Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Bargain day at Manly cinemas ...

It's a well known fact that Tuesdays are bargain day at the cinema (but Mondays at my favourite cinemas, Palace and the Nova) and with the price of movies these days, it's worth waiting until Tuesday to go to the movies.  Or so I  thought.  Yesterday afternoon, I headed to the Manly cinema to see 'Wild Target', a very funny British comedy.  It was my first and probably last time to the Manly cinemas.  I've never sat in such uncomfortable cinema seats.  Isn't going to the movies about sitting in big, comfy seats with drink holders?  Not at Manly.  The seats were so, so old and many were held together with duct tape and some even had their backs missing.  And no drink holders.  Where was I supposed to put my cup of tea?  But, when you're only paying $10 for the movie, you can't have everything, hey?!

Monday, 29 November 2010

The first visitors ...

Out for dinner with Dad

This weekend, I had my first visitors to my new place in Manly.  Dad, Carla and the dogs (Charlie and Archie) drove up from Canberra to visit on Saturday afternoon.  We enjoyed a lovely Thai dinner before they headed back to their accommodation, leaving Charlie with me for a sleepover.  I really miss having dogs, so it was wonderful to have Charlie for a visit - he slept on my bed and we went for several (very) slow walks in the morning.  On Sunday, Dad and Carla came back to Manly for lunch before collecting Charlie and heading back home.  Anyone who would like a visit to Sydney are more than welcome to come and stay (feel free to crash on the couch if you're up for it!)

Charlie and his squeaky toy

Friday, 26 November 2010

Green School ...

Yesterday, I stumbled across this TED talk about 'Green School' in Bali.  The talk by the founder, John Hardy, showed just what is possible when someone has a vision and has the passion and dedication to follow it through.  Take the time (13 minutes and 36 seconds to be exact) to watch and listen to this talk as it shows some beautiful images of the 'Green School' and its students.  After watching the talk, I was inspired to find out more about the school, so I visited the Green School website, which is equally as inspiring.  Always on the look out for new and exciting places where I could live/work, I clicked on the 'Teach at Green School' link, where teachers are invited to write a compelling story describing why the school should consider them for a position.  I wonder how many schools use this kind of method to employ staff.  Not many, I guess.  But then again, this is a very unique school indeed.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

A night at the Opera House ...

What a spectacular location for a theatre company

As I wrote about yesterday, I went to see a play, 'The Grenade', last night.  It was the first time I've been to the Opera House to see a performance and I've decided that it is definitely a special place to visit.  It was a warm evening and there was a happy, 'summer is nearly here' vibe in the air as I walked from the ferry wharf to the Opera House, with the view of the Harbour bridge keeping me company along the way.  The play was great and I was so excited to see Gary McDonald on stage.  I've always loved watching him in old re-runs of 'Mother and Son' ('The Norman Gunston Show' is just a bit before my time!) so I was thrilled to see him on stage.  The only odd thing about the evening was going by myself.  I don't have a problem going to dinner or to the movies etc. by myself but it felt a bit weird to go to the theatre alone.  Especially as I like to dress up for the theatre.  However, I soon managed to get over that and loved my first trip to the theatre at the Sydney Opera House.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Under 30 = $30 ...

'The Grenade' ... a Tony McNamara play I'm seeing tonight with a $30 ticket

In exactly three months, I will turn 30.  I've never really worried too much getting older but recently, a small thing got me thinking about it.  Whilst in Brisbane, when booking tickets to 'When the Rain Stops Falling', I realised that I could get a ticket for $30, just because I was under 30.  I didn't think too much of it until last week, when I was looking at the Sydney Opera House website, searching for some fun things to do over the summer.  And, I noticed that many of the plays offered $30 tickets for those under 30.  How had I gone so long without realising this great offer?  My first thought was, "I'd better start going to the theatre more".  Then I realised that I only had a few more months to take advantage of this amazing offer.  Which began a snowball effect and I began to worry about everything related to turning 30.  Sometimes I worry because I don't feel like a 'grown-up' - I'm not married; I don't own a house, in fact I really don't have many valuable material assets at all; I spend all my money travelling; I don't have children.  But then I think of the wonderful and unusual things that I am doing with my life and feel better.  I feel even better when I read that Bernard Salt thinks the teenage years are extended to the age of 29 ... so I have a valid reason for my lack of maturity (if maturity is measured by wedding rings, children and houses).  In the meantime, I plan to spend my last three months of being a teenager by seeing countless plays at the small cost of $30 a ticket, starting tonight with 'The Grenade'.

