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12/01 Direct Link
Machines can't do art! Declares my Art teacher. Artists will never be replaced by machines. Hmmm... Is that so? Tonight is our last class with this lady. This is a short course of fourteen lessons spanning seven weeks. I'm proud to say that I only missed two lessons and one of that was for a very good reason. It was my annual staff dinner. The other was because I had a very busy day that day. We labored through thirteen lessons to draw and paint realistically and tonight, we throw all that away to understand cubism. What an anti-climax.
12/02 Direct Link
I finally got my own portable watercolor palette done. I didn't want to spend a lot of money on a portable set, so I bought a 24-color box (half-pans) a few days ago. To make sure I have all the hues I want, I picked out another twenty colors from my tube collection that are not in the box. I squeezed them in little puddles into a palette that has ten compartments on each side cover. I also make a color chart so that I know what the colors are. There! I'm ready for some exciting travel journaling!
12/03 Direct Link
I have a confession to make. This is not written on the 3rd of December. I'm writing it now on 1st of January, 2017, sort of playing catch-up. You can tell that I'm just burning up words, rambling, repeating myself - which is rambling.

But I do have some serious stuff to write. I'm determined to finish this batch, because I've already failed in November. I may sound like I'm making excuses, but believe me, November had been very busy and December is no less. There were two weddings, one funeral and two birthdays, one of which is my own.
12/04 Direct Link
Time just keeps rolling on. That's why, whatever needs to be done, we just have to get down to doing it. Because tomorrow, there will be other things to do. That's just putting it plainly, and having said that, it occurs to me now that there is no room for procrastination. What is important, must be done first, and we can put til later the less important. But enough of this rambling. This time next week, I will be in Melbourne, and I am all excited now, just thinking about it. I should start reading up for the road trip.
12/05 Direct Link
I cleared my medical examination this afternoon, as required by my employer, my school. I started doing this at the end of every year since I hit 62, two years ago. It doesn't matter that the government had raised the retirement age to 65. My employer has put me on a year to year contract. It was a bit difficult to accept at first, but now, it doesn't bother me one bit. In fact, it is liberating to know there is going to be an end to working for someone. There's life after retirement. We all have to move on.
12/06 Direct Link
Someone collapsed and died at a half-marathon event on Sunday, two days ago. He was just 29. We can offer neither consolation nor reparation for such a tragedy. He had done everything right. He trained, he was an experienced runner, and he had a full medical examination months before the race. It's so ironical. Someone wrote in the papers this morning that we run because we wanted to stay healthy and live. Yet, for some, they could die doing just that. I have no words of wisdom to offer. Just this: there's a thin line between life and death.
12/07 Direct Link
I don't like the way they make actors look old in movies. They color the hair grey, add wrinkles on the face and plaster on eye bags. It's not difficult to see through the make-up. Digital wizardry has produced more realistic ageing, even changing the shape of the face, the eyes and the mouth. Still, something more is needed. The lines that are painted on are never the same as those that acquired through through tears, pain and heartbreaks. Like good wine, it takes time to age. The ravages, and joy, of those years are etched on the face.
12/08 Direct Link
The city stirs in the morning, as life flows through the arteries, hundreds of economic units, pouring down subways, freeways, going about their work, almost mindlessly, instinctively.

