The Long Awaited Perfect Proposal

Our Engagement:
While I was living in Dominica during the first two years of med school, I decided to start learning how to dance salsa. Dancing salsa is one of the things Alana is most passionate about. For years she had tried to make me learn with her, as she would always tell me that there is no other person she would rather dance with than me. But not only could I not get it, I didn’t care for it. But the Salsa Club at Ross opened up that door for me, and I decided to take learning this dance form seriously. My plan was to learn as much as possible, and then surprise Alana with a slick dance (either underneath a waterfall at Emerald pool or at a dance studio right before proposing to her. Unfortunately, something happened that caused me to tell her what my plan was, and I was back to square one. After finally completing my 4th semester at Ross, God saw it fit that I go to Miami, FL for 5th semester instead of staying in Dominica like I had wanted to. As soon as this became final, an idea just raced into my head. First of all, Alana loves animals, and one of the first things she ever told me early on in our relationship was that it was a dream of hers to go swimming with dolphins. I never forgot. I thought to myself, if there is any place in the US that would offer people a chance to go swimming with dolphins; Florida has to be one of them! Over the course of my 5th semester I did my research and asked around. There was a place in Miami that offered this activity, but the feedback I read online was disappointing. The search continued. A good friend of mine-after telling him about my plans -urged me to look into a place in the Florida Keys. He had gone swimming with the dolphins there and highly, highly recommended it. I called Dolphin Cove and every single person I spoke to was so extremely nice and more than willing to go the extra mile for me. I was sold! I scheduled the swim for Alana, and over the next couple of days worked out the details of my proposal with them. They were so accommodating and were just as excited as I was! I seriously could not wait!

One the last day of my semester, right after the final, I asked Alana’s parents’ for her hand in marriage, and I also asked my parents for their blessing. In the days leading up to Alana’s arrival, she tried so hard to guess what we were going to do during her time here, but there was no way I was giving this secret up! Believe it or not, her first guess was that I was going to take her swimming with dolphins, but I countered by staying cool and calm and asking her, “Do you know how much that would cost?” She knew how bad I was struggling financially all semester, and she admitted that her guess was only half serious and more of just wishful thinking. Alana loved the fact that I had looked into it though, and the fact that I really put a lot of thought and planning into her visit. I had told her that she needed to bring a one-piece bathing suit, and after a series of guesses, it was like a light bulb went on in her head. She gasped, and with excitement in her voice she said to me, “I know what we’re doing!!” And I was like, “What….” She then said, “JET SKIING” (even though in her mind she meant water skiing). What to do, what to do. I quickly decided to act like she was wrong, but act sketchy enough to make her think I might be lying. After we hung up, I received a text message from her that said, “Jet skiing!” I texted back: “I hate you.” Later on, I called her and proceeded to tell her that there was no use in pretending that she got it wrong (which she did). I made up some story about looking into and visiting the place with my friend, and Lana was excited as ever! Whew, that was a close one…. Alana arrived in Miami on Saturday, April 25th with a fresh new haircut, and we were just so happy to finally be together again. We drove to South Beach where I was staying. We parked on Washington Ave. and ate at a very well known spot called “Cheeseburger Baby.” That night, we attended a Miami Heat game with my awesome friend Riz, who graciously hooked us up with some great seats! It was our first playoff game to boot, and the Heat beat the Atlanta Hawks 107-78. Dwyane Wade’s performance did not disappoint and we had so much fun being loud and cheering for the local team. The next day would be the big day. I was not so much as nervous as I was just hoping that everything would turn out nice and smooth. We woke up really early, but being that the place was about an hour and twenty minutes away, I was still afraid that we might be late. We packed up and I drove as fast as I could, thanking God that the roads were extremely empty that morning. The drive itself was really nice, but I only had one thing in mind. We finally reach Key Largo and I ease up a bit knowing that we’d make it on time (thank you Garmin GPS). We were getting closer, and closer, and finally the GPS tells me to make one final turn into the lot and IMMEDIATELY I stop the car short. In front of us is this HUGE sign that said “Dolphin Cove (picture of dolphin underneath): Swim with the Dolphins,” and before Lana could even say anything I turn to her and say, “I lied, we’re NOT going jet skiing (huge smile on my face).” I wish I could have videotaped her reaction. She could not believe it and we just hugged each other tightly. Later on Lana would tell me that she was both excited but also nervous! Yes, it was a dream come true for her, but she did not have time to “prepare herself” to get into the water with a 500 lb animal. I was just glad I was able to surprise her! I went inside to check in while Lana waited in the car. I went to go get her so she could sign the consent form, and we made our way to the waiting area. There were not too many parties scheduled for that particular swim, which made things that much better/easier. As Alana was picking out her swimming vest, the girls who worked there called me inside to quickly finalize the plan (they were just as giddy as I was!). Then, before the participants actually got into the water, there was a short talk that gave general information about the bottlenose dolphin, an introduction to the specific dolphins at the cove, and specific rules to adhere to. Lindsay was our trainer, and Leo was our dolphin! I scheduled Lana for two different swims (programs), the