Adventures of an Urban Nomad

2018 in a nutshell

Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018 has been a big year - both on a macro (global) and micro (personal) level.

Here's my take on it (in as few words as possible).

For some time I had been predicting that 2018 would be a big year for Israel and the Jewish people. The reason for that goes back to Abraham.

According to the Jewish calendar it is now 5779. Using that calendar, Abraham was born in 1948. Seventy years later (2018) G-d first appeared to him and communicated directly with him.

Switching to the current secular calendar, the State of Israel was established in 1948. Are you beginning to see a pattern here?

Therefore, I expected 2018 would be big for Israel, and I wasn't disappointed.

With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Jerusalem became the capital. In 1967, as a result of the 6 Day War, East Jerusalem was captured and annexed. Until 2018 no Western Country recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

This was an absurd situation.What other country has been told by the rest of the world that the city it declared as its capital and the seat of government, wasn't considered as such? So, to date, no country would have an embassy there.

That changed in 2018 with the US recognising that fact and moving its embassy to Jerusalem.  

(Interestingly, The US was not the first country to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital - Russia was. See this article from April 2017: In curious first, Russia recognizes West Jerusalem as Israel's capital)

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world the US is going the way of all empires and is losing its influence, while China continues on its path of world economic domination. That's my view, but to illustrate and explain that, is way beyond the constraints of this post.

This year has also been a big one for Danita and me.

We started as renters of a big property in Don, on the outskirts of Devonport.

The early part of the year was occupied by our house-purchase project. See my post Nomad No More for an outline of the fun and games associated with that.

What I didn't mention in that post was the "interesting" time we had getting finance for the purchase. Briefly, because of our ages, no bank would offer us a mortgage, event though the amount was very small and we had a substantial deposit. We didn't get that "wonderful" news until 8 days before the finance clause of the contract ran out.

In a bit of a panic we rang around a few friends seeking ideas and suggestions on any other way we could raise the money.

After telling ourselves that this was Tasmania and it would work out (see TITs, BUMs and LEGs for more details) we received a phone cal from one of our friends offering us a private mortgage - SAVED!!

Once we moved house and things were settling, we lost our buddy and fellow traveller, Sancho - see Vale Sancho and Downside, Upside.

As we were now home owners we started on the changes we needed to make the place suitable for all seasons.
That involved:
- Remove existing heating systems - expensive electrical heaters
- Install a wood heater
- Install solar panels
- Install solar hot water
- Install a rainwater tank
- Install awnings and outdoor blinds

I thought that once we'd completed all that, Danita would take some time to rest and recover - it had been an intense and emotional time. But no, that's not Danita's style.

As soon as we'd completed all that she devised a new project - planning a trip to African Game Parks and Israel during May 2019.

As well as the house renovations, we did a two week trip to Sydney and the Central Coast and caught up with many friends in both those areas. We arrived back in Tasmania from that trip and headed straight for Cradle Mountain where we stayed for a couple of WONDERFUL days.

On a community involvement level, we've been very active with the local film society (North West Film Society) and are proud of the fact we've been instrumental in bringing it into the 21st century in terms of technology. This is having a noticeable impact on the level of membership, which is exciting and gratifying for us.

I have found myself as the President of the JCCTas - our Jewish community organisation run by the only Rabbi in Tasmania, Rabbi Yochanan Gordon. So, if you have any spare money you'd lie to donate to a worthy (and tax deductible) cause, let me know. Through that, we attended a Chanukah candle lighting at Parliament House in Hobart and enjoyed of meeting a Government Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Speaker of the House.

Things have now settled into some sense of normality. We are spending time working in the garden (I cut down a tree a couple of days ago and are working on garden designs of how to develop our block).

In addition, we have a map of Tasmania on which we have been marking all the roads we've travelled. Our mission is to cover every road with our blue marker and we're making good progress.

Our plans for next year are to grow my business - Demand Flow Intelligence - to have a significant Tasmanian presence as well mainland growth, while Danita keeps working with Art of Mentoring as she has been for the last three years interspersed with other occasional and smaller client projects.

Downside, Upside

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Last week Danita and I lost our best buddy, Sancho.

I wrote about it in last week's post (Vale Sancho).

