Monthly Archives: January 2012

Hunter Valley

Over the weekend we took a trip up the coast to Hunter Valley. It is around 300 km north of Sydney and is the wine country of NSW. It is the place to go for wine tasting and to enjoy the scenic landscape. They also do cheese and olive tasting. Aside from being a foodies dream, the Hunter Valley is steeped in quaint history and historical architecture, much of which you can learn about by visiting the various museums and historical tours. The Hunter Valley also boasts an abundance of wildlife in a world-class national park and one of Australia’s most scenic golf courses. 

It was a bit wet in Sydney so I was glad to get away. Me, AS and my friends SS and PA got into the car and off we went for our trip. On the way it was raining heavily at places so we didn’t know what to expect when we reached our destination but we were relieved when we found it was not raining in the valley. 

There are lots of tours on offer but we decided to set our own path. 

The first stop was the Hunter Valley Gardens. It is one of the places I visit every time I go to Hunter. I had been there many times, mainly to take all my visitors for a trip. But it was everyone else’s first time in Hunter so it was nice to see them excited with the view of gardens. 

Its website has the following description for the gardens. 

“Spanning over 60 acres, be amazed by the sensational sights, colours, and fragrances of the ten stunning feature gardens. Explore each garden one-by-one and enjoy an exciting journey through the thousands of flowers, trees, and shrubs with an air of discovery at every turn. Bask in a lavish array of colour and scent found in the Rose Garden with more than 8,000 roses on display; laze above the 10 metre waterfall and take in the superb views from the lookout; or step back in time with all our favourite fairytale characters in the Storybook Garden. 

The gardens will heighten your senses with a wonderful display of sight, colour and fragrance.Hunter Valley Gardens is also wheelchair friendly and allows access to all areas. You can find out more here about wheelchairs availability at Garden Entry. Along the eight kilometres of walking paths are more than six thousand trees, one million ground covers and six hundred thousand shrubs. A floral display featuring a variety of plants and statuary, all of a standard that you won’t see elsewhere in Australia. From the main entrance, the visitor will enter through many feature gardens full of breathtaking surprises!” 

I love every corner of the garden and I have so many beautiful photos from the day. It was just such a colourful place to be. There were a few weddings happening while we were there. We had lunch in the café there before going for horse riding (I am going to write a separate post about my experience of it). I had creamy pasta and it was one of the best I have tried. I highly recommend stopping over at the café for lunch if anyone is ever going there. 

I should say the horse riding experience was bumpy and gave me a sore bum at the end but I did enjoy it. 

Then we were off to some wineries where we got to see the ripe grape vines and took some silly photos. It felt so unreal to stand in the middle of acres of grape vines. I just loved the smell of the fresh air and to see bunches of grapes ready to be picked. When you drive pass the area, all you see is grape vines and lots of cows and horses. I felt like I was far far away from the hustle and bustle of Sydney’s traffic and crowds. 

Overall a great day in a nice country town. Here are some photos of the day.

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What’s in your handbag?

A typical situation in our household almost every other day.

We (me and AS) just came back from grocery shopping. We parked car and headed towards the door that opens to the foyer to catch the lift. Both our hands were full of grocery bags. Our apartments have lots of security so we need to use a key to open the doors between garage and foyer. As my husband usually has more bags than I have I would volunteer to open the door. So I open my handbag and try to find the bunch of keys. It normally takes me a while as there are so many other stuffs in my bag and I never put the keys in the same place every time.

Then my husband’s normal dialogue is, “I told you to put the keys in the same place every time. Why do you have so many things in the bag?’ Hahaha. He has asked me this a hundred times at least and I still have a habit of loosing keys in my bag.

So today I decide to see what I normally carry in my bag. I went through it and this is what I found. I normally carry a big bag with:

  • A make up bag (lip gloss, moisturiser, a pair of ear rings (no idea why it is still in there), mascara and eyeliner.
  • A wallet
  • 2 sets of keys (house and car), House key set has 3 keys, 2 USBs and 2 key rings, one Paul Frank and other a metal half heart (from our early days , the other half heart is with my hubby). The car key has metal key ring and a remote garage opener.
  • Chewing gum
  • Old receipts
  • Lip gloss (don’t know why it is outside the make up bag)
  • A medicine bottle (I had cough lately)
  • Body spray
  • Phone
  • A pen
  • A comb
  • My work pass and tag
  • A tiny perfume bottle ( I hardly use it)
  • Bills (I meant to pay those so put it there to remind me)
  • Sunglasses
  • Loose coins

No wonder I don’t find my stuffs quickly as I have to dig through so many things.

