2015 weeks! #31: views from the 40th floor and other glamourous places

I started the week with three days in Melbourne, staying on the 40th floor of the Sofitel. The views were spectacular.

On my second night in Melbourne I had no official functions so was lucky enough to catch up with Jess, who has recently relocated. We began at the Gin Palace…


…then moved on to the exceptional deliciousness (and large serves) of Ombre.

2015-08-12 08.21.13I was still feeling full the next morning when I caught up with Melanie aka Scary for breakfast, so hipster crumpets did me.

2015-08-12 11.01.09I was in Melbourne for the ABAC (APEC Business Advisory Council) forum to talk about our international work. I enjoyed the discussions in the Connectivity Working Group, particularly about the oysters who are connected to the internet.

2015-08-12 17.24.13I managed to finish the wonderful SevenEves shortly after I got home. It is a fabulous book, I loved it, even if occasionally Neal Stephenson got overly explainy about things in the way that he does. It is definitely worth it.

2015-08-13 11.03.55Time for some red fishnets.

2015-08-13 11.37.23I spent much of Thursday at Parliament House, most of it at the Roundtable on International Education. There were lots of people there with whom to catch up, and it was lovely to finally meet another one of my internet friends in real life for the first time.

2015-08-13 17.14.27There was a bit of back and forth across Commonwealth Bridge as I went up to Parliament House for a second time on the same day. Been a regular up there when it is sitting time.

2015-08-13 19.32.41Jude and Zac have been doing some practice together and are starting to get much better at playing duets. Well, sometimes they do playing horribly out of step with each other, but when they do hit it, it is great.

2015-08-13 19.55.35New Arkham Horror expansion, new fun times. And we won which was outstanding.

Sebastian has been playing indoor cricket with his usual cricket team on Friday nights. Usually James takes him, but I did my first time this week. I truly didn’t understand what was happening at all, but Sebastian’s team won.

2015-08-15 08.56.46Here’s Jude making breakfast for himself before hockey and waiting for the toast to cook. He was really enjoying this book.

Jude and I walked in to ANU for hockey and where they won, and then headed past this creek-side art on the way back home via Lonsdale Street.

2015-08-15 11.23.34We stopped at LSR. Jude had recently tried some coffee gelato and really liked it, so he wanted to try coffee (decaf version). I suggested that a mocha might perhaps be a better option. Jude discovered that coffee is really strong and really bitter. I think he might be reverting to hot chocolates for a while.

We hadn’t done a big supermarket shop for a while, so Jude and Zac and I did a mammoth one. I think we will be fine if the zombocalypse happens soon.

2015-08-15 17.19.20The days are definitely getting longer.

2015-08-15 17.24.47Jude went a did a bit of busking late Saturday afternoon. On our first attempt, we found that his spot had been taken by a younger girl with a violin. We came back an hour later and he spent 40 minutes. He picked a good time – I had thought he had done well last time with a haul of $4oish, but this time he made over $60 in 40 minutes.

2015-08-15 17.45.57On Sunday I decided that despite my various injuries, I should rouse myself from my sloth and go for a ride. So I did 24 km of lake.

George is funny sometimes. He doesn’t get to come into our room at night, but our bed and its afternoon sun is one of his favourite spots. I’m pretty sure this look means “I thought we had a deal, yours at night, mine in the afternoon.”

2015-08-16 14.09.10

2015 weeks! #30: in the end there is a lot of wine

2015-08-03 08.33.59Another Monday, another walk to school with Jude.

On Tuesday it was both Jude and Zachary.

2015-08-04 08.44.36And still jolly cold.

2015-08-04 09.03.45Tuesday I flew up to Sydney for the farewell for the Skillaroos – our Australian team to compete at Worldskills. There are 26 of them competing across everything from hairdressing, restaurant service, IT and manufacturing. It was lovely to see Jessica Martin, a former silver medal winner at Worldskills – Jess has come to India with us to demonstrate her skills – as well as a bunch of other people from the sector. Fingers crossed that the team will do well – we have usually been in the top 10, but slipped to 13. In order to be selected, the competitors have to go through regional and national competitions, then spend a lot of time training outside their usual training to ensure their skills are honed. There was also a wonderfully entertaining speech from Paralympian Sam Bramham – I recommend hearing him if you ever get the chance.

