Monday Miscellaneous

I’ve been watching Wimbledon the last week. An 11-hour time difference means that I suffer severe “jet-lag” for about a week. It didn’t help that there have been the semis and final of the World Cup Cricket, also being played in the UK. (I only watch cricket when NZ is playing, and against the odds, we got into the final). So I’m hoping that I’ll be able to reset my body clock again this week.

Apart from our first few days back, winter hasn’t been very wintry, and I have to say I’m a little disappointed. I like to wrap up in coats and scarves. It has been several years since I’ve needed to wear a hat and gloves during our winter, and I don’t even know if I could find them now. Maybe I need to move further south?

I found my reading mojo again somewhere in Japan, after losing it some years ago. That has continued since I came home. After being well behind my Goodreads target this year (which was dramatically reduced to only 20 books after failing badly last year), I’m now several books ahead of schedule. I’m loving it; I have no idea why it has been so difficult these last few years.

Our oak tree that is just outside our dining room window is, of course, now bare of leaves for the next few months. So we have been able to see the tui flitting around in its branches or settling in for a long and loud choral session. It feels like they’re singing “welcome home.”





Pounding the pavement

Sightseeing in some cities (Tokyo) involves taking subways, which are usually convenient, cheap and easy to take. In other cities, it involves the adventure of local bus services, especially adventurous in places with different languages and scripts, though locals are generally friendly and helpful, telling us when to get off (Busan, Korea) because they can guess where we want to go! In many cities though, it involves walking, a lot of walking, and we certainly got our step counts up in many of the cities we visited in the last couple of months. In some countries, we can supplement the walking with taxis and cyclos/rickshaws etc if we wish. Walking in the heat and humidity is another issue. Coming home, though, we realised how easy it would be to lapse into a habit of only occasional exercise. So, on days when it hasn’t been raining, we have ventured out to pound the streets.

This morning, it was an absolute joy to put on my walking shoes, my cap, sunglasses and a lightweight walking jacket and head out. It was a perfect winter’s day – still, clear, cold but not too cold (about 11C probably). The greens of all our evergreen native trees were very green, the blue of the sky was blue, and the tui were going mad in the macrocarpa tree just down the street. The harbour was calm and blue, with container ships and ferries gliding across it. A few trees and shrubs were in flower – I don’t know if that’s by design, or because this winter has been unusually (or perhaps the new norm) warm.

School holidays started this week, so the park at the bottom of our street was full of boys at a football camp, whilst their parents were at work. A new home-owner was out digging up her garden, doing some serious restructuring with a pick-axe at this time of year. Another woman further on was pruning some trees, taking off major chunks. New parents ventured out of their driveway with their twins all wrapped up against the cold in the double pram.

I love walking in new places, to see new things. But it’s nice walking here at home too.

I’m ba-ack! We’ve been home for 24 hours. It always requires some adjustment:

  • Delays – it’s better they happen on the way home, than the way there.
  • Everyone I see looks familiar. That started in Hong Kong, when we got on our Air NZ flight!
  • Boarding an Air NZ flight feels like arriving home, even if we still have 10+ hours to go before we get to NZ, followed by more waiting and another flight before we’re home.
  • Unpacking and holiday washing is much easier when our check-in bags get stuck in Hong Kong. We hope to see them today.
  • There’s nothing like our own bed – though it is noticeably smaller than those super-super-kings they like in hotels in SE Asia.
  • That first glass of water, straight from the tap, reminds us how lucky we are.
  • I hit Peak Breakfast (after seven weeks of hotel breakfasts most days) a week or two ago, so the lack of a buffet breakfast spread, with eggs as-you-like-them, Asian and Western food choices, pastries and exotic fruit, plus coffee on tap, wasn’t a hardship at all this morning. (Usually, I can easily miss breakfast, but when travelling find I need the energy injection.)
  • It’s so nice not to be too hot!
  • There’s a real feeling of disorientation the next morning when our body clocks are still five hours behind. Everything looks slightly different, through a slightly different lens, the temperature and the air feel different (though the change is welcome), and even walking in different shoes feels odd.
  • Even though the house was clean when we left, seven weeks away means dust. Lots of dust.
  • We don’t even remember what we were watching seven weeks ago, so we don’t care whether the recorder (for our cable TV) worked or not!
  • Though that’s not entirely true, as last night we watched the final two episodes of GoT.
  • Oh yeah. I forgot my laptop takes AGES to boot up. It is six years old, so that might be my next major expense. And that brings me back to earth with a thud.

