As the sun sets on 2012

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“…..so what will 2012 bring for me, what do I want to manifest in 2012 and how will I go about that…..I have a big blank canvas before me, paint brushes in hand and I’m ready to begin….”

Famous last words of my new year’s blog 12 months ago…so did I pick up my paint brushes? did I create a masterpiece with that blank canvas? Mmmmm, I doubt I’ll be winning the Archibald Prize for my creation although I did produce a colourful work of art. Perhaps not worthy of a place on my wall as it was hardly spectacular so I’ll just file it in my box of memories for future reference.

So lets see, two more trips to Bali certainly added texture to my life. One trip saw me plotting and scheming to retire there, build a little house and spend my time between Oz and Bali. I did so love the beauty of Bali life in Ubud, the spiritual vibrancy of the small island and the people, the food and the lifestyle wasn’t too bad either.

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Oh what a difference a few months can make because by the time I’d returned 7 months later, all thoughts of living there seemed to escape from my mind entirely, in fact to be honest, I have no plans to return in the near future. It seems the wind blew a fierce gale over me and spun me around full circle so that my compass was once again pointing back to Oz.

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So despite the sudden turnaround in plans, I’;ll put this one on the ‘highlights’ side of my revision page for 2012.

On the day I was leaving Bali on the previous trip I was offered work back in Oz and accepted and although the people I work with are just great, the people I deal with are quirky, the job itself provides little stimulation to my mind. So it could be said I’ve just cruised along in that role this year all made possible by the fact that’s I’m filling in for someone on maternity leave, so it’s not ‘forever’. So I’ll give this one the benefit of the doubt and I’ll plonk it on the ‘highlights’ side of the page too! After all having an income without any real effort has to be a positive.

Next up Graduation, yes I graduated finally after completing an intensive 13 week training program in 2011 but due to a cyclone and a subsequent job offer I found myself being relocated further down the coast for a time and missed the graduation that year. So 12 months on I graduated with the new recruits and am now working casually in that voluntary role. This job might not have any monetary return but it sure does pack a punch in the stimulation stakes so into the ‘highlights’ this will go.

A distinct highlight has been my deepening friendship with my beloved Sai sisters. Our evolving relationships are an absolute joy along with the feeling of being enriched through my return to the ‘fold’ of the Sai Baba Organization. It’s been a long time between Bhajans, maybe 10 years but all things come full circle in time and so this has come to pass.

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I can’t tell you how much fun we had when four of us travelled together to Toowoomba earlier this year to the Sai Women’s Retreat . Rather than stay at the venue like the majority of other devotees, we opted to get ourselves a motel room in town and if you’d been in the room next door you would have surely thought there were 4 giggly schoolgirls in our room. Such was the frivolity that I felt like I was 16 again and I’d been given my parent’s permission to have the biggest sleepover!!

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And to think if we’d stayed at the Retreat venue we would have had to have lights out at 9pm, far out, we would have been in big trouble for sure. We were so wound up and so full of excitement and so full of bliss. This goes to the top of my ‘highlight’s list for sure!

As for the lows for 2012, well I had em too, and they almost entirely centred around changing friendships. A good friend move overseas to live which heralded an end of our many brisk walks down Sheridan St around dusk for happy hour at the casino and a couple of glasses of bubbles. Dinner would follow in that God aweful restaurant that is more akin to a ‘coles cafeteria’ environment. The meals were pretty much always the same, ‘ordinary’ to say the least. Roast of the day was always beef so why the hell advertise it as roast of the day, everyday was groundhog day there!! This one goes into the ‘negatives for 2012’ not because of the meals but because a great friend has moved on to greener pastures.

Then there were another couple of friends who had to drop off my Christmas card list de to a conflict of interests…it tough when morals and values override friendships. There’s no easy way to deal with a situation like this. Someone always looses. I stand very tall with my values and in the end the compromise just wasn’t worth it which sends this experience right down into that ‘negatives of 2012’ side.

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I’ve been doing a lot of reflection of late as the year draws to a close and I’ve come to the conclusion that 2012 was an ok year, nothing extraordinary and yet many  valuable lessons were leaned…well actually I’m still learning with some of them!

I always get a bit frantic as the end of the year draws near as I don’t want to have unfinished bushiness as I sail on into the new year and a new cycle.  Am I on top of it this year, I think so,  written lists, I’ve reflected on the highs and the low, I’ve mapped out a rough plan for 2013 and I’ve created the intention that it is evolving, flexible, without boundaries, and I have given myself permission to edit the blueprint as my journey unfolds.

