Repurposing items!!

Before throwing anything out I think that we need to ask ourselves if it can be repurposed or recycled. Repurposing, in my opinion, is better than recycling. So if possible we need to look at it as our first option. Second option: “one (wo)man’s junk is another (wo)man’s treasure.” So, if we can’t repurpose it, maybe someone else can! If not, then recycling, I guess. Last option – rubbish bin!!


 Repurposing and Recreating Small Glass Jars!

No long after arriving back in Oman for the 3rd time, I invited a long-time friend to dinner. He bought some desserts in small glass jars. The desserts were really nice, but the best part for me - the glass jars! I immediately thought, “these would be so handy to put my earrings and other stuff in”. As my contract was only two years I wanted to buy as little as possible. He told me that he had loads of them at home because he ate lots of those desserts and had never thrown them out. Here we go, “one man’s junk is another woman’s treasure”!! I knew that I could use some of them.

I put one on my dressing table and put my earrings in it. It looked pretty boring – just plain glass. So, I thought – glass painting! I immediately googled “glass painting”. Then I set about looking for glass paints. And the painting began!! Art supplies are a bit lacking here, as was my knowledge and experience of glass painting, so the first designs were a bit rough and ready. But, it was fun and the jars looked transformed.

 “Bring over the rest of the jars”, I said – and the jar-painting adventure began in earnest. I painted Christmas presents for my colleagues – a personalised jar for each of them based on their interests. I think they were pretty chuffed! I painted more for other friends as wee gifts. Inside those I popped a tee-light candle. I had so many jars that I sent some of them to a church bazaar with a tee-light candle in each. To my surprise, they were snapped up very quickly!

 As I went on, my designs and painting got better and better. One person even asked for some more so that she had a set of 6! How’s that for an accolade? This time I was pretty chuffed!! These wee painted jars are all over my house holding an assortment of things - keys, earrings, bracelets, safety pins, bag ties, coins, other odds and ends.

Some have candles in them that I burn when I do yoga and meditation, or  when I just need some pampering!

 

Rainbow Springs, Sungai Lembing, Pahang!

This is a pretty cool trip! I highly recommend it!

A friend and I headed out of Kuantan and drove to Sungai Lembing, about an hour away. We stayed the night at a local hotel as we had a really early start the next morning. 

We left around 5.30am, picked up in 4x4s. We all jumped in the back. All the people on the tour were from Singapore, except the two of us of course. First stop – local Chinese food-court for breakfast!

Then the adventure began! We headed off on a pretty good track through the jungle, which became muddier, slipperier and bumpier as we went on. Keep in mind that it rains quite a lot in Malaysia. It was fun but pretty scary at times, especially when we drove through rivers and slipped all over the place!

 After about an hour we parked the truck and prepared for our walk. 

There in front of us was a river!  Crossing that river was the beginning of our hike!! It was above my waist. Luckily, there was a rope to hold on to. We held our bags high so they didn’t get wet.

 The 30-minute hike was fun and beautiful - up and down on a rocky path, with views of the river here and there.

Eventually, we came to a rock pool with a waterfall. It was overcast so we wondered if we would see the rainbow. The trip so far had been loads of fun anyway, so I wasn’t too worried. We were the first to arrive, so we jumped in the pool for a swim.

We hadn’t been there very long when the sun came out and the rainbow appeared!

Loads of people also appeared - and they just kept on coming!!

 We had a hot drink and then made our way out again - hiking along the track, through the river,  onto the back of the truck and back to the hotel for a shower and dry clothes. What a great morning!

Histamine Intolerance!

Histamine Intolerance – have you ever heard of this? Well, I hadn’t either until this weekend.

As usual I was following “good” health advise from my favourite health guru plus many other “so-called health experts”. Lots of fruit and veges, fermented food, very little processed food, healthy fats, and good protein. Mostly I have been eating vegetarian, with meat only once or twice a week. The emphasis in lots of health literature these days is on having lots of healthy fats and fermented foods, so I have been adding more of these into my diet. As I have a history of “gut” health problems and eczema, eating healthy is important to me.

The first symptom was slight pains on my left side. I cut out the coconut oil and those symptoms vanished. For quite a few weeks I have had eczema, to varying degrees, on my hands. Then came some allergy kind of rash around my lips, and sinus headaches.

