365 Days out of England

Today marks an entire year that I’ve been out of the UK.

A year always seems like a short time when you think about THIS day all that time ago, but it’s not until you look back at all the things you’ve done and all the places that you’ve been that you realise just how long a year is.

Ever since I made the decision to come home I’ve been thinking about the things that I’ve accomplished, not so much the things that I’ve done. Whilst I was in Melbourne, staying in the hostel especially – I met so many people who had done so many things whilst on their travels, and their stay in Melbourne had been so short because they were always on the move.

I can’t say that I moved so much – but in that, I learnt something about myself. I’ve learnt so many things about myself that I refuse to forget. Not that it’s over yet. I’ve still got another two months and a handful of days before I end up back in a place that I’ve come to call home. I have no idea how long I’ll be there, all I know is that I have a lot of things that I am ¬†looking forward to, a lot of decisions to make and a lot of self-healing to finally allow myself to get, for myself.

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When peas descend.

Hi everyone!

I wish that I could explain what it is that’s made me feel so very different from how I have been the last few weeks but today feels like an incredible successful day when actually I haven’t done much of anything. Which isn’t true, and I recognise that right away but I felt like it needed mentioning.

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 19.00.14Anyway! Today I’m going to babble at you about life at my Mum’s house in Alaska.

Cold Bay’s population fluctuates through the seasons, but is about 100.

When I visited last October the weather was not awesome. When you visit a place called ‘Cold Bay’ the clue is pretty much in the name as far as temperature goes. As part of the Alaskan Peninsula, Cold Bay is the last real ‘stop’ before the Aleutian Islands.

Whilst I was there, all of my Geography ‘nerdism’ was pinged. There’s an active volcano across the bay from my Mum called Mount Pavlof. I’ll never forget when she casually took a photo of the volcano and posted it on Facebook. It’s not until you actually get there and see the distance, (or google it!!) that you realise just how much water there is across the bay that separates Cold Bay from the volcano.

Mount Pavlof

Whilst I was there it was inactive, but I still managed to see and do plenty despite staying during a quiet period of time. The bears were already making themselves scarce, as I would have done too were I exposed to the elements. I’ve never been anywhere SO cold before, but it’s mostly the wind that does the most damage.

Despite our rather frequently hunts for bears, I didn’t see any, but there were plenty of foxes and birds that were interesting enough to watch from the ‘relative’ comfort of my Mum’s home. They really know how to insulate up there.

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I did go fishing though! I’d been once before, on board a catamaran-style blow up boat. In the middle of a lake in August in Washington State somewhere that he’d taken us before. I didn’t catch a single thing, but I imagine that had more to do with my impatience and the fact that I couldn’t just sit still on the water.

it's not swan lake

Fishing off a dock in the middle of the bay was a very different experience. Different in the most obvious sense that the water was open, there were no disruptions on the surface, I had bait on the end of my line AND the expert advice of a seasoned fisher at my side.

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The easiest part of fishing this time was catching something. The difficulty arose when you attempted to bring whatever it is you caught OUT of the water. It takes a lot of courage (this is me talking) to climb down a ladder over the edge of a high dock, centimetres above water you know is FREEZING COLD to snag a Flounder and haul it back up the ladder. My step dad did this at least 3 times. Whenever something got loose off my line I think he was secretly grateful. Besides the huge flounder that we caught, some Irish Lord, and a bunch of seaweed!

The dog helped.

The best part of my trip was probably the views. I loved them. We would often go out for a drive in the truck and even if we didn’t come across anything that we thought was particularly ‘interesting’ I loved nothing better than to give thought to exactly where I was, out on the peninsula, in the middle of nowhere in a place that was relatively untouched by humans. (When you decide to forget about everything that happened there in World War II – but I think the point is the same.)

¬†I will definitely be visiting again, hopefully before my Mum & Step-Dad move away from Cold Bay, and again – I’m hoping that it will be during the Summer months when I can actually get out and do things more suited to a place like this when there are things to see and do in abundance.

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It’s been a while…

This post has been a long time coming, but I’ve tagged it as the 16th January as that’s the date I arrived.

