Friday, October 19, 2012


Wow – it’s been way too long since I last wrote about my adventures down under. So much has happened since I came back from my ‘winter travels’ that I’m not sure how else to catch up on the many tales to tell, but to give snapshots of the past 4 months. So here it goes:

July in Eire.

How do I begin with this tale?

Once upon a time…
In a land not so far from here…
There once was a girl who met a boy…

Really, no matter how I start this tale, the fact that the 10 days I spent in Ireland was a romantic fairy tale will be utterly blatant. But I do need to first lay some background tracks to give points of the story relevance.
When I moved to Australia, I was single. Free as a bird, ready to soar through countries and spaces unknown without a care in the world. I arrived in the Auckland airport, chatting to a girl I recognised from the LA airport, who was on my same flight. From behind our module of seats came a bright eyed, blonde North American who introduced herself as Rebecca. She had overheard me say I was moving to Australia without a job and without anywhere to live – so of course her ears perked!

Fast forward 2 months – Rebecca and I are moving into an apartment together in South Yarra (a suburb SE of the CBD) and are tied to the hip. I clung to her as my ‘first friend in Australia’ and she had been here for a year at that point – so was more than willing to show me around the town so to speak. On one particular weekend, we headed to a local pub to watch the rugby match. Clearly I had no interested in rugby, or even knew what was going on during the match, but it was an excuse to get out of the house and meet some new people. A friend of hers from work came for a bit, and then she informed me that another friend from work, Ryan, was also coming with a couple of his Irish mates.

Well, I’m always up for meeting new people, especially Irish boys with fantastic accents – so when they traipsed through the door, acting as suave as can be, I also played it cool, despite my giddiness inside. They introduced themselves, and just like any other time you are introduced to people – you shake their hand, try to remember their name, but 2 seconds later, you’ve already forgotten (especially when they have a name like Paedar, pronounced ‘Pah-dur’ which is ‘Peter’ in Irish.) Well there was name that did stick out, and of course it did, because it was Dave. How many David’s can I meet?! I mean – really! I shook off the thought and continued on through the night, not paying much attention.

Fast forward a couple of weeks – Bec and I went ice skating – and who else was there, none other than the Irish boys again. All I heard as I entered the skating rink was ‘Dave, Dave – looks who’s here!”
Forward another couple of weeks – Bec and I decided to throw a ‘North America’ party – and we of course had to host it at the Irish’s house, because the place was so big.

Now all the way to July 2012. Sitting on a plane, taking off to Dublin. Dave finally admits to me that he was planting seeds all along the way. Waiting patiently for the seed to take root and grow into a full blown love tree that I couldn’t shake. We like to reminisce about that first night we met – I thinking, oh great, another David. He was thinking, ‘Hey lads, Bec invited us to go out with her and her new friend Bethany from America. She sounds hot.’

He then had used his best friend Dave and his fiancé Sorcha to invite me to their wedding in Dublin so he could ask me as his date. I would just HAVE to go back with him then to meet the family!
So there we were – touching down in Dublin after a painfully long couple of flights. Meeting his mom and literally 20 minutes later, Dave rushing off to the bachelor party, leaving me with the family for the weekend while he was off with the boys. But of course I didn’t mind – his mom, Sorcha and I had a ball! The rest of the week’s time was spent shopping, visiting the grandparents, helping Sorcha with final touches of wedding planning, rehearsal dinner, wedding, day-after-the-wedding garden party (very Ralph Laurenesque).

Time flew entirely way too fast. It was just enough time to give me a taste of life in Ireland, and I have to admit – I’ve got the bug pretty bad! Every person was just brilliant. They were incredibly friendly, thoughtful and fun people. (I went for a run along the beach one morning – and stopped to have a chat with a lady for about 20 minutes about why I was in Ireland!)

So – it appears that I need/want to make my way back very soon - I mean, I became a socialite (known as Pocahontas because of my dark hair and skin)! So, here’s to planning my next trip back soon, which will hopefully be just as beautiful weather and romanticised as the last time (here’s to wishful thinking!).

August’s Winter Blues.

Well, I must admit – once I came back from all my travels to the US, KL, Singapore, Ireland, I returned to Melbourne and it was STILL cold, wintery weather. I was hoping that I had been travelling long enough that I wouldn’t have endure cold and rain, but alas – this proved to be one of the longest winters ever in Melbourne. I think I just came off of a high from travelling and I sunk into a depression. Not much was going on social wise. Work was ho-hum. And it seemed to rain about every day of that month.
I was pretty much ready to say adios to Melbourne, when Dave surprised me with a spur of the moment idea to go to Sydney to see Dave and Sorcha the first weekend of September...

September in Sydney.

