Weeks! #46: and it is hot wherever I go

2014-11-10 09.51.40So Mumbai and I begin the week with pretty much two full days not leaving the hotel and conferencing and working. With our Minister in attendance.

These trips are always pretty intense but when you have a Minister around and you need to make sure everything is running smoothly as well it adds to the general level of full-on-ness.

2014-11-10 14.29.36Here is me with Joanna my person in charge of India and Megan the Chair of our working group on India. We were debriefing.

One of the things we like to showcase is the highly talented products of our vocational education system. Here is Jessica Martin who was a silver medallist at Worldskills and Morgan Clementson who was the runner up for Apprentice of the Year demonstrating their skills.

2014-11-11 12.59.55I facilitated a session in which Tara was speaking – she was challenged to take a selfie while on stage so I acted as the world’s biggest enabler.

While I didn’t leave the hotel for two days, the views were still spectacular. I particularly loved the Sea Bridge which is 5.6km long (we drove it on Sunday).

When Joanna and I finally next stepped out of the hotel Tuesday night it was to head to the very spectacular new Mumbai international airport. Our flight to Hyderabad was the tail end of an international flight. Being at the airport late on a Tuesday night we got a sense of the story of global skilled labour migration as we watched lines of single men filing into planes bound for the Middle East. it was a sobering reminder of how the world works in these areas and some of the social challenges of labour mobility.

2014-11-12 08.59.25After arriving in Hyderabad late in the night, here was the view from my hotel room window the next morning.

2014-11-12 11.47.48The hotel was quite spectacular too – so much marble!

2014-11-12 12.55.27After spending the morning speaking to members of the India Economic Service – high level economics focused public servants – about skills and skill development, we went with them to Dialogue in the Dark. It is an extraordinary experience – you eat lunch in the complete dark before being taken through a sensory experience, also in darkness. The people who work as guides are blind – it must be so empowering for them to suddenly be more in control than us sighted folk. It is interesting too how intense and focused your conversations can be when there is nothing but the sound of each other’s voices. I never expected to spend a lunchtime discussing Indian economic reform and the Australian vocational education system while eating curry while unable to see anything. I must admit I was pleased I was wearing black too – otherwise no doubt there would have been curry all over a white shirt!

We also visited a training provider in the afternoon who taught construction skills and met one of the few Indian female construction teachers. I wasn’t quite sure that thongs or sandals would be approved footwear while laying bricks in Australia.

We also had a visit to the markets in Hyderabad, where it rained heavily on us but we also managed to pick up those last presents.

2014-11-13 15.38.24The next morning I was up at 4.30am to fly to Delhi and from there home. Once again I got to witness the weird sight of clouds through the tinted Dreamliner windows.

2014-11-14 00.28.01I had half a day in Canberra to wash myself and some clothes before James and I were off on another plane to Queensland.

2014-11-14 16.30.26It was funny – the Minister ended up the row in front of us on the plane so I checked in with him about his return flight. He’d been back a day earlier but then had had to be in Canberra for Cameron’s address to Parliament so was feeling at least as exhausted as me. James and I headed to Ipswich on arrival and found ourselves dinner before I eventually collapsed into bed.

2014-11-15 07.48.50We were at the Ipswich showgrounds at 7am the next morning for the kick off of the men’s national roller derby championships. The first game was Capital Carnage playing Scartel – the team from Brisbane City Rollers featuring my good friend James – Copter to the derby initiated. I was, however, firmly on Carnage’s side.

2014-11-15 07.56.07Slams, Sir Gestive and I are here ready and waiting for the action of the first game. In the end, the Scartel won, but it was a well fought game and the Carnage boys did a great job.

2014-11-15 08.53.30Of course, it was around 40 degrees in a tin shed and it got pretty hot. Especially after you’d been playing derby.

2014-11-15 11.56.41-1It was hot so drinking was required but the only beer was Four X. A girl has to opt for cider then.