At the beach

By the time you read this, we’ll be at the beach. Precisely which beach, I might divulge later. The last time I was at the beach was over four years ago, at Byron Bay in Australia. We’d been at a family wedding in southern Queensland, and headed just an hour or so south to this relaxed spot. When we arrived, we grabbed some lunch near the beach, and sat at the table outside eating and having a beer, as a bunch of nude cyclists biked past. We took just a few days to explore the region, to relax, and to swim at the beach. It wasn’t a relaxing beach though – the waves prevented too much real swimming, and the beach didn’t have trees where I could hide from the fierce southern sun.

I came to love beach holidays when we lived in Thailand. There’s something about lying under palm trees and hearing the gentle lapping of waves at the beach. We’ve been to quite a few beaches – in the Pacific, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia, Spain and Italy. We have very definite preferences. I don’t want wild or choppy seas. It must not be too crowded or noisy. A pool is always good. The accommodation needs to be comfortable. Our favourite beach was probably Krabi in southern Thailand, but Bedarra in Queensland comes a close second, mainly for the bottomless Bolly we got at the time. Although at one stage we did come to question whether we had outgrown beach holidays, as I struggled with the heat, and began to yearn for cold temperatures and cosy hotels. That didn’t last though.

This year, after such a long break between warm beach interludes, I have big plans for our holiday at a beach. They might be a little aspirational. After all, I have been known to ambitious with my time in the past. (Or rather, to find I procrastinate writing a blog post when I should be doing something else!) So this is what is on my to-do list for my time at the beach.

  • Swim daily.
  • Take an afternoon nap.
  • Read a book, or preferably more than one. Finish said book.
  • Get, in this order, a massage, a mani/pedi, a facial, another massage. Throw in a dedicated foot massage too.
  • Set Beer O’clock at 11 am.
  • Indulge in happy hour cocktails.
  • Eat good food.

Yes, I know. Life’s a (cliched) beach!

Where life takes us

Tonight I had dinner with my niece and her husband. They’re on their honeymoon and are having a whale of a time, relishing new experiences full of energy and zest for life together. In contrast, my husband and I are more sedate, enjoying revisiting our destination after an absence of over 20 years, and taking things slightly easier, wilting a little in the steaminess of a Vietnam summer heatwave.

It seems strange to meet up so far from home, in such an exotic destination. The fact we are in the same town on the same day was entirely unplanned, but very welcome. They’ve both individually experienced tragedy and loss. We’re celebrating a major birthday, but might have been doing it another way if things had worked out differently. We never know where life will take us.

From the road

Thoughts about travel :

  • I’d rather take my time and be able to relax and people-watch than run around ticking off all the sights
  • Awareness of the people around you is only polite
  • A good museum is priceless
  • Experimenting with different food is great fun – watch the locals to figure out how to eat it
  • Beer is the same in every language!
  • Have the hotel’s name printed out in the local language for an easier taxi experience
  • Public transport is worth figuring out, to see the local people and – if you are using buses – to see the local neighbourhoods
  • A smile goes a long way
  • Take fewer clothes and more laundry detergent
  • Retain a sense of humour – it turns disgust into delight
  • Building in a little extra recovery time in an itinerary is useful as you get older!


Being thankful

I am thankful for:

  1. Being able to afford a new car when the old one was brought to a quicker death than anticipated.
  2. Being born in New Zealand.
  3. Air travel that allows me to visit the rest of the world.
  4. Tomatoes. Without them, the world would be a sadder, blander, less healthy place.
  5. Intellect that allows me to connect, to learn languages, to write.
  6. My husband.
  7. A good book.
  8. The fact that a good book is always with me when I have my phone.
  9. Technology that connects me with friends all over the world.
  10. Friends.