Monday, November 29, 2010

Turning small talk into big dreams

Last week I went to two different sessions with speakers who were talking big. A friend of mine bought tickets to a guy she had been raving about - Sebastian from who has been traveling all over the world for the last year and half ticking off items from his bucketlist and raising money for charity and his friend Dave who has a knack for breaking records. The second talk was a gathering of volunteers for St Vincent De Paul's Sparks Program. There were three speakers at this session - a media officer from Amnesty International, a volunteer who had stayed at Christmas Island detention centre for a month and the creator of an after school program catering to newly arrived refugee children. Suffice to say two nights in a row I've been given a lot to think about.

What was common to all the talks is that they wanted to change the way people thought about the world, they wanted to get people talking, thinking, rethinking the way people viewed their role, position and relationship with the world and with other people. What I found most inspiring was that all the speakers weren't just talkers, they were 'doers.' They spoke from the experience of turning thoughts into words, words into action. From Louise from Amnesty or the volunteer who had visited Detention centers in Australia such as Christmas Island, Curtin and Darwin or Dave who had traveled across Australia over 4000km on skateboard or Seb who was aiming to raise $100,000 for Camp Quality by promoting Life in his own way.

Everyday we're confronted by so many messages, streams of news and hoards of information. We participate in small talk and sometimes we listen. What I've learned from these speakers is how to turn small talk into big dreams, how to turn big dreams into huge change. What struck me is that none of the speakers did what they did because other people expected them to. None of the speakers said things like 'Everybody supported me in the beginning' or 'Every decision I made was rational and calculated' they didn't say 'I never made a mistake' or 'It was easy and nobody every opposed me'. They were faced with opposition, criticism and skepticism and you know what? They did it anyway (I'm starting to think that might just be the secret).

Often times in order to succeed in changing the way people see the world, we need to start by living that change. No change comes without resistance, and to get people on board you need to give people a reason to change their way of thinking and living; you need to be a living example of that kind of change. I've said it before, and I'll quote it again (Thankyou, Ghandi) - 'Be the change you want to see in the world'. So, that's where I'm starting - with the Man in the Mirror (Thankyou Michael Jackson). I've got some big plans for next year in terms of mixing a few of my favourite things together - traveling, fundraising/volunteering and online videos! Let's just say I'm working on it for now, but all will be revealed. I've been inspired by a lot of good people and I can only hope to make half as much of an affect as they have.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Across the Universe

Across the Universe

Last time I checked dreams still come true, people change the world and the universe is waiting for somebody like you. The doubt, the questioning, the confusion and general stress is a prerequisite for everything that is about to happen; life-changing, ass-kicking, hyphenated glory.

All eyes on you,
                       - The Universe

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

5 things I've learned before traveling

Lost & Happy - Post secret

Traveling, besides completely changing everything you ever thought you knew and being more awesome than you ever thought possible, is stressful. More than that, preparing to go traveling can be even more so. This is something I've learnt in the long and terrible experience of applying for a student visa and preparing all the necessary paperwork to live in Spain. I'm not a stress head by any means and the last thing I do when there's an exam or an upcoming assignment is stress, I'm the last-minute type, the she'll-be-right type, the type who goes to the beach the day before the assignment is due, comes home, takes a nap and then starts writing after dinner. But travelling is a different story. Every trip I've taken, be it overseas or within Australia, I've never had to organise things for myself. Our last year of high school our ancient history class went on a 3 week trip to Italy and Greece, itinerary already made, accommodation booked - all we had to do was show up. Likewise for family trips to the Philippines or Fiji and university sports trips have all had everything arranged, no questions asked. The difference with all of this is that now I have to get my shit together. Pardon my french. Here are 5 things I've learned about preparing to travel.

1. Paperwork is a special kind of hell and a necessary evil when traveling. I have this mental image of people in suits with devils horns sitting in a meeting room concocting ineffectual and repetitive forms to fill out and processes that go in circles and at the end they call it 'bureacracy'. I am not a fan, never have been and never will. Still, a part of life and too often a big part of preparing to travel.

