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Olympics: Rio Thoughts

I pretty much said it all four years ago, here and here, but there are a few things to add.

  • Google’s coverage of the Olympics was brilliant, from the detailed schedules letting me know when I could sleep and when I needed to wake up, to the minute by minute updates of the field events, with distances or heights, making it easy to keep track of the competitors and where they stood.
  • I love watching the long jump and the high jump, but I find it takes a bit out of me. I physically tense up as the athletes reach the take-off, and mentally leap with them, straining to propel them over the bar or further in the pit. I don’t quite throw with the athletes in the shot put or javelin, but almost.
  • Watching the triple jump reminded me of doing the triple jump at primary school, back when we called it the Hop, Step, and Jump, but in secondary school, the triple jump was only for boys, as it was considered to be too onerous or damaging for women’s hips or officials were worried that we would swoon between the Hop and Step or something. It has only been an Olympic event for women since 1996.
  • It was nice to see that the dignity my cousin’s daughter showed four years ago (when she was ousted from her place in the team by a legal technicality that had nothing to do with her) paid off this time, when for several days she became New Zealand’s media darling.
  • I applauded the advent of women athletes wearing the “boy short” style running pants, which looked so much more comfortable because they’re there to compete, not show off their bodies, and of course, I am still appalled at the variation in the uniform requirements for the beach volleyball players.
  • I now want to go to Rio, as I loved seeing the city – the rowing course was stunning, and the bonus was that the medal winners could watch their flags rise with the backdrop of the famous Corcovado peak and statue.

Outside my comfort zone

Recently, a post got me thinking about the benefits of being in or out of our comfort zones.

I was frequently out of my comfort zone when I was a child, whether it was performing at competitions or examinations, or speaking publicly, or meeting new people (I was shy) in pretty much any context. But the first time that I deliberately went out of my comfort zone, with no idea how far (or how long) I would feel out of that zone, was as a 17-year-old when – terrified but excited – I boarded my first ever aeroplane and flew to Bangkok to live for a year on a student exchange. When I think of that year, and of subsequent work/life/travel experiences, I have always wanted the new experiences – new lands, new people, new tastes, smells, vistas, cultures, languages, experiences, and knowledge – more, so much more, than I didn’t want to feel awkward, nervous, embarrassed, frightened, lonely, horrified, and above all, uncomfortable.

Pretty much every time I’ve done something that has been out of my comfort zone, I have – in the end – been grateful for it, meeting wonderful or memorable people, learning more about myself and other people and the world, growing in knowledge and wisdom and confidence.

I do like it, though, the comfort of knowing a place and feeling at home there, of having good friends and family around me, of knowing I’m doing a good job, of knowing I’m capable and stretched but not stretched to breaking point. But as much as I like being comfortable, I get distinctly uncomfortable at the idea that I will not have any new, uncomfortable, and/or daunting learning experiences that might open my eyes to different ways of doing things or different ways of thinking.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the benefits of being outside my comfort zone far outweigh staying in it, even if right now I need to push myself a bit to get there.

I’m currently wearing a scarf inside, as the house is slow to warm up this afternoon once I got home from spending the morning out at the gym (and enjoying a coffee, of course). We’ve had four days in a row when temperatures haven’t got over 7oC, and my weather app says that it is currently 4oC outside, but with wind chill feels like -1oC, and of course, on top of all that, it is raining. Yes, I need to be careful what I wish for.

On the bright side, today was a good day in my extended family, as  – after spending most of my schooldays hearing my name used in a mocking way – I could finally be proud to hear it called out, when my cousin’s daughter’s name was announced, and she stepped up to the dais to receive her silver medal at the Olympics. She won her medal in the trap shooting competition, a sport she took up when her parents were looking for a sport that the family could do together, including her wheelchair-bound eldest brother. It was perhaps a logical choice too, as her grandfather and my father and their other brothers and brothers-in-law were all keen duck-shooters back in the day, shooting for the dinner table, not Olympic medals.

The Olympics have only just started, and due to the time zone, events begin around midnight NZ time and run right through the night, so I suspect I won’t be getting a lot of sleep for the next week or so. I’m also still a sop, a sucker for an award ceremony, or the elation of an athlete at their great performance, so I have to watch the Olympics with a tissue box nearby.

Winter 2016

I’m still waiting for winter to really kick in. We’ve had some windy weather – I live in Wellington after all – some rainy weather, and some windy and rainy weather. But we’ve had some almost balmy weather, and with clear skies and bright sunshine. As I try to strengthen my foot – it’s taking as long as I was told, but so much longer than I expected –  I’ve been able to take advantage of calm, fine weather, and walk around the Bay.

