It was a good week!

I’m delighted to report – what an awesome week.  Well, there were less than awesome bits, but I’d rather reflect on the great! (thanks to Tiff at Raising Lemons)

Today, two lines on a work graph intercepted.  In 12 days, we’ve done radical things and seen a rapid drop in a statistic we were getting hounded on.  And it’s all thanks to me, and an incredible team!

When I take the slow train, I'm treated to views like this!
When I take the slow train, I’m treated to views like this!

I’m running out of work to give them – I used to release a week’s worth to up to 12 crews – one crew got work issued for today, and will need more again next weekend, having finished it all already! They usually get new data on Wednesdays!!

I’ve started calling meetings – and people come.  And they listen.  This still sorta shocks me, cause I rebel against meetings.  I’m not rude, and I do attend, but I often go willing I didn’t ‘have’ to!!

Today’s meeting, there were actions completed by the end of the day! At this was a post lunch meeting!

Is anyone over my !!s yet?  Hold on, there is likely to be more.

The BF went away overnight (the night he’d usually be teaching and home late).  So I went and saw ‘Wasted’ a movie about trash by Jeremy Irons.  It was run by a local council and free to attend.  They fed us (with compostable plates). AND! They gave away keep cups.  They let me customise with the ones lined up, and I got one all tricked out in blue and green, and in use this morning:

Early for my express train so I treated myself to a delicious coffee.
Early for my express train so I treated myself to a delicious coffee.

And this talk’s location, there’s a direct bus from it to my home.  Who knew.  And I caught the last service of the night home.  Talk about well timed!

Tonight, I’m on the sofa til the airport pick up, indulging in my crack cocaine – garlic bread.  It is DELICIOUS.  So is this couch.  There might even be something sugary up next.  Ok, so health’s not a focus right now, but that’s a ok!

What went well in  your week?  What did you succeed at?



Getting stuff done!

In contrast to my last post, I pleased to report how I’ve knotched things up a gear in my personal life!

  • I went to SES on Tuesday despite horrible weather, thankfully we were indoors and playing with power tools.  My first time with a plane saw, grinder and nail gun.  FUN!
On the inside, I'm a tradie!
On the inside, I’m a tradie!
  • Thursday night, I ventured out in the drizzle to the new UTS building on Broadway, which happens to house the faculty I studied in.  Here’s a view from inside:
I don't see (modern) Hogwarts, but my FB friends did
I don’t see (modern) Hogwarts, but my FB friends did
  • A church ‘youth dinner’ on Friday night – there was just one guest, but many RSVPs so at least I know it’s in peoples minds
  • Saturday was brunch with a friend from my school years, and then walked her around our neighbourhood.  It’s such a pleasure to see my home and locale from someone else’s point of view.  She loved the diversity of new and innovative buildings as well as the older terraces.  The short walk from the city, and the views of it.  And lovely big trees as well
  • A couple of water polo friends cane around for dinner on Saturday, I attempted a pot luck but that’s not really an Aussie thing.  We had a huge pile of roast veggies (thanks Em), a pile of nachoes, and a self saucing chocolate pudding, plus lots of chatter as three from four of us had been overseas recently! (that ticks my goal of entertaining at home more too)
  • Made it to church this morning – people asked about my ‘holiday’ (I think they mean the past two weeks when I’ve chosen to sleep in perhaps?)  Anyhow, I garnered two more contacts for the youth dinners, and resolved some catering dramas which I’d been remiss in doing in the past few weeks due to work.  All’s well that ends well cause
  • The tea/coffee issues at church meant I went to the local Asian IGA, and optimised my trip by buying 6 varieties of dumplings from their freezer section.  The ultimate in tasty quick food for the nights where the BF and I have different schedules
  • I came home to hang out a load of washing, iron some work shirts whilst watching Project Runway, and then made a curtain to block the light a little better for the BF who gets up closer to 9am (!!) on weekdays! (!!)


Sadly the remnant wasn't long enough, but I see a future 'frill' hem... I did love the colour though, and it was thick enough to do the trick
Sadly the remnant wasn’t long enough, but I see a future ‘frill’ hem… I did love the colour though, and it was thick enough to do the trick
  • I was frustrated that one of my op shop shirt’s French cuffs didn’t have enough button holes to stop the cuffs from flapping.  I was thinking I might get a ‘mender’ at the dry cleaners’ to do it.  Then I googled the machine I have, worked out which foot to use (helpfully stored behind the machine) and gave it a whirl.  Here’s the result:
Sarah style buttonhole - I didn't have any thread other than black or white. But thankfully my cufflink works perfectly
Sarah style buttonhole – I didn’t have any thread other than black or white. But thankfully my cufflink works perfectly
Not the tidiest job, but free~!!!
Not the tidiest job, but free~!!!

