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June 30, 2007

Watch That First Step, It's a Doozy...

My weekend plans had involved the Indian Ocean and swimming with dolphins, so obviously I found myself in the back of a 4 x 4 minibus full of Japanese students just about to slip over the edge of an extremely steep, extremely white sand dune while an Aussie driver reminded us to "Buckle up - this one's a doozy!"

I'm amazed at how often I suddenly look up and wonder what I was thinking to get myself into these situations.

trust me i'm a professionalI've already written about seeing the Pinnacles - a vast expanse of shifting sand with large rock formations scattered throughout. The sand there was shades of orange, unmoving, making it hard to believe that the large rocks were because the sand had all been blown away hundreds or thousands of years ago. But this area was different. The sand was pure white, the sky a brilliant blue, and the ocean was peaking out from behind the dunes. The wind was so hot and blew the fine sand into everything, including my camera. (The photos here are the last ones I was able to take with it before it broke. Even now, I can't get the other photos off it.) Including my hair.

Oh, my poor hair.

But first, the 4 x 4ing. It's the only time during the trip the driver insisted we had to buckle up, and waivers had to be signed. Then, he drove the bus into this vast expanse of white, and up, up, up the dunes before pausing at the very top of one of them.

"Ooo... we're beginning to slide!" he cried out as teenaged girls squealed and even the boys gripped hard onto their seat belts. I just felt my eyes getting wider and reminded myself that if it wasn't safe they probably wouldn't be doing it.

And then... boom! Down we went, at top speed! Slipping down the hill, watching everything tilt to 45 degrees out the window, and thinking "but if it wasn't dangerous, would they insist upon a waiver?"

I scream loud.

through the windowUp and down the hills, bumping and jumping while the driver laughed and the rest of screamed or whimpered or giggled, and I felt queasy, worried I would throw up from the bumps and leaps into the air the bus was somehow managing to make, until finally we came to a halt at the top of the same tall dune and everyone piled out.

Two things: Sand is very hot in the sun. Sand also turns very very cold when it's in shadows for short periods of time. I'm sure there's a physics lesson in there someplace.

Sandboarding, depending on how you do it, is either like tobogganing or like snowboarding - you either go down sitting on the board or standing on it. Either way, you need to wax the board in order for it to go far, it needs a certain amount of weight or it won't go very fast (and thus won't go very far), and if you scream loud enough, you'll go the farthest.

Near the bottomThe last one might not be as true as the first two, but I certainly found I went very very far as I screamed the whole way down the hill. I know, I like to sound so brave on my trips, but you don't understand - I was going down a hill! In the sand! In the heat! I could have been killed by... um... roving bands of... sand demons... or something....

Don't judge me!

I wasn't the first one down, but I was the first girl who went down, and I totally went the farthest of anyone who did. Which just meant I had the farthest to climb back up the damned hill afterwards.

Two things: Sand is very hot in the sun. And sand is also very hard to climb up.

my poor hairAll in all it was a great time, even if I did ruin my camera and have sand caked so hard onto my skin that it took me almost thirty minutes of scrubbing in the shower to get most of it out - and I still had sand in my hair two days and three showers later. It was a great adventure, one I would happily do again should the opportunity present itself.

But really, if you get the chance - screaming makes you go further. Totally the truth.

{all the photos}

June 27, 2007

MidWinter in Australia, a photo essay, by jo

delicate

Sail Away

Blue

{to save on dialup, the rest are behind the cut, or view the entire set.}

Continue reading "MidWinter in Australia, a photo essay, by jo" »

May 13, 2007

Heading West

It's easy to forget how big Australia actually is. I know, that sounds a bit odd - I'm Canadian, Canada's even bigger (and we have a song about that), but travelling in your home country is different than travelling someplace else. In Canada, I expect everything 'interesting' to be a long ways away, but here? Everything should be like the UK - a daytrip is always possible.

