Monday, January 31, 2011

Australia Day and Utes

Dean - Sydney, Australia

Australia Day 2011

This past January 26th was Australia Day. Like any Canada Day or Independence Day, it's a day of hanging out with friends and having a BBQ - but at the beach!! Wanting to experience this, I headed down to Bondi in the sizzling 33C heat. Arriving at the Bondi, aside from the chaos of the masses of people, I quickly found this event:

Thong challenge?!? It was not exactly what I thought. What I saw was over 2000 Aussies (and others) with inflatable thongs trying to break a record of most inflatables in the water. Quite a sight and apparently it is done across the country every year as a rivalry between different beaches. Nancy and I now have some fun plans for next Australia day! Walking from Bondi to Bronte along the coastal trail I couldn't believe the level of effort people here go through to have a god time (not that it's a bad thing!). Full on BBQs brought down, lot's of food and drink, music everywhere. In one bay a DJ had set up his gear on the rocks and there was a mass of people relaxing, swimming. I saw other interesting examples of what lengths people will go to for some fun: an inflatable pool, a ping pong table, and a water slide made from plastic sheeting down a hill. 

I finished the day off watching the events at Darling Harbour which is just west of the Sydney harbour bridge. They had a huge show which concluded with a spectacular show of sail boats and fireworks. A great day.

The Australian Ute

Does anyone remember the Chevrolet El Camino? My brother had one of these bad boys way back. I think the last time they were made in North America was in the mid 80s, basically a half car / half truck type vehicle. Well there seems to be an affection for that car style here as they are extremely popular. Made by Ford and Holden (local car manufacturer), they are called utility vehicles or "Utes" for short. And no I won't be getting one of these...

Translations of the week (some very English like ones):

heaps = lot's (I have heaps of work to do)
tomato sauce = ketchup (And that's toe-mah-toe not toe-may-toe)
ring = call (I'll ring you when I get home)
lift = elevator
take away = take out
skinny flat white = non fat (skim) latte type drink (I'll have a skinny flat white take away please)
crikey = wow/surprise
fortnightly = biweekly
car park = parking lot
car space = parking space
position = location (The house is in an enviable position)

Other update, after 2 weeks of searching, a dozen open houses, 3 unaccepted applications, I am still looking for a home for us. Crikey!!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Anand Prakash Yoga Ashram

Nancy- Rishikesh India
The days are pretty routine here at Anand Prakash Yoga Ashram and it's starting to feel a bit more homey now.

We have two yoga classes a day, one at 6am for sunrise and one at 4pm for sunset. Both classes are held in the upstairs studio that has windows facing out towards the mountains. At each practice we can see the sun rising and setting over the Himalayan foothills which is quite magical. The studio gets really cold in the mornings and evenings so most people are bundled up and wrapped in meditation shawls. I don't have a meditation shawl yet so I bring my woolly blanket from my bed to class.

Meals are served three times a day, 8am breakfast, 12pm Lunch and 6pm dinner. The bell rings and we all march down to the dining hall like a bunch of orphans with our stainless steel plates and bowls to be served whatever the cook decides to make that day. Usually meals consist of rice and/or Chapati (a bread like pancake) with some sort of bean concoction ie. Dahl, lentil soup or a stew mixture.  All the meals are freshly cooked, 100% organic, sattvic vegetarian meals. So far they have been pretty tasty but I am already getting tired of beans and rice (and it's only day three!)

In the dining hall we sit around the perimeter of the room cross-legged at little child size tables that can't be more than a foot high. I'm sure my hips will get used to all this cross-legged sitting soon. The servers come around and slop food on each place (which is why I made that orphan comment) and after the meal we rinse our plates in the outdoor sink and take them back to our rooms to dry.

We don't start teacher training classes until tomorrow so between meals the days have been open for exploration of the village. In town you will find an array of shops selling books, jewelery, scarfs, soaps, woolly socks and hats, meditation CDs, Ayurvedic doctors and massage salons. Street stalls line the streets with roasted peanuts, fresh juice and oil popped popcorn, sandalwood incense and other nick knacks all with a very yogi vibe to them.

