Dragon boat

Sports

I know dragon boat for long as there is a dragon boat day Day in China. But I didn’t see the dragon boat until I was 24 years old when I was in Hong Kong. I went to Lantau Island on that day and saw a dragon boat race.

KPMG was recruiting dragon boat team members in October last year. I was told dragon boat was a popular sport for team building and KPMG had the dragon boat team for  5 years. The dragon boat race would be in the second week of the Chinese New Year, which is also the closure of the celebration. I didn’t hesitate and paid for my registration. My body was calling for my Chinese blood and I knew it.

The training started in October as well. It was fun for one second then became hard. I needed a full bottle of water for the training and I particularly did not like wearing wet clothes going home but the water was inevitable from the strong peddlers.

On Sunday 25th February, we were at Darling Harbour at 7.30am. The nerves and emotions were etched into everyone’s faces, yes it was the race day. There were 48 corporate teams in the race and every boat has 2 heats. KPMG’s one boat was in the major final and the other was in the minor final. In the minor final, one KPMG boat was narrowly beaten by another team. It wasn’t great news for us waiting for the major final.

I was lucky to be in the major final and it was pretty intense. Westpac clearly didn’t want to be challenged as they were leading the game for almost 10 years. At the starting point, there were war cries from them but our team remained quiet and focused. After a few deep breaths, we started the race. The first 20 strokes were really fast and I could feel everyone wanted to win the game. At 100m, “Go Now, Everything” was from the back of the boat – the traditional call that we had to empty the very last ounce of energy. There was supposed to be a transition with longer and slower stroke but no one slowed down. I followed the person at the front closely. The last 20 seconds was like a long day, but we finally finished. I couldn’t see the result and didn’t know what happened until some KPMG crew were cheering from the bank. I thought we won but the boat was very silent. I once thought what would happen if we won, the funniest scenario was all of us jumped into Darling Harbour, but no, nothing crazy happened. One stoke, two strokes, we moved slowly back to the pier. We took a picture when we jusmped out of the boat with the gesture of Number 1. That was our celebration.

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Not sure it was just for us or it was a tradition at Dragonboat race. Everyone from the race used their paddles to build a corridor for us to go through and I just gave high five to everyone. I finally realised that we indeed won the race. It was amazing. On the way back to the crew, I saw the announce board. We finished the race at 50.06s, only 0.22 seconds ahead of Westpac. It was very close but so glad we won.

It was raining on that day and I walked home wet but I had no complaints at all. In the night I heard someone said “Are you ready?” and I put my paddle in the water. Yes, it was a sweet dream.

Zagreb

Travel

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The old town of Zagreb was small. The cathedral was very tall and from the hill, there was a very beautiful view of the city. However, there were not many tourists compared to Italy, which was great for me. As it was Christmas I went to the mass in the cathedral. Although I did not understand the language, I really enjoyed the music and the atmosphere. I noticed the top part of the cathedral was under maintenance but probably because no one could figure out how to fix it, they used a painting to cover the tower and it looks like it’s been there for a while.

As a vegetarian, I found it hard to live in this part of the world. There was a kebab restaurant next to the hostel but there was no vegetarian option. Interestingly, there is a veggie option for kebab shops in Australia, but they never refer to the final product as a veggie kebab. Instead, they call it a veggie wrap so that the name of kebab cannot be messed up with non meat stuff. As no supermarkets were open on Christmas Day, I had to buy a beef burger and got rid of the beef by myself to change it to a veggie burger. I remember the situation was the same in Poland or Czech when I was there a few years ago. I don’t complain about it. As it was so cold here in winter, people need the energy from the meat.

One thing I do want to complain is that people have to pay a luggage fee for buses in Croatia. I was surprised when the bus driver asked for cash for my bag. Later I googled and found an article on the website explaining the reason for the fee – they argue this is similar to the extra luggage charged by budget airlines so that people only pay what they need – this is just bullshit as there are a lot places in a bus. Basically, I had to get some Euro coins just for the luggage and most of my other expenses could be paid through credit card. The exception of the luggage fee is the the company called Flex which is associated with MegaBus. Flex had wifi on the bus and the check in was via my mobile phone. I guess Flex was considered as non-budget bus company and much better than the others.

Ljubljana

Travel

My Yugoslavian trip started from Slovenia. This country was known as the first one to be independent. I was a little surprised as Slovenia was part of European Union and Euro was also used.

I took the bus to Ljubljana but did not know how to pronounce its name. In Milan, the bus driver asked me “where do you want to go”? I said “Slovenia”, he asked “Ljubljana”? I said yes. Then I knew how to pronounce it – sounds awful.