Still wearing my brace when I could get away with non-standard work shoes, I went usually colourful. It is also a year since i was in Tasmania with Sebastian and bought this skirt.

2015-08-05 10.41.12In the continuing-cold theme, Sebastian found a chunk of ice when leaving the house.

2015-08-06 08.20.43Thursday was a meeting and lunch with the Chinese Embassy folk, so I thought I had better wear appropriate footwear. My ankle does seem to have gotten a bit more back to normal.

2015-08-06 08.53.36Walking home – at least the sunset is getting later now.

2015-08-06 17.25.55Zac spent some time constructing his birthday Bionicles.

2015-08-06 17.53.38D&D! Although we are still less regular than we used to be, we are managing to play still reasonably often.

2015-08-06 21.53.02Friday night Jude and Sebastian were off at a birthday party, so I met James and Zac for Grease Monkey burgers. Very good but not the amazingly amazing burgers I had been led to believe. Still would definitely do again – especially once they have the outdoor area licenced.

2015-08-07 18.06.10A surprise thank you bottle of wine in the mail from Hugh Hamilton was rather a bonus.

2015-08-07 18.48.25George does rather enjoy lolling on the couch. I think he was as appalled by the cricket as we were.

Saturday morning and Jude, Sebastian and I walked to Jude’s hockey. His team have been doing very well this year.

2015-08-08 11.18.06Then it was derby training time.

A big highlight for the week was the annual Black Sheep lunch at the Boathouse with lots and lots of Hugh Hamilton wines. It was a glorious day, the food was outstanding, the wine excellent and we enjoyed ourselves immensely.

After a brief snooze on the couch, Jude, Zac and I caught a taxi over to the Indonesian Embassy for a shadow puppet show: Gugurnya Gathutkaca – The Fall of Gathutkaca. The boys have been studying shadow puppets at school, so when I got the invitation I figured it wa an excellent opportunity. The performance was quite entrancing and it is interesting that the tradition involves the same kind of slapstick fools to lighten up the mood as you see in a Shakespearean tragedy. Much fun.

2015 weeks! #29: eating and drinking and fat ankles

2015-07-27 08.34.40Another Monday morning walk to school for Jude and me.

2015-07-27 18.47.45I was planning on cooking dinner Monday night but the meat was off and I had to go and catch a plane after, so we went and tried out the Schnitzel Haus on Lonsdale Street. Verdict: excellent parmigiana, would eat again.

2015-07-27 19.43.53Night flight to Sydney to avoid super early departures the next morning.

Next morning it was off to Sydney TAFE for a Global Skills Roundtable and student consultation with the Minister. We also did a bit of a tour of the TAFE afterwards and saw the floristry students and visual merchandising areas.

Was feeling and looking a bit disheveled by the time I got home.

2015-07-28 16.35.39Fortunately, a negroni will help with that.

2015-07-28 17.49.47Next day was an attempt to wear actual work-appropriate shoes with the ankle compression bandage.

2015-07-29 12.53.22Was excited to receive my Pozible delivery of Poor Tom’s Gin. Because I didn’t have enough gin in the house already…

2015-07-29 18.34.20More exciting stockings with fat ankle.

2015-07-30 08.37.00Zachary was doing some cooking with some expert assistance from Sebastian. Together they cooked up some cupcakes for Zac to take to school to share with his class.

Meanwhile, I went to a VDL Quiz Night.

Friday I was back in sneakers with my new elaborate ankle brace. Let me assure you, the ankle hasn’t really been very painful and I have been walking a lot.

2015-07-31 11.34.29It was derby shirt Friday so I was supporting my (second) favourite men’s team.

2015-07-31 15.22.56Friday night we finally had Zachary’s delayed birthday party (we wanted to avoid school holidays, then needed enough lead in time for invites etc). Like Sebastian, he chose a Zone 3 birthday. I got to play when they were one short of three even teams, much to my delight. We started with a Girl Power! team which one of them named the Rainbow Farting Fluffy Unicorn Team.¬† I could live with that. Anyway there was shooting and pizza and a variety of fun times. Afterwards, James and I escaped to a more civilised birthday celebration – dinner at the Chairman and Yip to celebrate Andrew Vance’s birthday.

