stinkyman… (2 carriages : 1 bitch part 2)

… so where was I?

OK. Oradea.

Stunning place.

I step a long half meter down to the platform – Ms Shittypants has waited til last to leave as well. We carefully avoid eye contact as we hit the concrete: thankfully she is quickly lost in the crowded station.

The station is tiny!

Pushing through the milling throng waiting to get on the train, I headed for the ticket and information office to find out about my connection – due in 35 minutes.

Luckily it’s seems quiet and no long queues.

The arrivals and departures are in Romanian – pfffft no dramas – Google Translate nails it but I can’t see my train listed.

IR263 from Oradea to Cluj-napoca.

Nothing even close.

Ok…

So what about the clicketty clack board showing the next 4 arrivals/departures?

Not a sausage.

“Dammit!”

Where’s my connection?

I line up at the Information window and wait my turn quietly (Romanians are the best at queues, like Canberrans only better).

Finally I get to the window and slap my ticket up against the glass.

“Salut !” says I merrily, with the now patented dumb tourist smile. “which platform is IR 263 to Cluj please?”

The lady damn well eyerolls me!

She looks at the ticket, looks at the train about to leave (the one I just got off) looks at me and says “that one – platform 1 – you have 1 minute!- GO!”

“FUCK what!!!!!!”

“Merseeeeeeeeeee…” I call as I run out the door into the platform and can feel her second eyeroll penetrate my back like a bullet.

I sprint to the train as the doors close but my tiny brain monkey πŸ’ “ooks” at me…

“Oook! Hold on a tick…”

I stop and run up to the poorly uniformed unshaven guard at the door, already knowing that he speaks no English. I show him my ticket and point to the train just about to leave.

“Da? Nu?” I ask.

He shakes his head “nu” and I run back inside to the ticket counter.

“The guard says no” I tell the lady.

She eyerolls me a third time and jabs a inch long bright red fingernail at the train on platform 1.

“Why do you mean he said no. THAT one!” and stabs a finger again to the train I just got off.

Her drawn on eyebrows almost pop off her head, she raises them so high.

“FUCK! / oook! ” say my brains in unison.

I run out and punch the green open door button on the train door and move up towards first class, back to where my seat was.

There’s a new lady sitting there now, but someone well dressed and under 40 so English hopefully!!! I smile dumbly and show her my ticket.

She says kindly, as if speaking to a child “let me see…No, not this one…”,

“I should get off?”

“Yes you need to get off”

A whistle blows from the platform.

“Merseeeeeeeeeee!!!” I call over my shoulder while running at the door, punching the green button and jumping off just as the train starts to move.

*Bet she eye rolled me, just quietly.

Now alone on the platform, I take a long breath and blow it out like the steam train I wish I was on.

“Whew that was lucky!”

Now what? Do I book another ticket? Is there another train?

The train pulls away, and I wander inside just as a clackitty clack starts clackitty clackiting just above my head and I glance up.

The sign changes slowly, like a spinning wheel on a old fashioned poker machine, but instead of fruit or cards it is spinning letters and numbers.

Sure enough… one character at a time, IR363 : 17.55 clicketty clacks into view on the board. Platform 3 in 20 minutes.

Perfect.

Time for a quick wee, so I wander up and pay 1 leu for the privilege of a 10 second wee in Oradea, then buy a Romanian knockoff Cornetto for 3.5 leu and find a spot on a square wooden planter to sit quietly and contemplate the next leg of the journey.

Quite interesting so far! I should take trains more often!

Munch munch munch on my fake Cornetto.

I notice an odd smell; sniff at my armpit and shirt, then discretely scratch my ass to check if I’ve somehow shat myself.

Nope, not today!

What’s that sm….

<something in Romanian Romanian Romanian> mumbles a voice in my ear, and I turn to see the filthiest man I’ve seen in quite a while carefully place a steaming dirty paper cup on the bench behind me and move to take a seat next to me.

In my head I hear the buzzing of many flies.

He smiles through a mask of grime and tries to strike up a conversation, but it’s no use – I’m tired and hot, but even sign language won’t save this chat as the smell is overpowering, like a dead cat dipped in dogshit and left in a plastic bag for a week.

