Monday, 27 July 2015

Little Perhentian Island

After a short taxi ride and only slightly longer flight we were soon in Kota Bharu. Whilst I waited for my luggage my friend went off to investigate the taxi options to get us to Kuala Besut where we could get a ferry to the island. She soon returned announcing that not only had she sorted us a taxi but also people to share with thus reducing the cost for us. The taxi ride was a little too exciting but we made it despite our Schmaker-wannabe driver. Once there though the ferry wanted to know where we were going! After much discussion we opted for the cheaper “Little” Island where we were told should be able to find some accommodation easily enough.

The owner of the KL hostel had said there was a hostel on the island which the ferry people seemed to know nothing about but it transpired that one of the other passengers knew about it. We explored the options on the beach first and decided that since we were there for a limited time we would take a more expensive beach hut. It was basic but private and it was right on the beach with lovely views. Unlike some other huts we had looked at it had electricity 24/7 and the bed was extremely comfortable.

Since it was late afternoon we contented ourselves with a walk along our little beach to find some food before exploring the other side of the island which we had been informed was the party side. It looked like a slightly bigger version of our little cove so we decided we were very happy with our choice. We even passed the hostel and though it looked nice and was cheaper it was in the jungle which since we had made quite an effort to get to the island we were glad we had decided on the beach hut with sea view.

We returned to our own beach for the sunset which failed to make an appearance due to the thick cloud building up. The cloud did however provide us with a rather spectacular thunderstorm. Since photographing lightening is on my photography bucket list (If you know me you are surely not surprised I have one) I was rather happy with this. The lightening was mostly sheet with some forks forming and was frequent whilst the storm rumbled on for long enough for me to get a few decent shots amongst the many duds.  It was a good end to good day.

The following day we headed out on the resort snorkelling trip. The sky was cloudy but there was no mention of when the storm might come in. We reached our first stop and jumped in the water to go shark hunting. It’s not quite as exciting/dangerous as it sounds; we were looking for reef sharks which are rather small and shy creatures. I spotted one straight away but true to form it soon swam off. My friend was a less experienced snorkeler so I helped her readjust her mask and soon we were off to explore. It turns out that the shark I spotted was to be the only one I was to see that day but I did see lots of colourful fish that as always I completely failed to identify. We swam to an area known for shark sightings and though I didn’t see another one my friend saw one before it too swam away. Since we had both seen one shark, all be it different ones, we were both happy with the first stop.

The second stop was fish point which was very shallow but did indeed have many more fish. I always feel a bit unsure in shallow water. The water was so clear I was sure I would kick the coral so though we saw lots of fish I found it less fun than our first stop.

Our third stop was by far the highlight of our stay in the islands for me. We stopped between the big and little island and slowly started looking for turtles. Soon a fellow boat spotted one and waved our boat over. He had spotted a large turtle and I jumped in as soon as I had my mask on, not even waiting for my turn on the ladders. I am glad I did as I was almost on top of the turtle, which was a long way beneath me in case you are worried for it by the way. It soon moved on but slowly so I was able to keep pace with it despite my lack of fins. It stopped once or twice yet my friend and I were the only ones able to keep up with it. Its length was at least half my height and it was the biggest turtle I have seen so far. As well as the turtle we saw some fish swimming under it, alongside it and on top of it. It was quite simply, amazing.

After this lunch was always going to be a let down. We knew that as it was Ramadan the town we stopped at would be quiet, in fact originally we expected to return to the resort for lunch. It turned out there was one open restaurant and we were lucky to be served quickly as the place soon filled up. Our two boat companions were not so lucky. As we were leaving we discovered that despite arriving not long after us and before almost everyone else they were only now being served. In the end they left without eating as we had been told we would be collected at 2pm and they didn’t want to hold us up. Unfortunately our guide did not have the same concerns. At 2:30pm he finally appeared and was completely unrepentant for his lateness. I get that some cultures are more laid back than others but our poor companions had missed their lunch to be there and were understandably not happy. I wouldn’t have been either if I had missed my meal.  To add insult to injury as soon as we reached out forth stop to started to rain. Now I know they can’t control the weather but it was hard not to think that the half hour we had spent waiting on the beach should have been spent in the water and now the rough waves meant most of us were not comfortable going in to the water. By consensus we decided to move on to the fifth stop.  Once there the rain was less so we tried but the water was still quite rough and my friend who is not the oceans biggest fan was obviously not happy. As the tide was going in I also had concerns about how the swim back out from the beach would be. We soon returned to the boat. Our two companions tried but soon they too had difficulties and also returned to the boat. It was a shame that a trip which had started so well would end that way. We did mention our displeasure to the resort reception but their response was that the boat had stopped. They didn’t seem to understand that it was his tardiness and cavalier disregard for our disappointment that we found upsetting, not the weather. Sadly there was nothing to be done so my friend and I decided to concentrate on the turtle and first stop when we remembered the day.

The rain didn’t last long and once it cleared it left a lovely sky which my friend rightly predicted would make for a lovely sunset. As the sun went down my friend suggested we head to the jetty to watch it and it was indeed a beautiful sight. We weren’t the only ones with the idea but we did last the longest and got some great shots. I even got to play with some long exposures since I found a few sturdy wooden railings to use a make shift tripods.

The next day we had booked to leave on the 4pm ferry so we spent the day lazing about on the beach. It was exactly what I needed after a busy two years in one place. The sun was warm and though I stayed in the shade due to having rather red shoulders from the day before I enjoyed it none the less. I had my kindle but struggled to stay awake long enough to read it and I soon dozed off. We did venture off the beach for lunch but straight afterwards it was back to our loungers. I’m not usually a beach person but I must admit it was a lovely restful day and I am glad we had booked to last ferry to give us the maximum amount of time on the island. I am always sad to leave a plac de but this time there was the added sadness of leaving my friend behind. She had decided to head to Malaka instead of Penang so we would be parting ways in Kuala Besut.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Goodbye KL

I only had one full day to explore KL so I was glad when I woke very well rested and ready to explore. I was thankful the hostel provided breakfast of tea and toast as it’s always nice to not have to worry about food that early in the morning. I took advantage if the free internet to update friends and family on my safety and location. Before long my friend joined me and it was time to explore once more.