Seeing as Rishikesh is the city where yoga began you'll find advertisements all over the city advertising yoga workshops, reiki training ad ayurvedic massage and treatments. However, you can also see that tourism has affected the overall spiritual vibe of the town and is slowly becoming more commercial.

Wandering the city I've quickly learned there are a few things to watch out for:
1. Cows and cow dung- the cows wander freely on the streets and if you are not paying attention you may find yourself in a squishy situation.
2. Monkeys - As yogi Vishva says, "there are two kinds of  monkeys in Rishikesh, happy monkeys and grumpy monkeys." The monkeys are everywhere, so it's important to hang on to your bags and cameras.
3. Scammers - I'm not sure what they are called here but there are guys who approach tourists and try to "bless" them with red bindi paint, beads and a prayer then ask for money. I have not yet been approached but apparently if you do not pay he may growl at you. Growl! Really?

Back at the Ashram we have had a chance to be instructed by each of the four instructors who will be teaching us. Yogi Vishva, his wife Chetana, Rashmi and Ila (from Vancouver). Each has their own unique style of teaching. I can't say I like one more than the other but I did particularly enjoy Yogi Vishva's sunrise class yesterday morning. The intent for the class was self respect and being happy with who you are. "Just be you" he said.

Other than  yesterday's class, yoga practice has been difficult for me so far. I can't seem to quite the "chatter" in my mind. Thoughts speed around in my head about all the stresses I endured before coming here, missing dean and the lack of communication and the stressful tasks that await me when I return home. Hopefully I can find peace soon and begin to take in all the spiritual energy and positiveness that is all around me. I hope to come home completely zen with new stills to take on stress and life.

What I have learned so far is that I'm not here to prove anything, I'm here to learn and the wisdom of yoga can only be achieved through continued practice and experience. So I strive to let go of the past, let go of fears of the future and just be in the moment. Which reminds me of a really good quote I once read by Oprah Winfrey "This moment is the only moment you know you have for sure."

And that brings me to the very first teaching of the Yoga Sutra.. "With humility (an open heart and mind), we embrace the sacred study of Yoga."

I would love to post some photos, but this computer does not have an SD slot. So I'll have to upload them when I get home.

That's all for now. I'll write again next weekend to describe how the teacher training is going.

Friday, January 28, 2011

India at Last

Nancy - Rishikesh India
I arrived in Delhi at 9pm Wednesday night, scouted out the yellow "yoga family" sign from the mass of drivers waiting at the exit gate and checked into the moth bally hotel not far from the airport.

In the morning I met the group of yogis-to-be in the hotel restaurant, 34 girls from various parts of Canada, US and Japan and 1 guy from Italy. We met our instructor Yogi Vishvketu who greeted all of us with a warm welcome and contagious giggle. After breakfast we climbed on the bus for the journey to Rishikesh (might I add his is all at 6am)

The drive took us through Delhi, which was exactly what I had imagined.. with soft Pujabi music playing on the speakers, the red sun rising over the smoggy sky line, cars honking, cows grazing on the side of the road, horse drawn carriages, scooters, bonfires, shanty towns, kids in uniform heading to school and shop keepers beginning their day, muddy garbage filled rivers, stray dogs rummaging for food.. It was my first moment of aw.. with a big smile on my face I thought "oh my god, I'm in India!!!  and I LOVE IT!"

We arrived in Rishikesh around 2pm and checked into the Ashram. We were greeted by an elderly woman (Vishva's mother) who dabbed a bindi on each of our foreheads and strung a flower necklace around our necks. Me and my roommate Sara were given a room on the non-picturesque side of the building. It's quite dungeon like actually and very cold. We did a thorough scrub down of the room and have high hopes of re-decorating. Today at the market we are going to buy shawls for the wall and incense to make it a bit more homey.

