Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Horsing Around

OK this post is a bit of a novel as I've been writing it on daily basis but no chance to upload to the blog until now!

My first Saturday night in the country was much different than most of my Saturday nights in Sydney had been. For one thing, there was no alcohol consumed, nor were there any drinking establishments visited and I was in bed before midnight. I know, I know – sounds boring, but let me assure you it was thoroughly enjoyable! At around 4 in the afternoon, the whole family (four dogs included) packed ourselves into the station wagon and headed to Jason’s parents to ‘test’ their new outdoor, heated spa. As much as I abhorred the idea of getting into a bathing suit, the lure of a spa massage was too much. We enjoyed ourselves in the spa, then spent the evening chatting, eating a scrumptious dinner and enjoying great jazz and blues music.

Much of the talk centred around the Jo’s upcoming 40th birthday party, which was being hosted at Jason’s parents the following Saturday. Jo estimated that there would be about 40 adults and 8 children attending the party, which was being catered for and had a Country & Western theme. Jason, who was trained as a Swiss Pastry chef would be preparing the cake, a fruit salad and the quintessential Australian dessert – a pavlova.

I had been invited along and, since I was planning to stay on the farm of Margaret & Tom Fisher, whom Jo had invited to the party, it seemed I would be able to make it. Now all I needed was a cowgirl outfit and lots of willpower to keep my New Year’s resolution not to eat any sweets!

Jo spent a good portion of the evening hunting through boxes that she & Jason had stored in the garage when they moved to the countryside from their home in Sydney. There was a treasure trove of memories buried in these boxes- reminders of the forays Jo had made into developing a line of children’s toys when she was in her twenties. I found myself inspired, yet again, by her creativity, drive and abilities. She is continually challenging herself on so many different levels and always looking for new learning opportunities. I anticipate that, by the time I regretfully leave the McInnes family, I will be much closer to finding that elusive thing I am looking for.

Sunday was a relatively benign day – it was, again, too hot to be outside for most of the day. I finished feeding & watering the horses and cleaning their yards as early as possible. While not mentally stimulating work, I find myself enjoying the morning routine of looking after the horses in the paddocks. Two of these beauties are being trained/broken in by Jason and I’ve found a friend in Cuba, who loves to follow me around the paddock as I pick up his poop, looking for snuggles wherever possible. Horses truly are one of Mother Nature’s greatest marvels – a fine balance of strength and gentleness.

Monday’s weather was perfect – it was sunny, but not sweltering and there was a light breeze, as opposed to the gusty winds that often blow through the valley. Jess asked me (for the third time in two days) if I wanted to walk to Yarck for lunch. A 7 kilometer walk to get lunch at the general store, followed by a 7 kilometer walk to get back to the farm. Sounded enticing. I donned my workout gear, plastered on some sunblock and off we went, me in my trainers, Jess on her bike. I decided I’d start jogging from the end of the driveway and see how far I could go without stopping. I don’t know what got into me, but I seemed to have more stamina than usual and, lo and behold, jogged the ENTIRE way to Yarck! Now, I’d jogged more than 7 km before on the treadmill, but never on the open road. And I wasn’t even winded when we got there, I could have gone for at least another couple of kilometres! On the way home, I nicked Jess’s bike for a bit of the stretch as my feet were a bit sore.

Tuesday I most certainly worked for my keep. After doing my regular yard and horse
Chores, along with kitchen and laundry duties, I made three, yes, three chocolate cakes.
I started by making a double batch of Wacky cake for the surprise birthday party Jess was
hosting for her friend, but with only one round cake tin, I was in too much of a hurry to get the first cake out so I could cook the second one. Oops. So there was broken cake to be consumed (not by me!) and then I had to make another batch. Sigh. And then I couldn’t eat any of it. Double sigh. I stayed in the kitchen since I was there anyways and made dinner for four – sweet potato fries, garden salad and roast chicken.

