Writing and Procrastination

Writing can be an extremely slow process – especially when trying to write for a large project that requires a high level of research and formality.  Currently I am working on my PhD thesis and I am struggling.  Breaking the thesis down to bite sized chunks is really important but doing that and keeping the chunk within the framework of the big picture often brings out the worst acts of procrastination.  I seem to spend so much time thinking about what I want to write and planning when I am going to write that I forget, become distracted or run out of time to actually take up the task of writing.

Earlier this semester, having decided to end avoiding the inevitable, I reached out to the university’s research department and signed up to a couple of seminars.  As an external student, I felt that surrounding myself with other academically minded people would help to inspire me with purpose to take up writing – and it did, in a small way until I realised that the washing needed to be done, the boys picked up from school and I had to have coffee with my girlfriend.

I then followed up with some of the advice that was offered during the seminar:  the Pomodoro Technique and reading about writing a thesis starting out at The Thesis Whisperer‘s blog.  I bought myself an egg-timer to start implementing some discipline.  I confess I have not gotten too far, but I will, once I get started on my writing again!  Today, however, was my day to start writing a blog.  Another step along the procrastination journey?  Maybe, but it also means that I am writing.

This week gone, I started to say no to coffee – both in the literal sense and in the cultural sense.  I have started to say to myself, ‘no you are not texting your friends to tell them you are in town, nor are you popping in to the coffee shop to do some reading while you deep down hope a friend or two might interrupt you’.  I have a perfect home that is conducive to reading, writing and contemplation.  My discipline is starting with the concept of getting up every morning at 6.30am so that I am ready to start writing by 9.00am.  I still have days when I have to take my sons to school and spend the day in town, but I am beginning to avoid the coffee shops and am choosing to maximise an opportunity to read and write in a space a friend has offered for me to use.

Writing a thesis is a discipline and it requires the student to make that personal, academic journey with the utmost persistence and determination.  It can also be a lonely journey where I can pretend I am working, but then the only person I am truly deceiving is myself.  The honest truth is that I have spent hours avoiding writing because it means a commitment to my ideas; it means I might actually achieve my dream; it means turning my back on seeing myself as a failure and valuing the journey of achievement.  Yes, the PhD is more than an academic journey.  It is a spiritual and emotional journey that is taking me to a space where I must believe in my worth in order to achieve.  Knowing something and believing something can be two very different things, but having faith in my capacity to achieve requires inordinate strength, courage and persistence.

Around the 20 March 2014, I have to have completed a revision of a paper that has been accepted for publication later this year and I have to complete a near final draft of my methods chapter, so that when I go to Canberra, my supervisor and I can work together on the next step towards putting my thesis together.  Just thinking about it, raises my anxiety levels.  Can I really do that?  It’s too much, I can’t!  Then I tell myself, ‘I’ll just check Facebook…’.

Until next week…Happy reading!

Image

GEIS 2018 – Day 3

Today is the last day for GEIS 2018. It’s been an amazing couple of days so far and I did hear yesterday that there were going to be presentations on the evidence-based common elements of practice so I hope that I can manage to get to those sessions.

An exciting moment occurred on my way to the convention center. I had not realised that built onto the side of the Yarra River at the edge of the park that I walked past there was a helicopter landing pad with room for two helicopters. As I spotted one helicopter that had already landed I spotted another helicopter landing. Just as I was musing how amazing to watch it ‘parking’ in the middle of the city, it starts to take off again. I hadn’t seen anyone get on or off! Then not two minutes later, a third helicopter flew in and landed where the second helicopter had landed. Heli-pad traffic jams! Wow!

Maybe it’s just the country-bumpkin in me, but this was something I had not witnessed before nor would I have expected to see it happening in the middle of Downtown Melbourne.

Once again however I was late getting organised which is a shame as I missed the final keynotes. Mind you when I did get there, the first concurrent session that I wanted to attend on Program Logics was standing room only! However, I did get to connect with a few more great people from other countries and exchange contact details with some I had spent a bit of time with throughout conference.

After that, I went into the final two sessions for the Concurrent session about ‘Using data and monitoring to improve social outcomes’. Here I wanted to hear how someone from the Positive Parenting Program (PPP) would present their data, especially given the ‘challenging’ comments on day one about how PPP tends to evaluate their programs when thinking about understanding the biases we bring to our research. This presentation was particularly interesting because they were focusing on how they built capacity for program delivery through the training of facilitators. The point I remember most from what Libby Magnus from Triple P International was saying was that when they tried to get as much training completed as quickly as possible, the outcomes and the buy-in to delivering the program was limited. When they slowed down and focused on building relationships with organisations who would potentially deliver the program as well as provide follow-up support to those who took up the opportunity to train in PPP, they uptake improved. Here was a case where the monitoring of program outcomes enabled corrections to the delivery of services that in turn produced better results both for the organisation providing the training and the organisations delivering the program to their clients.