We started our day by going to a nearby shopping mall that had a lot of familiar shops from both Australia and the UK. It was extremely quiet which felt weird after the crowded streets and markets the day before. It soon became apparent that these were the expensive shops but in amongst them we found the Australian brand my friend was looking for. On the way we also found a superhero shop and a frozen yogurt stand making a very successful morning indeed.

Our main goal for the day was to see the KL tower but we didn’t want to be there until after 7pm so we could catch the sunset. Since we had a few hours until then we headed back to the Petronas Towers to takes some photos then on to Chinatown to explore. The food there wasn’t as tasty as the bits and pieces we’d had the night before but it was an interesting experience and there could have been worse ways to pass the time until we headed towards the tower. Once at the tower we were happy to board the free shuffle up the hill. The weather hadn’t been great so I was more than happy to pay the lesser amount to stop at the observation deck rather than go all the way up to the top. The low cloud meant we didn’t get much of a sunset but we had fun looking and trying to photograph what we could see. As the darkness fell the deck got busier and soon we decided it was time to head off. By this time it was clear we wouldn’t make it to the free night out organised by the hostel. Whilst it would have been interesting to experience the KL night life I was a little bit glad as I was quite tired.

Despite my tiredness when offered the choice between seeing the Petronas Towers at night or going home I elected that my friend and I should walk to the towers. She had mentioned that all lit up they were meant to be quite a sight ad though she was returning within the week I didn’t know when or even if I would get another chance. I am glad we did as it was an impressive sight. We again took many photos before heading back to the hostel on the free bus once more.

Back at the hostel we were happy to discover we had the room to ourselves so we could shower and pack easily without disturbing anyone else. My time in KL was over but as my first experience of Malaysia it had been a lot more fun that I had been expecting. I was looking forward to seeing what the Perhentian Islands would bring.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Hello KL!

After two airports, one 5 hour layover and 12 hours of flying I was in a new country! Not only was I in a new country I had 6 weeks of exploring different countries and cultures ahead of me. If that wasn’t enough excitement in a few hours I would be seeing one of my friends I’d made whilst living at the hostel in Cairns. We flew in to Kuala Lumpur a few hours apart and had arranged to stay in the same hostel. We were both too early for checking in but were able to store our bags and start exploring the city straight away. We got the free bus to headed out to see the city. It was amazing to be in a place that was very different from anywhere I had been before. Yes it felt like a city and there were the obligatory sky scrapers but there were also more traditionally styled building which were unusual to my eye and gave the city an exotic feel to someone used to travelling in Westernised countries.

I couldn’t believe it had been two years since I had seen my friend. We talked continuously like we had only seen each other a few days previously yet there was so much to catch up on. She had completed her degree and been to a few more countries and I had managed to explore some of NZ in my two years working there. Despite all we had done and how we have both grown and changed it felt like we had never been apart. Since we were so delighted to be together again as well as visiting KL and the Perhentian Islands together I also suggested I come with her to Penang as I figured I could easily go to Bangkok from there.

She had done a lot of research and at her instigation we headed towards the Petronas tower. On the way we stumbled across Little India and I got my very first taste of Malaysian street food. I am glad to say there were no ill effects and the food was very tasty. Whilst I was excited to be in a new country and had slept well on the plane as the afternoon wore on I found myself flagging. Thankfully having walked a lot on the the way to the towers we discovered the free bus ran from the towers back to our hostel. Yay for Hostelworld and it’s excellent recommendation. The hostel was not only in an excellent location, the staff were friendly and helpful and the rooms were clean, comfortable and cool thanks to the excellent air conditioning.


With the evening to ourselves I discovered the pleasures of a Malaysian laundry which is only worth mentioning as on the way we saw a Hagen Dass shop and decided it would be the perfect place to wait whilst my clothes were drying. I don’t miss from home much these days but I’ve not had Hagen Dass in years so despite the relatively high price it was absolutely worth it.

Post washing we took advantage of the free wifi to book our flights to the Perhentian Island, or rather Kota Bharu. From there we were told we could get a taxi to Kuala Besut and then a ferry to the islands. Having sorted out our flights we then looked for accommodation. We found this slightly difficult as it turn out the islands are not very well connected. The hostel owner assured us we could find accommodation once we got there so with a certain amount of trepidation and a slight thrill of adventure we decided to risk it and our next destination was as set as it could get.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Parting Ways And A New Adventure Begins

The first parting of ways was between my friend and I . She was due to fly out on Sunday afternoon so after breakfast she got packed up and I relaxed in the very comfortable lounge. Our accommodation at the City Garden Backpackers might have been a bit more basic than our Rotorua accommodation but their lounge was welcoming and the other backpackers were friendly enough. Once she was packed up my friend and I spent our final hours playing a silly scrabble type game to pass the time, which is impressive when you think that English isn’t her first language. Too soon it was time for her to catch the bus to the airport and we said goodbye. I was sad to see her go as I knew I would miss her in the coming months but also I felt for her having to go to work the next day. Where as I would be having a much more interesting day, which is why I went back to my room to re-arrange my backpack.

I made sure all my NZ suitable (i.e. winter) clothes were at the bottom of my pack and my summery clothes were at the top. It took hardly anytime and I felt ready to leave however I still had 24 hours before it was time for me to leave so I decided to return to the lounge and write, after all I didn’t want to get behind on my blog again! Whilst I was living in Wellington I didn’t mind not writing but I knew once I was traveling again I’d regret it if I fell behind too much.

