Monday 14 September 2015

The Fringe Festival

The crazy festival season has ended here in Edinburgh and a pleasantly mild and uncrowded September is upon us. But back at the beginning of Fringe I wrote my impressions of my first festival show...

Balletronic. My first Edinburgh Fringe Festival Show. It was amazing, mesmerizing. Such precision and energy. It was a group from Havana, Cuba. The music, modern things by Paloma Faith, Avicii and the like, combined with ballet, with a dash of modern dance style, made my skin tingle and my heart feel like it was swelling up in my chest. But in a good way. I felt elevated by it, lifted by watching the dancers lift each other and move with such apparent ease. It was amazing to watch them and remember that those were human bodies out there, just like mine and those of the audience members around me, but exercised and rehearsed to such a pitch of strength for this specific activity that movements like bending in half backwards, tossing another person into the air, and lifting a leg directly, straight into the air until it was beside their ear while they balanced just on the toes of their other foot in point shoes, looked like simple, normal motions.

The music of the performance was played live, including a glamorous lead vocalist with a voice like Cher if she were a jazz club singer instead of a pop star. I think my favourite part was a short number were the principal female dancer (a girl with legs that looked like those of a blown glass, horse figurine. You know what I mean, a youtube video did the rounds not long ago refreshing people’s memory of them) did a solo dance to a featured performance of one of the most talented violinists I’ve ever heard. He walked around the stage as he played and she danced around him, looking like she was possessed by the music, so in tune with it were her motions, like she was the physical manifestation of the sounds.

Another number saw the dancers emerge wrapped in bands of fabric that looked like the insides of a VHS tape when the VCR eats it and all the film comes spilling out (this analogy is on the verge of being obsolete, but I don’t think it’s come to that yet). They were elegantly tangled in the ‘video tape’, twirling and lifting each other in and out of it, all set to music that you would fully expect to hear when you were getting a massage and if you looked at the CD cover it would be called ’Japanese Waterfall in Spring’ or something to that effect.

The performance I saw was their first of the festival after the previous night’s performance had to be cancelled. As a result, the theatre was packed and it felt like you were having a fully clothed sauna session without the leg room. But once the dancing started you forgot all that; it completely drew you in with the passion and drama of the performance. And just as you truly felt you were watching the real life version of Centre Stage (a movie obsessively popular with me and my friends growing up) they actually did their last number to the same song as the last number in Centre Stage (‘Canned Heat’ by Jamiroquai for those of a curious disposition)! They even danced their curtain call. It was an incredible performance and a wonderful reminder of why it’s great to be here in this new city.

...I went to a number of other shows during the festival, though not as many as I would’ve liked. Highlights included a group who performed improvised Jane Austen novel ‘adaptations’ based on audience suggestions written on bits of paper and drawn randomly from a hat. The show we were treated to was titled ‘Eminem, Enema and Emma’. Surprisingly funny.

Another show, also improvised comedy, was based on prompts from the game Cards Against Humanity, which, anyone who has ever played that game could tell you, led to some very off colour and amusing humour. As big fans of the game Laura and I sat in the audience saying to one another “ah, that card! That’s a good one”.

While it’s a shame to no longer be able to think “what shall I do with my day off? Maybe I’ll just wander the city until I’m given a flyer for a free comedy show starting in five minutes” It’s a relief to be able to walk down the streets again instead of feeling like a thrashing fish in a barrel getting nowhere. There are no fire twirlers in the park, but grocery shopping is no longer a two hour contact sport either, so, pros and cons. Farewell Fringe, it was fun....ish! 

Saturday 8 August 2015

Edinburgh Ennui

It is now week four of my time in the U.K. Laura and I have settled ourselves in Edinburgh for the moment, as mentioned previously, and are both working and living in a great, though expensive, flat. By all accounts one could say this endeavor is a success, thus far. Yet I have been having some stern words with myself these past two weeks or so about having a bit of an attitude. My job is working as a barista in a good coffee shop in central Edinburgh, it only takes half an hour to walk there or back from my flat and the walk is through a beautiful park called The Meadows, surrounded by majestic old stone buildings, where people have picnics and frolic with their dogs.

So why have I been afflicted with gloomy, grumpy ennui?

