Wednesday, April 27, 2011

ANZAC Day Dawn Service & Parade

Confession time: I am ashamed to admit but prior to Monday I had never attended an ANZAC Day Dawn Service. I know it’s shameful and after attending this year, I feel even worse about it.
If you read no further in this post than this, I am telling you to make it a priority to get there next year.
 Matt & I decided we would go this year, with the decision made easier by the fact that our apartment in South Melbourne is situated no less than 150m from the Shrine of Remembrance. If we didn’t go, it would have truly been unforgivable. So the alarm was set for a 5.15am rise and we were out the door for the 2min walk by just after 5.30am.
The morning was cold, dark & eerie, with super thick fog descending on the city, making it hard to see how many people where actually huddled around the memorial. I knew there were a few as we could get nowhere near the front , so as the ceremony continued and the sun rose it was obvious that we weren’t the only ones who had made the decision to attend. Later that night, 7 news suggested that 35,000 people attended, which was truly impressive.  
As we couldn’t see a thing, we relied on listening to the voices and music through the loud speakers. The shivers that ran up my spine were quite unexpected and I was a bit more emotional than I had prepared to be.
When the formalities were over we wondered down the ‘Gunfire Breakfast’ held by the RSL which was served by current servicemen and women. Half a bun, sausage, baked beans, scrambled eggs and a couple of Anzac breakfasts in a styrofoam plate – perfect!
The parade wasn’t due to start until 9am and we finished brekkie by 7am, so we went back to the apartment for a bit of rest. They rugged back up to cheer on at the parade.
This was a highlight for me, seeing the men and women looking so proud as they made their way 1.8km along the route. Some certainly faster than others but if they want to march, then let them march I say, who cares how long it takes.
However the moment of the day came when the ‘Poppy’ of about 5 young kids who were patiently sitting next to us finally came past about 1.5 hours into the parade. The kids had been happily clapping along, waving their Aussie flags at all the people but then when they finally spotted ‘Poppy’ they bolted out into the middle of the parade yelling excitedly at him, giving him high fives and hugging him intensely. Poppy looked so proud and happy, even broke into a jog/skip back to his group waving back to his family. Precious stuff!
I walked away from the day truly inspired and more thankful than ever by the sacrifices that all of these men & women gave for our country to allow me to do whatever I chose to do today.
One of those choices I will continue to make is to attend as many dawn services as I can in the future. It’s one morning a year to put a whole bunch of things in perspective!
Becstar x
                                  Eerily foggy and shows as close as we could get to the Shrine.

                                                  The Victoria Barracks looking so pretty.

                                                           The Shrine on a quieter day.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Own Up: Who's playing the practical joke on me?

So I have never blogged twice in one day but I just had to get this one out for the sake of my own sanity!
Holy Moly, I swear someone is playing the biggest, most impressive practical joke on me lately as I attempt to deal with a major telephone company (Rhymes with MELSTRA).
About 2 weeks ago, I rang to reduce the company to purchase another mobile broadband dongle for my laptop, as the other one was getting quite slow. I had to change the billing address anyway and I know how slow service can be in store, so I thought I would do it over the phone.
About 30mins later, I had changed the billing address on my business’s internet account and ordered a new dongle, which they would send directly to me at my new address, which I had to give 3 times throughout the conversation. No problems, at least she was being thorough & I would have a new package in 2-3 days. Sweet!
So a few days later, my mum calls (who lives in Perth, while I am in Melbourne) to say that a courier has just delivered a package to me. Well I didn’t order anything, so I get her to open it and guess what, it’s my new Telstra dongle. WTF?
Now I haven’t lived at that address for over 7 years and the business account that I have both internet access account with, have no links whatsoever to that address, as they are held in the business name and I haven’t had a personal Telstra account in over 14 years.
So I ring them up to ask what is going on? It turns out that my current address is not valid and after repeatedly asking me if I am sure I am giving the right address, the computer says NO and they are unable to verify the address. So that’s why it was sent to Perth, my very unhelpful male customer service officer says so matter of factly – well DER, why didn’t I realise this. No calls to check, we just send it to the only other address that we have matched for you……….Crazy!
Even worse is that I ask, what happens if it wasn’t my parents address and someone else had just signed for it and taken it? His reply “Well we would have had a problem then, wouldn’t we?”
Then when I ask what they are going to do now, he cheekily suggests that the best, easiest thing would be to have my mum just send it to me……..So even though they stuffed up, we have to fix it. No chance! So instead we have to wait for a return bag to arrive, send it back and then they will send me a new one. At this stage I am really wishing I had just gone to the store…….
So 2 weeks pass and we still have no return bag to send it back (Although mum did receive my ‘Welcome to Telstra pack’ so good to see they deleted the address like they said they would). So I send in a complaint and hope that they will call me to sort out. Instead I get an email to say they can’t call, as they don’t have contact details for me……..(I had to add them when I entered the complaint, so why don’t you look there) but more importantly the email says, if I don’t ring back in 5 days then they will assume the matter was resolved. Putting back on the customer again, great work guys!
So today I call and they ask for my complaint number to get through my case manager. But guess what??????? My case manager no longer works in complaints (After sending the email 3 days ago) and so they have to assign me a new case manager. They ask if I can wait and after 10mins they say that they will just get them to call me back asap, as there is a queue. I give them my number this time and wait………………………….It’s been 2 hours since this happened and 2 weeks & 3 days since I started this process, do you think I will get a call E-V-E-R?
Not a happy customer!
(But oh so grateful I don’t have to work for them)
Becstar x

Para-cycling National Championships – April 2011

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending and competing at the Australian National Para-Cycling Championships in Caloundra, on the Sunshine Coast. Over the past two months I have teamed up with a vision impaired rider, Casey, in Melbourne and we have been busy training to head up to the comp.
Since these competitions are few & fair between, we had no illusions that we were fully fit and ready to race but if we didn’t go, it would be another 11 months until the next event. So we went in to the competition simply for the experience (something that took a bit for my competitive nature to adjust too).
We raced a 24km Time Trial in a torrential downpour on the Saturday but the skies cleared up on Sunday for our 62km Road Race, which consisted of 6 very undulating laps. Note: Tandem bikes are great for descending but not really made for climbing – ouch!
It was a long couple of days but we got through, all better for the experience and the insight into what we need to do and where we need to be at in order to be competitive next year.
However the biggest lesson I took out of the trip, is how truly amazing and determined some people are. I met a fellow female competitor, a lower limb amputee, who also happens to be a very accomplished doctor, who rides using only one leg. Now when I thought climbing up those hills with 2 people and 4 legs was tough, imagine only being able to use one. Amazing!
Another female competitor who suffers from spasms when her body starts to heat up or get put under stress, which started about ½ lap into her 3 lap race. Talk about determination to get to the finish.
Then there are the hand cyclists, some who literally were just concentrating on completing one revolution at a time to avoid rolling back down the hill on the steepest part of the course. Imagine their upper body strength.
I was able to talk candidly to a number of the competitors about their disabilities and how it affects their daily lives and ability to ride their bikes. The thing that struck me the most is that not one of them complained or suggested it was unfair. Each and every one of the competitors were inspirational and I can guarantee that they work just as hard as any able body competitor at the same level.  
It is certainly an experience that I will take with me during future training sessions on or off the bike. Next time I am in the box and struggling to continue, I’ll just think of my fellow competitors and I’m sure I’ll suck it up and get on with it.
A few pictures from the weekend’s events –

Happy riding!
Becstar x