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As we make our way over another border, our fellow passengers bob their heads in tandem to the swaying, bumping bus. I pretend my head-wobbling is just the same, but really I am quietly and almost, but not quite, dancing in my too-short seat. My knees dig into the back of the poor person ahead of me.
We roll forward past the onslaught of vehicles, the buildings, numerous electrical wires bundled, en masse, above the houses, the shacks, the people. I nurse a headache resulting from a late night out – hours of dancing in the rain.
So much is going on outside my window. As we travel forward, I travel backwards in time through my music. My on-again-off-again, mostly malfunctioning iPod is a saving grace on a six hour bus ride with delays at the border. Actually, the ride is pretty smooth and easily contrasts the horror stories we’ve been heard about local land-travel. We may have lucked out with our particular bus. Consistency of service ain’t much a priority ‘round here…
Shuffle: my favourite way to go. I’m on a little musical journey. Maybe it’s the exhaustion but I’m feeling each song – each one wraps itself up in my soul. Every song holds my hand and walks with me through a multitude of memories. Does everyone remember people when they listen to music?… I think they do. Maybe places, events, eras? Anyway, this is how it is for me. A personal soundtrack, always there in the background…blaring from the sidelines of my life.
He caught me dancing. It’s a story for another time. A memory wrapped up in a song and an instant. It’s whittled itself into my heart and been coaxed out by sleepiness, shuffled songs, too much time to think.
He Caught me dancing. This was one of those pinnacle moments – never forgotten – that changed everything. I smile and as I remember. The moment was encased; dressed up as a laugh and a look, and it’s never been forgotten. And although we make a thousand choices a day, this was one of those big moments disguised as a small one. It’s a good memory.
Theme Song of the Day:
Dust Storm – Seagull
Theme Songs of the Day:
Eyes Wider than Before – Scott Matthews
Else - Built to Spill
So a new adventure…the perfect opportunity to get re-inspired. My short visit home provided a lot of opportunity for visiting friends and re-connecting with the beauty that is the west coast of Canada. Although I continued writing while I was back home, I wasn’t as inclined to share as I have been on the road…everything was too concentrated – to upfront and real….raw; a personal journey that was better left between myself and my word processor.
On that note – I think a pinnacle turning moment for sharing occurred on my stopover in the LA airport. As I sat in one of the only two restaurants in the terminal, taking extra care in reading every available menu item and then ordering very slowly, one thing at a time; an attempt at killing six hours… I naturally began to notice the patrons at the surrounding tables. Airports are a special kind of transit purgatory- it really does take all kinds. I liken the mix of people one finds at airports, to the crowds found in malls as Christmas approaches. Even the strangest and most anti-social people both travel, and give gifts during the holidays. This creates a nice healthy mix of folks and forms the perfect breeding ground for an experiment in sociology.
Anyway, I was enthralled by this man beside me. He looked homeless at first glance, but then the costly watch around his wrist peaks out from his ratty cuff–and his satchel is weathered, but made of good quality leather. He orders a glass of champagne. Just as I’m reminding myself not to judge a book by its cover, I notice him dipping his hands into his satchel. He’s intermittently sneaking goldfish crackers from his duffle bag and scooping tuna from a can into his mouth with his fingers. As he notices me noticing him, he scowls. This is the moment I realize I have entered the realm of professional people-watcher…oh, and also that people in LA are crazy.
So unbeknownst to me, my flight from LA was to stop briefly in Samoa before heading south to Tonga. The first I heard of this was as I strapped myself into my seat and we were heading out onto the runway. My panic was brief but VERY real as the pilot told us the information for our flight to Samoa. My neighbour assured me that the plane continued to Tonga but I couldn’t help feeling as though the communication was a little lacking. I had read about this…that things are a little more relaxed in the South Pacific. My feeling is that the mild chaos is marketed as “laid-back…
Although I’m fairly organized, I let a lot of this go when travelling. I am more content having a broad outline as opposed to too many set plans… this impromptu stop in Samoa allowed me to see another beautiful South Pacific Island, at least briefly, and also allowed for a good laugh.
Never being one who is able to sleep on planes with any regularity, I get that funny over-tired-alternative-reality thing on long haul flights. It was about 5am local time and it was quiet in the one-roomed Samoan airport. Abruptly this man stared to yell and bash the wall. He was yelling into the cafe/bar which was locked and looked closed. …no one could figure out what he was doing, although I wouldn’t blame him if he was just extremely eager to get a coffee. I thought I might just get up and join him – a flat white would have been divine – but just then a dazed looking man suddenly popped up from behind the bar. He gave his head a wild shake and slid open the grate. Within moments he served his first patron, all the while wiping drool from his chin. So this is the laid-back South Pacific. I love it already!
After our touch-down in Tongatapu I was escorted to the pre-paid shuttle that would take me to my guest house. It was warm and sunny. The palms and strikingly beautiful abundance of lush green were enough to wake me up a little. I had made it! I was somewhere completely different than I’d been before. The infrastructure for tourism is hit-and-miss, but everyone is so helpful! As I looked at the throng of locals and visitors at the tiny airport with a dopey grin on my face I realized I had arrived in paradise.
I was quickly brought back to reality as this beautiful young woman called out my name over and over – scanning the crowd with an out-of-place frantic, wide-eyed sense of loss. After a bit of confusion (relaxed-chaos) it was realized she was my shuttle driver…the other van driver was trying to scoop some cash off me by dropping me off but making me pay again. Oh right…the helpfulness may, at times, have ulterior motives. No one is trying to be dishonest, it’s just that, in general, if a Tongan doesn’t understand you he will just answer yes. This is the shuttle to my guest house, it’s paid already? …yes
But never mind, I didn’t mind much at all…between the sleepiness and the happiness, I had my south-pacific-attitude down to an art. I can make a go of ‘laid-back’
This was going to be fun.
