Sunday, December 31

The Year in Review

For me, 2006 started in Turkey, with Kate, in Taksim square in the middle of Istanbul, surrounded by dozens of turkish flags and portraits of Ataturk, the national hero, ranging in size from a normal poster to the size of a large building, and thousands of Turks wearing Christmas hats (they're a little confused about the difference between chirstmas and new year there). Two months of teaching, studying for my external master's subject and wading through freaky blizzards, Kate and I left Istanbul on the first really warm and sunny day we'd had in months, to spend a few days in Belgrade on our way to our flights back to Aus.
I arrived in Aus the day before uni started, and plunged straight into the heaviest study schedule I had had since about 1998. I spent most of this semester tied to my (new!) laptop, or popping down to Sydney to see Kate, or collecting Kate from their airport when she popped up to see me. Despite our intentions not to spend all our money on airfares, we saw each other at least once a month. On one of her trips up to see me, we delivered my Uncle's car up Gladstone - via Biloela to see Jess, the only primary school friend I was still in contact with, and a morning around Benaraby, where I spent the first 9 years of my life. I hadn:t been back there in about 7 years, so it was interesting to see what was different - and what wasn't! I also managed to catch up with my best friend from my childhood, Kelly, after losing contact about 15 years ago! We were actually in Gladstone to deliver the car to my Uncle and family, who were getting off my parent's boat after a sailing holiday from Brisbane, and took their place for a week of sailing up to Keppel Island and on to Yeppoon, where Kate and I caught a bus to Rockhampton to fly to our respective homes again.
Back in Brisbane, I survived the first on-campus, full-time semester of my Masters in Education (TESOL) at QUT - just - and left just a few hours after handing in my last assignment, flying back north to Hamilton Island to meet my parents again on the boat, this time spending two weeks recovering from the semester and sailing around the Whitsundays, and then up to Townsville. I was back in Brisbane for 4 days or something, before flying to the Denmark, via a free night in a 5 star hotel in Korea, followed by another free night, this time on the floor of Stansted Airport outside London.
In Denmark I met Kate, whose flight arrived about 20 minutes before mine. We met at the luggage carousel, which was nice. We had 4 days in Denmark, attending a fantastic queer festival, before we had to leave to get to the UK in time to start work for Lines language school in Cold Ash - the same summer school I had worked for the previous year. I made such a hit this year with my student blog that I was asked to write an electronic communications program for them next year, and be the teacher in charge of the technological side of english teaching.
Kate and I had planned to spend 6 weeks in the middle east after 4 weeks work in the UK - visiting mainly Tel Aviv, north Israel, Lebanon, then Jordan, Syria and Egypt. Unfortunately, this war broke out between Israel and Lebanon, and it looked like syria would join them, and as that made our incredibly expensive airfares (which we hadn't actually bought yet) not quite worth the much reduced travlling we would be able to do. So we did 6 weeks work instead, and then headed for the much more stable Iberian pensinsular, via a couple of nights in Edinburgh, and spent 4 weeks or so hitchhiking around, in and out of Spain and every country that borders it (France, Andorra, Portugal, Morocco and Gibraltar). I caught up with friends and ex-colleagues all over the place - Stephanie in Edinburgh, Diana in Barcelona, Birgit in Portugal, and the Hebrards in France (the family I stayed with on exchange when I was 16).
After a few days recovering back in London, Kate flew back to Sydney, marking the end of our 18 months together (and, often enough, not together). After another couple of days relaxing on Ralph's couch, I left London for another single night in Korea before going on to Tokyo to start work again. Working for Westgate wasn't exactly hard, but it lacked variety a bit - I saw the same students every day, and taught the same type of lessons, which began to get a little dull by the end.
After Japan, I flew home via Seoul, spending 4 days there, staying in a lovely hostel that felt more like staying in a friend's house, hanging out with a guy from the Domincan Republic, and occasionally seeing one of Seoul's few sights. I also did a trip to the Demilitarized Zone on the border of North Korea, which was fascinating. And I will write something on my travelblog about it soon. Really I will.
I arrived back in Australia after only 6 months away, with the plan of working and Studying here in Brisbane for 6 months. So far it's going well - I've got a job at QUT International College that starts next week. I was interviewed only 3 hours after stepping off my early morning flight from Korea, but due to a great recommendation from one of my lecturers, I was iffered the job on the spot. This has meant that I've been able to have a serious holiday this week, as I don't have to worry about where my next paycheck will come from! In the 8 days since I arrived back I've been such a social butterfly that eaten dinner at home only once, and that day we ordered pizza. I've had rather a lot of lunches out as well, actually!
Christmas was fun - spent at family and friends' houses, and tonight I'm going to a pre-midnight party in New Farm, then the mad partyers can go out in the Valley, while those of us who aren't insane enough to attempt to enter a club on New Year's Eve will move on to Rowan and Klaus's place in the Valley, which I think will become my home away from home! It's their fault for having a home cinema and cable tv...
Here's to next year being as exciting as this one!

