There are some experiences in life that leave an indelible print. Something so extraordinary that words will never convey how you felt and what you saw.
In a year of extraordinary experiences, walking the Great Wall of China over two days, in glorious sunshine and not another person in sight, was that highlight for us.
It’s almost hard to fathom that this time last year – as we were preparing to head to Bali for Christmas – we were still to learn of our move to South Korea.
What a difference a year makes.
In the spirit of the twelve days of Christmas, here are our twelve highlights of 2014:
- Somehow, we managed to travel to eight countries in ten months. We journeyed to Bali, Vietnam (to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary), South Korea (obviously), Japan, Macao, Hong Kong, China and back to Australia in between. Hands down, Vietnam, Hong Kong and China were the highlights of our travels this year.
- The amazing expat community on this gorgeous island home. It’s an interesting human experiment to observe – a group of people from all over the world, all working towards one common goal and all on an even playing field. It’s rather telling how these factors immediately remove any hint of conflict and instead, builds a cohesive, cooperative and generous community spirit.
- Learning to drive and navigate life where English is not spoken. Obviously, when you know you simply have to get on with life with these challenges, you do it. Charades is a daily activity to communicate, and driving is probably closer to the chaos in Bali, than the regulations of home. That said, we did finish the year by obtaining our official Korean driver’s licenses – valid for ten years! I can distil down to only a handful of things I miss about Australia (aside from family and friends of course); Lenard’s chicken, Baker’s Delight, self-raising flour, dry shampoo, magazines and Bunnings. Yep, that’s it. Rob would say he misses only two things. Hank, the boat. And fishing.
- Baseball. We’ve never experienced anything like it. We want more in 2015.
- Seoul. What a city. A cross between Hong Kong and New York is probably the best way to describe it. It’s easy to navigate, beautiful and packed with great shopping, bars, restaurants and things to do. It’s a city very well geared for the expat – it’s Asian, but with a Western sensibility.
- Visitors. This year, we had Jan and Paul (my aunt and uncle), Brian (Rob’s best mate from Perth) visit, and for Christmas, we have Danielle, my girlfriend from Perth, joining us for ten days. It’s wonderful to allow others to experience life here as a local rather than a tourist.
- Work. Rob essentially works on a giant meccano set. The size and scale is astounding. There are more Australian oil and gas projects under construction here than at any other time in history. Rob gets to travel a great deal to other locations and did a week in Batam, Indonesia in August. I’m extremely lucky in that I work one or two days a week for Harrier Human Capital (a Perth Human Resources consultancy), writing thought leadership papers and managing their social media channels. I’ve never been happier in what I do.
- Snow. Purely magical. We had no idea that snow would transform the lush green landscape of summer to a picture worthy of postcards. And….. there is the snowboarding.
- The mystery vibration. Within two weeks of moving into our new apartment, we returned home one Saturday to a message on our door. Being in Korean, Rob took a copy into work on Monday to ask one of the office girls to translate. Going beet red, the girl explained that our neighbours were complaining about a loud vibrating noise coming from our bedroom. This resulted in many people trekking through our home – including the complaining neighbours – to identify the issue. Whilst I’m pleased to report that the air conditioner is the culprit, Rob is now known as Jackhammer on the island .
- Technology. It never ceases to amaze me how we can be living in another country, yet be watching Australian TV (thanks to a Slingbox installed in our home in Australia transmitting to us here), accessing all US shows via Netflix and Hulu Plus, or listening to Perth radio whilst driving in our car (thanks to blue tooth technology and a nifty phone app that allows us to access any radio station in the world and sync it with our car radio). With Viber, Messenger and Facebook, it’s also very easy to stay in touch with friends and family. I’m sure our experience of living here would be infinitely less enjoyable without it all.
- Earth to table produce. Where we would do a shop once a week in Australia, we now tend to shop two to three days a week. The wet markets in both Okpo and Geoyhan, our two major towns, offer the opportunity to buy seafood, herbs, fruit and vegetables fresh each day, and usually direct from the ocean or earth that morning.
- Christmas. Those that know us, know that we’re not huge on Christmas. Apparently, moving to the northern hemisphere immediately cures you of this lazy approach to the festive season. There is tinsel and gifts in the Elliott household as far as the eye can see!
I always said that if I ever took time off from work, I would write, take photos and learn French. This year, saw me do all three. I completed a course in journalism and wrote almost daily, bought a good camera and took great pleasure in experimenting, and just this week started my conversational French class. Now…..if we could just slot exercise into our regime.
It’s been an amazing year for us and we’re extremely grateful.
We wish our family and friends a wonderful festive season and a new year full of good health and times. And a reminder that we are always keen to hear news from home.
Jody and Rob xx