Friday, December 31, 2010

What Would You Attempt To Do If You Knew You Couldn't Fail?

I came across this quote just over a year ago and these simple words have shaped almost every facet of my life ever since.



Many people are motivated by a fear of failure. This fear can often drive us to achieve great things, if used the right way, but can simultaneously limit us from doing other scary things like quitting our jobs, abandoning the comfort of home or jumping off a trapeze. This year, I did all three.

January
Learning the trapeze - City Square Melbourne.



'Trust that your body will know what to do,' stated one of the blue things from Avatar. Luckily I saw that at the cinema a couple of days before the trapeze and drew on this advice just at the right time. I shalln't be running away with the circus anytime soon, but I did enjoy the experience very much.

April
Goodbye City of Melbourne.



The City of Melbourne was my employer for three years. They gave me my first 'proper' job after uni. I did a lot of growing up with them, made plenty of mistakes and learnt so many invaluable lessons. Importantly, I had fun going to work and met truly amazing people. Choosing to leave the City of Melbourne was one of the hardest decisions this year.

And then there was a volcano...



Thank you Eyjafjallajokull. But eventually I left Melbourne and landed in London for a new life and beginning.

May
Morocco



I rode a camel and slept under the Saharan stars, bathed with 50 other naked women in a hammam and got scrubbed (or more accurately, butchered) by a local Moroccan lady whose boobs came far too close to mine for my liking, and ate a camel burger (different camel to the aforementioned).

May/June
Started to settle into London sharehouse and living with housemates. No previous work or life experience had taught me about coordinating housework, hairs in the bath or noise control at 2am, or 3am, or 4am. Nor had I any idea stuff like this happened.







July
Jumped on a bus and toured England, improvising as I went. Why? Because I could. This year was all about making my lifelong dreams come true, and it has been a dream of mine to be at the very place where Colin Firth walked out of a lake sopping wet in Pride and Prejudice. Hello Darcy!





August
During one of my last weeks in Melbourne, I went to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and happened to meet Rockwiz's Julia Zemiro, who told me her show Spontaneous Broadway would be going to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I said I'll see her there. And in August, I kept my promise. I saw something like 13 shows in 5 days, had an absolute blast and had a drink with Julia.



September
I suppose I had to rejoin the workforce eventually. I looked forward to temping - new workplace and new people every couple of weeks. Sounded fun. Except that I grew to really love my second assignment, which as you probably already know, was with the Prostate Cancer Charity working on Movember.

November
Movember!
People grew moustaches, we all raised money, there was a trivia night and one hell of a Gala Party.



December
Time to make another dream come true - European Christmas markets!

Since I started working at Myer Melbourne back in 2004, I have wanted to see the glorious Christmas markets of Germany and Austria.



And while I was in that part of the world, why not channel my inner Maria Von Trapp and make the hills come alive with the sound of music?



A December tinged with a touch of sadness where although I claim to love living impulsively and off the cuff, I came to realise that I do live with, and love, some traditions. Waiting for Melbourne's Christmas decorations to appear, bringing home the Myer Christmas bear, rehearsing for Carols by Candlelight, performing on the Sidney Myer Music Bowl stage on Christmas Eve, and of course, being with family and friends.

This year I practised what I had preached for a long time: I lived outside of my comfort zone. I've been shit-scared, over-whelmed and lost. I've experienced unimaginable highs and lows that have left me both grateful and humbled. I've felt immensely proud of myself.

So I ask this in my last post for the year: In 2011, what would you do if you knew you couldn't fail? Think big, think brave and remember, there's a friend who will gladly get shit-scared beside you.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Pretty, the Weird and the Whimsical

Here are just some of the things you can find at the German and Austrian Christmas markets. Some defy belief, others defy Australian Customs regulations. The rest I probably bought.































Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ich Liebe die Christkindlmarkt

Eine gluhwein, bitte.
Wo ist die gluhwein?
Ich liebe gluhwein.


And that's the extent of my German. But it was enough to get me through a week in Germany and Austria. That's because what I have mastered to say is:

One mulled wine please.
Where is the mulled wine?
I love mulled wine.


And when I needed the toilet, I substituted the noun for toilette in the second phrase.

So yes, I spent a week in December visiting the famous European Christmas markets. The original plan was to hit seven markets in seven cities in seven days but that got abandoned very quickly when I realised I was stressing myself out with the self-imposed pressure. Instead I equipped myself with a Eurail flexi-pass and the mere obligation to eat, walk and shop. Gee, life can be tough sometimes.

Austria first and, to be honest, the primary motivation for going there was to re-live scenes from the Sound of Music. I flew into Salzburg and within an hour, had found three Christmas markets. Walking through the market in Dom Platz – one of the main squares in the Old Town – it magically started snowing on us. For food, I followed the locals to the busiest stalls and for drinks, well... there was no shortage of gluhwein. As the sky darkened, it started to snow more heavily. And by next morning...



