Back to the Backpack

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Kia Ora and G’Day mates! The dual backpacking trip has begun; wherein I stop to use the toilet/buy groceries every twelve minutes and Curtis seeks the shade like a vampire. It’s a fool-proof plan! We’re six days in already, I cannot believe it. We left the shoebox with a view behind to jump over the Tasman Sea to New Zealand. This country is Oz 2.0: everything I love about Australia, which is a lot, minus everything I don’t like, namely its slithery fauna. And arachnids. And occasionally oppressive sun.  That being said I am missing Sydney very much at the moment; it was a wonderful temporary home. I’m so thankful for the people we met there, the experiences we had (job, scenic and otherwise), and our time together as a two-person milk crate bed family. Minus a few tough job periods, it was an easy, positive lifestyle. Well, ridiculously expensive, like bonkers, but so worth it. I’d like to go back to visit again! There are a few beaches and secret bars left to discover with pals in tow.

But so, moving forward. Curtis and I discussed our goals for this trip as it’s the first time we’ve ever really traveled long-term with each other, or otherwise. Curtis’ goals (in descending order) are: to enjoy quality time with me; explore new places and cultures; be healthful while doing so (i.e. don’t get malaria, eat simple local foods); and take bad arse photos the whole time. Mine (in descending order) are: to enjoy quality time with Curtis; travel as actively as possible; eat all the SE Asian food/drink all the Kiwi and Oz wine; and use this as an opportunity to find some clarity in what I want to do moving forward.

That about takes us up to tonight, with C & I spending the night in a jail cell. Quite literally! We’re in a repurposed jail house in Christchurch tonight and tomorrow we will be having our first Couchsurfing experience. Here’s to successful interactions with strangers! As well a few photos of Wellington and the South Island thus far.

Much love from afar.

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Merry Merry

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Merry Christmas!

Friend Family Christmas is in full swing down here and it is most excellent. Beaches, hiking to the ear-bursting songs of cicadas, shark-avoidance, pool parties. Plus also lego building, movies, great dinners, Radiolabs and Vinyl Cafes. Even though it doesn’t feel overly Christmasy it is wonderful having friends around to share in holiday traditions. Tim’s kaiser card game, Curtis’ birthday ice cream cake, and Christmas dinner with fish on the 24th for Jo and I (much to the chagrin of everyone else….Christmas clearly happens on Christmas Eve).

Today is Skype conference day, tomorrow it’s back to hiking and then we’re off to Melbourne for penguins, cricket and New Years. I’m actually really excited for the Ashes, even though none of us know anything about cricket, at all. We hear the key is in beer drinking though, so I think it will be a manageable affair.

And since my dad is quick to remind me that the blog has been terribly out of date, here’s a quick general life update: Curtis is done work and is now a man of leisure! He is going to go WWOOFing post friend-visit pre-Canada trip (which FYI is January 18th-February 6th) and then we’re packing up our backpacks for New Zealand and beyond! I bought Curtis a SE Asia Lonely Planet for his birthday so I am looking forward to him adding his thoughts to my list. Which is surprisingly short at this point. I’m still trying out this laissez-faire lifestyle. It is dubious. My job is going really well though, and I’ll be working there until we leave for New Zealand mid-February. There are whispers of a Lindamood-Bell popping up in Tokyo or Singapore later this year, so there are tentative plans to go there. It would be a short-term job, if it happens, but I think it’d be pretty rad!

We hope everyone is warm and cozy at home. Very merry Christmas wishes from Curtis, Jo, Tim, the nameless bunny, and myself. Thanks again to Brad and Laurie for a fantastic home to holiday in! It is literally a castle in comparison to our shoe box and we are very grateful.

Time for pumpkin pancakes and shortbread baking.

Much love.

Feast of Photos

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Hi again!

Happy Thanksgiving! We are so missing the celebration of harvest this year! When we try to explain the concept of “harvest” to Aussies they just look confused. “Frost?” they say. “Canning fruit for the winter?” they gasp. “Why would you do that?” So yeah, it is not quite the same. We did have two very delicious dinners with fellow Canadians though, which we enjoyed in the 32 degree heat.