You wouldn’t know it to interact with me at work, I’m pretty good at acting the chirpy, friendly barista part, but in my head I have caught myself frequently thinking ‘gggghhhh I hate this’ or mentally snarling at piles of dirty dishes. Now, I’m not sure what the deal is with this. I have worked jobs just like this before, and while they’re not the most mentally stimulating or rewarding of jobs they’re not overly difficult or unpleasant either. I haven’t minded such jobs in the past, and now all of a sudden I want to throw all the crockery on the ground and walk out, never to return. I have some theories.

Firstly, I suspect I may be reaching my relatively low threshold for this sort of job. I am not naturally a people person, which is a primary element of the barista job, so I exert a lot of unseen energy to appear bubbly while talking to more people in half an hour than natural inclination for human interaction would see me speak to in a week left to my own devices.

Secondly, I believe I am in something of a teething period with this new place, lovely as it is. There is a reason most people don’t just pick up and move halfway around the world to a city they’ve only visited once before, for a couple days, and don’t know a single person in. It’s a bit of a challenge. I find every new adventure has this period, when you feel moody and just want to be a shut in binge watching TV shows or movies and ignoring the fabulous new place outside because the idea of getting to know a whole new place, where everything is, how people live their lives here, trying to make friends, etc. is just too overwhelming. In the very early stages of this you’re also generally jet lagged, missing your own bed and can’t seem to get the temperature to come out right in any shower you use. 

Laura and I also managed to both acquire colds, complete with hacking coughs and runny noses, not long after we arrived and are still trying to shake them, and I, due to some poor shoe availability and decisions in my early days of work, am currently missing a very sizable chunk of my right heel and what’s left is a pretty gross mess which I don’t even want to look at. The rest of both feet are covered in large blisters. This situation also causes me to limp and walk slowly, unfortunate factors for a person who walks to work. I had to leave almost an hour early for work today to do what is usually a thirty minute walk. Being elderly is probably something like this but worse, I couldn’t say for certain of course but I do know it’s not research I want to do at 27.

Also, my workplace seems to have its own hot, moist, jungle climate, causing everyone who works there to perspire constantly on a scale of mild to severe at all times depending on the level of activity they’re undertaking. I went into the bathroom to change after work today and had to peel my work shirt off of me. Then I was standing there with toilet paper stuffed up my runny nose while using more toilet paper to wipe pus out of my shoe from my hideous, mangled foot while standing like a demented, hot mess of a flamingo on the other foot. Dignified, elegant, sanitary... These are all words I absolutely would not use to describe the situation.

So, this brings me back to the stern words I’ve been having with myself lately. Yes, this transition period is...awkward. But, I need to get over it so that I can get into the swing of enjoying this beautiful new place! So today I decided perhaps stern words were not the best choice for dealing with my moodiness during my odd, new place, struggles. After all, I wouldn’t appreciate that approach from an external source. So after work I stopped into a shop and bought myself a little picnic, complete with green grapes which are my comfort, feel better food, and only limped half way across The Meadows before giving myself a little sit down to enjoy it. The sun came out and I thought nice, kind thoughts to myself like ‘well done doing all that standing and walking today with your maimed foot’ and, ‘Laura will probably make you a cup of tea when you get home, isn’t it great having Laura here with you, it’s so much better than doing this on your own’ (she totally did make me a cup of tea). I people watched, looking at the parents taking their little kids out for walks, the other picnickers, an amusing squirrel, and all the cute dogs running around, then I limped the rest of the way home, it was very soothing. Not the limping but, you know, the rest of it.

 Plus, at the edge of The Meadows a dove almost pooped on me. Missed me by a mere inch. I probably haven’t mentioned this previously, but for reasons best known to the Universe and some kind of international bird mafia, I get pooped on by birds with some frequency. Now I have heard (and by that I mean it was a line of dialogue in the movie Under the Tuscan Sun) that it is lucky to be pooped on by birds, a good sign in some way. Why we would believe such a thing is a mystery, I can only assume to make ourselves feel better about having other animal’s shit on us. Whatever the reason, if this is the case then one could look at it as good things are on the way, they’re almost here, you were almost pooped on by a dove. So, either things will now start feeling easier and more natural going forward, or, at the very least I can look at it as I was almost shit on by a dove, but I dodged that bullet and don’t have a gross hair washing task to undertake, and that’s pretty good too.    

