Lightening Out Of Her Niche!

Please welcome Lightening to the blog –
When I first contemplated taking part in Life in the Country’s “out of your niche”, I discounted the idea on several levels. The first of which was my own confidence in my ability to write something that anyone else would want to read. That’s kind of a funny attitude for a blog writer to have really. But when I first began my blog I wasn’t considering the fact that anyone would actually read what I had to say. It was more for me than for anyone else.

It wasn’t until I began venturing out into the wider blogosphere (wider than myself and a few friends) that I read the idea that a blogger should really decide exactly where their “niche” is if they’re going to have a successful blog. The idea of a “successful blog” did appeal to me somewhat. I liked getting up of a morning and discovering that people had actually visited the blog. Even better, some would take the time to stop and leave a comment. I even got a few “thankyou, you really made me think” or “thank you, your post today made me smile” type comments. Wow! What a buzz!!!!

But having a “niche”???? The concept continues to allude me. My blog isn’t JUST about being a mum, or cooking, or gardening, or someone on the path to recovery from a nervous breakdown. It’s not really about simple living or frugality or making others smile. I can’t really claim to have menu planning down pat or say that my blog is mainly about home organization (okay, it’s not even a little bit about home organization lol). It’s all of those things and more. The only common denominator I can put it down to is “me”. My blog is about “me”. Is that a niche? I have no idea!!!

So if I don’t really know what my “niche” is in blogging terms, how can I really write a post that is “out of my niche”? Hmmmm…… maybe I was overthinking this idea just a tad (who me??? LOL).

After some thought it occurred to me that I could write what I DO know about a “niche”. To me a “niche” is a place where I feel comfortable. So, I consider the idea of “stepping out of your niche” as being similar to stepping out of your comfort zone.

Well, I certainly stepped out of mine about 12 years ago. I took pride in my standing as a “city girl”. In fact, it never occurred to me that I might be anything BUT a “city girl”. I spent my teenage years in Melbourne (the capital of Victoria in Australia) and it’s a place I’m still very passionate about. So how did I end up living out in the middle of nowhere on a farm? I married a farmer!

The day I met the man who is now my husband, carries with it quite a funny story. In the first conversation I had with him, I told him point blank that I didn’t want to be a farmers wife. I have no idea why! I don’t usually make comments like that to blokes I’ve just met. It wasn’t some premeditated decision I had made at some point in my life. In fact, I wasn’t even AWARE that I didn’t want to be a farmer’s wife until those words flew out of my mouth that day.

Admittedly, like many girls, I had wonderful visions of a knight in shining armor galloping into my life and whisking me away to a life of beauty and luxury. Never once did said knight come wearing a dusty old Akubra and a blue bonds singlet!!! LOL. But still….it was a rather strange conversation to say the least. If nothing else, it made good speech fodder for the wedding reception!!!

I’ll skip over all the boring bits of the past 12 years. I did suffer withdrawal symptoms for MANY years over the fact that I couldn’t just pop out for a few hours shopping. BUT I was rather relieved to discover that the farm did indeed have electricity and even a TV! Hey, these days we even have Broadband internet access – we really do live in the real world! (well….. almost).

I stepped out of my “niche” and married a farmer. Am I glad I did? Every day! Mostly because he is the most awesome man I could ever imagine being married to. But there is more to it than that. I love the open space, the beautiful views and the peace and quiet that we have out here. I love the way my children have plenty of room to move and run around and numerous places to explore. I love many parts of the lifestyle that living in the country has to offer.

It has occurred to me that had I not been prepared to step out of my comfort zone, I would have missed so much that life had to offer me. Yes, it is scary to take that step away from the comfort zone but many times it is oh so worth it! It is at these times that we learn and grow so much.

To me, that is what life is really about – learning and growing every day! In fact, if you visit my blog you may notice that one of my own definitions of the word “Lightening” is “to learn and grow daily”. It has become an important part of my own purpose in life (and therefore in blogging) that I learn and grow daily.

Recently I took another step out of my comfort zone when I took up Snoskred’s offer of moving my blog to a self-hosted site. This also meant switching from a blogging platform I had become very familiar with (blogger) and moving to the unfamiliar (WordPress). I am enjoying WordPress but I can also say that it is stretching me in many ways. I sure am learning EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. But oh, what I would have missed out on had I not been prepared to take that step. My blog looks like a million bucks in comparison to my tired old Blogger blog. It far surpassed my wildest expectations. And the options now available to me with my blog are so much wider than what I had before. Well, I have to learn how to use half of them first, but that’s okay….that’s good in fact! :)

I could have stayed with my old blog where I was nice and comfortable. But to have done so would have meant I’d have missed all the wonderful things that my new blog has to offer me. I have gotten so much MORE than a new blog out of this experience. My confidence in my own ability to learn new technical stuff has grown in leaps and bounds. I have met some wonderful bloggers and discovered the generosity that abounds in many sections of the blogworld. I have learnt that some people don’t mind when you ask them questions. That in fact they LIKE to be helpful. Every day when I open my blog, it makes me smile. That in itself is a wonderful gift.

(When I first planned to write this piece, I hadn’t yet decided to switch my blog to a self-hosted site. But it has ended up working in just nicely with what I was planning to write about.)