Perfect day to walk in a foreign city venturing (without a map) many, many miles from the main town. So I should explain that four years ago, I had visited Salzburg and did the official Sound of Music tour and was bitterly disappointed by its quality. The guides clearly had never seen the movie and a vast number of film locations had been left off, including the front of the Von Trapp house. So I did my own bit of research and located the house, which is now part of a music school, and caught a local bus to Schloss Hellbrunn (where Liesl’s gazebo also happens to stand) then walked FORTY MINUTES IN THE SNOW to find the familiar yellow house. So worth it despite the scaffolding!





And before leaving Austria, a side trip to Innsbruck where, in one meal, I consumed the equivalent of my carb intake for the next six months. This is a typical Tyrolean dish – cheese pasta, spinach pasta and potato chips topped with more cheese and fried onion. Washed down with gluhwein.



In Germany, I based myself in Munich and took day trips to Nuremberg, Stuttgart and Hohenschwangau where King Ludwig II’s fairytale castle Neuschwanstein is located. It is believed that Walt Disney based his Sleeping Beauty castle on it. In any case, it’s rather magical.



Less well-known but still impressive is the nearby Hohenschwangau Castle, where King Ludwig II actually grew up.



So here it is at a glance - my favourite markets in the five cities that I visited in not seven but ten days (as Heathrow was forced to shut due to snow, thus keeping me in Munich for an extra couple of nights).

The christkindlmarkt in Salzburg's Dom Platz where to the side was a grand church, and a choir could be heard singing carols throughout the night.


Innsbruck's markets were scattered across the narrow streets within the 'altstadt', or 'old town'.


Munich had many markets. This is the one at Marienplatz, the main city square. The giant Christmas tree with the fairy lights beats any tree I have ever laid eyes on. (Sorry Bruce!)


Nuremberg. Supposedly the most famous of all christkindlmarkts in Germany without actually being the oldest or the largest.


Stuttgart was not recommended by Lonely Planet, which is why I was pleasantly surprised when I got there. Worth seeing and lovely people.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

End of a Campaign, New Beginnings...

So, Movember is now behind us for another year. I want to take a moment to thank everyone who has supported this incredible campaign in 2010. In the UK, we have raised over £8.5 million already, and this figure is expected to continue to climb up as more offline donations roll in and Gift Aid contributions come in next year. I believe the figure is even higher in Australia. It feels great to be smashing records as this means that we are indeed raising awareness for prostate cancer and men's health on a global arena.

What's unique about Movember is that it is such an easy fundraiser to take part in. You don't have to be fit, you don't have to train and you don't have to run or jump out of a plane. As one participant observed, not having to shave is just his kind of fundraiser. The 'Mo' becomes the ribbon for the month, and a vehicle for raising awareness on men's health.

The good news is, my time at the Prostate Cancer Charity isn't over. In the new year, I will be starting a new post as Corporate Partnerships Coordinator with the charity. A new job for the new year and the opportunity to continue to work for such a great cause.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Welcome Home Bruce

This weekend, we got a Christmas tree. We hand-picked this handsome 5-foot Nordmann Fir, brought him home on the bus and named him Bruce.

These are the 'before' shots.





Fortunately for Bruce, he was adopted into a family of professional Christmas tree dressers. We know about colour themes and bauble to branch tip ratios. So layer by layer, Bruce's appearance took shape. First the fairy lights, followed by the silver baubles, then coloured baubles, and lastly the angel hair.





Along the way, we also made mulled wine - where I learnt to grate whole nutmeg - and eggnog. We also created a new word: baublification.

And this is the end product: 100 clear still fairy lights, a silver based colour theme and perfectly vertical angel hair, like little silver icicles hanging from each of the branch tips.





The best thing about our new Christmas tree is the smell of fresh pine through the house. Bruce might well be the most loved tree in Ealing.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

SNOW!!

Walking out of the house this morning, I was confronted with a blanket of snow over Ealing.



So beautiful!

I liken the snow to giving birth.* If you stopped and actually thought about it, sure, it would hurt. Below freezing is not normal and for an Aussie experiencing their first English winter, hyperthermia is usually just round the corner. But being in the moment, experiencing flow, all you notice is the beauty and the magic. I was in the moment. The crunch of the fluffy white snow under the feet is as addictive as popping bubble wrap.

I should mention here that this is my first experience of snow, of waking up to blankets of white, of beanies, mittens and scarves, of grit and salt. Ok, not technically true as my mum recently reminded me that we did have snow in Shanghai where I was born. But seriously, like anyone remembers being three. So my 'real' memories and notions of snow are derived from Narnia - romantic images of thick snow, thick coats, Turkish delight and fawns. Yes, I'm high on snow.

I've been told that the novelty will wear off. Maybe when I stack it for the first time in public and rock up to work with a wet bum. Until then, I will happily be Lorelai Gilmore pre-season 5. If there's still a lot of snow in the backyard tonight, I shall make a mini snowman and hide him in the freezer for my housemates.


* The fact that I have never experienced childbirth clearly isn't the point and won't prevent me from making this analogy.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

More Movember Shenanigans

It's moments like these that I love my job. I received a call today from a gentleman asking whether I could temporarily suspend his Movember account until midnight. Naturally, I wanted to know why. His response was that he had accepted a dare from his mates that he would get a tattoo if he reached £1000 in donations by midnight tonight. At the time of accepting the dare, he was nowhere near this target. But thanks to Facebook, he was now mightily close. £972 in fact. According to my new friend, he was even getting donations from strangers - God bless the internet!

