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Greetings from Hong Kong ~ Reaching out from the Empty Nest

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Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong – 31 March 2013

Who has trouble keeping up with life? I know I do. Just when I think things are under control, something crops up to show me otherwise. That’s really the fun part about keeping track via this blog, hence the name, This Pilgrim’s Way. My walk is very different to others, even those whom I am closest to. That’s what makes everything so interesting.

Over the past few months or so, life has been down more times than up. However lately, I feel there has been a couple of positive shifts that have eased the pressure. Just like everyone from time to time, I’ve gone through some tests with personal and health issues, but I know I’m getting there; just as we all do, hopefully.

A couple of weeks back, my S K (Shining Knight) successfully gained a work contract that will ease some of the load we’ve been under. The economy is a little tough at the moment and many families are affected one way or another. Gaining this contract has bolstered a more positive atmosphere around home and it will certainly help us keep things moving along.

One positive outcome is it allowed me to take some time out to travel to Hong Kong to surprise our N2D (Number 2 Daughter) who has just undergone some hip surgery. N2D is living and dancing professionally in Hong Kong at Disneyland. She had no idea that a visitor from home would soon be calling, and with the help of her partner, S I S (Somethin’ in Somethin’), we managed to pull it off without a hitch.

My S K booked my flight and within a week (last Thursday) I boarded a big Airbus A380 bound for Hong Kong. Part of the plan consisted of trialing my new back pack that I’d bought for my pilgrimage next year. What better way than to test it on a 12 day jaunt? I started off so well and managed to pack the clothes I wanted to take, which weighed in total about 8.5 kg, but the night before I flew, word got out among some friends where I was headed and soon I became a courier of well wishes and gifts for N2D.

I changed from back pack to suitcase and it didn’t take very long before my 8.5 kg weight grew to 20.5 kg of well meaning wishes and extra things I thought I might need. Oh well, I’m sure there’ll be another time and honestly, how lovely that N2D has such wonderful friends. You can’t complain about that.

As a compromise, instead of trialing my back pack, I decided I’d test run my new micro fibre towel that S K bought me, along with a bunch of other things he thought I might find useful, for Christmas.

The purpose for this trip was to help N2D in any way I could while she recovered from surgery. She already had  S I S with her and from the communication we’d already had from him, he sounded like he was a rock for her. We felt blessed that someone was there for her when we couldn’t be.

S K and I  are currently going through the transition of becoming empty nesters. Our family is kind of scattered to the winds now and I’m sure anyone who has adult children who are beginning to make homes for themselves will understand the mixed emotions that go with this territory. It’s a time for stepping back from their lives as they step forward to embrace their world. It’s a time for the severing of apron strings. These statements sound very cliché and well worn, but the feelings and emotions that I, as a warm and nurturing mother feels is raw and daunting. I cannot speak for S K or for other parents, but I’m sure there will be others out there who know exactly what I am talking about. The dynamics have shifted and S K and I have entered a new season, even if in some cases it is still in a transitional phase.

S K and I have slowly become used to having N2D living and working so far away in another country, but the real test comes when your child goes through a difficult situation that, for logistical reasons, you can’t really be a part of. This surgery for N2D is the second one she has encountered whilst living in Hong Kong. The first was relatively minor, but this time, the procedure was much more involved. The lead up to the surgery was difficult for all of us. We experienced heightened anxiety and feelings that things were out of our control. It’s times like this I am so grateful to have my faith to depend on.

I couldn’t get to Hong Kong before the surgery due to work commitments, however I arrived a day after the surgery when N2D was safely ensconced in her apartment. The surgery went well and deemed successful, and by all accounts, S I S played an admirable support role. N2D was surprised and after the initial shock of realising I was standing in her doorway, we both got the hug we’d been needing. Yes, there were tears, but they were tears of joy and relief…the best kind.

I begin my fifth day here in Hong Kong of pottering around with N2D and S I S simply being a support where I can, company and sometimes entertainment. N2D has made remarkable progress and continues to go from strength to strength. We are enjoying each other’s company quite well considering we are sharing a small, two roomed hi-rise apartment, and we break any sign of cabin fever with trips to the gym, strolls through the park, window shopping at the local shopping centre and outings for food, although we do eat in as well. N2D and S I S are both accomplished ‘chefs’. I am impressed with S I S who seems to be holding up remarkably well under the circumstances. This trip for me was never going to be just another sight-seeing trip. It was always going to be about spending some quality time with N2D and S I S and helping out wherever I could … and that is exactly what is happening.