Wednesday Jess had her surprise party so there were 6 teenage girls running around, which meant lots of giggling and too many tempting foods – not that I gave in to my temptations, but it was a struggle. One of the dogs, Tara, had a bit of an episode midday – after getting whacked by a paddle that the girls were hitting a ball around with, she seemed OK, but about five minutes later she went completely paralysed as if she were dead. Thank goodness she wasn’t.

The other drama of the day was quite sad. Jo & I went out to the back pastures to make sure all the horses’ troughs were still getting water from the dams because she’d had dreams that they were suffering from dehydration. Her intuition was spot on – one of the dams was so low on water that the pipes feeding the troughs were no longer sitting in water. The horses in the pasture were stressed and you could see it. We let the ‘girls’ out to join all the mares and foals that were in the front pastures (their water source had not been affected). Jo and I then had to lead the two stallions down to the front yards by the house so they could be hand-watered. So there I was leading a testosterone laden animal that weighed about half a ton through a pasture full of fertile females. And the leads weren’t even bit-controlled – we just had rope halters, a lead and a whip. It all went well enough and I realised just how strong you have to be to lead a horse.

Thursday was pretty uneventful. More horse care and another cake to be made - as per Jason’s request. He’s took it to the racetrack where he works and fobbed it off as his own, which I am not bothered by in the least, except he makes absolutely breath-taking cakes that mine would not even hold a birthday candle to.

Australia day is January 26th, but you wouldn’t have known it out in Yarck. Nobody seemed interested in celebrating the birth of their nation, perhaps because the settlement of Australia was left to a bunch of convicts from Britain who were more or less victims of class discrimination and whose crimes were as petty as stealing a loaf of bread to feed their family. In any case, there was a Jazz & Blues concert taking place in Alexandra, which we checked out for about five minutes. It was alright, but I think a certain atmosphere was lacking and, most definitely, the right company to enjoy such an evening of live music.

Friday also marked the day I was supposed to leave the McInnes’ farm to check in with their neighbours & friends, the Fishers. As chance would have it, however, Jo had asked me earlier in the week if I’d be interested in staying on the farm and looking after the animals whilst they went on holiday to Queensland. I didn’t have to think about the offer for very long, I loved the farm and the animals and figured some alone time could do me a world of good. After all, this 4-month trip isn’t just about seeing the sights and doing things, its about finding my way to life’s next challenge. Already I have determined two things:

I will be hanging up my traveling shoes for awhile after this Oz Adventure is over. That is to say, I won’t be going overseas for any long-term stints that involve working/living in another country…at least not for a little while.

I am also buried in thoughts about what I am going to do when I get home. I've decided I really can't join the rat race - I have been trying my hardest to avoid it and only joining for sprints at a time when my debts have demanded, but now that I am ready to dedicate a chunk of time to living in one place, I think it's the opportune time to explore other avenues. I'm thinking entrepreneurship, but still trying to suss out all the alternatives.

It is now Thursday and theMcInnes family has just left on holiday. FOr the next ten days I am responsible for 30 horses, including 7 foals, as well as 4 dogs, 2 cats and a house. I have a massive 4 WD at my disposal and lots of phone numbers to call in case of an emergency. The biggest area of concern is water for the horses. Their water is syphoned from a dam in the backof the property, butthere's a good chance that dam will get too low and the water will run dry. In that case, I am first to try getting the water running again by priming the line - this means I have to go do something with a pump and some valves to create suction for water to flow. Um..on the good chance I don't get it working, I can call a plumber!

Friday, January 19, 2007

On A Farm in Yarck

Three days have passed since I left the city behind in favour of Victoria's high country - where flatlands meet moutain ranges, where suits are few and cowboy boots are a plenty. Thusfar, my experiences have been nothing short of brilliant! I knew I was making the right decision even when some people looked at me like I was crazy for voluntarily subjecting myself to horse poo shovelling.