What really brought home for me how big Western Australia (just one state!) actually is wasn't that it took two days of driving to get out to Monkey Mia, but how different everything was by sunset of that second day.

On the first evening, everything was dark as pitch by the time we got to the hostel. We'd made a brief stop to look at some cliffs, but the sun was rapidly setting and there wasn't a lot of time to spend enjoying them. We hurried off to the hostel, leaving behind the crashing waves and looking forward to good food and a long sleep far away from the bus.

Sinking Like A SunsetBut the second evening, though, we'd travelled far enough west to make a different in how late the sun was out. We drove much later, and caught a spectacular sunset over the ocean.

I sat down and looked out over the water, watching the breeze blow through the trees, fluttering the sails on the boats, and thought about how easy it would be to get used to this.

Later, when we got to Monkey Mia, I lay down on the beach and looked up at the stars, and wondered at how easy it is to be overwhelmed by natural beauty. There were dolphins in the water, but I couldn't see them, only hear them, and I couldn't imagine a more peaceful moment in my life.

In many ways, being in Australia has made me very eager to go back and look at Canada and see how differently I view it now. I loved Scotland for castles and crags and men in kilts, but mostly for the ruins and the history behind them. As I've said before, I love Australia because it's beautiful here - from the ocean and the sand to the desert and the wind, so much of Australia is beautiful and overwhelming because of where it is. I keep being caught off-guard for it.

People say to me all the time "Oh, Canada! It's very beautiful there!", and I've always just smiled and nodded. I've loved the Rocky Mountains, but I don't really think about the majority of my country and if it's actually a beautiful place to be. I lament that Canada has so little history, so few ruins that talk about what happened "before", without thinking about how lovely it is to walk through old growth forests or stand on the edge of a crystal clear river. These are, quite frankly, things I grew up with. Things I don't notice.

I've been gone a long time. I'll be in Canada for two weeks this summer, and I wonder how different Alberta will look, now that I've been here.

May 6, 2007

Till Human Voices Wake Us

Shell Beach - From The WaterWhen I was a little girl, my mother always used to tease me all summer long that she couldn't tell what was dirt and what was tan. I spent entire days, from dawn till dusk, outside, running around and playing in the dirt and being rowdy, before puberty and a sudden interest in books turned me into a pasty white girl with a fear of the bright ball of light in the sky.

I was thinking about this as I floated in the Indian Ocean, looking at my feet. They were tanned and dirty and covered in sand, even though I'd been splashing in the water for a while. The dirt from Australia had ground in, and I could barely see the pale lines of where my sandals blocked the sun.

The place I was swimming is called "Shell Beach" for obvious reasons - the entire beach is made of shells, the bottom of the ocean is made of shells, white, brown, purple, all sorts of colours. The water isn't very deep there - I walked far out and it never got above my hips - and it was easy to pick up shell after shell as I floated. I lay back and let my hair drift, and wondered how far the waves and the wind and the sea would pull me away from land, if only I'd let it.

It was so warm, with just enough of a breeze to keep things comfortable. The rest of the tour group had walked back to land, complaining about cold and salty water, while I felt more relaxed than I had the entire trip. I closed my eyes and pretended I couldn't hear them.

I listened for mermaids instead.

I thought about Australia, about the deserts and the oceans and the short trees and red dust everywhere. I thought about how nice it would be to just lie in the water and see how far I could float away. I wondered how long it would take me to get lonely.

Shell Beach - Mermaid HuntingEventually I lifted my head and looked back at the beach. I'd floated quite a ways, I guess. I saw everyone on land beginning to pack up, waving to me to return so we could get back on the hot and cramped bus, get closer to the furthest point west in all of Western Australia.

I put my ears back under the water for just another moment, but I couldn't hear the mermaids singing.

Instead, I slowly started back towards the beach.

Maybe next time.

{photos of shell beach}

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!

March 31, 2007

Blown Away

A couple of weeks ago I was staring at an empty weekend in despair. The dolphin tour was filled up, and I wanted to get out of the city. I wanted to *do* something with this limited time I have in Australia, but I didn't know what.

