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April 2007 Archives

April 26, 2007

Welcome To Wherever You Are

I can't remember the town I'm in right now - Kalberrie, maybe? Either way, I'm in a small little town in Western Aus, on the first day of a four day tour of the area.

It's a bit surreal being on tours in Australia after having been in Scotland for so long. I mean, in Scotland, London can be a daytrip. Inverness can be a daytrip. A weekend trip is up to Skye. Here, a weekend will be lucky to get you far at all. It's strange living in a big country again. It makes me wonder what touring Canada would be like.

So far today we really only saw three points of interest - the Pinnacles (I've written about them before), the Indian Ocean (always beautiful) and then some amazingly beautiful cliffs that I would totally recommend if I could remember what they were called. I got some great photos and will post them once I'm back Perth-side.

The Pinnacles were just as I remembered them, which is to say interesting but not really worth a second trip out. I did enjoy walking through the sand again, though. The sand there is a different colour, more of an orange, and it feels very soft against my feet. It retains the heat a great deal, which felt lovely. I hate to admit how much I'm enjoying the heat here, as though I'm betraying my Canadian roots. (It's not that hot here right now, but hotter than I'm used to. And dryer. I think it's the dryer that makes it good.)

The Indian Ocean is where we sat and ate lunch. It was lovely - the whole beach was abandoned, and for a lot of the time I was the only person in the group sitting and watching the waves crash against the shore. Again I fell in love with the ocean. I think there's a theme in my life of water.

The cliffs today, though... You'll need photos. There are no words.

The problem, of course, is that we travelled for almost twelve hours and it feels like we didn't see much at all. As much as I hate to say it, the Aussie countryside (at least around these parts) isn't that interesting all on its own.

Although the trees are quite interesting near the wind farms. They're bent over against the ground, and almost look like they've been blown over, but they aren't.

I'm sorry, I wanted to write more, but I'm hungry, and tonight is BBQ. I'm hoping for kangaroo - they're cute, and tasty!

April 22, 2007

Halfway to Anywhere

On Valentine's Day last year Don gave me a guide book to Australia. He inscribed on the inside cover "Remember to fly. With love, Don." It might be the sweetest gift I've ever received.

Don did everything he could do to encourage me to chase my dreams around the world. Before we were involved, he encouraged me to go to China, going so far as to give me the money I needed to take the course work to get my TESOL Certificate. When I was afraid to go, he told me I'd be fine. When I was afraid to leave Edmonton, he reminded me it would there when I got back. He did all these things, despite the fact that his heart was breaking at losing me. He didn't know until I was about to leave how much he cared for me. I left, and I can still remember him, Tom, and Kris at the airport, a lonely group of men waving good bye as I went off on an adventure. I'd told everyone else I was going for six months. I told the three of them I might not come back.

I did come back, though, and part of the reason for that was because I wanted, needed, to see Don again. We'd spent a lot of time on the internet talking, and while I pretending that it was all platonic, I spent time fantasising about him coming to China like he'd talked about, about being able to show him everything around me. I'd take him out to Suzhou, to see the beautiful gardens and go dancing at the packed night clubs. I'd take him out to Xi'an to see the Mosque and the Muslin Quarter, to see the Terracotta Warriors. I'd take him to Shanghai and we'd have tea for hours. I believed he'd make it, and when he didn't, I was more devastated than I was that my father never came to see me. I'd missed Kris a great deal, but Don was the one who talked to me, who spent hours letting me write to him about being an expat, who let me talk about my dreams of seeing the world, my fears of returning to Edmonton, and my plans for the future. He told me how he wanted to change the world, told me about his loneliness in Edmonton, and that he missed me very much.

I showed up three days earlier than I'd told him I would, kissed him in front of all of his friends, and demanded he take me out for cheesecake immediately.

He spent almost the entire time we were at the cheesecake place staring at me like you would an angel, reaching out to touch my hand, trying to make sure I was real. I couldn't stop smiling, and wanted nothing more than to spend the whole night talking, telling him all the things I'd done since last I had last spoken to him. We went back to his place and I was there until dawn. He told me afterwards that he thought the whole thing was a dream that he never wanted to wake up from.

