Saturday, 28 February 2009

Oh the jobs I have had

It is sometimes easy to forget, as you sit at your nice desk, in front of your nice mac, drinking company-provided Rooibos tea, with company toast in hand, just how pants some of the jobs you have done in the past really were.

4am restaurant breakfast shifts when, on my way to work I would pass revellers still out from the night before. I worked in one of Wellington's nicest Malaysian restaurants under a manager who was so rude that I was just about the longest serving staff after only three months. And in Sydney, with chefs that would harass you so much, I vividly remember staring at the wall by the coffee machine willing the pools of tears not to overflow.

For about three hours whilst at university, I tried to sell Sky TV packages over the phone in a souless building with a bunch of other drones, and the echoes of 'offering free installation tonight only' bouncing around the room.

I spent two days counting voting papers in six different ways for the Electoral Commission. Cleaned hotel rooms. Counted traffic on the roadside at 6am in the middle of winter. Made more milkshakes, coffees and vodka cocktails than I can ever hope to consume in my lifetime.

But for every toilet cleaned, every beverage served, every incident where I had to clean up some kid's sick, there were just as many good / interesting bits.

How anyone had the faith to let me and Kate loose in the newsagents on Sunday mornings, I don't know. We'd regularly cover ourselves in lime milkshakes due to lack of concentration. We perfected our air guitar behind that counter.

I served Liv Tyler tea and made small talk with Christopher Lee on a regular basis. Had two years of free films, and now have a fantastic array of hiking equipment bought at excellent discount.

I once stood a metre behind a 'television match official' at the very top of a NZ stadium as he awarded the All Blacks a try in a Bledisloe Cup match. Nothing like seeing 55,000 people all jump en masse.

Speaking of that cup, I got the chance for a great picture of my niece sitting in it.

And I may have drunk out of it on yet another crazy Friday evening at headquarters.

And now? Now I get to try and make, and keep, some really great people happy in their work. I can certainly think of worse ways to spend the day.

52 Shots - #7

Shrove Tuesday apparently has some religious significance, but for us it was a nice excuse to bust out the Tescos microwavable pancakes under the guise of 'staff morale boosting'. At least it gave everyone a sugar high for about 58 minutes. Meanwhile I'm in pink, struggling with a mug of coffee almost the size of my head.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Just a funny hat and a cape away

If I'd happen to have been in New Zealand this week, and all my laundry had already been done, and I could think of nothing else interesting to look at on the Internet, then maybe I would have gone along to graduation.

I have terrible memories of my family having to suffer through six hours of graduation ceremonies when my sister and myself graduated in different ceremonies (she with her Masters), on the same day. I remember swearing to myself that I would never put them or myself through that sort of unnecessary pain ever again.

But this week marks graduation for my Post-Graduate Diploma in Communication Management. A piece of paper two and a half years and a whole lot of junk food in the making.

I spent many a long afternoon sitting at work surrounded by cookie wrappers, research articles, and weighty text books explaining the ins and outs of cross-cultural marketing strategies. There was the summer that my memory only extends to my bedroom wall, which I stared at in between closely examining the wonders of commercial law, when everyone else seemed to be at the beach. Or the evenings of my first six months in London, when I would drown myself in the rules of APA referencing, in between discovering the triggers of acculturative stress.

And now it is done. I've ticked that box. Next stop Master's. This train terminates at PhD.

Oh what a ride it shall be.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

52 Shots - #6

A little row of Valentine's cupcakes giggle away a Saturday afternoon together

Saturday, 14 February 2009

2009 - The Year of the...

About this time, three years ago, I was on my merry way to the town of Matsumoto, in Nagano, Japan, to visit my friend Rachael.

The snow was so deep that, at one stage, all the passengers had to file off the dinky little train, and file onto an equally dinky little bus. This bus took us a windy, complicated route along roads hemmed in with feet of snow, over which you could only just see blanketed roofs peeking out from under the pines.

Eventually we made it to a station, all boarded the waiting train, and were back to normality.

My 2008 was a bit like that trip. There I was, on my express train, destination confirmed. That was until I hit engineering works and everything changed.

So when I looked over my post of '2008 - The Year of the...' It happened to read quite like my post of 'I have never....'

But such is life. And maybe we only change plans because the timing isn't quite right. So I may as well have another go.

2009 - The Year of the....

1. Hobby

The flute is waiting patiently in my room; the ballet classes are booked; the yoga is paid for; the easel has been constructed.

2. Writing Project

I don't know what form it will take, but what was previously hiding in the recesses of my brain, somewhere behind Pythagoras' theorem, has marched up the front and is demanding to be noticed.

3. Summer Solstice at Stonehenge, bagels in New York, and maybe a boat to Amsterdam

After a year of staying still, Nomadic Emma has just slightly itchy metatarsals again.

4. Dinner Party

I now have my chef knives in my kitchen. There are no more excuses not to make friends again with recipes.