I apologise and wish him good evening in my bad Romanian ( buno siΓ©ra is as close as I get), shook his hand (wish I hadn’t) and headed for the platform just as my train pulls in.

Excellent timing!

I check my carriage number against the hand written sign stuck to the train window; a lovely lady in a white dress and floppy wide brimmed hat, dragging a zebra suitcase and looking like a Parisian cafe dweller punches the door button and struggles with her bag – I help her up the half metre step up … (of course I do πŸ˜‰ – I’m a gentleman)

“Merci…”

“No worries…”

She turns left and vanishes to the posh end of the train and I head right for cattle class and an unexpected surprise…

The train is lovely!

A second class ticket gets me a window seat and working aircon, the carriage is virtually empty and the group across from me are deaf so it’s practically silent except for the gentle slapping of hands as they sign to each other.

It’s also cooler as we climb into the mountains, just now following the course of a large river. It’s absolutely beautiful out my window, but nearly 9pm : a total shame it’s getting dark just at the best part of the journey.

The remainder of the train journey was lovely – darkness whipping by outside my window, coolΒ  aircon, quiet cabin, and that gentle regular clicketty clack, clicketty clack that puts you to sleep putting me to sleep πŸ’€.

I recharged my phone and didn’t make eye contact or mime with anyone.

Ahhhhh…..

So what next? 10 minutes from Cluj, Then a short half hour walk to my Airbnb in the Old City ( yeees I’m treating myself) where my host is waiting to let me in, and I’m going to sleep in a comfy bed and not a hostel for a few nights.

What could possibly go wrong?

As it turns out, nothing! My new digs are slap bang in the middle of the Old City, and it’s a quick 25 minute walk from the train station last some of the most beautiful churches and cathedrals and statues I’ve seen yet.

The apartment is super small – almost like a tiny house but it’s perfect : quiet, comfy and just enough room for one.

The host meets me at the door, hands me a key and buggers off, so that’s it!

I’m out for the night, 12am.

Gnight all.

Exploring Cluj tomorrow!

** yes I know my tense is all fucked up. I’ll edit it later. I’m tired.

2 carriages – 1 bitch…

So First Class travel eh?

Sure I’ll give it a crack!

Romantic visions of every movie I’ve seen about luxurious European train travel flickered through my mind as I booked the ticket online through the Romanian Train Ticketing system.

Chuffing through the dark Romanian forests and winding through the fairytale Carpathian Mountain tunnels, white smoke billowing from the tunnels mouth as the train chuffs through…maybe even a murder!

For $30 ! Yes please.

So…?

Well Chief…missed it by THAT much.

The reality is all commuter train and allocated seating in our cosy little first class Hell; it’s glass, 32+ degrees outside and blazing sun; the compartment is full, the aircon doesn’t work and we can’t open the windows.

I burst immediately into a lathering sweat as soon as I sit down, as do the rest of the passengers.

Not quite what I imagined but it explains the raised eyebrows and mild amusement when I mentioned to Oana that I was traveling by train.

Awesome: we may die of heat exhaustion but at least the train left on time πŸ™‚ …my seat mates are an older couple that speak no English and a younger lady that does but is totally occupied with staying cool cool cool and her Iphone.

I say ‘Hi’ and she gets up and leaves, heading down to 2nd Class where the aircon is working and takes the last spare seat.

Dammit, wish I’d thought of that.

It’s super hot today (Europe’s having a heatwave, not a tropical heatwave, but a heatwave nonetheless…) and being sealed in this train is not fun at all so far as the drippy layer of whole body sweat slowly dries out and my poor self acclimatises to the oven-like heat in this 2 carriage glass coffin.

Even the locals in First Class are suffering from heat fatigue and they ask the Conductor about it.

He shrugs and walks back into the air conditioned drivers cabin.

There may well be a murder yet.

It’s baking out there!

Let’s try distraction.

Train travel allows for the rare luxury of writing and going somewhere simultaneously and not having to drive!