On Wednesday morning I took a bus to Yarck, which is 2 hours NE of Melbourne. It is not a town by any concievable standards - the two commercial enterprises are a pub and a convenience store. Jo picked me up and I was pleased to discover another girl about my age was already helping on the farm and would be there until Saturday. After a quick run into the bigger town of Alexandra (pop'n 2,000) we headed back to the horse farm and I got settled into my new digs. Then Jo (Joanne), Claudia and I set out on tractor to clear some brush from the horse paddocks. In the evening a couple of neighbours came by and we had delicious dinner of Chicken Thai Wraps.

Thursday the heat had dissipated and rain was coming down. This was a good thing, as the drought has devastated Victoria. We spent the day inside doing brain work, developing a marketing plan for a nearby Ski/Snow Resor. The cunundrum the last two years they've had very little snow, which happens to be their main attraction. Global warming lurches its head again.

Thursday night we took a walk through the farm at dusk and I saw some kangaroos! Jo was worried about one of her horses that seemed to be missing so we hopped in the 4WD upon returning from our walk and went on a horse hunt. We found her mare, then went looking for kangaroos. jo had nurrsed a baby kangar for an entire year, raising it as one of the family until it had ru away. That night she found a roo that behaved very unusually and thinksit was Molly, her belvoed baby angaroo. She showed us a video of a tv segment they'd done on the story adn it was sooo cute!!

Yesterday I finally got to shovel some horse manure, feed the horses, etc. I also did more brain work ad watched The Secret, an amazing documentary on self-development. It turns out Jo is v. big into self-development and I think we are learning things from each other. She's also v. concerned about global warming and wants to take action but doesn't know exactly how - we'vehad some great talks to date. Last night the experienced horseriders went for a night ride, while I went for a walk and Jessica, their 13-year old daughter came along with me. It is a beautiful place with hills and mountains surrounding. So peaceful.

Well, must get back to the chores! Later this week I'll be helping with a teenage birthday party and tonight I am going to enjoy a spa I think.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

It's Hotter Than a Snake's . . .

I am in Melbourne and it is the hottest day I've yet to experience in Australia. A sweltering 39 degrees, with no relief from any sort and a heavy day pack on my back, it was unbearable to say the least. But somehow I managed, between a Banana Smoothie and plenty of duck-ins to stores with air-con as well as a visit to the National Gallery of Victoria I managed not to dry up on the sidewalk.

Spent last night catching up with Tony, couchsurfer who came to PEI in March. This morning I caught up with Sara and we planned a bit more of our trip around Tasmania. Then I wandered around in the blistering heat until Tony came to town. We visited the gallery then went for a coffee (water for me) at one of the many alley cafes that Melbourne is famous for.

Afterwards we went to the Italian district and got some cheap cheap grub - thanks to Let's Go! And that, folks, is all she wrote for Melbourne this time round. Early tomorrow morning I take off for Yarck. Yes, Yarck. It may officially be the first Ý-named place I've been to. Soon I will be mucking out horse stalls in exchange for room & boar~d!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

We're not in Kanada Anymore Toto.

Tomorrow, I am off to see the Wizard of Oz!!! Erm, I mean, the Land of Oz.

I am freaking excited and, more notably, I am not freaking. Normally, before departing on an adventure I get slightly stressed - the planner side of my personality can get a bit distressed prior to departure about all the 'what ifs' that can't be answered and 'what did I forgets' that really don't matter because we live in a disposable, consumer addict world where anything that has been forgotten can easily be replaced. Except passports and airplane tickets. Oh, and earplugs from North America.

I am especially excited about this adventure because I have a feeling I am going ot find something v. important at some point during my travels. I'm not talking about a pot of gold - at least not figuratively. Everyone knows travel is not about the destination, it's about the journey, but there's another thing that most travellers know but don't always admit - travelling usually BEGINS as a means by which to run away from something (such as a relationship or a career you don't want anymore )or towards something (most often, love). I don't mean to suggest that these catalysts for travel are bad reasons to take off - quite the contrary , because you always, without a doubt, learn and grow from travelling.