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N2D and SIS out taking a stroll to the hotel’s gym

I am really enjoying this special time with my N2D and her partner. It is a wonderful experience for a mother to watch her blossoming child interact in the world they are building a life in. It feels like a privilege and certainly an experience I will treasure. S K is doing his part keeping the home fires burning and is currently working out west in Qld. We try to Skype with him daily so he is part of the experience.

I will use the opportunity whilst in Hong Kong and staying with N2D to walk, go to the gym most days and concentrate on my level of fitness. I’ve already been to the gym several times and I am very surprised at myself at how much I actually enjoyed using the variety of machines to aid my levels of cardio fitness and weight training. I will write a separate post about my gym workouts.

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On our way to the hotel’s gym

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Entertaining ourselves at Ginza Park, Tin Shui Wai

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Camino Downunder Workshop ~ Sydney

At the end of this week (Jan 31) I am heading off to Sydney for a workshop (short course) on Walking the Camino de Santiago run by husband and wife team, Marc and Yvonne Grossman. The course is held in down town Sydney close to Darling Harbour. It’s a hard life. But as they say, someone’s got to do it! I will spend the Saturday, beginning at 9am and closing at 5pm, covering all aspects of the pilgrimage, including: maps, guide books, discussing the gear necessary for a successful trip and anything and everything that relates to the Camino that you can possibly fit in one day!

As part of the course, I will receive a copy of the ‘Camino Guidebook‘ (5th edition and revised for 2012-13 ISBN 978-0-646-51466-6). I will also be able to purchase 30 all-weather maps (Camino de Santiago: 30 all-weather walking maps ISBN 978-0-646-52975-2), which we will be using in the workshop for practice and research. I will also receive as part of the package, paper elevation maps which will be used as part of the training and learning, plus something I’m a little excited about, the Camino Downunder cloth badge, that I will be able to sew to my backpack.

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Photo Credit: Camino Downunder

The participants will also be using for ‘geographical training‘ the brand new, innovative and bold overview maps (2.3 metres long – the long version) – which are oriented direction-up or forward up – replicating the anatomical way every person walks and which is in portrait design, not landscape. After crossing the Pyrenees, these wall maps go in a constant westerly direction all the way to the Atlantic coast.

It is promised that we, as participants, will not come away from the course without a ‘tsunami’ quantity of information, insights, knowledge and skills to assist us in our great enterprise of being joyous and successful pilgrim/walkers. The team promises that whatever is, or are my motivations, their workshop will be a watershed.

I’m excited about attending this course and meeting the other like-minded participants and educators. I am hungry and thirsty for their knowledge and hearing of their experiences. I have huge expectations of what I will receive out of this latest adventure.

Another bonus to the course is just one street and one block away (Kent Street) live all the recommended outdoors stores mentioned in the Camino Guidebook for Sydney. No doubt during my short stay in Sydney I will find some time to visit these outlets. It will be interesting to see what Sydney stores have compared to the Brisbane outlets I have visited.

As preparation for the course, the participants were given some homework to do. We were asked to bring along our written lists of the following:

1.

  • i.   Your concerns and/or anxieties;
  • ii.  Questions, including confusing and /or contradictory information gleamed from the internet sites;
  • iii. Unresolved issues about walking the Camino de Santiago as an independent pilgrim/walker. They assure me that no question or issue raised by anyone is ever unimportant or treated offhandedly.

2.

  • Write down your list of all your gear (i.e: walking clothes you will be wearing and clothes carried in your backpack) including your footwear; hat wear and clothing accessories. AND VERY IMPORTANTLY, THE QUANTUM (i.e: how many items of underwear, pairs of socks, etc, etc

3.

  • Write down your list of non walking gear (e.g. a torch, first aid kit items, guide-book/map and communication devices; i.e. mobile phone, etc, etc)

4.

         A Reflective & Philosophical Meditation Task:

  • i. Whilst you are undertaking the Camino de Santiago, what do you think your ‘core business’ should be? Hint: before answering this question, you will need to clearly separate in your mind and on paper ‘core business’ from ‘non-core business’. I strongly encourage you to put in writing this fundamental question.