And I forgot to mention (and I think I will try to draft a quick post) but…

  • I finished reading the bible – one of my 12 in 2 goals!!  I happened to read the last of it on the train from work to the airport to meet my brother, so it was a momentous day!

Now for the work week ahead… I have to remember to pat myself on the back more.  Remember that if I was asked ‘have you done everything you can to make it work’ I could honestly answer yes.  The results aren’t solely up to me.

How was your weekend?  Did you get a run on things you’ve otherwise been avoiding? (Yes, it would seem, I had been ‘avoiding’ socialisation if I’m perfectly honest!)

Yay! Friday!

Twice in three weeks, I’ve had the chance to take Friday off (one was sick leave, today is my one day off a month, which I’ve wholeheartedly earnt with extra hours worked!)

I plan to get the ‘pink slip’ for my scooter sorted, so that I can get it third party insured and registered.  It blows me away that once a year a 4 year old scooter needs inspection.  I suppose that’s why NSW (the state I live in) has so many new vehicles in comparison to states of Australia with less rigorous inspection periods. Consume, consume, consume!!

Oh, but it’s raining. Like most days in the past fortnight.  I’m not sure I’ve shared with bloggers my utter dislike of rain.  If I was God for a day, I’d make it always rain from midnight to 5am.  We could all plan around it!

Then this afternoon, I plan to meet my mother, a teacher who always gets a half day Friday thanks to it being the start of the Sabbath at her Muslim school, and she’ll escort me to my suburban tax accountant to do this year’s tax.  Last year, I found a local accountant, and the service was woeful.  Given my finances continue to get more complicated, being a landlord, earning more etc, I think sticking to a former accountant who seemed knowledgeable, helpful and did face to face tax, is a better bet.  Yes, I used to DIY my taxes, but now I just get everything prepped and meet the accountant.  There’s so much tax law I don’t understand, and given it changes annually, it’s good to have someone to nut it through with.

And should there be idle time around both of these, I shall read… thanks to whomever recently read and reviewed ‘The Girl you Left Behind’ I already love it, and love that it’s a weighty tome of WWI and France! Already got in a chapter or three before getting out of bed to take the BF to work. (Such a great GF right? To ensure he gets to work dry?  Not half as sweet as he was, to come at 10pm to my parents house (a good 30mins from our home) to pick me up last night, after having a reunion dinner.  The youngest of my two brothers returned from South America yesterday afternoon, after 9 months away!  Should you want to know about his navel gazing in the last month or two, here’s his blog: Not Finding Myself).

What’s involved with your day ahead?

One week in

Today marks a week in my new role with the longer commute, which I introduced in this post.  I thought I would touch base on how it’s all going.

In the five day week, I worked 4 days from my new office in Hornsby, and one whole day at my previous office in Chatswood (due to some meetings).  On the Monday, I started at my former office, and then packed up the car with my computer and moved.

The park near Central station
The park near Central station

Firstly, let’s talk about the cost of commuting.  When the company ended our use of company cars to travel to and from home, I bought an annual ticket from the City to Chatswood, which cost $1,400 (thankfully I didn’t have to pay upfront, but can get it deducted from my pay weekly).  The journey is $4.60 one way usually.  The trip from Central to Hornsby is $5.20.  Interestingly, buying the Chatswood to Hornsby portion? $4.60.  So I need to trade in my annual quick smart, so I stop essentially paying double for my travel!  Plus, the daily cash handover for a ticket slows down my commute.

And for the weather report – it’s been rainy, off and on, all week :s  Yeah, so an interesting week to transition!

Overall, the team seems enthusiastic – most of them were either dying for work, or dying to move further North.  It took me no time to settle into the new (much smaller) desk.  One of my team returns from a holiday on Monday, and that will mean the one extra person in our area will be gone. I look forward to having all my ‘people’ around me, and not other dramas adding to the chats!!

As to essentially doubling my workload – well, yikes! My role previously hasn’t been handed over to someone.  I also have 5 staff to lead and support in a role that didn’t previously exist (they essentially carved up the workload in Chatswood, sent some of it to Hornsby, and gave each office 5 people to work on what 7 people were doing before.  Logically, that should mean we have more people doing the same work, however, it’s not without hiccups.