I don’t think I need to write an essay this time, I will just post a few photos from our latest adventures. Bees, bikes, head shaving, hiking in the Royal National Park, etc. Oh, I will mention diving though. For my birthday we finally made it under the ocean! This turned out to be a bit of a mixed bag unfortunately. Anxiety in the open water, a killer migraine and a sore ankle left me not feeling great after the first day of our PADI dive course. So, much to my own disappointment, I decided not to finish the course. Boo unfinished goals! Boo body limitations!But yay for trying something new I suppose. We knew this was going to be a stretch, and it was. Curtis is the best though, and we did see some cool wildlife…5 metres under the surface. It was a great way to bring on 29. Mostly.

Also, if you’re curious, here’s a few of my favourite songs from my Thanksgiving Canadiana mix. Canadian music, you warm my heart!
https://8tracks.com/hni13/oh-canada

Pedals to the Pavement

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G’Day!

Heck, it’s been a month since my dad left Australia and I am pretty sure I am still sore from all the activity. What I love about my dad is that he is a things-doer. Thus we did lots of things! All of which targeted my thighs and calves and sleeping muscles, ha. We hit the ground running (well, biking) as soon as he got here. No time for jet lag, must find the steepest hills immediately! This was followed by more hills the next day as we meandered through side streets to the Taronga Zoo with stops in Sydney Harbour National Park. And since neither of us can admit when we’re tired we just kept on biking. Downtown on an “installation art” tour with my friend Peter; to movies at Town Hall and Circular Quay; to every conceivable angle of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House; and my personal favourite, down Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas in Far North Queensland. We’d never ridden on a beach before, and it was pretty darn cool. It was also pretty darn windy! Like 100 kilometres an hour winds. Con: some light exfoliating occurred. Pro: these more than zephyr winds were perfect for kite boarding. I so want to take lessons, but obviously that day was not the day to do it. My dad will just have to come back so we can try it out another time.

To space out the activity (i.e. mentally prepare for the next hill to summit) we also did heaps of sight-seeing. I must say it is great to have a guest around to remind me that Sydney is a beautiful city. (Not that I really need much reminding.) We crammed as much into each day as possible and still there were things we had to leave out. Though I think we definitely would win the “German Efficiency Badge of Honour”, assuming this is a real thing. If it isn’t I am sure a German will politely inform me of my error and make a mental note that I play fast and loose with the truth. Ha.

So yes, all the things! After watching Tosca at the Opera House we went on a backstage tour to see the mayhem that is three opera sets for three separate operas crammed into the smallest area imaginable and experience the bedlam that is the world’s tiniest orchestra pit. It was so cramped that musicians have to monitor the decibels of their instruments to make sure they don’t damage their ears. It was interesting to see that such an iconic building still hasits limitations for those who actually have to use it! Then maybe we’d catch the ferry up the Parramatta river to zip around on a segway in Sydney Olympic Park. Which, I must admit, was not lame but actually totally awesome. Or maybe we’d catch a ferry in the other direction to Watson’s Bay and serendipitously find beautiful local beaches filled with beautiful Eastern Suburbs dwellers. Honestly, those who live out there must sweat diamonds they are so bling! But good for them. Or maybe we would climb 1302 steps up and down the Harbour Bridge and then spend an hour trying to decide what movie to watch while our muscles seize up on the couch. Apparently our movie tastes are still not perfectly aligned 🙂

We did take a few mini-trips as well, out to the Blue Mountains and up to Cairns and Port Douglas in Queensland. I was glad my dad got to see the variety of landscapes here as even the Blue Mountains, which are only a few hours inland from Sydney, are noticeably different from the coast. Being one for the facts he would always look up every discernible item of interest and fill me in the following morning. Which is another reason he is a pretty rad dad. I know I wrote about the Daintree and the Great Barrier Reef already but I will say it again: what a powerful and humbling reminder that nature is amazing. Truly. This trip up to Queensland was just as excellent as my trip with the Winters back in March. With the aforementioned winds we were a bit landlocked though, so we delved a bit deeper into the Daintree Rainforest. Want to know what it was like when Gondwana was being a big ol’ landmass? Then visit the Daintree, it is beautiful in its old age. The highlight of my time there was getting to see where the rainforest meets the reef in the ocean. The rainforest vegetation has adapted to the salt-water conditions and that is pretty bad-ass.

So basically, I had a fantastic time with my dad. It’s been 20 years since we took a trip just the two of us and I think we did pretty darn well. I was sad to see him go but will be so excited to hit the bike trails with him again when I get back home.

