Mangshan: a mystical journey – Part 2

There are very few days in life for which you wait a lifetime for and for which you wish would last a lifetime. This was one of those days. Today I planned to propose to Bella, the woman I loved. Even though we had been together for less than a year, I knew that she was the woman God intended for me. She had been my hiking partner, my sous chef, and my confidante. Now I desired for her to be my wife.

That morning I took out a game called Bananagrams, which is like a less constrained version of Scrabble. As I looked for the words, “Will you marry me?”, I began to feel nervous. This wasn’t just a plan anymore. This was reality. This was the woman I wanted to be with for the rest of my life. My brain must have short-circuited because I struggled finding basic letters like “W” and “M.” I’m not sure what Bella would say if I asked her, “_ill you _arry me?” And so I continued the search for the elusive letters.

Breakfast was a well-stocked buffet with all sorts of Chinese food, ranging from pickled vegetables and raw cabbage to fried noodles and garlic-topped eggplant. After a full meal, we trudged outside into the gray, cloudy skies and brisk air of Mangshan. Our first stop today was Tiantai Peak, a 1700m peak, known for its heavenly view.

After purchasing the tickets, we waited for the bus driver to take us up to the base of the peak in his forest green bus. While we waited, we prayed together for my sister’s newly-born baby and for God’s blessing in our relationship. It felt natural praying together with Bella as it always did.

Finally the bus driver was ready to leave. As he drove along the mountain valley, the clouds began to descend closer to us until we were wrapped inside a misty vapor. There was little to see as the bus driver slowly began taking switchbacks that curved ever upward to the peak.

I assumed it would be a cloudy day, but I had hoped not to propose to Bella inside a cloud. Then we’d probably get lost together and somehow manage to fall off a precipice, hand-in-hand. That seemed less romantic to me.

As the bus grindingly continued its upward push, suddenly we pushed through the fog, and we were nearly blinded by the sun’s rays and clear blue sky. Beneath the mountain peaks were a rolling sea of clouds that seemed to flow endlessly in all directions. We genuinely had arrived at a heavenly place.

I felt that this must be the place to propose to my beloved. But there was one slight problem – people. We weren’t the only ones who had come to enjoy this beautiful sight. And clearly there were more coming to hike the trail.

Soon we began the climb up the mountain steps. Most famous mountains in China have stone steps carved into them from the base to the peak, and Tiantai was no exception. We had expected cloudy skies and cool air. Needless to say, we began to sweat under the sun’s glare.

As we neared the peak, I tried to encourage Bella to keep going. We were nearly there. I heard a boy counting the steps. He had already counted to “700,” which was disheartening. After one last push, we made it to the top of Tiantai.

There were several people enjoying the view of the sea of clouds and a fairly stomach-churning precipice that dropped off to our right for hundreds of meters. I noticed a narrow set of steps that dropped down into the precipice. Perhaps that could be the spot for a proposal. It did seem a bit precarious though.

Bella and I savored the view from the peak and then began to walk back down the trail. I began searching for the connecting trail to those narrow steps and found it behind a walled-off section of the trail. There was no sign that said the path was forbidden, but it was clearly blocked.

I tried to convince Bella to hop the fence with me, but she felt it was illegal. And she reasoned if we did it, then others would follow our bad example. I couldn’t deny her logic, but I wasn’t ready to give this up yet. Finally we had found a trail with no people. This had to be the place.

I tried to convince her that it would be an interesting trail to try. There didn’t seem to be any danger. And besides, I wanted to find a quieter place away from the people. Finally she gave in, and we hopped the fence after ensuring that no other hikers saw our lawless act.

We quickly walked down the trail until we were under a tree-canopied section of the trail. My heart was starting to beat faster, and my mind was starting to lose focus. If I didn’t have the courage to propose now, I didn’t know when I would.

We sat under the trees, and I asked Bella if she wanted to play a game of Bananagrams. She agreed, and I asked her to enjoy the view as I frantically tried to find the words, “Will you marry me?” In my haste that morning, I had taken out an “M” instead of a “W.” As I sifted through the letters of the alphabet, it seemed like the “W” would never appear.

Would she still marry me if I didn’t have the “W?” Could I possibly propose with an “M” that pretended to be a “W?” Did it really matter if there was no “W?”

After an eternity, I found the “W.” I spelled out the words “Will you marry me?” and asked Bella to turn around. Then I pulled out the ring from my pocket, got down on my knees, and completely forgot the carefully prepared speech I had developed in my mind.

I remember saying something about loving her, wanting to marry her, and asking her the most important question, “Would she marry me?” She started crying before I could get out some tears myself. I knew they were happy tears, but I was still waiting to hear the “Yes.” I held her close as she continued to cry and then she whispered “Yes” and started to laugh.

I laughed with her too. I held her close. And I kissed her.

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