Sunday, 5 June 2016

The last post - well, for a little while as a new blog needs writing...

Hi Everybody,
As an Occupational Therapist of knocking on almost 15 years - I've picked up some useful habits and maybe a few not so useful ones. Being reminded to reflect, analyse, question and consider the use of language carefully have all been things my professional experience has helped me to develop. However, sometimes searching for understanding in a situation isn't really necessary. I do think a little reflection might be a good way to bring this blog to temporary end right now.

My career to date has taken me quite literally around the world and brought me a truly global set of friends, colleagues and inspirations. New Zealand continues to be the latest chapter of this journey, and oh it's been an amazing 4 years here so far. My top memories from an adventurous point of view have to be:
1) The Tongariro Crossing - best day walk ever!
Tongariro Crossing crew

Tongariro views..

2) Exploring the Wonders of Wellington - summer concerts & salsa
Bays of Wellington

Kapiti Coast - Wellington

Wellington Bays

3) Snowy mountains in both the North & South Islands.
Mount Doom - North Island
Queenstown - South Island

4) Sailing in a cowboy suit with my OT Supervisee!
Random NZ Moments

Aye aye Captain Paula

5) OT National Conferences & Presenting on 'Tall Poppy' Syndrome (@ WFOT, Japan)
My Fave presentation team - OT Conference 2013

Wellington MH OT's..

Taking Tall Poppy NZ to Japan

I could go on, however the point I'd like to make is about keeping an open mind for the opportunities life might throw your way - as you just never know what's around the corner. New Zealand doesn't hold the same level of craziness of other places I've lived like Romania & Vietnam, but it does have it's own special lure of randomness and beauty.

From a professional perspective, the journey has been no less lively and interesting with 3 years in Community mental health, further cross-cultural learnings and then a move to the private sector and the realisation that our knowledge as health professionals is highly valued outside of the health sector. There's so much we can bring to so many settings and offering a fresh and different perspective to private business - it's quite refreshing. We needn't be afraid of what we don't know. Let's feel good about shouting from the rooftops (in a pleasant, down to earth, melody) - as we 'know stuff' - 'real stuff' as a friend of mine recently commented to me. 

My desire for cross-cultural learnings continue too. The best, funniest and most memorable moments of my career to date have come when I've been at odds with other people and then had to try and see the other person's perspective to understand the difference in opinion. So to all those that have joined this journey through email, in person, in NZ or elsewhere in the world - keep at it. 
The next adventure is perhaps the biggest one I've faced - and one I really know the least about - parenting a baby! I'll be writing about this on

Come follow the ultimate adventure with an OT twist. We'll hopefully get back to a more comical view of the new world! Always happy to take emails about anything NZ related too.

For the final time (for a while)
Regards from New Zealand.

Monday, 28 March 2016

2016 - Life as an OT - "but not as we know it"

Hello Everybody,

It's been a few months since writing the last post, mainly due to there having been quite a few significant life changes recently, and this has meant it's been hard to find a minute to stop and take a breath!

One thing that does remain constant though, is the beautiful wonder of these Islands and the constant reminders of how the lifestyle in New Zealand is so closely connected with the physical land. Recreation time in NZ is spent walking, swimming, cycling, tramping, caving, diving, and th elist goes on and on. Even for the less adventurous person, with almost all of the major towns / cities being located by the coast or a short(ish) drive from a snow covered mountain, there is no escaping the visual and physical effect of nature.

The photos below show how even just getting around can be an adventure:

Whilst out walking with my 15-yr old step-son and trying to encourage him to enjoy the 'free' & healthy lifestyle on offer in NZ, we headed to the Red Rocks walk (Wellington's South Coast).  Whilst usually full of seals during a few months of the year, on this day we were treated to a free dolphin show. A pod of Dolphins arrived along the coast line and played around for 15 minutes much to our surprise and enjoyment.

