Monday, December 30, 2013

Wedding Of Charles And Leanna

A month ago now, one of my very good friends got married, in the one of most stunningly gorgeous weddings! As soon as I was handed the invite months ago, I knew it would be, and the day lived up to expectations and beyond.

In traditional Melbourne style the morning was a dull, drizzly day, which brightened and lightened to a warm Summer's day, just in time for the ceremony gathering on the lawn in front of the Exhibition Gardens in Carlton.

Taking our seats in from of one of the most beautiful buildings in Melbourne, the bridal party started their approach, bride and groom hand in hand.

The ceremony was lovely, with the groom getting a little emotional, before Charles and Leanna were pronounced husband and wife. One of the highlights being Leanna's stepdad's speech, with a metaphor and story about lasting love.

Drinks were to be had in the gardens afterwards, as I got to catch up with friends who had returned home or flown into Melbourne for the event, and the wedding photos were taken nearby.

A stroll down Gertrude Street to Charcoal Lane for the reception, the evening was simple but decked out so well. The food was sensational, with each dish to share on the table featuring native Australian flavours, so unusual and amazing.

Such a lovely day, and so special to be part of the beginning of the rest of their lives. Congrats to Charlie and Leanna!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

IJ's Nauru Street Art

This has been the only street art sighting I have had for these weeks on Nauru, a colourful and bold splash of creative tags on a shop wall facing the road around the island

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas In Nauru

This has probably been the most meaningful Christmas I have spent in a long time, and it was mostly with people who do not even celebrate it in their religion. I had a great start to the day, but then work got intense pretty quickly, and was one of the toughest I have had. It felt so special to be part of such important work.

Without the retail mayhem of home, it was frequently difficult to remember that Christmas Day was actually looming most days - except that Nauru as an island reminded us with extravagantly decorated homes and shops all around the one road lap. The talk was that there was a prize of $10,000 for the best decorated home, and so the neon combinations, the more the better, were so impressive!

This, and seeing the way people live quite simply here, brought the festive season into such perspective.

Our nightly bus ride home from work around the island brought the Christmas cheer to us through the windows. Plus, the local versions of Christmas songs on repeat on the bus radio!

On the morning, after a bit of a Christmas Eve drinking session with new friends along the beach, we had a staff Christmas breakfast down along the beach at the hotel where we are staying. Pancakes and cheer was on the menu, and it started the day off with such joy and mutual support in this strangest of living circumstances.

I had called home the day before, on my day off, in preparation for an on-the-go day, but I did manage to get a call through to London at an appropriate time for that part of the world. Katie and I could not have spent a more polar opposite Christmas if we tried, this year!

The work day was full of smiles and "Merry Christmas" wishes from fellow colleagues, and also clients. I had a fully multicultural lunch in with the people I am working with, which felt very special to be part of.

More drinks at our hotel's bar at the end of a long day, checking in with each other, and taking care of our own well being wrapped up the day.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas, and found meaning in the day. I have certainly had the chance to appreciate the things that are important in life, through my work here. Love to all!

RADelaide Test Match And Missing Boxing Day

I do not get homesick very often, but today I felt a pang each time I checked the cricket score. This has been the first time I have missed a Boxing Day test match in Melbourne for many, many years. Seeing photos posted on Facebook from the MCG, particularly from seats where I would have been had this work opportunity not come up, was tough.

I did get two Tests in this Summer, and today as the first discussion about the gathering in Melbourne today, I booked a flight to go to the Sydney one when I am back from this work rotation. Oops! Ha!

So I managed to get to RADelaide for the traditional week of cricket mayhem, and had a wonderful time catching up with many of my very favourite people in the world.

We also got to see the partially completed new Adelaide Oval, although frankly the sight of the modern dome at one end, and the disappearance of the much loved sails, made all of our hearts sink a little. It was our favourite ground around Australia. Now, it's quite different. Modernised for the AFL coming next year.

Nonetheless, the Ashes was at fever pitch after the Gabba win, and the buzz around the ground for the start of play on Day 1 was electric.

The days play ended up pretty even, and off we all went into North Adelaide for many drinks, and catch ups with everyone in town.

