Pretty Things

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Hello again from Vietnam! My last post left off with us being sore, filthy and thoroughly satisfied, cave-wise. After some rest, heavy doses of antibiotics on my part and patience on Curtis’ part, we re-emerged into the chaos of Vietnam and took the bus to Hoi An. Hoi An has a history of tailoring clothes, and as more tourists arrive, this history is ongoing. In fact I’ve heard that for every other type of shop, there are at least two tailors. As an observation I would also say that for every Vietnamese person here, there are at least two foreigners. As such, this quaint little city is very “white person” friendly. Small streets lined with lanterns that are lit up every night, delicious regional food that is served fresh at one of the million food stalls, shops, markets, easy biking (without fear of death but motorcycles), beautiful UNESCO sites that fill much of the Ancient Town, it’s a real holiday type place. We met some very nice older travelers that come here once a year to get garments made and enjoy the surroundings. On the flip side though, more foreigners means more locals trying to make a living off tourism and tailoring, which means that competition is stiff and the locals can be quite relentless. This can make for an overwhelming, but mostly fun experience! Every guest house or hotel has a tailor recommendation to offer you, which is probably their sister’s or brother’s place. Every tailor tries to find out where you are staying and offers you a price accordingly as there are probably kick-backs going around. Everyone is in on it basically, not that I blame them really. We’re choosing to come and take part, they’re just trying to make a living.

Thus we did research quite a bit to try and find places that a) were hopefully not outsourcing to sweat shops, as the turn-around is so fast there is no way the tailors in the shops could do it all themselves and b) were hopefully not part of any quasi price scamming (again not that I blame them, I just don’t want to take part). I say “hopefully” in all earnestness as I don’t think you can ever really be sure. However, we did find a place we were super happy with and had a really great time! Kimmy Tailor is a venture that is half owned by Canadians and while they do have a factory where they send the garments, at least everyone is employed by the company and gets reasonable working conditions (I hope). Kimmy was also outside the main fabric market, which was fun to walk through but pretty congested with people yelling at you, following you around, and thrusting fabric into your hands. I know a few people who got stuff made here, and were happy enough, but it was just too much stimulus for me! I really enjoyed being about to sit with my water and laptop they provided and sift through all the styles and types of clothing they could make. Curtis had no need for computers mind you. He knew exactly what kinds of suits he wanted and was gleeful as can be as he drew out his designs. The tailors were very patient with both of us and offered really helpful suggestions (That cut is no good, you’ll be needing this type of waist-line to hide your cookie belly etc.). So obviously we blew our budget here, but it was so worth it. In the end I got a few dresses, blouses, a “winter” wool jacket and cigarette high-waisted pants a la Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face. Curtis got two suits, a smattering of work shirts and a really handsome wool trench coat. Like I said, budget completely blown. Getting fitted for clothes is seriously addictive stuff! And to make matters worse/more awesome, they keep your measurements on file so you can order more items as you like. We’re going to have to stay the same size forever now, it will be a good lifestyle motivation. We got some shoes made as well, by the nicest woman around. She worked in the shoe market, which was just as aggressive as the fabric market, but we went in with a recommendation which was very helpful. “We’re here to find stall no. 241, sorry!” I’m really glad we went with her, though we should have bargained more. We let it get personal! But oh well, she was really skilled and professional and the billion photos of her daughter I looked at were adorable. Which is she of course knows. Don’t be cynical Heather, it ruins the fun!

Yes Hoi An was enjoyable to navigate and I’m crossing my fingers that the shipment we sent home by freight arrives in Calgary roughly around the same time that we do. I’m looking forward to wearing clothes that aren’t stained and torn!

