Tuesday, 30 December 2008

P & Q


Can you hear that? Peace and quiet. The others have scattered for now, two in Te Anau for new years, three delivering a fire engine out country, two getting ready for their North Island mountain biking trip. So here I am for the first time in while all alone, bliss. 

Nick and Courts packed up the tent and some goodies and headed south. Amongst the goodies, I discovered tonight when I was hot and bothered and in need of a cold one, was my entire supply of beer. They even found the boxes in the laundry and cleared the remains in the fridge. They are heading home up the West Coast and calling into the marae at Makaawhio (Bruce Bay) for the family reunion on the way. 

Tim and Sarah are heading north to compete in the NZMTB champs. He's been training and refraining over the Christmas break and with his off season racing in Canada and the states, should do well. Poor Sam's not that impressed. He's with the grands on the coast, his look said "how long will it be this time?". I suspect he remembers the last time and that was most of 2008. 

As for the fire engines, such a long story. Here's the short version: There were three, now there's two and both are for sale. They are small, modern, working fire engines. Fun to drive in town where everyone gives way and that's without using the siren and lights. They were bought off the Internet to sell quickly about three years ago, enough said. 

My camera has gone on holiday with Nick and Courts. He's a great photographer so I look forward to posting some from the trip when they get back. For now, I'm going to catch up on some mails and some reading, sigh, peace and quiet, luxury.

The photo is of my he tiki and some Christmas goodies.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Today

One thing you shouldn't have to do over the Christmas break is attend a funeral. A friend of ours didn't quite make Christmas day with his family, he was farewelled today. David died of cancer on Christmas eve, 52 years old and a really dedicated family man who loved to fish and hunt and tell a good story. A terrible loss.

His funeral was well attended, lots of people taking time to remember him and catch up with others. It was good to see some people I hadn't since I've been home, sad that it takes a funeral for people to get together. We have planned a meal out, as we had been trying to for some time, early in the new year to catch up in a happier time. 

Now, as I sit and check my mails, got one from Callie, the lads are cooking tea and I'm sampling a nice sav. Caesar salad with crumbed fish, more pav and the lefts overs from last night, a never ending feast. I think I'll have to join a gym in Al Ain, one with a pool of course to get rid of the extra pounds. 

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Blink

One of the advantages of having family around over Christmas is the ability I have to help myself to their Christmas presents, to try them out before they do. Notable occasions this has happened over the years include the water gun year, the skateboard year and of course all the Lego years.

Now the lads are adults, I get to sample the chocolates when they're not looking, listen to their CDs and read the books they get for Christmas. They of course get the same courtesy, take my new Suduko book Nick has polished off, from the back of course as he does the genius ones first. Actually I'm sighing with relief about that but don't tell him. I've protested just enough for him to think it's not OK for him to do my Suduko. Truth is I got the book from the secret santa at work and I don't do Suduko, not that I can't mind. I have a very mathematical brain, where else would the genius Nick get his brains from after all. 

Back to the books. This year I managed to snaffle Nick's present Blink before he had even sniffed away that wonderful new book smell. So good of his in laws to buy him such an interesting book. Blink is about the power of thinking without thinking or the snap judgements we make in life that are correct and how we confuse ourselves at times with over thinking and rationalizing them. It's about things clicking into place in the blink of an eye.

The author, Malcolm Gladwell, talks about the concept of thin slicing, how a little bit of knowledge goes a long way and how we become experts at reading people and their actions subconsciously. Sounds kind of heavy for Christmas reading but it's surprisingly entertaining with lots of examples and anecdotes. Things like what makes salespeople great salespeople, how our stature and looks can impact on our success and the role of race and gender in how we are viewed by others. Gladwell also wrote Tipping Point, on my list for the next Borders trip. 

I'm not sure what other books he's got with him but Courtney brought my Mr Pip back and I have my Fisk one on the go too. Nothing like reading three books at a time, that's what a summer holiday is all about. There was even some sun to sit and read in today, warm sun without a cold wind, luxury.

I've got a mission tonight, a midnight trip to the airport to pick up some of the Aussie rellies. They are staying a few days then heading to a family reunion at Makaawhio, on the marae. It should be an interesting gathering, one I'm not tempted to join.  It'll be good to see Des and Scotty again best get some beer in the fridge, it could be a long night. 

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Family photos ops




Christmas is all about snatching photos of the whanau when they're not looking. The lads cringe when I get the camera out but today, after being out surfing early, the two oldest were convinced I needed one of them and me. Tim and Sarah got me a wallet for Christmas with a photo pocket, a bit bigger than the one in my other wallet. They want me to get rid of the old photos of the boys in their teens I've carried for years. Well, I have to have something to replace them with.

These are of Tim and Nick. Kez is not home for Christmas this year. As always, the serious photos turn to fun with Nick pinching my glasses and then making some rude comments about how they distort his world. It's all fun till someone loses an eye. 

We had a barbie last night. The cold wind dropped in time to sit outside in the warm evening, eat still more food and drink sangria. I made some sangria, not as good as I've had overseas but everyone can tell a sangria story. Mostly they are about buying a pitcher and managing to finish it but not being able to walk too far after. While only mildly alcoholic, sangria lulls you into drinking it faster than you should with its delicious fruity flavors. I know from experience that it's not too good when your significant other doesn't drink and you have to finish a pitcher made for two, then walk back to the tent. Annie has a similar story, as does Sarah.

We had a few laughs, ate more pudding and generally relaxed amongst friends and family. Sorry no photos of that, I was too busy making fish cakes from the left over salmon and pouring hot fudge sauce over the profiteroles after I had filled them with cream. 

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Merry Christmas!

What a day of slow food, slow drinking and relaxing. It's been a great day of family and socialising, taking some time out with some tomato on toast and nice crisp sav to put down some reflections.

Well, to brag first. I got an awesome new suitcase and I can hear a sigh of relief from those who have seen my old battered version. No longer will you have to walk alongside me towing a case with bits hanging out of the gaping hole, there courtesy of Emirates the trip before last. No longer will you have to watch me swearing as I'm trying to push down the handle into the warped space it should fit, stepping up the swearing as I lose another fingernail in the process.

This suitcase is a Dakine and is brown and green plaid with a brown base, it is both easy to find amongst the black bags and stylish. I can use my big red handbag and not have any clashes, phew for that small mercy. OK I should include a photo but I am comfy and can't be bothered taking the photo etc, maybe when it's packed ready to go.

I also got a he tiki for my new flat, a red and precious reminder of home and family in the desert. The kids loved their gifts too, opened with a glass of bubbly in hand. We had a lovely breakfast, kai moana, fresh crayfish, hot smoked salmon and scallops, yum.

There began the day of eating. Terese makes the best pav in the world, really. I have sampled heaps of them and hers tops the lot. This year she excelled herself. The handmade Belgian chocolates were a treat and the berries. All in all plenty for everyone and left overs for dinner.

I did get to thinking about those who were away from their families at this time of year or mourning someone lost during the year. I have friends in that position and my heart went out to them, my thoughts and love. I feel very lucky to have had such a plentiful day, next year I'll probably be working and won't be in Christchurch with my friends and family. I'll read this then and remember a good day, time to pour another and get socialising. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Today

How all good days at work should be, bubbly and strawberries with chocolate on the side for morning tea. Almost makes it worthwhile working on Christmas eve, especially when I am off shopping for the last minute stuff by 1pm.