The landscape flashing by is much like where I come from (πŸ‡¦πŸ‡Ί Australia) and strangely familiar: expansive rolling hills and fields of mown green grass fringed with low trees blurring to groves of stone fruit orchards – nectarines, cherries, peaches – flicking to expansive stubbled deserts of dry straw haystacks pebbled with brown-green hay bales flipping to endless green and yellow seas of sunflowers 🌻, all wilting slightly in the summer heat, heads down like an old man having a snooze after a big dinner and a snifter of brandy.

What is surprising though are the number of small hamlets and marginally larger towns dotting the way – every few kilometers there seems to be a new little village with a tall steepled church and a little railway siding, a few tall red brick or metal and concrete grain silos, and little red roofed 🏠.

So many villages!

It’s super duper rural in places though and here the sunflower fields and tall corn literally seem to vanish over the horizon.

At each level crossing, the train 🚊 lets loose a blast or two of its tinny whistle – a somewhat half hearted and rather breathy “MEEeeeep…” – to shoo cars and carts and the odd cow off the track (by causing them to roll away laughing I expect)

So what the Hell am I doing on a train?

I’m in my way to Cluj Napoca, Romania’s 4th largest city but I’ve decided to travel by train via Oradea ( in the North) and then cut through the mountains β›° to see what’s what – I should be in Cluj by 10pm.

So 6 hour train ride and free sightseeing tour! Yay!

Let’s go live!

Ticket inspectors move through the cabin, punching tickets and checking ID – I’d been warned about these guys and I think I have everything in order. Surprisingly they give only a cursory glance at my photo ID and printed ticket so after a quick hand written notation by the inspector, they move on.

*More than a little disappointed I think that he couldn’t find anything wrong with my ticket or credentials and so couldn’t fine me.

He’s not done yet though and gives the older man across from me a hard time about his ID and a bit of an argument occurs about something (I know not what) and THEN has a crack at the older mans wife.

Uhoh.

There’s are mildly raised voices, wavy hands and pointy fingers as it escalates to when they get issued a fine (i think) – in any case they get handed another type of ticket by a satisfied looking ticket inspector and they are not happy about it.

The man digs out his wallet and pulls a few extra bills out. Hands it to the Inspector, who writes out a new ticket and gives it to the man, who is still not happy, and gives he Inspector another mouthful.

Dammit!

I’m getting flicked in the face by the sweat off both men’s wildly waving hands and the argument continues – I’m trying to ignore it and typing this up as they argue about 2 feet from my face.

Something is dripping on my neck, and I look up – a bag in the rack over my head has sprung a leak – other passengers and a sloppily uniformed conductor, in his red hat and poorly fitting uniform, see it and try to find where it’s coming from.

Of course they point to my stuff first.

Uh no sorry guys – my water bottle is in the opposite luggage rack. It’s this black pipe here that’s leaking, not my bag.

So they fluff around and surprise surprise – it’s not my bag, but rather leaking condensation from the aircon pipes – the aircon that apparently doesn’t work.

At least the drips on my neck are cooling me down.

The older couple across from me are having a moment. He’s in trouble.

Poor guy. I’ve been there. He’s stuffed up and his wife isn’t happy, gazing quietly out the window as hubby tries to explain what happened. I’ve heard that tone many times with my own parents when Dad did something silly and Mum had the shits.

Hell I’ve used that tone myself.

“It’s not my fault” , “I did check the ticket”… or ineffective words to that effect.

“Hmmm” says the wife, quietly gazing out at the scenery.

She stares, he explains, the train stops at and they get off at Vinga barely an hour into the trip.

My new seat mate is an older lady with bags of shopping, and wants to chat but I’ve had to revert to Google Translate as I dont speak Romanian and she doesn’t speak English.

It’s working so far, well I’m assuming it is anyway.

We fumble at introductions, fail, and settle in for the next few hours.

She shows me some pictures of her daughter, son and a new baby. She’s going to visit them, she mimes.

“I’m a stupid tourist, travelling around Romania by train” I mime back to her, and show her some photos of my family. She smiles – I don’t think I had to explain the stupid part.

Now what? I’ll take some photos for this blog!

