Saturday, December 31, 2011

To do list

Each new year I try to come up with a list of things to do during the next twelve months. Not your every day stuff but things that I normally wouldn't do, but would be much the wiser for having done so. Kind of like a yearly bucket list without actually kicking the bucket.

I've done things like getting a pedicure, buying a bucket of chicken and build a lamp and turn an old tv into a fish tank.

This year, I've been a bit slack. Partially because of laziness. Partially because I've been overseas for most of the year and have seen and done a lot of things that I only dreamt of. However, there has been one on my list that I have been wanting to tick off for a while: RUN TO WORK.

At the time I wrote this list, I lived 4km from where I worked. I now live 8km away. I hate walking anywhere, never mind running. In fact, the last time I ran anywhere was probably to get the toilet in time. I haven't run any kind of distance in over 4 years!

With today being the 31st December 2011, it was my last chance to tick 'run to work' off my list. So I decided to do it. (Well, to be honest, I had to do it because I told a lot of people that I could and they didn't believe me) I had to dig around for some running shoes and shorts but this morning, I was ready to go.

Before I even got out of the door, I ran into some issues. Where the heck do people carry things when they run?! I had to get my keys and phone to work and reluctantly decided to carry them. How do I time myself? I used to have a heart rate monitor but it is long gone and I was keen to know my time. So I stole my wife's watch instead. It was also an extremely weird feeling to wear ankle socks instead of high cuff cycling socks.

I set off on my run and had to quickly adjust to being on the walking side of the footpath rather than the cycling side. After 2km my legs started to hurt. Aerobically, I was fine but the impact of running destroyed my legs. I decided to walk 200m then run 2km. By 5km, this turned into walk 200m and run 1km.

48min and 8km later, I arrived at work. I put compression socks on and spent most of the day sitting and avoiding the single step that exists at work because it hurt my legs. I thought about the run home and contemplated swallowing my pride and catching a bus home. But I couldn't let the doubters win.

After work, I put the runners back on and head home. My legs were so sore that I had to walk the downhill sections because the impact hurt too much. 42min and 8km later I made it home!

I am currently sitting with my legs elevated and a pair of Skins on. It hurts to stand up. It hurts to walk. It hurts to sit down again. For some reason, my arms hurt! I didn't even use them!!!

I'm not going to lie, I have buyers remorse. I'm ticking 'run to work' off my list and next year's list will definitely have no running activities.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Winner

Christmas is fast approaching and I have given my wife her present a couple of days early. For the seventh time, I have given Emily a bike as a gift.

The first was around five years ago for Emily's birthday. I got my hands on a cheap hybrid that Emily rode to work each day and the bike did about a thousand times its value in work. By the time it moved on, it was well and truly 'used'.



For the next bike I purchased a old school retro ladies bike for $26 from eBay. It was covered in rust and unridable, but after a coat of paint, some new wheels and various other parts, 'Old Red' was born for Emily's christmas present. It is only good for going down to the shops but turns a lot of heads on the way.



The next bike was a poorly thought out road bike that was the wrong size and eventually bastardised for parts. Its life was short-lived and not enjoyed. It simply reinforced Emily's distain for road bikes and put a speed bump in my plans to get her to ride one.

Next was another retro custom build for Emily's birthday. I took an old track frame and build some colour matching wheels to produce 'The Folger'. Emily still loves cruising the bike paths on her single speed and little did she know that it was all part of my plan to get her used to those skinny, high pressure tyres.



The next bike was a dual-suspension mountain bike. Emily hit the trails with a surprising lack of fear, riding over and into pretty much everything. I wasn't allowed to clean her moutain bike as Emily didn't want to look like a rookie on a new bike whenever we went out. It had to have just the right amount of mud stuck to it so she could get some respect.



The 6th bike was another birthday present in the form of a commuter. It was back to the road bike sized wheels and lack of suspension to prepare Emily for a proper road bike. It has since been named 'Nessi' and is her regular transport to work, complete with mud guards and pannier racks.



So this leads to bike number 7 and the final step in my plan. It took a lot longer than anticipated but Emily is finally on a road bike that fits her. She was most concerned with the colour but is thankfully happy with it. After a short ride this morning to experience the typical Friday morning roadie ride to the coffee shop, she has named it 'The Ballerina' because it is so light and dainty to ride.



Unknown to Emily, the next step in my plan is waiting downstairs in the garage in the form of clipless pedals and shoes. She claims that they make her feel claustrophobic and she doesn't want to wear them. We'll see....

