Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Top Ten Wrap Up

Now that the dust is settled, and most of the boxes have been unpacked, Fiz and I have been looking back in wonder at the last year. What a wild ride! So many ups and downs so many new faces and new places. From the grueling long haul bus rides of Vietnam and Nepal to Festivals of Australia there are things which will always stay with us. Here’s our top-ten pick of the best of the best and the best of the worst.

1)    Cheap Seats
Vietnam is a long thin country with beautiful cities strung together like pearls on a length of hellish pavement. This is our first long haul tale.

2)    Lost in Hue
Forget the map, or bring one along and drive to the edge of it, find something wonderful like a monastery and a village and even some delicious local lunch.

3)    The Toll of War
The sins of the father are passed on to the son and the sins of a nation are passed on to its citizens.

4)    Angkor What? Angkor Wat!
Welcome to Cambodia where the terrifying reign of Pol Pot is a tourist attraction, the drugs are cheap and the party is non-stop.

5)    Possum Party
By far the most popular post of the website, this is the first of several encounters with Tatura Caravn Park's local possum family.

6)  Panya Permaculture
Nothing like getting your hands dirty! Our Permaculture time at Panya Project was one of the best parts of the trips, and the connections we made stayed with us all the way home.

7)    Rooftop Riding
Few moments in travel are as perfect as this one. Himalayas, Full moon, Jeep with broken lights, what more do you need?

8)   Down With the Sickness
The defining moment of our trip was when we very nearly had to fly home due to serious food poising. It was from here that we decided to end our Asia leg and head to the land down under.

9)    Rainbow Serpent: Inner Reflections  
 Welcome to Australia, the beautiful land full of beautiful people making amazing music and art. Welcome to Rainbow Serpent 2012 where we met two of the best people in the world and danced like crazy people.

10)    Party Animal
Travel, love and life don’t always go according to plan. That’s why you have friends, beer and nerf guns.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

There and Back Again

By Kathleen Broadhurst

 Well, it has been over a month now since I have been home and I apologize that this is the first that you have heard anything from me in that time. Returning home after almost a year away is it’s own sort of adventure.

To those who have been waiting to see what happened next, I’m sorry for the delay, life has been rough and my landing bumpy. There is a lot of work to do once you return from a trip like ours, getting new jobs, finding a place to live, unpacking boxes, trying to find your rice-cooker, sneakers, favorite blanket, ect.

It seems like after a month things are starting to settle down, I’ve found work, doing some writing no less, so I’m starting to feel like I may actually be able to connect my experiences in the world to something at home.

We found a sweet little apartment that sits in between an old fashioned New England green and railroad tracks. Though the noise from the train is loud it helps me feel connected to the wider world. When it rushes by I can’t help but think about where it’s been and where it is going. It eases the feeling of claustrophobia that has been haunting me since my return.

Coming home is at once deeply satisfying and also sad. It has been a marvelous thing to see the faces of friends and family again, to recognize people on the street and to be greeted in old spaces. But it is hard not to think of those who I left behind in Melbourne, or those who are still traveling. The friends I made on the road are often in my mind and knowing how far away they all are is hard to come to terms with.

The silence that accompanied my return has also been a bit strange. I don’t know why, whether it’s because I’m in America, or because a year is a bit to long to really ask about or if people simply aren’t interested but surprisingly few people have wanted to hear about the trip.

Some days I wake up and wonder if it was all a dream. Its hard to believe, sitting here at my new kitchen table, listening to the cicadas outside that I have ridden on the rooftop of a bus climbing the Himalayas, or watched as mourners follows a funeral procession through the streets of Varanasi. The scents and smells of a Cambodian marketplace, all fish sauce and ice and cheap polyester, the way the sky looked from my apartment in Melbourne, seem like dreams as unreal as any I have at night.

This is the trip in travel. It’s a bit surreal.

Plans…. Where we go from here? It’s hard to say, we don’t yet know ourselves. At the moment we need rest, which is proving hard to come by with a busy summer social calendar, and money, which given the state of the American economy, is also a bit of a challenge. It looks like we intend to stay in one place for a while to attempt to invest ourselves in projects that will take a few years to really show their merit.

Some of those projects are related to travel, some are completely different. Stay tuned to this blog for updates. If you are just joining us now, please, feel free to start the story at the beginning.

I do know that despite my best intentions to love being home I’m already scanning the articles on travel websites and the perusing guidebooks in the local bookstore.

Somebody once said that their favorite place part of travel was imaging the next country and planning the next trip. I second that.

Because really, the trip never stops, the trip is life. The journey will continue. Travel on.





Thursday, July 12, 2012

Bumpy Landing

My return was all set up to be a lovely festive re-entry into American life. We had tickets booked for a concert in upstate NY and a hotel for afterwards. Friends were meeting us at the show and it looked like it was shaping up to be the best coming home party yet.

My plane, with its half dead air reeking of babies and farts and cheap perfume, arrived a hour late. Our bags sauntered in at their leisure, making us twiddle our thumbs and gripe in baggage claim. By the time I walked through customs it was not the 4 o’clock I had been figuring on but closer to 6 pm. It’s all right we thought, we still have time.

So we hit the road and were delighting in each other’s company so much so that we somehow ended up not on 87 N but on 90W when we started seeing signs for Syracuse I began to wonder. We pulled over and looked at the map, yup we were going to have to back track. No worries, we’ll catch the second set.

We finally got to the hotel, threw my bags in the room and acquired directions from the front desk. Driving through dark winding NY country roads were everything looks the same we though, well, we still have an hour of the show, we’ll see some of it.

We arrived at the gate, panting holding out our tickets in triumph. Those eager to beat the traffic were already moving to their cars but the band was still going strong. We wouldn’t have much time, but it would still be worth it.

“ Your tickets have already been used.” The woman told us and we stared back at her.
 “That’s not possible, we just got here we drove all the way form New York.” I explained.
“ I’ll try them again. No, already been used. We can’t help you, can’t let you in.”
“ But I just flew here all the way from Bangkok!” I cried.
“ That’s a nice yarn.” The other ticket taker told me with a smile that said “get lost”
“ It’s true.” I wasn’t happy, not only were they not letting us in, they were calling a very jet lagged me a liar. Where was my passport when I needed it?

“ I have my ID and the credit card I bought the tickets with, here look, its even got my name on the receipt.” Fiz told them desperate to get us into the show. We did buy the tickets, a last indulgent luxury before I realize just how broke we were.

“ Sorry we could lose our jobs if we let you in.” Right, sure.

Welcome back to America,  one of my fears at least has been a reality. Australians have ruined me for friendliness, with their open smiles and laid-back attitudes. I now have a distorted impression of American hospitality.

My first impressions of home have been mixed. It has good to see my husband and family, but it all feels very surreal, like home is just another destination, one I have already seen. I haven’t had the chance to find my grove yet and we have a very nomadic summer planned. I don’t expect I’ll truly start to feel at home until fall, but that seems like a long time to be uncomfortable. 11 months is a long time to be away.

