Monday, April 28, 2014

Another Round On Nauru

I have just returned from another FIFO round, of 2 weeks, on Nauru. Yesterday was a day of wrapping up my work for my back-to-back in my role, and then flying back to Australia. Lucky me, with my Australian passport. The birth lottery reminder is ever-present.

In this new contract, just like the other, I can;t share too much about the work, or what it's like in the Centre. It's frustrating, working in a place within a harsh government policy, in a tiny country with limited resources; it's also amazing work on the ground with the clients. A rollercoaster of emotions as a worker, daily, hourly, interaction to interaction. Little wins, heart-aching tear-inducing stories, laughs and black tea sessions, and struggles and incredible resilience.

One week this time featured torrential rain and flooding, and broken roads.  The next saw the island's water pump being down (or something), and a resultant severe water shortage across the tiny island country - which lead to the incredulous experience of 30 second shower restrictions for us in the staff block.

I am working alongside incredible people, all problem solving together. We have great support onsite, thanks goodness, which is much needed. We are all doing our best to provide support to the clients there.4

I have started learning Arabic this round, much to the delight of many of my client group. I am not a very good student, and long, hot days do nothing for my new skill retention, and yet, I am pretty proud of my growing vocabulary!

It's still my dream job right now. One of the guys asked me what I wanted to do when I was little, and after going through the many ideas I have had when I was at school and uni, I talked about what I think I want to do now - only to find that I am actually doing it!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Melbourne Laneway Eyes

She peers out of the bend in Croft Lane, right in the middle of Chinatown. You need to risk the smell and dank of the back alleyway to see her, but there she is! Gorgeous and mesmerising!

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Big 5 At Kruger

Spotting the Big 5 - being the five most dangerous animals to hunters in Africa - is one of the most talked about travel things to do in South Africa, and on our first trip out in a safari 4WD we got to see them all! So, so incredibly lucky! Laura and I were pinching ourselves in disbelief and joy!

We joined an Outlook Safari tour, and the evening we arrived we went out in a bigger vehicle with the National Rangers, for the night safari. The Black Rhinos were the first we came across, just minding their own business, going about their day, not far from the Park road.

The most excitement was the gathering to see the Leopard - a rarer and much harder of the 5 to see - and a swarm of vehicles had surrounded the spot where she was. She had very recently completed a kill, and was in the process of dismantling the animal to get at the meat - her movements were pretty graphic, even as we watched her behind this branch.

Now, I know these photos are not the most amazing, but they are my memories. We made a point of not fussing too much with trying to capture a photo worthy of magazine glossy, and just enjoy the open air shared with these amazing creatures. My point-and-shoot did just fine for that - and my eye stored the incredible vision for me!

We saw this guy as he just walked past our truck. His three lionesses had walked past us just ahead of him, and we were stunned at being so close. He checked us all out, captive inside the vehicle, and then went on his way. We could hear his paws scratch the asphalt with every step. So amazing!

The African Elephant was actually the animal we saw the most of during our 3 day safari, with some out on their own by the side of the road, looking like big grey rocks until they moved, or in big family groups like this one. Silently making their way to wherever they were going, they were never too fussed with us watching them, as they moved toward, around and passed the vehicle.

The buffalo was the one, however, that captured my heart. Such an unusual look! So distinguished, somehow! Here is a couple of them, lying by the water in the sun. Just being themselves, in their own space! Oblivious to us checking them out.

Seriously unbelievable to be so close to these mighty beasts, in their own environment.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Centurion Test At SuperSports Park

I used a cricket tour as the backbone of my recent trip to South Africa, with the First Test of a 3 test series happening in Pretoria, or Centurion to be precise. A new test venue to me, and as it turned out, a happy hunting ground for the Aussies.

We, being the Waving The Flag group, stayed within walking distance to the ground, and managed to secure a great spot each day in the grandstand for the match.

The build up to this series, with South Africa being a power in cricket in recent times, and the Ashes win for the Aussies, was exciting. A chance to see how the battle between two very good, top-of-the-world sides at the moment would pan out.

The first session of Day 1 brought back horror memories of the Aussies in India, with the top order failing again, before Marsh and Smith joined forces out in the middle for a formidable and impressive partnership. They were in overnight, and both went on to get centuries, Marsh a solid 148. The Australians ended up with a happy 397 first innings total into the middle session of Day 2.

And then it was Mitchell Johnson's day! Cleaning up many of the threatening Saffa batsmen, rain ended the day's play with South Africa on 6/140. Mitch had 4! Wow! His Aussie Summer form continued to terrorise!

Day 2 also saw the girls on tour in pink, and being a Lunch break tradition at South African venues, we get to wander out onto the ground and have our traditional Chick Pink photo taken in front of the scoreboard.

I missed Day 4 for my next adventure, and of course several people later on said it was one of the best days of cricket they have ever been to - of course! Needless to say, the Mitchell Johnson show rolled on, and the Aussie's won by a whopping 281 runs. Great start to the series!

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Top 5: Things I Love About Being Home

The end of the week just gone marks 2 years since I packed up my little rental cottage in Ballarat, stuffed all of my belongings into a spare room at Mum's, and set out to roam free! I quit my "real" job, sold my car...and haven't looked back! I am loving this total freedom!

