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East coast family and friends

08/10/13
The Three Monkeys
West End, Brisbane

I am sitting in a cafe I am very fond of in Brisbane with just two days left in Australia.

My back hurts, my shoulders are sore, I am tired, I have just cried a little bit into my iced coffee and I wondering if I just tried to achieve too much in the last 3 weeks here.

Since leaving Perth I have raced up and down the East Coast trying to fit everyone in and keep everyone smiling.I’ve travelled on trains, planes, buses, cars and even a taxi. I have pulled 23kg + my laptop + my backpack around (and listened to EVERYONE tell me it’s too heavy, ask me why I have so much, and tell me I will hurt myself. Very helpful comments and questions kind people – please note this – NO tired traveller who has painstakingly given and thrown away many many things wants to ever hear this!) and I have not slept more than 4 nights in one bed, which used to be fun, and now at 29 it’s just exhausting!

As I sit here in Brisbane with watery eyes waiting for painkillers to take away the pain that is wriggling across my upper back, I worry that I have tried to do too much and have potentially made my two week Bali adventure an uncomfortable experience.

But in the name of optimism and good blog stuff let’s look at what I HAVE managed to get done over here recently.
First of all, three and a half lovely days with my new-never-met-before-Maltese-Italian-Aussie family that was filled with food, laughter, stories, love and more. I met so many wonderful people that I even rearranged my last few days in Australia to see them again.

Then a train ride from Brisbane through the NSW hinterland back to a much loved home from home on my lovely cousin’s organic farm. Four blissful days were spent cuddling cows, playing with dogs and horses and laughing till I cried, in some favourite locations too.

Spartacus

Poppy and Venus

Poppy

May I say that these four days might have been four of the most memorable in Australia? And let’s not forget the food feasts! I was staying with an incredible cook and also a chef, yet I won our rendition of Come Dine With Me, with my Spanish themed evening – and even got a certificate! One of my proudest moments!

Images from Bundjalung National Park

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Then there was another early departure and a terribly emotional bus trip north as I realised, as one does unexpectedly sometimes, that such a lovely experience as that would never be repeated again and the many fond memories I have started to build up will soon be nothing but memories. Of course I have known ever since arriving that the end would come, but it is sad to leave a place you have been back to a number of times, knowing it’s your last.

I arrived in Brisbane transit centre and sat there for over an hour as my connecting bus was delayed. All I really wanted to do was put my head on someone’s shoulder and go to sleep, but maybe not wise to do that to a stranger!

A little later than planned I arrived at Nambour and was met by a great uncle, who confessed he couldn’t remember meeting me! When people make such a fuss about you spending time with them, it’s a little disconcerting when they say they can’t remember what you look like.

Three days were spent on the Sunshine Coast, filled with plenty of stories, spectacular views and glorious food. Highlights include my 77 year great uncle beating me to the surf at Mooloolaba, a lunch at the magical Secrets on the Lake and some very cheap, yet delicious fish and chips!
Kondalilla Falls
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Lake Baroon
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After my time in Bli Bli I was taken up the coast to Noosa and handed over to a friend for the weekend. My cattle station friend ( we’d met when I was “doing my time” on the station) and I had plenty to catch up on and did this eating copious amounts of cheese, drinking too much beer and chilling on the beach in between.

I sadly never made it to Noosa Heads, as thanks to a public holiday parking was almost impossible.

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A drive down to Caloundra for lunch at another great uncle’s and thanks to a lift in the land cruiser life was made easier. Thankfully I didn’t attempt public transport twice that day as because of a “new” public holiday the Translink website was mistakenly telling me and every other commuter in Queensland the WRONG information. So after a relaxing few hours in Golden Beach, catching up with another relative, I had a rather sticky and stressful commute back to Brisbane.

Since arriving back here I have had another Maltese-Italian banquet and met more family members! I have had a wonderful lunch with another cousin, and yet to come morning tea with my bush family mum and dinner out with another cousin, then lunch with more relatives.

