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How when the (English) teacher is ready the students appear…?

My mum occasionally likes to throw around the old adage ‘there’s nothing new under the sun’.  It’s true, sure.  But then, something will happen in your life that suddenly amplifies what you’ve heard before, gives it more substance.  That’s why we are all a beautiful work in progress, you and I, all the time.

English teaching, it turns out, offers a light and important look at relationships, life’s philosophies, getting by, managing change.   In particular, that rather uncomfortable and simple notion that we treat others the way we want to be treated.

One of the most liberating things I learnt from a wonderful Women’s Circle in Perth is that we don’t always need to be/act/feel the same, every day, all day, all the time.  That might sound obvious, but just bear with me a minute… how often do we pressure ourselves to ‘be consistent’?  To really go with the flow is about being real, feeling free to drop the façade when someone asks ‘how’s it going?’, and you want to say anything other than “pretty good”, or worse to sign-off  with“it’s all good” (which I think is fine when said with real conviction, not resignation).

In the classroom in China, particularly back in those early days when I was nervous and oh-so-serious, I often wanted the students to be the same every lesson.  Monday, I thought they were ratbags; Tuesday, they were almost angelic.  After those lessons I’d think ‘Yes!  If only every week was like this?!”.  I just wanted consistency, I wanted them to behave, to know what to expect; just do what I ask, please!   

And yet, I feel so relieved and liberated when others grant me the good grace of accepting me as I am, in the moment, and don’t put expectations on me to be the same as yesterday/last year/the last time they saw me.  Perhaps shaking their head a little, but hey, accepting nonetheless.   Isn’t that what the old expression ‘warts and all’ really means?

So then, why do I expect them to be any different (to me)?  Why on earth would I not think that they have their own issues, trials, ups, downs, happy and sad stories behind the cheerful hellos and broken English…and did I mention they’re teenagers, in their first few weeks of a new school year, being taught by a person who doesn’t even speak their language?

I’m going to take a punt here and guess that you have your own ‘them’?

Think about it… we see someone on Wednesday and they’re bouncing off the walls, fresh and mischievous… a few days later they’re kinda mellow.  And they don’t even do so much as to offer an explanation!  We panic, we bemoan their mood swings, we might wonder what we did (which is 99.5% not part of the issue).   Maybe ‘something happened’, like the lead character in their favourite TV show was killed off, most unexpectedly.

Or perhaps there are the deeper, more subtle, mysterious emotional forces at play.  They woke up that morning remembering they had wanted to be a dancer, not an engineer.  They might be thinking about the homeless person they passed on the street, the argument they had with their spouse this morning, the bills they’re not sure how to pay this month.

There’s a place for consistency (that’s integrity of character) and there’s a place for just rolling with the ups and downs, showing compassion and doing the best we can under those circumstances (and still loving the person, however hard it might seem).  Let them be and love them anyway (I’m still working on it but I want to do the same for you, really I do!).

Photo credit:


China (or wherever) – to be continued….

I have recently decided to put China in an ‘on [open-ended] hold’, if we can call it that, and head back to Perth to be with family and friends.  I have previously written about my dad, who has brain cancer and whilst he’s still kicking along of course, checking the veggies and occasionally swearing at the TV, I’ve decided I want to be home, especially around Christmas time.

Ebbs and flows are the way of life (if that wasn’t the case, I’d be worried). Even my regular work life has never really been ‘normal’ since I left the safe haven of student life and entered the real world.  I’m not really a drifter, but I am a ‘truster’; that involves testing, seeking, moving, staying, going, unsettling and resettling.  Internal shifts as well as external ones.

I come home with both a spring in my step and a heavy heart, for all kinds of reasons.  I love Shanghai, this paradoxical place.  I feel welcomed, appreciated and included. The language barrier has offered a different way of relating to people and the experience of just sitting with people or doing things together, without the need for space-filling chit-chat. And sometimes, the disappointment and frustration of not feeling connected and being able to have more meaningful conversations (I do love a good chit-chat!).  They go together.

I’ve experienced the odd clichéd ‘loneliness-in-the-crowd’ feeling too, of course; that can be quite strong and overwhelming.  To me it feels like being stuck in an old-fashioned ‘picture reel’ that plays over in your mind in for a few moments, only there are no pictures.   The film is blank, exposed and in that moment I must remind myself that I’m part of this group, this city, this particular place where I’m feeling so out of it and invisible.  I think that just comes with travelling alone, and it passes.