Conal Smith from New Zealand presented an extremely interesting demonstration of ways to use data and how sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. While the findings themselves were interesting, it was also about the ways they considered the methods and processes that lingered with me. So often we can think because data produces a result it is useful when in fact, we need to interrogate our results, consider what’s missing and start again if it doesn’t work out.

Just come out of the Common elements talks – well only heard two out of the three presentations. Mind is feeling somewhat fried!

The notion of implementing common elements into practice is quite exciting because it means that the focus is not so much on maintaining program integrity as much as ensuring the integrity of practice. Mind you it is concerning (and yet to be expected) the one of the barriers to implementing evidence-based programs is practitioners egos and their ability to incorporate improvement of practice as good thing rather than a personal attack on their abilities. Thomas Engell, from Norway and Brigid Van Wanrooy from DHHS Victoria gave excellent presentations. As I said to them both later when I ran into them, this concept for focusing on the common elements of practice being the evidence really ‘compliments’ the current demand for service providers to ensure the programs they deliver are evidence based and/or evidence-informed.

One of the challenges smaller agencies like my own face is that there are limited opportunities for research and synthesising the literature and knowledge around evidence-based practice for programs that have been internally developed. I suspect as the concept of evidence-based elements is developed, this will be better to test and evaluate the quality of of what is delivered regardless of the program.

I stayed after lunch for the final session and it was a lovely way to finish off the conference; hearing from the keynote speakers still there about their impressions. The conference was an excellent opportunity for me to take time out to think about what I do in my role at work and to consider what other in my work place have said to me in light of what I was learning. Working in the field of monitoring, evaluating, supporting long-term successful programs to identify evidence-based elements to what is being achieved is challenging. Opportunities like attending the GEIS 2018 help me to realise that while there is still much to do, as an organisation we are well on our way to providing a quality service to our clients and our local community.

GEIS 2018 – Day 2

Today I had a late start but managed to get to a Session on Rapid (Systematic) Reviews. I had not heard of these before. Systemic Reviews tend to take to take 6-12 months and encompass the full topic. A rapid review tends to take about 6-12 weeks and tends to focus on a particular aspect within a topic. The people presenting were from the Faculty of Public Health, University of Indonesia and there was a representative from the Ministry of Health.

What I liked most about the presentation was that they took us through the unit they taught on how to do Rapid Reviews. This helped me to make sense of the method and of course see why policy makers and funders might prefer this option especially given the time and cost benefits to funding such an approach. Mind you it does raise many questions about the bias and limitations associated with solely relying on this method as opposed to a systematic review.

After the talk Greet and I had the opportunity to talk further with Asri Adisasmita about the course they were teaching and how they were approaching the method for rapid reviews. It’s great to be able to hear about what other people in other countries are doing. In particular this presentation represent both the health ministry and academia and how they are working together.

The food at the conference was delicious and hit the spot. However, the rolls today were pink. Some of my friends know of my reaction to black rolls not long ago, so I had to show them that I was eating ‘pink’ rolls. To be honest I don’t understand why they have to mess with the colouring of rolls!

After lunch I attended a session where discussions revolved around the topic of evidence, how it works in the UK and how it is being developed for human service providers. One of the reasons why I wanted to hear about what was happening in the UK was that here in Australia we appear to be adopting or following some of the social policy shifts that happen in the UK. Tom McBride, from the Early Intervention Program, spoke of the importance of early intervention in the lives of children for whom many in the UK are disadvantaged. It was interesting to listen to how evidence was utilised within his organisation. It made me think about the way we prioritise the needs of children within our agency particularly around issues of safety.

This talk was followed by Tim Moore from Murdoch Children’s Research Institute who has completed the first stage of the Victorian Government’s Roadmap to Reform. In particular he highlight the need to ensure that the first step towards working with families was to develop a strong relationship where the clients felt that their needs were being met and that the goals were set mutually between the worker and the clients. It was great to finally hear (and speak to later) Tim speak. His organisation was involved in the evaluation of one of our programs and I have read some of his work including this report relating to the Roadmap to Reform.

