It’s hard to believe that I’ve got just nine days left in Australia. That’s three days before Fallon and I jet off for New Zealand and Fiji this Friday, and then six more between when I touch down on January 14th and when I head out to Busan on January 20th. It’s all come along pretty quickly, and I’ve found myself frantically rushing to get everything done on time.
Tomorrow I’ll pick up the last of my documentation for the Korean E-2 visa and post them off via express courier to my future employer and then report in for the second last day of work at Salmat. I’ve had a really wonderful experience working there since May, and it will be sad to say goodbye to all of the familiar faces and good friends I’ve made there.
After work it’s off to have a farewell drink or three with my good friend Dave, who’ll be overseas when I return in January. Thursday night sees me having farewell drinks with work-mates, and then Friday has me hitting the doctor for one last check-up and to have a year’s prescription set up for me.
With so little time left, I’ve been packing all night long. I’ve got a big pack set for New Zealand and Fiji, and a lot of my Korean packing is ready to go. It’s about the most organized I think I’ve ever been.
With things moving so fast it’s perhaps easy for me to forget about what I’m leaving behind, but as the night cools down and I settle in after some sweat inducing sorting and packing – I’ve got a little time to reflect on what it is I’ll miss most as I head out until at least January 2012.
#10 – Multicultural Food
While I’m a big fan of Korean food and have no qualms about subsisting almost entirely on it for the majority of 2011 – there’s something to be said for the broad variety of food available all over Australia. Whether it’s delicious authentic Thai (Thai restaurants are a dime a dozen in nearby Crow’s Nest), spicy Indian, exotic Malaysian, or a greasy Turkish kebab – you’re spoiled for choice in multicultural Australia. It’s true that Korea has a growing variety of foods – with Indian, pizza, and generic Western cuisine gaining ground on the market, but it often requires a special trip rather than a short walk from the front door.
After a few months of post bar twigim or a toastie from Isaac as a hangover remedy – I know I’ll be pleading for a good old fashioned meat pie or a potentially stomach churning kebab being bought from a dodgy looking guy on a darkened street corner.
#9 – The Laid Back Attitude
The phrase “No Worries” really does a lot to sum up the general mindset you’ll find in Australia. While it’s true you’ve got your occasional racist bogans and angry old people, the prevailing attitude in the country I call home is a friendly one. It might not be as evident in crowded Sydney – but having just returned from a few days out ‘in the sticks’, I was reminded how common a friendly smile and a good natured ‘G’day’ will come your way from a complete stranger.
There’s definitely laid back people and friendly people abroad, and I’ll mention the things I won’t miss in another post – but there’s a lot to love about the attitude of ‘She’ll be right’ when it comes to Australia.
#8 – The Beach
Granted, I’ve not seen beaches from every country on earth – but as far as sheer quantity of quality beaches, Australia has got to be right up there as one of the best beach nations in the world. From the idyllic stretches of the NSW south coast to the glamorous, club studded strips along the Gold Coast to the hidden gems like Nelson Point’s stunning One Mile Beach – you’re just spoiled for choice when it comes to sun and surf in Australia.
Every time I am away from Australia I vow to spend more time on the beach when I get back, and every time I leave I realize I’ve not made good on that promise. But there’s a lot to be loved about white sandy beaches, big breakers to play in, and bikini clad beauties – and you’ll be hard pressed to find that combination anywhere else in the world without a dozen resorts perched atop it.
#7 – The View on the Harbour Bridge
Ever since I started work in May I’ve had to ride across the Harbour Bridge twice a day as I made my way to and from work. You’d think that in that time I might have grown tired of the stunning view the trip affords. On the way into town it’s the glittering blue water, the gleaming white of the Opera House, and the view of what I believe is Australia’s most beautiful city – and at night it’s the sparkling skyline and the gaudy beauty of Luna Park.
There’ll be other views, but the one I saw twice a day, five days a week is one I’ll never fail to appreciate.
#6 – Sports on TV
While I’ve cooled a bit on my sports as travel, work, and the real world have become a bigger part of my life – I still find time to occasionally sit down with a beer in hand to watch a game of NRL or A-League. And while I’ve never been an avid fan of the cricket, there’s still something distinctly Australian summer about having test cricket on in the background regardless of what you’re doing. From the passion of 4am World Cup viewing to the over the top saturation we get whenever the Commonwealth Games roll around – Aussies love their sport on TV and as a result there is plenty of it.
Obviously all countries have their sports and their TV coverage, but it’s a hard task to find coverage for the Australian sports while abroad. Sites like Justin TV and Bet 365 do offer some respite, but it’s not quite the same as being able to come home after a tough day at work and cheer yourself hoarse as your side does battle with a rival on the TV.
#5 – Australian Beer
Australia’s beer culture might lean heavily towards lagers; but Tooheys, VB; and XXXX are hardly the be all and end all of Australian beers. And don’t even mention that Foster’s shit.
With a growing microbrewery culture and a swathe of established boutique brewers, there’s a lot of hidden gems in the Australian beer drinking diet. Sydney alone boasts a variety of fantastic pubs that promote locally brewed beers. These include the Lord Nelson and my favourite Sydney haunt – Hart’s Pub. For a good wheat beer you can try Redback or Beez Neez, and then there’s a healthy selection of dark beers out there.
Avoid the temptation to join Australia’s yuppie demographic by shelling out for Crownies or the cliched Corona, and instead take a chance on one of the lesser known yeasty delights. A good Lord Nelson Three Sheets, 4 Pines Heff, or Little Creatures is a fine ending to any hot summer day – and a vast improvement on the Cass, OB, and Hite I’ll be subsisting on in 2011.