Sheila HQ was amazing this year, as we rented a house, and our Blender Party was a hit again. The next night saw the Chardy Party enjoy balcony views of the new sections of the new stand.

The cricket was good, too! Mitchell Johnson with the Mo is magic!

At the end of the day's play on Sunday, with 5 wickets to go to get the win, the flight I had booked for that night disappeared from my plans. I couldn't leave without seeing the win! Another great night, a breakfast in North Adelaide and then seeing the Aussies go 2-0 up in the series made it all worth it!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Walking Nauru

On my first day off here in Nauru, my roommate and I decided to explore the island despite the heat, and set off to walk the perimeter of the country.

The beach edges are littered with pinnacles of phosphate, mined for all the good stuff long ago, and now actually make the view pretty unusual and stunning.

Palm trees along the way reminded us that we are in fact on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

The blazing middle-of-the-day sun had us ducking into each and every local store that was dotted along the path, for refuge from the heat - which was not always successful. But always filled with local, friendly interaction and a surprise or two about the wares on sale.

As we progressed along the road lapping the island, we acquired sticks for safety, as a persistent warning from everyone about the island is about the wild, ravaging dogs hunting in packs. Stories of recent attacks have led to advise to walk with a stick, if at all, and certainly not alone.

We managed to walk two thirds of the way around the whole country, before my feet and tolerance of the heat gave way - and actually one of the locals said we were only just halfway, which was not the positive news I was hoping for! We also had a mild encounter with a couple of the four legged hazards of the island, which spooked me a little, for sure. Reviewing the map, however, once we were back with a beer in hand, we could see we only have a small portion of the country to explore on our next day off, to know we have checked out the whole island perimeter!

Not every place you visit can you say that!

I am conscious, however, that this is the good side of Nauru. Walking anti-clockwise, my camera has faced the beachside every time. Make no mistake, this island on the left hand view is one of financial ruin, and arid, harsh living conditions.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

I Don't Want A Present - Make A Difference This Xmas Instead!

I admit that I am a big scrooge when it comes to Xmas, which is actually mostly about the fuss and waste of it all. I despair at the amount of money people throw away at things like decorations, the excessive electricity bills (let alone the waste of the non-renewable resource to generate it!) of Xmas lights, and then all the meaningless gifts.

Even things bought with the very best intentions can be such a waste for someone on a tight budget. Or when you remember that so many people in our communities have so very little.

It saddens and maddens me!

As a blogger this year, though, I was approached by One Girl and told about their Xmas solution to all of this. The very same organisation that had us racing around in school dresses last year at the cricket have come up with I Don't Want A Present.

Funds raised through the donation page are working towards assisting to repair the school in small town Ronietta in Sierra Leone that is in ruin, is unsafe, and will be closed down by the government.  The goal of $50,000 will complete the school rebuild. Each $195 will get one of these kids back into school.

I don't need to comment about how important schooling is to each of us, and the opportunities that an education brings. The 10 year war in Sierra Leone has seen some 1200 school burnt down, and if a slim sliver of our Xmas cheer budget for drinks, and token gifts, and a trimming or two could be re-channelled, lives could be changed.

That sounds like what the notion of Xmas should be more about to me!

So instead of Xmas cards, and postage. Or token treats or weird traditional foods people don't actually eat anymore. Or rather than that half-thought out gift to someone you know could just buy what you were getting them, if they really wanted it, please kick in to my I Don't Want A Present.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I Am Moving To Nauru!

My head has been spinning for the last two weeks, since being offered my new job, which I started today with an induction in Brisbane. This is big! I will be flown to the nation in the Central Pacific tomorrow to get started!

I had been going through the pre-deployment process almost like just going through the motions, from the phone interview and lining up my referees, and then getting started on the medical. I needed to get my history of DVT all cleared for travel, and then also needed a few more vaccinations and boosters from the Travel Doctor. Having needles started to make it all real, but nothing like the actual call of offer!

I am about to set off to Nauru to work in the Regional Processing Centre there, where Australia is currently holding asylum seekers awaiting their claims for refugee status to be processed. I will be working as a Case Manager, providing welfare and social support as a Social Worker.