I want to encourage each one of you reading this to have the courage to step out of your comfort zone today. Whether it be deciding to take your blog to the next level, applying for a new job or promotion or simply saying hello to a neighbour you’ve never spoken to before. Take a step away from your comfort zone and watch how you and the world around you grows. Spread your wings and fly. It’s time to get “out of your niche”. ;-)

I cannot remember how I stumbled across Lightening’s blog originally. The amount of times I have just been surfing around clicking on links and found someone who eventually becomes such an important part of my daily internet life still amazes me. Lightening is one of the people I truly adore – though this may come to her a a surprise because I don’t normally tell people that.

I watched Lightening struggle with Blogger for a long time. The truth is that Blogger is not the most user friendly when it comes to wanting something unique and special. Sure, you can install your own template and change the colors but you really have to know what you’re doing to make it work. Those like me who didn’t have the confidence or technical ability found it much harder. Sephy was the one who made my Blogger theme work – I messed with it for days and just ended up angry and frustrated.

So I’m thrilled you made that move Lightening – and I do think you are probably finding self hosted WordPress to be a lot easier than you expected? I know I am. People often think I am this technically capable person but the truth is – I often have to find how to guides, I often have to ask for help from The Other Half, I’m always learning how to do new things too. So to find now that not only can I do website design to the level that I’ve recently managed, but I can also do graphics that I think look incredible.. If I can do it, anyone can. :)

Remember, you can get out of your niche tooall bloggers are welcome. Just contact me.

Get Out Of Your Niche

Maintaining A Positive Attitude While Chronically Ill

Please welcome Sandy from Fighting Fatigue to the blog –

As someone who has suffered from chronic illness for almost 20 years, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to maintain a positive attitude while sick. But in order to survive, and because my illnesses are “chronic”, never going away, I have had to learn how to deal, adjust and cope despite multiple health problems.

I have been sick with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and Interstitial Cystitis for most of my adult life. Being afflicted with just one of these illnesses can be disabling, but put all three together and life can be pretty miserable at times. I have had to give up my career due to my illnesses, but I refuse to let that stop me. Even though I am sick, I do not use that as an excuse to give up on life. I may not be able to do the things I once did, with the same energy and focus, but I am still alive and each day is a gift and I’m grateful to be alive.

I have seen too many people who are sick just give up and not try. I know that being chronically ill takes a toll on a person’s body physically and emotionally. But there are ways to keep from getting depressed and from living in the “pity party” mode 24 hours a day. I don’t want this to sound as though I think I’m better than anyone else who is chronically ill because I’m not. It has taken years of my own pity parties, depression, and mastering coping skills to get to where I am today. I still have times where I think “Why me? Why can’t I go and work like everyone else?” but I only allow myself a five-minute pity party and then I move on.

Here are some coping skills that I have learned over the years to help deal with being chronically ill and in chronic pain:

Keep a journal and write in it daily what you are grateful for. I call this my “gratitude journal”. Even though I might wake up and not be able to do anything other than wash my hair, I record that I am grateful that I was able to do that small task. It helps through the difficult times and it makes you realize that even though things may be bad, there are still positive spins you can put on each situation.

When you feel like complaining, smile! A lot of people are usually amazed when they find out how many health problems I have because I try not to let it show. When I am very miserable I am not able to be out in public, but I never feel good – ever. But I always try to keep a smile on my face because smiling just makes everything seem better.

Read positive, uplifting books. I have found this to be especially helpful. When I start to feel a little down or depressed, I will go to my small library and choose a book that has inspirational sayings or quotes and I will read those until I feel better.

Instead of becoming a victim of “poor me”, become a victor and learn from your experiences, grow and help others. I have used my struggles with chronic illness as a positive in my life by starting my Fighting Fatigue website and my Fighting Fatigue Forum to offer support and resources for others suffering from chronic illness. When we first become ill with a chronic illness, we feel as though we are alone. It’s important to have people to talk to who can share what you are going through.

– Never give up hope! One thing that keeps me going is believing that there will be a cure found for the chronic illnesses I suffer from. I always have hope and when you have hope everything looks brighter.

Sandy Robinson is 38, Female, live in the Northeast, married with a 6-year-old beautiful son. Sandy started the Fighting Fatigue website to help raise awareness and offer support to others for the chronic illnesses I Sandy personally suffers from: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, and Interstitial Cystitis.

Sandy also runs the Fighting Fatigue Forum and Message Boards for chronic illness sufferers to support each other about what they are going through.

Thanks for a fantastic post Sandy. All of us can benefit from the coping skills you mention. Please check out her website and message boards and if you know anyone suffering a chronic illness be sure to point them in that direction.
And remember, you can get out of your niche tooall bloggers are welcome. Just contact me.

Get Out Of Your Niche, power of positive thought

Apologies to Lightening and Sandy..

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks and I have to say my email inboxes are becoming a major problem for me – I just can’t keep on top of everything.

Last week Lightening sent me an Out Of Your Niche post. I got so busy late last week I totally forgot to post it.

Then this week Sandy from Fighting Fatigue sent me an Out Of Your Niche post. I was going to post them both yesterday but again, I totally forgot.

Today I am going to post both of them and I deeply apologise. I am going to find a way to get on top of all of this – a habit to get into so I can find things in my inboxes. I also have to go back to shutting down my email and focusing on what I’m doing because I keep getting interrupted with new emails and I drop what I’m doing to tackle those. The main reason for that is because I want to be able to help those I am hosting with their issues and problems as soon as they contact me, but this isn’t working out. Especially when I’m getting 50+ emails a day!

So if I don’t reply to your email right away please be patient. There’s only one of me. :) I do type fast, but there’s a lot to cover sometimes.

blog housekeeping, Get Out Of Your Niche

CerebralMum Out Of Her Niche

Please welcome the one and only CerebralMum!

