used to showing off my sparkly ring and referring to Jurgen as my Fiance {it feels so weird!}.

So excited to go home {this Thursay - eeeps!} and celebrate with everyone in California!

- - - - -

Also, today I'm guest posting over on Nicole's lovely blog {La Mia Vita} about some of the ways I prepared myself for the transition into ex-pat life.  Nicole is originally from California, but just moved to Madrid to pursue post-graduate studies in Spain!  She leads one very exciting life and in the unlikely event that you aren't already in love with her blog, I suggest you hop on over there now and make a new friend.  See my post here!

20 August 2012

We're Engaged!!!

It's true!  

Over the weekend Jurgen popped the question and I'm thrilled to announce that we're engaged!  

Since it happened I've been smiling from ear to ear and I'm still in shock that I get to spend the rest of my life with such a completely and utterly wonderful person who also happens to be the absolute love of my life.

More details from the weekend to come soon!

But, until then:

Jurgen, this weekend you made me the happiest girl in the whole world and I can't wait to grow old with you!  Love you to the moon and back <3

16 August 2012

Road Trippin

If there's one thing Jurgen and I have in common, it's our mutual love for taking road trips.

Many of our very favorite memories have been spent together on the road, either cruising up the coast of California, or driving with friends across South Africa, or making the long trek up to Jurgen's home country of Namibia, where you can drive for hours and hours without passing another car.  Regardless of the final destination, each trip seems to provide us with a host of unforgettable and often hilarious memories.

We love the anticipation of hopping in the car early in the morning, planning our route, and allowing extra time to stop along the way whenever we see something of interest or somewhere to grab a coffee or a bite to eat.  It makes the journey just as much fun as actually arriving at the destination!

These pictures are from our road trip to Sun City back in June for Jurgen's graduation.  I think it took us about 5 hours for what should have been a short 2 hour trip because we stopped several times along the road.  Jurgen even had his first experience of parking outside of an American-style Diner, ordering his food through the car window, and then waiting for the waitress to bring the food to us in the car.  Truth be told he thought the whole experience was very weird and could not wrap his head around the logic of eating a messy burger in the car when you easily walk a few feet to a table and eat on a hard, sturdy surface.  I, on the other hand, was in absolute heaven.  Pure American laziness at its finest people.  Yes!

Oh South Africa and its crazy hi-jacking areas...
Can you tell he's thrilled from the look on his face?
Random castle on the side of the road... what??
A German Brewery... in the absolute middle of nowhere in South Africa.  Totally logical right?

Looking back on these pictures I think the theme of this road trip would have to be random. 
Extremely random.

Do you prefer driving or flying?  Am I the only one who enjoys driving for hours upon hours without getting bored?  It's quite possible ;)

I thought it would be appropriate to share these pictures since tomorrow we are headed off on another mini-road trip to Bela Bela in celebration of our four and a half year anniversary!  To say I'm excited is the understatement of the century.  Jurgen is spoiling me by taking us here and I cannot wait to spend the weekend going on game drives {aka safaris!}, eating delicious food, and soaking in the hot tub.  Pure paradise!

I'll be back next week with lots and lots of pictures!  Hope you all have a lovely weekend :)

14 August 2012

A weekend visit to the Voortrekker Monument

Over the weekend, Jurg and I decided to pay a quick visit to the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria!  It was one of the many things on my list of "must-sees while living in Jo'burg" and I'm definitely glad we finally decided to make the trip and tick it off our list.  I wasn't really sure what to expect beforehand, but we were both pleasantly surprised by the monument and surroundings and spent several hours wandering the grounds and exploring all of the different exhibitions.

The Voortrekker Monument was completed in 1949 and stands to commemorate the Voortrekkers {Afrikaans for "those who pull ahead"} who left the Cape coast in masses during the 1830's and headed inland to escape British rule.  The Voortrekkers were of Dutch descent and now make up South Africa's Afrikaans population.  

{Fun Fact #1: South Africa was colonized by two countries prior to gaining independence, first by the Dutch and then by the British.}

{Fun Fact #2: Jurgen is Afrikaans!}

The site also commemorates the infamous "Battle of Blood River" when a group of about 464 Voortrekkers were successful in countering an attack by 10,000 Zulus.  Prior to the battle the Voortrekkers had made a vow to God that if he would lead them to victory over what seemed like insurmountable odds, they would forever honour that date.  Every year on the anniversary of the battle {16th of December, 1838} hundreds of people flock to the site to pay tribute to those lost and to give thanks for God's protection in their time of need.

To read more about the site's history and construction see here.

The monument opens up into a beautiful marble hall called the Hall of Heroes.

Surrounding the entire hall are panels telling the story of the Voortrekkers emigration inland.  Little tablets below indicate what is taking place in each of the scenes.  Not being a huge museum person, I thought it was such a nice, digestible way of getting an overview of the history before heading into the museum itself.

There's also a spiral staircase leading to the top of the Monument.  From the inside you can look down into the Hall of Heroes and can see into the center opening which provides a glimpse of the museum on the lower level.

Had to snap a quick photo together up top!

From the bottom level, if you look up you can see a small round hole in the ceiling, which allows a single ray of light inside.  Every year on the 16th of December at 12:00 {the anniversary of the Battle of Blood River}, the light hits the very center of a Centotaph located on the bottom floor.  It shines over the engraving "Ons vir jou South Africa" which is Afrikaans for "We for thee, South Africa".

The ray is said to indicate God's blessing over the Voortrekkers on that day of battle.

If you're at all familiar with South Africa's rocky past, you've probably already guessed that this memorial is quite controversial in more ways than one.  However, we both found it to be very informative and tastefully done and I can truthfully say that I never felt uncomfortable or offended while walking through the exhibitions.  It was also wonderful for me to get to learn a little more about Jurgen's culture and ancestors and I think he enjoyed experiencing a bit of his past as well :)

Overall we had a great experience and I would definitely recommend the Monument to all South Africans {not just Afrikaaners!} and visitors alike.  It takes about 3 - 4 hours to explore the bulk of the reserve and makes for a perfect weekend outing.

For more information and directions see here.