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As we are preparing our Christmas tree I cannot help but think back and reflect on times gone by.
Three years ago around this time we bought our last New Zealand Christmas tree at John Munro's Tree Farm in Kaikorai Valley Rd.
It was our last New Zealand Christmas for a while as Melanie and I decided to move our wee family to Europe to be closer to our respective families in Germany and South Africa. But Dunedin and the people there are always in our thoughts and we think back so fondly of our time there.
Mel and I met at the Otago University MBA programme in 2010. I was still playing rugby for Otago at the time and was doing my best to get some extra papers behind my name before some inevitable injury came along and life after rugby started in earnest.
I still vividly recall that cold 2010 August night down in Invercargill against Southland for the Ranfurly Shield. We went down 16-12 and I left the field with a dislocated shoulder. That ended my year.
Even though my time in the Otago jersey was not as long as I would have liked, I would not change a single thing about my journey. I would do it all over again, even for just one game in the blue and gold.
You see, rugby is a wonderful game. It teaches you how to live a disciplined life, work towards goals, handle pressure, work with people in teams, make friends, deal with enemies, celebrate success, handle disappointments, the list goes on.
New Zealand Rugby and Dunedin took me in and gave me a chance to live out my dream and meet the woman of my dreams. For that, I am forever thankful.
Carl, our oldest son, was born in Dunedin and still sleeps under a beautifully knitted woollen blanket given to us by Tuppy and Margaret Diack. Margaret knitted it for him after his birth.
A painting of the Otago rugby jersey I received from Bruce Carvell hangs on my wall and the tattoo designed by David Burke after I received my New Zealand citizenship still sits on my chest.
Dunedin is also where I started my professional business career.
Here I was again fortunate to be given a chance by first the Radio Network and then Escea fireplaces. It was at Escea where I found my place and enjoyed every second working in such an innovative Kiwi business with the most genuine people.
We live in The Hague in the Netherlands. We have been here just shy on three years now and have settled in quite nicely.
We live five minutes on a bike away from a lovely long beach, Scheveningen, and spend as much time as we can there. Our second son, Emil, was born here in 2017. Carl turns 5 in February and has started his first rugby trainings at the local rugby club HRC (Haagsche Rugby Club).
Over New Year's, we will meet up with some Dunedin expat friends who worked with Mel at AbacusBio in Dunedin. We regularly have people on their travels stop by and say hello.
Just recently I had a great night out in town here with Mark Davie and Alan McGregor from Escea fireplaces.
Since arriving in The Netherlands I have been working at Hilti as a sales manager and will join the board of directors for our Dutch subsidiary in January next year in a new role. Mel is working hard on a new business idea and our boys are loving kindergarten.
It is great to see that Dunedin is thriving at the moment. It really is a great little city with great people and a pretty awesome stadium to boot.
We look forward to bringing our boys down for a visit as soon as they are old enough to experience New Zealand to its fullest and spend some time under a Kiwi Christmas tree.