Monday, November 09, 2009

Tokyo here we are

Tokyo tower from our hotel room window

We have 2 hours between flights on the way home from Japan. Now in Seoul Airport. I thought I had better update the blog before we arrive back in Australia tomorrow.
90 mins it took to drive by bus from the Airport into Tokyo City. We realised what a huge place it was. The road network looked so complex even though they were driving on the left hand side of the road. The expressway is about 8-10 stories high sometimes it was 4 or so levels of intertwining roads. Glad he was driving not us. Our first impression was of nothing that showed we were in Japan. It was all buildings and more skyscrapers than we had ever seen. We passed over many canals and over a lot of bridges. It strikes us that it is so pristine and clean. Can't see any people though..where are they all? We find out later where they all are. Our plug to convert the power was the incorrect one so just on dark we set out to find one. What we didn't know was they were sending us to Electric City..the one you see in the books and on TV. We actually managed to find our way around the VERY complicated metro system. As we got on the train we found out where all the people are. Thousands and thousands of business men and women ..mostly men with their laptops, mobile phones and suits live in the underground. A lot of them live 90 mins by train and commute 6-7 days a week. They work long hours as each time we caught the train even quite late at night the stations are still packed..extraordinary. To get on the train you basically backed in and stood cheek to cheek or back to back with total strangers. I don't think they would have a chance to stop H1N1 from spreading even though a lot of people were wearing face masks. It was exhilarating to say the least to get to our station and home again without getting lost once. In the subway it is like watching ants moving around an ant nest, everyone going in all directions with occasional people stopping to talk, all this without bumping into each other and all going about their own business. More about the subways later. Don't attempt it unless one or both of you can think laterally. The minute we stepped on to the platform we realised what a crazy place Tokyo is. It is definitely alive and kicking. So exciting. Electric City is floors and floors of electrical and electronic equipment of all the brands you could imagine in dozens of buidlings all out yelling each other with their specials lights flashing neon blinking everwhere. It was gob smackingly awesome . We actually found the plug as well.
Our accomodation was right next to Tokyo Tower so upon returning we went up to see the enormity of Tokyo and were not disappointed. Our Japanese is nearly non existent so ordering food is fun. Twice we have ordered from the pictures on the English menu and twice we got what we think was liver and tripe. Never mind the experience of eating at little hole in the wall places is fantastic. Their local beer is great also. Moving from our accom next day was very easy thanks to Kosei as he gave us great directions. It was great idea to move because Tokyo is so huge that each area is very different.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Final Goodbyes to South Korea and to friends

We really loved our stay in Andong but decided to leave a day early to catch up with the newly weds Yonghee and Kosei. The autumn colurs even more vivid now from the train window.Yonghee called us and offered her families home for the night.They live in a beautiful apartment fairly new and in an area very close to the city centre. We enjoyed our first Korean BBQ with them in a tent on the street. As you enter the tent inside are lots of tables . Each has a charcoal heated centre with a sparkling clean grill on top. The tables are full of business men in suits , very noisy and bustly. Fantastic atmosphere. The meat is cut into small portions and placed on the round grillplate to cook very quickly. We are supplied with a variety of sauces , vegetables and salad items such as lettuce and of course seaweed wrappers. As the food is cooked you wrap the meat in the lettuce along with the other items and eat . So yum. We also tried our first Korean spirits we liked that as well. It is an experience one would not want to miss if visiting Korea.Just remember to look inside those red tents.Every meal we have we are learning to eat new foods and of course how to eat them. Thanks to friends like Yonghee and kosei.It was so cold that night it was minus 1 so to warm us up we decided to brave the night and visit the Seoul Tower at 10 pm.It was freezing but so worth it as it was very clear. The walk down the mountain all the way to their home was fantastic especially after all that food.
The next day was a treat also experiencing shopping in Lotte dept store, eating great food in the basement my last Bibimbap and last meal with our hosts and experiencing the Fountain Bridge which has the Guiness Book Of Record for the longest fountain from a bridge.With regrets we leave them though knowing we will see them again in July next year when they come back To Adelaide to study.We also wish them well in their new venture importing , selling and promoting 'soap nuts' for bettering the environment.
At night we had our final meal in Korea with Hwang, Joanne , John and Dana..Shon's cousins at a very different Korean BBQ where we had our first meal on floor mats knee held up thank goodness. We were hosted in their home also. They live in an apartment on the 14th floor so it was fantastic to see how they live as a family.We experienced the Korean Wii as well so it was a fun night with the kids.What a wonderful family they are . Thankyou to them for looking after us so well in Korea and giving up their time and taking vacation time.We really appreciate it.Thankyou to Hwang for taking us to the airport vey early as well.
Anyone comtemplating travelling to an Asian destination may I suggest you look in to Korea. It is easy to travel, is inexpensive, safe and is a very peaceful country.We loved it and the food was such a surprise.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Andong and its culture