5. Some Self-Improving Rubbish

Here is probably where I should say something about being a better person, giving more money to charity, or being nicer to the innately annoying person at work. But I just don't know if I want to put that kind of guilt on myself when I get to this time next year and I'm still just as bad, stingy, and unkind as the year before. Perhaps I'll work on giving more money to buskers.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

52 Snapshots - #5

London gives me a few inches of a welcome home present with the heaviest snowfall in 18 years.
Our backyard has delusions of Narnia-like grandeur.

52 Snapshots - #4

New Zealand's most flashy of trees turns on a great show this summer

52 Snapshots - #3

Me and my bike wander 75 kms around the crisp countryside of the Wairarapa.
One massive thunderstorm, a fair few hills, and some nasty sunburn later, we creak our way back to the ranch, with that pleasantly worn out feeling in our frames.

52 Snapshots - #2

Waiheke Island in full bloom - Looks like aerosol cream to me

52 Snapshots of 2009 - #1

Since my trusty Canon A-1 SLR was stolen on a ferry heading to mainland Malaysia, as I was trying to hold onto my nasi goreng lunch, I haven't taken nearly enough photos.

To address this, I thought I should try and snap one shot a week. A shot that might act as a little snippet for those particular seven days. A window into those 168 hours.

Here's number one:

Whizz through a time warp and land (quite happily) on a scorching beach just outside New Zealand's largest city.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Anna and I

Between the ages of five and about ten, Anna and I were best friends. Her room was my room. My clothes were her clothes. Her family was my family.

Although strangers would ask if we were sisters, I remember feeling different to Anna. She was this petite, athletic, slightly blonde girl who would go a deep bronze in the summers we spent together. Although I was always a 'front row in school photos' child myself, Anna made me feel that little bit tall and awkward.

We spent our days at the school pool lying on the scorched concrete in dripping bathing suits, making seven year old sized imprints before overheating and jumping back in. We played endless games of tennis; and spent hours grooming her constantly slightly depressed-looking Shetland pony.

Although we were best of friends, we fought too. I still remember the silent treatment I got from Anna after I was chosen for a reading part in the Christmas play. She recovered quickly after morning tea when she was handed the lead role of Rudolph which was all glory and no dull monologues.

I remember once being so enraged with Anna, that I dug deep to think of the worst insult I could possibly muster. I managed to come up with 'You are such a...... A feminist!' I had no idea what a 'feminist' was, but it sounded really bad. Anna was horribly upset at my label. Whatever it meant.

We tortured our families and classmates with our incessant performance of plays; hauling ridiculous costumes to school, transforming the classroom into a make-shift theatre, and testing the patience (and lesson plans) of our teacher Miss Godden. Who, at the time, was second on the 'list of greatest', aside from Anna.

When I was eight I had to change schools. And it broke my heart. We were still the best of friends, but when Anna's family moved islands to Christchurch, the gap widened emotionally as well as physically.

Now I hear news of Anna through the Christmas cards that our mothers still diligently exchange. But in my mind, she is still that small, quick, fair haired girl who was just that bit faster, bolder, and nonchalant than me.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

The right to reside

And so after seven months of fighting for it, I have it in my hands. A visa which says I can stay here.
I almost bounded over the counter and kissed the woman at the High Commission when she handed it to me. But they had a plastic screen up, I guess specifically to stop over-excited recipients like me pawing the staff.
It feels pretty good I have to say. Now I can happily get on with the business of living, not constantly living under a rain cloud of doubt about where I will be in a few months time. 2009 really starts now.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Into another dimension

I'm reading a very enlightening book at the moment, which is giving me a little glimpse into the previously dark, musty and unused room of physics.

It told me recently of a theoretical physicist by the name of Lee Smolin whose fecund universes theory (stay with me people) surmises that black holes in our universe are effectively doorways to neighbouring universes.

Apart from the concept of there being more than one universe completely blowing my mind, I also found that I could very easily relate that theory to long haul air travel.

It is just so strange to, one day, be on one side of the world, in the depths of short and wintry days; then 24 hours later, you are buying a pair of sunglasses at the airport before walking out into outrageous brightness with a desire to lie on the pavement to let the warmth soak into your bones.

But it isn't just the seasonal differences which make you feel as if you have been violently and suddenly sucked into another dimension.

I went from a universe where people quietly went about their business, to one where no one seemed to wear shoes and shop assistants were so friendly they practically removed your clothes for you in the fitting rooms.

It was a place of dry afternoon winds; towns that made you wonder if there had been some nuclear war that didn't make the news headlines because everyone was to concerned by the impending recession; excellent coffee; endearing accents (it took me three tries before I found out the 'tint' the biosecurity guy at the airport was asking about was actually a piece of camping equipment and not my bad regrowth); and most importantly, my wonderful family and friends.

Then all of a sudden, the black hole sucks you up and with a thud (and some bad airline food) you are back where you started.

Thanks for having me New Zealand. It was nice to see you again.