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What;s on the radar for me in 2013? Travel, travel and then some more travel is what dominates my treasure map for 2013. How if unfolds isn’t really important, what matters is that I am finally letting go of SE Asia, it’s not longer my priority, I’ve been there and one that many times over and I’m ready to spread my wings.

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India/Norway/Amsterdam, one trip not three is the big one currently on the horizon. Somehow I have a sneaking suspicion that once I get to Europe, I’ll be plotting and scheming once again, cause I’m pretty darned good at that. It’s all subject to the way the wind blows of course with me. 🙂

As for resolutions, I don’t do them, gave them up years ago. I don’t subscribe to the idea that this year will be better than the last either. Everything that happens, does so for a reason. I’m more into learning from any given experience and then I know I wont have to repeat it again. Why put your faith in this year being better than the last because it it’s not, then all you do is set yourself up for disappointment. I prefer to take it as it comes, some years are better than others and that’s life!

Yin and yang, everything’s about balance. I can only experience joy because I’ve known sorrow, I can experience happiness because I’ve known sadness, I experience pleasure because I’ve known pain and as for love, well I experience love of many levels such is the complexity of that emotion that does at times escape me entirely!!!

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So I’m ready to say adios amigo, au revoir, sayonara, ciao and goodbye 2012, you’ve been a good companion, a fairly reliable acquaintance but it’s time to move on.

And I’m reminded of profound piece of writing, one that touche my soul to the very depth of it’s core when I first read it many years ago and it still stirs me deeply in much the same way today……..

“The Invitation” is a declaration of intent, a map into the longing of the soul, the desire to live passionately, face to face with ourselves and skin to skin with the world around us…..from The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

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The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your hearts longing.

If doesn’t interest me how old your are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by lifes’ betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain. I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself, if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul, if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty, even when it’s not pretty, every day, and if you can source your own life from it’s presence. I want to know if you can live with failure, yours or mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon ‘yes!’

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

it doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in  the empty moments.

Oriah Mountain Dreamer 1999

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May 2012 pass gently and your new year begin with a bang!

 

Bumbu Bali anyone?

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This is my gado gado that I made in the cookery course in Bali, it’s sitting on a bed of Bambu Bali

It’s a sauce ok, in fact it’s ‘the’ sauce of Bali, it goes into everything in varying amounts….I have made it before and today I decided that I’d replicate my recent cooking class experience in Bali and make my very own batch of the spicy and very fragrant concoction!  Well how come my eyes are still watering and I turned off the stove an hour ago!!!

After the cooking class had concluded and our 6 course feast had been consumed in it’s entirety we sat down with bloated bellies and a warm and fuzzy feeling of contentment at what we’ve achieved in those 3 hours and expected that our chef would provide us with a print out of all the recipes. But noooooooooooo what he did was tear out some blank pages from an old exercise book and so we proceeded to write down all of the ingredients for all of our courses. At the time I thought a print out would have been easy enough to produce but what do I know about cooking courses out in the rice fields of Ubud.

Well anyway back to my Bambu Bali exercise….so I haven’t looked at that bit of paper since my return a few weeks ago and now I’m wondering what the heck ‘kencur’ is..I would have known at the time although I obviously didn’t feel the need to make a note of what it was exactly so perhaps not having it for the sauce was my first mistake.

And another problem in this little exercise was that in Bali everything is fresh and here although I’m fortunate to have a great market in Cairns where lots of Asian people sell herbs, spices and veges etc…I have half of the ingredients fresh and the other half I had to source ‘dried’ at the local Asian supermarket…sheesh this seemed like it was going to be easy too!!

They don’t use shallots like our shallots in Bali, they use shallots that look like some type of garlic cloves and no chance of finding them so I had to opt for our local supermarket variety. So I managed to find fresh ginger, garlic chilli and galangal and who has ever used that before…and the other half of my ingredients are dried…far out now I have to figure out how much to use dried and how much to use fresh and how much is 100grams of ginger and garlic anyway? And then there are the candelnuts, well believe it or not I did find some rather shriveled looking dried candlenuts and so it was all systems go.