On Monday it was my turn to pack up and check out though I had a few hours to kill before I had to head to the airport. I decided to walk in to the city centre and get some travel money and have a last quick look at Auckland. I was touched that some of my friends messaged and called me to say goodbye throughout the day. As excited as I was about travelling I was happy that I would be returning in a few months to see them all again. The fact that it would be a fleeting visit was something I decided not to contemplate.

Back at the hostel I had a last lunch of steak and cheese pie and Phoenix Raspberry Fizz which seemed appropriately Kiwi for my last NZ meal. Then it was time for me to get the bus to the airport. Once there I met up with one of my now ex-flatmates who happened to be flying in as I was due to check in for my flight out. It was lovely to see her on her way to her own holiday as, like most teachers, she works far too hard. I had my last NZ coffee and enjoyed seeing her one more time but soon it was time for my last goodbye. I took my extremely heavy bags to the check-in counter where thankfully they bacame someone else problem for the next 19 hours. Seriously I have no idea how but my backpack and hand luggage they gained 6kg between them in two years, despite me sending a massive box home and giving away a large amount of stuff the previous week. At least I’d get a good work out whilst I was travelling and return with improved strength! For now though I was glad they were someone else’s responsibility.

A quick scan of my passport and a walk through security and I was officially no longer in NZ. All the days where I battled with the long and the bad shifts, the cold, wet and windy weather and ignoring of the itchy feet were worth it. I was on my way to my next big adventure!

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Last Stop Auckland

The next day we were up and out of the hostel early so we could be on our way further north to our final destination for the road trip, Auckland. Since I was driving my friend was tasked with finding us a hostel for our stay. We were both slightly horrified with how expensive they all were but she found us a fairly reasonable 3 share room in the Parnell area not too far from the city centre. It also happened to be conveniently located near the car rental city office. I had requested an airport drop off but my friend suggested we ask to leave it with their city branch and they were quite happy for us to do so.

My first impression of Auckland was that it was not as cold as Wellington but still not summery. As it was Friday our first Auckland activity was to go to the ceroc class at their central branch. We were able to get a bus out to the venue and even though we were slightly early we weren’t the first. The guy setting up was friendly and chatty and soon had us signed in. The class was different again but interesting in it’s own way. Like Wellington here they had the beginner then the intermediate plus class. Obviously the beginner wasn’t a problem but I did find the intermediate quite challenging and the next day my muscles agreed with me! Despite being a quiet class we still managed to have fun and the dancers there were quiet generous with sharing the dancing in the early part of the evening. Later there seemed to be more pairing off and I must say after another long day driving I wasn’t too disappointed when my friend declared she was ready to leave that night.

The weather didn’t improve the following day so we made a trip to the art gallery. I hadn’t been to a proper gallery in over two years so I was interested to see what Auckland had to offer. The fact it was inside and the rain was trying to start again made it even an even more attractive proposition. We did wander around the city a little but soon the weather beat us so we headed back to the hostel for a nap. The nap was important as that evening was to be our final ceroc night. We had been told about a party and though it would be a fun end to our road trip. It turned out to be in far suburbs which meant to get the bus out we had to be there extremely early. Fortunately there was a lovely bar round the corner from the venue. There we had a rather nice glass of wine and whilst my friend tried their nachos I indulged in their tasty cheesecake. I decided there and then that no matter what the wine and cheesecake made the trip worthwhile.

The party happened to be on the same evening as a major rugby final so it was unsurprising that the party was quiet. This time we decided to merely watch the beginner class as it was well balanced and we didn’t see any reason to take learning time away from those already there. The party itself was quiet but there were a fair variety of people at many different dance levels that suit both me and my more advanced level friend. By this point I have to admit I was a bit weary. Partly because even though we hadn’t done much it had still been a tiring week but also I think I was staring too look forward and was very aware that ceroc wasn’t part of my near future. I was missing my ceroc friends and dancing with strangers whilst interesting just wasn’t as much fun. I had forgotten how long it took me to become familiar with the friends I had made in Wellington and whilst I have come a long way since that first class I think when it comes to visiting other ceroc classes I have a long way still to go. This was something I would be happy to revisit in September when I reached Australia but for now my sights were firmly set on where I could go diving first in SE Asia!

Monday, 13 July 2015

Road Trip With a Twist

Both my previous road trips have been tailored to interests that my companions and I share. A love of walking mixed with photography. A love of animals, mixed with photography. A love of singing along very much out of tune whilst going from A to B to C etc etc (stopping along the way to take the odd photograph of course). Therefore it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that when I had a quick look at the ceroc timetables on the way up the country I quickly managed to plot out a route that coincided with them and even less of a surprise that my dance obsessed friend immediately agreed to it. And so began our mini ceroc NZ tour.

The main aim of our trip was to relax and have a holiday before I left. My goal was to get to Auckland by the 5th of July as I flew out on the 6th. We agreed that the main highlight of our trip would be a spa day at Rotarua as though we’d both been before neither of us had tried the famous mud spas. Since it was on the way our first stop was Palmerston North where we stopped by purely to try out their Monday evening ceroc class. We were surprise at how many people we recognised and it was a great start to our ceroc tour.

The following day we were on our way to Rotorua via Gravity Canyon. I’d wanted to go to Gravity Canyon since my brother and his wife had visited as they had a zipline there that was meant to be amazing. On arrival the place was very quiet probably due to the terrible weather. The rain was trying to start but kept giving up then trying again. It made for a dreich1 day and not at all conducive to ziplining. Personally the thing that decided it for me was the walk. At least twenty minutes up a very steep looking path then a few minutes back down not to mention the walk back up from the bottom of the canyon. Since I was not feeling 100% neither walk appealed and I decided that it was not meant to be. Instead we had a cup of tea and watched a braver person give it a go.