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Foo

The first CD that I ever bought was Metallica; Ride the Lightning. The second was Live; Throwing Copper. Much to my mother's distain, I used listened to a lot of rock music. After finishing school, I used to rock out to Pearl Jam, The Chili Peppers, Cold Chisel and even the lyrically challenged Nickelback. It was all the rage, long before Britney even did it the first time.



Despite this passion for phat guitar solos and long, unruly hair, I never actually went to a rock concert. The closest I came was seeing a disappointing performance from Tame Impala, where I couldn't understand a word they sang.

Last weekend, for my 30th birthday, my friend Oliver got his hands on some tickets to the Foo Fighters concert. I'll have to admit, it was a while ago since I listened to them... like Monkey Wrench a while ago, but I was keen to see them in action.

As I was getting ready to go, it dawned on me: I have never been to a rock concert and have no idea waht is appropriate attire or trend. The only thing I have to go by is cliche movies about the 70's and that Mark Wahlburg movie, Rockstar. I don't own any black leather pants or hair extensions! So where does one find out about these important life dilemas? The same place you find out anything else you want; Google.



So I typed in 'what to wear to a Foo Fighters concert' and it seems I am not alone in my conundrum. There was a plethora of websites telling me that I couldn't go wrong with a pair of jeans and a black t-shirt. So that is what I did. I just wish that the website would have told me that it would get ridiculously hot in a stadium full of people and shorts may be a better option!



The concert was at the Gold Coast, in the Metricon Stadium. Tenacious D was the support act and by the time Jack Black had finished his Tribute, the stadium was packed. With such a vast space on the field to fill, I didn't know what to expect. Maybe a moshpit at the front and a field of Woodstock-style rockers waving their arms around. Being an anti sober-dancer and on an alcohol hiatus after my recent experience in China, I stood in the field awkwardly for 4 hours, like Ricky Bobby not knowing what to do with my hands.



I'll admit that they played some songs that I have never heard before as well as the old favourites. It brought back memories of when I used to rock out with a beer and a cigarette while Black Sabbath played in the background. Now, it's hard to find 10 minutes a week in which to get funky. Since the concert, I have since put the old Pearl Jam CDs back into circulation and have done some reminiscing. All I have to do now is complain about the youth of today and say that the music they listen to has no meaning, not like the music I used to listen to back in my day. I am getting old...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sobriety

I haven't told many people about this, mainly because it's not a shining moment in my life.

After the last race of the season in China we went to the closing ceremony. At each table, they had bottles of a traditional Chinese drink. I'm not sure exactly what it's called but it smells like metho and is 51% alcohol. I had a few shots and sampled the local beer to celebrate the end of the last race of the season and finally unwind.

After the ceremony, we headed into town. I didn't think I would need my phone for anything so I left it at the hotel. I grabbed about $60 in Chinese money so I couldn't spend too much and my Australian driver's license for ID.

We found a club and someone suggested we get a bottle of vodka. Four bottles later and I don't remember a thing. When I came to, I was being pushed into the garden outside by about 6 Chinese guys. One stood on me while the others took everything out of my pockets including my Australian drivers license and my wedding ring off my finger.

Luckily, my team mate Simon was going past and saw me. He yelled and everyone ran for it. After helping me into a taxi, he found our manager further up in the garden and he had suffered the same fate.

The next day was hell. I could not move my head and I still had to pack my bike before we caught a flight that afternoon.

I struggled to take the wheels off my bike and had to lay down several times in between. I slept for as long as I could before getting on the bus. I slept on the bus to the airport. I slept in the airport terminal while everyone argued with the airline about weight limits. I slept the entire flight. I slept on the bus to the next hotel. I slept once we checked in until dinner.

During the entire day, I said only a handful of words and even they were just grunts. I couldn't eat anything the entire day and barely managed to keep dinner down.

I have since decided to give up drinking for a while and have not touched a drop since that night. It's been just over 6 weeks and so far nothing bad has happened to me since I quit. Coincidence? Probably

Drive it like its not yours

I was trawling through some photos recently and came across a video. It is from the tour of Hainan, after I crashed and was able to spend the day in the team car following the race.




Deon had found himself in the early break away and was around 6 minutes up the road, ahead of the peleton. The day was very hot and humid with rolling hills. This caused a problem. Deon needed water and the support of the car, but so did the rest of the team back in the bunch! If we were behind the peleton and Deon called for the car, we would have to get to him as fast as we could.