No. I can't bear to think about the city, and about myself, that way. I am a person, an entity with life pulsing through me, regulated by an internal ethical system and external laws and social norms. I must resist being sucked into a soul-less landscape of workers and consumers. But it's difficult to be an individual in an increasingly connected ecosystem of a community of millions. It's difficult to be different.
12/09 Direct Link
We drove our guest to the farms on the outskirts of the city, places she hadn't imagined existed in our little island city. We hardly venture into these areas ourselves. Usually, it's to get to the wetlands at the end of the road, and even then, it's only when we have visitors from abroad. Yet, we often complain how built-up and densely populated we are, and how there should be more green spaces. There are these pockets of green spaces, but apparently, few people enjoy them. Soon they will make way for development, like the rest of the country.
12/10 Direct Link
Today is my nephew's wedding. It's a busy day that begins with the tea ceremony in the morning and ends with the wedding banquet at night. We gathered at his new home by 8.30 for the tea ceremony. Then, we posed for family portraits. The photographer is part of the wedding package which included rental of their wedding outfits, and photography services for ceremonies and outdoor shoots. The wedding banquet is at a hotel and comes with a free honeymoon suite for two nights. Despite the hassle, getting married is the easy part. The tough part is staying married.
12/11 Direct Link
Perhaps the worst part of a trip is the journey by plane. Like most people of ordinary means, I always fly economy. But I don't fly budget! Still the space is tight, and for the six hours I'm in the air, I will be confined to a seat just big enough for me to fill with my frame. I dreaded to think that my space would be further reduced if the passenger in front reclines his seat. Well, it turned out he didn't. Why do they make seats so narrow? And why are flights out of my country always full?
12/12 Direct Link
It is the first day of our road trip. We got in this morning, and our room would not be ready until two. The hotel allows us to deposit our luggage there while we go sightseeing. It's also my first trip to this city. It's great to mingle with the people in the streets and in the parks to feel the pulse of the city. There is so much life here. There is music, and there are street artists. The air is cool and fresh, uncharacteristically cool for this southern summer. I think I am going to like it here.
12/13 Direct Link
I used to be very impatient with people who go too much into unnecessary details in very casual conversations. For instance, some people give you a lecture on the human anatomy when you ask what the doctor say about that pain in their neck. "How's your holiday?" can elicit a day by day run down of a vacation in the Bahamas. Perhaps it's because I'm not really interested in what they have to say. I'm just trying to be nice. But these days, with so much misinformation - "fake news" - it's good to know the details and get the facts right.
12/14 Direct Link
We drove out to the Nobbies this afternoon, and watched the surfs foam and caress the rocky shores and fill the pools hollowed out by the force of water in the dark volcanic rock beneath the cliffs. Sunset would be great over the sea, but it's still a long time before that happen, and we have to go. We gave the penguin parade a miss because there were many tourists already waiting. Instead, we went back to the resort, and in the evening, after a leisurely dinner, we strolled along the deserted beach and waited for the sun to set.
12/15 Direct Link
To feed or not to feed? There is a pack of wild boars to the north of the city. Some residents have been feeding them and their numbers have grown from 10 to about 20 in two years. The authorities have culled some, and have advised against feeding them because this will make them dependent on humans for food. This will also make them less wary of humans. But some people say they will starve if nobody feeds them. This is not the wild. This is a city. Well, culling them is equally cruel. There is no easy answer here.
12/16 Direct Link
This is my fifth day here and I am still not used to the sun setting at 9 and rising at 5. It's summer in the Southern Hemisphere. Still, I am well rested, and grateful for a comfortable room last night. Today we set off for the next leg of our road trip - without the GPS! For some reason, it had died on us. I am just thankful that the next stop is a small town, and the hotel is along the only main road there. We got there by 3.40 in the afternoon following a hardcopy - a map!
12/17 Direct Link
Today, I saw the Twelve Apostles!

We checked out of our Inn at Apollo Bay before ten, and continued on the Great Ocean Road. It was a very cold and wet Saturday morning. It felt no warmer than 16 deg C. The GPS went dead yesterday and we couldn't revive it. But we were not worried. The way to Port Fairy was rather straightforward. Just keep to the B100 Freeway.

Being there where the ocean meets the land was awesome! The waves were ferocious. The cliffs and coastal stacks, arches and headlands were massive! What a sight! What an experience!
12/18 Direct Link
We woke up to clear skies at a fine warm hour of 7.30 this morning. The bed has a heater, so last night was the best sleep I had so far on this trip, almost as good as at Yering Gorge. We were very tired because yesterday's drive was very long, almost 200km in more than four hours. We stopped at scenic spots to break the journey and for coffee. Today, we'll not be taking to the road again. This little town is a good place to spend another night. We will enjoy the surf and the beautiful weather.
12/19 Direct Link
The sun sets here after 9 and rises about 5. We had the shades down so we could sleep a little longer. This morning, we drove first to Dunkeld and then to Halls Gap. We're in this beautiful National Park, popular with trekkers, but we won't be trekking because we'll be here only one night. First we went to Springband Falls, where I did another watercolor sketch while my husband trekked 0.8km to the Falls. Sketching is a profitable way to spend the time, and to enjoy the peace and tranquility. I stayed in the car because it's cold.
12/20 Direct Link
I like this day. First, we spent the morning at McKenzie Falls before leaving the Grampians. We then drove 150km to Ballarat without stopping. By the time we checked in at the hotel, it was 3.00 pm. We rested in he room the rest of the afternoon. Then at about six we went to the Bistro and enjoyed what would be the best meal yet on our trip. My husband had a tender and succulent porterhouse steak seasoned to perfection. I had the most delicious grilled Blue Cod I've ever eaten. To complete a perfect meal, we had wine.
12/21 Direct Link
Last day of our Victoria road trip. I got up at 8.15, after eight hours of deep sleep. We broke our long drive with a sleepover at Ballarat en route to Melbourne. This morning, we drive the last 100km there then spend one last nightat a hotel in Therry Street before flying home.

