Leah On Foot

Wanderlust

Month: July, 2014

Hobart

I sit here, my secret hiding place on campus. Quiet, undisturbed, I look out over the city and try to put theory behind my latest campaign idea. What stategic and ethical considerations should be—ya know what, ACG5098? It’s Friday, leave me alone.

Because as I become giddy over planning a fun-filled trip with Becca to Sydney come September, I think back on my trips this year and the strange stories and places. I wanted to travel on my own and was never lonely. Thing about travelling alone is, you can always surround yourself with people in bars or tour groups if you want, or stay quiet.  Hobart called to the introvert in me, and I mostly stayed quiet.

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Mt. Wellington from my window with fresh snow on the peaks.

Hobart has approximately 100,000 residents on either side of the water. It is the largest city on/in Tasmania. Such a unique, quirky place as well. When I asked my host if I should be careful about certain area of town, she smirked. One of those smirks where it was obvious that I had asked a silly question. “No, certainly not a problem for you. Just be careful at night; there are minimal street lamps.” In this and similar ways, Hobart felt like a trip back in time. The famous state cinema added to this effect, and I don’t know if I used my debit card at any cafe. Even the bartenders seemed from an old black&white movie, greeting me with that white shirt & suspenders, glass and towel in-hand asking, “How can I help yuh, Miss?”

The most life to be had was on Saturday morning at the Salamanca Market. That was so much fun! Lots of local crafts, products, and pride. I really enjoyed looking at everything except all of the stuff made from “Tasmanian forest.” I’m sure it’s all ethically sustained and whatnot, yadda yadda, but still…it wasn’t sitting right with me. The Australian and state government could care less about the untouched forest. Even the logging companies have asked, “Really? Are you sure you want to do this?”

So when I came up to a wildlife protection organisation’s booth, I had to stop for some booklets and to have a chat with the lovely ladies advocating for protection. I learned a lot from that side of the story, and walked away with an entire library on material about proposed logging and the wildlife it will affect. Logging in any forest is just so sad, but in a place like Tasmania!! Oh, my heart aches. You could tell the residents still mourn the extinction of the Tasmanian tiger due to hunting culls in the 1930’s, and I can’t imagine what will happen to the Tasmanian devils if they tear down the precise forest where they thrive the best.

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Rainbow over beautiful Tassie

But alas, my time in Hobart was not dedicated to spending some alone time or protesting on behalf of the devils. One day I dedicated the entire day to art. If you look at my life in the past, say, five odd years, I have maybe once or twice made a conscious decision to go to an art gallery. But MONA, or the Museum or Old and New Art, is truly a spectacle to be invested in. This genius weird dude with shitloads of money opened it three or four years ago, and it was mind blowing, I tell you! Mind blowing!

So, in this place, you are likely to find 200 casts of various “styles” of vaginas next to a mummified Egyptian next to a floating scrap metal thing from imaginations beyond our Normal Human understanding. This place was insane! I loved it. One exhibit was of a “digestive system,” the whole room smelling of rotten raw chicken. Another was a mirrored toilet (no comment on that one). My favourites were probably 1) a 1936 German documentary on the Olympics, groundbreaking technology for the time, and what a time for it. 2) The Death Gallery.

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Don’t worry; he looked both ways before crossing.

Hobart was cute, inviting, and oh-so Tassie.

OK ACG5098, see you again on Monday.

Joe’s Kiosk

Adelaide: It’s the city where everybody somehow knows everybody. Or at least their in-laws.

The family friend I was staying with planned for me to go out for drinks on my last night with her younger colleagues, and it solidified everything I had learned since arriving there: three degrees of separation defines the city. Everybody knows everybody.