I’m getting ready now for another short trip. We are headed out to Ohio  this coming weekend. Honestly it will be a relief to be on the road for a bit. If only to put distance between me and this feeling of displacement.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Layover

I’m sitting in Jordan’s Queen Alia Airport which is half under reconstruction, in some strange place that is between being super slick and powerful and being a dodgy airport where they leave the door to the smoking room open and the janitors sit around and sing.

It’s like a metaphor for the Middle East, or at least my understanding of it. I’ve only ever transited through the ME which, considering my degree focused heavily on the politics and history of this region, is a bit ironic.

I’m waiting to board the final flight for home and it’s a mixed emotion I’m wrestling with now. There is of course the extreme excitement of returning and seeing my husband and family and friends again. There is the anticipation of really really good food, because lets face it, few countries do food like America.

But there is also a touch of wistfulness, I have no future international travel plans. This ritual of layovers and sleeping in awkward positions that has become second nature to me this year is coming to a close. Of all the aspects of travel, I like the travel itself the most, the being neither here no there the going somewhere part, the motion, the movement. I love airports. I’ve always thought that they are proof that humanity can exist peacefully together if they wanted to.

There is a touch of worry too. It hit me, only a few days ago that I’ll be going not just back home, but back to America. I don’t know if you noticed, but America has got some issues. Issues that I have, for the last 11 months been pretty happy to avoid. Especially the economic ones. Coming from Australia where right now things are rocking and rolling it will be an abrupt transition.

Then of course, there are Americans. I haven’t seen all that many of them in the last year, we don’t get out much as a collective culture. Compared to have many people from European countries travel, or Australians, Americans either can’t travel or don’t have much interest or both. So soon I will find myself surround fully by a culture which I have been apart from for some time. I hear reverse culture shock is a thing and I wonder if it will happen to me. I suppose I should expect it.

Then there is the great question of what next? Travel and especially this trip have taken a huge amount of energy to pull off and suddenly there will be a vacuum where once travel preparation/planning/doing have been. I spent a good deal of time in Melbourne coming up with a ‘landing plan’ and I’m hoping that will help ease the transition.

Its exciting too, to see what can come next, what I can pour all this energy into.

Spending the last few days talking with ex-pats in Bangkok has been interesting. For one, we all are pretty tired and we all have changed since the last we met. The trouble with travel is that it looks good from the outside. It looks if nothing else, somewhat impressive. The reality is more of a mixed bag, especially if you are busy living which after a year you have to do. I’ve tried to be honest in this blog about the up and downs that travel brings and not paint a picture to rosy when things have been grey but the fact of the matter is, unless somebody has been there, they just don’t know what it’s like.

All these thoughts, these hopes and dreams and worries and doubts float around in my mind. I can only hope that the transition is smooth.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Anticipation

Well that was harrowing. I got to BKK airport ( don’t ask me to spell it) in ample time. The trip, which with Bangkok’s infamous traffic can usually take anywhere from and hour to an hour and half took, no joke, 30 min. My taxi has a NOZ tank, no lie, little dials and gauges on the dashboard and a loaded tank the size of my bag in the trunk and everything. Only in Thailand.

Check in however was nerve racking. It always makes me nervous to fly back into the States, there are way more security restrictions and somehow, even though I’ve been a good girl, I always feel like I’ve done something wrong.

So I get up to the counter and they weigh my bags, all good, under the limit ( miraculously), then the concerned face. Then the phone calls, then whispered Thai, some smiles, some “ give me just a minute”. I start to sweat, I’m tapping my feet. Three more phone calls, a manager comes over. Half an hour later the guy tells me. “ I can give you your boarding pass to Amman, but not to New York.” I think my heart stopped for a minute. Don’t cry, I told myself, keep it together, it’s going to be ok.
“ Why not? Is everything ok?”.
“ It’s because you’re flying back into the U.S, they have this very complicated form I have to fill out and the computer isn’t accepting the information.”
“ Um..”
“ I’ve tried everything. You’ll have to fly to Amman and get your boarding pass at the transit desk there. You’re bags are fine though, they’ll go right through to New York, you don’t have to worry about them.”
Great.

Sleep is my oldest defense mechanism, probably a bad one if a bear is trying to eat me, but when my brain is trying to eat me it works like a charm. I slept all the way here, all 8hrs and tried not to worry that I would be denied boarding and stuck in Jordan.

I get to the transit desk in Amman and the man in line behind me tells me it happens, that it’s an exercise in trust. I trusted. I got my boarding pass, now just a 5 hour layover and a 11 hour flight to go.

Even through my panicked haze, which has done nothing to help my Bangkok belly, I noticed how beautiful the sand dunes were at dawn, such a lovely moonscape palate.

With my boarding pass in hand, now I can focus on more important things.

When I was 16 I went and spent 4 weeks in Scotland doing a writing program at the University of St. Andrew’s. On my way back I ended up sitting next to a man, who looking  back at it must have been around my age now. It could have been awkward if I told him my age but I lied and said I was 22 so we spent 6 hours in deep discussion about life and it’s meaning.

He had been in Ireland for the last 6 months he told me. He had been sent there for work just weeks after his wedding and his wife was, for work related reasons, unable to join him. So the first half a year of his marriage he was in another country.

I know her name was Heather because at some point I was describing how much I loved the Scottish heath and moors and he got starry eyed. “ Sorry,” he told me, “ You just said Heather and that’s my wife’s name.”

When the plane got close to Boston he started getting jittery. I asked him if he was excited, if he would be the first guy off the plane. “ No”, he replied thoughtfully, “ I’m savoring the anticipation. I want to be the last person off the plane.”

 To the best of my knowledge he was, he remained firmly in his seat until after I had left and I never saw him again. But that conversation has always stuck with me. Like hell do I intend to be the last person off the plane if I can help it, but the moral of the story is a good one.

Savor the anticipation.



Friday, July 6, 2012

Bangkok Redux


I am in Bangkok again, if only for the moment. It’s a strange sort of layover, I’m here to pick up some things that one can only find cheaply in Asia, like crystals and tee-shirts. For this the best venue is the Weekend Market however, as the name implies, it only happens on the weekends, so for the last three days I have been killing time, going back to old haunts and eating Pad Thai. This is the last leg of the journey and it is here that I have wondered more keenly than any other place if I will indeed loose my mind before I get home.

Fiz teaching ESL in Thailand for a hot second last summer.
I am staying with J, a girl who we met and studied with around this time last year as we prepared for our TEFOL course. It’s a strange sort of full circle come around. I was curious to come back to Bangkok, the impetuous for all of this travel… or should I say the excuse, and see what had happened since we parted ways with the idea of teaching English.

