The penultimate week here in Salatiga has gone very quickly! It has mainly been taken up with language lessons although I did manage to explore a massive market, play traditional Indonesian music and explore the surrounds of Salatiga by going for long runs.
On Sunday morning I went to the local market that I assumed was going to be a fairly small affair but it turned out to be huge with kilometres of stalls, all on the side of what is usually a busy highway. The locals are not deterred by this though as they spill out in to the middle of the road and force a 3 lanes of traffic (in each direction) down to 1 very slow lane of traffic. There was an amazing variety of goods on offer, ranging from live animals through to motorbikes.
In our culture class this week we learned Angklung (an Indonesian bamboo instrument). I am not particularly musical but this instrument just involves shaking it at the right time and so even I can manage that!
So, there is just one more week of study left here, which is probably a good thing as I feel that I have reached the limit of the number of words I can learn in a set period. We are supposed to be learning around 1000 words a week but the reality is closer to 100!
Another week down in the tropics. This week I finished the first unit of this course and also demonstrated the skills that I had learned in pencak silat (Indonesian martial art) at the “graduation” ceremony.
It was great to finish part of the course although the thought of moving on to a more complicated use of the language is a bit intimidating! I am suppose to learn around 3000 words in the next two weeks. I don’t really think that is going to be possible and so I am just going to do my best and hope that I can pass the exams!
Not a lot has happened this week although I have continued to explore the towns and the surrounds and enjoyed the different pace of life and different priorities of Indonesia. The focus here does not seem to be on efficiency but more on how much they can get away with. For instance, they have four people working in the local corner shop which is so small that it seems crowded with just the staff there.
There has been lots going on this week. I had a busy week with classes, had an excursion to Yogyakarta and also experienced some interesting food with my home-stay family.
On our trip in to Yoyga we visited the Buddhist temple of Borobudur. It was built around 800 AD and is carved from volcanic rock. (The sarung is not a fashion statement but a requirement for the temple)
We also went to the Water Palace of the previous Yogya kings (there is still a king who rules Yogya).
Finally we spent the evening shopping and eating in Yogya. It is an incredibly busy and bustling place… unsurprisingly, a very Asian city but it seemed there was more room to express individuality.
Earlier in the week I went with my home-stay family to eat out at one of the popular roadside stalls. They asked if I would like to try a local delicacy which turned out to be snails on a skewer. It was quite rubbery but didn’t taste too bad!
I finish the first half of my course this Tuesday and then move up a level for the final two and a half weeks of my stay.
It has been a tough week here in Salatiga. I have learned 300 words in 10 days and had the flu.
The language course has been incredibly intensive with each lesson lasting 100mins. I think I would liken it to being to told you have to go for hour long runs when you have only just started to get fit. There is not much concerned paid to optimal learning times or strategies here, they just hit you with information and hope some of it sticks.
Not that it has been a waste of time, I have picked up a lot of Indonesian but after 2 full on weeks, my brain is starting to rebel and does not want to learn any more words!
There is going to be a real challenge this weekend as we have to write 1500 words in Indonesian on a topic of our choice. My topic is “why is Indonesia rubbish at football”.
Today I went to the markets. There are so many stalls and variety of things here. Apparently you can buy dog meat but fortunately I have not seen any yet!
I have been in Indonesia for the last week studying as part of my ANU degree. We arrived in a very busy Denpasar airport before finally catching a flight to Yogyakarta and a shuttle bus to Salatiga.
The week has been spent getting to know the university, our home stay family and getting a real emersion in to the Indonesian language.
It was a real eye opener of how much I need to learn when in the placement test I got 10% (of which probably half were lucky guesses!)
As it is the wet season here, it has been raining every day however this has not deterred the locals from their usual program. This is a football game I saw yesterday… one of them was even playing under an umbrella!
Today there was a traditional competition to climb an oiled pole with the people who get to the top getting the prize. I was there for 45mins and they didn’t come close to getting to the top!
In the Indonesian language a lot of the writing is done in the passive voice and so as homework, we have to write 150 words about the pole climbing, all in passive. After being marked down for even thinking in the passive voice at ANU, it is a big change!
Last night we had our first of eight Indonesian martial arts lessons. We went straight into the moves and by the end, I had absolutely no idea what was going on! I think I am supposed to punch and kick but beyond that, I am not sure!
I am going to be here for another 5 weeks here and so by the end, hopefully I will have a better idea of both language and martial arts!
After a really fun weekend of racing, it all came down to one mistake on the bottom part of the course.
Unfortunately, that means that I did not get to Olympics but on the positive side, I did finish my career at my home course surrounded by my family and friends, paddling fast… that is not a bad way to go out.
I am going to take some time to work out my plans for the immediate future but I wanted to thank the people that have made my time paddling such a wonderful experience.
The coaches and support staff at the AIS, my fellow paddlers for the camaraderie and the laughs, Han and Hannah for helping me re-find the joy in paddling and my amazing Family.