Wellington also has a number of events throughout the year that have fireworks linked with them. This latest one (Chinese New Year) coincided with us having access to a friend's car. Making the most of some the hillside we headed up Mount Victoria to enjoy the spectacular views over the city. It was my wife's and step-son's first 'proper' firework display here and what a lovey reminder of the beauty of their new home.
The added beauty on the same night, was a late summer sunset as seen from Mount Victoria. The colours generated due to the hillside setting were further reminders of the free star and 'light shows' on offer here, all through the year. Sights like this just make you stop, look and admire your surroundings. As with many things in life, seeing things through the eyes of others (whether it's the first time or not) has always been a powerful experience for me, and a wonderful one when it's a sight like this.

For anyone's who's followed my adventures or career to date, you'd probably be a little surprised to hear that I have move into the private sector - and now work for an INSURANCE company of all things! 
I've never been one to dismiss an opportunity to consider doing something a little different. Having worked around the world and usually in face to face settings with people in a variety of health settings, a move to INSURANCE has been different to say the least. The skills required to work more remotely (not in face to face contact with clients), analyze medical information truly objectively, and apply that analysis to any given condition and policy definition, are complex. Working alongside non-health trained colleagues who can hold a very different set of work values and ethics - has been a great challenge too. My outlook has been forcibly widened, and not in a negative sense. Initially I wondered how much REFLECTIVE PRACTICE would occur, and how would I feel about any conflicting professional (OT) ethics verses workplace expectations.
The over-riding sense of working to help people return to employment and assess their functional abilities has been positive and full of learning for me so far. It has also been a really good reminder that Health Workers do not have a monopoly on understanding the perspectives of people in health-related difficult and emotionally challenging situations. Some of my colleagues, who don't have a 'Health Care' background have inspired me with some of their insight and understandings of different client's issues.  
So this experience of working within the Insurance Industry in New Zealand, is a far cry from my experiences in Vietnam & Romania: but my learnings have been similar. People are made of stern stuff. People can surprise, inspire and grow no matter what their history, job title and beliefs. People anywhere and everywhere have the potential for personal growth and make positive contributions to others. 

'NOWHERE BEATS WELLINGTON ON A GOOD DAY' - This is a phrase that many Kiwi's know. It's a polite way of saying the weather can be really crap a lot of the time. This summer however, well actually since I returned in October, the weather has been pretty amazing! These next pictures have been 4 years in the making and I finally had a camera with me when spotting sting-wrays in the lagoon!

IF YOU HAVE AN IDEA - TRY IT! - Kiwi's are not afraid to create and try new things especially adventurous ideas! It doesn't take long of living here to see this spirit in people and it's no surprise to learn that bungy jumping originated here. It my short time (well 4 years now) I have seen and played a few interesting sports with Turbo - Touch, Frisbee-Golf to mention just a couple). The latest new 'sport'' we decided to give a go was Football-Golf! 
Basically, instead of hitting a golf ball with a club, you kick a football in the least number of attempts possible from the 'tee' to the hole! (Obviously the hole for the football is bigger than for the golf ball). The 'course' is a golf course, so you do need to watch out for golf balls flying by, and the general looks of horror from the golfers!

ALL IN ALL..... Life is changing quickly with a wife, teenage step-son and changing job role. With a number of other things going on life is certainly busy. Therefore as time is flying by, the ability to stall time a couple times of day it would be most helpful. As I've not quite developed that skill yet I need to learn to just 'pause & reflect' 2-3 times a day to ensure I'm not getting pulled away from those things that are most important to me...