Yep, it's all done and I'm off to deliver pressies out country, save me the job tomorrow so I can just relax and sip on a couple while feasting on crayfish, baked and smoked salmon, scallops, pav and all the usual trimmings.

I like this time of year, the ending of the old year and looking forward to the new with some good relaxing and socialising in between. No resolutions for 2009, have made enough of them in 2008 to last me for a while.

My thought for today in this time of giving:

Be like the fountain that overflows
not like the cistern that merely contains


Paulo Coelho

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

One more day.....

Only one more day to go and I'm finished work for 2008. I can't wait. Nick arrives tonight for several weeks, others from Aus are coming too a bit later, all good. I intend to have some R & R, some true time out before the rush of getting ready to go away.

This time last year I was completing my thesis and getting ready to go to Qatar, similar but minus serious editing. I went to lunch with a friend today and caught up with Shirley in the process. She suggested a get together on the day we left last year, kind of an anniversary night out. A great idea. What do you think Keri?

So it's off to get another wine, rustle up some dinner and take a chill pill for the evening. I have some last minute shopping to do, might get to that later tonight.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Wet Saturday

It's been a cold wet day, not at all conducive to going out shopping. I did manage a quick trip and got Sarah and Courtney's gifts. Girls are so easy to buy for, my boys not so. Don't get me wrong, they are undemanding, just fussy. Not sure where they get that trait from.

Nick commented that he wanted jeans, I suggested I buy them, he commented that he wouldn't like my sort of jeans. OK, so what are my sort of jeans? I suspect he pays a little more than I do for his, a little more than I can afford perhaps. He's down on Tuesday so we will take a trip to the shops then, much less pain and suffering for both of us. I did buy him a book, he already had it so I am reading it, we like the same books so hardly surprising I bought one he already had.

Tim wants to go shopping with me too. Off limits for him are things for the kitchen, travel things and books, same issue as Nick there. He wants new cycling shoes for the national series starting in early January, easy. Kez is on a promise of shopping when I go to Brisbane.

I have always liked shopping with my boys, preferably one at a time. They are great companions, don't muck about and love to look at shoes, CDs and books. Yep, so like their mum. They are also quite critical. I get the odd baaa when I'm looking at clothes, or 'just because you can, doesn't mean you should'. I do anyway of course.

Roll on Christmas. I'm emotionally prepared now, just the food to get organised and thats very easy.

Waiting



I love Opshop. One Day is one of my favorites and when I was looking to practice my embedding skills found this song of theirs, very appropriate at the moment. I loved the glimpses of Rome and Paris and the words struck a chord.

I am still waiting for my flight details, actually for any further details about my new job in Al Ain. While I know there is waiting to be done, I am not very patient so find it hard. I have done all I can to get qualifications authenticated, photos sent, things sorted from this end for a February 1 2009 start, fingers crossed it's all done in time. In the mean time, I'm waiting, still waiting.

I did it!

Well, that's a first for me, I managed to embed a You Tube rather than just add a link. Poor Diane tried to teach me with written instructions, if all else fails... Actually I mostly lose instructions before I get the message. I prefer to read fiction. Take my precious camera's instruction book. I suspect I left that on an Emirates plane in the front pocket somewhere between Melbourne and Dubai. That really limits my photography, or not as I try different things and tinker with the results.

You see, I tend to be an experiential learner. I'm a bit like a Bobo doll. When I get knocked down, I bounce back up. Not always straight away mind, I'm not shallow, but I can usually take the lesson from the experience.

In this last week the lessons learnt include:

I can't post perfume to Aussie.
People are unpredictable.
People can be mean and small minded.
People can be generous, giving and supportive.
Patience is not always rewarded.
Too much chocolate gateaux gives me a belly ache.
Too much Indian food can make sleeping difficult.
Margarita's are made to be shared and enjoyed.
I can dance.
I can post a You Tube to my blog.
Others enjoy this blog.
Others enjoy my photos.
I can get all my work done before I leave on January 16.

Actually there's a blog in several of those statements, watch this space. For now, I must get the Christmas shopping organised, not my favourite thing to do on a wet Saturday.

BGT



I think this is why Simon and co sit through tedious auditions for Britian's Got Talent. A friend sent this to my facebook and I want to share it here. While this is not my sort of music usually, Andrew's voice, well watch and tell me what you think.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Did you know....

Did you know that perfume is on the list of things that can't be posted in New Zealand? I'll tell you how I know.

I bought some perfume for my Aussie son's partner Sassi for Christmas. Last night I carefully wrapped that along with Kez's present and a promise of shopping for the rest of their presents when I come to visit in mid January. Imagine my surprise at the counter of the post office when I was told, "sorry you can't post perfume".

The obvious question, "why not?". No real answer, not blaming the messenger but the stupidity of this rule. Yes, it's written in the post office rule book but that doesn't make it any less stupid. How come Strawberry, the cosmetics and perfume retailer, can post perfume and all sorts of other noxious concoctions all over the world, including to Qatar and I can't post a single 80ml perfume to Australia? I shook my head in total disbelief.

So, there I was standing at the counter a large queue forming behind me wondering just what to do. After all, I had addressed and sealed the large bubble envelope. Did I mention I had already waited in a queue to get served? Mmmmmm someone asked me recently if I was feeling a little frustrated, well yes, now I am.

Back to the drawing board, back to work, repack the parcel minus the perfume, back to the post office. Now it was an OK parcel. Sorry Sassi, yours is a bit lean on presents. I included a note explaining, explaining the lack and the munched up wrapping paper. Of course I had to use what I had again, rips and all.

I hope this gives someone a bit of a giggle, that won't be me right at this moment.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Isola Tiberina


Isola Tiberina, originally uploaded by Gilbert Wicks.

Bemused

I am a little bemused. Another of my photos has been selected from Flickr to be displayed elsewhere, this time at Schmap. This is a website with a map of Rome, complete with photos of the various sites. I have added the chosen photo here. It is one of my favorites, one taken when Di and I were out wandering in the early days of our time in Rome.

Of walking and wine

I had an interesting day today, a day of stress and misunderstandings. These are probably quite common at this time of year but still left me feel a bit out of sorts this evening, a bit unsettled. When I feel like that, I plug in the ipod and storm off for a walk. Physical exercise is great for clearing out the cobwebs and making the world seem sane again.

I walked up the hills and then along the river, past the rose garden where I see the old man tending his wife's garden sometimes, along the road past Anne's house. Anne's moving to Abu Dhabi early January so was outside with her friend Richard clearing her garage for those who are moving into her place. The trailer was full, ready to go to the lockup so she took time to sit and yarn with me over a glass.

Anne is really keen to learn more about where she's heading, never having been to the Middle East to work before. So we yarn, she asks questions like: Is alcohol available? Of course, and I tell her of the many cocktails I sampled, Margaritas, Appletinis, Manhattens. What are the kids like? Like kids the world over, curious, cute, a little naughty at times, fun.

