Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Traveling I only stop at exits
Wondering if I'll stay
Young and restless
Living this way I stress less
I want to pull away when the dream dies
The pain sets in and I don't cry
I only feel gravity and I wonder why
-nelly furtado 

it's called a working Holiday visa.

The other day I was sick at the end of work. Maybe it was a side effect of the caffeine pill I had taken to get me through this second job on top of the free espresso's, lattes, and long blacks we gratuitously make for ourselves out of sheer boredom. Maybe it was the complimentary paella "dinner" we were given by the kitchen staff at 9:30 at night - way too late to be eating such hearty carbs, or so they say. Whatever it was, I felt nauceous, hot, and faint and alleviated my upset stomach by throwing up. It didn't help. Not long after as we were finishing up the polishing of glassware and cutlery behind the bar, my manager made fun of me for leaning against the bar.
"You can't possibly be tired after such a quiet night as tonight," he teased.
 I meakly responded, "No, I don't feel very well."
I gratefully got my shift covered for the next day so I could have a bit of a lie in, but still had my other job to go to at night. My walk home was filled with huffing and puffing and aches and I wasn't sure I would survive the night.  Dramatic, as you do. The next day, I didn't even get the sleep in I wanted as my body was so used to waking up to go to two jobs. I did feel better, but thought I should tell my other job that I had been sick just in case they think I'm being sluggish on the job and just out of respect for the hospitality industry for being surrounded by food and serving it to others.
"No worries at all Shauna, stay home, feel better tonight I'll cover your shift. You know what? I'll cover lunch tomorrow too. And dinner. And Saturday yeah no problem. Your double on Sunday - sorted. Call me on Monday." I didn't even ask for it off. But I never felt better! I felt utterly disposable, but I was too excited to actually have a long weekend off, I almost choked as I laughed with giddiness. Ted had tried to convince me to go to Brisbane before he started his new job, promising to pay for my ticket, and as much as I wanted to, I didn't dare ask for a weekend off from work last minute, especially with two double shifts. Now, they had just handed it to me! I could have left that very evening, but booked a flight for 6am the following morning. I'm surprised I even slept that night - it was more of a nap if anything.

Brisbane was sunny and warm. What's not to like? I thrived in the confidence I felt in the familiarity of the city, having only been there less than 2 months before, and only for a few days. Despite the Vitamin D that I needed to cure my weekend "sickness" I think I needed a little holiday from my working holiday. It had become too much working and not enough fun. I was living day to day, going through the motions, but almost forgetting why I was there. Days ticking by as the end date to my visa crept slowly onward. I was working to save money, to save money to leave, and in that sense, I always had one foot out the door. I'm not sure how other travelers do it: if they have a plan they stick to, or go along with whatever opportunity arises, or if they just previously saved enough money to travel where and when they want.
So, the weekend trip to Brisbane relighted the dim flame that was slowly losing its bright spark in the dark. It reminded me of the excitement of new places, how comforting and fun it is to be around friends. It pointed out that I can pack a bag and leave within 24 hours notice. It uttered: this is your year abroad, do what you want, what you need to do.
 And so, who knows what's next. It's been good Melbourne. I like you a lot. But ciao ciao bene.

st kilda's community garden.

On one of my last strolls around Melbourne, where I was staying - not working - in St Kilda, I came across Veg Out, the St Kilda Community Gardens. Of course I was mesmerised. Enthralled. In Love.
 The public land is right behind the iconic Luna Park, home to the oldest continuously operated roller coaster in the world. Inside, which is welcome to the public, are 140 plots which in all shapes and sizes come in all manners of gardening experience and maintenance.

Rainbow chard was an all-round, over grown favourite. Colourful, tasty, a bit forgotten about. 

chooks means chickens.

And then I went to Lentil As Anything for some take away lunch. I had read about it in my book, knowing that it was vegetarian, but must've forgotten or skimmed over the part that said it was pay as you feel; pay for what you think the meal is worth. seriously. you could walk away with a curry lunch with whatever change you have in yo ur pocket - if you feel ok doing that. As you put your donation into the "Magic Money Box" they staff tell you to make a wish.  I can't really remember my wish...but I think it's come true :)

this is what melbourne looks like. well, one day out with my camera.

my favourite coffee place, on Niagara Lane.

Penguins. Finally.