So what do you normally have in your hand bag? Have a look now and you will be surprised what you carry around. 🙂  Please let me know as it may be fun to see what we carry in our bag.

Arranged marriage: My perspective

Lately I have been reading lots of blogs that have a lot to say about arranged marriage. Some of the views expressed in those blogs are general ideas while some of them wrote their own personal experience with arranged marriage. I agree with a lot of information while there are some with which I disagree. One of the biggest misconceptions about arranged marriage that I want to clear out is that “Arranged marriage is not forced marriage”.

I was born in Nepal where arranged marriage is common even till today. I wanted to write about arranged marriage for a while but then I had a love marriage so I was not sure if I was right  in commenting about it. Finally I decided to write about what I have seen and learnt about arranged marriage in Nepal. My ideas and views are of Nepali arranged marriage, specifically in Kathmandu. I do understand that it may be different from other South Asian arranged marriages.

Both my parents and parents in law had arranged marriage. Both couple are happily married for around 3 decades now. I see love between them every time I look at them and there is no negative effect of arranged marriage in their relationship.

With my parents, they met 3 times before they decided to get married. Everything was arranged by the two families and they met to see each other and make up their minds.  On their first date, they had company while on the other two they were able to talk to each other by themselves. According to my mum, in those days it was normal to meet your future spouse only a couple of times before getting married.

After marriage, they slowly started to know each other and build their relationship. If you see them now, you will agree with me that they are soul mates who are in love and living their happily ever after.

My dad has 6 siblings and my mum has 3, out of which only 1 of my aunt and 1 uncle had a love marriage and the rest were arranged marriages. All the arranged marriages are going strong. Out of 2 love marriages, one has ended in divorce (not the fault of love marriage of course) and the rest are doing well.

You might say it is an old story but I know people who had arranged marriage just a few months ago and even a few weeks ago. One of them is a good friend while other is my cousin.

With my friend, she is a bit shy so she didn’t want to date anyone even though she had lots of guys after her when we were in college. When the marriage questions were asked by her parents, she told them to find a suitable match. So she was engaged last year and after a year of knowing the guy finally they got married in December.

With my cousin, he lives in US where he is super busy with his work. He never stays in one place for long enough (due to his work) that he gets to meet girls let alone fall in love. So when the family started asking him to get married, he handed down the responsibility to his parents who found a really nice girl and they got married last week in a traditional Newari marriage ceremony. His parents are really happy with this marriage and both bride and groom had 100% say in the decision.

The point I want to make is that just because it is an arranged marriage does not meant that it is a bad thing. It may sound weird to a society where it doesn’t happen but please do have an open mind when you think about it.

Let me put it this way, the modern arrange marriage is like joining rspv.com in the western world. Even I considered having an arranged marriage at one stage (read here for more). So it is not silly or backward thing but just a tradition in most South Asian society.

These days when a girl or guy tells their family that they are OK with arranged marriage, first the family and relatives look for a prospective partner with qualities like

  • Similar caste
  • Similar family reputation
  • Girls/guy’s qualification (study, job)
  • Girl/guy’s qualities  (look, hobbies, background)
  • Cultural and/or religious understanding

It is like RSVP scanning anyone who wanted to join their site. The hard part is done by the family so the girl/guy only meets prospective partners who are suitable.

So as a first step, photos of the prospective partners (already filtered by the family) are shown and they can pick a few they like. Then they will be given either phone numbers or/and email id of the prospective partners so they can talk and chat. These days Skype and Facebook seems to be the way people choose to communicate.

At this stage both guy/girl has time to evaluate the person and if they want, the next step will be dating. They normally meet a few times and stay in touch before they tell their family if they are happy with their prospective partners or not. I found out that at this stage most of the prospective partners fall in love. (I think it is similar in dating world as well anyway.)

If both parties have positive response then the family will get together and have an engagement function. These days I see couples engaged for one or more years before they finally get married. In some cases, marriage happens after only a few weeks after the engagement as well.

So both the boy and girl have full say in who they are going to marry even if it is an arranged marriage. Parents don’t treat their kids like a commodity to negotiate and scrutinize and make them marry just anyone without asking them. Family and society have changed according to time in Nepal so they understand that it is important to get the children involved on making decisions of their life.

Here are some advantages of arrange marriage

  • Financial security

You can call me materialistic but money does matter in real life. It is only in fairy tales that people can live happily ever after in a swamp or jungle. No parents wants their kids to suffer so they make sure when they are looking for prospective partners that they are secure and well off financially and is in the same level as their family.

