Things this trip taught me

A souvenir shop's garden
A souvenir shop’s garden
  • If I pack three pairs of ‘pants’ (one skirt, two pairs of shorts) – then I need the same proportion of tonal knickers (cause I’m like that!).  I didn’t have enough light toned knickers, but Uni Qlo to the rescue…
  • Synthetic pockets in my white shorts – need replacing stat!
Inside the moss garden
Inside the moss garden
  • I had the least luggage, but could have wedged in a few more light/thin t shirts of similar – not that I owned something I ‘should’ have packed
  • I’m incredibly well travelled, and actively seeking to learn and work things out. I did NOT like my discovery being short cut by a friendly helper I’m travelling with, but I love to teach when people are interested (like teaching Japanese characters to the girls)
Moss garden
Moss garden
  • I love to write – I wrote daily emails, AND a handwritten journal, which I bought some great scrap booking stickers for in Kyoto – mighty proud!
  • I’m not the most obsessed about wifi or internet! At least in this group of 12!
Gift shop after moss garden
Gift shop after moss garden
  • Handbags really are the best way for me to day trip – easy to get tickets out repeatedly, small and therefore light, and had a light bag in there for ‘shopping’.  Someone pointed out it was getting rain in it, but seriously, it didn’t, and no zip didn’t worry me in Japan!
  • Runners are way more supportive than $4 canvas slip on runners.
Bamboo
Bamboo
  • The smell of cigarette smoke is pervasive, and smoking is still quite acceptable in Japan (with smoking rooms quite common).  Three nights in a formerly smoking room was a little unpleasant :s
IN THE BAMBOO FORSET
IN THE BAMBOO FOREST
  • You are automatically charged for plastic bags at grocery stores, but at convenience and all other stores, it’s the default way to show you paid for something.  If you mime you don’t want a bag, plastic branded tape is placed over all items’ barcodes!

 

As soon as I hit publish, I’ll think of more things! But that’s ok, blogs are living, I can update it 😉

What did you learn from your last trip?

A selfie a day

I’ve often travelled alone. I’ve often not taken any photos of myself. With the BF back home, and this echo of friends in the past, I implemented a policy of ‘a selfie a day’. In reality, some days there are a few selfies, and other days there are none. But you get the picture:

At sumo tournament. Incidently, I found out after the fact that my cousin was also there!
At sumo tournament. Incidently, I found out after the fact that my cousin was also there!
Floating temple in Kyoto
Floating temple in Kyoto
Ferry ride near Hiroshima
Ferry ride near Hiroshima
Me with the O-Torii gate
Me with the O-Torii gate
That's hot work, but shaved ice will fix it!
That’s hot work, but shaved ice will fix it!
Maple flavoured maple leaf shaped cakes. My guide didn't believe I saw them in the station, but I won that one!
Maple flavoured maple leaf shaped cakes. My guide didn’t believe I saw them in the station, but I won that one!
Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle
Me in a kimono in Suita City
Me in a kimono in Suita City
Golden Temple in Kyoto
Golden Temple in Kyoto
Modelling my provided clothing for our Japanese baquet
Modelling my provided clothing for our Japanese baquet
Me with the Maiko (apprentice Geisha)
Me with the Maiko (apprentice Geisha)
Hello kitty - at the sulphur hills near Mt Fuji
Hello kitty – at the sulphur hills near Mt Fuji
Moss garden in Kyoto
Moss garden in Kyoto
One of many Shinkasen rides!
One of many Shinkasen rides!

Do you have a favourite?

Japan’s differences in dot points

There’ll be many a post on my two weeks in Japan, but I thought I would start with the big difference I noticed and didn’t expect (like, obviously the language and alphabet is different!)

Lining up just so - no one had to tell them on the loudspeaker, like here in Sydney
Lining up just so – no one had to tell them on the loudspeaker, like here in Sydney
  • They are SO tidy – even though there aren’t many bins, you just don’t see rubbish lying around.  I saw someone *clean* the pavers of an ice cream drop or two
  • There’s no paper hand towel in bathrooms, almost across the board.  My eco conscious REALLY like this!  Instead, men and women carry handkerchiefs or what we’d call ‘face washers’ (terry toweling) and use it to dry their hands, or wipe their brow…
  • Japan is HOT! Wow, there was 95% humidity some days
  • They are such obedient people – they line up either sides of the train carriages in pairs.  Just such restraint.
  • Everywhere seems very visually cluttered – some many words in your face!  Negative space in print isn’t something that’s used as much as it could be
  • They certainly love a cute uniform with a hat!
Cute uniforms (there's more photos like this of different women in different places - this one was at an Aquarium)
Cute uniforms (there’s more photos like this of different women in different places – this one was at an Aquarium)

Just a short post for now, but I thought I should break my two week posting drought!

