Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wandering Wednesday - Tokoriki Island, Fiji

Welcome to the first part of my new series - Wandering Wednesday!

When I was working full time, Wednesday - the middle of the working week (affectionately known by most as hump day) - was usually a dull day. Yes, work was half over for the week, but there was still a lot more to get through before the weekend.

And so begins Wandering Wednesday: a little glimpse into foreign destinations, small getaways to take you away from the desk and that good old mid week boredom... :-)

Tokoriki Island, Fiji - my visit here might have been 5 1/2 years ago, but it's still the most luxurious holiday I have ever experienced (and probably ever will!) and the destination that switched on a part of my brain to travel mode - after returning from this holiday, all plans for our near future had changed: the travel bug had well and truly kicked in and there was no going back...


Tokorki lies in the Mamanuca group of islands, a lovely days boat ride from Nadi provided you don't suffer from sea sickness on three separate boats (all getting scarily smaller as we grew closer to our destination) and far away from the typical crowded Fijian resorts that most holiday goers venture to.

The island has only one resort and with it's pool, cocktail bar, day spa, candle lit outdoor restaurant, and decked out bures, it makes for one lavish holiday...



In a volcanic part of Fiji, Tokoriki is surprisingly green and hilly and has a walk up to a fantastic viewing point from where you can view the sunrise. Mitch and I ventured up this hill early in the morning on our one year anniversary where we enjoyed a stunning view to see in our special day.


Fiji is without a doubt one of the most romantic destinations in the world, but I discovered that there is more to it then just watching the sunset (as amazing as they are) and lazing on a beach.



There are local schools to visit (we arrived during teeth washing time)...


Kava ceremonies to participate in...



Deserted islands to be dropped on, perfect for a day of exploring and snorkelling - ours happened to be overlooking the island from the film 'Castaway'...


And diverse reefs to explore - ever since my first scuba experience here, I've been keen to get my certification. Mitch and I have decided a number of times not to get each other Christmas presents but go on a scuba course instead but it still hasn't quite happened - one day we'll get there, one day...

Tokoriki Island is truly a luxurious destination where you are bound to be spoilt... I hope to go back there one day :-)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Knitting like a Nanna

I haven't really been doing anything creative since leaving Australia - for some reason I just haven't been feeling inspired to knit or sew. There's been so many other things on my mind with moving, holidaying, studying and settling into life in a new country. After now being here for 3 months however, I'm finally starting to feel like making things again and my desire to create has well and truly kicked back in.

I started this cute little guy a few days ago and happily finished him off this morning - he looks ready to hit the snow, as am I - I still can't get over the fact that it has finally warmed up and I'm feeling a little bit toasty at the moment!!!


--- Excuse my poor photo, being temporarily husband-less means I am also temporarily without my trusty photographer and I had to resort to pulling out my little ixus which just doesn't quite compare ---

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Attack of the killer flies

Ok, they may not be KILLER flies, but.... The weather in our part of the world has warmed up and summer has finally arrived - despite the fact that our summer temperatures here are the same (and often colder) then in Queensland at the moment, where it is currently winter. With long, warm sunny days and no rain in sight, I've been really enjoying finally being able to open our apartment and let the crisp air inside without having to don my thermals and a beanie. Our apartment has really large windows that open completely which is important to me - I hate being stuck in stuffy areas. However, it hasn't got fly screens and this didn't alarm me when we decided to rent it - for some bizarre reason, I just assumed that there were no creepy crawlies in Europe.

In the last few days, I have discovered a particular breed of flying insect that gives Australian bugs a run for their money. It might not compare in the danger factor (as far as I'm aware, it doesn't bite, sting, leave you itching, require fumigation of your house and contact with one certainly doesn't necessitate a hospital visit) but it's sure up there in the annoyance factor. It's the giant version of those ordinary little black flies.

Now, you may think I'm overreacting but believe me, this is no ordinary fly. I'm convinced it's the size of my little toe and can be heard a mile before it even considers flying in through my defenceless windows - when I hear a buzzing that momentarily confuses me and leaves me wondering if we live on a train track, I rush to defend my home and shut my windows in a hurry but alas, this little critter is too crafty - I close one window, he quickly dodges running into a glass pane and flies in through the next opening. 

I have discovered this little pests vulnerability however - it is too trusting. Unlike most other flies, it is relatively docile and will sit on a table for minutes without moving. Now, I generally HATE killing bugs. I have a well known fear of spiders (I'm still blaming this on the huntsmen spider in my bed when I was a kid) and this fear was kinda-almost-a-little-bit of a contributing factor to nearly writing off our little green Mazda when I was 17 (that's another story in itself). 

Flying insects (including flies) are also something I loathe. Luckily for me, Mitch adores fly swatting. Honestly - if Mitch hears even a slight buzzing, his ears prick up and he's on the ready with a tea towel (for some reason, we have never owned a fly swat - hmmm note to self, next time I'm stuck on a present idea, I'm buying my husband the fanciest fly swat around), flicking it with great skill that has been acquired after years of practice - whenever we move out of a rental property, it takes hours to go around and clean all the flicked bug remnants off the ceiling that Mitch has left behind. I always tease him about it and now while I am temporarily husband-less, I'm missing him and his fly swatting skills more then ever. I decided it was time to get over my fear and since my prior experience with tea towel flicking ends up with more injuries to myself then anyone else, I pulled a cushion off the couch and snuck up on those little freight train flies... The poor little annoying critters had no idea what was coming and after happily swatting 4 of them, I elatedly emailed Mitch telling him of my fly chasing escapades, much to his surprise!