Last weekend, I saw sauerkraut in the supermarket, so I thought I would try it. I had some with my dinner that night. The next morning I woke up with a very swollen upper lip. As many of us do, I took to google to find out what was going on – swollen lip after eating sauerkraut the night before!

 The answer – histamine overload/intolerance/sensitivity came up. I read the list of foods that cause this condition.

Histamine-rich foodsfermented foods: sauerkraut, vinegar, soy sauce, kefir, yogurt, kombucha; vinegar containing foods; alcohol: wine, beer, champagne; cured meats.

Histamine Liberators – these foods don’t contain histamine themselves, but can cause your body to release more of it. These foods include: Fruits and vegetables: citrus fruit, papaya, strawberries, pineapple, tomatoes, spinach, avocado.

Well, that made sense. Not only have I had problems with yeast overgrowth in the past, but I have been naively eating lots of these histamine-rich and histamine liberator foods daily in my quest for health! They have the yummiest grapefruit here so I have been having one of these every morning (good vitamin C), squeezed lemon in water, yogurt, kombucha, pineapple, tomato, spinach in my morning juice, apple cider vinegar, avocado.

It seems to me like the histamine levels have been building up and the sauerkraut pushed it over the edge. That would explain all these symptoms.

Who to go and see about this to check it out? Not an easy decision in this town!

For the histamine intolerance, many websites recommend eating a low histamine diet for 7-14 days to see if symptoms improve and if they do then you can surmise that you probably have intolerance to histamine rich foods. So, this is what I will do!!

A Winter Break in Prague!

A Winter Break in Prague!

A needed break between semesters! A last chance to go to Europe! Where should I go? After much deliberation, I settled on Prague. “Ah Prague, so beautiful” was the response I got from everyone when I said where I was going. Needless to say, my expectations were pretty high before I even got on the plane.

View of Prague from the castle

It was a little chilly when we left Dubai, well chilly for Dubai anyway! We flew over Iran, all covered with snow – so beautiful!! We had difficulty landing in Prague because of low cloud. After some circling around we managed to get a break in the cloud and into Prague we went. Spectacular – snow was everywhere. Yeah, a snowy winter break was what I was after - the exact opposite to desert heat!


Gate from Charles Bridge to Old Town

I read that to get into Prague from the airport by public transport you need to take a bus and then the train. And, of course, from the train station I would need to get a taxi or something to my hotel located by Charles Bridge. So, to save any hassles I pre-ordered the hotel shuttle to pick me up. I knew it was a bit expensive but I didn’t how much more expensive it was. An English couple had booked through a private airport company and their fare was nearly half the price and it included a free walking tour of Prague! So, it pays to shop around before you go. However, my driver did drive past the castle and give me lots of information on the way to the hotel. On a brighter note, the hotel I booked was fabulous, a quaint 3-star hotel right at Charles Bridge and reasonably priced.


Attractions

View of Charles Bridge from the water.

Charles Bridge, an iconic 14th-Century structure, is probably one  of the most popular attractions in Prague. It’s very cool with all the statues and views of the river. I was surprised how busy it was considering it wasn’t the tourist season. There were beggars on the bridge. They seemed to crouch in a very humble fashion with their head and body bowed, unlike in other places where they sit up and plead (see photo at the bottom of the post).


St. Vitus Cathedral

From Charles Bridge it’s a really cool short walk up narrow winding cobbled streets to Prague Castle. For me, this was the number 1 attraction. It’s free to walk around the gardens of the castle, but it’s worth paying to go into all the different buildings. St. Vitus Cathedral dominates and it's absolutely incredible inside. The view from up there is fantastic. You can also walk up to the castle via Letna Park, which I happened upon on one of my walks along the river. It's well worth the effort as there are great views up there too and it's a lovely walk!


Buskers

Prague is a great walking city because it’s mostly flat. Across Charles Bridge is the old city area of Prague with the Old Town Square with the astronomical clock and its 600-year-old mechanical clock face. This strikes every hour and the little figures go around. You have to look pretty carefully to see them all. There are loads of churches and cathedrals and these are intact because they escaped destruction and looting during the war. They are very ornate. I’ve never seen anything like them. As well as lots of churches and restaurants in this area, there were also still-life buskers.  I think it must be a pretty cold job in winter! This is my favourite busker - so cool!!