Friday 31 July 2015

Plane Observations and Other News

And so the new adventure has commenced! This post is about a week old and a month later than the last one but with my track record I say that's not half bad.

 I entertained myself on the various flights by taking notes about them, these were my impressions:

Well, here we are on the first leg of the journey. I have over packed on the snacks in order to avoid overpriced plane food of questionable edibility. Said snacks seem to provide a modest amount of intrigue to my nearest neighbors as they cast surreptitious glances at what will next emerge from my voluminous Ziploc bag of sundries. The last item was a baguette sandwich featuring haloumi, ham, avocado and capsicum, so they are snacks worthy of some interest.
I am relatively certain my seat is shrinking almost imperceptibly with every passing hour and I have read almost half of my book, begun at the commencement of this flight. I recently tried to do some stretching in the lavatory which I can now, with authority, advise others to avoid. It involved an acrobatic little dance which necessitated putting my face closer to the toilet than I feel was wise from a sanitary standpoint and I believe the process may have pulled something important that I will want to use at some later date.
The most exciting thing to have occurred thus far was when I breached the curtained, inner sanctum of the flight attendants to request water and then carried the full, open cup back to my seat during some turbulence. There were elderly and children in the splash zone, shit could’ve gone down. It is uncomfortably warm on board though, so maybe it wouldn’t have been entirely unwelcome. Except for me, I really was very thirsty.

Otherwise, I have watched two movies and observed the man across the aisle from me who sleeps with a hoodie over his face and wakes up only for more Jim Beam and the man behind him who has either a cough or a sneeze (I can’t tell which it is) which sounds exactly like the on board toilets flushing...a very forceful sound.
There is gravel churning about in the sockets where I used to keep my eyeballs. The eye drops I cleverly packed for this eventuality are, I now realize, in my checked luggage. I am ready to be there. <-- This bit was written an hour and twenty minutes before the end of this flight.        


Laura and I’s three days in Thailand were lovely, though a bit disorienting for me. The change from -1.5 degrees in Hobart to 30+ degrees in Bangkok was something of a shock to the system. Add that to the time change and the fact that extreme heat and humidity generally lead to a shutting down of many of my faculties, coherent speech and movement any faster than that of a snail for instance, and it was something of an adjustment. Laura was well acclimated after five weeks in Cambodia and almost three weeks in Thailand before I arrived, with the glowing skin of a person grown accustomed to prolonged, cleansing sweating. She even moved at a normal speed and didn’t cry out triumphantly whenever we entered an air conditioned building or train, unlike certain other people... ahem. Fortunately, however, she was happy to join me in much sitting by the pool at The Atlanta, chatting, catching up and drinking the occasional chilled Sprite from a glass bottle, which somehow just makes it better.

It’s a great thing they do in Thailand, serving soda in recycled glass bottles. I stopped to take a photo of a bunch of them stacked up for collection at the side of the road one day and Laura calmly informed me “Apparently it’s hard to do that in Cambodia, because of ghosts”. Upon further discussion of this baffling statement she explained that the Cambodian people believe that small spaces like that, once emptied, are the perfect spaces for ghosts to move into, so you can’t re-fill the bottles, because they’re already filled with ghost, and that would just be rude.
Activities we did manage to leave the inviting coolness of the pool for included a visit to a night market and getting a Thai massage. I had forgotten what a great style Thai massage is. Nothing like being put in a little smock/suit outfit and having a person walk around on you, elbow you in the neck (Laura’s masseuse got especially enthusiastic about that bit, she thought she might be smothered in the pillow for a moment there) and pull your body into complicated pretzel poses to really work the kinks out. Sadly, I think much of their hard work was then undone by the long journey to the U.K., but it was nice to start the trip relaxed.

