For my lovely friends and followers – update on the personal and business front

You guys are all great at keeping in touch with me via PM’s on Facebook, WhatsApp and emails. I feel a tad guilty that I’ve been unable to connect with you as much as I would like and it’s been a while since I have posted here on my personal blog. So settle in for a read and I’ll share what I’ve been getting up to.

Remember a while back I talked about the decision of whether to combine the two blogs (Dragon Sisters and this one)? – jury is still out on that one. I do feel keeping sepeerate is probably better but time to do both is sometimes problematic!

So what have I been busy with?

On the personal well being side of things, I’m still dragon boating.  I’m also co-facilitating the Intro to Paddling program for the Waterfront Warriors. It’s the best bit about the sport, being able to introduce new people to it. The structured program works well and we’ve been getting excellent feedback.

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Judy Smith & myself waiting to go through the lock into the harbour for a paddle

It’s great to be working in a cooperative environment where there are no egos! I’ve also been able to bring all my marketing skills and almost 18 years of dragon boat to help rebuild the club which came close to folding after the National titles earlier this year.

I am not on the committee as I feel my time for that side of stuff has been well and truly served. However, I do enjoy and feel a sense of needing to given back and be supportive of a sport that has given me so much.

You can check our my spontaneous little Facebook Live promo video below and see where we paddle.

 

Going paddling is what keeps me sane. I thoroughly enjoy being out on the water as it really blows away all the cobwebs. Taking out new paddlers is also a delight.

Robert, my brother is still waiting to hear about his Australian Immigration. All very frustrating and he had to gain a Certificate IV in Commercial Cookery, despite 20 plus years of experience in UK, much of that as Head Chef! He had to fly to Melbourne and do an interview with an assessor for RPL – it was an easy process, but an expensive one!

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Chef Robert

It’s lovely to have him with us, and we all get spoilt with nice meals all prepared to us. Sasha and Wayne are also enjoying getting to know their Uncle better – it’s like having 3 big kids in the house!

Janie (our old dog) is turning into a very grand old lady – many of you will remember Janie.

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Janie – a faithful old friend

Her legs give out on her every so often, she can’t go for walks but loves to potter around the garden, sleep in my office when I’m in there working, or down in my room each evening. She used to get on Sasha’s bed, but can’t jump on and off anymore so has decided I’m a better bet. Molly, the young one bounces about full of energy, but knows Janie is boss.

On the business front

I’ve been thrilled that Denise Dunn from Slappa’s Thongs agreed to allow me to nominate her for the Telstra Business Women’s Awards, and I’ve just got the news today that she’s through to the next round of a face to face interview. YeeHaa! Denise was a wonderful supporter of Dragons Abreast and of Lifeline Top End during my tenure there. Winning the Award in 2004 was a big boost for me and I am hoping it will be the same for Denise – she’s winning material for sure.

Yvonne and I (Dragon Sisters) have been busy with Smarkting Workshop delivery and development. I love doing the Face to Face delivery and the next one is here in Darwin on the 31st August – Smarketing101.

We’ve broken it all down into a series of 3 that build and add to each other. Now to convert it all into a fomat that can be delivered online. This is a challenge but one that I will manage!

Always fun learning about the new technology, even if it does frustrate me at times! Biggest thing is making sure I do not disappear down a rabbit hole as I come across new stuff. I’ve also been lucky to find a really great VA to help out, and to connect with some talented individuals via Facebook groups.

Dragon Sisters has a new website coming very soon and also just started a closed Facebook Group – The SMART Circle – it’s by no means exclusive, but it is business focussed and based on the ethos of being SMART. This stands for supportive, motivational, aspirational, refreshing and talented. It’s a place where those who are like minded help each other move our businesses ahead – paying it forward. I’m thrilled to have a small, diverse and truly talented bunch of individuals in the circle. If you are in business and would like to join, just click the link and ask to join.

The editing, ghost and copywriting side of the business continue to chug along and it’s nice to have Sasha working as part of the writing bureau team.

 

My next project is a business retreat in November – details will be released end of August.

Well my dear friends and followers, that’s a little snapshot of where I am right now.

