Tag Archives: 2012

IMG_0242a

A Day on the Golf Course

Golf 2

My mother has a rather strange aversion. It’s not a stereotypical one, like fearing rodents, or freaking out over spiders, but one that filled her with dread for more than a decade: She cannot enter the women’s locker room at her old golf club.

There was something in the room that made her feel unwelcome. The vibe, the energy in the women’s locker room was bad. She described feelings of claustrophobia, being weighted down, laboured breathing and of not feeling right. It wasn’t felt in the other areas of the clubhouse she frequented, like the restaurant or the pro-shop. Just the locker room.

Mum mentioned this aversion to us casually, as casually as she would that mention that mangoes are on sale at the green grocers around the corner. We were headed toward the club in question to play a round with my Dad. She wouldn’t be joining us. She entered the club’s unassuming driveway in the heart of an industrial area in Sydney. Pausing long enough to allow us to exit the car, she wished us well and left to spend the afternoon elsewhere – free from the grip of the locker room.

Golf 3

It was a warm, sunny Thursday afternoon at the course. The Lady Members were enjoying their AGM luncheon in the dining room. A bloke with a prosthetic leg was practicing on the putting green. Cessnas were circling overhead in an endless cycle of touch-and-goes. It was rarity to meet up with my Dad during business hours for a sneaky round of golf. In fact, we couldn’t remember the last time he’d played hooky from his own business. It was rather thrilling for all of us.

Dad had already stocked up on water, counted his golf balls and grabbed a bucket of sand to repair divots. So as soon as we arrived, he marched to the first tee before we’d even warmed up. ‘No mucking around’, his demeanour said. Right on, Dad. We kicked off the adventure with reasonable drives down the first fairway and set off on the afternoon’s seven kilometre walk.

The first few holes had their ups and down – some great saves from green side bunkers, and some cold putting – and it was great to have him guide us around his home course. I took a mental (and photographic) note of all the physical aspects being back home afforded me. The feel of the bark on a paperbark tree, the sun burning my skin, the orange glow of the dirt tracks, the whoosh of a squawking cockatoo flying past me, the expansiveness of the blue Australian sky. I filed them away in my memory bank to be accessed in times of homesickness. I breathed deeply, trying to commit the feel and smell of the Sydney air to memory.

Golf 1

IMG_0216a

Golf 9

We had felt the change blow in on the ninth teebox. The smell on the wind indicated rain. I thought it looked a good ways off, until the heavens opened when half way through the 12th hole. Unlike those in the Bay Area, storms in Sydney usually have plenty of lightning. And this one was a cracker! The storm front brought an incredible number of lightning strikes with it, and I did what I’d learned as a kid: I counted the seconds from the flash until the sound of the thunder to gage the distance of the lightning.

Golf 4

All I could envision was two of my favourite people in the world ending up as human Van de Graaf generators. I can’t lie – I was really worried. After we putted out, I voiced my concern and we paused a few minutes to see if the front would pass quickly. We stood at the 13th tee, and Dad regaled the times he (re)married Mum in the club’s yearly Gretna Green tournament. Stories of club presidents acting as ministers, ‘marrying’ the playing partners in celebration of the town of Gretna Green in Scotland being the capital of young English couples eloping in ye olde times.

Okay, let’s go,” Dad said. He was not prepared to let pouring rain and sheet lightning ruin his surreptitious round. A true Australian male, he was not phased in the slightest. We soldiered on.

Golf flower

Down the line, the storm lifted. No one else was out on the course. It was just the three of us, and the ducks. Dad stopped to check in with work. The American went in search of his ball that had rolled off the back of the green. I watched rays of sunshine peek through the clouds. We were all doing our own thing, but it was just one of those moments that takes your breath away. I whipped out my iPhone, hoping that fleeting beauty could be captured forever.

IMG_0242a

IMG_0243a

IMG_0244a

The rain stuck around for the rest of the afternoon, like an afterthought. It didn’t fade our hot streaks on the 18th, holing in for birdies and pars for pleasure of the one-legged gallery. We wandered into the clubhouse to finalize the afternoon. Dad treated us: a Coke Zero for the American, a lemon squash for me. The ice bobbed around the glass, and I took big gulps, thirsty for this moment of nostalgia.

