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2011: Five continents and a Bubbub

G'day,

As we turn the final pages of the year, it's a good time to take a moment to say 'G'day, Aneyonghaseyo, Bonjour...' and reflect on a few of the highlights in the Book of 2011.

We saw the New Year in with family-sized collections of fireworks in a rural part of North-eastern Italy.  I ended up having an article published in an Indian travel magazine on this region of Italy and particularly the city of Trieste.

In February we headed across the Atlantic to New York to give a presentation at the United Nations, as part of the International Year of Forests.  Everything was all set until one of the biggest blizzards the city had ever seen shut the whole place down, including the UN, the day I was due to speak.  Never mind, we explored the city anyway, taking in the multitude of iconic landmarks that have splashed across so many movies and news reports.

At some point in time a spark of life took off inside Luna and we have been fascinated to follow the developments of our baby.  From the first smudge of black on a grainy photograph from the hospital, through to the very powerful bony kicks and dance routines performed daily in Mummy's tummy.  Our lives are getting ready for the special arrival of 'Bubbub' as we research, nest and savour some rest!

My work with IUCN has offered up many challenges and opportunities.  I get to work with one of the world's leading environmental organisations that touches on everything from international policy to field projects for rural communities all over the globe.  My double hats of Knowledge Management Officer and Focal Point for the Commission on Education and Communication, with a network of over 900 volunteers, has kept my inbox streaming emails and many initiatives on the go.  One main mission I had this year was to work with colleagues in Eastern and Southern Africa to review their knowledge management needs and practices.  This took me to Kenya, where I worked with colleagues in the Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office in Nairobi, surrounded by forests with monkeys, warthogs and glittering birds.  It also gave me an opportunity to meet up with friends Srinath and Annalisa who took me out to the safari park where we saw lumbering giraffes, twitchy zebras and a nonchalant lion lazing in the grass.

As part of that mission I flew out to Uganda to meet with colleagues in our Uganda national office, then ventured east across the Nile River to Mount Elgon on the border with Kenya.  We visited some of the rural development projects where the local community are using trench farming techniques to retain soil, reduce runoff and improve their crops, coupled with keeping cows and making money from honey, it was inspiring to see how these direct interventions were improving so many people's lives.

An unexpected link between my former job and current job emerged when IUCN was invited to join the World Scout Jamboree in Sweden.  A team of people from IUCN helped put together a series of workshops for the Scouts to learn about environmental rights of the child, and celebrating biodiversity.  Over a couple of weeks we had over 500 Scouts from 28 countries go through the workshops enduring intense heat to heavy rain, and we were impressed by their enthusiasm throughout.  It's an incredible movement that I'm still proud to be a part of, when looking out over the crowd of 40,000 Scouts from almost every country on the planet all together in one place was an energising experience.

We took the opportunity of the second trimester, referred to as 'the babymoon' to visit our family back in Australia.  It was our first time home since our wedding in Australia in December 2009 and it included the chance to meet our youngest family member Chloe for the first time.  It's hard to sum up in a couple of lines what it means to go home to the familiar faces and environments that I grew up with.  I'm looking forward to taking Bubbub for a visit some time to introduce the places that I've explored as a kid.

We then headed off to Korea where I attended the 5th IUCN Asia Regional Conservation Forum.  A good opportunity to meet up with the team from our Asia region and meet the many Member organisations and governments that IUCN work with.  We caught up with our friend Charles in Seoul and squeezed into a little Aussie bar to watch Geelong once again win the Aussie Rules Grand Final!  Then we headed down south to Gwangju and Suncheon to meet up with all the family, eat delicious food and enjoy catching up.  The Indian travel magazine also published my five-day itinerary on Korea this year.  We packed our bags full of things for Bubbub and some tasty ingredients and flew back to Switzerland.

Just a few days later we headed out to Hungary for a steering committee meeting of the Commission on Education and Communication.  Whilst we planned the coming years for the CEC, Luna explored the historical and cultural sites of Hungary.  We gorged on goulash in an underground wine cellar, watched the dawn mist float on the Danube and admired the ornate buildings of Budapest.

Before the year was out, we popped over to London, where a film we had produced with IUCN and some partners called 'Love. Not Loss' had been short-listed at the International Green Awards.  The film wasn't selected, but it was a memorable dinner with a dinosaur in the Natural History Museum and with more than 12,000 hits of the English version alone, we're getting good coverage.  Luna fell in love with London, with the twinkling Christmas lights helping add to the atmosphere.

We've had the opportunity to explore some more of this beautiful host country of Switzerland, including visits from our brothers Andrew and Mat which gave us a good excuse to tour Switzerland in a rush!  I've had many festive trips across the border to neighbouring France and we've looked out at the French mountains every day from our apartment window.  One other major development has been to have moved apartments so that where it used to take me an hour to get to work, it now takes just two minutes.  I used to go for a walk at lunch time and give Luna a call.  There was an apartment building next door to IUCN and I'd wondered what it would be like to live there.  Curiously, I'd never considered that of any of the other apartments around the town, and that by chance is the place we've now moved to.  So that meant more wrestling with IKEA furniture, packing and unpacking, but we're finally setting up a cosy nest.  We're becoming experts at wrestling with Swiss bureaucracy too, but that's another story!