Jewish Synogogue

I went to the Jewish Quarter. I wanted to take a walking tour, but they only had French and German while I was there. This is one of the disadvantages of being there in the off-season and being alone. They did say that if I was in a party of 3 or 4 they could organise a guide, but not just for one person. I wandered around on my own.  The synagogues, old Jewish Cemetery and the Jewish Museum were all  very interesting but I am sure they would have been more interesting if I'd had a guide.


I wandered down the really cool alleys to Wenceslas Street, where all the big shops and chain stores are. There was a protest going on in support of the people of Romania. I was impressed with the collection of English books in the bookshop that I went into.


Inside the town hall

My first night I went to a classical concert in a church. They have these concerts in different churches every night. I was a bit disappointed. I didn’t realise it was only 4 people on violins with a woman singing some songs. It was very nice but really, I thought it was a bit expensive for what it was. Another night I went to an opera in the Prague National theatre. The opera house was closed for renovations. This was very impressive. My seat was really high up so at first I was pretty nervous, but I soon got used to sitting there. I read all about the opera before I went but I needn’t have worried because there were subtitles in English. The final night I took a ghost tour of the town hall. This was pretty cool and full of history. We didn’t see any ghosts but the atmosphere was great. I learned so much about the history of the city and realised it had such a great history. It also made me wish I had taken an organised tour when I first got there to get an overview of the city, and also a walking tour to find out more about the history. I thought because I had a few days there I could just explore on my own.


Statues

In one of my walking expeditions I came across this park and statues. They represent the victims of communism, people who were executed, jailed or whose lives were ruined by it. Very sombre!


I really enjoyed the food. It made such a change from the limited choice of restaurants that we have in Sohar. Breakfast at my hotel was good. I tried many dishes, including schnitzel with dumplings and cabbage, Hungarian soup in a bread bowl, Trdelník and potato on a stick.


I have a few regrets! I think taking the short organised tour or the big bus tour is a good idea, because they tell you lots about the history of the city. The ghost tour also made me realise that the city is full of really interesting history, so a walking tour would’ve been a good idea. I also wished I'd gone to Kutna Hora and the Bone Chapel as they look really cool. I should have done a bit more research before I went!!

  

 

Busker on Charles Bridge

Astronomical Clock

Jewish Synagogue

Charles Bridge

Inside a Cathedral

Statue on Charles Bridge

Stand up straight!

Did your mother or father ever tell you to stand up straight? Well it seems like that might’ve been good advice after all. I have this kind of hump at the back of my neck and I can guarantee it’s from bad posture. And I know of so many people who have back, hip, neck and jaw problems. Does bad posture play a part in many of these issues?

As I don’t want to be one of these people all hunched over as I head (no pun intended but I have noticed that when I walk I do actually lead with my head) further into my 60s, I decided that it’s time to take stock and concentrate on mindfully improving my posture. All change starts with awareness, making the issue conscious and then changing it. Often, easier said than done!

Tadasana (Mountain pose) is the name of the yoga posture that focuses on standing up straight. Stand up, feet hip width apart, put your pelvis in a neutral position, activate your core muscles, shoulders back, head facing forward, try to be the tallest in the class. All good instructions but we can take this a step further and make sure other muscles are activated and the spine is positioned and stabilised correctly.

Dr. Kelly Starrett gives detailed instructions in his book, “Standing up to a sitting down world”. He argues that stabilising the spine is one of the most essential things you need to do for your body. He has outline “The Bracing Sequence” to help us able to brace and protect our spine. So, in a nutshell, here are the 4 steps:

Step 1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart facing forward, squeeze your butt muscles about ¾. This should reset your pelvis in a more neutral position and release tension in your lower back. Externally rotate your hips while keeping your feet firmly fixed on the ground facing forward. As you do this, your right thigh should move to the right and your left thigh to the left. Remember your feet don’t move. This action will stabilise the hip joint and spine as well as the feet and ankles.

Step 2. Keeping the butt engaged about 20% and the external hip rotation, breathe into your belly and as you breathe out pull your belly button away from your pants. Keep some tension here (about 20%) – this is activating your core muscles.