Since then we have been going through a period of intense mourning, but it has eased.

At first I was crying constantly until by the end of the week I was able to think about him and talk about him without tearing up.

As the pain has eased I've begun to see that there are upsides to his going as well as downsides.

The downsides are pretty obvious:
- He's not around anymore.
- There's no one to welcome us home whenever we go out.
- He's not there to cuddle up to when watching TV or just needing a bit of unconditional love.
- He was a great calming influence in our household. Danita pointed out that she always knew when she had been a bit too intense in venting her anger - Sancho would slink off and hide somewhere until he figured it was safe to come out.
- There's no-one to clean up the bits of food that get dropped on the floor - we do believe he actually had the ability to will things off the counter.
- He used to spend most of his day sleeping right next to my office chair. This meant that I had to check where he was every time I moved - something I'm still doing.
- At some point he had conned us into letting him sleep on our bed - a habit we just couldn't break. This meant I had him curled up against my back throughout the night. It usually menat that even though he was the smallest member of the household he took up the bulk of the bed space - a real achievement in a king sized bed.
- There's no longer the pitter-patter of little feet or the tinkle of his dog tags or the flapping of the dog door as he went in or out to the back yard.
- As we moved around a lot he spent time with lots of other people and different animals. It was a delight and joy to see how well he got on with everyone and everything.

So, for these and more there are clearly lots of reasons to miss him and I do.

However, there are some upsides to this last week: - The support, encouragement and caring that we have experienced from other people has been a big surprise. I mentioned in last week's post that one of our neighbours had left flowers on his grave. Another neighbour, who does mosaic work made a little stone for him - see photo.
- We now have all our bed back.
- As empty-nesters Danita and I can make plans for trips and times away without having to arrange carers or house-sitters.
- He did make it to spend some time with us in OUR home and he's buried in the front yard in what will become o little grove of fruit trees.
- When we go for a walk we don't have to stop at every tree and telegraph pole so we are now able to explore the area we're living in at a pace more suited to us.
- We don't need to do pooh patrols in the back yard or be very careful about where we step.
- There had been a plan in progress to fence off the front yard and put a gate in. This would have been challenging and annoying to keep having to open and close when driving in or out. Now, that project has been taken off the to-do list.

So, all-in-all there are a couple of good points in our new family structure but, if we had a choice we'd have him back.

The Rainbow Bridge
A couple of people sent us the little poem called the Rainbow Bridge - we're looking forward to meeting up with him again in the very distant future.

If you haven't seen this before - here it is (with a special warning - keep a box of tissues close by).

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Author unknown...

Vale Sancho

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Today Danita and I buried one of our best friends.

Sancho, our family member, fur-kid, travel companion and all-round lovely chap has finally arrived at the end of his road in this life.

Fifteen years ago, when he was one, he joined our family.

He was born on 1st November 2001 and was a Maltese/Lhasa Apso cross.

The Lhasa Apso is a Tibetan dog bred as a companion dog for monks.

We believe that gave him his placid and very Zen nature - he was happy anywhere and with anyone.

Choosing his name
When we got him, he was a rescue dog called O-Bowie.

We have no idea where that name came from, but he wasn't going to live with us with a name like that.

Here's a photo of what he looked like when we first saw him on the web and what he looked like when we picked him up.

Once we picked him up we were trying to choose a name.

While stopped in traffic outside the Man of La Mancha restaurant (we were in Sydney - of course we were stopped in traffic) I suggested Sancho, Don Quixote's trusty and loyal sidekick. It felt like a good name for a dog.

On hearing the name Sancho, he looked up and seemed to respond and so it stuck.

And he has been a wonderful proponent of those values.

Over his time with us he travelled extensively including three trips to and from Perth (that's WA as there's one not that far from here in Tasmania as well) and of course, to his final home in Devonport. 

Starting in our house in North Ryde, he was with us through five years of house-sitting.

During that time he got on well with small dogs, big dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, horses and more.

As you can see he had no trouble sharing.

He was even willing to participate in what some would consider silly and humiliating dress-ups.

At one point he even took over writing my blog post (click here for A Doggie Perspective).

So, having been part of our family for so long, it was very sad today when he left us.