Upon arrival in the U.K. it took Laura and I a couple hours to get to our hostel via the tube and walking a distance google spitefully informed us, for reasons known only to it, was nine minutes but was actually 35 minutes. It was nearly midnight when we arrived at the hostel but it was fortunately above a pub and someone was there to let us in. Our brief time in London, just a day in fact, was nothing to write home about, as it were. We did laundry at Roy’s Laundromat in Tottenham, run by the sociable Roy and his family, all lovely people. I saw a child roaring at a pigeon in the High Street and rode a bus where I’m relatively sure the driver’s primary goal and source of enjoyment was to break unexpectedly and hard enough to knock over any passengers who were standing. Then we caught the train to Edinburgh. We’ll go back to London again at some stage, but for now we just feel Edinburgh is more our scene, and apparently the feeling is mutual, as we have been here just over a week and have already secured a flat share and job offers. Our Edinburgh future is looking bright!    

Friday 3 July 2015

Up, Up, Up and Away!

The time has come! Visa to work in the U.K. for up to two years? Check! My passport came back to me with its British visa inside precisely three weeks after my biometric appointment in Melbourne, heralded by a very formal e-mail the day before informing me that ‘a decision has been made’ regarding my visa application. They wouldn’t want to tell you what the decision was in the e-mail and put you out of your suspenseful misery of course, were would be the fun in that? When my passport arrived I tore the envelope open and to bits with my teeth in my eagerness to get into it because that’s how I comport myself as a lady receiving news, naturally. Then I did a silly little dance of joy around the living room.

Plane tickets booked? Check! I actually booked my tickets before my visa had even arrived. The airfare prices were steadily going up and up so I just went for it and hoped for the best. I fly out of Tasmania on the morning of July 8th, also known as less than a week from today, up to Melbourne where I board my nine hour flight to Bangkok (I’m pretty pleased about that, for a while it was looking like I was going to spend 22 hours wandering around the Singapore or Kuala Lumpur airports so nine hours straight through to Bangkok will feel like nothing!). Upon my arrival in Bangkok I get to spend three days catching up with Laura poolside at The Atlanta, a retro little gem of a hotel, before the two of us fly on to London together on July 12th.

Packed? Check-ish.... So I’m not packed per se, but I do have shoes in a suitcase, so that’s practically the same thing. Normally for an expedition such as this (or any expedition at all really) I would do most of my packing the night before into the wee hours, accompanied by tears, much gnashing of teeth and much sitting on bags to close them. However, I’m trying something new this time. My last trip, to the States, I set off with a backpack and a large-ish suitcase. “I’m going away for years” I said “There will be many seasons and I must pack for them all because they don’t have stores or clothes in the U.S.” I was apparently thinking. When I returned to Australia from that venture it was even worse and I managed to have the large-ish suitcase, the backpack, another large suitcase, a medium sized bag and a lap top bag. Plus one ski boot in another suitcase. To this day I’m unsure how I managed to physically carry all of that luggage through the various airports and by the time I got back to Australia I would have quite happily set it all on fire just to never have to look at it again. So yes, I’m trying something new this time, it’s called packing light, perhaps you’ve heard of it? Back in the fabled time of my eighteenth year of life I set off on a five month trip through Europe and Asia with only a backpack and it was glorious. So this time I’m aiming to bring that same backpack and one truly tiny suitcase. That is all. I’m given to understand that they have shops and an abundance of clothing in the U.K. so I think it should all work out.

Now I must go and put other things besides shoes in the tiny suitcase, because I’m also trying out packing early and this blog post has actually just been an elaborate procrastination ruse. But mainly I’m packing early because I’ll be away until almost right before I leave. I’m about to head down to Bruny Island for a few days because, you know, I like to try and squeeze in a trip before my trip. 

Thursday 11 June 2015

Please Sir, may I have a visa?

Ah, the U.K. working holiday visa. Or the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme visa as it's called now; a much catchier name, said nobody ever. The hoops to be jumped through in the application process are numerous and metaphorically on fire so precision is vital. Don't get me wrong, applying as an Australian is significantly easier than most other nationalities. To apply as an American, for instance, is so impossible it sounds more like some kind of secret club only found and entered by visiting a back alley and knocking three times on the second door to the left and knowing the password and secret handshake. It's like the unicorn of visas. Then again, if a country's reciprocal visa policy is basically a blanket "no" like the U.S.'s, you can't expect your citizens to be made very welcome, from a visa standpoint, elsewhere. I can only imagine what the process would be like if you were applying from somewhere like...Nigeria...Iraq...any of the many countries not known for their travel/visa opportunities.