A short 2 hour hop by train to Andong was divine . The autumn colours were well and truly turned now with some of the most photographic scenery. We hopped on the local bus as soon as we arrived to go out to Hahoe Village. Once a week they have the masked dance and comedic opera at 3 pm.We hoped we would make it but found out on arrival that it started at 2pm. Never mind that we travelled half way around the world to see it..only joking.To our surprise it was still going so we saw a snippet of the show.Very colourful and very funny if the laughter emitting from the crowd was anything to go by. Of course it was in Korean but the actions speak louder than words. It was a dreamy warm Autumn day wandering around a living and working folk village.Their homes are situated around a very old tree in the centre of their village. Some of the buildings were thatched immaculately and were from mud brick construction.The others were roofed with the traditional pottery type roofing one would expect to see with curved edges.The flowers around the place were lovely as were the veggie gardens. We were able to peek into a few homes and how they lived as they had set aside a few for the tourists to see. It is a very popular place for Koreann tourists but they are very respectful. It was very quiet and serene. Very impressive place with an insight into what Korea was like in times long gone. No hooha either. Got to love this country. The 24km trip cost a total of $10.60 including admission. Korea is very inexpensive to travel , to eat, to sleep and to visit their important sites. Love it

Sadness and Tears

We left Pohang with so many emotions and our ' picnic' packed by Shon's mum. A picnic lunch is used for the times that we would pack sandwiches etc.Traditionally Koreans would pack gimbap for train journeys etc. Kim in JeJu island did the same for our car ride. Gimbap is similar to sushi but made with a nicer seaweed wrap. It has a thinner and tastier outer covering. It then has a layer of rice then a variety of pickled radishes meat or salmon or tuna and other vegetables. We also had some at the train station for breakfast. Shons mum had also packed chopsticks, 10 boiled eggs with a dish of salt and drinks and juice. We were set for a week if we were trapped and couldn't get off the train. It was a wonderful parting gesture and one we will remember always. We were all sad to wave goodbye. Instructions again to look after Shon in Adelaide. We loved meeting them all and thank them for all their love imparted to us.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Shon's family

A big black saloon with tinted windows pulled up out the front of our weird hostel and out stepped Shon's mother a vision of fashion, Shon's sister and her friend Seong-Hee. It was so exciting to meet his family at last. Shon's sister looks just like him.. much to her dismay and has the same happy disposition. His mother is very genteel and a snazzy dresser. Seong-Hee is a very down to earth woman who enjoys teaching and speaking English. They drove us up into the mountains to see a very famous Buddhist Temple and to see the changing autumn colours . It was the best day we had had as we learnt a lot about the culture ,the food and the habits of past and present Koreans. Poor Nick he was the only guy and the car was very noisy with 4 woman chatting and laughing at anything and everything. Shon's mum took us to many important sites that we would not have been able to access in one day. What a generous person she is. She paid for everything that day from entrance fees to lunch , dinner and even our accomodation in a very posh hotel. Of course Shon's name was bought up many times and was the butt of many jokes from his sister and us. His mum misses him terribly and constantly asked us about his well-being and his new life in Australia. She was happy to meet us as we were the first Aussies she has met so I am sure it was a huge culture shock to her. I really want to thank Seong-Hee for her invaluable English as we learnt a lot more about Korea from her. It was a fantastic experience today and Shon now has an Australian mother and father and a Korean mother. Watch out Shon!! We have been told to look out for you and make sure you are behaving.

