Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Reaching a nursing goal!

I've just handed in my Level 1 Professional Portfolio!

I am so relieved that stress is off my shoulders! Of course the Level 2 Portfolio is due in another 5 months, but at least I am halfway there with this one.

For those that don't know, Registered Nurses in NZ have to meet certain practice competencies to gain and renew their practising certificates. There are 2 ways we can prove this. The first option is waiting until the Nursing Council decides to audit you and then compiling a portfolio with evidence to show how you have met the competencies. The second option is signing up to your employer's Professional Development Recognition Programme (PDRP). This consists of several levels. As a New Graduate RN, the terms of my first year of employment are that I submit a Level 1 Portfolio at 6 months and a Level 2 Portfolio at about 12 months.

Most RNs work at Level 2. You can progress to Level 3 or 4 by submitting further portfolios, but for these levels it would usually mean you had a more senior role or were more experienced in your field. If you are on the PDRP you are exempt from the audits, at least for a while.

Although the portfolios are a pain to do, they are beneficial in providing proof to the Nursing Council that an RN is maintaining his or her competence to practice. A lot of nurses freak out about them, but those of us that have trained recently in degree programmes are much more used to putting portfolios together.

The New Grad RNs are also being encouraged to apply for the postgraduate courses next year. To be honest, I have no intention of studying next year, even if it is free. I feel like I need a year to consolidate my knowledge and concentrate on improving my nursing practice. There are also a lot of practical ward-based certificates and courses I'd like to spend my time doing next year. Although I do want to continue postgraduate study at some point, I really don't think I'd get an awful lot out of it this soon into my practice.

Anyway, I'm going to have a short break from portfolio-related work and focus on some other things, in particular buying my first house!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Intensive Update #3

My blog has been taken over for the last 6 months by tales from my trip to South East Asia, and so I haven't written about anything else. Hopefully now I'll get back on track!

So, first a bit of an update in what has been happening in my life during the last few months:

1 - Job

I started my new job at the hospital about 10 days after I got back from my trip. Six months in, it is still going really well, and I really feel like I'm improving as an RN. As a new graduate I have this job for a year. After that I'll have to find a permanent job, hopefully in the same place I'm working now and definitely still in Dunedin - I have no plans to move elsewhere! I feel settled in Dunedin, and it must feel like home because I always miss it and am glad to get back whenever I leave! I'm not sure I've ever really had that feeling in my life before...

2 - House

I'm currently looking for my first house! Yes, I'm entering the property market, and hopefully before the end of the year when my rental agreement runs out or else I'll be homeless! It is proving quite hard, houses I like tend to be sold very quickly before I can even make a decision! I've got a few lined up to see this week though, so hopefully something will come of it.

3 - Free time

Well I don't have much of this any more, due to all the working! I've had to give up choir for the rest of the year, but hopefully I will be back there next year and able to be a bit more focused! My writing is also pretty sporadic at the moment, I think I need to get into a routine and plan my free time a little better to make room for it. I've also been trying my best to spend time with my friends lately, as a lot of them are leaving at the end of the year - won't have many left after that!! And then there's the boyfriend...

One new hobby I've taken up is vegetable gardening. Well, sort of. I've got the beginnings of it anyway. It'll all be in containers, at least until I get my own garden. I'll blog about it later.

I'm making this a short update. The clocks go forward an hour tonight, which means I get an hour less sleep. I have to work at 7am tomorrow! Argh!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

SE Asia Trip - Conclusion!! (Finally)

So it's finally over! It only took me six months to catch up on the blogging for my trip. I took a lot of photos and it took a while to weed through them all. And with my busy life at the moment it has been pretty difficult to write it all up. Remind me not to attempt such an extensive travel blog again!

I really enjoyed my time in Laos, just wish I had longer and could have visited the southern part too, but I'll have to save that for next time. It would be nice to go with somebody next time as well, just because I did find it more difficult than usual to meet people. From previous experience, I usually prefer to travel alone - I can do my own thing and don't waste time doing things I don't want to do because I'm compromising with somebody else. Yes, I'm selfish, but I don't see the point in going to the other side of the world and not seeing or doing what you dreamed of. It really amazes me how people can go to these exotic places and spend their time drunk and hungover instead of actually exploring and absorbing the place. I mean, you could have done that at home!

It has actually been 6 months since my trip now, and it seems like a long time ago. It has been enjoyable re-reading my travel journal and going through my photos to stir my memory! Now I have it all online, I can have a quick read back whenever and wherever I want to remember the wonderful time I had!

