2016 may not have ended how I expected and it was not without it's challenges, but it was a darn good year. Time to reflect on the moments that made 2016 the year it was. In chronological order, let's go.
1. Spending 3 weeks at home after 14 months abroad, January 17th
Reconnecting and spending time with family and friends who I love and missed very much. From Ottawa, Toronto, to my old university stomping grounds in Peterborough.
2. My Dad visiting Korea, February 8th
Showing the life I created for myself and the quirks of the country I fell in love with was incredibly special. The food, my neighbourhood, favourite coffee shops, my friends. I know he fell in love with it all, too.
3. Visiting Japan and Falling in Love with Kyoto, February 22nd
I had been told that I was going to love Osaka from my friends who had visited Japan. But it was Kyoto that stole my heart. Biking along it's canals and old streets covered in willow trees, vising it's ancient shrines, feasting on sushi and ramen, singing kareoke until the AM, geisha sightings, shisha bars galore.
4. Jindo Sea Parting Festival, April 9th
Great friends, the magical/mysterious/hilarious legend of the sea parting, delicious international food fair (shawarma, hello), thigh-high rubber boots, watching Korean's dig in the middle of the sea parting searching for sea creatures to take home and eat.
5. Yeongam Cherry Blossom Festival, April 10th
An unexpected adventure, finding our own private creek away from the actual festival, having a silly photoshoot, watching "Dudung Sound"- a music group of 5 middle school aged boys perform live.
6. Seoul Pride, June 12th
An inspiring and emotional day filled with love despite the many protests and police surrounding the event. Participating in the actual parade and witnessing all the support from the outside: the people in the 2nd floor cafe above street level holding signs of love and peace in the window, the girls on the sidelines making heart shapes with their hands. Witnessing how still very taboo and sensitive this topic is in Korea.
7. Boryeong Mud Festival, July 23
A long bus ride with great company from Gwangju to Boryeong. Lathering up in the mud, having mud baths, wading in mud pools, watching mud wrestling, swimming in the ocean in an attempt to remove all the mud. Music, concert, good vibes (and soju).
8. Participating in the Jeollanamdo Provincial English Camp, August 4th
6 days 5 nights of living in university dorms, eating cafeteria food, and teaching 8 classes a day. Creating new friendships and deepening existing ones, my amazing class of 10 students for the week (The Crazy Watermelons, they so named themselves), the end of the week Talent Show- performing Happy by Pharrell.
9. Finally visiting Jeju Island, September 12th
Biking around U-do, climbing Sanbang mountain, carefully trekking along the wet rocks on Yongmeori coast, getting lost on the Olle trails, feasting on Black Pork BBQ (a Jeju specialty), watching the mermaids of Jeju dive for food, swimming in Donnaeko watering hole, making new friends.
8. The streets and food of Hanoi, Vietnam, November 2nd
The lively energy of the streets, delicious street food and the questionable alleyways leading to them. The hole in the wall restaurants, egg coffee, bun cha, and the quaint restaurant where we spent two nights in a row on the patio; overlooking the big rustic church in the Old Quarter square. The insane amount of motorbikes which required us to play real life Frogger while crossing the street, a skill mastered by the end of our time in Hanoi.
9. Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam, November 5th
2 days, 13 kilometres, 12 initial strangers that left as friends: 5 Dutch, 4 Canadian, 2 French, 1 Brazilian. Staying with a Vietnamese family in their home at the base of the mountains, eating a home cooked dinner which included buffalo stomach, taking shots of homemade alcohol that was served to us from a plastic Nestle water bottle, learning Vietnamese cheers, homemade pancakes and instant coffee for breakfast.
10. 18 Hours in Kuala Lumpur, November 12th
Taking public transit from the airport into the city, treating myself to the swanky Aloft Hotel which included a rooftop bar and infinity pool, eating Nasi Lamak (a traditional Malaysian dish) twice in 6 hours, taking the LightRail to the Petronas Towers, and of course a selfie with those bold twin beauties.
11. Hanging out in Manly, Australia, November 13th
Tearing up at the sight of the Opera House and Syndey Harbour Bridge from the plane in the night sky, embracing the local vibe of foodie and health culture, green juices and smoothies on every corner, acai bowls galore, reconnecting with a friend I haven't seen in over two years, trivia night at the New Brighton Hotel, $3 tacos, Manly to Spit walk, renting bikes to North Head.
12. Spending Christmas and the Holiday Season at Home, December 13th
And just like that, we've come full circle. Happy to be spending the holiday season with family and friends for the first time in two years.
2016 was quite the year, and as I continue to reflect upon it, I realize that there is still so much more I want to write about. Some of the funniest moments, most embarrassing moments, worst travel moments (aka losing my wallet in Japan), and personal highlights.
What 2017 will bring is still a mystery, but maybe as I reflect on 2016 it will bring me closer to what I want to achieve in 2017.
Until next time,