Theme Song of the Day:
Night Windows – The Weakerthans
British Columbia is a place that sings loudly to me. I have grown up with the mountains and the ocean and the forests in my backyard – three decades of walking through postcard-quality scenery on a day-to-day basis – and yet it still takes my breath away.
We’ve all heard that one of the great things about going away is how much you appreciate what you’ve got when arriving home again. This has to be true for so many people around the globe. The comfort, familiarity, and routine of home…it’s got its appeal. We derive focus and a sense of direction with this blanket of habit and recognition.
A pattern to smudge over the chaos.
In this part of the world, on the west coast in particular, we are blessed to not only have wild, natural beauty at our doorstep, but the laid-back friendliness of the people that surround us should not be taken for granted. A simple stop in the middle of a busy street (with a slack-jawed look of confusion) warrants a stranger stopping to not only offer assistance… but you know what?…uh, I was headed in that direction already so why don’t I just lead the way and make sure you get to where you’re going?…Want half my muffin?
It’s like living in a Disney movie.
This is not to imply naivety. Not at all. We just have friendliness and it perpetuates itself…one person smiles and then the next. It’s science! As a whole we are educated and alert and maybe we have an underlying confidence that allows us to put ourselves out there. It’s really something.
Where am I going with all of this provincial pride? Well I didn’t actually intend to go on and on about how great we are up here in the Pacific Northwest. I just couldn’t help myself…!
But truth be told, I guess it all comes down to the fact that I’m seeing home in a very different light than ever before. My main component isn’t here anymore. A huge part of the ‘home’ equation has been taken away. My comfort and belonging is emotionally tied up in the life I have been building with one person for ten years. I can still appreciate the qualities of home. I still have that life…it’s just very different now…it’s individual – my observations may be more objective in some regards because of this… or, I don’t know – maybe they’re teetering towards a more subjective nature?
Anyway, I didn’t have too many expectations of coming back. I knew I had to face the paperwork I have been putting off. I have beautiful new babies in my life (all of them boys!) that I have had so much fun visiting. I am honoured to take part in a couple of weddings, some BBQs, and more than a few parties! I get to visit with friends and family and its been fantastic so far.
A few hiccups along the way have threatened the digestive peace that is home. Some of the hiccups are bigger than others, but I know I am strong; I can handle these…I will drink my water upside down and get through the worst of it (by the way – in Oz they stand on their heads and drink water right-side-up to cure hiccups).
I am very aware that as issues arise, the temptation to pull away from all of it gets stronger. I have to be careful not to become too numb or distant when dealing with stressful situations. Sometimes the little things seem unmanageably big and then at others the big things seem so small in comparison to all that I have been through.
Uh…yup….’subjective’ is the clear winner here.
Give me the stress of a lost bus ticket or a language barrier any day – it seems easier than trudging through even the smallest confrontation or mishap at home.
All of this: the good and the bad, it’s all part of life. Things should get easier as time moves forward. For now I am happy to visit ‘home’ and I am looking forward to heading back on the road in only a few short weeks.
Let the adventure continue.
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
After an introduction and a catch up, we head to our hotel… I guess it’s more like little townhouses or maybe condos – something inbetween. A nice little place with a kitchen and a salt-water pool. We chilled for a bit and then headed over to some friends of Stacey and Pete. Although we were all feeling a little drained we managed to find ourselves at a full-moon party. This is a monthly staple at the Base X Backpackers and there are hundereds of people at every party. The thing I couldn’t get over: it WASN”T a full moon. No one seemed to care, but it was hard not to think of the whole thing as a mony-grab. Luckily we had free tickets (thanks Rob) so we didn’t have to think of the swindle as we danced.
Didn’t stay too long there, but I’m glad I got to see what it was all about. It’s actually a full moon tonight, as I write this, and we are heading to a dinner party, so we’ll make sure we toast the moon, in all its glory.
All-in-all we spent three nights and four days on the island. We had planned for less but couldn’t tear ourselves away. Stacey and Pete caught up with friends and I made some new ones. We had managed to come down with colds so we relaxed a lot. Stacey and I had had ours a few days (I couldn’t dive in the Whitsundays because I couldn’t equalize) and Pete was just starting to feel the wrath. We snorkeled and swam and hiked and picnic-ed. On our last night we had a bbq on the beach. Food tastes better outside, that’s a scientific fact.
I think I will try my best to get back to Maggie Island. It’s so laid-back and friendly. After only a couple of days it already felt a bit like home.
Speaking of home, I found out while I was on the island that the boys back home managed to take the cup. The Boozehounds won their division!! You guys rock! I’m so proud of you all and I’m celebrating with you in spirit. I know you guys won the cup for Rusty and he would be so proud – I know he is.
I really miss home, but I know that I would still feel that overwhelming-sense-of-loss if I was back in Victoria - maybe more so, as I would be surrounded by reminders of all that we’ve been through; the life we created. I don’t think anything can fill the gap, but it’s nice to be able to explore and find the good in new places and new people. I’m lucky to have a wonderful community and family to come home to; it would be an entirely different journey without the security of home… I just have to have some time to get used to home without its main component.
Theme Songs of the Day:
Wave of Mutilation (the slow version) - The Pixies, from the album Complete ‘B’ Sides
I Saw Her Standing There - The Beatles, from the album Please Please Me
Liar – Built to Spill, from the album You in Reverse