Japan packing

There’s nothing I enjoy more than some photos collages, and doing outfits ensures I pack enough. And I can easily get up and get dressed.

Denim short outfits
Denim short outfits

If you’re bored (already) can play ‘spot the repeat picture’ :p

White shorts outfits
White shorts outfits

These don’t include the ‘plane’ outfit.

Dresses
Dresses

The plane will introduce jeans, a cotton sweater, a scarf, my trench… and some level of short and/or long sleeved shirt/s.  And canvas slip on runners (often called Rabens here, which is a brand, though mine aren’t).

Outfits with the lime skirt (and one repeat)
Outfits with the lime skirt (sorry for the overexposure)

Oh and I threw in my white linen pants, cause it might be too hot for jeans, but in need of trousers?

Doing this helped me cut a long skirt I was planning to pack (nothing went with it, and I didn’t want to add what did).  I also culled a pale blue blouse, as it was too similar to the linen one I’ve pictured.  I photographed it!? I also had a baggy navy and white striped jumper, but it was likely to class with other stripes, and in reality, isn’t warm when I might need it to be.  I also had a blue and white kaftan top, that I stole from mum years ago.  It’d be great for a beachy holiday, but this, not as much.

What’s not pictured, but packed in my yellow carry on suitcase:

  • countless pairs of knickers
  • two bras (will wear the third)
  • bikini
  • leather slip on sandals
  • one book (the inside of the cover used to hide our modem!)
  • a duffle bag for ‘more’

What else, you asked? (you didn’t… my mistake!)

The other stuff!
The other stuff!

A lot of this I already carry around daily in my handbag! What’s missing, and will need to be packed on the morning:

  • deodorant
  • toothbrush
  • untinted lip balm (my handbag one has gone AWOL, so will use the bedside one on the trip)
  • wallet
  • phone & charger
  • snacks?! I did buy museli bars a week ago.  They are eaten hmmm I don’t want a third grocery store visit in three days, maybe I’ll make snack buying a cultural experience.
  • current reading book

Things I’m up in the air about

  • Should I go buy white canvas runners (mine are black), they are $4 from Kmart, and undoubtedly slave labour?
  • Should I take my running shoes (and socks, and perhaps an outfit for running) – even if I just wear the running shoes for day to day?  I won’t wear them with jeans on the plane, so I’ll have to pack them, and they are bulky?
  • Do I need more reading material? This might be an intense ‘tour’ with lots of talking, and little idle reading time.
  • Is taking a library book wise (I love liberating book space for other stuff!)?
  • Should I pack an umbrella – I often put it in the front pocket of my suitcase, and a few times, it’s saved me on arrival.

Now, I leave first thing Saturday morning, so tomorrow (Friday) night I need to

  • take out recycling (I’ve always been the rubbish person in this household, so best to leave with everything empty)
  • take the last of the compost to the community bin
  • empty bedroom rubbish bin (and weigh!)

That’s it – for now! You may answer some or none of my questions, or ask your own!

Half marathon – 12 in 2 list

Hot on the heels of my harbour bridge climb last Friday, yesterday, Sunday 6th July, I did the Gold Coast Half Marathon.

Talk about a busy month – between the BF cashing in his skydive, to me climbing the bridge (and having a fancy dinner), then the half marathon, and in less than a week, leaving for Osaka, Japan, I hardly have time for chores 😮

My running pal!
My running pal (still asleep?)!

My training program heading towards the half marathon was sporadic.  I had periods of very regular short runs, and I moved from a non runner to 5kms in a period of 12 weeks.  After that, things sort of feel apart, and my running routine was more ‘resistance to running’.  I managed two or three ‘runs home’ which varied from 6-7kms to 13kms, but that’s probably as far as I ran prior to the half.  So I always knew it would be TOUGH!

Usually, I run first thing in the morning, or after work.  Neither times, is it just after a meal.  Despite this, I decided I’d have porridge before the half marathon.  Perhaps a rookie error!  I’m pretty sure all that liquid was the cause of some serious cramping, or stitches I felt in my side.  I just walked them out, but it got to the stage that returning to running was a sure way to shake another stitch into forming!!

Derange 'why am I doing this' face - and we're in C starting group - ie not the slowest!
Derange ‘why am I doing this’ face – and we’re in C starting group – ie not the slowest!

