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Monday, January 26, 2009

The race against time, greed and ourselves.

2008 was an incredible year, which whizzed by at a speed I would have formerly thought of as impossible. Sadly, since our 16 month trip around-the-world was completed on Christmas Day 2007, I have not written a solitary blog. There seems to be no time. Or……is there? Am I getting older? Is the world spinning faster? Am I procrastinating? Simply making excuses? Upon reflection, the answer still eludes me, but I am aware that I have neglected both a passion and something which I love doing….telling many a story in the only way I know how to: with honesty, intensity, integrity and passion, even if at times blunt! You either love it or hate it; it’s my truth and my reality…..the world according to Ombi! It’s been a long time between breaks, but I am back on board, committed to sharing my love of both travel and the people who live in our fascinating world. With excuses, aside, I am ready to say……”let the show begin”!


Before I lunge into it, I want to thank Alex for his amazing photos. What I do with words, he does with photos. Someone asked me only today, “How long does Alex take to frame those shots?” The answer is that most of the shots (99.9% of the photos used on our blog have been taken by Alex) come from the heart, and are the result of a passion for the people and cultures of this world. The photos speak for themselves……my words describe Alex’s photos and his photos describe my words. And in both cases, they describe OUR world. The world as seen, loved and admired by Ombi and Alex. Thank you Alex for sharing and understanding my world. I know that understanding your world, has shaped me into the person I am today.

Since that long journey, we have been on two shorter trips; back to Thailand in May/ June 2008 and Samoa, in Polynesia, in Dec08/ Jan 09. Both trips were for approximately 12 days. The Thailand trip was in order to take a “break” before beginning my new job in June, and the Samoa trip was, well………………..aren’t I due for a break 6 months into my new job anyway?
I want to say, “I will give you a condensed version of this year’s events”, but as Alex would respond, “There is NO condensed version with Ombi!” OK, that’s true, so bear with me, this entry may be skewered and I may go off on a tangent, but I will try and pin point some highlights as well as low lights.




Coming back on Christmas Day (2007) was fun, as we had not seen our family for so long. My cousin Moz was down from Mildura, with his partner Marie. Rumour had it that they guessed we were arriving. Dad, affectionately known as Doobie, Doobs, Doo Bee or the Doobster, had told my brother and sister-in-law, Karen, that he was running a little late for lunch, as he had to pick “something” up! Yeh, pick something up on Christmas Day! Super sleuths Moz, Marie and Karen all smelt a rat! Having said that, it was great to see their faces as I knocked on their door and then asked if I could join them for Christmas lunch.


After a month of talk-to-the-hand, we do not want a job yet, our search began in earnest in February 2008. Finding a job was proving to be a hard slog, as we both wanted something we were passionate about and really wanted to do. Beggars cannot be choosers, I know, but luckily, we were not beggars and so had the luxury of choosing. Having said that, in our quest for the ideal job, which took several months, we also realised what a tough world it must be out there for those who cannot choose, due to a multitude of mitigating circumstances. Alex was first; he got a part time job at St Vincent’s Institute, employed by Melbourne University. That was back in April 2008. In this job he works as an IT Officer, and works mostly with Apple Mac computers. What do you mean you don’t know what an Apple Mac is? Are you a pleb? Congratulations, you have joined my rank! You know, it’s that fancy schmancy system that does not attract viruses, is “easier” to use and has people like Alex enthralled and waxing lyrical about. We should ALL have one! But it’s so much easier to work with the devil you know, that’ll be the PC mate! One thing led to another, and a couple of months later, Alex got another part-time job, also with Melbourne University, within the Faculty of Law. Both faculties are in the City/ Carlton, and easily accessible by transport. Wednesday is his crossover day, where during his lunch break, he walks from one faculty to the other. These two jobs effectively constitute full time work. Alex is enjoying it and learning a lot. He won a scholarship (through Melbourne University) to attend a week at the Apple Macworld conference and expo in San Francisco, which he attended in January 2009 (more on this later).

I, in the meantime, was looking, looking, looking, and trying a number of different avenues to find my dream job, or at least something I felt strongly about. After a few months I was in Hay’s Recruitment in the City, when someone told me about this job at Vision Australia (Vision Australia assists people that are vision impaired and/ or blind). The role was that of a BDM or Business Development Manager, whose role it would be to bring work into a factory whose workers were blind or vision impaired. It certainly sounded like something I was capable of doing, and I knew that my strength also lay in the conviction of wanting to help people. I pursued this and was finally offered an interview, and subsequently the job. I was to start on June 10th. Of course I was excited, but……..you all know how much I hate shopping (true!) and I figured that I now needed a semi-corporate wardrobe. The thought of spending a week, or at least a few days, on a Melbourne shopping spree was making me feel nauseous, so I came up with an idea……How about we go shopping in Thailand? I am sure I answered my own question before I had even asked Alex, but needless to say, he obliged. So, with a trip organised with some of our Qantas Frequent Flyer points, we were off!

This trip was only to be in Bangkok, and whilst beaches were not on the agenda, good Thai food, massages, manicures, pedicures and facials were, oh……..and of course shopping! As we had only just returned from there in December of 2007, we knew exactly where to stay – our tried and true Lamphu House, and where to go shopping! We also managed to catch up with Pong and Link (you may recall that we went o their wedding last December), which was lovely.

