Rina and Scott

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How We Met

We met when we were 19, as freshmen at the University of California, San Diego. He and I were both collegiate athletes, so I knew of him. He was a stellar athlete, always featured in the school’s posters and handbooks. We talked, even hung out a few times in big groups. But we were just acquaintances. We always had our own separate lives.

Our love story didn’t start until years later, when we reconnected (not-so-romantically) via facebook.

Him – Hey! Do you remember me?

Me – (Ignore)

Him – Weeks later: Hey, remember me?

Me – (Ignore)

Him – Weeks later: How are you?

Finally, I said. Yes, I remember you… and the rest is history.

Picture – Tokyo, Japan — December, 2011

how they asked


There’s a bit of a “back story” to “our story”… but here it is:

My boyfriend and I are long distance. We have been for most of our almost six year long relationship. Outside from flying to see each other one weekend a month, we like to plan longer vacations to spend precious time together. This year’s destination was Hawaii. As we started planning, I told him, I just want to do three things: See turtles, see waterfalls, and chill. He agreed.

We did plenty of research before the trip, but as we checked into our Maui condo, we decided to ask our concierge for his recommendations too. After all, locals know best, right? He was so sweet, welcomed us with Aloha, and treated us with the utmost respect. Except one thing — his two recommendations for turtles were total fails. I’m sure they are usually great locations for turtle spotting. But for the times we showed up, the turtles were nowhere to be found. So instead, we went to the beach just outside our condo in Kihei, and chilled.

The second day, we did the “Road to Hana” in our rental car. The dozen beautiful waterfalls, outlooks, and beaches were absolutely worth the 2 hour windy road trip. In just two days out of our 5-day Maui trip, we checked off two out of my three “things to do” check list!

After spending time on the beach the third day, my boyfriend told us he was able to get a reservation for Mama’s Fish House. He told me to dress nicely, because it was a fancy place. I him asked, “Hawaii fancy? or Fancy fancy?” He said something in between. Minutes later, I walked into the living space in my muumuu dress. He looked at me with a surprised face and said “No, something nicer!” Mind you, my boyfriend isn’t a fashionista by any means. He has never, ever said anything about what I wear, let alone, semi-criticize it. So I got a little offended in a funny way. I immediately pulled out my phone, and looked up Mama’s Fish House. On the front page, it says Trip Advisor’s “Top 10 Fine Dining Restaurants in the US”. Oh man. This was for real. I pulled out my nicest pretty shirt in my suite case and I paired it with simple shorts. I walked up to him in this outfit. By this time, he had done his hair, and was wearing a really nice shirt and khaki pants. Was this a red carpet event or something? He just looked at me, and again, in that odd tone, “Shorts?” I told him I had nothing nicer. He said, “That’s okay. It’s nice.” I was confused.

On our way to Mama’s, he says he just got a text from a mutual friend about a fool-proof turtle watching spot. She had been to Maui a few years back for her honeymoon, and came back with incredible stories and photos of these magnificent creatures. I was so excited. Can you tell… I’m kind of obsessed about turtles at this point?

He says we have an extra hour so he drove us on a little detour to Makena Beach. It was beautiful. Every few minutes, he’s checking his phone, giving me instructions on exactly where to go. “She says it’s over here,” “It’s right over the lava rocks,” “She says it’s a little further,” he says, as he holds my hand. We enter a small cove area. There is a homeless man, just sitting down by himself on the beach, and staring into the sunset. I also see another young man standing in the shade, who looks at me, and runs inside a back gate of a very luxurious looking home. I look at the gates and they all say something like “Posted. No trespassing.” Then it hits me. Oh my God. This is a private cove, owned by these three swanky home owners. We are totally trespassing, and that guy just ran inside to go call the cops on us and this homeless man.

At this point, I was thinking, I came all the way out here, climbed over lava rocks to see turtles. But then again, I don’t want to spend my vacation in jail. I start freaking out. At the same time, I am looking for turtles. Intently. With laser focus. I am seeing nothing. Not in the ocean, not near the lava rocks. None. Then out of nowhere, my boyfriend says “So we’ve been together for almost six years…” I say, “I know… Wait, do turtles only come here every six years? Did we miss them? Maybe they laid their eggs here. Oh my God, am I stepping on the eggs?” I start jumping up and down, like a crazy person.

He yanks my hand and says, “Forget about the freaking turtles for one second!” I freeze. I am confused. I thought that’s what we came here for. He takes a deep breath, and starts over. No segue. “So we’ve been together for almost six years…” I finally get out of turtle-mode… and shut up.

I don’t even remember what he said. Something about the “wind beneath my sails.” All I know is that I was crying. Ugly crying. Snot-down-my-neck, ugly crying. He got down on one knee, and he put the most perfect ring on my finger. At that moment, my boyfriend became my fiance.

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Then he tells me to turn to my left. There she was. Chantelle and her fancy camera. She walks over to us with a pair of leis. And a wad of tissues (thank goodness). She captured the whole thing. I was shocked.

My boyfriend… errr now fiance… He planned all of this? I could not believe it. For the next 45 minutes, she expertly showed us around, snapping beautiful pictures of us and the Maui sunset. The poses didn’t make sense to me at the time. I even got a little embarrassed. But it was so fun. Chantelle made us feel comfortable.

In the end, we didn’t see any turtles in the cove. But I got engaged to a man who promised he would be my best friend forever. I realized that the young man who scurried into the gate earlier was not there to call the cops on us for trespassing. That was all just in my head. Plus, at the end, the homeless man (still) staring into the sunset, congratulated us!

As we left the beach in a hurry, we drove to the other side of the island to Mama’s Fish House. We ate the most amazing assortment of fresh food. As the meal was wrapping up, we ordered the Maui banana macadamia nut crisp. The crumble. The texture. The sweetness. It was delectable. On top of the huge mound of vanilla ice cream, there was even a cookie, in the shape of… a turtle.

I was one giddy girl at the end of the day.

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Special Thanks

 | Photographer