I’m fair-skinned and freckled. I look very Australian, in that Anglo mother-country sort of way. But I’m not. My father’s heritage is Spanish-Portuguese and my mother is Dutch, born and raised in Indonesia until Sukarno’s “guided democracy” made it unsafe to remain there. While the bullets penetrated the fence of her privileged, colonial, guarded home, my mother’s family caught the last international flight out. To New Zealand. Where I was born.

I don’t know what that makes me, but my mother, my adoptive father, my sister and I migrated to Australia just before I turned seven and North East Victoria will always be the landscape of my childhood and the image I see when I think of home.

My adoptive father was a dentist and only had a position as a locum when we arrived, working in different towns throughout the week. We moved 3 times in that first year, first Mt. Beauty, then Bright, before we finally settled in Myrtleford, where I spent the next 9 years of my life.

Myrtleford, then, was a town of about 3000 people (it still is), with 3 pubs, 4 schools (2 primary, 2 high), a Chinese restaurant and a large Italian community. It was surrounded by farms growing hops and tobacco and sheltered by a large pine plantation which provided work saw milling and pulping to make Scott’s tissues. It was close to the snow fields and in winter, on sports days, we could go and ski at Mt. Buffalo and still be back in time to hear the final bell.

But I always remember it as summer.

Even with the evergreen hills behind me, and the skiing and the floods, I always remember it as summer. Hot. Dry. Hard. With the smell of sweet, green tobacco drying in the kilns. With the tar on the roads melting, and the river calling.

We lived in town, because my adoptive father was one of the local “professionals”, the big fish in that small pond. He, along with the doctors and the businessmen, were members of the Rotary Club and played golf at the weekend. I spent as many weekends as I could out of town on my friend’s farms.

You never had to go far to see long stretches of empty, dry land; fields overgrown and long past browning. Australia is golden. I loved catching the school bus on Friday afternoon with my pyjamas in my bag, driving over the creeks and criss-crossing the countryside over roads growing increasingly rougher, stopping to drop off the other children before arriving at one of the farmhouses where the wood-burning stoves were always on and my friends’ mothers would greet me with the words “Mangia, Mangia”. (Eat. Eat.)

These were my happiest times, and the happiest places. My friends’ families were larger, and noisier, and extended. I remember hanging upside down from a big brother’s muscular arm and swinging as though I were on monkey bars. I remember strong, feminine arms elbow-deep in flour and gnocchi. I remember being teased about boys by fathers in gruff, strongly-accented English, and being offered glasses of vino for my breakfast.

I was teased a lot, actually. Because I didn’t have their native skills with spaghetti. Because I lived in town. Because I didn’t know how to pick the chickens up to put them away for the night. One of my friends swore that if I grabbed them by the ankles and held them upside down they would tuck their heads under their wings and go quietly. Let’s just say, I still don’t like picking up chickens.

But I loved being out on those farms. We would climb in the haysheds, moving ridiculously heavy bales to make cubbies, oblivious to the discomfort of the hay working its way through our clothing, until we grew bored, then itchy. We would run down to the creek and swim, ride motorbikes, play in the empty workers’ accommodations. But there was always work to do.

We were just young enough to escape most of it and only had small chores, but I was just old enough to recognise the way their lives and their work blurred into each other, seamlessly. I was just old enough to recognise the breadth of their hospitality and I treasure those values I learned from them to this day. Nobody “brings a plate” to my house.

I had other friends of course, town friends, but it still wasn’t far to go to reach wilder parts, slow river beds where we collected dragonfly wings and hunted for leeches. I spent many afternoons during the week riding “my” horse through the pines with the doctor’s daughter. Her mother and mine had started the local chapter of Riding for the Disabled and I took care of Misty in exchange for my freedom.

Freedom. Summer and freedom. That is my country.

I have no national pride or national identity. I lack sentimentality. My family is spread all around the globe and I now live in Melbourne, a city I love and will always belong to. In spite of that, I can still raise a tear listening to Hey True Blue or Tenterfield Saddler. I still know, when I hear Dorothea McKellar’s My Country, that she is speaking for me.

I love the sunburnt landscape of my childhood. It isn’t an easy place. It is hot and dry and hard. But it is golden. And it’s air is sweet. And it is home.

CerebralMum – You have no idea what a flurry of activity this post set in motion. I went within 20kms of the snow – just past Jindabyne – in 2006 and I could swear I took photos, but I cannot find them anywhere. The photos are in my mind, I just wish I could post them to my blog as well.

This post is a perfect start of summer post. If only we were having some summer here! The weather is all haywire and right now it’s blowing a gale and probably about to thunder. This time last year I was snorkelling. It isn’t hot enough to go and do that just yet.

You can read more from CerebralMum at her blog – The Cerebral Mum.

And remember, you can get out of your niche tooall bloggers are welcome. Just contact me.

Get Out Of Your Niche

An Invite To All – Both Readers And Bloggers..

I’m running out of guest bloggers for the Get Out Of Your Niche series. I know that coming up to Christmas everyone is busy and all, but I am hoping that people will put up their hand to guest post if I ask nicely.

What Is The Deal?

The idea is to create a guest post for my blog. You can write on any topic you like. Anything and everything is welcome, with a couple of small exceptions like swear words and material which is disturbing or graphic or overly sexual. The guest posts are published on Fridays each week.

How Do I Do It?