Friday, September 4, 2009

SE Asia Trip, Part 12 - Bandar Seri Begawan

18/03/09 - 19/03/09

After my trip into the jungle it was time for a bit of a rest. One thing I noticed about Brunei was how hot it was! Even though it was probably around the same temperature in Laos I rarely saw the sun there, but in Brunei the sun was baring down and the sky bright blue. I'd gotten used to the Laos haze so it was weird for the day to be so bright.

I decided to go out for an evening stroll again, as I wanted to take some photos of the famous mosque, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque. I'd noticed it all lit up the night before and I wanted to capture it's magnificence.

The mosque is surrounded by gardens and a lagoon.

The ceremonial boat in the lagoon - not sure what this is for?

Across the lagoon.

I went back in the daytime to see what the mosque looked like in daylight.

Personally I prefer the night time look, but it is still stunning.

After wandering around for a while in the morning, I eventually found the Royal Regalia Museum. The signposts weren't very helpful! This museum houses many gifts from around the world, given to the Sultan of Brunei. There were some stunning pieces, including the royal chariot. Unfortunately photography wasn't allowed and I had to check my camera in. I did like the mandatory walking around barefoot though - my shoes were killing me!

The Royal Regalia Building.

I also wanted to visit the Brunei Museum - the national museum. For some reason, however, this museum is about 6km outside the city centre. I managed to catch a bus out there, and the locals on the bus were very helpful in getting the driver to stop in the right place for me.

The museum was separated into different halls. I enjoyed the exhibit of Islamic Art, the historical timeline of Brunei, and the natural history hall was quite interesting too.

The only problem with this museum is that it is so far away from town. The buses seemed to be pretty sporadic and after waiting a while I decided to walk back. On the way I stopped at the Tomb of Sultan Bolkiah, the 5th Sultan of Brunei, who ruled during the country's Golden Age. His tomb lies where the original capital city is believed to have been, on the banks of the Brunei River.

The Tomb of Sultan Bolkiah.

The view on the way back to Bandar Seri Begawan.

It was a pretty long and hot walk back. Luckily I didn't have to walk the whole way, as a porshe suddenly pulled up beside me and an English woman offered me a lift back to town. I happily accepted. She had been working in Brunei for a couple of years but was going back to the UK shortly. She dropped me off outside the Handicraft Centre as I wanted to check it out too. That was not hugely exciting though, full of overpriced handicrafts and ornaments.

That was about it for my short time in Brunei. I would recommend it as a stopover destination if you've got plenty of money, are travelling as a couple or family, and don't mind package tours. It really isn't geared up for the independent budget traveller. At least the museums are free!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

SE Asia Trip, Part 11 - The Green Jewel of Brunei

17/03/09 - 18/03/09

As I travelled to SE Asia with Royal Brunei Airlines, this meant that in both directions I flew through Brunei. In a bit of spontaneity whilst booking my flights, I opted for a free stopover on the way back. I'd never really considered Brunei as a holiday destination before, and indeed knew very little about it. So after booking my flights I did a bit of research into this tiny country.

Negara Brunei Darussalam, or the Abode of Peace, is a tiny country on the north coast of Borneo, which gained independence from the UK in 1984. It used to be a much larger and more powerful Sultanate several hundred years ago, but a war with Spain, and loss of territory to Sarawak ended the Empire. There are currently around 400,000 people living in Brunei, 67% of which are Muslim. Alcohol is banned, although non-Muslims and foreigners are allowed to bring in a small amount.

I only had two days in Brunei and because it is not really a country set up for the independent traveller, I'd pre booked a hotel and a day trip to make my short time there more hassle-free. I was picked up at the airport by the hotel - one of the few budget ones, but they still pick you up. It was evening, so the city was quiet. It was strange to see signs in English everywhere after a month in Laos. After settling in I wandered out to find something to eat. The town was dead. There really is not a lot to do here at night - all the pubs and nightclubs were forced to close after prohibition, so aside from a cinema, a mall and a couple of restaurants there aren't many places to go at night. I guess people here are the early-to-bed-early-to-rise type!

I did chat to a security guard and his friend who seemed a bit bemused to see me out and about, but I explained I was looking for food and they helped me out. I also got a couple of offers of lifts from men driving by, which I firmly refused. They were probably only trying to help out the silly foreign girl, but hey, you never know. I don't accept lifts from strangers at home (not that I'm ever offered any) so why would I abroad?