I wish I could write that everything was perfect from that point on, but it would be ridiculous to say so. I wanted to pretend I wasn't falling in love with him, that I was giving my relationship with Kris (already so badly battered and broken) a fair chance. I wanted to pretend that I could breeze back into Edmonton and everything would be just as I needed it to be, and I teased Don that in the future he'd write his memoires (after changing the world) and he could speak of me as a "young lady of his acquaintance". I joked about being Hurricane Anna, that I'd breeze into his life, throw everything out of kilter (in a good way!), and breeze back out again.

I suppose you could say that it happened exactly like that.

When I told him I needed to leave Edmonton again, his response was simple: "Where are we going?" There was never a question for him - he'd follow me anywhere I wanted to go. I've always felt guilty that I couldn't say the same thing to him. He spent four months going to school in Halifax, and had begged me to go with him, and I'd refused. I'd just gotten a new job, I wanted the time to build up money, to get a good reference, before leaving. "I want to see the world," I told him. "I don't want to see more of Canada."

I have regretted no decision in my life as much as that one. I visited him for a week when he was there and fell deeply in love with the city. Halifax is nothing like Edmonton. The city is on the Atlantic, and the winters there are full of wet and heavy snow. The streets are all uphill, the buildings are all made of stone, and the city feels heavy around you. I walked the streets and spent most of my week there hating that I'd refused to follow him, that I'd decided my comfort was more important than going anywhere with him could be.

While I was there, he bought me a guide book to the UK, and we started talking about where we would live, what we would do, how we'd get there.

I like to run in where angels fear to tread, and Don's given me the stability my life needs to do that. I would have made it to Scotland without him, but I don't think I would have enjoyed it nearly so much. We saw so many things, hand in hand - Tintagel, Inverness, Skye, Rome, Paris. I remember the first time we went to Lindisfarne, the way the ruins of the old Abbey felt, the way the wind rushed through our hair, and knowing in that moment that this was where I wanted to be - standing in the ruins holding on to his hand, knowing I was safe and loved.

Australia at first seemed like just a silly little dream to me, but it captured my imagination. I wanted to come here, and on some level I knew that I would have to come here alone. My fears - of Don's illness, of being in a relationship, of being dependant on anyone ever again - made it easier for me to argue against him coming here. I knew he wouldn't like he, he didn't really want to come, and I knew that he'd be miserable here. I still believe all of that is true, but I regret that I didn't insist that we find a way for it to work out for him here. I think about the warm sun on my face while the coldness is sinking into his bones in Halifax. I think about him being alone too much. I wish often that he had stayed in Edinburgh, but he's more practical than I, and Edinburgh is expensive. So, he lives in a small flat in Halifax, and I live in a small flat in Australia, and he tells me to go on adventures.

He's the only person who knows how afraid I am.

"Do you think I'm running away from something?" I asked him once.

"No," he said. "I think you're running towards something. You just haven't figured out what yet."

I fell in love with a man who loved me enough to take the risk I wouldn't come back.

I'm counting the minutes till July, and I'm going to have as many adventures as I can between now and then.

Don thinks I can fly.

Maybe I will.

April 15, 2007

Blank Pages

I don't know where to start.

Actually, that's not true. I know exactly where to start: Australia. It's beautiful, here. For weeks now I've been playing in my head with the idea of coming back here when I know how to drive, of packing up a van and just driving through it, around it, trying to see how long it can take, how many times I can do it. I want to stop at every little town, and touch all the different colours of dirt and sand and rock. This country is everything I ever dreamed it could be, and I'm still only in Perth.

Perth.

Man, I'm starting to hate Perth.

Perth itself isn't really the problem, of course. It's just not a town for a woman like me. I can't drive, and most of the buses stop running at 6. I don't drink much, and most of the places to do things other than drink are closed at 7. It's a beach culture, and the beach is so far away from where I live.

I haven't been able to write about anything much at all with regards to travel, and it's been hard to articulate why. Part of it is that I've been dividing my energy - I've been writing about politics and religion in other places, and that's caused me to take the writing energy and put it there instead of here. But part of it, too, is that so much of my week is unhappy. My weeknights are very long, and very dull, and I can't really do much about it, especially with the nights getting longer. I could take a class, join a gym, find a group of like-minded people, but without a way of getting back here, to my tiny, drab, flat, I'd have to walk long distances, and I'm not sure how safe that would be after dark.

This isn't exactly the safest neighbourhood.