The next session I attended was not one I had intended to go to because I usually avoid anything ‘military’ but the two guys I had met from the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness at PSU, USA, Kyle Hawkey and Daniel Perkins were here to present a session called: ‘Aligning evidence with policy and practice: implementing a Zero Suicide approach in the US military’. Given my former role as a drought worker, it was actually interesting to hear a bit about the background to their program and the effort that goes into supporting the health and well-being of both people in the military and their families.

The last session I attended considered national and state initiatives that supported evidence informed policies and practices. It was a good opportunity to hear, in particular, from the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS). However I had the opportunity to hear from three agencies including a national organization from Canada.

One of the interesting aspects to many of these discussions is that agencies like the AIFS promote randomised control trials as the golden standard for enabling the evidence-based seal of approval of programs yet the discourse used in the delivery of the presentations I attended rarely implied a clinical or medical model approach for policy development. Rather terms like ‘what-if tools’, ‘knowledge transition’, ‘partnership’ and ‘capacity building’. While I did not hear it directly stated, it would seem that while RCTs are considered the golden standard there is a strong realisation that it is extremely challenging to rely solely on such a method in the delivery of programs within the human services and the development of social policy.

Evening drinks centered around the presentation of the posters. Yes proseco was on the agenda but so was supporting Flo and Kelvin as they presented their work. The MC for the night surprised everyone by announcing that all researchers with posters could have two minutes to present their work. That meant at least 40 minutes to get through everyone. But they did and everyone was respectful and kept to time!

Taking the opportunity to actually look at Florian Spensberger’s (Flo’s) work made me realise that here was someone who’s work I should follow. After all he was a social worker looking at the role of evidence played out in this sector. As someone who lived and worked in Germany, his work might also provide a different perspective that could be useful to consider.

It was only that night that I realised Kelvin Lee, from AWWA, had presented a poster too. From a personal perspective I was delighted to see his focus on the notion of ‘inclusion’ in education. This is an aspect of education that I am passionate about because it is more that integration; it means giving all people access to the educational curriculum regardless of standard abilities. Yes, this was a personal battle I faced for my son who has Asperger’s Syndrome, which culminated in a school principal informing me that she would not guarantee his education for his final year at primary school. Ultimately we changed schools and it was the best thing that happened for my son. I felt inspired and relieved to see and hear about Kelvin’s work knowing how invaluable it is that teachers and educators understand this concept.

On my way back to the hotel, I decided to go for a bit of a walk and I started looking around. It’s really lovely to see the way they have tried to introduce some green amongst the skyscrapers and maintained a small glimpse of past architecture.

GEIS 2018 – Day 1

What a beautiful day to head off to a conference!

Robyn Mildon from the Centre for Evidence and Implementation welcomed us the the conference and the opening session immediately set the groundwork where questions began coming to mind and where ideas became food for thought.

The first idea that crossed my path was when Howard White, from the Campbell Collaboration, questioned our ability to articulate the design of the program and what was it’s purpose. So often we know what we do and how we do it but the why or what we are trying to achieve alludes us. Or we have a sense of purpose but an inability to articulate it and communicate it so that others understand. In turn this impacts on the quality and validity of any evidence that is produced.

Richard Weston, from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation, spoke of the impact of intergenerational trauma and how when we fail to recognise and address it the impact of trauma is perpetuated through to the next generation and so on. The evidence in his latest work, a report produced by the AIHW demonstrates the impact on the stolen generation vs other indigenous people. This I found interesting because I was more accustomed to data about Indigenous Australians being compared to the rest of the Australian population. To think of the disparity within the Indigenous Australian population was a new way of thinking of the struggles and challenges they face and highlighted how within a disadvantage community of people there are people who face even harder circumstances.

Recently I spoke with a friend about collective methodology to which my immediate come back was how do you apply a collective approach within a neoliberal society like ours? This was also a dilemma for me when writing up my thesis and for which I drew on Agnes Heller’s theory to make sense of neoliberalism and agrarianism. Today, Richard also talked about how western countries tended to focus on the individual and individualistic approaches as opposed to collectivist approaches that resonate better within Indigenous cultures. Maybe I need to relook at this concept further.

The morning session was pretty full-on. Next was Peter Gluckman who is the Chair of the International Network for Government Science Advice and who comes from New Zealand where he was the former chief science adviser to the New Zealand government. It was extremely refreshing to hear a scientist speak about how science should create options for policy rather than provide definitive solutions. This led to challenging the concept that scientists must be mindful of how research is not completely objective; that the values we bring with us to our research can have an impact; that there is always a subjective element to scientific evidence.

Further he argued that unfortunately while quality evidence is needed to drive change it is too often subject to public opinion and electoral values that threaten political longevity. How often do we see political decision-making bowing to media and other powerful influences like lobbyists and those with the loudest voice to ensure voter support when elections come around?

