Munich Street Art Tour

Munich has some pretty impressive art galleries, I have visited them, and found them, well, lacking a little spice. The galleries themselves did not feel like they were making a social commentary, just providing a home. I think it is the anti-authoritarian Australian in me that finds something far too institutional in art galleries. Although they are not expensive to get into, it seems that the art in in those galleries have lost their message a little. We uphold the Arts as a precious free source of expression, and yet within a gallery it seems to lose its place in society. As if it is no longer living.

In juxtaposition to those galleries, qhilst visiting Munich these past few times, and wandering among its streets, I started to notice these little, cute, expressions of freedom. Animals, flowers and lovers in the concrete jungle.

 

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These pictures were spotted just wandering around the North East of Munich, except the bottom right picture which is hanging on Julia’s wall! I had to include it as an example all artists can aspire to. However, if you want a more thorough exploration of Munich street art there are some route maps available on the web.  You may want to check out:

– Art and Culture trails

– Legal walls

It strikes me that GeoCaching and graffiti artists should get together some-time.

Team building in Lesotho

The Lesotho team spent a few days in January developing a new strategy and better understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

With a combination of challenges, including rope swings, and bridges, and spaghetti bridge building, Heather got our creative juices flowing. The two days culminated with some intense brainstorming sessions which generated in excess of 100 ideas for the team to investigate back at the office.

These type of events always bring surprises and help us reset some of our basic expectations. People that you wouldn’t expect to be scared of a dog or a rope climb struggle, people you think might give up often persevere. These events help us recognise that people are dynamic, intricate and often have complex motivations for why they do what they do.

Hope you enjoy the video

Catch me if you can!

In the past, I have been lucky with an upgrade or two. This week has been a long one of flights, stop-overs, furry teeth, dry eyes, long nights, and odd sleeping patterns. Thankfully, trans-Atlantic flights are not so common for me. Needless to say, going into a 2 day weekend workshop on the back of 50 hrs flying and annual donor reporting, I have been hoping and asking for an upgrade all week.

I got lucky on the second leg of the return trip, with a seat move to premium plus economy from Washington to Zurich.The truth is though, that you make your own luck. So when we boarded late in Zurich and started to pass through a mostly empty business class, I thought a self appointed upgrade was a good idea.

I really thought I would get kicked out, so didn’t get too comfortable. Still, I figured the 30 min until after take off would secure me some precious laptop battery charge time and then they would probably discover me when taking meal orders. Not so, and the champaign, prawns, cheese platter, gnocchi and gelato came and went and I reclined my Swiss sky bed out flat for a much needed nap.

Fortune truly does favour the brave.

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Beer festivals!

Summer is beer season, and this summer past I was able to celebrate the season by attending three boutique beer festivals! Happy days of sunshine, crisp brews, camping, brisk morning swims to clear the cobwebs, and delicious festival food. A lot of reminders of another day, and other times at the Australian Boutique Beer Festival with the boys. Speaking of which, I hear that the 10th Annual Australian Beer Festival to be held in Octob er this year  will also celebrate the Australian Hotels 100th Birthday!

Of the beer festivals attended this season, the first was the Komo Caves Glamping and Beer Festival in Lesotho, the second the Sands Boutique Beer Festival in Johannesburg and the third was the very popular Clarens Boutique Beer Festival. All were good in their own way, The Komo Caves setting was stunning, facilities impressive and the partying the most passionate of the lot, with revelers dancing through until at least 2am. The Sands was convenient, being in Sandton and their was a pool, which earns bonus points all ways. Clarens was the classiest, with the most and best beers, good food, and a easy, laid back setting with great organisation. Real shame about the rain this year.

Enjoy the video and pics

The Komo Caves Beer festival, Lesotho

The Sands, Sandton Beer Festival Gallery

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The Clarens Boutique Beer Festival

 

Qulalane* Falls, Makhaleng River, Lesotho

At the end of February I was lucky enough to shown one of my colleagues favorite places in Lesotho, Qulalane Falls. The only condition was that I take her on the back of the bike over the two mountain passes that had to be crossed to get to the hike starting point . We set out early from Maseru on a sunny Saturday, with two other friends joining in a car to make a convoy of it.

The pictures below show the hike in, and the falls. What they do not show is the thunderstorm that rolled in while we hiked back after lunch. They don’t show the hail, flash flooded roads, lightning and thunder. Most spectacular and scary of all was the fountains created as rain water poured down the gutters and hit piles of rocks in its path, spraying water 2 meters in the air and all over the road.

The bad weather created an interesting moral dilemma. It placed me in a position where I felt that it was an unnecessarily high risk for my colleague to ride on the back of the bike. Especially given there was room in the dry, warm, comparatively safer car, and my colleague did not have a proper jacket. My colleague disagreed, passionately, so I drove off without her, removing her freedom of choice. Was this right or wrong?

