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Thursday, 28 November 2013

Give Life

Time for a Plasma Donation.

I've only donated whole blood two or three times since coming here and plasma once before; mainly because appointments are so hard to get! (http://www.donateblood.com.au/) Talk about an amazing set-up, with top-notch centres and all the food and drinks you can want! The staff are lovely and friendly and always put everyone at ease. However, I find that is it so hard trying to book appointments for 2 people together, after work in a local centre. I go with a mate to Caulfield or Southbank Centres and ideally could donate Plasma every 2 weeks and whole blood every 3 months, but trying to get a time slot is harder than it looks!

This time it's in SouthBank and we arrive in plenty of time. My mate says he's hungry, which isn't the best way to go into a donation, but insists that he has hydrated enough to go ahead. We go in and check-in, filling in our questionnaires about us having never slept with prostitutes , injected drugs or been in prison etc. We have a quick 10 min interview with a nurse who tests your blood pressure, blood levels, weight etc & goes through the questionnaire with you. Then out to a chair where you get hooked up to a machine that looks like you're on dialysis or something, and off you go! It generally doesn't take too long, and we often "race" each other in trying to see who can donate the quickest. Well I never said I was mature...

This time however, I was looking at my mate who was saying that his donation was going very slow and the nurses kept coming back over and trying to mess with the needle. Cue my 6ft mate turning yellow, then white and then having to lie back on the chair as he was about to pass out. I normally would probably have taken a photo of the scene; with him legs up in the air and no shoes on, with two nurses at his side, fanning him! I know, however, how horrible it feels to pass out and how there's nothing you can do about it. Poor thing - I felt so sorry for him as you can feel so sick from an experience like that. His shirt was soaked with sweat and that was his donation over.
After I had finished and he had rested for enough time, I told him off for not having eaten and we went to the canteen for food. 4 sausage rolls, 2 Mars bars, some cheese, a strawberry milk and an Iced Chocolate later he was feeling fine! :)


To be continued Dec 17th...

17,228.03km

Life in Australia is great. Melbourne is amazing; honestly it is, but there's one thing that it doesn't have, and that's my family and friends from home. 
I haven't been homesick since coming over almost 2 years ago, however I get sad when I think about how I'm missing out. 
Sure, I'm getting to do things that I would ever get to do at home, but there's always a down-side to everything and in this case it's that I'm 17,228.03km away from home. Not exactly next-door.

It's like you're being torn or punished for having a life so far away. It's amazing to get the opportunity to do different things, to travel, to gain experiences; to have a life; something which we didn't have at home. But then there's the guilt that you're leaving people behind or missing out on their life experiences. 
I am missing out on my friends having babies, getting married, my brother graduating from his PhD in BioMedical Engineering, my Goddaughter growing up, nights out or chats with my besties and anything else that I can't simply "pop over" for.






There'll never be a solution for this though - it's either one or the other, you just have to choose. I see it in the people that go home - like they can't do it any longer; through guilt or homesickness. My way of dealing with it is living as much as I can while I'm here and taking each day as it comes. 
I try my best to keep in contact with everyone through messages, emails, Skype or Social Media. Sure, it's not the same, but it's better than nothing and I'm grateful to be able to share in some parts of the lives of my loved ones at home. I can't imagine years ago when people left home, and it was like they were gone forever! How horrible; it's hard enough at the moment, and technology has us a lot closer than we think.
The guilt is the worst. Missing the milestones and knowing you are never going to get them back or be able to spend them with those people. The first, second or third birthday, the first tooth, or steps; them not knowing me, or how much I love their Mam, their Dad or them, even though I don't actually know them.



I get excited thinking about going home for a month at Christmas 2014 as I'll be almost gone 3 years at that stage. This time next year we'll be going home with my sister's 1-year-old, will have Santa again, and will have a Christmas; something that is completely absent in Australia! I'm sitting here listening to Christmas FM (http://www.christmasfm.com/) which is broadcast from home, but the concept of Christmas can't be possible in a country where December is Summer and Santa would have a surfboard rather than a sleigh! 


