Life in airports

31 05 2009

I’m in New York Airport. For some reason the flight connection gods decided that I would spend 4 hours here. An inconvenient length of time – long enough to drive one batty, but too short to take advantage of. So I’m looking at my South America photos. Still working out how to go about beginning to sort them, 15 months after arriving in Ushuaia. Hopefully I get done before I return to Australia and need to show them off.

So I’m in New York because I’m on my way ‘home’ from St Croix. Yep, another trip to the Caribbean. Sounds glamourous? Well, in two weeks I managed to catch one sunset… Actually, this trip may well be my last to St Croix. It is a good break point in the project, I think someone else who lives closer will take over from here. It’s kind of a shame. I have grown to like the island, have started to make a few friends. So I made my farewells (again) and tore out the minor tendrils I had set – I’m not anywhere long enough to set roots. I am continually going somewhere new, but the flip side is I continually leaving. New is good, leaving is not always.

I haven’t been in St croix for a while. But the people I see regularly in the refinery know me as The Australian. It’s surprising how many people know me now – I seem to have made an impression (I hope it was good). Several conversations have gone along these lines:
“Hey, you’re back. How long this time?”
“Only two weeks”
“Where are you living now? Is it Houston or Spain?” (I had told anyone who would listen that I was moving to Spain previously).
“Spain: Barcelona, in theory”
“Wow, Barcelona, that’s awesome. Why the ‘in theory’?”
“I have a place there, but never seem to be there – this month I will make it for about 40 hours.”
“That’s crazy!”
“Yeah it is, but I can’t complain too much, the same day I get back to Barcelona I fly to Germany… For vacation. I’m going to go and meet some friends. We are going to cycle across the Alps to Italy.”
I then get a comment about how crazy I am, clarifying that I mean on a bike or how great that sounds. And the more I think about it, it does sound pretty good. So if I’ve made anyone jealous, I’m sorry, but I’m doing it anyway. Well, not too sorry.

So, anyway, I took last Sunday off to relax on the beach. I was persuaded to go to Rainbow Beach where there was a party. For some reason some of the other Engineers think I work too hard, and conspired to get me to take a day off. Well, it worked pretty well – I went for a wander to the lighthouse, then joined several hundred people on the beach, bands, music, warm water. Was good. The summer vacation colledge students in bikinis had nothing to do with it 🙂

Only other adventure of note: One night last week after work, I went out with Keith (one of the local Engineers I’ve been working closely with and get on pretty well), to go snorkelling in the dark. We borrowed flashlights (Yes, I’ve have had to convert, ‘torch’ just gets blank looks). We stayed out for two hours, but the time flew. We were hunting lobster. Up until sunset was over the hunting didn’t go so well – on par with the first time I tried (except for picking up a decent sized slipper lobster almost immediately, and releasing it after thinking it was too small) . I found several, backed into crevices in rocks but had no idea how to get them out. I was feeling considerably braver this time and tried grabbing their antanea to pull them out. They didn’t like his, resisted, and it took me a few times to realise that the antenna are not all that strong. Just after dark they all came out to feed which made spotting them much easier, but catching is still difficult. I finally nabbed one that we thought was big enough to keep, and after that I could hardly get near one. I found out once we got on the beach the cray I wsa tightly holding in my left glove was clicking and ‘screaming’and must have been warning the others as I approached. So for 2 people, 2 hours of effort, we managed one crayfish. Which was too small to take a photo of (and 3 we caught and threw back because we thought them to be too small or too pregnant – we were after a jumbo!). At least now I know how it’s done – forget the snares, just grab it with a gloved hand – but take a bag to carry it back in.

I’m tired, a little sick (either a minor cold or swine flu), my right calf is busted from running (three weeks ago I last ran!), my left knee developed an agonising pain on Thursday, I tore open my thumb last night (probably should have got stitches, but I managed to stop the bleeding and I just fell asleep), I’m unfit, and generally feel like crap. But I’m going to be in Germany tomorrow morning, with two weeks of nothing but friends, fresh air, bike trails, snow, mountains, Austria, Italy, camping and pain in my thumb. Hopefully I can undo some of the damage I’ve done to myself by working the last few months. I can’t wait. I could do with some sleep though.

I finished this off in the plane. The American Arlines dinner as just come around. I’m trying the chicken. This may be the biggest risk I’ve taken in some time…


24 03 2009

I managed to get out and go diving again over the weekend. It seems to be either that or get drunk. This weekend I may get to go diving from a boat. While the boat isn’t really necessary, you can swim out to most dive sites from the beach, it is convenient for storing all of the crayfish. We will see.