The boys played their next two games in their hot pink alternative strip. They were very proud of it and it got them a whole lot of love.

2014-11-15 09.28.36Copter and I watched some games together. Here we are being amazed by the Bass Strait Brawlers – Victoria Vanguard game. So close. I was cheering for the Bass Strait Brawlers because (a) underdogs and (b) Sausarge Rolls. Though it could be argued that Vanguard were the best looking team at the nationals….

2014-11-16 07.39.55James and I had dinner and breakfast at the same quality restaurant. We were very tired in the evening. Sure James played three games of derby but I sat watching in 40+ degree heat and it is very tiring cheering and shouting.  And I did still have jet lag.

2014-11-16 08.33.43It was so stupidly hot I resorted to thongs for day 2. I never wear thongs. Queensland made me do it.

342014-11-16 08.54.13-1More derby watching. Carnage did well to get themselves into the game versus Light City, but, while competitive, couldn’t quite take it out. With two wins for the weekend however, they could certainly consider that they had acquitted themselves well.

2014-11-16 10.26.09The fan provided some relief from the heat even if it did mess up my hair.

2014-11-16 09.56.38In the end it was Vanguard’s weekend and they came out well deserved winners even if I was still cheering for the Brawlers in the final. Blurry celebratory photo.

2014-11-16 18.09.58And so the first men’s nationals were done. You can see from how Slams looks in the next photo that it is completely true that spending an entire weekend watching derby in the heat is as tiring as playing! well, that’s our argument and we are sticking with it.

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Mumbai: from poverty to extravagance

2014-11-09 14.14.34With a small amount of time to discover Mumbai, we went on a tour with a guide, organised by the hotel. As this is India, it wasn’t long into the tour that we discovered that we weren’t undertaking the tour we had proposed, but instead the tour our guide decided we should take.

We started in the slums. I was quite happy to just have a brief visit – I feel a certain uncomfortableness in being the rich white tourist in the lives of incredibly poor Indians, but it is also good to see the reality of where so many people live. I also felt a bit sad for the unhappy goat. Then there were children who built there kite and flew it while we were there. Small joys.

The flower market was lovely to visit – we were told not to sniff the flowers. Apparently the scent of flowers belongs to the gods. OK to look, but not to smell.

2014-11-09 14.48.46We also visited the gigantic outdoor commercial laundry. I’m not sure what happens when it rains.

Next stop was a vegetable market where the number of photos I took was equally reciprocated by the photos taken of me. As one of the Indian staff told me later, blonde white people are still pretty rare and generally seen on television. With Joanna and her blonde curly hair, we were no doubt a completely rare sight.

2014-11-09 15.18.08We visited the Mani Bhavan where Gandhi hung out while in Bombay. It has some great old photos and takes you through his life. We also got in trouble with our guide: we were talking when he wanted to explain something so he told us “Talk on your time, not on my time.” Whoops. Ghandhi remains inspirational.

2014-11-09 15.23.53Joanna with excellent persuasive skills managed to get the guide to take us to FabIndia so we could do some shopping so that was excellent. I bought tablecloths at James’ request. And shirts for all my boy-folk. It was then onwards.

2014-11-09 15.56.25We were lucky with the traffic – being a Sunday there were very few cars on the road and we thus got to cover a lot more ground than we would have any other day of the week.

We ended the tour at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel – site of many visits from world leaders and terrorist shootings. It is a magnificent building.

We got into trouble again with our guide – we were wondering how we could take photos of the bay – his response “Can I talk now?” But we did get some photos.

And after a tour which has taken you from some of the poorest parts of Mumbai to one of the most wealthy? Gin and tonics by the Taj Mahal Palace pool.

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Weeks! #45: from normality to Mumbai

2014-11-03 20.44.07-1An epic level of wine – that is definitely for me. James and I went and did something on Monday night which we haven’t done for probably 13 years – spontaneously went to the movies. We saw Fury which I found a little disappointing – stuffed full of every war film trope you could think of, particularly the whole naive-youngster-meets-wizened-oldster-who-teaches-him-to-be-a-man stuff. Some of the cinematography and the images were extraordinary though, so that was a saving grace.

