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“We peer so suspiciously at each other that we cannot see that we Canadians are standing on the mountaintop of human wealth, freedom and privilege.”
~ Pierre Elliott Trudeau
There’s a funny thing that happens when you travel through small rural communities in Australia…you’re actually, usually, mistaken for a local! I know we’d each like to think we’d stick out ; what, with our pulled-together looks, radiating charm, and big-city confidence?… but really we’re all the same.
So the locals assume you’re with them. Either that or, on the off-chance you really are that put together, they can spot the foreigner a mile away. Luckily, due to my wardrobe – or lack there of (I’ve spent months upon months wearing the same stuff and I can’t wait to burn most of them).. I don’t think I stick out much at all. Well, at least until I open my mouth. I will admit there’s something really nice about chatting to a checkout clerk and being told I have a lovely accent.
..a lovely Irish accent. Is it cold in Ireland? Right.
It’s nice not to stick out; to blend in. But then it’s always nice to be able to use your nationality as an excuse to decline unwanted solicitation. Example: While walking on any street, at anytime of day, in any part of Vietnam, one must have quick answers to questions that resemble, but are not limited to: “Where you going lady?”….”Cheap price for you?”…”You buy now?..Yes? Now? …Lady…big sizes lady…cheap for you, you buy?” In most cases a simple direct “no thank you” doesn’t suffice. They stalk on. Shaking your head, waving your hands down to the ground; stern but passive, dead look in the eyes…this works sometimes (in Australian bars as well, but that’s another story). Now, when these street vendors and moto-drivers we speak of realize they’re not getting through with they’re promises of high quality good n’ services at dirt-cheap prices, the smart ones will pull out the big guns.
Their next question, as they follow beside you on the street: “Where you from lady?”
I can’t speak for everyone, but I grew up knowing that it’s only polite to answer when someone asks you a direct question about your native country…especially when you’re from such rad place – it’s like bragging. What’s the harm?
”Oh! CANADA!?! Canada: vvvvvery nnnnnice! Canada beeaaauuuutttiffffullll.” Their wide-eyed awe is hard to hide: they’ve been so very fortunate to have met someone from Europe!
The politeness continues, you can’t help but feel flattered at the reverie. ”Um, yeah…you been?”…
Oh shit. You’re in a conversation. What?!
Well, after a few rounds of these blindsided attack on one’s good senses, it’s easy enough to avoid. You just make stuff up. It’s not hard. Take the name of your favourite animal or food and add -ville or Island. There you have it: a new country! Eggs Island (also in Europe). Unicornicopia is a favourite.
“Oh, Unicornicopia? So verrry nicccce there….”
So it doesn’t actually work, but at least it’s amusing.
Anyway, I digress. I was going to write about Australia. I’m not going to write about Australia now though. There’s time for that. I have another couple of weeks here before I head to the Land of the Long White Cloud. I’m starting to get nostalgic for my year in Oz and I haven’t even left yet. Ridiculous.
“There is no real pattern for this whole healing process. At every turn I find a new way to address a feeling or thought. It must be one of the most reflective times in my life. Learning new, honest and organic ways to sift through my emotions is an art-form that takes time and effort. I’m lucky to have these beautiful surrounding and people around me, to make it all a little easier.”
This is a paragraph that resonates with me. I take it from a post I wrote back in June (Down Time) and it is still relevant. I had just been released from the hospital and I’m sure the healing I was referring to had very little to do with my kidney.
As I get ready to fly to Vietnam, I have taken a few moments to skim through some of my older posts. It’s interesting to see how this journey has progressed. I have to admit: I don’t remember writing all that much of it. Once out there, the words have done their intended duty – they have punched the healing time-card. Looking back is something I don’t think I’ll make a habit of. ..not yet, at least.
After Tonga, I had a week or so in Melbourne. Catching up with old friends and making new ones – I kept busy and managed to meet some people heading west along the Great Ocean Road. Beautiful! The twelve apostles are a highlight. We had decent weather and it was entirely too cold to swim, but we did attempt whale-watching from the shores of Warnambool.
Adelaide is probably best described as delightful and easy; a planned-city makes for straight-forward navigation. The museum and art gallery were good hideouts during the rain. As the weather got better I made my way north to stay with a fabulous family. I spent time reading in front of the fire (pure luxury) and then got a chance to ride through the hills on the back of a bike! With the promise of more French food and good conversation, I will definitely be making another stop in South Australia. Thanks friends!
Although Perth found me in my seventh time-zone in little less than a month, arriving here feels as close to coming home as I think possible. My plans to make a couple of small trips down south – they fell by the wayside as soon as I arrived. It’s too easy to be in beautiful North Beach, with my friends and my pseudo-routines…albeit I am in a tent in the backyard…but its home-like…in a breezy sort of way.
Western Australia is a place that is close to my heart. I think it’s interesting to look back on my last visit here, five months in the past. I was at a very, noticeably different place. As I gently peruse my current headspace, I can see the lengths at which I’ve travelled to get here…time zones notwithstanding.
The Daintree Forest is the oldest rain forest in the world: 175 million years – that’s pretty old! This is incredible and humbling. As I write, I’m sitting in the shade of trees and vines similar to the ones dinosaurs walked under! How ultimately inspiring…
I find myself in Wet Tropical North Queensland in a place called Tribulation Bay and I have more-or-less spanned the entire East Coast in two weeks. This in no small feat! We are staying in a beautiful hostel consisting of A-frames and huts that follow a windy path down to the beach. It’s a tropical paradise.
Upon arrival we are told not to feed the wild cassowaries – cool! These are such prehistoric-looking birds; it’s not hard to imagine them as late-edition dinosaurs….sort of like crocodiles…turtles….Mick Jagger….