Of course, there won't be anything much that I can share about the work, any more than I could share anything about my past work experiences. But I can direct you to my new employers' page to check out the details, if you want to know more. There are some great videos there, that will give you an insight into the work.

As for me, I will be working in a Fly In/Fly Out (FIFO) capacity, on a roughly 3 week rotation, with a day a week off whilst away. I will be returned home at the end of each rotation, to rest and relax and recover from the impact of the role.

My day off will give me a chance to explore the smallest republic in the world, sitting midway between Sydney and Honolulu, and oh so very close to the Equator. Nauru is an atoll, and is the second least populated nation in the world, after the Vatican. I am looking forward to finding out more about it!

I am not sure of my ability to blog, or maintain an online presence, whilst I am away for work either. There is a lot of wait and see! This next 3 weeks is going to be pretty full on!

Ever since I got the call about the role I have had Paul Kelly's line Careful what you dream just might get it! in my head. This role is clearly the "something amazing" I have been looking for, and working towards, for years. A way to make a difference in some way, to the people caught up in this ongoing political situation.

(Picture credit -  very outdated Nauru country profile on the New Internationalist)

Please note - any comments published here about my role are my own, and are not representative of my employers' in any way.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Collingwood Laneway Beauty

She's tucked away in a laneway off a side street from Smith Street. I spotted her as I walked around this week's neighbourhood in Melbourne. Amazing!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Peru And My Wanderlust

As a constant dreamer of travel, and someone who is always on the lookout for the next trip idea to grow as a little seed in my mind, and develop into a serious yearning, and then a plan, I am a sucker for blog posts, travel stories, and footage of potential places. It doesn't take much for me to start to long for some months free ahead to put together a trip to the Central and South Americas, which is definitely a trip I want to take one day. Peru is very high on that list, for all the usual reasons.

The Inca Empire. And Macchu Piccu, of course!

Although this video package from Marca Peru opens up a lot more to me than the hike or train into home of the Incas and Macchu Piccu. A lot more!

The history and cultural aspects of Peru I think I had a vague notion about, but the colours and diversity of this footage makes me want to know more! The ancient culture, and the fact that Peru is home to one of the greatest civiliations of all time, being some 5000 years of history, is mind-boggling!

That emerging shot of Macchu Piccu, though, gets me every time!

I would love to check out the city of Lima, and then as a Loreto school girl here in Australia, I would have to check out the Amazon River from the north-eastern town region called Loreto. Down south I would be keen to get to Cusco, the "birthplace of the world", and gateway to get to Macchu Piccu. I would imagine that kind of rough idea of places would lend me to plenty of unexpected adventures in between!

Live it for real! I want!! Love the hook - totally increases my want to go! I dare you to watch the video, and not be enchanted by Peru! Impossible!

This is a Sponsored Post, but my travel lust, wonderment at the sight of Macchu Piccu, and the dreams of going to South America are entirely my own!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Women Are Persons! in Ottawa

Does the word 'Persons' include female persons? This was the questions posed by five Canadian women in 1927 and again in 1928, in a petition to the Canada Supreme Court, with the goal of having women appointed to the Senate. Well, recognised as "persons" first within the Canadian Constitution, then to represent their constituents in Parliament.

These five women became known as The Famous Five, or even The Valiant Five, and really led the way in Canada, and indeed the former British Empire, for women's rights and recognition.

I came across their statues at Parliament Hill in Ottawa on my visit last year, and have since read up a little about their plight, and backgrounds.

The 5 included Emily Murphy, who was the first female judge in the British Empire, being appointed Magistrate in the Edmonton Juvenile Court. Nellie McClung was a teacher, a social worker, and elected onto the Alberta legislature. Irene Parlby was the second woman in Canada to hold a ministry position, and also had worked with the Red Cross during World War I.

Louise McKinney was the first women elected onto the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, which was also the first woman in Canada and the British Empire. Henrietta Edwards was an advocate for working women, served with the Red Cross also, and working within property law to protect women and children and their rights.