So that brings me to September. We flew up to Sydney for the weekend – and there’s never a doubt that a trip visiting our dear friends Dave and Sorch won’t be a brilliant time. We had an awesome dinner and night out on the Friday and on the Saturday, we took the ferry to Manly beach where we hung out along the water all day long. The worst part about trips like that, is that we have to say our good-byes and head back to work.

Not a bother though, because a couple of weekends later, I was heading back to Sydney to compete in the Tough Mudder competition! There was  team of 8 of us – and through the thick and thin of 20 kilometers of running, mountain trails, obstacles, mud, mud and even more mud, we stuck together as a team and finished 5 hours later!! The day after the race, we hung out at the beach, went to see the Opera house, and sat around the Botannical gardens (getting stuck at the airport with a threat to have to sleep in the airport for the night was only a side issue).

I could feel spring in the air – the warmth was in the air and the number of activities was increasing. I had come out of my seasonal depression, and all of a sudden, my email inbox seemed to be flooded with invites to different things going on for the next few months. Finally!!

October, Frocktober.  

One event in particular that I was excited to participate in, was Frocktober. Now, to explain, dresses in Australia are called Frocks. The idea of Frocktober started alongside an event called Movember.
Frocktober – to raise money for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation, individuals, groups, etc can pledge to wear a frock every single day of October and their friends and family can make a donation on their behalf. Many groups arrange Frock parties (where even boys dress up to get the big bucks donated!) There are a few of us girls taking on the challenge at work –and so far, so good. I guess I didn’t realise how many dresses I owned until I had to start wearing on every day. Some of them are a stretch to wear into the office (not really ‘corporate wear’) but I’ve gotten away with it – and have a couple more weeks to go!
Movember – Same concept, except boys have to grow Moustaches for the whole month of November – to raise money for Testicular cancer. Really, offices just start to look like one big 80’s dad party, but it’s pretty amazing.

Let’s see, what else has been going on this month? Oh – I finished my first 10k race since my broken ankle. Ran it in 48min 23 sec – which isn’t too shabby considering! I was very proud of myself.
Works been going great, all the friends are tip-top shape, the sun is finally shining – I really have every reason to rejoice at life at the moment!

Some big events (ie. My 25th birthday, the Colour Run, Thanksgiving, etc) are coming up next month – so many activities to look forward to!

So – hopefully this snap shot has helped to catch up wear I’ve been the last 4 months. So while the US is heading into Fall, Winter, I am in Spring, heading into Summer and couldn’t be more happy.

So until next time – sending everyone a bit of hot hot Australian sun and big hugs and kisses.

Friday, August 24, 2012


What a place! I was exhausted from 2 weeks of classroom training and running around Malaysia. The last thing I wanted to do was more walking, but I sucked it up (because, well, there’s not too many times you get a flight to another country paid for) so I needed to take advantage. I landed about dinner time Friday night and was exhausted and hungry.

First things first though, I needed to drop my luggage to the hostel. With zero clue as to where I was or how to tell the taxi driver how to get to where I needed to go, I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. After what felt like an hour, weaving around the dark but busy city, we finally arrived on the street where the hostel was supposed to be located. The driver slowed down to a crawl, trying to spot the building numbers. Thankfully he spoke English and could understand that we were looking for a Hostel. He eventually gave the ‘ah-ha!’ and pulled up to the curb in front of a red door, tucked away in a dark alcove. Kindly, after I paid him and was pulling my luggage out of the back seat, he threw in casually (and quickly lost ALL thankfulness that he spoke English), “Oh, you’re staying right by the dead bodies!” Absolutely appalled by the statement, I frantically scanned my surroundings, trying not to panic, and that’s when I spotted what he was talking about. Indeed, my hostel was located directly next to the cities’ largest mortuary! I pushed the thought deep into suppression and made my way to ring the doorbell and then up the steep, narrow staircase to a rooftop terrace. In front of me, at the top of the stairs, were two large desks pushed together to create an ‘L’ shape. A man in his late 20’s sat behind the desk, scrambling back and forth between paperwork and the computer, clearly frantic to find the booking of the 20-something year old couple sitting on the other side of the desk from him. He politely looked up and told me to have a seat by a row of computers on the adjacent wall, that he would be with me in a minute. 30 minutes later, he finally escorted the couple to their room, folded some towels and after taking them back down to the couple, Finally came back to the ‘lobby.’

