When I was a kid, we used to make Christmas Lists to burn on the fire so they went to Father Christmas so he knew exactly what we wanted. We always made sure that we wrote a note to him too, explaining how good we had been and why we were deserving of such delights as Barbie Dolls, Transformers and Science Kits.

I thought I’d reinstate this tradition this year, but from a slightly different perspective…

Dear Father Christmas,

I have tried to be kind and friendly to others although this was hard sometimes when I was hot, tired, lost and stressed by the hard sell of Chinese street traders. I tried not to lose my temper when faced with the inevitable Russia “impossible!” when requesting that something be done.

I have made an effort to learn about the world I have been travelling in by trying to understand the pressures that the people I have come into contact are under. I have tried to understand the desire of the minority peoples of China and Vietnam to conserve their traditions and heritage while the world around them changes, influenced by the West and it’s materialistic values.

I have taken the opportunities I have had to learn some of our world’s history, to piece together the events that have shaped our modern world, and in the process I have gained a huge respect of the ordinary men and women who risked literally everything in the name of freedom, justice, truth and what is right – the events of Tianamen Square, through to the Baltic states deciding they wanted their countries back. Visiting war sites such as the Somme, Auschwitz, the Cu Chi tunnels and working with the army boys in Oz has only reinforced my respect for the armed forces and the job they do to protect their country, Queen, and people, whichever army that may be.

I have tried to learn a few words of Russian, Chinese and Vietnamese while a visitor in these countries, although my gift is certainly not with the spoken word – I was better at reading the characters. I have tried to involve myself with the different cultures I have found myself in, travelling with the ordinary people, indulging my love of food in the markets and buying from street vendors, dancing in the streets of China, exploring some of the world’s amazing places: Red Square, The Great Wall of China, Saigon.

Most of all I have tried to have an open mind, to accept each country, to put aside my prejudices and undoing so I have been greatly rewarded. I have learned that people are wonderful and always surprising. I have been surprised by Russia the most. The people are strong and unique with a rich and interesting history, wonderful architecture and a beautiful country and a very bright future.

Father Christmas, I can’t actually think of anything that can top the most amazing 6 months of my life so far. Nothing can beat waking up in my tent in the site overlooking the Volga river, or the moments of contemplation in Auschwitz, or taking in the view of Hong Kong at night, or looking at the Great Wall of China and wondering if I’m really there, or that feeling of hitting the water for the first time after several months of not diving, or real beer in the Louisiane Brewhouse in Nha Trang….

So, my Christmas list is this; nothing more than the love of the people I love. I want to wake up on Christmas morning to a whole heap of emails, Facebook messages and texts.

Can you do this for me? I promise I’ll be even better next year.

Love from Kerry

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