Contact me and I will give you the next available date sometime in the future. A week before that date I generally try to remind you via email that your guest post is coming up. You send me your post – it can either be in text, or in HTML format. If you want me to add pictures attach them to your email and tell me where in the post they go.

Why Would I Do It?

Life In The Country is currently sitting at number 14 in the Top 100 Australian Blogs. On average the blog sees between 2-5,000 unique visitors a week. This is your chance to speak to an audience which might not find your blog otherwise.

What Did Other People Write?

How Do I Contact Snoskred?

Simply use the contact form.

Get Out Of Your Niche

Sephy Out of His Niche – My World In Pictures

I was approached by Snos a couple of weeks ago to do a quick post “out of my niche”, which for me could be hard, since I don’t really have a niche, per sé. However, I’ve gone with a cunning plan – show off a few of my favorite photos of animals and stuff in my world.

Just so you know, I’m using the thumbnail option, so if you click on the photos, they will load full-size. ;)

A horse in its field

As I was perusing the photos, I found this one of some of the horses that one of our neighbors has not quite staying in their paddock earlier in the summer. True story – a couple of weeks ago, I was walking and I saw a shadow cross the road ahead of me. I didn’t know what it was, but as I got further down the road, I looked down this same driveway and saw one of the horses standing there. ;)
Live Turkeys!

This is, by far, the best photo of a (living) turkey that I have, even if it is walking away. It was taken a couple of months ago as the pack were moving across the road and up the hill that is there.
More famous than Goldy?

Here’s the web’s most famous gopher, I would suspect. You might have seen this picture before. I’ve used it for a few other things around the show. ;)
A camel. And not the cigarettes.

I had posted this camel way back in August of 06. It was literally standing there with its owner on the side of the road next to a community park. Apparently the owner lives right in that area and is well-known for having his camels.
Fall colors. Spelt right in the title, hehe.

One of the neatest things about the fall where I live is that we have such vibrant colours in our trees. This year wasn’t too spectacular, but this picture from 2005 more than makes up for the lack of decent colors this year. :)
Down by the lakeside…

Another thing that we’re somewhat well known for is the abundance of lakes in the area. This was a shot taken early this summer alongside one of those lakes. It was a weekday, so there weren’t too many people out there using the lake.
Pink flowers

I spotted these in a flowerbed along the road as I was walking in August; they’re pretty good looking, aren’t they?

Thanks, Snos, for letting me show off my photos. I had another 20 to show off that I had processed for posting when I was reminded that it was only “a few” photos. I posted them a couple of weeks ago – More of my world in Pictures. ;)

Get Out Of Your Niche, Sephyroth

Ray Dotson – Out Of His Niche

Hi there. I’m Ray Dotson. Some of you may know me from reading where I usually (occasionally) blog. I’ve been so kindly asked to provide a guest post for Life In The Country and can’t say how honored I am to have the opportunity. Being a blog about living, and particularly about living from the perspective of a personal known to most out here as Snoskred, I thought I would write a little bit about living from my own perspective.

I live in the northern part of the State of Kentucky (it’s actually officially a Commonwealth, but there’s no real difference) in the United States. This is what the East and West coasters call ‘fly-over country’ because they consider it not worth stopping in, but only a part of the country they fly over when going from coast to coast.

Most people in the world probably think of the big cities in the USA when they think of America. Images of New York City or Los Angeles would come to mind first. Maybe they would think of all the wealth and prosperity and glitter in those bright, shiny places, home to celebrities and politicians. A lot of the people in the United States do live in these big cities and do live along the East and West coasts of this country.

However, there are many people who live in between and a great number of them don’t ever visit the coasts or see the big famous cities, other than on television and in the movies. I’ve read somewhere that a significant portion of Americans never travel beyond 50 or 100 miles from where they were born. I wonder if this is still true.

As for myself, I’ve traveled around the states a little bit, but I’ve never been to New York or Los Angeles and only briefly passed through Chicago. I live near to and work in a medium sized city called Cincinnati, Ohio. Some of you may have heard of it before. It’s a place with a peculiar sort of fame in that the great American writer Mark Twain once said that he’d like to be in Cincinnati when the world ends because everything happens five years later there.

What’s humorous about this is that it still rings true a hundred years later. It’s a city with several million people living within about a 30 mile circle, but feels like a small town in so many ways. Though I live across the Ohio River in Northern Kentucky, I was born in Cincinnati and lived much of my younger life there. Today, I work at a community college in Cincinnati and spend quite a lot of time in and around the city.

Cincinnati is an interesting place with quite a lot of history. It was founded at the end of the 18th century during a time of many bloody battles in this area between the native inhabitants and European settlers. Contrary to popular belief, many of the natives of this land got along well with the newcomers from across the sea, while many others fought tooth and nail for several hundred years. There were literally hundreds of tribes of people living here who split their allegiances between the British Empire and the American revolutionaries.

Like in those days, America is a place of many different tribes and allegiances. Most of us here in the United States, though, work hard for a living and take our two weeks of vacation each year, like many other people in the industrialized world. Well, except we seem to take less time off of work for some reason. I’ve often wondered if this has come from the Puritan roots of America.

The first settlers to this country were strict religious types who were fleeing persecution from the authorities in their native countries. Many others were criminals, indentured servants, and poor people looking for a new beginning. When they arrived here, I imagine a number of them were shocked at the harshness of this land.

In the first colonies, existence was tenuous. Starvation and disease took a great toll of those first generations. A lack of diplomacy combined with fear and desperation likely precipitated serious problems with those who already lived here. Sounds like fun, huh?