We loaded our gear into the car, and Dad proudly showed us how his new golf buggy collapsed into next to nothing.

Golf 6

Golf 8

Sunrises that take your breath away.

Living it up in the Lake Conjola Sunshine

Welcome to Lake Conjola!

Welcome to Lake Conjola, where the lake meets the ocean.

Three hours south of Sydney is a little slice of heaven called Lake Conjola. Small communities dot the lake, some with names that evoke the holiday spirit, like Manyana and Fisherman’s Paradise.

Continue reading

Buddha gets around.

Wats, wats and more wats

Wat Chiang Mun.

Wat Chiang Mun.

In Thailand, if you only have one thing on your To Do List, chances are it’ll take you a week to get around to it. The one thing on my list was to go adventuring and check out some of the temples around my guesthouse. And yesterday, I finally managed to accomplish that.

I haven’t sought out the beauty in Chiang Mai and I haven’t documented it. Wandering, looking, snapping: that’s my preferred means of distilling the essence of a city. I use my camera to capture the parts that contribute to the whole picture. But I had not even bothered to charge the battery for my digital SLR since I’d left Sydney. That’s so unlike me.

Buddha standing tall.

Buddha standing tall.

Dogs are as ubiquitous as wats here.

Dogs are as ubiquitous as wats here.

Chiang Mai is famous for being a city of temples, known locally as Wats. There are over 300 of them in the city, and as we discovered on our way to the driving range yesterday, there are wats opposite wats, beside wats. I have been in Chiang Mai for about three weeks, and today was the first time I’d stepped foot inside a wat.

For a brief moment, I flirted with the idea of spending my days visiting every single wat in Chiang Mai. It’d make for an interesting experience, but Wat Fatigue set in quickly after my half-dozen. Much like my experience with cathedrals in Europe, they all start to look the same after a while.

No post is overlooked. Everything is decorated.

No post is overlooked. Everything is decorated.

An offering to Buddha.

An offering to Buddha.

Dragons abound.

Dragons abound.

The chedi at Wat Chiang Mun.

The chedi at Wat Chiang Mun.

Minature buddha with an elephant army.

Miniature buddha with an elephant army.

Chores and tourists.

Chores and tourists.

I waited until the golden hour to go adventuring – just me and my camera – and my favourite time of day didn’t disappoint. The whitewashed walls of the wats are shaded enough to cover any signs of fatigue, the mirror mosaics that adorn the pagodas shimmer in the setting sun, the gold-leafed chedis seem lit from the love, compassion and knowledge within. Some of the junior monks were out sweeping up the leaves around the compounds, dressed in their ceremonial saffron-coloured robes. Dogs lazed about on the grass, the paths and on the cool, tiled stairs. Even they seemed to be at peace.

I’m enamoured with the quiet beauty of wats. There’s something calming about being inside these places, and as ye of little faith, I find that very, very interesting.

Wat Baan Ping.

Wat Baan Ping.

I love the decorative elements on these temples.

I love the decorative elements on these temples.

Lots of decorative dragons.

More decorative dragons.

On the temple trail.

On the temple trail.

The stunning amount of details on a simple window shutter.

The stunning amount of details on a simple window shutter.

Buddha gets around.

Buddha gets around.

Christmas in Chiang Mai Pt 2

Merry Christmas!

Here’s a little song the American wrote to celebrate the silly season. But beware: it’s catchy!

So, it’s Christmas Day here in Chiang Mai and it was a pretty low-key day. I wasn’t able to fall asleep until the sun rose. By the time I awoke, the UN Bakery was fresh out of baguettes and French loaves, but was bursting at the seams with mince pies. I returned with the last four bread rolls and chocolate croissants to enjoy with our powdered coffee for the celebratory breakfast at 2pm. We’ve been getting up in the PM since we arrived here, and have (so far) been unable to readjust our schedule.

As we had brekkie, I skyped with my family who were winding down after a busy day with the relatives in Sydney. It’s days such as these that I am lucky to be living in an age where we can connect instantly, visually, with those we love. Just seeing my family, sitting around the dining table, and chewing the fat about the day and plans for the holidays was so wonderful. I miss them enormously, and I am really starting to rethink this whole travelling for Christmas thing we’ve opted for…  I’m really looking forward to chatting with the North American contingent in an hour or so.