Originally the plan to head north was going to be an individual adventure, but due to beautiful timing, an intriguing acquaintance from the past would take up residence as my next travel companion. Aisha and I met briefly (and unremarkably – we don’t remember each other much at all) in Edinburgh years ago. We were reunited in Brisbane through our mutual friend Alice. Alice is amazing, and therefore her friends are amazing too! This was bound to be fun!
Some of our highlights:
- Cairns: Arriving at 1am in the morning to a nightclub that posed as a hostel, and meeting our roommates who had been in the city for nine days yet hadn’t been to the esplanade (the waterfront – four blocks form said hostel)….keep in mind: we’re smack-dab on the great barrier reef…
After one of them told us his entire life story he proceeded to kiss a small jade Buddha while whispering softly: “I LOVE you.” He then passed out…
…we switched hostels early the next morning.
- Sailing on the boat out to the Great Barrier Reef we were deafened by Enya’s ‘Orinoco Flow’… not only as we left port, but also on our return….sail away, sail away… we figure they were trying to create atmosphere?
…As I climbed aboard the catamaran after scuba diving, I was greeted by loud and frantic jazz; this was surely a bonus.
- White wine on the white sand beaches that surround Cape Tribulation… played a game of pool amongst the leafy rainforest.
- Looking for crocodiles on the Daintree River as the old-school pulley boat brought us over to the world heritage site. We held conflicting feelings of relief and disappointment when we didn’t spot any.
- Townsville locals showed us amazing hospitality. We had some great laughs, and they shared with us their idea of a good time (a story to be shared over beer).
- Magnetic Island proved, once again, that it is truly magnetic. Sunny beaches and tramping through the national park land that makes up ¾ of the island was complemented by blatant and unwavering sunshine.
- We found ourselves looking forward to arriving “home” after only two weeks. This was a pleasant surprise….we had had enough time away to appreciate Brisbane and all of its comforts.
- The two of us filled our two weeks so full of good times that I have found inspiration enough to write page upon page about the adventures.… for practical purposes I must limit myself; posting only a bulleted list – cool!!
There is absolutely nothing unremarkable about the experiences Aisha and I shared on this adventure into the tropics. We met some interesting people and saw some unforgettable sights. Aisha and I had so much to talk about; the awesome scenery was simply a backdrop.
Good conversation makes the world go ‘round!
I had the pleasure of bonding with another friend who has been through huge change recently. Geez, there are a lot of us out there!? Life is truly jam-packed with change…maybe we can look at it as transformation instead?
The old forest we visited holds a beautiful history. Amongst a landscape that has existed for 175 million years there is the deception of a sense of permanence – but we all know that the notion of permanence is simply that: a notion.
Theme Songs of the Day:
Ageless Beauty – The Stars, from the album Set Yourself on Fire (the acoustic version is my favourite, but I couldn’t find a good copy of it)
Creature Fear – Bon Iver, from the album For Emma, Forever Ago
“A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings, and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit from his illnesses.”
Melbourne is in the running for one of my favourite cities in the country. It’s beautiful and culturally-varied. I couldn’t help but notice that people are pretty darn friendly there as well (including my hosts, who were personally responsible for me enjoying a deliciously diverse menu and eating the very best I have in months – thank you Lynch family).
Not only are the cafes and restaurants dynamic and never-ending, but the city’s hospitals ain’t so bad either. Actually that implies I’ve seen more than one, but really, one hospital tends to fill the quota, wouldn’t you think?
I wasn’t really, seriously sick, but my kidneys had decided to let themselves be known to me. I had to get it all sorted out by spending the night hooked up to an IV. The medical system here is very similar to Canada, and because I was in noticeable pain they got me through administration quite quickly – and then doled out morphine with similar speed. I felt very well taken care of (thanks morphine!) and in general I’m quite okay with hospitals; comfortable enough with how it all works and what to expect… I know I’m an expert because I was able to get the gown on with only minimal assistance and a short question and answer period….
It was the first time I had been in any sort of medical facility since Kevin’s illness and it was emotionally hard for me. It brought back so many memories. Being in the fevered-pain I was in, not having all my defenses intact, it got a little tough there for a while. As the pain slowly subsided and I knew I wouldn’t have to stay a second night, I actually started to delve into the memories of our journey through the medical system these past couple of years. What a journey it was.
The tests and the appointments. The chemotherapy, radiation, steroids, anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-convulsants. The CT scans and MRIs and ECGs. We had appointments everyday for a while there. Ambulance rides, stretchers, wheelchairs, walkers. We had handle bars and poles and railings, so much equipment for normal, everyday activities. Physiotherapists, nurses, oncologists, GPs, home-care and finally hospice. There were a minimum of six hospitals that we became all too familiar with. We were proficient in a field that no one should even have to think about.
This is a sad trip down memory lane. I’m sorry if it’s hard for some of you to read. These are the thoughts that I explored while lying in that hospital bed, and when I faced some of it head-on again, it became a little easier to deal with.
There is no real pattern for this whole healing process. At every turn I find a new way to address a feeling or thought. It must be one of the most reflective times in my life. Learning new, honest and organic ways to sift through my emotions is an art-form that takes time and effort. I’m lucky to have both these beautiful surrounding, and the amazing people around me; it makes it all a little easier.
I know that my body needed the rest (and the medicine) and when I felt well enough to be discharged I was able to head back to a very comfortable home where I was made to feel welcome and at ease. This was invaluable, and really, if I had to be sick, I’m glad I was where I was. A little down-time has refreshed me in new ways.