A year in review

It’s January 1, 2015.  A new year has dawned this morning, blue skies, heavy frost and -5 degrees here on Bowen Island.  There is an air of quiet excitement on my part for the year ahead. I’ve not felt that way in a long long time. It’s been one helluva ride this past year, mostly complete and utter joys peppered with a little sadness here and there.  That is what living life is, is it not?!  I have been blessed, simple as that.  Blessed to have some great people around me who helped shape this crazy dream of mine into a reality.  There was never any sense for someone in their late 40s to quit their well-paying job, leave a perfectly good life, filled with great friends and community both in Vancouver and here on Bowen Island, and put my trust in a loose plan to work in Nepal and Bangladesh for about 8 mths, and then travel thereafter.  And hope by the end of the year, I would have figured out ways in which to reshape my life and use my skills in a very different way, a way that feeds my soul a little better and make my life a tad more satisfying.  As I sit here in the glorious sunshine streaming into the sunroom and reflect on the year that was, I realize I hit the nail on the head. 2014 was an epic year for me, in part to the many new people and friends I met from all over the world who welcomed me into their hearts, homes and workplaces, embraced me for who I am (warts and all) and allowed me to blossom.  Since my return people have asked if I feel changed after my year away.  I don’t feel changed at all.  I think I found the essence of “Kate” from years back.  I welcomed her into the here and now, dusted off the cobwebs and gave her light so she could shine.  And shine I did.   I’m still shining actually!  And I am now dubbing my year away as my Mid Life Enlightenment year.  Some folks thought I was going through the typical mid-life crisis that people of my age tend to go through but I never really felt myself to be in crisis mode at all.  It just felt right all the time, to be on this journey. With grateful thanks and in joyful hope for the future, I’d like to share with you some of the highlights (in no particular order) from my Mid-Life Enlightenment year.

