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Reflections Of A Year Abroad…Part 2

Here continues my final reflections from my year abroad.. and just in time to start my new adventures coming up…

New Zealand

New Zealand, like Australia, was one of the top contenders for “where I might want to live when I grow up…” While Australia was vast and overwhelming, NZ was stunning and easy to travel in. The people were also downright “nice” as the Aussies put it. Heck I was even wished happy early birthday by an immigration office when they had to double check my info that apparently is similar to a person of interest

I loved NZ and the Kiwis and got to amazing things there. Like dig my own hot tub at Hot Water Beach. Cover myself in thermal mud and take relax in a sulfur spring in Rotorua. Jump off a mountainside and paraglide, screaming all the way, in Queenstown.

Free as a bird

I even ade it to all THREE islands: North (right upto the tippy top), South and Stewart Island (the 3rd) where I did trade work at Bunkers Backpackers, one of the best spots in all of NZ.

A drink with the locals

The Worst Part Of NZ: would have to be the hacking cough I developed for about 3wks, felt so bad for my fellow dorm mates, oh and the price of lamb (so much for my bday roast 😦 )

The Best Part of NZ: friends, paragliding, mud and Stewart Island.

A Reason to Come Back: Everything

Malaysia and Borneo

The plan post NZ was to go volunteer in Sri Lanka at an animal shelter. They had contacted me and asked me to come promising accomodation and no fee. Sounded perfect and I was all set with tickets. Mid Tonga I got a message saying a returning volunteer was staying for 6mths and they were giving her my accomodation, but I could still come I just had to pay to stay… Well that blew that plan out of the water. My ticket on air asia was a ticket to Kuala Lumpur and then to Sri Lanka. I had great friends who I hadn’t seen in years in KL. So I scratched my 2nd ticket and ate the losses, planned a short visit to KL then discovered a converted oil rig in Borneo (a short flight) for scuba diving. Sounds like a perfect recovery plan to me.

I can’t tell you enough about how great it was to see my friend Chauw (first time in 7yrs) and meet his fabulous wife, Viven, and dog Pakkun (who really runs the house). They welcomed me like a long lost relative and put me up, fed me, and showed me around. It felt like home and I can’t thank them enough. I only wish I had had more time to stay.

Great Friends/Family

But Borneo beckoned and since I had to go through immigration it counts as a country on my list. The Seaventures Dive Rig, a converted oil rig, was incredible and with a sealavator that went straight into the ocean a diver couldn’t ask for more. This was my first DIVE VACATION and my first in tropical water, the rig made it truly spectacular in every way.

THE SEAVENTURES RIG!

The Worst Thing in Malaysia/Borneo: Leaving

The Best Thing in Malaysia/Borneo: friends and diving

A Reason To Return: Friends, diving and so much more.

Nepal

Nepal is a country I have always dreamed of going to and never thought I would. Most people go to trek, to get to base camp at the very least. For me, I wanted to buy myself a singing bowl. Since the first time I saw one of this beautiful bowls that “sing” as you pass a wooden stick around the outside, I have promised myself to only get one when I got to Nepal. It took me almost the full 3weeks to find the right one, but she sings just perrtty for me and I love it.

Nepal was fascinating and, unknown to me, would introduce me to someone who would change my life for good in many ways, but bring it crashing down with a terrible betrayal.

But you can’t blame a country for the actions of one person and so I focus on the people like Laksmi and her family who essentially adopted me in Pokhara. I went to dinner at their house, helped my new little brother, Gaurab, with his homework, even moved hotels closer to them (with Laksmi’s husband’s help). I spent many good hours chatting with Laksmi and I will miss my “sister” very much.

The Worst Thing in Nepal: The traffic and pollution

The Best Thing in Nepal: The people and the shopping and the history

A Reason to Return: The people, the shopping and the history

Germany

Cathleen, who I had met in my first country of Peru, and I had joked about me coming to Germany on my way home. Low and behold fate saw to it that I did. While I was super sad to leave Nepal, I was super excited to Cathleen again and well Germany in December means: Gluwein, Bratwurst, Christmas Markets and Christmas Cookies. Woohoo!

Cathleen met me in Hamburg with her amazing friend Hendrik, who put us up for a few days. Then came the whirlwind tour of Hamburg and Berlin with a final stop in Leipzig where Cathleen lived. Fate also allowed me to catch up with Carolin and Nadine, friends from Australia.