I also run with a heart rate monitor.  This started when I started the Michelle Bridges 12 Week running program, as a way to ensure I wasn’t overexerting myself, and in the early days, I realised I was running at too high a heart rate.  I was shocked to repeatedly see my heart rate at 180 during the half marathon.  I usually want it to be under 172, and in training runs, once it gets to 177-178 I usually walk til I can bring it down.  In the race, I ended up employing the same strategy.

Those speedy gonzalas in front... at the start line
Those speedy gonzalas in front… at the start line

I hoped to run to my usual pace, which is about 9km/hr (5.6mph).  This would have been ambitious, but part of goal setting it to aim high!  This would have had me with a finish time of 2hrs 20mins. Thankfully, the very well organised Gold Coast Half Marathon has pace runners, the ‘slowest’ of whom ran at a target completion time of 2:20.  Sadly, I let them get ahead of me, and never caught up with them somewhere in the middle single digits of the run.

Proud father and daughter duo!
Proud father and daughter duo!

I was lucky enough to run the race with my father, who I ran with for the first few kilometers.  My father has run a number of ‘halves’ before, including this particular race when I was young.  It came as no surprise that he beat me, quite substantially!  He is slow and steady, but he NEVER walks!!  So my father finished with a time around 2hr10!  I however… came in at about 2hrs33 (by my timing – official timing below).

My stats
My stats

To be honest, I’m pleased I made it across the line unaided!  Was it a run?  Mostly not!  I walked a WHOLE heap, and I wish the pain I felt from the stitches, and later my heart, could have made it possible to run more of the race, but no.  That being said, I don’t for a minute diminish the achievement that is finishing a 21.1km course!

Dad's more impressive stats!
Dad’s more impressive stats!

A day on, I’m sore in my hips, the right arm (from the ‘strain’ of holding my phone… I prefer that to an arm strap).  Even my shoulders are achy.  And I spent the whole day after the run sore and tired! Tired beyond belief!

Views to die for!
Views to die for!

The only photo I wish I had to share with you is of my T Shirt – duly handed out once you FINISH the 21.1kms!! I did take this freebie (but not the medal) cause I am gosh darn proud, and feel I need proof I made it! I will wear it on (much shorter) runs in the future, to shock & awe!

Harbour Bridge Climb – 12 in 2 list

I finally did it! For a long time I’ve wanted to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge, so I made it one of my 12 in 2 goals (12 things I wanted to achieve in two years).

It's on!
It’s on!

I have an incredibly generous boyfriend who took the hints… and bought me a voucher for my birthday to use.

Onsie... unisex... with enough D clips so that nothing falls on the traffic below
Onsie… unisex… with enough D clips so that nothing falls on the traffic below

The frugal minimalist in me did NOT want to pay for a photo, but after reflecting on it for 5-10 mins, I went back and paid for one of the eight photos they took on the trip. Yep, no BYO cameras allowed… Cars below etc.

$15 to prove I got to the top!
$15 to prove I got to the top!

To be honest, I wasn’t scared for a moment!

Here’s the view of our bridge in the early morning…

Thanks former polo coach/ref... stole this photo he took today!
Thanks former polo coach/ref… stole this photo he took today!

Some pretty famous people have climbed the bridge – and some pretty famous people have had their affairs come to light thanks to being on roof top pools…! We heard some AWESOME stories from our guide Billy. The usually group is 14 people, but I was lucky to be in a group of 7 – a couple (with grown up children) for California, who had chickens. A mother from Queensland and her son (who’d gifted her the climb) from Sydney. And a pair of sisters from Sutherland Shire, who’d climbed before. One of the sisters was doing it for her 18th.

The things we were told!  For example:

  • It took 8 years to build, starting in 1929
  • 16 people died during it’s construction, which is NOTHING given they had no fall arrest or protective gear like harnesses.
  • Families were given £800 for the death of the worker
  • Only one person feel from the bridge construction and lived – using his tool built to break the harbour’s surface tension before he entered the water.  He suffered some broken ribs amongst other things, but returned to work 12 days later.
  • When it was designed/built, there was five cars in Australia, and one in Sydney
  • It was designed with two ‘lanes’ for trams, two ‘lanes’ for trains, and four lanes for cars.  It now has no trams and more car lanes.
  • This bridge is SEVERELY over engineered!
  • Almost all the steel came from England (which is comical given Australia’s large steel mills now!)
  • The large sandstone pylons are ‘hollow’ and don’t actually support the bridge as you might think

 