Sydney city - from near my local library
Sydney city – from near my local library

The statistics I was tracking in my prior role, well, they’ve seen a recent upswing.  The rainy weather certainly doesn’t help our cause, but it’s frustrating to know numbers were looking good before my move.  It has nothing to do with me, but I always take extreme ownership of things I’m responsible for.  Furthermore, as a business, we’re not performing well in this area, so there’s been a bit of a crisis meeting called, and again, I can’t help but feel defeated that all our recent measures to improve performance in our area really aren’t paying sustained dividends.

As to life outside work? It doesn’t really exist! I went straight from work to the SES on Tuesday.  Every other day, I came home, and got into bed around 8.30pm to read and fall asleep.  There’s been no runs/jogging or similar, and that’s not great.  But my walk from the station in Hornsby to my office is hilly, and longer than my previous station to work walk, so that’s got to be good for me, I’m hoping!!  But my junk food intake has also been creeping, so I need to work harder to either exercising, or eating healthier.

Next week, I plan to implement the three Ps – for myself, and perhaps my team.  Productivity, positivity and p… I’m working on the third 😉 Suggestions?

*not a holiday post*

So, just to take a break from all the holiday talk – though there is more I’d like to post, and I should also confess to purchasing more flights and accommodation for a trip to New Caledonia with the BF in the first week of November…  Interestingly, all good posts need photos, right – these have nothing to do with the content of the post however! Enjoy!

My job role and job location will change on Monday (18 August).  I will go from working in Chatswood, to working in Hornsby, and commuting by train from my home in the inner city suburbs of Sydney.

Map of life
Map of life

Am I pleased with this change?


However, more or less since February,  I’ve been acting in a higher role.  The first 6 weeks, I blogged about here, here and here.  Those posts share how I struggled with the new challenges of managing staff, and with some incredibly thoughtful readers and commenters, I was able to make the most of what at the time I thought would a short term assignment.  That role managed staff, and carried the maintenance portfolio of the whole ‘north’.

Pictures at 5 August 571

However a few weeks later, I was asked to move into a role that previously had not existed.  This position was more or less a placeholder, and a slow move to the new structure and management hierarchy. It was a great opportunity, and again, for the first few weeks, I had no idea what the expectations of me were.  I was taking on ‘half’ of someone else’s workload, but for a long while, we both carried it all.  I put a stop to that, and drew an arbitrary and sensible line in what each of us would call ‘ours’.  That helped us from the torrent of CC’ed emails back and forth!!

So, from the second week of April, until the end of this week, I’ve come to enjoy this role as a senior engineer.

Pictures at 5 August 586

From Monday 18 August, I move into a newly created role, that mimics what I did in February, for a smaller geographical area – just half of the ‘north’.  With it, I will have staff, which the senior engineer role did not have (though I ended up working very closely with many staff, though not actually being their boss – which comes with countless dramas!).  I could have said no to this temporary assignment further North, but would have returned to my normal rank and file role as an engineer.  Since I moved to being a senior engineer, my position was backfilled, so it would have been awkward to say the least!

For an unknown but finite duration of time, I will continue to ‘act’ in the role in Hornsby.  At some stage, the positions will be formally advertised and all eligible candidates will apply. I will NOT apply for any of the (up to) three management roles in Hornsby.  This isn’t some blog secret – it’s something I’ve made clear.  There’s no money that would encourage me to a daily commute of approximately 2 hours by train and 1 hour walking.   Quite simply, instead of being paid for a ‘4o hour week’, I’m being paid for a ’65 hour week’ when I factor in my commute and that’s before we enter into staying back late here and there, or weekend or evening phone calls, due to the nature of the role.

Pictures at 5 August 600

Interestingly, (up to) three management roles will be advertised both at my current office, and at an office a short scooter ride, or easy run/walk from my home.  And whilst trying to remain somewhat anonymous about my company, most roles I have some experience in to make me eligible.  I am more than happy to put my hat into the ring, and should I not be the most meritorious candidate, to slip back into being a ‘rank and file’ staff member.  At least at that juncture, the public perception will be that I wasn’t successful at the interview. Currently, everything has been chess moves, rather than a formal requirement process.