Now, having just undermined my own point let me proceed to tell you about my Australian passport holder process of hoop jumping. Or rather...the ring master. Sorry, that metaphor is tired. Basically the official U.K. visa website is shit. Of all the governments in the world you would expect to have a clear, eloquent official website the U.K. would pretty much top the list. But you (meaning you, my naive past self) would be wrong. The visa website content appears to have been written by an indifferent person whose fourth and most tenuously grasped language is English. The content refers back to things it never told you, asks you for information, then doesn't provide you with enough space to enter said information (been to more than ten countries in the last ten years? How foolish of you, prepare to get involved in a very coy game of save and refresh to illicit enough 'Add More' options) and is so full of typos and oddities you half expect the final page to thank you for your financial assistance to a Ghanian prince with temporary money woes. If I had just come across the website, rather than linked to it from the official U.K. immigration webpage, I would've suspected it was a fake. A defensive little missive in the top left corner, stating that this is a prototype system (they just recently added an online application option) and they're still working through some issues, follows you throughout the application process.

For additional novelty, once you complete the online application you have to print it out and take the paperwork into a biometric appointment. Unfortunately, I live in the little viking outpost of Australia-Hobart, in the state of Tasmania, and we're too much of a back water (despite being a capital city) to have nice things. Like official offices for biometric scanning for example. So off to Melbourne I went, basing my appointment time around the good airfares.

I arrived for my appointment at a small office which had then been subdivided into multiple tiny offices with individual locking doors for each. I was greeted by a security guard who took his job very seriously. There was a system for how things must proceed, a system which I was about to accidentally confound, but he soldiered on. He let me into the office, I said "hello", he said "hello, please sit down". I proceeded to start removing my many layers of coats, sweaters and scarves so that I could sit down, chatting about the weather, how cold it was... He stared at me and repeated "Please sit down". Right, apparently we can't go through the rules until I'm sitting, so I sat down, one arm in a sweater, one arm out. He informed me all I could take in was my wallet and my application paperwork and no it could not be in envelopes, no envelopes! Everything else had to be placed in a locker there in the first room. So I proceeded to try and stuff all my things into the little locker and lean on the door to shut it. "A quarter turn to the left, then all the way around to lock it, follow me please". "Oh sure!" I say cheerily, pressing on the locker, turning the key. It doesn't lock. I turn it the other way, still not locked. The guard stands awkwardly by... "No, the other way.. No you have to..." "got it!" I declare with a triumphant little thump on the locker, far too gregarious an action for the solemnity of the occasion, his unamused expression tells me. 

 We proceed to the next little room, empty except for a table in the corner. He instructs me to lay my application out on said table, then he looks at it. "First page of the application on top please" he says gesturing to the pile. I step forward and move the covering first page off the pile and step back. Then he picks the papers up anyway to better see the application number on it which he duly records on his clipboard next to my name and appointment time. "Stand on the red dot please". I scan the room. On the floor, across the room and a little to the left, is a red sticky dot carefully reenforced by a layer of tape over it. "Ah, right sure. Red dot" I stand on the dot and he security wands me front and back, then I'm permitted through the next door.

We're in a waiting room with counters you're called to when it's your turn. There's no one on the far side of the desks. On our side is a girl having a bit of a nap. Two other people sit in the line of chairs the security guard gestures to and asks me to wait. I sit down and he leaves out the exit door. I wait. I shuffle my papers. I wait. Then the guard reappears and gestures to me "please, come with me. The door! The locker door is, is open". I go through the exit door with him back into the first room where my locker, not locked correctly as it turns out, has popped open and has scarves and coat sleeves hanging out of it all disorderly like. The guard seems a bit flustered and instructs me to use a second locker as well. Then, having flouted his linear system, he just lets me back in through the exit door. The waiting recommences.

I'd been feeling nervous about this appointment, it was such a process to get to that stage, an expensive process. But the lengthy wait is a good cure for that. After being nervous and hyper vigilant
for awhile my brain tires of it and I space out, looking at the mural on the wall of London Bridge, Stonehenge and other British icons. A little red double decker bus wends its way along the bottom of the mural....