The Worst Thing in Germany: My heartsickness at missing a guy and ending a trip (not really Germany’s fault).

The Best Thing in Germany: Gluwein, bratwurst and Christmas markets… and fabulous friends.

A Reason to Go Back: need I repeat the above?? Oh and add the bakeries and the cold meats, mmmmmmm…..

Home

So after 347 days on the road, just shy of a full year, I finally made it home! For those of us who love long term travel, going home is both a blessing and a curse. We get our own bed, we see family, have home cooking, and 3 days later we want to pack our bags and head out again. As someone once explained to me, finally giving me an explanation I could use for non travelers, “traveling is a double edged sword…you live you grow you explore but you never feel settled”.

Starting my job as a vet nurse with a mobile vet barely 3 days after getting home at least helped that trapped feeling from catching a full hold. And being mobile kind of felt like I was still moving.

Ready to Monitor in Surgery

Something I learnt on This Trip: I am stronger than I look, and I love being near a warm ocean.

My Most Memorable Experience: Shaving my head for charity

My Worst Experience: Can’t say that anything was terrible, but let’s just say I learn a lot of lessons about life.

One thing is for sure, I prefer living abroad and plan to find work that gives me that. As much as I loved all the travel, there are times you want to stay put for longer than a month or 2.

So stick around and join me on upcoming adventures including Italy, Korea and Thailand…

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2012 in Germany, RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Farewell Leipzig :( Hello Nettetal :)

11th December 2011

Morning Pastries

Today was another farewell day, I would be moving on towards the town of Cologne and another friend that I met in Coral Bay, Australia. Cathleen told me to sleep in and went out to buy us some fresh bread and pastries for breakfast. No better way to start the morning than German Pastries and coffee with a good friend.

Rideshares and Directions

We had managed to find me a rideshare to close to Cologne where Nadine lived and they were picking me up at noon. We packed and clean and got all sorted just in time for the rideshare to call and say they were running late. Well, they were a bunch of students who had come down for a party…

I called Nadine to let her know and get directions, it turned out she lived almost an hour from Cologne, but had used that town as it was the only one that was well known. She lived in a town near the Dutch border called Nettetal. Being a little irritated with life in general I got a wee bit frustrated. Cathleen, in her usual wisdom, told me it would be fine and all work out.

The rideshare arrived and I was suitably impressed by the very swanky car, not bad for students. Even had a seat warmer. I was given the front seat and after a tearful goodbye it was time to say farewell to a very good friend. Can’t wait to catch up again soon.

Soon we were on the road and chatting about what they were studying and my travels. I tried to call Buddha on and off but kept getting the network down message. (Maybe that was the one day the network really was down and the one time he wasn’t lying to me…maybe). Anyway we organised with Nadine to meet us at an offramp just outside of Cologne, and after missing the ramp the first time we finally found it.

Part of the Family

It was great to see Nadine again. We had met the first week or so in Coral Bay, she was part of my German Contingent, a running joke as our group was about 6 parts Germany, 1 part Bavarian and me and it seemed that with every one that left another German joined.

We caught up on the hour drive to her sister’s house where she lived, I felt really bad that she had come all this way to pick me up. Sometimes life surprises you with the kind of friends that are happy to go out of their way to be there for you. I had just left one such friend and was realising I had another one sitting next to me. No matter what curve balls life might throw at me, its good to know that occasionally it tosses me someone who has my back.

I was welcomed as part of the family by her sister Yvonne and her husband and 2 kids and nephew. They also had a couple of goats, sheep, a shetland pony with an attitude and 2 large dogs. It felt so welcoming and everyone was excited to meet me. The teenage boy had given up his room and Nadine and I shared it.

Well dinner was cooking I went to take my stuff upstairs and found it had already been taken for me, too cool. I sorted out my stuff and checked some email, I was still feeling very unsettled and stressed and wished I could talk to Buddha as it had been a few days, all I could do was email him and hoped he would reply. (Of course now I see that was wishful thinking as it turned out the girl he was living with had told him to stop stringing me along and he was beginning to listen to her).

Heading downstairs I felt comforted by the fabulous family dinner and all the chaos that came with it. More adventures await in the morning.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2012 in Germany, RTW, Travel

 

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Christmas Concert and Tears…

10th December 2011

Warning travel emotions may be present in the following blog

Feeling Lost

I think my subconscious was trying to tell me something this whole time. I woke up feeling really emotional and stressed. A big part of it is the end of the trip, the return to the dreaded Real Life, and trying to understand what where who… the straw that broke the camel’s back was this little thing called a boyfriend. Sometimes I wish you could just wake up and have everything seem sorted and your life planned out… but then again where’s the adventure in that? So you just keep plodding along.