It would be impossible for me to properly write about how much has happened since I’ve been here and how the job I’ve taken on as an au pair has changed my life.

I currently have four children in my care, and spend most of my life up in the house here in Timor. It’s beautiful, and I love it – but I spend a lot of time thinking.

Thinking is something I do in excess. It happens without me having to think about thinking about something. I’ve realised I stress too much over the smallest things and really need to keep learning how to ‘let it go’.

I also think I ought never to take another job as an au pair! As much as I’ve loved the experience, and absolutely adore and love the children I’ve come to know so well – this is not the right place for me. At least I can cross something off my potential jobs list. I have discovered a love of ironing, but only when there are no children about to demand they ‘help’ you.

I’ve learnt that I am partially in control of my moods. I can choose to be mean, and say no to a bunch of stuff, or I can be really nice and negotiate and have an awesome time. Unsurprisingly, children don’t like being told no. It’s been a fair few months and I’m still learning. Trying to undo whatever institutionalised thinking I’ve become used to and adopt a more open mind to things.

Soon, I will update about how awesome this place is, the landscape and the scenery and the lifestyle.

Today is not that day.

On the move

I have been absolutely terrible at updating this thing, but after a few weeks of inaction, and not even typing up any blog posts on my iPad or anything I’ve decided to write up an entry whilst I’m here in Brisbane.

Melbourne was hot, but usually it was just the kind of heat that you can get used to really quickly? Hot, dry heat that makes you feel like your skin is burning when you’re outside but then the moment you go somewhere cool it takes a couple of minutes to chill out again.

Here? Okay, here the heat is that awful humid heat that kinda just sticks with you FOREVER. All day yesterday I felt like I was melting and that was not an awesome thing. :(

Despite the weather, my last two days here(ish) have been awesome! I’ve met so many people that I love, and it’s been even more awesome to get to know them in person. I’m totally sticking a bunch of ridiculous photos we took up on here.

We had pancakes at this place called Pancake Manor and I thought it was pretty amusing because it was in some ‘old’ church with fancy tables and pews, which was cool. Then we all went for a walk around Brisbane and talked about the ancient architecture in the city that dated back to the late 900’s. (rofl)

Anyway! We hung out until like 10pm, and now I’m sat here listening to Katamari music and Shia LaBeouf.

Finally there.

I’ve been here for just over two weeks now, and it feels like months.

Very fortunately I have a fantastic friend whose parents have been amazing enough to let me take over their spare room.

Melbourne is pretty awesome, and so much has happened that I’m pretty sure I’m going to forget everything in this entry but I wanted to really quickly write up something before the turn of the year!

Finally being here is strange. It’s still really difficult to get my head around the fact that I am quite literally on the other side of the world. I tried to get the water in the sink to swirl so I could see which way it drained but the plug had a slightly raised bit so the water just sort of got sucked through that instead of making a swirly thing.

The biggest, most exciting thing that’s happened so far was meeting my awesome friend Aaron for the first time. It was the most nerve wracking thing, but mostly because I could hardly believe it was actually happening.

After 12 years of knowing each other, and promising I would visit some day, working on a concept for a set of novels together for this long and being in different timezones when suddenly we were both hard working people of the world – there was always that thought that it probably wouldn’t happen.

It was my first full day in Australia, so naturally I had heaps of things to do. Open a bank account, get a mobile phone sim, post some things back home, try and file for medicare. I managed two things before I realised that it was almost 3pm. I didn’t have a way to contact Aaron to tell him where I would be and I didn’t actually know where he worked.

The mad dash was on. First I found somewhere to steal internet from. Thank you, CommBank. Message Aaron on Facebook, find out where to get a mobile phone from.

With only 5 minutes to go I barely managed to explain to the store clerk that I needed a sim only plan, and that the problem was I meeting a friend and I could barely contain myself. As soon as I had a signal, I called and he told me to wait just outside the shop, he knew where I was.

I don’t think I have ever been filled with so many emotions at once, excitement, happiness, fear, anxiety. What if he didn’t look like I thought he would, or what if he thought I was weird, and what if we didn’t get along as well as we always had. Every single person that came round the corner from Optus got a glare because oh my god is it hi– no, damnit where is he? I’m pretty sure people were slightly worried about my health, and I was helpfully informed that the sound I made was akin to a squeak when we finally met.