There's been many other memorable moments throughout the year, including celebrating pregnancies, births, marriages and many milestones of friends and family.  Luna's been amazing throughout this year, beautiful in her pregnancy and still treats me with her amazing selection of 'Luna's delights'!  We hope that you have had a memorable 2011, we would love to hear from you and know what you've been up to this year and any special plans you have in place for 2012.

With best wishes for you and your family,

Rod, Luna and Bubbub

Home, home, then back home.

G'day,
 
The little Aussie bar tucked away in the back streets of Seoul had become a magnet for Aussies and friends to join in one of Australia's greatest traditions - watching the Aussie Rules Football Grand Final!  We screamed at the TV, swilled beer and gobbled meat pies.  I rubbed Luna's tummy for luck whenever Geelong kicked a goal, wanting to include Bubbub in the moment as a future Cats fan (which seemed to work, as we came out victorious by 38 points!).  The big clash was between Collingwood and Geelong, with virtually unanimous support for the Cats, even though only a couple of us were originally Geelong fans.  But why was it that I was a Geelong fan, given that I grew up on the Eastern edge of Melbourne, about 100 kilometres away from the city of Geelong?  It goes back to a decision Ma (my Grandmother) made in 1952 when she moved there with my Dad, in his formative adolescent years, and he chose to adopt the local football team.  Dad passed this on to me as I grew up, and now I was starting to do the same some 60 years later.
 
It got me thinking that a lot of our lives are intertwined in the lives and decisions of others around us, or those who have gone before us.  In 1856 James Abson decided to set sail with his family from England to Australia, influencing the situation of the generations that came afterwards.  At the same time Korea was heading into a period of strict isolationist policy to protect itself from imperial influences.  The world is a much more open and multi-cultural place now, as we bring with us our family, national and cultural histories combined with those of the place we live.  For us, as an Australian and Korean family, living in Switzerland, it makes for an intriguing combination as to what are the genetic and learned strands from the past that are currently being passed on to Bubbub, and further, what does the future hold?
 
We decided it was a good time to go home and visit our families in Australia and Korea during the 'babymoon' between the first and third trimesters when most of the early pregnancy symptoms had subsided and before Bubbub became too big for Luna to comfortably travel around.  It was one morning when lying in bed that we felt the first kick from Bubbub, a distinct upward push from the inside, strong enough for both of us to feel it.  This has continued to get stronger and more active as Bubbub now seems to have a fulll gymnastics routine each night!
 
There's nothing quite like being at home.  For us in Australia, a few things that stood out include watching a live game of footy with the family (especially with Geelong winning!); celebrating Father's Day (a little prematurely) with all the boys on a brewery tour; catching up with close friends (apologies to the many we weren't able to meet up with!); getting to know the youngest member of the family - our niece Chloe, who is now 18 months old and was still in her Mum's tummy when we left; going through baby clothes handed down to us by our sisters; seeing how all of the nephews and nieces had grown up and changed so much in just a couple of years; watching possums and colourful parrots night and day outside Mum and Dad's windows; enjoying a meal with each of our brothers and sisters and their particular branch of the family; having all the family gather together on one night and hearing the news that we weren't the only ones expecting, as a month later our friends Rhys and Janice will also be having a baby, then another month on Bubbub will have a cousin from James and Dee; seeing new life had also come into the land with rains in recent years delivering gorgeous displays of wildflowers to colour the forest floor; and eating those foods we can only get in Australia like meat pies, dim sims, sausage rolls and of course - Mum's home cooked dinners!
 
We headed back up to Korea as I had a meeting for IUCN in Incheon and then spent some more time with the family in and around Gwangju.  It was great to hang out again at home with Omma, Appa and Han, as well as Mengi (Luna's little dog, who has accepted me as a member of the family that only comes around about once a year, then disappears again); visiting Halmonee and Halapogee (Grandparents) as well as Uncles and Aunties.  Halmonee made us some special sesame kimchi made entirely from ingredients grown from the local farm - it's delicious!  Especially being able to see Bubbub on the monitor at the hospital and hear the rapid vibrations of the heart.  Bubbub was playing hide and seek with the umbilical chord and decided that we shouldn't yet see any facial expressions, but Bubbub's ear looked pretty cute anyway and the doctor was very happy with progress!  Bubbub also will be a Kia Tigers fan and we went to see a baseball game, sat up in the grandstand eating chicken and banging our blow up baseball bats together.  We won that game too, so I think Bubbub must bring us good luck!
 