The slim youngish mother lady across from me is getting the shits with me taking pictures out “her” window, scowls and points out my own window – a clear ” this is my window, use your own”. Even my patented dumb tourist smile does nothing and she scowls each time I look out her window.

“I’m just taking photos of the countryside!” I try to smilingly explain.

Nothing.

I try to mime “I’m just taking photos of the countryside” but she just glares and points at my window.

Meh…

It’s so not worth it so I turn my back as best I can. I take photos out my window, directly into the blazing sun.

Great.

We are heading slowly north towards Arad and the scenery breaks into flat farming land but now with factories scattered instead of silos.

Ok wow!

Lady Shittypants has gone and found the ticket inspector and has complained about me taking photos out her window – he comes over and asks to see my phone (as I’m typing this) and so I show him – no big deal. He wants to see the video and photos I’m taking.

“Ok. Sure. Here tis! Fill your boots”

So I show him: unlock and hand him my phone – he flicks through my photos and the few seconds of video of the town I took just when the train whistled.

I can’t see the big deal really. Neither can he – we look at each other and shrug … Meh? Meh.

All you can see is what’s outside window in bright sunlight and dark foreground figures in silhouette.

He turns and shows the lady what’s on my phone, she looks across at me with snake eyes and says something quietly in Romanian to the guy …then he comes over and asks me to delete the photo and video.

Suddenly she can speak English.

It’s a miracle.

“I ask him to take photos out his own window” she says waving a pointy finger at me, a none too subtle note of victory in her thin, shrill voice.

The Inspector turns back to me.

“Delete, please” – there’s a barely discernable sigh and a subtle silent pleading in his eyes that says – “please… just do it, I don’t want to deal with this woman”

“Yeah sure” says I, big dumb Aussie tourist smile … he holds my phone as I delete the video and a wobbly photo in front of him…

“There you go mate! No problems!”

Satisfied, he returns my phone and turns back to the lady.

She is still giving me a smirky stink eye so I smile and apologise yet again. Loudly, so folks can hear.

“Sorry” says my smiling mouth but my eyes flash “Bitch!”.

The ticket inspector moves on to hassle another older couple about their ticket.

It’s so hot now people are getting weird.

The older grey haired chatty lady taps me on the leg and smiles, and makes that swirly finger motion at her temple : “she’s crazy- don’t worry about it love”, her gesture says.

She points to the Inspector, rubs her index finger and thumb together and winks at me. Ahhhh – he wants a bribe from the older couple.

Same thing happened in Tunisia in ’16 after taking some innocent photos of a big 🌡 at a remote soldiers checkpoint near the Algerian border.

“You! Delete the photos now”

“Sure ! sorry ! See all done! no problems, sirs”

They didn’t check the Iphones Deleted Items folder either…

Screw you lady.

The journey continues..

We stop for a quick smoke break – the smokers leap off for the chance to shave another 15 minutes off their lives and the cabin fills the aroma of rich cigarette smoke from outside through the open doors.

The older lady sits on the floor to try to escape the sun that’s slowly cooking her, but the guard makes her go back to her seat. She isn’t doing too well, and she signs to me that she is 70.

We’ve worked out a combination of sign language and mime plus stilted English and Romanian via google translate, and have found out that her daughter has had new baby and her son is either a chef or manages a restaurant (dammit i can never spell that word first go – it’s a mental block for me – always has been)

The poor lady is not coping well with the heat though so I offer my water bottle, filled from the hundred year old fountain in Unirii Square. Such good water in Timisoara!

We share my remaining water and she drags out a crumpled plastic coffee cup to drink from. I make her have another cup of water before taking a drink myself, and try to communicate again.

It’s harder than I expected (and as I’m typing this whilst conversing admittedly I’m not giving this conversation my full attention).

I bail – it’s too hard – the heat finally getting to me and I disengage, staring absently out the window and almost directly into the sun. My arms and face are burning even through the heavily tinted windows.

Almost at Oradea. A 40 minute stop to change trains and then head to Cluj.

Let’s hope the next leg goes smoothly…we’re here!

Orodea… breathtaking…

Not really.

Dare I take a photo through the front of the train?

Sure why not…let’s see what happens.