For me, the first two times I travelled, I think I was running away from things. I learned a lot about myself, some good - some not so good, in the times that I was in Europe. This time, however, after a extremely therapeutic 8 months on PEI, I found that I was no longer looking to run away from anything, but wanted to run towards something (not love, but something equally important). And so I found myself in Australia and now, I believe, I am rounding the last leg of the race where, at the fnish line, I know I will find the direction and answers I have been seeking. And that, in fact, is why I am so excited.

I will attempt to blog as often as possible over the next four months. Photos will be scarce, especially considering I only have a 35mm to get me through! you will just have to imagine how beautiful the scenery is and wait until I've created a slideshow for presentation when I get back to PEI! Hmmm...actually that's not a bad idea..

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Final Days in Sydney


It's my last day at work and I have a load to do, but I am beyond caring. Actually, I've been over 'it' for about two months now. Am I sad to be leaving Citibank? Nope, not really. The position I was in did not suit my skills at all and, in fact, often played up my weaknesses. It turns out I am not a details oriented person (go figure) and, although I am v. organised, I happen to have a unique organisational style which only I understand.

I did learn a few things - I now know how to deal with call centre agents to get the best results possible and how to utilise a gaming system to get the best deal via credit cards - will be employing this when I get back to Canada as I desperately need a lower interest rate! I've also become much much more proficient with MS Excel...and never want to use it again! Mostly my stint at Citibank reconfirmed what I already knew - I am not suited to working for a corporation and, in fact, am probably not suited to being employed as a subordinate. Ha. Unfortunately, I was also reminded that one must make sacrifices in order to pay off one's student loans and ensure one does not end up living on the street.

The only thing I will miss about Citibank is the people - they are brilliant. OK, I might also miss the free gym. And free food. And free booze. And free massages. But that's all.


Monday I had a bit of a leaving dinner, despite the fact that I will be back in Sydney for a week or two before I head home. I invited all the friends whose company I've thoroughly enjoyed since arriving. Shannon Courtney was finally able to make it to something I organised and I got a bit of a kick introducing him to everyone, but I think the novelty was a bit lost as everyone knew of his existence.

The rest of the week has been pretty quiet, I've just been packing and trying to get other things sorted before I head off to the Land of No Dedicated Internet Connection (aka farms). This weekend, however, I'm planning a few final events with friends. Tonight it will be a girl's night down at The Rocks, which is laden with Irish pubs and hotels that have fabulous live music and, potentially, many Irish men ;) Tomorrow night will be an evening of Jazz in January, which is an annual event held in the Botanical Gardens - really looking forward to this as have become quite enamoured with live jazz since living in Edinburgh. Sunday night, my final night in Sydney, I will be going to see The Motorcycle Diaries in an outdoor cinema - a picnic, friends and great flick, what could be better?

So, yah, Monday is Departure Day. Shannon is seeing me off, maybe Brett as well. Had to do some last minute management of my Melbourne accomodations, so will be staying at a hostel for 2 nights, then off to the horse farm!

Um..I quess that's about it for now. Looks like the bedbugs might be back at the flat - downstairs bedroom this time. Me thinks it is good that I am leaving now! Oh, also- an update for the skeptics out there - I have not eaten anything that even resembles a sweet since Dec 31st, nor have I had even a sip of liquor. 12 days gone out of 120 - 10% of the way there!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

More Pictures as Promised

An End and a Beginning

I smell like men's cologne - DKNY to be specific. Unfortunately this is not because I've just returned from a hot date with an Aussie dude. Nope, it happened that I was cleaning my room and came across a sample of what I thought was perfume (my gay friend had given it to me). Hmmm. Apparently it was for men. Oh well. It still smells fab.

So, yes, one week until I leave now!!! Honestly, I am more excited about this departure than I was about my departure from Canada. Four months of travelling, meeting new people, trying new things, seeing fabulous places I've only heard of before. And then, and I must admit I find this odd, I head back to North America, which I am just as excited about. But maybe I have my reasons.