Regards from New Zealand

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

September - December 2015

Hello Everybody,
Well it's nice to be back writing and sharing a little of what's been one of the most cray years of my life. I've already written about my time living & getting married in Colombia in another blog: Getting married has obviously changed my life beyond recognition, but it hasn't stopped me from keeping up my Occupational Therapy relationships thriving. My wife (below) is an OT - which is really no surprise.
 The journey before getting back to New Zealand just as eventful as some of my previous round the world travels. A 16 hour stop in New York became an overnight stay as the absolutely shocking USA airport staff and Delta Airlines showed their continued incompetence by over-booking the plane. This worked out well for me though as I got extra time in New York and time with my long time friend, Petra. Check out some of the famous NY sights below...
Times Square, NY
Views from the Empire State, NY
Catching up with Petra for lunch, NY
Night at the Museum fans will like this one...
 This shot (taken in central park) might not be so recognizable but I loved it too much to leave it out...
Central Park, NY
Returning to New Zealand was never going to be difficult. I say this for many reasons. I had a great time in Colombia and wished I could have had more time with my new family, and more time with my own family and friends in the UK, but I was also very happy to get back to this beautiful country and get the chance to return to work and the new opportunities ahead. That said, my amazing friends in New Zealand made the transition easy. Friends (Frank & Fran) put me up in a truly stunning place with the most amazing views (see below)
Views from my Temporary Home, Karaka Bay, NZ
Karaka Bay, Wellington, NZ
I needed a little bit of temperature adjustment and had a couple of freezing nights (following months of intense heat in Colombia), before my body adjusted to a NZ Spring. Moving in to a place that had everything I needed so I could just dump my bags was brilliant! Walking into a new (old) job just 5 days after arriving back in the country was also a good thing as within a week, I was pretty much feeling back to my previous life. (Minus my wife and step-son of course)   
Wellington always has lots of stuff going on all year round, but one event in particular caught my attention. ROBBIE WILLIAMS was playing a concert at the Basin Reserve (One of the most famous cricket grounds in the world). I went with my good mate Ros and we one had a truly brilliant night singing along to songs from our younger years! 
Robbie Williams Concert @ The Basin Reserve
Rocking Robbie!
I had a few weeks to basically get myself organized: start work, readjust to New Zealand life, find a house for my family and well, you know.... find some time to enjoy life. So, as anyone that knows me knows I tend to search out what's going on in and around the place where I live. This is no different with a wife and teenager in toe. So after just one or two weeks after arriving in the country the family was running around the water front dresses as Santa (with another 300+) other Santas, as part of the Kidscan Charity Santa Run - held all over New Zealand....
Santa Run, Wellington
Needless to say the difference in lifestyles between  the bustling and busy Bogota, Colombia and here in the wonderful waterfront of Wellington, NZ is absolutely huge! So views from our new home, (like these pictures below), definitely help with settling into this totally new world. 
Views from the new home...
Views from the new home...
CHANGE  has been the one constant factor in life this year (2016). Change in my working life, change in my country of residence twice (& Continent), a change in climate, a change in marital status, moving home 3 times, and finally a change in becoming a parent to a teenager overnight. I'm a bit over change to be honest! Still, some change is unavoidable. One thing I can definitely say is that change is not something that worries me anymore!

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year from Wellington, NZ.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

A little Sabbatical....

Wikipedia tells me that a 'sabbatical' is: 

Sabbatical or a sabbatical (from Latin: sabbaticus, from Greek: sabbatikos (σαββατικός), from Hebrew: shabbat (שבת) (i.e., Sabbath), literally a "ceasing") is a rest from work, or a break, often lasting from two months to a year.

Well, in reference to life in New Zealand, that's exactly what I am doing - I'm off to Colombia, yes the one in South America, for 5-6 months to live in the desert and get married amongst other things!  So you can catch my adventures at

I'll start this blog up again later this year (2015) on my return. 

Adios Amigos!

Thursday, 19 February 2015

It's All About Alice....

Hi Everybody.
It's been quite a while since the last post, and as usual lots of things happen at once that I want to write about. However this post is a fresh one, meaning I'm writing it just an hour or two after an experience that I thought I'd like to share.

Four of my female friends (Fran, Maree, Tania & Ellen) are about to do a 100k walk for charity, and well, hey, that's what lots of people in New Zealand seem to like doing - big walks, runs and all manner of physical endurance races for good causes or personal challenges.  It's no wonder people are so bloody healthy looking here. Anyway, I digress. As part of the fundraising they had a movie screening at one of the gorgeous little Art-House cinema's - the Cuba Lighthouse. The film that was screened had to be changed, and as a result of the change tonight's film was 'Still Alice' (see picture below...)
Now, this movie which is based on a book, was all about 'Alice' - a highly successful academic, wife, mother of 3, who finds out she has a rare form of Early-onset Alzheimer's Disease. The added twist is that it is a rare form of the disease and is hereditary, meaning any of her children may also get the disease. One of Alice's daughters is "Bella' from the Twilight movies, (who actually is really good when she's having to worry about vampires and werewolves fighting over her).
This movie is not a comedy, but it's gritty and very real portrayal of how the Alice and the family cope with such a disease. The film made me frequently tearful, and made me think about lots of wok related cases from my past. Also I think a recent file I read of someone at my current work shared many of the same issues that were shown in the film.