Eventually, in 1929, the Court decided that yes, in fact, women were "Persons", and the decision became known as the 'Persons Case'.

Four months after the ruling, the first women was appointed to the Senate, although this was none of the five that led the campaigning.

The work of these five women, regardless of their personal views on other matters which seems to be a focus in the reading I have done about them, clearly paved a path for women's rights in Canada and the Commonwealth. And their personalities seem to be captured in this lasting monument to their role.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Great View Of Melbourne City

I was out tonight, at the Cullen Hotel for a Nuffnang blogger event, so I don't have a proper post....but this was the view I had! I think it could be one of the most perfect views of the Melbourne skyline I have seen!

Wow! Just when I think I couldn't love my city any more.....!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Holi - The Festival Of Colour

One of the highlights, and most anticipated dates of our India trip, fell on my last full day, being 27th of March this year - Holi. A Hindu religious festival and a celebration of the beginning of Spring, it's a national holiday and something I had wanted to experience for some time.

Holi is where coloured powder, and water, is thrown at each other on the streets, and everyone is fair game!

We were in Delhi for the day, and after having plotted out the clothes we could each throw out at the end of the day, and gathered our courage and went out to get amongst it.

Being a group of white tourists, especially with a few women in the group, meant we were popular targets for a "Happy Holi", and being smeared with coloured powder on our foreheads. Being sprayed with water, or coloured foam, or a variety of other coloured paints, and being dumped with water from the balconies above. All in fun, mostly, but it's certainly not for the faint hearted!

The girls in our group were particular targets, with touches to the face, the attempt at a full on hug, and then the surprising grope. It's didn't take long for us all to figure this out, and start keeping a distance between ourselves and the Holi well-wishers.

I certainly would not have done this alone, or in a smaller group. The hassling does go too far at times, and being in our big group protected us all, really.

But being out to enjoy the festival, it IS like a massive water fight as kids, with colour flying everywhere. The progression of our photos and colour coats was pretty awesome. We gave as good as we got, buying more coloured powders along the way, and painting the foreheads of anyone who would let us. It was a lot of fun!

I braved my camera, and it survived, and I managed to get plenty of photos. I took minimal things with me, and we only ventured into the small laneways of the bazaar not too far from our hotel.

We made our way to a central point in the bazaar, and having had enough of the attention and running low on powder, we decided a rooftop drinks break was in order. We managed to find a bar that smuggled beer to us, and had a lovely session away from the action, where we got to marvel and laugh at each other's colours. And for the first time, get a proper look at ourselves!

My, were we all a sight! Such a laugh, and so fun to be part of!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Aussies Up 1-0 - The Home Ashes Series

I have just made it to the airport after four days of cricket, and managing to see the last wicket of our first Aussie win in what feels like forever - and more importantly, a convincing first Test win in this home Ashes series.

The 'Gabba test is the first for the Summer, and what a cracking, and frankly unexpected start!

I flew up on Wednesday afternoon, and B and Jess arrived over the evening, ready for Day 1 the next day. We booked an Air BnB apartment, which was easy, and worked well for us.

Meeting Ben and Simon for a breakfast drink, before making our way to our seats, the atmosphere was electric, as it should be at the beginning of an Ashes series.

The Aussies batting first, there were many stumbles at the crease, and some worries returned from the series mid year. Some steadying from Haddin and Johnson had the day ending on a good enough note. The score was 8 for 273.

Jess and Andrew joined us for Day 2, ticking off the Test venue for them, as we showed them the full experience. Across the road for beers at the German Club at Lunch - and then amazingly a cracking day of Aussie bowling. At one point the passage of play had resulted in England offering 6 for 9! Unbelievable!

England all our for 136, and then the Aussie openers had a happy little run making session, with Warner closing the day on 49.

Today and yesterday started with a walk across the Story Bridge, taking in the city sight, before getting to the 'Gabba.

Yesterday gave us Aussie run joy, with a century from Warner, then Clarkie, and a half ton from Haddin. A whopping 560 runs ahead of England, for the last innings.