Saturday I made tomato and lentil soup for lunch.

2015-08-01 12.42.48It was then off to skating for the boys. I miraculously didn’t have work I needed to do, so got to enjoy my book.

2015-08-01 14.37.53The afternoon involved a complex set of maneouvres post-derby as we had to drop Zac at the theatre, Jude at a friend’s for a sleepover and eat before going to see Zac’s performance. Sebastian and I ended up eating dinner at Spicy Ginger.

2015-08-01 17.50.53We then went and saw Zac in his on-stage performance debut with the Turner Trebles and a number of other choirs at the Street Theatre.

2015-08-01 20.18.55Sunday morning was cold and wet and I was taking Sebastian to hockey. Fortunately it was somewhere I could sit and watch under cover.

Sebastian made his second batch of ice cream – vanilla this time.

2015-08-02 11.05.57And Jude showed some drawing prowess.

2015-08-02 13.03.31

2015 weeks! #28: winter and bad ankles

2015-07-20 08.09.19This has been a super cold winter in Canberra and frost has definitely been the norm rather than the exception. Another cold morning to begin the week.

2015-07-20 17.30.03Back in the office after a week overseas I was very excited to find (work) James had completely cleaned my desk. I don’t think it has looked like this since we moved in.

2015-07-20 18.11.53This semester (home) James has lectures until 5.30pm. We met on the way home for a sneaky beer together, coming home to find that the boys had done a good job preparing food ready for cooking dinner and Sebastian had made lemon pudding because he was bored with playing computer games. Very delicious lemon pudding. Having a small boy who loves to cook in the house is excellent.

2015-07-20 19.56.50Tuesday night I was back at derby for scrim. Towards the end I had an awkward fall, and for a short period of time was worried that I had done something quite serious to my ankle. After two hours in Casualty with James though, I realised the pain wasn’t that bad, I could walk on it and the swelling hadn’t got any worse, so we bailed and went home. As it turns out, it was sprained – a bit of ligament damage but nothing super serious. Very glad we didn’t stay at Casualty til 2am to discover that.

2015-07-21 21.17.50Hairdresser the next day. Learnt that Axis Hair, my regular hairdresser for a super long time, have just joined Sustainable Salons and now something like 95% of their waste, including hair, is recycled or reused. This is excellent news, particularly if you have as many foils in your hair as I do each year. Brilliant to see some entrepreneurialism, environmentalism and social conscience all working together. And my hair also got quite blonde.

What happens when automatic mail servers go wrong.

2015-07-23 08.59.03Sebastian was back cooking more later in the week. His new challenge for himself – icecream.

2015-07-23 20.26.31 We got back to a bit of adventuring. Our (currently) Thursday night campaign stretches way back into the past – the beginning of the campaign started 9 years ago. We’ve had secondary characters for five years and our newest set of characters who interact in the same world have been around for a couple of years now. It does mean we are all quite fond of our characters nowadays – and there are lots of complex, layered campaign in-jokes.

2015-07-23 20.46.03While much of the weather has been frosty and clear, there has also been a fair bit of foggy and freezing too.

2015-07-24 08.16.16I love this particular decorating of the bin area on Lonsdale Street. Oscar would approve.

2015-07-24 09.30.03With a swollen ankle and compression bandage, I’ve been sticking mostly to wearing my converses or the like at work. Also I figured flat is better until the ankle heals a bit. Fortunately though, the sprain hasn’t really stopped me walking on it at all.

2015-07-24 11.01.28Friday night, impromptu dinner at Elk & Pea. Because we can.

Sebastian’s caramel icecream tasted good, even if he was unhappy with it because he had slightly burnt the caramel. it went quickly though.

2015-07-24 21.13.23Saturday morning was time for Jude’s hockey. Sebastian came along to watch and hang out with his hockey friends. Jude’s team have been having an excellent season and won another game.

Afternoon was time for some boys on skates.

