Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Back Where I Started

On arriving in Sydney I made my way to the place I started, the Rail Way Square YHA. It was strange to be back in such a familiar place and feel like a stranger. IN the past there was always someone I knew about but this time there was no-one. As I checked in I was asked if it was my first visit and I couldn’t help but smile remembering the time when my friends there and the staff thought I might never leave. This time though instead of six weeks I was only there for one night. I was in the city so I could meet up with a good friend the next day. We were going to see Taylor Swift at the Olympic Park and then she was taking me home with here, again! My roommates were and older lady who was travelling and two young girls who were also in town for the concert. I think they were a bit surprised that I was too but they quickly got over it and were very friendly. The day of the concert I took a walk in the morning to say hi to a friend working nearby before checking out og the hostel and spending the day in the hostel common room. I was supposed to meet my friend in the early afternoon but I ended up not meeting her until after 5pm as she was able to catch up with her family on her way to the city. It was worth the wait though. It was fabulous to see her and we really enjoyed the concert. I hadn't realised it before but I’ve only seen rock concerts, even if they are what my brother would term 'girly' rock. This was something different, it was a show. The costumes and dancers were amazing but it was Taylor herself who shone. She was fabulous live. She came across as fun and genuine as well as singing really really well. Post concert my friend and I headed to the camp site where she was interning.  We arrived at 1:30am so it was straight to bed as we were to be up at 7:30am to feed the horses.

Myt friend is a lot younger than I am and when it’s just the two of us I often forget this but when I meet her friends I do wonder if they think I’m a bit odd to be such good friends with someone so much younger than me. This time there was the added worry about how they would feel about my religious view. You see this isn’t just a camp, it’s a Christian camp. I need not have worried though. Everyone I met was friendly and though a few seemed a but wary at first as soon as they realised that I am a fairly genuine person who wasn’t going to start bashing their ideas or convert them to science they warmed to me. In fact during my stay there I had numerous interesting discussions on the nature of god and religion with different people and at the end of them all we were all still friends. As interested as I was in these discussions my main reason for being there was to see my friend. I kept her company during her chores and got to meet her horse and we talked and talked and talked. I even managed to time my visit with the owners daughters 21st which they let good naturedly let me crash. I did end up in the kitchen dicing avocados but then it’s been a while since I have done and avocado related work so it was probably due. The party itself was beautiful; the speeches made my friend cry it was easy to see how much everyone loved of the birthday girl. After a lovely meal we got to meet the families’ newest member, an adorably fluffy puppy and hear some music performed by the birthday girl and her band. On my last day i abandoned my friend to her lunch prep and went for a final walk around the site with her friend. The site is beautiful. On my first day my friend made sure to take me to the two best look outs and I was blown away by the stunning views so I couldn’t leave without revisiting them and was glad my friends friend offered to be my guide. My time there was too short. I would loved to have stayed and visited with my friend and her friends for longer but I had made plans and I wanted to spend my last week in Australia in the palce where I started. Mt friend drovce me to the train station and we had time for a strawberry milk in the park before we had to part. I was sad to say goodbye to someone who has become such a good friend and been a real source of support as well as friendship and love since I met her last June but I know I’ll see her again next year when I’m back this way if not before.

Back in Sydney another friend has deserted me. Fortunately even though she had disappeared off to the Blue Mountains with her boyfriend sher cousin welcomed me back to Sydney and welcomed me to their flat where they were kind enough to put me up for the next week. In all fairness I was knackered and therefore didn’t really miss seeing my friend that night, also since she was away I got to borrow her bed for the night. The next day I spent sorting my stuff out and doing some much needed laundry. My friend and her man arrived back pretty late but there was enough to time to establish that they’d had a great time and that I was settled in just fine. I arrived at my friends a few days before St Patricks Day and whilst this is a day of celebration for many for me it is the anniversary of Jonathan’s death. When I left a year ago I made sure to leave after the second anniversary not really taking in that if I stayed a year I would be here for the third. I know my family back home were worried but I’m lucky to have good friends here to support me. On the 16th I got drunk in the flat then went out dancing. I ended the night at a friend’s place talking through the unfairness of it all amongst other thing before falling asleep on his couch.  The next day I met another friend for an amazing lunch. He did ask how I was holding up and we talked about it a little but mostly we just caught up and I talked at him a lot, co you know that’s what I do. Post lunch we absconded to a nearby pub but too many hours working caught u with my friend, or maybe I just put him to sleep? Either way after a few drinks we parted ways and I returned to my friends flat. I passed the night drinking wine and watching Harry Potter in the flat. I did have a quick chat with Jonathans mum but what can you say? It sucks. It’s not fair. It still hurts.