Well I had the ipad out and I was checking with Mr Google and I came to the conclusion that I’d just have to wing it. But wait, I seemed to recall our chef in Bali saying how important it was to have the right balance when preparing that damned sauce. Always have the salt, pepper and sugar in equal proportions…ok no worries I can do that. Make sure that you have 1 part garlic to 2 parts shallots ‘always’ he said….yeah alright I think I can do that considering I wasn’t able to get the right type of shallot….oh stuff it, I’ve never been one to worry about being ‘precise’, I’ll just do it my way!

Right from the start of my cooking I thought my bumbu bali didn’t quite have the right aroma about it but hey I’m cooking indoors and our cooking class was in an open kitchen in the rice fields in Ubud so that’s probably why I’m starting to feel my eyes watering.

Sheesh they’re still stinging, not quite a ginger smell but something along those lines, oh I know, it’s that galangal for sure…oh speaking about galangal I did manage to purchase some dried galangal and as my fresh variety was rather woody like some old tough root of a tree I decided to use the dried powder. Sigh, well how much of that I wonder, oh a couple of scoops will do it, after all it was the 3 times the amount of the other ingredients.

This is Gayle’s Bambu Bali Sauce, it’s a bit yellow and that’s definitely not right which would indicate way too much tumeric…perhaps like the signs says…I was dreaming!!!

Suffice to say I doubt the finished product is a rather interesting product….it smells nothing like what I remember preparing in Bali, my eyes are still stinging and its now hours since I cooked the brew. I’m also now convinced that I have to head back to the drawing board or better still I’ll just look for it at the Asian supermarket and save myself the bother altogether.

Oh no, I also realise now that I was supposed to add some sweet soy sauce, completely forgot that but I doubt it would have averted my watering eye syndrome!

These are the ingredients I should have had…ALL fresh!!!

Looking out from the cookery kitchen in the ricefields of Ubud.

Our Chef in Bali….nice to come across someone who could grow his business but prefers to keep it simple and low key

 

Genuine works of art, Saigon style!

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Genuine works of art they’re not, but they can be pretty darned good replicas, if you’re lucky!

Yep you show ’em and they’ll paint ’em……’you come back tomorrow Madame’ is the catch cry …..and that’s how easy it is to acquire genuine artworks in Vietnam.

I loved this painting, I wanted it to match the one below but when I collected it…this one was painted with oils, the other in acrylics and so the effect is vastly different.

And Copyright? , what copyright? Who would even know what that means!!!

Hand painted before your very eyes, on canvas, large pieces 60x80cm on average in acrylic, oils or whatever medium your heart desires. The little shops have books of all the Masters and you could even have a genuine Mona Lisa painted, ready for pick up within 24 hours if you wanted and you spin a yarn or two about how you acquired that work of art. But of course you’d have to remind the artist that the Mona Lisa is actually quite a small painting as opposed to the rather in your face offerings that you will find on every other corner in the backstreets of Pham Ngu Lao in Saigon.

Of course if you’re a perfectionist then you will have to look long and hard to find a masterpiece whereby the artiste has actually grasped the concept of attention to detail.

Often the face will have every attention paid to the detail but the hands might look like they’ve been painted by an amateur..or the other way around. The hands might be perfection personified but the face will look like someone else has taken over the job part way though the project or worse still, the ‘artiste’ has no concept at all of what it means to create an actual work of art.

But you should not concern yourself with such trivialities, the mere mention that you are not happy with this or that part of the masterpiece and you’ll be told ‘no problem Madame, you come back in 30 minutes and we fix for you’!

And low and behold that’s exactly what you’ll find upon your return…your piece de resitance! Well alright, maybe it’s not the jewel in the crown of a series of artworks but you get my drift.

Painted in acrylics, the artist has done a great job of the clothing but those eyes!! Couldn’t he or she see that one was definitely off!!

This is a classic example of a gammy eye! It’s style is soft and dreamy but that eye just keeps drawing my attention every time!!

The eyes are great, obviously what the artist chose to ‘perfect’ but those hands…despite them being ‘fixed in 30 minutes’ are just so like they belong to another painting.

I could have refused the paintings but as my time was running out and I was getting a little ‘over it’ in regards to getting it right I chose to take them as they were, after all at the time they didn’t seem so bad and the cost…well a mere $19 each…I’d pay that for a print here in Crazy Clarke’s so all in all they’re part of my memories of my time in Saigon and they make for interesting conversation for us novice art critics.

I have several other genuine works of art, I have had them rolled up for quite some time and I take these 3 out periodically and hang them on my wall.. As for the others I’ve got in storage some 2000klms away,  when I return later in the year I’ll dig them out and check them out and I’ll critique them closely before deciding if they’re gonna make the cut for a showing on my walls.