Monday, 22 November 2010

A much needed visit to Melbourne ...

Great food, great wine, great atmosphere and of course, great company ... dinner at Movida with my baby brother

A few weeks ago, I ummed and ahhed about whether or not a trip to Melbourne before Christmas was being extravagant.  But, given the cheap cost of flights these days and the fact that I was feeling a bit flat in Sydney, a trip to Melbourne was just what I needed.  I spent the weekend catching up with family and friends, eating too much delicious food (including two serves of my grandmother's delicious trifle ... ah, comfort food!) and drinking my way through several bottles of white wine and Tasmanian bubbles.  Yesterday, I visited some old colleagues at MGS and MLC and loved hearing about new teaching ideas to try and catching up on school gossip.  Now, I'm back in Sydney feeling re-energised and enthusiastic about work and life.  But ... I'm still really looking forward to my trip to Melbourne for Christmas. 

Friday, 19 November 2010

Ocean Beach Tea Rooms ...

I just love this building on Manly's beach front.  It is on the corner of the Corso (the trashy pedestrian mall that runs from the harbour side to the beach side).  The 'Ocean Beach Tea Rooms' is now a surf shop, but every day when I walk home, I wonder about what it may have been like in 1898 when fancy tea rooms graced the building.  It's easy to imagine the women in their totally-inappropriate-for-such-warm-weather clothes sipping tea and eating scones with jam and cream whilst watching the ocean.  I wonder what those same sophisticated ladies would think of today's Manly?

Thursday, 18 November 2010

The complexities of tipping ...

Recently, I read an article in Sydney’s Sun Herald newspaper about the reputation of Australians  being tight when it comes to tipping overseas.  It got me thinking about my experiences of tipping in North America.  On one of my first nights in Canada, I went to dinner by myself, enjoyed my meal, paid for it (with no tip) and left.  As I handed over the cash (and expressed my satisfaction with the meal), the young waitress gave me an odd look.  It was only later on when I was reading up about Canadian customs in the Lonely Planet, that I realised the error of my way.  I was so embarrassed that I haven’t been back to that restaurant since.

Our culture simply is not a tipping culture.  Of course, if the service has been absolutely amazing, one leaves a tip.  But, in North America, a tip is expected regardless of how good the service was.  Generally, a 15% tip is expected but many restaurants simply add 18% to the bill if you are part of a large group.  My argument is that if the service is crappy, you don’t leave a tip.  Others argue that, to show your disappointment, you leave a very small tip (say, 5-8%).  North American service staff are generally paid a pretty low salary, so they rely on tips to top up their wage.  However, this is still not an excuse for poor service.

As the article pointed out, it is not that Australians don’t want to tip.  Rather, the way in which the tip is delivered is often complex.  Tipping in restaurants is easy because you simply add the tip to your bill.  But, what about bartenders, cleaning staff and bell hops?  When I was travelling in the USA, these situations made me feel very uncomfortable.  How do you give the staff a tip?  Do you leave it on the bed or quietly slip it to them?  How do you know what the right amount is?  And what about doormen?  Are you expected to tip them each time they open the door for you?  Oh, the complexities of tipping and not being seen as a tight arse.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Discovering new things ...

Moving to a new apartment is like discovering a whole new world.  It's fun setting up a new home and exploring the new neighbourhood.  Lovely discoveries I've made in my new home have been the joys of having a big bath tub and the views over the Manly Oval where I've been motivated by all sorts of sports training sessions.  In Manly itself, I've enjoyed finding new ways to walk to work as well as re-discovering the fun places I found last year.