Ah, my flat. It's small. Very small. They call it a "bedsit" in Australia, which is a "bachelor" or a "studio" apartment. It comes in shades of brown and pink, and the environmentally-friendly lighting is bad for my eyes. If I sit at the table to type, I get screen glare, and the wee little table gives me shoulder pains later on. If I sit on the couch and lean back, I still get the screen glare, with added inability to find a place where there isn't also a light shining into my eyes. Occasionally I managed to get myself out and sit at the book store, latte at my side, and type there until the battery on my laptop runs out. Sometimes I don't even turn on the computer at all, I just sit in my flat and attempt to read a book. Sometimes I sleep.

I live for my weekends - I'm loving getting out of here. spending time at the beach, going to Freo, going to Rotto, checking out sand boarding. I haven't been back to the zoo, and I should go. I haven't even been back to South Perth, so poke in the shops there. I should enjoy this city for all it's worth.

But. But.

The job I've been at (which was supposed to be just for a few weeks) cannot or will not give me full time hours. And thus, my paycheques aren't enough. 50% of everything I make goes just to paying the over-priced rent on this tiny little flat. Perth is having a house crisis. If I leave here, I don't know where I'll go. I keep contemplating paying the full rent on this place while I'm travelling to my friend's birthday, while I'm poking through Poland and enjoying siestas in Spain, and I just feel tired. There's not enough money to do it, but I don't know how long it would take me to find a new place.

This place had 51 offers for it the day I got it. I got it simply because I was friendly to the people showing it, and I was there first, and made it clear I wanted it. And really, who wants to spend their day showing flats? They gave it to me, took my money (all my money) and now I spend my evenings staring at a wall and wishing it was the weekend.

My job has nice people working at it, but man it's dragging me down so much.

When I was a teenager, I was told "You only write well when you're depressed. I'd hate to see you happy - you'd probably stop writing."

I don't know who this says more about - me or the person who said it.

Lately I find I just cannot write. I cannot write about things that happened on the weekend, things that made me take a thousand photos, because my weeks are such incredible boredom. It's hard to recapture seeing dolphins, sliding down sand dunes, chasing kangaroos through the trees, when I come home from work and all that I see is that I can't afford to even buy more stamps this week.

I asked for more hours. They turned me down. I asked the temp agency for a week off, and then I want another job.

The temp agency agreed. They appreciated that I agreed to stay a week longer than originally planned so they could find enough time to get someone else in, but mostly I did it so I could plan a trip that would sweep the cobwebs out of my mind. I want, so much, to be able to write. To be happy enough to write. To write about all the great things that happen on my weekend, to talk about the chocolate factory and the Swan Valley, to share strange little things about Perth, to talk about convict-built buildings, and the ghoulishness of going on a tour of a prison.

I want to write about the Postcard Bandit, and how quintessentially Australian he seems to me.

And yet... it feels like even in telling that, I'm not telling the whole story. Australia has so many things about it I just can't write about yet.

Everything seems so nice until you look around and notice who isn't in the picture. Who isn't represented. Where the blank spaces are.

I want to write about the blank spaces, but I'm afraid. Who am I, some expat girl from Canada, a country that has its own blank spaces, to talk about it? Who am I to sound at all like I have an answer, that I know what the problem is, that I know how to fix it? Who am I, after all?

I don't think I have the answers, but my continually asking the questions is beginning to bother people. They don't want to talk about it, so they don't want to talk to me. I want this coming week to be over, and I'll sweep the cobwebs out of my head, and maybe then I'll be able to write about travel, write about the blank spaces, write about Australia.

I want to, so much. There are so many things to tell you, so many things to talk about.

Australia is a beautiful country.

I still want to walk into the desert and never come back.

April 1, 2007

Easily Amused

Oh, traloo, traleee! Happy day! I have finally made my oven work!

Stop laughing at me! Ovens in Aus are complicated! They're upside down or something!

Okay, seriously, it's a gas oven, and other than a brief period in my childhood, I've never used one before. I sorted out the stove top pretty quick, but I had such difficulties lighting the actual oven. I was pretty convinced that I was going to accidentally blow up the entire building and that would probably upset most people.

I'm so happy! I will have people over and cook things for them in my sexy new and happy working oven! Yay!

About April 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Anna Overseas in April 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

March 2007 is the previous archive.

May 2007 is the next archive.

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