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.

Dressing for winter

I learnt my lesson today about listening to the weather forecast at this time of of year. Christchurch is well known as a city that can have four seasons in one day. Usually I dress for the coldest of those seasons because I feel the cold and have half a wardrobe in my car, just in case. Last night the weather person said it was going to be 14C.

In honour of the cold day and being in the office, I dragged out my pink wool suit from the dark recesses of my wardrobe where it had recently been consigned to make way for the summer collection. Actually it's more of a darkish pink and black than a nipple pink suit, that would look plain hideous on me. I grumbled about this of course. I like to wear light summer clothing much more than the wool suit and I had just changed the seasons after all. I did put on a fetching pair of fish nets and my Spanish shoes which made the look a little lighter.

There are several great things about fish nets. The first one is that men leer at your legs, any man, anywhere, especially when the said fish nets are accompanied by a fetching pair of heels. What is it about men and fish nets? I was even told one day by one of my colleagues, a man of advanced years, that fish nets were not work attire, unless of course I wanted my legs leered at. We laughed about this later after we both got over the shock. Another great thing about fish nets is that if you get a hole or several, thats OK. Holes add to the character of this already holey garment. The final and most excellent thing about fish nets is that if the 14C day turns into a 24C day, there is plenty of ventilation for hot legs.

That was the moral of the story of today, dress for winter and if turns into a heat wave as it did, make sure you are wearing fish nets or you might just expire. Another lesson about fish nets, if you take off your heels when you get home, don't go outside to get in the washing in your fish nets. Holes on the soles are not good in fish nets, perhaps I need to invest in a new pair after todays adventures, maybe I'll wait until next winter.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

The neighbourhood




The neighbourhood around Al Hitme where we lived was an interesting one. We could walk to the Corniche, the mall, the Souks and to many restaurants. There were many different ethnic restaurants within walking distance, Turkish, an English cafe, Indian, Italian, several franchises such as Costas coffee and the ever present McDs.

Ras Alnasaa was one of the more traditional Middle Eastern restaurants. We liked to show the new people this restaurant because of the surroundings, very ornate and plush with lovely big chairs to sink into. It was respectfully referred to as the brick restaurant. I enjoyed the food, some fo the meat eaters did not so much. There is a photo of Lyn, Kerry and I eating there on her blog. Imagine our dismay when we saw that they were pulling down our restaurant.
The diggers were at work pulling down the neighbour so as far as I know the Ras Alnasaa is still standing. The building pulled down wasn't that old, it just was in the way of the new airport somehow. The removal of the building caused heaps of dust in the area and lots of noise at night as the hammers on the diggers banged away at the concrete. Construction noise at night, a fact of life in Doha in general and Al Hitme in particular.
The photos are of the Ras and the pearl on the Corniche in the early evening.

Al Sultan Resort




One of the places Lyn and I visited regularly was Al Khor, a bit less than an hours drive north of Doha. We went back one weekend for some peace and quite away from the city. Doha is a noisy and dusty place to live at times so getting into the country was wonderful, a peaceful respite.


The Al Sultan resort was a lovely place and for around $45nz, we could use the facilities for the day and have a buffet lunch. The pool was lovely, big enough to do rounds and feel like you had had a workout. This swimmer stayed in for ages, even when it got a little cool. The water is cooled, not heated, as the air temperature means the water is luke warm if left. We also found that in our local pool where it was like swimming in bath water unless we went early in the day.


The surroundings of the Al Sultan are luxurious and we contemplated staying for a weekend until we saw the cost, above my budget. There were a few guests and the locals also enjoyed the buffet. The buffet was wonderful, lots of food, lots of variety and we all ate far more than we should have, no swimming after lunch. I would have sunk.


Lyn and I wondered if we had been spotted by any teachers but no one reported seeing the two of in our swim suits, a sight not easily forgotten. The photos are of Lyn and Kerry on their thrones, the girls relaxing in the deck chairs and the lovely pool.


It feels strange to be writing about our Qatar adventures retrospectively and I am sitting here in Christchurch enjoying the photos and the memories they envoke, happy memories of a wonderful group of people, some fun times and some challenging times. Getting together last weekend motivated me to get the photos sorted and some entries made, a good start made tonight.


I will leave the final word in this post to Paulo Coelho. This is from the Alchemist, appropriate given our surroundings this day.


I do not know if the desert can be loved,
but it is in the desert that my treasure lies hidden.


Paulo Coelho

Doha Zoo





Visiting the Doha Zoo was quite an experience. The first visit had to be abandoned. The Zoo was closed during the heat of the day and we arrived just in time to see the gates shut. No worries, we retired to the air conditioned mall, a blessing given the heat, and had coffee.

Visit two was more successful. It was a lovely afternoon, not too hot, and the zoo had lots of families wandering, under the shades, around the cages. I was amazed at how close we could get to the animals, even the big cats. They were behind mesh, but still close to the fence. The mesh meant the photos of the lion pacing weren't good enough to include here.