The end
Yesterday he had some twitching in the morning which looked a bit odd but we thought was one of his doggie dreams - he had lots of those and clearly enjoyed chasing something or someone in them.

Later he came for a walk with me and seemed his usual self.

At 12 noon, all that changed.

He started spasming and frothing at the mouth.

Danita had gone out and had left her phone at home (of all the times...) so I went to a neighbour for assistance.

Eventually we found a vet (it was after normal business hours) who put him on some drugs to help calm him and he advised me to monitor the situation.

Through the afternoon it got worse and the drugs seemed to have no effect.

In the evening we went back to the vet who gave us much stronger drugs.

They had no effect either and things only seemed to be deteriorating.

We found an emergency vet hospital a few towns away and arranged to bring him in.

The drive was a terrible experience with him in my lap, twitching and howling.

As soon as we got there he was heavily sedated and put on a drip for the night.

Next morning the vet called and told us the spasming and howling (she called it "vocalising") was continuing and so the decision was made that it was time to say goodbye.

Thankfully that was a quiet and peaceful process.

The vet warned us that once the heart stops it's common for the animal to open its eyes, move and have toilet motions. This is due to the body "unwinding".

Even if death Sancho was calm and peaceful with none of these things happening.

We're grateful for that.

The funeral
We took him home and have buried him in the front yard.

I have been working on an area, turning it into a mini orchard.

So far we have an olive tree and an avocado tree which have both been gifts from friends.

At the moment we're nurturing the avocado and so it hasn't been planted yet but the olive is in.

Sancho has now been buried there with a rosemary bush at his head.

As you can see, he's a bit of a feature at the moment, but I expect the mound will settle in time.

We went out briefly this afternoon to return a crowbar I had borrowed to dig the grave.

On our return someone had placed a bunch of flowers on it which was lovely.

A true friend
A friend of mine told me when he lost his dog, that the dog had been his best friend.

While I "understood" what he meant, I hadn't really "got" it.

Today I did.

Sancho was always happy to see us.

While he couldn't actually speak our language, he was an excellent communicator, letting us know when he wanted to eat, go for a walk, go to bed (or rather join us in ours) and more.

He often knew when we were having a difficult time and would cuddle up to us.

He was fun and funny to have around and we will miss him terribly.

Harry, the above-mentioned friend, told me that after eight years he still misses coming home to his little mate.

I don't know about eight years, but I know we will miss him terribly for a long time.

On his grave we put a little sign which says "One spoilt dog lives here".

In Jewish tradition a righteous person is said to be alive even when they are dead, while a wicked person is said to be dead event when they are alive.

While it may seem strange to have that sign on his grave, I know he will be alive in us for a long time.

Good-bye little buddy - we love you.

Nomad No More

Sunday, April 01, 2018

According to King Solomon, said to be the wisest man ever:
"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens"

The current season is one of rebirth and renewal - it's Passover, Spring/Autumn equinox (depending on which hemisphere you're in), the transition to Aries (and so the beginning of a new astrological cycle), Easter ...

Renewal usually comes accompanied by chaos and craziness.

Danita and I have been having that in spades.

Last week we settled on our new house and got the keys on Wednesday afternoon.

Thursday was scheduled for our initial move - we had been clever and arranged a staged move so that part of our stuff would arrive on Thursday with the rest coming on Tuesday - the Easter long weekend meant nothing would happen on Friday or Monday.

As well as moving we had arranged a little "party" at our new house.

The beginning of Passover is marked by a festive meal which includes a signifiant amount of ritual practices recalling the Exodus from Egypt of the Hebrew people over 3000 years ago.

It's usually a time for LARGE family gatherings.

For us, it meant dinner for 10 people.

"No big deal" I hear you say and I pretty much agree.

HOWEVER, doing that the day after you've moved into a new house does make things slightly more "interesting". 

Knowing this was going to happen we had requested an earlier settlement but that was turned down.

Because we were well aware of this situation well in advance, we planned and had everythig sorted or so we thought.

There is a saying: "Man plans and G-d laughs".

Last week He was laughing hysterically.

On the previous weekend I had heard that my 90 year old aunt wasn't doing very well.