Australia is a great place to live, it is, but it just seems my life here would be easier to experience if I had a car. Or a driver's license.

I poked around online until I found a tour group that would be doing something on Sunday, and signed up as quickly as I could. I didn't care what it was, I was just going to go out and do stuff and have fun, and damn the consequences.

"Stuff" turned out to be going to see the Pinnacles, checking out some beaches, going 4X4ing in the desert, seeing koalas and kangaroos in something approaching their natural habitat, and finishing off with sandboarding. Sandboarding! Like snowboarding, but entirely different! The whole thing sounded like exactly the sort of adventure I'd moved to Aus to experience. I gave them my credit card number and remembered to pack lots of water. And sun screen. And my camera.

Oh, my poor camera.

My camera started out the day in a bad mood and ended the day in an even worse mood, so if my photos seem odd, that's why. Cameras, as you may not know, do not like sandboarding.

Go Away, It's time for sleepingBut first, the tour. I once again got that marvellous disconnect of being the only white person (other than the tour guide) on the trip, everyone else being from various places in Japan. (This happens a lot on trips in Australia, apparently.) I feel kinda bad for being amused by hearing kangaroos described as "kawaii!" by the two school girls behind me, having previously only heard the word used to describe characters on Sailor Moon.

But kangaroos really are cute! And tasty! Mmm... kangaroo.

Kangaroos, I have learned, come in two sizes: Wee (as they are in Western Aus) and Really Really Big. They are also considered pests here by farmers, and are regularly shot and then eaten. I have no idea if there's a kangaroo hunting season. I do know I have to remember to buy some kangaroo meat next time I'm in the store, because them's good eatin'. Even if they are terribly cute.

Anyway, at way too early in the morning we headed out to a place where you can walk amongst the trees and check out koalas. It was great - you could just barely see koalas curled up in their trees, deeply wanting everyone to go away so they could continue to sleep. I was told that koalas spend most of their days drowsing, and tend to be stoned. The infamous "drop bears" are just koalas that got stoned and forgot to hold on.

Hey, I don't make up the stories, I just repeat them.

After checking out the koalas and the wee kangaroos, we got back on the bus and proceeded to drive through the Aussie countryside. And drive. And drive. And then drive some more. Something I wasn't really prepared for when moving here, even after growing up in Canada, was how long it takes to get anywhere outside of the cities. I got kinda used to Scotland, where "getting there" is usually a short trip and you can be home by lunch time. It took quite a while to get out to the Pinnacles, and along the way we saw Emus, and Windmills (that came with Emus), and a Wind farm, and lots and lots and lots of countryside.

I may have fallen asleep.

But! We were on our way to an adventure! To the Pinnacles! That sounded exciting!

These are the things I know about the Pinnacles: They're a natural rock formation that's caused by... limestone being blown away? Sand? Something? I don't know. We have something a bit similar in Canada called Hoo Doos. I have to admit, although I love looking at natural rock phenomena, I just don't know a lot about them. They look cool.

Basically, they didn't used to be a tourist attraction at all, since they're just a bunch of nifty looking pillars of rock in the middle of a desert. The area is considered cursed by the Aboriginal people. This is it, this is all I know. I wish they'd told us why it's considered cursed, what the story behind it is. None of my digging around on the internet has told me anything about it. I can only imagine.

The PinnaclesThey are, however, very nifty looking pillars of rock. (I really like this photo, mostly because of the background. Gives you a bit of an idea of what you're looking at.) We got to walk amongst them, and I took off my sandals and let the sand rush over my feet. It was windy, and I had trouble keeping my hat on. I chased it through the sand three or four times, I think, dodging limestone pillars and attempting to keep my balance. Even though there were other people with me, the whole experience was a bit eerie. I described it in a postcard as "feeling surrounded by an army that had turned into stone, worn away by centuries of wind and no rain." For all that I don't know the story, I can suspect why the area is considered cursed.