I'm also reading the book pictured below....
... which also has a central character called Alice, who loses her memory. This story focuses on Alice who can't remember the last ten years of her life (from age 29-39). She can't remember her 3 children, the reason for her divorce, of the death of her best friend. This story also focuses on a real sense of what has been lost and how relationships change over time, including the perceptions of who we are as people and how our values can change.

I was sat watching the film tonight, thinking about many of the 'people', (patients / clients / families of clients / friends & family), who have been affected by illnesses and injuries like in these stories and the sense of a person being present in their body, but not always present in their mind. In both stories there are interactions where the 'now' Alice is either trying to send a message to the future Alice, or understand behaviors of the past Alice.

These stories really got me thinking about issues like:
- What parts of myself and my own story would I like to record, and be able to tell myself in the future if forgot?
- Would there be parts of my past I wouldn't want to remind the future me of?
- Do I tell the important people around me enough of how I really feel about stuff now, whilst I can?
- What do I really value in my life, and am I doing the things that make those values real?
Now I know, lots of OT's and health professionals will say that questions about personal values come from the 'OT' part of my brain. Yet thinking about all the interviews I have conducted recently in my new job, and thinking of the many hours of time spent with very ill patients / clients / families, I wonder did I ask this one question enough? - WHAT & WHO ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS TO YOU RIGHT NOW / IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES? 
You'd be surprised how many people in my professional career realize that the answer to the follow-up question is a "NO".... 

Regards from Wellington.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

A Whole New World - Moving into non-clinical practice...

Hello everybody!
Don't worry I'm not about to post a video of me bursting into Disney's Aladdin song, but given the enormous change in my working circumstances, I could have easily have sang my way through the streets after experiencing working in the private / corporate sector.

Now lets put this in context, I have worked for 12+ years (post qualification) in public health settings - so that's government run - underfunded, busy teams and departments, with short lunch breaks, average pay and with mainly health professionals. During my overseas trips (South America, Vietnam, Romania etc) I have volunteered, but again with health professionals around to speak, work and joke with.

Not anymore! As of 2015 I began life working for a large insurance company (who shall remain nameless for the sake of privacy). This is a little short term project, whereby I am part of a group of rehabilitation 'Consultants' who assess people who have Income Protection Claims (where an illness or injury prevents them from working either partially or totally). We look at the person's situation and see if there may be additional support that could given to them, to help them recover and get back to work... I don't want to really talk about the work side of things and am legally bound in what I can disclose anyway, but I do want to talk about the difference between working conditions!

DRESS CODE: No clinical uniform, (or as I have been used to in Mental Health your own clothes), oh no - this is the corporate world, so it's suits, / shirt and suit pants (at the very least). Ties are optional - as you might expect in laid back New Zealand. I've had a few heart attacks already at the cost of suits here, but I managed to find a cheap one ($250 NZ) in a department store instead of $600 minimum anywhere else that was decent. I have secretly (well not so secretly) enjoyed buying a whole new set of clothes, and yes more shoes too!

LOCATION & LUNCH: Working in the central business district - OMG I have never seen Wellington so busy and bustling with people as I see now every lunch time. Almost all food outlets are busy, and if people aren't out eating lunch they are going off to exercise classes ( I prefer my lunch break). And oh yes! No more scoffing sandwiches down or running to grab something quick. My luch break just suddenly went form 30 minutes to one hour! I'm prety sure I coudl squeexe in a massage f I really wanted to!