 

 

And don’t forget the iPad!

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With only 1 week to go before I depart for my beloved Bali and I haven’t even opened my suitcase!

So what you might say, no big deal. And do you know what, I agree….mind you it hasn’t always been that way. According to a friend of mine, in the past I would have had the case laid open with pre packing and re packing going on weeks before.

The truth is my living space is fairly ‘compact’ and having a bulky suitcase cluttering up that space holds very little appeal.

In fact the most crucial items for me have become the multitude of electrical cables I need to pack and whilst my friend thinks Ive ‘turned over a new leaf’ in packing strategies she doesn’t know that hiding in the corner of my wardrobe is a little zip up bag that I’m struggling to fit all those damn re charge cables that I’m going to need. These are the magic items that have the power to make or break my holiday.and these I have been checking and re checking for the past couple of weeks.

If I forget some item of clothing I can pick that up easy enough, same for shoes and toiletries and even medicinal supplies but if I forget the charger for my iPad I’m stuffed. I can of course sit for hours on an uncomfortable little chair in some grotty little internet cafe with someone smoking right beside me but I have become rather accustomed to being able to ‘log on’ at my leisure. I’d much rather be writing a blog while lazing about near the pool or sitting up in bed at the end of another fabulous day. Then there’s the joy of checking emails or facebook over nasi goreng in one of the many funky cafes in Ubud. Not to mention happy hour along with the many varieties of mojitos that one just has to sample. Oh yes, note to self, do not forget my iPad charger.

And then there are my camera chargers, two of them cause this time I’m gonna lug that big old digital SLR with me, I mean why have it if it’s going to sit in the cupboard. And I must have my trusty little compact camera for the hundreds of photos I’m going to amass or thousands even, dont laugh it has happened beore!

Then there’s the phone charger, must have that of course because I also need that to log onto Facebook when Im out and about and a girl does need to check her email periodically…geez Id be having withdrawals if I had to just stop! Just because I’m on holiday doesn’t mean I’m going cold turkey, no siree!

So do I need my epilator cause that’ll be another charger, and what about my headphones and the adaptor plug for all these essential items….sheesh I’m stating to stress out about all this now 🙂

Oh yeah and now that I’ve recently joined the ‘words for friends’ craze I just have to be able to keep those games going and then there’s ‘angry birds’ that I’ve also recently discovered so you see how attached I’ve become to that confounded iPad that I was never going to have!

And for those of you who are rolling your eyes and wondering ‘what is she thinking’ going to beautiful Bali and all she’s worried about is her ipad…..well don’t you worry about a thing cause I’m very proficient at multi tasking and I’ll be enjoying all that Bali has to offer, well maybe not all but I will be immersing myself into the culture that I do love soooooo much……

Is Cairns China Ready? Lets hope so!

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Open any Cairns newspaper of late and you’re bound to find an article extolling the virtues of the imminent arrival of thousands of Chinese tourists as a direct result of China Eastern and China Southern airlines about to embark on direct flights from China. Cathay Pacific have also altered their route’s to capitalise on this potential also. And yes I agree it will go a long way to injecting some much needed dollars into the flagging Cairns Tourism industry. After all we’ve suffered much from the negative impact of publicity of the floods and cyclones of recent times not to mention that other three world phrase we have seen bandied around for years now, the GFC!

You’ll also see almost as much written in our newspapers about how Cairns hospitality industry and business’ must position themselves to be ‘China Ready’. The more I read this term, the more I start to cringe when I think about the vast differences in our cultures and I then I also start to wonder about the long term viability of this venture.

So many of the newspaper articles about the influx of these thousands of Chinese tourists are warning hospitality workers that they must get on board and educate themselves about the culture and likes and dislikes of the Chinese as they are only going to get one chance to ‘win them over’.

And this is where I start to get itchy and scratchy about this push for us to be ready, my question then becomes this, will the Chinese be courted equally and encouraged so fervently to learn about our culture, our morals, our values and our way of life. It ought to be a two way street after all and we also have ‘cultural sensitivities’ for the Chinese to be aware of if this union is to achieve a win/win outcome.

Tourism Australia Chairman, Geoff Dixon has stated that the Chinese want a pristine environment but will they treat ours with respect or treat it as they do their own that has history will show, has an appalling record. And friendly and open hospitality is not something that I experienced in China, so this all reads a little incongruously for me.