This weekend, was a nice, leisurely one. Since I've given up the drinking and indulging of sweets, I kept myself busy planning the trip, spending time with some of my favorite Sydney friends and just chilling out on my own. Here's a basic recap:

Friday - After work, Sara & I spent some time on the Net looking for the best car hire deals we could find. We ended up booking a car for our Great Ocean Road Trip as well as one for the time in Tasmania when we will be joined by Craig & Amo. Extremely decent rates. I am looking forward to having the chance to drive on the wrong side of the road again!!

Afterwards, we wandered through Surry hills and stopped in for a bite to eat at Wood & Fire. It turns out a Chicken Fajita pizza IS yummy.

Saturday - Morning jog and more planning, then I met up with Shannon, who took me out to Watson's Bay & The Gap (not the store). It was an absolutley beautiful day and the scenery was breathtaking. Thoroughly enjoyable! Shannon then dropped me off in Manly where I was to meet Sara and we were to have a BBQ on teh beach, but it kind of tunred into a bust as neither of us was hungry adn poor Sara with her fractured elbow and sunburn probably wasn't going to enjoy it much anyways. So we teetotalled at the German bar and then I headed home for a quiet night by myself- the first in a long time.

Sunday - BORING but necessary. Shopping for my last groceries, cleaning, packing, etc.

Tomorrow I am havinga bit of a leaving dinner, although I wil be returning to Sydney in May. Really it's just an excuse to see everyone and have a bite to eat at the Irish pub I've been meaning to go to since I arrived here!

The rest of the week should be exhausting - they've decided to run me ragged at work and I stil have loads of packing and the suck to get through. It''s a good thing I am SuperWoman. Ahem

Will keep you posted on my adventures as I've 'mostly' decided to take my laptop with me on my least for the first month. We'll see after that!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

It's All Kind of Starting to Kind of Come Together. Kind of...

Today I am sick. Literally. I have no appetite (yay!) and no energy (boo!). Last night I slept for 12 restless hours. And then I got up and went to work because I am a martyr to the cause. The cause being my bank account, which severly needs to be replenished. Anyways, it could be that I am sick because I've finally taken the time to realise tha I am leaving Sydney in less than two weeks to begin a rather long stint of travelling which will see me, amongst other things, shovelling horse poo, milking cows, picking grapes, lying on the beach, snorkelling and hanging out with the roos and koalas. Anyways, I don't know why I am freaking, I've got the first half of my adventure sorted...actually the first two months. For those that might be interested (eg. immediate family), here is my basic itinerary with noted links to websites that might be of interest to fellow travellers:

JAN 15 - Fly to Melbourne via Jetstar. Spend one or two days in Melbourne, exploring the city and hanging out with fellow traveller adn friend, Sara, who will be there watching the Tennis Open (yawn).

JAN 17 - Hop on a bus and head 2 hrs NE of Melbourne to a place called Yarck. It is here I will take on my first Helpxing stint, working on a Horse Training and Stud farm, called Avalon Reign.

JAN 26 - Oooh Australia Day! Also the day I head to my next farmstay which is apparently only a hop, skip and jump from my first stop! I'll be staying at Fawcett Country Cottages for an undetermined amount of time (hopefully about 3 weeks!)

FEB 15 - Head to Tasmania for two weeks of Island life! Meet up with Sara and do some couchsurfing and, hopefully, some more farmstaying!

FEB 27 - Back to MElbourne to commence our Great Ocean Road adventure. Renting a car, we will drive along the famed GOR and go onwards to Adelaide!

MAR 2 - Arrive in Adelaide and head to Robert and Lucie's vineyard (aka pieceoof paradise,), just south of the city.Tentative at the moment, but fingers crossed!

MAR 15 - Fly from Adelaide to Cairns after tearful goodbyes to Sara (assuming we are still on speaking terms after 4 weeks of travelling together!)

MAR 15 - MAY 1st ish - This is where it gets a bit hazy. Not much planned for this 45 day trek, but I'm confident it will all fall into place. Things usually do..althouhg often it's because you make them fall into place and.or just roll with the punches!

