Written from Jaramogi’s perspective.
When I met Vanessa, through random (but not so random) conversations, she told me that whoever proposed to her would have to get her mother’s and older brother’s permission. With that advice as the backdrop, our engagement story begins about 5 months before Vanessa’s involvement. When I knew it was time for me to step up to the plate and get this ball rolling, I spoke to my sister about what I wanted and needed to do. In September of 2016, my sister and I planned a surprise visit to my mother who was in Rock Hill, South Carolina (my birth town) for the better part of two months. We purchased plane tickets and flew down to spend the weekend, which was also my sister’s birthday weekend, with our mother.
I realized during landing that Vanessa’s brother only lived about 45 mins from my family in South Carolina. It was at that moment I made the decision to visit Charlotte to ask for permission to begin the process of proposing to Vanessa. I called and text him on a few occasions before he replied. He had errands to run the next morning with his family so his window of availability was almost non-existent unless I got to his house by 8:30am so they could leave by 9am. I didn’t give anything away at the time though I know he thought it was quite strange that I wanted to drive almost an hour to see him for 30 mins. I told him I just wanted to say hello in person. When I arrived at his house, I nervously sat down in his kitchen for coffee and began to tell him the words I loosely rehearsed on my way to his house. I was able to get through my words and then paused for his response. Thankfully and most graciously, he gave me his blessing and a very big and warming hug to boot! I was ecstatic.
The wheels were in motion and I could begin implementing the next steps of this process. Upon my returned to NY, I called a jeweler that my family has known for almost 30 years. I told him what I wanted to do and he told me to come into his shop to get the process underway. The jeweler found 5 diamonds within the range of my specifications. One by one we looked at the diamonds and through a process of elimination, I chose the diamond that would become the focal point for Vanessa’s engagement ring. I left the jewelry store feeling confident the jeweler would create something spectacular.
Every President’s week, Vanessa takes a long vacation to a country she has never been to before. We met because of her solo trip to Australia in 2015. In 2016, she went to Cuba with some friends. For some reason, she was dragging her feet in 2017. And despite my pestering to get her to choose a location, she didn’t. I knew Vanessa had never been to South America and for some reason, Colombia kept surfacing in several conversations at work. One evening, I lied in bed looking at flights to Colombia. The prices looked decent and it seemed like a great winter location. Disapproving of my flight search, Vanessa took over because she thought she could find better (cheaper) flights. She actually did! So there we were, going to sleep with two newly purchased plane tickets that would take us to Cartagena with one-day layover in Bogota going and two in Medellin coming back. However, the week before Vanessa and I were due to leave for Colombia, I had already spoken to her sister so she can arrange for her mom and I to meet Friday morning. Her sister already knew why I wanted to meet with her mother. But her mom did not know why I wanted to meet with her. I mostly work from home on Fridays so after Vdot left for work, I dressed and went over to her mother’s home. I sat in front of both of them and told them my intentions and plans for Vanessa during our vacation. And in order to go through with my plans, I needed her blessing. Her mom gave me her blessing and with that, I had officially ticked the two boxes Vanessa required for a proposal to take place.
The day before our flight (the next Friday), I went to Brooklyn to pick up the ring. I was one of only four customers at the jewelry store. Two of the customers were a married couple. When they heard I was there to pick up an engagement ring, the wife congratulated me. As I waited for the jewelers to pack up the ring and set up final paperwork from the appraisers, I walked up to the couple who earlier told me they got engaged on a cruise and I asked, how did the husband carry around the ring and was he nervous? The wife gave me the full story and it wasn’t smooth at all. I told them I was nervous about carrying the ring around and my worst fear was somehow the ring being exposed even at the airport before I could board the plane and needing to kneel right there and propose at the airport. The husband asked me what airport I was flying from. JFK. What airline? Avianca. He said, “Terminal 4.” I shrugged. He reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. He proceeded to give me a card and told me to call him when I arrive. He’ll get me through TSA quick. His card read John, head of TSA security. It’s only because I am writing this that it sounds like a story, but when this happened, I could not believe it was happening. The gravity of what I was about to do really set in after leaving the jewelry store with this diamond declaration. It was beautiful.
The box? It was just a box. I needed something more special. And thank goodness, a week and a half earlier, I put a plan in place to ensure I had that more special box. I wanted a box in the shape of Earth. Because what better way to signify us coming together than the fact we met via Australia but while both living in NY and we were about to get engaged in Colombia only to come to the conclusion we would get married in Thailand. That’s 4 continents for those counting. I couldn’t find anything that suited my needs. I asked a colleague at work if he had any ideas. It took him 1.5 seconds to say 3D printing. After a very quick google search, he found exactly what I needed. A 3D printing of planet Earth with raised geological structures. I couldn’t have dreamed up this creation any better. The design was copy written. So I had to write the designer to ask for permission to use his design for an engagement box. He blessed me. I then went on to Etsy and found a small company in Virginia who specialized in 3D printing and hand-painting of custom engagement boxes. In particular, they specialized in swivel openings which I thought was a much nicer approach than a hinge which would sacrifice the integrity of the structure. It took coaxing to expedite the creation and shipping of this box, but somehow some way, the box arrived Friday, the day before we left. So what does that mean? Friday morning, I picked up the ring and by the time I got home, the ring box was sitting with the guard downstairs. First big hurdle crossed!