Monday, December 18

Look at this!

So I'm sitting in my hostel in Seoul, in front of the free internet, having a discussion about hitchihiking, so I google it, and found this - HitchWiki! It's a fantastic-looking sit (I haven't actually read much of it yet) devoted to hitchihikers, and, as it's a wiki site, it's also written by hitchhikers! I might even write something!
So I managed to a get to Korea. I'll write about my adventures here on my travel blog. When I get around to it!

Sunday, December 17

leaving japan!

1 min of airport internet left - better go catch my plane!

Saturday, December 9

Things I've sent people

Realised I hadn't posted any photos in nearly a week! Shock! Horror! So here are a bunch of amusing things I've sent various people since I arrived here.
Except this first one. This is the mug I was provided when I arrived. It's my daily pep talk from the company...

I have no idea what the connection is between enjoying life and outdated household items.
Don't you hate when you end up alone. And when you're in the grassland, that's the worst.
I rather like cheques too...

Friday, December 8

I blog, therefore I am.

"Si vous ne bloguez pas, vous n'existez pas. Je crois qu'aujourd'hui l'identité en ligne est plus importante que la vie réelle."
(stolen from Loic Le Meur via Maitresse)

If you're nobody til you're a blogger, does that make me three somebodies?

EDIT: Just realised I should translate that: "If you don't blog, you don't exist. I think that today, online identity is more important than real life."

The Fourth Reich

It seems incredibly obvious to me, but it seems some people just don't get it. I just read this article, reprinted in the Japan Times, about how many americans want to institute some sort of identification for muslims - either by making them wear an armband, tatoo or whatever, or by printing a cresent symbol on their driver's licence or other ID. To me this just screams 'Warning Warning, we are about to slaughter millions of people for no good reason'. So how can people not realise that? Or is that what they want?
I knew things were bad in the States, but I didn't know they were quite at this level. Hopefully last month's elections will stop the slide.

Thursday, December 7


"so i believe if you call the wrong number
you should talk for a while
you might like em more than
who you meant to dial. "

This isn't the best thing I've taken from Alix Olson's "I believe", but it sounds like fun. She says a lot of very sensible things. The full lyrics are here, and it's a poem, not a song, so you can just read it, but it's much better when she says it! Recordings (unfortunately not of "I believe" but the rest of her stuff's great too!) can be heard here.