2. I am not as cool a cucumber as I initially thought. Despite my apparent status as a laissez-faire all-nighter student, this attitude doesn't translate when I have to re-apply for my citizenship certificate because I can't find the old one, or go back to the police station for the third fourth fifth time to get them to give me a fingerprint and clearance check, or applying for centrelink payments. I may or may not have cried about three times in the last couple of months on account of not being able to deal.

3. I need to let go of the idea that things are meant to go as planned. This has been my biggest learning curve when it comes to preparing to live by myself for a year. When things start to fall apart, when everything that can go wrong does, I can't (as I may have done in the last couple of  months..) become irrationally angry, inconsolably distressed or cry like the big fat twenty year old baby that I am. I need to learn to let things go, to let everything take its course and to believe people when they tell me 'It's going to be OK'. I'm wasting my time, tears, sweat and energy into being upset when I could just suck it up and let it go, or put my resources into doing something about it. There's no rule in the universe that says things should go as planned, they rarely do and it's not in my best interests or mental health to assume so. In fact, Murphy's law is probably a better idea.

4. I am in for a rude awakening. It comes as no surprise that next year, as I have been warned many times, I will have a mental break down at some point. Through the haze of tapas, paella, sangria and drunken spanish I will at some point be paying bills, doing laundry, planning my own meals etc. (things normal people living out of home do on a day to day basis but come as a shock to myself). In short, I'm going to have to look out for myself. If I break an arm, get arrested or find myself drunk and without my wallet (none of which I'm planning but let's face it all possibilities) I'm going to have to deal with everything on my own, more or less.

5. It is going to be EPIC. Despite all the paperwork, hair-pulling, teeth-grinding and tantrums I've had this year there's been so much excitement and anticipation of what lies ahead. The bottom line with traveling is that no matter how tired, hungry, stressed, annoyed or home-sick you might be at any given moment - the places you see, experiences you have and people you meet aren't things you'll forget any time soon and are worth all the preparation, stress and shock. So, I need to keep the big picture in mind that the excruciating paper work, processes and hair-pulling preparation for traveling will be given back ten fold in pure elation, experience and world-rocking adventures. TRUST.

Overall, my advice to everybody is to heed the spanish words que será, será (whatever will be, will be). Relajate, mi amigo, está bien - no está nada mal! 

Monday, November 22, 2010

"Be the change you want to see in the world"

Another short message from The Universe, courtesy of Jason Mraz (quoting a bit of Ghandi) and express delivered to you ;) . Awesomeness is not overrated. So go out there and get amongst it!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Habla Ingles?

Lost in Translation 

It's a standard misconception that people who don't speak English are somehow unintelligent, child-like and downright dumb. There is a number too large to count of people who get frustrated with people who don't know how to speak English, who are learning to speak it or don't speak it properly, and this number includes myself. I've gotten annoyed and flustered with people on the phone who don't understand what I'm saying or trying to explain something to a customer in my old job. The thing about learning a new language that I've come to realise is that, that is exactly the view I'm going to encounter speaking Spanish in Spain.

Learning a new language is difficult, to say the least. Even if you have a knack for linguistics, there are things you have to memorise, study and go over and over until they stick. And even then, it might not be perfect. You can't learn a language they way you take a business class, showing up for tutorials or doing all-nighters to finish assignments. You miss a class, you've missed an entire lesson on how to say things in the past. You don't do your homework, you can't get your head around the patterns of regular and irregular verbs.

Nowadays I have a whole lot of respect for people who speak with accented English, who sometimes get the grammar wrong, who are often hard to understand because it means English is their second language - and already, they're one language up on me. Balancing two or more different ways of speaking, communicating has me in awe, and I can only hope I'll be half as badly understood as them, and while I'm mumbling away in half-constructed sentences and spanglish that people have a little mercy!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Why first days are harder than lasts

Photo from Champagne & Sequins

The last days you do something are always more memorable than the 'firsts'. At least in my experience. The first days have all the pressure of expectation, the last days come with a sigh of relief - a breath of fresh air. The last day on a job, my last day as an intern, my last HSC exam, my last day of high school - and most recently my last university day in Sydney this year, and for a year - before I jet off to live in Spain. Finishing always comes with a sense of accomplishment, a smiling weary face.