Step 3. Stabilise your shoulders. Firstly, raise your arms outstretched to chest height, turn your arms over so your palms face the ceiling, now try to get the pits of your elbows to also face the sky. This is called externally rotating your shoulders. Your head probably pulled back too. With your arms at your sides try to externally rotate your shoulders in the same way without moving your chest forward or back.

Step 4. Set your head in a neutral position. Look straight ahead. “The goal is to align your ears over the centre of your shoulders, hips, and ankles.”

If you want more information or a more detailed step-by-step instruction, do check out Dr Kelly’s book or website. It’s fantastic stuff!! 

Homeward Bound!!

Homeward Bound!!

This issue of “homeward bound” will most likely dominate this section as I focus on my
homecoming around July or August. My time of working overseas is coming to an end because I need to return to NZ to qualify for the pension when I retire. Seems unfair that I don’t yet qualify - I was born in NZ, grew up in NZ, and have spent most of my working life in NZ! Whilst this pension amount is pretty low and certainly not really enough to live on, it is better than nothing and will be a lifesaver for me.

 Really though, I don’t feel ready to return home. NZ seems so isolated and so small-town and lifeless compared to many of the places I have lived in and visited. My brother tells me to see returning home as another adventure. Wise words!!

 The four issues that I will be exploring are:

  • Where in NZ to live – NZ has a housing crisis! Not only have house prices have risen dramatically in the last few years but there is also an acute shortage of housing, so rents have also risen. The rises and shortages are mostly in the cities so this would seem to rule out the main cities for me as they are out of my price range. That leaves provincial towns, many of which are dying. There is also family to consider. Do I want to be in close proximity to family now that we are all getting older? Or do I go somewhere where there are more work options?
  • Type of housing – this discussion and exploration will focus on the kind of living situation I want to create. Will I buy a small unit in a small town? Will I look for a place that I can also set up as an Air B&B, or something similar? Do I buy 2 flats, so I can rent one out? Do I go for a tiny house, which are all the rage in NZ and many countries at the moment? Do I look to live in some kind of community? Do I housesit and save money on rent? Do I make sure that I get a place where I can have an organic garden?
  • Job opportunities – the reality is that I will have to work when I go back? What kind of work will I do? Do I teach in a language school with a low salary? Do I start my own business, e.g. yoga teaching, health coaching, life coaching? If I start one of these businesses, should it be physical or an Internet business, or both? If it’s a physical business, will I be able to run it from home or will I need to rent a space? Should I look at other Internet opportunities, like editing or teaching English online? Do I need to find a job first and make where I live dependant on this? Or do I make the “where I live” more important and then sort out work opportunities?
  • Culture shock and adapting - NZ has changed a lot since I left. Immigration is at an all-time high with about 60-70,000 immigrants every year for the last 5 or so years. This has changed the country! But there are many other parts of life I will have to get reused to – driving, putting petrol in my car, exorbitant electricity prices, high food prices.

Credit Card – pre or post paid?

Pre or post paid credit cards!

Last night, 2.30am I might add, the bank called me. Someone was trying to use my credit card on the Internet. I'm always grateful to banks for being on the ball as far as security is concerned.

When I came back to Oman I decided to try using a different bank. All good, I opened my account and organised to have my salary transferred. Three months later I went in to apply for a credit card. Surprise!! "You are too old!" At first I was really disappointed and frustrated. However, they did offer a prepaid credit card. Begrudgingly, I signed up for the prepaid card.

In hindsight it has been the best thing that I did. I love it! When I want to buy something I transfer money to the credit card using the bank app. It means much easier budgeting. No interest payments if you can't pay back the amount you used immediately.  It also means that I think twice before I buy something, as I need to transfer the money before I buy. So, no getting into debt from using the credit card for impulse buys.There's no problem using it when travelling. I just estimate how much I want to spend while I'm away and put the money on the card in advance. 

And, it feels comforting knowing that if someone does try to use it fraudulently, there is a limit to how much they could spend. I usually only keep a minimal balance on the card and transfer money as I need it. Win win situation I would say!!

Sohar (Suhar)

Sohar (Suhar) - "Home of Sindbad the Sailor"

Part 2: Living in Sohar (Suhar)!