Almost at the station then next stop… Cluj-Napoca!

What could possibly go wrong!

To be continued…

Roam-ania…

Yep there’s a good reason I haven’t been writing lately: too many Dad jokes and awful puns bouncing around in my brain.

I’ll quietly get them out of the way while I check out a coffee shop Oana recommended – OVRIDE coffee in the Timişoara City Centre. It’s buzzing here, almost as much as my caffeine high – their La Encanta Peruvian blend is making my brain sparkle.

I like this spot. Great coffee and super friendly. The boss is passionate about his coffee – if only the owners wife would let him buy a coffee roaster (no, it will take up too much of his time from his other job) πŸ™‚

Wait what? Romania? …I’d better bring you up to date.

Anyhoo, I hadn’t been traveling all that much since March – well, at least compared to usual, anyway. Some time in Canberra and Melbourne, a few weeks in Thailand – barely enough to feed the ravenous travel beast that howls within.

Waiting on the next contract to go down South again for the 2018/2019 summer had me frustrated and spinning my wheels back in Dubbo (ugh) – medicals done, and no psych testing required this year I was just waiting waiting waiting and walking walking walking.

*Selling my car a few years back may not have been the best move as it kinda screws you when you live in regional Australia.

It also meant that I had nothing but time on my hands – a luxury that I hadn’t placed much value in until only recently. SO…what to do with this time?

Well cleaning out the family storage shed was something that needed to be done, so my sister arranged for a garbage skip, and I set to work over the course of a week or so going over the poorly boxed contents of our parents house – the result of 60 years of marriage and a lifetime together – and figuring out what to keep and what to discard.

Every book, box, envelope and slip of paper had to be examined to determine worth, and then either kept or chucked out. It was surprisingly tough to revisit the memory of my parents, especially all the photographs and hand written notes, personal letters and cards that they kept.

Some of the small things stirred powerful emotions. Dad’ s old California crutches – the ‘clickey clack’ sound they make evokes memories of him. His 4 pairs of hearing aids, his 3 pairs of glasses, his pocket knife and the other little things he kept on his person at all time in his bulging shirt pockets.Β  I gave them all to the Salvos (except his pocket knife – I kept that)

All the little items that they’d scrimped and planned and saved for, the minutiae of their everyday life that was mostly only valuable now as a historical reference and a curiosity for later generations. What wasn’t thrown out was all neatly boxed and packed up – an entire lifetime in a dozen boxes.

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The whole ‘clean up the shed’ exercise showed exactly how much I’d been avoiding their deaths however and was a chance to acknowledge that. To linger with their memory and say goodbye.

What about my own crap! I started on my own stuff. The remaining physical baggage , boxes and reminders of things from my past best cut away and left far behind. Hoarded for almost 30 years. I could be more ruthless with this.

Keeping photographs and some old primary school books (covered with comic book covers, full of mopey teenage letters, short stories and self indulgent writings from when I was a little kid right through to High School), it was fun to read through them all, get a glimpse myself before: a good kid but a little too serious. Most everything else went in the bin.

In hindsight this ‘cleansing’ was important though, decluttering and simplifying my life even further than I had before.

And then it was done. Shed cleaned, decluttering complete.

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I was a little bit empowered.

Next…

Training? Sure! There was a Data Cabling certification that I needed to get for this summer to be considered for the Antarctica role – easy peasy! A week in Canberra (thanks Lou) , a 2 week vacay in Chiang Mai that I’ve told you about already, then another week in Melbourne (thanks Steve) and the certification was done.

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Qualified Data Cabler? Check.

Now what?

I scored another day as an extra on a TV show over in Mudgee, which was great fun as usual and I got to see the crew that I’d gotten to know of the last year or so.

**On a side note, the series is Doctor Doctor – its actually a decent show! I finally watched a few seasons on the flight here.

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Next…

Shit. It’s winter. Even the kangaroos were wondering why I was still here.

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WTF dude.

The prospect of spending a few more months in a wintry Dubbo was not filling me with boundless joy, and due to my general uselessness I’d stuffed up the dates for attending a friend’s birthday in Spain by almost a whole monthΒ  (Sorry CB).