Needless to say, I won’t forget that in a hurry. I had nothing to worry about. We chatted on the Yarra banks, looked at some geeky shops, had food and went our separate ways. Was awesome.

Thoughts are a funny old thing.

Mostly just trying to get my head around the fact that this is the kind of life I’m going to be living for a while… It’s a little daunting to be honest. It’s expensive here, and I’m not really sure how much longer my money is going to last me. I think I need to stay in places where I can relax more often. There’s the website with the homes that need looking after that I might just have to utilise as much as possible.

Then I just need to work out some kind of diet, because I seriously need to fix my eating habits, and like… yesterday. I had pizza today, and it was delicious but it was just so easy to go there and just buy it without a second thought to what I was eating. :\

Think that I’ve made quite a lot of progress on the novel front – but the more I start thinking about plans for it, the more I feel like I need to buy a notebook or something, and then I start wondering if I really need that at all, too… I left some clothes at the hotel I’d stayed in for the first three days here, so I’m trekking across Waikiki to get them, which wouldn’t be such a big deal if it wasn’t boiling hot. I’m not actually sure what the temperature is at the moment, but… it’s hot.

Gonna try and keep to the shade as much as possible, and maybe try to find somewhere that isn’t so costly to sit and write. I could probably sit in the common area of the hostel, but it’s not so open… I like being able to people watch, but not people I’m potentially sleeping in the same room as. Last night was more than a little frustrating ’cause someone in the room was snoring and I thought it was the guy on the top bunk of my bed but then he was still ‘asleep’ at like 11am… not that he can’t it was just a bit of a surprise.

I probably ought to start trying to compile a list of easy to make foods that are healthy. Although I know that just means I probably need to start eating vegetables or something.

Are you going…

When I was woken up by the rain in the middle of the night, my first thought was about the time. I’d already set two alarms for 5am in the hopes that I would definitely be awake in time to get to the airport for the next stop. My second thought was that I was glad I’d booked a shuttle to the airport because there was no way I was going to walk anywhere in this kind of weather.

The hotel that I’m staying in is, I think, an old Victorian house, up in ‘Pacific Heights’. The rooms go round the house in a square, and there’s a big old gap right in the middle. I’d love to find out why the houses were designed like that, but I guess it’s perfect for somewhere like a hotel where all the rooms have to have a window (?). There’s one, that looks out onto a rocked conservatory type area which is accessible through patio doors around the other side of the walls.

What it does mean is that when it rains so hard even the locals are coming out to look, there’s a hell of a noise. I never said waking me up wasn’t one of the easiest things to accomplish, but for a moment, as I left whatever I was dreaming about (because now I’m thinking about it, I know I was dreaming about something), I’m sure there were some crazy thoughts about what I thought was actually happening. Having been on a boat across the bay to Alcatraz earlier in the day I wouldn’t be surprised if it involved some kind of escape or drama.

So it’s 3am, and I can hear the rain and the next thing I want to do is see it. I already know from the other morning that trying to get a look at the weather from my little window in the middle of the building is a pointless exercise so it stands to reason that the next best thing is to go downstairs and observe it on street level.

The place is called Pacific Heights for a reason, and the hotel was (much to my dismay on arrival) pretty much right at the top of a hill. Of course it means well for the hotel and the residents nearby, doesn’t it because the chance of flooding is that much lower? So, I decide to sit in the lobby downstairs for a bit, in my pyjamas of course. I’d hoped briefly on the way down that the young lady who I’d greeted as I arrived back this evening wouldn’t be there on account of being one of the least welcoming people I’ve ever known to work in a position that usually has such a reputation for being a key point of customer service. Whatever she was doing on her laptop was probably more important that responding to my ‘thanks’ for the cup of hot chocolate I’d just used the coffee machine to make. I guess, perhaps, it doesn’t make much sense for me to be thanking her for something a machine did?

Nope, instead it was a guy who I’m pretty sure was either asleep, or so focused on his phone or something that he didn’t even look up when I moved a chair to get a better look outside.