After morning tea I attended a panel that looked at evidence-based practice in child protection: ‘Child Welfare – using evidence to improve the lives of children and families’. I was particularly interested to hear what Julia Littell and Aron Shlonsky had to say given the work we do in this area. The panel ended up much larger and the discussion was very stimulating.Much of the discussion focused on the concept of evidence-based vs evidence-bias and how evidence could be viewed as a moving target. Questions were raised about the credibility of rapid reviews that are starting to be completed in preference to systematic reviews that are viewed as more rigorous and credible but take twice as long to produce. I enjoyed the contestation of the validity of evidence and was somewhat surprised at the passion with which people spoke. In some ways I realised that this is why attending conferences is so important to me. It is a safe place in which to present, contest, discuss and listen to what others in my field are doing.

Integral to the development of evidence-based practice was further investment in quality improvement. We need to be able to evaluate and determine what works and learn from what doesn’t work. One speaker suggested that if we cannot describe the theory of change for the program being implemented than we are probably not delivering quality practice. Furthermore they suggested that we are often overselling the quality of our programs. New programs are like big shiny objects (the silver bullet) that are seen as a solution but fail to consider the context. In this way, when we begin to roll-out new programs stamped as evidence based but with no flexibility for the cultural context for where they are being delivered, there is a strong possibility that the program is culturally blind and that is not okay.

There was so much to take in during this hour but the exciting thing was, much of what they were saying was helping me to think about what we are doing at work. We are exploring and in some cases practicing what these people are discussing. Some areas were are developing and others are still to be considered. I often look at what we do as ‘normal’ for the human services sector yet so often when hearing such discussions I begin to suspect we might be closer towards the front of the pack. I do find this curious given the size of our agency and that we are located in rural Victoria. Then I think about the vision and practice of our leadership group and maybe that’s where the answer lies.

Lunch was good and it was here that I met Flo, a social worker and PhD student from Germany and Kelvin, a psychologist from Singapore and enjoyed a great conversation about what we had learnt and discovered so far.

After lunch Flo and I ended up at the same session: ‘Blind-spot analysis and Evidence-based initiatives: shining a light on methodological innovations’. This really did shine a light on exploring what we know we don’t know. The presentations took me back to a feminist approach to understanding objectivity where they ho so far as to challenge the positivist paradigms by suggesting that all researchers bring some element of bias to their work even if it is as simple as they have an interest in the topic. Sandra Harding called it ‘strong objectivity’ where our work stands a better chance to be considered objective when we are able to reflect on and articulate the bias and assumptions we bring to our work. They also reminded me about Bourdieu’s notion of reflexive practice, another theory that suggests the lack of acknowledgement of our biases and assumptions undermines the authenticity of our results. I suppose this is really a challenge of methodologies such as positivism that suggests objectivity can be achieved vs constructivism that explores the context from which knowledge reveals itself and so on.

The question was asked: who says what is evidence? Someone has clearly invested in producing the evidence – what are they trying to find? These comments made me question some of my own practices where I attempt to work with our workers to support actions that contribute to identify evidence that what they are doing is producing results.

I think the excitement of the day was hearing people from the natural sciences being open to questioning objectivity especially in a political climate that promotes the medical and clinical model of randomised control trials as being the ultimate ‘golden’ standard for producing evidence. There is a genuine discussion taking place that allows for questioning of norms and as many who know me would know, this is my favourite past time.

The biases and assumptions were often referred to as blind spots and understanding our ontological perspective I suspect is necessary to working towards addressing them; particularly when identifying our preferred ideological and theoretical standpoints.

I did pop into the philanthropy panel and yes it was good and it was great to hear how people were working within philanthropic organisations it wasn’t what I thought it would be so just sat back and enjoyed the discussions. Unfortunately I ended up missing Caroline Fiennes’ (from Giving Evidence) keynote presentation and so was glad, I had at least heard her speak here.

After that I was feeling somewhat exhausted so I took myself off for some alone time, some fresh air and sunshine. Over a long glass of homemade raspberry and hibiscus lemonade I continued trying to write this blog.

There was so much to think about and I wanted to remember the points that triggered reflection on what I do at work and learn more about how I can bring that into my practices.

One of the great things they did for this conference was give us an app for the conference where we can make notes for the presentations we attend. So not only do you get to make notes but they are linked directly to the presentation.

Next was the Welcome Drinks! And while I enjoyed a proseco or two, I met some great people, including Danny and Kyle from the USA who work with the military and their families on suicide prevention and later caught up with Flo and Kelvin. What an amazing day!