We took the trip back home to Switzerland in comfort of Business class, thanks to some frequent flyer points, and our bags heavily laden with kimchi and collections for Bubbub.  Since returning to work, things have been a little hectic as whilst I was away, my boss Sue has been diagnosed with colo-rectal cancer and hospitalised for a couple of months, we've been to Hungary for a meeting of the Commission on Education and Communication to plan for the Commission to 2020, as well as made some big progress on developing a taxonomy to classify IUCN's content (think of the world, think of the natural environment and societal overlays, then come up with a set of words that you can use to categories all that it encompasses).  We're off to England on Thursday and it seems that whilst it took me 24 years before I visited another country, Bubbub will have a half dozen before even getting out of the womb!
 
Finally, we've been house hunting for a place a bit closer to work.  Luna seems to have worked some magic and whilst last time we had to apply to about 50 apartments before getting one, this time around it took just two days!  I've gone from having two hours of traveling each day to and from work, to having just two minutes of travel time door to door!  So the coming weeks will be shifting to a new place and getting the nest set up for Bubbub's arrival some time in February.
 
Check out some photos from Australia and Korea here:
Australia:
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150450379166007.418601.612076006&type=1&l=2b7c0790c8
Korea:
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150465300101007.420563.612076006&type=1&l=ff8d56ad76
 
Cheers!
 
Rod, Luna and Bubbub

Stinky Sticky Little Poo

Stinky Sticky Little Poo

A little dog found a tree
Pointed it's bum on bended knee
It pushed and squeezed and puffed and huffed
Until he felt it was enough
He left that poo beside the tree
A little gift for you and me
It was a gift full of surprise
That multiplies before your eyes
It grabbed a hold upon my shoe
That stinky, sticky little poo
It dug in deep within the sole
Filled every crack and every hole
It pushed and smushed up on the side
And only then I realised
This pudrit poo was on my shoe!
Oh what on Earth was I to do?
I grabbed a stick and gave a flick
The smell was making me feel sick!
Along the path the poo was smudged
But still so much that would not budge!
I grabbed some leaves from off a bush
I rubbed and dabbed, I poked and pushed
It climbed my leg, spread on my chest
Reaching out to all the rest!
The poo was here, the poo was there
Oh no I think it's in my hair!
It reached around onto my face
Eww I think that's poo I taste!
Opened my mouth and try to scream...
Thank goodness it was just a dream!

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

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East of the White Nile


Jambo!

Things noticeably began to change East of the Nile River.  We'd stopped briefly for lunch at a holiday resort overlooking the headwaters of the White Nile as it left Lake Victoria in Uganda.  Beside us a British family sat silently staring into iPhones and romance novels.  The thunderstorm hammered plump raindrops on the umbrellas as we dashed back to the car to continue our journey.

I was on mission with IUCN to look at knowledge management in the IUCN Programme of Eastern and Southern Africa.  I'd flown from our super-eco-constructed concrete cube HQ in Switzerland to the Regional Office in Nairobi, Kenya, surrounded by giant cacti gardens and a commercial nursery.  The power would intermittently drop out in the middle of meetings, and the overhead projector would simply be turned back on again, quite nonchalantly, when power returned.  The Sykes monkeys would occasionally try to enter the building to search out some stray fruit, then evade the more aggressive Baboons that strut around the grounds.  Throw in a few hairy warthogs, some inquisitive squirrels, flocks of shimmering honeyeaters dipping their beaks into pink tubular flowers and it's quite a special setting for a conservation organisation.

After a couple of days in Kenya I'd flown out to Kampala, the capital of Uganda to see how things work in a country office.  As I walked down the driveway, I couldn't help feeling it was a bit like an Aussie Scout hall, complete with towering gum trees.  My colleagues had arranged for me to meet with the Uganda Ministry of Water & Environment, a Member of IUCN and we headed out across town. Vincent greeted me from his desk, framed by piles of paper.  I sat sideways on the chair (as that's the only way it fitted into the office) and we discussed the work they did in community and government wetland management, challenges of communication and how IUCN helps with their programmes.  Indeed there was a close relationship with IUCN as the next day back in the IUCN office, Vincent walked in for a meeting.  The following day I was out on the road with my colleague Sophie and our driver, to head East to Mt. Elgon on the border of Uganda and Kenya, which brings us back to the story where we cross East of the White Nile.

The road became a little more rough, the shops a little more sparse and electricity a little less prominent with each passing kilometre.  There seemed a correlation between the distance we drove away from Kampala to the number of people who stared curiously through the windows of our four wheel drive.  I too took in my unfamiliar surroundings, staring out from the inside.  I watched a child chase a chastised chicken, women walk with watering-cans, and multiple men mounted on motorbikes.  Occasionally we would pass through a town where a row of roadside houses had been freshly hand-painted in bright yellow, blue or red, dressed up like corporate lego blocks advertising mobile phone companies - 'Uganda Telecom, it's all about U!'  Everywhere, rainbow stripes of school children stretched along the ochre edge of the road.