There's no clock in the room and phones were not on the permitted items list. I'm guessing they're even more of a no-no than envelopes, even when just for checking the time. After awhile a lady pops out a door from the inner sanctum office and announces that the system is down and the support centre is working on it, then she disappears again. Then another lady pops out and comes over, asking to see just my application. I hand it to her. "And your letter from the bank stating your funds?" She asks as she looks it over. I hand that to her, she reads it. Then she hands it all back to me, smiles and says "Good, that's all going to be good", then disappears behind the door again. I'm not sure what the point of that preemptive look was, but it's reassuring all the same. Who doesn't like to have an official looking person look at their paperwork and declare it vaguely, generally good?

A while later the same lady comes out and officially calls me over to the counter. She whizzes through my application in a very blase manner, stapling, highlighting and telling me were to sign. She asks if I'm flying into London and if I want to purchase an Oyster card right then and there. I tell her I don't want to count my chickens. "Pardon?" "You know, I just, don't want to count my chickens...before they hatch...I'll wait until I actually have the visa I mean" She smiles at me like "silly girl, of course you're going to get it". This lady's cavalier attitude certainly has a morale boosting quality to it, misplaced or no. She puts my paperwork in a big vacuum seal bag thing and hands it to me. "All finished, please have a seat, you'll be called shortly for your biometric scan". I sit down, the security guard reappears and stands poised with his hand on another door handle, looking intent. I'm called almost immediately and he sweeps the door open, gesturing me in, then he disappears again.

This room looks like they were really scraping the bottom of the barrel in the partitioning spaces process and appears to be a converted broom cupboard. Once sitting, the illuminating light for photos is so close to your face it's almost touching and feels more like an interrogation lamp. My finger prints are scanned, my photo is taken, I had over the vacuum seal bag. When I'm done the security guard is peering through the tiny window on the far side of the exit door and whips it open the moment I appear. I thank him and he formally bids me good bye and a good afternoon. Then has to stand there and wait awkwardly while I put all my layers back on and collect my stuff. I think he was kind of relieved to see me go.

Now my passport and application are on a little trip to Manila to be processed and I should hopefully be seeing them again in my mailbox in a week or two, my passport having acquired the new bling of a shiny British visa inside. Fingers crossed!  

Wednesday 3 June 2015

Then more things happened which I also neglected to write about...

So now eight months in Australia have passed. I got to be here for my maternal Grandmother’s 94th birthday, Christmas and NYE, my cousin’s wedding and lots of other fun events. It was a revolving door of visitors through the spring and summer season which included friends from both Seattle and Steamboat. This was a great excuse for lots of visits to my Grandmother’s beach shack on Bruny Island for lazy days of reading, beach walking, barbeques, campfires and the discovery of the best scones I’ve ever tasted, served at a cafe on the island. 

There have also been some great walks at places like the beautiful Mt Field National Park, camping at Narawntapu National Park where I got to get up close and personal with wild wombats who cast squinty and suspicious glances at me crawling up to them on all fours while they grazed, a drive to the most southern point in Australia and many other enjoyable adventures. 

In amongst these happenings Laura and I also managed to plan our next overseas adventure. Originally, when we arrived back from the States our plan was to head over to New Zealand for the winter to work and ski at a resort there (which you can see was the plan when I wrote the last post). But the more we thought about it the more we shared the feeling that that plan just wasn’t quite ‘gelling’. Something just didn’t feel right about it. Not that we don’t want to go to New Zealand and do a ski season there, the whole place sounds amazing and I’m sure I’m going to love it when I make it there, but we don’t need a working visa to go there (such is our fortunate position as Australian citizens) and Laura is running out of time to get working visas. I myself am also no spring chicken in the world of visas, the cut-off age of thirty is coming for us both with alarming rapidity. So what would be a better plan? We asked ourselves one lazy, late morning chain-drinking cups of tea in our bathrobes. “You know what we should really do?” I said “Really we should move to the U.K. and do the working visa there” “Yes!” Laura said. So that’s what we’re doing. We spent the rest of that day hashing out the general details and the rest is history.  
Hahahaaa! I laugh at my own past naive optimism which actually did think it would be that simple! Because really that was just the beginning of a long, expensive, convoluted process of unexpected passport renewal and online visa application wrestling which has only now, six months later, really come together. The process even got its own separate blog post written about it which I will maybe post here one day, possibly when I’m eighty-five, given my track record. But now the bureaucratic paperwork side is shored up (almost... Laura’s visa arrived yesterday, if I’m lucky mine will be here in two weeks) there comes the bit where we have to actually travel to the U.K. and find jobs and a place to live and all that. Which anyone who read my post about our arrival in Steamboat will know can be a harrowing affair of living on the edge of destitution and crazed optimism. Crazed optimism generally taking the form of smiling brightly or even laughing hysterically through bewildered tears while sobbing “it’s all going to be just fine I’m sure of it!” But I’m getting ahead of myself. Right now I’m pretty much just excited! Time for something startlingly new! 

