Impressions of a country

Travelling is so mind opening.  I had a robust conversation with a stranger about how you can think deeply about all the world’s problems, but you lose a level of perspective without travelling, and literally seeing things from another nation’s perspective.  Book smarts just cannot compare to being immersed!  I notice the tiniest things, the things that interest or appeal to me.  Usually things related to infrastructure – electricity, and waste & recycling… those sorts of things.

Here’s my thoughts on countries, in no particular order:


Holland/Netherlands: bike riders, great English speakers, friendly but somewhat… odd (it’s hard to explain), quaint flat country. Great stroop waffles ūüôā (on average) tall! beautiful country or village homes, land of tulips, clogs, Gouda cheese, many an EU treaty

Iceland: tiny population, stunning landscape, otherworldly, cheeky sense of humour, renewable energy superstars, puffins, wool, specific Icelandic horse breed.

Germany: efficient, incredibly rich innovation history (thinking BMW and Mercedes AND Audi, and there’s probably more), trains run on time (confirmed!), such a strong economy – which can match the ‘look’ of people.  Known for beer (not my thing).

France: great food, strong culture (ie less likely to lapse into English!), sense of style and fashion but also into garish bright colours, socialist structure even to their financial detriment, strong sense of what’s due and striking

Italy: great food, beautiful Venice – masks. Cheap for a croissant and coffee for breakfast, but generally too

Russia: unfriendly, cold people, interesting ‘look’ in people, dressy for day to day, amazingly ornate buildings and purely functional buildings, little ‘tourist’ focus compared to other nations, expansive

Romania: hot! friendly and open, laid back, rough around the edges with graffiti and aging buildings, 

Bosnia: hilly, tragic recent history, a country trying to forget and heal, diversity of being the cross roads of Europe – three faith groups, underdeveloped, real sense of diaspora

Ireland: drinkers, pretty green lands, expensive (surprisingly!), religious, friendly and humourous

England:  very like Australia, but with richer history and a stronger Indian etc population and influence, first stop for almost every backpacking Aussie!

Middle East

United Arab Emirates: wealthy, showy, recent growth and development, huge migrant population for almost all ‘lowly’ work, want for nothing (ie every global company that may have consumers is here), intense and ambitious plans for the future

Egypt: ancient culture and history, very protective of females (I needed an ‘escort’ to walk the streets in the evening), strong push to sell to tourists, incredibly hot in June, sandy, Coptic christians but largely Muslim

Morocco: may be seen as africa to others, but more muslim leaning aligns it with the middle east, snake charmers, red buildings and alleyways

Israel: strange to call in Middle East as it has such a strong non-Arab/Muslim identity, fierce people, strongly nationalistic, Jewish, hilly, rocky, diverse – green hills to the north and barren rocky desert elsewhere, salty sea vs most fertile sea, being in country changed how I felt about the place, and it’s history and it’s displacement of others,

Turkey: Istanbul – modernised Muslim culture, beauty beside the water, ornate tiling, chewy ice cream


Canada: nice above all else, maple syrup, moose, French speaking corner, intensely cold weather (though I did visit in summer!)

USA: huge portions, friendly and attentive service staff, sassy migrant populations, unhealthy food, low prices, tipping culture, cheap petrol/gas, driving nation

Bahamas: felt like an American outpost, strange lack of authenticity (I stayed a night though), stunningly pretty beachy locale

Cuba: intensely warm and humid, run down, old world patina, contrast of new Asian car brands to the known large American cars of yesteryear, cheap rum and mojitos, music in their blood – saw a band at a small beach, ho hum food


Indonesia: Bali – party hub for Aussies, mainly Muslim but Hindu island with offerings almost everywhere, including on footpaths, trash ridden, very tourist focused,

Malaysia: (from layovers only) Kuala Lumpur Muslim with a distinct fashion in head scarves different to other Arab nations,

Singapore: restrained, strongly policed (socially and actually), wealthy, steamy, limited land mass

