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.
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