  1. For many years, Nepal had a special place in my heart. Spending five months living and working, experiencing day to day life there cemented that feeling of belonging.  Nepal feels like my second home.
  2. Working with the staff of SIRC was a privilege. I learned the importance of getting to know your colleagues as human beings; sharing cups of tea at the beginning of the day, sitting down to lunch together and laughing lots.  The focus and hard work follows naturally.  It means the important things get done despite the lack of resources, with everyone enjoying the process.  And everyone having respect for one another.  It struck me showing respect for one another and working with laughter has been lost in the western world.  Something to change as I continue my work life.
  3. Ram’s Wheelchair Yaatra was an honour to be a part of. Ram is an inspiring young man with a quiet determination and confidence to raise awareness for the spinally injured in Nepal, and demonstrate by virtue of how he lives his own life, that life sure ain’t over after a spinal injury.  It really was an honour to be a part of his Yaatra.  Ram’s Wheelchair Yaatra really made a difference on many levels and among other things, resulted in the training of a few hundred Nepalese policemen in the past few months on how to prevent spinal injury after accidents.  This training is ongoing.
  4. Re-igniting my love of cooking. Trying out new recipes and learning from home cooks such as Rina in Banepa Nepal, Parvin in Dhaka Bangladesh, Rajashi in Kolkata India, Suman in Jaipur India and Javier & Gabriela in Santiago de Compostella Spain.  Thank you one and all!  I have been cooking up a storm in anyone’s kitchen that would allow me over the past few months; Mary Anne’s kitchen in Bairnsdale Australia, AnneMarie’s kitchen in Christchurch New Zealand, Dom’s kitchen in London England, my father’s house in Cork Ireland, Emma’s kitchen in Rosscahill Ireland, Rita’s kitchen in Foxford Ireland and finally my own kitchen here on Bowen Island.
  5. The financially challenged women of Bangladesh are an inspiring bunch. Despite the harsh culture they find themselves in, eeking out a living in appalling conditions, they persevere to ensure life will be different for their children and their children’s children.  It takes in joyful hope to a whole other level and reminds me to be grateful and not take for granted, the opportunities life has presented to me.
  6. Welcomed so generously into Mingmar and Doma’s home in Kapan, Nepal, spending time with their family and better understanding the Sherpa culture.
  7. Spending time with my sister Grace whilst she and her husband Joe along with friend Finola walked the Camino in Northern Spain in celebration of Grace’s 50th It’s rare we get to spend over a month with our siblings at this time in our lives, so I was grateful for this opportunity.  Our only focus for the day was to walk from A to B, where will we have breakfast along the Way and what will we eat for dinner.  This left lots of time for talking!
  8. Hanging out with my sister Maeve at the Cork Film Festival. You will remember Maeve along with the Munster Mermaids, swam the English Channel (Dover to Calais) in celebration of her 50th birthday and while she was at it, raise money for the sick children at the Children’s Hospital in Crumlin.  Way to go!  What fun it was to choose the films from the vast program, map out our days and figure out dinner restaurants ….. it’s always about the food with us Coffeys!  Our choice of movies was good too.
  9. Reconnecting with friends from my younger days and spending time in their homes and with their families. Thanks to Dom, Mary K, AnneMarie, Rita, Nepta Joe & Emma, Aine H, Ita, Ger and Fiona and to a few others I could not visit in person – Cep, Martina, Maurice, Carol & Neil, Aine D.  All I can say is, real friendship lasts a lifetime and can be picked up where you left off, even if that was years prior.
  10. Getting to know my nieces and nephews in Cork and West Yorkshire as they grow into teenagers and have their own hopes and dreams. Their whacky aunt is delighted to be a part of their lives.
  11. Three women who kept me sane while in Dhaka Bangladesh – Teresa, Sarah and Sonia. Not forgetting Glenn too!  It wasn’t just the sharing of an odd surreptitious bottle of wine (thank goodness for the US Commissary in Muslim Dhaka) but the support and encouragement they gave me when I needed it.  Karaoke at the Pyongyang Restaurant in Dhaka was the fun-est!
  12. The importance of daily meditation. I first learned Tibetan Bon mediation from Thomas in January 2013 and have managed to continue its daily practice since then.  Daily yoga and meditation during my stay at Lok’s home in Banepa, reinforced the need to be disciplined.
  13. My cousin Trisha O’Connor’s challenge to share 3 good things from every day for 7 days nominating two people to do likewise. It should be a continual part of our lives.  Check out mine in Facebook, scroll down to find them.
  14. Spending the whole month of August with Uncle Jerry in Bairnsdale Australia. Unc (as we in the family call him) and I have had a very close relationship over the years, and I was delighted to hang out with him in what ended up being the last time we saw one another.  Unc died on November 19 and I was really fortunate to travel back to Bairnsdale and Sale with my aunt Ita and first cousin David to attend Unc’s funeral services early December.  And meet again his many friends who gave him such love and friendship in his many decades in Gippsland, and to whom I now call many of them friends.  May he rest in peace.  Unc’s longtime friend MaryAnne, whose home I stayed at during that month in Bairnsdale, also passed away on October 19 – a shock for sure.  May MaryAnne also rest in peace.
  15. Despite four Strokes and multiple TIAs in the past 12 months, it gives me joy to see my mother happy and smiling again. She is in her own world thanks to vascular dementia which places her in her early 20s, a very happy time in her life clearly.  It was hard to accept her not recognizing me anymore but I am grateful for being able to spend a few months with her while I was in Ireland.  And to celebrate her 80th birthday with the rest of the family in Cork.  It also meant I got to live for a few months with my father, which presented its own challenges but it is time I cherish all the same.
  16. Friends in Canada who kept in contact with me throughout the year. Once out of sight, one never really knows if your friends will continue to think of you, but they did.  Some with happy news (Lee & Mhezbin’s marriage for example, such a pity I missed the wedding) and some with sad news (the unexpected death of Brian Hotel floored me).  But I consider myself blessed to have such a wonderful circle of friends here in Canada, my home now for over 18 years.
  17. Being met at Vancouver Airport by Bonnie and Casey, and the rest of the Wrights turning up at my gate to welcome me home to Bowen.
  18. Being home on Bowen is just wonderful. I’m liking this ‘being home’ lark …. but that is not to say I am done with travel.  I don’t think I will ever be done with travel!
  19. I am very grateful to have work lined up starting mid-January thanks to Lee. Those pesky bank accounts need replenishment don’t you know.  Working 3-days a week and taking a lunch break will be a whole be concept for me, but I’ll manage I am sure.
  20. I am grateful to Catherine L for being ready to help me break into the world of microfinance. I am astonished yet warmed by her generosity in sharing her microfinance insights and contacts to get me started.  As a friend said, all that help and guidance I provided to many young people looking to get into the investment world is just coming right back to me.  How lucky am I.
  21. Writing this blog has been a revelation. Initially, it was a way to keep friends and family up to date on where I was and what I was doing over the year.  But now that I look back over it, I realize it was a diary of sorts.  I have taken great delight in re-reading it, reminding myself of the lovely experiences from many months ago, experiences that you sometimes forget about.  Bill & Chris Malcolm printed out every blog post and started a file folder, which is way thicker than I thought it would be.  With over 12,000 views over the past year, it impresses me that so many of you found the blog interesting enough to follow, and to read diligently throughout the year.  Thank you for that!