It seems that each country in the world has a sort of common characteristic that has developed over time due to the events that have formed them. Consider that the British Isles was invaded continuously by European tribes for hundreds of years. The population was almost completed wiped out by war and disease time and again in the Dark Ages. As a student of English Literature, it’s clear that the English language’s strange structure and plethora of irregularities stems from the influx of so many different cultures and languages.

In the United States, it’s the sense of rugged individualism that seems to be a defining trait. What this refers to is that ability of a person to stand up for his or her own beliefs and pursue their desires regardless of the opposition, whether it’s harsh weather, dangerous animals, or disapproving peers. I’m not sure if they teach this in schools anymore here, but when I was growing up, this was something that was taught with pride. These days, however, it sounds more like a pejorative in a world where individualism often is subservient to collectivism.

Don’t misunderstand this as being a talk about politics or diplomacy, but a sort of casual observation of American culture by someone born and raised here. A rumination, if you will, on the soul of America. Clearly, there are both negative and positive aspects to this idea of rugged individualism.

I think many countries reach a stage when they have to decide who they really are. They come to a point of national cultural adolescence and the changes they go through can be tumultuous. The United States, being a relatively young country at not much more than 200 years old, has been going through something like this for several decades now. Think about the smart mouthed 13 year old as the 1960’s all the way up through the jaded 18 year old of the 1990’s. The next decade or two is about coming of age. Being legal. It’s an exciting, but scary time.

Though, I’m fascinated by the rest of the world’s cultures and have a great desire to travel all over this beautiful planet, I love living in the United States and I also love being an American. I’m not afraid to say it. There are mistakes that have been made, but mistakes are what people do best. Hopefully, we can all learn from our mistakes and make the future a better one, individually, as a society, and as a world full of people with fundamentally similar needs and desires. Without any commentary on present politics, the United States is still a great place to live, and despite some things people may hear in other parts of the world, it’s a very welcoming and tolerant place in many regards.

Ultimately, people will think what they want, but I hope I’ve given you a little perspective on a place you may know well or may not know at all. I welcome any comments and thank Snoskred once again for the opportunity to share my words with her readers.

Thank you Ray, a very appropriate post for Election Day here in Australia, where my country is currently deciding who we really are. We might be the same as we’ve been for the last 11 or so years, or we might think it is time for a change. Either way an evening of cheesecake and my favourite election analyst, Antony Green, looms ahead of me.

In many ways our country follows your country and we’re about the same age. But we get 4 weeks of holidays a year. And some lucky people among us get even more than that!

Remember, you can get out of your niche tooall bloggers are welcome. Just contact me.

Get Out Of Your Niche

Life In This Country – Forest Parks Out Of His Niche

This week Forest Parks has dropped by to get out of his niche. Enjoy!

I grew up in London, UK but recently I have finally made the brave step of moving across the high seas and now live in Montreal, Canada.

For years I had wanted to leave for a foreign land but always found excuses or ended up tied down to something. So to actually finally be somewhere new is still unbelievable.

When Snoskred gave me the opportunity to write this guest post, I suddenly realised that I had no idea what to write about. I knew an opportunity had been given to me to show some new readers my writings. The pressure was on to write something that was at least informative and entertaining enough for anyone who does not read my blog. Hopefully I have managed to do that!

So in line with some of the other guest posts and with the title of this great blog, I am going to write about this city and my time here thus far.

© Forest Parks
I have visited Montreal a few times before, so it wasn’t a complete leap of faith and I was already familiar with the layout and general buzz of the city. Montreal thrives on it’s interesting mix of North American and French-influenced culture, as well as a large immigrant community and a very open minded artsy approach to life. This makes it a very vibrant city. Somehow the streets manage to perspirate both non stop excitement and laid back aromas, and it truly is a city that allows you operate anytime at your own pace and leisure.

Being addicted to blogging, I often find myself relaxing in downtown coffee shops using the ‘sans fil’ to connect to the net or relaxing on my bed at home in the leafy area of Westmount.

Westmount is only a 25 minute walk from all the buzz and is billed as the ‘English’ area, sporting English styled buildings with details of French-class, all set amongst rows of glorious maple tress and green parkland. It’s a cool place to walk around on a lovely clean, crisp autumn day.

When I manage to pry myself away from the evil MacBook, I can be found working in the trenches of Hurley’s Bar on Crescent Street, preparing food and making sandwiches for the many tourists and business peoples who frequent the lovely mock-Irish bar. Hurley’s is a great place to work. As one of Montreal’s more well known pubs, it attracts a large amount of clientèle. It can get busy, but with a great crowd of young (or at least young at heart) and enthusiastic co-workers, things always get done. Everyone gets on superb.

Strangely, I have found that I actually drink less now that I work in a Bar, but have been known to spend the odd inebriated night in the English styled Cock’n’Bull. It’s a great (and in Montreal terms) old pub with an endless list of elderly locals to chat with and hear unbelievable folklores. There is also a vibrant student crowd and interesting themed nights, such as Monday Craft Night’, keeping you entertained.

Bars and Restaurants are another forte of this ever talented city. Me and my partner Lara especially like walking over to the East side where all manor of different restaurants can be found. Just the other day we dined in a fantastic Ethiopian restaurant. Given no instructions and no cutlery, we found ourselves conjuring interesting ways to get the extremely pleasant food into our bellies, without ruining our clothes. This area also has some great Bars such as the grundgy hockey-hole: Barfly. Plus there’s a very nice little wooden affair, known as Yermad, which I think may be French for “Very Nice Little Bar” (I’m unsure on that translation. Maybe I should look it up!).

