triple threat

Today I woke up at 6-something am and realised I had imbibed too much alcohol the night before. I cursed myself, as I had plans for today, Sunday November 1st — plans to do my first leg of the Indigenous Marathon Foundation virtual marathon, plans to go to Bikram, and plans to start the 30 day core challenge.

Instead I read Facebook in bed. I came across an article about turmeric being proven by 53 clinical trials to help with inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. I was intrigued, but wanted more scientific evidence (did you know there are many, many people out there who are obsessed with turmeric, in a very non-scientific way?). However this article in particular made me quite hopeful, as I am already on the exact same dosage and medication as the participants in the trial, and more than half of them were reportedly in remission by the end of a month of curcumin supplements. I probed a little further and this study was much more indepth and seems less effervescent in their analysis of the research but still agreed there seem to be positive results for people suffering from ulcerative colitis.

So I went down the road to the chemist’s and got me some curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) and I stained my hands and kitchen table all yellow distributing them in my pill box — it’s more expensive than my actual medication to take 3g a day, but whatever, I suppose it’s only for a month!

Whilst out and about, I saw a buy-one-get-one-free offer for Berlei’s super-cute, majorly supportive sports bras. I legitimately needed new running bras, as all my old ones are B-cups and turns out I am actually, incredibly, a DD-cup (a tiny 10DD, but a DD, nonetheless). So I got myself two running bras and felt it would be a gosh-darn shame not to take one out for a run.

Before I left I did the 30 day core challenge, since I was so psyched up. I then ran 3.25km, came home, grabbed my yoga gear and went straight into Bikram. Which was a mildly horrible thing to have done to myself, dehydrated and hungover as I was. But if I hadn’t gone to Bikram, I would not have come up with this most excellent meme:

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Of course, all this displacement activity is really because I don’t want to clean my house. I am hoping that Melbourne Cup Day will magically be Rosie-Cleaning-Day and everything will go all Mary Poppins.

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is it legal?

Not sure it can be legal to feel as good as I do. I have been in my new home a week now, and yesterday I finally got my room unpacked and organised. I took a panoramic picture on my iphone that can give an idea of my room (and a peek into the living-room) but I don’t know how well it will come through on my blog, it might be necessary to click through to see it properly. It’s actually really cool how you can zoom in on all the details! the iphone 5’s camera really is amazing.
IMG_0510

I am enjoying my current readings for my essay. I finished The Buddhas of Bamiyan (reviewed here in the Guardian) which gave me a really fascinating insight into the history of Afghanistan and into understanding how the Buddhas were perceived throughout their existence, whether by Buddhists, Muslims or intrigued Western travellers and soldiers. I’m currently reading Art and Cultural Heritage: Law, Policy and Practice, which covers a broad range of topics of course, and it’s hard not to get distracted by all the case studies of cultural artefacts plundered or destroyed due to the travesty of war.

I’m particularly intrigued right now by the case of the Ethiopian Stele of Axum, originally because of the inconsistencies between what is in my book (published 2006) and what is on Wikipedia, notably because Wikipedia’s spin sounds more plausible but is lacking in citations (and also contradicts itself). The book says the stele was broken into 3 pieces by the Italians so they could carry it back to Rome in 1937, as a spoil of war. Wikipedia points out that the 24m-high stele was erected in the 4th century, in an area prone to earthquakes, and that it collapsed more or less immediately, laying on the ground in either 3 or 5 pieces until the Italians carried it off.

Stele of Axum

Of course I could head off and search for more information but it’s not the topic of my essay and I suppose it doesn’t really matter. But firstly, it’s made me doubt the reliability (and objectivity) of this book, and secondly, OMG HOW COOL IS ETHIOPIAN HISTORY? It frustrates me that even though my BA is in History of Art and Archaeology of Asia and Africa, I was so focused on East Asia and China that I never had more than a brief flirtation with African art in my first year. And now I need to get back to Afghanistan… but there is so much out there to read!!

Also in the works for the rest of my Sunday: hit up Bikram at 6, and cook a giant pot of soup for my work lunches this week. It’s already 3:30! where did my day go? (the answer is easy: I was up till 5am emailing with James in Afghanistan so I slept in till 11… NO REGRETS).

the world will never be the same

Sometimes I try to imagine what Chinese looks like to people who have never studied it. I stare at Japanese or Sinhalese or Korean or Arabic, although none of those writing systems really are as complex and simultaneously irregular and beautifully consistent as Chinese (sorry, all of you linguists of the “other”). The closest I can come to reverting to my pre-Chinese life is looking at Xu Bing’s Book from the Sky, but in fact that’s nothing like it, because as a reader of Chinese, you still recognise components within the made-up characters and your brain churns them over and over, trying to make sense of what you’re seeing — Book from the Sky would look something like this, if translated into English: “jEinvz,f folEKfwnkfgpv,,wlelxc ocoeRappaleHf oo kehrejKn”. In fact, maybe it’s the Chinese equivalent to lorem ipsum. Basically, Chinese can never again be a random collection of sticks and squiggles to me, even though my literacy has dropped from something around 3000 characters back to closer to… well let’s not discuss that, huh?