After the rain storm had passed, we eventually reached the town of Mbale, some 200 kilometres East of Kampala.  Teenage boys rode push bikes whilst girls sat side-saddle on pink padded seats, orange tassles waving in the wind.  We turned down a road lined with giant trees, decorated with an occasional sign for a World Vision project, or small posters of faded electoral hopefuls flapping alongside the leaves.  We checked into a hotel for the night and I cleared out my room of a few cockroaches before inspecting the mosquito net that draped over the bed.  Sophie and I met with a man named Awadh, who had driven down from the mountain to talked to me about the work IUCN had done, painting a picture of some of the challenges the local communities and national park had faced on Mt. Elgon.  With a broad smile, in between handfuls of goat meat, he relayed some of the tales of trial and error, as the crickets chimed in from the edge of the darkness.

The following morning we climbed the winding road up the face of Mt. Elgon, a region which apparently hails many of Uganda's Olympic athletes.  We called down a side street of Kapchorwa and parked the car next to a cow.  Behind the wooden fence was the building of the Kapchorwa Community Development Association (KACODA) and the office of the IUCN contribution to the region.  Inside, chatting on a mobile phone stood Martin, the coordinator of KACODA, surrounded by buckets of honey, shiny metallic machines used for processing and purifying the honey, and a pyramid of neatly arranged jars with white and yellow lids brandishing labels with the IUCN logo and 'Mt. Elgon Honey'.  What was IUCN doing in the honey business?  The answer lay further up the mountain.

Our car bounced up the hill, past smiling children waving vigorously outside their mud-brick and thatched roof homes.  Martin reinforced Awadh's descriptions of the region having experienced challenges on multiple fronts: soil erosion, loss of crops, limited options for livelihood generation, little electricity, dependence on grazing cows in the adjacent national park and illegal timber extraction for fuel and income.  It sounded like quite a combination, and little by little, the local community had worked their way out.  We parked the car next to a mud brick hut with 'Tulwo Park View Hotel' scrawled in chalk on the side and waited to meet the locals who were going to take us into the forest.  A short while later a lanky man in gumboots and a blue vest outstretched his hand (there's lots of hand-shaking in Uganda!), followed by an older man wearing a faded blue shirt and well-loved beanie.

We strolled down the hill and crossed a bridge fashioned of logs across a stream.  On the other side, a little further into the forest were around twenty hollowed out logs and curved sheets of corrigated iron strapped to the side of saplings, local beehives abuzz with bees.  Martin translated the local dialect for us (even Sophie, who is from Uganda, didn't understand), as the men described the arrangement that had been made with the Uganda Wildlife Authority (another IUCN Member) to allow honey collection in the area, the quantities each hive could produce and how the community benefited from the honey production through additional income.  We wandered further into the forest and passed some European style beehives which weren't being used - the local bees prefered the local hives.  They showed me a black lumpy frog on the ground.  I took a photograph.  They laughed.

The old man, ironically named Boyo, held up a piece of vine he called 'Shedet', as Martin interpreted, "In 2016 the hills will come alive with flowers from this vine, as far as you can see all over the mountain.  And then all of the bees will die.  We know because it happened in 2009, when the plant flowers, then they all set seed and die, then seven years later, when they have matured again, they will flower all over the mountain.  They have to collect the honey from the hives as soon as they see the flowers."  I was captivated by such local knowledge - how could we capture such knowledge so that it is not lost?

We emerged from the forest and took a narrow path that snaked it's way around the hill.  At intervals every few metres deep trenches were dug into the ground.  This was one of the ways the local community had prevented the soil erosion and helped stabilise their crops.  New types of grass had been brought in which could be harvested and fed directly to the cows, removing the need to graze in the forest.  More and more people joined us from all directions, pointing at the plants and the trenches.  We found a piglet running in the field.  It looked happy.  I took a photograph.  They laughed.

Then I was shown the many benefits of cow poo.  Three men guided us through their homes, where their wives sat outside preparing vegetables.  We wandered beneath a maze of bananas (matoke), up the hill to a small barn where three cows stood in a porridge of poo.  This was then drained into an underground concrete tank, a biogas digester, which slowly brewed the poo to capture the gas and seperate the left over manure.  The gas enabled a single gas burner and light to be used inside the home every day.  The left over manure was sent through a series of channels to support growing bigger crops of bananas.  The combination of all of these things meant these familes had more money, they were more self sufficient, their crops were better and more resistent, they reduced their impact on the adjacent forest, were able to generate income through co-management with the park authorities, they were able to have enough money to send their children to school and they had light in the evening to spend time together as a family.  As they fired up their gas light inside the darkened mud-brick home, the warmth was beaming from that little light, then bounced off everyone's smiles.

There was yet one more benefit that came from the cows, which IUCN played a helping hand in.  We drove back into the centre of town and Martin took us down the main street.  A lady with her baby held to her hip handed a handful of shillings across the counter and received a sealed plastic bag of fresh milk.  IUCN was also in the milk business!  A shiny metal beast sat quitely in the middle of the room, belly full of chilled milk from the local farmers, nurturing the local people.  Earlier in the day we had met the Chief Administrative Officer for the Kapchorwa District, who had praised the milk enterprise, as well as the recent expansion into the yoghurt business.  But the Chief Administrative Officer most looked forward to the time when he and the 90,000 residents of the district could also enjoy delicious cold ice-cream on top of Mt. Elgon!  Who thought conservation can't be fun?!

