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.

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

 

Winter(s) Down Under

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Hello!

Okay okay okay. Six weeks have zoomed by without a single update. How does this happen? I reckon it’s because we haven’t been home long enough to collect ourselves in a while! So thousands of photos uploading, I am sifting through my calendar and the dust has settled. The Winters have just returned to Canada after five jam packed weeks of ‘Straylia. We had a fantastic time! Hitting up our favourite live music venues and restaurants; riding ferries around the harbour; mini-hikes in the Blues Mountains; beach walks; ping pong tournaments; Opera House symphonies; wine.

We also took a trip to the far north of Queensland around Cairns and Port Douglas. I had no idea Northern Queensland was basically Papua New Guinea! We were at the same longitude as Fiji to give you a level of tropical-ness. While small geographically, this region contains a richness of biodiversity that I will probably never see anywhere again. We started with a train ride to Kuranda, a section of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. Ready to have your mind blown? The Wet Tropics is home to about a third of Australia’s mammals and contains one of the most complete living records of the major stages of evolution going back 200 million years. 200 million years! I can barely record the last six weeks properly. We’re talking old school Gondwanan flora and fauna, bad ass marsupials included, in a rainforest that covers less than 0.2% of Australia. This blows my mind at a Graham’s number level of amazement. So anyway, we tootled around the oldest rainforest in the world. It was nice…kind of cluttered. The only thing that could excite me more is the largest living organism in the world: The Great Barrier Reef! Two record breakers side-by-side, I wonder if they duke it out for “most awesome”?

We drove north from Cairns along wending coastal highway to Port Douglas. Look out one way and you see pristine beach-lined ocean, look out the other and the fields of sugar cane are thick and hearty. Look behind you to see the Tablelands, remnants of recent volcano eruptions covered in fertile, tropical green. We arrived at our hotel and discovered that Curtis scored us the most luxurious place ever! Off-season travel for the win! (Though I felt very uncomfortable with the multiple rooms, and walls, and seating areas. I have grown accustomed to watching Curtis sleep and eat and brush his teeth inches away from me. What is he doing in that other room I wonder??? I had better go check it out and sit as close to him as humanly possible.) After a wonderful dinner, delicious wine, and hours of bat watching we are ready for our trip to the Reef. The trip we chose took us out to the outer edge of the Reef, just a few kilometres from the continental shelf. These agincourt ribbons are supposed to be great for snorkeling and that they were. I can’t really describe how it feels to swim over thousands upon thousands of coral poylps. It is surreal. This great BBC doco gives you a better inkling:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0198pww/episodes/guide

I just watched it for the third time! When you watch it though, try to picture all of us wearing full head-to-finger tips-to-toe wet suits. Off-season travel means you are snorkeling in jellyfish land. Those gelatinous umbrellas will kill ya’! Seriously though, everything in the ocean wants you dead. Why you gotta be so scary yet beautiful? Discomfort of being in an endless body of murder water aside, this was one of the most special and stunning places I have ever been and am grateful I had the chance to see it.

Before you know it, we’ve flown through Easter dinner with as many Canadians as possible and it is the Winters’ last weekend here! Naturally they have more family connections than me on every continent (I joke, but it is probably true) so we spent our last weekend all together in the Kangaroo Valley in a funky beach house right on Jervis Bay. It was lovely. Food, more food, beach, kangaroos with joeys, sand castles at the beach. It was a wonderful way to end their trip, and it is so nice to have a family contingent close by. Now I have kids to push my arts and crafts onto! I need to buy crayons 🙂

Up next: WWOFing at an apiary, diving school in May, sailing classes.

We miss you, we love you!

Xo H & C.

Oz Mania

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Just a quick hello from Curtis and I. We’ve been in Sydney for two weeks now and things are going well! We have a place leased in Kirribilli that we move into on January 9th. (Right here: http://tinyurl.com/cot2zkq) It is a glorified shoebox, but it’s furnished and we are a stone’s throw from the Harbour Bridge and many other fun things! So that is fancy. Plus we are close to transit and Curtis’ work and hopefully my work too. Exciting times!

Anyhow, we will blog properly after Christmas, but we wanted to wish everyone a wonderful holiday and a happy new year. Here’s a few teaser photos of our time in Sydney so far.

Love and merriness!