She'd had a fall and was in a bad way.

On a number of occasions previously she had been at death's door and had made a recovery, so I was hoping this would be another instance of her will to live.

Sadly, it was not to be.

On Tuesday morning she passed away and I received a message to say the funeral would be on Thursday - perfect timing for our house move.

After some agonising about what to do I booked my flight to Melbourne for Thursday morning to return on Friday morning.

Minutes after making my booking I received a call from my cousin telling me not to book yet as the Coroner had become involved and they could not confirm the funeral details - it could be days or even weeks given the holiday period.

More agonising about what to do and I decided to stay with the original plan - I would go to Melbourne and leave the house move to Danita.

Fortunately, she's an exceptional woman and was able to get it all done without too much stress (just enough to keep things at a managable level of insanity.)

"Getting it all done" involved being at one house to give instructions to the removalists as to which things needed to go in the first delivery, be at the new house to take delviery and be there for the Foxtel and caée blind installers, arrange the power to be switched to the new address and and and ...

Meanwhile I had arranged with my sister that when I arrived in Melbourne I would get the Skybus from the airport to St Kilda.

Getting confused messages and directions I managed to miss two buses (leaving every hour hour) so that put me into a great space by the time I met up with my family.

After this chaos, everything then went as planned; the funeral was on time, the house move went smoothly and our Passover event was a great success.

So there you have the short version.

We're already feeling very much at home and settled (a new experience after years of housesitting and renting) and are already thrilled with being in our own house.

What's Happened To Telstra?

Sunday, March 11, 2018

As we all know, one of the primary raisons d'ĂȘtres (reasons for existence) of Telstra is to creat anguish, angst and frustration in the lives of their customers.

And they're very good at it.

We have all experienced the frustration of making an phone call to their customer service centre only to have to explain to multiple people based in India the fact that the Telstra service isn't working only to be told that we are the problem.

It's normal for delays and dropouts to occur, and the fact that we are running a business and must have internet and phone access is of no relevance nor importance to our Punjabi support person.

We understand this is how Telstra operates, and whenever we have to deal with them directly - which is always a last and desperate resort - we gird ourselves and prepare to be on the phone for at least an hour, ultimately achieving very little, other than giving our blood pressure some much needed raising.

And so I have been very concerned with a situation I experienced recently - absolutely amazing customer service coupled with initiative and proactive behaviour.

This is so not like Telstra that I am concerned the Earth has tilted off its axis and I've slipped into a parallel universe.

Danita and I are in the process of buying a house.

As we are planning to live there (it's not an investment property) I needed to arrange the tansfer of our services, one of which is our internet connection.

I went online and found the place where you notify them of a change of address.

Naturally this wasn't easy to find, but I got there after some searching.

I filled in the form and found that there is a fee of $89.

I don't quite get why I need to pay to have the service moved, but we are dealing with Telstra after all.

As part of the relocation I had to agree to a new modem.

I already have a Telstra modem.

In fact I have two modems as the result of havnig made an enquiry about a service issue when we moved into our current house.

So, I didn't want another modem, but there appeared to be no way of avoiding it.

I found a chat option (I was NOT going to make a phone call to clarify that I had done the right thing) and was connected to soemone very quickly.

That was the first alarm bell - I had expected to be told I was in the queue and someone would respond within the next day or so. But no, they came on straight away.

Not only that, but they undersood my question and were able to provide an understandable answer without sending me to three different departments.

I then received an email informing me that the modem had been shipped.

This created something of a panic as I was sure that it would be shipped to the new address (they can't use a PO Box) and we won't have access to that address for about three weeks.

At this point my blood pressure was on the rise - "Oh no", I thought, "those idiots have sent it and we'll have problems getting hold of it."

But I was wrong.

I got in touch with them again and was informed that it had been sent to our current address - phew! At least I'd be able to get my hands on it.

We currently live in an area where we don't have mail delivered to the house; we have to collect it from a nearby LPO, a Licenced Post Office.

This has created challenges in the past but, at least I knew it would be accessible and so I relaxed a bit.

And then the Earth moved.

A couple of days later I received a phone call from a gentleman with a very Indian accent, informing me the modem had arrived at the LPO and I could pick it up the next day.

