29 August 2011

sudden change

Usually I have to take time to adjust to changes. I'm a worrier so I am well practised at the art of stressing over possibilities and unknowns. And yet there's a strange part of my character that when hit with a crisis I turn calm and active. It's a splendid quality really.

So on the morning I left for Scotland I was told that my job is no longer available. Since my current occupation is a live-in nanny, that means I have to move out. Thankfully it's not a nasty leaving. They said they've really appreciated my help but a lot of things have changed for them and they just can't keep me employed. Still, it's all so sudden. So jobless and homeless I was and in kicked that calm. Ok, so what do I need to do? I got straight on my computer and emailed Smart Aupairs to get them to start looking for work for me. By the time I trained to London, to Edinburgh, to Glasgow and found the girl I was gonna stay with and got back to her place, I had two family matches and both had written to me saying they were interested in me. Nice start to a sudden crisis-response. My Scotland holiday was interspersed with lots of email checking and writing, phone calls and text messages. Thankfully this did not spoil my holiday. I did what I could and decided to deal with the rest once I got back. Being on a tour in the outer Hebrides helped with that as when I had a chance to pull my phone out I didn't have reception most of the time.
I did however manage to organise an interview for Monday morning (meaning also organising a place to stay in London after my return flight from Scotland). That seemed to go well. I've got a room at a friend's house to live in temporarily though my mobile came with the job so that will be returned and my internet access will be quite limited in the next few weeks. I move out this afternoon so I need to finish up here and get packing.

10 August 2011

last minute country hopping

So I was told today that I'll be having a week off in two weeks. Unfortunately because the family I work for are taking a holiday to visit a seriously unwell relative. But on my part there's no point me hanging out at the house by myself with so many other countries at my doorstep.

I was thinking about seeing some of England (though it seems not to be the best time for that) but once I found out I had the whole week off my brain got ticking with another idea. I was able to get straight into some research since I was on a break. I decided I'd put off my intended Iceland weekend till early next year and splash out on Scotland. Scotland is one of the places I wanted to visit but also one of the places I didn't want to go to for just a weekend. Best to snatch an opportunity while you can.

Well I found this awesome tour. Six days with a backpacker style tour group that sounds a bit outdoorsy. Sounds like an interesting experience. The tour visits Isle of Skye, Callanais Standing Stones, lots of old old places and Loch Ness to give you a brief summary. Lots of history and lots of scenery for a pretty good price. So I clicked on the calendar to check the date I'm suddenly available for. Booked out. Damn! That's the trouble with short notice holidays. I looked around at some others but this one was the best so I was a bit disappointed. It was exciting just to skim over the itinery and view the few pictures they had. Oh, what the heck! I'll email them. I wrote that I'd love to go on that particular tour and asked if by any chance there's a cancellation in the next few days could they let me know.

I looked at some other sites too for other tour ideas but soon had to get back to work. Later while upstairs putting something away, I thought I'd just quickly check my email. And what do you know? It was SO WORTH the random asking. They had emailed to say they squeezed in one available space!! How unreal is that!? So I made sure I booked it straight away.

So Scotland it is.

06 August 2011

retaking aim

Finally it has arrived!! After a month long drama with the first camera with the first company I ordered from I got a refund and bought this one from another company and a week later it was in my happy little hands.

My very own Canon PowerShot SX210 IS replaces my old pentax camera which I've had for years. About 12 years I think. Wow. It served me well. It's old and decrepit now. It has way too much trouble getting started. (Possibly because I've dropped it too many times. Especially that last major one in Luxembourg. :x ) I couldn't even get it to turn on for a 'new camera' picture. I had to take the above shot using my webcam and skype. Now I have the joy of whipping out my camera, turning it on and taking a shot within seconds again. Oh, and this one's a bit nicer and fancier than the last one too. I went on a shooting spree today to work out how to work it.
Only real downfall I've come across so far is using the flash close range. It leaves a shadow along the edge closest to the lens. That being said, like what I did with my fishbowl vase? Some birthday flowers were delivered to my door and my friend suggested that after the flowers had done their job I could fill it with lollies as I don't receive flowers very often at all. However, it's a big vase and I don't wish to be that round. Macro works nicely. The photos are so nice and crisp. That's the main upgrade I wanted from my old camera. Nice clear rich photos. Canon serves well there.