We’re not looking forward to the move – that is the BF and me, nor my parents.  They all know the commute takes a lot out of you, and even the past few weeks have seen me be a little ‘zombie’ like.  The plan is to pay for a cleaner (who shall also iron my work attire), and to batch cook and freeze meals as much as possible.  The cooking will be a team effort, between myself, mum and the BF!  Other than that, I look forward to lots of time to read on the train – I’m steaming through my bible reading, and should be finished within a month.  Needless to say, my blogging might move to a trickle…  Though I should have a stack of time to read all your blogs!!  So everyone else, keep me entertained!

Disaster learnings from Japan

This is a L-O-N-G post but I wanted to get everything down in one place.  Prepare a cuppa!

The key reason many of us went on this tour to Japan was due to our involvement with the State Emergency Service in our state of New South Wales.  As volunteers, we help with storm and flood victims, as well as crowd control as the need arises.  Whilst the vast majority of our trip to Japan was site seeing, there were a number of occasions we turned to our (voluntary) work and interests.

Our first exposure to disasters in Japan was through our Sister City program, between Bankstown council and Suita City outside of Osaka in Japan.  This city council arranged for two days of talks and activities, which included visiting a local fire and paramedic station, travelling to Kobe to see the museum there (more later) and many talks and slides from a number of different organisations involved with disaster response.  By and large, Japan has a very formal and paid work force involved with disaster assistance.  That being said, there’s also a very large again population that seem engaged in a number of voluntary capacities in day to day life (guides at sites and museums) as well as in times of crisis.

Kode museum
Kobe museum

In Kobe, where there was an earthquake in 1995 (known as the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake) there is the Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution.  This modern glass water front building offers a number of museum exhibits as well as auditoriums that show the effects of the 1995 earthquake, with footage taken from about the city.  It was the first time I felt unsettled and chose to look at the ground than continue to see the images of damaged buildings.  I have a strong interest in human disasters (such as the Holocaust) and this is the first time I remember being so moved by something that I can no longer watch.  There was no blood or gore, but my empathy meter was on overdrive, further hindered by not being able to rationalise this sort of event.  It’s natural, and it could and does happen regularly in Japan – where I was.  There’s no one to blame – there’s only preparations that can be made.

Some of the tour group with a guide in Osaka
Some of the tour group with a guide in Osaka

The Kobe earthquake, as I know it better, marks as a great learning point for Japan.  Our guide was clearly impacted by the earthquake, and outlined a number of learnings that came away from it.  “Back then” there was very little in the way of formal reimbursement for the loses suffered, now Japan offers up to 3 million yen per person.  After such an event, people are moved in to temporary housing (which we got to briefly see ‘up north’).  In Kobe, people were assigned homes based on a lottery system, however the guide says that people have learnt that this breaks down existing communities.  He also mentioned that the average stay is 6 months, but the longest stay was 5 years! Can you imagine that?  And that the temporary housing took 3 months to establish.  So where did people take refuge until then?

Interestingly to me, the whole disaster response movement is centered around schools.  When I thought about it, it seemed logical! They are managed by the same government bodies that assist with disasters (the prefecture level, I think, but in Australia, it’d be the state, which also works nicely).  We learnt from our talks at Suita City Hall that schools contain locked sheds full of materials suitable for search and rescue, as well as temporary needs.  So in the event of an earthquake, people head to school halls, and came out in school halls.  Only the Japanese could make this seem so orderly – they still take off their shoes before entering their patch of ground for sleeping!

Tokyu Hands, a department store with stocks for disasters
Tokyu Hands, a department store with stocks for disasters

How did Kobe rebuild?  In many cases, apartment blocks attempt to rebuild a 7 storey building into 10 storeys, to help finance the build by selling to more people.  Obviously this strategy works in earthquake prone areas, but in Takata (north of Fukushima prefecture) the issues with flooding and tsunamis don’t make the solutions as simple.  Nonetheless, this rebuilding takes time, and people do move away.  As a result, shops suffer and close too.

What to do in an earthquake?  We learnt that after a certain year (maybe 1991?) all buildings have been made to earthquake standards, including glass that doesn’t shatter as dangerously.  The advice is to move above the third storey of concrete buildings that are strong enough.  We also saw signage used to denote a ‘safe place’ to evacuate to in the event of an earthquake or tsunami.  Japan is flush with underground shopping malls and countless subways lines (private and publicly owned), which of course are at serious risk of tsunami flooding.  Actually we went in a simulated earthquake ‘lift’ (elevator) which pretended to be in a shopping centre with access to the basement floors.