The next morning, Vanessa and I arrived at the airport a little late. We had to get on a line that would get you on the line to get to the agent. It looked as if it could take us about an hour to check in. I texted John. He replied with where are you? I told him and he responded with ‘Copy.’ Look for a gentleman who looks like this coming your way (he described the gentleman). My phone rang and as I answered, I could see the person who was calling me. He turned off his phone and walked to the beginning of the line before the line. “Mr. Adams, come with me!” To all on the line headed to Colombia, it very much appeared like I was being arrested. Instead…
Vanessa and I were taken off that line and then asked to follow the gentleman to the business class line which had one person on it. We were next and checked in within 5 mins. We continued to follow the gentleman to the TSA line. It was also crowded. He began lifting up the stretch barriers and asked us to follow him. One barrier. Two barriers. Three barriers. And we were next up with the TSA agent checking passports. He wished us a safe flight and walked off. Vanessa’s jaw was on the floor. After we were through TSA, I had to make up a story about how I met that person. I’ll just leave it there. We boarded our flight and spent a lovely day in Bogota. The next day we flew to Cartagena. The weather and the location was beautiful. But my nerves only allowed me to see partial beauty. Looking to propose at a destination lacks space for proper planning. I did not know how or where this proposal would take place. Because I did not have any idea, I needed to carry the ring on my person at most times.
February 20th began as a beautiful day. It was in fact our first full day in Cartagena. We spent much of the day walking around and touring the Old City. Vanessa made dinner plans at one of the nicer restaurants in the area. Surely, a restaurant would be a great place to propose! Earlier that day, we visited a museum dedicated to the Spanish Inquisition. One of the exhibits inside the museum consisted of a huge piece of paper with a plane drawn on it. The plane said “Colombia” and there were writing instruments near the paper for visitors to sign the paper. Vanessa promptly signed with, Vanessa Loves Jaramogi, February 20th. I quickly took a picture! This had to be the day, I told myself. I would bookend this moment in time with a proposal. We arrived to the restaurant and issue after issue began to arise. The struggles hit a crescendo when the meal Vanessa had her eye on was sold out! Nothing about the mood she was in thereafter suggested a proposal was the way to go. Ring still in pocket, we went home. The next day, we awoke early to spend a day out on a remote island in the Caribbean Sea. We jumped on a speed boat that proceeded to take roughly 1 hour to reach an island off the coast of Cartagena.
So here we were on a beach off the coast of the South American continent with beautiful weather and warm waters all around us. It could not get more perfect. After wading out into the ocean and soaking in the moment, I could tell that Vanessa was in a great mood, playful and splashing the water. We were separated from the larger group on the island. But from where we were, a few young girls came over to the beach and began what appeared to be an Instagram campaign. We decided to move. But before entering the water, we took our Fitbits off and placed them on a tree branch on the beach. I told Vanessa we should go grab the Fitbits before we move further into the water. She splashed me in the face with water and said, “I’m not going anywhere, you go get them!” She stayed in the water laughing at me with a huge smile on her face and began to walk across to another section of the beach while I walked back to the sand. I grabbed our Fitbits to take them to my book bag. Could this moment be any better? My mind said “NO!”
It was in that moment that I decided this was it! I stuffed the Fitbits in my book bag and grabbed the wedding ring box. I cupped my hand to hide the box and avoid her seeing it until I could reach her in the ocean which was about 100 feet in. As I began walking toward her, I heard, “What is that in your hand?” She is so damn nosy!!! I mumbled something to her, a trick I learned from Joe Richburg who said sometimes if you just mumble, people will hear what they want to hear. As I got closer, she asked what I had in my hand. Now keep in mind, I worked on a whole speech that was now ruined, because 5 paces in, she saw something in my hand. The element of surprise was lost because the only thing in the ocean other than people were bathing suits. So to bring what appeared to be a blue box out to Vdot seemed odd. But luckily…my ring box didn’t look like a ring box!
I looked at her and had just enough time to say the following: “You know I always tell you that I want to give you the World and everything in it. But for now, I hope you can settle for THIS world…and everything in it.
“When the planet Earth box swiveled open, it revealed an engagement ring. The water was so shallow that I was able to get down on one knee and it only reached the base of my shoulders. Before I could say any words, tears came down her face. She waited for me to ask her to marry me. She then said yes and immediately kissed me. I was trembling and very nervous putting the ring on her finger. She was scared it might fall in the water so she quickly assisted me on putting it on.
After that I was the most relieved and pleased man in the world. I had just asked the love of my life to marry me and she said “YES!” We celebrated with champagne and a lovely lunch shortly after. That evening we strolled through the streets of the Walled City, ate a fabulous 10-course dinner, and embraced my fiance many many times!
The next day we met up with a friend of Vanessa, Dafina Good, who happened to also be visiting Colombia during her South American birthday extravaganza. We headed to convent of La Candelaria, located on top of the La Popa hill. There, the best views of Cartagena can be seen so we took advantage and snapped a couple of pictures.
Next is everything that led to our wedding day. Continue enjoying our love and life journeys!