Since this blog is also my dive log (dlog?) , Keith and I went to North Star (after trying to dive on a wreck only to find a fin had lost a heel strap as we were about to get wet). We stayed down until the air ran out at 60ft (45mins or so). Second dive on the Wall for a good time, not a long time at average of 40ft (someones head hurt ~ 20mins). Came up with 500psi and 1000+psi. I had 12lbs of weight (see if I can remember that for next time), with a steamer and 80°F (26°C) water. And was still cold. So there.


21 03 2009

I’ve just noticed that my blog is getting more hits now than it was at the peak of my cycling. It cannot be that I am more interesting now… Perhaps one of the search engines has found me.

But last night for some reason I was thinking about homeless people. And I thought about it for a minute, and realised that if you twist the popular definition somewhat I could fit into that category. It has been 21 continuous months that I have been without a home. I wonder how many Chemical Engineers can say that! I might have clocked up 2 years, except I should have a home in Barcelona next month. I wont be there, but that is a different matter.

A year ago

19 03 2009

It is already a year since I hit Ushuaia. That went quick. Just think… I could have ridden back to North America by now – instead I went and saw some of Canada, got a job, saw some of the US, and became a resident of Spain.

St Patrick

17 03 2009

So , I’m back in St Croix. My time in Barcelona went quickly. It felt like a holiday – it was about that length.

Today is St Patricks day. I’m not wearing green – the festivities have already been completed. Saturday, all of the white people in St Croix got together for a parade near Fort Christianstead (one of the local jokes is this is a white peoples holiday, and more or less it is true). The police closed off the whole town (all two streets), and a handful of floats drove around a loop. I know at least a few of the floats did laps. Two weeks ago it was Carnival in Sitges. Being kind, you couldn’t make a comparison. But soon after the parade it became evident that the parade was a mere excuse to get most of the drinking population on island together for a royal piss-up. I must say they carried out the second part of the day with… enthusiasm. Parade at 11am. First ambulance I saw was at 1pm. Passed out in the gutter from 1:30 onwards. Somehow, some managed to party on into the night. Needless to say, it was pretty quiet Sunday morning.

On the way

16 02 2009

I’m on the way. In the airport right now. Ready to get on a plane to Paris, then Barcelona. I should have written more about the US, but now it is time to look forward to Europe for a while!

Spain (getting closer)

4 02 2009

My reisdency and work permit for Spain has been approved… At least one step has been. So now I need to gather documents, head for an embassy and see if they will approve it again. There is some urgency so I can get everything completed within the month they give you (after approving your permit, you have a month to get it issued, get to Spain and register with the police). After the glacial progress of the permit, it is all go.

So I needed a medical certificate to get past the next hurdle. It turns out that I am alive, don’t have AIDS (thank goodness!) and also don’t have Tuberculosis (TB). I didn’t realise it is actually pretty common in some parts – lucky I haven’t caught it. Although, my blood pressure turned out to be a bit high, so did my heart rate (I don’t really believe the results they came up with – apparently I have 20/13 vision (it’s good, but not that good), weight 80kg (rubbish), and blood pressure of 120/85 (really?)). I really didn’t believe it so I went to the local supermarket for a retest – which gave me more reasonable results (110/70). But the interesting thing (at least for me) is that almost all pharmacies and supermarkets around here that have a pharmacy attached have a blood pressure measuring device (I can never remember what it is called – wikipedia to the rescue: it’s a sphygmomanometer). You don’t see them in supermarkets in Australia (at least I don’t).

But the high heart rate needs to be addressed. So I must get fitter. To do that I need to get out there and exercise more buy some more fitness equipment (aka toys). Lets try one of these.

Australia Day

27 01 2009

So I’m an Australian in St Croix. I thought Australia day would pass by uneventfully, and it did for the most past. I wore my Aussie flag tattoos on hand and leg and stirred up the guys at work about working on my equivalent of Independance Day. They also got the spiel about invasion day and we found plenty of episodes in our histories that are not really that dissimilar.

But then there was a band at the local pub. The only other Aussie I new about on the island was there (I don’t know if it counts after living here for 9 years). So were two others (on a round the world type adventure). The flag tattoos quickly got plastered on cheeks, and suddenly there were a horde of us! I think a few might have been ring-ins, but never mind… The band came on, I ended up dancing the night away, or until the next day had technically started.

I though about where I was last year. And it didn’t really register, because it wasn’t important then. But this year it was.

Aussie, aussie, aussie. Oi, Oi, OI!


25 01 2009

hawksbill-turtleI got a day off work! Shhh, don’t tell my boss 🙂 Keith (who lives here) and I went diving again. This time we saw a small Hawksbill Turtle, a lonely Barracuda, a big starfish thing and the normal (amazing) array of fish and coral. And the wall off the north shore, which we went little further down this time (80 ft ~ 24m). Still a fair way to go until we see the bottom though (~2,500 ft /750m).