I have completed these four tasks in readiness for my travels to Sydney. It took some time and research, but I think I got there in the end. It will be interesting for me to find out just what I need (suggested) to take and what I don’t need. I think I will add a page to my blog regarding my packing process. Then after my course I can add to it or delete unnecessary items and make adjustments.

Below, if anyone is interested, I have included the link to Camino Downunder’s website:

http://www.caminodownunder.com

Until next time…

Buen Camino

A Long Walk to South Bank

Saturday was quite overcast, yet when the sun peeked out from behind the clouds, it became very sunny and hot, real melting ice cream kind of hot. A perfect day for a long walk. I walk most days ranging from between 6-12km, depending on time constraints and I usually walk a circuit near my home, but today I decided that I would begin training for the longer walks that will be necessary when walking in Spain.

I packed a small back pack and weighed it. I need this information as part of the training process to help increase the weight over time and in a sensible manner, so that I can comfortably reach the target of approximately 10 percent of my body weight, which is the most I need to carry when walking long distance, over time, in Spain. My back pack and contents for yesterday weighed 3.2 kilograms. A nice starting point, I think.

For my first long walk, other than some of the hiking I do with family, I decided to start from my home in Chandler and walk to South Bank, Brisbane. South Bank is one of my favourite places to visit and spend time. It is the old Expo site and over the years, has developed into an amazing place to enjoy all levels of dining, ranging from cafe type food to fine dining. You will also find the odd ice cream cart parked along the pathways for some further indulgence. There are many bars and grills, and other stores to browse in. Lots of interesting boutique style shops and of course many coffee houses. The dining is mostly alfresco where you can sit and enjoy people watching, taking in life along the river, the action, bizarre and wonderful buskers for entertainment and many other sights, too numerous to mention. Some days you will discover the markets operating with all their wares, services and trinkets. Of course it is also famous for its man-made ‘Kodak Beach’ and swimming places. It is also home to the Conservatorium of Music, the Piazza, and QPAC (where I work part time during the evenings as an Usher or performing Complex Duties). There is always something to see and do at South Bank.

Knowing how much I enjoy South Bank and what it has to offer, what better place to walk to for my first long walk, knowing that I could spend a couple of hours chilling, before making the return trip. I’ve never walked to South Bank before and thought it would be interesting to see the trip from a different perspective, other than sitting in a car.

So, with back pack packed with all the things I thought I’d need along the way and for when I arrived, I headed off on my trek. My phone was fully charged, my Map My Walk  app engaged and recording my stats and progress and my music blaring through my headphones, I was ready to roll.

I live on a major arterial road and so the trickiest part of the walk was getting past some places that aren’t designed for walkers, namely: walking close to oncoming traffic due to the large storm water drains, crossing connecting roads to the Gateway Arterial, where no provision has been made for walkers and again, walking close to oncoming traffic where I guess the road makers thought no one would ever want to walk here. They should know that someone, one day, will want to walk there. And as an additional point, there were no signs telling me I can’t walk there. Anyway, once I cleared all that it was plain sailing.

The walk from Chandler to South Bank totals 16.5 km the way I decided to go. It was mostly flat with some levels rising and some undulating hills in places, so it made the walk interesting and added to my heart rate in places. As I topped the hill coming into the suburb of Coorpooroo, I enjoyed seeing the city off into the distance. This was encouraging as this was near my destination.Image

Further along I noticed this avenue of trees. I have driven past them countless times, but today I saw them through fresh eyes.

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I also noticed this avenue of trees along the way.

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And this canal, that I would never know existed when driving past in my car. You might ask here if it matters that I didn’t know it existed? Probably not, but it is interesting to find hidden things.

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As I headed more toward the city along Vulture Street, I was finally able to take a close up photo of a house that I’ve always admired when driving past. Being so close I could admire closely and actually appreciate what gives it such street appeal. This house is immaculate and surprisingly, there is a lot of land attached to it; quite a bonus for the inner city area of Woolloongabba.

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Getting closer to my destination, I took this photo of the M1, the major road that leads to our beautiful city of Brisbane. I like this shot as I feel like I was peeking in on something.

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Just over this incline ahead, would see me on the brink of my destination. These photos clearly show a very grey day, yet it was still balmy, especially for walkers and cyclists. I passed a number of cyclists out pedalling and enjoying what the day offered.

