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10 years ago...


On the 30th of November 2004, 10 years ago today, the 4th Asia-Pacific Regional Scout Youth Forum kicked off in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam. The room began to fill with Scouts who had traveled from across the region, various hues of Scout uniforms and badges blending together. I had heard the delegation from Korea included a guy named Moon and a girl named Luna, which seemed pretty cool. Across the crowd I saw a tall girl glide into the room, the light bounced off her long dark hair, her eyes concealed by light-tinted sunglasses that wrapped around her face. She seemed more like a celebrity than another Scout. She was beautiful.

With trepidation, I went up to say hello. We had been advised by the Australian Scout Commissioners when coming to these events that we should be very polite and to make sure that we bring some badges to offer to others. My badge was from a major tree planting event we had in Australia and I was quite proud of our work. "Would you like my badge?" I asked, a little nervous. She looked at me. She looked at the badge. "No."

After my initial shock, I realised she had a sense of humour, so did take my badge and offered in exchange a pen and trinket for cleaning your phone. Over the next few days as all of the countries of the region came closer together, so did we. The final day of the youth forum coincided with my 25th birthday and an international night. Everyone dressed in their traditional outfits (which for the Australian delegation meant we dressed like farmers, not as elaborate as some of the other outfits!). Luna lead out the Korean girls dressed in their traditional Korean hanboks. Luna looked so elegant, her hair was braided in a grid pattern I'd never seen before. At the bottom of her long silk dress I saw glimpses of intricate red shoes with flowers curled around the toes. I asked if I could have a closer look... then ran away with her shoe. Luna hopped after me, insisting that I give it back. She was now the one chasing me... That is how I met my 'Cinderella with only one shoe', and how I began to call her Princess.

One day during the Asia-Pacific Regional Scout Conference we had a day out to visit the countryside of Brunei. Several tents were set up to host lunch and I went over to one where I saw the Korean delegation were standing. One of the Korean Commissioners noticed my Queen's Scout badge and pointed it out to Luna, saying that I must be a very good Scout. He asked me what I thought about Luna and I responded that she was very pretty and intelligent. The topic of marriage came up and I was soon down on my knee putting a ring onto her finger in a form of proposal. Luna was quite shy about the whole commotion and she dropped down to her knees as well, though she didn't mind me putting the ring on her finger and we both laughed.

I didn't know at the time that this girl I had met just days before, would actually be the girl I would marry. We would have five years of long distance relationship, emails, video calls, falling asleep on the phone late at night and getting to see each other sometimes only a couple of times a year. If someone had said to me 10 years ago, you're going to go to Brunei, meet a Korean girl, then you'll move to Switzerland and have two children, I'm not sure I would have believed them.

Thank you Princess for being the love of my life and for being such a wonderful Mum for Edward and Emma. I look forward to see what the next 10 years will bring.


Brunei proposal

Geneva rings

I decided to walk from work to the pub, as I had plenty of time and it was a good chance to let my mind wander with my legs. The night was dark, the Autumn air fresh from the recent rain which waited quietly on the road, reflecting the street lights.

As I branched off from my regular commuting path between work and home onto the back roads towards the pub, my mind began to recall moments from these places I passed. Like the rings in a tree trunk, my memories have been layered into Geneva over the past seven years of living here - even longer before with my volunteering work. These memories were clear, but were more like a series of independent short films than one long feature. There was no chronological sequence, more a collection of memories of times with friends, explorations in a new city, itself layered with the Global, the European, the Swiss, and the Genevois aspects that have all imprinted themselves on this place and in my mind.

Yet I find that many of the memories are no longer relevant to now, as friends, neighbours, even entire workplaces have packed up and gone. Geneva is like a revolving door, where people come and go, often for a short time, sometimes longer. My seven years here is getting on the longer end in the Geneva yard-stick.

It makes me wonder, how many more layers of memories are there left for me in Geneva? Am I nearing the end of my natural time here, or are there many more seasons to experience?

I did not plan to come to Geneva, much the same way that a seed does not plan to land where it does. But on it grows and does the best it can. Whether my roots go deeper into this place, or I set my seeds to the wind to grow again in another place, I don't yet know.

For now I'll have a beer and enjoy this moment with my friend.