I tried to focus on my blog while Cathleen was at band practice. Since I was leaving soon I worked on repacking and discovered I couldn’t find my Nepali Christmas Ornament and in my fragile state…it felt like an ominous sign.

I had tried to call the elusive Buddha but it just rang, apparently a sign that the signal was not going through. A mutual friend was online and he said he had just called and spoken with Buddha, so I quickly gave it another try, but it was no good. Logically I knew I was being ridiculous but emotions tend to reach a boiling point in me.

Christmas Concert and Hallelujah

I made it through to the evening when I had to walk to the church where Cathleen and her band were playing. I put on my MP3 and listened to some music that made me feel stronger and less likely to fall apart at the drop of the hat. I was feeling pretty confident and together and was thoroughly enjoying the concert. And then the band did something that was so unfair, so ruthless, so dangerous to someone in the fragile state I was trying to avoid… they played HALLELUJAH!

This song makes me emotional on the best of days and right now I couldn’t stop the tears. Luckily I wasn’t sobbing like a baby but I was close. Cathleen could see me from her place and afterwards came up and asked “Was it that good or that bad, that you cried??”. She still had to finish up in the back and clean, we decided I would just head home. I must have looked like a crazy person as I was talking to myself all the way home. I made it home and luckily my good friend/shrink, Roger, was online, he calmed me down and ordered to find a cure, preferably in the form of alcohol. I walked out of the room and Cathleen’s roommates took one look at me handed me a glass of wine and said “boys?”. Funny how girls always seem to know.

Dinner Out

The roommates got me talking about my travels and that always works to take my mind off things. We looked at pics and talked about adventures until Cathleen got home. She convinced me to go out to meet her band friends and have some good German food. Food and friends are always a cure for when you are feeling down. I am fairly certain one guy was even hitting on me, later Cathleen said he actually hits on anything that even looks vaguely female… oh well still going to count it.

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2012 in Germany, RTW, Travel

 

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Discovering Dresden!

9th December 2011

Explanations…

As you might remember from my previous post, I was quite upset that the promised skype date with Buddha didn’t happen. But at 5.45am I got a text explaining that right as the power and internet came on a fire caused it to go out again. I was so relieved to think he hadn’t stood me up. Its only now I think, “well why didn’t he just text me last night to say that??”. Often when you are hoping that new feelings are being discovered you fail to notice the start of red dots that ultimately come together to be a giant red flag…

Train to Dresden

Cathleen and I had a big day planned, we were heading to the old city of Dresden, reputed to be one of the prettiest in the area. Through the rideshare site, Cathleen had managed to join a girl with a “group” ticket on the train. Normally it would cost 20+ euros for a ticket one way to Dresden, crazy expensive. But the group ticket allows 5 people to go for the cost of 25euros (5 euros each). The other 2 were twins both studying law.

Dresden

Dresden lived up to everything I was told about it, absolutely stunning with tons of old buildings and wonderful Christmas markets and when the sun came out, stunning weather too.

Christmas Markets


Beautiful Buildings


Stunning Statues

We stopped in at the Tourist Information center, picked up a map and were off exploring. A truly great day, but even though the sun was out it was still pretty cold.

Cathleen and I

For lunch we stopped at one of the markets and got our usual bratwurst. Berlin is still top of the list as far as taste, but this one was delicious regardless. Just when we thought our fingers were numb from the cold we found a cute little coffee house and got some tea and hot chocolate. The best part was that the sun came streaming in the window and warmed us up along with the hot drinks. We enjoyed our time with Cathleen reading a book and me working on my diary, content in each others company.

Gluwein!!!

Heading out to continue our explorations we went through yet another market and found the gluwein stand. Of course we had to visit almost every stand before I decided on a mug. The first stand had a mug in the shape of a boot that was my first choice but then trying to clean it would have been a chore, so I opted for a nice blue one.

Health Museum

IT turned out that Dresden had a “Health Museum”, it sounded interesting and well, the selling factor was that it was free today. As we walked towards it we walked over some dropped fruit, as we took our first steps I noticed the leaves and as the reek of the squashed fruit reached my nose I realised it was gingko fruit. It might be good for the brain but it smells horrendous. This was followed by quick side stepping and trying to rinse shoes in puddles.