My homecoming naturally leads to thoughts of travel, and what it can offer people.   Countless others have written about the workings and wonders of travel, and some brilliantly so.  Do I always need to be ‘entertained’, reaching for new things and experiences, is that why I love to travel?  Hmm…no, that’s not (entirely) it.   I’m pretty happy in my own company, I can easily spend a day being a homebody and idling few hours pottering around the house.  I need solitude too; I go a bit nuts if I don’t get daydreaming, down time.

Another lovely street in Xintiandi

Another lovely street in Xintiandi

So, here I have been immersed in this world of being the watcher and the watched for three months, living curiosity week-by-week as an end in itself, not a hunt for the answer to absolutely everything.  Though of course, I asked lots of questions!  Can’t help it.  But most of all I think travel teaches patience, acceptance, connectedness, finding beauty in strange places and ‘going with the flow’ like few other life experiences can, in my humble opinion.

And yes, I will probably come home and drive a few people crazy with ‘Oh, this would never happen in Shanghai!’ (apologies in advance everyone, I’ll try to keep that in check!  But complain to me about crowds or queues and I’ll whip out this photo [below]).

86th in the queue, first time ever...

86th in the queue, first time ever…

Oh and in case you’re wondering, I’ll still be writing a post each week – I can still pay attention and be curious at home!  I’ve been a little out of whack lately I know but will get back into the swing of things this week.

Plus there’ll be plenty of goodies from the China archives I’m sure.  Starting to wish I’d taken a photo of that clapped-out old toilet I passed on my street last week 🙂 (ironically, not far away from the fellow who decided to scoot off the footpath and take a quick whizz.  Truly, happens fairly regularly).

Walking the line

I’ve decided to incorporate a series of posts about people in my life who I admire, or who have been influential in some way – starting with my dad, Neville.  I’m pretty pleased that the title of this post[1] about my dad is an adaptation of a Johnny Cash song, one of his favourite singers.  Miraculously and with no creative input on my part whatsoever.

Basically, I think I know a lot of amazing people, and my life is not that interesting to write about on it’s own.  No really, it’s not.  On the one hand, I don’t know where to start.  I’m nervous, actually.  It’s my dad!  He is and does many things, where does one start?

My dad’s world – career-wise – was primary and secondary school education.  He was a school teacher and principal for 40+ years, though that doesn’t do justice to the conviction and loyalty with which he carried himself in the job.    He worked largely in country schools in Western Australia, and I’ll be talking mostly about St Joseph’s School in Northam here, which is the school I attended from age 5 to 15.

Looking dapper for family photos last year! (Colleen, mum, me, dad, Kerry and Janine)

Looking dapper for family photos last year! (Colleen, mum, me, dad, Kerry and Janine)

When I think about my dad, what I see and have experienced is a man who lives from what he calls ‘simple, old fashioned’ values and principles – including service, honesty, integrity and fairness.   He demonstrated these throughout his working life (he’s retired how) and of course continues to, especially as his own life has taken a dramatic turn in the last few years.

Oh and let’s just get this out of the way now – Nev’s no saint (sorry dad, you’re not).  He occasionally slips up on the application of these values, especially when watching Australian football (AFL), though he upholds the honesty part very well.   He’s extremely honest in his appraisal of the players’ talents (or rather, lack thereof).

So, ‘walking the line’ here I think really means committing to and expressing those values in everyday life.  It means deciding what you stand for, what’s you’re about – and then being authentic to that as much as possible.   I think many of us aspire to live up to this aspiration in some way (and do).  But there are so many excuses, temptations, disruptions and reasons not to live from our values and our hearts every day.

For my dad, I think a lot of his working life felt like a fight.  And that mentality can prepare you for many things, and it can divert you as well.  Sometimes it’s useful, other times it’s a burden; not every situation in life is a fight or has a downside.   Yet, he just keeps going, and that is the point here.  Things you believe in are worth fighting for, after all, aren’t they?

So, here’s a few things I’ve learned from the old man about living from your values – in this case, service, fortitude, honesty and integrity.


When I asked him recently about some of the key things that helped him to stay focused and remain resilient after all those years as principal, here’s what he said:

“The essentials of being a {school principal}[2] are:

  1. 1.    Like doing it
  2. 2.    Do it well for the sake of others.”