All was not lost!

Chatting to another yoga buddy from a Svastha course last year, I’d been promising to come visit in her home city of Timisoara, Romania for a while.

So I thought, why not? I’ve never been to Romania and it would be only my second time in Europe. Another glass of wine, and ticket booked! I’d arrive the week after my friends birthday (see, told you – shitty timing) and right in the middle of their summer.

So I hit the airways again…

Travelling lighter and lighter these days and am getting a little too used to this lifestyle I think. 7.1kg of carry-on luggage for 3 months travel. Who does that. Jeez.

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Dubbo>Sydney>>Hong Kong>Frankfurt>Timisoara – just on 30 hours with short layovers.

So here I am – enjoying sunny 30+ degree days in Timisoara Romania – an elegant, modern and vibrant city: a restoration ‘work in progress’ in parts but with such beautiful bones.

The old Roman era and later versions of Timisoara are still here once you dig deeper or get outside the city centre, but the new?

It’s a University city and a Tech hub, with a healthy Cafe and budding Coffee scene, a decent Theatre and Arts community and a politically engaged younger population – not so long removed from the stifling effects of Communism – angry at the corruption issues plaguing the country today.

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I’ve been here for about 10 days now and have spent the bulk of it roaming around the city exploring every nook and alley, meeting some lovely people, failing a lot at Romanian, but generally trying to immerse myself in the day to day of life here – yes, largely just an observer but I’m so very keen to learn more.

It’s absolutely fascinating here – my first experience in an ex-communist country and I’m loving at least this part of Romania so far…

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So with the roaming come the words apparently!

All this walking is shaking something loose and I’ll be telling you all about it very soon.

Stay tuned…I’m reinstating my rule of once a week posts again.

This writing thing is good for the soul.

πŸ™‚

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More bloody ghosts!

Let’s change pace again – no pics or pith…just words before I forget them.

There’s something about Thailand that mashes up my subconscious like a banana in a blender.

My sweet Thai dreams last night were again haunted by weirdness and spirits from the past.

It wasn’t a bad thing, and the haunting this time was not in a clanky chain “lock you in the house” or “muddy footprint πŸ‘£ at the bedroom door”scary kinda way – more in a “ooo look I found a secret place” kinda way.

No cryptic messages or foreboding of any form.

Hmm in retrospect I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing to have routine visitations. It always seems to happen here.

What the Hell is going on in this brain of mine lately?

So anyway – it went something like this : I was talking to a unknown guy in a house I was renting (I think) and we were talking/arguing about rent or cleaning or something stupid like that; I saw someone I knew just walk on by – a former housemate – and I was trying to talk to her. She didn’t answer, but just walked on quickly, turning around the corner of the house.

A little annoyed, I followed and turned left onto a long misty pathway lined with tall green trees and covered in vines – all backlit theatrically with a shimmery golden light- and then boom! there they all were! A long scattered line of figures stretched out the path before me, all just hanging about, chatting to each other and doing their own thing.

Then I realised they were mostly people I knew that had passed away.

My Mom was there! She was the first one I saw, just standing on the corner in her hospital gown. She looked right at me but didn’t seem to see me, busy talking to someone else. It was Mom of 20 years ago, before the dementia and strokes robbed her of movement, expression and speech.

So I kept walking, super curious now but strangely not surprised to see her.

Behind Mom, there was an old childhood crush of mine (who is still alive Thank God) – I called out her name and rushed over to hug her close – weird but even as I write this I can still feel her on my fingertips; it’s so weird – a lingering sense of the small bones of her spine and toned back muscles from where my hands touched her.

She didn’t speak but just hugged me back.

I let go and kept on walking.

Further along that weirdly lit road were other people from my past – aunts and uncles, friends and long dead distant relatives, some barely remembered from childhood. All dead and gone now but most I hadn’t thought about for a long long time.

Curiouser and curiouser! (thanks Alice). I simply walked past them all, down along the pathway, acknowledged their existence but still none of them seemed to see me.

There were strangers there as well but they were background players – all blurred edges and gossamer-like, in a perpetual soft focus a bit like the aliens at the end of Close Encounters.