  • Caste, cultural and/or religious understanding 

Family make sure prospective partner belongs to a similar caste and culture so they can easily adjust into their new life. It is same as RSVP asking what religion or ethnic group you belong to, in their form.

  • Family approval and support

As you know, eastern society live in a close-knit environment, it helps a lot when your in laws approve the prospective partner. This way the couple will get help from their parents physically, emotionally and in most cases financially as well. I think it is not a bad thing to have two sets of families in your life.

  • Avoidance of  (more) pre-marriage relationships/courtship

They say you have to kiss many frogs before you meet your prince charming. We all see and experience that and we have actually gone through a few relationships before we settle with Mr. Right. With arrange marriage, it eliminates the years many waste dating multiple persons, and allow a person to find a good spouse if you choose to follow this path from the beginning. In other cases, you have been there and done that and didn’t not want to go through the heartaches again, this can be a way out to make your life bit easier.

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*From independent, confident strong women to dependent, needy wife *Ta, Timi, Tapai and Hajoor *Making a cup of tea…

Australia day 2012

Every year on the 26th of January we celebrate Australia day which is the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet of 11 convict ships from Great Britain, and the raising of the Union Jack at Sydney Cove by its commander Captain Arthur Phillip, in 1788.

To mark Australia day, there are lots of activates all around the country. This day not only reflects contemporary Australia, it also highlights Australia’s diverse society, landmarks, achievements and future.

It is a public holiday in Australia. Most people choose to go and attend events organised for this day or just relax with friends and family with BBQ and watch the fireworks.

I went to a shopping centre today and I saw the Australian flag everywhere. It is so nice to see everyone getting into the sprite of Australia day. There are also lots of merchandise for Australia day on sale like party plates, cups, table clothes, lollies. One of the beauty salon was offering Australian flag manicure. That should be interesting.

Every year I try to go and attend celebrations in different part of Sydney. Last year I went to a concert in the city followed by amazing display of fireworks. I had a tattoo of Australian flag on my face (temporary of course!) and was proudly waving our flag.

The year before I had gone to Brighton where there were lots of stalls and market for Australia day celebration. There was a concert and lots of dancing going on. I remembered that day to be very hot so after lunch we went for a quick swim in the ocean.

Today I am going to the city to enjoy the music and fireworks. It will be followed by BBQ lunch and some shopping with hubby.

Australia day is very popular among migrants to take their Australian citizenship. There are lots of ceremonies conducted around the country where many migrants take the oath and become Australian citizens.

Each year there is a celebration of the achievement and contribution of eminent Australians through the Australian of the Year Awards. They are given to Australians who achieved and contribute to a better Australia.

The awards are given in the following categories:

  • Australian of the Year
  • Senior Australian of the Year (those aged 60 years or over)
  • Young Australian of the Year (ages 16 to 30)
  • Australia’s Local Hero

This year the award recipients are (source news.com.au)

Australian of the Year- Geoffrey Rush. Rush was recognises for his outstanding achievements in a lifetime career on the stage and screen as well as his long-term commitment to the Australian arts, including mentoring young artists.

Senior Australian of the Year – Laurie Baymarrwangga. Laurie has shown extraordinary commitment to maintaining her culture, the environment of her beloved Crocodile Islands and ensuring younger generations continue to keep their heritage alive.

Young Australian of the Year – Marita Cheng. Marita founded Robogals Global in 2008, as a response to the traditionally low levels of participation by women in science, engineering and technology.By 2010, Robogals had run workshops for 3,000 girls in Australia and has now expanded to 17 branches across Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Australia’s Local Hero 2012 – Lynne Sawyers . Lynne has shared her home, her family and her love with more than 200 children. For 15 years, she has been on call to care for lost, abused and bewildered children in heartbreaking circumstances.

Hats off to all the winners.

Happy Australia Day everyone !!!Have a great day!!!

Animal Print

 I am not a big fan of animal prints like the leopard print or tiger print or zebra print. I thought it was out dated and I didn’t know how to wear them. Then I turned the page of Vouge and it says animal prints are in fashion now. Vouge is the bible for the fashion conscious so if it says it is back then it must be. 

When I was out shopping I actually saw lots of dresses, shoes, shirts, handbags, belts, glasses, earrings, bangles etc in animal prints. They looked cool and sexy. 

I checked out a few of the celebrities in animal print and they looked incredible. It’s as if it shows their wild side. 

