Sunday, 31 January 2010

Manly cafe culture ....

My favourite working cafe ... just one of the many cafes in Manly

Manly is filled with cafes and I am slowly working my way through them all, although I have developed some favourites already.  Cafes were something that I really missed in China where the only cafes on offer were Starbucks or dodgy Chinese cafes trying to be western cafes.  I love sitting with a book, the paper or some work and having a pot of tea and a little piece of cake.

My two favourites here in Manly are the one above, where I can sit in the upstairs lounge with my computer and get a heap of work done without the distraction of watching people pass by (another great thing about cafes!).  My other favourite is giving me a good reason to do lots of running .... it's a cafe with a huge selection of yummy crepes.

There is something social about sitting in a cafe, even if you're by yourself, which is handy for me because I really don't know anyone here, so it's nice to get out of my apartment and feel a little more social!  

Right now, I need to  go and run off that 'Manly Crepe' from lunch!

The 'Manly Crepe' ... a yummy crepe concoction filled with yoghurt, banana, strawberries and walnuts

Friday, 29 January 2010

Moving beyond competition ....

What a great location for a morning run!

Those who know me will know that I like to keep fit and that am also quite competitive.  So, when you combine the two, I'm there!  Last week, I signed up with an outdoor training group as a way to get fitter (read - push my lazy arse a little harder!) and meet some new people.  The trainers run morning and evening boxing, circuit, cardio and sports game sessions on and next to the beach ... what a way to train!  On Thursday night, I turned up to find that it was fitness testing time.  I am one of those sick individuals who like this kind of thing, I like pushing my body to the limits in each test and competing against others.  My competitive streak came out and I was off ..... despite not feeling at my fittest, I was pleased to say that I performed well and came out on top of the group for most of the tests.  However, I was disappointed with my beep test result.  For the unfortunate souls who haven't completed the beep test before, it is a 20 metre shuttle run where you run at the sound of the beep.  As the test gets harder, the beeps get closer together and you complete the test when you cannot make the 20 meteres by the time the next beep sounds.  Before I knew it, my body had just stopped several levels after the trainer had dropped out.  Sure, I was hurting, but somewhere in my mind, I had thought 'well, I've beaten the trainer, I can drop out now', despite the fact that I still had (a little!) energy left in me.  My lesson from this, is not to focus on what others and just worry about my own personal best.  For now, I have 10 weeks before the next round of testing and I intend to work my butt off during that time!

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Quick fix teaching ....

'Reproducible activity pages ... for an instant lesson'

Above my desk for the past year or so, I have had the following quote, torn from an ASCD catalogue ....

A curriculum is not a list of places to visit, but an engaging and effective itinerary.

This quote, from the book 'Schooling by Design' by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, was ringing in my ears as I ventured out to a large educational supply store in Sydney.  I was on the hunt for some resources to help me plan some learning experiences for my younger student as the early years is not where my experience lies.

When I first walked into the store, I was overwhelmed by how big the store was, but it didn't take long before I realised that the shop was filled with a brightly coloured rubbish - a whole lot of books designed to make teachers' lives 'easier'. There were countless brain numbing titles such as 'Hassle Free Teaching Ideas for Every Day',  'Fast Finisher Activities', 'The Big Book of Themes' and 'Brilliant Activities for Gifted and Talented Students'.

The books I wanted to find were only available by order because 'we don't sell many of them'.  Based on this, it seems that many teachers are simply content to hit '25' on the photocopy machine and churn out the same blackline master for their class, year after year.    The saddest thing about my visit was when I was rummaging through some older books at the back of the store, and I found a book by my educational idol, Julie Landvogt.  This was my only book purchase of the day, because it seemed that the quality of the rest of the books was lacking.  

I am in a lucky position at the moment in that I have the unique opportunity to design and implement a curriculum for two very unique students and I have no plans for it to be a list of places (and BLMs) to tick off, more an engaging and effective itinerary that I hope Wiggins and McTighe would be proud of!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Melbourne girl seeks tall, dark and handsome Sydney man ....