I will be unable to do anything other than sit on the beach once I arrive in Bali!

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smell the flowers

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It seems I got a little complacent here in Perth.

I forgot to have an adventure. I just plodded along: making do, getting by and making excuses for losing my spirit. I was depressed about not earning enough, felt stunted by not having the freedom of a car and felt I hadn’t met the right group of people to be myself with.

Sometimes we forget who we are, what drives us and what makes us smile. We just get into habits, routines and doing what’s easy, or safe, or the least stressful. And sadly – the least adventurous and often the least fun.
With less than two weeks left in Perth, I realised there were still so many “unhad” adventures to be had! I realised I had wasted weekends thinking I had plenty of time left, or been waiting around for people to make plans or commit to suggestions, for the weather to improve, to have a bit more cash. So many reasons to sit on my arse and do nothing. That’s not who I am – I made a vow a couple of years ago to stop waiting for perfect and do things today

So, realising I had unwittingly had a bit of an adventure hiatus, a few months of not making the most of the moment – I frustratingly scoured the internet looking for places to spend my last few days off in Perth. If you wait for people to be available, or for the weather to be perfect – nothing happens. As John Lennon aptly put it “Life is what happens to you whilst you are busy making plans”. And it’s true – suddenly you realise months have gone past and time is almost up.

A four day weekend… a day in a national park, a day at a comedy and music festival and two more days to fill. Not a moment to be wasted.

Here’s to making the most of it!

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Live a little…

So, the other day I bought a voucher to go Iceskating…

It occurred to me that I had become a bit “safe” recently and subsequently, quite boring, and yes, indeed bored.
I have a number of excuses for such a position. Is it because I now work as an Au Pair and I am quite literally drained of energy at the end of the day? And I have the unusual luxury of having my own digs, complete with tv and internet, so sometimes it’s just “easier” to not go out?
Is it because I have never got enough money? I don’t earn very much to say the least, and what I do earn, really doesn’t go very far in Perth. Then there is the fact that I don’t have my own car, so going anywhere involves a number of transport complications, so as previously mentioned, it’s just sometimes easier to stay at home.

But is that what I came to Australia to do? To sit in my room, watching Foxtel and feeling pleased I have got through the day? Worrying about where my cents will go, so desperately trying to save them instead of enjoying them?
I know that when I get back to the UK my dollars will mean nothing, the sun won’t shine very often and I won’t have the opportunities that living in a (pretty cool) city in a (bloody awesome) place like this has to offer.

They say that you should do something that scares you every day. That’s not always possible and I am not as brave as I used to be, so I will aim for once a week! I also have only 5 weeks left in Perth, and only 8 weeks left in Australia, so now is the time more than ever to MAKE EVERYTHING COUNT! Who knows when I will be back?

Iceskating. Yes it scares me. The last time I went was about 10 years ago. I fell over, but it was ok. The time before that was about 3 years previously and I fell badly, landing on my knee, really hurting it, and vowed never ever to go again. Since then I have feared hurting myself so much that I never thought I would go again. Frightened I would fall and hurt my back, I forgot about the prospect of landing on my knee again. Which was worse?

Anyway, I enlisted the company of a fellow Au Pair and friend on my fear-combating adventure. Bought the tickets and made the plans. I refused to let anxiety hinder my enjoyment, but on entering the building I was looking for any excuse turn on my heel (whilst still on dry land – can’t turn on ice!) and make a quick exit. There was nowhere safe to leave my bag: leave it in the car. The skates were too big: Smaller ones would be uncomfortable. The skates hurt: get over it. It’s cold: get over it. I don’t like the music: get over it. Out of excuses. Skates on.
We waddled our way towards the ice – how do you walk without looking like a penguin??
I gingerly stepped onto the ice, gripping the barrier for dear life. At this point I start laughing hysterically (anyone familiar with this?) as I was actually bricking it. I can’t move!! I had no idea what to do, I froze, pardon the pun! Other skaters whizzed past me, carved the ice, skated backwards. No one was falling over. This was not the place for Grace to get over her fear!