The first photo I took was after an interesting pantomine. The photo is not so good but note the hat, the chimpanzee with the straw, the chips and the small boys hand on the left hand side. As we watched, the boy tried to feed the chimp some chips and dropped the bag. When he leaned over to retrieve the chips his hat fell off. The clever chimp tried to get both the chips and the hat and after his first efforts failed, he found the straw and used it to drag and flick the hat towards him.

He was successful and scooted up and down the cage with the hat in hand trying to put it on his head. The boy cried and wanted his hat, his mother was disturbed not knowing what to do and I had to hold back from laughing loudly, it was very funny to watch. The chimp was tormenting the child and it sounded like he was laughing too. I got some shots of him with the hat but the cage made them not clear enough to include here.
People watching was as interesting as animal watching and it was great to see families out in force with their children, dads and mums and maids all enjoying the outing. The photo of the families with the elephant was chosen because no people could be identified, very important in the Muslim culture.
I loved the giraffes, so majestic. I also was fascinated by the snakes and scorpions. They were thankfully behind glass. I have some photos but again not good quality. We wandered for a couple of hours, enjoying the ambiance of the place and being pleasantly surprised by the condition of the animals. I had been warned it might not be such a good place to visit but it turned out to be an excellent day out finished with some raspberry sorbet to beat the heat and a comparison of photos.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Early morning photos


On colds n things

Well, that will teach me for having a full on weekend, then a full on week. This morning I woke with a roaring headache, all blocked up with a head cold. Not at my best in the morning anyway, I looked even more frightning than usual and I knew I had to get up and go to an important meeting. That's the way things work sometimes.

I can thank my sons for my head cold, one had it when he arrived down from Auckland for the week and the other picked one up on the weekend. They are such generous boys sharing their bugs like that. So today I went to my meeting and smiled a lot trying to pretend I didn't feel like hell, I know I looked it. I then went home to bed and slept for most of the morning with the warm sun shining in and the sound of typing coming from downstairs.

Nick came down, complete with said cold, to get some TLC while he finished writing his thesis. He ended up cooking and surfing and enjoying the sun and of course our company. He did get his work done, sounded quite pleased with his efforts.

Tomorrow we have to go visiting then he is off and I am going to get some good down time, much needed. I am going to sort my Qatar photos this weekend and hope to post some, with stories of course. For now, it's a hot lemon drink and more feeling sorry for myself.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Sunday



















We wandered around town for the day on Sunday after cruising around the Port Hills and having coffee at Lyttelton. the views were lovely but a bit hazy over the mountains. 
The photos are of Lyn, Shirley and Keri watching a counting dog, yes really a counting dog. Well that's to say his master was counting and the dog was barking for treats. The things you see at the Arts Centre Market aye. Those watching were enthralled.
The purple thing the team are sitting on in the next photo is the giant sperm mentioned earlier. It's a funny looking thing spread out in the square, very purple and fun for the kids to clamber over. 
The final photo Keri took of us in front of the famous town hall fountain on the Avon River. We were doing the Abbey Rd thing the Beatles did, not so successfully! 

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Some photos from the weekend

















The photos: 1. Keri and I after we realised we were wearing the same shirt, thanks for pointing that out Lyn. We had both bought the same one unknown to each other in Debenhams in City Mall, Doha. We did however know that we had the same wallets, Keri has such good taste. 
2. We went for a walk in the gardens, John took a group photo.
3. Keri, Lyn, Shirley and I eating the world famous in Christchurch for ages ices sold at the caravan at Victoria Square. Shirley and I can remember eating these as young children, Keri used to get cravings for them when she was pregnant. Added a 4, Keri's devotion to the famous ices. The next photo in the ices series was just plain sad so left it off. 
It was a great weekend, more to come a bit later. 

Saturday, 11 October 2008

The crew




Some photos of us to start the story of the weekend. The crew at Shirley and Johns place, walking through the gardens and tulips. It's been a long and social day, lots of laughs, stories, wine, food and catching up. We picked up where we left off 5 months or so ago, as you do after such a shared experience. 

Christchurch turned on a stunning day, 25c and very sunny. Helen decided she might move here if the weather was always like this, and the traffic, so different from Auckland. She also worked out she had a friend or two to play with as well. So true!

Friday, 10 October 2008

Reunion

The Qatar crew are gathering in Christchurch this weekend for a get together, Lyn was first to arrive. I picked up Lyn from the airport and we went to town for a wander, without my camera, what was I thinking. Well I was thinking, I'm in my own place, what can there be to take photos of that are interesting. Oh no, big mistake.

I have never climbed to the top of the cathedral, did today. No camera, no photos of the awesome view. I did take some photos for some Japanese tourists. We saw the giant sperm, yes sperm, in the square. No camera, no photos of the strange purple thing with the woman inside giving away pamphlets for something. No photos of that are actually a blessing, trust me. 

We walked, we talked. So great to commune with Lyn again, to pick up where we left off in Qatar. To laugh about the things that were so tough then, the things that were so precious. Tomorrow promises more, more people more memories. It will be interesting to see how we all are now.

