last day

It’s fairly obvious from the drop-off in updating that I haven’t been all that sparkly recently. My work here in Sri Lanka has been sucking all the joy out of me. There are a few highlights: I have been on a couple of runs with the local Hash House Harriers chapter, and of course nothing can beat the delight of having James stay with me for a week — we went diving in Unawatuna and every moment was simply blissful. I wrote a detailed account of the diving trip but I’m waiting for pictures from James (who has an underwater camera). On the list it goes!

It’s my last day in Sri Lanka and tomorrow I fly to Australia, my adopted homeland! I will be starting a Masters degree, which is exciting but also a little terrifying as it means staying in one country for potentially several years, as opposed to the 15 or so countries I have visited in the last 18 months. Plus James is off to Afghanistan for a year because he is James.

I have a list of all the things I want to do in Melbourne. I wrote a similar list (seen here*) when I was getting psyched about going “home” to France. I did fulfil every single item on that list, apart from La Pataterie, which is quite satisfying. So I’m writing down (in no particular order) the things I’m looking forward to doing “back home” in Australia:

  • – ridiculously delicious and unhealthy breakfasts at Alimentari and Arcadia: crispy bacon, poached eggs, corncakes, rocket, delicate salsas, sourdough toast… Fitzroy does breakfast like nowhere else in the world
  • – dragging Graham out for runs
  • – Ashtanga yoga
  • – Vietnamese food
  • – Ethiopian food
  • – long walks with Rebecca
  • – Bikram yoga
  • – the Veggie bar
  • – trams
  • – decadent French toast at Babka’s with James (before he goes all Afghan on me)
  • – Fitzroy pool (I don’t know how I plan to get so much Fitzroy when I blatantly can no longer afford to live there)
  • – tea and bicycles with Amy (if I can find a bike!)
  • – supermarkets that always stock: haloumi; tofu; hummous; olive oil Nutelex
  • – no longer living out of a suitcase
  • – watching Stick It with the other Sugar Zombies, Kerry and Enza
  • – fish and chips, as well as Lord of the Fries fries
  • – that Qantas advert with the kids singing “no matter how far or how wide I roam, I still call Australia home”, which always makes me bawl my eyes out and which they always play at Christmas time
  • – multifriend cocktails! (also the chocolate gingerbread cocktail at Polly) (also I’m guessing that Bonnie will be massively influencing my cocktail consumption)
  • – SCHOOL!
  • – being able to run outside
  • – my doctor, Genie (gosh I hope she is still working at the same clinic!)
  • – diving again, preferably in Queensland, preferably with le James
  • – D.O.C. pizza aka the best in the world (better even than in Italy)
  • – Bonds undies!
  • – ordering a flat white to be cool, realising caffeine kills me, swearing off it again for a year
  • – never going to the beach even though it’s just a tram ride away
  • – trying a third time for my driver’s license
  • – reuniting with my possessions that have been in storage as well as the bags and boxes I have abandoned scattered around the world and which can now be sent to me (cue Lesley, Mummy, Rebecca all sighing with relief).
  • Of course I also need to sort out vaguely unpleasant things such as finding a place to live, finding a source of income, investing yet again in furniture (or at least a bed and some milk crates) and paying my tuition fees, to the tune of many thousands of dollars. Also a major downer: the aforementioned departure to Afghanistan, early in February. But overall, I am so very much looking forward to this next step.

    *that post was written SIX WEEKS before my actual departure. Six weeks?? wow my life must have been dull and predictable for me to be able to make decisions and plans that far ahead. I guess I have changed a lot! Nowadays I would never write (in fact would not even bother to think much) about something so far away, because my life tends to change so quickly… if you’ll forgive the humblebrag


    having projects

    Ages ago, I read somewhere, possibly in an interview in newspaper, that it was important to have stay interested and do new things, try new things, all the time. In fact, that it was more important to keep trying new things than to finish them — and this is why I feel no guilt in having started and abandoned, in no particular order:

    – learning Russian
    – sewing classes
    – 100 push-ups challenge
    – an online sociology course
    – dozens of embroidery pieces
    – a variety of art projects
    – ballet
    – taking the exam to become a certified French-English translator
    – several “classics” which I never got into, despite being a huge reader — I have documented my struggles with Anna Karenina before
    – passing my driver’s license (although I will probably have to come back to this one day)
    – half a dozen blogs and tumblrs other than this one

    I still get a lot out of every new endeavour, but abandoned them, fairly quickly, when I lost interest. What mattered was trying new things out. I need to make every day interesting, and what is more interesting than something new? besides, you never know what I will come back to eventualy. There are things I keep coming back to over and over again though, such as:

    – learning Chinese (10 years and counting! never give up!)
    – writing this particular blog
    – running

    Yes! it’s a sneaky running post again. I have started a training plan (via Runkeeper) for a half-marathon. This time, instead of 8 weeks, I have 23 weeks (TWENTY THREE WEEKS? WHO KNOWS WHERE I WILL BE IN 23 WEEKS?) to work myself up to 21.1km. This time, I’m following a specific, professionally-designed training plan, instead of the advice of a well-intentioned but ultimately crazy Taiwanese ultramarathoner. And this time, despite the longing for more, I will NOT run multiple days in a row.

    It’s actually really hard. The bright sunshine wakes me up around 7am every day and I don’t get picked up for work until 9:15. This is perfect running time and I’m aching to go, but I ran last night (intervals, urgh, 5x 3min @12km/h, 3min @6km/h) and I mustn’t run again until tomorrow. Looking back, it’s easy to see how I got injured last year. Even though McArthur’s pushing me to increase overnight from 5-8km three times a week to 12-17km five times a week was insane and I kind of knew it, it was kind of like being told to eat chips for every other meal — I knew it was a bad idea but it felt really good at the time!

    However, this time it’s easy to remember not to over-train. The pain in my shins and knees has never really gone away and if I try to push it, the pain increases dramatically. Also the memory of how miserable I was in January and February, not able to run, is fresh enough of a threat to keep me in tow.

    And so I went swimming on my rooftop this morning instead… 20 easy laps.

    not swimming, filing, swimming

    I’ve been in Sri Lanka exactly a week and I have to confess I’ve hardly seen anything other than interiors of offices and cars. And a few restaurants. I did manage to check out the rooftop pool at my building one evening, between being dropped off after work and being picked up to leave again… and by check out I mean “stare at longingly before sighing and going back down to wait for the driver”.
    This job is really quite intense and I have been landed with a lot of responsibilities. I almost had a little tantrum when I requested a project file and all of these turned up on my desk, accompanied by several more not pictured. One of them contained a huge cockroach that scuttled over my papers when I opened the file… there was actual screaming involved at that point.
    Spot the similarities in the composition of this picture and the one above?
    But today I didn’t have ANY external meetings *gasp!* and so I was able to dedicate myself to filing. I have a bit of a fetish for organising, filing and general stationary-related activities. 3 years at my previous job taught me the importance of re-organising the filing system BEFORE the work gets started — if you put it off for more than a couple of weeks, the mess then just becomes the norm.

    Sadly the stationary and filing systems in my office are a bit frumpy and antiquated, but I was still satisfied with my end of day result. I know you can’t see much of a difference other than there being 3 stacks instead of one, but I totally PWNED those project files, and they each have a detailed list of contents — forgive me, the frisson of efficient filing is the greatest pleasure I have experienced since I got here…
    Yes. This is how exciting Sri Lanka has been thus far. Sorry… I’m told in a few weeks it’ll settle down and I will be allowed outside.