This meant that Markus would plant his foot to the floor and drive like a rally driver until he reached Deon. The video below shows one of these trips across to the break. As we turn the corners with spectators lining the streets, you can hear the tyres squeeling as slide around them and the engine reving to its limit. When you hear a beeping noise, these is the car telling us that we are going over 120kph.



To be honest, I was hanging onto the seat for dear life, as I was sure the car would slide out on every corner. By the end of the stage, we actually had to get a new car because the gear box packed it in and wouldn't change out of 3rd!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Expensive tastes

With a few hours to kill while waiting for a flight at Singapore airport, I decided to look into some shops. Not the usual shops that fill the Indooroopilly Shopping Town, but shops for products that are associated with the rich and famous. Brands that make handbags for Paris Hilton's dog that have names with 5 consonants in a row in them. Underwear that costs more than any entire outfit that I own and watches that featured in Snoop Dog's latest film clip.

Two questions came to my mind... Who the hell has that kind of money to waste on stuff like that? And even if they do, on what planet is buying any of that stuff cost effective or worthwhile?!

After walking around for a while, here are my top 5 over priced items.

5. A mont blanc black leather iPhone pouch for only $299. It would have to be made from the skin of an endangered albino rhinoceros to cost that much.



4. Beats headphones for $799. If you want to walk around like you are ready to DJ at a night club at any moment then these are for you. However, at that price, you could also walk around with a full surround sound home theatre system on your head.



3. Some sort of brand name wallet (or handbag) for $399. There was a number of different brands at this price but I really cannot justify spending more money on a wallet than the amount of cash it will ever hold.



2. A limited edition, 1 of 50 Mont Blanc watches for only $45000. Mont blanc had a plethora of ridiculously priced items but this one took the cake. Would you wear the average person's annual salary on your wrist?



1. My number one over priced item is Vertu mobile phones, varying in price up to $35000. Functionally, they are about as high-tech as a Nokia 3310 without snake II and the only benefit to their enormous size is that it can fit more diamonds on it to jack up the price. Design and style-wise they look like they have been decorated by a 13 year old school girl with a pink highlighter and a bedazzler gun. If someone ever pulled one of these out to answer a call I'd swear they bought a phone case from Diva.



Maybe it's because I have spent so much time this year in countries where fakes are so easy to purchase or maybe it's because all of my friends would just assume they were fake even if I did own the real thing, but how can anyone possibly justify purchasing this stuff?

Most of the stores didn't have any people in them, but then again, they probably only have to sell one item a month to cover their costs!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Fiesta!

On the 25th of November every year, Carcar has the celebration of saint Catherine's fiesta. It is a festival that embraces family, food and friends. There is a parade, performances and shows each day leading up to the festival but the highlight is on the 25th. 



Those that can afford to, prepare enough food to feed a small army and invite everyone else to come to their house and eat. 



You can invite whoever you like from your family and friends to the checkout chick at the local supermarket. You may only ask 10 people to come but end up with 30 people arriving. Do that in Australia and you will end up with a thousand drunk teenagers on your front lawn.



Towards the end of the night, everyone ends up sitting around with a full stomach. Eventually, the karaoke machines get fired up and the neighborhood sounds like Australian Idol rehearsals. 

For the next few days, I have a feeling that we are going to have to eat all of the food that is left over from the festival. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A man & his chicken

When I first arrive here in Carcar, I noticed that there were a lot of people carrying a rooster around. These roosters were magnificent specimens that seemed to be cared for better than most of the dogs I had seen. 

People would carry their roosters to the markets, to lunch and I have even seen some people on the bus with their rooster. The roosters are often tied up outside by a small rope to their leg or they get their own small shelter and roost. 



At first I just assumed they were pets because EVERYONE has one but it turns out that they are for cock fighting. Despite being illegal in Australia, here in the Philippines it is a popular past time and many take their roosters to gamble on fights. The roosters are often tied up outside or in small cages in all weather conditions to apparently build strength and stamina. 

Today I saw a cock fighting arena. They are small circular buildings that look like a miniature timber colosseum. Fortunately, they are not known as 'cockrings' but rather 'cockpits'. I would like to go and check it out when it is in action but I also don't won't to upset any animal rights groups either.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Proportions

Philippino people are not tall. When I'm standing in a crowd, I can pretty much look out over the top of everyone without any obstructions. It's fantastic if you are trying to watch a show but it also has its downsides. If I lose my mum in a department store I can't find her because she is shorter than the shelving. When I look around I could be forgiven for thinking no one is actually in the store until they walk out from behind a shelf.