Discovering new things also means finding out about the not-so-pleasant things.  In my apartment, I've discovered that the air conditioning is incredibly noisy and that if I keep the balcony door open for fresh air, I can't hear myself think due to the noisy traffic below.  In the area, I've discovered that the beautiful park opposite my apartment building is a regular hangout for the homeless citizens of Manly.

But, the one that takes the cake is the discovery of the regular Wednesday night bagpipe band practice on Manly Oval, directly opposite my apartment.  When the bagpipes first sounded at 9 o'clock last Wednesday night, I hoped that it would be a one off.  But, no.  It seems I'll be blessed with 50+ bagpipe players every Wednesday night.  Now, I just need to 'discover' where my ear plugs are hidden.

The Manly Daily ...

The Manly Daily newspaper is just what it says it is, a daily newspaper about all things Manly.  Which is a bit over the top really, it's such a small town, hardly worth a daily newspaper one would think.  But, anyway, these pictures all show headlines from past Manly Daily newspapers.  They make for quite an attractive mural in an alleyway near the Manly library.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Yoga ...

This was me yesterday ... on fire during yoga

I decided to try yoga on the weekend.  I haven't  done yoga for about 5 or 6 years, so I was slightly apprehensive but since I'm keen to do a little more work on my strength and flexibility (in the hope for long, lean muscles!), I thought I'd give it a go.   I decided to try a yoga studio near my house (and there are plenty of them here in Manly) that was advertising an introductory special of $20 for 10 days.  The yoga wasn't advertised as being of the bikram variety (which is held in a 40 degree room), so I got a real surprise when I learnt that the room was going to be heated to 30 degrees.  So, not only did I look like a clumsy monkey as I tried to maintain my balance while I twisted (well, attempted to) my body into unnatural positions, but I was dripping with sweat.  By the time I left, I looked like I'd been drenched in a downpour of rain.  And my face was the colour of a tomato.  My feeling of awkwardness was not helped by the fact that my mat was positioned in between a window to the entrance of the studio and an anorexic girl with the flexibility of a rubber band.  But ... when I left, I felt AMAZING.  I was energetic, my skin and eyes were bright and clear.  It was a wonderful feeling.

Beach closed ...

Beach closed ... but people still swimming

For the entire weekend, Manly beach was closed.  Signs were posted all along the beach, quite clearly indicating that it was closed and that people shouldn't enter the water.  There were also many signs showing the reason for this - strong currents.  It was plain to see that the water was incredibly choppy and dangerous looking.  But ... people were still swimming.  I found it amusing to listen to the regular announcements over the loudspeaker reminding people that the beach is closed for good reason.  The guy who has this unfortunate and repetitive job sounded more and more exasperated as the weekend went on.  At one point on Sunday, I heard him announce "... If you insist on going into the water, go in to your knees, fall down, get wet and get out.  If you do go out further, there is a high probability that you won't be able to get back into shore."  That made me giggle.  But, just as he was saying it, there were a couple of tourists heading out for a swim.  Crazy.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

The work routine ...

View towards Manly beach

Everyone loves holidays.  It's a fact.  But the truth is, it's easy to miss work (and the accompanying routine it brings) when you're on holidays.  So, after 2 weeks off, it was nice to get back into the Australian school routine.  Here, my work week runs from Tuesday to Saturday and my 'in-school' day starts at 8.30 am and finishes at 3 pm.  Plus, I normally do an hour or so of planning and other 'school' stuff outside of those times.  My favourite thing about my work routine ... apart from reading in the sun with the kids of course ... is the walk to and from work.  The walk (or stroll in the mornings when I'm still waking up) is about 20 minutes long and takes me along Manly beach, past the cliffs on the way to Shelley beach and up the road past all the multi-million dollar houses to my very own multi-million dollar 'school room'.  What a place to work ... it's almost like being on holidays.

View towards the smaller (and prettier and quieter) Shelley beach

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

TEDx Next Generation ...

A few weeks ago, I discovered TEDx Next Generation - inspirational TED talks by kids.  This one by an 11 year old home-schooled boy was particularly interesting.  There aren't many 11 year olds out there who are so passionate about such a good cause and who are so skilled at speaking publicly.

(By the way, I hope everyone is impressed that I managed to figure out how to embed a video.  All by myself.)