In Rotorua we were able to book into a twin room in a hostel friend I had stayed in previously. We settled in and went for a wander and in search of some food. Our first full day in Rotorua and we visited one of mud spas the town is famous for. I must admit I did enjoy playing in the mud and whilst sitting in the hot spa water was a bit boring I did feel much better afterwards.

On the Thursday we took the gondola to the luge and had great fun racing each other down the track. It was a beautiful if cold day so I took the opportunity to take some photos of the area. It had been a while since I had used my mirrorless camera and I was still getting used to it. Nethertheless I enjoyed reacquainting myself with it. In the evening we tried the local ceroc class and again everyone was very welcoming. We got the feeling that most people there were quite new but they still made us feel welcome and we got some fun dances out of them before managing an early night.

1. dreich
Pronunciation: /driːx/ 


(Especially of weather) drearybleak:a cold, dreich early April day
From the Oxford Dictionary 

Monday, 6 July 2015

Thoughts on Leaving Wellington

As my leaving date approached I found myself becoming increasingly conflicted. Usually I am all about the future and next adventure but this time I found myself ruminating on all I was leaving behind. When I left Cairns two years ago I didn’t think I was ready. I loved the diving and couldn’t imagine anything matching it. I left a sunny Australia for a cold, wet, windy Wellington and I wasn’t happy. I found myself ‘homesick’ for the hostel and the reef. Getting work took longer than anticipated and it took me a while to settle into Wellington life. I never conceived back then that this city would become another home. In the last two years I have met more amazing people some of whom have become my closest friends and even make up my New Zealand family. Whilst work was not always easy I’ve worked with some great staff and it is despite not because of them I came to realise management is not for me. I can’t say I’ll miss my job but I will miss the people. I will miss my room and my flatmates. And once again I will miss my new hobby.

When I bought a grab one for five ceroc classes little did I realise that within 6 months I would be completely hooked. Ceroc has brought a new and old joy back in to my life. The old love of dance I shared with Jonathan and the new joy of dancing with different people learning to adapt to their individual styles. Never in a million years would I have believed that I of all people with my anxiety, occasionally crippling shyness and fear of crowds would enter a dance competition yet I did. The large classes at ceroc made me more comfortable with other people and with myself. So much so that not only did I enter a competition, I danced my heart (oh ok and my nerves!) out and I placed second in a newcomer event. I still have a long way to go but once again I have found something else in life to love.

So of course I am sad to be leaving ceroc when I am feel like I am starting to get somewhere but then I remember that it is time to revisit one of my old loves. The ocean is calling and I think I’ve kept it waiting long enough.

And Now The End Is Near

After 5 days off work and two crazy ceroc filled days Sunday morning came as something of a rude shock. I was back at work and there was plenty to do. Not that it mattered much to me if we were quiet or busy since I was on a closing shift so I knew I’d be there until 17:30 no matter what. It was a bit of a struggle but the high I was on from the previous day carried me through. Well that and numerous cups of coffee. I will forever be grateful to the friend who introduced me to the soy mocha. I know that it’s not proper coffee but I’m sure without it the last year and a half would not have gone half as well and that shift in particular certainly wouldn’t have. I would like to report that I was sensible and had an early night but I was still excited and couldn’t wait to tell my mum all about my weekend so instead had a very long skype home in which my mum got all of three words in I think.

Thankfully the next day I was at a different store which turned out to be very quiet so they allowed me to go home early and have a much needed nap. Tuesday at work was much the same to my relief. I had my final Spanish class and the weather was very much stay inside and hide type of weather. Post nap I was tempted to give it a miss but I realised just in time how much I would regret not going. I really struggle with languages and I know that a lot of what I have learnt over the last two months will not stay with me but I do think it will make it easier the next time I learn.  Also I still hope that one day I might get a chance to go live in a Spanish speaking place where my only option is to learn. If that day does come I am sure the basics I have learnt in my class will be very helpful!

Spanish completed I had three work days and three ceroc nights left. Work was work but ceroc was brilliant. I made sure to tell all my favourite dancers that I was leaving and that they had to dance with me so I could get as many excellent dances in as possible before I left. They didn’t let me down, I was dipped and spun, and spun and dipped and occasionally even picked up. If their aim was to make me regret leaving them all behind they succeeded and then some. Even when I thought I was too tired to dance anymore they managed to make it fun and keep me on my toes.

Saturday morning was bliss. I slept until after the sun came up and refused to get out of bed until after noon. One of my closest friends had booked high tea for us at 3pm so I thought 3 hours would be just about enough time to sort myself out. High tea was lovely and almost straight away we decided that we would have to repeat the experience in Darwin when we met up in August. It was lovely to spend some one on one time with my friend. She is one of the people I will miss the most and I am already looking forward to seeing her in Australia for our NT road trip.

Saturday night was meant to be a work leaving drinks thing with some ceroc friends invited along in case they wanted to say goodbye again. I’ve no idea what happened to my work people but in the end it was an impromptu ceroc night which included a group of us taking over the dance floor in a local bar. Now I’m usually pretty strict about not drinking and dancing so I am very proud that after numerous glasses of wine I managed to not fall over and even pulled off a few decent moves. So my drinking night turned into another dancing night and I honestly couldn’t have thought of a better way to say goodbye to Wellington.

Ceroc Classic Champs 2015

After months of dancing and practicing THE weekend finally arrived. The thing is if you’re going to have a dance event you’ve going to want to make it look good. Ceroc has been a massive part of my life in Wellington so I was happy to give something back by being one of those people that helps make the place look good. What I ended up doing was moving things about all day, mostly chairs. If you ever need chairs moved around a big hall I’m your girl. It was interesting though both in seeing the empty hall transformed into a fabulous dance venue and in that it helped me feel more comfortable knowing where everything was before the crowds arrived.