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Some people are just plain creative when it comes to brightening up our city. I passed a number of these little creations (pictured below) that add lovely bright spots to the streets. Anyone can apply to create a design and jazz up what would normally be dull communication covers. How much more entertaining is it to see bright and happy art work instead? Thank you to all the creative folks out there. We salute you.

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These statues (pictured below) caught my eye at the entrance to some units next to the Mater Private Hospital. There were more than what I captured here in this photo. They were spaced out right across the front of the property. I’m still considering if they ‘work’ with this style of building?

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The next couple of photos are quite significant to me. They are of the work being done on the Mater Children’s Hospital. I mentioned in a previous blog entry about the possibility of raising some money for the children of our city while I walk the Camino and I have discovered that I have a heart for the Mater Children’s. They do such awesome work, as anyone does when involved with saving children’s lives. Our children are so precious and are the life blood of a city, town or country. I hear many stories of sick children, premature babies, and a multitude of other heartbreaking incidents that touches me on too regular a basis. How can I help? One day I’d love to be a part of the ‘Cuddle Mum’ program, but another practical way is to pay it forward and try to raise some money for a very worthy cause and invest in my city. It would be wonderful to think that any encouraging supporters out there, might like to work with me here and maybe support in a practical way while I do the walk. Everyday, there are nurses, doctors, specialists and support staff who perform miracles with very sick children, and unfortunately for some families the outcome for their child may not have a happy ending. I would somehow like to make a difference and contribute to the work these amazing people perform in our own backyard. At some point in our lives, we will need the help of these professionals for our own families and whilst my own family has always been supporters and made regular donations, I still want to do more. I believe in children and want to help make their future brighter and I’m sure there are others who would like to do so too. I have to speak with people who have the knowledge to help me with this side of things, but I am positive that I can organise something. So, watch this space, especially if you would like to reach out to the beautiful children of our city.

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Well, I made it! Here I am at the entrance to South Bank at Little Dock Road. For some reason I quite like Little Dock Road. It is a cute little street that leads to a beautiful area of Brisbane. Look at the perfect sky now!

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I took the photo below peeking through a beautiful Poinciana tree. Brisbane has some mighty fine specimens that look spectacular. Other favourite trees of mine that I see around Brisbane, include: the Jacarandas in all their purple flurry, the variety of Frangipanis (whites and pinks) and the massive historical Moreton Bay Figs.

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Below is one of the entrances to South Bank. I totally enjoyed my walk here and was ready to enjoy whatever South Bank offered today. It’s trademark Bougainvillaea are just ahead.

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The photos below show people enjoying all that South Bank has to offer. How blessed to enjoy a day down here?

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I spent some time cruising around enjoying the sights. I had to wait a little while for my appetite to arrive. The walk, it seemed suppressed my need for food, however, in time, it arrived. I enjoyed a whole bottle of cooled water and then I practiced what I hope and know will become part of the adventure whilst in Spain. I found a favourite restaurant of mine, Kapsalis and ordered a lovely Greek salad with two lamb souvlaka kebabs (okay, plenty of time for Spanish cuisine when I go to Spain – I’m practicing the experience here) and a nice cold Crown Lager. As I’m on holidays and ‘beach’ time, it was my small indulgence.

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After lunch, I wandered over to some lovely grassed area near a children’s playground. I could see all the action on the river and enjoyed the sights. I laid out my towel and read my book for about an hour or so and then it was time to do the walk all over again. I packed up my things and headed for home.

The funny thing is, I outlasted my iPhone 5’s battery. It died on me at Woolloongabba. The rest of the trip was music-less and my Map My Walk App-kaput! However, I still had my watch and I already knew how far I’d walked getting to South Bank. My distance and times for the day were: 33 km in 5 hours plus a further 4 km un-timed. Total kilometres walked was 37km. I’m happy with that being my first long walk in training. Remember, this is a journey, not a race. I merely time myself as part of the training process and out of interest. It will allow me to learn about my walking patterns, general times and will help me calculate how long it will take me to walk certain distances between villages along the route in Spain. My biggest challenge that I can see will be walking through the Pyrenees at altitude. I’m so excited!

If you’ve read down to here, thank you for your time. I hope you enjoyed my little adventure.

So, until next time…

Buen Camino

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