Any doubt that I may have had about not staying in Bangkok and not teaching has been safely and soundly put to bed. We made the right decision. I think, looking around that we would have been beyond miserable here. J’s apartment is nice, clean and white, and sleek and new, in one of those Bangkok high-rise complexes that sees to be sprouting up around the city like weeds, but it feels lifeless, like the dorms in college.

“ I think it’s haunted” J told me the other night, “ I have nightmares here.” Right on cue I had my own nightmare that night and woke up in a sweaty panic only to find that without internet in the apartment and with the panicked need to call home that comes from night terrors I had to run across the street and steal wi-fi from a closed café in the middle of the night. I think she may be right.

If nothing else it’s haunted by loneliness. It seems that, at least according to my friend’s accounts, the only ex-pats in Thailand can fall into three broad categories. Other English teachers, who are transient by nature, always coming and going to other countries or home, leaving those here in a constant state of social flux; well to do business men in their 30’s and 40’s who are sent here by their multi-nationals; and fat old American men who come here to score themselves a pretty young Thai wife, hardly the making of life-long friendships.
This wasn't fun.

Certainly traveling all over creation without any sort of plan has had it’s drawbacks and perhaps, in hindsight turning back sooner would have been the better choice. However I would not trade our myriad adventures across Asia for sterile months in Bangkok teaching ungrateful children.

It’s a good thing to know though and had I not come back through this city I may have always wondered what our life would have been like in Bangkok.

It’s full circle in another way too. Bangkok was the beginning of the trip. By this I don’t mean it was our first stop but rather something a bit more metaphorical. For those long term readers who kept up with us a few years ago on our last trip you will remember that Bangkok was our first stop. For those new readers let me fill you in a bit.

When I graduated college Fiz and I spent three months traveling Thailand and India. I had always wanted to see South East Asia and so to Thailand it was. That first trip here was magic, unencumbered by the accumulated cynicism that comes with too much time on the road we were delighted at almost every turn. The food was bad, the weather was hot, but there were days of joy spent tooling around on a motorbike and seeing ancient ruins. Thailand was a blast and we, like most people who come here for the first time as new back-packers, loved it.

When we decided to teach English abroad we first thought of Istanbul, but after a rainy honeymoon there it was difficult to imagine spending a whole year in that beautiful gloomy city. We remembered the warm weather and the coconut shakes and the little Dr.Fish and thought, hell, why not Bangkok? So it was with the suppose intent of coming and living here that we first embarked upon this trip.

Now I don’t think either of us really expected to teach English for a year, I mean… have you seen our pictures? Not exactly English teacher material, but it gave us somewhere to start and something to tell our concerned family. We had a plan, we assured them, though in reality we both suspected that we would ditch it once we were on the ground.

Ditch it we did, and glad we did now, at least mostly. Bangkok and the ESL experience was not for us.

So it’s kind of suiting to be back here now at the end of this trip, this Round the World adventure. It gives a sense of closure, a bookmark to a period of life which I feel ready to close.

J and I sat on the street eating Tom Ka Gai and talking about our last year. “People get stuck” she said, “ they get stuck in Bangkok.”  I agreed, “ People get stuck traveling” I told her. I have seen many people who just never went home. “ I don’t want to get stuck.” I said.

In the last four years I have traveled far more than many people ever get the chance to and I feel blessed to have had those experiences. I have quit some jobs and turned down others, not signed leases and shied away from community commitments in order to free myself up to be on the road. It has been, for the most part, worth it.

But I am ready now for a change. I recently turned 25 and as I look at where there last 5 years have brought me and think about where I would like to be in the next five I can see that I need to commit to something more than travel, something more permanent than transience.

When you are a student you have to learn in order to do when you start living in the world you have to do in order to learn. I have crossed that line. In order to build the life I want I need to settle myself so that I can do. Do more than just backpack, do more than just always be on the move.

It’s a scary thing for a person like me, to put down roots, and it’s been a hard road to realize that it’s what I want. Travel has always been a love of mine, and I do not intend to forgo it completely, I’m sure I will travel again, but this sort of travel, this open-ended drifting has lost it’s appeal.

 I know now that the dreams I have will not build themselves, I need to start getting my hands dirty. I need to take the risk of staying in the same place, of failing, of picking myself up, I need to risk working on my life.

I guess as long as I was moving, traveling, I felt like I was ‘doing something’. I wonder now if it was nothing more than a glorified procrastination, a childish running away. I have learned however something invaluable. I have learned where I want to be. I want to be home.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Singapore Delights

Again, back tracking a bit, this is a double post, if you missed the one about Litchfield National Park go check it out!

I’m in Bangkok now, where the internet is passable and the weather is a billion degrees compared to Melbourne. I rather love hot humid weather, the way it lays on you like a blanket at night, the way it feels like you’re moving though a  sauna during the day.

Yesterday was delightful. After arriving tired and somewhat grumpy and realizing that the sun wasn’t up for another two hours I almost considered scraping my crazed itinerary in favor of staying in the ridiculously well set up Changi Airport ( they have movies and video games and a pool and everything). But as dawn broke I decided that I was going to make the best of it.

I check my bags into the luggage room, grabbed the train into the city and headed for the botanic gardens. I had no map and no real idea where I was going but because it was Singapore everyone was very polite and spoke English so I managed to catch the right trains and busses and arrived, well before the crowds at the beautiful Botanical Gardens. The smells were delightful, the air was warm but no unbearable and the plants were amazing.

The Botanical Garden houses a very special section, the Orchid House, and there’s where I headed, pausing to check out the Ginger Flower section for a minute. The Orchid House was lovely, hundreds, maybe even thousands of different orchids were all happily growing dressing the garden in a lush colors.

So many different kinds of flowers. Big ones, small ones, ones that didn’t even look like orchids, green ones, white ones, orange ones, purple ones. I was in orchid heaven. I spent an hour or so just looking at these beautiful little masterpieces. Just as I was leaving the tour buses were arriving and hordes of tourist came flocking in ruining the serene and somewhat magical atmosphere of the park. Good timing on my part.

I then grabbed another bus and another train and headed to Chinatown, it was just past 11am by this point. I had 2 hours left before I needed to make it back to the airport. My hope was to pick up some food and then head to Little India to track down an ultra cool store. I didn’t account for the weather.

No sooner had I stepped out of the subway did it start to rain. Not a little bit of rain either, torrential South East Asian rain. I had to buy and umbrella to protect my camera and then I wandered, slowly through the flooded streets of Chinatown looking for food. To no avail. I did stumble upon two magnificent temples though, one was as South East Indian style temple, which made me cry a bit as I watched the morning puja and lit a candle for myself. The next was the Buddha Tooth Temple which was spectacularly photogenic and filled with lovely smelling incense.

I got directions to an indoor market where I could grab some food even in the rain. So up wet stairs and into a concrete market I headed. There were delicious smells coming form nearly every stall and way too many options.