For me, taking a road trip in a foreign country, going places I've never been before, guided only by the GPS, is a necessary part of my education. It's an adventure, it's taking taking me out of my comfort zone, exposing me to uncertainty. It's exhilarating.
12/22 Direct Link
I had planned to do a lot during the eight hour day flight. I've packed in my carry-on bag my sketch book, a box of half-pan water-color travel set, two water-brushes and my iPad, all prepared to be quite productive inflight. The plane taxied down the runway. Yes, I could wait til we're cruising in the stratosphere. We got to 11,000m. The stratosphere. I happily took out my stuff. Then the light in the cabin went dim. The other passengers pulled the shades! I couldn't do zilch! Eight hours of mindless movies and crappy refreshments!
12/23 Direct Link
We got back from Melbourne last evening, and today, we watched on television how the police there had foiled some terrorist attacks on several important landmarks in the city. Thank God another tragedy was averted. Just a week ago, a truck ploughed into a busy Christmas market in Berlin.
We have a Christmas dinner to host tomorrow and the apartment needed to be cleaned and spruced up. At lunch we went out to get bulbs for the lights that have blown, and food for the party. It was a busy day. The vacation is indeed over. It's Christmas again!
12/24 Direct Link
The folk started arriving as early as 5.30. They brought roast beef, ham, cajun roasted chicken, barbecued ribs, log cake, wine, champagne and lots and lots of presents. It's Christmas! This year, not only did we have everyone in the family at the dinner, we had a new addition. My nephew brought his new bride! We also had a house guest and my daughter-in-law's mother, whom we had invited. Altogether, there were twenty people! As all brought food, there was enough for everyone. My elder boy bought sushi, and it was something different from the usual spread.
12/25 Direct Link
This is the morning after. After the Christmas Eve's feast. Even before the feast was over last night, my niece had already posted some shots of the gathering on Facebook. When everyone had left, it was already past 10. I had little cleaning up to do because everyone helped, and my sons, especially, had a lot of initiative and even put the leftovers away. I stayed up another hour with a glass of wine and the laptop. Even with my husband's snoring, which I could hear through my rubber earplugs, I slept through til 7.30 this morning, totally rested.
12/26 Direct Link
I opt for obscurity. I find security in being unknown. It's annoying how people talk about public figures as though they know them personally. Famous people seem to be in your face all the time, so that you get sucked into their world, or you suck them into yours, and then they become part of your life without ever crossing paths with you. You talk about them with your friends, with information fed you by the media. Once the media got you hooked, the stories take on a life of their own, and the line between fact and fiction blurs.
12/27 Direct Link
This time next week, school would have started. I guess it's time to prepare myself to go back to work. The first thing to do would be check the emails. I have deliberately not synched the workplace email with my phone so that I can take my mind off work when I knock off. But what is this? It says my password had expired and I can't log in!

OK. I tried. Back to enjoying what's left of the hols. It is pathetic to feel this way about my work, and yet stuck to the same job for forty years!
12/28 Direct Link
Carrie Fisher has passed away, age, 60. She had a heart attack while on a flight and had been in ICU. She never regained consciousness. CNN showed a list of famous people who had passed away this year, and it's already a long list with three more days to go. Last week, it was George Michael. Carrie Fisher is best remembered as Princess Leia in Star Wars. If she had not landed that role, she would have passed into obscurity, or maybe not. But things would have been different, even for us, because she was part of my childhood memories.
12/29 Direct Link
I started following Natgeotravel on Instagram only a few months ago, and each day I look forward to their posts, to enjoy glimpses of places at their most beautiful moments- sunrise and sunset. I also enjoy moments of nature at play captured through the lenses of expert photographers. For instance, I love those penguins and polar bears shots against the velvety snowy ground, turquoise sea and cerulean blue skies. Why are there still so many unhappy people when our eyes can see these vivid images of an exceedingly beautiful world? I am eternally grateful for what my senses can enjoy.
12/30 Direct Link
This is the day we all go back to work really. Classes will begin next Tuesday, on the 3rd of January. Today, we get our teaching schedules and staff meetings. The principal started the morning with the school's vision and mission and we understand he has to do it, although none of us will remember it after he's done. In a nutshell, our mission is not just to impart subject content but to build people of character. We know that. While many were busy noting all this down on their devices- ya, right - my friend next to me was doodling.
12/31 Direct Link
Loud music blares over the sea of humanity, the words of the songs indistinct over the cacophony - the screaming and shouting of the revelers. At the stroke of midnight, the skies lit up in bursts of resplendent colors, as fireworks usher in the New Year.

It's the same all over the world, beginning with the countries along Longitude 0, followed by those behind, hour after hour for a whole day.

It's the same every year. Despite war, disease and deprivation, the skies lit up in defiance, or rather in celebration, that another year is over. Next year will be better.