Well, it has definitely been a busy, fun-filled and action-packed year. It is hard to believe that another year has passed and we are living in yet another country! Sometimes I just have to give my head a shake as I am walking past the 17th century buildings around our new hometown of Arequipa, Peru.
Exactly a year ago, the middle of December 2015, I was on Koh Samui, exploring and writing articles for International Living Magazine. But more about them later! Suffice it to say that we were still living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with little knowledge about what lay ahead for us in 2016.
The New Year started with a bang when we attended my son’s wedding in Changsha, China at the beginning of January. Phil and Eva have been together a few years and it was great to take part in their celebration. Must admit that the “day after” was not so great!” Twelve hours of drinking everything from wine to beer to whiskey to baijou…let’s just say being the father of a bridegroom that owns a bar is not always a good idea!
It was about this time that I got a call from Maple Leaf International School in Tianjin, China. “Hey, Steve, can we convince you to come out of retirement for a few months? We just need somebody for the last semester.” Same system, different city, as the school I worked at for six years in Wuhan. Hmmm, money was good, we loved China, only four months,…and teaching Digital Media would be a lot less stress than the math and chemistry I had been teaching for the last few decades! Yep, I accepted!
We had been thinking of leaving Thailand for good and this was our opportunity. The politics were getting weird, the visa process was a pain, we were smoked out of the city a few months every year because of farmers burning off crops and you could never obtain any residency for more than a year at a time. Not to mention, every foreigner has to check in to immigration every 90 days. As much as we loved Thailand, we decided it was a good time to leave!
So off we went to Tianjin for four months. And a good time was had by all! It didn’t take long to fit into the new school. The school apartment sucked and the fridge never did work but it just didn’t matter. We were only there for a short time and a good time! We lived with a wok, chopsticks and two knives, forks and spoons. We refused to buy anything else since we knew we would be out of there by the summer.
I had no sooner started working back in China than I was off to the International Living conference in New Orleans for several days in April. This was part of the deal I made when I took the teaching job. Fortunately, school exams were the same week so it wasn’t too big a problem for anybody. It’s always fun getting together with my writer friends at International Living and meeting the hundreds of attendees looking to retire abroad.
The Chinese May holiday found us basking in the sunshine on the southern tropical Chinese province/island of Hainan. We visited Sanya several times while living in Wuhan and it was great to return again to one of our favorite places. This time I had my writing hat on since I was killing two birds with one stone and going to be doing a couple of articles for the magazine about the place.
As predicted, the end of June arrived quickly and so did the second and final end of my teaching career. As much as I love teaching, there will be no more returns to the classroom if I can help it!
July 1 found us on our way to Arequipa, Peru, via Moscow and Madrid. We had decided that Peru would be our next home after doing copious research and balancing what would be best for our personal lives and my ongoing writing for International Living Magazine. Arequipa seemed like a good fit. So off we went with our four suitcases and two carry-ons in hand, the current extent of our belongings. It is so nice not having any more “stuff”!
We spent a week in Madrid and loved every second of it. In fact, we thought about just staying there but it was a little expensive and the visa situation is pretty tricky for retirees. So after a few days of wining, dining, site-seeing and watching a few bulls being slaughtered in the local bull-fights. A few days later, it was off to Arequipa, our final destination…for now.
On July 19, Phil and Eva welcomed our first grandchild, Hunter, into the world in Changsha, China. We really have become an international family! A couple of months later, they opened their new bar/restaurant in the city.
By the end of July, we had settled in to our new condo and got to know the area a bit. But no relaxing yet! We had to zip off to Canada for two more weddings in August, my younger son and my niece. So it was off to Mount Alison University in Sackville, New Brunswick where Pat and Aly spent a fun-filled weekend getting married and getting caught up with friends and family.
Then off to Brockville to hang out with my 80 and 90-something parents for a week before heading to the wine country of Southern Ontario to Samantha and Scott’s wedding. It took place at a beautiful winery so the wine was flowing again! Ok, three weddings was enough for one year…time to go back home and take a few days off from the booze…
Back to Arequipa where we have spent the last few months getting to know the area and the incredible restaurants. Over 300 days of sunshine a year, low 20s every day, food to die for, great local wines and cheeses…what else could you want? The Pacific coast is a two-hour drive away. We love it! We cross the street and we are in the old historic center that dates back to the 17th century.
In November, it was off to another International Living conference at the Red Rock Casino and Conference Center in Las Vegas where I was involved with four presentations and panel discussions. It actually started the day after the US election, which made for some interesting conversations! Remember that the hundreds of attendees are looking at retiring abroad!
So now it is December again. It has been a whirlwind of a year but what a gas! And people still ask me how I spend my days as a retired person!!! Aren’t you bored? Don’t you miss work? No and no. Are you f… kidding me??!! My question is more like how did I find the time to teach?
So coming up in the New Year…in January we are off to the coastal city of Trujillo, which I will be exploring to write about. I continue to write about Thailand and am beginning to do more articles about Peru. I have officially changed from Thailand correspondent to Peru correspondent. The next big IL conference takes place in May in Atlanta. And I know there is other stuff happening before then. The adventure continues!
And, best of all, we have lost 80 pounds between the two of us over the last year. That book or website is coming soon!!!
So Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays or whatever is PC in the rest of the world these days from the two of us. Hope everyone has a great New Year and all your dreams come true!
Steve and Nancy