Christmas in Chiang Mai Pt 2

This evening, we took a stroll around Chiang Mai. On the way past Thapae Gate, we stopped to have a peek at the markets and food stalls and concerts celebrating the New Year. A young girl was performing traditional a Thai dance in an elaborate costume. The Thai Post Office had a stall and was selling postcards: a perfect opportunity for me to get all those postcards I have already written, mailed. We wandered around for a little, then continued on past the nightclubs and their ‘friendly ladies’, to the Night Markets.

As per tradition (one that started when we were in Germany last year when everything else was closed), we had Christmas Dinner at Pizza Hut. So American, right? And now, I can hardly move. All of that doughy goodness! It was a welcome change from the vege fried rice /pad thai combo we have each night.

Christmas in Chiang Mai

And I hope you had a great Christmas, or are in the process of having a good one.

This is pretty much what I look like right now.

Can You Ever Just Be Whelmed?

“I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?”

“I think you can in Europe.” *.

Ah, I am overwhelmed. For a multitude of reasons. Trying to settle in to life here in Chiang Mai. Trying to adjust to life without work, to not be needed. Trying to get kick started with an online course I am taking. Trying to write the best posts ever and never being happy with the finished product. Trying to read, read, read so that I absorb all of the books I set out to read whilst on this finite sabbatical from work. Trying to float ideas I have for a new business. Trying to follow-up with all the people I am scheduled to connect with or have been lax in connecting with, and feeling guilty about it. Trying to sit down for more time to crank out the next great Australian/American novel. Trying to get to yoga class, and not ever making it there. I’m trying to do it all, 110%, but feel like I’m not doing enough nor getting anywhere. And that I ought to be doing more.

If you were to see me right now, I’d closely resemble a pretzel. But with cheese. And polka dot PJs.

This is pretty much what I look like right now.

This is pretty much what I look like right now.

[Source]

Are you feeling overwhelmed, too?

It’s time to cut myself some slack. I need to take a breath and be more mindful of quieting the unhelpful, negative self-talk.

So in light of feeling off-balance, I wish to speak positively and share the love. Here’s three people whose words I have dug this week. It’s not rocket science, but sometimes turning the focus elsewhere and appreciating the contributions of others is a much better use of my time than navel-gazing.

No. 1: Alex Franzen

Alex Franzen has kick-arse advice, and is just one of those people who seems really authentic. The type of person I’d say g’day to if I ran into her in the supermarket. But I doubt that would actually happen, unless I found myself in Minnesota.

A goal of mine for 2013 is to attend one of her writing workshops or schedule a one-on-one session with her. Plus, I love just staring at her website. We’re totally on the same level, design wise.

One of my favourite posts is this one. You can also follow her on Twitter: @Alex_Franzen.

No.2: Liv Hambrett

I met the (usually) German-based Liv Hambrett recently when I was passing through Sydney, and the woman is slaying dragons left, right and centre! She recently relaunched her all-in-one blog and portfolio at LivHambrett.com, and is currently living it up on a cultural exploration of all things Australia with the Significant German. With plenty of wine and cheese.

Today, she had one of her articles named by The Daily Life as one of the best in 2012. In this list, she stands beside other amazing writers such as Clementine Ford, Julia Baird and Clem Bastow. Take note, everyone. This woman is going places!

Follow her on Twitter: @LivWrites.

No. 3: Amber Gregory

Amber Gregory is one half of Amber And Scott. I stumbled upon her blog via a Radvent post she recently published, and I really enjoyed poking around her site, and reading about her life. They have just recently lost one of their beautiful cats, Jeffy, and reading how much-loved he was and how he was such a big part of their life was beautiful. That’s one of the reasons I love blogging: I love finding people who share my interests and outlook on life. I love hearing their stories and empathising, relating to them. We’re all in this together.

Follow her on Twitter: @Cardassianv0le.

*A sneaky quote from one of the greatest teen movies of all time, 1999’s ‘Ten Things I Hate About You’.