Sunday, October 29, 2006

What a Difference a Day or Two Can Make

There have been times in the past that I've benefitted greatly from a mini-break - from escaping the city and enjoying nature. Most notably, my two trips to the Isle of Arran in Scotland. Well, my trip to the Blue Mountains this weekend was just as fruitful and refreshin - so much so that I really didn't want to leave and considered calling in 'too happy to come to work', but alas, it was not in the cards. Luckily I live a two minute walk from the train station in Syndye nad from there it's a quick and cheap journey back to the bliss of the Blue Mountains.

So the adventure began on Friday evening after a super hectic day at work. I met Shannon at my house and we quickly packed up and took off in his little Frenchmobile for Destination Relaxation. We were both badly in need of some R&R after stressful, long weeks at work. I had booked us into The Flying Fox hostel, as per Beth's recommendation. It looked lovely and cosy - the perfect hostel for my virgin-hostel friend, Shannon.

We arrived and checked into the hostel. The owner, Ross, innocently asked which of us was Shannon Courtney to which we both replied 'we both are'.Um..nope we're not married and no we're not related. The look on his face was priceless - absolutely priceless. And then he said 'that has got to be the weirdest thing ever', which, coming from a guy who owns and runs a hostel is pretty impressive. Hehe. Getting a lot of mileage out of my name twin :)

Spent the evening relaxing in the lovely living room, with the wod stove roaring away and the good conversation of some Dutch and Danish travellers. Up Saturday morning and off to Echo Point, famed for the Three Sisteres - a rock formation. The view was breathtaking - mountains and more mountains and canyon and rainforest. I really can't describe it. I was telling Shannon how I wouldn't go in the cable car because I am afriad ofcertain heights,and then as an afterthought mentioned my fear of stairs ..just as we approached a long, long, steep steep set of stairs that basically led us down the face of the cliff ot het rainforest at the bottom. Oh boy was that fun.

Once at the bottom we wandered around and made our way to the Scenic Railway. whichw as really a coal-mining railcar. It just happened to be the steepest incline railway in the world- picture the incline on a rollercoaster at the begining. Yah - I was happy when we got to the top.... after a quick stop at a chocolate shop for some free samples, we were off to Wentworth to check out a festival that we'd been told about by the Dutch people. It turned out to be a family type affair, but the setting was lovely so just laid out on the grass and enjoyed the afternoon sunshine. The evening was enjoyed at the hostel and then out with some fellow hostellers to check out the local bar scene, which was stellar. Ahem. Cough cough.

Today we toured around more in the car and checked out a load of lookout points. And it was some time when I was looking out at the unending beauty of the Blue Mountains, that I found some clarity. And that is exactly what I needed. I can't quite put my finger on what it is about mountains and islands, but they seem to hold the answers for me and they are extraordinary places where, sometimes, extraordinary things can happen. If you just let them...

Here are some of the things I learned this weekend:

- Chook is Aussie for chicken.
- Blue Mountains are so called because the gum trees that populate the mountains emmenate a blue haze
- Discussing both religion and politics with your friend , who also happens ot be your name twin, can be slightly hazardous to your mental health
- Hostels RULE (knew this already, but was reinforced)
- There are some things that are just not worth stressing about
- I am too hard on myself
- Barramundi (fish) is yummy
- I don't know much about anything (it's all relative, but I happened to be in the company of a guy with and IQ of 156)
- Daylight savings time is brilliant, but it also sucks. So we get more daylight here in Australia, as summer looms, but it is now 15 hours time difference between here and PEI, which means I will rarely catch anyone on messenger and phone calls will be even more difficult...not that I get many/any. Ahem cough cough.

OK, that's all she wrote for this space for more philisophical discussions in the future...

OK, I'm off to bed I have a lot to think about now. Will sleep on it.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Blue Blue Blue

I am FINALLY leaving Sydney in the goa whole 2 hours into the wilderness that is the Blue Mountains! Am I excited??? YES!!! Do I need a holiday after working 12 hour shifts at work all week and still fitting in bootcamp and kickboxing? YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Am I looking forward to the confusion that is inevitable when I book into the hostel with my travel mate, Shannon Courtney? YES!!

