2016 was the hardest and most wonderful year of my life. I have been working on getting my permanent residency here in Korea and after 2 years of a lot hardships I finally passed. In past years, my review was about my professional photographs for clients and while I did work a little this past year, I didn't take on too much because I realised my attention was split and I needed to focus on obtaining my Residency. So this review contains mostly personal photos shot on my iPhone. Thank you for taking the time to go through my journey with me!
The cold month of January was mostly spent hibernating with my best friend. We spent mornings baking in the sun and braving the cold for our daily walks. I also travelled up to Seoul to second-shoot for one of Korea's best, Mr. Dylan Goldby which was a ton of fun! We worked at a beautiful location on the Han River and the memories I have of this day set my year off to a great start.
Korea also experienced a lot of snow in the first month. I of course was all starry eyed and took millions of pictures, Dino on the other hand, was less than pleased and went into full hibernation mode. The snow eventually melted and February rolled in with its long Lunar New Year's holiday which meant some quality friend time. I spent a lot of time drinking coffee, eating good food and jetted off to Jeju with one of my favorites. Camera-free.
We decided to rent a car and just drive around everyday. The weather was not too kind but it did clear up for like 30 minutes so that Erin could see Jeju Island in all its glory. I also went on a hunt for the famous Haenyeo (Women Divers of Jeju) and we found some in action. I was thrilled and also regretted leaving the camera at home a little bit...
One of my new year's resolutions was also to take control of my health. For good. And also to face more fears. So I killed two birds with one stone and joined a crossfit gym. I have talked about what crossfit has given me and taught me in an article I wrote for Gwangju News but looking back, it's one of the biggest triumphs of my year and the people that have now become apart of my daily-life, makes this milestone even more special to me.
The months of March and April were a bit of a whirlwind. I took on a bunch of photography every weekend, I was back at the Korean Learning center full-time, working full-time and exercising at night too. However my daily walks with Dino and some special meetups with friends whom I hadn't been able to spend time with for a long time made for a beautiful spring.
Spring turned to summer. It seems like quite a blur looking back. Eat, sleep, work, study, repeat. Weeks rolled by but daily walks with Dino were still my favorite as it was the only form of quiet and creative stimulation in my days.
At the end of summer I had finally passed the language part of my course and I was set to complete the final phase: Understanding of Korean Society. At this point I was happy for the few weeks off to breathe again and could reconnect with my friends again, but I was tired and completely drained. I made the decision to go on a photo hiatus. I accepted no new clients and threw myself 100% in the final stage of the program.
On the first day of my new class, I soon realised that I could not do this alone. The teacher was all over the place, she had no experience in teaching this material and she babbled on about things completely irrelevant. After a bit of a meltdown I went in search of a tutor to help me on my off days and weekends. What an awesome human this woman was to me. I won't go on too much about her, however I will say this: She is the epitome of kindness and giving because she truly wants to see you succeed.
And somewhere in this crazy-ness I had lost my heart to a baby boy that needed a home or he would have been sent off to a shelter or I shudder to think, sold to a meat farm. Meet Ringo...
After a big adjustment (for Dino and myself), Ringo is now a little happy energy in our home. He is so happy to be alive and he teaches me everyday to just live and be happy with now.
Fall was in full swing. Life was still chaotic but with beautiful fall skies and a cool breeze, it was more bearable. I studied every free moment in preparation for my upcoming test. I did take one day to overcome one of my fears: hiking. I went up a pretty big mountain with my crossfit friends and they once again taught me that when you change your brain you can change anything! It was some awesome momentum to get me over my last challenge.
Results came in and I passed! I cried. I was so happy to be done. To have time again. If there is one thing that this whole two-year journey had taught me was to value time. I savoured each slow morning, every weekend I did things that brought me joy. I literally just (and I am still) enjoyed and savoured my free-time. I took a birthday trip to Jeonju (something on the bucket list), marvelled at beautiful autumn colors and caught up with old friends.
And suddenly it was December! My best friend came to visit Korea after 3 years and we had so much fun doing all the things that make living in Korea awesome! In December I also played around with the timelapse feature on my phone I don't have too many photos to show for my month ;)
And once again another year came to an end. My new year's eve was spent with the boys and an early night because I decided to do the Korean thing this year: hiking to see the first sunrise of the new year. This set an awesome tone to my new year and hopefully by December I will forget how cold and hard it was and go up again next year!
A belated but HAPPY new year to you! I want to thank clients who were very understanding and patient with me, friends who supported me and kept me inspired and motivated. I have a whole lot to be grateful for. May your 2017 be a happy year!