If I could have bought a version of this...
If I could have bought a version of this…

Whilst in Kobe, we watched a video on the impacts of the 2011 tsunami, and saw the township we would visit later in the trip (though at the time I didn’t know this!).  My notes immediately after the video presentation, showing three years since the tsunami, had me wondering if it was even ‘worth’ rebuilding.  After three years, most things were just flattened, with the debris all cleared, and I know now, a great many building flattened, despite surviving.

I also learnt about liquification, which happens as part of an earthquake, where underground water and sand based soils mix, and water often rises to the surface.  If homes and buildings don’t have sufficiently deep foundations or ‘stilts’ they risk being destroyed by the earth’s movements.  There’s some great (kid friendly) examples of how this happens in most of the museums we went to!

According to myths, this fish causes tsunamis
According to myths, this fish causes tsunamis

It seems the greatest level of education about natural disasters is aimed at children, with most museums we went to (one in Kobe, one in Kyoto and one in Tokyo) having a strong school based focus.  To think there’s a mascot for the tsunami centre in Kyoto!  Seriously – only in Japan!

Osaka tsunami museum mascot!?
Osaka tsunami museum mascot!?

After every earthquake, the government is obliged within three minutes to release a tsunami warning, which includes the suspected ‘height’ of the wave.  In the case of the tsunami in 2011, the models didn’t accommodate magnitude 8 or 9 earthquakes, and therefore predictions were woefully low.  As an engineer, I didn’t buy into the ‘they should have known’ or ‘they should have told us’.  As I discussed with S&A (my mates on the trip), firstly magnitude is a logarithmic scale – it gets bigger fast!  I can totally see which ever bean counters ignoring the possibility of the wave heights with a high magnitude quake being of a level so devastating they couldn’t imagine.  If someone told you a 15m wave was coming, when in recorded history there’d never been a wave this high, then I can imagine the public’s response could have been even more lacklustre.  In the 2011 case, the initial reports were for a 3m wave, later upgraded to 6m, in any case, there was a 5m sea wall, so many people felt that the impacts of the tsunami would be minimal.  It goes without saying the level of devastation that was caused when the true wave came.

Tokyo's museum, but also Control Room for disasters
Tokyo’s museum, but also Control Room for disasters

Whilst in Suita City, we were given a glossy 45 page A4 booklet all about disaster preparation, in English.  Whilst some of the tour ‘wished there was more said and done about natural disasters for tourists’, I thought it was amazing to have this (evidently) costly publication in English, as undoubtedly it’d be in other languages.  Japan, unlike much of the world I’ve travelled to, doesn’t often ‘worry’ about languages of others.  If anything, there’s sometimes Korean, Chinese or English, but even still, many products don’t feel the need to carry any translations (I suppose just like Australia!).


Barriers for the water in Osaka
Model of barriers for the water in Osaka

In the event of a natural disaster, there’s a fantastic voicemail system, where you can use a pay phone to leave a message attached to your landline phone.  That way, other people can ring the number and check if other people from ‘home’ have left a message.  I’ve never heard of a system like this, and it just BLEW me away to have this organised.  In Tokyo, we saw a short animation of a disaster, and saw the kids and the parents using this system too!  Even more surprisingly was in a super technical nation, the public pay phone lines are given priority coverage after a disaster.  And yep, we saw payphones all over – much more so than in Australia now.

Phone in a subway - at wheelchair height!
Phone in a subway – at wheelchair height!

In the course of our travels, I noticed little preparedness measures taken.  Exit signage was often on the floor, or knee height in the wall – made sense to me, as you often evacuate on your knees if there’s smoke.  Makes the ceiling and doorway mounted ones in Australia seem nonsensical (though these also existed in parts of Japan).  Every hotel room we stayed in had a torch mounted to the wall.  Not once did I see a torch missing – so tourists are honest (or torches values are decreasing in the smart phone era?)

One example of stuff
One example of stuff

All the museums covered the need for three days (72 hours) supply of food and water.  In Tokyo, there was a collection of different ‘packs’ available around the world.  The smartest (in my opinion) formed the stuffing of a teddy bear (which may have also had backpack straps).  As a souvenir of our time in Suita City, we were given a high nutrition food bar (about one and a half times the size of a matchbox?) and a wind up torch – almost perfect for our purpose.

I think I’ve reached my saturation point for this post – which isn’t to say I won’t randomly realise things I’ve forgotten I wanted to document.  But here it is for now…

Does your city have an evacuation plan?  What makes you ready for a disaster?