Love

Michelle xx

Volunteering Makes Me Happy

It’s National Volunteer Week and this year is the first time in over 18 years that I have not been involved with volunteering or organising something for volunteers. Last year doesn’t count because I was in Spain.

You know me, I can427740_550783328282897_1194873830_n‘t just sit on my hands, so when I saw the appeal go out for help, I stuck up my hand – or more accurately I filled in the online box.

We are in the age of technology after all and it was all just  a matter of type. Click. Upload my Working with Children card. Press submit – so easy!

So where am I volunteering? This is something different for me – it’s the Starlight Foundation Ball tomorrow night at the Convention Centre. Instead of being a guest, I’ll be helping out by donating my time as a helper for a very worthy cause to raise much needed funds to benefit Territory kids.

I’m lucky I never had to go through the anxiety of a sick child in hospital, but for those who do, it’s nice to know the Starlight Foundation is there to help make things a little easier.

It’s always a personal pleasure to give my time to worthy causes – I enjoy volunteering and meeting new people. It’s usually hard work, but also lots of fun and best of all, I almost always learn something! I’m sure tomorrow will be no different.

As I sign off, I just want to say how grateful I am to have worked with so many fabulous volunteers over the years. Many of my great friendships have been made as a result of volunteering.  Volunteers are the life blood of this country. 

Love to hear how other people choose to volunteer – there are so many worthy causes in the world.

Michelle

A Unique Friendship

Maria Angeles is my oldest female friend. My father, a Dutch Eurasian and her father, a Spaniard, worked for the United Nations and were both posted to Jerusalem. No, they were not military observers or troops, they were permanent staff of the United Nations.

Schmidt Girls College, Jerusalem
Schmidt Girls College, Jerusalem

We met at Schmidt Girls College, a strict convent school run by German nuns. Both of us were about ten years old, although neither of us is positive exactly what age we were.

What we do both remember very vividly is our German lessons, and our Albino music teacher who terrorised us.

We also recalled the very strict discipline of the nuns that would be completely unacceptable in today’s educational environment. In fact, it would be classified as child abuse and bullying.

A couple of years later, due to the political climate, I was sent off to boarding school in Beirut. Maria Angeles’s family was posted to Cyprus, then onto Geneva. My Dad was posted to Nairobi, so I finished my education in the UK and began working in London, Maria Angeles finished hers in Geneva before returning to her native Spain to start working.

Throughout those years, we remained in close touch, exchanging long letters and always planned to meet up again. Maria Angeles was the first to get married, and even though I was only in the UK at that stage, it just wasn’t possible for me to go to Spain. She sent wedding photos, and when I got married a few years later, I sent mine. As the kids came along we exchanged baby photos, and so our friendship continued even though we were living continents apart as by then I had moved to Australia. We shared trials and tribulations, stories of separations, family weddings, proud moments and everything in between.

When I moved to Spain in September 2014, I had hoped we’d be able to meet face to face. Unfortunately, that was not to be as by then my dear friend had been in a horrendous car accident. She’s left with limited mobility, unable to drive, and can only walk short distances with the aid of crutches.

The need to rely on other people to help her get out of the house has severely curtailed her movements. So although I was in the same country, my work schedule, and her mobility issues kept us from meeting. We talked on the phone and kept in touch by email – yes, we have finally graduated from hand written letters!

with Maria Angeles
Taken at the end of my 40 hour journey from Darwin – as I stepped off the train in Alicante – reunited at last!

On my return trip to Spain last week, I made it a priority to see my dear friend.

The days were blocked out in my schedule to travel to Elche, a 6-hour train journey from Barcelona. Despite it being the shoe city of Spain I didn’t venture into a single shop; instead the time was devoted to being with my childhood friend.

We talked as though we were still those two young girls. There was no awkwardness despite the fact that so many years have passed. It seems like it was only yesterday we were kids yet 45 years seem to have flown past.

Maria Angeles and I agreed, during our reminiscing that we’d both had a great life.

Wonderful opportunities, and education even though we spent considerable time in political hot spots and third world conditions (Congo, India, Pakistan as well as the Middle East).

We also reflected, with the benefit of hindsight, that it was our diverse childhood experiences that have really bound us together. Unlike those who grow up in the same place, we never had the opportunity of neighbourhood friends since our neighbourhoods  frequently changed. Our home was always where our parents were posted.