Then I went through my wardrobe the other day and to my surprise I have a few clothing and accessorises in animal print. (If my husband reads this, he will tell me for the 100th time to sort out my wardrobe and throw out the clothes I don’t need but then can a girl ever have enough dresses and shoes? My answer is Never :)) 

Will you ever wear animal prints? What’s your favourite print?

Pushkar Shah – Cycling around the world in 11 Years

I was watching a film ‘Life in a day’ and the Korean cyclist reminded me of a cyclist from Nepal–Pushkar Shah. 

I remember I was still in Nepal when he took his bicycle and went to conquer the world. I haven’t heard about him for a while so when I did my research found his website

http://www.pushkarshah.com/ 

Who better than the man himself to describe about him and his mission. 

“On November 29, 1998 I set out on an 11 year-long journey to capture my dream, the dream of riding 221,000-kilometres around the world on my bicycle to spread the message of peace and hope for my country and for the world. This mission is not about material gain or international fame. It’s simply about spreading the message of peace. If you see a Nepalese guy panting and puffing on a bicycle with a sticker “I ride therefore I am” please yield and for one second think about how you as an individual can contribute to world peace. This is my tenth year and I have already toured 150 countries and hope to complete the world tour in a total of 11 years. During my tour, I visit schools and clubs in different communities and like to speak about peace, respect for other religions and cultures, living in harmony, respect for human rights and democratic values. 

I like to meet civic leaders and exchange views. After graduation from college, I worked as a school teacher and participated in the Democracy Movement in Nepal in 1990. I was arrested and imprisoned many times for my political activism. It had a deep impact on me and I decided to embark on a world tour spreading the message of Peace. I began my journey with only 100 Nepalese Rupees (One Euro) given to me by my mother. I have no official sponsor and have thus far been able to pursue my dream through the kindness and generosity of the many strangers who have befriended me along the way. 

When I began my journey ten years ago, many people did not believe that such a trip was possible and said that I would get no further than India. As of July 2009 I have visited 150 countries in Asia, Asia Pacific, North America, Central America, South America, Caribbean, African, Middle East and the Europe

In May 2010, I cycled from Kathmandu to the Everest base camp.” 

Here are some of the photos of his trips. 

I know that he was a courageous man to even attempt to cycle around the world with very little support and money. I still remember the day he left Kathmandu, there was this big event for his farewell and it made the headlines in the country. 

Currently he is back in Nepal and is still cycling for various causes.

Another happy ending

The bride

On Saturday, one of my friends got married and it was a happy ending of yet another love story. 

My friend, HW is from China and her boyfriend, RF is an Aussie and there is a bit of story to tell you before I go into the details about their wedding.

HW and RF met in a university 6 years ago in a small town called Orange in country NSW. HW finished her bachelor degree and moved to Sydney to do her masters while RF stayed there and continued his study. So they have been having a long distance relationship for the last 4 years. They used to travel whenever possible to meet each other. 

SL and me- The bridemaids

On top of that HW’s family were not ok with the relationship in the beginning which pushed the wedding further because HW didn’t want to be married without the blessing of her parents. Like most parents, her parents wanted her to find a Chinese guy to be her husband. 

Last year RF had to go to China for work so he made an arrangement to go and see HW’s parents even  she was not there. I think meeting with the guy in person helped HW’s family to realise that RF is a good person and their daughter will be happy with him. Despite the language barrier, they were happy to meet the guy their daughter was talking about for a while. 

The happy couple

Luckily everything fell into place and last Saturday they got married. HW’s parents were here from China to bless her and RF had his family present as well. 

It was a beautiful wedding with their friends and family. They had a registry wedding followed by reception. 

The bride wore a while gown with maroon embroidery with a long the train for the wedding and she changed into a red gown with diamonds for reception. The groom wore black dinner suit. She made her own bouquet with pink and orange roses. 

Me and my friend SL were the bridesmaids. We both choose to go with a long gown; I wore an aqua blue one while SL wore a purple one. 

Posing with the bride and the groom

First we went to the marriage registry where they had their wedding vows exchanged in front of the wedding celebrant. Then we came back to the hotel where we had nibbles and drinks followed by a buffet dinner. 

There was a toast for the bride and groom with a few speeches which was then followed by the cake cutting ceremony.   

Here are some photos from the day.

 

So everyone out there in a long distance relationship and/or intercultural relationship (I have a few specific people in mind right now), hope this year will bring you lots of hope and good luck for your own wedding. I am sure I will be reading about your wedding preparation in the near future.