Anyhow, here I was all fit and relaxed drinking wine when slightly dehydrated, not a good mix when it's a large glass and there's still a distance to home. I toddled off home, thinking about Anne's upcoming trip and mine. I am also heading off in mid January to Al Ain, just down the road from Anne so we plan to catch up.

Maybe resigning my job yesterday and getting some more of the never ending paperwork ready for my new visa has made me a little unsettled too. It's a time of great change for me, new beginnings and changes to my life. I am excited, but will be more so when my tickets are ready, the house is sorted and I'm packed ready to go, my Christmas break job. For now I have to think of buying the kids their Christmas pressies, getting Kez and Sasi's ones to Aus in time, tomorrows job.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Patience

I started this entry last night and in a rare show of patience, left it until today after a couple of interruptions. Patience, the photo shows just how patient I can be, OK I can hear those who know me well snorting with laughter about now. 

On Saturday a trip out country saw me gridlocked in traffic, yes gridlocked in Belfast, Christchurch on a two lane road on a Saturday. I couldn't quite figure this out. If it had been Christmas shopping traffic, surely it would have been going the other way. Like the other suckers I crept along, stopping and starting. I could have turned off in several places, but no true to human nature, because I had got as far as I had I stayed with the sheep. 

It got me thinking about how we do stick with things we know are not so good in the hope that they will get better. After all, we have invested time in these aspects of our lives so therefore if we change tack surely we have wasted that time. Not so if we have learnt the lessons from these experiences. No time spent on different experiences is wasted, even being stuck in traffic. 

I'm usually not as patient as I was on Saturday. I sat in the car enjoying the sun through the window and the music on the radio. Not being patient has an upside. Well for me if not for those that live, work and socialise with me. Not being patient means I get heaps done with the hours I have in my day. 

That was spooky, while I was in my study writing my ipod just skipped through several songs and stopped at Chasing Cars. No one else in the house, what's up with that? Think it might be my signal that it's time to eat, time for a vino. 

Friday, 12 December 2008

Christmas lunch

We had our work Christmas lunch today, a much more subdued outing than last year. We went to Rosendale Vineyard and the meal was yummy, the pud was good, the wine OK and the espresso needed to have some hot water added. So here I am at home, yes at home, on a Friday evening at this time feeling a little like partying, a little like having a nana nap after a big lunch. Seven and a half days of work to go, so looking forward to the break.

The Freudian slip made on Wednesday has lived on with the one who slipped finding her handiwork put on notice boards around the office. She corrected the mistake and made sure she saved the corrected copy and gave us each one. In her honor we had an 'r' free day. There were some interesting words shared, most I wouldn't list here. And we had a crock up or several during the morning. I don't think she'll ever live this one down.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

A Freudian slip

A group of us from work attended some interesting professional development on Tuesday morning. The PD was part of the knowledge gym and the speaker was Pat Meseti, an energetic Italian Australian who shared his ideas like an old time Evangelistic preacher. He was very entertaining and while his message about the rules of abundance were not new ones they were presented in a different way. He was very inspiring. His story very inspiring. 

So very inspiring that a colleague of mine decided she would share his key messages with others in our office who were not fortunate enough to have attended. She duly re wrote her notes with such memorable quotes as:

"Where my focus is today, my future is tomorrow"
"Your attitude will affect your altitude"
"I'll look after me for you, if you look after you for me"
" If you change what you think, this will change what you feel, which will change how you act, which will change the outcome"
"The bridge between thought and success is action"

You get the picture, all good stuff to remember when managing people. He also talked about gender difference and amongst his quotes on this was this gem:

"Men are microwave ovens - they are either on or off. Women are crockpots. Plug them in and turn them on in the morning and they will be ready by evening"

My colleague was very proud of her efforts and passed the lovely gift of quotes on colored paper complete with a border and flash font to everyone in the office, including the CE. I wonder if you can spot the difference between the quote above and what she actually wrote on her quote sheet:

"Men are microwave ovens- - they are either on or off. Women are cockpots. Plug them in and turn them on in the morning and they will be ready by evening"

Very Freudian indeed, especially given the female dominated world we work in. Needless to say there was much laughter and the one on the CE's desk was quietly removed. 

Paris




I have been sorting through my photos and thought these deserved a larger viewing. The gateway is at the back of  Sacre Coeur and the other two are from Notre Dame, the amazing detail sculptured into the front entrance. I can't wait to get back to Paris, to spend time there not having to rush. To hang out and people watch in a cafe. 

Hopefully this will happen in 2009, well that's the plan. 

Sunday, 7 December 2008

And some more




These two are of the fishing fleet in the harbour and the fish market. The fish market is held each day and anyone can buy a fish or several directly from the fishermen. They are still wriggling and are sold whole, complete with guts. Keri and I bought one for one of our Saturday night pot luck dinners. It cost around $4 and was large enough to feed a few. I was planning to bake it in my oven but first we had to clean the fish.

This took a team to complete, Keri standing with her wine squealing and giving instructions on how to gut the fish and me doing all the work. Luckily I am a country girl and had done this the odd time before when I lived in the Coromandel in the 70's. I was just a bit rusty, that's all. The fish got cleaned, I got to enjoy my wine while it baked in the oven and the team enjoyed eating this freshest of fish.

I walked along the floating jetty the fishing boats are moored to the odd time. It is a peaceful place with the water lapping against the pontoons and the gentle rocking of the sea. It's also a great place to watch the sun go down.

PS Keri doesn't even eat fish, loves to catch them though.

More from Doha




Another two photos from Doha, the new museum from the Corniche and dhows in the harbour. Note the shower and loo off the back of the boat.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Roll on Christmas


The last few weeks of the term are really busy in my job. There seems to be so much to do, to complete before the Christmas break, roll on the Christmas break. Until then this blog might be a bit quieter than normal as I work on reports, appraisals, edits and articles and keeping my head just above the water. 

The photo is from my garden, a tall harakeke flower with the city behind. 

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Sunday

It's been a good weekend, time to rest and have some down time after a difficult week. Also time to catch up with friends. Raukura and I went out for a few last night, in Rau's words, a couple of nanas having a night out while still getting a good nights sleep. We talked up a storm, as we do, about travelling and heading off to the Middle East to work. Raukura has applied to go out there too. Who knows, we might even get to work together.

I sent Kahu, my hairdresser, my blog link and got an email from him tonight telling me he is enjoying the photos and catching up on my happenings. Makes this blog worth writing when people enjoy reading it and looking at my photos. I'm especially pleased Kahu is enjoying, he's the reason I have such good hair, my only real vanity. I am a Leo so that's understandable really, it's all about the mane. I don't wear make up except lippy on occasion so like to have a good do, Kahu provides that. I missed him when I was away, both speaking the same language helps when you are getting your hair done.

Lyn and I discovered the salon at the Sharq in Doha and went there to get our hair done a couple of times. The Sharq is a flash hotel, really flash, something like a 6 star rating from memory. It was walking distance from Al Hitme. Our hair guy was a cute Egyptian who didn't really know what to make of these brash, unflash westerners. Their usual clientele was far more classy, Qatari women in Louis Vuitton and Gucci, made up in the beautiful way Qatari women are. We were moths in amongst the butterflies.