This morning we arrived at the ground knowing we just needed 8 good balls. And the rain to hold off. We got the wickets, just in time for me, despite two rain delays, one storm with thunder and lightening, hail and sideways rain. And an Ashes win!

What an exciting feeling. The team seemed more together than they have been for some time, and the Summer is looking very good!

Many of the Waving The Flag family had traveled up or across, or even internationally, for the match, and these last 4 days have been amazing, hanging out with some of my very favourite people.

A win in Brisbane is always a great way to start, and we are looking forward to the next  in less than 2 weeks.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Project 52: Sunday Afternoon

This Sunday Afternoon was my birthday, so I put together a day of treats within Melbourne city. The afternoon found me at the National Gallery of Victoria, with a glass of pinot gris and a couple of flavoured macarons overlooking the wall of water, with Nicole. This was after wandering through the Art Deco Fashion exhibit, and checking out the Disarm! musical performance. A lovely afternoon!

This post is part of Project 52 with Jess from FuShMuSh.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Luna Park, Melbourne

I can't actually remember actually visiting Luna Park in Melbourne before. Having been past it a gazillion times, I couldn't recall actually going in and experiencing it for real. This I fixed when Chrystal was in Melbourne visiting, and I played guide for a day or two.

Walking through under the teeth of that iconic face sitting in prime position in St Kilda, we took in the rides and smells and layout. Then we joined the line for the Scenic Railway, for our ride along the rattly, ricketty tracks all around the complex. This ride was faster and thrilling in bits, a little more than I expected!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mojito Masterclass

Being invited along as a blogger to learn how to make mojitos to a Masterclass was something too good to pass up. Finding that it was being held at Fitzroy's new piece of Cuba, Los Barbudos was

We learned from the enthusiastic bar staff the history of rum, including tastings from some of their favourite bottles. They have 91 bottles of different rum in their bar to date, and their passion for the white and brown liquor from different select parts of the world was clear.

They then got down to talking about the mojito, and explained that as research prior to opening their bar, they did a trip to Cuba to experience the real thing. Their telling of stories took me right back to the world of free pour rum, dancing, and Mikey's bar in Havana.

Explaining that the Cubans keep their stable drink pretty simple, rather than the elaborate concoctions some bars in Melbourne have made them, they took us through the steps.

The finest Sugar available is first, and then fresh lime juice. Some ice and mint at this point, before using a muddler - a tiny baseball bat here, keeping in theme with the bar - to break out the mint flavour.

A significant swig of Havana Club Rum, before topping up with Soda Water. Mint on the top again, for garnish. Just like they they do in Cuba.

I paired up with Marlee from String Of Events to make ours, working through the steps. Following the recipe, or there-abouts, we produced a pretty authentic mojito, from my memory.

Mingling with bloggers from Melbourne, and playing with the baseball props of the bar, we also sampled another version of the rum cocktail, with honey, which was the Canchanchara and delicious!

This rum bar is fast becoming a favourite of mine, and the obvious passion for rum by the boys behind the bar make it even more so!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Top 5: Places Of Worship Around The World

Churches, mosques and temples are always places which feature heavily on a tourist guide, and for good reason. They are such important spiritual and cultural places for a city, and for a community, and you can learn a lot about the people from a place by walking through their place of worship.

This post has actually been an idea I have had in drafts on the blog for some time, with a firm list that I had jotted down. But since then, I have been to India and Burma! And so now, as I come to write it for National Blog Post Month so many options for a Top 5 come to mind! It's much harder to decide on five than I had first thought!

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is and surely will always be number 1. Still in construction, having begun in 1882, I have seen the progress through photos of when my three sisters have visited at different intervals since I went in 2006. I have the romantic idea of going back to see it as a finished piece - which was going to be for my 40th, but based on current completion expectations, it may be closer to my 50th now!

There is so much more to it than I could explore in 2006, but then based on the plans, there is still so much more to be added. Truly remarkable church, and fest of art and architecture.

Walking into the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul in Turkey will always stay in my memory as one of the most breathtaking church and mosque. This building has actually served many, built in 537, it served as an Eastern Orthodox Cathedral, then a Roman Catholic church, before it was then converted to a mosque in 1453, eventually becoming a museum as it is today in 1935. Definitely number 2 for this list.