At the same time it gives you cause to look back and to remember before you push on. The last three years of uni have been interesting - at times I've wanted to change degrees, drop out, pack my bags and leave. At other times I've met great people, made a lot of memories, joined a sports club and traveled to Melbourne, Gold Coast, Bathurst and Coffs Harbour. There's less than two months till the last day of 2011 and I'm so lucky to say I'll be spending it with a good friend in Darwin doing something I never knew I always wanted to do. I'm terrified and excited; that probably sums up how I'll be spending the whole of next year. Terrified and excited.

While there have already been a lot of lasts there are going to be a lot of firsts. The first time I've moved out of home. The first time I've been to Spain and I'm sure a long list of rude awakenings. But for now, I have to get through to the rest of the 'lasts' for this year. Gearing up for a whole bunch of new adventures. The reality of getting ready to go leave everything I've known hasn't set in yet - it hasn't hit me that next year I won't be able to drop in at my best friends house to have coffee, because she'll be on the other side of the world. I won't be able to drive down to the shops. I won't be able to see my family and ask them how their day was over dinner. When I start to think about not coming home to my own room, my own home I must admit I break out into all sorts of mini panic attacks.. but like everything thats worthwhile, it has to scare you shitless first. So here's to the my last couple of months in Australia, and to all the firsts - the shiny, new everything!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Something that lasts forever

My 78-year-old Grandfather's tattoos

I post a lot of pictures of tattoos on here and I've spoken before about how getting a tattoo isn't on my bucketlist. But I wanted to share some of the tattoos that my grandfather has. He is now 78 years old and he's had these tattoos for 58 years, having started this little collection when he was 20. He saw the arms of his uncle, a retired Filipino naval officer from the American navy with tattoos of all the countries he had been up and down his arms. My lolo (grandpa in tagalog) naturally was impressionable and wanted to get some too. So here are a few of his favourites.

He has a scroll reading 'Death before dishonour', a bird, a star, 'Aug 5 1952' his birth date, a naked lady in a star, 'God is love', a snake, a horse-shoe and some of them he did himself. Not just the design, but that he physically tattooed on himself. They're old-school tattoos, not just because they're almost sixty years old, but because they're not the needle-point quality they have today. He always tells us when we jokingly tell him we're all getting tattoos that we should think long and hard because its permanent, and you can't take it back. He always says 'You know, if you are remorseful of your tattoos there's nothing you can do about it'. Fifty-eight years later, he's still got them, wrinkled skin and all. But one of my favourite ones that I'm happy to say he doesn't regret is 'Ala ala kita Laly' meaning 'Always remembering Laly' / 'I remember you always Laly' Laly, being his name for my lola (grandma) lolita (bit of a tongue twister there). Despite everything, and some regret he may have felt about having some of those tattoos (maybe the naked lady wasn't such a good idea for job interviews or parent-teacher nights) it's good do know that some things last forever. 'Ala ala kita'.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tastes so sweet

Last week it was one of my best friend's 21st birthday. We took her out to a small cafe/restaraunt in Glebe for Brunch. It was a really cool place where they had office chairs and served all day breakfast. Me and her have a slight obsession with canadian breakfast or midnight pancakes - you could say breakfast is our favourite meal for anytime other than morning. Afterwards, while it started to drizzle, under the cover of umbrellas we browsed through the stalls of recycled books and vintage denim, hand-made necklaces and assorted jewelery. We went to a Turkish restaraunt and had apple tea (Very sweet but great for the cold weather) and smoked Mint and Strawberry Shish. As University wraps up I'm finding catching up with old friends and delicious food is the order of the day. Three words. Nom nom nom !

Monday, November 8, 2010

Number 3: Write a Novel

Gotta use words

As I have a tendency to throw myself into things, this November I'll be participating in Nano Wrimo November novel-writing month. I signed up for it early in the year and the date has been slowly creeping up between university assignments and internships. Basically, you write at least 50,000 words (the minimum word count to be classified as a novel) between the 1st and 30th of November.