While I had him on the phone I asked why I needed a new modem (see point above about having two already).

And that was when the wheels fell off my view of Telstra.

They would disconnect the service to the current premises on the date I told them we were moving - all good.

HOWEVER, we couldn't get the new service connected at our new house until five days later - OK that's normal and so I was about to ask "what do I do in the interim?"

Before I could aske the question he informed me that because there would be a gap in th service the new modem was 4G-

enabled, meaning that it could be used without a physical connection.

All I had to do was plug in the power and it would work - huh??!!!??

And then once the NBN was connected to the new house, all I need to do is plug in the cable to the point in the house and hey presto, it finds everything it needs and so I don't have to do anything.

Not only that, but I can use it immediately and it delivers a connection speed which is three times faster than our current wired connection.

As you can see, I'm in shock!

Telstra has provided an awesome solution without me even having to ask.

So, as William Mountfort's wrote in 1705 in his poem, Zelmane, "Be still my beating heart."

The Great Unveiling

Sunday, November 26, 2017

I'm normally opposed to contra deals in business.

This is because they can often lead to resentment where one party feels they haven't had as much value relative to the amount of value they provide.

Or there's a lack of clarity about the terms of the agreement.

Or because it creates a non-cash mindset and energy flow around the business.

However, occasionally one comes along which is too good to refuse.

Such was the case a year ago when I met Kirana Haag.

Having known Danita through She Business Kirana was one of our first visitors after we moved to Tasmania.

Over lunch and a glass or two of wine, we found we got on very well and when I told her about my use of Astrology with my business coaching clients she asked if we could do a swap.

Since the cost of one of her paintings was the same as my coaching fee for a year it seemed like a good deal to me, especially as I like having original artworks around.

And so we began.

Kirana works in an intriguing way.

Rather than asking you what you would like a painting of, she gets to know you, interviews you and finds out about your life, what colours you like and how you'd like to feel when you see her piece hanging in your space.

She does stipulate that if you don't like the result she will redo it for you.

After a while, I got a message from her saying the piece had been started and she sent a photo.

Remembering her comment about replacing it if I didn't like it, I looked at the developing work with some trepidation.

The colours were not at all what I had thought, I couldn't relate to any of the imagery and I was feeling decidedly nervous about the outcome.

Rather than tell her I wasn't happy with how it was going I decided to wait until it was finished and asked that she not send me any more progress shots.

This turned out to be an excellent decision and it's now something she has made her standard approach.

A short time ago the painting arrived.

As the process is, she gets it framed and then does some final touches, together with the fact that she works in Sydney and the piece was too big to frame and then transport there were some interesting logistical challenges to make sure it was delivered in a manner that we could not see it before it was complete.

The first thing was to find a good framer near to us who would be able to get it done in a very short time.

(You need to keep in mind that it is 110 x 190cm, which is about as big as a large dining room table and bigger than a normal door.)

Kirana brought the painting with her on the plane and then took it to the framer for setting up.

He then delivered it to us wrapped in brown paper - Christo would have been proud.

On Sunday morning Kirana arrived, together with her assistant (and daughter), Layla, to finish the work and Danita and I went out and found things to do while we waited for the call to return.

On entering our lounge room Danita and I were both completely overwhelmed - the painting is amazing.

Due to its size, it does take over the space but it makes the room so much lighter than it was without it.

It bears no resemblance to the photos Kirana had sent at the beginning of the process, which was a huge relief.

Interestingly, the work she did on it in those early days was still there buried beneath the final colours and shapes.

While not being able to see it, it does add a depth and is energetically contained within the final work, so it is there and has an impact, although it's impossible to say exactly what that is.

It's called "We Shine The Light" and there is a short poem which goes with it:
Carrying your knowledge,
Carrying your story
Carrying your experience,
You are stepping forward,
Shining the Light,
For others to follow
For others to learn,
From your Heart.

The Time Has Come

Sunday, October 29, 2017
"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."

(With thanks to Lewis Carroll.)

Like the Walrus, the time has come for me to talk about my weekly commitment regarding this blog.

It started when Danita and I began housesitting and was primarily about our housesittng adventures, hence the reference to being urban nomads.

