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10 November 2012

Hiatus

Oh my goodness... what a hiatus. I can't believe its been nearly three months since I last posted. How did that happen?

It's been a whirlwind. We left our contract in Roma back in mid August and after doing some necessary professional development, went on holiday to New Zealand. It's ridiculous that I haven't previously gone trans-Tasman. I mean, I've lived with enough Kiwis throughout my share house living days, had plenty of opportunities, but for some reason never got here. Maybe I felt that by sharing a house, dividing food bills and paying rent with half of NZ's youth and seeing such films as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Whalerider, and Eagle versus Shark,  and even Xena, Warrior Princess, I had a fair idea of what NZ was all about. I mean our Kiwi cousins pretty much live right next door (often literally).

But my friends, you have to go there. It's positively stunning. In many ways it feels familiar, the landscapes are very much like Tasmania, there's lush green paddocks galore, undulating hills, lakes and mountains as far as the eye can see. But oh, the mountains here are something else. I imagine I am somewhere like Austria or Switzerland. Snow capped, majestic and gracing every vista, they make you want to pull over the campervan at almost every bend to take a photograph.

Rob and I spent two weeks circumnavigating the South Island. We hired a campervan and spent our days touring from Christchurch to Te Anau, via Oamaru and Dunedin. We saw the regal Moeraki Boulders, eaten the best fish we've ever had at Fleur's Place (trumpeter stuffed with smoked mussels and topped with anchovy sauce: delicious), saw beautifully restored Renaissance art in the lovely Dunedin Public Gallery, went bushwalking (or tramping as those crazy Kiwi's call it) through moss and fern filled rainforests and glaciers, snowboarding in Queenstown, sampled homemade chocolate cookies during the intermission at the retro cinema in Wanaka and soaked our weary selves in the naturally hot Hanmer Springs. It was delightful. I can't emphasise how much of an amazing holiday it was.

Then we were lucky enough to enjoy another month at home catching up with friends and family, making plans for summer and strengthening our island bonds. We are winding up our constant travelling at the end of the year, so I really appreciated the time at home. So now, we have just landed in our final town for the time being. We will be winding our year up in Central Australia, and working at the Alice Springs Hospital Emergency Department for the next six weeks.

We've been here a week so far, so too early to assess, but already this town is dispelling some preconceived ideas I'd had. And secretly, I love when that happens.

Maybe next post, I'll do a little bit of a photographic essay of this town. It's definitely got more cred than you'd think. You'll all have to wait for the NZ pictures though, they are currently residing happily on my iMac in Tasmania. I'll have to save those little nuggets for the summertime.

07 August 2012

Carnarvon Gorge National Park









A twenty-four hour escape to Carnarvon Gorge National Park. This place is amazing. Less than three hours from Roma, it's a world away. Towering cliffs, moss gardens, incredible natural rock formations, Aboriginal rock paintings, crystal clear rivers set amongst a mix of subtropical rainforest and open plain scrub. Realistically you could easily spend a minimum of three days here. There is many walks ranging in intensity and length, helicopter rides over the range, and good quality accommodation. We didn't have time to see half of it, but it was certainly a taster. Would love to come back one day and see the rest. Anyway, here's a few images to give you an idea...



13 July 2012

Crossing

Don't you just love crossing shit off your list? I do. It satisfies my need to organise my world. You may remember earlier this year I mentioned the shizz I want in 2012. Yeah well, here's an update... I've been crossing that shit off left, right and centre.

  1. Buy a piece of artwork that will fit in that currently empty spot above my dining table.
  2. Get to at least an intermediate level in French conversation.
  3. Install a splashback in my kitchen, so I don't have repaint that fricken space behind my cooktop again.
  4. Mend all those items of clothing that have minor faults; a button missing here, a broken zipper there. And then wear them.
  5. Read 30 novels.
  6. Learn to love, tolerate, pretend to tolerate exercise.
  7. Draw, create, make more.
  8. Get an engagement ring made, so that people actually believe it when I say I'm engaged.
  9. Reduce my bread and potato intake (but I love them so much!!!!!!)
  10. Spend less and invest more.

