Leah On Foot

Wanderlust

Month: September, 2014

That’s why we don’t give Leah the map

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It’s spring in Australia. Adventure is blooming! Photo: Becca.

“Now that’s a city that captures you!” Becca exclaimed as our plane descended on Sydney’s skyline. Our faces quickly planted smack against the window, our eyes were wide with excitement. The skyline had us entranced: buildings went right up to the waters edge, greenery decorated the pockets, and ferries crossed this way and that.

I knew this was going to be a good weekend.

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All it took was a stop at the botanical gardens, and we were in love. Photo: Becca.

Becca had come to visit me for two weeks from Scotland but I suggested we go somewhere else rather than limit ourselves to Melbourne. Of course, it had to be Sydney. Becca is a chemist by brain and I had already decided weeks ago that she would be responsible for navigation in Sydney. She didn’t seem to mind, not even when I would play “Backseat Driver” and challenge her anyway. “Are you sure, Becca? Are you sure it’s North? Cause I think it’s Direction Blue, near the pointy thingy.” She would be right of course, and exclaimed at one point (in Melb) “This is why we don’t give Leah the map.” I agree. I wholeheartedly agree.

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We saw lots of these weird birds. Less aggressive than pigeons but wanting our meat pies nonetheless.

She put up with me anyway, even when I had low blood sugar levels and little sleep (She’s a keeper!). We wound our way through the city, going from harbour to quay to pier and back again. The Opera House was stunning; did you know it is tiled? We picked restaurants by the size of their seafood platters and wine bars by the length of their happy hours. The seafood was out of this world. We went to five beaches in all, including lovely Manly Beach (our fave) and the [in]famous Bondi. We walked several kilometers a day in 20-22C and sun. We went to many markets, our favourite being the Manly markets. Not the touristy ones, but the one that just happens to be once a month at the local public school. We bought heaps of stuff there for next to nothing. One of those friendly, down-to-Earth places (and prices) that there are less and less of these days. Every stall had a friendly face and it took us ages just to get through the whole place.

On the last day we finally took advantage of the free CBD shuttle bus. Why had we not thought of this before? Ah, because it requires extra navigation and negotiation! THAT’s why! 😉 Is the stop symbol to the left of the Hilton hotel or to the right? We agreed; the bus driver did not. Is it stopping where the other ones go? No? Shall we run or wait? Ah fck it; let’s just walk!!

We stayed at a great hotel downtown and were therefore able to hop around and come & go as we pleased. The public transport didn’t seem as sophisticated as in Melbourne, but for a weekend in the downtown area, we did alright. I absolutely am going back to Sydney; it’s just a question of when…

Om det å flytte

Du kunne ha sagt at Solveig (74) fra Tøyen har en mye mer spennende historie enn de fleste. Alan ikke verst, heller.

Det var en søndagsmorgen i juni, og jeg hadde fortsatt litt hjemmelengsel. Solen skinte selv om dagen var kald. Jeg tok trikken til “Frogner” (Toorak). Jepp, jeg skulle i kirken! Tro det eller ei! For første gang siden…..tja, lenge siden. Men ikke bare en vanlig kirke. Neiånei. Den svenske kirken i Melbourne, for å være eksakt. Foran de store, tunge, overveldende dørene sto jeg et ekstra sekund. Jeg pustet dypt inn, og brukte kroppen for å skyve døren nok til å kunne snike meg inn.

Døren smalt hardt bak meg. Jeg så meg rundt og smilte bredt: Jeg hadde tatt et steg gjennom tid og kulturer. Jeg hadde havnet i et samfunn utenom det vanlige. Jeg hadde ikke brukt norsk på ganske lang tid…

“Morgen!” Sa jeg mens jeg rakk ut hånden. “Leah heter jeg.” “Hallo Leah, jag heter Per. Hyggelig. Har ni vært her før?” (Min verste svensk aksent). “Nei,” sa jeg. “Håper det er greit at jeg snakker norsk.” “Haha! Jo, det er flere av dere gærne her,” svarte han med et vink.

Jeg satt meg ned og lurte på hvorfor i all verden jeg var der. Men før jeg kunne svare, begynte gudstjenesten. Med rundt 25 stemmer tilsammem, reiste vi oss og sang noe om Gud og kjærlighet (sikkert).

Etter gudstjenesten var det tid for litt kaffe og boller, såklart! Her var jeg den yngste deltaker med flere tiår, men det var jo bare hyggelig. Jeg liker å snakke med de gamle. De har de beste historiene. Jeg fikk møte alle de norske som var tilstede:kun damer som hadde flyttet hit leeeeeenge siden, mye lenger før jeg ble engang født. Det er nok årsaken på at de ble her: barna deres.