Being taller also means that my feet are bigger than the average Philippino. This makes it extremely difficult to find a pair of shoes that fit. I went to around 12 separate shoe stalls here in Carcar and the biggest shoe I could find was a size 9. Carcar is renowned for having quality leather shoes and I was beginning to think that I would never find a pair.

At the end of the street, I discovered that there is a shoe factory. It certainly doesn't look like a shoe factory but there a few people inside with sheets of rubber soles and leather, working hard everyday to produce shoes. Nearby, the factory had a shop and to my surprise, they had shoes in my size! Not a great selection but at least they had some!

For just over $10, I picked up a pair of leather slides. A bargain compared to what you pay in Australia. My next goal now is to find a pair of jeans with legs that are long enough!

Philippino umbrella

Yesterday we took a trip to a natural mineral spring waterfall. It was a bit of a trek up a trail but well worth it for two main reasons.

1. It was about 10 degrees cooler in the forest so I was happy to feel the relief.

2. You could swim at the waterfall and the water was absolutely crystal clear and cool. Unlike the ocean which I'm pretty sure was hotter than on the land.

Unfortunately, on this particular day, I decided to break out a brand new pair of pluggers. I'm not usually one to wear thongs so after the trek up to the falls and back, I had some epic red spots and blisters. Thongs are not good hiking shoes.

At the falls I was able to jump in and take a swim. The lack of swimming pools and swimming lessons in the Philippines was evident in the stack of life vests and number of tourists wearing them and clinging to the ropes that were tied across the water. They had looks of terror on their faces as they went for a 'swim'.

On the way back from the falls, the inevitable happened... it rained. Not like sun shower sprinkle, but tropical forest in rainy season rain. Full on but for only about 10mins.

We had no umbrellas with us so we did the next best thing in the Philippines. Find the nearest banana tree and tear off a leaf. They are huge and make surprisingly good umbrellas.

The downside is, the sap from the tree will leave a brown stain on your clothes if you get it on yourself. I learnt that the hard way.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My next car

I have found my next car. They are everywhere here in the Philippines but we do have them back home in Australia and now I want one. I want my next car to be one of these...

The Suzuki Mini Truck gets laughed at a lot back home and why wouldn't it? I mean, look at it! It's got nothing going on aesthetically and with only 3 cylinders, it's doesn't have power to burn. But here, they get a bit of a makeover!

They take the standard Suzuki Mini Truck and turn them into Optimus Prime.

Huge body kits are bolted on with loud paint jobs and an even louder stereo. They strap on spotlights and aerials where ever possible and the rear is converted for carrying passengers.

You can hear (and see) the mini trucks coming from a mile away. Not because the engine is so loud but because there is about ten sub woofers thumping in the back.

Imagine if I could bring one of these home. It would be awesome. I could fit about 5 bikes in the back or 10 people. Problem is, the three cylinders means that they don't go very fast at all.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mobile Bakery

Have you ever been out on a ride and desperately needed food? Normally, when I am in this situation, I look for the nearest bakery. I am so hungry that when I get to one, I think it is the best bakery I have ever been to, only to discover that it isn't so good once I've eaten. Well, what if the bakery could come to you?

I have been out in rides here in the Philippines, it what I thought was the middle of no where when a someone with a bicycle selling bread rolls past. They usually ring a bell or beep a horn to let you know that they have baked goods to sell. Just this morning, I picked up some chocolate cake and sweet buns by simply walking out into the street.

Having mobile bakeries would be a great idea back home. There would be no need to race to the cafe every morning to ensure you get a seat or you could stop where ever you want and just wait for one to roll by.

The only thing is, they would have to figure out a way to strap a coffee machine to the bike before it would be of any use in Australia.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Shopping centre

If you need anything in Australia, you just head down to the shopping centre and you will more than likely find it there. So what is the equivalent of a shopping centre here in Carcar? Thats the Carcar City Markets.

It certainly doesn't look the same but it is where everybody goes to buy their food and pretty much anything else you can imagine. From chicken heads to fake Rayban sunglasses to dried fish to garden tools. They have anything you could need.

One big different between here and Australia is the prices. For $10 you can easily do you groceries and have money left over. For example, the fake Rayban sunglasses alone cost a measly $1.35! And the taxi ride to get to the markets in the first place is $0.18 per person!