Gyeon-gu of surprises

We had a very quick 2 hour train journey to Gyeon-gu with the autumn colurs starting to make their mark. We were so surprised to find this place so westernised. Not a small country town at all. It has a mixture of Korean , Japanese and Western restaurants and clothing. We found a fantastic little coffee shop that the owner opened after travelling to Australia. He served us coffee and proceeded to sit and sing folk songs that I think he thought we would like. He sang Rainbow Connection.That song was made famous by Kermit the Frog from the Muppets. Except he kept singing Lainbow Collection as he found it impossible to pronounce the R. Sorry you had to be there. We sat having our coffee opposite an historical burial site. The huge mound of grassed dirt once held the remains of a Silla King from the Three Kings era 262-284. Kings and queens were both buried this way along with all the goods and chattels that one would need in the after- life. The largest mound is 23 metres in height, 123m long and 80 ms wide.They have only excavated a few when the Japanese occupied Korea. The others can't easily be excavated as it would be noticeable due to the fact they are huge mounds of dirt and someone would notice if you dug a hole or removed the dirt. The town itself is in fact a huge cemetery... very easy to stroll around but remember where you are staying if you go out at night..say no more. It is so colourful here at night as it in all the towns and cities. Neon is the word. That night was the best display yet. Tomorrow we are going to meet Shon's mother and sister and her friend who is fluent in English.

Busan ferry

Again the ferry experience was totally unexpected from what has gone before in other Asian countries.This time we were on a large ferry with very smooth seas and set for 11 hours. The food served was fresh tasty and slops. We settled into our room , which slept 10 in bunks, quite early as there was absolutely nothing to do show girls. The only downside was the snoring but that was nearly negated by the hum of the ship. Up at 5.00am for a 6.00am departure. Now anyone travelling, knows rocking up to strange cities without a booking is always interesting. Well at 6.00am even more so. We wandered around the first district but it looked a bit seedy so hopped on to the subway with the throngs of office workers.We certainly looked odd with our back packs, dishevelled and hungry. We decided to go to a place called Hyundae then it was around 7.30am and of course too early to find accomodation so we camped out on a wall and ate some cereal we had managed to buy the day before. What a sight this time for the joggers, walkers and again the men in suits. One great thing about travelling at the end of a season is that the hotel rooms are about the same price as a hostel so we decided to treat ourselves to a "posh" hotel for $30 a double. Which considering we could see the beach in the most expensive area of Busan was a bargain. Next we decided to find Kevin Rudd our prime minister. he was in Busan for the APEC conference. We looked high and low for luck.The Fish market was spectacular to say the least but no Therese(his wife) doing the shopping for dinner. I think we have never seen so many fish in markets as we have seen in Korea. They can't possibly eat it all. They eat anything from the sea so we saw interesting creatures for sale all alive and kicking in huge aquariums. Nick must have have taken 50 photos of fish etc in tanks. It is a nice place but we were keen to get out to the country areas and meet Shon's (cser) family. So next day to Gyeon-gu.

Trains..the way to go

We travelled around Korea by train and found them so clean and that I mean compared to the craziness of Vietnam and China. There aren't any hawkers on the train or on the station all yelling at once selling the same things trying to make a living.There are not the chickens etc that get transported regularly as well.No grafitti on the train or anywhere in Adelaide and even in our small home town. The country towns of Korea have a lot of 5 to 15 story apartment blocks which actually is not a bad thing .They have so many people that if they built homes on blocks like ours they would not have any farming land left. The scenery passes by while we relax in the comfort as people come and go about their daily lives. It is also the best way to see what they grow and how they farm.Of course their staple crop is rice and it is harvest time and the paddies are golden much like our wheat crops. No bullocks here.. a machinery is used for harvesting.The staff on the trains and at the stations are so considerate to travellers not speaking Korean. When the train conductors walk through the carriages at intervals they always turn around and bow as they leave the the toilets were immaculate.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