Both time we went out from the shore – the second time in the surf. Although the waves weren’t terribly big, it was still exciting (especially since we had to do it twice – after I forgot to open my air valve before starting, the valve got stuck and we had to reassemble the regulator on dry land). Once you are under the waves, the coral that looks like an aquarium makes it worth it.


Although no one cares, I left my log book somewhere in Aus, so:
Water temp 81°F/27°C and I still felt cold, in a steamer – there must be something wrong with me. Especially when those crazies in Winnipeg (to pick a random city, Hi Stu and Rachel…) are getting around -30°C.
I needed 10lbs of weight, which I upped to 12lbs for the second dive – time to go on a diet.
First dive (at “North Star”)was 36min at max depth of 80ft, ave depth 45ft or so (one guy came with us and had a dive computer)
Second dive (at somewhere else on the beach) was ~45 min at max depth of ~60ft, no computer so only what I can remember. Neither of us are in hospital, so we must have got it right.

coralOh, and there were a few dives the other day as well. I must write those down somewhere.

And for those in Winnipeg it is +30°C here. Not -30. Just thought you’d like to know.


23 01 2009

Exciting news: I have some news. I want to write about it, but I’ve been told that wouldn’t be a good idea. You see, some people in Adelaide still read this thing (why? I do not know). Apparently it has to be broken in the correct manner, by the correct people, at the correct time. I bow to their judgement. Now the messenger wont hear about how I feel now that I am off the phone 🙂

In other somewhat exciting news: I have heard that the Spanish Government have finally decided that I am fit to be granted a work permit and a residence permit. While I say fit, I still need to obtain a medical certificate for some reason (and a police clearance and yet other papers…). I started this process in September – the best part of five months ago, and I still have nothing in my hand, or passport. But this is good news, because I may soon be able to have a home again. Even though the home will be a long way from my real home, it wont be someone else’s home. And it is likely that I will rarely be at that home.

I’ll have to get around to learning Spanish at some point, or go hungry. I will be in Barcelona at least for a short period sometime in February. But from what I’m hearing, I will be back in the US before I know it.

At least they speak (a form of) English here.

Houston Half

18 01 2009

I seem not to be updating this site any more. Anyway, the Houston Marathon was run today, in beautiful weather. I decided on Thursday to enter after finding out that I may be able to get an entry that a friend of a friend couldn’t use (conveniently timed work trip). So I managed exactly one training run. I went with Carol (I haven’t really mentioned the people I am staying with in Houston – I should fix that one day).

Well the run today was fun, with lots and lots of people. Amazing amount of people. 25 thousand or so (according to the website). That is a sea of humanity. Nothing at all like I have seen before.

I ran about as hard as I could, and only managed 1:42. I should be happy with that, but I know if I had trained I could have done better. But then I would have had to try, so maybe I should be happy with it. My calves hurt, but otherwise a nice, fun run. Carol ran brilliantly, finishing in 2:16. Not bad at all!

Lots of results at the web site. My number was 24913 – don’t bother searching for my name – I was registered as the guy who couldn’t make it (thanks Nigel!). But this does mean I.. I mean Nigel placed 24 in his age group (age group is 50-54). I hope Nigel is happy with that result, and perhaps manages to better it next time 🙂

I finished 457 of 6327. That is just the half marathon (ie not including 4429 marathon finishers, or 2065 who ran the 5K)

Actually the results are quite thorough – it tells me I ran a negative split, a shade under 8min/mile for the first 9 miles and 7:30 min/mile for the final 4 miles.

Ski trip

6 01 2009

Has ended… and I’m back in Houston. For those trying to keep up.

I had a blast snowboarding. Really. At least I think I did. To be perfectly honest, I fell down so many times that my head ached for three days, and my neck for the whole time. I hurt my shoulders because after a few days falling on my butt it hurt so much that I tried to reduce the pain by falling on my arms. Every now and again a finger or wrist also got caught. Now my back hurts.

When you are learning to walk you take some spills, so you do snow boarding. I can now get down the hill, at a reasonable speed (at least I think it was reasonable, Tim may disagree), on any of the blue runs out here. I managed a few blue/black runs, but the bumps/moguls at winter park are really first class (ie impossible for me) and that stopped me from getting down any blacks. Another few days (maybe weeks…) I would have been there. After 6 days on the slopes, and 2 snow-shoeing you’d think I should be ok at it…

I did really enjoy it, despite the (small amount of) pain. A full week at altitude (between 2,800 and 3,7000m), exercising, messing around in the snow – how could I not enjoy it? Coupled with staying with Tim and Colleen and their daughter Catherine (just the names alone mean I’ll have to like them!) meant I had a great time. Thanks guys!

