Thursday, January 26, 2012

Planning the next adventure

Happy Australia Day. Or should I say: Happy "made in China" Day. Ever since Sept 11, this obsession with flying the Aussie flag has gone crazy, and no day exemplifies it more than Jan 26, the day the First Fleet sailed in to Botany Bay and began appropriating this land as a penal colony. It seems appropriate to note that two things Australia Day is known for are excessive flag waving and more arrests for aggressive drunken behaviour than any other day of the year. Hmmm..

I have been agonising over the retirement issue, and have at last decided not to pull the plug completely but to exit my working life slowly over the next few years. I think this smacks of total cowardice on my part to not just take the plunge. But there's still too much uncertainty in my life, particularly the financial situation and Hazel's health, to make finishing up in July just a bit too daunting.

I have noticed a certain fatigue starting to re-enter my life, and after falling into such a spectacular mess back in 2008 I know what I'm facing if I don't listen and do something about it. I am who I am, and the fact is that my work life sees me continuously taking on more and more responsibility and I am forced to say no to people. I no longer feel guilty about saying no, but I do feel angry that people keep asking, particularly when I have bared my soul, told people that my mental health is precarious and that I use protective strategies to keep sane. I work part time for a reason, accept it!!

I talked to the boss, and he is open to me taking extended leave without pay as long as I give him enough notice to get a locum. This leaves the door open for me to come and go from my job, a pretty envious position that few people get the opportunity to do. Being an Australian trained doctor who has worked exclusively in Aboriginal Health for the last 14 years actually makes me a very rare commodity, so I've earned it.

I have work commitments till July, due to my responsibility to supervise a new training doctor in the practice, but beyond then, the rest of the doctors can take responsibility for any other trainees. I also have some volunteer positions I'll need to extricate myself from, which may be a little trickier, but the fact that I'm not planning on leaving indefinitely makes it easier to negotiate. Now I just have to decide how long and where I'm going! How exciting!!!!

I'm definitely going back to NZ in July for a ski trip. I've already bought the tickets, well a one way ticket to Queenstown at any rate. I'll stay at least a month, then make my way back across the ditch to visit mum in Canberra and hit the embassy circuit for a visa or two. At this stage it's a toss up as to where I'll go, between China and Myanmar. Or maybe both?

I've been contemplating a trip to Myanmar for a long time, but have been caught up in that political conundrum of whether to visit or not. I have a colleague at work from Myanmar, who has given me some advice on places to visit, and can possibly give me some in country contacts. Unfortunately the military government (no matter that they've just had that recent rigged election) is paranoid, and there are spies everywhere, so my friend has to be careful not to risk endangering family members and friends living in Myanmar. I've thought about where I'd go, what I'd do, and have decided that with my low comfort needs when travelling I'm unlikely to be heavily supporting government enterprises anyway.

Researching Myanmar it appears to be possible to direct most of your money to private enterprises, but there do seem to be a few areas where sticking with principles would be counterproductive. With appalling roads and a limit of 28 days in the country I think a couple of domestic flights seems a better option than spending a week on buses. Entrance fees to famous sites may well go to the government, but they aren't a lot, unlike the huge fees that everyone pays to the corrupt crony ridden Corporation that runs Angkor in Cambodia, or into tourist sites in China, and the Chinese government is hardly blameless when it comes to human rights abuse. I actually find the contempt with which the Lonely Planet authors speak about paying the $10 to see Bagan (for as long as you like) a bit excessive given the number of tourists to Myanmar is minuscule compared to the millions visiting Angkor and propping up that government. As much as I hate how people may be treated in some countries, I'm not convinced that Myanmar stands above all the others as the worst, and therefore I shouldn't visit it. Seems to be more a case of political correctness gone awry.

It is possible to fly between Mandalay and Kunming in China, so I'm thinking about combining both countries. September to December are great times to travel in the region, so I'm currently researching my options, flights, itineraries etc. This should take me a few months I reckon.

Links, ideas, advice - all welcome.

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