17,228.03km from home. Almost a kilometre for every hour that has passed since I left.

A Motley Crue in Phillip Island


Ruthie's fella Steve's parents have a house in Phillip Island (http://www.visitphillipisland.com/) and so she decided to invite some of the girls to spend the night there. The best idea ever.

We stop in Una's Friday evening and get the surfboards strapped to Ruthie's car and we're off.
2 cars packed with girls from England, Ireland, Germany, New Zealand and France and we head to the island, stopping in the IGA to get food and drinks in.

We get there and it's dark and Ruthie gets the outdoor fire going. We all sit around as Lara gets the BBQ going, and soon the marshmallows are out and toasting nicely on the fire (as our faces burn cos we're way too close to the flames!) Lara screams as hers catches on fire and it sends everyone into fits of laughter at her massive over-reaction!

An impromptu trip down to the beach shows us just how cold it is by the sea and we quickly head back to the warmth of the fire for the rest of the night. We stay up chatting til 2am and then hit the sack as we're all tired after the week at work. Beds aplenty and I sleep like a log til 7am the next day.


Next morning everyone gets up early and heads down to the beach. Em and Una head off surfing, Rainman and Marion go swimming, and Ruthie and I chicken out and go for a walk along the beach for a chat! Lara and her sister turn up later and join us on the sand.





Back home for breakfast and a shower for some, and then off in the car to The Nobbies (http://www.visitphillipisland.com/listing/the-nobbies/) for an hour. Sunny but chilly, we walk along the deck praying that we might escape the copious amounts of bird poo that is EVERYWHERE. I leave my (Lara's) hat on; just in case!



As immature as always, we head into the shop and laugh at the "Placenta Facial Moisturiser", at the fact that they spelt Ciara with a K, Una buys Em a brush with her name on it and we nearly leave Rainman behind. All in the space of about 10 mins.


Back down to the town where we have lunch in a lovely small cafe and then look for the biggest icecream possible in the local shop Isola di Capri (http://www.visitphillipisland.com/listing/isola-di-capri-restaurant-and-gelateria/). Yummy!


A walk down to the beach and we chat for a while before heading back to the house and pack up and leave for the trip home. A perfect relaxing day and just what I needed after a difficult week.

I love this photo - I think it sums up our group of friends perfectly; a group of weird misfits who are up for a laugh and don't care who's watching! I hope I'll never grow up or be afraid to be me, and that I'll always appreciate the times spent with loved ones like this day. Simple but great, with lots of laughter. What more could you ask for when a mere photo sparks emotions and memories that make you smile?


My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding...

Hallowe'en comes and "German Lara" decides to have a huge house party off Toorak Road.

As my back was sore, I decided I wasn't going to dress up, but soon saw that I had no choice in the matter when I was nominated as the "Bride" in the "Gypsy Wedding" we were going as. OK then!

So Em went to a cheap shop and bought some "dresses", I got the fake tan, tattoos and some tack necklaces etc and we were ready. Heading to Una's after a day at the beach; Rainman, Suzie, Panda, Em and Una were the bridesmaids and I was the bride.

Suzie had previously decided that she was in no way wearing fake tan, until she decided that it actually looked good and went out and bought 4 different bottles of it the few days after! God that made me laugh!

So, we plastered ourselves in as much fake tan as possible, blue eye-shadow, tiaras, tutus (cos my dress was too short for me to go out in public - even for a Gypsy!), rings and heels and we were ready.


Em stole the show with her "beautifully tanned" face, and Suzie cheated, cos she just looked pretty! :) Cue some rough facial expressions and we were perfect!





Una had clearly done this before and had the accent down pat; although I'm not sure if the other girls could understand her!