Since that has now finished (it was good while it lasted and it was good when it ended) and we've become much more domesticated, I'm finding myself committed more and more to household tasks like mowing a couple of acres of grass (today's main activity).

And so, rather than bore you with lots of articles about household chores I've decided to cut down on my weekly posts.

I enjoy writing these and really appreciate the comments I get from you in return.

Of course when there's something to talk about, I'll be back and I will keep the Thought For The Week going so you'll still get something each week to get you thinking.

The "Thoughts" started at the beginning of 2006 and that's a really hard habit to break.

And so, until we meet again, travel well and step lightly in this world.

And remember, if you're ever in Tasmania please drop in.

The Constant Traveller

Sunday, October 22, 2017

For a couple of people who don't travel much (Danita and I) September/October has been a very hectic time.

From mid-September until mid-October we had a Sydney trip, which was covered in detail over the last few posts.

We arrived home just over a week ago - Thursday 12th October.

The following Monday, 16th, Danita was on the move again with three days in Sydney for a work event.

She got back on Wednesday and then on Friday we were on the move AGAIN.

This time it was a trip to Launceston for a medical appointment for me and then off to Hobart for a weekend doing inspections of a couple of hotels.

A few years ago Danita signed up as a hospitality mystery shopper.

This means we go to various locations to do detailed reviews of the facilities, staff etc,

So far we've done an inner-city hotel in Sydney, a pub in Newcastle, a tour of the Opera House and this weekend were two hotels in Hobart.

How this works is; you book in as a typical guest and there are specific things you need to do, which you then do a detailed report on (with emphasis on DETAILED).

The assignments this weekend included  having a drink at the bar, a High Tea, full breakfast and room service for dinner.

You are given a budget for each of those elements and you get the costs refunded (so you need to be very diligent at keeping receipts - Danita being an ex-bookkeeper is very good at that kind of detail).

There's no payment for your time, however, we consider this as a free night in a quality hotel.

One of the criteria for being a mystery shopper is that I can't tell you where we've been - so much as I'd love to share where we stayed, I can't.

It's fascinating visiting a hotel or restaurant with an agenda other than having somewhere pleasant to stay.

You become much more conscious of the quality of the venue and the staff.

Obviously, the idea behind this is that the hotel management get honest and detailed (have I mentioned that there is lots of detail required?) feedback on what's working and what's not.

For pedants like Danita and me this is well suited to our personalities (and we get to enjoy places we normally wouldn't stay at or visit).

Since I can't reveal any more about where we stayed I can't give you any of the really good bits and suggestions of where to stay.

However, once we'd finished our mystery mission, the rest of today was spent being tourists in Hobart.

We had visited the Salamanca Markets, went for an evening walk around the waterfront (a very chilly experience that was), morning coffee with friends at the Farm Gate Market, a drive to the top of Mt Wellington and wrapping up with a visit to MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art followed by a three hour drive to return home.

One of the things we'd promised ourselves, when we moved to Tasmania, was that we would do regular trips around the island.

As it's not a very big one (three hour drive from bottom to top if you use the highway) that's something we can manage.

I'm pleased to say this weekend has been an excellent fulfilment of that promise, and we're both looking for opportunities to do more travelling.

This week is very exciting around Devonport, as we have the Masters Games, a kind of geriatric Olympics.

We have a special guest staying with us, who will be participating in the Games, so there's a good chance we'll be doing more tourist oriented activities.

At some point I suppose we'll need to do some work as well - a bit of a novel experience at the moment.

A Day At The Zoo

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Danita and I just spent 3 weeks in Sydney.

While the opportunity to catch up with friends was great it was a good reminder, for us, of why we moved to Tasmania.

On the way back we treated ourselves to a special day in Canberra.

Now Canberra is a zoo - you just need to watch Anabelle Crabb's "The House" to prove that - but it's not the zoo referred to in the title of this post.

For her special birthday, earlier this year, Danita had planned to do an African Safari.

Unfortunately, that was not possible, and so it's still on her bucket list.

However, as the consolation prize, we spent a day (and night) at Jamala Wildlife Lodge which is part of the National Zoo & Aquarium.

This is one of the most incredible experiences we've ever had.