Monday, 8 November 2010

Back to Manly ...

The view from my new apartment

I arrived back in Manly on Friday and I must admit, it's lovely to be here.  What a change compared to the mountains of Canada!  I haven't written much the past few weeks because I've been spending time with C. who left for Canada on Sunday morning.  It was a sad morning, saying goodbye to him and knowing that I won't see him until the end of January when he comes back out here for a holiday.  In the meantime, Skype is a wonderful thing and if anyone has any long distance relationship hints, they are more than welcome!  For now, it's time to get back into my Australian routine, including a lovely work environment and lots of time on the beach.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Future Minds ...

C. bought this book in the Brisbane airport on Friday.  I quickly stole it from him to plough through it before he left.  The characteristics of the digital generation and the impact of technology on lives is something that really interests me, particularly as a teacher.  It seems that every conference, journal article etc. relating to education has a '21st century' or 'digital generation' spin on it.  'Future Minds' was a great read that focused on what technology is doing to our society, why it matters and how we can change our behaviours.  The book is fairly simplistic and repetitive but gives a good overview of the issues surrounding technology.  Basically, it seems that technology is reducing our attention span and perhaps making us dumber.  Richard Watson argues that, thanks to Google, we are flooded with answers, which takes away from asking questions and thinking at a deeper level.

I know that, at times, my life suffers from an overuse of technology.  I am a definitely a victim of 'multi-tasking mayhem', a term used by Watson in this book.  As I write this, I have five different programs open on my computer - a Word document, iphoto, itunes, Garageband and the internet.  In the internet alone, I have 4 screens open - this one, my email, Monash University's Blackboard and the Globe and Mail newspaper.  Talk about online overload.  So, I've decided to remove some of the technological clutter from my life with the setting of a few goals:

  1. To have one internet free day per week.
  2. To be more mindful about what I'm doing on the computer (ie.  Not flicking from one screen to the next while working on/looking at several different things ... one thing at a time).
  3. When I'm reading on the internet, read the whole text and read it carefully.
  4. To only check my email/facebook page once per day.

Who knows how it will go.  Hopefully it will clear my head and allow me more technology-free time to read, exercise, rest ... and think.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

'When the Rain Stops Falling' ...

Last night, C. and I went to see 'When the Rain Stops Falling' at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre.  I was attracted to the play because it was written by the same person who wrote the Australian classics, 'Lantana' and 'Strictly Ballroom'.  It was fantastic.  The story was complex and unexpectedly shocking in some parts, but brilliant.  C. summed it up nicely when he said, "You know a good play when you're still thinking about it hours after you've seen it."  And this morning, I'm still thinking about it.  So, it must of been good.

First impressions of Brisbane ...

The Treasury building ... now a hideous casino inside

I was excited to arrive in Brisbane for several reasons.  I haven’t been to the city since I was a lot younger and I don’t remember much of that trip.  So, I was excited to explore the city.  I also was really looking forward to a week of relaxation – no work, no uni, no rushed sightseeing.  So, what was my first impression?

Well, I probably arrived at a bad time to arrive in any city – Friday night at about 9 o’clock when the party people were just hitting the streets of the CBD.  I noticed that girls here like to wear minimal clothing paired with sky high heels.  It isn’t a classy look.  I also noticed that the people of Brisbane like to smoke.  Everywhere you turn, there are smokers of all ages.  Which isn't something that I have noticed in other Australian cities.

Despite these poor first impressions, Brisbane is a lovely city.  We are staying amongst the beautiful historical buildings on the riverfront.  The South Bank area has been fun to explore so far with loads of restaurants, art and entertainment.  It even has a man-made beach that has been packed with families enjoying the sunny weekend weather.

Over the next few days, I’m looking forward to exploring some of the inner city neighbourhoods and walking around the riverfront.  I’m also enjoying some quiet time in the hotel room reading and listening to music.  Oh, and watching the Melbourne Cup Carnival on television.

All in all, Brisbane is a very pleasant city.  I wouldn't go as far to say that I like it as much as other Australian capital cities, but it's a nice place to spend a week before heading back to work on Monday.