JeJu Island

Early start today. We have a 10 day rail pass which we activated today. The system they use here for their transport is simple so we found our way to Mokpo at the southern tip of South Korea to catch a ferry over to the jewel of Korean travel. The train trip was free of hawkers, graffiti, animals of any description, as usually occurs in other Asian countries no yelling people. That was the most placid train journey we have taken. The country towns are still building huge apartment complexes 25 stories and more, rows and rows. While it is not the best solution it means that they leave valuable farming land alone to feed the millions. They are at the similar stage as far as sustainability I think. Today we went to our first bags for us to carry our goods. That’s great. Next, the ferry. Once we found the terminal we found that due to the typhoon the previous day there would be no ferry but to try the smaller fast ferry. .. aptly named the Pink Dolphin. It was all go, slightly more expensive but we were to cross in three hours to JeJu Island. The ferry was very small about third the size of KI ferry. It sure was a rock and rolling affair. We were amongst a handful of people not to throw up. I must admit it was good to see the island coming in to view after 4 hours.We saw our first English speaking tourists from Canada. Tourism mostly consists of Japanese and Chinese who come to South Korea to fish and golf and also to see the girls…or so it says in the guide books. The hotels are geared up for it though with condom vending named Love and Romance hire for one hour etc etc. It is a huge honeymoon spot so it is geared for that as well. It is great travelling off peak. The good hotels are the same price as hostels and have everything supplied and they are only W30,000 =$30. Seafood restaurants galore obviously because we were on an Island. It is very cheap. Raw fish dishes along with main meal and all the extras were W12,000=$12 for both of us. We are finding it about half of what we budgeted for… so kids a bit more of your inheritance is spared. We were shown around the island by friends of friends of Shon. How great are these people it certainly has made life easier here. Kim and Joe and their 4 year old dropped everything to take us around half the island to Seogwipo stopping at various special landmarks. It was one of those great days that you have unexpectedly. Seat belts are not a priority here. The lad would not sit in the back so she put him on her lap in the front.. no seatbelt hmm. They don’t have to use them in the back at all. Kim and Joe offered to take our luggage back to Je Ju city so we took the bare essentials to free us up to do some hiking. We caught a local bus to Mt Halla-san to see the autumn colours and sat people watching and enjoying the serenity. We had some food with us and had a picnic at the base of the mountain Korean style. No seagulls to join us only crows and pigeons. The crows were huge with huge beaks. No flies either just big beetles like lady bugs but bigger. They were flying around there and at The DMZ site. Never seen anything like it. The drive through to Je Ju city was wonderful the driver being very careful with his cargo of CHICKEN BUSES here. Off to catch the ferry over night to Busan. Kim and Joe dropped off the backpacks before we went. We were grateful for that. It certainly freed us up. The ferry trip is 11 hours hopefully it is not as bumpy as we are sleeping in a room with 8 strangers. We will see. A huge thankyou to Kim and Joe for their generosity of time and their great English.


At the very last minute Kwan and his son John (English equivalent) met us and decided to take us to the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. It is a relatively new tourist complex and is proving quite popular with the locals. It was a high security train trip to the station and no photos were allowed, but because Nick could not read Korean it was only the approach of several army personnel that convinced him to lower the camera. We visited Tunnel 3 which was the 3rd tunnel discovered under the No Man’s Land. It was only discovered in the 1990s and is one of 5 tunnels so far discovered through which the South fears that the North will attack Seoul as there is no real agreed peace between the two countries. The tunnel was about 2 metres high and 2 metres wide and about 130 metres below the ground. We were only allowed to travel along it for about 300 metres. The north had painted the inside black and left bits of coal around saying that in reality it was an abandoned coal mine. The walk down was quite strenuous but certainly not as claustrophobic as The cu chi tunnels in Vietnam or under the pyramids. At least I am overcoming my phobia. It was interesting but felt they skimmed over the history and it was all a bit vague. Back in Seoul we managed to find coffee places, street food franchises by that I mean take offs of Mc Donalds Starbucks etc. We always make a promise to ourselves that we will eat local food as much as we can. Dolsot Bibimbap is my favourite Korean food it’s in a hot pot spicy and tasty.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