Logging onto one of the computers along the wall I was sitting by, he quickly found my reservation and informed me I had been upgraded to a ‘module’ bed. Didn’t have a clue what that was, but at that stage didn’t care – just wanted to put down my things and go in search for some food. I followed him down a staircase leading down the back to a courtyard, home to the washing machines and bathroom. We came to a doorway and he motioned me to take off my shoes before entering into the ‘bed hall.’ Turning the corner after a row of bunk beds, the concept of a module bed because extremely apparent. It was literally a wall of square, container shaped holes large enough to fit a single bed mattress. A lamp was drilled into the top corner and there were ladders leading to the upper containers. He brought me to the last bunk on the bottom right (happy to not have to climb up into my bed for the next two nights) and then he handed me a towel/sheet/tapestry(?). I’m still not too sure if I was meant to use the large sheet of woven fabric as my sheet that night, but I first used it to hang across the opening of the bunk so I could leave a few of my bags on the bed, concealed (there was a compartment under the bunk with a door to store my other two large bags).

Freshening up a tad, I left in search of some much needed food – but of course having no clue as to the layout of the city, let alone where or what to eat, I impulsively jumped in a taxi and asked him to take me to the harbour. Right, so the harbour (which I discovered after getting out of the taxi in essentially the middle of the road outside the Marina Bay Sands hotel) is mostly made up of the hotel and all its affiliate businesses (Casino, shopping mall, botanical gardens). The Helix Bridge connects one side of the harbour and has been on several of those ‘ top sites to see lists’ – and for good reason! The design, structure and lights make it look almost like a strand of DNA. Across the street from that was the parking deck for the hotel  - now usually a parking garage is not something to rave about, but the outside walls were fitted with metal plates hanging on steel cords, strung from the top to bottom of the garage. When the wind blew, the plates would begin to move, creating a ripple effect down the side of the building , and it sounded like waves rolling across the ocean. I was so in awe and impressed by the installation – that I had to stand there and watch it for a few minutes.

Realising my hunger, I re-focused my attention to find some sort of restaurant, but there didn’t appear to be much. I discovered the mall and thought there had to be some sort of restaurant or food court - and I was right. The entire basement level of the mall was a massive food court, much like the one I ate at in Malaysia. I wandered for a good 10 minutes attempting to scope out the menus at each of the stalls, when I spotted a guy carrying a large plate of fried rice – and that was it. My mouth starting watering and I had to find the place where he got it. Heading in the direction he had come from, I finally found a stall with the rice and some Chinese broccoli in oyster sauce (which is essentially soy/teriyaki sauce. Got my order and the set off with my tray to find a seat and that’s when I became extremely irritable. I walked with my tray of food for what felt to be about 15 minutes. Every table I walked up to that had an empty seat (there were table of 4 and large community round and rectangle tables), I would ask if I could sit and I was refused every single time! Usually an easy-going person, my hunger pains and my patience got the best of me so as soon as I noticed someone getting up, I swooped in and took their seat without asking and starting shovelling the rice in my mouth as quickly as I could. When my plate was nearly empty, I was interrupted by the loud coughing of a middle aged white man sitting across from me. Usually this wouldn’t make me blink an eye, but the fact that he was clearly another North American in a sea of Asians made the two of us stand out – and of course made me a target for him to strike up completely unnecessary conversation. He obviously had starting coughing to catch my attention, but as soon as I looked up he smiled at me and broke out into conversation, asking all the typical questions – where are you from, why are you here, etc. I was polite and answered with short, one word or sentence replies or nods of the head. Only when he mentioned he was staying at the Marina Bay Sands did it peak my interest – ONLY because guests have special access to parts of the roof that normal tourists aren’t allowed to visit. He asked if I wanted to see – and I jumped on the chance. Now no worries, I had my guard up and I had an exit strategy (because, let’s be honest – it was a bit dodgy and I didn’t want him getting any wrong ideas.) I used him to get to the roof and then I ditched! But I got to see the lights and fireworks show across the bay from up there, got to see the infinity pool that goes to the edge of the building, spanning the entire middle section of the roof, and I got to see the restaurant/bar that’s raved about. I was exhausted for my travels so went back to the hostel after that to try to sleep (leaving my woven cloth as my ‘door’ to the container, wrapping myself instead in my fleece.)

The next morning a different man was sitting at the front desk and he was extremely nice and helpful with places to see. I walked the opposite direction I had gone the night before and spent the rest of the day wandering the streets through Hindu temples, Little India (where I got lost and a bit panicked because it actually felt like the dirty/smelly streets of Bangalore with creepy men staring – but I did locate a highly recommended curry restaurant where I had a delicious chick-pea curry and naan bread served on a large banana leaf), China Town (hundreds of stalls of everything fake/cheap you could think of), all the quays along the river (lined with bars, restaurants and shops), and back down to the bay (to see it during the day.) There was a music festival on while I was there, so I stopped to listen to one of the bands playing at an amphitheatre over the water. While that was going on, there was simultaneously a tribute to the Singapore military happening in a separate amphitheatre a bit further around the bay. It proved to be an afternoon of entertainment of music, boat shows (military boats and dragon boats lit up on the water once the sun went down) and fireworks. Having to get up at 4:30 the next morning to make it to the airport, I decided to head back to bed – but happy with all the things I was able to see in just one day.