Then I wrote this...

Brain: God, what are you doing with your life!? You’re so lame!

Me: I’m trying to figure it out, I’m just not sure okay?

Brain: You can’t even eat baked beans without getting them on your face, how do you even function in life??

Me: Baked beans! Wha—What does that even have to do with anything??!

Brain: Whatever. It’s true. Loser.

So here I am, back in Australia. Back in Tasmania thinking, as I always do at the end of big trips, what should I do with my life? This is a question that comes up a lot for me, including in the midst of exciting trips and adventures, but then it can often be silenced with ‘Oooh, what’s that over there?! Yes, lets try that new food/hike/activity/sport, I’m having new experiences and that’s what really matters in life right, yey!!!’ But then you ‘finish’ a trip, categorized in my mind by a relatively stationary period in a familiar place, often your parents house, in which you see a lot of family and work to scrape together enough money for another plane ticket, and suddenly seem to have more time and space in your life and brain to think, ‘what am I really doing here?’ 

Now, follow me down this rabbit hole for a minute, in Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma (a great book, well worth a read if I may say so) he points out that with modern growing and distribution practices removing many limitations of seasonality and geographical growing suitability, and the fact humans are omnivores which means a vast swath of things are edible to us and can be considered food, we are faced with the question, if you can eat almost anything, what should you eat? Personally, I find that this question has wider application as well. I am very fortunate to have been born a white, middle-class, post-feminist movement, woman in western civilization (this also makes the previous question about food applicable to me, sadly most people in the world do not have the reliable access to food that allows them to ask themselves that question), to two very supportive and encouraging parents; as a result of this I have been brought up with the idea that I can do/achieve/experience pretty much anything as long as I’m willing to put my mind to it and work really hard, and I genuinely believe this as I am both privileged and determinedly stubborn when I want to be. While this is a blessed situation to be in, it still raises the dilemma, if you can do virtually anything, what should you do? 

Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben knew what he was about, with great power, comes great responsibility (Just kidding, I know it was originally Voltaire, fascinating man that he was, who said this). I have the ability to fashion my life into something wonderful and meaningful, hooray! I’m so fortunate! Many people never get this chance, so don’t fuck it up, gaaahh, debilitating fear of choosing wrong, wasting opportunity, maybe I should just eat a lot of ice cream, hide under my covers and feel guilty..... You see the trouble.  

So here I am, trying to remember I’m very fortunate and also not to panic and also trying to decide on a meaningful direction for my life. In the interest of full disclosure I should probably let you know that the answer will not be at the bottom of this post, there will be no “and then the great epiphany struck and all was clear, and thus... I began”. So if you’re one of those people that likes a neat and conclusive ending to things you devote time to reading then you should probably cut your losses now and stop reading, it ain’t going to happen. Sorry. I’ve spent my entire adult life and a good portion of my childhood asking myself what I want to do with my life and regrettably I don’t seem to be the epiphany type. But that’s life, apparently, I don’t really know, I’m just living it and muddling through, pretending to be a capable grown up, it’s hit and miss. The best I can do is voice some ideas I’m currently toying with on the ‘what should I do next’ list, which include: a ski season in New Zealand (I’ve pretty well locked that one in, but I’m trying to figure out what to do after that so I don’t have to go through this bit again if possible), getting my TEFEL (teaching English as a foreign language) certification and moving to Turkey for a year to teach English because Istanbul sounds fascinatingly wonderful, moving to the U.K. for a year on a working holiday visa and hopefully finding work in the industrial hemp growing industry because I think it can kind of save the world, flying back to the Seattle, U.S.A. again, getting my motorcycle license, buying a motorcycle and riding it solo up the coast of British Columbia into Alaska where I would then stay and work for a summer because I’ve never even driven a motorcycle but why do things by halves right? Or, moving to Nicaragua for six months because apparently they’re mad into poetry as a culture and it looks beautiful and totally different than anything else I’ve done. 

