Life in Tasmania – Week 3

What an eventful week! We had one of the wildest, wettest weathers ever recorded in Tasmania since 1893 with over 100mm of rain within a day that flooded the city of Hobart as well as its surrounding suburbs including where we live. Thankfully our house didn’t get flooded but we were out of power for 24 hours. This has never happened to me or my partner so we weren’t so prepared for the situation (not that we could predict it to happen), however we learned a lot in the process of dealing with it.

In the first few hours of the power outage, we enjoyed the strange yet wonderful feelings of: waking up slowly to the dim light of dawn as the sun was yet to rise (instead of turning all the bright lights in the living room), making and having breakfast by the candlelight, starting the fire in the fireplace for warmth (instead of the heater) and having the extra reason to snuggle with each other instead of “getting on with our day” as per usual. It forced us to find and take pleasure in simple things with our children that do not rely on having the power (like reading picture books, drawing on the notepad, playing peekaboo, walking in the rain, etc.).

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We even heated up the left-over chicken soup and toasted our bread on the stove of the fireplace for lunch. When the sun started going down, it was a different story though. ‘Didn’t know being out of power can be so much fun!’ we said to each other until the sun started going down… it got dark very quickly. Because we didn’t have any torch handy in the house, we relied heavily on the one candle we had, a tiny clippable reading light and the flashlights on the back of our phones that were on the verge of running out of batteries (which is better than nothing!). Talking about being resourceful. At least the kids went to bed happily, and we went to bed nice and early thinking the power would be back on the next day.

Unfortunately it didn’t. So we spent another full day without the power and without knowing when we would have it back again. We started appreciating things we would usually take for granted like having a working fridge, dishwasher and microwave as well as being able to turn the kettle on for much needed cups of tea to cope with the extreme weather condition. And we also felt so grateful the little fireplace and logs that kept us warm and fed (as used for cooking and heating up food although it would take a lot longer than the normal stove). As “over it” as we were towards the end of the powerless hours (both literally and metaphorically), we felt lucky to be alive and living in the first-world country where we usually wouldn’t have to worry about not having electricity connected. When the power came back (finally!), the light turned on like magic and it never looked and felt so bright before…

As we got the power back on, the week got better too. Our 2-year-old started his first week at the local early learning centre (just about a 5-min walk from our house). Apart from a few teary moments here and there, he settled very well, making Mummy and Daddy proud. This meant we got to have two rather relaxing days just with our baby girl. In fact, I managed to have my “me time” for the first time since moving to Tasmania.

So I put my hiking gear on and went for a walk from Blackmans Bay to Kingston Beach. The chilly, overcast weather didn’t stop me from exploring, since it was much better than having torrential rain that only ended a few days before (it’s all relative, isn’t it?). With mountain and ocean views throughout, it was a very pleasant and picturesque walk. Kingston Beach not only offers nature beauty but also quite a few lovely beachfront cafes including FIKA which is my favourite so far (not only for its high-quality food & coffee but the modern, minimalist yet warm and intimate design/atmosphere). It’s one of those places that inspires one’s creative mind so I got a lot of writing done within an hour, too.  Here is a few snapshots of my walk:

 

Towards the end of the week, we stumbled upon the headquarter of The Art of Tea the Tasmanian tea brand which offers over 100 varieties of black, white, green, organic, chai and oolong tea blends. I bought the Tasmanian Lavender & Green Tea blend and the NUDI blend that was produced in partnership with MONA that contains dried pieces of dark chocolate, very unique and different. As it’s getting colder and colder in Tasmania, I am finding myself drinking more and more cups of tea to stay warm. So more options, the merrier! To celebrate this daily tea-making-and-drinking ritual, I also got myself a hand-knitted Tea Cosy from the Kingston Beach Handcraft Market. Super cozy indeed.