The sand there is a very odd colour, and I knew when I looked back that my footprints wouldn't last long. There would be nothing left to say I'd ever been there at all.

I think that's the thing about Australia, that makes it so different than anywhere else I've travelled to. Rome and Paris and Scotland and China have all been about looking at the marks that people leave behind - castles and temples and statues. But Australia, as I keep saying, seems to be about nature, and the way we as people don't seem to matter much to it. The Pinnacles are there. They don't care about my footprints or my hat or my words. They just exist, and to them, I'm nothing but something to blow away with with the wind.

With the Warm Wind In My Hair

We ended up next at a beach where the water was many shades of blue and just watched the tide come in. The tour guide looked at me and smiled.

"This is my typical day at the office."

When I tell you my heart is lost to this country, remember that. To some, a typical day at the office is staring at every shade of blue.

I have lots more to write, as the trip was outstanding. I have 92 more photos to shuffle through and attempt to find the best of. I have a camera to be sad about.

For now, check out the current batch of photos, and I'll tell you about the beach, and the sandboarding, and the way my camera was destroyed soon.

March 25, 2007

Anna in the Chocolate Factory

This conversation may be slightly fictionalised.

I stood in a room full of chocolate and frantically pressed buttons on my phone until someone picked up.

Samples of Chocolate"He--llo?"

"Don, it's me."

"What? It's 4 in the morning, what are you doing calling? Is something wrong?"

"No, well... yes. Something's wrong. I need your help!"

"What help do you need? Did something bad happen with Amy? Was there an accident? Are you okay?"

"Yes, yes, I'm fine, but I need help. Don, I'm in the middle of a chocolate factory."

*silence*

"Don, are you there?"

"You called me at four in the morning to tell me you're in the middle of a chocolate factory?"

"No, I called you at four in the afternoon. It's not my fault you live in Canada. Now, you have to help me, this is a chocolate situation that I just don't know how to deal with."

"You called me at four in the morning to tell me you're in a chocolate situation."

Bags of Chocolate"Yes! Yes, it's four in the morning in Canadia, I acknowledge this, but c'mon, I'm in a chocolate factory and it's full of chocolate! And there's chocolate everywhere, and there's samples of chocolate and chocolate being made right over there by incredibly gorgeous and sexy people and there's all this chocolate and I'm going to go insane with love for chocolate and look, see, people are making chocolate right over there and I don't know what to do!"

"Anna. It's four in the morning. I don't care what you do. Buy yourself some chocolate. Let me get off the phone and go back to sleep."

"Really? I can buy chocolate?"

"You can buy all the chocolate you want. I'm going to bed now."

Boxes of Chocolate"But-- but-- you have to help me pick out which chocolate to buy! You don't understand! There's bags and boxes and bottles of chocolate right here in front of me! Don! Help!"

"I'm hanging up now. I'll talk to you later. Enjoy the chocolate and the eye candy."

And then he hung up on me!

And this is why I came home from the chocolate factory without any chocolate. It's all Don's fault.

{Photos of the Chocolate Factory}

March 18, 2007

Dolphins & Swimming & Sunburns

Look Out!If I ever decide to put up a singles ad, this is totally the photo I should use!

I have been looking forward to swimming with dolpins since well before I made it to Australia's over-heated shores. Every weekend I've planned on doing it, and then every weekend something else has come up. But this weekend was finally the day: I woke up way too early after way too little sleep, and headed out to catch the bus to Rockingham and swim with real live wild dolphins!

The trip out was great - the group I went with (Rockingham Dolphins) does a great intro to the whole thing on the bus ride out. They talked quite up front about how hard it can be to actually see dolphins in the wild - it's not as though they keep an updated calendar about where they'll be, and trips have taken as long as 5 1/2 hour before anyone saw any dolphins in the water. Nothing at all can be guaranteed.

