Continental divide is no barrier to true love
Although they were in the same class at a local primary school, Flora Ngai and Percy Leung's childhood memories of each other grew blurry over the years. Much later, living on different continents, their budding romance was ignited thanks to broadband internet.
Former public relations manager Flora and property tax specialist Percy, both 25, wed on July 16 at Sydney's St Paul's Anglican Church, followed by a reception to celebrate with friends and relatives.
There was no puppy love for the pair at primary school, after which they parted ways - Flora went to study in Britain and Percy left for Australia. They reconnected in 2003 through the Xanga blogging community, of which many of their classmates were members.
Both struggled to adapt to living and studying alone overseas, and they started chatting online despite a 10-hour time difference. This went on for years.
It was not until one Christmas, when Flora received a gift from Australia sent by Percy, that she started suspecting that he wanted to be more than just friends.
'The gift was a jewellery box. On top of it were two penguin figurines sharing one scarf,' Flora said. But the distance seemed too great for them to hit it off with just the internet for communication.
In 2005, when Flora finished her studies in Britain, she gained a place at a college back in Hong Kong. Percy returned for a Christmas holiday and suggested they meet up. For the first time in years, they saw each other face to face. Percy barely recognised Flora, and their feelings for each other suddenly went beyond just friendship.
'Even though we'd never spent much time together, it felt like he knew everything about me,' Flora said.
Percy gave her a 2,000-piece jigsaw puzzle for Christmas before leaving for a holiday with his family. Left with just the jigsaw pieces, Flora couldn't stop thinking about Percy. She missed him dearly but didn't know it was part of Percy's plan.
'It turned out he asked me out on a second date, saying he'd forgotten to give me the frame for the puzzle,' Flora recalled. On their second date, Flora and Percy kissed for the first time.
They only spent two months together before Percy went back to Sydney, and the long distance was difficult for the young lovers. 'We both cried when we had to part. It was torture to have this kind of roller-coaster relationship - one moment you were on cloud nine and the next thing you knew, you were in sad mode,' Flora said.
But they didn't give up. Flora worked in part-time jobs while at college to earn enough money to visit Percy twice a year, and the rest of the time they kept in touch through webcam and by phone.
'A long-distance relationship is already very fragile and I wanted to minimise the damage,' she said. 'I chose to trust him. There was no point not to, because we started off as a long-distance couple.'
Last October, Percy made a surprise appearance at Flora's birthday party. He waited, with flowers, outside the restaurant where Flora was celebrating.
'I don't know why, but I had a feeling he was going to propose,' Flora said. 'Because many years ago, I'd told him my birthday in 2010 would be a great date to get engaged [her birthday is October 10, which made an auspicious 10-10-10].'
Flora didn't get exactly what she wanted. Percy asked Flora's parents for their blessing before popping the question two days before he flew back to Australia. They had a candlelit dinner in a Central restaurant then went for a stroll. Percy got down on one knee in front of Jardine House and asked Flora to marry him. Flora said yes, and in June decided to move to Sydney to be with Percy.
Thinking back, Flora now appreciates the long-distance dating experience. 'It's funny that all the time we are together we argue. But I think it's good for us to understand our differences. After all, I will be living with all the good and not so good things about him,' she said.