Well, if you have read the post this far, then I congratulate you.  I had no intention of it being so wordy or so long.  Once I started, it seemed to pour out of me, so thanks for your patience and perseverance. I’ll leave you with this.  A river makes its own way to the ocean, sometimes dodging the path it’s supposed to take and other times choosing the unexpected path.  You never know which way the river is headed in the short term, but the river eventually makes it to the ocean, every time.  My life’s path is like that river, I know where I am headed.  I’m just not sure which path will take me there, but I am willing to go with the flow. Much joy, laughter, good health and peace to each of you in the coming year.

About Kate Coffey

After 30 or so years in the investment management industry, 2013 saw me turn my life up-side-down, making my way first to Nepal, then Bangladesh during that first ‘year away’. The year took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and its people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located in Bhainsepati - 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Saanga foothills. Since 2014, I have returned to SIRC numerous times, working closely with the folks there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes. In Bangladesh I marvelled at the strength and resilience of marginalized women who have the courage and audacity to break the rules and make a better life for themselves and their children through microfinance programs with BRAC. 2016-2017 saw me embark on a totally new experience in Sri Lanka, a place I never would have chosen to end up in. It’s the 40C+ heat, big humidity and tropical snakes & animals that scared me! But I ended up love love loving! my time there, working with predominantly Tamil small business owners in remote villages in north and east of the country, trying their best to recover their businesses and the lives of their employees, after decades of a civil war. My time in Sri Lanka made me realize my hard-earned business skills and experience can really be put to good use! The work the BIZ+ team and I did there ended up earning me International Volunteer of the Year Award in December 2017, presented on Capitol Hill, Washington DC no less. I am currently home on Bowen Island, in the west coast of Canada, shoring up my finances before I head off to who knows where, for my next expert volunteer assignment. This blog initially started out as a travelogue of sorts to keep friends and family worldwide updated while I was off on my travels in 2013-2014. Since then it has morphed into a life story of the many places I have lived and worked and of the wonderful people I have met along the way. I hope you enjoy.
This entry was posted in Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, England, India, Ireland, Nepal, New Zealand, Spain and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to A year in review

  1. Karen says:

    Kate Coffey, You are an amazing woman. Life is a journey I cannot wait to see where your journey takes you but I hope to be on your coat tails. Enjoy 2015.

  2. lalastudios says:


    Continuing to enjoy the tale of your journeys. I feel so fortunate that you are in my world.

    Wishing you delightful new discoveries, peace, love and beauty in 2015.

    Hugs, Jacqueline

  3. Renu says:

    Dearest Kates,
    To be a witness to your life’s journey has been a privilege, for you are true & kind.

  4. Tandi says:

    Kate, I’m so happy to hear that a year in your river has led you back to the essence of Kate. That is the gold at the end of the rainbow. Thanks for sharing it all with us!

  5. Rajashi Gupta says:

    Dear Kate,

    Thank you from the core of my heart for making me a part of your life’s journey. It has been a privilege to have met such a kind and happy person as you. Wishing you the very best always.

    • Kate Coffey says:

      Thank you Rajashi. Learning Bengali dishes with you in your home in Kolkata was really a highlight for me, you were so generous with your time and culinary skills. It was lovely. If ever you find yourself in Canada, do not hesitate to let me know! Kindest regards.

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