MAY 15 - Depart Sydney for NORTH AMERICA!!!

So I did a roghg budget - looks like I have a $24/day stipend if I am to make it through my 100 day travels without going further into debt. It's a good thing I am doing the farms and its a good thing I am getting a chunk of cash when I leaven this country.

Monday, January 01, 2007

2006 - The Unofficial, Uncensored, Unreliable Review of Shan's Year

It's that time of the year again - time to remember, reflect and reminisce about all that the past 12 months have brought you. Well, I am adding another 're' to the mix by recording all my recollections in what will basically end up being a recycled version of all my blog posts from '06. I apologise now, as I realise I have overused the prefix 're' in the above sentences, but I really could not resist.

It's New Year's Day. I slept through until noon, having spent the wee hours of the morning walking, pushing and dancing my way through the streets of Sydney after ringing in the year 2007 with friends as we watched a spectacular fireworks display down on the Harbour. It was absolutely breathtaking! Anyways, while we were waiting for the fireworks to start, Craig, Lisa and I shared all the highlights of the past year with each other. Now, I shall share them here, for anyone who doesn't already know about the many debacles and denials I recieved in 2006. Hmmm. Come to think of it I could really label 2006 Year of the Denial. Yes, it has a certain ring to it....

The Short & Sweet Review

  • Lost my job on PEI
  • Went to WDW in Florida
  • Went to Miami & Pittsburgh on spur-of-moment holiday
  • Attempted to go to Scotladn on a planned (but apparently not planned enough) holiday.
  • Got denied entry to the United Kingdom upon landing in Glasgow airport, sent back to Canada
  • Waited with baited breath to see if Australia would provide me with a working holiday visa.
  • Got my visa and flew to Australia
  • Set up shop in Sydney and snagged a job with Citibank. Spent balance of 2006 living sinfully in the city and making some great friends.
  • Did bootcamp but didn't lose any of my booty
  • Spent Xmas on the farm with Mary's family near Melbourne

Now for the Longer..much longer..version

Going Places
3 countries, 2 continents

I started the year living in happenin' Long Creek, Prince Edward Island (on the East Coast of Canada). Population in the double digits.

I celebrated the close of the year Creek, in the Southern Hemisphere's most famous and,possibly, beautiful city, Sydney. Australia is smaller than Canada, but it has more kangaroos. And possibly more sunshine per annum.

In between January and December I went to the States three times. The first time I went to see a big mouse and a brilliant friend in an undiscovered area of America called Orlando, Florida. A blast was had with Natasha, Jen MacPhail and Thomas, the French apertif in the group.

The second time round I was living in some silly world of taking uncalculated risks and encountered my first big denial of the year, but it all ended well enough as I made it to Miami and hung out with high school friend, Schemida and then poppped over to Pittsburgh for some partying with Emily Smith.

The third time round I fell in love...with San Francisco. On my way Down Under, I booked a stopover in this wonderful flower power city . If I hadn't been going on to Australia, I would have hid out there for a very, very long time. Maybe in Al Capone's cell on Alcatraz. Erm..or maybe at the Gree Tortoise Hostel - the BEST hostel one could hope to find in North America. Seriously.

The Life of Riley

I really have to thank Canada's current PM, Stephen Harper. Not because he's ruining our country and not because I believe his views of the world are in line with the majority of Canadians. Nope, the only thanks Harper will get from me is for providing the catalyst for me to go travelling again. Really, it was a two-fold catalyst. First, when the good folks of Canada, who'd obviously been consuming too much maply syrup and Tim Hortons MSG laden coffee, decided to vote the 'Conservatives' in as our new federal government, I lost my job with Shawn Murphy's office. Thank goodness Shawn is still the MP (and, a s it turns out, has also become quite the blogger) for Charlottetown, at least us Islanders didn't succumb to the blue fish. Anyways, with no job to go to after the Jan 26 election, I had a few decisions to make. Namely - to stay on PEI or not to stay. A number of factors made that decision v. easy - I could not stay on the Island and, considering the new government reign, I figured it might be a good time to leave the country again.