Yesterday I packed up all my stuff in my flat in Melbourne - for the 37th time - and finally moved out. Yesterday I worked up the courage to finally call work and tell them I was quitting.
Yesterday I was grateful to have a friend, who I've known for less than 2 months, to let me move onto his couch at the simple request through a text message.
Yesterday I had mild anxiety attacks constantly reminding me of the future unknown, of a limited time frame left in Australia, of financial shortcomings, that were only calmed through the reassurance that I, as a lone traveler, could selfishly do whatever I wanted (within the above mentioned limitations).
Yesterday I was once again reminded that having too many options isn't always a good thing for an compulsively indecisive person.
Yesterday I had a reality check as I watched a reality show, the Bachelorette, as she cried over having to choose the right husband as I boo-hoo-ed over trying to decide where to go next in the world.
Yesterday, I saw wild little blue fairy penguins in the wild and the world was ok.
 At the end of the pier in St Kilda is a rocky break water that is the protective home to the little blue fairy penguins. They apparently reside there year round, but the best time to guarantee a penguin viewing is at dusk or dawn and particularly in the summer. Although I had been in Melbourne for over a month, I wasn't about to take my chances and waited until mid-October, knowing my previous luck with seeing native animals in the wild. We arrived just as the sun was dimly setting in the ocean and the city skyline was bright behind us. The boats in the water were mere outlines, only highlighted by the bright moon. There was quite a crowd along the breakwater and I couldn't believe my luck that we might actually see a penguin in the dark. But yet, there upon the rocks was this bright white belly of a little penguin. It's fins were stretched out and his belly protruded proudly as the visitors gasped and giggled (Ok, maybe that was just me) and tried desperately to take pictures in the dark without flash as that would clearly disturb them as they nestled into the crevices of the rocks for the night. They hobbled their little feet across the sloping rocks, maintaining their balance with awkward poise. They confidently stood perched upon the rocks, asserting their home territory yet welcoming us. They showed off as if they knew how unquestionably cute they were. They bravely left the nestle of the rocks and walked across the footpath an arms length away from us. They posed for pictures as the hi-vis guides shown red-masked flash lights upon them for us to see in the dark, but respectfully as they can't visualise the red spectrum as much. They squawked and chattered to each other. One little kid remarked, they sound like eagles. His sister responded, yeah they sound like birds. (one. how do you know what an eagle sounds like. two. yes they are birds.)

 None of my pictures came out.* I barely even tried to capture the little guys as I just wanted to snatch one and cuddle with and keep for my own. No picture will do justice to the smile that I had on my face. Every stress, anxiety, uncertainty I had diminished while I was on the breakwater amongst the little penguins. Every reason for coming to Australia had been answered. OK, maybe that's a bit drastic. But, it was exactly what I needed.
*(these pictures are from another visit to the St Kilda pier while the penguins were out enjoying the day at sea)

Melbourne's Little Library.

Amongst the busy retail shops in Melbourne Central Station, people rushing by in between lunch shifts, or catching transportation, or picking up errands, or window shopping, is one of my favourite little shops. It's not really a shop as there is not cashier, nothing to buy, nothing to return, nothing to try on. It is in-itself its own display case, its own shop window. You take two steps inside and then can only walk a few steps to the left or the right, shuffling. Another person within the doors would make it crowded. The Little Library, is literally, a little library. With just shelves lining the back wall and more shelves in their shop window, the Little Library is publicly surrounded by busy shoppers passing by yet feels very intimate once you step inside and read their philosophy. It could be easily overpassed, but you'll be glad you stopped in. Their philosophy is that everyone should enjoy reading, to feel free to take a book, but donate a book in return - based completely on an honour system. The first day I stumbled upon it there was a wide selection of books, but looking a bit sparse. I was eager to donate. On the top shelf, almost protected was the entire Twilight Series (or was it Hunger Games? Or the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?) I took one book, Animal Farm, but I was more delighted in having a place to dump some of the books I had out of my backpack, lighten my own load while providing some amusing free indulgence for others. 

a cultural day around melbourne.

One of my two jobs had training once a week on Wednesday mornings. Attendance was encouraged, but not mandatory. The hour long sessions would often be tastings of new dishes on the menu if seasons changed, wine tastings of worldly regions, or have producers of the wagyu meat they serve come in to talk to us about their farm and production processes. One day, we were invited to a guided tour of the state library's exhibition: Gusto! A culinary history of Victoria. I had already been - clearly - but was interested enough to go back for the guided version. Ok, I didn't really learn too much more, but the morning sparked my interest to continue my day of Victorian culture by heading to the National Gallery of Victoria. 
I couldn't, or didn't want to, afford the entrance fee to the Napoleon exhibition, but instead wandered around looking at all the art, sculpture, and artefacts. I racked my brain to remember some art history knowledge from my uni minor, knowing very well not one of the classes mentioned a thing about Australian art or art history.
It's very soothing to go into an art museum on your own. It's very quiet, reflective. You feel cultural just being there. I often feigned interest stopping to look at certain pieces while blatantly walked past others. Multitudes of school groups from fidgety children to bored teenagers filled the different rooms and I slowly walked past, interested to hear what the guide had to say but obviously not blending into the group well enough to linger without getting dirty, greedy looks from the guide or creepy, stranger-danger looks from the teachers. I walked around, desperately wanting my mum to be there as I know she would have liked it. Maybe not necessarily the art, but me being in a museum!  
My favourite room was The Salon Room, which had paintings packed up and down the length and width of the walls in the style they used to hang them  in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries in Europe. The artist/work lost a bit of their individual attention when being the only focal point on a bare wall, but I liked the look of them all together.
The painting below is titled Anguish. It caught my attention.
This one reminded me of Ted being blown over by the waves on the Great Ocean Road. 
Then afterwards, to continue my cultural day off, I sauntered back to the state library to look at their food and nutrition books, somehow inspired to want to study more. Learn more. Then I got hungry and went to buy $2 sushi rolls, the cheapest and most favourite Melbourne snack.  And Then I went for a run in the park! What a rewarding day! 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I think that travel comes from some deep urge to see the world, like the urge that brings up a worm in an Irish bog to see the moon when it is full.  ~Lord Dunsany

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.