#4 – Sandwiches
Korea doesn’t do bread. Not right, anyway. While it is possible to track down a good loaf of bread, the vast majority are too sweet for a good sandwich. Then there’s the utter lack of good lunch meats and the difficulty you’ll find in searching for appropriate condiments. It all adds up to making the humble sandwich the kind of treat you can only really afford when your bank account is full and you’ve got time to burn. It may have changed, but when I was last in Korea the sole Subway and Quizno stores were in Seoul – and the only places selling sandwiches were convenience stores and bakeries who felt uniting seafood extender and pickles was the height of culinary brilliance.
To be honest, while I’ll miss a good sandwich, it’s not the end of the world. There’ll be plenty of delicious galbi, saliva inducing bibimbap, and the secret shame of Paris Baguette croquettes and ‘ham croissants’ that look more like hot dogs wrapped in flaky pastry. I’ll get by.
#3 – My iPhone
It shames me to admit that I’ve become one of those people – but my iPhone has basically become an extension of myself. I check Facebook and Twitter from it at work; I listen to music on it on the train; I play games during my breaks; use it to track my runs on Run Keeper; keep a task list on Epic Win; track my calories on My Fitness Pal; search eBay; and text friends and family. Basically, I live on the damned thing.
Korea does have iPhones obviously – but to get one I’d either need to take my current one over and pay the 300,000 won to have it ‘approved’ before inserting a Korean sim (while still paying the $70 monthly fee back in Australia for the rest of the year), or I’d need to convince a Korean friend to sign up for the phone on a two year plan for me in their name. Neither is easy and neither is cheap. Alas, it looks like my humble bumble bee themed iPhone will be remaining behind when I jet off in January. Sad face.
#2 – My Friends
It’s true that I’ll be reuniting with old friends in Korea and making dozens more, but it’s never easy to say goodbye to people you care about. When I jet out in January I’ll be saying goodbye to friends I’ve had since high school and friends I’ve made this year alike. Drinking buddies, work commiserators, D&D players, text friends, and good mates alike will all be left behind. They’ll obviously still be here when I come back, but I’ll miss the post work drinks and the junk food fueled D&D sessions at Dave’s place. I’ll miss the oddly themed house parties and the random journeys with Fallon.
That’s a goodbye I’ll have to make just a tad earlier, and something I think I’ll always associate with Australia. I might have met Fallon in Korea and she may well be American, but this past year living in Australia with her is probably the most ‘connected’ I’ve been to Australia in my life. Rather than being shut up in my room playing computer games and watching TV – I’ve been out experiencing it. I’ve been eating at new restaurants and trying new beers. I’ve seen new sights and met new people, and a good part of that has been with Fallon’s encouragement.
But whether it’s been Toni’s gossip at work, David’s crazy themed parties, or just a casual beer with Grant on the balcony after a rough week at work – 2010 has been by far the best year I’ve ever had on Australian soil.
#1 – My Family
It’s the obvious answer, but I wouldn’t be the person I am without my wonderfully supportive family. My father is a good natured larrikin with a good sense of humour and more heart than he is probably willing to admit, and my mother and I share a closeness that I am so grateful for. I’m not a momma’s boy by any stretch, but I’m comfortable telling my mother most anything, and she’s always been there with a little extra money or some words of encouragement when they’ve been needed. She’s talked me through break-ups and talked my Dad into splashing a bit of cash on a trip for me on more than one occasion.
At the end of high school in 2001 I remember convincing them both to fund a one week trip to Coffs Harbour with a few of my friends as an alternative to the popular Schoolies festivities. I had to argue long and hard, and finally used the line ‘If I’m ever going to be a writer, I need life experience. Just think of this as an investment in my future’. My Dad didn’t buy it, but my Mum burst out laughing and the decision was made. I spent a very drunk and very fun week in Coffs Harbour that taught me quite a bit about life after high school.
My sister Heather and her husband David are cute together and always there for me as well. I like to think it goes both ways. When my sister and her husband were having a rough time in Korea, I took them away for a weekend on Bigeumdo and helped them plan their midnight run when things got to the point that they couldn’t stay any longer. Heather and I were close as kids and have drifted since, but she’s always been like a big sister to me despite being sixteen months my junior.
My brothers, Dominik and Leigh, are some of my best mates. Whether we’re watching a movie, playing WoW, or training for soccer or cricket together – we just have a good dynamic. I’m so excited to be introducing them to world travel when they accompany me to Fiji in January, and I’m hoping to lure one or both of them over to South Korea sometime next year to show them my adopted home.
And last, but certainly not least, is my little brother Izaak. He’s not so little now at eleven years old, but I saw him born and I’ve seen him grow up into a bright and curious kid. He idolizes me in a way that can get frustrating sometime, but never stops being flattering. It’s always hard to say goodbye to him and tussle his curly blonde hair one last time, but I know there’ll be plenty of Skype dates and plenty of webcam chats in 2011 to ensure I don’t miss out on his last year of primary school.
I’ve already said my goodbyes to Heather and David and I’ll be seeing Dom and Leigh in Fiji, but hopefully I’ll be seeing my folks and Izaak in January before I fly out. It wouldn’t be a departure from Australian shores without them there.
So there you have it, my top ten things I’ll miss most when it comes time to board that plane to Incheon International Airport in January of next year. I sent off the last of my visa paperwork today, so it’s only a matter of time before I have my visa in hand and my ticket ready to go.
Watch this space for a post about the Top 10 Things I Won’t Miss About Australia in the near future.