At 4pm we had our first yoga class. It was a relaxing class full of much needed hip stretching after all the sitting. Due to a power outage and the jet lag we were all in bed by 8pm.

Today we woke at 5:30 for 6am yoga class, breakfast then a tour of the city. Finally I have found reliable internet! Not sure when I'll be back.. but I'm here, I'm safe and I'm happy!

Till next time..

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ready To Get My Yoga On!

Nancy- Toronto Canada
So this is it. One last day at work, one last chicken dinner, one last night in the safety of my condo, one last snuggle with my little dog, one last blog entry until I see a computer again.

Tomorrow I'm off for a month long adventure of spiritual enlightenment and yoga teacher training in Northern India.

And here is my thoughtfully selected wardrobe for the next month. do I fit all of this in one 75 litre backpack?

After hours of folding, stuffing, squishing, re-packing, re-stuffing, re-squishing.. .. Success!!! It fits! (the zippers are about to pop but IT FITS!) And yes, that is a giant roll of toilet paper in a zip lock bag. Suggestion from Kym the wise traveller :) I will soon find out why she strongly suggested this key necessity.

So, some of you have asked me. How do you feel? Are you ready for this?
I'm nervous, excited, scared, hopeful.. did I say nervous?!?!  I embark on this trip with an open mind, free of expectations and completely open to whatever India has to teach me.  I'm sure it will be a trip full of lessons, challenges and experiences and it's up to me to make this what I want it to be (words of wisdom from Christine) It's true though, this is an experience of a lifetime and no matter what is thrown my way.. I must make the best of this.

So, to answer your question. Yes, I'm ready! Ready to realize a life-long dream. Ready to learn from the best in the place where it all began 2000 years ago. Ready to discover things I didn't know about myself. I'm Ready to get my yoga on!

**Stay tuned**

Inspections, Push Bikes, Beaches, and Translations

Dean - Sydney Australia

Market Madness

So I thought that the housing market in Toronto was busy, Sydney is different story altogether. I have been looking for a rental unit non stop since I got here. So here is how the process goes, which is much different then back in Toronto. Most if not all people list units for rent through an agent, exactly as properties are sold back in Canada. There are a couple main real estate sites that cover rentals and sales that can be researched through online. I pour through pages of listings trying to find just the right place at (which is much harder) just the right price. After narrowing down to a handful, it is time to have a look at them. Here, most inspections (aka open houses) are held on Saturday, with a few during the week. Inspections are usually 15 minutes, yes, just 15 minutes long. Trivia fact, Sydney has almost 1,000 new immigrants arriving every week (crazy huh). So, if the place is any good at all, there is a mass of people at the inspection hurrying around the house, measuring, taking pictures, videos, you name it. Some fill out applications to rent right on the spot. Most properties that are any good will go after just one 15 minute inspection. Unbelievable...

Another rental difference from Canada, rents are listed per week not per month. This came as a bit of a shock when I did the math on the cost of these places. Last months rent is also called a bond here. Also, most places do not include a fridge or washer or dryer, you have to supply them yourself.

This past Saturday, I spent the morning in an area called Newtown looking at 6 different units. It is quite a process, pick them, hopefully the inspections don't overlap and hurry between them to inspect. I have just put in another application for lease, let's hope it works out this time. I am getting a bit frustrated with it all, and just want us to have a place to live. I am also a little worried I may be homeless soon. Running out of time as I am only booked into my hotel until the first week of February.

Push Bikes

On to the fun stuff. So the weather here has been non-stop perfection, snow and cold are a distant memory now :-) I was lucky enough to have a friend take me out on push bikes on Sunday ("bikes" here are motorcycles and "push bikes" are bicycles). Finally a chance to get a little outside the core of the city. We started our ride somewhat near Sydney Olympic Park and rode through some great nature areas and trails along mangroves. Sydney has done an incredible job of providing lot's of bike/walking trails especially along the water.