I kept walking slowly down that golden gravel path into what could have been a perfect Bali sunset.

No it wasn’t like a movie or in slomo or all dramatic and shit. It just was.

I just walked as far as I felt I could but didn’t see anyone else I knew.

Then I simply woke up – instantly and with a silent WTF and the tingling sensory echo of that hug on my fingertips.

I am now quickly tapping this out before I forget the finer detail that I’m already losing so I’ll pretty it up later.

Let me head off some questions.

No Dad wasn’t there, which made me sad in the dream.

How did I feel? Confused, then happy, then elated (esp when I saw B)

What did they say? Nothing to me, at least – they we’re all engaged with each other.

How did I feel on waking?

Happysad.

It’s the lingering feeling on my fingertips that has me puzzled. Did this actually happen?

Did I travel backwards or forwards in time, space , whatever? Did I die a little? Was it the future?

I love a good crazyarse unexplained dream!

Anyhoo pull that apart, dream therapists and psych buds!

Weirded me out a bit I gotta say.

Later.

πŸ™‚

*SPOOKY UPDATE :

So I fly out of KL for Sydney late at 11.40pm, window seat, surrounded by massive purpling storm clouds snarling with angry lightning teeth, and the start of a monsoonal rainstorm hammering on the outside glass of my tiny window.

The packed jet takes forever to taxi out to the runway…waiting waiting waiting. It seems we are driving to Sydney, not flying.

The serious guy in front of me is shifty : I get a bad vibe from him and he is constantly looking around, avoiding the stewards, signalling other passengers, changing seats, and just doing things…wrong.

Upsetting the carefully scripted protocols of normal airline travel.

Rules are rules.

It puts me on edge and I watch him carefully.

Finally we reach the end of the taxiway, the jet turns onto the brightly lit strip, a long unending row of gently strobing runway lights stretching out into infinity.

As we turn the angle of the lights change, and with the smears of oil and rain on the window blurring reality, the whole runway shifts like a kaleidoscope; spins and settles then finally transforms into a sparkling golden pathway of diffused light.

I get a very bad feeling about this – hits me instantly in the pit of my stomach with a sharp stab of recognition.

This could be my dream!

Shit. That ain’t good.

The captain guns the engines. With a jolt we’re away fast and picking up speed. I’m smashed back into my seat with that glorious acceleration but my eyes are flicking from the runway lights to the guy in the seat ahead and back.

Glad I wore the brown pants today.

Deep breath.

Get ready for anything.

Here we go…

*it was all ok in the end. The shifty guy was just a nervous flyer, just too much caffeine for me and we easily avoided the storms. Got home fine although I was on edge all the way.

**really should’nt have had that last coffee before leaving Chiang Mai.

***see couldn’t help myself – had to turn it into a story πŸ™‚

**** my Aunty G passed away quite suddenly yesterday – Thursday, the day after this dream – and I can’t help wonder a little more now about the meaning.

…lucky?

So I’m back again. Regional Australia, Western NSW. Dubbo. The temperature is over 32 degrees, the air is still and the outback sun is blasting down under an endless blue sky. The sudden jump in temperature from my previous home is hard to take. Antarctic-induced pale skin is starting to burn red and I’m still wearing the same clothes that I have for the past 6 months.

With 8 hours in suspended animation on Tuesday (as I flew from Hobart to Sydney to Dubbo,) Ive been dreading coming back here. It’s like picking at an open emotional wound; scratching at the bloody crust and sticking your fingers deep inside the cut.

Every time I come back there is that awful cold splash of reality and raw-nerve memory that seems to erase whatever healing has come before – undoes it all in an instant and drags me into past traumas.

Screen Shot 2018-03-30 at 15.05.32

*You’re welcome…Β  πŸ˜‰

This particular homecoming has been very different in that I’m adulting it for a change (instead of burying my head in the sand or running, which are my usual methods of dealing).

The familiar landmarks, places and faces here still cause twinges of guilt/sadness/grief but this time they’re barely discernible. Definitely still there but nowhere near as strong and they seem to pass quickly.