This goes straight to my bucket list - to write a novel. This is going to require me to write at least a thousand words a day, fourteen-hundred if I want to make it to 50,000 (which I do!). So far I've written about 9,000 amount of words, though I have to say I did cheat a little bit and since I signed up for Nano-Wrimo months ago I have been working on an outline and have written about 10,000 words on the novel. To comply with the rules I'll be starting from zero (but will eventually add whatever I write to my overall novel later on). The plan is not to write a best-seller, a literary classic or the next, 'Eat, Pray, Love' but the point is purely to write. Even if it doesn't make sense, especially if it doesn't make sense. And even if it's not worth the paper I'm writing on the plan is to keep writing anyway.

It's necessary preparation for next year when I plan on getting some serious travel writing done. Armed with hundreds of hours watching National Geographic Adventure travel shows, trawling through countless travel blogs of photographs and videos, campaigns and articles - I'll be taking off on my own adventure and hopefully my own writing. What's become apparent to be lately is that while travelling is always something I've wanted to do - there are many different ways you can travel - there's organised travel, backpacking, wandering, speed travelling, adventure travelling, luxury travelling, travel-hacking - just to name a few. Whatever the case, travelling - when it's over leaves a deep impression, and often a big hole. (cue post-europe-depression etc.) I want to be able to record through photographs, videos and words - all that I'm experiencing and learning so that when my year is over -I'll have something to show for it.

Though, I should probably go... there's a novel that needs writing. EEK!

Sunday, November 7, 2010



I remember being seven years old when Princess Diana died. I was watching the news on the television while my aunties and parents chatted in the lounge room. Not really knowing who exactly Princess Diana was or what it meant, I went to the room breaking the news with the air of announcing I was hungry or I had finished my homework. My aunty looked at me confused and asked, irritated, what I was talking about. I led them to the television where nobody could really believe it still.

That was over ten years ago now and I can still remember it so clearly. It's strange to think about what you were doing, how you found out, where you were when big things happen - moments that will go down in history as changing the world. It's strange to think my parents lived through the turbulence of the seventies, heard Michael Jackson on the radio when he first got big, watched the news when John Lennon was assassinated or the protest of the Vietnam war. Our generation has had big moments too. And the strange thing is, they're still happening. And one day we'll look back and wonder what we did and who we were and where we were when something happened.. which, now, may be just around the corner.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Some days are better than others

Balmoral Beach, Sydney Australia

Hazelnut Gelato. Climbing rocks. A beach without waves. Silence. Babies and prams and nannies. Old people with skin like tanned leather. Families. Co-operative weather. My sister. Fedoras. Summer songs. Beach. 

The weather finally decided to cooperate (well, for the first half of the day at least!) and Bas and I thought it would be the perfect time to clock in some beaching. The weather has been temperamental and I've only been to the beach once this spring (and there was a thunderstorm, lightning and all) so it was great to kick back, lay down the beach towel, close my eyes and relax. The best thing was that it was a weekday, the beach was quiet and weather absolutely gorgeous! Balmoral is one of my favourite beaches because the water is near still, it's a family beach and has the best hazelnut I've ever tasted, bar none. Some days are better than others. Some days are pure gold. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Because you can

'That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run. So I ran to the end of the road. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd run to the end of town. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd just run across Greenbow County. And I figured, since I run this far, maybe I'd just run across the great state of Alabama. And that's what I did. I ran clear across Alabama. For no particular reason I just kept on going. I ran clear to the ocean. And when I got there, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well turn around, just keep on going. When I got to another ocean, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well just turn back, keep right on going'

Forrest Gump

I recently participated in a 24-hour Relay for Life that was raising funds and awareness for the Cancer Council here in Australia.  Each team had to have one person on the track at one time. The first lap was walked by Cancer survivors and their carers, many of whom walked the track for the rest of the day. It was an experience that really was unique and humbling.

While I was walking along the track I noticed there was an older man in short shorts and a running top who had lapped me quite a few times already. My brother spoke to him and found out he was about fifty years old and had been running marathons for years. He trains and runs at least 100kms a week, depending on how he's feeling. He wasn't a big man, probably not much taller than me. And yet he was an absolute giant on the tracks. What a guy! There was another guy from the State Emergency Services who walked for the entire 24 hours straight. He wasn't the most fit, he definitely wasn't the youngest but he was an absolute hero - I'm pretty sure everybody there knew how hard it was to even relay for a couple of hours, let alone the entire stretch.

Still amazes me what people can do, what people despite everything that stands in their way. Talkin' bout inspiration!