And arrive they did Friday night was a massive dance party with a break for a couple of the first events of the comp. I love to dance but I also enjoy watching the advanced dancers so breaking for the showcase and swaps and steals events was a pleasure. For the non-dancers out there, swaps and steals is where there are three dancers but only two dance at one time the third must swap out with or steal from one of the two already dancing. If you followed that you too deserve a medal. Anyway it is great fun to watch and the competitors dancing where all fun to watch in different ways.

It was a brilliant night and a great start to my first comp despite the slight excitement right at the beginning. Typically of me I was out of the room and missed the fact that the venue was almost set on fire. Thanks to some quick reactions it was put out very quickly and no-one was hurt. The event was able to continue with only the usual excitement of dancing, dancing and some more dancing.

As well as becoming familiar with the venue I was also glad I had offered to volunteer since between the chair moving and the dancing by the time I got home I was knackered. This meant that I actually slept the night before I had to compete, which in turn meant when the alarm when off at 8am I was very uninclined to get up! But get up I did and by 8:30am I was back at the venue. By 9:30am I had my lucky dip partner, a very nice man from Auckland who seemed complete be a laid back kind of guy. Then it was on to the dancing. Apart from my team event I had entered 6 other categories and sadly I got knocked out at the first round for five of them. This is what happens when you dance above your level I think. My partner was intermediate, I’m not. I would like to give him a massive shout out here for putting up with having his feet stood repeatedly and still managing to dance, sorry mate. On one event though I made it to the semi final and I was delighted. I had hoped to make it that far in at least one event and I thought that Dancing with a Stranger (DWAS) would be my best shot and I was right. The semis were in the afternoon and after a furious morning of dancing and marsheling I was happy to get a bit of a break. Too quickly though the semi’s arrived and I was back on the dance floor.

Now if you know me then you know I love a good adrenaline rush, this explains a lot about why I loved competing. Every time I went out on to the floor I was shaking. I babbled in the marshalling area then grinned like an idiot through almost every dance. Fortunately, grinning like an idiot is a good thing in a dance competition. It is also around this time I learned something else about myself. Put me with one person and I’ll tell them my life story. Put me with more than a few and I will hide. Put me in front of a hundred people and I’m pretty sure I act like a lunatic escaped from an over actor anonymous meeting. Oh well. The main thing is I had fun. I had lots of fun. In fact I had so much fun they put me through to the final.

By this point I was resting my feet more than I was dancing but still getting in the odd freestyle for fun and as practice for my last round. The day was a delicate balance between resting my poor feet and not cramping up. I think I managed it quite well though I would have loved it if I could have fitted in a nana nap somewhere. Of course as well as the brilliant people I was dancing with the day wouldn’t have been complete without my friends who showed up to support me and bring me food. Thanks girls, you know who you are.

Sadly I was the only girl from our routine to make it to the final (the grinning like an idiot thing is my not-so-secret weapon I think) but a couple of the guys made it. One of them was with me in the DWAS final and the other was in the freestyle. Once we had all finished our rounds we all met up and it was time for a quick team run through and pep talk. Then it was back to the comp to see the advance dancers and master show us how it’s really done. One word. Wow. Ok more than one. If only I could do what they could do. But mostly, WOW.

Then it was time. After two months of practices we were on. Everyone cheered us on, we got in place and then the music started. I couldn’t believe we were finally dancing our routine, and neither could my feet apparently since they took a while to catch on. Joking aside I think we did an excellent job. I know we were all nervous and tired but we went out there and we smiled and mostly we were pretty much on time. Basically, we rocked. We were the only beginners team so we names ourselves the Wellington Winners and at the end of the routine I felt like one. Then we got to sit down and enjoy the advance teams. There were two big groups and two small ones and each were good in their own way. Knowing how hard it was to get for couples in time I have infinite respect for the larger teams. Having said that I also thought the smaller teams took excellent advantage of their smaller numbers and I am glad no-one made me choose between them.

Then it was all over. There was some freestyle whilst we all relaxed and then it was time for the prizes. I already felt like a winner, such a cliché yet true. Our routine was pretty good and I’d made a final. Not only that our team choreographer complimented me on my final and said she thought I might place third or fourth. She isn’t the kind of person to give false praise so it really meant a lot. I also loved that she said though my styling wasn’t the best (not news) I had the most energy, well all those nerves had to go somewhere! Therefore when they got to my event and called someone elses name third I thought “Oh well, must’ve been fourth that’s not bad” only to hear my name called for second! I wasn’t sure but my friends screaming in my ear confirmed I had heard correctly, have I mentioned how much I love my friends?! So first comp and second place, wow. I didn’t quite believe it and half expected to find out I was wrong when I got to the stage but no, they gave me a trophy and certificate and took my photo. I really was second, and still in shock. Of course then I had to go back up for my team prize too which I hadn’t thought of so it absolutely was the most amazing end to and amazing day and I cannot believe I have to give it up when I leave. Please someone, anyone, tell me they love ceroc in Asia?! Oh and parentals, you know what I said about ceroc if we have time in Oz, yeah we’ll have time, right??

Sunday, 5 July 2015

June and Jonathan’s Birthday

June went a little bit like this: Spanish homework, Spanish class, Ceorc, Ceroc, Ceroc, Ceroc interspersed with work, then repeat.