Thailand: Phuket x 2, Bangkok x 3? beautiful curly script, steamy, orchids, party destination for backpackers, strong penalties for foreign drug crime, huge sex tourism, lady boys,

Laos:  Vientiane – crippled or fledgling, strong French overtones from former colonisation, quiet, sleepy, slow

Hong Kong: in 1993 – Chinese but English speaking and overtones from occupation, use of migrant labour for child care

Japan: strong culture, precise, exact, miniatures, infantile/childish interests, strong cartoon culture, cutesy, volcanic nation with hot springs and a ‘bathing’ culture, anti tattoos, delicious food, raw fish, sea or fish based diet, strong sense of community, challenging to visit for an English speaker without assistance


Santorini Sunsets

In early May, I headed to Europe, and back to Greece. I’d not made it to Santorini the first time – wanting to avoid the crowds. I absolutely splurged on accommodation. It proved a great blessing – my 12 hour ferry took 14 and arrived at 4am! It was so nice that the villa had arranged someone to meet my ferry and transfer me – and the reverse when I had an early morning flight to Budapest a few days later.

I was interested to hear the property manager speak very frankly about the island – he had a wife and daughter. He said the island is only good for tourists – there’s no future here for his daughter. Pregnant ladies have to transfer elsewhere to give birth. As beautiful as it is, I could see what he meant.

It’s incredibly picturesque, and I can see why people flock here. In high season, i expect there’s a stack of direct flights from all over Europe, to bring people in and out. I wouldn’t rule out returning, but I imagine there’s no lack of equally temperate Greek islands with fabulous food and less of the tourist hangover.

Fortune telling

I’ve never had my fortune told, or my card read, or a serious reading of my palm or face or aura.¬† It’s not surprising given I’m an engineer.¬† Telling friends from my studies I was planning to get my fortune told did some with some amusing looks!

However, across my two readings, I came to see how much demand and interest there was in these practices!

A dear friend of mine reads this blog, and has used my bucket list/s to inform her gift giving.  For my birthday in 2017, she intended a year worth of activities Рone a month, but alas life got in the road.  When she saw my renewed interest in fortune telling, by way of seeking recommendations or referrals, she promptly arranged me two readings, with a third possible opportunity.

My first reading was upstairs at the Argyle Oracle – a terrace lining a street in the Rocks, which has a great market every weekend – one I love to browse for souvenirs to take when I travel.¬† The ground level is a store of gem stones and books and tarot cards, and then upstairs there’s a number of rooms where readings a done by a range of people!?¬† I saw Camilla, who lead with asking my name and birthday, which resulted in some calculations about cycles and such – 6 and 9 featured?!¬† She also asked me to shuffle to decks of cards. She then took her magnifying glass and intently looked at my palms.¬† Interesting, she spoke of how two of the prominent lines on the hands are more separate in younger generations and she some how linked this to greater technology?! My take aways from her reading of my palm were: long life, good health, minimal dramas (comparing to others, not that my life will be without them!), that I’ll have three children, two boys and a girl (though it did feel like she started at two, and got slightly muddled around gender or birth order or perhaps even quantity).

From my palm, she dealt a smaller than normal playing card deck, in which certain sectors related to certain aspects of life Рthe top quadrant to my right was related to work.  There was a king there, and across that top row, a number of red cards.  This lay of cards remained dealt on the table, with the expected velvet table cloth, for the balance of the reading, and to the left, she made space where she dealt and re-dealt the tarot cards.

The tarot deck she used seemed to feature swords pretty heavily, and also what looked like sapling logs?¬† She dealt these cards in different configuration and quantities.¬† At one deal, she had three cards, followed by two more rows of three cards, and a few more to the side.¬† Initially she said the top row was 2017, followed by 2018 and 2019.¬† When I clarified we were now in 2018, she corrected.¬† And with that, everything shifted a year – womp womp.¬† It was with this deal that she spoke to marriage and children, who are coincidently gorgeous.¬† It does make you wonder if anyone would read and say ‘horribly ugly children’, right?¬† That being said, I suppose there are negatives that may be seen – health issues perhaps?