The topic of internet dating brings many mixed opinions but, as my mother pointed out, it is a great way to meet people when moving to a new city.  So, a couple of weeks before I moved to Sydney, over a few glasses of wine, I composed a profile, sent myself into cyberspace, sat back and waited.  Before too long, I had plenty of responses, including from very short men (too many of those in China), divorced men with several children (Not ready for that, thanks), those who clearly can't read ('Hi, I'm looking for a nice Brisbane girl'?!) and those who had sinister agendas ('I'm a married man looking for some fun' - I don't think so).  After wading through the dodgy responses, I came across some nice potentials and wondered what to do next.

There were so many unanswered questions .... How long do you communicate by email for?  When is the right time to give out your phone number?  Where do you meet for the first time?  Do you talk about other internet dating experiences?  Do you go for the cheek or lip kiss at the end of the night?  How do you politely decline a second date?  Internet dating is a minefield, has anyone written a book on the topic?

I didn't actually last very long in cyberspace, after all, there is only so much 'shopping' for men that a girl can do!  Plus, it gets confusing .... if you are in contact with a few people, it's easy to forget who does what and what kind of music they all like!  It was a fun experience, I've made a new friend (after I survived the beach date, must be a Sydney thing because the idea freaked me out just a little .... a bikini on the first date?!) and been on several dates with a lovely man.  Who knows what the future holds, maybe I'll have to do a little internet dating in Calgary .... Melbourne girl seeks Calgary cowboy?!

Sunday, 24 January 2010

More censorship in China ....

It seems that someone is finally standing up to China and their ridiculous censorships ..... after placing too many censorships on Google searchs, Google has finally had enough and is threatening to pull out of China altogether.  Good on them, I say.  Just before I left, a friend tried to google the company 'Freedom Furniture' and wasn't able to locate anything ..... but once she tried 'furniture freedom', bingo!  Talk about illogical.

Then there is the Avatar issue .... after being available at cinemas freely for some time, China has banned it (just the 2D version) from cinemas.  Their reasons?  Well, they couldn't quite make up their minds so they're going with two ideas, the first being that it may cause political unrest - are they worried that the Chinese citizens think the people of Pandora are real?!  The second reason is that the Hollywood blockbuster is taking money  away from the domestic film industry.  But the 3D version is still showing .... where is the logic in that?

Thursday, 21 January 2010

The Sydney Festival ....

Warriors of Brazil

Perhaps Sydney does have a little more culture than I originally thought!  At the moment, the city is filled with loads of theatre productions of all kinds, thanks to the arrival of the Sydney festival, which I stumbled across when reading a local newspaper.  I quickly snapped up some tickets to the 'Warriors of Brazil' show, featuring topless Brazilian men performing capoeira, a type of martial arts/dance that was first introduced to me in China, by a Brazilian friend.  The show was highly energetic, hugely fun and some Brazilian eye candy never hurt anyone!  Nothing else on the festival list really caught my eye, so it may be that I will need to return to Melbourne for my next cultural fix!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

My new home in Manly ....

Yesterday, I moved into my new home in Manly.  If the home was being advertised by a real estate company, it would be described at 'cosy', which translates as small.  My new home is a small studio apartment on the 1st floor, right in the heart of Manly.  It is just a few steps to the Corso, the main pedestrian street, and only 2 minutes to the beach.  It may be small, but it's modern, clean and comfortable.  The apartment has a balcony and the complex has a gym, swimming pool and spa.  It's perfect for my 3 months in Manly.  Now, I just need to find some friends so I can have a housewarming party!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Taronga Zoo

What is it with all these excursion days, you may ask.  Well, the kids have their big cousin from Canada visiting, so they are playing tour guide.  Yesterday, we headed to the Taronga Zoo, where the giraffes have one of the best views in Sydney - the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.  The zoo was fantastic, I was super impressed with the educational stuff in all the presentations.  A great day.

Monday, 18 January 2010

A weekend in Manly ....

Whilst I am in Sydney, my weekend days are on Sunday and Monday, which is a little different, but perfectly acceptable.  This weekend was my first real weekend, but I needed to stay close to Manly to keep an eye on the parent-free children.  As in China, my weekends here will be quite different to the weekends I'm used to, filled with hockey and horses.  However, beach-filled weekends could be quite enjoyable!