Cheers,

Rod

Check out some photos from Kenya and Uganda from:
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150351854121007.398193.612076006&l=196858149d

Letter to the inside

Hello in there.
 
We haven't met yet, but I'd like to introduce myself.  I'm your Dad. You can call me Daddy if you like, once you get around to it.  I hope everything is comfortable for you in there.  Your Mummy has been taking good care of you.  She showed me a little picture of you the other day which they took at the hospital.  You've got a cute little head, arms and legs and you've been busy making all sorts of important things you'll need after you come out.  It's quite amazing really how it all works.  I'm already very proud of you!
 
There are lots of people out here who are looking forward to meeting you.  You've got Grandparents, even Great-grandparents, lots of Uncles and Aunties, cousins and plenty of friends to play with.  There's a whole world out here we want to show you.  Take your time in there, enjoy swimming about in the softness of Mum's tum tum.  You can probably hear the beating of her heart right now. Thump-thump, thump-thump.  Thump-thump, thump-thump.
 
We'll see you sometime around mid-February, if everything goes to plan.  It's my voice you sometimes hear through Mummy's tummy, and I'll be there with Mummy when you come out.  We're looking forward to spending time with you and having a happy life together.
 
Lots of love,
 
Daddy and Mummy

You know you're not at the Jamboree anymore when...
* You can have a beer without fear of being deported.
* You're the only one wearing a scarf and woggle.
* You start to sing and no one joins in.
* You haven't heard the "I'm changing the world today" song in at least two hours.
* You don't get dripped on when you sleep.
* Going to the bathroom doesn't involve strategic bag packing decisions, a 500 metre walk or port-a-loo bingo.
* You're not surrounded by 40,000 people from 150 different countries all living together as though we're all the same.

What sort of tooth brusher are you?

Living in a giant camp for two weeks means you observe some things you otherwise might normally not. Brushing your teeth is usually a solo activity, but I've noticed here it seems there is more than one way to brush your teeth. So, what sort of tooth brusher are you?

The no drip brusher - No matter how much toothpaste is on the brush, or how long they scrub for, not a drip of drool escapes.
The speed brusher - With a technique so fast they could start a fire on their lips, the speed brusher seems to think the faster they brush the better the clean.
The marathon brusher - Slow and steady wins the race and the marathon brusher isn't going anywhere in a hurry. Five minutes can pass and the marathon is still going.
The dentist - Electric toothbrush, mouthwash, dental floss - the works! If there was a dental hygiene badge, this guy would have it!
The rabid dog - Resembling a dog with rabies, this brusher manages to get frothy drool everywhere! The opposite of the no drip brusher, this guy has suds in his beard, down his hand, on the floor, everywhere!
The choker - It seems for the choker, you haven't cleaned your teeth unless you've shoved your toothbrush down the back of your throat until the gag reflex kicks in! This should be followed by deep, loud grunts and snorts, scaring everyone around that someone is choking to death.

So, what sort of tooth brusher are you?

Our Aussie Wedding, 18 December 2009

 

Wedding kiss

Upon this date, and place, and time, I am yours and you are mine. For all to hear these words we say, 'I do', on this our wedding day.

The sun had scorched its dominance on Melbourne two days earlier, reminding us with 38 C degree temperatures that we were at its mercy in December. The following day in an equally powerful display, the sky was ablaze with lightning and the ground pummeled with plump raindrops. On this, our wedding day, the heavens were open, allowing the sun to filter through the leaves and the gentle breeze to perfume the air with sweet-scented eucalyptus. I stood with my groomsmen at the front of the lawn and scanned the faces of the crowd. I'd never had such a gathering of people from the different parts of my life. Our Australian and Korean families, friends from school, Scouts and Switzerland all together for this one day to celebrate our wedding. Our first wedding ceremony was held in Luna's hometown of Gwangju, Korea in August, with some Aussie family and close friends traveling to join with our Korean guests. Some people had asked why we were having another wedding, and as I looked at these many faces, it was evident to me that a wedding is about celebrating the decision of two people to express their commitment to each other and share this love with those people close to them. Now, with everyone gathered and the notes of Pachelbel Canon drifting in the air, all attention turned to the narrow stone path that led through the garden as the bridesmaids walked slowly towards us.

My sister Catherine, now pregnant with her second child, led the procession. With Luna in Korea, myself in Switzerland and an Australian wedding, she had voluntarily taken up the many tasks of a wedding coordinator that helped bring this day together. Here she was in an Australian-styled Korean Hanbok dress walking towards the front, eyes directly linked with mine. Perhaps it was the pregnant hormones, perhaps it was the culmination of all of that work, or simply the recognition of the connection that we have always had, but the tears twinkled in her eyes, the emotion of the moment was written across her face and touched directly to my heart. She passed me a knowing look and glided to her place on the grass.