I stayed in the “new” part of the town. My check-in was pretty late and when I woke up in the morning, I found the city was not that pretty. I managed to talk to a Slovenian local. He was not against Yugoslavia but he also emphasised that this country was much better than the other countries. Maybe that was true but I just couldn’t tell.

I went to the old town in the afternoon. The town was small but quite beautiful. I particularly like the dragon bridge which had four dragon statue in each corner of it. There was also a nice fortress according to the map but unfortunately, I did not find the entrance to it, so most of the time I just walked around under the fortress.

I quite liked this Ljubljana as it is nice and small. I bought four persimmons from an “Aldi-like” shop called “Hofer” for lunch and they were delicious. I thought this city set a high standard of the trip, so I hope the following would not disappoint me much.

Dubai

Travel

I finally made my trip to Dubai.

Dubai is built for rich people. The biggest shopping centre Dubai Mall – its gates are all in the car park, so the assumption is you have to have a car to go to the shopping centre. I can probably understand it because walking on the street in Dubai is horrible. There are no shades or grass anywhere. It is so hot to walk around and quite often on the sand directly.

I was lucky to stay at JW during my stay. There was a nice sports bar with big screens at the ground floor. I passed it the other day and saw live different football games on the wall and local people were drinking and chatting. The rich people’s life is nice no matter where they live.

It is a different experience to run in Dubai. They’ve built nice running track along the beach, but no one can run after 8 am during the day because of the heat. I tried to run a few times before the sunrise. It was actually pretty good.

The jetlag was always with me, so I followed Australian time. When the hotel provided the free breakfast, it was my dinner time, so I enjoyed the food a lot – especially after the run.

At one stage I think they should instal a huge aircon to cover the whole city to cool it down and stay away from the sand, but they didn’t, so Dubai is still dusty and hot. Anyway, Dubai is safe and modern, so I don’t mind coming back to visit again, but I don’t think I can live here for sure.

 

Sydney Marathon

Sports

Yes, I registered Sydney marathon in the last minute at the early bird rate. I am sure I will not be ready for it on the day, but I will try my best.

3 years ago, a colleague went for the Sydney marathon and told me the experience was great, but I had already registered Melbourne marathon so I didn’t go to Sydney in that year. I totally said goodbye to the city of Melbourne after 4 marathons. Although I have changed my focus to triathlon this year, I just can’t resist doing another marathon.

The Sydney route looks complicated and there are no straight roads as in Melbourne route, but the view would be great, especially in the beginning when people cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge and in the end when people run to the Opera House.

I have 5 more weeks to prepare for it. My daily training should be enough for me to finish the run, but I just need to have a 3+ hours run at the weekend to make it easier. The third hour is going to be really painful and I might not have enough time to taper.

5 weeks is also a nice waiting time. I hope the sea water would be warm enough to swim after the marathon so that I can recover my swimming training by then.

Barcelona

Travel

I went to Barcelona over Easter. It was a short visit with four nights, but I enjoyed it.

I stayed in a hotel in the city right next to Casa Batlló and it was close to everything. My first impression to the city was it was so organised. The city was old but the original design was so good. There was a small square in each junction; the buildings around were pushed back so the square was big enough to be used as a small car park. Pedestrian crossings were at the sides of the square and there were bins along with them. I was also surprised by how people behaved in the city; almost all residents followed the traffic rules. I took the bus only twice and the bus driver used indicators properly. Compared the UK, the US, Australia, Asian, this place was much more civilised. People were also friendly as well. Most residents were white, occasionally I could see some Latinos. The language of Catalan was softer than Spanish and didn’t sound that rude in my opinion, but I still want to learn Spanish one day  as I want to be tough.

I was in Madrid three years ago and I also have friends from Barcelona who claim Catalonia is an independent country. Now I know why.

Uber Driver

Lifestyle

Uber finally hit Illawarra.

I registered as a Uber driver on the day Uber was launched and they approved me this morning. I had three trips today. The fist one was from innovation campus to Wollongong station. It was an Indian student and it was not a pleasant one. He sat at the back seat and talked to someone on the phone all his trip. The second one was good and I went to a town I have never been before. The last one was at night after study and it was from North Wollongong station to innovation campus.

I’ve earned 23 dollars so far. I don’t really expect to earn a lot of money from Uber, but I think it is a good way to meet new people and to pass some positive attitude. Sharing economy is something no one can miss. I participated Couchsurfing for long, now it’s time to give Uber a go.