Having entered the competition with my team and in the process cavalierly ticking a few other event boxes I found myself ticking a few more after convincing/agreeing to dance with a more experienced friend in some partner events. I ended up being registered for seven events in all and as I previously alluded in the last post the team one was turning out to be the most challenging. If I made a mistake there was no covering it up with a different move it was a case of remember where the next best place to pick up the routine was and wait. It turns out I am terrible at that. I just hoped like hell my partner knew what he was doing, which fortunately he did. I cannot stress enough how much this poor guy put up with and how much he kept me right. As well as all that he was a pleasure to dance with both in the routine and during our freestyle breaks. The others in the routine were pretty amazing too. Everyone turned up to our extra Sunday practice and a few weeks before the event we had a last minute couple join us and learn the routine in half the time we had. It was the most amazing experience and I am so glad I decided to give it a go.

Our routine moves written up for one of our many practices :D
Unfortunately my freestyle partner and I were less dedicated and seemed to have the most conflicting schedules but decided we’d just wing it on the day as we were in it for the fun of it. Still as the competition came closer I found myself constantly monitoring my dancing and in the week or two running up to it I did find I had less joy and more stress though I the joy did win out most nights. As I've said before it’s hard not to be happy when people keep spinning you round and round and round AND round.

Life wasn’t all ceroc. I have long wished to see one of Terry Pratchett’s discworld books acted out as a play. So when I saw a poster for Carpe Jugulum I knew I had to go. A couple of friends came with me and they just about managed to follow the story. Knowing the books so well for me it was easy and I thought they adapted it very well. I am delighted that I went and was grateful for the excellent company. It was a lovely night off followed the next day by more ceroc..... I said it didn’t completely take over my life, just mostly....

June was indeed a busy month full of dancing but it is also the birthday of my Jonathan. I was thankful to be off on the day and a good friend met me for a steak lunch where I had a very weak JD and coke for my man, well it was lunch time! In the evening I went dancing and it was a good night but bittersweet as I couldn’t help but remember some crazy salsa dances many years ago. Now there was a boy who could never enter a competition. Rules?! He’d never have learnt them, or if he did it would only be so he could break them. So it was a good night if a little bit sad but I am glad I went. It was a fitting way to remember a man who loved life and loved to dance.

If you know me you know that’s not the end of the story though. As is often the case I found the days after his birthday to be the hardest. By the Sunday it all caught up with me and I’m afraid the weekend before our competition I was not in the best frame of mind for our routine practice. I’m me though so I went and I tried my best and my team were brilliant. They were kind and understanding yet let me know where I needed improvement then let me be when they saw I had reached my limit. All of this despite the fact hey didn't actually know what was wrong just that something was. Then I went home and I let our all the pain and sadness and frustration and then I slept. When I woke up I went to work and I was tired, so tired but in the way you are when you know you’ve come though something big. I knew the worst was over and that night I finally got a decent nights sleep and life, of course, went on.

So the latest personal storm had passed and I was starting to feel like my old self and it was time to start enjoying myself again. I had been given two days leave for the competition so was working Monday, Thursday and the Sunday. As much as I needed the money when I learned that one of the girls was looking for extra shifts I gladly offered her my Thursday and was happy when she took it. I had five days to myself and I planned to use them well.  Tuesday and Wednesday were spent packing and Thursday, well Thursday I worked on my blog. And the competition got ever closer.....

May 2015 - When I Ticked Some Boxes....

During April there had been the odd mention of a ceroc event in June and much encouragement for all levels to enter. This is something an advanced dancer had suggested I do and I thought that it was part of our usual banter. You have to understand as well as the fun of dancing with this guy the banter is the other reason I loved to grab a dance with him whenever I could. This would be why I didn’t take his suggestion at all seriously, at first.  However some clever people had put together a beginners routine and were looking for volunteers so I though why not go along and see what they’ve done. Well from that moment on I was in. The routine looked great and I thought that it would be easier and less scary to dance something if I knew what I was meant to be doing. If you are laughing then I know you’ve tried this before. If you are agreeing with me you too are in for a shock. So I paid my registration fee and since I was there I ticked a few boxes and entered a few other beginner events too. So started two months of twice weekly practices where I forgot the moves, lost the timing and desperately (and unsuccessfully) tried to stop my hands from drooping. Despite all this I had the best time and met some amazing people.

As if learning a routine wasn’t enough extra dancing I managed to squeeze in a ball as well. During my university years I attended many balls and did a lot of ceilidhing. I have many happy memories being swung around various dance floors, often in my bare feet. So when I found out about the Viking ball being held in Wellington where there would be both ceilidh dancing and ceroc I knew I had to go. With very little effort I convinced my dancing friend to go along with me and it was everything I was expecting and more. The ceilidh dancing was as fun as I remembered and I had some fabulous ceroc dances in between them. It was different than my uni days for sure but it fitted right in with my current life and love of all things dance not to mention good food!

Back home May meant election time and I was rather put out to discover that yet again I wasn’t eligible to vote. I was under the impression I had sorted out my proxy vote and that I was all good to go but discovered too late that despite the multitude of paperwork previously filled out it seemed not to apply to the general election. Those of you who know me may remember my outrage at not being ale to vote in the Independence Referendum so you can imagine how not amused I was this time round too. I did try register but it was too little too late. Back home the SNP took over Scotland leaving the Tories to triumph in England and therefore still running the country. Let just say that I don’t think I’ll be moving back permanently any time soon.

Since I was dancing three to four times a week and since I started learning Spanish once a week on Tuesday nights I was quite busy when I wasn’t at work. This led to me finally admitting gym defeat and cancelling my membership. What I didn’t realise at the time was how much exercise I was getting between work and my dancing, I just knew I was happy and decided to go with it. Of course the fact that I would be leaving soon may have had something to do with this decision too. By the end of May as much as I was enjoying life in Welly I was starting to get excited as very soon I would be on the move once again; as the nice people from immigration kept reminding me when they emailed me to tell me my visa was about to expire. Thanks immigration, you make me feel so welcome :-P

Saturday, 4 July 2015

April 2015 - Dance Addict? Moi?!