Oh dear me. It does not, apparently, take much to amuse me these days. I am kapooped. It has been a loooonnnngg week, and it's not over yet. Have been working until 8 or 8.30 every night this week...and going in early too. It's not been a bad as I expected- still able to get things done at home in the two hours a night I have had - turns out I just waste the rest of my time watching tv or playingon the internet, so better to just make some moeny so I can pay the CRA an excessive amount of money owing on income tax. As if I made a whole lot of money in 2005. Pffffft. Ah well, at least I was honest, which is more than some can say. Not that hold it against them, but damn it, I believe in karma so I had to be truthful.

OK,so theBlue Mountains are supposed to be amazing. Was thinking of going abseiling or canyoning but SHannon and I have decided to forgo the crazy stuff this time in favor of the cheap and enjoyable thing called 'bushwalking'. I also plan to do some bush dancing at the local bush pub. Maybe some bush eating too... And definitely some bush sleeping. Oh to sleep in...what a wonderful treat that will be. Mental note - my bedroom window needs a freaking curtainn..note the makeshift one that is just a pillowcase - getting woken up by the sunshine.

OK, is this is a bit discombobulated and I am off to bed I go...Goodnight all

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Uh Oh. I Won't Let It Happen...

I've become a lazy blogger, only taking the time to post when I am too tired to be creative or too inebriated to recall what I've been doing and thinking about lately. This time, it's the latter state I am currently enjoying..

I've been thinking about change a lot lately. It all started with my hair. I've had the same basic hairstyle for about four years now. Personally, I think it suits me and I get more compliments on it than I ever did with any previous style, although this may be simply because I DO style my hair now instead of letting it dry into a frizzball... Anyhoo, lately I seem to be enamoured with the idea of change - I've moved to a new country, got a new job and am challenging myself with Bootcamp and marathon training, so why not give the ole' do a revamp as well, I thought to myself.

Well when you've got short hair there's really only one viable option (unless you want to pull a Sinead O'Connor). So there I was trying to grow my hair out, I'd even got to the point where I was wearing it in a hairband and people were telling me it looked 'cute'. Oh the joy. Anyways, I inevitably got frustrated with it and decided to just stick with my usual style. I debated this decision a lot. I wanted to embrace change, I wanted to see what a new style would do for me, but then I realised I had that hair a long time ago and it was never good. And now, just because I've had this short spiky do for awhile, it doesn't mean I need to change it. Why change a good thing?

And so it should be in politics. Why did Canadians jump on that change train and re-invite a harsh form of conservatism back into our nation? I must admit, I haven't really been following the news from home as much as I should, but I did learn what Harper has gutted from our identity as Canadians and it truly made me sick to my stomach. Literacy, opportunities for youth to learn more about our nation, women's advocacy, and, of course, the environment.

I understand the desire for change (hello, I am living half way around the world), but really, should we not give more thought to whether change really is for the better. I know there are a load of cliches out there that basically encourage blind faith in change. Sigh. I fear that our nation has taken about five steps back with the election of a Reform government that is masquerading as Conservative. I shudder to think what will happen if we have another election nad they gain a majority government. I am not being an alarmist - there are serious implications for each and every Canadian if this happens. Already, I can see our distinctive Canadian values being whittled away - just take a look at the Government of Canada's website now - Where before the Liberals focussed on informing Canada about things like Health Care and Education and Immigration, the focus now seems to be on our Military roles, making Canda a 'safe' place (Im sorry - I missed the part where Canadians felt their country was an unsafe place) and maintaining a fiscal balance by cutting significant social programs that were in place to support all Canadiasn - not just the ones who are wealthy. Oh and by the way, when Mulroney (last conservative PM) left office he left a staggering deficit for the Liberals to deal with. That was in 1992. For the past 4 years or so, Canada has produced a surplus budget - we've been economically stable and strong for a few years now, so I'm not sure why Harper felt it necessary to cut so many programs to save our country from a deficit. Unless it was just out of spite or because the only way he believes in supporting the citizens of a nation is by giving them tax breaks.