Everyone looked with anticipation (especially me!) to see Luna and her Dad (Appa) join the wedding - the guest of honor one could say. The white veil could not hide her smile or the nervous look at all of the attention she was now receiving. Appa wore a purple plaid tie I recall we had chosen in Korea, bringing together two distant worlds into one. It was particularly brave of Appa and Omma, who had never left Korea, to venture all this way to a foreign land where their new son-in-law had grown up. I took Luna's hand and Appa returned with a brief smile to stand by Omma's side. I looked at my Princess, squeezed her hand to comfort her nerves, peered out on the crowd of faces, took a deep breath and smiled.

A celebrant, ceremony, wonderful words. Love, commitment, a connection of worlds. For you, for me, for we, “I do”. My heart, my soul, my whole, for you.

Our celebrant was a passionate man who enjoyed a glass of red and hugging brides-to-be. He guided us through the ceremony, beginning with readings about maintaining love throughout our day-to-day routine, and then asked the love and blessing of both sets of parents for our future life together. Omma and Appa responded with “Nae,” meaning 'yes' in Korean. My Mum and Dad, like Luna's parents, had a look of pride on their faces as they proclaimed “We do.”


The celebrant asked: “Rod, do you give yourself totally to loving Luna, striving to do whatever you can to help her feel happy and secure, treating her with kindness, understanding and respect throughout your lives?”


I happily responded: “I do.”

“Luna, do you give yourself totally to loving Rod, striving to do whatever you can to help him feel happy and secure, treating him with kindness, understanding and respect throughout your lives?”

To which Luna replied: “I do.”

My sister Michelle stepped in with some poetic prose, sharing the reading with my older Brothers Andrew and James as they traced the path Luna and I had taken to reach this day.
“Separated by countries, this did not deter them,
Their love for each other was a strong bond between them.
Yes at times it's hard and sometimes a struggle,
But love conquers all, and so does a cuddle.”

Then came the renewal of vows to each other. I held Luna's hand and looked into her eyes as the sun lit up her veil. “Luna, you have all my love – now and forever. You have my admiration – for being such an incredibly precious person. You have my unending gratitude – for the way you brighten up my life. You have my hopes – all gently hoping you know how glad I am that you warmed my world and touched my very soul. I love you.”

I passed Luna the microphone and she read, “Rod, you have empty pages in the story of your life – pages I'd like us to write together. Filling them with memories we'll make and stories that will travel beside us and carry us on over whatever comes along. You have my sweet appreciation – for taking my smiles places that my heart has only dreamed of. I love you.” We exchanged rings as the bridal party shared another short reading, then the big moment...

With those simple words, “You may kiss the bride,” I lifted Luna's light veil and leaned forward to kiss her rosy lips. Luna gave me a shy smile and the crowd clapped and cheered, beaming at the 'newly married couple'. We signed the certificate and walked down the red carpet and out into the gardens. So many hours of work and thought for such a short moment.

We stand in line, a moment in time.

A camera clicks, our wedding pics.

A couple of photo snaps with the entire wedding captured that gathering from the world near and far. Luna's Halmonee (grandmother), our oldest guest and matriarch in floral suit, was happy to be with us, though she longs for her 'Rosabang' (literally translated as 'Rod-husband') to speak with her in Korean. Little cousin Eun soo was like a Korean doll brought to life in bright stripes upon her Hanbok. She found no language barrier when playing with the only guest smaller than her, my nephew William, who at nearly two years old was happy to be a part of the whole commotion, yet oblivious to its significance. Each guest represents a set of shared experiences, timelines of events and stories that weave the riches of life.

I held Mum's arm and Dad the other as we smiled for the camera. They had brought me into the world and nurtured me through the many stages of life. This represented a milestone which I imagine as a parent must feel very satisfying, to watch the youngest of their five children being married. To Dad's left stretched the rest of the 14 (and a bit) family members they had cared for and established into a close-knit clan of Absons. My other arm wrapped around my bride's waist as we now formed a link between two families. Though cultural and linguistic differences exist, we feel the same love from the ten members of our Korean family sharing the wedding day as our Aussie family.

As the guests adjourned to nibble and natter, we wandered the gardens with our bridal party to enjoy the mood of the afternoon sun and pose for pics. With a cool beer in one hand and Luna's cream bouquet in the other, I 'cheersed' with my Costa Rican groomsman Andres and he gave me a smile. Our Swiss friend Charles joined us in the gardens, snapping extra photos of some of the more candid moments.

A little bird high in a tree. It needs relief, like you or me. A poo was pooped, its place unplanned. On Charles' suit, the poo did land.

We gathered in a cosy wooden hut beside the reception room with our bridal party and parents having another drink and preparing to be introduced to the wedding guests. We had a little surprise in place we had thought about from Korea. With each set of parents and bridal couple there was a cheer and applause as the beat of the music lifted. “Ladies and gentlemen will you please welcome Mr. and Mrs. Rodney and Luna Abson!” I looked at Luna and smiled, paused for a moment, then passed through the little door to the reception room. There were many looks of surprise as we walked in wearing full shiny silk Korean traditional Hanboks. Luna looked immaculate adorned with a red and black jacket over a long dark blue dress with red flowers. I looked a little more like I was wearing a cross between a suit and a pair of baby blue pajamas with pink flowers, yet it had the desired effect. As we passed by the tables and made eye contact with our Korean family, it was clear they appreciated the gesture
.