Thanks also to Max for the group shot and a few of these photos

* Not sure about spelling. Suggestions welcome!

Drakensburgs

The Drakensburg mountain range is known as the wall of spears that peacefully separated the Basotho (People of Lesotho) from the Zulu (Of North East RSA). Here are some clips from a sneaky long weekend I managed for a friends birthday thanks to a public holiday in RSA way back in the start of spring.

We stayed at the beautiful Inkosana  Lodge, which is on the road to the Monks Cowl National Park, with a great view of Cathkin peak at sunset over the pool. After doing one of the day hikes to the waterfall under Monks Cowl, we headed further South West to the Amphitheatre Park, and hiked into the base of the Amphitheatre. Topped the long week of driving around a small game park which is situated at the site where the British armed forced incurred a significant loss to the Zulu.

A very action packed and worthwhile long weekend.

Nozawa Onsen snowboarding

It is a year since I first went snowboarding with Arnault at Nozawa Onsen. During January and February 2013 we made numerous trips into the deep fluffy snow on the north west slopes of the Torogi pass in Nagano Prefecture. Arnault, a university friend of Nicks’ from Singapore has been a regular at Nozawa onsen for the past 7 years and returns year on year for the ease of access from Tokyo, deep powder, often unused off-piste trails, and local, non-touristy feel that the place has. He stays at the same family Ryonkan each year, and they view him as a favoured son. Ina ddition, the town is historic, with 17 public onsens scattered throughout the tiny town, it is one of few places  where these public onsens are still maintained, free of charge.

We had blue skies for 2 of the three visits, which is apparently pretty rare, and good snow. On one occasion, we had almost too much snow! Check out the gallery and two video clips I have put together below. Unfortunately, both times I went off-piste with Arnault and Delphine, I crashed too many times to make sure the camera was operating appropriately! One of those occasions I managed to get a little air just prior to hitting a tree at pretty decent speed, so a good thing it is not on camera!

Click to see the pictures in large format.

2013 Review

Another eventful year has ended, and more memories piled atop old. I’m struggling these days even more to hold them all in my head, and find that some leak out as others enter. I hope this post immortalises some of them, capturing an hint of them to serve as a future prompt, a link to a sight, a story, a smell that still lingers in my brain. Before all that though, here is a little clip of how we ushered in 2014 in Germany!

Pictures and videos for some of these memories to come soon! All links below are to existing blog posts on the topics.

January (Japan)

  • Snowboarding with Arnault, Delphine and friends at Nozawa Onsen on multiple weekends
  • The green shoes with pink laces finally paid off when I met Julia

February (Japan)

  • Completed my first marathon, the Tokyo Marathon in 4 hrs 12 minutes and achieved my goal of running the whole 42kms.
  • A big month for work, with the INPEX, IFC and both JICA BoP projects all  being wrapped up at the same time
  • Off-piste snowboarding with Arnault, Delphine and friends.

March (Japan and Thailand)

  • A weekend trip to the Boso peninsular and the fire festival at Takao-San with Julia
  • 10 day return bike trip to Osaka and surrounds and return via Route 19 with Julia, including a catch-up with Lloyd-san.

April (Thailand)

May (Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda)

June (Africa, Holland and USA)

  • Cederburg bike and hike weekend
  • Amsterdam stop-over and catch-up with Julia
  • New York visit for training
  • Presentation of South African PoC site selection model to NHLS PoC forum in Pretoria

July (Africa, Munich, Austria, Slovakia and Italy)

  • Ethiopian food and cultural night with the team
  • Catch-up with Samir and Julia in Munich
  • Train trip From Munich to Bratislava via Vienna
  • Best man for Bryans wedding in Bratislava
  • Family holiday in Sardinia, Italy
  • Rome weekend with Julia

August (South Africa)

  • Supporting the SA DAT team transition
  • NeighbourGoods and ArtonMain markets
  • Apartheid museum

September (South Africa, Lesotho, Ethiopia)

  • Hiking Cathkin peak and the Cathederal, Drakensburg mountains with Antoinette
  • Raspberry day trip with John and Sameera
  • Lesotho Wine tasting festival

October (South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland)

  • Cape Town to Lesotho via the Garden Route bike journey
  • Cube 10 course degustation dinner for my 30th birthday with Julia, drinks with John, Hanna, Antoinette and Vibhutti.
  • Kruger, Swaziland, Drakensburgs, and outback Lesotho bike tour with Julia

November (Lesotho, South Africa)

  • DAT Access Summit in Pretoria
  • Golf with Nick in Pretoria
  • Hiking Ketane Falls in Lesotho with Emma, Bhavya, Jenna and friends.