Winter evening coming on with bird and moon. I do like the look of bare branches against the sky.

2015-07-25 16.58.25Time for a lovely wine with dinner.

2015-07-25 17.41.11The boys were off screens for a few hours. Jude decided to try making a zombie hand, which sadly didn’t work too well, but he had fun in the process.

2015-07-26 10.11.11My foot and ankle was looking well bruised by Sunday. Fortunately looked a lot worse than it felt.

2015-07-26 10.35.31An afternoon at home – why not make gnocchi? Delicious once fried in butter. Sebastian isn’t the only one who can do fun cooking things.

2015-07-26 15.29.33

2015 weeks! #27: China, Korea then collapse in exhaustion

2015-07-13 20.52.02After all day in flight and transit, here we were in Beijing. Everyone wanted to go out and explore, so we found ourselves wandering the hot hot streets of Beijing at night.

We decided against trying the scorpions – I wasn’t letting anyone eat street food on the first day of a busy four day trip. Also some of those scorpions were still wiggling.

We did find a little place where we tried locals foods from the menu that included such delights as “fuel consumption of lettuce” and “glutinous frog” and “roumo acid cowpea” – whatever that is.

2015-07-13 21.18.12 The next morning it was up early and into the official program, starting with meeting the Chinese Vice Minister for International Education Cooperation and then the Minister opened the forum we had organised with the Chinese Ministry of Education (note my translation headphones for Chinese speakers).

During the night, in the dark, at 5am, I had completely misjudged where the edge of my bed was and fell while getting up hitting my head on the wall. In the morning it was clear I was developing an excellent bruise.

2015-07-14 10.31.49After opening the conference we were off to meet the Vice Minister for Vocational Training at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security. Somehow after I mentioned jewellery making we got to the point where Minister Birmingham invited Vice Minister Tang to visit Coober Pedy (hope i can go on this hypothetical visit too – I’ve been interested in visiting Coober Pedy since reading The Fire in the Stone).

2015-07-14 11.35.23From there, it was lunch in the car en route to Huawei.

2015-07-14 11.52.47I loved the visit to Huawei. Such exciting technology and ideas. The whole Internet of Things – billions of internet connections for things, not people. The idea your pot plant might be able to tell you how much water it needs (finally a way that I might be able to keep a pot plant alive) and a fridge that orders food itself. The telepresence we did with students in Shenzen was also super cool. I completely geeked out over the whole thing,

2015-07-14 12.45.15

I really liked their smart watches too.

2015-07-14 13.32.02Afternoon tea there stepped away from the technology into old fashioned elegance.

2015-07-14 13.36.01Because some meetings were rearranged, we had about one free hour, so we went and climbed to the top of the only hill in Beijing in 39 degree heat and looked at the Forbidden City. The Minister offered to take my photo for me but I had to explain I had a whole selfie aesthetic going on.

2015-07-14 15.23.59

2015-07-14 15.21.19Back to the hotel for a quick change and off to the evening function with people from the Forum and alumni and other relevant folk at Capital M.

The location was just off Tienanmen Square so there were some good views from the balcony.

2015-07-14 18.14.24After the official function was over and despite the fact that the Minister had to be at a media interview at 5am and the rest of us had a luggage call at 7am, we decided to do a bit of shopping and ended up eating dumplings and duck pancakes.

Our Chinese colleague told us it would only take 20 minutes or so to walk back to the hotel – it ended up taking nearly an hour, but we did get to walk past a dark Tienanmen Square and join the tourists in front of the Forbidden City.

Here is the compulsory hotel window view.

2015-07-15 07.32.49It was then off to the train station and Shanghai on the very fast train the next morning. It was quite a comfortable ride. Because I wasn’t allowed my work phone with email for security reasons, there really wasn’t much work I could do, so I got to enjoy some time with my book. We took the train (which went up to 300kms an hour) rather than fly because, with airport transit and waiting times it really wasn’t going to take much longer, and you can guarantee the train will be exactly on time, whereas the planes are almost always late in China.

I finished reading The Buried Giant on the train – it is rather a sad, thoughtful story beautifully written.