FACILITIES: In public health settings I am used to minimal space for kitchens at work, shared computers,working in publicly accessed buildings and some grotty departments. Well, I now find myself in a flash tall storey building, with lifts (elevators) that only work if you have a swipe card, infact you need a personal swipe card to get in the door, use the lift, use the photocopier, printer and even get back from the toilet! The kitchen is almost as large as my entire flat, and has a huge tv in it! The fact I have been able to watch sky sports whilst making a cuppa still amazes me. Perhaps best of all is the fact that as part of some social responsibility scheme there are free deliveries of fruit on Monday and Wednesdays! During my first week I have literally been in a constant state of shock. None more so than on day one when  was given my own computer - my own computer!

BUSINESS SPEAK: I have heard phrases and words that I have never heard / used before in my work. 'Let's get in front of that/them' = means early intervention, 'we are going to socialize that' (document / idea)... = we are going to share the document, and I can't even begin to go into the specific language of the insurance world.

MENTALITY / KEEPING STAFF HAPPY: I have worked with some great managers in the public health settings, though many of the Health Boards / organizations have rarely put as many practices in place to keep staff happy - comparative to what I have seen so far. There's a daily meeting in the organization where all staff (including video link to other offices in the country) have a representative and report on how people are 'doing'. The best bit is the rating is with smiley faces! There's regular team time where staff have chance to just say anything good that is going on for them in life, and then there's a little quiz done all together.  Did I already mention the free fruit? And discounted lunch time keep fit sessions?

SO...... basically I have had my eyes open to a new working world, with a different mentality, focus, amazing facilities and most importantly - nice people to go with it. The banter and jokes between colleagues is indeed different, and the level of client / customer / patient (insert appropriate label here...) is less. However the opportunity to be exposed to a new way of organizational structure, mentality, resourcing and flexibility has been wonderful so far.

THE TAKE HOME MESSAGE: Well I guess it's simply to never rule out any opportunity, as you never know what you might learn / get from it! Even if it's only free fruit!

Regards from New Zealand

Monday, 5 January 2015

Showcasing Wellington / NZ life as another chapter begins & a very kiwi Christmas Road Trip

It's been a little while, so please read this when you have time, get a cup of tea and relax - (it's a long one)....
Summer moon....
This picture follows on from the last post - as a new moon arises. Yes it's been a big year, and next year will be an even bigger one, however life doesn't end in December and begin again in January, however the Christmas period does at least allow for people to come together and time away from usual routines. So here's a little snippet of the last wonderfully crazy few weeks living in Wellington, New Zealand.

The work Christmas party way split between a lunch at Wagamama and then a 2 hour boat cruise around the harbour. It was a glorious afternoon with my fantastic colleagues and friends. It was especially enjoyable for me as I was due to finish working with the team after 2.5+ year together, and these people have been with me through my entire NZ life.
Work Xmas Party
The idea of leaving such a lovely group of people and work that I feel competent and effective in, is a daunting and scary idea. Regardless of whether this is becomes a permanent move or not, I can at least say that the last 2.5+ years have been a wonderful experience and more importantly contained many hours of laughter - which is something I always highly value!

Many of past travels have included attending weddings... I've been blessed going to weddings in Canada, Vietnam, Romania and now I can add New Zealand to that list. But more importantly than attending different wedding ceremonies, was the sense of belonging that these invitations meant to me personally. Living away from 'home' is tough, don't let anyone tell you otherwise, making new friends is great, but knowing people long enough to have shared (or be invited to share) special events like weddings can take time. 
Therefore I was incredibly honored to be invited to my friend's (Chris) wedding in December. I went on the stag party too - but for obvious reasons I will not be sharing that information here! Being invited to such an event really helped to remind me of feeling like I am not just a temporary visitor to NZ any longer, but am part of a community that goes beyond superficial niceness. I can certainly add a few more people to this list, but you really know who you are already!
@ the winery wedding
Bride & Groom
 The wedding (at Coney Winery, Martinborough) was in itself a brilliant day with a relaxed atmosphere and a day where it was about everybody just having fun (very much like The Hungarian wedding I attend in 2007). Simple, relaxed and about enjoying the day!