    Ok, I lied. Emy and I had a couple of nights out (don’t tell the company though, as we are not allowed out after work). We had an evening at her friend’s ocean-front restaurant, which was quite novel as you have to cross the railway to get to the door!
    sorry for dark blurry pictures but I was trying to cross the railway in the dark AND take a picture
    Whilst I’m confessing my sins, I will tell you how I went down to the water after dinner to wet my toes, and the waves crashing around me hypnotised me into throwing off my dress and jumping into the ocean. I can’t resist, especially at night when the water is so warm and inviting… It was so much fun, but then I had to hide my “O hai, just been in the water in my undies” damp clothes and wet hair from the driver who was taking me home, lest he tell on us… not appropriate behaviour for Miss Rosie, you see.

    spanish things

    I woke up with a disgusting cold and sore throat the morning I flew off to Madrid. I was mostly worried about passing it on to baby Nalia, but Juan stuffed me full of garlic and I was fully cured within 48 hours. So… much… garlic… luckily in Spain it’s ok to stink of garlic.
    Anyway, quick recap of the last few days:

    Spain is HOT. The days are long and HOT. Now I understand why they have siestas in the afternoon and don’t eat till late at night… afternoons are just too caliente to hacer very much. Plus it still feels like the afternoon till late in the evening.
    The sky above us as we ate dinner on the balcony at 9pm
    Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
    My beloved sister’s little family is as beautiful as ever, and Nalia is show-stoppingly adorable and fun:
    Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
    Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
    Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
    Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
    Ally and Juan are living in a beautiful flat on the absolute outskirts of Madrid. Their street is literally the last street between “Madrid” and the mountains. This means beautiful views…
    Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
    The local train station is very pretty and quaint…
    Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
    …and faces nothing but brush and mountains shimmering in the heat! Can’t imagine this from a Paris RER or London train station…
    Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
    This evening I finally felt ready to brave the heat and go for a run along the trails (photo taken the day before on a recon mission).
    Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
    It was pretty bad. I can list a number of excuses (heat, swimming in the morning, tiredness, the dry air, lingering traces of my cold and of course my period) but the reality is, it’s been 5 days since I ran and it was going to suck no matter what. I dragged 4 pathetic kilometres out, following the trails as they appeared in front of me. Nothing very exciting but I’m determined to go back out there and do better very soon.
    As you can see from the map below, there is plenty more out there to be explored — I kept reaching dead ends!
    Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
    Lastly: Sociology Course update. I am almost done with all the reading for Week 2 (up to 45 pages, from 7 pages last week, wheeeeeeee!). Even though it’s a lot longer, it’s really, really interesting, and not at all a chore to read. I am really glad I signed up for this. I needed some (dare I say it?) gratuitous intellectual stimulation. It also helps a lot to have a “project” right now, as my days could easily slip away into farniente, other than brushing up on my 15-years-old Spanish skills… there are a few other projects on the back burner but I will broach them when the time is right!

    le packing du carry-on

    Off to Spain tomorrow! Over the last year I have become pretty efficient at packing for potentially multiple destinations, without knowing exactly how long I will be gone for or what I will be doing. This is a lot easier in summer, when you know that you won’t actually freeze to death for the want of clothing.

    I love reading these kind of “What to pack” articles, so here is mine!

    What To Pack For A Fortnight In Europe, If You Like Running, Swimming and Hiking, Hanging Out With Friends, But Are Not Really Interested In Looking Sophisticated:
    Top row:
    What used to be my phone and is now my GPS/WiFi device, until I get around to buying a SIM card; handbag which will be crammed into the carry-on (ONE PIECE OF HAND-HELD LUGGAGE ONLY says EasyJet); fake laptop (iPad + bluetooth keyboard) and chargers for all electronics; running shoes (which I will wear to save on space).
    Second row:
    The Best Scarf in the World (big enough to act as pareo, towel, shawl, small tent when in need of shade); running belt and hat; undies bag (5 knickers, 3 socks, 2 bras); make-up bag; sleep bag (earplugs, eyemask, bagink); gold sandals; black flip-flops.
    Third row:
    Sequinned swimsuit (in case I want to look pretty at the beach); goggles and swimming cap (in case I want to actually swim lengths at the pool); 2 singlets, 1 casual t-shirt, 1 slightly dressy t-shirt; 1 casual-to-dressy dress, 1 casual dress, 1 dressy dress; nightie; toiletries.
    Fourth row:
    Sports bra; running shorts and running shirt (smallest lightest quickest drying for both); jeans (which I will wear on the plane); shorts; Icebreaker fitted hoodie; loose black cardigan.