Simple, effective and to the point – vintage Nev.  I hasten to add that he applies these principles to his parenting, and now to his ‘grandparenting’, where he takes much pleasure in teaching my nephew Riley to read, or as you can see in the photo, making makeshift go-karts with my niece and nephews on the farm where they live!

Dad and the kids - playing on the farm

Dad and the kids – playing on the farm

As a teacher and principal, he was all about enabling opportunities for others, particularly the students (but also young teachers).  His philosophy here was also simple:

“To give people a chance to be themselves.  That’s what I saw as being fair.”

That’s a a pretty amazing gift to give people, I think.  To him, this really meant ensuring that no one missed out, lessening any distance between the ‘haves and have nots’.  Basically, his key focus was not short-changing the kids in any way for being part of a small, country school.  Such an external label – however factual – was not going to determine the opportunities and education for the kids.  The students responded by giving everything an honest shot and doing the best they could with what they had.

This philosophy goes for everything from the style and cost of student uniforms (“that money is better spent elsewhere”) to establishing partnership programs with farmers to have students conduct practical science and ecology work.  Here, my dad established a program where students helped a local farmer to regenerate a degraded patch of agricultural land[3].  It was a successful example of building relationships in country schools.  Furthermore, students eventually took part in Australia-wide studies relating to salinity and agricultural land care.


I’ve often observed my dad as being the person who does the ‘dirty work’, the difficult jobs no one else wants, the ones that call for a steady hand and a clear head – everything from delivering devastating news to starting schools from the ground up in Northam and Port Hedland (and all that’s in between).    The tall and steady tree that no wind could blow over.  He takes it all in his stride, and in fact, I think he feels a sense of pride about being reliable and dependable.  And why the hell not, the rest of us are just relieved to have someone like him around who’ll take on those unpleasant and prickly jobs.


My dad is fiercely committed to his values at both ends of the spectrum – steadfastly honest and with a reputation for doing well by people, and equally – someone you don’t want to get on the wrong side of!  Honesty is honesty to Nev, and he tends not to discriminate in its delivery.  His strong sense of justice means he’ll prepare for a fight if he has to, particularly for the underdog.  He’s also not afraid getting stuck into people who “deserve a good shellacking”, as Nev puts it.

However, the critical common factor here in both of these is dignity.   Someone might need to be pulled into line, but it’s still possible to treat them with dignity and respect in the process, however hard.  Sure, as a school principal for all those years, many a strong reprimand had to be delivered.   Some would run for their lives at the sight of Mr McManus walking down the school corridor!

And he admits his own mistakes (occasionally!).  My dad once ‘blasted’ a group of students for something then painfully realised he’d made an error.  After much thinking and with some initial hesitation, he apologised to the students, saying “Your free kick”.   Both the students and their parents were so astounded to even receive an apology, the parents rang to tell him so, and to thank him for showing such respect.


Honesty naturally leads us to talk about integrity, but there’s subtle and important differences, summed up neatly by the Alliance for Integrity:

“Integrity in its bare-bones essence means adherence to principles. It is a three-step process: choosing the right course of conduct; acting consistently with the choice—even when it is inconvenient or unprofitable to do so; openly declaring where one stands. Accordingly, integrity is equated with moral reflection, steadfastness to commitments, trustworthiness”

I believe these principles are the substance of a person who seeks a life of service, fortitude and honesty – like my dad. The essentials that you may spend a lifetime cultivating, testing and refining, but that nonetheless remain a commitment, a desire, a yearning even.

For my dad, the foundations of his values and principles have been essential to his family, friends and the many people he has reached in many communities over the years.  I now observe how essential this foundation is as my dad experiences his toughest life challenge yet right now – cancer.   When your world shakes everything out and leaves you feeling undone (which, I can only imagine my dad is experiencing right now), we must return to and build on the strength and substance inherent within each of us, the unshakable part.  For my dad, I observe that as being these core values of service, integrity, honesty, fortitude – for him, the fighter within.  My dad may or may not feel comfort or strength from that.

Dad and Sophie, his youngest granddaughter, taking good care of my dog Lola together.

Dad and Sophie, his youngest granddaughter, taking good care of my dog Lola together.