On the Sunday I headed to the Rocks to do some shopping and take a walk through the area of the city that was my first taste of Australia. I had lunch by circular quay and walked up and down George and Pitt street and it felt odd that these streets on the other side f the world from my home were so familiar to me. On my return from my shipping I met up with one of my friends to see the view from the roof top garden o fhis hostel that he told me about every time we discussed placed to stay in Sydney. I have to admit it was pretty good. The city was spread out in from of us and I could see the harbour bridge peeking out behind the buildings. It was just so very Sydney. We also took advantage of my new ‘I drink beer now; status to test our some beers at a german pubv round the corner from the hostel. I have to say, the beer was good but not as good as the impressive palte of fish and chips. Seriously, I ate half and I was full which was a shame because it was tasty grilled barramundi which I won’t be seeing again for a good few months.

On the Monday I went to see the Picasso exhibition at the art gallery and took advantage of the sun whilst I had it to enjoy the gardens. Oh I should probably mention that during my last week in Sydney it kept raining. I got soaked to the skin on my way to my friends place on the Friday night and then made sure to have an umbrella for the rest of the week. Anyway, the exhibition was an interesting as I had been informed it would be. I loved his earlier work and cannot deny his immense skill and talent but I will never be a fan of his later stuff, if that makes me art-clueless then so be it. I enjoyed wandering through the first Aussie art gallery I visited again but it was a lot busier than I was expecting so I didn’t linger as I had on previous occasions.

On my last day I woke up feeling a bit run down so even though the sun was shining I spent most of the a day inside taking it easy, only venturing out to get the last Aussie bits and pieces I wanted before I had to leave. My main achievement was to pack my bag so even as I write this I am ready to go home. I cannot believe it’s been a year but there you go. I must be because my flight is booked and visa is almost out of date.   

Thoughts on Conflicting Emotions

You may or may not be aware of the fact that Jonathan means gift of God. I told a friend this because she often looks sad when I talk about Jonathan. My friend is a person of faith and I explained that I wanted her to know the meaning of Jonathan's name so that she would feel the same joy in his memory as I do. She in turn explained to me that she sometimes looks sad because she is thankful to have me in her life but she is aware that I am only in her life because he is not and I think she worries that I would misunderstand and be upset by this. If she was worried she needn't have been, I understand that conflict. Of course she is not glad that Jonathan died and she hates that I have had to lose something and someone so precious to me yet is that loss which eventually brought me in to her life, a fact she is thankful for. Though the circumstances are related the feelings about them are completely separate.

In the last three years I have become more than I imagined I could be. I can honestly say I am living my life. I have spent the last year living in the moment for the moment. It hasn’t always been easy and there are consequences to not considering the future, such as having to use the emergency credit card to pay for food and accommodation whist looking for the next job. It’s not a way of life that I would recommend but it was something I had to do. For a long time I couldn’t imagine a future without Jonathan in it. I quite simply did not know how to live without him. In the two years after his death I learned to survive. In the last year I have learned to live. Maybe next year I will at least learn to plan far enough ahead to save me from using the credit card but let us not get ahead of ourselves. For me living means being happy. Living means loving. Living means being willing to look beyond what I need to finding things I want. Living is scary.

In the last year I have been happy yet in those moments of happiness there is sadness. I have made new friends and love them yet I still shy away from dating and any romantic entanglements that might entail. Most importantly I have learned what I want from this new life. I want to travel. I want to explore. I want to meet new and different people and learn how they see the world and why. I like my new life. I love my new friends. I get excited to think of the possibilities of who and what I might discover if I can pull off this travelling lark. But. I still miss Jonathan. I want to know what he thinks about my new friends. I want him to meet and like them. I want to hear his voice and see his smile. I long to hear him tell me he loves me. I even wish I could see that look on his face that tells me he thinks I’m crazy because even then I could see how much he loved me.

You might think writing this would make me cry but it doesn’t. It makes me sad. I still say that Jonathan dying was and remains unacceptable. However I have come to accept that this is my life now.  I accept that I cannot change the past and only I can create my future. I understand that a person can be happy and sad at the same time and that the sadness does not cancel out the happiness; in fact I think it makes it more meaningful because the sadness reminds me how important the happiness is. When I was happy before I did not appreciate how precious it was.  The sadness reminds me. When I love now I love more openly in case the person I love isn’t there the next time I look for them. When a bad thing happens I ask myself “Is anybody dead? Has the world ended?”  and most times the answer is no and the problem is put in perspective. I have my bad days and my down days but now it’s just one of those days that everybody gets. The sad days aren’t the norm. I’ll never be a happy smiley person but I hope that I am no longer a cloud of misery. I hope when someone sees me they see a person at peace with herself and the world as it is. I hope they no longer see a person full of grief but see me, just me.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Retracing my Steps