first of which was called the “Structured Swim.” Lana was to go first, and in this swim, she would be able to interact with Leo based on the different signals Lindsay would give. For the last “trick,” Lindsay asked me if I wanted to come down to the platform and take a picture with Lana and the dolphin. I said “okay” and made my way down. As I squatted on the platform, Lindsay tells Lana that Leo was going to deliver a present for us (which Lana thought had something to do with the final “trick”). Leo then proceeds to push a green box towards Lana and happily swims away. Alana’s just smiling waiting for the next thing, and I tell her, “You gotta open up the present!” “Oh!” She opens it up, spots the golden box inside, and immediately knows what is going on. She looks up at me and later on tells me that she was just mixed with so many feelings all at once, wanting to both laugh and cry at the same time. I tell her that we have been through everything together and that there is no better friend that God could have given me to spend the rest of my life with (she is obviously not even listening to a single word I was saying (j/k!)). I tell her that I know she had been waiting a long time for this (more than seven years), “so with the help of my friend Leo over there, I just wanna ask… will you marry me?!” Needless to say she immediately said “yes,” and the awesome, awesome people at Dolphin Cove screamed and cheered for us while Leo did flips in the water!! Then Lindsay says, “Before you go, Leo’s gonna get you an engagement present.” Leo swims out and disappears underneath the water. In no time he resurfaces and swims towards Lana with a green lead in his mouth- Alana’s first engagement present! She got out of the water, “still in shock,” and we hugged right there on the platform. Later on, Lindsay would tell us that she was also very nervous, as this was her first time orchestrating a proposal, but she did such an amazing job, as did Leo the dolphin! Both were super friendly and full of energy and excitement the entire time. While the next girl was doing her structured swim, Lana and I sat on one of the picnic tables. She had a really good cry there, and we talked and cuddled as we soaked in everything that had just happened. I should mention that the ring I proposed with was NOT the real ring, but rather a “Cracker Jack box” ring (since the people at Dolphin Cove and I did not want to risk her losing the real ring in the lagoon as she swam). It’s funny because over the years Alana would always joke around with me and say, “You better not propose to me with no Cracker Jack box ring!,” and what do you know? Well, the real ring was going to come later on in the day. Also, we had toyed with the idea of having Leo bring the ring to Lana in his mouth, but felt that it would be too risky! In any case, everything could not have gone more perfect. We gave everybody our sincerest thanks and bought a couple of souvenirs at the gift shop. They even gave us a free special framed picture as a gift from the Dolphin Cove. We took a couple more pictures, and we were finally off to head back towards Miami. This time around, I was able to really enjoy the drive back, as Alana called her family and pretty much texted everybody she knew to tell them about the good news! At the end of the long drive, we stopped by my apartment to change clothes, and the next stop was Bicentennial Park in Miami. I had scoped this place out as the spot to give Alana the real ring, and felt that it would be perfect. It was right next to the American Airlines arena, with an amazing view of the Miami Beach skyline, with the MacArthur Causeway (bridge) to the left, and the Port Boulevard Bridge to the right. Like I said, it was the perfect spot. After parking I walk Lana out and ask her to wait for me as she takes in the view. I come back and finally reveal to her “the blue box.” Praise God she absolutely LOVED it. Months earlier, another funny thing was that a certain Tiffany’s ring had caught my eye. I later asked Jill (Alana’s very good friend) for a little bit of help too, and she told me that she and Lana were looking at rings too. She sent me a picture of a ring that Alana thought was perfect, and it just so happened to be the same ring I was looking at! Talk about confirmation. The only thing left to do was finalize the details of the diamond. We took some picture in front of the amazing view I also took a few pictures of Lana by herself right there at the park. We then went back into the car, read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 together (“…a threefold cord is not quickly broken”), and prayed, remembering that our relationship did not just consist of the two of us, but is rather also anchored by Jesus Christ Himself. We just wanted to thank God for everything- for making this dream into a reality. Our next stop was one of the most famous Cuban restaurants in Miami Beach, David’s Café (Meridian Ave. location). We were both starving and thoroughly enjoyed our meals. But the day was not yet over! After taking a nap back at my apartment, we got ready for a night of SALSA! I was able to integrate a part of my original plan after all! I had signed us up for Salsa Mia classes at Yuca Lounge on Lincoln Rd. We started out with a 30 minute bachata lesson, then had a 2 hour salsa/rueda lesson, and finally spent the last 30 minutes just dancing with each other and practicing moves. And what better way to end such a perfect day than to stop by the friendly neighborhood Starbucks! Lana had a chai tea latte and a chocolate chip cookie, and I ordered a white chocolate frappuccino with a toffee almond bar on the side. We had made it to the next level, and had every right to enjoy that moment. We had been through hell and back again; we daily endure the extremely difficult consequences of being an interracial/intercultural couple; we had been together for more than seven years, living in two different countries for over two of those years. Right there in the middle of Miami Beach, for once the whole world around us, along with its problems, faded away. “My fiancé,” she would say, over and over again, looking at me with happiness written all over her face. And we just simply loved on one another, wrapped in each others’ arms, reflecting on that long-awaited day in which we finally got engaged.