Journal of Japan

This is a picture heavy post, where I share the photographs of my journal of travelling – it started slow but once I got into it (on the road) it got more decorative!

Should fire ruin this journal, at least I’ll have it in blog form, and you get to sticky beak!

Day 1 in Osaka
Day 1 in Osaka
Day 2 - still on about Osaka
Day 2 – still on about Osaka
Suita City
Suita City
Suita City
Suita City
Getting colourful - back in Osaka after Suita City
Getting colourful – back in Osaka after Suita City
Japan sourvenirs 012-Optimized
Golden temple in Kyoto
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Trip to see SUMO! This crane was made by J2 (on tour) with a caramel lolly wrapper
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From Kyoto and the floating temple, to the day trip to Hiroshima
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Hiroshima day trip – the water colour was painted with the water of the river in Hiroshima 🙁
Japan sourvenirs 016-Optimized
Moss garden in Kyoto in the various seasons. The cranes were from my pillow in the Ryokan, one was from our guide at Hiroshima.
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Ryokan in Kyoto…! And our menu had the Gion Festival float (bottom left) on it, WAY cheaper than any souvenirs!
Japan sourvenirs 018-Optimized
Left hand side is a trimmed fan handed out in a department store. The right is the business card of our guide in the north, showing the lonely pine tree that survived the tsunami. Top right is the lovely caramel lolly wrapper (again!)
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Day trip to Hanone to see Mt Fuji (but we didn’t) – the ticket stubs returned for recycling at the end were snaffued for my journal.
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The right hand side hides map of Japan – where I marked everywhere we went. The decoration on top is Osaka stamps that were in some guide book. Far right is my name in katakana from our Suita City day 1
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We had a week long rail pass, the green tickets are (free) seating allocations on trains. All our city based rail stuff, the tickets get taken
Japan sourvenirs 022-Optimized
Tokyo’s disaster park, and my last day in Tokyo – with shopping images. The plane stickers were a purchase in Japan too!
Japan sourvenirs 023-Optimized
The hirigana alphabet that my homestay’s cousin wrote out for me – bless her. I was trying to remember symbols that evening, by reading the paper, and pointing to a symbol and checking what sound it was.

Questions most welcome!

Souvenirs from Japan

So what did I buy in Japan? Aside from four tops/shirts for a number of multinational companies (Zara, Uni Qlo, H&M), I also bought a belt from Old Navy.  That’s all par for the course –  I have the time and the funds when on holidays to buy clothing.

Not incredibly inspiring, but all suit me
Not incredibly inspiring, but all suit me

However, I also bought

  1. Two packets of the same size of oragami paper – all in blue tones.  I plan to frame some.
  2. A fabric hand towel
  3. An offcut of fabric, and 1m of a fabric I loved – I’m considering using them between the glass and the ‘wood’ of the coffee table.
  4. Maple leaf shaped cakes from Hiroshima, with the limited edition Maple flavour!
  5. Sheets of stickers of Japanese temples, and paper shapes, to add to my travel journal (upcoming post)
Paper to be framed
Paper to be framed
100 yen - an impulse purchase
100 yen – an impulse purchase
Fabric - not even a planned purchase, a happy chance discovery!
Fabric – not even a planned purchase, a happy chance discovery!

I also spent countless money on snacks! My my my, did I try everything and then some.  I feel very unhealthy now! I enjoyed cream/custard filled puffs (three times), small pancakes packages with maple jelly and butter, caramel pop corn, pizza flavoured chips (crisps for Laura ;), strawberry yoghurt drink, little brownie bites, pineapple ring icecream, mango ice block (twice!), alcoholic lemon flavoured icey drink… There was plenty more, I assure you… these are what I remember! That’s right – rice balls (really triangular shaped), though the last one I had, well I was pretty sure it was my LAST one, I got a little over them.

I also brought home a sake bottle, as the glass was blue! It’s now sharing the trolley with a Bombay Sapphire mini bottle. Classy huh?

What’s your favourite of my souvenirs?  Is there something you ‘always’ collect as a souvenir when travelling?

Baths, kimonos and eating with my homestay in Japan

Another email rebadged as a post… this is my first evening with my home stay family – a mum and dad, and a son and daughter, both around 18 years old

So after another hot and sweaty day we went to the baths. Totally get nuddy baths! Insane! Obviously girls and boys are seperate but it’s in a mall with bowling, restaurants, 100yen shop. There’s inside baths and open air ones. Crazy. All ages too! Bulk shampoo and conditioner impressed my zero waste heart.  And little did I know this introduction would be instrumental to others on my trip, when we later went to other baths.  There’s so much etiquette involved!

