Do I even need to go there, it feels like the end of year speeches that you prepare for a graduation or farewell and I suppose that is what it is, we are all graduating from the year of 2011.  I know this year has taught me a lot about myself and those around me, it has brought me closer to the ones I love the most and realize what and who in my life are important.  So just what has happened this year in the McManus Clan household, well get a glass of wine, a comfy seat and settle in….

The most exciting part of my year, every year, is the travelling we get to do from here and we had a few exciting trips.  December 2010 / January 2011 we spent in Johannesburg and Jeffreys Bay. With Mom being diagnosed with cancer in July last year, it was lovely to spend a quiet Christmas with the family in JBay and see Mom recover a bit from the chemo and ready herself for her operation.  Moms op was a 50/50 success with the hysterectomy going well but the doctors leaving some of the cancer behind as it had attached itself to her colon and kidney. This has left Mom having sessions of chemo throughout the year.  We went back to SA in August to spend more time with everyone and Mom moved back to Jeffreys Bay after having lived up in Joburg between Debs and Les’ homes and decided to continue chemo treatment in Port Elizabeth. I think overall it has been a good move, to be in her own home and have Dad close by. Mom continues with the chemo and hopefully at the beginning of January will have a few more answers as to “where to from here.” She has been told that the cancer will always be there and now we all need to know what the treatment from here on in will be.

What makes this trip back to SA in December special for us all is that all Mom’s daughters will be together for Christmas, with husbands and Grandchildren included it is going to be a festive holiday (sadly missing and who will be missed are Adrian, Marco and Natalie).

In February we were off to Cyprus to spend a few days skiing on the slopes and hiking the Akamas Peninsula. We spent a lovely week there and saw my wonderful friend and her family, Maria, Harry and their gorgeous girls, while completing the furnishing of the apartments. It is such a lovely place, we are hoping to be back in Feb 2012 to spend a few relaxing days there, while Sean goes on tour to Switzerland with his school for a few days of skiing on the Swiss Alps, lucky boy.

For our 20th Wedding Anniversary (Yes 20!!) we headed off to Vienna, Austria (just in case you did not know where it was:)). Here Steve had booked a wonderful evening for the whole family where we went to a 5 course meal (of which Jess had one – the dessert), off for a carriage ride to the theater to watch a Mozart Concert.  We did the touristy thing and saw all the cathedrals, palaces, monuments and galleries and just loved the European spring and atmosphere. Loved loved loved Vienna and would definitely go back.

Then in August Steve climbed Kilimanjaro a long term dream of his, planned over 2 years ago and actioned by his friend David here in Qatar during a taxi ride to work. The conversation went something like this:
Steve, “I would love to climb Kilimanjaro, a hike that I have always wanted to do.” Dave, “Me to. So what are we waiting for, lets plan it and just go.” And so the trip was planned in October 2010 and Steve and Dave started training.  Around June 2011, Craige Benjamin decided he was keen to join the guys on the hike and so in August the three of them set off on their adventure. I will let Steve tell you all about it, I can only relay how I felt and how between Col and myself when we had not heard from them for 2 days we were a bit nervous. They did make it and we were ever so relieved 🙂

Sean then continued our travels when in the first term of Year 6 he went on an orienteering boot camp to Fajeira in the UAE, 2 hours from Dubai. He had the best time ever where they hiked, biked, canoed, snorkeled, rock climbed, abseiled and did all the boot camp activities that make parent’s hearts stop.  I am sure he would go back there tomorrow if he could.  Otherwise our oldest little man had quite a year. He was accepted into the Qatar Music Academy in January and completed the first semester with a violin and piano recital playing Bach’s Prelude. He was also part of the School Dinner Theater where he played The Entertainer to everyones delight. He has really done well with his music and is more of a playing by ear guy than learning how to read music, but he perseveres and is now in his first proper school year with the academy in Level 2. He sang in the QMA choir in the first half of the year and got to sing a solo part to “Thank you for the Music”. He is also enjoying gymnastics and is quite agile on trampoline, sings in the school choir and plays a little bit of tennis now to our delight, another tennis partner (actually two with Jess starting too) for Steve and I to play with. He sang in the school choir at the Doha Tribecca Film Festival which was on the “big” stage.  So overall a good year. He moved from the International School of London (ISLQ) (after a bullying episode) and is now in the British Embassy School – Doha English Speaking School and is much happier and becoming more British by the day 🙂

DESS at the Doha Tribecca Film Festival

Jessica has grown and developed into a little star and also moved from ISLQ, (the trip between the two schools was killing me with them 40 minutes apart), to Compass International where she has blossomed.  She is a busy little soul and tries out for everything. She is quite the gymnast doing backbends and flipping herself over to forward flips, handstands and splits and always ever so proud of herself.  She loves singing and joined the choir this past term and love love loves it!  So between gymnastics, choir, indoor athletics and tennis she is a busy bee. She received a Mr Benn Certificate for her presentation when she tried out to join the Student Council and missed out by 1 vote, which I thought was very good considering she was one of the new students and missed out to someone who has been at the school for much longer. Being the socialite that she is though, I expect she will succeed next year. To finish off this year, she got to sing with Angelique Kidjo on the big stage at the Doha Tribecca Film Festival, she was very proud and what a wonderful performance.

Compass International with Angelique Kidjo
Steven: Well I think Denise has covered all the bases. I guess my personal highlight was climbing Kilimanjaro in August. It was a quality break in terms of being away from civilisation and technology and I was privileged to share life time memories with 2 great friends. We have had a good year overall as a family and Sean and Jess are blossoming 🙂 Denise is enjoying being back in the corporate world, in a challenging but exciting technology organization and working with a great bunch of people. We are blessed. Life is good.
As for me, a few bumps in the road with moving schools and wanting to move back home every now and then but otherwise life here is good.  I actually realized just how many times Steve and I have moved not only homes but cities, from Welkom, Durban, Mmabatho, Johannesburg and now Doha, then add Bahrain and Mooi River for Steve, we certainly could be termed Expats now.  I have also joined a corporate again, ictQATAR – the information and communication technology government body in Qatar, at the moment just on a 6 month contract as a writer. I am enjoying the change in routine and finding it quite exhilarating . I am looking forward to the Xmas break with the whole family together and spending a few days in Cape Town and Oudtshoorn and then on to Jeffreys. Oh,we have all taken up tennis again with the whole family having lessons once a week, quite fun getting back into it all!
Other fun outings for us have been going to the ATP Tennis and seeing Federer and Nadal playing, then we got to go to see a few games of the Asian Cup and watched the finals, Formula boat racing each year sees us watching them race around the Corniche, and this year we got to watch the French Air Force display their moves too, and then there are always a couple of festivals such as the Marine and Film Festival (Where we watched the Mama Africa documentary and saw Angelique Kidjo in concert – bringing a bit of Africa to us, which we enjoyed immensely) to go to. Overall never a dull moment.
So all my wonderful family and friends, we miss you all very much and hope that you have a wonderful Christmas with your own families and friends and that 2012 brings only joy and happiness.
Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year
Lotsa love always