Wednesday, December 6

A Day in the Life

The alarm on my mobile goes off at 8.40am on school days. And I fumble for it and peer at it to make sure it is the snooze button I'm hitting, and not the off button, and roll over and refuse to get up until it goes off again 10 minutes later, at which point I crawl backwards off my futon, via the foam tile I've put between my futon the the top of the ladder (to stop me getting bruises on my knees everyday) and crawl down from my loft.
I fall into some clothes, warm up some buttery bread stick things I keep in the freezer, pour a glass of milk coffee and leave the house. I'm always the last in the building to leave, so my bike is the last one left in the parking space, which at least makes it easy to get out. I ride to school - with my umbrella up if it's raining enough - sometimes stopping for a bottle of hot coffee from one of the several dozen vending machines I pass in my 15 minute ride to school. If I didn't have breakfast, I'll buy a kurowasan from the bakery (that's a croissant, in case you were wondering). Either way, as I pass the bakery I will check the time to see if I should speed up to avoid having to stop at the railway crossing for the 9.24 train (it's never late, of course), or slow down cos it's too late anyway.
I ride into school, saying ohio gozaimasu to the guy in the yellow jacket who looks after the bike parking, park in a spot that I have calculated is as close as possible to the classroom I am in last on most days, while still not being too far from the office where I have to login on the computer first thing every morning.
When I arrive in that office, I will say hello to either of the two teachers who work with me, if they are there. If the one I don't talk to is there, we studiously ignore each other, as usual. Once logged in, I'll do any copying for the day, if needed, or just head to the teachers room to drop off my stuff, and maybe do some last minute planning before going to the classroom 10 minutes before my class, in order to write things on the board and whatnot.
If no one turns up (I don't have many students, so it happens) I read a second-hand copy of the Japan Times, usually a few days old, or do the crossword from it. Or plan the lesson for the next day, or do my japanese homework. Or generally amuse myself somehow.
Lunch is at 12 every day, except Fridays when it's at 11.30. I sometimes sit with students or one of the other teachers (the ones I talk to) or on my own, in which case I either continue to read a bit of newspaper, or, more often, listen to a podcast or music on my phone's mp3 player. Lunch always involves miso soup and rice (or noodles, but I prefer the rice). And usually a salad that I have discovered is mostly Burdock root. It's delicious!
At 1 I have my busiest class of the day. Sometimes I have up to 8 students! It always has more energy and momentum than the classes with 2 or 3 students!
During one of my afternoon breaks I'll make myself a cup of tea - usually chai - in the teachers room, or buy another hot can of milk tea or coffee or something from a vending machine.
At 6.40, when my last class finishes, I head straight for my bike and am usually home by 7ish. If the railway crossing is closed when I approach I stop at the takeaway sushi shop next to the crossing to buy a maki roll and two inari (the sweet tofu pockets stuffed with sushi rice). Otherwise I'll make some fried rice or microwave a frozen spaghetti meal or cook an omelet or something when I get home. On Fridays, of course, and often on other days as well, Gloria and I go to the hundred yen sushi restaurant up the road. And on Wednesdays, I race to my Japanese lesson after work, so I do't get home til after 8pm.
My computer goes on the moment I get home, and I put on something to listen to while I'm cooking or doing whatever needs to be done (Triple J streamed online is good). Apart from that I'm pretty much glued to the computer for the rest of the evening, either reading stuff, writing nonsense like this, or watching dvds. At 11 or so, I might do some yoga and have a shower, then balance my computer, headphones and telephone in one hand and climb the ladder to the loft. I watch one last episode of whatever (two if my battery holds out) and then I sleep. If I can, on my futon that is about as thick as your average australian-summer doona...

Friday, December 1

Things that have caught my interest lately.

  • These documentaries about tolerance. One of them may have given me an idea for A Project when I get back to Brisbane.
  • These great pictures of the earth. Thanks to my aunt for sending the link!
  • Free Yoga! In the privacy of your own home! I'm yet to try it, of course, but it sounds good. I'm so bored with my one yoga dvd.
  • Flickr, the photo website. Should I create an account and upload all the photos that aren't interesting enough to make this blog or the travel blog? But then, if they aren't interesting enough, maybe no one needs to see them!
  • MP3 downloads on Triple J. Now I can take the mp3 of Hack or Dr Karl to school on my phone mp3 player, to listen to during boring moments, instead of having to stream them direct here at home.
  • Waterproof MP3 players. Maybe this one. I love that my camera is water and shock proof, and I'm thinking it's a good idea for everything. Would also make swimming a lot less boring. Oh, and the ebay listing that I've linked to is well worth a look. Have a look at the caption under the big picture (the one with the goggles).