Manly beach - a perfect length for a walk/run

I began the weekend with dinner at the Manly Wharf Hotel which has spectacular views over the harbour.  The night ended with a stroll around beautifully lit St Paul's Cathedral, a majestic building on the hill overlooking Manly.

Sunbaking on the rocks?!  Actually a great idea!

On Sunday morning, I went for a long walk on the beach, followed by a swim at the Freshwater rockpool.  Here, I discovered the joys of sunbaking on rocks instead of sand, which I find too messy and irritating when it gets inside my book and my sunglasses.  In the afternoon, I wandered through the Manly markets and picked up some fresh fruit and veg before having a nanna nap.  On Sunday evening, I ventured into the city on the ferry to see Avatar in 3D (a great movie despite the fact that I'm not a sci-fi fan).  Before the movie, I ate my favourite Chinese dish (mapo dofu) in a genuine Chinese restaurant.

Sydney Harbour Bridge from the ferry

Monday was a lazy day filled with errand running, reading, napping and walking.  My favourite part of the day was a brilliant yet dangerous discovery - two second hand book stores with cheap books!  Here, I found The Long March and Paprika Paradise, a book about an Australian returning to his roots in his parents home country of Hungary.  And today, it's back to work - we're off to the Taronga Zoo!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

The joy of reading .... and rediscovering libraries!

Something that excites me about living in an English speaking country again is the easy access to libraries.  Every time I stumbled across an English book store in China, I bought books, simply because they were so hard to come across.  Top of today's to-do list is to join the library, can't wait!

Books I've recently finished ....

The Good German of Nanking - John Rabe's diaries.  I bought this at the Shanghai airport on my way home and it is a fascinating but disturbing first hand account of the rape of Nanjing in the 1930s.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston.  This book belongs to one of my brothers and despite negative reports from them, I read it as I love outdoor, mountaineering stories.  But, this is possibly the worst one I've read, arrogant and poorly written.

March by Geraldine Brooks.  A Year of Wonders is a favourite book, so I knew this would be a great story to read.  The language is beautiful, the story engaging and you learn something about history too, always a good thing!

Flying with Paper Wings - Reflections on Living with Madness by Sandy Jeffs was an amazing insight to what it is like living with mental illness.  Sandy spoke to Mum's university class late last year which is how I came to be in possession of this book.  Sandy, a Melbourne woman, has also published several books of poetry.

Current books next to my bed ......

Most people know that I don't need any excuse to buy a Lonely Planet guide so the purchase of Sydney City Guide was an easy one.  I am hoping it will regularly help me find my way off the 'Insular Peninsula'!

A Year in Tibet by Sun Shuyun.  A beautiful book that follows the life of local people in Gyantse, a rural town where I spent several days on my trip.  I want to go back there!

The books on the to-read list ......

Next on my reading list is People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, which I know will be a good read.

The Hotel on the Roof of the World by Alec Le Sueur.  Another Tibetan book - can you guess that it holds a special place in my heart?!

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak was recommended by a friend.

The Long March by Sun Shuyun.  Another one by Sun Shuyun (I also own Ten Thousand Miles without a Cloud).

The Lovely Bones  by Alice Sebold.  I've seen the movie, now I need to read the book.  I don't normally like doing the movie/book  thing, but everyone says the book is better (which is normally the case I find anyway).

Through the Looking Glass  by Lewis Carroll is a definite on to read before seeing the movie, in 3D of course!

On that note, I'm off to the library!  Any other book recommendations are more than welcome!

Friday, 15 January 2010

Beach culture ....