Leaving Perth was a little sad but I know I‘ll be back there soon so I was looking forward to travelling east and meeting up again with some of the friends I’ve made in the last year. It’s odd that I travelled through 5 different states in America in one month yet in my last five weeks in Australia I felt I didn’t have enough time to travel north or through Queensland. Of course I plan on coming back and seeing those areas so I am sure it would’ve been different if this was my last five weeks in Australia ever. As I am coming back I was happy to take the chance to revisit some places and catch up with my friends. Therefore the plan on leaving Perth was to fly to Adelaide for a few days, bus it to Melbourne for a long weekend then bus it to Sydney with a side trip to Jindy.

In Adelaide I had arranged to have dinner with one of my Jindy house mates and his partner and to catch up with one of my friends from the Nullarbor tour I took late last year. Sadly my Jindy friend and his girlfriend had to cancel on me but I was able to get a quick drink with my Nullarbor friend and hear a lot of her news. During my stay in the city I planned to spend my one full day in Glenelg as I had heard it was a lovely place to visit and had a beach. Sadly the beach wasn’t much use as that was the day of my visit it rained. Being Scottish I wasn’t about to let a little bit of rain sop me and at lunch time I caught the tram and determinedly made my way to the seaside town. Despite the rain I could tell it was apleasant town and I stopped at a little cafe that serves the most delicious hot chocolate and a fairly decent omelette. If I pass through Adelaide again then I will be sure to return there on a sunnier day so I can test out the beach as well as indulging in more of that fabulous hot chocolate. Thankfully the day I left dawned bright and sunny so I took the opportunity to revisit the art gallery. On my previous visit only half the galleries were open due to a recently finished exhibition, this time though all the galleries were open and I enjoyed spending a few hours pretending I understood art before heading to my favourite snoozing ground in front of the museum. It’s a good place to people watch and surprisingly peaceful, I wasn’t the only person catching a quick nap in the sun that afternoon by any means. It turns out it was also a good place to see some of a red arrow display which was taking place east of the city. Not long afgter the display ended it was time for me to go find dinner and collect my bags before searching out he bus staion where I could catch my overnight bus to Melbourne.

In Melbourne I stayed with the family friend who visited me in Sydney not long after I first arrived in Australia. When we first met up she was here for a few months with her work but since then she and her husband have actually moved here. Though they were still in the settling in phase, including waiting on their furniture to clear customs, they kindly offered to put me up for a long weekend.  It was a chilled visit which included a few walks to the beach with their extra cute and very excitable dog. We did make it to the markets which I missed on my last visit and I caught up with my Aussie friend (who lent me her couch on my last visit) for a few drinks – She’s Aussie and I’m Scottish I’m sure you can work out our definition of a few!

On what was supposed to be my last day my friends husband drove me down part of the great ocean road and it was as beautiful as I imagined. I definitely want to drive it myself on my next visit. Though we didn't make it to the twelve apostles we did see kangaroos on Angelsea golf course where we stopped for a cuppa and Split Point lighthouse which was used in the kids tv program 'Round the Twist'. During this trip I got a call from the bus company informing me that road closures due to flooding meant I couldn’t travel to Canberra the following day. After some thought and consultation with my friends in Jindy and Melbourne I decided to rearrange my buses to travel up to Sydney on the Thursday bypassing them completely. I am sad that I missed the chance to see my friends before heading back to the UK but it did give me the opportunity to finally fill out my tax forms, start preparing to claim back my super funds and write my final postcards. I also took the additional time to cook chilli con carne for my friends as a thank you for their hospitality. You’d think by now I’d have that recipe sorted but every time I cook it there is something differently wrong with it. Still it turned out ok in the end and it was a meal that someone else didn’t have to cook though I did manage to skip out on the washing up. Of course my thank you meal was put to shame by the lovely meal on my actual final night at a local restaurant. The area my friends have settled in has many restaurants and cafes and they are everything I have come to expect from Melbourne. The fact that the beach is a ten minute walk away and a half hour train ride will get you to the CBD means I have no problems understanding why they have settled there or offering to dog sit for them the next time I am in Melbourne!

At stupid o’clock on Thursday morning and I was on my way again. I was concerned about my bus journey due to my tickets being changed without a fresh ticket being reissued but I worried needlessly. My bus arrived in Melbourne and left promptly with me on board on my way to Sydney once more. I did have to disembark at Canberra and then re-embark the very same bus but I got the same seat back and I didn’t have to share it at any point in the journey which is always nice. I can safely say I have only nice things to say about Greyhound Australia and their lovely staff who made sure I got to Sydney on time despite the flooding in Southern NSW and Northern Victoria.