She spoke quickly with quite a nervous energy.¬† I was open to what she said, but I also wasn’t giving away great swaths of my life story either.¬† She lead with asking if I had any kids. I think she also asked about my work.¬† There were certainly some parts of the reading that sounded like common advice that anyone would give!

Much later, that same day, my friend had arranged another reading Рthis time with a male, Paris, who also stares on a TV show.  He came to have a natural gift, despite being a sceptic, she told me.  In reality, our reading was far shorter than anticipated (40 mins not an hour), and so I took some time to talk to him about his work, the critics, what happens if he was to reread/redeal the cards again for the same person right there.  I found the debriefing chat as insightful as my fortune telling!

Paris started by dealing a deck of cards and then fanning them out in front of me, asking me to select a quantity, perhaps 17? I can’t recall.¬† As I did that, he started writing a page.¬† At the top of the page was a traced palm, and with that, he asked me to select two areas of focus.¬† I chose work/career and love/romance of the total of six options.¬† These selections resulted in him annotating the on two fingers with a love heart and elsewhere, two money symbols.¬† He held my selected cards as a smaller deck until he’d completed writing the page.¬† He then dealt the cards and proceeded to transpose the equivalent characters of the Greek gods shown onto the fingers of the traced hands on the paper. (deciphering this at the pub after was a fun activity for me with my two friends!).

His dealing of these cards resulted in a strong segment of blue Gods around the centre, definitely Neptune and Uranus.¬† There were some strong female Gods (godesses?) too, like Dianna, Pan, Venus and Medusa.¬† His reading seemed to focus on the coming year, and really saw strong components of work and travel, which echoed things Camilla has said.¬† Overall, he quietly dismissed romance and love, explaining that the personalities of the cards I dealt weren’t aligned with welcoming love at this time.¬† Whilst I did have Venus, she seemed to be crowded out by some more… domineering godesses!¬† I’d be the first to acknowledge this would align somewhat to my personality, and particularly lately with dating.¬† He did consider that I could have a very segregated work and romantic life as a way of making it work, but I can’t see this duplicity working for me.¬† So it would seem the year ahead is about career, more so than love.

Neither reading seemed to touch on health at all – other than the more platitude like concepts like Camilla suggesting meditating more, and asking if I did yoga.¬† Paris wrote of balance and setting boundaries, as well as mind and body.¬† Neither are particularly firm grounds but neither are bad advice – I mean who doesn’t need more balance?

If I was to relocate overseas…

I drafted this post a long time ago, maybe 2015 or 2016, but it was even more interesting to re-read given my flatmate moved internationally to live back in Australia.  And his boxes have arrived! So I can report on his decisions below in italics in 2017!

So, work’s restructuring. ¬†I feel confident. ¬†I have to feel confident, I have to lead 60 people through it. ¬†But I legitimately free OK.

The BF’s work (see how old this is?)is making HUGE changes, which could see opportunities internationally. ¬†We could possibly move internationally.

Even if the above is only a dream… people do move house!

If we move far, we would not pack
Рalmost anything electrical (TV, VCR/DVD, fridge, washing machine, desktop computer, blender, iron, toaster, kettle, food processer) flatmate seems to have sent a computer screen, cables and cords, a modem (how he thought he could wait months for that!)
Рsecond hand/Ikea furniture (dining chairs and table, occasional chairs, IKEA bed frames, buffet, kitchen trolley, coffee table, outdoor chairs and table) yep, he brought no furniture
Рlinens (towels, sheets, donna covers, cushions) again, all supplied by me in the initial months
– cheaper ‘art’: second hand canvas photo prints (3)!¬†again, none.
– decorator items like birdcages, Astroturf rabbit, ornamental Easter eggs¬†well… no, but.. there has been about 30 tchokees arrive and be put out on a common area. ¬†They are travel souvenirs..

