Christmas Special, 2008

December 2008, by Tom

To think that a little under 12 months ago, in late December 2007, we were here in London, packing up our travel bags for the last time and flying home to the southern hemisphere for two weddings. The first, Graham and Lisa' wedding on the Gold Coast, the first port of call, a fantastic week of celebrations. The second, Josh and Kate's wedding in summery Wellington.

It was fantastic to be able to rest our travel weary bodies for a while in the comfort and familiarity of Wellington, the city we still call home while taking in the last taste of the summer we had been following for the previous 6 months through Europe. What lay ahead we did not know, but, after two months in Wellington, it was finally time to pack our bags for good and to start the real OE in our new chosen home, London.

After reaching London - in the peak of it's winter - we had two things to concentrate on - getting jobs and finding somewhere to live and not necessarily in that order. Although stressful at first, both tasks were completed relatively quickly. On day 30, we were happy but thankful to say goodbye to the fold-out couch and the ten flatmates that came with our dossing home and carted our few belongings ten minutes down the road, to the other side of the tracks, to Fordwych Road. Here we live with Paul (Gini's brother) and Lauren (Pauls girlfriend) in a relatively small two bedroom, third floor flat.

We've both managed to land on our feet with fantastic jobs - Gini is a senior designer at Clear Channel Outdoor - where she is challenged daily while doing their in-house design and artwork. Tom found a spot as a Senior Developer at a small Kiwi owned outfit called Delete London which specialises in online media such as websites. We're both gaining a huge amount of experience - and we're already looking forward to using our new found skills back home one day.

To say that London is a social place is an understatement. It's very much a pub and club culture with constant goings on - it's great to be a part of the bigger picture. We have both made new friends at our respective works and often join them on after work excursions.

One of our main reasons for taking the big OE plunge is to travel. So far so good! We've managed to see some of South England - Penzance, Dartmoor, Devon as well as a few quick weekend getaways to neighbouring countries - Italy, Belgium and Spain.

We've also had two transatlantic getaways - the first to San Francisco and Las Vegas to catch up with all the Hutt boys and girls and to watch Dan and Jo tie the knot, Vegas style. The second journey, we met Andy and Nicky in the Big Apple - New York! How amazing it is to catch up with friends in such far away and exotic locations.

Our Euro Tunnel getaway to Bruge, Belgium, was not without it's moments - fantastic beer, mussels and pomme frites - and where we got engaged! A complete surprise to Gini, as Tom dropped to one knee and popped the question - little did she know that Tom had been planning this moment for a while now.

Gini took Tom to Barcelona, Spain for his birthday present - and what a present it was. Relaxing on a beach in the Mediterranean eating tapas while Londoners froze.

Both sets of parents passed through London on their travels which was a welcomed pleasure. It has also been great having a little family here, living with Paul and having James (Tom's brother) just down the road.

Speaking of freezing - it's becoming that time of year again, when the trees have lost their leaves and trimmed of their branches, when the warmest jackets we own are no longer warm enough and the temperature on the tubes is finally bearable for the work commute.  Still, it's actually quite nice being somewhere north of the equator at Christmas time. The streets are lined with Christmas lights, the parks are filled with markets and families in festive moods and everyone seems remarkably cheery.

With the credit crunch in full swing, we have been lucky to escape the fallout so far (touch wood) and and have noticed the UK being the most affected. I'm sure in 2009 it will pick itself up, however.

As we close out 2008 with one last holiday - a week in Morocco - we look forward to our second year in what is now our home away from home. With 2009 set to be an even busier and fun filled timeout from New Zealand, we're both so happy with how things have worked out and what things we have to look forward to.