They also gave great little facts about dolphins - apparently baby dolphins don't realise they have blow holes right away, and for a while keep surfacing to breath with their mouth (awww... so cute!). Also, apparently when mating (and they have no mating season - dolphins are always up for it), they take on a pinkish hue. I have no idea how obvious this pinkish hue is, but hey - I like the image of happy excited little dolphins playing in shades of pink. I'm strange that way.

Once we got out to Rockingham, we all started to congragate on the boat and get into our uber-sexy wet suits. "Swimming" with dolphins is really snorkling with dolphins, which really makes a lot more sense. As much as the image in my head of little dolphins happily frolicking and playing amongst the people, rubbing up against them and playing little games of tag appeals, the truth of the matter is that dolphins "are wild animals and as such behave in unpredicatable ways". (They had that sign up at AUC regarding the swans. It always makes me giggle.) Basically, dolphins will bite you if they don't like you.

So, we suited up, and proceeded to drive around the bay at Rockingham, looking for dolphins. It took a while (no where near five hours, though!), but I can definitely think of worse ways of spending my morning than sitting on a boat watching the water and the waves, looking for dolphins while seeing all sorts of birds I'm unfamiliar with.

But eventually we found dolphins! I was so excited (and I have a video clip of me jumping up and down about the whole thing), but a bit scared. The people running the tour suggested I come right up front and hold on to one of them while we snorkled around, in case something went wrong. Which was a really really good idea.

Because... guess who found out she panics when snorkling?

I've been in the water before, I've been in the ocean before, but I completely freaked out at the idea of snorkling and putting my head in the water and trying to breathe at all. I started frantically trying to keep myself afloat (not difficult, being that the suits keep you floating) and crying and sobbing and begging them to please please please get me out of the water please I am going to drown and die and there will be badness and god I don't want to die in the middle of the ocean please get me out of there now please.

They very quickly and calmly and politely got me out of the water and back onto the boat, where I proceeded to huddle in a corner and hyperventilate for a while, sobbing and crying and generally freaking out for at least two or three minutes.

A very nice woman who has been on the tour three times now (Hi Wendy!) sat with me for a few minutes and got me to breathe and got me some water. Then, she kindly held onto my glasses as I got myself back into the snorkle gear and went back into the water.

Scariest thing I've ever done. I was convinced I'd go back in and panic again and be so embarassed for the rest of my life that I had done that. I was so scared, and yet... went back in.

I'd love to say that the next time everything went fine, but it took me at least three or four times in the water before I could just relax and float and breathe through the snorkle. For the first few times I kept pulling me head out of the water and breathing that way. But eventually I relaxed.

Being in the water like that, even being unable to see very far... it's amazing. It's like there's nothing anymore except the water. It's like... like... I don't know. It's as close to being in paradise as I think I ever want to be. Nothing else seemed to matter except the water and the coolness and the way sounds pass. It's like floating forever, and time just seemed to stop for me once I could relax and enjoy it.

Because of how bad my vision is, I know I saw less dolphins than the other people did, but I did get to see quite a few out there. I remember seeing these two dolphins swimming side by side through the water, doing something that looked so graceful and acrobatic. They seemed so close... I wanted to reach out and touch them, I wanted to follow them. Watching dolphins swim underneath you is so... well, it's amazing. I'm sorry I lack the words for it. It was everything I wanted it to be. This was such an experience, and if you get the chance to do it, I recommend you do.

I didn't get as many pictures as I wanted, even with my sexy new camera, because I was soaking wet a lot of the time and didn't want to touch it. As well, as per my usual reaction to being on a boat, I felt sea sick a lot. (I didn't actually throw up, and yay on that.) I didn't really want to move much. But I did get a few photos of the tour itself, and some lovely pics of the beach out at Rockingham. There is, sadly, only one photo of a dolphin. But really - photos wouldn't have done it justice anyway.

I'm Sailing Away

Some time in the next few months I'll head out again and go actual SCUBA diving. I can't wait.