Emma Sumi Abson 엠마 수미 앱슨


At 10:30 on the morning of the 6th of May 2014, a little girl took a breath of Swiss air. At that moment we held our daughter in our arms and watched the finger curls and feet wiggles of new life. She created a big brother of Edward, who had kissed her every day through his Mum's tummy and already loved her. At that moment her grandmother, Halmonee, was mid-air on her way from Korea, unable to hear the good news until she landed in Switzerland that evening. Her extended family stretched out to Korea and Australia, with grandparents, great-grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins waiting close by to phones in anticipation of news of the youngest member of the family. The networks of social media were also soon to light up with messages of congratulations, love and good wishes for this little girl who had arrived in the world.

We named her Emma Sumi Abson (엠마 수미 앱슨). Emma is on both sides of my family and Sumi means 'stunning' and 'beautiful'. The 6th of May 2014 was also Buddha's birthday and a day celebrated across much of Asia.

We have enjoyed spending time with our little girl who is back home with us now, doing everything a one week old is expected to do. Edward is completely smitten by her, wanting to give her kisses all the time and taking a great interest whenever she cries. His teachers at creche also hear all about his little sister Emma too!

Thank you to everyone who has sent us their love and good wishes, we greatly appreciate it and know that these good feelings are helpful for us all, especially our little girl as she starts out in life.

With love,

Rod, Luna, Edward and Emma
Edward and Emma first encounter

Family trees


Families are like trees; both seemingly constant and yet also always changing.  People age, couples are formed and sometimes torn, new lives are created, and the whole inter-mingled mix of individuals makes a family.  Our time spent together form the personal and collective heartwood of memories that tap into our earliest moments, and are then layered upon with each year’s new experiences.

As I only get to see my family once a year or so, each hug, each laugh, each chat is momentary, but enlarged in significance because of its brevity.  It was magnificent to be home in Australia for Christmas, gorging on seafood and then splashing it off in the pool.  Edward explored my childhood home in much the same way I had done - pointing out the parrots at breakfast, throwing leaves off the deck at lunch, waving to the possums after dinner and wishing 'ni-night' to the sparkling Christmas tree before bed.

We had our first cuddles with our niece Zara, the newest green shoot of our family tree, and on a trip to Sydney, Edward whipped up an impromptu batch of backyard mud pies with his second cousins.  I had a quiet beer with Dad beside his parents' grave, and then rattled home on our local steam train.  The more ancient branches of the family tree also tied together, when, for the first time I was alongside two other great-grandsons leading back to our last common ancestor, Albert, who was born in 1880.

We marvelled at Eagles that whizzed overhead at Healesville sanctuary, had fun with friends who feel like family, then BBQ'ed and boogied in to a blue new year.  As the sun set on the final night at home, for the first time, all 22 (and a bit) stems of the family tree were together as we gathered for the photo I'll share with you now.

Abson family January 2014

A few days later we were in Luna's home town of Gwangju, greeted with cheers from our Korean family as we arrived at the restaurant.  Grandparents, uncles, aunties and cousins sat either side of the low table, eel simmering on the hot plates.  The dance ensued of shuffling side dishes, small shots, and morsels of smoky eel wrapped in sesame leaves.  Edward shook hands as he strolled up one side of the table and down the other, entertaining everyone as he passed, and then dashing out for a reconnaissance of the rest of the restaurant.  The mood among our Korean family was similar to our Australian family, with multiple strands of conversations, food and drinks flowing together.

It was just a few days later that I was on the plane back to Switzerland to return to work.  Luna and Edward have stayed on a little longer and welcomed in the Lunar New Year.  And so we will look forward to May when our newest little member of our family will join us and our family tree will sprout a little taller.

I hope that you, and your family, are well and I wish you all the best for this new year.


Rod, Luna, Edward and Agi (‘baby’ in Korean)

A new line in the sand

Have you met someone who makes such an impression on you, that you feel like you could draw a line in the sand which delineates the time 'before' and the time 'after' you met?
I feel like I'm standing directly on that line at the moment.
There's a little person soon to come into the world, whom I've seen on TV and in photographs, I've even listened to their heart, but we haven't met yet.
I've watched in admiration as out of grey fuzz appear little fingers, toes, a mouth and nose - the silhouette of new life taking shape.
Luna and I are looking forward to the day when we welcome our second child into the world; the day when Edward becomes a big brother.
For now we stand on that line in time, looking towards mid-May when our baby will join us, and as a family, we will step forward together.
With love,
Rod, Luna, Edward and 'Agi 아기' (Baby in Korean)
Agi Abson silhouette

Somewhere in the sky

My Princess and my little boy are somewhere in the sky.
We took a train to Zurich and at the airport said "Bye-bye".
I gave them each a hug and kiss and tried hard to be strong.
Now 38 days and counting, it really feels so long.
Edward's face mirrored mine, and we parted with a tear.
His final cry of "Appa!" still echoes in my ear...

