25 July 2010

Remember when...

Caution: this post contains many scenes of barely recognisable young us...

Remember when we were young? Wind back the clock to this time twelve years ago, July 1998. The circumstances were against us, and it should never have worked. Just twenty and twenty-one, and from opposite worlds. And yet it did. So bittersweet meeting and falling deeply in love with only two weeks together in the same country before you were pulled back to your own life half a world away.

So much perseverance. So many letters, emails and $10 phone calls back and forth across the seas. Clocking up the minutes and hours. Talking till our arms ached from holding the phone to our ear, we were so desperate to speak to each other.

Then there was your impulse trip back to NZ seven months later to be reunited. And a trial by fire for you, spending 10 days with me and my family (mum, dad and 2 teenage brothers!) in close quarters in a campervan around the South Island. - you were game I'll give you that much! I'll never forget our bungy off the Ledge in Queenstown, I screamed like a banshee, Nic was staunchly silent, and your response was something along the lines of 'SH......................................T!'


Then there was the bee sting on your neck in a Queenstown supermarket which saw you spinning out a bit (knowing you were allergic) and we had to find a doctor in town quick smart to administer some strong antihistamine. You were a bit whacked out on your atihistamine scooby snacks that night when we played a family round of mini golf but you still somehow managed to beat us all - I reckon all due to your drug enhancement?! And what about the time you lost part of a tooth just biting on a fork - I should have seen the $$ signs and the writing on the wall for the thousands of dollars we've since invested in your pearly whites. We sometimes joke and say our dentist Pete could retire with the amount of business you put his way each year - aren't we at 5 root canals and counting!

Not long after that trip, I moved to England to be closer to you and a new adventure began. Working, travelling, and living the London life.. Making wonderful, lifelong friends, working some more, travelling some more. This was our life for nearly three years. And these are a few of my memories of those carefree days:

Switzerland
The winter snowboarding holiday that wasn't! We got a great deal through your work (Kuoni) for a week in Crans Montana - an hour's train ride from Geneva. The only thing was it was early December and there wasn't much snow to be had. Nevertheless we persevered - kind of. I could not, just could not get to grips with the tow rope on my snowboard (having only ever ridden chair lifts before) on the only slopes that were open high on the glacier. So we decided to try our luck in Zermatt - home to the famous Matterhorn peak. After a 2-hour journey to get there (3 trains later!) we managed a few runs down some pretty icy slopes. Lots of tumbles onto ice as hard as concrete. And then we had to drag our tired, aching bodies home again, missing all the connections we needed as dark fell and the night got later and later. I remember eventually stumbling the last 5 minutes beside the lake near our hotel, us having an argument over something trivial, and me threatening to 'throw myself in the lake - this is the worst day ever'. Funnily enough, it was nothing some raclette and hot food couldn't cure. Well almost. The next day I was so unbelievably stiff and sore that all we did for the entire day was find a chemist, buy a big tube of Voltaren and I alternated between hot baths, massages and bed! Still Switzerland was a stunning winter wonderland and worth every ache and pain!


Love affair with Greece
It is fair to say that you and I have a love affair with the Greek Islands. We've been three times, to Kos , Kefalonia (which was inspired by watching Captain Correlli's Mandolin) and then Santorini for our honeymoon. There is something about Greek salads, moussaka and souvlaki that just makes our mouths water and our hearts race. When you add to that colourful buildings, beaches tucked away into hillsides and the friendliness of the Greek people, it was always a recipe for a great time.






Sri Lanka & the Maldives
If it wasn't for your skill in selling holidays (read: gift of the gab!) we never would have had the chance to go on this amazing adventure. After your first three months at Kuoni, you and your friend Dan were neck and neck in the 'top salesperson' category. So rather than there having to be a winner and a loser, you both made a pact to take each other on the holiday and pay for the gals to come along too. Feeding a baby elephant at the elephant orphange and climbing to the top of Sigiriya rock in ridiculous heat are my two strongest memories. And then a magical few days in the Maldives to top it off. Snorkeling amongst Dory and Nemo, lazing in the pool and hearing the Muslim call to prayer from the Maldivian island where the locals lived - it was so close to our resort island we could have easily waded there if we'd been allowed.

Italia (said with a strong accent - EE-TAL-YAH)
Who could forget this 2-week holiday backpacking around Italy on a shoestring budget? It rained and rained and rained that 2 weeks, but that didn't dampen our enthusiasm at all. Our first stop, Rome, and there we saw enough sights, smells and sounds to savour for a lifetime. But on a bus somewhere in the middle of Rome, this glorious promise of a relationship nearly lost its way forever. I got off a bus, sure that Mark was right behind me, and suddenly realised I was on my own, with the bus disappearing off into the distance. And me with no money, no phone and no passport! Funnily enough, it was Mark doing the panicking screaming blue murder on the bus trying to kick the door in, and every Italian wondering what on earth this mad Englishman was doing? Luckily the bus driver had the sense to open the door to let this crazy kid off, and we were joyfully reunited. I can't quite remember if it was exactly like one of those slow-motion scences where the two long-lost lovers are running into each others arms (cue beautiful music playing), but it was close enough!

And so the happy couple trekked onwards to Naples, ah Naples, such memories. But not good ones. There is a famous saying  'See Naples and Die', in reference to being so overwhelmed by what a beautiful and an incredible city Naples is that after that one could die happy. However, you and I were far more concerned that we may actually not survive the experience and See Naples and Die would be come our reality! I'm not sure if we just picked a rough part of town to stay in but it was S.C.A.R.Y. Naples had a real undercurrent, menacing and threatening. Seeing rats running around in rubbish right outside our hotel did nothing to help our fears. We got out of Naples to Pompeii, Herculaneum and Sorrento the next day, but it was back to the hellhole that was our experience that night. Needless to say, we were desperate to get the hell out of dodge and left a night early.

This meant we took the train straight to Siena and spent an extra night there than we'd planned. And what a night that was. 7 April 2002. The relief at feeling safe again was overwhelming. We slept the afternoon away in our hotel, but took to the streets to do some Siena sightseeing that evening. A slow stroll amongst the Sienese locals winding through tiny back streets until Piazza del Campo was upon us. And on that Sunday evening, in front of a fountain, with a light drizzle falling, a boy asked a girl THE question. Along the lines of 'I'm absolutely sh..tting myself right now, but Meghan will you marry me?' 




There was still another week of idyllic Italy to enjoy, on top of the world, more in love than ever and on a high. Nothing could dampen our spirits. Not even the transport strike that forced us to wait 12 unexpected hours for our flight out of Venice. Stuck in a tinpot corrugated tin shed of an airport (Treviso) with literally no transport to even get us back to Treviso town for half the time. And the rest of the time spent in Macdonalds making one strawberry sundae last for hours whilst we played hangman till our head hurts. Eventually, we made it back to the UK and to our new lives as a happily engaged couple.



And here we are, 12 years later, with so many wonderful memories to draw on. Funny experiences, broadened horizons, and with more love in the tank than ever. And so many conversations that we can start with remember when.....

In the past we've played a game called 'Guess where I am'...a bit like 20 questions, and the other person has to try and guess where the other person was by giving clues to one of our wonderful, shared experiences. An easy way of reliving and not forgetting the special moments that have made our journey to this day, this moment so personal and memorable.

Happy 12 years, my sweet!

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