Just as I struggled to adjust to a life in the UK and then in Australia, Maria Angeles struggled to return to life in Spain.

We are both United Nations children, the people we are today is thanks to our upbringing, the challenges we faced along the way, the amazing experiences and people we met along the way, but to us it was all normal. It was our life and we just accepted it. It is only as we have grown older that we know just how different that life was.

I’m thrilled that I was able to see Maria Angeles in person once again, to have a glimpse into her life today.

It was nice and at the same time a little weird meeting her adult children as it still felt like we were those two young girls. How could she have such a grown-up family?

Equally, I think her children were as fascinated to meet such an old friend of their mothwpid-img-20150806-wa0001.jpger’s; one who came from so very far away, as they have lived their whole lives in the same place. While I was there, they had a snapshot into their mothers childhood years, and I suspect saw her in a slightly different light.

We don’t think of ourselves as being old, but Maria Angeles is now a grandmother to three gorgeous little boys, the eldest of which is three years old.  Some of my other friends are grandmothers, but to see my old school friend as a Grandmother was something else – makes me realise I must indeed be getting old even if I do still feel like a spring chicken.

We’ve promised it won’t be another 45 years till we see each other – we’ll both be celebrating our 100th birthdays if we leave it that long!  Seize the day, live life to the full because we never know what’s around the corner.

Life is fragile and I’m thrilled I got to spend those two magical days with my lifelong friend and her delightful family. Friendship is a wonderful gift and I am blessed to have some very special friends.

Michelle

GOODBYE ECIJA

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With the Academy Directors

Friday night saw me bidding  a sad farewell to the last group of my lovely students who have been a part of my life since last September. I have to admit I shed a little tear (and so did some of them). My walk home, after handing in the keys to my boss, was filled with mixed feelings. I knew this was the last time that I would be treading the familiar route, one that I had walked four times a day, in all kinds of weather. As I walked I said a mental goodbye to the places I regularly walked past. Sometimes in the freezing cold, other times with sweat pouring down my face.

One of the things I am really going to miss about being there is the lovely long break in the middle of the day for siesta.  My break was usually 3 or 4 hours, depending on the timetable and whilst it was a bit strange at first, and I never used this as a siesta time, I soon developed the habit  of using these times to work on other projects or simply relax with a good book.

I arrived struggling to speak Spanish, and even more, the accent of Andalucia but now I surprise myself with how much I actually understand and am able to communicate. I think I surprised some of my colleagues and students too. Whilst I am by no means fluent I can get by very well. You can read about my early adventures in the Spain tab of my blog, but my most memorable occasion is the gas bottle episode.

I became accustomed to the fact that all the shops close for lunch and on Sundays, including many of those in Seville and Cordoba too. I learnt to organise myself around their opening hours and Sunday was truly a day or rest and recreation.

Whilst I still registered that the church bells peal out every hour, every day of the week, even through the night. I got used to it and it became a familiar part of daily life in a little Spanish town.

I loved sitting in the Salon (the main square that is more correctly named Plaza Espana) especially in the recent months when the daylight lasted until about 10 o’clock, and at the other little bars having a tapa and watching whole families or varying generations all eating together, the children and dogs all playing sociably. I didn’t enjoy the dog poo that I need to keep a sharp eye out for!

It’s been a great learning experience. Learning about the rich culture, both ancient and modern, learning about the people and the local customs. All in all it’s been a wonderful opportunity to learn first hand about life in a small Spanish town away from all the commercialism and tourist hubble-bubble of the larger cities.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience. Thank you Educalia Ecija and all the fabulous people I’ve had the opportunity to be involved with during my time there.

Michelle

 

Making friends

How and where we make friends is something we’ve been discussing as part of the English course I teach. On a personal level, as part of my online blogging activities, I’ve also been meeting my electronic neighbours so I thought it timely to share this link to a blog I wrote last year on the topic of friends.

If you decide to take the time to read the old post I’d love to hear your thoughts on the magic of friendship.