Deep, dark, damp

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What kind of cheese do you use to get a bear out of a cave? Camembert! Ha ha ha. That’s literally the only joke I can remember. No joke! While our caving adventure in Central Vietnam was bear-free, it certainly wasn’t short of excitement. But I should back up a bit. A few years ago I read an article in National Geographic about the recent discovery of the world’s largest cave. Largest in all dimensions: the newly discovered Son Doong Cave has a height of 250 meters, width of 200 meters and lengths of approximately 8 kilometers. That’s enough space for a) a city block of 40-story buildings b) a 747 airplane to sit comfortably c) two and a half Statues of Liberty d) all of my excitement. Oh, and it has a completely distinct rainforest ecology growing inside. Watch this to see! Unfortunately we couldn’t quite justify the week-long $3000 adventure in Son Doong, so we settled for another tour with the same caving company, Oxalis Adventure Tours, who I would highly recommend should you ever be in Phong Nha National Park. There are heaps of caves to choose from here, and they take you to the least known/furthest away ones.

We met our guide, three porters from the local village, and three fellow cavers in the small town of Phong Nha. We collected our helmets and torches, dry bags and life jackets and were off! We weaved through the peanut and corn fields, past the buffaloes wading in the river and immediately found ourselves in the rocky terrain of the next two days. Dry bags slung on our backs we scrambled up craggy rocks and boulders, always being outpaced by the porters who were carrying at least twice as much weight as us and wearing nothing but flimsy sandals. It’s worth mentioning at this point that I had gastroenteritis (undiagnosed at this point) and a lingering ankle injury that was definitely put to the test. My rough shape made the porters’ strength and agility that much more impressive. These guys were dynamos! Anyhow, with the distance between them and us always growing, we enjoyed the jagged limestone karsts jutting out all around us, the sounds of the jungle, and the constant climb towards our first goal, Hung Ton Cave. Our group of five finally arrived, caked in sweat and a glimmering sheen of bug spray, just as the porters were casually finishing up their umpteenth cigarette. Looking effortless in the jungle clearly involves an aura of smoke at all times. They prepared us a fantastic meal at the mouth of the cave, and from here we found ourselves surrounded by blackness, creepy spiders, and dripping stalactites. Trying to take in the immensity of the cave is difficult. As we crane our heads up, the heights of the ceiling engulf our tiny headlights, which is for the best really as we need our trivial beams to shine light on the damp stone beneath us. Shimmying down through cracks, hugging walls to avoid gaping holes into nothingness, we crept our way down into the vastness. (Afterward, Curtis and I pondered what would happen if someone had a serious accident in there. It’s probably best that no one did.) Eventually we reach the bottom and find ourselves in deep black placid water. Our guide regales us with (not) hilarious stories of monsters in its depths. We swim and swim, casting our lights above us to try and catch glimpses of the thousands of bats echoing around us. It is absolutely serene in the belly of the cave, swimming awkwardly in all our clothes and trekking gear. I feel connected to the millennias before me that have created these caverns, and will continue to do so long after I’m gone. It’s comforting in a weird way, the world is an amazing place.

This pattern of climbing up, shimmying down and swimming in our gear continued until we reached our campsite for the evening. Our piddly water-proof camera really doesn’t do it justice. It was a beautiful spot tucked between the mouth of the cave, waterfalls and green jungle. There were the porters, smoking away in their care-free sandals as Curtis and I struggled to swim to shore. For some reason everyone else was much better at swimming with helmets and shoes than us! I mean I’m not a great swimmer I know, but clearly I need to do some drills. The evening was spent under waterfalls, then under thick layers of deet, then under the comatose state we were all in after the most amazing dinner I had in Vietnam. Those porters were excellent cooks! Not that their families would know, unfortunately, as apparently they never cook at home. Vietnam has very clear gender-roles, unsurprisingly. Soon it is dark out and there isn’t much left to do besides swig rice wine that would clean out a car battery and climb into our hammocks slung between two trees. I’ve never slept in a hammock all night, it was quite nice!

The next morning we arose to complete the pattern of climbing and swimming, only this time with the added challenge of sore muscles and filthy wet clothes. All was forgotten though once we slipped into the murky water in each cave we (we went through four in total). Time froze, darkness reigned, and it was truly spectacular. Finally we found ourselves back in the peanut fields we started in, and the flat solid ground found us again. Incidentally so did a flash floody rain storm. Good timing on our part! Well sort of, the porters were waiting back at the village for us, bone dry of course, smoke and babies everywhere. I’m so thankful that Curtis and I were able to do this trek together, it’s been a bucket list item for me since I knew the National Park existed! Rock on, awesome caves, rock on. I’ll be back again one day, I hope.