Now I have to look toward Europe. It should be this month… or next…

Oh, Happy New Year. Like the other Aussie oldies I know, we planned to go to sleep before midnight. The plan fell through, I got to talking with Colleen and Catherine, and we ‘made it’ to 12:30. Pat on the back for me there. Maybe 2009 will go a little slower – last year just flew!


28 12 2008

snowshoeingThere comes a point where I get so far behind in my diary that I give up and just start from where I am now. So, I had a great Christmas Day and have just flown to Coloradoto spend a week in the snow. And there is plenty of snow. And plenty of altitude. For a nice easy start, Tim and I went snow-shoeing for 2.5 hours yesterday afternoon. It is deceptively tiring exercise – even though you are only walking, I was tuckered last night.

I’m awake nice and early today, ready for a day on the board. Dawn is breaking, the world is going from grey to white (there was fresh snow last night). It looks stunning out there (especially since I am nice and warm in here!).

Google Maps in WordPress!

5 12 2008

I haven’t been regularly using WordPress, and I only just noticed that google maps are working with WordPress. Yay! I would have liked it during my cycle, but now you can see where I am today:

What’s up?

5 12 2008

What are you doing now? Are you having fun?

I’m working my butt off. This project needs to be mostly done by Dec 31. So here I am working 30hrs in the last two days. Hopefully it will settle down to just 12 hrs a day for a week. But progress is being made.

I did go to Houston, to my adopted US family for Thanksgiving. And had a blast. I even have some photos around here someplace. Perhaps I will post them. One day.


25 10 2008

Using the Dell call center makes me feel like a genius.

The computer here died. It is less than a year old and is still clearly under warranty. I play with it for a few minutes, pull out some cords, put some back in, and claim that it is broken – the motherboard didn’t seem to be starting up. We decide to ring Dell support to get them to send someone out and replace the faulty part.

So the (Indian) guy in the call center goes though a frustrating sequence of tests over the phone. For at least half an hour he gets me to mess around with the video cables. I tell him the motherboard has gone. He gets me to switch the monitor on and off and tell him what color lights I see.

He eventually conceeds the internals might not be working properly, so he gets me to open the box. I do, and he is dead impressed when I do it in a minute. He tells me most people need 20-25 minutes of advice to get past that bit. Come on, it is two screws. Under instruction I reseat all the cards. I pull out and plug in each of the jumpers and cables. Even the disk drives. Why? God knows (this call center guy sure doesn’t). Another 1/2 an hour of messing around with the video card. After fully 2 hours of this madness, he suggests that the power supply or motherboard isn’t working and technician will have to come out and try to repair it. Really. Why didn’t I think of that?

What a great way to spend Saturday afternoon. Tomorrow I get to travel all day to St Croix. Back to the Virgin Islands.


7 10 2008

May you live in interesting times…

Good old Aussie dollar – I was told it couldn’t last at almost parity with the US dollar. Good thing I’m getting paid now!


5 08 2008

At the same time a lot and very little has been happening to me, or being caused to happen by me. I keep being chashed out of cities by lack of (reasonably priced) accommodation. This could be seen as me failing to pan far enough ahead to get a bed (just turning up doesn’t cut it here in summer). But I haven’t been all that disappointed in being forced to move on, so far. And I’ve not ended up in the train station. Yet.

Last week I spent on Vancouver Island, slightly west of Vancouver. I stumbled upon B.C. day in Victoria (the capital of B.C.). Victoria is a lovely city, and feels like a quaint, greener Adelaide (I still claim Vancouver is the same as Brisbane in the location of Hobart, rain and all). 150 years since BC was made a province – it’s even the same age as SA… I meant to leave the city after two days to see more of the island, but full accommodation (due to the long weekend – even the campsites further north were booked out!) made me panic and book a room in the city. On Friday I was pulling my hair out in boredom, but the street parties kicked in on Saturday and kept me well and truly entertained until last night.

In fact the west coast is great. It is the closest thing to Australia I’ve seen outside my home island. All the people I met in Vancouver / Victoria mentioned they’d like to come visit, but I think they’ve pretty much seen it. Flatten the mountains, add a few beaches, grow some eucalyptus – you’d have the east coast of Australia.

I figured that since I was so close, I should come and see Seattle before working out what to do next. Special family reason, a Cousin lived here with his family a while back. It always seemed so far away, but now it is only just there! So I rocked up at the ferry and crossed into the USA. I wasn’t planning on visiting at all this trip. They’ve got my fingerprints now.

The hostel is full tonight again. But I’m learning – I’ve got a booking. But tomorrow night?…

Update: I found the local paper – the “Seattle Post-Intelligencer”. I wonder about that last word… The dictionary claims that this is a legitimate word (the spell check doesn’t agree). ‘One who conveys news or information, a spy’. Come on, I think that’s stretching the use of the suffix – regardless of the content of the paper.