We also gate crashed their very cool pool twice. The first time we got a swim without really knowing we weren't allowed to, the second time we knew we weren't allowed but still had a go in the usual kiwi tradition. Kerry disowned us, waited with a shisha and a tea in a nearby cafe. We had a bet with him, he lost, we got to swim. I can look really innocent when needed and am really good at sincere apology, well insincere apology sounding sincere. The pool boy bought the apology after we didn't know our room number and let us swim for a while. Lyn even got photos so I will try to get one from her to add here later.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

More photos




I read on a friend's blog recently about the opening of the new Islamic art gallery/museum in Doha. When we were there we watched this amazing building take shape as we walked along the Corniche. Lyn and I were really disappointed that it wasn't going to open while we were there and we're still waiting for our official invites. The building looks different from all angles and I took this photo, one of many of this building, on my first trip. As you can see, it was greener then, cooler, about this time of year.

The other photo was also taken on the earlier trip. I thought I had lost these in my computer crash but I had backed them up, saved them as something else so have taken some time to find them. The dhows are an experience. Travelling across the harbour in one at night with the lights of the city in the background is a wonderful experience. The area where the dhows are moored is not the cleanest part of the harbour. The ablutions facilities are off the back of the boat, enough said. This photo shows the traditional and new in contrast, traditional fishing versus the ever developing city behind, with a digger thrown.

I am spending some good time procrastinating this morning. I have work to do but the suns shining and it's Saturday. I'm sure there is something else I can do that's more interesting than work, anything. It's also been a hard week, a diverse week, one I'm pleased is over. Time to regroup and get onto the next thing, and there always is a next thing.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

The things you see

The things you see when you have no camera. I was driving across town to facilitate some professional development for a group of teachers when I saw a sight worthy of photographing. I wonder if I can explain it well enough to take the place of a photo. 

I was driving along the Avon River heading towards the east side of town, in Christchurch the low socio side, the other side of the tracks as it were, when I saw a family crossing the road. They were an ordinary family for this part of town, a youngish woman dressed in a sari and a man walking alongside her. She may have been of Indian descent as she was darker skinned, an attractive young woman. The man beside her looked a bit older than her, Pakeha/European, scruffy in appearance.

Why they attracted my attention was the wheelbarrow the man was pushing ahead of them. The couple were talking and laughing, obviously enjoying each others company. In the wheelbarrow were two children, aged around two and under one. They were both very cute, darker skinned with lovely curls. They were also laughing as the two adults interacted with them. A police car drove past and the couple waved, the policemen waved back and I could see them smiling at the group as I was. 

The family stopped on the bridge over the river and the adults pulled out a bag containing, I am assuming, some bread for the ducks. The children were each picked up out of the wheelbarrow and encouraged to throw the bread into the water. They were excited, animated as the adults interacted with them. The lights changed and I continued on my journey. This family scene left me smiling, still am smiling as I picture them looking over into the river together, wheelbarrow on the footpath. 

I have spent the last couple of days hobbling along with my extreme gardening injuries. The chiropractor smiled and shook his head. Extreme gardening he said doubtfully. Then I told him what I had done, he barely suppressed his smile as he put me back together. It appears I had put my back out but had also pulled a rather large muscle at the top of my leg, the one that joins to the hip and runs down to the knee. Yep when I do things I do them properly. So ice and some strong antiflams are the order of the day. I have had comments from others, comments about remembering my age. Thanks guys, not that helpful really. I will live to do more extreme gardening, it just may take a while before I can climb up to the orchard. 

Tomorrow I am off to Wellington for a memorial service, a sad time, a time to support friends. It's been a while since I've been to Wellington, a regular stop in my old job. I just hope I can find a bed for the night, that one of my friends has a spare couch. I have to be back on Friday afternoon as I am presenting at a marketing launch. Hobbling onto the stage to present will be an interesting experience, one I am feel ambivalent about at the moment. 

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Still awake

It's been a while since I've had a sleepless night, a night when getting up and doing something is preferable to tossing and turning. So here I am at 2.30am sitting at my kitchen table catching up on reports. This will be good for me tomorrow as I will be ahead of the game reports wise, but bad because I will be a grumpy bum all day. This I know from past experience and I'm sure others will vouch for me.

There are several reasons for the tossing and turning tonight. The first is a stressful day, one of those days when everyone wants a larger piece of you that you are able to give. A day of dealing with people who are stressed and busy, unhappy in aspects of their lives. That's OK, people are allowed to be unhappy, stressed and busy. Add to that unreasonable and uncommunicative and then there is a problem, mine today. This all goes with the territory of managing people really so I just have to suck it up and get on with it, keep smiling when groaning inside.

Probably the major reason I am up is that I hurt my back on the weekend and can't lie comfortably in bed, can't actually toss and turn because only the left side is fit for turning too. I hurt my back by being silly, forgetting that I am a petite female of middle years and indulging in some extreme gardening. Anyone who has been to my place will by now be nodding their head in understanding. Extreme gardening is what you do when you live in the hills, the pay off for that great view.

I did some work in the orchard a couple of weekends ago cutting down some feral plum trees and pruning the trees that mean birds get to poop on my washing. I left the pruning to dry and dragged them down to go to the green waste dump this weekend. Dragging large branches and what not from the orchard to where they can be loaded onto Tim's ute for the dump trip means dragging said branches down a slope almost too steep to stand on, bracing oneself so the branches don't drag you down in a heap underneath them. Making sure the falling piles don't take out the laden grape vine growing on the retaining wall requires steering the pile that's rapidly gathering momentum.

OK, safely down to the next level. The branches then have to be taken down a set of steps to the house level, then dragged along the flat terrace, down yet another set of steps to the drive way, narrow tree lined steps. Imagine about 20 trip of this and you can see why I have a sore back. The photo doesn't really show the steepness of the orchard but the levels can clearly be seen. I really should have listened to my body today and gone to the chiropractor, I suspect I'd be sleeping now if I had of. First on the list of tomorrows jobs then.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

The movies

I went to the movies last night to see a film shot in a part of the world I really want to visit one day. I watch anything set in this place, the Silk Road, the ancient trade link between China and Europe. I really enjoyed the book by the Morgans who travelled there by bike and then of course there's Charlie and Ewan's adventures.

Children of the Silk Road was based on real events and was an amazing story set in war torn China in the 1930’s. The film's about the relationship between a young English journalist, George Hogg played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, an American nurse (Radha Mitchell) and the leader of a Chinese partisan group (Chow Yun Fat) who meet in desperate and unexpected circumstances. Together they rescue 60 orphaned children, leading them on an extraordinary journey across hundreds of miles of treacherous terrain, through snow-covered mountains and an unforgiving desert. Along the way they discover the true meaning of love, responsibility and courage.

I read some of the reviews before I went and wished I hadn't. They were not that flattering and while some of the comments were true, this epic story was well worth watching. Most of the children were not actors and they were brilliant, boys being boys with antics that crossed cultural boundaries. The very end, just before the credits and just after the end of the story, tied the story together. I won't give any more away. It's not a DVD movie, it needs a big screen to do credit to the sweeping vistas and beauty that is China and the Silk Road.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Happy Birthday Nick

There seems to be a lot of Scorpios in my life including Nick who is 27 today. He got a very special gift, an ipod to replace his broken one. He was a bit thrilled I think, both with the present and the fact he actually got it on his birthday. I have always been a bit slack about getting presents to people on time and as this is a very busy time of year, it's been a long standing joke that no one remembers Nick's birthday, of we do. 