This is all a preamble to saying how in the last two weeks, my way of seeing the world has changed, and I don’t imagine it will ever go back to how it was. Everything I see and read, I analyse with the eye of a conservator, even though I don’t yet have the skills. This morning I read a newspaper article on countertenors, and these lines immediately got me thinking: “The last of the castrati, Alessandro Moreschi, died in 1922, leaving the only sound recording of a voice that one modern critic described as ”Pavarotti on helium”” Immediately I forgot about the poor castrato himself, and was wondering, What format was that recording in? How was it preserved? Can they be sure that the recording hasn’t been corrupted and that the voice is true to its original? I wonder if they analysed it when it was digitised. The next article I read was about Alannah Hill, who until now was mostly just an over-the-top girly Melbourne clothes designer. They included a photo of her “first design” — and again, I was peering at the photo, wondering if it was a scan of a scan of an original printed photo, what had happened to the negative, and examining the crazy blouse she was wearing thinking how it would be a conservator’s nightmare were it still in existence — the material looked flimsy and the trim was barely attached to the hem. Of course, all of this newspaper reading left me room to worry about how to keep the article on Afghanistan’s hidden treasures when the paper itself is so flimsy and obviously will rip and tear within days (solved that one by… getting the article online).

When I hear about a natural disaster or conflict, I wonder about risk management plans for the cultural sites affected. When I read about Séraphine Louis, whereas once as an art historian I would mostly have been intrigued by her art and her story, in addition to that I now burn with curiosity to know what her secret homemade pigments were made with, especially because they are so stable and require very little conservation. When I read about attacks on Rembrandt’s Night Watch, I am thrilled to know that upon being sprayed with acid, the painting was saved by immediately rinsing it with water. High five, disaster response conservators!

A messy floor-drobe owner from the moment I was born, now I look at my clothes with an entirely different perspective. I am aware of how every crease, every stain, might affect the fabric; I’m equally aware of how the choice of hanger will impact the drape of a dress. I question the best way to shelve each book: laying flat, or standing upright? I hung my damp jacket next to my handbag overnight; will this affect the leather in the long run? I knew all these things before, of course, but now I am constantly thinking, What is the best conservation solution to this problem?.

This is turning into a bit of a novel, so I shall stop. But I am so utterly smitten with my course. This first unit, which finished yesterday, was a constant thrill. From discussions about ethics, to a warning lecture on what to expect when asked to authenticate a most-probably-forged painting, to a proposed script for “Indiana Jones and the Long Tail of Conservation” — I loved every second of it. I WANT MORE! It’s going to be hard to go back to work on Monday…

hit the ground running

This is a super brief post that I’m writing in a rush. School starts in 5 days and I just discovered the mountain of readings I have to do for it (they never sent me the promised email). I was pretty freaked out when I realised but had little time to do anything as I needed to get off to yoga for the evening.

I rode there (despite my knees screaming; my patella tendinitis is BACK with a vengence; Dr’s appointment made at the Sports Clinic for next week) as I was in a hurry, and enjoyed a particularly strong class. Recently my classes have been average at best, as I keep getting dizzy and having to sit postures out. Today I was very careful to eat regularly throughout the day, snacking every couple of hours, and hydrating well. This all helped me feel strong; but what really helped me improve was the conversation I had on Friday night with Marta about my aforementioned knee injuries. She told me to take it easy and if anything hurt, to stop, but if it just felt “funny” to keep going as that was more likely to be a healing process than damaging. I nodded and said “I wasn’t sure if I should push through it or hold back; in bow posture it’s pretty painful. I never liked bow much anyway but at the moment –!”

Marta — without any judgement in her tone — replied evenly that if I apprehend a posture, it will inevitably be harder because my body will provide more resistance. I nodded again and went downstairs to get ready for practice. I sat out bow on Friday, and only pretended to try it on Sunday, but today on Tuesday I psyched myself up and told myself bow was nothing to be afraid of and it wasn’t going to hurt.

It was fine. Not the most fun of postures; still not that enjoyable; but it was fine.

The same is happening at work. I hate my job; but as long as I remember how much I hate it, it’s almost impossible to do. Today I just pushed my feelings to the back of my mind and did what I had to do. And you know what? It wasn’t so bad. I still didn’t enjoy it — although I did surprise everyone by getting two achievements, which nobody else has done on these campaigns yet — but it wasn’t so bad.

And so I have decided to approach my hundreds of pages of reading. Yes, there’s a lot to read. But guess what! It’s on a topic that I love. That I cherish, even! I pushed my fears about how I’d get it all done in time to one side, and just started. I love it.

I leave you with a couple of my favourite quotes from this evening’s reading:

Objects matter because they are powerful visual metaphors that can bypass language.