From June until December 2008, the hours seemed to blur into days, the days into weeks and the weeks into months. I am not sure exactly how this happened, but it did, and with this “lack of time” came the incapacity to indulge in my blog writing. Work seemed to be taking up such a huge chunk of my time, and Alex’s too. Full time workers, 9 to 5, washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning, late nights. Where could we buy or borrow more time? Was there a shop that sold it? In my case, my learning curve in the first few months was steep, and this in itself often left me exhausted. This was actually the case for Alex too. By September, I knew that we would have a week and a half off over the Christmas break, and so, of course with Alex on board, I started to look at another overseas getaway destination. It needed to be not too expensive and not too far, as we were already planning on going to Ecuador and the USA to see Alex’s mum next year (2009). So, after some research, we decided on Samoa in Polynesia . Why? Well, for a start, we’d never been there, so that would add another country onto our ever-expanding “countries we have been to” list. Secondly, it did not appear to be touristy…and you all know how much I LOVE spots that have been swamped by the masses (sorry, being facetious again). Thirdly, and most importantly, take a look at some pics of those azure skies and turquoise waters! The only thing that seemed to be missing from those pics were….. Alex and I! Samoa……here we come!

2008 was also a transitional year for me, and I found myself doing a great big cull! Out with the old and in with the new. This was not limited to merely things but also people. The reality is that some things simply have a use by date, and that is alright. Sometimes it’s necessary to move on, which often entails leaving both people and things behind. My big lesson was not to feel bad about it, and that actually, it is not even necessarily someone’s “fault”. Having said that, as I get older and debatably wiser, I understand that that is all OK. Some people come into our lives for a short period, others for a longer time. It’s all good! But we need to move forward with tenacity. New beginnings are good for all of us! Linda, Karen and Jesus, I thank the three of you for coming into our lives, and I know it was not by chance – Linda is the Melbourne voice of South America and manages a highly successful band called Inka Marka ; Karen is the loca we love and who is married to Jesus….who is ECUADORIAN! What do you mean, don’t get excited!!!! There are only a handful of Ecuadorians in Melbourne and Karen and I are married to 2 of them! We joke that the boys represent the Melbourne Chapter of the Ecuadorian Society! Through Linda and Karen we have met a multitude of other amazing people, mostly who are either South American/Latino or are married to one! These people help keep my passion of the wonderful world we live in alive!


Greed and contempt, I have left this till last. It is a concept which has both frightened me and distressed me in the last year! I saw it whilst I travelled (and eluded to it in many a blog entry), but once I returned and “settled” it seemed both more obvious and transparent. On so many occasions I have wanted to scream and yell, “Stop the Madness!” How could someone’s biggest problem or hurdle be an extra kilo of weight, or a haircut which was too short, or being upset that their plasma TV was only 30centimetres by 30 centimetres when it could and should be much bigger (which undoubtedly makes it better, no?). I found myself asking myself…..”So, once we have 4 cars, 3 houses, 2 holiday homes, 7 TVs and 30 pairs of shoes…where do we go to from here?” Bigger is better, bigger is better, bigger is better, bigger is better! Are we on a one way street to self destruction or implosion? This is really a topic I am fervent about, and I know that I could go on forever.

On the 4th of January 2009, the day after we returned from Samoa, Alex took off for the USA. A few months earlier, he won a scholarship through Melbourne University to attend the Apple Macintosh World Conference in San Francisco (in layman’s terms he was off to learn more about the bits and bobs around and surrounding and pertaining to Apple Macs). Whilst not quite a techno- phobe , I could be described as techno-slexic , so needless to say, I was doubly impressed when I found out that he’d been selected. After San Fran, Alex flew to New York to see his mum and sister, Angie, who live there. The last time we saw them was in August 2007, at the beginning of our big trip, so needless to say, they were all ecstatic. I cannot say that I find the minus Celsius temperatures alluring. Give me a beach over snow boots any day! Alex learnt a lot at the conference and had a week of quality time with his beautiful mother. (I think I whinged more about the minus 14 degree days than he did). They both thoroughly enjoyed their time together.


So, that’s it! The “condensed” version of 2008......and a smidgeon of how we began 2009.....

NOTE: I will not be writing up a specific entry on our mid-year Thailand trip, because as I explained, it was really just a little diversion to do some shopping…..and get some decent food……and, yeh well, a few other things as well! But, the Samoa blog will be coming soon.

“Uncertainty and expectations are the joys of life. Security is an insipid thing” – William Cooper (poet).

Dedication: To life itself! Cheers! Thanks for a wonderful one!


(Photos:1.- Lto R: James (nephew),Alex & Ben (godson), cooling down, Southbank, Jan 2008. 2.- Man blowing bubbles, Sovereign Hill, Ballarat, early 2008. 3.- Riding with the locals on a bus, Samoa, Dec 2008. 4.-Family excursion to Sovereign Hill. L to R: Fuzz (my brother), Kazz (my sister-in-law), Dino (Dad), myself and James. 5.- I still call Australia home, and in a caffe latte too! 6.- MBK Shopping Centre, Bangkok. Now that's what I call a place to shop! June 2008. 7.- L to R: Alex, Ombi, Pong and Link. Near the infamous Khao San Rd, Bangkok, June 2008. 8.- Samoa here we come...the famous blow holes on the island of Savai'i, Samoa, Dec 2008. 9.- At the Chilean Festival, Lto R:Yael (originally from Bolivia) Linda (Ms South America, Melbourne), Karen (married to an Ecuadorian), and me! second half of 2008. 10.- Food for thought....aboriginal mural on St Georges Rd, on the Thornbury/ Preston border. 11.- Alex, his mum Rocio, and sister Angie, in New York, Jan 2009.)