Warm meal and cold beer, friends from far and friends from near.

Gathered here to lend an ear to speeches sweet and so sincere.

With bellies full of tucker and a few drinks under their belts, the wedding gathering were ready for the speeches: a time to offer some pearls of wisdom and maybe some dirt on the groom. First up to the microphone was my Dad, a practicing DJ of forty-odd years, he put on his best MC voice and brought out some of his favorite 'wedding Dad jokes'. This was followed by heartfelt words towards Luna and all of the Korean family when he said: “We accept you as our family.”


Appa has always been a man of few words, even in Korean. It was inspirational to see him stand in front of everyone and deliver his speech in Korean, which our Irish groomsman John read in English. One part which struck home to me, was when my father-in-law said: “As a father you always hope that your daughter will love a good man from a nice family, and Rodney is just that man. I believe that theirs will be a marriage that lasts forever.”


Jody had a good dozen years of stories he could bring out in his Best Man's speech. He and James had coordinated my buck's party the weekend before, and with my freshly shaved chest still prickly under my Hanbok, I wondered which tales he would tell. Jody praised our friendship and observed the long and challenging path Luna and I had followed over five years since first meeting in Brunei. He offered Luna these words of advice: “The Absons are not known for their Swiss precision, so you can’t expect to be on time all the time; he has primitive needs – if he says he is hungry, he needs to be fed – now; and Rod is not perfect… if you look very closely he has a dot on the end of his nose… I have been led to believe that since Luna met Rod she has developed her own matching dot!” It seems we have rubbed off on each other…


“On behalf of my wife and I...,” came my opening line. I went on to thank our family for all of the help, our bridal party and the guests, especially those who had traveled far from interstate and overseas. “Geegumggagee lunalul eelucke yeppgye gilu jusingutdo gamsadulimnida,” I stumbled out in Korean, meaning, “Thank you for bringing up Luna to be the wonderful woman that she is today.” As poorly pronounced as it was, Omma's tears told me that she understood the intent of my message.

The dance floor clears, the couple advance. The stage is set for the bridal dance.

I took Luna’s hand and we walked forward to the dance floor. I held her waist and we began to sway to the words of ‘Love is all around’. We hadn’t had much opportunity whilst living on different sides of the planet to practice our dance steps into a musical masterpiece, though I don’t think it really mattered. We twirled and swirled from side to side. The coloured lights formed a halo around Luna’s hair and she seemed to me every bit a Princess as I softly sang in her ear.

Our bridal party joined us on the dance floor, demonstrating varying levels of grace. Andres and Petra love to dance and their natural rhythm was obvious, even when trying to keep their movements to a minimum. We had joked back in Switzerland that the protocol was not to outdo the bridal couple in the bridal waltz, as a ‘Dancing with the Stars’ moment would not have been out of the question! Our parents then joined us, with Omma and Appa unaccustomed to dancing together in Korea, here looked a happy couple having fun. My Mum and Dad jumped into the opportunity to glide and swing around the dance floor, blue dress and matching bow tie sparkling in the light. The DJ invited the remaining guests to join us and the room began to wiggle and shake to the music.


The men all push and grunt and shove, the garter belt brings lots of love.

A flick of lace, a husky cheer, then celebrated with a beer.

Wedding wishes cast on high, a bouquet of flowers flying by.

The crush of heels and girly squeals! One lucky lass will be revealed...

“This is gonna go down like a lead balloon,” appropriately summed up Stuey, standing beside me. A circle was forming around the dance floor as I looked at Luna sitting on the chair in the centre. It is tradition in Australian weddings at the end of the night to remove the garter from the bride's leg, usually involving the groom diving underneath her dress and pulling it off with his teeth. I've not seen this in any of the Korean weddings and we were both a little concerned that it would be a bit too much of a culture shock! The music began and I slowly crept towards Luna. Eyes watched from all angles and I knelt down on one knee. I touched the lip of her dress and gave her a wink. We quickly stood up hand-in-hand and ran into the little wooden hut beside the reception room and shut the door. Moments later, garter privately removed, I held the loop of white lace triumphantly in the air. The garter represents the grand prize for the single men in the room who battle against each other like a rugby scrum to catch the garter – supposedly bringing marriage to the lucky man.


Then came the single ladies turn to test their wedded luck. Rounded up from all corners of the room, some reluctantly, some with much enthusiasm, they gathered more sedately than the men. Luna turned away from the girls, threw the bouquet high above her head and time seemed to move in slow motion... the flowers spiraled forward like a punt kick of an Aussie rules footy as the ladies eyed it like a grand final cup. Our bridesmaid Libby lunged forward followed closely by Auntie Jen on the left flank. Their arms stretched forward but the flowers yearned for someone else, dropping seductively close and whooshing between their legs. The flowers finally found their feminine friend in Sue who knelt down and quietly picked them up.