Looking back

My oldest brother Andrew recently asked me for a compilation of all of my stories for his upcoming birthday.  I'm trying to put it all together into a document and it's been good to look back over the recent years, including what I wrote in this LiveJournal.  Whilst I've not been so active in writing in it in recent months, I'm glad that I have put the time in to this as a historical snapshot of different moments of my life.  Perhaps one day my boy will be able to read this and learn a bit about some of his Dad's adventures in life.


I feel like I should be coming up to a fork in the road, but there's so much snow I can't even see the road, let alone the fork - just white.

A little story of Edward Minjun Abson

It's hard to think of a bigger plot twist in the book of life than becoming a parent.  Suddenly there's a little person looking at you, needing you, discovering the world you share with them.  They're fascinating, moving, changing, growing, evolving constantly.
Being awake at 3:33 is no longer surprising and it's not because you're engrossed in karaoke with your mates, but because you're navigating your way around a full nappy in a sleepy haze.  And it's all good.  The way Edward manages to find the exact moment between taking off a dirty nappy and reaching for the clean one to decide to do a whizz becomes just another funny moment - sometimes I suspect he plans it that way.  You come to accept that being spewed on and pooed on is just part of the job, as are the smiles, cuddles and comfort songs you get to share.
We've been blessed with a healthy and happy little boy who we've been able to introduce to at least some of both sides of our families.  My Mum and sister Catherine came over from Australia when he was a week old, which gave them an opportunity to meet their Grandson and nephew, as well as see where we live in Switzerland and some of the surrounds of France.  They were also able to impart some of the Parenting 101 tips for handling a newborn.  It seemed as soon as they'd arried, it was time for them to head back home and it was just the three of us again.
We flew over to Korea at the start of May, as I had a work meeting in Jeju Island ahead of our World Conservation Congress in September, so we were able to combine this with a visit home.  Minjun, as he's known in Korea, has loved playing with his grandparents Halmonee and Halapogee and Samchoon (Uncle), meeting the extended family and loves watching baseball on the TV.  In fact, he seems quite enthralled by much of what is around him, as he stares unblinkingly with wide eyes at faces and places.  He was a dream on the flights over, sleeping most of the way and otherwise just smiling and laughing with the air hostesses in between.  We're frequently stopped in the supermarket by Korean ladies exclaiming things like 'he's so handsome' and 'he looks like a doll'.  He's our little boy who is growing up bit by bit, sometimes seemingly very quickly, as the doctor pointed out when he'd grown 5 cm and put on a kilogram in one month!
But I couldn't stay the whole time in Korea, as I needed to come back to work with a couple of international trips in Brussels and Cambridge this month, we decided it was better for Luna and Edward to spend time with the family there instead of being alone here.  So I gave my little boy a cuddle at the bus stop, told him that I loved him very much and handed him back to his Mummy before I went away.  It's tough coming back to an empty home.  Seeing his little clothes which he'll have outgrown by the time he comes back, thinking of Luna and the time we spend together in our little family unit.  A home is made up of memories and people as much as the things that are in between the walls.
Alas, this is the nature of the international life we've created.  There are two sides to the coin, with opportunities to work in fields, be places and do things not possible from home base, but you're restricted to how much you can do with your family.
Edward seems quite unaware of this broader context in which he's growing up, having been to three countries before he was three months old, it will all just become normal for him to move between cultures.  We're looking forward to reading the upcoming pages in the story of Edward Minjun Abson.