“ You should get those ones,” A kindly older Singapore woman said and pointed to some steamed dumplings.  I nodded and ordered myself a tray. The woman offered me a chair and I sat and talked with her and her husband about the foods of Singapore. They bought me a sugar cane drink (which was actually safe because it’s Singapore) and I pretended like I had never had one before.

They were retired and looking for some company over lunch, I was happy for the conversation. They even helped me cut in line so I could get some slow cooked broth roasted (don’t know) chicken and spicy noodles. I was so full I could barely have another bit but I love real Chinese food and this was its Mecca.

By the time I finished lunch I realized it was time to head back so I grabbed the train and rode it back to the airport, walked right up to my terminal and sat and enjoyed the two hours left to me on the free wi-fi. All in all the second best layover I’ve had, it didn’t beat Amsterdam but It was still one of the better days I’ve had in the last couple of months.

Now I’m in Bangkok, writing in Ethos Café. This is our favorite Bangkok haunt, their chocolate and coconut and masala coconut shakes are divine, even if their prices are a little steep (for Thailand that is, still a steal compared to wherever you are).

I have three more days here before my flight and I’m doing my best to pass the time well.

When I was a little girl my grandfather used to take me swimming at a lake in the summer. There he would teach me how to swim, he was a very good swimmer, I am regrettably, not. I would practice holding my breath and swimming underwater. In order to expand my lung capacity he told me “ Katie when you’re under water and you feel like you’re out of air and you can’t go any more, just go a little more, just one more stroke.”

I feel like I’ve long since run out of air, this is my one more stroke.

Litchfield National Park


This is backdating a bit as I wait for my plane to Bangkok, Singapore Airport has free, fast wi-fi. I must be in the Northern Hemisphere.

On my last day in Australia I was given a car to “self-drive” out to Litchfield National Park. Litchfield is one of the big national parks in the NT and I was glad to not have to spend another day seeing crocodiles ( no offense crocodiles). The drive out was pleasant, I put on y headphone and listened to about a third of my Grateful Dead compilation as I drove down dusty half barren roads. Got to see myself one of those nifty “road trains” as they call them in Oz. Basically a Mac truck with not one or two but as many as four or five trailers behind it. Rumor has it they get even bigger on the empty highways that bypass the nation, but I can’t say for sure. I only say four. Lucky I didn’t have to pass one, I don’t think my little rental Hundai could have made it.

It took over an hour from Darwin to even make it to Litchfield and another twenty or so minutes in the park to reach my first destination, the magnetic termite mounds. In short the park is enormous and it is by no means the biggest one in Australia. The Whole of the NT is over a million square kilometers, yeah that’s right Wiki it if you don’t believe me, it’s massive. Did I mention that Darwin, it’s capital is only just above 100,000 people? That should give you an idea of how empty the land is, empty of humanity that is.

Now the magnetic termite mounds, for those of you who have not obsessively watched David Attenborough’s The Secret World of Insects are a made by a type of grass eating termites that build their rather large communal homes to face along north to south lines. This means that they can save on heating costs, during the morning as the sun is rising and heating up on side of the mound they all move to the west, in the evening they move back again. There are specially designed channels that move hot and cold air throughout the mound and there are even chimneys. Termites are smart as (there’s an Aussie phrase for you, not a typo).

So I went and saw them. They looked like big looming tombstones all lined up facing the same way, grey in color all on a field of grass, it was a little strange. There is another type of termite in the area, Cathedral termites which build really enormous mounds. Here’s a picture just so you can see how big. Juts think that’s made of bug spit and dirt, makes our skyscrapers seem much less original.

I got back in the car and drove another 20 minutes into the park to Florence Falls. There was a pleasant if warm hike to where the plunge pool was. People and their families were gathered in the crystal clear water, green algae and red and orange rocks making a beautiful juxtaposition of color. I stuck my legs in and enjoyed the cool water moving against me for a while before I myself ran out of water. Running out of water isn’t something you want to do in the NT, it can kill you. It was getting late anyhow so I mossied back to my car and drove the almost two hours back to Darwin.

My last meal in Australia was pie, just like it was for Fiz. It was hard to track down as the sun was setting and everything in Darwin except the bars seems to shut at 5pm. Find one I did though and I thought of my first meal in Australia, at a Pie Face on Swanston St in Melbourne that I passed every day on my way to work.  I remember how relived we both were to be back in the 1st world after Fiz’s near-death food poisoning.

I was amazed this morning, at 2am when my flight took off how relived I was to be leaving. Australia has a strange and powerful energy, one that I don’t think novices should tangle with, one that I probably tangled with too long. There is a wildness to it, it’s not quite malicious but neither is it friendly. Its tricky to describe because it’s a tricky kind of vibe, it slips through the fingers of your mind when you try to pin it down. There is something about it that I always felt distinctly ill-at ease with. It was fairly easy to ignore in the city but out in the open outback, it was in it’s element and I have to admit, it scared me a bit.

As I flew off the continent I couldn’t help but breath a sigh of relief. Asia and I get on well. I love Asia and it, well it tolerates me fairly well. My plane is boarding. Got to run!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Neither Here nor There

I am in Dawrin, perhaps the furthest point north in Australia, the opposite side of the continent from Melbourne. It’s like night and day. The city is warm, for one and entirely laid back. If Melbourne is New York then Darwin is…not sure there even is a comparison, part New Mexico, part Florida part Louisiana, yet nothing like nay of them. It’s a strange place. They call it a city but it’s population hovers just above 100,000, which means it’s about the size of Northampton, MA.

When I fist got here I was not impressed, the CBD is mostly filled with open air bars, tourists and destitute Aboriginals. However  in the last few days I have come to see why this place is so special. Whereas the culture in Sydney and Melbourne can be found all around the world Darwin is uniquely Australia, for the good and the bad.

I’ve been seeing a lot of crocodiles. They keep showing up in my press trips. I don’t particularly care about them but I know more about them now than almost any other animal. Perhaps I can learn form them.

Though they seem lazy they are in fact masters of their own energy. They don’t put out more than is necessary, they take it easy and their strategy  is to pick their battles. They’ve survived as a species for way longer than humans have been around and can live a whole year off one meal. Contrary to popular belief they can be outrun by humans and make loving mothers. They can also eat you whole.

The Northern Territory is another world. Flying here I looked out my window to see the sprawling Red Heart of Australia below me. Its colors were vibrant red and orange and you could see bush fires burning form a thousand miles up. Together the smoke and the clouds and the colors produced and amazing effect, like flying over the surface of a white opal. I had wanted to see the red center but after flying over it I’m glad we didn’t drive through it, it goes on forever and the road is nothing but a straight dirt line through the abyss of clay and sand. Truly it looked like I was flying over Mars.

This is the land of Crocodile Dundee, of  towns named things like Humpty Doo and of people driving utes with buffalo horns and gas tanks strapped on the front. All the cars are white to try and reflect some of the burning sunshine. Its like Melbourne was a cold rainy dream, and this is a fever hallucination.