The Great Ocean Road: Part III

Like I said, the Great Ocean Road is quite a lengthy 243 kilometre road. After visiting the Twelve Apostles, driving along the same coast fittingly becomes a bit repetitive with similar yet not quite as impressive limestone stacks left behind in the ocean as the cliffs continually give way to the power of the aggressive natural forces of water and wind. Arches abstain from disintegrating into the swirling currents below as caves creep further into the wall of the coast forging grottos and blow holes. From the "damage" done, it is quite easy to understand why this is called Shipwreck Coast. 

 We picked up a map from the breakfast place the next morning and deciding to venture back the way we came to visit the London Arch, but not to go as far back as the Twelve Apostles again (our photos were good enough *smirk). The bit shown below used to be attached to the mainland and was previously known as London Bridge, until the arch collapsed in 1990.

Following the map and the brown scenic road signs along the way, after the Twelve Apostles there were stopping points every couple kilometres. We stretched our legs at the Grotto, known for one of its shipwrecks in which only 2 people survived and were washed up upon the beach below. 

The beach was actually accessible by some winding wooden stairs, which would have been nice for a private picnic had we known about it! But, we had more to see according to the map and a long drive back to Melbourne ahead of us. 
The spry Southern Ocean wrecked havoc along the Victorian coast, but at every stop, even if it was the same ocean just a few kilometres further east or west, we paused in between photos to absorb its immense vastness and tremendous potential, knowing that these photos could not capture what we were beholding. 

It captivates you into silence. It inspires you to think about your life. It teasingly stimulates your desire for answers. It provokes you to grasp how little you are in this world. It urges you to be strong as it reminds you of its own strength.
 After a while, we had seen enough. Drive. Stop. Photo. Go. Drive. Stop. Photo. Go. Drive. Stop. Photo. Go. We were on the same mission as every other car we kept following and bumping into at each of the parking spots along the way. We probably all had the same exact photos from that day.
 The Bay of Islands.
 It was time for the four hour drive back to Melbourne, for me to find a job and for Ted to return to his in Perth. But not before of course visiting a whale sighting spot at the end of the Great Ocean Road.
Ted face.

not even a view in the background.

And yes. We did see a whale!!!!! 

The Great Ocean Road: Part II

The drive along the Victorian coast is pretty. Pretty is a boring word. I can't say it is the prettiest view I have ever seen throughout my years of traveling, but it is impressive, if not memorable. It's definitely a drive you're glad you've done - it's in all the top lists of Australian sights, after all. But once is enough. (unless anyone wants to come visit, then I'll definitely go again with you!)
  I suppose because the road is so long, that after hours of driving, it gets a bit repetitive, even though the ocean is always an inexhaustible companion on a road trip. The road veers inland for a bit, through unfurnished fields and modest farms lacking mobile reception to the outside world, until all of a sudden the ocean welcomes you back to what you recognise as the Great Ocean Road and reminding you of the purpose of your rambling drive. Directional road signs reappear gesturing towards a parking lot to welcome you to the most famous and most photographed spot along the road: the Twelve Apostles.
After a couple hours of driving and still dim sunlight in the sky, we decided to stop instead of saving the views for the following day. We arrived at dusk, as the tourist information centre was closing, but being a natural landscape, the viewing deck was still open.

After driving along the windy, curvy, cliff-dropping Great Ocean Road, the Tweleve Aposotles makes the drive worthwhile, as though you've accomplished something, something to check of your list of things to see, but I couldn't say it is exactly breath-taking. Don't get me wrong. The limestone stacks which used to be part of the main land but have eroded from years of harsh waves and forcible winds are extraordinary. Striking. Monumental. Remarkable. Stunning. 

We were lucky to visit when we did at dusk and without the summer crowds so that we had space to absorb the sight we left only because it was getting dark and we didn't know where we were staying for the night or what the next town along the road would offer. In that sense, it is a rewarding destination, but it is a lot of hype for the same pictures you can see online - you know what you are going to see and expect, but need to see it for yourself, kinda like the Eiffel Tower. 

That's sorta the funny thing about the internet. You see all these places you want to witness and enjoy for yourself, and if you're lucky, the places won't be deceiving from glorified photos, but in exchange, you already know what you're going to see and lose a bit of that  breathless expectation.

It's quite impressive that no more then wind and water created this natural formation, causing caves that washed away to become arches until those crumbled to sole stacks. You can't see all the Twelve Apostles from the viewing deck, and apparently, in 2005 one of the "apostles" collapsed leaving what is today only eight, so it is definitely a site you want to see before it erodes and disappears completely. 

Oh, Instagram.
(this one below is the only one instagram-ed, the other ones are untouched!)