South Korea and Japan Our Next Adventure

Firstly the reason for travelling to this part of the world. We belong to an organization called Couch Surfers…it caters for travellers around the world to experience home life and the culture and food of the people in that country. It is a fantastic way to make new friends. In May this year we hosted a couple Yonghee from South Korea and Kosei from Japan. They certainly made an impact on us and our family. They stayed for a week searching out places for study next year then they travelled to Melbourne to stay with other CSers. Earlier this year we received an invite to attend their wedding in Seoul and then in Japan . Now we are here in Seoul. Our first impressions are of a very helpful and friendly people. We had our first bibimbap on the plane as we flew Korean Air. It arrived with a dish of rice and a bowl of finely sliced vegetables placed neatly around the edge of a bowl. There was a tube of red curry paste and a sachet of sesame oil as well…and a bowl of seaweed soup. The attendant gave us a leaflet to explain how to eat this very traditional dish. Basically you mix everything in the bowl together a bit like fried rice and drink the soup. It was a different experience. Every meal we have had has been very different even though the concept is the same. You never know what extras you will get like fried fish and fried calamari and you never pay for it. The Koreans eat a lot of vegetables mixed with a lot of chilli. They are a healthy race mostly…though western food is creeping in to their diets especially the younger ones. They are eating a lot more beef and pork as well which is not good for their metabolism or for the environment. Our first couple of nights were booked in a hostel near to Insadong and to train stations so we were all org with the next two nights to stay with cousins of Shon another CSer who stayed with us this year as well. Our accom was with Holiday In Korea and was a stark contrast to the night before at the holiday Inn at the Melbourne Airport where they had a pillow menu to choose from. The Korean Hostel had what sounded like lolly wrappers in Nick’s pillow ….we have since found out it is rice husks. It made for interesting nights every time he moved. They have nearly all their heating in Korea under the floor. The first night we stayed there we could not believe how hot it was when we touched the floor. Certainly the way to go. They have been doing that from centuries ago as we found out when we visited one of the palaces of the king. With open fires to do the cooking and the heat being funnelled through under the floor. Waste not, want not.

Sightseeing with friends
Our first few days in Seoul have been taken up with being shown around and being fed by Yonghee and Kosei and then the next couple of days by Hwang. our most memorable meal was in a very traditional eating house and had the best hot pot. It certainly helps to have someone to show you how to use the subway which is easy when you have been shown. It is a huge city of 10 million people so the public transport needs to be able to get people around efficiently and it certainly does that. This place would be a great intro in to Asian culture for most and particularly for kids. It is a very peaceful city considering people are courteous, don’t stare and help you always. The food itself is fantastic and of course that is always the best reason for travelling. We have been in a traditional village and the main palace been up to the Seoul tower where we were lucky to experience a show of military and combat while we were there. There are thousands and thousands of locks and padlocks with messages of love attached that have been placed at the bottom of the tower..never seen anything like it. I bought a belt made in Korea and the man cut it to the right size to fit. I will treasure that belt. The next two nights were going to be spent elsewhere when we found out their children had contracted H1N1. We tried for hours on line and over the phone to find accom in Seoul in vain and went to bed not knowing where we were going to sleep. Next morning I asked again at our hostel if they had a room and would you believe our luck they had a cancellation at the last minute and we could stay in our room as about karma.
The season is autumn and is a delight to behold. The weather is awesome. We are usually lucky to have great weather when we travel. T-shirts and jeans even at night. Tonight is the wedding… the reason we came.

The Wedding
With great anticipation we left the Hostel with only 45 mins to travel the subway all dressed up in my uncomfortable shoes ..up and down stairs. We made it just in time for the ceremony. We were greeted at the door of the wedding room on the 22nd. Floor of the Seoul Plaza by Yonghee and soon to be husband Kosei. Nick and I felt overwhelmed to see them so happy. A few tears were shed. She looked divine in traditional dress and he in a suit. There was a bit of conjecture as to what he should wear. He wanted to wear traditional Korean but as he is Japanese his father did not approve of him doing so .They had photos taken earlier in the day with him in typically Korean dress for a wedding. The ceremony was very short and sweet at the reception in front of us while we sat at our tables. Both fathers gave a speech in their own language and they were both interpreted in each other’s language. They exchanged rings attendants just them. So uncomplicated and sweet. The tables were wonderfully decorated with silver service and great wine. The people on our table all spoke English in varying degrees. They were cousins of the bride. The other couple to our surprise were the CSers from Melbourne that they stayed with as well…that was a huge surprise as neither of us knew the others flew over for the wedding. They were fantastic company over with coffee. The wedding was over in 2 hours. We wished it was longer. We felt very surreal being there as did the others. We also feel blessed to be asked to share in their special day. They will be married in Japan in December. We met both sides of the family and have been invited to stay with them when we go to Japan next time. We are also going to see one of Yonghee’s cousins in Pohang in a few days. The families of both were wonderful to us..very friendly curious and grateful to us for looking after them in Australia. Particularly as they are coming back to Adelaide next July to study. It was an experience we will never forget.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Peter Yacoumis