Having left behind friends in the city and having not yet made it home I feel even more displaced than before. I have nothing but my thoughts to entertain me and they aren’t always so very encouraging. Still I’m working through them. Always look on the bright side of life.

I’m headed to Litchfield National Park tomorrow where I will be able to fulfill a nerdy dream of seeing giant magnetically aligned termite mounds! (Too much David Attenborough). I figure it’s a good way to spend my last day in Australia.

Then I will be catching an obscenely early red eye, 2 am, flight to Singapore where I intend to act as though I am in the Amazing Race and see as much as possible in the 7 hours I have before flying to Bangkok. (7 hours in the city, I’ve already deducted check-in time and transport). Luckily Singapore is an Asian city-state and so it’s not like I have to go anywhere to be there, the airport is in the city. I will be reporting my results to you all.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Leaving Melbourne

The time has come, weeks have morphed in to days and then hours and now I’m counting minutes. It seemed for so long like it was standing still it’s hard to belive that now I’m out of time.

So many last minute things fell by the wayside. In the end it was spending time with the friends that I made here that was more important. I leave Melbourne to journey onwards, this time to home and I stand here on a threshold of a major transition. From here to home will take a week first flying to Darwin to do an assignment for GoNomad and then I will sojourn to Bangkok where I will spend some quality time shopping like it’s my job.

To Melbourne, this is goodbye. I don’t know when I will be back again, maybe never, the world is large and Australia is far away. But I hope that somehow the people that I met here will continue to be part of my life. My friendships and conversations over the last three months in the city have helped me see life in new ways, grow as a person and come to have a deeper appreciation for the unique gifts I bring to the world.

I won’t lie, it’s been hard as hell sometimes.

My roommate said to me the other day “ Kathleen you’re love tank is empty, you need to go home and fill up your love tank.” He’s right.

I may be running on fumes but I feel reborn in some way. It’s a travel cliché I know but there is truth behind it.

I don’t have time to be as thorough as I would like to be in this post. I’m running late already. I’m not going to make it to Green’s for one last pie, but that’s ok. Here’s a cliff note:

Saying farewells to Melbourne
My suitcase is out again
Hugging new old friends
Goodbye
Just one more time
Simple things
Premix, dried milk, tea
That have become dear
Will be out of sight
On the other side
Of the world

Goodbye my friends, goodluck, and until we meet again may God hold you in the hallow of his hand.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

William Ricketts Sanctuary

As my time in Melbourne, and Australia, draws to a close I have been making the most of my days with those close friends who's company I am soon to be separated from. R and I took to the hills this weekend as she showed me a magical place in the Dandenongs full of art and nature and wonder.

The William Ricketts Sanctuary is about an hours drive from Melbourne up winding country roads and small towns. The sanctuary itself is not large but its impact is huge. nestled amongst giant gum trees and ferns that look like something out of Jurassic park are sculptures that embody the essence of Aboriginal spirituality and Australian nature.

William Ricketts was himself something of an eccentric and an amateur mystic who lived as a part time hermit, full time artist in the woods. Early in his life he spent much of his time integrating himself with the local aboriginal people and had come to respect and revere their way of life. It was his duty, as he saw it, to help their philosophy of being live on and to make it accessible to others. To this end he was inspired to create sculptures that meld man and trees, woman and rock, plant and animal.

The sanctuary is not just a place to view art but to experience it. The pathways, the water ways, the little nooks are all thought out. I felt like I was walking around a permaculture art installation until I realized that I was. William may have passed on before the word came into vogue but the idea behind it, sensing and mimicking patterns in nature, incorporating the land and animals all into one system could well be applied to his sanctuary.

It was raining and cold but the gums soaring upwards i the mists were a good reward for braving the late autumn weather and the undergrowth of ferns acted as a kind of giant ferny umbrella. We took our time, and froze our fingers off taking photos and enjoying the energy. Staggering half frozen back to the car only when our memory cards were full and are hands no longer functional.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Royal Doof

 


Doof n. an electronic- pystrace party in the bush, lasting in duration from 1 to 4 nights. Sometimes small and invite only sometimes large with tickets sold. origin an onomatopoeia from the noise the bass makes 


 Royal Doof is the king of the Doof, taking place in the waning light of autumn it is a Melbourne based Doof that just barely manages to get its shit together for Queen’s Birthday weekend. Sometimes its doesn’t and there’s just a big warehouse party. This year the site was moved three times, the last of those times being on the opening day of the festival. So I wasn’t the only one feeling a bit curfluffled and in need of some relaxation by the time we arrived.

My friend K had flown over form New Zealand and in her best up for anything attitude, accepted my invitation to come to Royal. She had no idea what she was in for and as we drove into the bush I began to wonder if this was really such a great idea. It was cold, for one, and wet for another. I had scrounged a sleeping bag and tent form my roommate and pegs and food from T and R. It was a last minuet decision to go and as we scrambled into T’s truck with the psy-trance already blasting I looked at my ashram going permaculture friend and hoped she wouldn’t hate me by Monday.

There was traffic, there was road rage, there was pulling an old van halfway to the site up dirt hills in the dense bush. But we arrived.

The weekend was a beautiful one, despite the cold and sometimes dreary weather. Most things were covered in mud but there was a fire and a dance floor and friends and music. It was I realized, my last real party in Australia.

It was a full circle moment. We met T and R at Rainbow Serpent back in January. They were out camp neighbors and T loaned us an axe. “ He seems cool,” I told Fiz, “ He has an axe.” We all became friends, faster than I would have imagined. When Rainbow ended I stayed in touch, we ended up visiting a few times over the course of our stay I Tatura and when Fiz went back to the States I lived on T and R’s floor for 16 days or so. It was wonderful.

Where Rainbow was hot, Royal was cold, where Rainbow was big, Royal was small, where Rainbow was a high budget production with sound and lights and 6 dance floors, Royal had about as much money as ten people could throw at making and awesome weekend, there was one stage. Where Rainbow started right on time Royal didn’t even get the main stage up until Saturday night. Yet, there was a closeness and a warmth at Royal that rainbow in it’s massiveness lacked. It was a small gathering of 500 where people wandered freely into each others camps for a smoke and a chat. Where we made new friends every day. K loved it. She danced like a mystic in rapture and brought joy to the campfire.

I danced out all the stress of the last few weeks, let got of all my expectations and just floated on the sound and swam in the rhythm. Sound can cleanse and music can heal and as I stood in the waves of the beats I couldn’t help but feel purified by the pulsating, like all my chakras and all my cells were getting sandblasted, the gunk getting flushed out, the rot falling off.

These are Jaffles, they are a "traditional Australian camping food"
I wrote and took photos and was surrounded by big gums and pines. I smelt their heady mixture, so like home so like Australia. I felt in balance with both. I didn’t realize how long I had been here until I realized I had stopped smelling the gum trees. When I first got here I smelled them all the time and then somehow I stopped noticing.