Beach Culture

I also spent some time out at Bondi Beach and Manly Beach which I finally really got into the water swimming. The surf here is incredibly strong and makes for awesome wave jumping. Surfing is definitely on the list for a future weekend! Here is a picture of Shelley Beach which is just down the trail from Manly Beach.

Now the cool thing about the beaches here are they seem to be a way of life. They are lively, well developed and very well maintained. This little beach had a cool beach bar just off to the side. Also, the city often provides BBQs free of charge, so people will bring coolers of food and beer.  It's hard to see in this pic, as I didn't want to look weird and walk up too close to take it. But there is a huge stainless steel BBQ, and a crowd of people BBQ'ing right by the beach. Having drinks, socializing, what a great tradition!

That brings up the topic of public alcohol consumption. I don't really understand the rules here yet. It seems quite like Europe where it is not a problem have a glass of wine or beer mostly anywhere, as in the BBQ example above. However, there are labelled "alcohol free zones" signed in some areas of the streets. I guess areas where they may have had trouble before. Funny thing, I was at a pub Friday night, there were about 40 people out front standing on the sidewalk drinking and up on the pole was one of the alcohol free zone signs. What's up with that?

Exit or the way out??

Over the past 2 weeks I have been noticing some differences in the english language here. So to add to the ones I have already listed, here are some more "translations" that I have learned this week.

How you goin'? = How are you doing?
Mate = friend (man or woman)
Sidewalk = foot path
Kerb = curb
Togs = swimwear
Prawn = shrimp
Continental cucumber = english cucumber
Toilet = bathroom
Gas = propane / natural gas
Petrol = gas

Until next week (mates)...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

WHAT? We DON'T Have a Home!? :(

Nancy- Toronto Canada
Yesterday was a bad day for Nancy.  I'm hoping today will be better.. let me explain.

Firstly, I had this week mapped out day for day "things to do".  Each day had tasks to do on my lunch break, errands to run after work. All in preparation for India, the move, vet visits for Railey, visiting with friends and to top it off the sales meeting and training at work.  Isn't it just perfect that my car decides to break down at 11am on Tuesday... now I'm not only left carless for an unknown amount of time but with a list of "to do's" that are no longer "doing".  urrrggg.  brreeaath.   I called a few rental companies last night and it seems there is not a single rental car available for me in the city of Mississauga. Hopefully today my luck will be better.

Second, just as we crossed off the task of "find a home" the offer was revoked :(  Apparently the current tenants living in what we thought was our quaint new home on Liverpool street in Paddington decided they don't want to move. What a pain in the butt. So now we are back to the drawing board... fingers, toes anything you can cross.. cross it.

Good karma, good karma, good Karma.. We need you good karma!!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Arrival!!

Dean - Sydney Australia

So to start all this off, I want to say that I have never blogged before, I am not even that great of a writer. So I don't know how good I'll be at this, but hopefully it will bring family/friends a little closer when Nancy and I are so far away. And to any new found Australian friends who may read this, I mean only the best when I poke fun :-)

I have been here in Sydney just a week now. It all started with a really, really long trip. Two flights, 3 meals, 6 glasses of wine, 6 movies, 16 time zones, a little broken sleep, and 22 hours later I was here.  Now I have never relocated out of Canada in my life, but Nancy and I have done quite a bit of travel, so I felt I was quite prepared. The last two months in Toronto were crazy, selling property, giving away stuff, good-byes, and a list of other to-dos that was way too long. So when I arrived here, all that done, it was a bit of relief, but a bit of fear at the same time. For those of you who will undoubtedly ask, yes I did have that "what the hell did I do!?!?" moment. Fortunately, that quickly passed with the prospect of living in this awesome city. So here is home for the next month, the Fraser Suites in downtown Sydney, 488 Kent Street to be exact. It's a bit odd living in a hotel, but kind of nice at the same time.
So what are the initial impressions? Sydney is a large, diverse, and unbelievably picturesque city by the ocean. Probably a cross between Vancouver, San Francisco, with a sprinkle of London thrown in. The weather has been spectacular, mid 20's with lot's of humidity, my kind of weather. The people seem generally friendly and kind and live a great quality of life. I miss a fair bit of what the locals say, this makes for some interesting conversations or good fun when trying to order something (future post idea).