Unfortunately we don't get to spend his birthday together very often but he has his work Christmas do tonight, well done Fletchers, so him and Courtney should have a good night out. He is coming down for Christmas so looking forward to that. 

It was also Laura's birthday. I work with Laura. She's a big music fan and she's an awesome photographer. She takes wedding photos on her weekends as well as other commissions. We talk photography and share ideas. There were lots of photos taken at her birthday night out last night, I hope the unflattering ones of me don't turn up on her Facebook. We had a lovely night out at the Lone Star, they even serve Margaritas there so it would have been rude of me not to sample one. 

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Thursday

I don't know what it is about Thursdays. Thursday seems to be a day when people get stressed and grumpy. It's still one more work day until the weekend, maybe that explains it. Today I had to deal with grumpy people, stressed people, for some of the day. For the rest of the day I was entertained by children. No grumps there thankfully. I hibernated with a group of polar bears, after having been given a coat and gloves because we were, of course, at the North Pole. Shortly after, this polar bear got eaten by a lion. Well, that's just how it is with the big jobs after all.

I had a farewell to go to after work, a farewell where I had to stand up in front of a large group and sing, OK so being eaten by a lion was preferable to that. I was late after a drive across town during rush hour. The song was happening as I arrived, whew lucky escape for me and those listening. There was free flowing wine, dangerous for me as others know. I have ended up compromised after a few on occasion, something my friends and the occasional photo reminds me about. Not that I have clear recollections.

But wait there's more, the treat of the day was yet to come. After some toast and coffee for dinner, I was home for a very short time after all, I got the glad rags on and off I went to an amateur show one of my friends was part of. At the end of this Thursday and it's grumpy people, I really felt like curling up with a vino in front of the telly. But out I went. I was more than pleasantly surprised and very pleased I made the effort.

I haven't laughed so much in ages, actually since the last live show I went to performed by the Doha Players, but that's another story. The show was A Space Oddity and was a parody of Star Trek, Star Wars and the NZ political parties. Surprisingly the singing was great. With such songs as Startrekkin', Bohemian Rhapsody, Let's Get Physical and Hey Baby, how could it be anything but successful. There was a bit of loo humour and characters called Ivona Hugginkiss, Private Dolly Parts and Princess Layher, well you get the picture.

It was a good night out shared with friends and a glass or two in a setting that reminded me of earlier times in New Zealand. Chips and peanuts on the table at a community gathering, fun for all. Talking to Annie after, I could see why she so enjoyed these shows and all the work they entailed.

I am not a very patient person and I am waiting to hear from others overseas at the moment. My email has been surprisingly quiet. I am especially waiting to hear about a job I was interviewed for earlier in the week. I am hopeful. If I get it, I will be off on another adventure. Finger crossed then.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

The Sea

Nick's a keen surfer and when he was down recently he checked out the beaches. There was no surf so he got some lovely shots of the places where I am going to spend more time this summer. I love the beach, I don't get there often enough. The photo is of Sumner and New Brighton beaches looking towards the city and mountains. 

I do much prefer the North Island beaches. They are more secluded somehow, less exposed than the expanse of bay that is Pegasus Bay. I also have fond memories of an adolescence spent surfing and swimming at the Coromandel and Far North beaches, places my son has now discovered. I enjoy watching his face when he tells me about a special beach, a beach I can tell him stories of too. Of course the beaches were much better in the 70's. There was more sun, more surf, less people, more friendly people and some very rose tinted glasses. Sunscreen hadn't been invented and we didn't get sunburnt, ever. Well maybe just that one time.

I was reading a blog tonight and came across a line from a poem about the sea and that got me reflecting on the role the sea has in replenishing my soul. When I am in the sea, near the sea I feel at peace, calm, comfortable and reflective. In the te ao hurihuri that is my life, I do need to spend more time there. Roll on summer......

Monday, 17 November 2008

A throne fit for a queen

One of the trendy cafes in Lyttelton, a port town just through the tunnel from Christchurch, has a right royal loo. It sits on the top of a couple of steps, very throne like. The cistern is like a 70's disco ball and the walls are draped with the Union Jack and photos of HRH. 

The first time I saw this loo I was with the Qatar crew. We laughed our socks off, the steady procession of us heading out the back to the littlest room. I thought Karen would like to see too. This time I had my camera so got a couple of shots, the one of Karen and loo will remain unseen here. It cost her a breakfast, yummy waffles with banana and maple syrup, for me to delete it. 

The best part of the room can only be seen by sitting on the throne, a shelf of old books on royalty and some more old photos of the queen at various ages and other royalty. The person who decorated the loo was obviously a keen collector of royal memorabilia. 


Saturday, 15 November 2008

Whanau



We've got Des and Karen staying, whanau from Australia, so a social weekend of sight seeing, food and drink. Today we headed off to the Lyttelton farmers market for a wander and found some yummy products. The Belgian chocolate was a highlight and the yams that Karen lined up for. Yams are delish and we had them roasted for dinner tonight along with the gourmet sausages, venison steaks and fresh asparagus we bought. 

Tim and Sarah were off to the races and came up to borrow a shirt for Tim. His dads shirts are a bit larger than Tim so we had some fun trying to dress him. They looked the part by the time they left, as the photo shows. They came up later for the barbie, along with the largest strawberries I have ever seen for afters. Dipped in chocolate they were a treat. It was hot here today, summer is on the way. 


Friday, 14 November 2008

In the money



I thought it was time to add some more of my Europe photos. I had an experience this morning that made me think of Italy. I put on a pair of 3/4 pants to go to the shops and on checking the pockets found 15 Euro. I had to laugh, after being broke for the last week or so, I could have afforded another gelato if I had just checked my pockets. 

It also means that I haven't worn those pants, a favorite traveling pair, for a while and that means that summer has finally arrived in my neck of the woods. Today I spent the day in the garden. It could be said that I like the results of gardening rather than doing the actually spade work. But when the sun is shining, the weeds are growing needs must. I also got the vege garden in after a trip to the garden shop to get plants. I am much too impatient to wait for seeds to sprout so buy the biggest plants I can find. 

Another trigger for travel memories, hence the photo of the end of Ponte Vecchio in Firenze, was that I wore my T shirt I bought at a shop near there to work yesterday. It's a rip off of the Coke symbol, silver on black. I got lots of comments, mind you not as many as the day I wore my Hooters one. The other photo is one of many this Leo took of lions around Italy. This lion was keeping watch over the surrounding countryside in Perugia. 

Thursday, 13 November 2008

It's a holiday

It's a holiday tomorrow, a day off for Canterbury Anniversary. There is heaps going on around town including the annual A&P show, also known as farmer's (and small children's) big day out; a weeks of racing carnival and of course the associated partying and fashion; and it's a time we get a house full.