So, yah, my point is that change is not always a good thing. So think twice before you blindly embrace it. Also think twice before you let things remain the status quo. Hm..I guess what I am saying is - we all need to think just a bit more critically.

K - there is my inebriated philisophical/political rant for the week. Good night.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Phew. I. Am. Exhausted.

I am making up for those five months of lazy unemployment I spent on the Island. My days have become long and exhausting, but it's all by choice, so I can't really complain.

Last weekend I spent most of my time prepping for a house party and cleaning up afterwards. I would give a synopsis of the shindig, but I am too tired. It was a success though!

This week I've been doing overtime. I'm not going to lie, it's all about the money. I owe the CRA a lot in income tax and I have a lot of places to visit before I make my way back to North America...and probably some places there too!

Bootcamp, gym time and prepping healthy meals takes up teh balance of my time.

Oh and I do get to sleep too..

OK, that was a reallllyyyy boring post. It's been a long day and I need sleep.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Pledge of Tears

Here in Australia, spring is in full swing and the weather is lovely. Beneath the surface, however, the weather is already wreaking havoc on life here - the earliest season for bushfires ever has already displaced people from their homes and Sydney is officially in a drought. In Canada, I imagine the fall colours are making a bright and beautiful stamp on the landscape, but there too, I fear that just below the surface, things are not normal. Last year, winter did not come to Canada. And I wonder - will it come this year?

In January of this year I wrote something from the heart, which I am now ready to share with those who would like to read it. Please acecpt that it is not an argumentative piece, it is a very personal lament written completely from the heart.

As this piece is not something everyone will want to read, I've placed it on the Real Living Blog. If you want to read it, click on the link to the right (Real Living Blog) or simply click here.

Thank you and please be good to the Earth.

A Day at the Races

I am sore - it hurts to type, but I am a trooper, or possibly masochistic, so I carry on. Bootcamp on Thursday, Kickboxing on Friday and an afternoon in heels on Saturday - could it get any more torturous? Apparently it could and will.

This weeks' torture regimen goes something like this: Bootcamp (MON), Run (TUES), Cardio &Weights (WED), Bootcamp (THURS), Kickboxing (FRI).

Yay! OK, enough about my self-inflicted pain....yesterday I went UPPER CLASS!

That is to say, I went to the horse races. Unlike on PEI, where going to the horse races is most definitely not something you dress up for and quite possibly something you dress DOWN for, horse racing in Sydney takes on the British tradition of men in suits and women in dresses and fancy hats.

But let me back up here ... so a few of my friends were planning to go to the races and I was debating - the admission was $30 and then I'd have to buy a dress, cause I did not forsee the need to pack one for such an occassion. Well, by Friday night I decided I was going to pass on the Saturday afternoon activities. In fact, I had a sneaking suspicion I would be immobile and suffering from 'second day' pain of kickboxing.

Come Saturday morning I glanced at my phone and noticed 3 missed calls - all from Lisa, an English girl whom I've become friends with. Well, boy am I glad I returned that phone call! She was going to the races with her boyfriend and a few of his single mates and they had an extra FREE ticket. Oh, and this was a free ticket for the 'Lawn Party' section, which meant we would have access to all the FREE food and FREE booze (wine, beer adn Bacardis) that we wanted. The ticket was worth $170.

I thought long and hard...for about 2 seconds, then jumped at the offer! Lisa was kind enough to lend me a lovely white skirt and black halter top, so I 'kind of' fit in with all the women in their fancy dresses and feathered hats. Wow, there were a lot of beautiful men & women at the races that afternoon. there were also some men in Joe Boxer briefs - not sure why, but who really cares? The spread for the 'Posh' people was amazzing- loads of food booths with burgers, pizza, sushi, chinese, salads, sweets, etc. And, of course, the open bars..... There was also live music, performers and a pamper tent where they were giving foot massages and makeovers for free. Yeah, everything was free.