I was fortunate 36 years ago to meet Nick Yacoumis and fall in love with him. Then I met his family and again I fell in love with them. When Nick's dad died last week I had the privilege to write and deliver his eulogy at his funerel. The day itself was a balmy sunny Autumn day . I was not sure whether I would make it through without breaking down so I had a couple of contingency plans of them being Bethany our 8 year old grand daughter ,Peters great grand daughter who volunteered to read it. I somehow don't think she would have been able to do it as she was the most distressed of all the kids . As I stood up to walk to the lecturn I realised the enormity of what I was doing. There was a large attendance. As I looked up to start speaking, from some where I received a feeling of calm and peace and was able to talk and chat about Peters life on this earth. I was so proud of all the grandchildren as they were very respectful of the occasion. We are all going to miss him for a lot of different reasons but there is a little bit of him in his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and his great,great grand daughter. Mostly, the man I married is the epitomy of his dad. What a legacy he has left to this world. The Funeral Director Mike commented to us on the day we organised his service and after the funeral what a great feeling he had helping us organise the celebration. Dad did not particularly like flowers so we brought Olive branches from his trees, some tomatoes from his garden and almonds from his trees that he had cracked. These were all placed on his coffin. We also had Chocolate frogs for all. He was named Grandpa Frog by Ella so she could decide which grandpa we were talking about. He was named that because he would give the grand children a chocolate frog when they came to visit. I have also posted a copy of the eulogy if you want to peruse.We are so happy Dad was home and independant until the end. Still driving, playing bingo and cards the week before he went into hospital. No wonder he had a smile on his face.
29/01/29 – 11/05/09