But then, things get a little tricky! So many options from the places I have been (and I am not even contemplating places I have not been to!).

The Angkor complex, and iconic central Wat, can't not be on this list. Cambodia is one of my favourite place in the world, and crawling over this temple will always be something special I have done, even though I have visited three times now! It's still incredible, and there are always new aspects to see, different temples to visit.

The Golden Temple in Kyoto was another place of worship that sprung to mind fairly instantly. My visit there in 2005 still brings memories of peace and stillness, walking down to the waters edge through the wooded pathway.

Sticking to images of gold, Amristar in India and it's Golden Temple also needs to be on this list within the Top 5. Walking around the pool, and watching the people come to this most important Sikh temple was seriously awe inspiring. And so, so beautiful.

The spots around the world that I have been agonising about whether to slot them into this list include St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast with spire through the middle of it. I have entertained the notion of including the bizarre White Temple in Chiang Rai also comes to mind, and then needed to refrain from adding a host of individual temples we discovered in Bagan.

Of course, as an atheist and sports nut, it kind of goes without saying that the Melbourne Cricket Ground would be my personal preference as a most important and significant place of worship! For footy, for cricket. For hopes and dreams. For feats of strength and courage!

I sure there are a heap of holy places that I am missing, or forgetting through the strong memory or experience of these listed above.

What would yours be? Or where have I not included, that I should have?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Hellenic Republic

The Greek neighbourhood restaurant by MasterChef's Celebrity Chef George Calombaris had been a long recommended, and desired dinner destination, so when the family was to see off Katie to her UK adventures, this was the venue picked. Hellenic Republic sits in a nonchalant area of upper Lygon Street, not something you stumble upon, but make a point of getting to.

I joined the table as the start of our banquet was served, with olives and pita bread with taramosalata, Tyri saganaki with peppered figs, and kalamari. I was given a quick run down, and regardless of the pronunciation and our memory of the items on the plate, they were delicious!

We had ordered the Dexiosis banquet, where each serve was delivered to the table, to share.

Next was the seafood delights, with grilled fish (swordfish), the scallop skordalia crusted, and a Cypriot salad that had us all swooning. Look at those pomegranates!

The kitchen is open for view, and buzzing with frenetic activity. Our servers were cheeky and attentive, and somehow guessed why we were out for dinner together as a family - we must have hinted at reservation, surely! Chats about family, family position, and who was what, kept us enchanted and delighted.

Next serving made us quiet again, with the meat of the day, roasted potatoes, a cabbage salad, and tzatziki. Oh! So good!

Amazingly, we had room for dessert, although frankly, I don't know how! The selection was the chilled rice pudding, which was lovely. Our lactose intolerant member got to have the Greek doughnuts with walnuts and honey, and we each had a sample and were a little envious!

A perfectly lovely family dinner, and send off for our little one. This Greek spot is worth the drive to get to!

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Enchanting Jantar Mantars

Jantar Mantar is supposedly "abracadabra" in Hindi, and the sites of the same name in Delhi and in Jaipur which we visited certainly created a lot of mystery and alluded to a lot of magic.

In Delhi, the instruments of one of Maharaja Jai Singh II's five observatories around India are red, and magical. Measuring all matter of celestial things, these structures were built in 1725, and are reportedly bang on with accuracy with what they are measuring.

The Jantar Mantar in Jaipur is just next to the City Palace, and was built in 1728, are cream sandstone, and include each of the astrology signs which points line up to the stars.

Like a grown up playground, each instrument, many huge in size, can be walked around, or through, and the wonder is hard not to get caught up in. They are beautiful, and yet a world of mystery.

These structures in Jaipur have been restored and thus, are the best preserved. They have made the World Heritage List. Each one has the description of what it is measuring, and how, even if these are pretty complicated. You can take a guide to walk you through each one, if you have the time.

It's fascinating that such space and massive structures were devoted to the stars and the movement of the sun and moon, in such important places within each city. A complete enchantment of peace and wonder.

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