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Week 3 was also about finding opportunities to meet locals and start finding a sense of community here. As part of the community-building strategy, we went to the local library that holds weekly storytime sessions for children and met two other parents with small children who also recently moved to Tasmania from a different state/country. They were very keen to connect and create a new support network in Tasmania themselves, being away from family and friends like we are. I guess it’s human nature to long for a sense of belonging without which we cannot thrive, let alone survive. As I mentioned in last week’s post, It will takes time and effort to develop new friendships so we are willing to take it nice and slow though…

Looking forward to more beautiful surprises and special encounters in Week 4 – and the sunny days ahead of us here in Southern Tasmania 🙂

Life in Tasmania – Week 2

Last week was all about slowing down and creating space for simple things. This week was all about settling in and creating a sense of home. Living in Tasmania which is still a very much new territory for us, it’s natural for us to feel a little out of place and isolated (especially being away from family and friends). So we decided to concentrate on making our new place comfortable and spend more time in the house in order to familiarise ourselves with the space, and stay “local”.

Although we didn’t bring so much stuff here from where we lived in Sydney as we could only fit so much in the car and wanted to enjoy the simplicity of “having less”, we did bring things that make help us stay grounded (i.e. comfort objects) including: a scented candle, a couple of books we love reading including Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and JoyBook by Sarah Ban Breathnach (which is all about finding abundance and joy in everyday life) and of course some toys our children love playing with (and which keep them occupied when we need a little break!). Having these comfort objects in the new house, not to mention a bunch of fresh flowers that do make you smile and feel welcome when you walk in the house, does make a big difference both emotionally and physically.

The weather has gotten a lot cooler over the last week, so much so that we have already started using the little fireplace in the house (and it’s not even Winter yet!). One night we turned all the light off in the house, sat down on the couch in front of the fireplace and watched the beautiful log burning slowly, creating bright orange flames and crunch sounds that our 2-year-old son was completely fascinated by. People often asked us how we were going to deal with the cold weather in Tasmania (being so close to Antarctica) when we told them about our move. We found the last few summers in Sydney endlessly long, way too hot and humid (in fact, it had the record-breaking hot April) for our liking, thanks to global warming… So we are actually loving the cold and refreshing weather here so far and looking forward to having snow here in the next couple of months.

As one of the ways to celebrate and embrace the cold Autumn here, we’ve also been cooking and eating lots of soup, curries and casseroles with seasonal vegetables. The apples and mandarins are in season here and they are so sweet – the kids absolutely love them. Julian, our 2-year-old, learnt how to peel Mandarins by himself with his chubby little fingers. Serena, our 7-month-old, eats and enjoys all kinds of fruits and veggies (especially corns!) despite the fact she only has two teeth. We get all our fruit and veggies from the local Hill St. Grocer that has a wide range of fresh local picks that are beautifully stocked in store (it is the Harris Farm equivalent of independence produce grocer in Tasmania, but much smaller). We’re lucky to have one within walking distance.

Cooking is definitely becoming big part of our day-to-day activities that we like to do it creatively, slowly and mindfully, especially now that we have more time and space (and not having a huge variety of take-away restaurants in the area or convenience of ordering food online also helps!). One thing I do miss about being in Sydney a lot is having a Korean/Asian grocer nearby to buy the spices and Kimchi (to make the traditional spicy Kimchi Soup, etc.) from, but apparently there is one in Sandy Bay that I’m very keen to check out soon. Good news is that we discovered an awesome Korean restaurant located on a stylish main street of North Hobart called Kalbi, we have already been there twice and loved everything (especially their specialty – Galbi) we tried. As a native Korean, I highly recommend it to anyone who likes or would like to try Korean food in Hobart.