Birth of Bubbub

Birth of Bubbub
G'day, Aneyong haseyo, Bonjour!
It seems that Bubbub had a plan that was different to the medical calendar and iPhone baby apps.  'The date' (or what is really just a best guess) came and passed and we waited patiently for Bubbub to decide it was time to enter the world.  At 2:00 in the afternoon we went back to the university hospital in Geneva, somewhat appropriately with the acronym HUG, to check up on progress a week after the due date.  Luna had been having contractions quite consistently and felt within herself that we were getting close.  The doctors wanted to make sure that Bubbub made the move and wanted Luna to stay in the hospital then and to induce the labour.  We made a compromise with the doctors so that we went to the birthing room to monitor progress for a couple of hours and would see then what course of action, if any, was needed.
We took a different lift, to a different floor, an indication that we were actually now about to enter the stage where we had been imagining for months, even years, having a baby, and within a matter of hours, that is exactly what would happen.  The room was spacious, a bed centred against one wall, with a range of buttons, machines and tools around the room.  A small pink rug lay on the corner of a bench covering a set of newborn baby clothes ready for the big moment.
There are numerous theories about how to bring on labour and we chose the walking method.  Arm-in-arm we paced the vacant corridors of the hospital.  A cleaning lady playing with her phone in the waiting room informed us that it was closed for the night and we shuffled back down the corridor.  Perhaps it was the walking, perhaps it was Bubbub, but I think even more likely, it was Luna's choice to have a natural birth, which meant when we next checked, the mid-wife, Céline, was happy with the way things were progressing and informed us that Luna did not need to be induced.  So began the most exceptional thing I've ever witnessed.
Like a drum beat getting louder, longer and closer together, the contractions came minutes apart.  We moved around in different positions to try to help make Luna more comfortable.  I watched the numbers on the monitor climb with each contraction... 20.. 35... 67...123... I rubbed her lower back, helped as requested, and otherwise tried to be the best supporting actor to my wife giving the performance of her life.  Céline, a petite mid-wife with dark brown hair and a French accent spoke encouragingly to Luna, guiding her through each of the stages.
It was almost midnight, the contractions drum was beating so strongly that it was absorbing every ounce of Luna's body.  With hands trembling, she asked for an epidural to help her to get through the final stage.  You have to put complete faith in the medical team that walk into the room to stick a needle into your wife's spine.  It's a daunting thing to consider, but we tried not to think about it too much as they asked Luna to hold very still, even as contractions continued to claw her body.  Luna was perfect, didn't move at all and the team was able to give her the epidural which within minutes dulled the pain to a level she could handle.  We lay back and could almost relax, able to take a moment about 1:00 am to call our parents in Korea and Australia to let them know that we were in labour and later that day they would hear about their new grandchild.
The drum continued to beat, though its sound had been dulled, Luna was very much aware of the progress that was bringing our little Bubbub closer to the outside.  About 4:30 in the morning Céline informed Luna it was time to start to try to push.  With each contraction, Luna would need to push three times.  I stood at the head of the bed feeling helpless, and tried to will Luna through this final stage.  Luna propped her feet against the midwife's torsoes as Céline called out "push-push-push, keep-going-keep-going-keep-going, that's-it-that's-it-that's-it, good-good-good", rhythmic and powerful.  Two doctors arrived and prepared themselves.  They reviewed a stream of paper from the monitor that scratched erratic lines like seismic waves from the tremours rippling Luna's and Bubbub's bodies. "Push-push-push, good-good-good!"
Then there we were, a little head, I can see a face!  One more push and we have a body.  Please breathe.  A little cry!  "It's a boy!"  It's a boy!  Bubbub is a boy!  They placed him on his Mummy's chest and he looked at each of us.  Tears ran down our cheeks and all that Luna had gone through suddenly seemed forgotten.  This little boy was looking at us, quietly, calmly, as curious about us as we were of him.  Céline asked us, "What is his name?"  We replied: "Edward Minjun Abson".  I've never felt so proud in all of my life.  My wife, my incredible Princess, had just gone through a most excruciating experience and delivered to us a beautiful baby boy.  I was so impressed.  You are amazing.  You are both amazing.  I am blessed.
I cut the umbilical chord, a token gesture of a fatherly contribution to the labour, then watched Edward get wrapped up in an outfit his Halmonee (grandmother) had given to his Mummy for the birth and then lay back on his Mummy's chest for a while.  It was then we noticed the sun rays peaking through the windows.  The darkness had gone, a new day and a new life had come in to being.
Edward Minjun Abson 에드워드 민준 앱슨, was born at 06:14 on 22/2/2012, in the Year of the Dragon, in Geneva, Switzerland.  Our Scouting friends were quick to point out that this was the birthday of Baden Powell and his wife Olave, founders of the Scouting and Guiding movements and an annual event celebrated worldwide.  At birth Edward weighed 3.84 kg, 8.46 pounds and was 53 cm long.
We've since been spending time together at the hospital getting used to our roles as parents and discovering this amazing new person that has joined our family.  We look forward to seeing our son grow up and introducing him to his family and new friends from around the world.
Love Rod, Luna and Edward Minjun Abson