    The handbag contains the usual bits and pieces, including a tube of Burt’s Bees outdoor bug bite relief, and an SPF30 “Eye’s Cream” (oh ho ho, so punny) soothing stick. Those are my two magic travel products.
    While I’m dishing out the advice here, my Icebreaker merino hoodie was ridiculously expensive (£120) but is probably the best value purchase I have ever made. I bought it nearly a year ago and have worn it almost every single day, and even when I wasn’t wearing it, it was balled up in the bottom of my bag, just in case. It’s warm, lightweight, flattering and breathable, and after a muddy, sweaty, beer-soaked hash, you can just throw it in the machine without a second’s hesitation.
    As illustrated at my first down-down, below:
    Everything squishes into my Chinese Taipei Road Running Association bag. I coveted one of these bags the entire time I was in Taiwan; being injured for so long, I didn’t actually run enough to really “qualify” for one. But Bas and Erica gave me one as a going-away present — possibly one of the best gifts I’ve had in a long time! Now, who wants to gift me a Garmin…

    nasty hlb style

    I have a weakness for Healthy Living Blogs. I mainly hate-read them because I enjoy wasting my time engaging in snark, although some of them I read because I genuinely like the writers. However it wasn’t always like this; once upon a time they were inspiration for my own running/healthy lifestyle.

    Today I made something that is probably terrifying enough to be worthy of a HLB pseudo-healthy recipe (most of them are so far removed from real, healthy food it’s hilarious). However, I made mine because I am lazy and don’t have easy access to the real thing, rather than out of any desire to “healthify” a guilty food. In fact, I ate a McFlurry whilst out on my post-swim (1600m) walk (5.5km) today, which possibly inspired me…

    I bring you: cinnamon raisin protein fro-yo.

  • 100ml AB sugar-free yoghurt
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of pea protein
  • a buttload of cinnamon
  • a sprinkling of raisins
  • half a banana and tsp of sunflowers seeds to garnish
  • Using a small glass bowl (speeds up the freezing), add the ingredients one at a time. Whip the protein powder into the yoghurt until completely blended, then add cinnamon and whip again.
    Taste — is it cinnamon-y enough to hide the foulness of the protein powder? if not, add another buttload of cinnamon (there is no such thing as too much cinnamon in my world), then stir in the raisins.
    Place in the freezer. Stir every 10 minutes, scraping down the frozen sides, making sure to get plenty of air in there.
    Once it’s reached the consistency of frozen yoghurt, add chopped banana and sunflower seeds and eat eat eat.

    Sound horrible enough? I even took a blurry picture of nasty-lookin’ tastiness for you. 200 calories and 10g of protein by the way, as well as tasting sinful.

    (I know, I know. One week of silence and THIS is what I post? Nobody’s exactly hanging off the edge of their seats waiting for my blog to update, but this is hardly interesting content. Well, I have some secret projects that I am keeping quiet about until they come to fruition… just in case they don’t. But I will update like CRAY-ZEE when I do have news.)

    Extra reminder of why “healthy living” is so stupid (although I hate both the women below, I still know which one I’d rather be…):

    today in numbers

    5 hours of sleep
    6:30am start
    30 minutes of stretching and upper-body workout
    2km walk to school
    3 hours of mind-numbing class
    1 presentation
    2 completed job applications
    10 lengths of front crawl and backstroke
    4.5 hours of Catherine+Rosie time
    6km walk along the river

    2 very sore and angry kneecaps, currently being iced
    0 minutes of revision for Chinese test tomorrow

    I just cannot seem to get it right. I thought swimming and walking were ok? I thought if I took my anti-inflammatories, stretched and did my exercises, and stopped running, everything would be alright. My knees beg to differ, using the medium of “getting very hot and tender” to express themselves.

    Also, really: who wants to study for exams? I could care less (OK OK Adina and Gareth and you other linguistics freaks: I couldn’t care less). I am working on my Chinese MY WAY — translating all my Facebook updates into Mandarin.