Slowly I started to move my feet – making my way along the edge, and whilst laughing and screaming simultaneously whenever someone passed me, I found myself sort of skating. My partner in crime was finding my expression (sticking tongue out in concentration interspersed with screeches of fear or hysterical laughter) hilarious herself and had to stop a number of times from laughing too hard. I don’t know how many laps I did before I started to realise I was actually skating and dare I say, enjoying it a little bit. I still flailed my arms, and windmilled my way around and went straight into the barrier to stop. I still screamed every time someone whipped past me, and watched people fall over to asses how badly they were hurt and to figure out how they got up again.

I started to get the hang of it, and was smiling, grinning, skating, yelling out “I am skating, no one will believe me! I can do it!!” I don’t have words to describe how it felt to actually do it, after all these years. I even had a little fall and got back up again, but I was fine!

It has to end somewhere though doesn’t it? Usually when someone wants to take a picture. Often when you fall and really hurt yourself and the wind is taken out of your sails, not to mention your chest and your pride, not to mention your body is bruised.

“You skate ahead, do another lap, and I will get a photo of you”. Off I went, picking up speed: the idea of a camera capturing my moment spurring me on. Then something went wrong, I did something wrong and I went down. I went down hard. Right on my Left knee (same one as before) and hard on my left boob and hand, as I tried to cushion my fall. I flipped myself over immediately, scared someone was going to slice me in half, but the pain in my knee made me want to vomit and the pain in my chest from being winded actually scared me. I can’t tell you how I got to my feet, but I made it just as someone was offering me a hand, I managed to dodge oncoming traffic and slide contraflow to the exit and get off, barely able to move my legs. I sat, tears smudging my mascara, as my leg shuddered with shock, and my left breast felt like someone had kicked me repeatedly. I wanted everyone to disappear so I could have a good cry. The pain eventually subsided, but my enthusiasm was gone. Skating was finished for me. The fear was back and I was terrified and bruised. I did, however, get back on the ice and I did another lap, just so that I could end it well, and not have my memory being face down.

I saw so many people fall and get back up again, who looked fine. I was fine too – nothing but my smile was broken, but it was time to go home.
On the way home, we stopped for frozen yoghurt – my new obsession and I got a bag of ice for my knee, which I sat with all evening, fearing the prospect of an unusable knee.

I am SO pleased I did it, I now know I can do it, and I had a go, and even enjoyed it.
I told my younger brother tonight what i had done, and he said… “So, maybe are ready to have another go at skiing then…” Some of you know my skiing story from the Pyrenees about 7 years ago – an experience I do not wish to repeat!

Live loving and love living… continued

Here are a couple of drafts that never made it onto my blog, so I’ve put them together here…

Happy New Year everyone!

As I sit in bed on January 1st, looking at the glorious sunshine out of my bedroom window, it’s hard to imagine the torrential rain yesterday that caused rivers to swell, roads to becomes rivers and puddles to become ponds. Just driving out of my village was like driving upstream yesterday which is something I don’t remember ever having to do before…
It’s nice to have a moment to contemplate where you have been and what you have achieved over the past year, and to feel inspired about how you will continue this year.

* * *

I write this as I sit on the train making my way from Taunton to Bristol, where I will meet my sister-in-law who will have a late lunch with me, drive me to Reading, where I will take the Airbus to Heathrow and later on tonight, be on my merry way to Singapore for the next phase of my journey.

2012 was a wonderful year. I decided to Live Loving and Love Living and that I did.
It was a full calendar year in Australia where my friends became my family, my adventures became my stories and my challenges became my strengths.