2 Worlds Festival, Geelong 2018

The morning started late for me but with a visit to a new coffee shop called Lavish. The coffee was fabulous – ended up having 2 and trying Richard’s Bullet Proof coffee. I love catching up with Rachael and Richard.

When we got home we took Maverick for his walk around the block before having lunch and getting ready to head off to tge music festival.

We arrived at the 2 Worlds Festival just before 3pm. Even with the showers of rain, the place was humming.

Rachael and I went off to check everything out; starting with the outdoor main stage. What a fabulous venue for a stage – a very minor music bowl thing happening with the hill catering as tiered seating for the audience! William Crichton and his band were performing and they were fabulous and facing the rain with great courage! Clearly not the audience you would not get on a sunny day but so glad we stopped by. They played for the few braving the rain as though we were a throng of thousands.

Next we visited the Provenance winery for a glass of wine of course and we caught the very tail end of Monique Clare. Wow! Did we miss a performance there! She plays the cello and sings. Incredible!

Finding a spare table we sat down to wait for the next act which turned out to be Phil and Trudy Edgeley. Again – like wow! Trudy’s voice was amazing and the music they made together was amazing. I particularly like the song ‘I am here’ and apparently it has been recorded on YouTube.

After the performance Rach and I went off to explore other venues. We couldn’t get into the Great Hall at all an then we tried The Doors Cafe and same. So I went into the gallery which was actually an art gallery. I particularly loved the art work of Sharryn Jenkinson.

In the gallery this guy was putting together a few people to sing together and invited anyone who wanted to join in. I nearly did but didn’t. What a shame! The man turned out to be Darren Percival. Missed opportunity but I did manage to get to his show but not before I saw and heard the amazing Tom Cook.

But again I am ahead of myself!

As I continued to roam and check out the rest of what the festival was offering I came across the mechandise stand where I puchased cds from Monique Clare and Phil and Trudy Edgeley. Next thing I know I run into Monique Clare and so I ask for her autograph. At the same time Rachael came up and we ended up chatting. She was lovely to talk to – and as a bonus she is playing later with The Maes.

Next thing I come across a guy in diggerido tent. Apparently they were demonstrating how to make diggeridos but we ended up chatting and sharing stories.

Then as I walked away and started thinking about food, I came across Trudy and Phil Edgeley waiting for their pizza. So you guessed it – I asked them for their autograph. Then we ended up chatting for about 10 minutes or so. What a lovely couple!

By this stage I was eating my own pizza and yes it was delicious. Then I ran into Rachael and Richard. Rach was off to do her volunteering stint and Rich came into the winery with me where we managed to sit down with a lovely pinot and listen to the tail end of Alister Turrill. He was good too.

In deciding on what to do next it meant there were other performances I missed out on but then I would not have seen and experienced what I did see. According to Rachael and Richard Yirrammil followed by Baker Boy were amazing on the big outdoor stage.

I, however, stayed to watch Tom Cook perform and thoroughly enjoyed watching him and his drummer perform.

What intrigued me most about his music was the historical context from which he wrote and the way particular themes were threaded through his lyrics. Later, after purchasing his cd, our paths crossed and yes – another autograph. The delight on his face when he realised that I had purchased his music was lovely. He genuinely appreciated that l had enjoyed his music so much.

Next I was off to see Darren Percival in the great hall. Omgosh what a performance and what a brilliant musician and vocalist this man is! I did love his performances on The Voice all those years ago but what and how he performed was incredible.

The performance was just himself, his voice, a loop machine and two microphone. With that he created music acapella-style. I most liken what he did to a Pentatonix performance but solo. On top of that he had all of us singing as well and at the end he gave these two young brothers their moment of fame that would have delighted any parent.

Of course, Janet played the groupy afterwards and managed to get a selfie.

After that, I popped out to the main stage where Tim Hughes was starting his performance. Gosh he made me laugh with his comments. He was following Baker Boy and according to Tim, he was not just the best in Australia but in the entire universe! After the first song he likened his set as having to listen to Uncle Tim after lunch on Christmas day. I thought he was just being funny but according to Rachael and Richard Baker Boy had the crowd in the palm of his hands and I suspect he may have been a hard act to follow.

I only stayed for a couple of songs before returning to a warmer environment in the winery for a coffee and as luck would have it to hear Chris Tamwoy play and sing. This young man from the Torres Strait Islands was an incredible story teller in both English, his own language and through his instrumentals and he brought you with him into his life’s journey.