This time it's the Aussies. They arrive tomorrow after touring around the south and west. Hopefully they will arrive with some fresh whitebait to refresh our dwindling stocks. I got some venison last weekend, big bro's favorite, to go on the barbie. I also stocked up on vino and beer. It's Muzz's birthday on Saturday so he will be celebrating with whanau, the best way to celebrate, although none of the kids will be here.

It's a year on Sunday since I first went to Qatar, amazing really. How time flies. 

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Margaritas on a school night, can't get much better than that. Yes, I've been out to dinner at my favourite Mexican and while no one would share a pitcher of Margaritas with me tonight, I still managed one for mains and one for dessert. Glasses that is, not pitchers. It is after all a school night.

After the mare of a day I had today, I was hanging out for a drink or several. It was one of those days when the jobs I had planned to do for the day didn't get started and the pile in the in tray just got bigger and bigger. On the upside, because I postponed my visit and stayed in the office, there were one or two less reports to write. Until I have to do the visit later that is.

There is a problem with Margaritas, actually I've just realised it now, they keep me awake. Must be all the sugar. So here I am settling in to doing some work, photo work not work work, until I feel sleepy. It's great getting some peace and quiet, except for U2 on the ipod at the moment, to sort through and get a disc ready for a friend who is hoping to head off to the Middle East soon. She wants to see the scenery, I have to be careful not to show her that there's not much of that unless you like a white expanse of very little.

I got some street cred with a four year old yesterday, a very bright four year old, after telling him I had lived in the desert. We were talking bugs and snakes and things, as you do with four year old boys, and I dropped into the conversation that I had seen a snake and a large lizard in the desert. Regarding me cooly, he asked if I had seen a scorpion, yes I had. I told him the story of the scorpion on the wall and us both getting a fright. He was impressed, I got a nod and a smile. Did I mention he was also a very cool four year old? Because I didn't manage a photo that day, we found one in a book. I might throw in that I've ridden a camel next time I see him, I do have a photo of that.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Out walking



When I was out walking tonight Somewhere Over the Rainbow came on my ipod just as I reached a lovely place to sit and contemplate near the river. It was a lovely evening, warm and sunny in the spot I chose. I looked up and saw an elderly gentleman looking over at me from his garden of roses. 

He started to talk to me so I took off my ipod and went over to his fence. The lovely man offered me a flower, one of his yellow roses that were just coming out in bloom. We got talking. The roses are planted on some land alongside the children's playground I thought was reserve land, no it has belonged to him for 60 years. He showed me the plants, some newly planted some that have been there for a while. We talked gardening, me trying to sound knowledgeable and him finally confessing he knew little about it. 

You see his wife was the gardener in the family. You might remember back to an earlier post about the gardeners and builders quote from Brida by Paulo Coehlo, it came to mind as we talked: "And while it requires the gardener's constant attention, it allows life for the gardener to be a great adventure". From our talk I gathered that this wife who passed away 18 months ago was sorely missed. Tending her garden, both on this plot of land and at their rest home apartment up the hill, gave him time and space to remember her. 

Talking about her to me seemed to be good for him. Little did he know how special our conversation was to me. As we talked he cut roses for me from several bushes, ones that smelt fantastic, ones that were losing their petals just a little, ones that were wet from the watering he had just given them. The most special was the one pink rose amongst the yellow blooms.

Today I had news of the worst kind, news of a friends devastation. I took the flowers for her, although on the way home I was greeted by comments and smiles from all I passed and was tempted to share them. Thirteen month old Alexander and his mum were outside enjoying the sun and Felix their cat; the fish shop man commented on the flowers as I bought fish for tea; the lady in the car that gave way to me as she turned into her drive and nearly caused a pile up; the two young girls carrying Thai takeaways home for tea. I dropped some petals along the way, the rest are in the photos here. 

More Qatar photos











While we were working we had a strict dress code, long skirts and sleeves. The photo is of Shirley, Lyn, Keri and I outside Qatar Academy on one of our visits there. While we looked the part in these clothes, they did at times make it difficult for us to do our jobs. I tripped on my long skirt going up stairs and ripped the front of it. Luckily I didn't hurt myself, luckily no one saw and most luckily I had a stapler handy for a fast repair. Other times, working at the children's level was fraught, very undignified almost losing your skirt as you get up from a low chair.

The other photos, entirely unrelated, were taken at Losail the race track just north of Doha on the road to Al Khor. Kerry, Keri and I attended the MotoGP there, fantastic to watch the first night racing GP ever. It was very loud, petrol head heaven and there were plenty of thrills and spills as the riders got used to the lights and the coolness of the evening making the track difficult. The race track was packed on the final day of racing so I took a photo upwards to show this. See if you can spot Keri and Kerry (also known as boy Kerry and girl Keri).
There was a prayer tent out the back of the race track and we got to meet the local sheik's racing camels. They were beautiful, well groomed and decorated. Keri got a ride, I wasn't that brave. I did get to pat them and talk to their owner, a very gracious man who so willingly shared a part of his culture with us.

Saturday, 8 November 2008



When we were in Qatar, we were regulars at the Rydges Hotel. They had happy hour, aka free cocktails for the ladies on a Wednesday night. As it was a work night, we didn't get there as often as we would have liked. They also had a pool so for a fee, we could swim all day if we wanted. there was a gym, not that I went there. The bar and pool were up on the top floors of the hotel, out of the sight of the locals. The pool had to be cooled as it got too much like bath water as the summer progressed. 

Christchurch also has a Rydges Hotel. I took this photo as we wandered around town when the Qatar team were down, seemed appropriate as we were laughing about the visit where Keri had to carry me home, via McDonalds, because I had over indulged. It was the same night Lyn's husband Kerry had to extricate her, in a similar state to me, from a difficult conversation before she said too much. 

It was a bit of a walk to Rydges from Al Hitme, so we often arrived a bit hot and bothered. Nothing a couple of cold ones, a swim and good company couldn't fix. The walk home was usually much more interesting, well certainly louder than the trip there. 

The other photo is the Chalice in the square in Christchurch. It sits alongside the cathedral and I think it looks out of place. It is an awesome structure, especially with the sky as a back drop rather than tall buildings. 

It's a dogs life


Had the pleasure of Sam's company today. He's getting on and enjoys just hanging out rather then the long walks we used to have together. I was sitting in the sun with Sam next to me reading, a good way to spend a Saturday. Well, that was after I had been out early with Tim and Sarah.

Muzz signed up with the work team for a local triathlon, just the cycling part. He woke up very unwell so had to withdraw. A solution, get Tim to race in his place. His team mate sounded doubtful wondering if Tim was up to the challenge, they were after all the A team. The rest of the team didn't know Tim so I went along as support crew to team him up with the others. 

I caught up with the other cyclist, pointed Tim out to him. His comment 'so he's a bit of a cyclist then'. I wish I could have got a photo of the look on his face. I casually commented that Tim was just back from competing overseas, yes he was up to it. Sarah and I followed the race, Tim finished well up as did the A team. Another in the team commented that Muzz would struggle to get a place in the team next year. Was Tim available by any chance? 

So after not getting my sleep in and having to tax my brain with voting, reading in the sun is all I am up to today. 