The museum turned out to be super interesting, with lots of interactive displays all about the human body. The most amusing part to go through was the Human Sexuality section, which seemed to be getting a lot of repeat visitors from the boys of the high school group just ahead of us. Unfortunately, it was mostly in German and I was feeling to tired that I zipped through it and went to go sit and relax.

In excellent fashion, Cathleen had found us a rideshare home for 5 euros. On the way back Cathleen introduced me to the Doner Kebab shop, famous for its huge sandwiches. It was amazing, but impossible to finish, at least on my part.

A great end to another great set of explorations!

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2012 in Germany, RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Meeting Up With Friends

8th December 2011

Christmas Market round 2

Since Cathleen had class all day I went to meet Carolin, a girl I had met in Coral Bay, Australia. Turns out she timed her visit home perfectly and was in town seeing her sister. It had been about 4mths since I had seen her, but it felt like just yesterday. We had coffee and caught up with each other, telling stories of each of our new beaus.

Then it was time to explore the Medieval Market, a part of the Christmas Market that has food and drinks from an earlier time period. It was fantastic, and I got to try a version of Gluwein called feuerzangowle. Delicious and apparently more alcoholic. But with the cold rainy weather it was just what the doctor ordered.

Carolin and I

Other than the yummy taste, the mug was the best part. Earthenware and the perfect size to warm your hands round, it is now one of my favorites.

Since the rain was getting heavier we headed to Carolin’s sister’s apartment that was right in the center of town and enormous. It was brilliant and had some beautiful old features. We tried to call Buddha so that Carolin could meet him but couldn’t get through. Later we tried again and he answered, he was super cute and said he was away from his computer and we could skype at 7pm, midnight his time. I was really excited to speak to him.

We did get to skype Carolin’s boyfriend back in Australia though. Much to her disbelief he and I were soon discussing the Rugby world cup, she just rolled her yes at us.

Carolin needed me to fix her bracelet I had made her back in Aus and so we headed back to Cathleen’s house to get my strings. I was able to manipulate the bracelet with some repairs and then it was time to say goodbye to my good friend. I hope to see her again soon.

Christmas Cookies

Cathleen had invited a friend over to make German Christmas Cookies. It was great fun, even if I was a bit distracted waiting for him to come on skype. We made sputniks, zimt sterre and vanilla kipferl. Yummy!!!!


It was great fun and the only thing to mar it was the fact that Buddha never came online and I wasn’t able to reach him on the phone. For some reason I felt devastated, I think perhaps some part of my intuition was trying to warn me, but when the heart wants, it often pushes aside the intuition. Cathleen made the point that it was something out of my control and there was nothing I could do to change it. She was right but emotions can be intense sometimes, especially when other factors like ending a year long adventure are factored into the mix.

Tomorrow is exploring the town of Dresden!

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2012 in Germany, RTW, Travel

 

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Leipzig’s Christmas Market…

7th December 2011

Emotions

As the time for the end of my trip draws nearer I find my emotions wanting to spill over and overwhelm me. Add to that a new relationship and you have someone on the verge of tears for a lot of the time. I have always been someone ruled by emotions with logic constantly trying to control them. I had fears of ending up back at the beginning without having gained anything from my trip as far as decisions on what to do with my life (that would be the logic telling me to settle and find a permanent job). Now with this amazing guy telling me how much he missed me but having communication issues as far as contacting me, I was barely above wreck status.

Of course I would discover those “communication issues” he claimed to have were the fact that he was living with another girl for the month of December and she did not approve of him sweet talking another girl…

But I am lucky enough to have great friends who are always there to console and council me. A fellow travel writer, Roger, who secretly doubles as my shrink, was extra supportive and I am afraid to see the beer bill I owe him at the end of all this!

Market Time!

Pulling myself together to focus on enjoying Germany, which easy when there are so many goodies to eat, Cathleen and I headed for my 3rd Christmas Market. Bring on the bratwurst and gluwein.

It Just Feels Like Christmas

We explored the city center of Leipzig and I was amazed at the beautiful buildings and monuments and fountains.

Cathleen has a route planned out, unfortunately she was dealing with someone who has the attention span of a gnat and is very very easily distracted. My friends don’t call me Doug the Dog, from the movie UP, for nothing! But eventually she got me somewhat on track and we visited some stunning things. The church of St. Nikolaus was stunning. It has an important place in history for East/West Germany as it was one of the few churches tolerated by the East’s GDR government and became and important location for students to gather and protest. the only thing that was strange was the habit of painting the inside in pastel colors.