The East is the predominately French-speaking area. Its buildings and attitude reflect this, with winding staircases and a more grubby, weathered, but uber-cool feel. This, I guess is why it has become a big hang out for the many students that reside here.

© Forest Parks

Two huge Universities (McGill and Concordia) as well as endless technical schools, make sure that it’s impossible to take a snapshot of any area without pointing out a handful of these little scoundrels whizzing around between bars, bookshops, libraries, coffee shops and school. Montreal is infested with students.

A little further East still brings you to ‘The Village’. Sounds important, hey? Well, this is the so-called ‘Gay’ area. Here you can find (yep you guessed!) more bars and fantastic terraces to hang out (if there’s warm weather), not to mention some very flamboyant people. Full body spandex suits and hi-fashion punks are not uncommon here. It becomes a sight seeing exercise in itself. I love the openness and commend any city that is proud of its sexual diversity.

The flamboyance and obscureness is not restricted to one little area. All over the city you can see it, from homeless people displaying crazy signs like ‘Help me, my parents were killed by The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’. Or take, for example, an old man with full-on Hells Angels get-up, riding a pink bicycle, to a guy that tries to hold you up at ‘banana’ point and extract small change from you. I promise you the visual fun never ends.

© Forest Parks
However, talking about the homeless situation moves me to talk about a darker side. Montreal seems to have an extremely high homeless population. At times it gets overwhelming and you find yourself detaching. They can be very offensive, hassling you for money, swearing at you. Sometimes they start to feel like seagulls that have built up the courage to swoop close enough to humans, making you feel extremely awkward. I am trying consciously to avoid these feelings. Winter is coming and I really can’t see how these people will survive -40 weather. I am having a hard time working out how even me, in my privileged situation, will have enough warm clothing and easy access to transport.

There is also a large Native population. The general attitude towards these First Nations People leaves me sour. In many cases, labelled as “Junkies” and “Drunks”, this downtreading and the systematic lack of opportunities, in my opinion, is really holding these people back from fully integrating and being accepted as they should be.

Like all cities, Montreal is not perfect. But this is one of the things that keeps it feeling like a dynamic and interesting place to be right now.

During my 3 months here, I really haven’t scratched the surface of this enchanting place. Spending most of my time downtown and in the surrounding areas, I’ve not ventured out to experience the whole island. I would love to do a 100 mile hike around it’s perimeter.

Life is interesting once again and the move out of my comfort zone has paid off.

Thank you Snoskred for letting me blog out of my niche.

You’re welcome Forest – it was well worth it! An excellent guest post. I do wonder why Montreal? Many Brits move overseas to places with warm weather – Spain and Brisbane in Australia are two that immediately jump into my head as places with a lot of Brits. No -40 degree days there. No snow. I tell you what though, if you’re looking for advice on how to survive cold winters Sephy will have a few ideas for you being as he lives in the snow belt of the USA.

It’s almost time for me to start stalking some guest bloggers again, which I will be doing very shortly! Before I come looking for you, why not volunteer? You can get out of your niche tooall bloggers are welcome. Just contact me.

Get Out Of Your Niche

Politics In A Small Town – Kin Out Of Her Niche

This week regular commentor here at Life In The Country Kin is getting out of her niche. Enjoy!

Believe it or not I had chosen my topic for this post before Mr Howard called the election, but small town politics (both official and unofficial) is such a huge part of my town, that to discuss my life here without mentioning it would leave such a huge hole in the story, I may as well not tell it.

We moved here 5 years ago. From one tourist strip, to another. Our previous tourist strip had 200,000 people. Here there are just 5,000. While a fairly small community, it’s different to the “country” town 15 minutes down the road, where surnames are street names, and several generations have lived in the same house. My town is transient, full of backpackers and young people working their way around Australia. Retiree’s are also well represented. I mean where else would you want to retire to?


We’re never short of anything to do in town here. Apart from the Great Barrier Reef being on our doorstep, there’s a seemingly continual procession of activities that start in January, and only let up in December for all the Christmas functions.

But when there’s such a small community, it really requires a large proportion to be involved to make any kind of impact. Our family is and has been very involved in various community groups over the years we’ve been here. And the politics within community organizations will always be an issue, wherever you live. But it certainly makes life a touch more interesting when a member of your committee is married to the local mayor. And half your committee is actively involved in protesting against various “decisions” the local council has made.

See, our council seems to know exactly what to do to ensure maximum reaction from the community. An old car park in the middle of town? We’ll just build a resort on it, provide less parking for locals and visitors – oh and a few hundred pokies next to a family lagoon. What reaction did they think they were going to get?

Fortunately, a community so used to being actively involved in organising events was quite able to turn in a petition with 1,700 signatures from locals (remembering a town of 5,000), 3,000 objections to the development application and a protest march the likes of which our town has never seen (and our town has seen a few!!!). The developer formally withdrew the application this year (finally!).

Or my favourite – the airport that didn’t make a profit in 2001 (did any regional airport?), so we’ll sell it to someone who wants to close it down so we all have to travel another 30 minutes (total time = 1 hour) to the nearest airport. The actions against the foreshore development were repeated, and the issue ended up in the Supreme Court, which finally found there was no contract for sale and that our airport could stay where it was. Amazingly the airport is now turning a massive profit, and redevelopment works are underway a mere 6 months after this finding.