  • It’s 145m from water to the base of the bridge – supposedly a Defense Force aircraft flew under it recently!!
  • The bridge is currently undergoing a treatment to remove the lead paint, and have a permanent polymer coating on it.  The projections on how long the project will take to complete are astronomical
  • Before the ‘Bridgeclimb’ business, all sorts of drunken fools can and did climb parts of the bridge
  • You are given a breath test prior to getting in your onsie… no drunks on the bridge now!
  • You walk through a metal detector before induction.  My bobby pins were rejected, and I was given hair elastics
  • Everything you take up (fleece, hat, beanie (or toboggan?!), gloves are all attached to you.  There are significant risks to traffic below should things fall, and we were told of some horrific accidents
  • You get put through a test climb with ladders and your harness – if you don’t pass you don’t climb the bridge
  • Some of the walkways are wooden – which just blows my mind, given how wood can rot etc
  • The whole time, you are continuously attached to a line, that naturally takes you up one side, across the middle, and down the other side.  Not once do you get unlatched.
  • Riveters used to throw hot bolts to their mate – just incredible in today’s workplace health and safety conditions!
  • One guy climbs the bridge every six months when his wife comes to town to go shoe shopping. He’s now got a personalised onsie!

 

  • Tour guides are part time employees, some being teachers, lawyers, and our guide is a photographer the rest of the time
  • Billy, our tour guide, kept telling me I should be a guide – I’m really not sure why (I do know I spent more time in awe, than giving smart alek comments, which is usually more my style on guided tours!)
  • The busiest time of year is between Christmas and 4 January
  • The bridgeclimb is suspended for the NYE fireworks display and preparation, which you can imagine eats into the profits of such popular days!
  • Our guide told some amazing stories – such as guiding a blind person the whole way, with multiple guides used to share what he would see; another person did the whole ‘climb’ on their bottom with their hands – they had some disability with their legs.

 

  • There’s been countless proposals (and one the day we climbed).  Only one has been rejected, and the groom had filled the tour with his mates.  Talk about tense!
  • The best time to climb, according to two staff, is winter.  The weather compresses the air, so we could see the Blue Mountains to the West.  It is also more comfortable, with a onsie etc
  • The flags fly all the time, one of the very few places to fly flags at full mast all the time.  We saw the damage to the flags at day 12 of their life – the winds up there just destroy them!  Their is the state flag and the national flag up there most times, with the state flag occasionally being swapped for the indigenous flag.
  • The Bridgeclimb owner was rejected 4 times in his applications, and each time, with a list of concerns. Supposedly, to each list, he ticked each off, and raised a larger list of things authorities hadn’t thought of.  It is, without a doubt, an incredibly well thought out business, and nothing is left to chance!

For someone who usually has poor fact recall, I think I did well!!

Any questions you have, I’d love to know!!

End of Financial year

In Australia, our financial year ends on June 30.  As such, today marked the start of a new spreadsheet of my annual earnings.

For all the years I was a student (six) and the first two of full time employment, I used to work casual jobs.  Even when I started as an engineer, I continued to do one night a week of note taking at university for payment, and scribed for exams.  In actual fact, I was alarmed to move to one sole source of income!

Thankfully, I work in an industry where overtime is generally paid for, and on great terms.  Work that doesn’t come right after your normal hours is a minimum four hour payment at between 1.5 to 2 times you normal wage.

In the first 4 years of my career, overtime was widely used, and I benefited greatly.  In the past year, it’s been less plentiful.  In the past six months, I’ve been acting in roles where overtime is no longer part of the payment structure, however, I’m on a higher wage than my formal classification, so in my mind, I’m still ahead.

Being the end of financial year, I reviewed my earnings, and my ‘additional’ earnings, here’s how things look:

Gross salary to extra earnings
Gross salary to extra earnings

Now if only I had a wonderful little graph to show where all the benefits of the extra spoils went!  Undoubtedly, a lot went into savings, mainly onto my mortgage offset account.  And naturally, some would have funded my very imminent trip to Japan 😀

This is better than last year, where I earnt an extra 7.8% of my salary, and 4.7% the year before.

Overall though, I’m incredibly lucky to have such a great and well re-numerated job, that still allows me to give back my time and energy to other causes (church, co op, SES and other ad hoc things like the Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal).  I’m not actively striving to earn any more money, but appreciate every dollar I’m given, and try to be the best steward of my money.  Rest assured, maybe 1% goes on chocolate… maybe I should ensure it’s fair trade 😉  (Though, I usually just buy what ever is offered as fundraisers in the office!)

So you have the opportunity to earn more in your normal job?  Do you take on additional work or side hustles to earn more money?  Or do you find your salary is more than enough for all your wants and needs?