Sohar 2017

I lived in Sohar for 4 years from 2006 – 2010 and then again from 2015 to now (I am still here). Basically, Sohar is an industrial city with lots of industries a short way out of town in the port area. There are a couple of international schools and a couple of good supermarkets (Lulu and Carrefour), along with some hotels - Radisson Blue Hotel, Crown Plaza Hotel and Sohar Beach Hotel. It has a population of more than 221,000 but I think it has a small-town feel about it. Here’s my opinion:

The 6 best things about living in Sohar!

  1. The location! It's about half way between Muscat and Dubai. Sometimes you just need what a city has to offer – shopping, museums, anonymity, night -life, operas, concerts, attractions, nice beaches, adventure etc. Two other cities in the UAE, Al Ain and Fujairah, are really close as well. Sohar is also only a short drive to the mountains if you want to go hiking or camping, especially in the winter months when the weather is gorgeous. In the summer it’s too hot to do much as the temperatures are often in the 40s (celcius, that is)!
  2. Western and other expats live in Sohar! There’s not really much to do in Sohar, apart from going to the hotels or the hypermarkets. It does have some very good cafes now and a movie theatre (cinema). However, as it’s an industrial city, there are quite a few western expats and other expats living here and they organise a variety of social gatherings, such as quiz nights, coffee mornings, Thank God it’s Thursday drinks (the weekend is Friday, Saturday), cycling practice, dinners out, plus many other events. There are also different clubs and activities, including Toastmasters club, bridge club, Suhar Roadrunners group, churches, yoga, and gyms - both male and female.
  3. There’s very little traffic! Driving around Sohar is a delight, unless you venture onto the main highway. But many times you can use quiet roads and get where you need to. When I drive to work I think I’m waiting forever if I have to wait for 3 minutes. Compare that to driving to work in a city where you can be stuck at lights or in traffic for ages!! Mind you, you do need to watch out for those speed humps scattered around the place to slow down the traffic. Luckily, they are well signposted!
  4. It is on the coast! The beach is nice for walking along because it is sandy and

    Sunrise from my balcony on a cloudy day!

    stretches forever. You can swim here too as it’s usually relatively calm but it’s definitely not a white sandy crystal clear beach. A real bonus is that you can live by the beach relatively cheaply. I have an amazing apartment with a great view of the sea. I’m sitting on my balcony looking at the sea and listening to the gentle sound of the water as I am writing this – very nice!! You can also rent a villa close to the beach and it won't break the bank. Date palms are everywhere around the city and surrounding areas, so it makes it look really green. Mind you, some of these date palm farms have been disappearing over the years to make way for development – a great shame in my opinion but, sadly, this seems to be happening in so many countries.
  5. It’s safe! I love living in a city where I don’t have to worry about my house or my car being broken into. Don’t get wrong as it does happen sometimes but it’s very rare in Sohar. I never have to think about my personal safety or worry about my bag being snatched. It’s a hot climate so this means that lots of people are out and about shopping or walking in parks and on the beach until about 10 or 11 at night. I can walk on the beach or the corniche alone day or night and feel safe. This is a huge personal freedom as I come from a country where the streets are often deserted by 6pm so you can often feel vulnerable out walking alone at night, and I’ve travelled to plenty of countries where you have to be aware of bag snatchers and pickpockets!
  6. It has some unique cultural activities.

 

  • Bull Butting is a sport enjoyed by the men (and their bulls maybe) in the winter months. You can see people taking their bulls for a walk along the beach and into the water for a swim. It’s great to get along to one of these matches or whatever they are called as it’s very entertaining. It is certainly not cruel like bullfighting in Spain. The men all stand or sit around in their dishdashas with camel sticks and the two bulls come into the centre ring and butt each other for a little while amid lots of cheering and instructions. One of the bulls may run out towards the crowd and all the men stand up and shoo them away with their camel sticks. I don’t know how they judge which bull wins or if they bet or anything else, but it’s very entertaining for a visitor!
  • Fishing culture: in different seasons, all along the beach you can see the men laying out and pulling in nets. As they pull in the nets people gather to buy the freshly caught fish. After they leave you will see the expat labour workers collecting up the little fish left on the beach. Hundreds of seagulls also gather on the beach to have a feast. So, walking along the beach at this time for me is exhilarating. You see hundreds of birds sitting there, and as you get close they all fly above you. Makes me feel that I am part of their flight. The fish souk (market) is open every morning so you also can pop down there to buy fresh fish and have another local cultural experience.
  • Pulling in the nets video