Catching a taxi which the driver was still on his rounds from the night before, I made it to the airport in plenty of time. Once landing back in Malaysia (I had to catch my flight back to Aus from KL) – I had about 3 hours to get to my next gate. Leaving customs to go back to departures, I just couldn’t seem to locate Air Asia’s ticket terminals. I finally asked one of the help desks and she informed me that they were in a whole separate terminal all together. My heart started to race a tad – so I left that building in search for where I was meant to be. I asked a taxi man if he could drive me to the Air Asia terminal and he told me I had to buy a ticket. What?! He pointed towards a building with booths for transportation tickets. The lady behind that counter said it was $35 ringgits for a taxi and it was about a 30 minute trip. AHHHH! I had just waisted about 25 minutes just to figure this information out – and not it was another 30 minutes to the terminal – and $35?! Stubborn me asked if there was another way and just pointed back outside to a bus lane that had a shuttle running and was only $2. Done.

I had ‘plenty of time’ still and the bus couldn’t take that long. Wrong. I waited another 30 minutes in that bus lane, asking every driver who pulled in if that was the shuttle to Air Asia. Finally the 10th bus that pulled in was the correct one. I paid my money, sat down and started panicking that I would actually miss my flight at this stage and be stranded in Malaysia. 10 minutes later we took off down the road and about ½ way through the journey, the driver pulled off to the side of the road, unannounced. What could he possibly be doing – but to my surprise, a large group of people appeared out of nowhere and started piling onto the bus, each one having to pay there $2 to board – which ate up another 15 minutes of my time! The driver pulled onto the road (counting the money he had just collected, while operating the vehicle!!) and about 15 minutes later, we had finally arrived. I was one of the first to exit and had to take 5, yes 5! separate escalators to make it to the departure floor of this terminal. Rounding the corner, I spotted the Air Asia line, only to see a sign that all Air Asia departures had been moved further down to one area – and when I looked, the line was about 150 people long. By this time I only had about 1 hour left before my flight was meant to depart, I had been up since about 4 that morning and I was starving. I was not in a good mood and I was too anxious and antsy to stand still. The line moved, slowly but surely and I soon had my bags checked and RAN towards my departure gate. Thankfully the gates were quite close together and I made it in time to grab a bit to eat, buy some water and send a couple of post cards to my family.

I slumped into a chair at the gate and could finally relax. The plane left on time, the flight was fairly uneventful and Dave was waiting at the airport to collect me when I arrived. I was more than delighted to be back, but was nonetheless happy to have been able to see two countries that were so vastly different than a life I had grown up being used to.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

This is it.

One year has flown by way to quickly. This exact time last year, I had finally just landed in Australia and had a chance to let it sink in that yes, I HAD made the move and there was no going back now. Reflecting back, there are so many things that have happened over this last year that I never in my life expected to happen. I mean, just take a reminding look at my blog's profile 'About Me':

As I left the Glory days of the University of Georgia, I embarked on an adventure that I soon began to refer to as "Stumbling Through My 20's." It seemed only appropriate to document these graceful moments of highs and lows in a sequence of chapters appropriately titled by the major surrounding events. I begin this documentation with Chapter 6: Stumbling Down Under. Although I will go back to write Chapters 1-5, I begin the tale here, with the greatest, most looked forward to, yet most terrifying event of my life: Moving to Melbourne, Australia for One Year. Over this next year, I am hopeful and anxious to meet many new people, work on a vineyard, travel, and most importantly, gather as many life lessons from these future memories as possible, to return to the U.S. in one year as a new and improved version of myself. Let the journey begin...

I know I've talked about this before, and I think this time, I can actually revise the facts in my 'About Me' to be more accurate, because obviously by the looks of it, I will be in Australia for much longer than originally planned. I haven't worked on a vineyard, but I have travelled, (I've unexpectedly met a boy!) and I have achieved the most important part - I have started to and will continue to gain as many life lessons as possible to take with me for the rest of my life. I have become a new and improved version of myself, but I am still continuing to grow, and I can't wait to see where I am at in yet another year.

