Well here were are, over 30% of the way through 2020 and I’m still trying to summarize 2019. I was an absolute blur of a year full of changes and confusions; maybe I’m still trying to wrap my head around everything that happened.
If you are generous enough to follow along, you’ll remember the absolute shitshow we experienced in Bali when our AirBnB caught on the fire in the middle of the night back in February 2019. I laugh when I recount the story now; I think it’s the only way I can move past the sheer terror of how close we all came to biting the dust. If you missed the tale, you can read my last post on this blog and catch up here.
A few days following our returning to Hong Kong after that nightmare trip, Braden and I sat down at our favourite pizza restaurant down the street from where we live and strategised how we would follow up with the AirBnB owners regarding compensation for our Bali stay gone bad. The restaurant, Motorino, was running a promotion for guests to win a trip to Italy. I just knew that we were due a good turn in our fortune. Sure enough, a few weeks later I was notified that I had one a trip for two to Naples, Italy to eat pizza. Score! (More on that later…!)
March took me to Australia for work, and I was able to add on a quick side trip to Adelaide to visit a friend. She and her husband live on the most picturesque and idyllic property, where we literally had koalas visiting in the backyard. I was treated to a topnotch tour, including a visit to the zoo, a wine tour, and fabulous meals. You’ll never hear me complain about going to Australia for work!
In April we attended the much anticipated wedding of Braden’s brother to his beautiful bride in Penang, Malaysia. In addition to the gorgeous wedding at the stunning Blue Mansion, we did some (very sweaty) exploring of the area – so much fun! We especially enjoyed our day adventuring around Penang Hill.
If Australia wasn’t enough of a treat in March, I got the opportunity to go on a business trip to New Zealand in May! I tacked on an extra day on the weekend before work started and did some exploring. Transitioning from the hot Hong Kong to New Zealand winter was a welcome change for me, and of course I adored the lush greenery and friendly people. New Zealand reminds me a lot of the Pacific Northwest and made me feel very homesick.
In addition to feeling homesick I was also feeling morning sickness…! I don’t recommend travelling to one of the most incredible wine regions in the world while trying to hide an early pregnancy. Braden I were incredibly excited to be adding to our little family and for Campbell to finally become a big brother!
Springtime brought us some of the most impactful activity we had see during our time in Hong Kong. I won’t get into the political nuances or my opinions on the matter, but the protest activity in Hong Kong escalated quickly and significantly impacted our year. Living in Wan Chai we had a front row seat to the action, and often found ourselves marching in the crowds just to get home. What started as peaceful mass gatherings quickly took a turn, and we often had violence, including tear gas and petrol bombs being thrown, on the street directly below where we live. The upheaval to both our work and personal lives became increasingly disruptive and chaotic. As the protest activity intensified and morphed we could see and feel the life we had come to know in Hong Kong shift.
June found us taking a much-needed break from the protest action as we escaped to Thailand to celebrate Braden’s big FOUR-OH! We love the laid back pace in Thailand and this trip was no exception. We spent our days at the beach and the pool completely relaxed and loved every minute of it.
As the summer arrived, Braden and I realized more and more that a change in living situation was increasingly important for us. Immobilized most weekends due to protest activity in Wan Chai, a new baby arriving in early 2020, and my office relocating to Kwun Tong in January 2020 as well, we started to explore our options. We spent many weekends viewing apartments in the New Territories (an area we fondly consider as the “suburbs” of Hong Kong) and narrowed our search so we would be ready to make an offer when the time was right.
In August an itch to get out of Hong Kong combined with work that needed to get done on our air conditioning units created the perfect excuse for us to spend some time with Braden’s brother and sister-in-law in Kuala Lumpur. We packed up and moved in with them for a few days, enjoying their pool, monkey-inhabited backyard, and several pets. We had a blast, and returned home to Hong Kong as the Hong Kong Airport was occupied by protesters. It was truly one of the most visceral feelings I had experienced in the months of protests, surrounded by bodies and chants, it was incredibly overwhelming.
Despite the uncertainty with the protests in Hong Kong, my parents still flew through Hong Kong as part of a bigger travel itinerary and were with us to help celebrate Campbell turning THREE! I don’t know where the time has gone, but our sweet boy is very clear when he tells us he’s a BIG BOY.
Taking advantage of quick gaps of quieter time at work and a few strategically timed public holidays at the end of September, Braden and I escaped together – just the two of us – for our trip to Italy that I won back in February. As it turns out, it’s the perfect time to visit Italy. We expanded on the prize, which was flights in and out of Naples, plus three nights there to explore and eat pizza, and instead flew in and out of Rome, rented a car, and saw quite a bit more. The insane privilege wasn’t lost on us and we soaked in every child-free moment (while talking about Campbell constantly). His only request: please bring him back pecorino cheese. How could we not?
We ADORED Rome, and this 28 weeks pregnant Mama’s feet have never been so tired as we each wore out a pair of shoes walking through the city. We drove south to Naples, escaped to Capri, and drove from Sorrento south to experience the Amalfi Coast. It was divine.
We returned to Hong Kong and, feeling our timeline closing in around us, we became more and more anxious to find a place to move and formalize dates and plans. Our patience paid off, and the PERFECT place came along. We were shown a unit in a building we hadn’t previously toured and fell in love. We decided to make an offer (to rent) the next day, and also found out…huge bonus…that in addition to the beautiful apartment, we had access to a private rooftop patio, a rarity in Hong Kong. And so we negotiated terms, found movers, and coordinated the move for mid-November. I must admit, the hardest part of the entire process was saying goodbye to the mural I poured my heart and soul into for Campbell (read about that here) in our Wan Chai apartment, which you can tour here.
Ironically, our hopes of distancing ourselves from the nucleus of protests were dashed when, the day before we moved to Tseung Kwan O, the first death attributed to the protests occurred about a block from our new apartment. This lead to more disruptions to the street and MTR system right in our new neighbourhood. In fact, our offices closed for several days due to the massive disruption to the city that started near us and soon spread to consume many areas of the city.
Days after moving out of Wan Chai and into our new place, we traveled back to Vancouver. You wouldn’t normally find us back in Vancouver in November; we are convinced that it is the worst time of year to visit the Pacific Northwest, not to mention flying 14 hours at 34 weeks pregnant! But we couldn’t miss Braden’s sister’s wedding, and we were graced with incredible weather too!
We landed back in Hong Kong with just enough time for me to wrap up the last couple weeks of work before beginning my maternity leave. The timing worked out perfectly, and my last day in the office was Christmas Eve. My parents arrived on Christmas morning to celebrate the holiday and we began the countdown to our new baby’s arrival!
You might have noticed that I didn’t mention Braden’s travel in my post above. If I had, it would have demanded an account every two or three weeks. He wracked up an incredible number of flights throughout Asia and back and forth to London…63 flights this year! It’s an insane amount of travel, time away, (not to mention the carbon footprint!) but it’s the nature of his work, so we’ve all adapted to the ebb and flow of his routine and make it work.
At the close of 2019, we rung in the New Year with a couple good friends while my parents stayed home with our darling boy. I hoped we could avoid a New Years baby (and did!) and easily the craziest year of my life came to a close. If only we’d known what 2020 had in store…