2014-11-03 20.45.22After nearly a month of no regular game nights with Andrew off on his European adventures, it was back to fighting the Old Ones on Tuesday.

2014-11-04 21.02.54On Wednesday I escaped from work long enough to see Zac’s class host junior assembly and Zac sing in the choir. He also was on hand shaking duty for people who received awards.

Wednesday I once again elongated my ride home to make up for failing to get up early in the morning.

2014-11-05 18.13.16A spider decided to take up residence near my bed.

2014-11-05 23.04.45Thursday morning it was my regular walk to school early with Jude and Zac.

2014-11-06 08.13.35By some miracle, my branch team managed to win the Department’s soccer grand final. The opposition were a bit intimidating – especially as their average age was a good ten years younger than ours – and after they had scored two goals in the first few minutes I thought we were settling in for a substantial thrashing. But somehow guile and age managed to triumph over youth and fitness and in an extraordinary surprise to everyone, but no one more than myself, I even managed to kick a spectacular goal from an impossible angle. Anyway, it was a lot of fun and pretty much confirmed that sports involving running are exhausting, but more fun than running without sports.

2014-11-06 12.57.53Sebastian has been reading the Hunger Games books and much inspired he decided to construct his own bow. It even worked.

Friday morning at work we had a branch get together to talk about our work. I then made my staff form a human venn diagram to show how are work is all inter-connected. It was an idea I had come up with just the night before. Sadly I didn’t have the ability to take an aerial shot.

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Friday afternoon was cricket watching with Zac. His bowling is definitely starting to improve.

I was excited to find that Past Me had preordered the new Alastair Reynolds which had arrived just in time to take on my trip to India. In a week of a few downs at work, this was a happy surprise.

2014-11-07 21.22.03And then Saturday morning it was off to the airport and on my way to Mumbai. A lamington seemed an appropriate last dish in Australia.

2014-11-08 10.49.59We flew Air India direct from Sydney to Delhi in a Dreamliner. They have these great windows with no shades but which have tinting that is changed remotely. It makes the clouds look extraordinary.

We were staying at the Taj Land’s End in Mumbai. This was the sight that greeted me from my hotel room window Sunday morning.

2014-11-09 08.06.55There was also an extraordinary view of the sea bridge – 5.6km of road out into the ocean.

2014-11-09 09.48.48I was most pleased though to get a chance to try out the pool in the morning, even if a somewhat briefly.

In the afternoon we did a tour of Mumbai with some of the conference participants but I will post about that separately. But we did end the tour appropriately – with a g&t.

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Weeks! #44: Halloween and other reasons to dress up

2014-10-27 09.42.11-1 - CopyWork! Not the best reason in the world to dress up, but hey.

2014-10-27 20.04.09 - CopyHere is my abandoned skate gear following SkateFit. That Bambi works you hard.  But certainly an excellent reason to get my gear on!

2014-10-28 19.20.33 - CopyWhen dressing up, excellent shoes are called for. Tax return came so I felt more than justified in purchasing the pair I had been stalking.

2014-10-28 23.28.25 - Copy Here is a stolen photo – this is Natasha speaking at the UN Security Council. A proud best-friend moment (one of many).

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With glorious mornings like this, why wouldn’t you put on your bike gear and get our for a ride? And here I am all helmeted up.

2014-10-29 07.35.16 - CopyZac likes to dress up nicely (certainly more than his brothers). On the weekend he bought a pair of sunglasses which he loved. After wearing them to school, he told me that while some of his friends liked them, some people had been “sexist and rude.” Zac, however, does not bow easily to peer group pressure, so he has continued wearing them. When (mostly small boy) people ask him why he’s wearing “girls’ sunglasses” he calmly tells them they are his and he bought them with him own money, and moves on.