So what were the first things I did? Well I had to see the beach, so off to Bondi I went. Bondi is probably one of the most famous surf beaches around. It is a beautiful spot, I walked the beach, put my feet in the water, and enjoyed the view from a patio.
I also had to get a run in this city, so I put on my new shoes and headed to Hyde Park and the Botanical gardens. What I am liking here is that there are so many similarities to Canada that make it feel comfortable, yet it is different enough to make it an adventure. The first thing I noticed different on my run was I needed to pass on the left. Of course it made sense when I thought of it as they drive on the left here. I stopped in an area called Farm Cove where I could see the opera house, the bridge and the harbour, that run made me realize yet again why I came here.

It soon became apparent that eating out every day was not a great option, so I made my first grocery store trip. First I had to figure out what the grocery stores were called here. I found a Coles (not books) just around the corner. Like any grocery store in a foreign country there were the subtle differences.... Like the wall of Vegemite!!
For those of you who don't know, Vegemite is an Australian "delicacy." A yeast based spread, used like peanut butter I guess, but kinda gross (sorry Iain). 

My next task was to find a place to live, I had 28 days and counting to do so, not a lot when you think about it. As you have seen from Nancy's post, it looks like I may have been successful fairly quickly, but I will save that for the next post when all is worked out. One thing I can say, it's a lot different than looking for a place back in Toronto.

I miss all my family/friend's back home, Mac and Maddie, and am counting the days until Nancy gets here. Until next week...

Monday, January 17, 2011

We Have A Home!

Nancy - Toronto Canada
I'm still waiting for Dean to update our blog with his adventures.. but apparently he doesn't find this blogging thing as fun as I do.  So I'll update you on the progress in Australia for now. WE HAVE A HOME! After a gruelling application process Dean and I have been accepted for a lovely little row house in Paddington on Liverpool street.  How lovely. Maybe my newly acquired British ties will come in handy after all :)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Here and There

Nancy - Toronto Canada
I once kept a travel blog called Travelbug which helped me feel connected to friends and family at home even though I was so far away.  Now that I'm blogging for two (my future hubby and me) the blog has morphed into Travelbuggers. Travelbuggers is the story of our lives and adventures abroad. We hope you'll visit often and find our stories entertaining.

The past few weeks have been filled with a cocktail of emotions. Excitement of new opportunities, starting a life together and escaping Canadian winters! Stress from all the planning required to re-locate to another country and trying to juggle it all yet still make time for what's important (spending good time with family and friends) Fear of the unknown and the "to do" list that awaits us in Australia. Sadness for all the comforts and people that we have to say good bye (for now) to.

But mostly we are EXCITED! It's time for a change, it's time to shake things up A LOT. Travel is a passion of both of ours and we've dreamt about living abroad for many years. We've tried to live a healthier and more active lifestyle but busy Torontonian life and brutal cold winters seemed to get in the way of spending more time outdoors.  For years I've thought of taking yoga teacher training but again could never find the time to fit it in. And since high school I've dreamt of a beach house and bathing suit business in Australia. So this is the year to stop talking, wishing and waiting and start making dreams happen (maybe not the beach house or bathing suit business- but who knows?)  The following quote explains exactly why we are doing this:

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sail. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain -

The first part of our journey unfortunately begins apart. Dean left for Australia on Monday and has spent the past few days doing rather normal things ie. opening a bank account, getting a phone set up, grocery shopping and trying to find us a shwanky new apartment!! Lucky him he's also been able to enjoy some of the more luxurious things like going for long runs in sunny Hyde Park and lazing on Bondi beach in his spare time... I'm a tad bit jealous. 

Back in Canada I prepare for my month long trip to India, wrap up all loose ends at work before I leave and organize the sale of all my possessions (including my condo and car) in preparation for my big move to Oz in March. So much to do, so little time.