Advent is almost over, Christmas is nearly here! That means our year of wandering is nearly over so it seems timely to have a look back at the year. Warning: I will be doing more look backs!
The four weeks of Advent each have a theme so that is how this blog will go. It was actually very hard to choose for some sections as there was so much choice!
Hope: we have been in some places this year that have really challenged us and it is in these very places that we saw signs of hope. The students we taught in Ranong. All the children of Burmese migrants living in Thailand have a tough life but for many the schooling they receive shows them that they can have a better life, steady employment and a more secure future.
Nancy is a young teacher at the school and takes such pride in her work and she shows such care for her young students. Nancy hopes to travel one day and asked so many questions about the world around her.
Fr Frank Bird sm is the reason we came to Ranong, we (along with half of Auckland) were very sad to see him leave New Zealand but seeing him in Ranong you know he is in the right place, he has such a sense of hope about the work he is doing and the difference the Marists are making to these families.
Syrian refugees have been prominent in the news this year. While we were in Germany this year staying with friends we saw a number of Syrian refugees. In a town near to where our friends live is a refugee camp which in September had twice as many people as it was designed to hold. Many of these people were out and about walking in family groups and with friends. Almost without exception they had smiles on their faces ‘we have made it, we are safe, there is hope’. Sorry no photos here.
Peace: Sadly when I spent time thinking about this blog peace was the element I found the hardest, however two came to mind.
Touzac: this was where we had our first workaway, it is in the Lot region in the South-West of France. Touzac is a small village in a largely rural area, the River Lot ran through the back of the property we worked on, the roads were narrow and windy and the pace of life a little slower. After our time in Asia and a quick trip in the south of England this place and its people were very peaceful.
Fr Pat Devlin sm: I first met Fr Pat in New Zealand and then again in Ranong, currently we are staying with him and his community in Davao in the Philippines. Fr Pat with his quick wit and keen sense of humour has taught us to slow down, enjoy the moment and to learn to wait ( and we have done a lot of that this year!).
Joy: We have had so many joyful experiences this year and met some truly joyful and joy-filled people.
We experienced joy meeting with some of our New Zealand friends as we travelled, Caroline on the Isle of Wight, Tamsin near Bristol, Caroline and Suzie in Barcelona, June in Rome, Pat and Robin in Canada, Ann and Phil in London, Steph in London, Fran and Gary in Paris, Sanet and Pete in Andover, Judy and Derek in Verona, Cathy and Roland in Seville and Philomena in Ireland. Definitely eased the ‘homesickness’ to see our friends!
Rob and Stephanie: on our trip in Vietnam we met some great Kiwis who we hope to see again. Two of them were Rob and Stephanie. Our first night on a boat in Halong Bay was Stephanie’s birthday and it was also the day Rob asked Stephanie to marry him. What a joyful day!
After three months in Asia and three months of rice and chilli every day and sometimes 2 0r 3 times a day, it was truly amazing to arrive at our relatives, Roy and Sue, in Eastbourne England to a shepherds pie. Never has mince and mashed potato tasted so good! One of my most memorable meals this year.
Sr Josephine: a young rmdm (Our Lady of the Mission) sister from Myanmar taught in the Marist Mission in Ranong, she was also our neighbour. Sr Josephine is such a happy person, she loves her vocation and spreads joy wherever she goes.
Gillian at Bijou Wine: I met Gillian at one of the Christmas events I was at in Scotland. Gillian has traded in her corporate life to run her own business selling lovely wines and food, a travelling wine bar with a difference. Its not an easy life but one that she is loving, what an inspiring person!
Love: We have met so much love as we travel, people in love with life, couples who love each other, families who share their love willingly.
Carolynn and Geoffrey: Mike and I both have elderly parents, we were resigned to the fact that we stood a good chance of loosing one of them during this year. What we weren’t expecting was to loose a friend. Carolynn and Geoffrey would have celebrated 31 years of marriage in January. Sadly this year Geoffrey was diagnosed with cancer and with alarming speed his condition worsened and he died just a few weeks ago. This couple were a real team, supporting each other, sharing each others successes and raising three great children. Theirs is a really great love story.
Sian and Jean-Pierre: our first workaway hosts, both in their 60s with five adult children. The love between these couple was very real and we will not forget our stay with them.
Alexandra and David: our last workaway hosts, well actually we stayed with them twice. A couple who have taken on the herculean task of running a Scottish estate.
Sr Margaret rndm: Sr Margaret works with the health team at the Marist Mission in Ranong visiting people who are HIV+. She treats each patient she sees as a member of her own family, she treats them with love and respect.
Mary and Joseph: a young couple who are Burmese refugees running a school in the Cameron Highlands. They treat each child like they are their own, in fact one young boy aged 13 has been abandoned by his parents and Joseph and Mary have applied to have legal guardianship of him.
There are so many other stories we could tell, you will just have to wait for another blog!
We wish you a peaceful, joy-filled and loving Christmas filled with hope.