When I stop and think about these political events in our town, and compare them to our previous home, I can’t help but notice the striking differences. Petitions had similar numbers of signatures, despite the massive difference in population. Protests were all but unheard of. And if they did happen, they were something like restoring the local post office or banning skateboards on footpaths. Things that while important, don’t necessarily impact the entire community in quite the same way.

This hit home to me on Friday night as we made our annual pilgrimage to the lagoon for “Cracker Night” – the start of the October/November festival of choice – to realise that had the development gone ahead on the car park site, there would be nowhere to launch the fireworks from. I compared it to the Brisbane “River Fire” where 500,000 people line the banks of the Brisbane River, crowded, on top of each other, to watch fireworks and the crowd favourite – F1-11’s. We lay on the grass next to our town’s “swimming hole”, with kids playing in the water til late, and chatted with our neighbours who were sitting not far from us. And we watched a somewhat less impressive display of firepower.

Less impressive it might have been, but it wouldn’t have happened at all if not for the hard work of a community not afraid to take on their alleged representatives, and stand up and fight for their community.

With our impending move South to the Big City, these types of reflections are getting more and more common. I wonder if the things I’ve learned living here will stay with me, or if they’ll get lost among the sheer number of people.

Kin – I have no idea how I would cope moving back to the Big City now. A busy night at the local Chinese Restaurant is too noisy for me. I’ve become used to the peace and quiet of our new home very quickly. It happened so fast I can’t even remember what life in the city used to be like. I don’t know if I could handle it again. You’re a braver girl than I am, that’s for sure!

I have begun to see some of these small town politics in action myself since moving to a town of less than 5,000 and it is highly interesting to watch.

Remember, you can get out of your niche tooall bloggers are welcome. Just contact me.

Get Out Of Your Niche

Get Out Of Your Niche – Stephen Cronin

Today I have a fascinating guest post from Stephen Cronin – a fellow Aussie who is most decidedly out of the country.

I’m supposed to write about life in my country, so the first question is ‘what’s my country’? The answer is most definitely Australia, but I’ve spent most of the last 10 years living overseas. The last two years have been spent in China, but now it appears that in six months time, I’ll be taking my family home.

So instead of writing about life in my country, I’m going to look at what I’m looking forward to about life in Australia and what I’ll miss about life in China.

Life In Australia – Looking Forward

There are many things I’m looking forward to about living in Australia again. I can’t list them all, but here are some of the first to spring to mind.

The Outdoors Lifestyle

BBQs. Playing with my family at the park. Picnics. Sitting on the back deck watching the sun set. Fish and chips by the beach. Bush walking. Wide open spaces. The endless blue sky…

In Australia, we use the outdoors for recreation. In China, its used for living. Daily life happens wherever there is room. The outdoors isn’t approached in the same way. Recreation here centers around food and spending time with other people. That’s not a bad thing, but I miss the Australian approach.

They have the most wonderful parks in China, but they are cultivated to the nth degree and lack the natural feel of Australian parks. Likewise, they have some absolutely stunning scenery, but the nature itself often comes second to making it an event for visitors. It seems that having been there is more important than having seen it (people are more worried about getting the photograph in front of the sign, than actually stopping and taking it all in).

The wonderful environment we are so lucky to have in Australia is one of the things I miss most. Getting back to nature and enjoying the outdoors lifestyle is at the top of my list of things I’m looking forward to.


I love to drive! I’ve been driving for almost 20 years and it seems like the car becomes an extension of you. Take it away and it feels like something is missing.

Here in China, I don’t have a car. There’s no need for one. I can walk to work in fifteen minutes, to the shops in ten minutes. If I need to go into the city, which is 30 minutes away, I can take a bus (they run every 3 or 4 minutes and only cost 35 cents) or a taxi ($3.50). Most weeks I’ll spend less than $5 on transport. Compare that to your petrol bill!

But although its great for my wallet, I really miss driving.

So when I get back to Australia, I’m going to drive, drive, drive. I’ll drive to the shops, I’ll drive into town, I’ll drive around the block! Not good for the environment, I know, but hey, I just saved the planet from 2 years worth of car pollution!

Hot Christmas

I’ve been enjoying cold Christmas’s for quite a while now. While that’s a great thing, especially when there’s snow (just like in the movies!), I do miss the hot Australian Christmas.

Cold ham (off the bone), salad, ice-cold beer, cricket in the park, watermelon. I could keep going. These are what I grew up with at Christmas time and as great as a White Christmas is, there’s always something missing.

Open Internet

Obviously, being a blogger and web developer, access to the Internet is very important to me. So the fact that many popular sites are blocked in China is very frustrating for me. Sites blocked include Wikipedia, BBC News, Flickr, Technorati,,

Until Snoskred recently switched to a hosted WordPress site, I couldn’t even access A Life In The Country!

There are ways around this of course. I can get to pretty much any site I like, by using TOR or a web-based proxy server, but it’s inconvenient and slow.

So being able to turn the computer on and access any site I like will be one of the great pleasures of being back in Australia.

A Return To My Career

I’ve been teaching ICT here in China, but teaching’s not my profession. Whilst teaching can be rewarding and I’ve really enjoyed it, I’m ready for a change. A return to my career beckons.

I’ve spent 13 years in the software industry, most of it in management roles and I miss it. I miss the office environment, working on projects, the pressure of business, the feeling of being involved in something. I even miss meetings!

Of course, I may say something a little different if you ask me in a years time, but for now, I am really keen to get back into it.

So if you know of any great jobs in Brisbane from about May next year, let me know! :)

Life In China – What I’ll Miss

Living in China has been a great experience for me. In many ways, I don’t want to leave. These are some of the reasons why.