NUMBER 1: Firstly, yeah I bought a piece of artwork. After drooling over this Melissa Smith work at Handmark Gallery for the last couple of years, I finally decided it's coming home with me. I have an amazing framer near my parents house, he now just frames for me after closing his business. But he makes his own frames from Tasmanian oak, they are just superb and really bring out the beauty of the art. I've just had an email saying its ready for collection. Woo hoo!

Continuing on, while I was home last time, I emptied out that basket of clothes that needed mending or altering, and I got my pioneer woman on and effing fixed them. You know, a missing button, a broken zip, new jeans that needed the hems taking up etc. Hell yes. Suddenly I had new clothes to wear. Revolutionary, my friends. My ancestors would be proud. NUMBER 4. Check. This leads me on to:

NUMBER 10: I am certainly spending less. And investing more. After working and living out of a suitcase for nine months of the year, I've realised I don't need much. And I've become much less sentimental about stuff. Genetically I'm a hoarder. Dad saves everything, and takes great delight in reusing a screw or bracket or something that he saved from that old toaster that died ten years before. Mum, on the other hand is far more brutal. She clears clutter like a tornado when she's in the mood. That aside however, it's such a good feeling to be debt free other than my mortgage, getting ahead every week instead of living from paycheck to paycheck and be on the road to financial freedom. But then again:

NUMBER 8: I finally got my engagement ring made. This equals expenditure! But we saved for it, paid for it in cash, and kept to our allocated budget, so I am happy.  I spent weeks drawing designs for it, found a jeweller on the internet who does custom work and together we've come up with this. It's beautiful I think. I am really happy with it. It's an engagement and wedding ring all in one, made of palladium, with engraved elm leaves around the band and studded with a combination of pale blue and white diamonds for a touch of twinkle. A little bit different I know. But my new initials are ELM (pretty huh?!), so I thought it would be nice to celebrate them with a leaf design.



NUMBER 9: This one was achieved probably not through any willpower on my behalf. It was kind of taken out of my hands. Two months ago, I was diagnosed with Meniere's Disease. It came as a bit of a shock, but certainly explained the two years of vertigo, tinnitus and ear pressure I had been experiencing. A big part of the treatment for this lifelong condition has involved commencing a low salt diet, which by the way is quite an adjustment. It was very difficult in the beginning. But the reason is that by reducing my sodium intake, I subsequently reduce the fluid that builds up in my inner ear which in turn reduces my symptoms dramatically. So because of that, pretty much all processed foods are now off the agenda. Including bread. I now beef up my pioneer status and I cook almost everything from scratch. I study nutritional labels in the supermarket religiously. But on the upside, I now eat very healthily, my cardiovascular system will think I am a saint, and therefore my risk for many other lifestyle related conditions will surely be reduced. It's been a challenge, I was hoping that I would be easily cured rather than facing a lifelong progressive condition, but there are many people much worse off than me. I have nothing to be complaining about.


How about you? How are your resolutions for 2012 coming along?


29 June 2012

Roma. No not Italy.

We've started a new contract. For the last six weeks, we've been working in southern Queensland, in the cattle farming town of Roma. Its a nice town, the streets are tidy, the houses are maintained, there are multiple pedestrian crossings that people actually give way to. You know, that sort of thing. The days are warm, bright and sunny, but the nights are actually similar to Tasmania. Unexpected. You don't think of Queensland as being cold, but we've had several nights below zero.

I haven't written for a while, mainly because I wasn't sure how best to describe our work here. It was a little bit of a rocky start, for various reasons which I wont elaborate on here. But suffice to say, things have now settled down, and we are enjoying the remaining time. I'm also certain that we will be able to learn something from our experience here.

We had a funny experience the other day though. One of our nursing colleagues here, generously offered to lend us her car for the day, suggesting we might want to take a meander to the next town over, and have lunch at the pub. Mitchell, (the town in question) has a lovely old historic pub, apparently do a good counter meal and is worth the hour drive over. Sounded perfect we thought. So off we went, raring to go, drove the 87 kilometres to find not only the pub closed, but pretty much the entire town. One of the locals suggested we head to the Caltex (as in the petrol station) instead for a bite to eat. We decided to pass. So after ten minutes of driving around the town (which essentially provided adequate time to cover it), we drove back! Oh well!