Men så begynte jeg å snakke med Solveig. Solveig ble født og oppvokst i Oslo. Hun fortalte meg om Veitvet “før i tida” og barndommen hennes på Tøyen: hvordan det var så stille, rolig, og et ganske fredelig sted. Når jeg tenkte på at Øya Festivalen skulle holdes på Tøyen i august, smilte jeg litt. Mye har endret seg. Solveig kom til Australia i 1962. 1962! Hun var 22 år og hadde aldri vært uten moren hennes før. (Jeg kjente meg godt igjen.) Hun kom med fly, noe som tok en hel uke i den tida. Hun ønsket å jobbe i Australia, og det gjorde hun. Hun ble fort forelsket i en mann. (Jeg kjente meg godt igjen). De hadde barn sammen, og nå er hun bestemor. Hun har integrert seg så mye man kan i et fremmed land. Og her er hun, på den svenske kirken. Sikkert hver helg.

Naturligvis er Solveig en solstråle. Hun ble like fascinert over historien min, og vi lo litt over livet mens vi spiste mørk, nordisk kaffe og spiste IKEA kanelboller. Jeg måtte ta av hatten til denne dama. Bare reisen til Australia i seg selv er noe å være stolt over å ha overlevd. Og tanken på at en tenåring på Tøyen hadde lyst til å reise til Australia! “Bare for å oppleve noe nytt.” Det gjorde hun, altså.

Og Alan? Alan, han som ikke har blitt nevnt på flere hundre ord? Han snakker ikke et eneste ord på verken norsk eller svensk. “I come for the ladies,” sa han. “Scandinavian women are beautiful, no matter what age.” Jeg visste ikke om jeg skulle tro at det var ekkelt eller morsomt. Men han var en sjømann i sine yngre dager, og ble forelsket i en norsk kvinne. Det høres romantisk ut, men historien fortsetter: hun ville ikke til Australia, og han ville ikke til Norge. Så det ble slutt, og jeg lurer på om han fortsatt angrer. Det høres da kanskje litt mer trist ut enn romantisk.

Jeg hadde ikke hjemmelengsel igjen etter den dagen. Det var nok da da jeg begynte å tenke på at hjemme er noe vi bærer rundt i verden med oss. Akkurat slik Solveig gjør med stille og rolig Tøyen.

That Melbourne Wind

Oh, so that’s what they mean by Melbourne wind!

Today was windy. In fact, it’s 2am, and through my widow I hear buildings protesting and a hollow wind through the branches.

In Iowa, it was typically windy. It wasn’t a prime landscape to bike, to wear dresses, to cross country ski….etc. My moms car door twice needed repairs because she left it open and a gust came. And that was just the one car. However, it still didn’t occur to me that silence could really envelope a place until (Eastern) Norway.

Whenever it is windy in Oslo, it is practically in the news, and for legit reasons. It IS annoying, not because (we’re) simply not used to it, but because it disrupts life so much more. We DO walk and bike everywhere, wear flowy skirts, and cross country ski! I am reliant on umbrellas most days and if it is windy, I can’t use one.

Faced with packing a suitcase for Melbourne, two things were made clear to me: it rains a lot, and is windy.

I am not convinced that Melbourne is rainy. In fact, any Melburnian will tell you that New South Wales and Queensland have a higher average daily rainfall percentage (or something) than Melbs. I’m not quite convinced that it is all that windy in Melbourne, either. This is the second or third night I can recall where the winds here were so….well, Iowan.

Two things stick out at this point: that Melb gets these bad raps for the simple reason that they actually have such natural occurrences. I suppose ‘everyone else’ living here are all from places where wind and rain rarely occur. Of course, I’m sure some snowbirds like myself laugh. Just to keep the balance. 😉

Winter WAS long and hard and as equally depressing, actually. It’s just because society has that same mindset of: “it’s cold, it’s miserable, get me home to a cuppa tea.” So since spring is hopping along, we are all much more open to life and smiling. Laughter comes easier and Melb is suddenly alive again.

One question I cannot answer is one I got just the other day.

A customer I had was from Brasil. He was a lovely guy although felt cold at 18C. I laughed and told him winter was weird here because, given my background, I expect snow and all we got was some rain. After a slight pause, he looked at me with pure sincerity and curiosity and wonderment in his voice and eyes, and said “why would you miss the snow?”

I am still speechless at his sincerity in the question. He truly could not understand the crunch of the boots, the silence of it falling gently on the street, or the way it lights up a dark night. He does not know the way snow can change a landscape overnight, or bring such joy to a Labrador or child. In that same sense, we cannot separate ourselves from the environments in which we know intuitively. We can grow to know others, but I for one still cannot embrace the desert like I can the winds. When it rains, I still hope for a thunderstorm. And when it is windy in Melbourne, I pull my hair back, and leave the umbrella at home.