Just to reminisce, here are 5 of some of the most important lessons I've learned:

1. Don't jump off balconies and miss the bean bag.
2. Patience. Doors that need to be opened will open in time. Fret and worry won't make it open any faster.
3. How to drive on the left hand side of the road (which in turns equates to escalators and the 'correct' flow of traffic on sidewalks as well).
4. IT language. Before starting at Accenture, I was lucky to be able to keep my laptop intact when it decided to freeze or shut all my programs down unexpectedly. I can now happily say that I am learning some valuable terminology and useful facts (including Excel shortcuts!) to help me in the workplace. (Don't you dare ask me to fix your laptop though. That's what Geek Squad is for).
5. Who my real friends are. (That may sound harsh, but moving to the complete other side of the world separates you from a place where you can have acquaintances who are there when you have no other plans. If you want to stay in touch with someone, you put in the effort to.)

I don't know where my life is headed, and I don't want to. I am so happy where I am at right now - not only from where I was just 1 year ago, but how my life is shaping to carry me on to the next adventure, the next journey. So as I said in my 'About Me,' ..."Let the Journey Begin..." , I now say, "Let the Journey Continue."

Monday, July 30, 2012

Food carts, caves with monkeys and even more falling.

I was waiting in the KL airport to head to Singapore for the weekend. I had heard rumours of fantastic food and shopping in this extremely clean Asian city– it has an extremely strict government that ensure rules (e.g. “No spitting your gum on the sidewalk”) are abided by. I had just finished a two-week-long training session for work. Not only were the 9 hour days full of Powerpoint presentations gruelling, we wanted to see the town during our evenings. I had successfully completely exhausted myself to say the least. However, I had met amazing new friends, from all over the world. I now have connections and invitations to visit Hong Kong, Thailand and Dubai. There were people there as well from all the major cities in Australia (Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Sydney.) The goal of the training course was to improve our communication skills, networking and learn the step by step processes of a typical Accenture project from start to finish. It was helpful in that there were certain aspects of even my project that I never really fully understood, and now the light bulb has gone off!

I honestly did not have a clue of what to expect KL to look like. Driving from the airport to the hotel, I was pleasantly surprised to see quite a large, modern city with nice shopping areas, beautiful hotels and clean streets, all surrounded by plush, green tropical hills. The people are a mix of Malaysian, Chinese and Indian, which obviously led to a very multi-cultural feeling in terms of the people walking around, the different varieties of food and the overall cultural feeling. There is also a draw of Middle Eastern tourism, so when walking down the street, I felt almost scandalous at points in time when wearing a skirt and tank top because of the number of Islamic women covered from head to two with only their eyes showing. However, seeing this entirely foreign culture to me was a draw to leave the hotel after class to explore as much as possible. Therefore after class, we typically went to the pool, and then headed on the monorail to Bukhit Butang, which is an area of town with huge shopping complexes. I envisioned dirt cheap deals, which we did find at the enormous shopping centre of Sungei Wang, but the quality was so poor, it was not even worth buying! (And after a few days of eating buffet, or at the Chinese and Italian restaurants located at the hotel, we were more than ready to venture out for some real, local flavours).

The Monorail
A massive food court spanned the entire basement of Sungei Wang – I have never seen anything like it. Food stalls everywhere! All around the perimeter walls, as well as filling the centre as well. Tables and chairs were shoved into any available space. Mirrored pillars helped bounce light around, attempting to keep it from feeling cave-like. The lights, smells and yelling of hawkers were overwhelming and almost had me in a panic. I was famished by that point and all I wanted was a big plate of fried rice, or something of the sort, to fill my stomach without having to question with every bite of what I actually was ingesting. Continuing to be drawn to the same noodle bar, I settled on a soup of vegetables and rice noodles. The friendly staff behind the counter assured me that there was NO meat in the soup (I am pretty sure I ate more questionable things while there, I just won’t think too hard about it). After collecting my large bowl and rounding up the troops to one, central table, I sat down to the steaming broth. It was quite tasty, (floating at the centre of the bowl was a mass of crunchy noodles that added a salty crunch), so I lapped it up in just a few minutes, only stopping to buy a bottle of water from a nice lady pushing drinks and sweets around on a trolley.
I must say, the food court experience (and food courts are a big deal in Asia, mostly due to the large assortment of cheap, Asian style cooking – I mean, how many different ways can you cook meat, veg and rice, but I digress) was not nearly traumatizing as I think I was assuming it would be. The food was not as scary as I expected and the people were eager to help you find something you would enjoy eating…
Eating from a street vendor, however, was quite a different experience. On about our 4th night in KL, a couple of the girls in my training class invited me to finally venture out of the hotel to see what the rave was all about with the ‘shopping and eating’ in KL. By my previous statements, you might be able to foresee that we did not stay long at the shopping centre due to the poor quality of these ‘bargain clothing items.’ Instead, we gave into our hunger pains and ventured down one of the side streets in search for some great, local food. Low and behold, we stumbled upon one of the main streets of food vendors and night markets in KL. Lights were strung up between the buildings; people were bustling with excitement of, dodging from one food cart to the other, inspecting the menus and gauging the quality of the food based on the number of people already occupying the seats set up at front of the stall. Carts piled high with fruit and veg for sale, as well as ones with rows of skewers ( holding assortments of meat, fish, veg, etc. meant to be bought and cooked in large pots of steaming liquid) were parked in any open space between the ‘restaurants.’ We chose one that seemed to have a good number of people out front, and were pretty much forced into that decision after the host saw our hesitation out front and grabbing that second, ushered us in amongst the rows of tables and sat us before we had even blinked an eye. A menu was pushed in front of my face, and before I could even grab hold to start flicking through the pages, the waitress flicked through them for me, ensuring she pointed out every ‘special’ on the menu. Another lady appeared out of nowhere to toss a bowl of peanuts and a different bowl holding jalapenos onto the table. The first waitress disappeared, bringing us back some water, wipes to wash our hands, and a couple of Tiger beers (the Budweiser of Asia). Leaving but a split second to ourselves, the usher lost no time in running over, stealing my friend, Marybeth’s menu from her hands, declaring he ‘needed to borrow this for a quick second.’ He returned a moment later, menu-less and announced he would decide for us what we would eat (we warned him against bringing meat), then scurried off to place our order with the kitchen. The food was surprisingly quite nice – we had prawns, Chinese broccoli and some fried rice.