Conservation is a process of understanding and managing change rather than merely an arresting process; it is a means of recreating material cultural heritage that seeks to retain, reveal and enhance what people value about the material past and sustain those values for future generations.

I’m going to miss spending my commute reading fiction on my iPhone… but oh the joy of being back in art!

…and don’t forget to cheer up either

I missed yoga on Tuesday. And again on Thursday. And again on Friday. No yoga since last Friday, so by the time the next class rolls around it will have almost been 2 weeks. That class is going to hurrrrt.

I did run much better today though! I have been feeling quite dreary all week and kept putting off exercising. This morning I woke up and it was so hot and sunny already at 8am that I felt it would be insanity to run. Then by 9am I realised that if I didn’t run, the insanity would be worse.

I don’t know if it was the combination of fresh legs (apart from the 10k I ran on Wednesday I basically haven’t exercised all week), the lessons I learned from my new running friend, the article I read last night about barefoot running and improving how your foot lands… or even the lovely weather (although the sunscreen/sweat mix pouring down my red face and into my gaping mouth was not pleasant in appearance or taste). But I ran further and with far more energy — even putting in 3 kilometres at sub-6min pace. Which for me is definitely an improvement.

I wasn’t even trying, unlike last week. I had accidentally set RunKeeper to miles instead of km so its updates were fairly meaningless to me (I know 1.6km = 1 mile but beyond that, working out my pace was just impossible).

So now I am all cheered up again. Lets see how long these endorphins last me… Wednesday’s were worn out within about 18 hours, but I’m running again tomorrow for the China Hash so that should boost things a litte.

baby steps

Well, James and I had a fantastic 2 months and whilst I didn’t get round to turning this into a travel blog, I did read plenty of books, visit new countries, and develop several new skills (applying lip balm whilst going at 175kmph on the back of a motorbike, buying stamps in Italian, sleeping in the gap between two single beds posing as a double bed… I could go on). So I would define our time together here in Europe as a success.

Unfortunately James suddenly became indispensable to MSF and is now busy in Uganda for the next 9 months. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a massive shock to have one week to get used to the idea of my boyfriend and close buddy disappearing, but now that I’ve calmed down, I’m confident it’ll work out fine.

And now that I’m by myself I have to of course start paying close attention to Doing Things For Me again. Hence hopefully starting up this blog again.

Big FOR ME decision was going back to Taiwan, to get my Mandarin back to fluency level. I’m waiting with bated breath to hear back from the university I have applied to, and re-learning characters at an insane rate! I have discovered so many great applications and websites to use with my iPad (and of course trusty pen and paper), it’s been great fun studying. Not to mention, it’s such a valuable distraction when I’m feeling blue.

In mini-FOR ME gestures today, I went for a bike ride with my not-so-little brother. The chain/gear changing thinger got jammed and I eventually mended it; we rode to the village and had a Mr Freeze, and then to the lake and had a coke and some frites. It was good to finally get out, as since a 10km run/walk on the beach with James 10 days ago I’ve been very sedentary! However, after reading up on runner’s knee, I’m going to confine my exercising to swimming for the time being. Cycling made my knees hurt again in a way they haven’t for the last few weeks 😦 Hopefully it will stop raining soon so I can swim a bit here.

Also today: cooking quinoa! And downloading Drawcast, which I am having fun with…

streeeeess

I have finally found words to explain why I need this sabbatical, and that in itself is a relief. Not that anybody has even once suggested that I don’t need to take a step back from a job that has left me burnt out after 3 years… But still, I feel guilty, I feel incompetent, and worst of all, I feel like I’m half-insane and will never be able to work again.

But a random blog post about stress inhibiting performance caught my eye and suddenly the almost incessant anxiety and anger which I feel at work started to emerge as an actual pattern:

Melodramatic thinking and mental chatter form a feedback loop with stress triggers. If you’re psyched out about something, your body will release stress hormones. When you feel the effect of the stress hormones, you have a constant, nagging reminder that you don’t feel right, which further psyches you out. These types of loops, over the long term, correlate with neurotic and depressive tendencies.

Toughening-up only happens when the body has periods of non-stress in which to recover. During those periods, the primitive brain re-appraises situations, and moderates its future reactions. If you – like me – are susceptible to a lot of mental chatter and melodramatic thinking, your body will receive a constant stream of stress hormones, and experience a long-term, weakened state as a result.

I have a feeling that the Friday when my not-yet-boyfriend James and I slipped out of work early to drink beer and pink moscato in the park and drunkenly decided that we should, like, just quit our jobs and go to France and, yeah for reals we should do this… that was probably one of the best decisions I ever made. I can’t wait to break this cycle of anxiety and stress, and to smooth down the edges of my frazzled nerves….

In the interim, I can’t believe it’s nearly 4am and I am awake, aching and stressing with every bone in my body. Breathe, Rosie… 64 hours to go…