This week, my partner started on a new client project so he has been working from home everyday. Looking after (and spending 24/7 with) two small children on my own has been challenging (although he is around and helps out when necessary) especially I’m used to having my in-laws around for help. Yet it’s been a good challenge for me to spend every moment with them, in terms of understanding and prioritising their needs in alignment with their current growth phases. Their sleep pattern is also changing, maybe because of the change in the environment, temperature, etc. As a result, I am a little more tired than usual and certainly haven’t been the most enthusiastic and playful Mummy this week, but when I am with them I try my best to stay fully present, choosing the act of “being” over “doing”. Whenever I feel too exhausted to do “play actively” with my son (e.g. jumping on the trampoline, chasing each other, playing hide-and-seek, etc.), I simply put on some music, start singing and gently dancing along (or just with arms if we are sitting down). It is not only stimulating and entertaining enough for them, but also uplifting enough for me to forget about being so tired. I also enjoyed reading books to them and sharing hot chocolate in the afternoon sun. You know, doing the little things that don’t cost much energy (they can actually be very energising) or money. After all, I have survived this week and the whole family is healthy and alive!

 

Next week, my son will start going to an early learning centre in the local area which means he (and I) will be making new local friends. We are very much looking forward to developing and having a sense of community here (which will make or break our decision to settle long-term in Tasmania at the end of our 6-month trial). At the end of the day, things take time and we are aware of the importance of taking our time and letting things unfold naturally, instead of forcing things to happen. All we can do is take each day (or week) as it comes… 🙂

These Five Words – A Poem

Today, my beloved two-year-old son said “I love you very much” (for the first time!) just before he left the house to go to his grandparents’ place.

It was a magical moment. Those five simple words that came out of his little mouth were so profound that they made my heart swell. I got all teary.

My partner reminded me that I said something like “what’s the point of doing all this hard work for him, when I don’t even know if he loves me back?” during one of many breakdowns I had in the first (and most difficult) few months of parenthood. Of course, I don’t remember saying that at all.

Well, now I know he loves me because he has told me so, even if the two-year-old cannot actually articulate what love is yet. As clichéd as it sounds, it was the moment that made almost two and a half years of hard (and unpaid) work of parenting all worthwhile.

Inspired by the moment and dedicated to my son, I wrote a poem:

“These Five Words”

these five words
make my heart sing
like birds
as loud as
the birds you chase
in the middle of parks

these five words
lift me up
like cranes
as high as
the cranes you watch
in construction sites

these five words
keep me going
like life
as alive as
the life you bring
to my world


minji hur (a.k.a. Mummy)

Goodbye, Big City (at least for now)

“It’s time to say goodbye, but I think goodbyes are sad and I’d much rather say hello. Hello to a new adventure.” ~ Ernie Harwell

I’ve always been a city girl.

Born in Seoul, South Korea which is one of the most densely populated and fast-paced cities in the world, I grew up surrounded by high-rise buildings. Then I moved to Da Lian, a port city in China also with a large population at the age of 13, and to Sydney when I was 15. And I’ve called it home ever since. As a Sydney-sider, I have lived in different suburbs from Bondi Beach, Paddington, Pyrmont, Glebe, North Sydney, Chatswood to Five Dock (all of which are within 15min drive from the Sydney CBD). So the idea of leaving the big city life was something quite different, yet I knew it was worth pondering for many reasons, especially since I started a family.

When I first arrived in Sydney back in 2005, I was amazed by the slow and easy-going nature of its lifestyle. It was such a huge contrast to the cities like Seoul where I grew up. Unlike the Tourism Australia ads I saw on TV as a child, there were no Kangaroos jumping around everywhere. However, it did felt like a small, semi-rural town. I remember making an eye contact with people walking on the streets so naturally and say “G’day” to each other (of course, it was before the invention of smartphones which helped!). In the span of just ten years, Sydney has EXPLODED into this busy, big city full of hustle-and-bustles everywhere beyond the CBD area. With the soaring housing price and employment rates, Sydney is thriving commercially, however it is slowly but surely losing the once relaxed atmosphere and pace of life it had to offer ten years ago. Although it still is far less crowded than other major global cities in Asia Pacific like Seoul, Shanghai or Singapore, it’s well on the way to becoming one. According to the Sydney Morning Herald article, Sydney will reach a population of 6 million by 2028 at current growth rates.