The Asian Invasion Begins

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Yay! So excited to make it to an Asian country after talking about it for a year! First stop was Hong Kong and I’m patting myself on the back because this is a really great place to start an Asian adventure. Yes, there is some culture shock, yes there are language barriers etcetera, but Hong Kong is one cosmopolitan city where Western things have snuck in all over the place! This makes good sense considering they were a British colony until 1997. Hong Kong Is definitely distinct from mainland China and they seem proud of that fact. I know this causes problems, but for us as visitors, we didn’t see any of that. What we did see was shiny buildings, surprisingly clean streets, incredibly efficient train systems, and a feeling of “controlled” chaos in general. Everything felt quite polished…except for maybe all the unusual meats lying about the street.

We were only in Hong Kong for five days so we had to make the most of it. Here are the highlights:

1)     Markets: So. Many. Markets. Our favourites were definitely the themed markets that crisscrossed and intertwined  each other all around the city. Flower market, jade market, goldfish market, bird market, night market, generic Engrish t-shirt and (what I will call) weird meat markets. Everything! My favourite was the goldfish market. Rows and rows of goldfish in bags were hung on large boards all along the street. The prices were written on the bags in marker and there were even some more exotic fish as well. The bird market was beautiful as well, but I’m definite that the vendors did not have the birds’ best interest in mind, unfortunately. The jade market was my first practice at bartering in a long time. Here’s a helpful tip: don’t point at or touch things unless you are legitimately interested in purchasing something. I learned this very quickly. Also, maybe don’t walk down aisles narrow enough that you will be physically blocked from leaving a “purchase”. That was my fault though, I was touching things. Oh, and the fabric market was great too! We’re buying fabric in every country we go to with a grand plan of making a quilt of sorts when we get back to Calgary. By “we” I mean Curtis will patiently teach me and then do the bulk of it himself. At night, after I am asleep. He will then claim we both worked very hard on it

2)     Museums: The history museum was really exceptional. Especially for a foreigner who really didn’t know too much about anything at all. It had English signs everywhere and was really purposeful as it took as through the natural and political history of the area. I respect a well laid out museum! Something that didn’t exist in Vietnam and kind of exists in Cambodia but I’m getting ahead of myself.

3)     Best Dim Sum of my life: So nice we ate there twice…and blew the food budget of the day but who cares when your dumplings taste like magic and rainbows. This Dim Sum created our three-tiered food system. Tier one: best dim sum ever. Tier two: most other food we had, tasty but perfectly normal. Tier three: I’ve made a huge mistake. That only happened twice though, sometimes you just don’t know!

4)     Hong Kong Film Festival: A last minute decision that was really fun! I enjoy seeing films when I travel just to see what the experience is like. We ended up seeing a Japanese movie with two sets of subtitles, Cantonese and English.

I’m not sure I’d go back to Hong Kong, but enjoyed the chaos and was happy to start our Asian circuit there. Someday I’d love to go to mainland China and see how it compares. In the meantime we flew away from Hong Kong and landed in another sort of chaos, Hanoi Vietnam.

The Red Centre

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All I do is drink water and sweat now (part 2)

Hello again! This post is so terribly late and three countries behind. Whoops! I think I left off at my sweating profusely and popping rehydration tablets like candy. I honestly think I lost two kgs in about two days when we were out in Coober Pedy. This is only a positive if you like your face hollowed out though, hmmm gross. Anyhow, cold dark places and six litres of hydrolyte water made me much better and ready to take on another hot dry place. Alice Springs! We were so fortunate to be able to stay with someone we met though a Couchsurfing connection.  He was the most gracious host, driving us around to beautiful things on every single one of his work breaks, which included a really neat trip to the Tropic of Capricorn for night time photography and pavement-lying. Even at 1am the pavement is still warm from the day’s sun. He also took us for a drive around the Aboriginal camp areas which was, eye-opening, for lack of a better word. The Aboriginals’ story in Oz very much mirrors the one of Canada and all countries with indigenous populations. The issues are just as complex. Opinions about such issues are definitely contentious and often times quite…overt, especially in the centre of the country. For me, it is clear that this is a people of amazing knowledge and resources that, in my opinion, have been left the middle of Australia because no one else seems to want it. For a more articulate (though certainly opinionated) vision of this ongoing issue, I strongly suggest you try to find the documentary “Utopia” by documentary film-maker John Pilger. It will upset you, but that’s good; I think that’s the point.