This was the main reason for writing this post. Given the upcoming change in my employment status, I ended up with a week off after 24th December. After a very relaxed and chilled Xmas day (Dec 25th), I decided to leave Wellington on boxing day and drive north. My plan really was simple, drive north... text friends along the way, stop when I feel tired or just feel like stopping, and as it's NZ - stop when you see something worth taking a picture of - so every 3o minutes!
Day 1 and the first proper stop was Taupo (4/5 hours from Wellington).  Taupo being a super huge glacial lake in the centre of the North Island. As you can see from the pictures below, it's the perfect stop for a random swim. I literally just pulled off the road to a little layby with a few other cars there, and threw on my trunks, bathers, swimming wear (insert culturally appropriate word here...).
Lake Taupo
Lake Taupo
 Swimming in Lake Taupo was chilly - but worth it for the pureness of the water. Whilst I dried of in the sun next to my car, I text my friend / colleague (Michelle) and was invited to join her and her family in the Thermal Valley Hot pools outside of Rotorua. I firstly stopped int Taupo township to have a pizza and glass and beer!
ROTORUA - land of smelly thermal energy and site of the APOTC in 2015. The Thermal pools were at Waikete Thermal Valley, wow, what a great place to catch up with Michelle and her UK family and enjoy an amazingly pleasant NZ evening. Relaxing in the pools (which go up to 40c) between 6-8 pm was a blissful way relax after a long day's driving. 
Hot Pool, Rotorua...
The evening didn't quite end there though, with a short 20 minute drive into Rotorua to find a cheap hostel room for the night. I was not disappointed as I found Cactus Jack's hostel who gave me a private room for just $40 (£20). 
Day 2 started well with a tip from the hostel receptionist to head off to the local market around the corner for breakfast. I was loving my morning after a bacon and egg butty (sandwich), a cup of tea and then an amazing 20 minute ($18) Thai Massage in the open air. It was just heavenly!
Rotorua Markets
 Following such a brilliant start to the day I was now ready to head up north and to Auckland and to visit my friend's Tony & Monica. Coincidentally it happened to be Tony's birthday. So hand delivering a card to him on the viaduct in Auckland at a tapas restaurant was an added bonus. 
Summer in Auckland...
Two days in Auckland followed, which included eating, drinking, relaxing at Tony & Monica's beautiful home and deck in the glorious sunshine. A few guests came and went on day two including A Romanian couple and their young son, which allowed me to practice some of my now very basic Romanian language skills. Perhaps the highlight of the two days was yet another swim - this time in the ocean in front of the Rangitoto Volcanic Island.... see below.
Swimming in front of Rangitoto
The water was warm, shallow and full of people enjoying the stunning Christmas weather! Despite the heat, you just can't beat a good catch up over a cup of tea / coffee, and we weren't going to miss out on doing that at such a lovely place. Mum, in case you are reading - I had plenty of sun cream on!
Tea @ the beach...
Coffee with Tony
After two days of relaxing, it was time to hit the road again. I had a choice of three ways to return to South. I decided to keep my options open and head to Hamilton and visit an OT friend, who was in turn visiting her friend there. As things turned out (in true NZ style), The mother of my friend's friend - was an Occupational Therapist too! So after a lovely cup of tea and a great chat, I had to decide which way to go. A quick phone call to my friend Shane helped me decide! 
4 Hours later I arrived in Clive, Napier and was supping a beer on Shane's parent's deck, in a beautifully sunny Hawkes Bay. Shane's family offered me a place to sleep and a great breakfast of home baked scones before I headed out for one final stop. 

In the nearby town of Hastings, I randomly called in to see another friend Lisa. She was working but was able to meet me for a tasty lunch in a nearby cafe. This was the perfect way to end the trip, especially as it allowed me to do a little shopping along the way!

So in 4 days I had been up and down the North Island, seen 6 friends on unscheduled visits, swam in a great lake, thermal hot pools and the ocean, and been invited to stay with people for the majority of my time away. There's not many places I've lived where you could just set off without any specific plan and end up seeing so many beautiful places, and just meet up with people as you go...

Thank you New Zealand for providing such a great end to what's been a huge year! 
Regards from New Zealand!