It was my first time out of the city since I arrived and I came to the woods shattered by the urban energy.  I have come to love the sleek and cold beauty of the city, it is intriguing and inspiring and frustratingly unknowable but it is also a place that is covered I concrete and as the bush approached I couldn't help but feel a sense of ease, a presence of something distinctly other that is utterly lacking in the city.

Trees! Trees! How could I have ever thought I could live without you? How could I have traded the stars and moon for neon signs and lights? The sound of the breeze and the river for the train and tram?

Seductive though you may be Melbourne, you are not for me, at least not all the time. Let us visit from time to time, but let me go, away from this urbanity, this concrete insanity, back to the place where fireflies glow.




Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Party Animal


By Kathleen

When life gives you lemons sometimes the only thing to do is swallow the bitter shit, realize you’re the one who grew the damn lemons in the first place, and then shoot things with nerf guns.

It’s the only sane thing to do.

And so this weekend, in order to process some of my own lemons I teamed up with a friend and hit Melbourne’s party scene.


Stop One: Nerf Core
Don’t think about what it is, you know what it is. Nerf guns, music, disco lights, fog. It was Cambodia’s Heart of Darkness meets tiki torches and Apocalypse Now. The first thing of course, the essential thing in any Nerf based war game is to have a Nerf gun. 

My friend armed me with a sleek steam-punk nerf gun that made me look and feel like a guerrilla out of the Congo/Venezuela/Iraq. With my purple  keffiyeh tied around my face and my hood up I felt truly revolutionary. I’d post pictures but you never know who would accuse me of being involved with some sort of underground Occupy training program.

The Nerf gun was light in my hand, the lights spinning out of control, then through the fog, gorillas! No! Man down, back to the line, “we need more ammo! My gun is jammed! Medic!”.

I strutted around the bar like I was back form assignment in Hanoi recovering in Phnom Phen. It was rad.


Stop Two: Warehouse Party
Ah the mythical warehouse party. Often alluded to, religiously talked up, surprisingly elusive. I’ve been to four warehouses since being in Brunswick, the whole area is rent with them, they fill the lane ways and have funny names. They have themes and décor and better sound systems then some clubs I’ve been to. Of course, when I was invited to one, one where the location and date and time were known, I accepted.

Fabulous letdown. From the jungles of South East Asia/ Congo to the Frat boy jungle full of drunk bros in animal print togas it took about point three seconds for me and my friends to realize "this is so not our scene".

Then the cops showed up.

So much for wild rave party it was more like drunken dorm party, freshman year.


Stop Three: My Aeon
Never heard of a pys-trance club? Well don’t worry I didn’t realize they existed either. For those urbanites who can’t make it to the woods for a doof or just can’t wait until the net one, My Aeon fills a needed hole. Nothing like a friendly not grope crowd that just wants to hang and dance and has a fireplace outside.

It was at this point in the evening that conversation turned serious and I began to look at some of the major issues in my life. Namely I’m exactly where I said I wanted to be and it’s not what I want at all. Be careful what you wish for and be careful what you say.

I took a cab home, drunk and alone, thinking about how my life has changed in the last year and seriously questioning what I wanted to come in the next year. Despite all my friends here, and all that is going on, it’s just not worth anything without my love. It’s just not home.

Travel can take you many places, there is always someplace new on the horizon. The world is so huge that it is impossible to see every place or every time. When I was a child I dreamed of having a watch that would show me what was happening all around the world at any given moment so I would never miss anything.

My favorite place to go is always the place I haven’t been yet. I realize now that travel is a way of life but it is also an addiction. There will never be enough time or money to see it all. There will always be one more place. You need to know when to stop, when to set the course for home.

That isn’t to say I have sworn travel off, but I need to find a way to travel that is more sustainable for the three bottom lines (emotional, financial, social). I need to find a way to integrate myself into this world without losing what I love.

Keep your heart at the center and set sail.




Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Latent Blogger

This was a weekend of firsts.

Traveling alone is not something that comes as naturally to me as it dose to others. There are aspects of it which I prefer, I can be say, be as cheap as I want, I don’t need to confirm an idea with somebody else and I can linger in bookstores as long as I want. Honestly the enjoyment stops there.

While I believe that there is character-building merit in traveling alone, it simply is not as enjoyable as traveling with somebody. There is nobody with whom to share those special moments when you see something amazing, or silly or sad. Nobody to point out simple joys to, nobody to convince you that ‘yes’ you really do want to buy the cheese, and nobody who is seeing the new culture through the same lens as you.

Despite these drawbacks I’ve been making the best of the experience. I’ve been taking on new challenges and overcoming fears. This Saturday for example, I was in a bit of quandary. There was a show I wanted to see downtown, for a band I had only just discovered, while my dear friends wanted to go out of the city and into the woods to dance all night at a bush doof (underground outdoor music/dance party).

Now I have never been to a doof, not a proper Aussie one at least, but neither had I ever been to a show alone. I was torn. Somewhere deep inside me there was a little voice that urged me to do the scary thing. While a doof is new in many ways it is not new in its fundamentals and considering that soon I will have a friend visiting and then soon after that Fiz will be returning I saw that this was perhaps my unique opportunity to experience standing awkwardly alone in a crowd. I chose the show.

Down to the CBD I went, riding the tram, so different late at night than early in the morning. Crowds of gaggling girls and slightly drunken dudes all headed down for a big adventure, and me.

The show, as it happened, was sold out. So much for my experience. But on my way back up to the street from the club below I caught out of the corner of my eye, the sight of a friend I had not expected to see again. One of the women from the Permaculture course was there with her date. They didn’t get tickets either. We exchanged remarks and hugs and then the three of us spent the evening walking around the city and talking. I discovered that there is an upcoming writer’s festival (they are both writers) the Melbourne’s Emerging Writer’s Festival, starting this week. So sometimes that little voice knows something you don’t.

The next morning, feeling groggy after my late night, I did something I haven’t done in years. I went to church. Now, I’m not much in the way for Christianity, I had a long period where we were at odds, but as I’ve gotten older my dislike has mellowed and eventually turned friendly. There is something comforting in the rituals, and strangely something exotic.

After traveling the world and praying in temples and pagodas and mosques to deities of every shape size and color I found that the rituals of the Anglican Church were new and different. I was raised a Catholic, or well, it was attempted, I resisted the whole time but some of it seeped in, I love frankincense and chanting and have a strong affinity for the Virgin Mary. The Anglican service (not mass!) seemed strangely devoid of all the little Catholic things I liked, but the singing was nice and the priest gave a good sermon. Melbourne’s St.Paul’s Cathedral is lovely, a beautiful piece of Victorian Victorian Architecture.

I could not help but notice as I sat in my pew waiting to take part in the Ancient Egyptian God Eating ritual that the congregation was dying. I don’t mean in front of my eyes, but just about. A full 90% were grey, and the list of the ill and the recently passed was long. There was one child there, making himself known only occasionally. It felt as though the whole giant space, designed to hold so many was now filled with a few old men trying to stay warm.