Earlier in the day Sarah and I had walked and talked our way around the park with Sam in tow. It was funny, a foreign lady asked us for directions and we both expected a scam. We laughed after she had gone in the direction we sent her about the scams we had witnessed on our travels. The best for me was the Evangelista woman who found a wedding ring but couldn't keep it because of her religion. She tried to give it to us, for a small fee. We laughed and strolled off, she swore at us. Sarah's story was similar. I did give to a beggar woman in Roma who had a baby.  I saw her later with her friend. They were sitting in the sun sharing gelato with their children, money well spent I thought. She smiled at me and I returned her smile. 


Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Photos


I sorted through the best of my Europe photos and got them printed. It was lovely actually going to the photo shop, just like we did in the old days, to pick up the several envelopes full. Even though I had worked on the photos on the computer and viewed them many times, it was great to look through them printed and tangible. 

I took them back to work and showed others, one was keen to look through all of them and talk about when she went to those places. The photographer amongst us, semi professional these days, can't wait to pore over them with me when we have five together. I bought an album on the weekend so tonight it was graced by the photos. 

Next job is to print a selection of the Qatar ones. The Qatar team are getting together this weekend, Lyn arrives on Friday so it should be a very social weekend. Her blog is looking great. Check it out. 

The photo I have added is of some lions on guard. I was amazed at how many lions there were represented in the architecture and statues around Italy and France. But then they were employed by the Romans, so it stands to reason they might be immortalized. These lions are in France, Arles I think. 

Monday, 6 October 2008

Assisi



I changed the screen background photo on the Apple to the one I have added here. The church is the Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi and the photo is taken from up by the ruins on the hill. From there, there is a wonderful panorama across the countryside. Very beautiful. The other photo is of a statue that I thought was Joan of Arc. I'm not sure that she hails from Assisi but the statue certainly does.  The day we were there was also lovely and warm, a bonus as we wandered around this awesome place. 

Next trip I would like to spend more time exploring Umbria, there's heaps to see. We only saw places that the train went past or through, next time a car would be useful as there are some amazing villages on hill tops. Umbria is also not far from Tuscany and all there is to see there, a month should do to explore the area, well at least a month if you include the vino and food the area is famous for. 
 

Star star


I was out walking, listening to my ipod and this song came on, just at the right time. I was listening, walking, day dreaming and imagining. Yes, I can indeed multitask. I love The Frames and Once is top in my movie list, the music is as special as the story is simple and refreshing. 

The version of Star Star I have is from Set List so, although live, the quality is better. The version here from YouTube has the same medley, see if you can pick where the song comes from, took me a few listens. 

The photo is one Nick took on my camera, a Hamner sunrise. Appropriate for the song I thought. 

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Spring














Spring has sprung, the cherry blossom tree is in full flower and the kaka beak a brilliant red. Today was the first hot day, complete with nor'wester, for the summer. Great to spend some time in the sun, even if it was pulling weeds in the garden. Needs must. I took some photos of the flowers and have added a couple here. 

Friday's post was excellent. My Qatar photos arrived, thanks to Martin. It was a lesson in backing up, luckily I had listened to my learned friend and did so. I was so excited, trawled through and smiled at the memories. I will sort some to include here soon. The zoo ones are particularly good and some of the 4wd in the dunes. 

I also got my thesis copies back to hard bind, they've been a long time coming as well. It seems so long since I did my research. I promised to send a copy to my research participants, didn't quite realise how many pages would be involved. Oh well, that's a job for next week, tomorrow a little R & R and socialising is on the menu. 


Thursday, 2 October 2008

Whanau

People say that you can pick your friends but not your family. That's true, but when I met my two aunties yesterday, we clicked straight away as only family usually does. Although strictly speaking they are my half aunties because they are my fathers half sisters, there are many similarities between us. One is physical, we are all about the same height and similar to look at, another is our sense of humor and still another our opinions of living life to the full. They are both much closer to me in age than to my father. 

I hadn't seen Karen the elder of the two for about 25 years. Donna I had seen more recently, about 8 year ago. We hit it off in the first minute, catching up by all talking together, non stop. Karen's husband was there too, he just shook his head quietly. After all that was the only thing he could do with us talking, no hope of him getting a word in. We caught up on kids and their grandkids. We caught up on some family history. 

I have been working on my father's story and have interviewed him recording his memories. I got an extra dimension from the aunties, my grandfather's story. The story of his family. The Aunties have grandad's photos  from the war, of his family, from his visits to us when we were kids and his travels around the place. They are going to send them down to me along with a copy of the history, the whakapapa already collated so I can continue it.

I have already begun to work on my father's maternal side, a shifty bunch of sea farers, drunkards and ladies of the night. The paternal side surely must have better credentials. I do know that both sides were very early settlers to Aotearoa. The maternal side to Banks Peninsular and the paternal to Wellington and Wanganui. It will be interesting to see how I can collate this information into a family history, to see what other skeletons come out to greet me.