Friday, 7 November 2008

Hayden

I've just been chatting on Facebook to my friend Hayden, while writing reports of course. Hayden lives in Istanbul and has just returned from a stint in Japan to give his travel business some momentum. We met Hayden through Di in 2004 on our trip to Turkey. He arranged our trips within Turkey and we had a great time socialising with him. As New Zealanders do, we kept in touch and Hayden came to stay on a visit home. A great guy I hope to catch up with on my next trip north. 

Here's a link to his site for anyone interested in traveling in Turkey http://www.zenturkey.com/  

TGI Friday


Am I pleased it's Friday. It's been a long week. I don't know why but the weeks I travel south are so very tiring. I don't know if it's the drive, a bit over an hour on a road so straight and full of heavy trucks you lose the will to live; the job I have to do down there, everyone wanting a large piece of me all at the same time; bad radio stations with inane talking rather than good music, music of any kind; or just that they are long days. 

A bonus is that I have found a coffee shop that makes good coffee. It's my first call of the day, my transition from city to country town stop. They even know how I like my coffee and greet me like an old friend when I turn up every couple of months for several days in a row. As I am often on my own, the barista/manager comes and chats with me. 

She works hard, long hours, but always has a cheerful smile for her customers. We talked about that, how she enjoys the people contact with her job. Contact that only lasts minutes so can be enjoyable, on the surface. People she doesn't take to she can hide from behind the coffee machine, others, like me, she can sit and chat with. 

In contrast, my job is all about building relationships and maintaining these over time. My job is to support others, to guide them and critique their practices. This can be fraught and tact is something I am a little short on at times. It is especially fraught in small town New Zealand. It is especially fraught when my critique has to be committed to paper and sent as a report. I have learnt to think before speaking, but sometimes the thoughts come out of my mouth before they are properly discarded. At least when writing, there is time to reword if needed. Although I have learnt that what I write and what others read into that can be quite different. 

Suffice to say, I am over traveling south for this year unless a crisis strikes. Touch wood that doesn't happen. Today I am working from home writing up my reports and appraisals, it's still freezing and there was nothing I felt inspired to photograph this trip. 

The attached photo is of a warmer place, a place I would prefer to be. I have attached a photo taken in Venice because of the movie Annie and I went to at the Italian Film Festival showing the human side to Venice, a story of love, acceptance and a new beginning. 

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Snowing

Yes, its November; Barack has just won the US elections, well done Sarah Palin, and it snowed to sea level in Canterbury. It snowed in Ashburton and in the hills behind my house. It was sleeting on the way south and the day just got better and better. Yes, really better and better. Hello, Barack won! No more George W.

I have never followed the US elections like I have this year. It started by reading some blogs, Di's included. Then Tim and Sarah came home from the states and showed me some You Tubes showing Sarah Palin, that was revealing. She was made to look foolish, put into a position where she couldn't quite handle the situation. Makes the New Zealand elections pale into insignificance. Voting, that's Saturday's job.

I am heading south again tomorrow and this time I will take my camera. The mountains looked spectacular with their new winter coat. There was a rainbow that led us home. Like in reality, the pot of gold kept shifting. The closer we got, the faster it moved away. Still, it would have made a good photo. It's freezing outside now, a frost expected over night.

I had to dig out some winter woollies (again) to cope with the 20C drop in temperature from one day to the next. And tomorrow promises more of the chillness. It's funny, where ever I go lately I get fed, good timing really. Yesterday it was German waffles, today hot date scones dripping with butter plus strawberries, cheese and crackers later in the day. People laugh about this, given I am not very big but should be with my appetite. The cafe where I stop for coffee had a fresh batch of yoyos, a childhood favourite, so one came home with me. I wonder what goodies tomorrow will bring.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Thanks.

What a wonderful response I had to my last post, some great emails and phone calls. So people don't leave comments, they still read, some twice a day, some a couple of times a week, some too lazy to leave a comment, some who don't feel the need and just enjoy for the sake of enjoying, some just love the photos. That's all good really. I am looking forward to having some time to add some more photos, not tonight as I need my beauty sleep. I have some long days coming up, heading south for work early tomorrow.

Today I asked for some time off to go and see my Aussie son, so hope to get to Brisbane soon. I haven't seen him for almost a year, too long for me. As soon as I can get the tickets booked and a few days free, I'm off. There is the added bonus of a brand new great nephew to get aquainted with and other family to catch up on. It will be good to catch up with Kier's partner, a lovely lass who just might keep my visit a secret so I can surprise the boy. There will be photos, I promise.

Tonight I helped a friend with a job interview, going through the possible questions over a vino at our local. I seem to be there quite often lately, usually with a different woman each time. The young man who served us promised he wouldn't judge. It's a good place to go, especially on live music nights, a bit like Cheers, a place where everyone knows your name.

As I sit at the computer tonight, out the window there are fireworks exploding in the neighbourhood and all over town. A bonus of hill living at this time of year is being able to see out over the city. I often sit on the deck, in the dark, with a quiet wine or two and watch the fireworks. A friend once told me that was a sad thing to do, I think it's OK enjoying others fun from a distance. Sometimes thats just what I feel like doing.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Blogs


I love looking at other people's blogs. They have some great insights into how people are in the world, what they are thinking and how they interact with others. Many, like me, don't have people leaving comments, some have a great following. I know others read my blog, I see the counter and get comments via email. It would be good, she sighs wistfully, if others did leave comments. I would then at least think I wasn't boring others with my writing.


I know photos are enjoyed so here's another.....the Islamic Art Museum from the Corniche. Note the design, the building looks like a woman in traditional dress. It is quite a special building from all angles, a building that is spectacular in the late afternoon light.

Sealine











We ventured south to Sealine Resort one warm Saturday. Others told us it was a great place to relax away from the city, that might have been true on other days. On the day we chose, a large group of others had a function there as well. This meant loud music, bad 80s music, games and lots of kids running around. We made the best of it, enjoying a swim in the sea and in the pool until a dust storm hit and we had to leave in a hurry.

It was a great day out after a stressful couple of weeks. I even got a touch of the sun being able to lay about in my bikini. I love swimming, especially in the sea, so lazing in the warm water was a bonus for me. The pool, on the other hand, was a bit daunting. It was full of men. Lyn and I were the only ones brave enough to venture in while Kerry stood watch, well that was he lay on a deck chair pretending he wasn't with us.

The photos are of the children's area and some of the Sealine buildings, the dust storm approaching and some Qatari having fun with their quad bikes. Oh, the other constant noise at Sealine is the sound of 4WD's and bikes of all descriptions hooning up and down the sand dunes, not a very peaceful place really. Even the girls get in on the action. The final photo is one of my favourites and it's titled calling our driver. In this land of contrasts, traditions and mod cons, what could be more contradictory than a man on a camel talking on a cell phone. I had to run along the beach to get this shot, on full zoom, well worth it I think.