The next day I had booked an excursion into the Temburong district to visit the jungle. This involved taking a speedboat to Bangar, the capital of Temburong. Then a bus to Batang Duri and a long boat to the Ulu Ulu Resort in Ulu Temburong National Park. From here I would be going on a trek and a canopy walk. I found this tour on the Internet, there were a few around that I could find but not many, and they were all pretty expensive.

Kampong Ayer - otherwise known as the Venice of the East.

This water village is found in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei. Roughly 39,000 people live here (10% of the population) and as well as houses there are mosques, shops, schools and a hospital.

We sped past the floating village on our way up river to Bandar.

The ferry pier in Bandar.

This was a pleasant town, although there were smelly durian fruit lurking on the pier!

The longboats we took into the jungle!

View from the longboat.

Lovely jungle scenery!

Gorgeous day!

Ulu Ulu Temburong National Park Resort.

The National Park covers about 550 square kilometres of pristine jungle. Brunei has always made it's money from oil, so they've had very little need to desecrate their forests, unlike many other countries. A lot of this national park is pretty unreachable, but there is a little bit you are allowed access to, with a tour group.

After being shown around the Eco-resort, we were boated across to the start of the track.

Climbing up the muddy track to the canopy walk.

Luckily there were steps some of the way! A lot of steps...

Eventually we reached the canopy walk. The only other people in my group were a middle-aged Thai couple, who had struggled with the trek so far. They didn't want to climb any more, so it was just me and the guide who climbed the scaffold up to the canopy walk.

The canopy walk!

Views from the canopy.

Disappointingly I saw very little wildlife on the trip. I was hoping for some monkeys, or at least some horn bills. I think that the timing of the trip was wrong - as we didn't reach the canopy until mid morning. Earlier would have been better to catch the wildlife. Still, it was a gorgeous day and after the walk we were treated to a great meal and I got to go swimming in the river!

The resort was a lovely place but pretty empty. This seemed to be a bit of an ongoing theme with places in Brunei - lots of places to go, but hardly anyone there. I rarely saw anyone else in my hotel either. The country has an air of ageing decadence about it - a lot of money has been spent on elegant buildings, but they are collecting dust around the edges from lack of use. For example there was a big theme park built for the Sultan, which was once well-used but now most of the rides are broken down or closed. It's like wandering around a ghost town.

Only one post left on my SE Asia trip, my last day in Brunei exploring the capital city. Almost home!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

SE Asia Trip, Part 10 - Leaving Laos

15/03/09 - 16/03/09

I opted for another form of transport to get from Vang Vieng to Vientiane, after the awful minibus experience. This time I chose the VIP bus - what makes it VIP I have no idea. I was fairly wary at first as a tuktuk picked me up from the Guesthouse and dropped me off in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere. I was told this was where the bus would pick me up. I was there with a German woman in her 60s, and neither of us were entirely convinced we were going to be getting to Vientiane! Eventually after about half an hour, some other people turned up and the bus followed shortly after. The trip was uneventful, and a lot more comfortable than that minibus!

We reached Vientiane at about 5.30pm. In hindsight, not a good idea to arrive late in the afternoon, as I couldn't find anywhere to stay. Apparently because of the change in Thai Visa regulations, there are a lot more people doing visa runs over the border to Vientiane. The German lady and I decided to try and find a room together, but in the end we had to go a lot more upmarket in order to find somewhere to sleep though. It was nice to spend my last night in relative luxury though!

I spent my last night in Laos where I had spent my first, at a little bar on the banks of the Mekong. I had a great dinner with my new German friend and chatted the night away. You do meet all kinds of people when travelling, and I spent my last night in Laos hanging out with a 67yr old!

The Mekong bars in Vientiane.

I went to the market the next morning to buy a cheap suitcase so I could pack my masses of souvenirs a bit more efficiently. Afterwards I spent a leisurely few hours browsing in Vientiane before heading to the bus station to cross the border and catch the Night Train back to Bangkok. I really like Vientiane and wish I'd been able to spend another day or two there. There were a few more things I'd still like to see in the area. Will have to save them for next time though!

I'd timed my travelling so that I would travel back to Bangkok overnight and could go straight to the airport from the train station for my flight the next day. It meant a few extra hours hanging around the airport, but I didn't really feel like negotiating the hectic world of Bangkok again. So that's it, my trip to Laos is over! But wait, I've still got a few days before I'm back in NZ... time to visit Brunei!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

SE Asia Trip, Part 9 - Vang Vieng

13/03/09 - 15/03/09

Leaving Luang Prabang in the morning was a bit of rush because I hadn't packed the night before... Hence I managed to forget a few things in the hotel room, like my NZ SIM card, the silver charm I'd bought, the silk I'd dyed... Oops. Oh well, it wasn't anything major, but it was annoying. I also had way too many bags because of all the stuff I'd bought at the Night Market...