Having worked and holidayed in China in recent years I have experienced first hand some habits that will definitely not sit well with Australians or any westerners for that matter.  For instance,  our rubbish bins don’t have spittle receptacles to contain the amount of sputum that is expressed so prolifically in China by  a very large proportion of their vast population. Are they going to contain themselves because their isn’t a specific place to spit or just slag on the ground. An offensive term this may be but this is the rather unpleasant reality in China.

We banned smoking in restaurants because we actually do realise the damaging effects of second hand smoke…not so in China where sitting in a haze of smoke is the norm.  I mean you can often barely see 3 feet in front of you so how is that going to work here in our civilized society? And how comfortable will they feel when they find they can’t smoke in so many places both privately and publicly.

The Japanese that in the past have come in droves to our shores have always generally been a respectful and placid race of people but the Chinese are a completely different ‘kettle of fish’ and unfortunately, I doubt that the words respect and Chinese often go together.  Not from what I have seen and experienced anyway!

I recall during my visit to China that we are known as ‘big noses’ and where I worked it was not unusual to be laughed at publicly or that very reason. Hmmmmm the more I think about this venture, the more concerned I become about the viability of this union.

I guessing that the timing was something our tourism leaders didn’t have much control over or did they overlook the timing in their race to capture this growing sector of international tourism. The first arrivals commence in October which we all know is generally the eve of the onset of the wet season, I wonder how that will go down…for the life of me I can’t imagine why this particular time of the year has been chosen seeing as this is venture is purported to be the saving grace of our flagging tourism industry.

I know that it’s been a long and winding road of negotiations to get to this point, and I applaud those involved for their diligence and single mindedness to get to this point, I just hope that the people of Cairns and Australia are ready for this and that the union between east and west proves to be a harmonious one for all concerned.

Lets keep our fingers and toes and everything else crossed as there is a lot riding on this for Cairns and the far north region. We do need a boost to our economy, we do need a fresh approach to our tourism and we have a world heritage environment to showcase to the world, let us all strive to maintain our beautiful and diverse location,

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Indigenous art, pandanus trees and a festival!

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I keep re living a funny moment that I experienced at the Cairns Indigenous Art Festival on the weekend and I have to say that it gives me great pleasure and a good belly laugh to boot!
I was browsing around the amazing array of contemporary and traditional indigenous art on display when ‘nature’ called so to speak!

So having found the little girls room, it became quickly evident by the resounding laughter and chatter emanating from ‘within’ that I would just have to wait!

It was obviously a rather small enclave and I observed that there was a group of indigenous women having a good old laugh about something that caused great excitement and frivolity.

“sorry sister” ” Im just waiting for my grandmother and my ‘big’ mother”, whatever that means 🙂 is the greeting I receive as I pick my spot to wait patiently .

And this trio of happy women jostle their way out of the little loo…picture this….very black skin,pearly white teeth and red mouths apparent as they are laughing with grins from ear to ear!

I can’t help but be affected by their obvious excitement and happiness and am wondering just what caused such hilarity in that loo!

As they file out, one of the women turns to me and proudly says “it my first time ‘ere”…so I says ” and are you enjoying it”…”yeah, it great” she says with a smile that was worth a million dollars. And off they went, disappearing into the throng of eager connoisseurs of this unique and diverse display of works of intricate art. For all I know they may have been famous artists themselves but in this environment how would you know ?

It was one of those occasions that bought a tear to my eye, such was intensity of the moment.

This was an eye opener for me, the most amazing variety of artwork from many regions and such artistic diversity I have never seen.

As always dancing plays a integral part of indigenous culture and on this day we weren’t disappointed by the different groups that performed and told their individual stories.

One of the many indigenous dance troupes

Galleries from as far afield as Melbourne Sydney and Brisbane featured their works and the location was just perfect, the cruise liner terminal on the beautiful trinity Inlet in cairns.

What a day and as if that wasn’t enough,as I was leaving a stroll under a dreaded pandanus tree almost ruined my perfect day. Oh well why is that you say!

Colourful they might be, but these Pandanus nuts can be lethal if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time!!!

Well when a pandanus fruit, humongous in size, drops from above and you feel the breeze as it swishes past your head…..sheesh my day could have ended so much more tragically had I not had luck on my side!

Time was ‘on my side’ on this day….a second earlier and I might not have been smiling!!!