He sang a song about his Pop called Dear Pop. As he sang, the tears rolled down my cheeks; he was singing about my Pop. You see, I had a Pop too and I loved him very much. My Pop brought much light and love into my life and I hope that he would be proud of me today and how I have lived my life, like Chris and his Pop. I suspect I was lucky enough to have my Pop around for longer than Chris. My Pop taught me many life lessons even when there were times in my young adult years where I was impatient with him because I wanted to be somewhere ‘more exciting’. My Pop was always there for me and I love and miss him dearly. My boys may not remember Pop, but at least I have some keepsake memories of their meeting. Again I was fortunate enough to speak with Chris briefly after his performance and thank him for his performance and especially his song, Dear Pop – and yes I bought his cd and received his autograph. Dear Pop, I think is going to be on his debut album due out in 2019.

Finally our day was rounded out with the performance of The Maes in the great hall. Here we also were able to see Monique Clare perform with the two sisters.

The cello and the way Monique played was an amazing accompaniment to the strings that the sisters played that included a banjo, guitar, violin and another more traditional instrument that was the size of a ukulele. The three women sounded beatiful and their harmonies were fabulous. On top of that, often in the background you could here the sounds coming from the main stage area. How they sang their acapella song with that so loud in the background was mind blowing.

You know, I have never actually been to a music festival like this before and I loved it. I am so grateful Rachael suggested and asked me to come along. Now I just want to know where the next one is!

Day 12 – Last day in Kaohsiung

Started my day with a coffee and vegetable omlette in pocket bread at Louisa Coffee shop. A lovely and relaxing way to start the busy day I have ahead of me!

While I was having coffee l managed to get in touch with the people I met last week, Prudence and Toms. We made arrangements to meet at 12 noon for lunch. In the meantime I went back to the apartment and called for a taxi do take me to Xin Zuoying (HSR) station. Turns out I can get a high speed rail train directly to Taoyuan Airport, so instead of leaving at 12pm, I don’t need to leave until 3pm. With the train due to arrive at 4.30pm, I have half an hour before I am due to check in – which is at 5pm for an 8pm flight.

After that I went to do some shoe shopping but ended up at the same shopping. l took a look but I have found the while most things may be slightly cheaper them in Australia, it’s minimal and so not really worth buying as something special to buy overseas. Even the mobiles and activity trackers did not seem to be particularly cheap.

With time getting away I headed off down the escalators. As I rode down each level a woman was heading down also but on a different escalator. We crossed at about the midpoint and typically ignored each other. On the second level the same thing happened and we nodded and smiled in acknowledgement – but on the third time we gave each other a big smile and said “Ni Hao”. The amazing thing was that for a fourth time we crossed over again and we both laughed out loud. We both started to speak and I said ‘have a nice day’ to which she switched language and said the same thing to me in English. After that I continued down but the lady went her own way. It made me think though, that lady was able to repeat what I said; I could not make out any of the sounds much less try to repeat a greeting like that. The Chinese language is so foreign to all my senses – spoken and written. Yet in Australia we have the nerve to ask newcomers to our land and for that matter our Indigenous peoples to speak and read only English. How hard must it be for them; all their senses are assaulted with the sounds and the alphabet script of English while adjusting to the cultural upheaval of coming to an understanding of Anglo-Australian culture. Here in Taiwan people continually make allowances for my ineptitude with the Chinese language. Even the French guy I met spoke to me in English. There is so much more I could muse on here especially in light of recent senate voting in Australia but this is a travel blog. I do think that recognising a place of privilege is something we all need to do. It’s not about trying to be ‘other’ but insuring that we recognise the bias privilege brings when thinking about and acting on concepts of inclusion, equality, merit, power and justice…

Now back to the day!

Lunch with Prudence and Toms was wonderful. I really enjoyed meeting them last week and today was mo different. They took me on a journey through foods they enjoy. The restaurant was named 地糖仔. It’s a Cantonese dim sum restaurant.

And the food was absolutely delicious.

Well if I am honest, the main course was but I think next time I will forego the desserts. But I did try them. I had four of the deep fried gluttonous rice balls and I ate a whole egg custard bun.

We talked about Kenting as they had also been there recently with friends from Hong Kong and we talked about some of the travel they hoped to do in Taiwan. Turns out they haven’t been to Hualien or Taitung. Prudence has also traveled quite a bit when she was single – including Australia and New Zealand.

I have been very blest by the people I have met throughout this trip.

After lunch I decided to get some shoe shopping in but this time in the local streets. Turns out most shopping areas sell the same kind of thing like one street might do jade, another might do clothes. This one did shoes and I was not disappointed. After visiting every shop along the street, I made my choices but ran out of time to get back to the first shop. But I did manage to grab a snack to tide me over until tea time.