The drink was flowing (although not for me as I was on my hard-core back drugs) and the messiness started. It comes with the territory when you go out with us! Drinks were spilt, dresses ripped, boys hit, fights started, Beer Pong played (which probably accounts for all the previous actions) and shots drank.

Lara had the house decorated with a projector playing scary films outside, music blaring, fake cobweb and spiders over the kitchen and bathroom - so I stayed in the sitting room for the whole night - and everyone had made the effort and were dressed up. Well played people!





About 1am we break up and head to Revellers Bar on Chapel St til 4am with Jo, Jamie, Em and Suzie. Em and Suzie come back from the dance-floor to stay near me, as otherwise their outfits made them look like tramps! I get some seriously weird looks, but after a while I had people high-fiving me, congratulating me, and asking me when The Big Day was! There was no point in trying to explain, so I just went along with it and said "tomorrow" or "next weekend" or whatever came into my head. One of my mates turned up and he was soon getting the "congrats" to him for being the "lucky fella"!! I had to laugh at their stupidity, thinking that a) a Hen would come out on her Hen Night with her husband-to-be and b) that she would be there with no friends/girls (as Em and Suzie had bailed at this stage)! Gotta love drunk people! Was funny though, so I just went along with it!

It took 2 weeks for the "wash-off" tan to come off. Clearly I had misread the label...which then meant that the lot of us had to wear trousers and long sleeves for a fortnight! The price you have to pay for "beauty"... I'm only sorry that it wasn't the fake tan that Em had used on her face. How the Head of Geography for Melbourne Uni would have explained that, I would have paid to hear!


Love you Leno!

So the time has come for someone very special to me to leave Australia and go home. I've tried not to think about it and have been ignoring it as the time crept closer and closer. It's funny, but you become so close to people so quickly when you're away and you're all in the same situation. Leno is pretty much the same person as me (apart from the fact that she is good at Maths cos she's an accountant). I hate Maths. All I can remember about it is the HOURS and HOURS of painful tutorials with my Dad not getting why I didn't know how X + Y = Z. Obvs.

Anyway, Maths-loving Leno (@lennonjen) lives with my Mam's Goddaughter by chance, and has decided that her time here in Oz is up and it's time for her to go home. The only upside for me in this situation is that I get a lot of her clothes that she can't fit in her bag. Thank you Ethiad.


I have had many a laugh with Leno, many a bitching session over lunch, a jog around the lake, lunch or dinner on Acland St, nights out (and falls!), trips away and general banter. She was one of the first friends I made over here in Melbourne - when we randomly found out that @ritacarney1 lived with her after I checked into a hockey dinner we were having. See - there's advantages to my addiction to Social Media! I could always rely on Leno to ask how I was doing, or to check in on me when she hadn't heard from me. She had lunch in mine when I was off work with my back and kept me updated on the goss for the hour. We have a laugh about a private joke she played on me with another mate of mine and how she nearly stopped my heart!


And now Leno with her love of spreadsheets was going back home to Dublin (UP THE ROYALS!) for good. :(





I called over to her house to go to the airport with her and was in denial that she was leaving til I saw the bags on the floor and felt the sombre mood in the house. I felt sick. I didn't want her to go. I didn't want anything in my life to change for the worse. A big part of my life was going to change and I didn't want it to as everything was going well.


But things change and people move on. I had to deal with the fact that she was going home and we would still be close and still be friends, only from a distance. Let's face it - with the frequency I use Whatsapp, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Google+ she wasn't getting away any time soon!
So, ignoring the sick feeling in my stomach we headed off in the car - Rita (@ritacarney1) was driving, Kathy (@Kathmcdermott2) was in the front and Leno and I were in the back. Leno sat on the right hand side to get a last look at Melbourne as we drove over the Bolte Bridge on the way to Melbourne Tullarmarine Airport (http://melbourneairport.com.au/). And then the tears came. 
It was like leaving home all over again; the tears, the heavy feeling in your heart, the lump in your throat and feeling very cold. I didn't want her to leave, but I wanted the feeling to be over ASAP. We dropped her off to the airport and waited for her to check in before saying our goodbyes. It broke my heart to say it and I didn't want to let go when she hugged me. I am officially the biggest cry baby ever!
And that was it. Like that, she was gone and on her way back to Ireland to have an amazing Christmas, to see all her friends and family and how could I not be happy for her to have that? Since then we text or tweet or FB every day and it's different, but it's still love :) 