Food Cart Skewers

We also had quite a bit of entertainment while sitting there, enjoying our food. It started with a man in about his 20’s attempting to ‘Wow’ us over with his collection of wooden fruit baskets that could collapse flat, or when popped open, resembled 3D apples, pears, etc. They were one of those hideous souvenirs that you would find hanging on the wall of your 80 year old great-aunts house. Next up was a 10 year old boy who stealthily stuck up behind us, placing some bracelets on our table and then turned pathetically towards us with his hands out, hoping for any amount of change we could spare for one of his creations. Marybeth had previously warned us against buying anything from them, so I guiltily shooed him away. An array of other beggars and street vendors sauntered by our table, and slowly as the sun sank further in the sky, the street was filled with hungry restaurant goers and street vendors. One man rode up on his push-bike (what they call a plain bicycle here), dismounted and leaned against the cart he was towing behind his bike. After adjusting certain locks and hooks, he sat down in a wheelchair that he mysteriously had produced and began making little metal shaped objects he was hoping to sell to passer-by’s. Out of all these entertainment acts, the most intriguing to me were two separate sets of people, doing the exact same thing. They were two different disabled people, being pushed by someone they knew alongside the tables of the restaurants. Strapped to the wheelchairs were large sets of speakers playing various tunes, while the person in the wheelchair belted out the lyrics to the songs through a microphone, also hooked up to the speakers. It was heart-wrenching, yet bizarre and almost sad that they had to beg for money this way. After seeing this, I selfishly asked if we could pay the bill and quickly head back to our hotel, I had enough of this whole other world of culture.
The bill came, and to our shock, they had charged us for those bowls of peanuts and jalapenos – we hadn’t even asked for them, yet alone eaten them! Even more shocking than that though – was the second item on the bill – the hand wipes the first waitress had brought to use with our drinks! We didn’t want to cause a scene (and honestly, they hadn’t charged us that much), so we politely paid for all of it and thanked them for the meal.

One evening, after class, we headed to view the Petronas Towers (‘Twin Towers’), which are magnificently lit up at night, the KL Tower and a couple of rooftop bars (Luna and Sky Bar). All of these are KL Landmarks that dominate the sky during the day, and even more so at night. From any spot, they are fantastic views of the city and lend for great backdrops for a night out.

Petronas Towers
On the one long weekend we had in KL, we trouped up to the Batu Caves. Located about 20 minutes from the city, there are two caves that draw a large number of tourists every day. The first is mostly one large cavern, brightly lit from all the skylights and the home to a Hindu temple that draws practicing believers for worship. Monkeys, actual, live monkeys, crowded the large staircase and surrounding trees leading up to the cave. They acted as sort of ‘guardians’ –stealing people’s food and water bottles straight from their hands when they got the chance!