The journey to Vang Vieng was absolutely awful - remember I had done half of it before, but doing it again it was even worse. The reason being is because I'd opted to go by minibus, and somehow I got stuck in the front seat between the driver and another passenger. The seat I had was not even a real seat! There was no seat belt and barely any legroom. Every time we went around a corner - which was very frequently - I had to brace myself against the ceiling. I really wished I'd just taken the normal bus.

My bad luck didn't stop there. Finally arriving in Vang Vieng, I got into a tuktuk to take me to a Guesthouse in town. Only when I went to get out of the tuktuk, my foot slipped and I fell through the grate on the back of the vehicle. My leg got stuck to about mid calf! I managed to pull myself out but I ended up with some massive bruising and pain. Forgot it was Friday the Thirteenth!

When I'd recovered from my journey, I had a hobble around the town, and across the bamboo bridge to the island. It seemed pretty quiet, but I guess it was because all the drunk Brits and Aussies hadn't managed to stumble back to town from tubing yet! They came later...

The bamboo bridge area at dusk.

The next day I went on a day trip involving some kayaking, tubing and caving. I'd opted for one without too much trekking, as my leg was still pretty banged up. There were about 13 of us on the trip, so much less personal than the previous organised things I'd done, but I did get chatting to a couple of Irish girls.

First stop was the Water Cave, a short 1km walk from the sawngthaew through some dried up rice paddies. A lot of tour groups came here so we had to wait a while to go in. This was because to see this cave, you had to go in by inner tube!

Entering the Water Cave!

Tubing along the cave was pretty hard work when we were going upstream, luckily I occasionally got to tag onto one of the guides and be towed along! The cave had some interesting rock formations but I couldn't take any photos as my camera was in my dry bag and not waterproof. Should look into getting some kind of waterproof pouch for these occasions.

Afterwards we had a relaxing picnic lunch by the river and had fun watching the best kept dog I've seen in Laos trying to cross the river to get to our food. It wasn't a deep river but the dog was obviously scared of the water. He made it in the end though!

Walking back to the sawngthaew, we stopped at the Elephant Cave, so named for it's elephant like rock formation.

Can you see the elephant?

I bet you can see the snake though!

Next up was kayaking! We drove to a point 10km above Vang Vieng so we could kayak down river back to town.

The scenery around Vang Vieng is nice, although overall I preferred Nong Kiaow.

Kayaking down the Nam Song.

Kayaking was pretty hard work too, particularly when we got caught in the rapids. I got overturned once, when the kayak in front of us got stuck and went over the rapids sideways. Lost one of my jandals! Luckily I got to change partners and I didn't get overturned again, although we had to get out of the kayak because we got stuck and I got washed down the river a bit. I wasn't hugely impressed with the guides, there was a long stretch of the trip where I didn't even see them anywhere, good thing we didn't drown!

We took a break at the 'Bucket Bars' at about the 5km mark. This was where all the tourists came to get drunk and tube down the river. My first taste of the 'real' tourist trap that is Vang Vieng, and I really did not like it.

The notorious Bucket Bars.

The rope swings where drunken people jump into the water... hmm, safe...

Kayaking into the sunset!

The second half of the trip was a little frustrating as we had to keep dodging tubers, but at least there were less rapids to fall over! Unfortunately I'd lost my jandals, so I had to walk back to the guesthouse barefoot, which elicited a few comments from the locals!

It was a fairly tough day physically for me, but I think that was because of my sore leg and I wasn't feeling too great - by the evening I had a fever yet I felt freezing cold - I went to dinner in a full set of thermals, clearly there was something wrong with me!

Vang Vieng is quite surreal at night, the Friends Bars that line the streets blaring out Friends episodes must be unique, and not really in a good way! It is really odd. But when you're feeling as ill as I was, it was quite comforting to curl up on some cushions, eat sandwiches and watch mindless TV. So I admit I did succumb to the Vang Vieng backpacker trap a little...

Luckily my fever broke overnight and I felt a lot better the next day. I wasn't well enough to do anything too active with my morning, but I did have a nice walk around town before getting ready to catch the bus back to Vientiane. Only one more night left in Laos! Oh no!