So, given that it was a FREE day, I decided to place a few bets on the horse races (you know, the official reason for the afternoon's party). On the first race,I bet on two horses to place and #4 came third! My $2 bet on 'He's NO Pie Eater' gave me a $9 return! The only the time I got around to cashing in my ticket, I'd lost it. I blame the small purse I was carrying - nothing to do with the two glasses of wine I'd consumed.

So, yeah that was the highlight of my weekend. i am really tired now and it's early Sunday evening. I have no reason to be tired, but I think it's got something to do with the exercise I've been doing.

OK - that's all for now folks!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Hodge Podge

Yay! I made it through Bootcamp Day 1!!! That's the good news. The not so good news is I am not as fit as I hoped, or as I was about 6 months ago. Oh well., this is just a beginning and it just means I have lots of area for improvement ! So, bootcamp basically involved jogging through the city's parks and waterfront, stopping at intervals to do painful things like push-ups and ab work.

Today we did the fitness test, which was a series of cardio and strength tests. The only one where I faired decently was the quad strength test. Oh, and I guess I didn't do too badly on the sprint. On the other hand, running up a mountain of stairs was like facing one of my biggest fears head on. I hate stairs because I have a tendency to fall down them. And up them. It's embarassin, but also makes me afraid of stairs, so I did REALLY badly on that test. But I didn't fall and that is a good thing.

Tomorrow I am going to pay for more torture in the form of an intense kick boxing class. Lalalalala.

OK - so now I am going to attempt to upload more pics to this blog.

Brett & I at an AFL Game at the SCG Harbour

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I Can't Believe I'm Going to Bootcamp

Tomorrow another chapter in my bid to get fit commences. The chapter is called BOOTCAMP. Yes, that’s right, I’ve voluntarily forked over $200 in exchange for ten weeks of intense, torture-like exercise. It’s time to hardcore.

The only problem is the growing feeling of trepidation and fear that has been building up inside me all day. You see, I blindly signed up for Bootcamp without getting any of the details upfront. As it is being offered via Citibank gym at lunchtime, I naively thought it was basically going to held in the workout room and probably be similar to a cardio class, except with progress reports. Hahahahahaha. Yeah..right.

So I was rather surprised when I finally got around to talking with the trainer (aka – woman I will come to hate) and was told we’d be running around the freaking city, doing random painful things at intervals. Ugh. Lots of abs apparently.

Mental note – check travel insurance to make sure ‘exhaustion’, ‘dehydration’, ‘collapsing’ and ‘keeling over in pain’ are covered.

Life has been pretty good as of late. Had a lovely long weekend here, as the Aussies celebrated Labour Day on Monday. Didn’t make any plans for the weekend, but ended up staying busy via some new friends I’ve made through Gumtree. As odd (desperate?) as it may seem to make friends via a bulletin-board website, I’ve met some absolutely fabulous people through it (and, admittedly, a couple of ‘interesting’ people).

Just for the record – I am off the alcohol for the time being – all part of the torturous regimen I seem to have concocted for myself.

Right, so Friday night was work drinks w/o the drinks. It was alright, but nothing to write home about (or blog about for that matter).

Saturday afternoon I hung out with a English girl (Lisa). We watched the first half of the AFL Grand Final – it was Sydney Vs Perth – a BIG BIG game, as these teams had played each other last year and the Sydney Swans won. Well, they weren’t doing as well this year (in the end they only lost by one point). Watched a movie, then had a BBQ and went to an RSL to listen to The Fumes play (great rock blues band). An RSL, by the way, is kind of like the Legion……meant to be for the veterans. Well, let me tell you, I didn’t see any Vets around, only lots and lots of guys that were…um….yummy J !

Sunday I went to the Botanical Gardens and had a picnic with a bunch of other people from Gumtree. Spent the afternoon eating and enjoying the sun, then carried on into the night with drinks (just Diet Coke for me!) down in Darling Harbour.

Monday was pretty quiet – just enjoyed some more sun, did some errands and slept in!

OK, so work is super busy these days and I’ve just been asked to do some overtime for the team I originally started at Citibank with. Yay – I need money for things like travelling…and rent.

Will post some more pics when the Internet connection is better!