We also have made friends with a few of the nurses at work. They live in this four bedroom nurses accommodation next door. They are all twenty and thirty something single ladies, who affectionately call their accommodation 'the whore house'. Haven't seen a red light out the front though. But that aside, they are always up for a laugh. Tonight we are having sangria, mini pizzas, and other nibblies and playing board games. (Typical whore house behaviour). Should be good! It's been really nice to have friendly faces make us feel welcome and invite us along to these things.


24 May 2012

How we spent the last five weeks...

Picnics, frisbee, catching up with family and friends, booty dancing with lady boys, lazing on a beach and chowing down scrumptious local delicacies at the street stalls in Thailand. And that's about it. Any questions?















07 May 2012

Always travelling, what a wonderful world

We are blessed, Rob and I. Since we have gone casual, our time traveling has definitely increased. Including work, we now spend 9 months of the year away from home. We get to work all over our amazing country, see places that we might not ever otherwise see, be in control of our schedule (hear work when we want to, holiday when we don't), and also our own professional development.

We are currently on leave and travelling through Thailand. Neither of us have been here before, although we have travelled through other parts of Asia extensively. We came under the guise of attending a conference in Phuket, which we did, although the real reason was really to make our holiday a tax deduction! I am writing this post from Chiang Mai, the northern hub city, set in the hills. A city of 2 million people, and what an interesting community it is. Expats, artists, travel writers and musicians have all made their homes here alongside the locals. I think part of the reason is its low cost of living. You could live here quite happily on less than $A800 per month which would include all your living expenses, cable, wireless internet and perhaps a scooter hire. If I was thinking about writing a book or painting or some such other artistic endeavour and didn't have a mortgage I could easily set up camp here for a few months. It has a nice feeling this town, it's chilled out, there is amazing food, the weather is slightly cooler than Bangkok and there is enough of a vibrant night life to make things interesting.

 Today it is raining, a feeling of dampness is in the air, people are getting around in emergency ponchos in bubblegum hues, tuk tuks are crushing the streets spruiking tourists for a fare. "Tuk-tuk? Where you go?" We have just woken up, the balcony door is open and at street level, I can hear the drone or motorbikes, the street vendors chatter and the lady across the way sweeping her doorstep. I love that these sounds have become synonymous with Asia, which increasingly feels like a second home. Seven hundred years ago, the original Chiang Mai was once walled off completely and surrounded by a moat. Fragments of this wall exist today, creating a feeling of entrance as you enter. I imagine it must have been an imposing scene in its day as artisans, merchants, and monks passed through its gates to conduct business, pray and create. As I prepare myself for the day, I see a vendor walk past, her cart billowing steam from whatever delicacy she has concealed. The scents of lemongrass and chilli fill the air and I think to myself, yes this really is a blessed existence.

19 March 2012

Tropical Cyclone Lua


Coming from the island state, I'm not familiar with weathering tropical cyclones. We just don't have them. Yes, we have cold winters, frost in the mornings, but at least we don't have to put up with this shit. Having just been through a Red Alert with TC Lua, I thought I might describe the experience.

First thing: the Bureau of Meteorology have their website, listing weather reports, warnings etc. They've probably had this for years. I've just discovered it. People here affectionately call it 'The BOM'. As in "What does the BOM say? Shall I check out the BOM?", like they're old friends. Anyhoo, I'm now also familiar. It's bookmarked on my laptop. So whenever there is the inkling of bad weather about, people go straight to the BOM and see what warnings are currently issued. When we had two days of solid rain last week, people were logging on left, right and centre, tracking the initial low on their splendid little cyclone map, and then watching intently as it formed into a Category 1 off the East Pilbara coast.

There are three stages of alert. Blue Alert, is stage 1. This means you are supposed to determine where you will be sheltering. Obviously if you are in a caravan (as plenty of people are here in Port Hedland) you will be looking for alternate accommodation. You are also meant to be getting your cyclone kit ready: a torch, radio, non-perishable foods, water, candles and matches etc. During this time, the hospital was calling for volunteers to work the cyclone. Rob and I put our hands up being the mercenaries that we are. The potential overtime was too good to ignore.

