Years ago I learned about the tradition of Epiphany in southern France and Spain and how it is considered the last day of Christmas. Is this where “the twelve days of Christmas” come from? Anyway, ever since I have used this date as the absolute deadline to send Christmas/New Year’s greetings. With little over 2 hours to go I barely make that extended deadline.
One thing I learned about myself: I am not a blogger. My last blog actually dates back to mid-2012, so that point in proven. Unfortunately this may have left some people out of the loop, which I was embarrassed to find out a few days ago when someone send me a Happy New Year-email, thinking I was still in a time-zone ahead of him. If I have to come up with a valid excuse for not updating the blog, I would have to say that it was that we had become so accustomed to the lifestyle in New Caledonia. Or better, it had become our life-style; not much surprised us anymore and hence was not worthwhile writing about. Unless it was in the form of a one-liner of Facebook. So for all of you that do not have a Facebook account shared with me, my apologies for ignoring you.
Obviously the holidays are behind us and tomorrow life is back to normal with work and school. But while they were going on I became a bit sentimental as I always do and I reflect on the year passed. 2013 may well have been one of the most eventful years I have ever lived. Not to be beaten by the year in which I got married to my beautiful and wonderful wife, nor any of the years that our children were born, but still one that I will remember fondly for a long time if not ever.
Before the year had even started Nathalie and I had already decided to make good use of our time in New Caledonia to visit different parts of the island as well as some other countries in the area. Our sights were set on New Zealand, so far away from Canada and The Netherlands, yet only 2,5 hours by plane for New Caledonia. But before going there Nathalie and the kids escaped the summer heat to experience some real Canadian winter again. The four of them flew all the way back to Timmins to spend more than 4 weeks with grandpapa and grandmaman, snow and a freezing cold! Temperatures went well below -40ºC, so they got what they bargained for.
In the mean time I stayed behind alone in New Caledonia. Not that I was alone a lot, because our many friends kept me socially active (with a special thank-you to Aude and her Thursday night dinners). And for this first time since getting my PADI license (in 1998!), I went scuba-diving again. What a treat! No wonder the lagoon around the island is a World Heritage site. Highlight was definitely encountering a shark at maybe 2 meters away (and equal in length).
With all the free time on my hands during the weekends and my 40th birthday approaching, I finally got to do what I have been wanting to do for at least 10 years: I rebuild all my childhood Lego (and all of Matthé’s new Lego while I was at it). Just to give you an idea of the scale of this task, it took me a good part of a week to just sort out all the different pieces and the full 4 weeks to complete everything. And this is the result:
(Matthé makes much better still-movies that I do)
Just after all the Lego was done it was time to pack up and travel to Auckland to meet up with Nath, Matthé, Mireille and Éloïse, for our long-anticipated trip around the North Island of New Zealand. We had rented a camper and traveled to all the tourist sites and spend some extra time at some wonderful beaches we found. The weather was perfect pretty much the whole time and we enjoyed every minute of the trip.
Before I continue about some more travel stories, I’ll just repeat that our life had become pretty much routine after more than 2 years in New Caledonia. Between work, school, children’s activities and a social life we had our days filled and life was good. Occasionally we would go out with a gang of friends to camp in another area of the island and these would always make for great outings (and great photos).
As the months progressed, we came closer and closer to the end of my assignment in New Caledonia. In May we were informed that my next job would be in Timmins again, which meant that we would have the grandparents nearby again, but also that we would have to say good-bye to our life and friends in New Caledonia. So with the little time remaining, we did one more outing as a family and went to visit Vanuatu. If you don’t know where it is, just look it up. Those of you that have spoken to us after trip have heard about it (in too much detail), so let me just say that it was an absolutely wonderful trip to a country full of surprises and nothing like we have ever experienced before.
Then July came and it was really time to close up shop. Two other befriended families were leaving on the same weekend as us, so we threw a big farewell party for all our friends which was everything I had hoped for. Shortly after the movers came, our belongings went in a sea container and our life moved back to Canada.
Coming back to Timmins was pretty easy, since we know the place well. So we immediately focused on finding ourselves a new house. This proved to be a bit more difficult than expected, although in great part due to our pickiness. We were happy when we finally found one and very disappointed after the deal fell through during the very last minutes. Everyone said that this would be for a good reason, which turned out to be true because we found another house soon after and we actually liked it much better. Done deal! Now we just had to wait for our sea container to arrive so we could move in!
In the meantime Nathalie had taken up her old job at the hearing clinic again and the kids had started going to the school that Matthé first went to before we moved overseas. We all picked up some after-school and after-work activities and our new routine was established pretty quickly.
Not even a week after we moved into our new house we had our first visitors: opa and oma came to help up get settled in and spend time with the grandkids of course. They were a great help and did loads of work inside the house. By the time they returned to The Netherlands we were pretty much all unpacked and our house was now our home!
And this brings me already towards the end of the year. I could have written a lot more, but I tend to bore people with my details, so I am glad you made it all the way to this part of the blog. Let me just finish with a bit of weather talk. Perhaps I have forgotten while away from Canada, but it seems to me that winter has come very early this year and that it is a lot colder than I have ever seen since moving to Canada. Perhaps this is my punishment for gloating about the climate in New Caledonia for 3 years. Or perhaps I am just not used to it anymore.
Anyway, we are in the dead of winter now, but from the comfort of inside our warm house we wish you a very Happy New Year and hope that your year will be bring you what you need and deserve.
Gertjan, Nathalie, Matthé, Mireille & Éloïse