December ( South Africa, Lesotho, Ethiopia, Munich)

  • SA team strategy week and Regimen Optimisation workshops
  • Weekend wine tasting in the Stellenbosch with Maria, Micah and Bhavya
  • LST strategy meeting in Camps Bay and SA POC modelling team workshop
  • Ethiopia GeneXpert Workshop and presentation in Adama
  • Julia and friends traditional Christmas eve ‘Werewolf’ game
  • Christmas in Bavaria with Julias’ family
  • Snow shoe hiking in the Alps
  • NYE celebration in Munich

Christmas in Bavaria

A sneak peek into Christmas in Bavaria. After visiting the Christmas markets in Munich We travelled to my girlfriends family farm in Bavaria.

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I didn’t get to capture much of the food, but rest assured the two meals included sausages of various kinds, potato and bread dumplings, saur kraut, brussels, spätzle (home made pasta), and also rolled beef filled with pickled cucumber and boiled eggs. To bring a little bit if Aussie tradition to the party I whipped up a Christmas pudding with assistance from a Country women’s Association recipe and mums skype assistance.

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To top the whole day off we took a short drive into the foothills so that we could claim it was a white Christmas!

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Information, privacy and the public service. A disaster.

The letter below is apparently an actual open letter sent to the DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) Immigration Minister currently doing the rounds on the internet. I wanted to highlight it here for a number of reasons; 1. because its funny; 2. because the language and attitude  reminds me so much of home; and 3. because it highlights some very good issues about information sharing in the public service in general that even prevents us at work from saving lives in Africa.

 

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Dear Mr Minister,

I’m in the process of renewing my passport, and still cannot believe this.

How is it that K-Mart has my address and telephone number, and knows that I bought a television set and golf clubs and condoms from them back in 1997, and yet the Federal Government is still asking me where I was born and on what date ?

For Christ sakes, do you guys do this by hand ?

My birth date you have in my Medicare information, and it is on all the income tax forms I’ve filed for the past 40 years. It is also on my driver’s licence, on the last eight passports I’ve ever had, on all those stupid customs declaration forms I’ve had to fill out before being allowed off planes over the past 30 years. It’s also on all those insufferable census forms that I’ve filled out every 5 years since 1966.

Also… would somebody please take note, once and for all, that my mother’s name is Audrey, my father’s name is Jack, and I’d be absolutely bloody astounded if that ever changed between now and when I drop dead !!!

SHIT! What do you people do with all this information we keep having to provide? I apologize, Mr. Minister. But I’m really pissed off this morning. Between you and me, I’ve had enough of all this bullshit!

You send the application to my house, then you ask me for my bloody address!

What the hell is going on with your mob? Have you got a gang of mindless Neanderthal arseholes working there? And another thing, look at my damn picture. Do I look like Bin Laden? I can’t even grow a beard for God’s sakes. I just want to go to New Zealand and see my new granddaughter.  (Yes, my son interbred with a Kiwi girl).  And would someone please tell me, why would you give a shit whether or not I plan on visiting a farm in the next 15 days? In the unlikely event I ever got the urge to do something weird to a sheep or a horse, believe you me, I’d sure as hell not want to tell anyone!

Well, I have to go now, ’cause I have to go to the other side of Sydney , and get another bloody copy of my birth certificate – and to part with another $80 for the privilege of accessing MY OWN INFORMATION! Would it be so complicated to have all the services in the same spot, to assist in the issuance of a new passport on the same day?

No, that’d be too bloody easy and makes far too much sense.

You would much prefer to have us running all over the bloody place like chickens with our heads cut off, and then having to find some ‘high-society’ wanker to confirm that it’s really me in the goddamn photo! You know the photo… the one where we’re not allowed to smile?…you bloody morons.

Signed – An Irate Australian Citizen.

P.S. Remember what I said above about the picture, and getting someone in ‘high-society’ to confirm that it’s me? Well, my family has been in this country since before 1820! In 1856, one of my forefathers took up arms with Peter Lalor (You do remember the Eureka Stockade?!). I have also served in both the CMF and regular Army for something over 30 years (I went to Vietnam in 1967), and still have high security clearances. I’m also a personal friend of the president of the RSL Lt General Peter Cosgrove sends me a Christmas card each year.

However, your rules require that I have to get someone “important” to verify who I am; you know…someone like my doctor – WHO WAS BORN AND RAISED OUTSIDE AUSTRALIA! In a country where they either assassinate or hang their ex-Prime Ministers – and are suspended from the Commonwealth and United Nations for not having the “right sort of government”.

You are all pen-pushing paper-shuffling bloody idiots!

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How does this prevent us from saving lives at work? Complete lack in most countries of a national identity system that can be used by the health care system to identify patients. This makes it very difficult to provide results, maintain patient histories, track patients progress in out-care or community care, and monitor infected peoples. All of which are key elements in treating and preventing the spread of infectious diseases like TB and especially MDR-TB.

Yes, there are privacy concerns, but they are not insurmountable.