The second is the ‘dark cave’ and is one of the most ecologically rich and most researched caves in the world (due to the number of species of insects, flora & fauna and bats). We opted to first have a look around the temple cave. Called ‘The Ramayana Cave,’ it depicts the story of Rama in a chronicle manner along the walls of the cave. In my typical nature, I was busy taking pictures of the brightly colored statues, paintings on the walls and fascinating people. Not paying attention, I stepped off a ledge that was literally only 1” high. The next 5 seconds were a blur and felt more like 5 minutes as I flew through the air, flinging my sunnies (sunglasses) and camera through the air, both skidding across the floor of the cave to stop about 10 feet in front of me. Biting my tongue to keep myself from screaming out loud in this sacred temple, I jumped to my feet (only then realizing how badly I had twisted my bad ankle in the fall). Looking down, I was covered in dust and dirt and had scraped on my knee that had already begun to bleed. How humiliating! Thankfully one of the girls in the group had a wet wipe and I had some hand sanitizer to attempt to clean my wound. If only I had something to clean away my hurt pride! Thankfully, it was time to head into the dark cave anyways, so I could disappear into the darkness and away from the stares of the 100’s of people also visiting the cave on that sunny Saturday.

The dark cave was fascinating and our guide was quite insightful on the facts and history behind the large, luminous natural structure. Bats flew high above our heads and the mass amounts of droppings they left on the floor of the cave was what made the rich environment for all the insects and plant life in the cave (the guide pointed out some of those bugs – giant centipedes and cock roaches crawling under our feet – it made me squirm at every breeze blowing across my neck thinking one had landed on me!) It made it all worth it once we reached the very back of the cave, to the one sky light – it was heavenly!

Leaving the cave, a few of us girls were feeling a desperate need for a foot massage with all the walking around we had been doing. We had heard about an infamous place that had an option for Fish (yes, live fish) to eat the dead skin off your feet! Such a gross concept to think about – but one we just had to try none-the-less. We found the place, not too far from the shopping center we had been visiting every day. Paying for a foot and back massage, we settled down on the edge of a pond and dove our feet into the cold water. Slowly but surely the little fish swam up and starting nibbling at our feet. It was the strangest sensation! We could help but laugh and yell out because of how bad it tickled. Thankfully when we were out of time we were rushed into a separate room for our back massages because just at that moment, a group of about 50 Asian tourists came in and all stuck their feet in as well. That was our queue! The massage did us some good – and we were back and ready for more exploring.

Training ended that second week and after an amazingly hilarious ‘Talent Show’ (we had been split into groups for training and each group had to perform an act) and end-of-training dinner, we had to say our goodbyes. I was off to Singapore for the weekend, but most everyone else was back to their respective citifies and home offices. We promised to stay in touch (and especially those of us from Australia) – it’s always great to make connections, not to mention some great new friends.

Back into the grind of work now after a 3 month whirlwind, I am focused and ready to step up to the plate at work, proving myself and asking for more challenges. Since May, I have felt unable to breath at times with: visiting home, two-weeks in KL/Singapore, moving out of my apartment (because Bec has now gone back to Canada), and then a trip to Ireland for our dear friend’s Dave & Sorcha’s wedding. I think after this week of organizing and housekeeping type things, I will maybe feel like I’m back into some semblance of a routine!

More stories for Singapore and Ireland to come…

Singapore Skyline

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Settling Back in Before Heading Back Out.

I had a tremendous trip home to visit my family and to watch my two amazing sisters, Courtney and Victoria, graduate from middle school and high school. In my usual fashion, I made my vacation anything but relaxing and slow-paced. I had too many places and people to see during those two weeks! Thankfully because of all the graduation festivities, all friends and family were gathered together so I could catch up at once (my voice certainly didn't thank me though due to how much talking I had to do!) I was able to see dear, dear friends of mine (Hunter even drove up from Florida to see me), watched Yacht Rock perform (check them out: Yacht Rock Revue. My sweet family celebrated Christmas in May with me since I was not there in December. Everything was perfect!

Just as soon as it started though, it ended. Good things are always like that I find. You are anxiously awaiting their arrival, you have the most tremendous of times, and then as soon as you blink - it's all over.

I boarded the plane on Atlanta with a longing tugging on my heart. I had to walk away, hearing my mom's words, "I think it's harder saying good-bye this time, because I don't know when I will see you again." And it's true - I really am not sure when I will be back in Atlanta again, but I will treasure that time I did spend with them until next time.

My flight back was less than perfect. Almost the same song and dance as the first go-around. I had to fly Atlanta to Houston, but because of a delay, I missed my Houston to LA flight, so I was re-routed through Denver. Thinking I was going to spend the day on Venice Beach, and instead spent it wandering around airports, I was even more anxious to get on yet another plane - and this time for 16 hours! This anxiousness was heightened by the 2 hours we sat on the runway waiting for an electrical problem to be fixed (which was effecting the air conditioning, so the cabin was about 105 degrees). Not something you want to hear before an around the world flight.

Thankfully though, I ate (well, tried to eat some dinner - all the vegetarian options they were serving was 'Cheese Cannelloni' which ended up being full of beef mince. Wonderful!). And then slept pretty much the entire rest of the trip, landing in Sydney. My final leg from Sydney to Melbourne waited for our arrival, so we arrived in Melbourne not too long after our initial time.