Suisse Colour Run 2013

I'm becoming more & more frustrated at the fact that I can't do much exercise cos of my back. I've done nothing in 10 weeks apart from swimming & walking & it's making me lazy! So much so that when the Suisse Colour Run came around (that I'd already signed up & paid for), I wasn't in the mood to go. I knew that I couldn't run, so the thoughts of walking it just turned me off it & if Ruthie hadn't said that she was walking it too I would have stayed at home. 
And thank God for Ruthie! What a great day out!! I can't wait for next year already!


You pick up your white headband, number & Tshirt a couple of days beforehand & are set for the day. This year it was on a cold & wet Sunday; but as luck would have it, it stopped raining when we got there! #winning
Most of my hockey team was doing it, so we arranged to meet them beforehand. It took us about 10 mins to get past the starting line as there were 25,000 people doing it in Melbourne! 


As you go along, there are people along the sides who throw various different colour powders at you. It's pretty crazy to see a haze of blue/pink/yellow etc ahead & know what's coming. Great craic & good "sober" fun! The place was packed with mostly kids & females, but the atmosphere was buzzing! 

Ruthie & I didn't notice the 5km (actually 4.1km according to my Garmin watch!) go by as I quizzed her on her job (nurse in ICU) & the awful things she's had to encounter. I admire people who make a difference to the world with their job. I was, and am, so in awe & amazed at how people can do certain jobs & deal with such sad things in their daily lives. Asking Ruthie how she can get her head and heart around seeing kids die or watching families lose a loved one, she replies "for every one you lose, you save many more; and that's the best feeling in the world". I admire her strength & courage for doing such a difficult, and often thankless, job. I'm way too much of a cry-baby to ever do anything like that! I often wonder how my sister is a Vet Nurse or how my aunties work with old sick people. How do they manage to shut-off when they go home, when I can't even stop thinking about my admin job?! 

Back to the Run (sorry - I have a habit of going off on a tangent), the entertainment & music was great, there was free water at the end & everyone was given a sachet of colour to throw at each other afterwards. I OBVIOUSLY picked pink...


We met up with Chaz, Lynnie, Gabby, Jane & Rainman at the stage & danced to the music while taking photos of the state of ourselves! 




What a great day out! Everyone was in a good mood & the tunes were pumping! Someone throws a packet of pink dye from the stage, which is at LEAST 50m away, and it hits me square in the face!! Ruthie tries to explain through the laughter that she saw it coming...cheers for trying to save me so! Some nurse you are!! ;)

Really well organised event & the looks that four of us were getting in the car on the way home were funny! I kept forgetting what I looked like & was wondering why people were staring!


Well done Suisse Colour Run (www2.thecolorrun.com/Australia/Melbourne/) - you certainly know how to put on a show!!

New career?

One of my good friends over here decided to arrange a meeting with a couple of friends of hers that work in Social Media. I think I need to take the hint.


I'm the annoying friend who is always on her phone "Checking In", taking photos and uploading them so I can "tag" you in them. I will have you online as doing your activity before you even realise that you're doing it! Whether it's Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or Google+, I'll be on it. My iPhone 5S is an extension of my arm; literally like another limb and is never out of sight. I'll admit it - I'm addicted to social media. I am obsessed by letting everyone know what I'm doing, eating, wearing etc - "a stalker's dream" as my friend tells me. I justify it cos I don't watch TV, and it helps my friends and family at home in Ireland keep up with my life. One particular friend of mine rang me after not seeing any activity on my Facebook profile (https://www.facebook.com/ciara.sweeney) in 2 days! Yes; I probably have a problem, but I can think of worse things to be addicted to!
Anyway, said friend organises a meeting where the four of us catch up at Oscar Coopers on Greville St (https://www.facebook.com/oscarcoopermelb). We sat outside this lovely restaurant as it was sunny and ordered some drinks, which were later followed by free muffins! What a lovely surprise! Friendly staff and a lovely relaxed atmosphere means I would most definitely go back!