Hmmmm I think I hear a buzzing.... Time to get that pillow off the couch and go on a fly hunt - and here I was thinking I left all the creepy crawlies behind in Australia???

Friday, June 25, 2010

Study study study

Thanks to my upcoming Dutch exam next week, I've had nothing but study on the brain for the last couple of days. With a textbook, word book, work book, standard dictionary, 'Learn Dutch in 30 Days' CD, personalised dictionary (one of the best things I've done - turned a pocket sized address book into my own dictionary for any new words I'm struggling to remember) and my trusty bright yellow 'Dutch for Dummies' book (which I'm proud to admit I feel like I've nearly outgrown), this standard book method of study is getting a little monotonous.

With my motivation slowly disappearing, I decided it's time to get a little bit inventive with my study methods and have discovered a new way to learn: tv kijken. Yes, that's right - studying by watching tv!!! Cable tv seems to be really common here (to get our internet, we first needed a cable tv package) and so I've certainly had a choice of channels to watch. I've discovered that television shows in the Netherlands are one of three things:

(1) Foreign, shown in the original language and subtitled. I think this is brilliant - when I want to watch something mindless, I can just sit and watch like I would in Australia without having to think. When I feel like using my brain - I listen while reading the subtitles and have my personalised dictionary handy to write any new words in. Mind you, it's not so nice when the foreign movie is say, French or Spanish - then I'm stuck making up the story on my own.
(2) A children's show and therefore dubbed, no subtitles.
(3) A Dutch show.

Today I discovered the value of dubbed children's shows in my learning. Sadly, I'm now kinda hooked on 'Dora the Explorer' - being aimed at little kids, the sentences are fairly simple and there's plenty of counting and songs. I'm loving being able to actually understand something!!! Although I'm fairly confident in my reading & writing, I tend to struggle with speaking & listening.

So with that in mind, it's time to get back to the study now I suppose - I better check the TV-gids and see when the next instalment of Dora is on...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bohemian mini break

An early morning walk, a bus, a flight, another bus, a train and another big walk and seven hours later I've made it home to what feels like a heat wave after the somewhat chilly temperatures of the Czech Republic! Mitch and I have spent the last few days in Prague - once again, making the most of his work travel schedule! It was a fantastic weekend, a great getaway in a beautiful part of the world that I've been wanting to visit ever since the last time we lived in Europe.

I'd heard so much about this city (all good) that I was honestly expecting to be disappointed - I thought maybe it was just a whole lot of hype. But, I was not disappointed in the least - the history, the architecture, the food, the cobbled streets, the blackened old castle on a hill overlooking the city.... Prague is one amazing place. And topped off with a visit into the countryside to the creepy Kutna Hora, it makes for a gorgeous Bohemian mini break :-)


More photos to come...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My sewing corner


Since putting my trusty Janome into storage earlier this year, I have really been missing my sewing machine. After considering my options - whether or not to get it posted over? get my Dad to bring it over? - I decided the easiest option would be to just buy myself a new sewing machine. And so, after a trip to Blokker I came home with this little Toyota - it's very basic compared to my nice Janome but it'll do what I need perfectly.

Since buying my new sewing machine however, I have been suffering from a complete lack of creativity. The machine sat in our car for days, then in it's box for some time before I decided to unpack it. It's nice having my own little sewing corner (and not having all my material and machine strewn all over the kitchen table like in Australia) but I'm at a loss as to what to do with it. Sadly, my new machine has only been put to the test just once, with an unsuccessful hemming of some of Mitch's jeans (next time, they are going to a tailor - lets just say I got a little bit scissor happy and my poor husband is now wearing slightly short jeans :-P ).

So, I am feeling really keen to start creating things again but I'm in desperate need of some ideas & inspiration.

Do you have any favourite websites or blogs for patterns and tutorials? Any favourite books?

This keen-to-start-sewing-but-lacking-ideas girl would appreciate any thoughts, ideas and advice :-)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A visit to the huisarts

When living in a foreign country (especially one where english is not the main language), I realise just how much you take for granted in your home country. Simple yet important things, such as - what do I do when I get sick - suddenly become a challenge. I'll never forget my first experience with a foreign doctor in France. Although I was not the patient, my visiting friend was and we had an interesting evening with a doctor that didn't speak a word of English and me frantically trying to translate in my poor frenglish skills. The value of hand gestures as a means of communication was ever so evident that night.

I always find it interesting to see how differently things work in other countries, so without going into any personal details, I thought I'd share our first experience of a visit to the huisarts.