To me and my young family (as well as many other families with small children I’ve spoken to), Sydney is becoming less and less pleasant due to the increasingly congested traffic, construction sites and high cost of living. For example, we were paying $900 per week in a 2-bedroom apartment in Chatswood which was fine when my partner and I were both working full-time on big salaries. The situation changed dramatically when I had stopped working as I fell pregnant with my second child in early 2017. My partner had also decided to stop working 9-5 for a big company and started his own consultancy so he could be more flexible and spend more time with the family. All of a sudden, our income halved and we could no longer afford living in a $900pw apartment, not to mention the need for a bigger place to live in for our growing family. And that was when we had to ask ourselves the question “Do we want to continue living in Sydney, where we don’t necessarily enjoy living in anymore, but have to keep working nine-to-five (or more) Monday to Friday just to be able to afford the rent for a tiny apartment? Do we want our children to grow up surrounded by fast cars and construction sites?” The answer was clearly NO.

We have realised, what we truly want is to live a life slowly, mindfully and meaningfully where we have enough time, space and money to enjoy simple things (like singing and dancing, going for bush walks, reading books, cooking and eating together, being playful and creative (both with family and work), etc. on a daily basis. And it turns out, we don’t have to live in the big city to in order to enjoy these simple things. In fact, the big city life will get in our way of finding space (both physically and mentally) to do these things. What’s more, we want to do less “big city things” including mindlessly shopping around and spending money on things we don’t need (and produce more waste), walking through the crowd of people rushing everywhere and being stuck in traffic, just to name a few. Most importantly, we don’t have to live in the city for work either, none of us has an office job. We have digital and business skills which means the majority of our work can be done online. For a long time, we have been going for weekend getaways to peaceful & quiet, semi-rural areas to “get away” from the city. Now we want to do the other way around: living in peace & quiet and going for weekend trips to the city (mainly to see family & friends) every couple of months. This makes perfect sense.

After countless conversations with my partner and nights spent on contemplating this idea, we have finally decided to make our first step towards leaving the big city by going on a six-month adventure to Tasmania – a beautiful island/state with a great mixture of nature (national parks, rainforests and stunning beaches throughout) as well as culture (thanks to MONA and many other cultural hotspots). When my partner and I first visited Tasmania in 2015, we fell in love with it and knew it was the kinda place we wanted our children to grow up in. Yes it was a holiday after all and we will never know about the place until we live in it. So we believe, six months of actually living there means we will be able to get the feel for the Tasmanian lifestyle and decide whether we want to settle there long-term. So instead of moving everything from Sydney to Hobart, we will only take the essentials and move to a fully-furnished place on a short-term lease to test the water first. According to our research so far, the short-term rental properties in Tasmania are about half of what similar properties cost in Sydney (e.g. $400-450 for a 3-bedroom place).

By reducing the cost of living by half, we will also reduce pressure on ourselves to earn enough money to make ends meet while increasing time and energy spent doing things that “matter” to us the most, as opposed to doing what “everybody else” is doing and living with herd mentality that is so epidemic in this city life bombarded by media and advertising that scream “you should buy _____ (insert whatever) because it will make you happy” and equivalent messages that constantly tell us to do and buy more things all the time. What the world needs, I believe, is less things but more time and space to work out what truly makes us happy and to do more of those. By leaving this hectic life behind, we are hoping not only to find time to spend time with each other, but also to find a sense of community and develop slow, quality and genuine relatonships with like-minded people and families.

Like any big change, there will be lots of challenges both physically and emotionally, including being away from our family and friends, getting lost in the middle of nowhere and not having the world’s fastest internet connection (although some people say the internet is faster in rural areas with NBN in place), etc. But we are ready to make a change and take this opportunity to make a positive difference in our lives as well as our children’s. We may not like the lifestyle and want to move back to the city at the end of our adventure, but it’s highly likely that we will love it and never look back… either way, it will be a great, unforgettable experience for us all.

So goodbye big city life in Sydney (at least for now), hello life in Tasmania!

p.s. I am not leaving my blog though, in fact I’ll be writing a lot more and be sure to keep you posted.