You can also barter with these prices and get want you want for cheaper. Sometimes, I forget what I am doing and realize its not worth bargaining to save 50 cents on something that is already ridiculously cheap. I tried to get some sunglasses for cheaper before I realized that they coat the equivalent of less than a gold coin back home!

Temple of Doom

If you go to a cemetery in Australia, the atmosphere is quite serene. If you didn't know any better, you could think that you were in a well groomed park rather than a cemetery. Yesterday we went to the cemetery here in Carcar to visit my Grandmother's grave who passed away 4 years ago. It was a very different experience. 

When you first arrive, the road leading into the cemetery is lined with stalls selling everything you could possibly need including flowers, candles and even head stones. 



As we headed into the cemetery, a couple of kids followed us. I assumed they were simply going in the same direction. When we arrived at the grave, they began to help sweep and tidy the area. Mum asked why they weren't at school and they said that they had no money or food, so we tipped them well for their cleaning service!



As I looked around the cemetery, I began to notice something. The pieces of concrete that I thought were stepping stones were in fact pieces of broken head stones and when I looked carefully, I could see bones laying around. 



It turns out that this is quite normal. If a body I buried in a public tomb, after 5 years the bones are removed and placed in a small concrete box. These concrete boxes were everywhere throughout the cemetery and after years and years, many of them are neglected and broken. Their contents spill out and pieces of the boxes have ended up being used as stepping stones. 



It was very Indiana Jones-ish with skulls and bones laying around the tomb like graves. I was waiting to stumble on the temple of doom.

 



Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Partay

After an absence of over 18 years, my mum organized a bit of a celebration for all of her family and friends in her home town of Car Car. As my 30th birthday was also a couple of days before hand, she decided to call it my birthday party. 

She organized a pig on the spit and everyone fought for the best bit of the crackling. I met cousins and other relatives for the first time in my life as well as a plethora of my mother's old school friends. I tried to get some dirt on what my mum was like at school but everyone's lips were sealed. 



Not everyone there spoke English so for a lot of the night I was simply trying to figure out what was going on. I would listen to my mum have a conversation and every now and then I would hear my name followed by laughter or some other response. I still don't know what she said about me!

Sometimes my mum would forget that I can't speak Philippino and ask me a question or tell me to do something in her native tongue. I stare at her blankly until she realizes what is happening. 

Despite this, toward the end of the night, there was one word that I did understand... karaoke! I'm pretty sure karaoke is a Philippino past-time and pretty much every house has a karaoke machine. So when someone started mentioning it, I quickly hid and declined any requests for an attempt.  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

You know you're old when...

In the Philippines, as a gesture of respect to their elders, the younger people hold the hand of those older and touch it to their forehead. It is known as 'pagmamano' and is sign of respect to those usually around 15 years older and family elders.

When I first arrived I was confused as to whether I should follow the tradition and do the same to those older than me. I refrained as I wasn't sure if I would offend someone or simply do it wrong.

I watched as my cousins greeted their aunts and uncles in this manner and wondered if we would treat our elderly different in Australia if we did the same thing. Then something happened to me...

I was meeting one particular cousin for the first time and reached out to shake his hand. He then took my hand and touched it to his forehead. How old does he think I am!!! Am I really his 'elder'???

You know you're old when...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Tropical

The town that my mother is from is called Carcar, 40km south of Cebu city in the Philippines. It's a small, tropical island with few roads but a lot of coconut and banana trees everywhere. I feel like I'm in one of those remote tropical villages in a James Bond movie.

At this time of year, it's not summer but it is damn hot. They tell me that the temperature doesn't fluctuate much throughout the year but November is part of the rainy season so the humidity is up. It is so hot in fact, that I literally, cannot go outside between 11am and 4pm. Within 15 minutes I look like someone has thrown a bucket of water on me as my shirt is soaked in sweat and I struggle to hold my composure. Imagine the hottest day in Cairns... then double it.

Just today, we walked down the road to watch a motocross competition. After only 10 mins of watching, my shirt was soaked and I had to head back, jump under the hose and sit in front of the fan. After 30 years of acclimating to Australia, I cannot handle the heat.

So now I have to limit my movements during the day to an air-conditioned bedroom or the near by air-conditioned shopping mall. What really blows my mind is that there are some people walking around in jeans and a jacket and even some with a beanie on! If I was wearing that I reckon I would probably die.