We stayed in one of the Giraffe treehouses.

As you can see from the photo you get up close and personal with a giraffe, including hand feeding him.

It really is very special waking up in the morning and opening the curtain to be looking into the face of a giraffe.

Did you know giraffes have blue tongues and VERY bumpy heads?

I didn't until this visit.

As well as the giraffe rooms there are ones for lions, tigers, bears and more.

While it would, undoubtedly, be amazing seeing these animals in the wild, you can't get up close and have direct contact the way you can at Jamala.

Imagine trying to pat a rhino in the wild - not something a sensible person would try.

At Jamala that was something else we did.

(One word of caution - you have to be sure not to get your hand between the rhino and the bars - if he leans against the bar you'll lose your arm.)

But that's not all.

When you arrive there's afternoon tea ready in the common room (which wasn't very "common" at all).

Dinner was something special which started with wine and/or champagne together with hors d'oeuvres.

The meal was a set menu and we had notified them in advance that we were vegetarian.

That meant we had a separate menu to choose from.

Breakfast was also very impressive, and I felt I really should put aside my usual practice of not eating before about 10am to make an exception in this instance.

Included in the package were a couple of tours through the zoo and we learned some fascinating things about animal behaviour - like African Painted Dogs take care of the elderly in their pack and Capuchin monkeys are in the equivalent of our stone age - they use stone tools and even craft tools to improve their function.

And so it was that our Sydney trip concluded on a high note that will give us wonderful memories for a very long time.

Sukkoth in Sydney

Sunday, October 08, 2017

This week is the Jewish festival of Sukkoth (pronounced Sook-ot).

Like all Jewish festivals it has some specific rituals (apart from a lot of eating but that's a given for all of them).

One of the ones for Sukkoth is to "dwell in a Sukkah".

A Sukkah is a temporary shelter with the main feature being that the roof must be made of plant material and has enough open space to let rain through.

The definition of "dwelling" has a number of options like whether or not you should sleep in it, work in it, decorate it and more.

(As you can see, Sukkahs come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and locations - even Google has one.)

However, everyone agrees that the basic requirement is that all meals should be eaten in one.

We're currently in Sydney (going back home tomorrow -yay!!!) doing a revisit of house-sitting and so having a Sukkah raises some significant logistical challenges.

And so, I contacted a friend (who is knowledgeable about these things) and asked if he knew of anyone in the local area to where we are staying who had a Sukkah who would be willing to share it.

His response was; "Come and stay with us."

So, for three days we were living with another couple.

Fortunately, they are amazing and wonderful people (the fact that they are very much like us may contribute significantly to that opinion of them).

Danita and I have reached an age where we are much more comfortable on our own and so being with someone else 24x7 offers some challenges.

However, at no point did we feel that we were in the way or had overstayed our welcome.

One interesting thing that did occur to me was that had the situation been reversed (ie they were staying with us in our house) we would have felt a lot easier about it.

We love it when people come to visit us in Tasmania and we get to do the tour-guide thing and look after them.

But when we are on the receiving end of people's generosity that's a bit challenging for us.

One of the issues, is knowing the rules of the house when in someone else's space.

When we were house-sitting we were always conscious of that and even renting has a great deal of that feeling eg we can't put up any of our artworks in the house we are renting, can't put in a vegetable garden where we want, can't have chickens etc etc.

And so, to have friends where you can live with them and still come away feeling that you'd love to see them again and keep in regular contact is very special.

When I got home there was a message on my phone (it had gone flat during the three days) from a contact from a long time ago - someone I used to sail with.

I haven't heard from him for a couple of years, at least,
and he finished his message with the adage that "Friends are like stars. They light up your night but you hardly ever talk to them." - thanks John.

It's been an important reminder to me about how special friends are - having people you can trust, with whom you've shared experiences and had fun times together.

Sometimes you also go through difficult ties together and that strengthens the connections.

One of the lessons or messages of Sukkoth is exactly that - the value and importance of friends and how people can be different and still together.

While we have some different views to the people we stayed with we could always have good conversations because underpinning the relationship is trust, understanding and humour - lots of humour.

As I mentioned, there are a lot of similarities between us but it's the differences that makes the relationship really interesting.

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