Much love to everyone,
Heather

P.S. Curtis is still alive. His job was bonkers crazy while my dad was here but he has since resurfaced to a world of normal work hours. He spent this past weekend being lovely and patient with me while we went diving for my birthday. He’s read like six books this week. He has discovered a new UK comedy panel show starring David Mitchell (how many programs is that guy on!? Not that I’m complaining…) He dressed up like John Lennon from Abbey Road for a 60s party and was very cute. He is not liking the sudden surge on our local thermometer. He is still liking Sunday night chicken dinner after dancing. He bought another fountain pen, much to my chagrin. He is pretty swell overall. He sends his love as well.

Human Friction

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It is officially nine days until my dad arrives in ‘Straya so I thought I had better post something before he and I bike and hike and sail and snorkel ourselves into a comatose state. I am pre-emptively getting a massage in preparation for sore muscles to come. This is most excellent.

I have been feeling restless lately as it has almost been a year since I’ve been away from Canada. 288 days to be precise! It’s been long enough now that the line graph inside my head entitled Sydney: a rope of sand (to draw the reader in without giving too much away, ha) has had a few peaks and valleys, and patterns that have developed as well. When I picture the July/August section of this graph I see an undulating line settled somewhere between “constantly quasi-sick from wet kid hand syndrome” and “enjoying the routine of going to things”. I guess the restlessness comes in when I think about all the places I still want to go, in Oz and in everywhere. Which is silly really, because while the “wet hand” situation is not ideal it stems from a job that is totally awesome and fulfilling. And the “going to things” is also really great! So this restlessness should not be confused with some sort of Weltschmerz-y weariness, it’s just a driving force of my current list making frenzy. Today’s list includes: doing taxes like an adult, budgeting for our Asia travels, blowing my nose a lot, making chicken soup.

As a partial side note, I have been thinking a lot about this related quote: “A successful life requires living with the tension between the fear of the unknown and the guilt of the status quo. This tension presents itself in both macro life decisions and also in choices about each moment of life.” I take this to mean a balance of the unknown and the familiar is necessary and so basically I should just enjoy the familiar and stop feeling so antsy all the time.

The familiar lately has been enjoying the creativity and innovation that Sydney has to offer. I love living in a city where people are constantly crossing paths to create new ideas with new perspectives. I was listening to a great Radiolab the other day on cities and the notion that “human friction” is what creates the feeling of a place. Well Sydney’s community is rubbing up against each other to make all kinds of cool sparks! 20 piece big bands in a basement; sci-fi themed burlesque; interactive theatre pieces in giant warehouses filled with mock crime show behind-the-scenes scenarios (this one is rather hard to explain actually); art show exhibits on abandoned military bases; concerts in dilapidated art deco venues. It’s also been really lovely to spend time with our community of friends here that have been so welcoming to the loony Canucks that kept popping up at dances and articulating all their vowels properly. Sunday jazz followed by Sunday night chicken dinners, Christmas in July parties and a super fun road rip to Canberra for a dance exchange to name a few. Oh, and discovering where you have to go to get decent Yum Cha (Dim Sum) in this joint. And where to practice archery skills with ‘tweener girls who are obviously excited for the second Hunger Games movie to come out. Keep being badass little ladies. You are so ready for a dystopian society!

Soup’s ready to eat. Curtis makes the best chicken noodle around! He is of course doing all these things as well, just feeling less antsy as his natural state is calm optimism. He says “missing everyone in all the places.”

Love!

And a few related links:

http://vimeo.com/68118976

Bingo Unit show

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vli4cgZ4URM
Sketch a Rhyme (some hip hop language included)

http://www.ted.com/talks/candy_chang_before_i_die_i_want_to.html

To redirect the restlessness

 

Soundtracks

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G’day g’day!

Last night I listened to a great interview with Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson from The Roots (he wrote an autobiography recently that I plan to read) and he spoke quite a bit about the soundtrack of his life: songs inextricably linked to specific memories in his past. This is a phenomena we can all relate to I think. I still have all the mixed tapes that I belaboured over in high school and every time I listen to them I am transported back to when I schlepped around Red Deer in Doc Martens and some sort of plaid hobo inspired outfit.  Remember when you had to listen to the radio and wait around all day to hear that one song so you could press “record” on your tape player/recorder?! Yeah, that was awesome.