Cultural Festival







During the early part of our stay in Qatar, we attended a cultural festival in the souqs. This was a mostly male affair, all male performers and mostly male audience. The dancers were amazing, the beats soulful. The men were dressed in crisp white thobes, the photo doesn't do them justice really. They moved together with the beat in a seemingly ancient ritual dance complete with sword throwing. It was interesting that the children at the schools also danced like this for special occasions and I was privileged enough to have them perform for me on my last day in their school. Humbling for this westerner.
The night of the festival there were other performers including this very serene man who was a treat to listen to. Not knowing the words added to the experience as the audience, including three of the team, were mesmerised by the music.

The man with donkey was a regular in Souq Wakif, to be seen daily taking small children for a ride on his donkey. After a while he saw us as regulars and waved his greeting with a big smile as we walked by.

New shoes

Annie and I went on a mission today, a shopping mission with a difference. We both hate the malls and are fiscally challenged most of the time so an opportunity to buy pre loved designer clothes was too good to turn down. I went as support crew, not intending to buy. The best laid plans.

There is a charity here called Dress for Success and they help women get back into the workforce by providing them with clothes for interviews and for the first week or so. The sale was of the donated clothes surplus to requirements or not suitable for the purpose. The women running the charity were lovely and we had a few laughs parading the clothes, as women shopping do.

Annie found heaps of treasures, the best a red jacket with a faux fur collar, second a gold handbag. I found two items, both unworn, a jacket that looked heaps better on than off. A made in Italy jacket, patterned with greens and browns and shades of red, very chic. I also bought a white skirt, OK so I already have one or two of those, but this was a white skirt with lovely embroidery and sequins around the bottom, a swirly girly skirt. Best of all it fitted, unlike my long white skirt that needs a sturdy safety pin to hold it up.

But for me the bonus was the table of shoes, new and pre loved, mostly worn a time or two. The shoes were also made to go with the skirt. I managed to fit a green pair with rope wedge heels, a multicoloured pair and a black pair. All were new or almost, all were for summer and most importantly, all were cool.

We celebrated spending $110 on 12 items by walking in the park. We had coffee in the sun as we watched families going by, enjoying the sun with their kids. All in all a good mornings work.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Connected


Tonight's the night, I am connected again. I can now catch up on those emails I haven't been able to lately. I have had a holiday from writing my blog and miss that, although I got some other things done. 

Sarah quietly slipped me a DVD on the weekend and I watched that Tuesday night. Wow what a movie, she knows me so well and knew this would be my sort of movie. August Rush is the story of a boy seeking to find his family, a love story and a story of faith all tied together with music. Special music that touches the soul. Enough said, easy to spoil a movie by telling you too much about it, suffice to say I recommend it for when you have some alone time to spare. 

Another tick or two off the to do list, I got my thesis off to be hard bound and copies posted out to my research participants. My thesis has been a  bit of a mission. Conducting the research and writing this, even all the reading, was not a drama. Getting said thesis marked and back from the university was. It got lost in the system somehow, markers disagreed on some contentious aspects and so the moderation process kicked in. It has taken from early January until mid October, lots of calls, emails and apologies from the university for me to have to change one word in the abstract. Well, changing the word meant changing the sentence, no worries I can do that. There were also a couple of apostrophes missing, now found. I hope to have my grade soon and the piece of paper I should have had in April. 

I laughed when I read my weekend horoscope. It said time to do some spring cleaning, to sort out and get rid of the old stuff that was holding me back. I read this after I had cleaned out my boxes and boxes of study stuff that's been renting a space in my head and the study. It's empowering to send all I won't need again to be recycled, bags of paper. It was also good to find some treasures amongst the dross, photos I thought I had lost jumbled in with research reports. 

I am also closer to returning to the Middle East, the UAE to be more precise. The job interview went well, other doors are opening and I have put out to the universe that traveling is the plan for 2009. Watch this space, more travel stories to come I suspect. 

The photo is of Keri and Helen connecting on our weekend together. Amazing how connected we all felt after five months of being back in the real world, back to our old lives. Strong friendships build out of challenging and enlightening times together, united by our common philosophies and passions. The next get together is in the pipeline, Taranaki in the summer. Sounds good to me. 

Sunday, 26 October 2008

No Internet!

I always have a feel of dread when the boys in my house come up with a good idea. This often happens when Nick comes to visit and this time the idea was about rationalising our telecommunication needs. With all the precision of an up and coming project manager, Nick listed all the steps required to change our current bundle to more meet our needs.

Now the thing with lists is that the jobs need to be completed then ticked off. The first was to cancel our Sky account. Sky turned off the sport channels last weekend, just in time for a friend to come around and watch the semi finals of the rugby. Imagine the blokes faces when, after they had settled on the couch complete with beer and chips, the blue screen with the no service message appeared. I told them pubs were where you watched rugby, so off they went leaving me in peace.

The long weekend was approaching fast and by Wednesday we had no TV at all. Some of the tick boxes remained unticked. No TV doesn't bother me too much. I had none the whole time I was in Qatar and I found other more amusing ways to amuse myself. No Internet, however, is a whole different story.

The Internet was shaky all week, constantly going off line and needing reconfiguring. It's a temperamental beast anyway and once you start mucking about with it, it can bite. It bit in the middle of a download of photos, almost there then halas. It bit in a final way on Friday, yes Friday of said long weekend.

I arrived home from a meal out to find Muzz sitting with the phone on speaker trying to get through to our provider. He had the good grace to look sheepish, he was being punished for riling the beast by having to wait 42 minutes for the first call and he was at 30 minutes on the second call when I found him. I could hear the quiet impatience in his voice as he talked to the overseas help desk. There was a problem apparently, one he had to call another provider to fix. And it went on like this until quite late.

So the upshot of this is that it's Sunday and we still have no Internet. Yes, someone will do what they need to do and it will all go faster and better than ever before. We did get the TV sorted later on Saturday, nothing to watch of course. At the moment I am sitting in my cold office doing some work and catching up on email. Sorry to those I haven't got to yet. I am hoping to have Internet at home tomorrow, yeah right!

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

More of the trip north photos



The first photo is the minaret of the old mosque. I have another photo with Helen playing Rapunzel form the top window. In the interests of decorum, I will refrain from adding that one.
The second photo is of some interesting pillars. The light is very washed out but the sea can be seen behind the pillars.

Monday, 20 October 2008

The trip north





We ventured north on a hot day with Gaye and Kelly driving us. I have written about this in a much earlier post but didn't have the photos then so here are some to add to the story.


Up north it's very hot, dry, dusty and starkly barren, a white barren that defies description so I am hoping the photos show what I mean. We had a great day out, a respite from the city, actually a respite from everything as there was little out in the hinterland, not a loo in sight and no bushes either. We visited some old abandoned village sites with some interesting ruins.


The last time I had headed north, on a previous trip to Qatar, I was surprised by a rather large scorpion sunning itself on a wall in one of the ruins. I'm not sure who was more surprised, me or the scorpion. As I fumbled in fright to get my camera sorted for a photo, he beat a hasty retreat meaning I had no proof of our encounter. Scorpions are like that apparently. I could, however, tell the story of our brief encounter and of course he was much larger in the story than in real life, a fishing story from the desert, how ironic.


The photos are of a cool window, a partially derelict building, Helen and Keri in pursuit of a good camel photo and our picnic outside the gates of a park that was surprisingly locked. The park looked very inviting, the picnic outside with good friends and lots of laughs was much more inviting.