We would take with us
Рclothing of all seasons, location dependent flatmate seemed to have sent many clothing items on the slow boat!
Рpersonal electronics like laptops, tablets and phones; toothbrush and hair dryer obviously!

We would store!?
– sentimental items like photo albums and journals and art
– the couches – I love them. They were bought new. They will not sell well. It took me a long time to find the ‘right’ sofa. My parents stored theirs for three years and only just replaced them (stored from 1995-1998)
Рcushion covers if I love them Рthis one totally surprises me!  What WAS I thinking?
– books – I don’t have many, what I do have, is because I WANT to keep them, but with a clear limit (ie one tea chest sized box)

Things I have NO idea about
– cutlery and crockery – they’d last time, but they are heavy so there’d be little point in taking them¬†he’s not shipped either, but… done well to break some glasses and crockery – special skills, cause I can’t recall the last time I smashed something!
– kitchen gadgetry from pots to pans to utensils – which is similar to the above¬†so, the flatmate has bought some things of his preference (cast iron pans) as little things like silicone rings for eggs and oversized ice cube trays. ¬†His choices usually puzzle me! ¬†He’d packed to ship items like a knife sharpener, and got impatient and re-bought one.
– lamps – I LOVE some of them. But again, HEAVY! And electrical, life can be unkind to them when they are out of use¬†Flatmate loves that we have lamps (well… uses them) but thinks one is a little too bright… ¬†Didn’t see the rush to buy a dimmer globe when it blew, so I’m ignoring his feedback :p

What this made me realise? Buying cheaper furniture that I like, whether Ikea or second hand, makes me less invested in keeping it if life changes. That being said, I’m happy with it. I don’t want to upgrade it.

A dreamy future

I think we all have this fantasy of what life ‘might’ be like if only… And I thought I might try to capture those thoughts, so I could perhaps work towards it!

I wish for a home that is comfortable. ¬†It’s lived in. ¬†Everything isn’t rigidly straight and tucked away and perfect, it’s lived in. ¬†But it’s not uncomfortable for visitors – it’s not grimy or dusty or clutter-y. ¬†They feel they can put their cup or mug down – there’s always somewhere nearby and easy, but nothing seems to precious – too breakable or stainable.

There’s people always around – coming and going. ¬†But it’s laid back and casual – it’s not a show. ¬†It’s not a performance. ¬†They will sit and chat to me as I prepare wholesome food. ¬†I no longer think making jam is a sin for those trying to be healthy and eat less sugar, but see it as a way of saving nature’s bounty from waste. ¬†There’s ample containers to store all the things I prepare, and ample room in fridges and cupboards to store things, but not lose things! There’s enough to feed whomever may be around and be hungry.

The bathrooms are clean – no dust bunnies. ¬†Nothing cringe worthy in it’s dirtiness. ¬†There’s no mould growing. ¬†There’s no funky smells. ¬†And the medicine cupboard, it’s stocked, but not over stocked, and anyone may open it and take what they need. ¬†Nothing in there is a secret or taboo or gross.

The laundry is functional – there’s somewhere to hang the clothing needing ironing. ¬†There’s a place for everything to be tucked away. ¬†Things can easily soak. ¬†Lost socks can linger in a special place awaiting a mate.

The home is bathed in sunshine and warmth. When it’s cold and blustery outside, it’s snug. ¬†When it’s warm and muggy, there’s a gentle breeze.

There’s a garden, with warm sunshine and delicious cool shade. ¬†Things grow with ease. I grow food and fragrant flowers.

The things I’ve realised I prefer in a home

Moving into the lighthouse has helped me further refine what I look for in a home!