To fuel my future nostalgia I thought I would take a moment to post a couple of playlists here. These have been the soundtracks of the past few months for me, while I dance, DJ and transit around the city. (Whilst wearing upgraded Doc Martens, conveniently in style down here at the moment. Thanks, Oz fashion!)

DJ songs

http://8tracks.com/hni13/razzmajazz

Out and about songs (warning: Hawksley’s song is not suitable for work/children due to one potty mouth word.)

http://8tracks.com/hni13/these-shoes-are-made-for-walkin

I would love to hear your current playlists too!

Love!

Winter Wonderland

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Happy Solstice everyone! It is wrecking my brain a little bit that it is

a) already June 

b) dark by 5:30 pm and

c)“winter”.

I will admit that I was incredibly arrogant in regards to this season. I scoffed when I saw scarves and peat coats being sold in stores and was cavalier about space heaters and doonas (duvets). Of course now I am writing, under the doona, with the space heater on full blast, and am seriously considering buying a warmer jumper. Lesson learned: while -45 degrees is unfathomable to Ozzies, +15 with rain is actually chilly after +46 with sun oppression. That being said, we can still bike and kayak and hike so all things considered, winter is pretty awesome.

These past few weeks we’ve been having plenty of mini weekend adventures. First up was a hiking trip to the Blue Mountains with fellow Calgarians Ian and Sarah. We chose a beautiful hike called the “Grand Canyon” where once again my Canadian “these aren’t real mountains, so it will be easy” blithe attitude was proven wrong. Down and down we went from the trailhead, and then down some more past arresting sandstone walls and waterfalls. The stone steps took us through tunnels, over mossy pools of water and along lush mist-covered plants into the heart of this World Heritage site. Eventually, with our legs screaming (The book I bought should have explicitly stated “this trail will pulverize your thighs and glutes…”) we reached Evans Lookout to see the outstanding heathlands of the Blue Mountains with its forest-filled peaks and valleys. I am constantly gobsmacked by how diverse this continent is!

Our other big trip lately was to Nelson Bay and Anna Bay to WWOOF (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) over the long weekend. We arrived at the most beautiful 25 acre permaculture farm to meet the most fascinating farmer! Ric had useful and helpful advice on permaculture, from how to set-up systems at the macro level, down to how to collect seeds and make small, positive changes to every day living. He built a stunning home out of recycled materials and I very much respect people who live their values everyday. We learned more about aquaponics as well which was great. He did however, have a lot of ideas about many other great topics such as: the second sun in our solar system causing the Earth to heat up from its core; prophesies about women becoming telepaths and being able to read people’s “matrix grids”; explaining how he had space friends, how his friends in the CIA and other high ranking military positions told him super duper secrets and other general “facts”. Yep! I could get about 70% of the way there…but unfortunately what we really wanted was more of the “how-to” and less of the “why” Zeitgeist-y proselytizing. So, even though we did have a fun time, we bailed a night early and spent the rest of the weekend sand boarding at the Southern Hemisphere’s longest sand dunes, conveniently located 5 kms away! And thanks to that second sun, the weather was fantastic! Haha, science is whatever you want it to be! Joking aside, it was still great and I feel like it is in the nature of wwoofing to meet all kinds of cooky and nifty people. I very much look forward to our next stint.

Other than those trips out of Sydney, we’ve mostly been enjoying time within the city limits. Film festivals, kayaking in the Harbour, being chased by clowns and street sack races around Darlinghurst with a media art group, and of course dancing as usual. I started Djing here too which is fun! Curtis is getting his music together and wants to DJ soon as well, yay! Oh, and I finally got a job that I love and go to, like every day! It’s very similar to the phonemic awareness program I taught back in Calgary, it’s in a great location, and I can bike to work with the Lance Parade (what I am calling the very fit middle-aged men in spandex who commute to work with me). And I just started volunteering at the most kick-ass creative writing place ever! http://www.sydneystoryfactory.org.au/ Check it out! We work at The Martian Embassy, and if you’d like, you can purchase some Martian wee in the gift shop…for real. Curtis’ job is business as usual where business means a different thing every day which sounds a bit frustrating but over all he is still enjoying it. People still haven’t figured out his age, beard for the win!

Much love to everyone and especially dry and safe thoughts to our friends and family in Southern Alberta!