I guess that’s what happens in the end; you start thinking about the beginning.
There are 4 days to go to the Oceania Open. This will be the final selection race for the Olympic Games. Depending on the result it may be my last race in a 20 year odyssey that has taken me from a small pond in the Forest of Dean to Sydney and many place in between.
I remember writing out my goals when I was about 10 or 11 and they were pretty simple. One was to be Olympic Champion and the other was to grow be 6 foot 6 inches. At 6 foot 2 inches, I have been pretty comfortable for a while, knowing that I would not grow the remaining inches. Knowing that I probably will not reach goal number 1 and realising that is not such a bad thing, has taken me a lot longer to get to grips with.
My career really started for me (in my mind) in Ireland when I was 9. I paddled for Wales for the first time and my photo made the cover of a major Irish Newspaper, needless to say, I thought I had made it! From there I gradually got more and more in to paddling and travelled all over Europe as a Junior. In 2002 I competed at the Junior World Championships.
Then came the move to Australia and the tough transition from the Junior to Senior ranks. In 2006 I made my first Senior World Championships. 2006 was also the year of my first major injury. A broken collar bone and surgery made 2006-2007 a very tough time, that was the first time I had stopped progressing in my sport and my morale suffered accordingly. I fought back hard in 2008 and thought I was on the verge of recapturing the momentum only to dislocate my shoulder. In 2009 I made my second World Championship. This was followed later in the year by a recurrence of my shoulder dislocation, this time I required surgery. Since my return from surgery I have been injury free and even won my first major competition when I won the Oceania Championship in 2011.
I have certainly experienced many ups and downs in my career (slalom pun intended) and my goals for my sport have evolved accordingly. Up until the time of my second injury my life revolved around the result. The rare good result and the world was ok, the much more common bad result and the sky might fall in. Slowly, I have come to the point where a good result would be nice but really, I just hope that I paddle to the best of my ability. This way I can actually happy most of the time. Ironically, if I had told myself this at the start of my career, I would have told myself to shove off (or words to that effect).
What have been the highlights of my time on the water? It is funny to me that probably my fondest memory is not of my paddling but of my sister being promoted to Division 3 (there are Divisions in British slalom) at a flat water course called Langham Farm. She is the reason that I am in this sport and someone I have always tried to emulate and seeing her succeed was better for me than anything I ever did. Of my own paddling, there have not been as many podiums and successes as I dreamt about as a young boy but there have been a few, all too brief times, when the World has seemed to slow and I was in control of the water. One competition in particular stands out in my mind where I felt and paddled like I could take on the World and win.
If I manage to win this weekend then I will be on my way to the London Olympics. If not, my life will start a new journey, one that will be daunting, exciting and new, a life without Slalom but one full of all the wonderful things that Slalom has given me.
I guess that’s what happens in the end; you start thinking about new beginnings.
We are in Bourg Saint Maurice, in the French Alps, for a week of training and a race.
As I am writing this I can hear the sound of singing coming from the Military Training Camp which is just next door to our apartment. I cannot vouch for their fighting skills but if there was a “sing off” instead of war these guys would definitely win.
The apartment Kate, Christian and I are staying in is about the size of most peoples’ bathrooms and I have to fold my bed up in the morning so that we can fold out the kitchen table. That is ok though as we are spending most of our time either training or in the Boulangerie trying the various French pastries.
Bourg is a great course, it is one of the steepest Slalom venues in the world with very fast water making it really tough to get on line and then to stay on it. I have missed more gates in 3 days here than I have in my whole trip so far.
Physically everything is going well, my shoulder which had been giving me problems seems to have benefited from the rest I gave it.
Being able to paddle freely has also helped my enjoyment of the trip. I have been able to focus on some of the technical areas that I need to improve on if I am to be competitive.
The race is this weekend and should be a good field and a challenging course. The Aussie Under 23 team are also here along with a number of other countries.
I believe that the Saturday qualification will be on the bottom part of the river with the Finals being held on the more challenging top section.
I have finished my travelling for now after arriving in Augsburg last week, we have settled into our apartment that will be our base for the next few months. It is nice to be able to unpack and start to get in to more of a normal routine.
We have travelled 6,000kms in the last month so it is also nice to be out of the car.
My injury problems are starting to clear up, my shoulder has been responding well to the copious amount of exercises that I have been doing for it but I decided not to race in Merano this weekend as I do not want to push it that hard yet. Christian and Kate are going to be racing along with the Under 23 team. The link to the race website is here.
The water levels here in Augsburg have meant that the main channel, the “Eiskanal” had not been running for a while. The whole of Europe is going through a bit of a drought at the moment and so it was a nice change when it started raining two days ago and there was enough water in the river to turn on the Eiskanal. Hopefully this will continue although there is still excellent training here regardless and I am going to be doing a lot of paddling in the next few months (shoulder permitting) and I might even be able to get some of the moves on this course, which I find particularly challenging due to the narrowness of the course and the variability in the water.