Case one: Ten minutes after I landed, we were at Joe’s Kiosk, where we ran into a Big Name Ex-Politician and a rice farmer from NSW. I couldn’t decide who was more interesting to talk to! Joe himself hugged me and gave me a chocolate. Everywhere we went, she knew someone, or her colleagues knew someone. Little did I know I had already been sucked into this world…

Which leads me to case two: Just a few weeks prior, I was at the pub to watch some footy when I met my newest footy-banter buddy. A bloke from Adelaide who comes to Melbourne a few times a year with his mates purely for the purpose of watching footy. That’s my kind of people.

Case three: Two weeks prior, I was at the four-gate Maroochydore airport when I found the only Norwegian there. She was a bright, bubbly girl from the eastern bits of Norway. We traded Facebook names and vowed to see each other when she came to Melbourne come spring.

So when I was in Adelaide, I planned to have breakfast on my last day there with my new footy friend. We had good conversation and amazing food at a very popular cafe. Around noon I got a text from my Norwegian friend. “Are you in Adelaide?! Let’s have coffee!”

*Worlds colliding!*

It was so glorious, so random, and I was so happy. What a coincidence. A month before my trip, neither of these meetings would have even happened. But they did, thanks to Adelaide.

It reminded me of Iowa: everybody knows everybody and their business. Trying to keep a private life is a joke, but it also means that networking takes care of itself. Absolutely everyone I met was incredibly welcoming and nice, and I must admit, there wasn’t a single bad-looking guy in the whole city.

So the next time you go to Joe’s Kiosk, beware: you may never know who you’re going to run into!

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The view from Joe’s Kiosk on a stormy winter day

Through the Eyes of my Father

It’s a funny thing, visiting where your parents once lived. Before you were born or even desired, they had a life! Given this, everything before 1987 seems to me to be a bit fuzzy, as if a decade’s worth of life was squished into a year or so. I grew up hearing stories of Dad living in Wild Australia. He had seen kangaroos and drove down “highways” made out of gravel. My image of Australia so far had been Melbourne and sunny Queensland beaches. Dad, however, barely even made it to Melbourne. It was time to see Australia through the eyes of my father.

That’s not as poetic as it should be, really. Adelaide was merely my dad’s first port of call, he lived there only a few months I believe, before trekking from farm to farm the rest of the time. Let’s face it: I ain’t doing that. The friends he made in Adelaide, however, were the ones who pushed him to see more of the country, to not settle for $1.25/hour at the local Chrysler factory. They have kept in touch all these years, however jaggedly or sporadic it may have been.

So when I arrived in Australia, I Googled their daughter, who Dad and Mom met up with when she was touring the U.S. a number of years ago. I finally decided on a date to come and she was so generous as to let me stay with her in the city. On the second day in Adelaide, we went to visit her parents. Her and I both grew up highly anticipating “That letter from the other side of the world,” each of us wondering what gems or photos may be included.

On the second day, I went to visit these friends of my father. The evening went as expected. There was much fuss over the roast, I made them Skype each other, and they recalled some of the same stories my dad had told me. The real kicker came when they brought out a folder containing three of the letters Dad had sent throughout the years: one from 1980, another from 1997, and one from 2002. I was floored. I wanted to cry, but held them back as I didn’t want them to be mistaken for tears of sorrow. The letters were amusing and informative. I learned so much from those letters. Dad had included pictures of my brother, proud with a buck from a successful hunting season. Dad was proud of how well I did in school, and was concerned about that year’s crops (of course).

These letters brought back a wave of memories from the 1990’s. At dinnertime growing up, we would have place mats with atlases on them, and I’d always take my finger and circle Norway and Australia. There were also place mats with facts about Australia and some of its wacky animals. When Dad came back from a visit to Australia in 1995, he gave me an opal necklace with a kangaroo on it. He brought back memorabilia from Canberra, chocolate from South Australia, and a real hat from the outback! I’ll never forget that, the evidence of his travels pouring over the edge of his gigantic suitcase.