  • a sink dimensional to the bench space: there’s no point in a huge sink at the expense of bench space (ie the light house) and there’s value in small sinks as they take less water (thank you loft)
  • gas stoves are wonderful (light house), but 5 burner is overkill for a small kitchen
  • air conditioning being built in is SO much quieter than portable aircons. But if it’s ducted, it needs a timer and zones.
  • insect screens on the windows – I realise now that the 2 bedder was great for having screens on all openings – making the mozzie bait safe (me!); the loft needed one on the sliding door and I would have invested in one, but moved out before my second summer. ¬†Here – the windows all have screens but the bifolds don’t and I notice an increase in bedtime biters if I leave the bifolds open in the dusk hours.
  • dishwashers – for 1-2 person dwellings, a single drawer dishwasher is a brilliant idea. ¬†The loft had a fullsize one, and I seldom filled it for a load.
  • mixer taps! I never thought about the kitchen sink NOT having a mixing tap, and it’s a step more than you really want to deal with when you want to quickly rinse something in warm water.

I still want a bathroom with a window – something none of my past three homes have had.

I always seek out

  • pantry. The light house was super shallow and I think this is the optimal style to not lose things behind other things
  • linen closet. Somewhere that’s central to all people is better than something that will be steamed up in the bathroom.

And all three have had lifts (something that was on my ‘don’t want list’ when I was buying!). ¬†In the two bedder and here, being on level 3, I’ve been pretty thankful to have a lift!

Looking for a job

Looking for a new position to work in hasn’t been easy. I thought I might process my thoughts in writing.

I do have an engineering degree. I don’t feel that I’ve worked in role which have utilised the technical components of either what I studied OR what is in the industry. After two years in a graduate program, rotating every six months, I went into a permanent role which was project management of small electrical infrastructure projects. All distribution level, which is, suburban street sizes. And all connecting to a mature and established grid, so there was little in respects to technical suitability of the solution etc etc. I recieved a design, and worked to get it installed as designed (well, unless the design totally missed some site based difficulties…!)

From there, I went into more managerial roles. It involved a lot of odds and ends as tasks to start with. Improving performance of a group of field staff, who didn’t do project work, so weren’t in the existing systems of scheduling. Dealt with some consultation with staff on changes to their rostering and work location – which might sound like one 1 hour meeting, until you factor in a heavily unionised work force. I was also asked to look into how to condense two depots into one.

After this role, I went on to manage a small team of office workers in managing maintenance documents – they prepare the instructions for field staff. I really enjoyed this role, as there was a lot to teach the team who were new to the role, but not the business. It was also when I started being involved in an IT transformation where field staff would be issued with iPads, in an effort to streamline work. It was incredible how much I learnt about the existing software, and the limitations and challenges to move it to a mobile device which may not always have internet connections.

I have another three years of work experience to rabbit on about, but the point is… I don’t know how to articulate that this is what I like to do. It’s not an ‘engineer’ but it does require some technical knowledge, and an ability to interface with other tradespeople to understand. Ultimately, it’s a problem solving role. Googling ‘problem solver’ as a job description… not so successful (Lies… the Seek ad show 15,212 problem solver jobs!)

I do not want to work in

  • sales
  • safety/risk management. Sure it can come up, but not the focus.
  • making slideshows. You can’t make me lol!

Any nudges or hints on where you think I should put my feelers, I’m all ears

If not this job, then what?

*Drafted sometime in 2018 but never published*

I have a job now, and I don’t enjoy it.  I find it hard to self motivate.  It’s related to feeling so out of my depth.  There’s so many layers of management that review and authorise everything we draft, so that can cripple my ability to feel it’ll ever pass. I’m also not clear on what our role can influence and change – external parties see us as being able to change laws, but really, it’s pretty unlikely.  Ministers wish we did more for customers, even when it’s a private company that now runs the company, not the govt.

I took this job as I felt I was stagnating in my previous role.  Not being challenged and not really learning.  It feels similar now; there was learning, but I mostly feel blah.

Whilst I was on a month’s break from the long standing job, I ended up brainstorming a business idea with my friends.  I didn’t really do anything more with it, other than meet with one of my priests to talk about their perspective.  It’s related to an industry where I could take an entry level job to test the waters.  When I had an informational interview with one family owned business, I realised just how lowly paid it is.