At this point, I still hadn't agreed to suspend his account, despite his fears his future wife would leave him if he got the tatt. I asked to have a look at his account and quickly discovered he belonged to a rugby team. Of course. So I asked: Do you get to choose the tattoo? Can you decide where it goes? Surely some tatts are alright. And it's for a great cause.

I then learn that the tatt would be the Movember 'M' logo. It would be 4x4cm and he could choose the location. Well that doesn't sound too bad, and I make my nonchalant attitude known to him. He chuckles *nervously*. I then offer to throw in an extra £10 myself. Silence. But he doesn't hang up on me, that's good. Lastly, I tell him I would send him some Snickers bars (official sponsors of Movember) and that sealed the deal!

As luck would have it, as soon as I got off the phone to him, one lovely person put through a £30 donation, taking him over the line. I get an email from him, with the tattoo design attached, saying he is going through with it (and that I would make a great therapist). So tonight, somewhere in a tattoo parlour in England, one brave man is following through on his dare and getting a permanent Movember stamp on his body. But it's still only the 19th you say? Don't worry, he has another mate on the team who will do the same if he reaches £1000 by the end of the month. To join in on the fun, donate to him here: http://uk.movember.com/mospace/981986/ And might I just add, if you are still considering donating to me, don't. Really. Just donate to him.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Heathrow Injection

There's a little bugger called the 'Heathrow Injection' whereby those of us who migrate to London inevitably put on weight. Lots of it! I'd heard rumblings of it when I first moved here; pfft, I said, I eat crap all the time and never put on weight. Famous last words...

They say it's a combination of changed diet and routine, excessive drinking, regular pizza deliveries (on a side note, one housemate recently commented that everytime the doorbell rings now, she expects it to be the pizza man and gets a little jolt), and comfort food cravings in the cold weather. I would add to that list my inability to cook anything other than pasta and potatoes.

I've talked about going to the gym but abandoned that idea pretty quickly. Me? Treadmill? Keep dreaming. I've tried dieting and detoxing but neither lasted very long either.

Then last weekend, I came up with the perfect solution: I bought bigger jeans. Now when I slide into my jeans, I'm no longer reminded EVERY MORNING that I've got a muffin top. Rather than putting all my energy into disciplining myself to not detour into Starbucks for the tall skinny gingerbread latte with an extra shot or refusing myself dessert (insane, right?), my mental energy has been focused instead on accepting my new body. Mind over matter baby, and I get to have cake too!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Run, Mo, Run!

What gets a sane person out of bed at 7:30am on a Saturday to travel to the other side of London on a chilly late autumn winter morning? The 10km Mo Run in Greenwich Park, of course. No, I didn't run myself - don't be silly. I did, instead, marshall while wearing a flattering fluoro yellow vest and cheered on those much fitter and braver than me.

Over a thousand men and women registered to take part I believe. And what a great opportunity to see those 'Mo's in progress,' just under halfway into the month. There were real ones and fake ones, thick ones and bushy ones, pink ones and gaffer tape ones. There were also sumo suits, tiger face masks and bath robes. I have no explanation for those, except perhaps that growing a mo is inducive of creativity. (Hey, another reason to get involved guys!)

It's still not too late to register and be part of Movember. There are already over 101,000 participants registered in the UK who have collectively raised almost £3mil! To put this into perspective, last year, 45,000 participants registered in total in the UK and raised a grand total of £5mil. I think it's safe to say we're well on the way to exceeding that figure in 2010. And in the meantime, I would suggest keeping your eyes peeled while on the train or walking down the street - there are some damn handsome mo's emerging.

PS. A big thanks to those who have donated to my page so far - £145 raised already! Below is a link to donate to me, but remember, you can donate to any Mo Bro or Mo Sista you know (doesn't have to be me). The money's all going to a great cause - The Prostate Cancer Charity in the UK or Prostate Cancer Foundation and Beyond Blue in Australia.
http://uk.movember.com/donate/your-details/member_id/628786/

Monday, November 8, 2010

Bright Lights and Bonfires

Daylight savings ended last weekend which means that when I leave work at 5pm, the sky is almost completely black. Despite it still being autumn technically.

But London after dark is so pretty, particularly this time of the year.

Last Thursday night, the Christmas lights on Oxford Street were officially switched on.



The big department stores such as Selfridges and Debenhams on Oxford Street have all begun decorating their store fronts.



After leaving the bustle of Oxford Street, we discovered a little fairground set up in Leicester Square.





We went on the Power Surge (below) and managed to keep our dinner down... but only just.



And you really can't beat Piccadilly Circus any time of the day or night. So... electric.



Friday 5th November was Guy Fawkes Day. Fireworks and bonfires to the tune of 'Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines.'





We played with sparklers and ate fairy floss in the middle of Ealing Cricket Ground all rugged up in beanies, gloves and scarves. Bring on winter!