It took a few months, but I did eventually pack up my bags, sell my Toyota Echo and say my long goodbyes to family & friends, who I did not intend on seeing for at least a year, probably two. My plans were somewhat vague, but I decided to start my adventure in the UK, being a tourist and visiting friends. From there planned to head to Oz for a working holiday. And who knew after that....???

The Big Denial

So yah. I made it as far as the Glasgow airport before I ran into big (read HUGE) trouble. Apparently I was not of acceptable standards for the British Immigration Office, thus I was swiftly and uncompassionately informed that I was being denied entry into the United Kingdom. This was, of course, after they made me wait ages in an uncomfortabe detention room, searched all myu luggage, read my journals, copied every single card from my wallet and asked me a million questions. Then they put me on a plane back to Canada. And I burst into tears. I still miss Edinburgh every day.

Moving On

Wow I'm sure Mom & Jim were glad to see me back so soon, after they'd finally got me on my way and out of their lovely abode in Long Creek, here I was back for a little longer with no job and completely stressed about whether Austrlia would let me into their country now that I was marked as unwanted by the freakin' Brits. As luck would have it, turns out the Aussies will take anyone - understandable given their convict history. So I packed my bags again (I am becoming an expert in the packing and unpacking of baggage if anyone requires assistance or advice) and flew half way round the world to land of Kangaroos, Koalas and Fosters beer.

Meeting Shannon Courtney

In a world of 7 billion people having a name twin may not seem that fascinating, but I am easily amused and, quite frankly, I think the Shannon Courtney name twin saga is a bit unique in comparison to John Smith's Shannon & I met via a third party by the name of Tiddy, one of Shannon's friends who took it upon himself ot email me in 2005 and tell me of his friend who had the same name as me. And so commeneced a messenger based friendship between Shannon Alice Courtney and Shannon Mark Courtney. Yes, that's right, same neme, different gender. There's the twist. Oh, and we're the same age too - although I look younger ;) Then it turns out he lives in Sydney, Australia so. of course, we decide to meet.

I don't think either of us considered the possible ramifications of having two Shannon Courtneys within such close proximity - we may have shifted some quantum fields or caused whole galaxies to impode, but if so, we remain oblivious. It turns out we are freakishly similar in some ways, but in other ways quite dissimilar. For instance, Shannon has the most infectious laugh ever. He is also quite..erm..confident of himself. Yes, confident ;) Meanwhile, I can cook, while he keeps claiming he can but still hasn't proven it to me. with any invite to dinner.

Sydneysider Life

After bouncing from country to country in the first part of 2006, I decided to take up residence in one place for the remained of th year. I got a job working in the Credit Cards department of Citibank and found a fabulous flat within walking distance of work. Well, fabulous except for the bed bug infestation, which became my nemesis for much too long. I am now also an expert in bed bugs if any requires advice in this department.

I spent the rest of 2006 making a fabulous circle of friends in Sydney, checking out the local sights (aka the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Bondi Beach, Darling Harbour, etc.) and drinking a lot of Australian wine.

I also tried to reign in my weight gain, first by starting to train for a marathon, then by joining bootcamp. Meh. It's like I can only lose weight on PEI. What a cunundrum that will be for the rest of my life if I don't get it sorted! The irony is that PEI is the fattest province in Canada.

I made a few escapes from the city - one fabulous weekend in the Blue MOuntains and an enjoyable weekend up on the Central Coast.

All in all, it's been quite the fabulous ride living and working in Sydney, but it's time to pack those bags again and get ready for more adventures on 2007. I can only hope it brings as much adventure and happiness as 2006 did. Actually, hope is great, but really it will take effort and iniative, both of which I have and am willing to apply! It turns out effort pays off in abundance .

Here's wishing you all a wonderful, exciting and enlightening year. Take care of your life and all will fall into place.