Nev says he’s getting shaky on his feet these days, his memory is shaky, eyesight shaky.  However, I would like to honour and acknowledge that unshakable part of my dad – the substance and humility that has served him and others all of his life, and continues to do so every day, in big and small ways.

Oh, and if you like Johnny Cash – check this out from the Rebelle Society for what we can learn from him about love, life and being your badass self (at the very least scroll down for his definition of paradise, it’s beautiful).

[1] More like an essay and a little longer than my usual goal of sticking to 500 words – a worthy exception, so please keep reading! 🙂

[2] {insert any profession here}

[3] As he’s quick to point out, it was of course a collaborative process with help from many others, especially the science teacher at the time, Mark Gargano.

We all need at least one person in our life who…

…will remind you how awesome you are (we sometimes forget)

… will help you move house (usually the unfortunate soul with the good sense / silliness to own a ute [Americans – that’s a ‘pick-up truck’)

…will tell you when you’re being a d*ckhead

…will crush the eggshells that everyone else tip-toes around

…. will forgive your incessant talking during movies / TV shows (and the need to provide running commentary if deemed necessary)

…will change your child’s pooey nappy without batting an eyelid (but whilst blocking a nostril)

…will listen to your same boy/men (or girl/women) troubles over and over….until she/he doesn’t and calls you on it

…will get that you and Henry Cavill really are made for each other, he just doesn’t know it yet (did you hear that, TS!?)

…will fold your washing and do your dishes without asking

…will forgive you gracefully for just about anything

…will applaud your melodrama and grandiose visions whilst keeping your feet on the ground

…will take your thinking and knowing to levels you never thought possible.

Something a little lighter and leaner this week!   This is not a definitive list, it’s just my starting point.  I love that I can say I have different people in my life, family and dear friends, who offer all these things (and hopefully, I can offer some to them).

What about you – what’s on your list?

Falling in love…with the past?

“It’s okay to look back at the past.  Just don’t stare”Benjamin Dover

I had an interesting experience last night – a moment of falling in love…with my past. Weird, I know, something about that phrase annoys me, but there it is.  I got home after a quick work stint over on Chongming Island, doing some kid-wrangling cleverly disguised as relief/substitute English language teaching.  Needless to say, I got home, said a quick prayer of thanks for teaching teenagers instead of eight year olds (yes, truly) and settled in for a short nap.

In one of those strange moments where things pop into my head for no logical reason[1], I had a flash of some images from an old video that I came across while I was preparing for China.  In the video, my former husband (let’s call him Isaac; ‘cause that’s his name) had taken some short footage of our dog Angus climbing onto my lap for a hug.  Angus was a 50kg Rottweiler that couldn’t bear to be more than two-feet away from you at any time.

The conversation was sprinkled with ‘babe’ and ‘sweet’; laughs and frustration because Lola, our other dog, wouldn’t join in the party… and well, just sweetness and softness.  It was simply a 45-second video at home, probably about six or seven years old now.

Last night I thought about how unrecognisable my life would now be to that younger Michelle, and yet that doesn’t make it any better or worse to my life back then.  It was a special, lovely time, and yet it was actually a challenging time full of big life changes at what I now feel is the tender age of 24 (new marriage, house move and career change)!

So I thought: ‘what if I just fell in love with my past and left it at that?’.  And this is not one of those romantic, nostalgic notions of ‘everything seemed better then’.  I have no desire to recreate that time in the here and now, or be back there.  And it’s been a long process of healing, clearing emotion and moving forward, I might add, with much (mis)adventure along the way!

Many people, more intelligent than me, contend that suffering, heartache and inability to heal comes from holding on to the past (and I agree). To just love the past for what it is/was doesn’t mean we have to hang on to it and drag it everywhere with us, use it for ‘show and tell’, or strive for an updated version.  Truly loving someone or something is also letting go, or at least holding lightly; anything other than that is possession, an illusion.  Love is and allows freedom, I think.  Freedom for each to be their own person and yet to fully witness and honour the other person (or perhaps animal, place or the ‘thing’ that is loved, it’s not about romantic love).

Angus and I, 2007

Angus and I, 2007

For that moment (and still now) I really felt – not just ‘thought’ – that I would not change a single thing about my life to this point.  That also means I’ll take the lonely and the painful alongside the lovely and the joyful.

[1] which for someone with an overactive brain like mine, happens a lot!