Back-burner, secondary ideas under vague but nagging consideration are moving to Melbourne to get my Masters degree in international development (maybe?) or attempting to find some kind of respectable, well paying job that doesn’t make me want to poke my own eyeballs out and working at that like a responsible adult who wants to save up to buy land to build a house on so I won’t be a homeless bag lady ranting about the good old days of Nicaraguan sunsets and Turkish coffee one day. But I might not be quite mature enough for those options yet....

I'm a terrible blogger, let me tell you some things that happened and I neglected to write about...

In light of my pathetically long and inexcusable silence I think it’s time for a travel synopsis of past activities to bring this blog up to date... after my last post I carried on having fun skiing and drunken shenanigans for the remainder of the winter and beginning of spring in Steamboat. These included improving my skiing enough to do black runs (for non-snow sport enthusiasts the classifications for the various runs/trails of the mountain are green=beginner/easy, blue=intermediate/more difficult, black=advanced/difficult and double black=expert/most difficult) and discovering a love of powder tree skiing which my Mum assures me is like discovering a love of lobster and French champagne, but we were blessed with a lot of lobster and French champagne skiing over the winter. This time also included my birthday (when I got a massage and thought I was made of clouds and all was right with the world for about an hour afterwards because it was so amazing) gaper day, when all the Steamboat locals and staff ski in ridiculous outfits, often with an eighties, retro ski gear flair, and go on a major pub/party crawl of the mountain which, in myself and friends case ended with climbing a fence into the outdoor hot tub area of a hotel and going in in our underwear before being gently kicked out by a kindly security guard, going skiing in Winter Park for a few days with terrain above the tree line so you’re skiing in a giant bowl of snow with incredible views, and much more. 

Post winter season I embarked on a road trip, first with my sister and parents, heading from Colorado, through Kansas to visit friends, through Missouri where we stopped in Mark Twain’s home town of Hannibal, through Illinois with a visit to Chicago, and into Indiana, the land that time forgot, to visit my paternal grandparents, some of the coolest and most delightful and amusing people I have the privilege to know. Then we headed east, through Ohio and Pennsylvania to New Jersey to visit other family, then up to New York for a few days (where we saw Mamma Mia on Broadway-something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid, it was fantastic), then back to Indiana. Then Laura and I headed back to Chicago and there reunited with our old friend the Greyhound bus, which took us up through Wisconsin to Minnesota, land of the friendliest of people with one of the best and funniest accents going. We stayed with our friend Leah (a friend from Steamboat who would also be returning there for the summer season, as we had decided to do) and her family for a night, then Laura, Leah and I embarked on a road trip across Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and into Washington where we met our friend Elise for Sasquatch Music Festival, a three day, four night joyous musical extravaganza, before carrying on to Seattle to visit friends. Then Laura, Leah and I headed down along the Washington and Oregon coast, visited Portland, then headed back to Steamboat via Idaho, Utah and a little of Wyoming. 

During the summer season in Steamboat I resumed my job in the cafe, plus got a second job working as a front desk receptionist for a large vacation rental complex on the mountain. The small portions of free time were well spent river tubing, at the pub, camping, hiking, and going to rugby practice which I joined because it seemed like something I would never do and why not? My friend Jo came to visit from Australia, we befriended genuine cowboys who completely changed my outlook on horses for the better, my friend Naomi came for her 30th birthday celebration during which we river tubed during a thunder and lightening storm, which I do not recommend, and I stood on a tiny, thin land bridge called the Devil’s Causeway at 11,800 feet and looked out over the incredible Flat Tops Wilderness Area. In other words, general merriment and good times were had by all. 

At the end of our summer season Laura and I bawled our way out of town on a shuttle bound for Denver where we got on a flight to Seattle. We stayed in Seattle for a couple weeks before flying back to Australia in a higgledy piggledy, patchwork manner. Thus ‘concluded’ (it’s never really done) our extraordinary trip.