First step: sort our your health insurance. Basically the health system in the Netherlands is entirely privitised - unlike Australia, there is no free public health system. Even on our 2 year temporary residence permits, we must still take out full (costly, costly, costly - ugh, I'm still blown away) medical insurance. This took Mitch and I hours of reading over booklets from the university recommended insurance company, and trying to grasp exactly what we needed. Like private health insurance in Australia, you take out a basic package and then add extras such as dental cover, or better optical cover and so on. Having the basic package is COMPULSORY here. You can get hefty fines if you are found to be uninsured!

Second step: register with a GP at a medical centre. Unlike Australia, where you can just randomly visit whatever doctor and medical centre you wish, here you have to choose your doctor and you stick with them. Obviously if you are unhappy with your choice, you can change after filling out some paperwork, but I found the fact that you have to register with a particular GP quite unusual. Once you've been into the medical centre to register with your ID and insurance details, you are then free to make appointments as you wish (all fully covered under insurance, of course). The GP here appears to be much more of an all rounder than in Australia - it's not so common to be referred to specialists. I've also heard (although I can't vouch for how true this is) that the Dutch doctors approach to health means that you are less likely to be given antibiotics and other medication - the view is more along the lines of, try and get over it yourself, if you're still sick in a few days, well THEN we'll give you something. Like I said though, not sure how valid this is.

When you do need to be referred to a specialist, unlike Australia, you do not receive a letter and call the specialist yourself. Rather, the GP's office makes all the arrangements for you and they call you back with an appointment time. I have to say, I think this is entirely unpractical as the GP's office doesn't know your schedule - so you just end up getting stuck with whatever time you're given.

Now, medications - in Australia, the doctor gives you a paper prescription which you then take to the pharmacy of your choice to get filled. When registering at the doctors here, we were advised that you also have to register at a pharmacy - naturally, it ends up being the one closest to the medical centre. When you need to go pick up your medication from the pharmacy, you simply show up with your health insurance card which is scanned and voila - here's your medication.

So, there it is - a visit to the huisarts in a nutshell...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

To be relaxed

Thanks to a week of lazing on a deck chair by the sea, I am feeling incredibly relaxed, tanned (after a spot of nasty sunburn which with the help of some aloe vera has turned into a lovely brown – I almost look Australian again), full of warmth (after 28deg days for a week, a bit of a change to the weather I’m slowly becoming accustomed to!) and although I was a bit over it by Friday, I’ve now got a slight craving for pizza and pasta again. We arrived back in bikeland in the early hours of Saturday morning (after spending a few fun hours stuck on the tarmac in Alghero on Friday night – ugh) after a week in the most gorgeous location: the Capo Caccia, Sardinia.




As this was a work trip for Mitch, we decided to fly in a few days early to enjoy what this Italian island has to offer. Although Mitch and I have seen a fair chunk of Europe over the past few years, this was the first time we had ever taken an internal flight. Being a bit of a holiday bargain hunter, I am forever SO excited when I discover we can both fly return to another country for the price of a meal at a mediocre restaurant back in Australia. Upon embarking our first super-budget-airline flight that made Jetstar look like the Ritz, the head flight attendant was making his announcement. “Welcome onboard our flight today to…”. Silence. The flight attendant leans over to me and whispers in my ear as I walk past “ummm… where are we going today???”. Ahhhhh… You get the quality you pay for I suppose!!!

After making it to our destination, we awoke the next morning to a beautiful view of the mountains and clear blue sea. 



We decided to hike down the loooooong driveway of our resort to catch a local bus into Alghero. The very kind driver decided to give us a free trip as he spoke no English – I love how FREE is a universal word. We then spent hours aimlessly wandered around the little cobbled streets of this old city, stopping in sunny little cafes for a beer or two along the way...


We also made the most of the mountains and took a scenic walk, enjoying panoramic views of the Capo Caccia, our home for the week…



Our stroll led us to relive our memories our afternoon tackling the 3000 stone steps in Nepal by making our way down some very steep steps to a grotto. Unfortunately, unlike Nepal we had to make our way back up the stairs…



I was blown away by the beauty of the grotto di neptuno… I had been thinking it would be much like the caves we have in Australia, but no – it was in a league of its own… Set over a natural lake, it was truly magical.





And when our glorious weekend was over and Mitch had to start work, I lazed by the sea and enjoyed the sunshine, taking leisurely dips in the chilly mediterranean, swimming in the pool, eating to my hearts content and – studying… Yes, although I had a textbook in hand for a great deal of the week, I can now say I truly know the meaning of ontspannen…

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

We are going on a summer holiday (kind of)


Welcome to my study spot for this week :-)

When Mitch found out he had to go to Sardinia for work (it's a tough life being a researcher :-P ), I decided there was no way I was staying at home... And so I've packed my textbooks and sunscreen, swapped my raincoat for a bikini and moved my study spot from our kitchen table to this gorgeous little cove in the mediterranean... Pure bliss :-)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Gefeliciteerd!

Last week we had the pleasure of going to our first Dutch wedding... An old childhood friend of Mitch's married a Dutch girl recently and we were thrilled to celebrate their marriage with them over here in Holland. It was a lovely night and Mitch had fun snapping a few photos of the evening...







As they say in Dutch - gefeliciteerd!!!

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