I want this to be brilliant…but it might be just ‘ok’

Another flashback for you (and me, actually)… written on the 25 June 2013 from somewhere high over the Indian Ocean.

Writing this from however-many-thousand-feet planes fly, on my way to Bangkok.  I’ll be living there for the next two months while completing a certificate in teaching English to speakers of other languages, praying for any digestive maladies to arise only between dusk and dawn and absorbing, drinking-in the culture, food, people and buzz that I imagine this place has to offer.

I’m tired, bit headachy, eerily calm and a little proud part of me wants to write something brilliant and profound here.  But as one of my writing heroes Seth Godin says, you get to amazing through not-yet-amazing.  It’s very timely that while sitting here on the plane, sorting through and organising emails I was re-reading some of his old blog posts (I just can’t get enough of this guy), and came across this one from May 2013:

“Confronted with the gap between your vision of perfect and the reality of what you’ve created, the easiest path is no path. Shrug. Admit defeat. Hit delete.

Of course, the only path to amazing runs directly through not-yet-amazing. But not-yet-amazing is a great place to start, because that’s where you are. For now.”

My own take on this (and frustration) is I (we/some people) don’t often realise how close we are to something that will shift, stir, shake, sort out…whatever is unsettled, whatever needs shifting and whatever needs shaking up.  AND whatever comes to mind for you right now as you’re reading this, that’s as good a place to start.

This feels pertinent for me at the moment because, well, I’ve just left the country, and have no firm job to go to, no place to live yet.   But that’s irrelevant, really (I have a place to live for the next few months and am speaking with the right people about jobs and opportunities… so I’m not exactly jumping in without a safety net).

What matters most is that I think I’ve got my next few moves worked out (I do have a broad intention or goal but I’m not totally clear yet.  More about that some other time).  They’re not amazing or glamorous; hey, I’ll admit – there’s a little part of me that wishes there was a bit more surface razzle-dazzle to the plans (“I’m trekking in the Himalayas, then I’m volunteering to help disenfranchised Indian youth set up social enterprises before taking up that senior consulting position at PwC in Shanghai…”).

My ‘plan’ is to just start…somewhere, anywhere.  I’m not quite clear yet, so if I get too fussy about the ‘where’, then the ‘some’ just might not happen.  Land in Shanghai, teach English, get immersed, learn the language, explore, be adventurous, take risks, be smart, go through doors that open and move away from a fixed idea of how things ‘should be’.

PS (addition on  18 October 2013): I continue to be grateful for the opportunity and freedom to do this right now in my life!   One thing that never fails to be brilliant – Bangkok sunsets (this photo is from my Bangkok apartment rooftop, Sathorn).

The language barrier

Ahh, just imagine if I spoke Chinese.  It would make for a smoother and faster transaction when asking to use the washing machine[1], questioning exactly what ‘white’ wine is on the menu, looking for cough medicine or, heaven help me, the day I have to navigate any kind of embarrassing personal ailment at the chemist.

But actually, more important is the ongoing missed opportunity for chit-chat, those gradual things that help to build relationships with people and real connection.  For example, I live at the school where I teach and there is a small group of women that are basically the ‘administrators’ at the building (they lock us in at night and let us out during the day.  Seriously.  The place is actually a giant fire hazard).  They are affectionately referred to as the ‘aunties’, full of smiles and a warm greeting or goodbye.

So, I’m increasingly feeling a little guilty that I can’t greet the ‘aunties’ at the door properly when I get back to room at the end of the day; I can’t have a little joke with them, ask them about their families, about where they live, about how long they’ve worked at the school. I’m taking Chinese lessons, slowly building up to practicing every day, especially over dinner with my Chinese-speaking Australian colleague, much to his frustration (though he’s leaving in a few weeks!).

But at first I was putting off study and practice.  I would go out and be too scared to practice; worried about getting the tones wrong, scared of looking silly.  Feeling vulnerable.

Perhaps I feel unsettled because this has got me thinking of all the other ‘language disconnects’ out there, bedsides this obvious cultural example.  Between partners, lovers, between wives and husbands.  That’s nothing new.   A smart fellow has written a whole book about ‘love languages’; I love that idea.   Between adults and teenagers?  Between a worker and their boss, consultant and their client (I’ve lived that one)?  Between the farmer and the animal rights activist?  I could go on, but you get the picture.

