From China to Oz : reflecting on 2016

As I woke up this morning to another new year, I did so with both sadness and excitement; 2016 had been another one to remember.
Once again I begin the long month of January with no regrets of what I did or didn’t do, and feel genuinely happy with my achievements over the past 365 days. What a lovely morning feeling!
As I sit down and write this (what has become a yearly) blog and reminisce over my experiences, travels and new encounters, I’ve decided to sum it up a little differently. What will follow will be a series of photographs, but instead of focusing on all of the places I have been this year, I want to focus more on the people I met and spent time with. After all, I feel 2016 was heavily based around people in many ways; their lifestyles, ideas and my reaction/relation to them. I’ve learnt a lot about others and subsequently a lot about myself. This is certainly personal growth that I intend on taking deeply into 2017 and it has helped sparked some exciting ideas for the upcoming year – ideas that I will hopefully be summing up on the 1st January 2018, so watch this space!

 

What better way to kick start than by mentioning my wonderful mum. Of course everyone’s mum is special and I happily fit the cliche when I say mine is the best any daughter could ask for. We had a special two weeks put aside in February when Joy came to China. Of course we saw the sights; the Great Wall, the Terracotta Warriors, Beijing etc, but it wasn’t just about that. This trip allowed us to bond over incredible things, including the Chinese culture and generous people we met along the way. Our unique experiences are memories we can share for a lifetime, and I was honoured to share my temporary life in China with her. Thanks mum.

Chejiapu Great Wall during Chinese New Year

 

This is a good story. These two indulged my curiosity one afternoon and dragged me on to the dance floor.. of the local park. We couldn’t understand each other’s language, aside from that of hip shaking, but it didn’t matter. Thanks to them I found the courage and ability to drop all inhibitions several times after this day. It resulted in numerous afternoons dancing with strangers and feelings of euphoria that is hard to describe. Thanks, to the care-free spirits of China’s parks.

Changping park

 

This year I surprised people for the first time ever, and it resulted in the best welcome I have ever received. It never would have happened had I not missed out on something equally as amazing, and completely reassured me that it  – whatever it may be – really is what you make it. This picture makes me smile for two reasons; I look genuinely happy, and it holds in it some truly dear people. Some were with me from the start of my China adventure, one I met because of them and the other quickly became one of those eye-opener influences. Thanks guys, for constantly reminding me what truly matters.

A weekend in Dalian

 

This picture represents so much of my time in China. And I don’t mean getting drunk! The guy I cut off (purposefully because he’s shy) was my closest friend in Beijing, and this is how we spent most of our free time; eating. I’d gawp in amazement as he conversed in Chinese, I’d sit back and observe those around me and almost pop from eating too much fresh food. These moments of immersing with the locals and enjoying good chat are very dear to me. Thank you C, for always being passionate and inspiring.

Local Chinese dishes

 

By far some of the best people I spent time with in 2016 were the First Leap kids. It was them that gave me the confidence to teach English and realise I am actually quite good at it. They tested me in many ways. I learnt how to deal with shy kids, angry kids, sad kids and cheeky, lovable butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-your-mouth kids. They reminded me what it is to be a child, and because I discovered this love for children, I soon became happy and driven in my job. Thanks to the parents for trusting me, and to my colleagues for their continued patience throughout the year.

Saying goodbye is always hard

 

When I travelled to the Kham Tibetan region of China alone, I was a little apprehensive. Sure, I’d lived in China almost a year with little knowledge of Mandarin, but this was different. Here tourism wasn’t a huge thing. But in reality, my experience was so much more vibrant because of it. Locals approached me constantly with warm smiles. The standard Buddhist life carried on untouched. Nothing was for show. Not only that but I met other foreign travellers that held the same values and passions as myself. How thankful I am that my planned WorkAway placement fell through.

Kangding

 

How I ended up in the house of two beautiful Buddhist nuns still stuns me. There is a bigger story to tell here, but I will save that for another time. Once again, the language barrier prevented little more than simple offerings and giggling over who knows what. We stepped in to the lives of secret people and were saved from a downpour. Thanks to these two, I’m pretty sure my phone survived the next downpour. I’m being a bit cryptic here, but let’s just say I’ve come to understand Karma somewhat since this day.

Tagong

 

Having said goodbye to China, I arrived in Australia where I was met by long lost family. These two welcomed me with open arms, having met me once when I was just 9 years old. Their naturally laid-back demeanour and happy-go-lucky attitude had me wanting to stay forever. Thank you E+J for showing me a slice of Sydney not many get to see. Oh and for the comfiest bed I’d slept on in the past 14 months!

Sydney Harbour Bridge

 

The couple that led me to come face-to-face with these beauties were amazing. As a keen diver, coming across a professional and personalised company such as Wolf Rock Dive Centre was unparalleled. I’ve no doubt that my feeling of peace and calm at 30 metres was thanks to them. Diving with sharks has been a dream of mine for a long time, and I’m so thankful that it was everything I could have hoped for. It is one of those life experiences that will be hard to top.

Grey Nurse Sharks

 

This is me and my Francais friend. He started out as a hitch-hiker and soon became an integral part of our 3 week road trip up the coast of Australia. We shared many things together, including a three day hike on Fraser island. There were lakes, forests, abandoned campsites and many km’s covered. I’m thankful that I met someone who once again shared my interests, some of which I had not indulged in for many months.

Campsite night 1

 

Turning up in time for an unknown 3 day music festival was great; meeting Mel was even better. It wasn’t until I was amongst it all that I realised I’d been missing two things; live music and proper girl time. I properly tuned in to my naughty side by sweet-talking a discounted wrist band, sneaking in to venues for free and partying all night long. There was dancing, flirting, (too much) drinking and new friendships made. Thanks for reminding me what it is to be young, single and care-free, Airlie beach!

Dancing the night away

 

This lady became my good friend in weird circumstances, and after an absence of 4 years, she invited me to her wedding in Australia. And what a stunning wedding it was. Not only did it spark the road trip idea, but this precious day introduced me to yet more new friends and helped me find closure for old ones. I’m not sure she is even aware that it is her that finally got me to this beautiful country. Thanks Vic, for reminding me that it is all too easy to say ‘one day..’ and allow desires to slip away.

Newell beach QLD

 

So there we have it, another year all done and dusted. As I walk away from 2016 and into 2017, my head is held high with fresh ideas and positivity. No one really knows what the year will bring but if there is one thing I do know; I’m ready to say yes more!

 

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