 

 

Meditation

Lifestyle

 

As you know I started my swimming lessons – it went well. Last week my instructor give me a pair of flippers and told me to wear them in order to concentrate on my stoke practice. She even told me I could get them any time I want. I put them on and could swim like a torpedo but I thought these things were a bit like drugs and quite addictive, you know like having viagra for sex, so I decide not to use it when I practise until I take lessons again with her next week, just like following doctor’s instructions.

Another change for me is I started practising meditation, to be specific via headspace. I heard many people including Tim Ferriss had mentioned this type of thing in many occasions. Last month in the city a friends even told me he went to a class every weekend to do this type of meditation. I think it’s time for me to have a go. I downloaded this app a couple of weeks ago and tried it for 10 days, just 10 minutes after getting up – not bad. I did not feel any immediate impacts on me but I particularly liked the feeling when I was told not to control my mind and let it go. It was weird but very joyful and I also hope I will get more benefits in long term. I subscribed the service for a year last week and since then started practising it every day.

Wow, two new things in a month – swimming and medication. I hope I am not overwhelmed by the changes. I have adjusted my nap time a bit to accommodate my changes, which means I will have to sleep less but I will be fine. Oh boy, life is full of adventures.

Swimming Lessons

Sports

I don’t like work functions. I work in a small firm, so over working time, I have had enough social talks with colleagues. When it comes to work functions, I have nothing to talk to them any more.

I missed out dinners for the last two end of financial years, so when the HR manager walked to me and asked me if I could make it this year, I slowly said yes although I really really didn’t want to go – it was a Thursday and I had to go to the gym that day.

Anyway I went there. It was in a Thai restaurant; the only thing I could eat was spring rolls – they ordered too much meat.  I met this guy who was the partner of my colleague and he was the fitness instructor in the gym. We had a good conversation about how to make friends in a new town, how does bee work, and the upcoming election ect. Then it came to his specialty – fitness, I told him I had done marathon four times. He was not surprised but asked me why not do a triathlon.

This is an interesting question. I have been thinking about triathlon for ages but I have never made any efforts to get it started. I am relatively okay with running and cycling but very bad at swimming. In an ideal situation, it can take me three hours to finish 800 m of swimming, so my imagination of triathlon aways stops here.

On that evening, I thought I might be quite motivated. That guy’s encouragement reminded my early days in preparing my first marathon. It was hard and boring but not mission impossible. I might be a bit older now, but I could still try something new. So I told him I would start training for my first triathlon.

Following his suggestion, the next day I went to the pool and enrolled in an 16 weeks’ swimming lesson starting from this Saturday. It is never too late to do something crazy I guess.

This is the next question, I have a pair of budgie smugglers but I might need new swim trunks to cover myself a bit more. Not sure!

Hotel Rating and Ethical Standards

Travel

Last week I was in the big apple for a couple of days. I stayed in a hotel called Holiday Inn Express and it was quite nice.

I went to the restaurant of the hotel very early everyday due to the jet lag, so I was always the only one there. The staff in the restaurant were from a Caribbean island country that I could not remember the name. They were lovely and showed me how to make the fatty American pancake. I told the girls I was here for holiday and they were quite confused. Then I told them I was on vacation, which made sense to them. I was a bit surprised as the hotel was Holiday Inn, it was not a big word like Renaissance, so what would be the meaning of holiday in their minds?

Anyway, in the last day, I still had an interesting conversation with the girls and I told them I was going to leave in the evening. They went to the kitchen, came back and brought me a business card showing the website of the hotel on TripAdvisor and asked me to rate the hotel and mention them. I said yes to them and they told me their names.

After I checked out, I found this rating thing was quite annoying. I will normally rate all my hotels anyway but just to share my experience. If I write this rating just because they asked me to do so, am I still right? It should not be a question to anyone else, but just because I had received strict ethics educations from both CA and CFA programmes, I found I was in an ethical dilemma.

I don’t quite understand the expectation of the whole rating system on TripAdvisor, is it for simply sharing your opinions or can it be sued to send someone a compliment? Furthermore, the girls specifically told me I should mention them, and I would assume they could get some  sorts of benefits, so should I disclose it in my rating? It’s all getting complicated before I tried to rate the hotel.

In the end, I thought I was overcomplicating a simple issue, so I drafted this rating with my own justification: I gave this hotel a 5 star rating, I also mentioned those girls just as evidence to support my rating. As for what they could get as a result of my rating, I would not know, so there was no need to disclose it. In addition, I did not tip them (Yeah, fucking cheap Chinese), so I was meant to do something to show my thanks to them.

I posted my rating on TripAdvisor. In a few days,  I received the manager’s response, so I think everyone is happy now. Phew, it is not easy to become a CA or CFA…

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