Sound Advice

I have been stretching myself so thin in this country that it's a miracle I'm not entirely flattened.

Or maybe I am. It's certainly one way of explaining everything!

Today, because I am low on cash, I decided to just stay in and realised that, including the day that I called in sick to work due to the excessive heat, this is only the second day since coming to Aus where I haven't been doing something. Usually lots of somethings.

Every weekend I've been doing things that leave me at least a shade of pink, if not red. Every day I go to my job, and come home every evening and try and support friends scattered around the world who are having various problems and need help and advice, or just someone to talk to who isn't involved. I don't begrudge it at all, but I'm typically up very late at night, and dragging myself out of bed in the morning to start the whole thing over again. It's a bit insane.

Couple with the fact that my current workplace is making me want to cry I'm so bored, I find it harder and harder to spend any time just relaxing at home. I don't want to relax! Relaxing is boring, and work is boring, and too much boring in my life and I'll go nuts!

Or so I keep telling myself, as I slather more aloe on my face.

I'm really having an outstanding time, but I think having spent today just napping, tidying things up a bit, and not doing anything has been great. If nothing else, it means I've been able to write something about what I've been doing. And update my photos up on flickr.

I did get a new camera, and it loves me, and I love it, and we're happy. It's champagne coloured. I don't know what that means - it looks silver to me, but that's what they tell me. I used it to take a few photos (not nearly enough, but that story will be up in the next few hours) of the dolphin swimming I did this weekend.

I'm having a wonderful time, but man, I need to sleep some more before I make myself really really sick.

March 12, 2007

My Heart is Lost To You

I was not expecting to fall in love with Australia. My heart and soul is supposed to belong to Edinburgh, and Scotland, with its beautiful ruins and its churches and its parks and its strange language of slang and its people. I fell so deeply in love with Edinburgh that it didn’t occur to me that I might be able to love anywhere else as much.

But Australia, being so different, has captured my heart all over again. I’ve fallen in love with beaches of pristine white sand and water an entirely different and indescribable shade of blue, with all the things you can find under the water, with the desert and its emptiness, with 4X4ing and sandboarding off dunes, with strange rock formations and trees that go up to the sky and back.

It’s hurting my head a lot, this amazingly beautiful country. I’ve never loved a place just because it was beautiful in and of itself. I loved Scotland because it had ruins, as I said, and the fact that the Highlands and Skye were so lovely was merely an added bonus, but with Australia, it’s the mountains and the water and the deserts and the sand… that there are buildings here to look at often slips my mind entirely.

(I wish it wouldn’t quite so often. My face is sunburned almost constantly. If I spent my weekends touring convict-built buildings, that might stop happening.)

It’s like getting used to a new lover. South is where you go to get colder, and north is hotter, and this confuses me. Orion is in the sky, but the rest of the stars make me dizzy as I try and find the ones I remember. I’ve found the Southern Cross, but I don’t think I could find it again. It’s not where I think it should be. Exotic birds are shot here because they’re pests. I’m trying to sort out that I live in a place where parrots aren’t kept in cages, but just fly around everywhere. I know exotic birds come from somewhere but that I live in that somewhere is hurting my head.

The guide on the last tour I went on talked about “roo shooting”, which he does a lot on his farm. They’re all over the place, here, and I guess can be quite the annoyance.

Tasty little things, too.

This weekend I took a tour that brought me through parts of the desert, and I could understand the desire to just walk into it someday with whatever you were carrying and live out there. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, and it would be so easy to just disappear into it.

I would probably miss air conditioning.

{There are some photos but I seem to have damaged my camera by foolishly taking it into the desert. Will keep you posted.}

February 26, 2007

Tales of a Tomato

I really want to write a lengthy post about what a great weekend I had. I mean, I *had* a great weekend. It involved ferries and swimming and beaches and ship wrecks and fish (fish! lots of fish!) and buying a sexy-cool hat that will look kick-ass with my sexy-cool jackey and sexy-cool boots, and seeing an eagle-ray and a glass bottomed boat and great things!