2015-07-15 13.01.04Finally we arrived in Shanghai.

2015-07-15 14.00.35The traffic was a bit heavy, so we had to race to our industry roundtable as soon as we arrived at the hotel.

2015-07-15 16.03.33There were a few minutes breathing space after this, and then it was off to a dinner event with Australian providers and their Chinese partners. We went to a restaurant run by an Australian called Mr Willis – food was excellent.

Official program over, we got to experience the “wow” of Shanghai by visiting the bar on the 38th floor of the Hyatt.¬† Amazing views.

2015-07-15 22.08.25 2015-07-15 22.26.58Tara who also travelled with me to India last year and I had to take a trip selfie. This was a good location for it.

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We were up early the next morning. I loved the jellyfish tank in the breakfast room at the Westin.

Also had the day time view of the Pearl.

2015-07-16 07.36.59My hotel room window view wasn’t shabby either.

2015-07-15 17.47.00Shanghai, in our extremely brief visit, is rather an impressive city if big exciting buildings impress you (I love them).

2015-07-15 18.12.41We headed off to the Shanghai Pharmaceutical School – they have a collaboration with Box Hill TAFE.

We each had our own guide – mine was Dragon – his name is “Lung” which is the Chinese word for dragon.

2015-07-16 09.12.28From there it was straight off to the airport and take off to Korea. Our plan got delayed on the runway, so we ended up an hour late in Seoul and the traffic didn’t cooperate, so were just under half an hour late for our industry roundtable there. The Minister went for an interview after but I went straight to the dinner function which was in a room at the Grand Hyatt with a spectacular view.

2015-07-16 18.28.48Dinner had all the usual formalities – but being in Seoul meant I got to sit at a table with the Korean folk I have worked with over the last three years and whose company I really enjoy. Even got to catch up with a couple of people we haven’t seen for a while.

2015-07-16 19.23.20

The view got no less spectacular when it got dark.

2015-07-16 20.52.56After the formalities were done, we went for a walk in Itaewon – the local area around the hotel. Ravi, the Deputy Ambassador, decided to take us on something of a death march and when we finally begged to stop for a beer, this was where we ended up.

2015-07-16 21.48.03Drinking this…

2015-07-16 21.55.44We went on to find a bit more Itaewon Street life after that break.

Here is the view from my Seoul hotel window.

2015-07-17 06.19.24

We were out of the hotel by 7.20am to catch the fast train I caught a couple of weeks ago to visit the Korea Polytechnics- Sydney TAFE collaboration.

It was a good visit with hearing about what they do and seeing the classrooms in action.

2015-07-17 09.16.17Back to Seoul for lunch before heading off to the Seoul Robotics High School. Before that, a random street scene in Seoul (that’s the Olympic cauldron).

2015-07-17 13.20.59And now, Seoul Robotics High School. The work done by the students was very impressive. I was completely devastated though – I got caught giving out kangaroo and koala pins to students and lost track of the rest of the party, and missed out on seeing ROBOTS DANCING TO K-POP. Another time, I guess.


We then had two meetings with Vice Ministers  РEmployment and Labour and then Education Рand then it was time to head out of town and to the airport.

2015-07-17 17.56.42It was an action-packed week. On the plane home I decided to decline breakfast to sleep for the extra hour.

2015-07-18 10.17.41Amazing view of the Lake George windfarm as I flew back into Canberra.

2015-07-18 16.36.11I got afternoon tea after an afternoon nap.

2015-07-18 16.50.10My head bruise had coloured up nicely.

2015-07-18 17.33.38Given the timing of my return, it really wasn’t feasible to make it up to Sydney for the final round of 5×5. So instead I watched it on TV (via the internet). We played outstandingly.

2015-07-18 21.27.17George wasn’t keen to let me read.

2015-07-19 12.26.34Carnage training got cancelled due to a high level of non attendance so I got to blow out the travelling cobwebs with a bit of skating with Jude and Sebastian and James and Thuggs.

2015-07-19 14.04.50Zac was meanwhile being transformed into a cheetah at his best friend’s birthday party.

To finish the weekend, some D&D. I was ready for bed though, quite early.