Dads Eulogy

Peter Yacoumis, let’s celebrate his life.
My name is Gabrielle and I have been married to Nick, Peter’s eldest son for 35 years. Dad was 80 in January and we celebrated with a surprise family gathering. There are a lot of people here that were at that celebration and were happy to share that time with him. 80 years is an incredible amount of years to live.
Dad started his life in Chios in 1929; he immigrated with his family in 1939 at the start of World War II. Not long ago we were talking with Dad of the sea voyage out to Australia from Athens. He said all the children had the run of the ship; they would help set the dining room tables and could have all the broken biscuits that were there, he said they became experts at breaking biscuits. During the voyage a German warship circled them and decided to let them pass, the next ship that left from Athens to Australia didn’t make it. It must have been an incredible time, as their mother travelled with her mother and his three brothers, Michael, John and Nick. His dad came out to Australia months earlier, they settled in Waymouth St Adelaide.
The family owned the Golden Sun bakery and delivered bread by horse and cart. Later when dad grew up, he met mum and courted her by riding his pushbike from Adelaide to Inman Valley (near Victor Harbour) to see her, that is a round trip of 170 kms. No gears on the bike in those days to get him up Willunga hill. They married in 1950 and had 4 children within 8 years - Marilyn, Nick, Dianne and David. They moved to Maylands later and that was about the time that Nick recalls their life. They then moved to Parafield living in a shed and working glasshouses, they put down foundations for their home and were told not to put up power lines because of low flying aircraft, and now of course it’s totally built up all through there.
So they moved to Rosewater and owned a mixed deli, Nick remembers early mornings going to the markets for produce. They then moved to Angle Vale in 1960, it was a long trip in those days in their 1929 Chevrolet with Uncle Mick and his Chevrolet truck – no sealed roads then. Again they had a market garden and glasshouses. They all moved in to the old farmhouse which is still standing today. Just. 4 adults and 7 children living together in the divided house. The funny thing is that we did the same thing with Nick’s brother David who married my sister, Julie, and their 2 children Paul and Lee, and our three children, Rachel, Nicole and Adam.
Dad was a hard worker and always seemed to have two jobs at once, always the glasshouses and travelling all the way to Chryslers at Tonsley Park, Jon fruits, Simpson Pope and Horwood Bagshaw for the afternoon shift. He developed a love of fishing with mum; they would pack tomatoes on weekend mornings, deliver to Virginia, visit mum’s parents and dad’s parents and then head off to the jetties. That is where Nick and David developed their love of fishing. We all used to go often, with the kids sleeping overnight on the jetties. How many fish did we all catch!? No wonder the oceans are fished out!
My first memory of dad was on a jetty, that was where I was introduced to them. I loved them immediately and always thought of them as mum and dad. After finishing his working life in his early 50s, they fished as often as possible, and would always be off to St Kilda or Pt Giles for a feed of mullet. Mum and dad loved their Bingo and would go several times a week. Marilyn said the funny thing is dad said they went too often, it cost too much money yet after mum died in 2003 he actually went more often. We never had a birthday celebration that would clash with bingo. He kept going to bingo, no matter what. The times he couldn’t go due to ill health, we would be sure to receive a phone call from concerned people that sat with him at bingo. The crowd from Bingo signed a get well card to dad when he was in hospital; one of the messages was from a 14 year old girl that adored him, as they all did. He was like that. That girl’s mother, Sue came to the hospital to drop off the card.
The girls at my work, where he came to visit, often bringing produce from his garden, all loved him too. It seems to me, after chatting to family and friends over the last few days, that he was loved and liked by all. He was a strict, but fair father and grandfather. Vanessa remembers ‘no eating or drinking in the lounge or while watching TV’ We all got together every Sunday for a BBQ or roast, we expanded to two big tables – grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins – always lots of food, followed by huge bowlfuls of ice-cream and stewed fruit from their trees. We will miss his produce, he managed still at the end to grow the best tomatoes (one of the last things he said was ‘don’t forget to water the tomato plants, and you can pick some too’) fantastic olives for that delicious olive oil and let’s not forget the almonds.
Several of the grandchildren have fond memories of sitting next to dad on the seat cracking almonds. When we picked fruit we were only allowed to take what we needed, we needed to leave some for ‘others’ even if the tree was overloaded. Nick said, and I quote ‘Dad was a beautiful person with never an angry word, except when they set fire to the thatched roof shed that housed the tractor etc’ after that they had to weed around the house for a long time. Nick said he never heard him swear, he didn’t complain about his health until the last few weeks. His arthritis worsened and interfered with his fishing, yet he went out fishing to St Kilda the week before he went in to hospital. In the last few months, as his doctor and hospital visits increased, everyone that treated him commented on what a lovely person he was.
We will remember the Greek picnics at Victor Harbour, Greek weddings, our holidays together, Guy Fawkes and bonfires. Nicole said ‘I can’t imagine how many candles on birthday cakes he witnessed being blown out’. We also will remember card nights, Canasta, Joker, Rummekin. He was still playing cards with John, Nick and Sally until he went to hospital. I am sure they will treasure those nights forever. I remember playing Canasta and joking around with Mum and Julie and being told off by dad for not concentrating or playing sensibly. We will remember picking olives, particularly last season, when we had a weekend with our family, their kids and Marilyn’s friends, and we will do that again this year for the last time. We will remember cracking almonds, crabbing at St Kilda. We will remember him in the corner reading a book, a newspaper, a magazine, anything and everywhere – even our kids Dolly magazines.
We will remember him sitting at the kitchen table, making cups of tea, serving us sultana cake and Arnotts cream biscuits. Someone sent me a text message saying he was an honourable man ... that he was. He achieved such a long life, with a fantastic no nonsense attitude to life, hard working ethics, healthy eating and lots of exercise. He was patient with his grandchildren, all 12 of them and then his 17 great-grandchildren, and also his great-great granddaughter, what an achievement. He was named Grandpa Frog by our grandchildren, because when they came to visit, he would give them a chocolate frog.
He managed to stay at home, right to the end, independent as always, thanks to David for watching over him. The great thing about living a long time is the sameness about that person and his life. That is what we will miss.
29/01/29 – 11/05/09

Monday, March 09, 2009

Japan we come

Last week Nick booked a 4week adventure for the two of us to Japan. This will be to celebrate 35 years together on 23rd of March. We are leaving Australia on 19 th. May and returning on 17th. June. We havent travelled overseas for 2 years and boy do we have itchy feet. We managed to get a great special flying Jet Star from Gold Coast to Osaka and return for the both of us for only $880 including taxes... too good to pass up. We will be couch surfing and global free loading and hopefully staying with friends of people we know. So with 10 weeks to go we are so excited and are starting to plan ...that is sometimes the best part of travelling. Yahoo!!!! Bring on Tokyo, Kyoto for the Geishas, mountains, streams , gardens, crazy people , high tech gizmos, onsens, hiking,cycling, Mt. Fuji, cherry blossoms if we are lucky and are prepared to go to the northernmost tip of Japan., There is so much to see and experience with such a differing culture and food it is soooo exciting. Can't wait