Form a circle, make a ring, kiss and cuddle, laugh and sing!


It is strange to bring all of the people from so many parts of your life together in one room, the family, friends, distant relatives, all of these people you would normally happily spend hours and hours engaging in conversation, and here we were saying farewell without having a sense that we had shared more than a welcome kiss. A circle looped its way around the room, Luna went in one direction and I in another, hugging each guest and thanking them for sharing the day with us. Knowing that we were heading back to Switzerland days after the wedding, for some people I knew that we wouldn’t be seeing each other for months, making the lingering hugs all that more meaningful.


Luna and I met half way and shared a cuddle before circling around again to farewell the rest of the group. With a final wave we bid ‘hoo roo’ to our guests and passed through the little wooden door, happy with the day’s events, and even happier to look forward to the days ahead with my wife.


You are my love, you are my bride. Day-by-day, we're side-by-side.


See the wedding photos here.

‎3 steps to guarantee getting up in the morning

Step 1: Set alarm on phone before going to bed.
Step 2: When alarm goes off, hit snooze.
Step 3: Drop phone behind radiator.

2010 in 20 bullet points

G'day,

We're a few days into the new year, the Christmas tree is looking nervous as it knows its days are numbered, the festive feast has been digested and its time to take a quick walk through some of the highlights of 2010.
 
2010
It had a beginning, a middle and an end.
The end was at the beginning,
The beginning was in the middle,
And all was as it was meant to be, when 2010 came to its end.
 
2010 in 20 bullet points and no particular order:
  • Saw the new year in overlooking an eruption of fireworks over the endless Bangkok skyline on our honeymoon.
  • Closed the chapter of working at the World Scout Bureau and entered into the unknown world of the unemployed.
  • Welcomed Luna to Geneva, beginning many happy days together, actually living together for the first time in our five year relationship.
  • Battled alongside Luna to find an apartment in Geneva - 50 applications later, we found one to put our name on the door. So began the IKEAising of our new apartment - I didn't realise you could actually flat pack a couch!
  • Applied for a similar number of jobs.  One application went: Long list, long-short list, short list, phone interview, face-to-face interview, suplimentary phone interview and finally the phone rang and I was offered the job of Science & Learning Officer at the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) in Gland, Switzerland (around the lake from Geneva). Began on the 1st of July focusing on knowledge management in the IUCN programme and being focal point for the Commission on Education and Communication - a global network of around 800 volunteer experts.
  • Dressed as bumble bees and watched Pandas play in brass bands in a fairytale land called Stans in central Switzerland.
  • Indulged in the many delicacies prepared by my amazing wife Luna, proudly displayed on the Facebook album 'Luna's delights'.
  • Joined the wedding celebrations in Italy of our Indian friend Srinath and his Italian bride Annalisa.
  • Visited family at home in Korea, exploring the family vegetable plots, riding on the back of Appa's Harley down to the seafood markets and watched a re-enactment of a fleet of 13 Korean boats defeating 133 Japanese boats.
  • Dined by candelight as we joined millions of people around the world in Earth Hour celebrations.
  • Enjoyed weekend bike rides, walks in the park, playing games and generally having fun with Luna and our Genevan friends.  Slapped cards on the table as quickly as possible frantically calling out "13!"
  • Screamed at the TV as St. Kilda drew against Collingwood in the small hours of the morning at a pub in Geneva.  Went back and did it all again the next week.
  • Represented IUCN at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity 10th Conference of the Parties in Nagoya, Japan where we ran an event 'Communicating Biodiversity: Bringing Science to Life' and launched the short video: 'Love. Not Loss.'.  Watched Japanese teenagers breakdance in the streets and drunk businessmen stumble in the streets.
  • Played with writing, officially joined the Geneva Writers Group and had my first piece of writing critically appraised.  All of my short pieces can be seen on my blog: http://roddles.livejournal.com
  • Worked with IUCN Asia Regional colleagues out of the Bangkok office, gathering information from across the region on knowledge management and worked on a 40,000+ word report.  Visited field sites in the Northern part of Thailand, viewing Myanmar and Laos on the horizon, stopping in at villages to see small scale livelihoods development projects at work.
  • Slapped at mosquitos in my hotel room in Sri Lanka as I watched a documentary on how mosquitos spread malaria.
  • Sipped wine in a cellar beneath a castle in Slovenia.
  • Enjoyed many festive evenings across the border in France.
  • Had our first Swiss Christmas - which fortunately was white.  Christmas is supposed to be hot, at least if it's going to be cold, it should be white.
  • Missed four trains in a single day trying to get to Italy.  Eventually got there and gorged on an abundance of food.  Saw the new year in in a little town somewhere in North-eastern Italy watching locals light up their home batch of fireworks on the road.
We hope that you have had a very enjoyable 2010, that you've had a refreshing holiday break and that 2011 brings you every success!
 
With love,
 
Rod and Luna