Michelle

HAPPY AUSTRALIA DAY

It’s already Australia Day but, where I am, here in my little flat in Ecija, Spain, rugged up in 4 layers of clothing with the heaters on, it’s not yet the 26th. I am however reflecting on my journey to becoming Australian.

I wasn’t born in Australia, but then again, neither were so many others that call this country home. My entry to Australia was relatively easy as I didn’t need to sit any IELTS tests, apply for sponsorship or come on a boat seeking asylum. I am very grateful and blessed!

I first visited Australia as a 19 year old travelling overland from London to Athens on a bus, flying to Bangkok and Singapore to visit friends and family before landing in Sydney and heading to Canberra before eventually travelling up to Darwin to visit more family members. Little did I know that Darwin was going to play a big role in my future.

It took me a great many years to become completely comfortable living in a country that was so totally different to where I spent my childhood – the Middle and Far East – even though I went to the UK for my final years of schooling. I felt like a fish out of water for a very long time because it was so culturally different to what I was used to. I didn’t really identify as any particular nationality even though my passport said British, and I rather suspect, this was due to my global upbringing and not having a fixed home base. Home was wherever my parents were.

On reflection, I was lucky to have ended up in Darwin as it’s undoubtedly the most multi-cultural city in Australia, a real melting pot where everyone lives side by side and there are no enclaves of particular ethnicities.

Today, I most definitely identify as Australian and consider myself extremely fortunate to live in a country that offers wonderful opportunities and provides, a predominantly, safe environment for children, as well as a warm welcome to those who manage to make Australia their home, even if there are lots of hoops to jump through and things are not always quite as some of us would like them to be.

I applaud all those who work so hard to make Australia a better country.  I give kudos to those in our armed forces who fight to protect our liberty and our freedom and I congratulate all the wonderful people who have been honoured in the 2015 Australia Day Awards. It’s especially pleasing to see Rosie Batty, a domestic violence campaigner named Australian of the Year, her story is truly inspirational and shines the spotlight firmly on a topic that is all too often avoided.

Australia Day Ball 2012 with special friends
Australia Day Ball 2012 with special friends

I’m missing the Australia Day Ball and other festivities, both madcap and serious, but I will be bringing a little bit of Australia into my Spanish classroom tomorrow.

Thank you Australia for all you have given me. I am proud to call you home.

Happy Australia Day!
Michelle

 

Friends

friendOne of my newer (and much younger) friends asked me recently how I managed to remain in contact with so many people for such a long time. He went on to explain that he’d always felt the needed to be in touch with people all the time in order to keep up a friendship and hence had lost touch with several.

His question made me think and this is the answer I came up with.

First of all we need to be clear not to confuse colleagues and friends. The relationships are completely different.

We actually experience several different types of friendships over the course of a lifetime. There are many types of friendships and the old saying ”people come into your life for a reason, for a season, for a lifetime” is definitely correct but it is only as we grow older that we understand and appreciate this.

Friendships occur amongst school friends, workmates and sports teams as well as within social circles that we mix in. Many of these tend to be of a transitory nature with only a few friendships continuing once we move into different jobs, sports or circles. Those we maintain contact with tend to be those who we truly have a connection with.

I’ve been lucky enough to connect in person with several friends over the last couple of months. They are all people who I have not seen for some time yet when we met again the conversations flowed as if it was yesterday.

A friend can come from any walk of life, and indeed my friends are a very diverse group from all corners of the globe. A friend does not necessarily agree with you all the time, rather friendship is built on mutual respect where each person can be themselves and unafraid to express alternate views. Friends also sometimes provide advice that we might not want to hear but it is always given with the best intention and these tend to be our friends for a lifetime, people who we know will support us in an hour of need even if they don’t always agree with our decisions. They are the ones who drop everything to turn up with the tissues, bottles of gin or whatever else is needed during a moment of crisis.

Each of the friendships I’ve experience have helped me develop and grow as a person. I am thankful for the experiences and grateful for all my friends far and wide both the new and the old. Through this blog I’ve been keeping in touch with the world at large and it’s those who take the time to respond by clicking Like on the Facebook feed, sending me a private message, an email or leaving a comment on the blog that make my day. Friends for a reason, a season or a lifetime – thanks for sharing the journey that is life.

Michelle