Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas 2010 update

McKay Family Christmas Letter 2010

Well it’s been a huge year… and if you read on you will find out about it.

Connor started school this year at Jesmond Public in Kindergarten. He got off to a flying start making some great friends and has developed a love of reading and writing (he only started writing on the second day of school and amazed himself that he was able to do it suddenly!). His teacher says he revels in being able to do things she can’t and telling her so! He is a whiz on the computer and loves playing games – even the educational ones. Connor chose to do gymnastics and has become much more confident over the year. He has continued swimming – a bottom feeder like his father – and this term decided he wanted to start learning piano, which he is loving! Connor is a kind, quiet boy who loves building stuff.

Laura has enjoyed being in Year 3 – only year 3’s this year, no composite! She’s been very involved with lots of school activities including dance group, aerobics troupe, speeches, library monitor, choir and anything else she can get involved with. The school choir reached the finals of the Hunter Valley Gardens Choir Competition, which was fantastic. She started drama lessons with Young People’s Theatre and performed in her first show in October/November – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The cast was huge (3 casts) and the production was wonderful. It was all a little overwhelming at first but once she got into the performances she loved it. Laura has continued piano lessons with a new teacher and has progressed really well. She’s also enjoyed doing gymnastics and persisted with swimming lessons (at her parent’s insistence!). Laura is as outgoing and charismatic as ever and is looking forward to her 9th birthday party – a formal dinner with her friends (just after Christmas).

Fiona has continued working for GHD, increasing to 3 days a week recently. She has been made a ‘Senior’ (she is getting old isn’t she!) and has enjoyed working on a challenging project near Picton. Chamber Choir has taken up a huge amount of Fiona’s life again. In July the University paid for the 40-member group to tour China for 3 weeks. Fiona really enjoyed the tour, although it was a lot of hard work. China was fantastic and the highlight was coming first place in 2 of the 3 sections at the World Choir Games in Shaoxing. The other major highlight was walking on the Great Wall and seeing Shanghai at night. It was a long three weeks away from the family! The choir recorded two CDs this year – Jasmine and Wattle has just been released and the other CD is to be released early next year.

Niall has had a busy year with building up the Uni group again after a number of people moved on to jobs etc last year. He also had a trip away from the family – a study tour of Turkey with a group from the Uniting Church. He really enjoyed the opportunity to see so many historical sites and learn more about the history and culture of this country. He loved the early morning balloon ride over Cappadocia (see photo). Niall has had another knee operation on the same knee, which seems to have been successful. He has enjoyed keeping up bike riding and swimming and has become a real handyman, making a cover and door under the side of the house. He also enjoyed singing with a student choir at the Uni (a different night to Fi’s choir so we could manage babysitting!).

After each of the parents taking separate trips, it was time for a long overdue family holiday! We spent a few days in Hong Kong and then 14 days in Vietnam having lots of adventures and cultural experiences.

The kids travelled really well (only threw up once during the descent into HK). The highlights were the Ocean Park in Hong Kong and then Vietnam with its lush green vegetation, pho (pron. ‘fur’) noodle soup, ruins from 7th Century you could touch and walk through, beautiful people, wonderful food, tailor shops, an overnight boat trip on Halong Bay, temples (pagodas), flower arrangements and motor bike rides. The traffic was something else – so many motorbikes and no one following any road rules (except, occasionally in Ho Chi Minh City). We used every mode of transport possible – plane, boat (3 different sizes), kayak in Halong Bay (see photo), cyclo (see photo), taxi, train (overnight and HK Metro), bus, cable car, motorbike, tram, walking (lots!), swimming, travelators, ferry. Connor was in transportation heaven.

We really enjoyed travelling on tour with a family from Jasper, Canada. They had two girls, 10 and 9, who got on with our kids famously. Our tour guide was lots of fun – he loved the kids!

This year has been a time a time of discernment for us. We both felt that it was time to move in a new direction and we have both been listening for God in this. We have been wanting to live overseas with the kids for a while and so looked at a few options, deciding, finally, on South Africa. Niall was accepted into an MTh program at Stellenbosch University and has some wonderful supportive family nearby. Since October almost everything has clicked into place. We will be renting a house in Stellenbosch (40 km from Cape Town), Fiona is looking for a job (taking 2 years leave without pay from her current work) and the kids will be attending Rhenish Public School, an English speaking school which several of Niall’s cousins have attended.

It’s a huge move, as we leave behind many wonderful friends and family, our house and the many things we know and love in Newcastle. However, we are looking forward to many new experiences and the many visitors we hope to host. The kids are excited, although Laura is hesitant to move away from her lovely friends. They were all crying for a week when they found out she was leaving! It will be sad to leave the many great communities we have been a part of – school, church, choir, uni, work and neighbours. Fi had her last choir concert this week and only has 3 more weeks of work left. Things are quickly coming to a close.

In other news this year has been very exciting for Ange and Chris who were engaged last December and then married in late October this year. The wedding was beautiful – a high tea at Wyndham Estate Winery in the Hunter Valley. Laura was a flower girl and Fiona was the bridesmaid (Matron of Honour). They spent a lovely 4 weeks honeymooning in Italy.

We’ve had the joy of welcoming another McKay to the family – Jemima Coco McKay was born in May to Murray and Yvette. We all travelled down to Canberra to see Jemima and her beaming parents, also getting to see Holly, Ross and Sophie.

Kanella and Norman are expecting their first child due around May 2011. Tim is heading into Year 12 next year and working hard part-time at McDonalds.

We had a great time at a recent Christmas party with over 60 friends and family members at our place – our last party at home before we head off. It was great to see so many people all at once and enjoy each other’s company and food!

We leave Australia on 26 January 2011 – perhaps poetic – and you are all very welcome to visit us in SA. If not we hope you will all continue to keep in touch with us. Our email addresses will remain the same. Fi’s mum is still in Newcastle, so you could always pass messages through her (Ros Evans Ph 4952 8944).

While we are away our house will be rented out to our church. If anyone is interested in having our cat, Isabelle, let us know! She is very much loved and needs a new home.

We look forward to an exciting 2011 and hope you and your family enjoy a blessed time together this Christmas.

Love Fi, Niall, Laura and Connor McKay (and Isabelle)


Post a Comment

<< Home