Oriental Bay jul 16 ed

I do hope though that we get a few cold days, although I’m probably tempting fate by even saying that. I like to wrap up warm and have an excuse to wear a hat and gloves, and then I can truly appreciate spring when it arrives. To be fair, I could also probably experience much colder weather if I went for walks early in the morning. But I don’t have the same appreciation for getting up early in the cold and dark!

 

Social media (in particular, Fb) is pretty hard to look at the moment. There seems to have been an onslaught of divisiveness, and understandably people who are upset at developments want to vent about these, though I will say I have the most polite, most moderate Fb friends, who vent merely by posting interesting articles, or funny political cartoons or commentary!

But I keep going back, because there are always posts that make me smile, even the ones that make turn me green with envy, like the posts this morning showing dear friends having a reunion (without me), or the photos from another friend who might have been at the unofficial reunion if she hadn’t been in the Seychelles, and a good friend who is in Bangkok following my “Three Days in Bangkok” itinerary I wrote for her!

(I’ve just spent the last ten minutes searching flights to the Seychelles. Maybe I will have to add them on to my long-list of destinations on my travel planning list.)

There are two types of posts, though, that I particularly enjoy, no matter who posts them, and especially the comments.

  • Requests for recipe ideas that often result in ideas for something I wouldn’t normally cook.
  • Requests for book recommendations, as these regularly lead to me adding new books to my Goodreads “To-Read” list.

 

Obsessive travel planning

I mentioned a month or so ago that I’m suffering from the lack of international travel over the last thirty months or so. I’ve always enjoyed having something to look forward to, so – once we returned from Italy in late 2013 – not being able to even plan any travel has been quite tough for me. (I know, first world problems.) But I learned to put away thoughts of trips, safaris or cruises, road trips or flights, blissful anonymity in a strange place, or wonderful meetings with kindred spirits. Recently, though, we’ve decided that we should be able to travel sometime in the next year. My planning instincts have kicked back in.

Back in 2005, my husband and I were on holiday on Bedarra (or Bolly Island, as my friends dubbed it) and we were talking, as we usually did on holiday, about where we might travel next. We realised we didn’t have any clue. “Draw me up a ten-year travel plan,” my husband said. So I did. I just searched it out and realised that in truth, we only followed about two or three of the suggestions – Spain and Morocco in 2007, an African safari for a major birthday and wedding anniversary in 2009, and Greece and Turkey a few years later. We’ve since been back to South Africa, and also to a number of countries that were never on the list – Middle East, Poland and Slovenia – that we loved.

However, the travel plan had a lot of information and analysis behind it. I enjoy doing that. Figuring out where to go next, reading about destinations and getting those feelings of excitement and wanderlust is fun to me. After three years without an international trip (Australia doesn’t count, as I always say), it seemed that it would be appropriate to undertake a similar exercise now.

Some of the places which were high on my list ten years ago, even five years ago, have dropped off. Others are perennially there (US West Coast, or Scotland and Ireland, for example), but we just don’t feel the urgency to go there quite yet. Some that would inevitably be next on the list (Egypt, for example) raise issues of safety now. Would we be crazy to go there? Or are we being overly cautious? International travel these days seems to require a risk assessment.

Some entirely new ones (Myanmar, Namibia, and Iceland, for example) have popped up more recently. New air routes – Air New Zealand now flies direct to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) – or friends living somewhere exotic (Clare in Seoul) bring new opportunities that must be considered. Central and South America call to us, especially since I renewed my Spanish studies when I broke my ankle and I’m enjoying trying to improve my language capability. So many places to go, so little time, so little money.

Yet making the decision where to go next will be tough. More research and planning is needed. I’m okay with that.

I discovered Loribeth in 2010 or 2011, finding at the same time a woman my age who seems to speak my language. Along with some of my other favourite Friends-Not-Yet-Met, she hails from Canada, a country that New Zealanders always feel that we know much better than we actually do. So Loribeth teaches me about life in Canada, the freezing winters and the hot, humid summers, the huge distances they travel (she’s taking me – virtually at least – on a road trip right now), the busy cities. She’s a writer and a reader, and as a result of her reviews, many non-fiction memoirs have now been added to my To-Read list, to be tackled one-day-when-I-have-time.

We may be separated by half the world, but I feel that we have much in common. Like everyone I write about in this series, I hope to meet Loribeth one day. I suspect it will be in Canada or the US, and the fact that she lives in the same city as some other Friends-Not-Yet-Met and near still others just across the border greatly increases the possibility of a meeting. Still, I regularly encourage her to escape the harsh Canadian winter and enjoy a gentle New Zealand summer, including a glass of wine on our deck (wind permitting).

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