SINGAPORE - When the Covid-19 pandemic struck and international borders closed, American Scott Bustabad was separated from his girlfriend Khoo Su Rei, and remained so for almost two years - until Thursday (Oct 28).
After flying in from Los Angeles on a vaccinated travel lane flight between the United States and Singapore and landing on Thursday morning, Mr Bustabad surprised his girlfriend of 4½ years with a marriage proposal at the OCBC Skyway in Gardens by the Bay.
She said yes. The 26-year-old told The Straits Times after the proposal that she was still in shock as Mr Bustabad had initially told her his passport had expired and he was planning to visit only at the end of the year.
He had planned the surprise with Ms Khoo's friend - who told her that the walkway would be closed to the public as she had booked it for a photo shoot.
He then emerged from one of the walkway's side entrances and got down on one knee to propose, with Ms Khoo letting out an audible gasp and exclaiming: "Oh my gosh!"
While the proposal was a surprise, the couple's reunion has been a long time coming. They first met when Ms Khoo, an account manager who is originally from Malaysia, was at university in the US. They began a relationship when she left the US to return to Malaysia in 2017.
She then moved to Singapore to live and work, and the two continued to see each other, flying back and forth until the borders closed.
They had been hopeful for a resumption of travel with the US since Singapore and Germany opened a similar lane on Sept 8.
Mr Bustabad, 34, an atomic physicist, said: "When we heard the travel lane with Germany had opened up, I started checking the news every morning when I woke up and every night before I went to sleep to see if a lane opened, and I was actually considering flying to Germany first."
He chose the Gardens by the Bay as the proposal location because the couple had been there together in 2017 when he had come to visit and she said it was one of her favourite places in Singapore.
For the couple, the reunion also means the end of a lengthy and difficult period of an enforced long-distance relationship.
Ms Khoo said: "I haven't seen him in 22 months and it's been really rough, so to see him all of a sudden out of nowhere and with a ring - it's a lot."