After a not-so-healthy 2 hour discussion on what I do with Social Media at the moment, the girls advise me to continue what I'm doing, but to step up the blogging and track the number of views and visits to see the improvement as I progress. This is something I could see myself doing in the future, considering I spend so much time doing it already. 

After this, I spend an hour with Una at the park chatting and then decide to head home to get changed to head out to "College Lawn" (AKA "The Village") (http://collegelawnhotel.com.au/) for a few drinks and something to eat. It tends to be the thing to do on a sunny Sunday evening. The place was packed; great buzz about the place! I bumped into a friend Chris from work who, it turns out, played Touch Rugby with Una the week before. Small world! Then, Chris heads off and a friend of a friend of his is left behind with us...slightly awkward, but he spends the rest of the evening with us. I don't hear him complaining, especially since he took a shining to Marion; Una's French friend.

A trip to the bar reveals another friend of mine, and so I'm left in the bar til 1am meaning a very difficult Monday ahead...but my focus on Social Media is now concreted. God help my friends....

Girl Crush

So, I get it now. I totally get it.
I often wondered how straight girls get "crushes" on other girls, but now I see. And I don't just have one either; I have three!
I went to see Pink, Rihanna and Beyoncé in concert and OMG I am officially in love.


Pink was an amazing singer, extremely athletic, funny, entertaining, cool and interacted with her crowd the entire concert. She collected gifts from the fans, waved to the kids and spoke to many people beside the stage. That girl is out of this world when it comes to talent. Pink flew through the air, upside-down, while singing - and IN HEELS I might add! Wonder-Woman and a born entertainer! An amazing birthday present from the girls & night I will never forget!


Rihanna was completely different, but off-the-chain-sexy! Everyone in the crowd just stood there with their mouths open, drooling and staring at her in disbelief! At times there was utter silence as she sang, as people were too enthralled with her appeal to scream or sing along! She didn't really interact with her fans at all; apart from the odd "grinding-session" she did with a couple of guys that thought all their Christmases had come at once! JD said to me at one stage that she felt we were intruding on an intimate moment that Ri-Ri was having with the microphone!! However, that's what made her so intimidating and yet intriguing to watch - she was singing and dancing like it was for you and you alone; and she didn't care if you were a guy or a girl.



And then Beyoncé arrived and you forgot about everyone else. She showed them all how to do it and how to make all the fans feel special. Dancing, singing, smiling, interacting; she had it down to a T. This was one sexy, strong, amazingly talented woman, who loved what she did and was very VERY good at it. She had two stages so that she could get to see everyone, she read out people's signs and spoke to them. She sang exactly like you hear her on CD, she looked AM-AY-ZING; exuding confidence as she strutted her stuff around the stage while men drooled and women screamed. You left the concert both ecstatic at what you had seen, but depressed that you were born you and not her!



I think my main hangup about people who are famous is if they're not willing to give something back to their fans. These people would be nothing if it wasn't for their fans. They are the lucky few who have (or mightn't have!) a talent and have been able to use this talent to their advantage. Seeing these three uber-famous women putting on such great shows and leaving people with smiles on their faces shows how easy it is to give back to others and to make them happy or  feel special. With a taco truck outside for all her crew and dancers, Bey shows how normal she is...underneath the millions of dollars worth of Bootylicious skin that is...

Oh well. One day...
In the meantime it's back to my chicken wings and chips...!!