Hailing a taxi, I returned once again to Maggie’s Wax and Spa. This time I was getting a two hour facial and yes it was fabulous. My face feels absolutely wonderful and so soft. I loved going to Maggie’s place. Maggie, herself was just lovely and the tea you drank at the beginning and end somehow completed the package and it was so much more affordable than in Australia.

Finally I returned to the apartment where Gene had prepared tea for our last night together. Oh my gosh what a meal! It was beautiful – lettuce tacos, freshly cut fruit and a dish with tomatoes, cheese and balsamic vinegar. All accompanied with a glass of wine.

I will miss Gene when I return. She has been a wonderful host and looked after me with so much care. We had so much fun and riding on the back of her scooter was just the coolest thing – given how used to the roads she is. Gene is also a dedicated and highly professional teacher and her students are lucky to have her as their teacher.

It is now 2pm on the day I am due to leave. I am so ready to go home but I have loved Taiwan. I hope to return in the next year or so.

With 10 mins to spare I made the HSR train; met a beautiful Taiwanese couple from Houston, Texas and spotted a curious label in the elevator!

Farewell Taiwan. It has been a wonderful holiday!

Day 11 – walking to Kenting; returning to Kaohsiung

After returning to my room last night I turned on the TV. Big mistake!!! Ended up watching the end of a Mission Impossible and the full length of The Kingsman – which I thoroughly enjoyed. Needless to stay I was awake until about 3am. Hmmm so when I did get to sleep I slept through till about 8.30am and turned the TV on again and started watching The Princess Diaries. As I did I packed up and by 10am I checked out.

Staying at the Yo Yo Hotel was wonderful. It was very comfortable, I loved the artwork on the walls and the staff were so friendly, helpful and warm.

I decided that today I would go walking to find a place to get coffee as I had missed brunch from next door.

Walking as I did, I was once again amazed by the beauty of this place. I know I seem to love everything about this place but it really is breathtaking.

I made a realisation last night that the wind turbines were located near to a nuclear power plant. It’s funny how you can see but not always recognise.

From my room I hadn’t realised what the weather was like. It was perfect beach weather – bright sunshine and no wind. I did contemplate going back to have a swim but I couldn’t be bothered cleaning up afterwards so I continued walking. The sun was hot but I kept wondering what was around the corner.

As I walked I noticed some interesting looking trees and combination of trees.

The view of the ocean and how the shoreline was used was intriguing.

I was particularly taken in by the mountain of rock that protruded up towards the sky. As I walked I kept trying to get a better picture.

I did wonder when I would stop walking but decided I would keep going and when I reached the end I would call a taxi. Each corner beckoning me to keep going. I even contemplated going up the hill to the Kenting Visitors Centre, as that would be an easy place to get a taxi – but what was around that corner…

At one point I saw a very tall tower that was painted purple with gold writing. It said “chateau”. I thought to myself that it was a funny thing to write on what looked like a water tower. As I walked, however, the next set of buildings was called Chateau and it was a beach resort. It’s funny how concepts in different countries can vary so much.

Mind you it’s a bit like going into a souvenir shop only to find that everything says either Aloha or Hawaii. Turns out the owner is from Hawaii and it is a shop that only sells things from Hawaii! Just not what I expected to find on Taiwan.

As I walked into Kenting I was looking for somewhere to get a coffee when once again I was distracted by checking out the ocean…

..only to spot another interesting looking road to the right where yes I discovered the Hawaiian shop but also found a series of places to stay. Some of them appeared quite elegant and classy looking. However my favourite, from the outside, was this one that had decorated it’s building and features with these beautifully colored tiles.

Then I spotted what looked like a building from the Greek Mediterranean.

Finally I spotted a taxi and for NT$200 he took me back to Bossa Nova where Gene and I enjoyed our final lunch. I ate the shrimp wantons and peach cheesecake while Gene enjoyed the swordfish. A couple of other interesting things I spotted was the calamari and the dragonfruit smoothie. What a great color!

We also found out that Clare’s 11yo son came 3rd in his surfing competition. What an amazing achievement when competing against an older competition.

One thing I have to comment on is garbage pick-up. When I was in Hualien I could here this strange music and it turned out it came from the garbage collection truck. It turns out that there is no ‘garbo’ running around emptying peoples bins. Rather, the music lets everyone know the garbage truck is coming and they race out to throw their garbage in the back.

The drive back to Kaohsiung was easy with very little traffic congestion. We decided, however to go to the massage place for a body massage and yes, it was wonderful. As luck would have it, I ended up with the same guy who gave me the foot massage the previous Sunday when I arrived in Kaohsiung.