Sweet Irish Dave was waiting for me (even after his friends gave him a hard time by posting this on Facebook:)

We had a nice afternoon, catching up on 'all the news' (as my grandmother always says) over some excellent food at veggie bar (yes, he ate there for me!) But because it was already Sunday, I had to prepare for I found it tremendously hard to get back into my routine, and actually only got back into the norm this week (even after a public holiday for the Queens Birthday on Monday).
My time has been most spent catching up with all the Aussie friends (two weeks feels like a lot longer when you're away). Two weekends, I visited the Good Food and Wine Festival and the Mind, Body, Spirit Festival, both had a booth by The Chocolate Box - so was able to catch up with those friends.

Good Food and Wine had just what the title says - amazing food and wine.
Mind, Body, Spirit was a bit more eccentric with booths for angel wings, crystals, and detox remedies. I decided it would be a great idea to get a henna tattoo from a very kind Islamic lady (she assured me it would fade after a few days). It's still on my hand, and is very hard to cover up at work! Good thing Australia is a little more lenient on those type of rules in the workplace:

So, now that I'm back into my routine, I am about to hit the road again. Sunday I leave for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for two weeks of training for work. My last weekend, I am taking a short 1 hour plane ride over to Singapore for a couple of days. I am more than excited to have a whole adventure in itself in SE Asia - with of course stories and pictures to come!
As soon as I return though, I already have my mind on the packing I will have to do to move out of my apartment before July 13 (my house mate's job is sending her back to Canada earlier than expected).
But you know - life throws you curve balls, and instead of ducking and crying - you swing and hope for the best!

See ya after KL!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Awakening of a City

There’s nothing quite like watching a sleepy city come tolife. This morning, I woke up before the sun and headed into the CBD. Sittingat a coffee bar with a steaming latte in my hand, I watched figures appear outof the darkness from all directions. Slowly making their way towards theirmarked stalls among the many rows of silver metal containers, they soon would transformthe emptiness into the bustling aisles of the Queen Vic Market. One at a time,tarps were raised, fruit and veg was arranged in brightly coloured rows, clothingwas hung up with large ‘Winter Sale’ signs, cheap jewellery was lined intogleaming rows and Aussie knick-knack souvenirs were piled up into massive heaps.As the sun began to rise, taking the chill out of the air and streaming lightinto the large, covered bazaar, the chatter and banter steadily gained volumeuntil it became a dull roar.

Finishing the last sip of my coffee, I wished the baristas agood ‘aye and ventured over to one of the flower stalls where a large bucket ofsunflowers had caught my eye. Naturally, I had to buy one – because on thisbeautiful morning, it just added an extra reason to smile. I then turnedtowards those rows of hustling stall owners to pick out a few more little souvenirsto bring home. I could spend hours roaming up and down the rows, especiallytaking care at the fabric stall where I admire all the new bolts that have comein since the last time I stopped by.

Unfortunately though, my time was cut short due to a thing calledwork. Making my purchases, I rushed down Elizabeth Street toward MelbourneCentral Station to catch the Glen Waverley train to Tooronga. (This has nowbecome my daily routine. I think for a later blog post, I need to remember totake pictures of the schedule boards at the train station to show you all theridiculousness of what some of the suburbs here are named. Things likeCraigieburn, Kalkallo, Nunawading, Woolloomooloo (yes, really) and Yarrambat.)

Today is Thursday and by now, everyone in the office isaware of my trip to the states. No, they aren’t wishing me travelling merciesand safe wishes. Instead, they are throwing at me their requests of gifts tobring back to them. So far, the list consists of: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups,Twizzlers, Levi Jeans, ingredients to make S’mores and aged whiskey. I don’t knowwhether to be embarrassed at how they perceive the American consumer market orthrilled they asked me to bring back these ‘treasured items.’

Well, about this time in two days, I will be boarding theplane in Tullamarine, Melbourne to head first to Sydney – then LA, then Dallasand finally landing in Atlanta. And I have to say, I can’t wait to see everyoneand hug their necks! And all I want as soon as I land is a Chick-fil-a Lemonade!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Thanks Monday.

Speaking of Lemon Awards (refer to my last post), I was about as engaged and functional at work as a lemon sitting on a kitchen counter. Thankfully, the day sped by and I was able to work out some frustration at the gym. Having not checked the mail box for a while, I grabbed the contents before heading inside to have a nice salad for dinner. One piece of mail for me, and here is what it was:

I have now been flagged for research by the "Trauma Registry." Well, I guess if my injury stint in the hospital helps better the Australian healthcare system, then it was worth something.