An Australian woman has revealed the heartwarming story of marrying the Balinese waiter she met as a teenager – and how they’ve defied the odds and made their long distance relationship flourish.
Rhiannon Sumawa, from Sydney, said her ‘fairy tale’ started while visiting the Indonesian island in 2014, shortly after graduating high school.
Ms Sumawa, now 23, and her family were watching the sun set and having drinks at Frank’s Bar at Legian Beach in 2015 when a local waiter caught her eye.
‘I said to mum and dad while pumping myself up, ”I’m just going to walk on to the beach and hug him”,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
‘Then I walked on to the beach and saw him, but I put my head down and said ”hi” and then sat down at the table because I was so nervous’.
Over the next few days, Mr Sumawa, then 22, struck up a few conversations with Ms Sumawa, who was 19 at the time.
Sydneysider Rhiannon Sumawa’s ‘fairy tale’ started while on holidays with her parents in 2014, when she met waiter Wayan Sumawa
Wayan taught Rhiannon to surf and how to barter with locals, and the pair spent their nights partying, clubbing and dining out
‘Our trip came to an end and little 19 year old me assumed I’d never see him again,’ she said.
But the following year in August, Ms Sumawa and her family were headed back to Bali for their annual holiday.
‘To my surprise I found Wayan again down at Frank’s bar,’ she said.
The pair exchanged Facebook details and throughout the next year and into 2016, the budding couple kept in touch.
‘He would randomly message me asking how we all were and when I was returning to Bali,’ she said.
In August 2016, Ms Sumawa sent a message, telling him she would be returning to Bali.
But after touching down and going straight to his bar, Ms Sumawa was disappointed to find he wasn’t there.
‘I messaged him saying I had gone to the bar and he wasn’t there,’ she said.
‘He replied letting me know he was in the village and would come back to Legian in a few days. The cheeky boy decided to surprise me and come back that night.’
The pair exchanged Facebook details and throughout the next year and into 2016 the budding couple kept in touch
The couple drove three hours away to Wayan’s village in Karangasem, in Bali’s east, so she could meet his family for the first time
Ms Sumawa and her new Balinese beau spent the next three weeks travelling around the island.
Mr Sumawa got to know his girlfriend’s family and joined them on day trips and dinners.
He taught her to surf and how to barter with locals, and the pair spent their nights partying, clubbing and dining out.
‘At the end of the three weeks, I brought him a small present to thank him for all the memories and for everything he had done,’ she said.
Once again, Ms Sumawa’s whirlwind romance came to an end when it was time to head back to Australia.
‘Wayan told me that he would call me everyday, to stay positive and things would be okay,’ she said.
‘Let’s be honest, I really only thought he’d call me for a few months then he’d stop.’
Ms Sumawa cried the whole way from the beach to the airport, fearful she might never get to see him again.
While apart, the couple spoke for hours on the phone everyday
Mr Sumawa was approved for his three-month tourist visa and accompanied his new fiance back to Australia – his first time on anplane
‘How were we going to make it work? We were just to young kids in our 20s going to give long distance a shot?’, she said.
Ms Sumawa was pleasantly surprised when Mr Sumawa called her within hours of touching back down in Sydney.
‘We spoke for hours and hours. This went on for six months everyday without fail, FaceTimes, phone calls, messages, photos, Facebook tags, everything,’ she said.
In March 2017 Ms Sumawa was off to Bali again.
‘It was time to tell if the six months apart and talking everyday we’re going to match up with the feelings when we saw each other again,’ she said.
‘The six hour plane ride was full of me saying to my mum, dad and friend ‘what if he doesn’t feel the same way anymore when he sees me? What if I don’t feel the same way in real life?’
But Ms Sumawa’s trepidation went away as soon as she saw Mr Sumawa waiting in the airport for her holding flowers and presents.
‘I instantly fell back in love with him all over again,’ she said.
In May 2017, Ms Sumawa ventured back to Bali for the first time without her family.
The couple spent 10 ‘magical’ days together. They drove three hours away to his village in Karangasem, in Bali’s east, so Ms Sumawa could meet his family for the first time.
Ms Sumawa taught her new husband the ropes of life in Australia and adjusting to a new culture
Ms Sumawa showed her new husband the ropes of life in Australia and adjusting to a new culture
But before long it was time for Ms Sumawa to make the heartbreaking journey back to Australia.
‘Going through the airport alone was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Not because I was scared, but that trip made me realise how much I meant to Wayan and It sucked he couldn’t be here with me,’ she said.
A few months later Ms Sumawa and her family returned to Bali for three-and-a-half weeks.
This time the couple’s two families met in Mr Sumawa’s village, where Ms Sumawa said they were welcomed with open arms, despite speaking limited English.
In November 2017, Ms Sumawa went back to the Indonesian island, but to a life-changing surprise.
‘Wayan had planned with my hotel and proposed to me with flowers on the bed,’ she said.
‘I was blown away with how much effort he had gone to, especially with it being more of a ”western” thing.’
Mr Sumawa was approved for his three-month tourist visa and accompanied his new fiancee back to Australia – his first time on an aeroplane.
The couple recently celebrated their one-year wedding anniversary after tying the knot in a traditional wedding ceremony in Bali last September.
A year on, the couple are happily living together in Sydney and no longer worry about the next time they are going to see each other.
But Ms Sumawa said their new lives together haven’t been without hurdles.
In November 2017, Mr Sumawa planned with the hotel and proposed
The couple recently celebrated their one-year wedding anniversary after tying the knot in a traditional wedding ceremony in Bali last September
The newlyweds have overcome many cultural differences and have been dealt their fair share of scepticism.
‘(Some people say) how he’s ”using me for a visa” and ”once it’s approved he will leave you” or ”he’s probably married and has a family in the village”,’ she said.
The couple also face criticism from Balinese locals.
‘We get stared at when in Bali as to who pays for the meals. People nudge each other as we walk by. All because I’m married to a ”local”,’ she said.
Ms Sumawa said moving in together full-time also took some getting used to.
‘(It’s so) different going from spending three weeks maximum with each other to now spending every day and night together,’ she said.
Ms Sumawa showed her new husband the ropes of life in Australia and adjusting to a new culture.
She taught Mr Sumawa how to drive so he could pass his motorcycle Learners test.
Mr Sumawa is in Australia on a partner visa, and now works at Sydney Airport preparing plane meals.
The newlyweds aren’t rushing to have children, despite Ms Sumawa saying that by Indonesian standards they are already ‘late’ to start a family.
‘Wayan is 26 and in Balinese culture that is very late to have kids! Where in Australia 26 is classed ”too young”,’ she said.
A year after marrying, the couple are happily living together in Sydney