I think the breakdown of so many systems and relationships comes about because of language barriers.  What would be possible if we really learned to hear and speak with each other?

Is it too simplistic to consider it might be the same as learning a cultural language?   Be willing (the first and most difficult thing) and remember it’s about listening as well as speaking (probably moreso).  Sit down, take the time, immerse yourself in that world, then practice in real settings.  Be willing some more.   Keep listening.  Make mistakes, have people laugh at you sometimes.  Find others who are learning as well so you can share the ride.  Be prepared to be vulnerable, yes. We’re afraid to be vulnerable, as Seth Godin writes.  That’s a work in progress for me – and an integral part of this writing journey – but one I’m slowly unravelling.

As for the complex problems of the world, it’s harder; but in my opinion, not impossible and really, it doesn’t seem like there’s any other starting point.

[1] FYI and sidebar – me miming the hand-washing of clothes and waving around a laundry soap bar resulted in the woman excitedly bringing me a washboard and bucket.  At least I can honestly say I fully appreciate the saying ‘washboard stomach’.

Things you probably won’t find…

Continuing to enjoy the quirky nuances of local life here, mainly in comparison to Australia.  Lots of things the same as any local neighbourhood, you have your regulars, which is nice – my fruit lady, my dumplings guy and my weekend-breakfast mama.

I love it all, seriously, and share the following with great affection.  Is it insanely interesting?  No, sorry.  Really it’s just life, it tends to go on everywhere, but it’s great fun to discover.  Warning: some of the following may conjure up potentially graphic images!  Here’s a quick and fun little collection from the last few weeks of things you probably won’t find…

In an Aussie classroom / school:

Teacher (me): “What does your father like to do?”
Students (six of them, in perfect unison): “My father likes smoking!”

Watching the washing dry with an afternoon snack, Hongkou

Watching the washing dry with an afternoon snack, Hongkou

Students burping aloud during class, at any given moment, without hesitation, embarrassment or regret.   Actually, I’ve never taught in an Aussie classroom or anywhere else – I’m sure it does happen, but didn’t really when I was at school.

While we’re at it, what Chinese students probably won’t find in a classroom – their teacher raising their eyebrows and demanding they say ‘excuse me’!  Am getting used to it though, and I must clarify – from the student’s perspective, it’s not considered or intended to be rude (as far as I’m aware anyway).  It’s just that in a country with one billion + people, someone’s always listening or watching.  So there’s really no time like the present, and no place better than right here.

Squat toilets with no doors.  Yes, squat toilets are very common in China, I’m well aware of that.  But no doors (and no flush button)?  For the student toilets anyway in my office block.   Believe or not, Google instantly came up with a search match when I started typing ‘squat toilet etiquette….’ (you know, back to the ‘door’ or back to the wall?  This is complicated stuff!!).  That’s the first and last of the graphic imagery for this post.

On the street…

People thrusting their babies in your arms, then crowding around you like the paparazzi.  If I’d known this would happen, I would have worn make-up that day. Possibly my only 15 minutes of fame, so I made the most of it by handing over my own camera.

Unexpected stree-side baby-cuddle, no complaints here!

Unexpected stree-side baby-cuddle, no complaints here!

Regular dance group, often seen outside Tesco in Hongkou

Regular dance group, often seen outside Tesco in Hongkou

Morning dance classes for the older ladies outside the huge local Tesco shopping centre (Australians, think Coles / Woolies)…even when the a scooter shop temporarily sets up camp there.

Identified salivary objects (as distinct from ‘unidentified’), either flying towards your feet or taunting you underfoot, of varying size, colour, consistency and origin.  Ok, maybe you’ll find these in Australia, and in just about every country in Europe, as far as I’m aware.  I’m just having a whinge now.

Bras, undies, socks, jocks, pants, doonas, rugs, tablecloths…everything, hanging between available trees, on the backs of chairs or for the more sophisticated, rolled out on mobile clothes hangers.  I love that privacy is largely overrated here, yet there’s nothing obscene or offensive about it (again, it’s practical and necessary).

Finding a bright and sunny spot

Finding a bright and sunny spot

And lastly, on the street…the concept of red lights being more a suggestion than a road rule to be obeyed.   For better or worse, one’s road sense sharpens very quickly over here!

Ok that’s it!  If anything else interesting pops up, I’ll let you know.