The trip to Adelaide was cold and wet, but I was the one who chose to go in winter. I’ll write more about the city another time, but those letters still wet my eyes a bit, as I uncovered a new side of my dad. Some of it was so very typical (“it’s 75F and dry; great for making hay”), whereas some of it was new (“Leah does well in school and I am proud”). Adelaide is often described by outsiders as “cute, but a bit boring if you don’t go in the summer.” To me, Adelaide was a bit like home. It felt like I had been away for too long, and too much had changed. Strange. One thing my dad miraculously remembered was where he lived: 8 Alice Street, or 8 Alison Street. I was determined to go there, until I quickly discovered that there are about eight different 8 Alice and Alison Streets throughout Adelaide and its suburbs. Maybe that will be the theme of the next trip to Adelaide. I’ll be sure to bring Dad along.

Sunshine Coastal Chillin’

I marvel at the landscape, how different the plants and trees are compared to Victoria! Parakeets decorate the pines, transforming them into Christmas trees. I see a whale (!) from the plane. Surfers of all ages line up the expansive beaches, as local cafes serve up amazing fresh juices. Guys and kids throwing a rugby ball back and forth, boundary lines carved out in the sand with a stick. The looser sand massages my feet as I walk with my shoes in one hand. This is the Sunshine Coast.

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Alexander Headlands beach

“G’day love! Are you enjoying your holiday? You from Melbourne?”

“How did you know?” I asked, bewildered. “Cause muh dear, you’re wearing a sundress. …It’s winter.”

I had planned nothing but chill time in Maroochydore and a tour to Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island (more about Fraser Island in the next post—it was awesome).

I did yoga classes, took long walks, went for a run or two, and after sunset, I watched a movie with a good cuppa (tea). When I booked the five day trip, I was weary that I had committed to too much and would be bored.

Below is Mooloolaba beach. One other person’s towel in the photo. The day after, this beach was packed with hundreds of people, all trying to squeeze a glimpse of a dying whale, apparently with a couple of shark bites to its side. The whale didn’t make it much longer.

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Mooloolaba beach. Below 20C = beach was empty.

On Sunday, I had to count the days on my hand, time seemed to have disappeared. I couldn’t believe how active I had been on my “lazy” holiday. I felt great, sleeping for ten hours each night. So much sun, chill time, and shopping, and I wasn’t ready to let that go. So I chucked my bag into a locker, and spent hours at the beach, drinking fresh juice and ate an amazing pumpkin salad at the Beach Street deli, recommended to me by my hosts. I stayed until the late afternoon, until the winds started to pick back up, and my sweater was no longer enough to keep me warm. The only thing left to do was take that last flight out of MCY airport home.

When I was a little girl, I would marvel at the spectacle of lights flying at night gave. My favourite activity to this day is recognising the townships and landmarks as we fly over them. On a date night in March, Michael tried pointing out different landmarks of Melbourne to me from the city’s tallest tower. I loved even that, reminding me of what I feel like when I fly at night.  So as we approached the state of Victoria again, I was saddened that I couldn’t play this game of Guess the Town, or have anyone point out to me which town was which. But then suddenly, there she was: Marvellous Melbourne. So incredibly vast she is; stoic even. Her suburbs, supporting and interlacing; I felt like a little girl again.

This was significant for me, especially feeling the way I did about coming back to the cold, wind, and rain after all that sun. Up north, even my ulcerative colitis seemed happy to take a break. The pilot said as we reached the clouds “Welcome on board ladies and gentlemen. The current weather in Melbourne is….not so good.” Melbourne has not been my happy place so far—one difficulty after the other, it’s far from everywhere, and adjusting hasn’t come as quickly as I predicted. It is still a large and noisy city, too, and I am still a small-town girl who is a light sleeper.

All that said and done, it was delicious to land and see my breath in the biting midnight air. I was finally able to make peace with the ding-ding’s of the trams and being able to hear my neighbours. I feel very safe in Melbourne, I can walk to pretty much everywhere I need to be.

And I really can’t complain about that.