As I walked outside into the sunlight I heard chanting. Across the street at Federation Square the Asian community was celebrating Buddha’s birthday. (As the Pentecost is upon us I find it interesting that Buddha’ Birthday is so close on the calendar.) Buddhist chants were piped onto the square and people were milling about joyfully scattered, holding incense and orchids. And there were children. Heaps of children, not just from Melbourne’s growing Asian population, Anglo children, mixed race children of every colour. Children brought there by parents who had decided at some point that they no longer wanted to sit in a pew and pray to the Lord but instead were clumsily teaching foreign rituals to a new generation of seekers.

Why? Christianity in comparison to Buddhism is in fact quite young, so it should be thriving, but instead people have turned the cathedrals and churches of the world into museums, mausoleums to a dying faith. While I know that Christianity is growing rapidly in those parts of the world that are staved for learning or starved in general, willing to accept help from anywhere, I can’t help but think that they join so they can break literal bread and thereby gain salvation, in a physical rather than a theological way.

Perhaps it is the slow decay of a way of life that asked too much of its people or that makes too little sense to many these days. Pedophilia was certainly the last straw in many places. Nothing like a bit of molestation to keep the next generation coming back for more, no wonder it’s destroyed the parishes from the inside out.

It is an interesting thing to watch, this juxtaposition of faith across the street from one another, another reason to love the urban environment, even as I find myself starting to seriously miss the smell of trees.

I am a country girl after all and I worship dirt, and wind and sun and rain. My cathedral is as always the forest and I find that no tower of stone nor any beautifully build pagoda can compare to the simple experience of a mountain or a river or a plain.

 But it gives me hope for the future, as multiple muti-cultural spaces continue to grow and flourish and we manage to live within them, surely we can learn to work out our differences elsewhere. So I bowed my head at the alter of Christ and Buddha and prayed to the One for peace and justice for all.



Thursday, May 10, 2012

Working Girl


By Kathleen Broadhurst

My alarm goes off at 5am and there is a nothing but darkness and a 20min walk to the train. I get to café and sit and write with the lights off for a half and hour before I open. I’m looking forward to moving into my new place this weekend, the train is closer and the it’s a shorter trip. There is a solid hour where I think that I’m crazy for getting back into this world of caffeine addicts and barista artists.

Then my co-workers show up. Overall they are lovely and my boss is wonderful. The head barista has changed my opinion about baristas he’s fun and friendly and after 18 years of pulling shots is a master. Watching him work is wonderful, it’s always interesting to see somebody who is really good at what they do. I’ve been learning a lot about coffee, it’s more of an applied science than an art with exact measurements affecting tiny details. For me as an American who grew up on Dunkin’ Donuts it all seems a bit much but it’s still cool.

I love this city more and more every day. Riding the train is one of my favorite parts of being a new urbanite. I like the graffiti and the grey concrete and the tall sky-scrapers in the distance. It’s like a big dystopian fantasy, gritty and real.

Melbourne itself is a lovely combination of old Victorian architecture and modern buildings. I’ll post some pictures as soon as I get to taking the camera around, but it’s such a monster and I feel a little silly looking like a tourist in a place that I’m calling home.

I noticed something the other day on the way to work as I was staring up at the glowing neon signs of the CBD. ANZ, Commonwealth, NAB, all banks. Historically when you look at cities, the taller the building the more power it had. In Italy families would vie for the tallest tower and hence the biggest show of power. For millennia kings and queens have been erecting monuments as testimony to their strength and all throughout the Old World the steeples and minarets and pagodas of religion have reached for the sky, dominating skylines as they scrambled to touch God.

Our city skylines are dominated by banks, by the symbols of trade and materialism. It’s not a metaphor. It’s worth thinking about.

I’m excited to move into my new place tomorrow, even as I fight off a cold, but I’ll be sad to leave my friends’ home. Australians are generous in general but these two may just be the most generous people I know. They have helped me find my feet and held my hand as I stumbled onto this new road. I can only hope one day that they come to visit in the Sates so I balance out the books, even a little bit.

Making new friends here makes my connection to here stronger, but I am always aware of those who are still at home. They walk with me, phantoms of my imagination. I see a shirt I think of you, I hear a song I think of you, I have an amazing time at a club I think of you. I rid the train and think of you. You are all in my thoughts. Friends make life worth living.

Now to make some dinner!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Fallin’ Into Place

By Kathleen Broadhurst

My last week has been rainy and as far as Australia is concerned, cold. I have been getting to know the inner workings of the trains and the trams and recognizing faces at the gate of Flinders’ Street. I’ve been learning the nuances of “fare evasion”, yep, I’m that person ( At $4.50 a ticket you would be too).

Meeting strangers everyday and having to tell a quick blurb about yourself is a strange exercise in the art of being concise. You quickly learn the fundamentals of your identity. “ I’m from Massachusetts, I’m a writer, I like plants.” Seemed to be the most common themes. I delight in its over simplification.

Meeting potential employees is always a bit of a theatrical déjà vu. All those classes and years of stage acting pay off in ways like being able to give a spiel without pausing or looking nervous. So much of life is acting it seems and what we wear is all costume.

Yesterday the rain got me down, as I trudged along in a too large, too blue borrowed jacket with a strangers passport, I couldn’t help but think “ What am I doing here”. None of us like to admit when we are wrong, I sure as hell stick to my guns long past the point when I should let go, but even I was looking at the cold drizzle and thinking that Melbourne was silently rejecting me.

Today I woke up feeling conflicted. I hadn’t heard back from the job or the room I wanted and I wasn’t prepared to settle for second best or start my search from scratch again.

But Alas! The gods of this city must have heard my pleas. “ I need a sign!” I told the grey streets and the concrete. Australia isn’t what I would call an easily manipulated place. It’s a touch untamed and doesn’t seem to enjoy human interference. I was missing Asia where everything can be so easy where the seething mass of humanity has left a deep impression on the land.

Then, it all came together. The house I wanted wanted me too and the rent was cheaper than I had been first told, then as I was getting ready to apply for another round of part-time-casual f*ck-off jobs I got a phone call. I had the job, starting Monday, 6:30 AM. Back to rising before dawn in the middle of winter.

I am looking at the city with new eyes. All the events that are happening are suddenly accessible. From International Permaculture Day (preserving persimmons in the Japanese style anyone?) to Melbourne Museum’s new exhibition about Mesopotamia to the hip record stores that sell vinyl and coffee to the endless lists of shows and concerts happening at my doorstep. I need a bike!

So I am becoming a real person here. I don’t get to move in until the 10th but I start work on the 7th. So here goes nothing Vicarious adventurers, this shit’s about to get real.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Roomate Roulette

By Kathleen Broadhurst

Yesterday was a full on type of day, full of running to catch trains, strange people and disappointing conclusions. I started the day optimistic, with three roommate situations lined up to look at I figured something would go, I was wrong.