After that we had dinner at Cafe 303 – actually it was almost a repeat of last Sunday!

After dinner it was home to unpack and for Gene to get organised for school.

Day 10 – relaxing Nanwan Road, Hengchun

This morning was another slow start to the day. But that might have been somewhat self-induced! Needless to say I was up and ready to go by 9am in search for breakfast and coffee.

Yet again breakfast was another adventure in and of itself. Next door to Yoyo Hotel is the Dar Ban and they serve brunch.

For NT$150 (AUD$6.82) I savoured a yummy breakfast of fresh bread, blueberry jam and butter, juice, coffee and a plate of egg, salmon, ham, salad and orange. It was all delicious – and yes I did remove the dried fruit. I’m not that adventurous!!!

Just as I was finishing my main course, the waiter came over and asked if I would like dessert. Yes here they offer dessert. I thought he told me it was cherry tea and I shrugged and said that I have never eaten it before so yes I will try it. After he had brought it over he suggested that I try it with some milk.

Turns out it was ‘jelly’ tea and the milk was an improvement. I took one bite and yes it tasted like tea jelly. Unreal what they do with tea here! I have learnt that I need to have more than one taste of something especially when I find the texture confronting so I ate about a third. It’s actually okay but just not my cup-of-tea!

It is beautiful sitting here overlooking the trees that hide the beach. The sun is shining and the wind is quite gusty. I can probably get an electric scooter but I might also go for a walk…

…so I went for a swim.

The beach here is beautiful but rather treacherous. The shoreline is not a gradual gradient down but dips into a deep shoreline trough. This means that within a few metres you go from being knee deep to shoulder deep within a couple of steps. On top of that, the sand and stones that you are walking on remain soft and your feet sink as you walk in or out; you cannot get a grip. The tide seemed to be coming in and the waves when they broke were pounding on your legs as you walked over the softest part of the sand into the water. Needless to say I was the epitome of elegance today as the waves washed the ground from under me and I landed on my butt! The funny thing was, though, it was like landing on a ball of cotton wool – so soft!!! With as much dignity as possible I clamoured further into the ocean and enjoyed floating and paddling in the water.

With the break so close to the shore, the waves came in large swells which made it next to impossible to stand in the water. It was only in the trough of the wave that it was possible to touch the ground but when I did it was smooth sand like back home.

Gene joined me for a swim this morning and we had a lovely time paddling, floating and chatting. The water is beautifully refreshing and almost warm. Mind you today the wind was blowing so ferociously that if you got too close to the beach you would be splashed by the spray of the breaking wave and lashed by the whipping sand. So we stayed out a bit in the deeper water.

Time to go in and I knew I would need all my strength – and I was right. As I tried to find my feet and stand tall a wave crashed over my legs with one whack I was down. Knowing I needed to be patient, I took a deep breath and braced myself for the following wave. Survived. So I made an attempt to get up again and ‘dump’ I was now an Olympic gymnast doing my floor routine!!! Hahaha. The beauty was I didn’t panic – although by this stage Gene was charging towards me to help. With steady nerves, I picked myself up and made it. Heaven knows what the scene looked like but I survived!

Walking back to my hotel, I took some time to soak in what I was seeing.

After showering I went down to Bossa Nova to meet Gene for lunch. Today I wanted chicken and chips and it lived up to expectations! I sat there enjoying a coffee or two and blogging.

Feeling tired I wandered back to my room and promptly fell asleep. Next thing I know it is 5.37pm and the sun is setting. Quickly I race down to the beach to take some photos of the sunset before I meet Gene for dinner at – you know where – Bossa Nova!

It has been such a relaxing time here. I could imagine a week or two of this although as you can imagine there is part of me itching to get back using my brain more productively. The rest though has done me the world of good!

Tonight we sat outside to eat. The weather is exquisite – warm with a lovely summery breeze – even if it is autumn here and heading towards winter. Tonight I ordered the swordfish. It was cooked perfectly and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Gene ate the beef rendang.

Dessert time and I ordered the chocolate and caramel delight. Gene ordered the chocolate slice with caramelised nuts. Turns out mine was more like what I recognise as caramel slice and Gene’s was more like a chocolate mousse. I tasted both and they were delicious. The caramel in my dessert was a chewy caramel that contrasted fabulously with the fudgey, ganache-like chocolate.

Again we shared more stories about our lives. Clare and her son both made it into the finals of the surfing competition they entered today so all are looking forward to another day of surfing tomorrow.