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Breakfast at the Cupping Room with James is both worth dressing up for, and skipping the first half an hour of an all day meeting!

So is breakfast at the Elk & Pea with my friend Melinda who travelled with me to Sri Lanka.

2014-10-30 08.47.33The Realm was looking resplendent for the Migration Agents conference I went and spoke at.

2014-10-30 16.33.56Here is the view from my window on a day when Canberra was looking excellent. And me as I tried squinting out of the window.

And then it was Halloween. This rather frightening looking cat nearly scared me away from the cakes. Nearly.

2014-10-31 15.33.42Into cricket uniform which Zac wore with his usual flair.

And watching cricket for some of us as the sun dressed up the sky.

Time to dress up for Jasmin’s usual Halloween celebrations. I was Deregulation Girl – slayer of red tape.

On Saturday, the boys put on their skating gear. Here are Sebastian and Jude relaxing while Zac was training.

We also got the trains out Saturday night for a family game of Ticket to Ride.

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On Sunday, we put on our bike helmets and rode down to LSR for afternoon tea. Of course, I managed to take a lock I didn’t have the key for, so we had to abandon the bikes and walk home, returning for them later.

And spring is dressing up the garden – here is a passionfruit flower.

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Weeks! #43: grand finals and other distractions

2014-10-20 10.30.53One of my first tasks for the week was to write a reference for one of the people I have been working with from Korea who was applying for a job at a university. Because it was to Koreans, I got to use my name stamp for the first time.

2014-10-21 19.42.40Boys computerating – because we see a fair bit of that.

2014-10-22 17.28.47I went for an extended fifty minute ride on the way home from work – had meant to do it in the morning, but alarm fails meant I hadn’t gotten up in time. It was the reverse of the ride I normally do in the mornings -going in a different direction it is funny how much the perspective and the view changes.

The boys are now regularly walking to school by themselves – and they even have a neighbour from around the corner who joins them from time to time. It is great because it saves us time in the mornings and it is good for their independence. But I do miss the conversations and observations and the gentle start to the day. Anyway, on Thursdays when Jude and Zac head off early to choir, I am still generally walking with them. Good excuse for it once a week anyway.

2014-10-23 13.15.49Happened to be passing and all pink! I no longer get to see my favourite piece of public art in Canberra every day now that we have moved offices to the other side of Civic. But I still love it.

2014-10-23 14.31.39This is the substitute now – the view from my office window. And here is a storm rolling in.

2014-10-23 17.00.15I missed most of the storm action though because we had to head up to Parliament House for Senate Estimates. Which was running horribly late and I ate way too many of these.

2014-10-24 14.09.44The rabbits of Canberra have become very populous and very bold – they don’t every scurry away anymore when you pass them just a metre away. Well, at least we’ll have something to eat come the Zombie Apocalypse.

Stunning Friday night sunset.

Saturday morning Sebastian, Jude and James were at cricket. Zac and I decided to have brunch at Edgar’s.

2014-10-25 15.09.14Saturday afternoon and it was off to the Canberra Roller Derby League grandfinal. James and I donned our men’s world cup t-shirts for the occasion.

Jude and Sebastian skated in a mini bout before the main games started. They both did well but Jude’s team beat Seb’s.

2014-10-25 15.57.07Sebastian got his toe-stops signed by Bambi von Smash’er – she nearly borrowed them for the game.

2014-10-25 16.01.26-1Zac partook of the wound face-painting as is his wont.

The two games were both pretty exciting and in the end the Surly Griffins had the best walls and managed to take out the grand final.

2014-10-25 20.26.58Jude was delighted to meet Bambi after the game – his very favourite player – and have his photo taken with her. Another thing I love about roller derby is how my boys have a number of women who they admire for their sporting prowess and they enjoy watching women play sport. It crosses over to sports like hockey as well – the boys watch the women play as avidly as they watch the men.

Quiet Sunday – there was a lot of reading going on.