After being eased back into my ‘normal’ life my supervisor was finally away on her month long trip to Japan. Of course when I granted her leave I forgot about Easter. After Christmas Easter is our busiest time and it was all other hands on deck for hot cross bun packing and selling. It was a crazy couple of weeks but we made it and I was rewarded at the end of it with two whole days off.

The beginning of April also brought an old friend to Wellington. One of the girls I met on my long ago tour across the Nullabour was in town for a few days before heading to the South Island. Sadly as this was before Easter all we managed was a late launch / early dinner but it was great to catch up and hear what she had been up to in the years since we’d parted ways in Perth. It was also nice to know that there was someone else who was still travelling about like me!

The big news for me in April was the eventual purchase and arrival of dance shoes that I loved and that fitted.  Well that and booking all my flights to and around Australia meaning my trip with my parents was finally all booked up and we were ready to go. All we had to do at this point was wait 5 or 6 months for our reunion, easy.  With the arrival of the new dance shoes there came the new skill of learning to dance in heels and not falling over in heels. I also thought I’d try salsa in said heels but discovered that with all my cerocing I’d forgotten how. I was extremely disheartened and though maybe it was time to let the salsa dancing go. Yet when a friend later suggested we try some salsa classes I found myself agreeing, after all more dancing in my life was exactly what I needed.

April came to a close with a massive sigh of relief on my part when a) my supervisor returned and b) I discovered I had booked my vaccinations just in time to get everything I needed before I headed to SE Asia in July. My arms were sore but I had the peace of mind knowing I was on my way to being extremely well vaccinated.

Friday, 3 July 2015

March 2015

Since I was by now completely hooked on ceroc I thought maybe it was time to try yet another kind of dance. So a week after saying goodbye to big brother and his wife I had my very first west coast swing class. It was a much smaller class than I was used to; in fact it was even smaller than the salsa ones I had attended the previous year. The people were welcoming though and soon I was havng great fun learning the west coast swing basic moves.

My return to work was a little nerve racking as I was afraid I would have forgotten everything but soon it was like I was never away. Well except for the being much less stressed and starting to count down to my next adventure. One thing had become extremely clear to me whilst travelling the south Island. I miss backpacking. It is probably not much of a surprise that March had barely begun and I was back online looking at plane tickets. Thanks to my favourite site I soon had a flight to Kuala Lumpur booked for the day before my NZ visa was due to finish.

The rest of the month was pretty much the same, work, west coast swing, ceroc and seeing my friends whenever I could. As happy as I was to be planning my travels it was starting to sink in that soon I would have to leave a lot of lovely people behind when I went.

There was one notable sad event. On the 13th of March my favourite author Sir Terry Pratchett sadly passed away. His books have had a massive impact on my life and I was greatly saddened when he announced his Alzheimer’s. I am happy he was able to keep writing up until the end but my thoughts were with his family that day. They had the flip side of my situation. They had the years together the life and the warning and all the hardships that came with it that I know nothing about. That said the loss is the same. I know there will always be a hole in their lives forever more, which leads me to the final subject of this post.

In March there is one day that is always remembered and always observed. The 17th: St Paddy’s day as people love to remind me, not knowing I will never forget. The 17th: the anniversary of my world imploding and the loss of our wonderful Jonathan. The day was spent quietly with my memories of our happy times. I met a friend for drinks and she had loads to tell me about her new girlfriend. Hearing how happy she was and seeing the love on her face as she talked was exactly what I needed. The one thing I wish for my loved ones is that they find what Jonathan and I shared and I do believe that this friend has found her version of that.  After the catch up it was time to go home and have my inevitable moment of sadness because after all these years there is one fact that has not and will never change. It’s not fair. It’s not fair that I get to live this amazing life and meet amazing people and he isn’t here. It’s not fair that our friends and family are getting married and having kids and he never will, he doesn’t even get a dog. I could go on but I won’t it’s not fair but it is life. Life is rarely fair but it does go on and as much as it has treated my unfairly and badly in the past I’m not sure I’ve done anything to deserve the amazing things that have happned any more than I didn’t deserve the bad.  So at the end of the day I let it all go and went to sleep. The next day life, as always, went on.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Thoughts on Making a Room a Home

I moved in to a shared flat on the 1st of December 2013. I had a decent sized empty room that had a small built in wardrobe and a chest of drawers left by the previous tenant. I bought myself a queen sized bed from the local Salvation Army Store and some nice bedding to make it my own. At this point I felt my room had enough things in it. Though the wardrobe was small it was more than adequate for my meagre possessions. For decoration I pinned an annotated map of New Zealand to the pin board on the wall. This map had travelled with me from Australia and the annotations were places to go and things to do as suggested by friends who had all spent years travelling in NZ and knew me well enough to give good suggestions. This was to be my reminder in the coming months as to why I was staying out and being normal. It was my reminder that this was a temporary situation. It was all the decoration I needed.

Of course once I had place of my own things started to accumulate. So when a friend decided to leave the country and offered me a table and iPod docking station/radio I said yes please. Then my flatmate offered me some shelves. I said no initially but after a few weeks of them sitting outside my room I decided I might just be able to make use of them after all. Since I was in one place my family and friends sent me clothes and things and the wardrobe and drawers started filling up.
At the same time my pin board was filing up with tickets from films and concerts and other events attended with friends. Beside it there was a growing collection of cards from friends and family abroad. Finally I took a 5 week photocourse where the importance of printing your work was discussed and so I printed off a large selection of my favourite photos, thinned them down and stuck them on my wall.

