The week that was…week 40: Timor and back home to boys

Visiting Timor Leste was a fascinating experience. It is a beautiful place, but so much history weighing heavily on the present. or perhaps, lack of history. A completely new nation which had the administrations and approaches of the past removed thoroughly, it is still learning to piece itself together. And as I am sure Lenin could tell you, being a revolutionary and being a public administrator are very different roles with different skill sets. But it is a place which is is learning those things. Perhaps harder will be healing the damage to the people.

We were there with AusAID to start thinking about options for their next round of funding in the skills space. There are a lot of options and I am hoping we can provide some good advice about how to maximise the approach to funding new programs. It would be great to make a real difference.

2013-09-24 10.31.54We had a pretty packed schedule while we were there and safety concerns meant we were encouraged to do much walking around by ourselves. We did get dinner at a restaurant near the beach on Monday and took the opportunity to go for a walk and see some of the locals out and about. It was a gorgeous sunset too.

We also took a trip into the mountains to visit an employment centre and a training provider. It was impossible to capture the beauty of the vistas from a moving car on a bumpy road, but there were some spectacular views down to the sea. The slightly neglected coffee plantations with their towering shade trees were also a fantastic sight. And the little villages with their roadside stalls showed the day to day life in the countryside.

Thursday we flew home and winds in Sydney meant I didn’t get home until late.

Zachary liked the bow tie I brought him back from Timor.

2013-09-27 08.26.05Spring continued to show its many facts in our garden.

2013-09-28 12.47.10On Saturday, Sebastian and I went for a ride to the lake, despite the wind and not entirely pleasant weather. we had to stop for a quick iced chocolate as well.

And there is nothing like a Sunday which starts with a tower of eggy toast!

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The week that was…week 39: learning and travelling

2013-09-16 10.19.59Someone anonymous had obviously gotten to my daily folder.

It was Learning Journey week at school. We started with Jude’s.

Later in the week it was Sebastian’s.

And finally Zachary’s.

It was good to see all their work and the fact they are still enjoying school and learning and improving. They are all writing creatively and doing well in maths and take great pleasure and pride in showing us their work – and that is the most important thing.

2013-09-19 18.09.16Another sunset (or rather moonrise in this picture) from the air – this time en route home after a day trip to Melbourne. I didn’t quite capture how spectacular the moon rise was with a pink moon at sunset, but you probably get the idea.

2013-09-18 19.58.10Zac found an unbuilt lego birthday present and went about building it.

2013-09-21 13.27.57Jude spent some time enjoying the sunshine and his book.

2013-09-20 10.46.34The week involved finding out about our new Minister and our new Departmental structure. Time for an all staff meeting. We are still going to be a huge Department but will have a new experience as skills and vocational education are separated off from the rest of education as we stay in the Department of Industry.

2013-09-21 15.23.52Saturday afternoon Sebastian and I rode down to the lake to join some of the Dishonour Rollers for a team picnic in the sunshine.

And then Sunday it was off to Timor Leste. Here is the view from my hotel window.

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Gardening update #1

2013-09-28 15.05.49It has been nearly two weeks since the boys planted their seeds. Despite a week of continuous rain (or perhaps because of it), we have some success as the radishes, carrots and rocket have started to peek through the soil. No sign yet of the pumpkin yet, but we might give it another few days.  Tomorrow I may need to help the boys with separating out some of the seedlings and fertilising and so forth. At the moment, they are happy to see some level of success.

Skywhale!

2013-09-21 09.01.41I finally got to see Skywhale in person! Sebastian and I headed over to Ainslie Primary School where she was tethered. We lined up in the hope of getting a chance to go for an up and down ride in her basket, but alas, being tardy risers we were way too late and the line was too long. But she was a fabulous sight and it was lovely to finally see her up close.

The week that was…week 38: Manila and back again

2013-09-09 12.07.33In Manila, when asked if you like “exotic foods”, be warned, you might end up with crickets on your plate. Also frogs and oxtail and a fish that looked like this…

2013-09-09 12.13.03I was being taken out to lunch by the good people of TESDA who manage vocational education and training. The food was pretty good though – even the crickets. I spent a very positive day with TESDA and including getting to visit their women’s education centre where women are trained in a range of occupations, with a focus on non-traditional women’s roles.

I also got to see a little more of Manila before I went to the airport as they drove me around a bit and I visited the oldest stone church in the Philippines.

And then it was an overnight flight home.

2013-09-11 14.53.07On Wednesday, Zac got an award at assembly and sand in the choir and I managed to get there to see it. He was very proud.

And Thursday, he and I walked to school in time for choir, as is our want.

2013-09-12 08.12.28We couldn’t be bothered cooking on Thursday, so we went to Meze with the boys for dinner. Nice to have some family time.

All this international activity seems to be putting me on the embassy-circuit – I got invitations to both the Indonesian and Korean national day events this week. Sadly I can’t make either due to travel and holidays.

2013-09-13 13.53.52It was very exciting to receive Hit And Miss on Friday in the mail and see the article on our game. And all the other photos of VDL players through the magazine.

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Saturday was James’ grass hockey grand final, so we went to watch. After watching u11 hockey all season, they really seemed to hit the ball very hard! Fortunately, James’s team won in something of a nail biter towards the finish.