The entry to the (photography forbidden) baths
The entry to the (photography forbidden) baths
My host family after the baths
My host family after the baths
This made it hard for those with tattoos, thankfully I have none (though the homestay mother never asked)
This made it hard for those with tattoos, thankfully I have none (though the homestay mother never asked)
We went to a traditional tea ceremony during the day, bitter stuff but they give you a sweet pastry thing to have with it. You’re meant to sit with your feet under you bum but we all struggled!! After that three if us got to wear the kimono which was amusing cause none of us were the correct dimensions!! My host sister wears a kimono as a uniform at the restaurant she works at – she’s 18.
Green tea and yummy sweet
Green tea and yummy sweet
The traditional old wooden tea house
The traditional old wooden tea house
Geishas in the garden
Geishas in the garden
One size fits most non westerns...
One size fits most non westerns…
Looking back ;)
Looking back 😉
Not a pool - this was where water was stored to quell any fire in the historic wooden building
Not a pool – this was where water was stored to quell any fire in the historic wooden building
After my host family picking me up we did grocery shopping. Japan are more into milk and sweet & savory pastries than I would gave expected. Meat and most everything is packaged in tiny portions, it’s amazing. Peaches are in protective foam you sometimes get spirit bottles in and plastic wrapped. Conversely you pay for plastic bags at the grocery store but not at convenience stores?! If you say no to a plastic bag you get tape put over the bar code, even in convenience store. They are big into tidiness, the 100yen shop has a bucket on the counter for your unwanted docket. Leaving the airport, there’s a bin especially for printed baggage tags. Every vending machine is flanked by bins too!
Expensive peaches (cause of the labour to wrap them?)
Expensive peaches (cause of the labour to wrap them?)
Meat in the non family size (at least no Aussie family!)
Meat in the non family size (at least no Aussie family!)
Being picked up by my homestay mum and sister
Being picked up by my homestay mum and sister
This tag stops a fdee for plastic bags being added to grocery purchases
This tag stops a free for plastic bags being added to grocery purchases
Prices seem quite reasonable, $90 for five people to have dinner, dad had beer, then baths and some drinks after. I’d love to know what the conversion rates have been in the past!
Japanese table, with bare feet - we left them in lockers?!
Japanese table, with bare feet – we left them in lockers?!

Slept well though it was hot! I slept on a futon mattress which is more like sleeping in a doona. Had both a fan and air con, but I notice the living room air con is on 27c!!

Japanese style sleeping
Japanese style sleeping
The lantern in my room at my homestay
The lantern in my room at my homestay
This morning I visited the local shrine with the mum, where you wash your left then right hand. Then you ring the bell and pray, after clapping your hands twice. You pay 5yen, which has a hole in it and there is some homophone about seeing friends through the hole. Anyhow you throw this in a slotted container before bell ringing.
Me and the shrine
Me and the shrine
Entry to the shrine
Entry to the shrine
Then we came home to b’fast. There was a salad with cabbage, one cherry tomato and a mini sausage. Then there was a fried egg. Then yoghurt with a fruit sauce an crunchy cereal with dried strawberries. Then I had the bread/pastry I chose yesterday which was maple flavoured. Then there were angel cheeks which are this soft sweet taco with whipped light cream. With iced coffee, which you buy bottled black and add cream or milk. Interestingly full fat milk is more expensive than lower fat milk. An beer is CHEAP, and you can buy single cans at the grocery store.  Suita, the city we’re in outside of Osaka is where the Asahi beer is made, we walked past the factory.
Breakfast at my homestay
Breakfast at my homestay
Another day reported!

Day 1 – Japan

So, laziness, or insanely smart, I’m going to try and ‘recycle’ some of my emails to blog posts.  It has been noted that my email style is a little ‘punchier’ than my blog content… so I suppose we’ll see if it’s loved or hated!!

At Sydney Airport

So… other than bruising my hand on one of the lesbian’s hand luggage falling over (matches her wife’s), seeing my boss and his wife, I’m all good.Had my maccas hot cakes, seen an awesome red/ruby coloured longchamp – checked, it’s made in China, but my blue one I’m carrying is thankfully French made.