Once the cyclones is formed, the BOM begins plotting its trajectory on this little map, and estimating its future movement and category and then they decide which communities need to progress to Stage 2 of Yellow Alert. Apparently, what turns a low into a cyclone is the addition of warm water, especially around the 30 degrees Celcius mark. I still don't really know why this happens, but apparently thats the deal. That warm water gets sucked up into the cyclone, and intensifies its movement and speed.

At this point, the preparation begins. Sail clothes come down, wheelie bins are cabled tied to posts, any loose objects are stored inside, deck chairs are chucked in swimming pools. People move to their place of shelter and prepare to bunker down and batten the hatches. Planes were grounded and hangared, the mines shut down, the ships were sent well off the coast, the pubs and shops closed. This is the point that Rob and I were called to come to work.

Stage 3, Red Alert was called around three hours after we arrived. At this point, no-one is permitted to drive. The ambulance service stops the minute the weather escalates, the only people permitted on the road are police (who are meant to be fining delinquent drivers) and SES workers who help in extenuating circumstances. The hospital goes into lockdown. No-one is meant to come or go. (People still do however!) And then those staff have to remain at work until the All Clear is called. So we sleep in shifts wherever we can find a bed, we eat the crap food that the hospital provides, observe the weather, listen the wind, admonish the people who ignore the Red Alert and come to the hospital anyway for minor complaints, and care for the ones who present for legitimate ones. And actually we had several emergencies during the cyclone.

And 25.75 hours later, we were released. Port Hedland was not damaged at all. Luckily we were on the edge of cyclone, and about 100km from the centre. So the weather here was not much more than a hammering of rain, and some stiff winds. But the thing is that cyclone trajectories are unpredictable. They can change direction at any moment, particularly as they gather speed and intensity as they move towards the coast. By the time Lua hit the community of Pardoo, it was a Category 4 (and it only goes to Category 5). The roadhouse there was severely damaged, there was flood damage and roofs were lifted. Scary stuff.

And that brings me to my original point. Why would anyone want to put up with that every cyclone season? It makes me glad I don't have to. I don't think I could bunker down several times a year, never knowing if your house and your loved ones were going to come out unscathed each time. I know that people here get used to it, they prepare well for it and that people live in different places for different reasons, but I do know that its just not me. I'm thankful for my island home, despite its frosty mornings!

04 March 2012

The Shizz I Want in Twenty Twelve


Yes, there's a list. And here it is my brothers:
  1. Buy a piece of artwork that will fit in that currently empty spot above my dining table.
  2. Get to at least an intermediate level in French conversation.
  3. Install a splashback in my kitchen, so I don't have repaint that fricken space behind my cooktop again.
  4. Mend all those items of clothing that have minor faults; a button missing here, a broken zipper there. And then wear them.
  5. Read 30 novels.
  6. Learn to love, tolerate pretend to tolerate exercise.
  7. Draw, create, make more.
  8. Get an engagement ring made, so that people actually believe it when I say I'm engaged.
  9. Reduce my bread and potato intake (but I love them so much!!!!!!)
  10. Spend less and invest more.

24 February 2012

This damn French 'R'


Why the French language needs to complicate things by including a 'R' sound that is near impossible to pronounce, I'll never know. Words that begin with the letter 'R' are not too bad, I can roll off 'ravi' and 'remplir'. But words that fit in an R throughout the word like 'prendre' I struggle with. And don't even get me started on words like the one for locksmith 'serrurier' - it's just not going to happen. God forbid I ever lock myself out in a French speaking country.

The linguistic guru Steve Kauffman assures us that this, like any new sound will eventually come naturally. So I imagine that one day I'll be wandering around the house chatting on the phone to all my French speaking friends and 'Voila!', out of my mouth will emerge the perfect rolling, phlegm-rattling 'R' sound. Doves will fly from the trees, unicorns will prance in elation, and all the French speaking people of the world will dab tears from their overcome eyes, at its perfection.

In an effort to bring this about avec la vitesse, and claim my fluency tiara, I have arranged to have a lesson via Skype with Erika from France in return for 30 minutes of English conversation practice. I'm sure her language skills will be far superior to mine, but I have decided to not worry about the grammar, or the tenses. Instead, I will just try to communicate, enjoy the experience of chatting with a native speaker and hopefully make a new friend.

Souhaite-moi bonne chance!