From Vietnam to the Vines
While some parts of our move to the Barossa could be seen as spontaneous and spur of the moment, the reality is, the idea had been brewing for some time.
My husband Simon previously worked in supply chain and sales in the wine industry and we had thought that after our three year posting to Hanoi, it might be a good time to take a break from life in Canberra and spend some time in a wine producing region.
My posting to Hanoi was my second posting with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and completely different experience from my first posting in Beijing now that I had a family with me. We had a fabulous time seeing as much of Hanoi, Vietnam and the region as we could. While my year of Vietnamese language training wasn’t enough to have me speaking fluently, it did allow for local chats, shopping and the odd prepared speech.
My work was mix of trade and cultural diplomacy work. On the trade side I reported on challenges in the economy and doing business in an emerging economy and helped Australian exporters (especially those in mining, wine and food), navigate Vietnam’s rapidly reforming government systems.
I was also able to use my interest and experience in event management to run the Embassy’s media and cultural program to strengthen the bilateral relationship between Australia and Vietnam. In 2013 to celebrate 40 years of diplomatic relations with Vietnam, we staged a number of high profile events including tours by Bangarra Dance Theatre, Questacon science museum, and numerous music acts including Elixir featuring Katie Noonan. The celebrations culminated with showcase of Australian food and wine and the launch of a commemorative book at a gala Australia Day event in January 2014.
As exciting and interesting as the work was, it meant many long hours and time away from my family. I decided to start exploring new options and started a Masters in Arts and Entertainment Management. As we headed into our final 6 months, the opportunity arose for me to take a redundancy. Given I had been toying with a career change for a large part of our posting, it seemed like a good option.
We started seriously looking at where we might want to live in Australia. As much as we had loved Canberra, we knew that taking a redundancy meant the chance to try something different. South Australia started to look like the most affordable option to resettle in Australia, especially if I was going to take some time out to consider my next career.
The redundancy process turned out to be much slower than expected and so when we started packing up out house in Hanoi in mid-June, I still didn’t have a final exit date and Simon still didn’t have a job. But we decided to take a leap, and on the day the packers arrived, we confirmed that the shipment would be sent to Adelaide.
After a brief stopover in Hong Kong to take the boys to Disneyland, we arrived back in Australia on 22 June and spent some time with family and friends in Sydney and Wollongong. I turned 40 and after a month at home we finally decided on the Barossa.
I think social media played a big part in me feeling that the Barossa was THE place for us, starting with our one friend in the Valley ‘liking’ a post from the Barossa Famer’s Market. From there I started to like and follow various businesses. Watching the way the community came together during the bushfires in January, I remember thinking this was somewhere I wanted to live.
We arrived here on a cold, wet Tuesday afternoon late July. The next morning we visited the school, saw a house at lunchtime, and by Friday our furniture that had spent 3.5 years in storage was being delivered as one son started in Reception and one went off to childcare. Luckily, Simon’s networks had come through with a job and by Monday he was starting at the Peter Lehmann cellar door, just a short walk from home.
It all happened very quickly, and from the moment we arrived, we felt welcome. People seemed genuinely happy to be living in the Barossa and seemed quite chuffed that we had chosen to make this our home. Any thought that this might have been a temporary ‘posting’ was quickly erased by our almost 6 year old, who announced in his first week that he loved Tanunda Primary School and we were going to live here forever.
Its now been four months, although in some ways, it feels a lot longer because we were able to settle in so quickly. Soon after arriving, I wrote a blog post about the things I was missing about Hanoi and the things I loved about the Barossa. These included the Farmer’s Market (which lived up to my expectations – and is now part of my Saturday routine), loads of great local food and wine (of course), great parks, being close to everything we needed and the sense of community, history and place. The other big thing was the fresh air, abundant blue skies and scenery – which are filling my phone, camera and social media feeds with gorgeous photos.
Arriving in winter just as vines were being pruned, we have enjoyed watching the landscape change. It has been great meeting people and getting to know more about the place. Just as I did in Hanoi, I’m finding social media – especially Twitter and Instagram are great for making connections and people have been so generous with their time, advice and introductions. My love of cooking has been renewed with so much fresh seasonal produce, from the markets and friends. Just this week one of the Mums from school arrived for pick-up with a huge punnet of cherries and a dozen eggs.
I think we have chosen the perfect time to make our home in the Barossa. We have met so many dynamic people and there seems to be a sense of optimism about the future of the Barossa Valley. From new restaurants and shops, to the many events and markets that fill the calendar, I feel like I feel there are so many opportunities to take my experiences in Canberra, Beijing and Hanoi, and my interests and to get involved in our new community and make this our home.
Tanunda, 26 November 2014