But at the moment the heat-stroke is making me forget what a great time I had.

As is the sea-sickness. Ugg.

Anyway, I came home from the best day ever to a face as red as a tomato and feeling a bit disorientated and very dizzy, like my flat thought it was on the ocean or something. I cleverly started rehydrating as quickly as possible and curled up in the shower, trying to bring down my temperature a bit.

I woke up this morning feeling a bit better, but still a bit woozy from being silly and forgetful. I'm so annoyed - I had put on sunscreen! I had a hat! I bought water! Why wasn't it enough?

Well, maybe because I'm not used to 40s that indicate above zero as opposed to below.

Ah well. It was still the greatest weekend, and I will write about it and show the pics, as soon as my body remembers that it's no longer on a boat.

But the glass bottomed boat was so cool hot nifty!

The pics look good, too.

February 20, 2007

Anna’z Zany Zoo Adventurez!

LunchThe plan was very simple: Go on the ferry (yay!) to South Perth. Do not go to the Zoo, gosh darn it. I didn’t want to go to the Zoo because I didn’t have a lot of money (having no bank card yet) and figured the South Perth suburb would be interesting enough all on its own, at least for a nice Saturday afternoon.

Which, it would have been, but the Zoo is almost right on top of you when you get off the Ferry, and it occurred to me that I had purchased nothing cunning and nifty to send back to people in Edinburgh, to make them jealous of my madcap adventures in Australia (you know, the ones that have barely started, unless you count hostel living. Which is a rant for a whole other day. It involves cockroaches.) A lot of the shops that I’ve been in so far are *incredibly* touristy, and I was hoping for something with a bit more substance to it.

Pink Flowers [Also, picture this for a moment: I'm wandering aroud South Perth and I'm going all dreamy and wide-eyed because there are flowers everywhere and it is *simultaneously* February. This does not happen in my world. I spend half my morning squeeing over flowers and taking pictures of them and being incredibly touristy and excited over this idea. I resolved at one point that if anyone asked I'd tell them I'd recently been released from the hospital after a tragic accident involving a giraffe. Or that I was American. Which they might have assumed anyway.]

So, I passed the Zoo shop. And I thought “Hey! Zoo shop! That will have nifty things in it!”

And it did – lots of nifty things! Things involving… kangaroos! And it occurred to me, since I was there anyway, that there would probably *be* kangaroos in the zoo! And koalas! And snakes! And other cool and nifty animals that I had never seen! And how could I be in the Zoo shop and not go and see a real kangaroo!

So, I scrounged around in my pockets and went through the Zoo. There were kangaroos and lions and rhinos and koalas and crocodiles and big scary snakes that could eat a person, and little tiny birds, and I got attacked by a pine cone! (It was a vicious and evil pine cone that just dropped very heavily out of the sky. It hurt! Feel sorry for me! I don’t care that there were warning signs about the pine cones, it doesn’t count!)

(Also, Oz pinecones are *nothing* like North American pine cones. Not only are they evil and attack people, they also are big and green and heavy. North American ones are small and brown and are typically very light.)

The Lion Sleeps Today Green Future Politican Not Actually An Ex Now He Ded From Cute


I had *such* a good time at the Zoo that, on my way out, I bought a Zoo membership!

They told me I have the only adult membership card where the ID photo shows someone sticking out their tongue and making faces.

And that was my Zany Zoo Adventure of not going to the Zoo, gosh darn it.

(It’s a great pass, though – my tongue looks blue! And I get free entrance to the Zoo to see the elephants and the birds and the quokkas or whatever they are, and I get a newsletter, and I get other stuff, and it’s great fun because hey! Zoo!)

{More Zoo Photos}

February 11, 2007

Observations on Australia after only two weeks, a list, by jo

Observations on Australia after only Two Weeks, a list, by jo

Palm Trees Everywhere!1. Oh My God It's Hot. It's hit low 40 Celcius here several times since I got off the plane. (That's *PLUS* 40. I can handle minus 40.) I may die.