This camera packs quite a zoom for a point and shoot. At normal view. At full optical zoom. At full optical plus digital zoom. Not bad hey? You wouldn't have known that bridge was there otherwise, would you?
And then there's a bunch of fun features. Fish eye mode. Colour swap. You get to select the colours that you want to switch. Here I switched white for dark blue. It doesn't work so well when there is a varigated colour-shading. If it was a 2D solid colour it wouldwork better.

They have a few colour and lighting functions too. This is an example of using blue colour mode. The first is a normal shot. Makes the sky look lovely and blue.

But by far, this is my favourite feature to play with. Colour accent mode. You select one colour to remain and the rest of the picture is black and white. Lots of fun.

It also has a wink timer and a face timer. One is a self timer that takes the photo when you wink. The other is when it detects a new face in the shot. You can do lots of things manually like the typical shutter speed but also the flash strength and white balance and focus and more. There's continuous shot and night shots and video (oh you can do colour accent in video mode too) and stitch assistance even blink detection! Loads to play with. Of course there is much still to learn with this camera but I had a fun afternoon to start with. And I'm super happy I have a camera that functions well and as I need it. It's almost an essential item when you're adventuring on the otherside of the planet.

02 August 2011

one sunny sunday

I've started going to a home group here in England. A couple from the group invited me to join them and their visiting friends to go to a wildlife park/zoo on Sunday. They picked me up and took me back to their house where they were still slowly getting ready to leave. Just ready to have a big cooked breakfast (11am) I sat down and joined them for my second breakfast. Eventually we did leave and go to Port Lympne--A Wild Experience. It's a big open range zoo. Kinda funny to think of paddocks of English countryside filled with Animals from all over the world. Anyway, we hoped in one of the tour trucks, just the kind I think of when I think of Africa. They were fun. The roads were bumpy and the truck bumbled over them bouncing us around. I was a gleeful little child. ^^
We got to see a number of baby animals too starting with this baby elephant who is 4yrs old. Mostly we rolled past paddocks of animals but there was one section, the African experience, that we went through. They kept a whole bunch of hooved animals plus some ostriches there. All friends of course. No natural preditation taking place there. There was a giraffe that was right by the road unfazed, munching on his lunch. It was great to see one so close up.
When we got off at the first stop we went and looked at the meerkats for a while. They're so cute and there was a little baby one. You can just see him in the pic, furthest to the right. Then we went through a bit of a reptile house with snakes, frogs, icky spiders, lizards...even cockroaches? Then we had icecreams. Yum! Lovely day for it.

We got on a tour truck again after waiting in line for quite a while and stopped off at the carnivores. Most of the cats were in hiding and Emma was sure they had gone off to some Big Cat convention. We did have a pretty good look at the fishing cat though. Then we walked through the primate area and saw some interesting monkeys. My favourite was the colobus monkeys. They have short black hair and long white hair. Remind me a bit of skunks. They have a puff at the end of thier tail and look like they're wearing capes. The looked quite elegant. Never seen them before. The gorilla palace--it certainly was a palace, they had a very impressive playground--had a baby gorilla as well. It was quite useful that we seemed to be following feeding time so all the animals were coming over to the fence as the zoo cars pulled up. We also went to another area and saw some more tigers and lions before we headed home again. Unfortunately my camera played up lots today. I did manage to get some photos but in the end I gave up. So you don't get to see everything.
We sat around and chatted for a while until my friends' friends had to head home. My friends, Bug (childhood nickname that stuck) and Emma, cooked me a yummy tea goatcheese stuffed mushroom and veggies and we ate while we played Settlers of Catan. Unfortunately my set up plan failed me and I struggled to get resources. It would have worked well if the dice would have just been kind enough to roll my numbers. Sigh. It was a fantastic day out. I had lots of fun.