Surprise, surprise. Rain in San Francisco looks much the same as rain anywhere else I’ve been. It wasn’t comparable to Hurricane Faye, nor did it quite reach the intensity of the rain I’d seen in Cold Bay a few weeks before – but still, it was rain, it was heavy, it was enough to draw out a resident or two across the street and I watched it. I love rain, I love weather. I briefly wondered if my plane might be delayed because of it, and then I wondered what was happening at the other end of the huge hill I’m on.

Only yesterday I’d been watching a news feature about people across the bay adopting storm drains locally and taking time out of their lives to clear them in the hopes that when the rains come they will be prepared, not only for floods, but to keep the rain that’s falling. Drought for me has always been signified by hose pipe bans, and I remember walking past people’s homes sometimes, and seeing their sprinklers on and thinking ‘you just don’t care do you’, but apparently here, despite the fact that they’re considering increasing prices and borrowing water from other counties, banning the use of water for gardens and plants is still something they’re considering? I guess in this kind of climate it’s a bit different? Don’t water your plants for two or three days and everything dies?

It was the flow of water that was still on my mind though, and like a ton of bricks I remembered the countless homeless people I’d walked past when I arrived here. The new homeless shelter that had opened with more beds the other night, the people who were being evicted from a homeless encampment.

Being in San Francisco really opens your eyes to the huge divide between rich and poor. Union Square boasts the biggest designer shops you can imagine, huge shops – with massive displays on one street, and then you turn onto market and there’s no hiding from the poverty that lines it. Perhaps I have been naive in the past, but it was alarming to see so many people without a roof over their heads. Whether the shelters perhaps don’t open until later on in the evening, or maybe the opportunity to gather some money isn’t missed during those hours when people are still out eating and drinking.

I’m aware that San Francisco isn’t the only place that has a problem with people who are homeless, I come from a city, I’ve seen it before – but there’s something about a place that seems so affluent having issues like these that really strikes me. Since I’ve stopped working I’ve found myself asking ‘What can I do?’ so frequently, and not just on the issue of homelessness. I have seen so much in only two months, that I know is wasteful, unethical, unhelpful, damaging to the environment, and detrimental to the world around us.

I’ve had a first hand experience of America’s health care system, which I really do feel is at the very heart of so many of America’s problems, but then I reflect and I realise that back home we still have issues of people finding themselves on the street and I wonder what the real issues are here.

As much as I’ve been able to open my mind to better understanding myself, I’ve also opened up my awareness to a whole world of problems. Do we simply not think about the places we could be? I’m all for equality, and as human beings, we all deserve the most basic needs.

I’ve spent so much time since July trying to consider the amount of luggage I keep with me, and I still find myself reading through reviews of hotels and hostels and wondering if I want to deal with the kinds of things some people have mentioned experiencing. I know that I am lucky. To be able to take off and go where ever I want to, when ever I want to is a privilege. As long as I have; a bed to sleep in, a shower to wash in, clean clothes to wear, my mobile phone, my 3DS, my iPad, a notebook, a book to read, something to drink, food to eat, glasses to read with, a hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste, medication, money, my camera…

The most relaxed month I have ever had the pleasure to experience

Draggy is one of my internet people. Only now, she really isn’t I guess??

I’d always promised I would visit, but I never really expected it to be for quite so long, and for the stay to be quite so chilled.

Video games, fighting with the dog, movies, Supernatural, Guardians of the Galaxy, loads of delicious food, trying and failing to ‘play’ with the cat (she doesn’t know how to play, only how to attack).

I managed to relax and chill out so easily, it felt great to get writing again, and not feel pressured into doing anything I didn’t want to. Loved it.

Would so recommend. 5 stars!

OH MY GOSH. Lookit that flight.

It’s an exciting day! Meeting Draggy for the first time as soon as I board the next flight. I’m tired, and totally sad that this part of my flight isn’t first class – although there was something awesome about skipping all the queues thanks to being a ‘First Class Passenger’.

The flight from Anchorage to Seattle was outrageously awesome. Dinner on a proper plate with a napkin and knife and forks!! First class flying is really the only way to go.

Fresno is my next stop!