But being this free, and homeless, I do appreciate the comforts of home - being Mum's place - when I am back for a rest from my travels, from my current FIFO work, or from the buzz of city living and trying to find a place to sleep from one housesitting gig to the next.

  1. I joke about coming home to provide "Mum Maintenance", meaning spending time with Mum to work on the bank of favours I frequently call on her for. But really, being away so often has made me appreciate just hanging with Mum, the banter, the silliness, the mutual support. It's so comforting to spend time with someone who has known me all my life, and with someone who has to love me unconditionally - regardless of my broke, or over-tired, or scattered, or irrational states!
  2. I love being looked after for a little bit of time - having my meals thought out and prepared for me, having food in the cupboards all the time (it's always stocked as if there will never be another chance to go grocery shopping!), having access to a washing machine and someone who may remember to bring in the washing if it was about to rain, and just having a space to hang out, care free. Even though I am meant to be a grown up by now, I really long for some respite from looking after myself on occasion!
  3. Being in my hometown for a few days also means that I know where everything is! I can visit old haunts and favourite places, such a sense of the familiar. It's comforting....for a little while!
  4. A chance to walk around the lake, and take in life at home. I also love checking out the chances around the main streets - there is always a new store or cafe, a shop closed down, or something moved or changed to be something bigger or very different.
  5. It doesn't take long for friends to notice I am home, from social media posts, and then invites for catch-ups come through - so lovely to have lunches, or brunches, or coffee and drinks with long time friends, that I don't get to see all the time, but in these rare times I am home. It's always like I have never left, and we pick up where we left off. Such special connections.
After a few days of rest, and being taken care of, I am now heading down to Melbourne to stay in an AirBnB apartment, in a new neighbourhood to me, to hang out and catch up with friends. A prefect respite plan!

This post has been written as part of the ProBlogger forum community challenge.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

The Apartheid Museum

The pillars of the South African constitution stand tall at the front of the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, and instantly fills you with pride as you enter. Pride for the achievement of the battles of this country to rise above the ingrained racism and divide. Pride at the memory of the great man, Nelson Mandela, and his life's struggles and work.

I went along to visit the Museum with the tour group, after consulting the blog from last time I was in South Africa, and discovering that I had only managed to see some of the contents inside on my way to the airport. And I am so glad I made the return. The visit gave such renewed context to this country, and it's rebirth as the Rainbow Nation.

Some of the group actually found the entry point, once we had purchased our tickets, pretty confronting, as the ticket determined at random whether you walked through the 'Whites' or 'Non-Whites' entry - a point well made, right at the start. The worry of missing out on something of the Museum that others got to experience - so well done, albeit such a small demonstration of the segregation.

The Museum is rich with information, and the curation is very thorough. You could spend hours here, taking it all in, and we did! The timeline of events, the outline of the major people in the fight against Apartheid, and the tale of the uprising from passive protests, to increasing violence and resistance.

Visiting at present, in the year of the passing of Nelson Mandela, lent a special significance to the exhibits of the Museum, and in fact the Temporary Space had a Mandela: An Exhibition Celebrating The Life Of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. This stepped the visitor through times of as a Leader, as a Comrade, a Negotiator, a Prisoner, and a Statesman. A full outline of his early childhood days, where he got his name from, the background of his clan and the name Madiba, and then his professional life and influences.

It then also presents the struggle and fight, his imprisonment, and his release, before his leadership of South Africa to become the country it is today - a place developing into his vision of equality.

A powerful, absorbing visit, and a must for every visitor to South Africa to gain an understanding of the underpinning of the country and it's tensions and vision for the future. A work in progress, with an incredible foundation to reach the dream.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Resting Place Of Breaker Morant

The story of Breaker Morant is one etched into the Australian folk law, I assume because we all studied it at school, and the name is paired with the notion of "war hero" and a sense of injustice and wrongdoing.

A Lieutenant in the Second Boer War, Morant and colleague Hancock were court martialed and sentenced to death for the summary execution of captured prisoners-of-war - so a convicted war criminal.

But much speculation surrounds the events and evidence of the deaths of the captured prisoners, and I remember clearly the arguments around chain of command and therefore responsibility from our studies of the story at school. Re-reading some of the background for this post, I am now, again, totally confused about the circumstances. But I remember the name as such an important one within the fabric of Australian war history.

Morant was buried with Hancock in Pretoria, where they were both executed just over 100 years ago.

I wouldn't have actually recalled the connection with South Africa and this Aussie war story, but for a little snippet about the gravesite in the Lonely Planet. On a day off before the cricket in February, around the anniversary of their deaths in fact, we made a trip to search out such a unique part of Australian wartime stories.

The graves are in Hero Acre Cemetery, which was not actually labelled as such, and our very patient bongo-driver tried his best to work with our lack of an idea of what we were looking for. When we got to the unmarked cemetery, we all walked around for some time, reaching a point where I was sure some of the group was going to give up on such a hunt, with such flimsy instructions to find what we were looking for.

But then someone spotted the little sign on a path, which pointed us to the right section, and we had found it. It felt pretty significant to reach the resting point of such a famous name, in such a tricky place to find. A very Aussie moment, on another continent, far away.

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