2013-09-14 13.10.03I was very sad to find there was no tonic to be had at Woolworths. Well nothing decent (and no, I don’t drink diet tonic).

2013-09-14 14.48.43Jude decided to go with rather a creative hair style.

2013-09-14 19.48.42George continues being George.

2013-09-15 11.25.52And Zacky got in some quality lego time.

2013-09-15 11.26.47

Gardening

2013-09-15 10.57.45Sebastian and Jude decided to get into the spring feel and get their gardening on. They cleared the garden bed, dug in some compost and planted a collection of seeds. It has since rained all week, so we have to hope they haven’t been washed away, but if not, we are hoping for radishes, carrots, rocket and pumpkin!

The week that was…week 37: democracy, school and then…Korea

2013-09-02 12.50.43I started the week voting. At least we only have two Senate positions and I only had to count to 27.

It was then also off to see Zac at his Artist and Writers’ Festival Book Launch. The children took turns at coming and reading us their stories and talking about them. Andrew (who was doing godparent-equivalent duty) and I hears four or five different ones as well as Zac’s,

 

 

So much for Monday. Tuesday it was off to Korea.

2013-09-03 06.20.15Sunrise somewhere over Canberra.

2013-09-03 18.57.07 2013-09-03 19.45.05Sunset in Seoul.

I was in Seoul at the invitation of the Human Resource Development Service of Korea to speak at their conference. The conference opened on Wednesday morning.

2013-09-04 09.58.51I did have a chance for a walk in the morning to get my bearings. And to purchase a local fizzy caffeinated beverage.

2013-09-04 08.17.26 2013-09-04 13.56.47I had some pretty great views from my room on the 27th floor at the Hotel Intercontinental COEX.

I attended part of the conference and went to meetings during other bits – the conference was domestically focussed and so most of the sessions were in Korean with no translations. I did spent lunches and dinners talking more in depth about the Australian vocational education system, as well as giving my 80 minute presentation. Korea is introducing a competency-based system, seemingly in an attempt to change the entire relationship between skills, education and employment. It seems like a bold experiment and they are keen to see how a mature competency-based system works in order to be able to apply the lessons we have learned to the transition there. So much of my meal time was spent discussing these things. It is lucky I like to talk about the VET system in Australia. And when you get delicious lunches and dinners, it is not so hard either.

2013-09-05 13.13.15 2013-09-06 12.31.05I had a couple of meetings at the Australian Embassy – here is the view.

2013-09-06 15.10.47I finished my official duties about 3.30pm on the Friday, so had some time for sightseeing. As I had been at the Australian embassy, I took the chance to explore the things of interest in the vicinity.

I liked the idea of this King. He developed the Korean script in the 1400s or so, apparently, in recognition of the fact that his poorer subjects struggled with Chinese lettering and that literacy is important. Forward thinking.

2013-09-06 15.34.25I then went for a long walk around the Gyeongbokgung Palace. This place provoked a lot of thinking about authenticity for me.

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The Palace was originally built in the 1300s and then torn down the Japanese a couple of hundred years later and then rebuilt and then parts of it torn down or moved by the Japanese in the 1800s. There is rebuilding going on even now and apparently the rebuilding of aspects of it has been seen as a matter of national pride. Obviously it is not a functioning palace, but a landmark. It is being rebuilt in much the same design, but in some parts the newness of the materials are obvious. I guess the question is, in terms of historicity, what is authentic? When is it restoration/rebuilding/recreation/imitation. It brings to mind the great cathedrals of Europe which we see as authentic historical buildings with their grey stone. But if we were seeing them as they were at their hey day, they would be painted many colours in their interiors. Does rebuilding deny the history of destruction , or is it just another part of the story?

Anyway, I pondered these things as I wandered the grounds, until my feet got sore (I was wearing work shoes with small heels – but they were not the most inappropriate footwear I spotted) after a couple of hours and I retreated to Starbucks for refueling.

I then got to check out the shops of Insa-Dong (and make a few purchases) before meeting up with our Education Counsellor and his daughter for some bim-bim-bap.

Saturday I had entirely to myself. In the morning I explored the area around the hotel, starting with the Bongeunsa temple which is across the road. Unlike Gyeonbokung Palace, Bongeunsa is a working temple and there was obviously some kind of ceremony (or ceremonies) going on as I visited.

I then walked down to the park area I could see my room. This turned out to be the Seolleung and Jeongneung Tombs housed in a big park. Built from 1494, these are a World Heritage site. It was a lovely park too, heavily forested, with the little houses for the spirits to live in, as well as the tombs themselves.

After lunch I grabbed a cab to the other side of the Han (taxis are remarkably cheap in Seoul) to Bukchon Hanok village. This is a residential area with plenty of people living there, but is a traditional Korean style area with old new and in between houses built in the traditional Korean style. It is also very hilly. There are a range of traditional craft workshops around the area, but, fleeting as my sightseeing time was, I didn’t really have the time to visit them.

I then spent the rest of the afternoon wandering back through parts of Seoul, seeing the old and the new. I even came across a gay marriage rally (I think).

After an evening watching the Australia channel and skyping home while discussing election results, it was up early and off to Manila.

All those hills in Bukchon – my calves were hurting like crazy. Anyway, feeling rather tired, once I got to the hotel it was massage, reading by the pool, swim, dinner in the hotel and early to bed.