I fell back in love with my career: teaching English thanks to the ever-changing 18 or so students who I spent 4 hours a day with. Apart from a few personality clashes in the classroom I honestly never felt like I was going to work. Getting up every morning and knowing I was going to spend time with a group of wonderful adults never felt like work at all. In turn for improving their English, they shared their cultures, their music, their dreams and their trust in me and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I experiences Colombia, Korea, Thailand, Japan, China and Brazil all from inside my windowless classroom in Melbourne.

I had a number of opportunities to see Victoria and more from behind the wheel, from hire cars, to mini buses to motor-homes. I have driven along the Great Ocean Road, through the Grampians, down to Lakes Entrance, over to Philip Island, raced into Adelaide, got lost in Canberra, traversed a steep mountain road and driven around Queensland chasing waterfalls.

I’ve also lived the city life, lived the bush life, Lived the country life. I have taught and been taught and learnt so many lifelong lessons as I have continued to Live Loving and Love Living throughout the year.
I had the opportunity to meet family I didn’t know I had, to reconnect with friends from the past simply have a few moments to just enjoy being.

This year, I have decided will be the year to Make it Happen. I no longer have any time for useless aspirations to lose a few pounds, get a bit fitter or eat less chocolate and feel that the one goal we should all strive to achieve is to be happy. That’s all it needs to ever be.

So this is the year to Make it Happen. I achieved so much my myself last year, that I shall continue to do so and to go for the things I want. So If I want to go and lie on a white sandy beach, I will make it happen. If I want to visit a far away friend – I will make it happen. If I want to learn something new, I will make it happen. I am starting to believe that the power we have to do what we want is just endless.

January sky

January sky


So… 2013 will be the year to continue to Live Loving and Love Living, as that proved to be one of the best years I’ve and also to be the year that I Make it Happen – whatever it is!
So, who’s in? What are you going to Make happen this year? And did you have a go at Living Loving so you could Love Living? I would love to hear feedback from my readers!

more to come!

So much to say!

I am back in the bush. The temperature is at least 10 degree higher, there are more puppies, an abundance of frogs and most certainly plenty of snakes waiting to say hello. Other than that, it feels like I never left, yet I did so much in my short time away I didn’t even get a chance to write about it.
I arrived in Melbourne over a month ago and experienced perhaps we could say “reverse culture shock”? I stood outside Southern Cross station waiting for a friend gazing up at the buildings instead of trees, stepping out of the way of people rather than cattle and feeling a chilly breeze on the back of my neck in the place of the sun’s gentle caress. I had no idea if I would return to the bush, let Melbourne be my home again, head off to new destinations or even board a plane home. The answer to that predicament came after two weeks of visa and medical stress caused by appointments, misguided information, unhelpful people, useless websites, being too honest, forgetting important things, making inappropriate jokes with foreign doctors and a number of other matters that left me rather depleted and a lot more skint! All to stay in Australia for another year! Well thanks to whatever forces were on my side, I am set to stay here for another year to fill this blog with more stories, adventures and thoughts from Down Under.
Watch this space readers!

Stop.Smile.Laugh

Stop. Smile. Laugh

The other day after a frustrating afternoon of half completed errands, cancelled classes and wasted time: I was sitting on the tram on my way back to Toorak. It was early for me, and I was wondering how I would make the most of an unexpected free evening.

We stopped at a busy interchange and a little girl got on the tram with her father. She jumped onto the seat opposite me, sat cross-legged and got out her “phone”. It was a large plastic toy phone with buttons that made different ring-tone sounds. The little girl sat on the tram pretending to be on a very important phone call. No more than four years old, she sat there nodding and gesticulating with her hands, whilst her father looked lovingly over her and I sat watching totally smitten by her.

Her back pack was placed on the seat next to her and had three characters on the front with the words: Stop * Smile * Laugh. Never has a four-year-old taught me such an insightful lesson. I stopped what I was thinking about. I smiled at her. And I laughed with her father at this little lady on the phone.

What a beautiful journey home. And what a mantra to take away from that moment.