We explored the GDR museum that had an excellent series of life in the East. It really opened your eyes to how oppressed the people were. A lot of it was in German though, so I got through it faster than Cathleen.

Finally we completed all the required stops of exploration and headed for the market that had been distracting me for so long. I tried some apple gluwein this time, gaining my 3rd mug and had bratwurst for lunch.

It started raining a little heavier but I managed to find my christmas ornament (I collect them from every country I go to), a nifty little incense burner that looks like an old farmer smoking when you burn the incense and then delight of delight a fresh hot waffle with half nutella and half vanilla cream.

Heaven!

We headed home through the rain and then Cathleen had to go to band practice. I managed to get through to Buddha on the phone and we chatted a bit, it looks like the “connection” issues were getting worse. I later discovered this was most likely the time he was having dinner with friends (who knew me) and his latest girlfriend and he put me on speaker and lied about there being a blackout. A real piece of work. But at the time it made me feel loved to hear him and so I focus on the good things, its really all you can do. Good things and waffles make life worth living 🙂

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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To Bike Or Not To Bike…

6th December 2011

Sinterklaas Day

This morning I woke to a wonderful surprise. Apparently during the night Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) had visited all of us and left candy in our shoes, even me as the visitor. I can not explain how that made me feel, to be included. Our Sinterklaas doubles as an Opera student and is Cathleen’s roommate.

Blog Work

Cathleen had class this morning and then we were going exploring, so I spent the time catching up on my blog. There had not been very easy internet access in Nepal and so I was quite behind (kind of like now…oops). For lunch I enjoyed another of Germany’s fine bread rolls with amazing cold meats and cheese. I am so in love with country’s for their food.

Biking Fears

Upon Cathleen’s return she excitedly told me where we were going to go, then she told me how…by bike. Now, I am ever so slightly ashamed to admit, I cannot ride a bike, in fact I have a serious fear of it. Now this is not because my parents were negligent in providing a bike when I was growing up. I recall a rather nice bike. However, I seem to have never mastered the breaking system. For many years I thought they had given me one without breaks, my brother had handle breaks, what I failed to understand is that mine was designed for younger and less agile children and therefore had back peddle breaks… obviously I was way below less agile. I was terrified of going downhill, and having my brother stand at the bottom of one around age 5 saying “Don’t worry, I’ll catch you” and then promptly running him over, my fear did not abate anytime soon. As I got older many friends tried to teach me, but being of 5ft nothing statue, their bikes were giant and usually involved injury or there about. I could go, it was just the start, stop and balance i had real issues with. (Today I have a 3 wheel bike and love every moment of it, it even has a basket and a bell).

Cathleen ignored my pleas for mercy, insisting that it was an irrational fear and once I got going I would be fine. Her roommates bike was a stylish classic model… whose seat did not lower and was higher than my waist. I was on the verge of tears and shaking as I tried to get some balance and felt like a complete failure as we headed out at a rather fast paced walk. Since it was getting late we had to try do everything double time, the bike would have been much faster (and I would most likely have caused an accident).

Monuments

It was a wonderful crisp December afternoon and I rather enjoyed the walk. Growing up in South Africa I never really experienced winter and in Oregon on the west coast of the states winters are very wet, so it is a real treat to have a day like this one.

We were heading to a monument commemorating the defeat of Napolean, used as a gathering place for speeches given by Hitler during WW2. However, with it’s 200yr anniversary coming up the place was getting a new lease on life and with a stunning pond in front of it reflecting the image, it made for a great stop. Cathleen enjoys using it as a perfect choice for the hangman word game, VOLKERSCHLACHTDENKMAL… Now if that isn’t a mouthful!

Volkerschlachtdenkmal

We had planned to go up and see the view and read about the history but the cost was 6 euros, that’s a bratwurst and a mug of gluwein. Cathleen said before it used to be cheaper to just go up for the view, but they policy had changed recently. Instead we headed home stopping at a local store to pick up some sweet goodies, chocolates, licorice, marzipan….. OMG I love this country!

Kinder Eggs Are My Favorite!

German Beer

We popped out for a quick beer with one of Cathleen’s friends that evening, my first German beer (I had been consuming on Gluwein by the mugful up to this point) and it was delicious.

A Tall Cold One

It was a great way to end the evening! Tomorrow it’s the Leipzig Christmas Market…

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2012 in Germany, RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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