From Alice Springs we continued our journey in the red centre and made our way, officially, to the Outback. This was definitely the highlight of the trip for me, and I think for Curtis too. It’s just so remarkably different from anywhere else we’ve ever been, including coastal Australia. We did a three day, two night tour with a really great guide who sincerely seemed to enjoy being covered in red dust and sweat all day long. His enthusiasm was infectious, and as he blasted some of my favourite 90s tunes, we drove and drove and drove. We arrived first at Kata Tjuta, a grouping of giant conglomerate rocks covered in iron oxide to give them that deep red hue I love so much. We didn’t even know this rock formation existed, so it was a welcome surprise! Necessities for hiking here included: one litre of water for every hour you hike, fly net for your face, giant hat, probably more water. You’re not even allowed to start a hike after 11 am as it’s just too stinking hot and you’ll probably get the aforementioned hollowed-out death face….or heat stroke…or death. Cheerful stuff, but they had rangers out and about to make sure you abide by these sensible rules. That evening we unwrapped our swags (flat open-air tent type things), scattered them across the dusty ground and enjoyed the most beautiful starry sky I have seen in a very long time. With nothing around us for miles, save the wildlife, it was a very special experience. The only thing more special would be seeing Uluru (Ayers Rock) at sunrise and sunset. I’ll let Curtis’ photos explain why.

All I do is avoid death and other backpackers now

The last leg of our tour was to jump on the famous Ghan train and ride 24 hours up to Darwin at the “Top End” of the Northern Territory. The trip was really fun and surprisingly affordable as long as you’re willing to sleep in chairs. We made some nice train friends and overall the 24 hours was not too bad at all. Arriving into 86% humidity was a smack in the face though. As soon as you get used to one kind of heat, Australia will blast you with another! My body showed its displeasure by constantly feeling lethargic and generally like it was full of bowling balls. The Northern Territory is beautiful though, once I actually went outside. This region is home to some of the world’s most famous waterfalls and unique flora and fauna. All of which want to murder you, but they’re still lovely to look at. The most well-known danger is of course the salt water crocodile. These prehistoric scaly beasts are a huge boon to their tourism industry as well as NT’s export demands. If you’ve ever bought a crocodile purse or belt or shoes, chances are the Northern Territory is where it came from. The “salties” are the reason no one goes in the ocean, or rivers, or any body of water with the exception of a few swimming holes in Litchfield National Park. The saying is “if it’s sign posted that there’s crocs, don’t’ go swimming; if it’s sign posted that it’s safe, don’t go swimming; if there’s no sign about safety, don’t go swimming”.  Watching crocs jump for raw meat from the safety of a tour boat though, totally cool. And it was actually, as much as they scare the heck out of me, it’s crazy to see them in the wild. The males get up to 10 metres long and their jaw pressure is officially the strongest of any modern animal. They’re bonkers!

As much as I did like the Northern Territory, I didn’t love its capital city Darwin as much as other places in Australia. In short, I think the city is perhaps ironically named, as I would say that some natural selection still needs to occur. Or maybe it already has! Thus leaving the city plagued with terrible humans. I mean I’m sure there are very nice people that actually live there, but unfortunately many people we met were awful backpackers bored out of their minds due to aforementioned imminent death which apparently limits the activities to: drinking; waking up at 2 pm and proceeding to drink; maybe throwing garbage at strangers; showering in Axe body spray; using loud racist, sexist, generally ignorant language all day long. Barf. I retract my earlier statement that there is “no wrong way to travel, and its all part of a spectrum.” Sometimes, you should just be terrible in your own country and leave us all alone. Anyway, rant over. It was definitely worth ending our trip up there and I’ll miss Australia as a whole very much. From Darwin to Hong Kong, we’re off to Asia!

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

 

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!