This is how in March 2015 almost six years after I lost the person who was my home I found myself in a different kind of home. I had never intended to hold myself back from my flatmates. Years of travel has taught me that some people are always worth getting to know whether you are spending a week a month or a year with them. However places are different, so never intended to make my room my home yet without meaning to I slowly made this space my own. It reflects who I am and all that is important to me. Photos of friends are on my wall next to my bungy and skydive photos surrounding a tile with my favourite quote on it. Every card from back home is on that wall reminding me that though I am far away I am loved and missed. The map has a few more scribbled on it. It is no longer just a reminder of the places yet to be visited and adventure still to come but also a reminder of those already taken. The mementos surrounding the map remind me that overall life in one place has been a good experience.

I never meant to make myself at home here but I did and I am glad I did. I love my room. I love that it is uniquely mine and very me. It’s messy and disorganised but somehow it all works. Will I miss it? Maybe a little but mostly not. It will become a happy memory and one day no doubt it to will appear as a photo itself on another wall in another time as a happy memory the next time I accidently make myself a home.

My Memory Wall: June 2015 just before I moved out

Finishing February Back in Wellington

Back in Wellington and I had one full day left with my family. We spent our last day together doing one of the Lort of the Rings tours. The weather though not great was better than the day before so we still managed to get lots of photos at various locations. I decided at the start of the tour to play tourist and not let on that I lived there. This lasted all of an hour since on our first walk through Mt Victoria my brother announced it for me. The inevitable questions followed with one person joking that we had probably driven past my house, to which I answered, yes we actually had! Though the first half of the tour took me to familiar places it was interesting to hear the stories about the filming that went with them. Even going back to the Weta cave was interesting as it was a different tour from the one I had taken a year earlier, though the guide still had a sword and I still wanted to steal it.

Post lunch and we were off to new territory for me. It was fascinating to hear how they took multiple locations and digitally layered them to create a whole new landscape that would come to be middle earth. We even got to play with some makeshift ‘props’ and re-enact some memorable scenes. At the end of the day one advantage of being outed as a resident was that we did get dropped off at my front door and so escaped the walk up the hill, woo!

Once home we celebrated our holiday with some bubbly before heading out for our last meal. This time we made it to Ombra and though it was a squeeze we elected to take a table for two for the three of us rather than wait or go elsewhere. It as a delicious and happy meal as we remembered that great holiday we’d had. Not being in a hurry to end the night and thus the holiday too soon we elected to go to a bar recommended by our tour guide. There we enjoyed delicious cocktails and big brother and sister in law tried to work out where they could buy all of the new gin’s they had discovered over the last few weeks. Eventually though tiredness got the better of us and it was time to walk home together for the last time.

The next morning it was time to go and collect big brother and sister in law for the last time. I met them at their motel and we headed out for breakfast. Since it was our last meal we made and occasion of it though we drew the line at a champagne breakfast and stuck with tea and coffee. Much too soon though it was time to collect their stuff and send them on their way. Our holiday was well and truly over. They had long trip home and the next day I was back to work and before I knew it out fabulous holiday was already a distant but very happy memory.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Blenheim - Feb '15

We left Kaikoura happy to take our time for a change. We even managed to squeeze in a stop at another seal colony on the way where we were amused by the baby seals playing in the rock pools. Kaikoura isn't far from Blenheim so even at a leisurely pace by the early afternoon of my birthday we were in Blenheim. It was a lovely little town and we were quick to follow the suggestion of a walk along the river near the hostel. The walk took us to a lovely bar where we all felt much under-dressed yet still got great service which resulted in some rather nice wine and a delicious cheese board. Over the last six year by birthdays have all been very different and few of them have included my family (sorry family) so this was shaping up to be the best one since I lost my Jonathan. As if whale watching, pancakes, cheese and wine and my family weren’t enough there was more to come.

That evening we went for dinner at Gramado’s which has the rare distinction of a full 5 stars on tripadvisor. There was a slight hiccup at when we arrived as I had booked for 3 but they had us as only 2. They soon sorted it though and found us a table. We were then left alone for rather longer than I would have expected but we soon worked out we had a newbie serving us. This was reinforced by the fact that we had about three different people keep checking on us to make sure he was doing his job right. The food was delicious, the wine flowed more freely than usual and a good time was had by all. Even Zack got in on the fun and photos much to the bemusement of our fellow guests I’m sure. We were in no hurry to leave and took full advantage of the comfy sofas to enjoy some post dinner drinks. By the end of the night I  was extremely merry. It was definitely the best birthday I had had in years.

Of course a big night out might not be the best plan when you have a wine tour booked the next day but we were all surprisingly well the next day. In fact we were feeling so well we ventured out to the local fudge factory to see if there were any tasty treats we could pick up as souvenirs before out our. We had originally tried to book a full days tour but I’m glad we went with the half day option. Groovy Grapes may be the best wine tour I’ve ever been on. Kerry was by far my favourite tour guide of the holiday. She had a real passion for the region, the wine and her job and it came through in spades. She managed to squeeze in 5 different wineries and a last minute visit to a chocolate factory in our half day tour.

I’ve been on a few wine tours on my travels though I’m still alarmingly ignorant considering how much I’ve been told between them all. I love wine tours but it’s a great sadness to be I can only ever buy one or two bottles as I am usually travelling, well not this time. I was determined to buy a bottle at each winery and in one place bought three. For once I had a car and months to drink my purchases instead of a bus ticket and a few days in one place. It turned it in to an expensive tour but I felt it was worth it. After all it was still practically my birthday, right?!

Too soon it seemed it was time to leave the South Island, The day following the wine tour the weather was grey and miserable. We had a decent drive most of the way to Picton but once they it was too wet and cold to explore. We passed some time in the local aquarium and had lunch then it was ferry time again. The ferry on the way back wasn’t as nice as the one we’d had on the way over but we got some decent seats and since there would be no more driving sister in law and myself indulged in a bottle of ferry wine and some of our Blenheim sweet treats. It felt like the holiday was at an end so I kept reminding myself there was two more days to go before we had to say goodbye.