The First house: Caught the long way into East Brunswick to look at a room in a house with a singer/songwriter. She seemed the coolest of all the people when we talked on the phone and it was the closest to my friends in Northcote. After catching a train, the wrong tram and then the right tram I asked her what stop I should get off on and got “ Ooops I totally forgot to tell you I already gave the room to somebody else!”

Awesome. Thanks for telling me…. now that I’m three stops away. She invited me to come over anyways, because the girl she chose isn’t a long termer and you never know. So I went over and had a cup of tea. She was really cool and we ended up talking for about and hour. Too bad.

The Second House: Between houses one and two I had about two hours to kill and seeing as the second room was in a really cool area I decided to grab a chocolate and a seat at a café. I’m still not sure how cafes here work ( something I should get up on quick considering that I’m looking for café work), its not your standard counter system, you pay when you leave not when you buy and they often bring you your coffee.

After a relaxing hour reading and writing I ventured forth to the next stop. It was a beautiful apartment in an old brick townhouse, the room had a fireplace and it was literally a stones throw from the main street where all manner of interesting stores and people reside. I liked the people well enough, a bit stuck up for me but negotiable. Friendly certainly. They told me they would tell me in the morning.

The Third House: I could tell I didn’t want to live there before I even rang the doorbell. It was the room without walls, a curtained off section of the main room. I shouldn’t have wasted their time. Two couples living together looking for a fifth wheel to live in their living room, vegetarian kitchen, non-smokers. Not so much. Though they were very nice and I got on with them fairly well. Leaving their place I was further convinced that it wasn’t for me because the area was, while not unsafe, unsure.

This morning I woke up to a text that said “ sorry we’ve found somebody else”. Rejection sucks, even, perhaps especially, from strangers. But it was probably out of my budget anyways.

Today is for the job interview, hopefully that is more successful than the rooms. I guess its back to the drawing board- or in this case, Gumtree.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Road Less Traveled

By Kathleen Broadhurst

Heading down South with all my bags, listening to Old Crow Medicine Show and dreaming of writing fantastic novels that sweep people up and away with the beauty of this land. I’ve got a book poetry book and a gardening book and my pencils. Fiz has landed safely State side, Thank God, and is headed back to our ancestral tromping grounds at around 80mph.

I got up early this morning, folded up my bedding, kissed the cat, left money on the counter and put my bag on. I ended up leaving behind pretty much everything that wasn’t stolen. Had I known I couldn’t carry it, I would have sold it. Tent, air-mattress, bedding, comforter, pillows. I slowly lost pieces of them last night as I started packing. The comforter I tried for the hardest. I folded it up, strung rope around it, Asia-style and was prepared to carry it’s fluffy mass on board with me. It had other ideas and escaped its bonds after about 5 steps. So it too got left behind.

As part of my Australian water saving initiative I cut my hair.

Its something I’ve wanted to do for years and damn! Its looks awesome, I could have gone shorter. The response has been 100% positive. Contrary to what you would have thought you can see my hair more because it’s down all the time now instead of up in my tight-ass-librarian bun. It looks good messy. I like it.

Prospects in Melbourne look good.

I’m beyond excited to throw myself into city life. I found three shows in the next four days that I want to see and have signed up to do an Edible Weeds Walk with these awesome folk who are responsible for the amazing Permablitz movement. Urban Permaculture “hells yes”!

I have 3 roommate interviews tomorrow (at least I only need to get gussied up once.) and will be running around trying to convince people I’m awesome to live with, which I’m not totally convinced of, but I’ve come a long way since college when I specifically requested a single. Living with people doesn’t scare me anymore, sharing space has grown on me.

As for the interviews themselves, it seems like a date crossed with a job interview, you’re never sure when to tell them you smoke. Just in Job interviews you are selected on your merit, background or credentials but not just on your personality and dish-doing traits. A rejection in this case is probably a bit more personal. Thinking about it though, people should interview their dates about their dish-doing ability. It would save so much trouble further down the line if you already knew somebody was slob or a neat freak.

I’m excited, exhilarated even by my new adventure. I know it may seem selfish, or indulgent, or taboo but I’ve never felt so free, loved and supported. The train moves below me, rocking me slowly and sliding on its metal tracks I feel like I’m levitating through the Australian countryside. And you know what they say, those poets, about those roads less traveled. I hear it makes all the difference.




Friday, April 20, 2012

Up Next

By Kathleen

So now the clock is ticking, Fiz is leaving in two days! Which means I’ve been in a  rush, finding out places to live and jobs and such. I think I’ve applied to more jobs in the last five days than I have ever in my life… combined. I’m told 2-3 weeks is about how long I should expect to wait to land something. Finding roommates is a new and interesting challenge. Some people don’t get back to you others have keywords in their listings that are red-flags. I look for alternative sounding names and words and steer away from things like “ rent includes Foxtel”. I’ve heard back from a few places so we’ll see if that gets me anywhere.

This is all new to me, so its pretty exciting and bit unnerving all at the same time. Being away from each other is going to be a new travel challenge but one that I feel confident will work out. The real question now is where I’ll be.

Melbourne is tantalizing. Maybe my views of it are a bit rosy because it was our first western city after all that drama in India, or perhaps its because it’s alternative and musical and artistic, similar in some ways to home. One of my best Aussie friends lives there and of course… there is the permaculture, hippies and restaurants that are by donation in old convents.

Sydney is also wonderful though. The city is beautiful, the weather is warmer and here I have a place to crash for at least a few weeks. Across the street is a pair of warehouse communes that hold music nights and parties, down the road a tattoo artist and up the street a guy who makes his living renovating historic homes while his wife writes.

Both offer possibility both offer adventure and friendship. Let the dice roll.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Tipping Point

By Kathleen

The last two weeks have been grueling. I’ll spare you the details but lets just say that the amount of fuel we each had left in our tank was badly depleted by the course. It was one of those things. All permaculture courses are intense, I’m convinced it has something to do with thinking s holistically for two weeks straight, you start to see everything with Permaculture glasses, even yourself and it usually prompts people into action of some sort.
The same is true of this course.

For Fiz, who’s been dragging, these last two weeks were the tipping point. We all need to know our limits and respect them. Being in a couple means bending and flowing with your partner, but sometimes we reach the limits of our ability keep going.

Thus, it has been decided, seeing as I wish to carry on traveling and Fiz wishes to go home that it makes the most sense for us to do so. We’ll be paying the price of not being able to see each other everyday but this is something probably best not to compromise on.

So for all you readers at home, Fiz will be headed your way next week. For those of you who wish to keep reading, I’ll be staying here and blogging about my solo adventures in Australia.

At the moment we are on the VLine train headed form Melbourne back up to Sydeny, where we will kick it with friends and enjoy a week in the warmth before Fiz heads on home. Then… well I don’t know.