Prior to this call, I’d spent time analysing my expenses this year.  Looking at what I budgeted vs what I spent.  I don’t usually actively budget, but with the four weeks off work, I took half my usual salary and with some big bills, threw me for six.  When I look at all my spending (and not saving), I worked out the salary I could live on.

The numbers surprised me, they are low.

They just aren’t as low as this information interview number.

Cabin fever

I’ll admit, there’s been some cabin fever. I have learnt that I need an outing a day, and ideally something either social or mentally engaging. Monday week ago I settled for a few errands but then felt under house arrest. To alleviate that, this is what I did the other days:

Went to the Art Gallery of NSW and saw the graduating high school student art. Some was necessarily juvenile, or at least, not my taste. I walked from home to the gallery, via the library (to collect a book about the frugal art of hedonism!). When I got to the gallery I made a bee line to the cafe, and slowly sipped my pot of chai tea.

Multiple layers, notice the three different icons in the central top windows

Wednesday, I went back to the same precinct that the Art Gallery is in, but this time to read and swim at Andrew Boy Charlton Pool. It is on the harbour, with views of the naval base, so it’s lovely even if you don’t swim.

Chai in the gallery cafe

Thursday I’d found a $10 deal for a movie ticket – far better than the $20+ it can sometimes be, for the film Escape Room. I went to a lunch time session and then browsed other shops around the city. I’m incredibly good at restraining from impulse purchases!

A card i could have bought

Friday I caught up with two friends. After a coffee with one friend, we walked the street and browsed the old wares and second hand shops as we discussed our job less state – hers being a bit more recent, and a bit of a shock. Another friend came over for a swim.

I ended up so busy, I didn’t think of job hunting!

Creature of habits and routines

It’ll come as no surprise to those who know me that I’m a conscientious person. And with that, comes routines and habits. And even in a period of unemployment and wide open spaces of unscheduled time, I’ve still come to a routine.

I now wake much (an hour!) later – at 6:40am. This gives me time to briefly review my notifications, get dressed and walk to the gym for a 7am work out. After my 45 minutes of sweating more than I think is humanly possible, I saunter home. I then make the planned breakfast *the plan being set by F45, the gym I go to. It’s usually either a smoothie, an omlette or eggs some other way, and occasional toast with chocolate/peanut butter concoction. Depending on my inclination, I’ll either wash up then (the previous 24 hours of dishes) or I’ll head to the local cafe for my cappuccino. (Fun fact: after many years as a mocha drinker, and then trying decaf long blacks for F45 challenges in 2018, I’ve found a more moderate coffee – it’s a skim cap with honey, so still sweet but less so? maybe?)

At my local cafe, I take the newspaper and read it cover to cover. Sometimes, annoyingly, someone calls. Don’t they know they are interrupting my routine? Even to tell me about that ONE job I’ve applied for in this brief sabbatical? I jest.

Once the paper is read, I return home to wash up, if required, and then shower. After that, it becomes a wide open expanse.

As the blog title hints, I have a stack of lists. I have a list of items I want to buy (both clothing and household items). I have a list of errands and chores to do around the home, including things I’d prefer do on a ‘big screen’ of the laptop when I’m next at the library or my parent’s house. I also have a list of tasks for my upcoming European holiday. When you’re going to Greece, Hungary, Italy, Croatia for fun, and further England & Wales, Germany and France to see people you love, there’s a fair bit of logistics. I thought I had it sorted, til ferries only ran two days a week, or flights only started in the true summer season, and not the shoulder.

Some days, I have ‘coffee dates’ with former work acquaintances and colleagues. Other days, I head to the library to use their internet. Other days, I stay home, and get cabin fever!

Most afternoons I take to the bed upstairs to lie down and read. Surprisingly, with such a leisurely schedule, my need to nap has diminished, and if I do end up napping, it tends to make my night sleep more broken.

A good day is when a few more of those listed items are struck off. Most days see me also add a few more tasks though!