The Dining Experience

Food is very important to the Chinese. It has to be fresh and it has to taste great. If you’ve never tried real Chinese food, I can assure you it is far superior to the food you get in Chinese restaurants in the west. In fact, there are very few dishes here that I recognise from Chinese restaurants in Australia.

For those not familiar with Chinese dining, each person does not have an individual meal. Instead, many dishes are placed in the centre of the table and you help yourself to a little of everything. This solves my problem of wishing I’d ordered what the person next to me had!

Compared to Australia, eating out here is very cheap. Chicken and oyster mushroom fried rice (enough to fill me up) is $1. I’d be hard pressed to cook at home for less than that. For two people eating out in style, it normally costs less than $10.

While there are some dishes I won’t miss (chicken’s feet!) and while I’m looking forward to some of the options I’ll have in Australia, on the whole, I’m losing out.


The minute I step outside my door here in China, there is something going on. There are people everywhere, whether they are working, shopping or just taking a stroll. There is always something interesting (often unusual!) to see.

Although Australia is noted for it’s outdoors lifestyle, this only applies to our recreation time. The average Australian (myself included) spends most of their time indoors.

I was struck by the difference the last time I was back in Australia. It was middle of the day, in Australian suburbia. I stepped outside and I couldn’t see any one. They were all at work, at the shops or inside their houses. I stood there for 5 minutes. Nothing moved. It was static, lifeless … dare I say, boring!

I don’t know how immigrants survive in the suburbs. I’m not looking forward to it and I grew up with it. Life won’t seem as rich.


Yes, you read that right! I’m going to miss the freedom of China. There are problems (see Internet section above for example), but in some areas the Chinese are freer than we are in the west.

This is especially noticeable in the workplace where, in the west, we are bogged down by a multitude of regulations. Health and Safety, Equal Opportunity, Bullying, Sexual Harrasment. All of these are good things, but they are often taken too far. This can make the workplace over-complicated and less enjoyable. At worst, it increases stress and even impacts on people’s quality of life.

Another issue relates to children: These days we tend to overprotect them, which I think limits their growth. Children have to be given some freedom to try things, take risks, make mistakes, learn from them, etc. Many of the things I got up to when I was a kid just wouldn’t be allowed these days, because parents are protecting their children, but these things helped me become more capable and confident.

Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be cautious, but I think we are too cautious and it’s gotten to the stage where it has a negative impact on our lifesytle. I also believe we are over-regulated (whatever happened to personal responsibility by the way?).

In China, it’s the opposite. They aren’t cautious enough! There isn’t enough protection in place for employees. It’s probably like Australia was 40 or 50 years ago. But people are generally more relaxed and less worried than we are. Living here has been a breath of fresh air.

I believe there should be a sensible middle line somewhere between the two. In Australia, fear plays too important a role in our lives. I’m not looking forward to that aspect of life in Australia.


China is full of signs (and t-shirts) with English writing. Unfortunately (or fortunately), there are often errors with the English. These are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face and often leave you laughing.

I can never remember the funniest examples, so I’ll point you or flickr’s chinglish pool if you have some time to spare and want a good laugh. The only example I can remember is “Please respect the fragrant meadow” (Keep off the grass), but there are many which are much funnier.

A side note: I’ll never forget when one of my students – quiet, studious, conservative – started wearing a t-shirt with chinglish proclaiming that she was a hot porn star (or words to that effect). She would have been horrified if she knew what it meant.

Sadly, chinglish being slowly eradicated here, especially with the Olympics coming, but you still come across the occasional unexpected surprise that will brighten your day.

Education Environment

While I much prefer the style of education in Australia (in China they still learn by rote), I have concerns about the environment. By that I mean drugs, violence, sex, etc. It seems each week brings a news story which makes me think twice about putting my children in that environment.

Here in China, the bad students in my classroom are the ones who don’t do any work or fall asleep in class. If you call them on it, they apologise and are embarrassed!

The bad students in Australia? Well I finished to school almost 20 years ago and we were a lot worse than that then. What’s it’s like now, I have no real idea, but if the stories in the media are indicative, it’s a lot worse.

Like any father, I’m worried about what my children will face at school. Part of me thinks I’d rather raise my family in China, where youngsters still have respect for their elders.

For all the negative things about China that you’ll read in the western media, there are things that the Chinese do better than us. The sense of family and respect instilled in youngsters is one of them.

The Final Word

There are many other things I’ll miss about China and many things I’ll enjoying back in Australia – these are just some of the main ones. It’s going to be a big change for our family and we’re looking forward to it, but there will be some sadness too. The world is a great place and it’s good to experience as much of it as we can.

Stephen has worked in the software industry in Australia, UK and USA for 13 years. He is currently living in China with his family, where his ‘day job’ is teaching ICT and his nights are spent blogging and developing websites. You can read more from Stephen at his blog – More Than Scratch The Surface

This post was so interesting to me. I’ve never lived out of Australia for a long period of time – the longest I’ve been out of the country has been 6 week trips. There are so many amazing IT jobs in Australia. Looking on IT is always the category with the highest amount of advertised jobs – it currently has about 10,000 more jobs available than any other category – the next highest category is accountants. It seems we do not have enough qualified people in Australia to fill both these job categories – so there will surely be something great out there when you return, Stephen. 

Get Out Of Your Niche has quickly become one of my favourite features here on my blog. I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I do! And remember, you can get out of your niche tooall bloggers are welcome. Just contact me.

Get Out Of Your Niche