The 'traditional' McDonald's hotcakes at the airport! (They filled my bottle too!)
The ‘traditional’ McDonald’s hotcakes at the airport! (They filled my bottle too!)
Plane food!
Plane food!
Tour might KILL (or teach me) patience… We’ll see.
New Osaka Hotel
I have wifi. I’m tired and it’s past bedtime and I’ve missed one meal. Room is tiny but private so this (semi) nudist is happy.
Plane was old but from Tokyo to Osaka was shiny and new and as big with first class! Who needs first class for a 45 min journey!?
Not so New - New Osaka Hotel... Shin Osaka = New Osaka, as in the suburb. Rookie error
Not so New – New Osaka Hotel… Shin Osaka = New Osaka, as in the suburb. Rookie error
Sat next I 21 year old on way here, annoyed me. Rookie traveller he is!!
Food! I need food! No money in yen though.
Day 2 about to begin, we head to the sister city Suita and stay with home stays for two nights! The lesbians are staying together cause otherwise they refused to home stay.
Little J is the inexperienced 21 yo got left behind in the busy streets of Osaka after seeing the dragon boats . He’s a pretty entitled mummy’s boy so more or less blamed us for losing him not himself for his inability to follow the green fish wind sock that Hiro our guide whips out (definitely gay me thinks!)
G the leader is a bit dottery, so the lesbians and I whipped him into shape so we eat prior to midnight. You should see the gifts he’s got for our homestay families – yikes!!
There’s an older couple, four kids and grand kids called L&G. Apart from the lesbians they seem the most relatable for me. They’ve travelled heaps. She’s a bit disagreeable with big issues, or just contrary (after I mentioned the diversity of fashions the Japanese wear). Greg is far more fun and appreciates my engineer mind!
There’s a whinge-a-belle  who’s a vego cause she can’t chew. She takes 10 minutes of fretting to buy a vending machine drink, worried she won’t like it, and of course in the end didn’t. She should have got water but she doesn’t like mineral water, chose green tea. Anyone would think the $2 decision was mission critical! The lesbians and I split to ensure we wouldn’t enjoy her company at dinner after seeing her lengthy discussion at lunch!
The team - outside the Kobe Earthquake Museum
The team – outside the Kobe Earthquake Museum
There’s sisters her, in strata check business, constantly laughing. E’s 27 and definitely the more unhinged one but K keeps her sorted. Thy have locked themselves out If their room more than once already!
Then they Z, a Russian born in Iran who got refugee status in Australia after ww2. She’s a red wine drinker and whilst a little spacey, switched on generally! J is 32 never travelled but it doesn’t show. He has mannerisms and intonation like Teo but far more generous. The twins and I had cash flow problems the first night and Jordan readily volunteered to cover us. That being said despite reports to the contrary, international credit cards works but cash is king!
The tv is all in Japanese but in watching it nonetheless. Puts me in the mood for the day ahead. Sorta sad I couldn’t find a music station at least 🙁
Yesterday we went to a castle/fort in the rain, then to Osaka history museum which was ok but very little English.
Osaka Castle - b picture (blame it on the weather?)
Osaka Castle – bad picture (blame it on the weather?)
Lastly we went to the aquarium which I want enthusiastic about but ended up loving! For a girl scared of swimming with fish, a 30cm Perspex barrier between us is ideal! There were penguins and dolphins but the killer whale was sick and AWOL. There were SO many toddlers there but also young dating couples. Despite this business I saw heaps! There was also the worlds biggest gift store!! (If you care for fish, I have about 10 posts worth of photos!
Baby seat in the toliet cubicle
Baby seat in the toliet cubicle
This country is incredibly kid friendly. Most toliet stalls have a wall mounted baby holder to sit there while mum pees. Then most ladies bathrooms have a small low mounted urinal for little boys!  Even sinks are at lower levels. Staks of men’s rooms also show they have baby change facilities too. They are also uber blind aware – Braille on stair hand rails in addition to tactiles everywhere. Even pay phones mounted lower. Every public toliet also has old person rails in the stalls and around at least one sink. I think I recall reading about the aging population: they’ve certainly embraced the changes needed!
Dragon boating - incidentally as we passed over on a bridge.
Dragon boating – incidentally as we passed over on a bridge.
Ok time to zip up and head to the foyer. Smallest bag in the group for the trip – most will leave the bulk of their stuff here during our homestay but I can take most of mine 😀
There you go – first days of my trip!