Manly beach

Growing up in Tasmania (read - cold!) as a horse mad girl, I never had the inclination or time for the beach.  Hence, the beach culture in Manly has been somewhat of a shock to the system, albeit a pleasant one.  In my one week here, I have already clocked up countless hours on the beach walking, running, swimming (okay, just getting wet and then getting out), reading and people watching.  There seem to be some serious beach goers who park themselves in their beach shelter (or not) for the entire day.  I can't quite work this out, how come they don't get sunburnt?  I'm out there for a few hours and I'm done - hot, dehydrated and normally burnt, despite the slipping, slopping and slapping.  My favourite part of the beach is the endless sporting activities you can participate in.  From early morning to late evening, there are people engaging in all sorts of activities whilst the coffee drinkers and the fish 'n' chip eaters watch.  Swimming, surfing, kayaking, stand up paddling, running, walking, boating, scuba diving, snorkelling, beach volleyball are just the beginning, there are so many that I don't know the names of, normally revolving around the surf life saving clubs (three on Manly beach).  So, being a goal setter, I've set myself several challenges for my time living the beach life ....

1)  Swim the (approximately) 1km distance between Manly beach and Shelly beach (without feeling scared of sharks!)

2)  Learn how to do stand up paddling (a great core workout and a lot of fun)

3)  Have a go at beach volleyball (again, a great core workout and it looks fun)

4) Be brave enough to go snorkelling at Shelly beach.

There you have it, the challenges in writing!  But for the moment, it's back to the more sedentary activity of people watching.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Return to the 80s .....

Thriller at the Powerhouse musuem

Imagine a room full of under 10s dancing the Thriller dance whilst singing along .....  Today was an 'excursion' day and we ventured across the Sydney Harbour Bridge to the Powerhouse museum whose current feature exhibit centres around the 80s.  It was a fabulous museum and I'm keen to head back there without the kids ... the Zoe the builder playroom didn't really work for me!  To round out the day, we headed to the movies, B and cousin watched Avatar whilst I took R to see Old Dogs (not recommended!).  So, I survived my first day driving in Sydney (where it seems you are unable to turn right at any intersection!) and look forward to a 'normal' school day tomorrow.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

..... And then there were two

Two students.  That's all for the next few years!  I began teaching on Monday and I'm quickly learning that it's not the same as classroom teaching.  With such a small class (I'm working one-on-one with each child at the moment), there is no room for any mistakes.  In a class, it's easy to wing it and make stuff up as you go.  Here, it's not so easy, everything is magnified.  But, as in any school setting, the most important thing is that the kids are happy and eager to come to 'school', which has been achieved according to their mother.  The beauty of having no curriculum constrictions is being able to go where the children's interests lie.  The youngest is keen on learning about the ocean and the oldest, DNA.  So, many trips to the beach and lots of scientific reading are coming up!

Friday, 8 January 2010

The beginning of the next adventure ....

View from my new classroom

Yesterday morning, I bid farewell to Melbourne and to my wonderful family and set off on the next adventure.  I was slightly nervous as I got off the plane, wondering what my new employers and students were going to be like.  My nerves quickly dissipated, the family are wonderful.  Both parents are down-to-earth, friendly and a lot of fun.  The kids are polite, confident and were very keen to show me around their home.  After a seaside lunch, we went apartment hunting in the township of Manly (their place is about a 10 minute walk into 'town', situated about 30 metres above the water on a cliff top).  The apartments we looked at were all very small and basic, but liveable for the 3-4 months that I will be here in Manly.  Whilst we continue to look at others and I settle in, I am basing myself in the 'school room', a 2 bedroom apartment beneath the family's home.   At night time, I was quickly introduced to the way of life here with an evening sail on the harbour and drinks at the Manly Yacht Club.  The next few days will be spent going over the curriculum that the kids have been working on as well as getting to know the kids.  What a tough beginning to my new job!

Monday, 4 January 2010

Welcome to 2010!

Welcome to 2010 and welcome to my new blog name, 'Anna's Next Adventure'.  I have kept the name a little more open because this year, my adventures will be in many different countries and I simply can't wait!  I'm slightly apprehensive about my blogging this year, I'm hoping that I will have many interesting and amusing stories to share with everyone.  The cultural difference I will experience in Canada is nothing like that of China, but I'm hoping that there will be some unique experiences and interactions to be shared.  I plan to write a lot about the outdoor lifestyle I will be living as well as the rare experience of working as the teacher of just 2 children in a family.  In 2010,  I also hope to indulge my new love of photography by taking loads of pictures of what I am sure will be stunning scenery, both in Australia and Canada.  I hope that 2010 brings fun, joy, love and good fortune to everyone!