2. They don't give out free sunscreen at the airport like they totally should.

3. Phone numbers have eight digits! How do phone numbers have eight digits? It hurts my head - phone numbers should totally have seven digits!

4. For whatever reason, coffee here isn't as good as coffee in Edinburgh - but the hot chocolate is better. Please don't ask why I was drinking hot chocolate in this heat, because I don't know. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

5. There are flowers! In February! They're so beautiful!

6. They don't have pennies! How am I supposed to save my pennies if they don't have pennies? And why did no one tell me there were no pennies here?

7. Lots of places have air conditioning. I love these places. I shop in them just because they're there. They have signs that say "Air Conditioning - Come On In!" So friendly!

Sunday Afternoons8. The City of Perth seems to shut down at an incredibly early time. I thought Edinburgh did, too. I was told Edinburgh shut down because people would protest at having to work late when they could be out drinking. Apparently Perth shuts down because people want to be out surfing. I can understand this.

9. Speaking of surfing, they have plastic money! Lots of it! I refuse to believe it's for any reason other than that they're too lazy to take their money out of their pockets before tossing things in the wash, but Jezz says it's because of surfing. Jezz is so boring and practical sometimes.

10. Palm Trees! Palm trees everywhere!

11. On Sundays in Perth, you can go down to Forrest Square and they let people stand up and rant. They have police officers there and everything. It's like...like... college!

12. There's a duck crossing sign near my flat - I can hear the ducks right now, and at night, I can hear crickets!

Having a wonderful time!

February 7, 2007

New Adventures

When I got out of the airport in Perth, the sky was an intense shade of blue, deeper than anything I've ever seen, and the heat was so opressive I almost fell down. I stared around at everything, blinking like an owl out inthe sun, trying to sort out how I had gone from cold temperatures to warm, how everything felt upside down, and tried to sort out how to get myself and everything I own into a cab.

I remember staring out the cab window and being confused at the colour of the dirt, and then realising it was sand.

"Ah, yes," said the cabbie, who told me later he was from Eastern Europe. "Everything in Perth is covered in sand. The whole city is built on sand!"

It's interesting, because sand gets into everything, everwhere, and I still haven't made it to the actual beach. So far I've gotten as far as the ferry terminal on a Saturday afternoon and no place else. But in my defense, I got to Perth on a Saturday and had a job on Monday and a flat the following week, and everything has been busy, busy, busy, trying to get myself together. It's been hard to write about this adventure, mostly because the adventure hasn't given me any breathing room yet.

I'm told Perth is the third windiest city in the world, and every wind here seems to have a name. There's the Freemantle Doctor which blows in, all cool and sweet, during the afternoons, and the Easterlies which come in off the whole of Australia, carrying all that heat with them and batter against the windows of my tiny flat as though they want to blow me back to Scotland.

I've been here since the day after Australia Day, and everything still has this dreamlike quality to it. I keep waiting to wake up, to find out that I'm back in Scotland, or back in Canada, or someplace else, because this has just seemed so off from all of my other moves. I've barely explored the city, but I've gotten many comments on my "strong Canadian accent". I hear it's "cute". (I've never been told I have a Canadian accent by people before, except Americans when traveling in the US, and that doesn't count.)

Every other store has a large sign alerting people that it has air conditioning (and it's on!), the buses in the city are free (and have air conditioning), and the stores all close at, to me, ridiculously early times. Parts of this already seem like old hat.

The major street near my flat has a "Duck Crossing" sign on it. The sky is a perfect shade of blue, and on Saturday I'm going down to the beach to do nothing except hunt for mermaids.

Sand, eveywhere it's blowing sand, instead of snow.

And it's February.

About Australia

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Anna Overseas in the Australia category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

a list, by jo is the previous category.

Carnival is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.