Perhaps finally I’m moving on; past the breakup that caused me so much grief 2 years ago and sent me spinning off blindly into the world (2 years! ffks); coming to uncertain terms with my parents passing; accepting my own newly-realised mortality and then serendipitously finding a new direction in a life that I’d felt was rapidly going down the toilet.

It’s taken these first two traumatic events to give me momentum enough to pull my head out of my arse – do something other than wallow in numbing grief and paralysing self pity. Blindly running for the past 2 years, its time to start adulting.

Move forward and take risks. Travel. Live. Love. Endure.

Heady stuff.

Maybe I’m finally healing; it’s emotional growth and my internal work is finally paying off.

Meh.

Maybe I just need coffee.

Good Friday today : luckily my sisters bakery cafe is open and I make the 3km walk down to mitigate my caffeine (lack of) /red wine (excess of) induced headache.

MMMM long black and a ham salad baguette…topped off with a panadol.

Perfect.

Everyone I’ve seen here in the past 2 days have been so nice and welcoming, excited by my experiences and almost everyone has commented how lucky they think I am to have these opportunities.

I disagree.

Sorry folks but it’s not luck.

I do feel very fortunate for sure, but lucky? I’ve worked hard all my life to get the qualifications and experience to let me do what I do. Luck has never come into it; there is no mysterious benefactor handing our favors to me, I don’t gamble and I try to embrace whatever opportunity arises.

This is key I think – to stay hungry (cliched but appropriate) and remain open to opportunity – especially be ready to move fast when it finally appears.

Learning from past mistakes is a no-brainer, but it’s really hard to consciously break those unconscious patterns that hold you back…it’s hard, but not impossible once you recognise them.

So what’s helped me the most?

Yoga (yes really!), meditation (essential) and the yoga studies (fascinating) I’ve been doing: plus the support of Yoga buddies (love u guys) – they’ve all unlocked the means to allow me to grow and have really changed my life.

I’ve got a handle on these pattern fuckers and their time is up.

Anyhoo… Its been super nice of my sister to let me stay for a few weeks until I get sorted out hereΒ  – homeless at the moment until I decide whats next – but again only want to be here for the MINIMUM amount of time possible.

So my plans this time out? Not to make a plan. My strategies of Plans A,B,C to ad nauseum have actually held me back and in hindsight have made me more inflexible.

I have some practical tasks to achieve first; a week long IT Cabling course in Canberra, renew my St Johns First Aid (another 2 day course), and get my old rental house and passport sorted.

Then that’s it. I’m outta here. For good.

πŸ™‚

**Oh and I’ve met someone. In Tasmania of all places. Early days yet but we shall see what happens. More on that as events arise – for better or worse it’ll make for some interesting stories.

…roundtripper

This will be a blomit and I’ll fix it later.

Read at own risk as this is a brain dump from the past 2 weeks at sea during the Macquarie Island resupply (v4)

Well this trip is certainly a very different journey so far … what is this ‘work’ thing that I’m expected to do?

Ha πŸ™‚

The last 4 weeks ( v1 and v3) on the Aurora Australis were as an Expeditioner – so my actual job started when I got to the research station and my days on the ship were filled with endless free time.

This short trip so far ?

Flat out. So busy! 12 hours days (7am-7pm) so far and so much to learn. I expected as much and I’m loving it.

We had dolphins again escort us out of Hobart, and I barely got up into the fresh air ( 4 hours after leaving) before the ship did an handbrake turn and headed back towards Hobart. There had been a critical piece of scientific equipment left on the docks, and it couldn’t be left behind. It would be loaded on a fast boat 🚀 and we would steam back to meet the boat somewhere off Hobart.

An almost 8 hour exercise in backtracking. The unexpected bonus being we all got cell service ( and Internet) back on the ship – so some frantic last minute app updating and software download occurred.

Was actually a lucky πŸ€ break that we turned back as it proved useful to solve many IT issues that would not have been resolved otherwise ( no internet on the ship, you see)

So we rinse and repeated – did a ship to ship transfer of the kit, rechecked the manifests, and turned once again towards Macquarie Island. The dolphins rested us a little less enthusiastically this time, but we were finally on our way.

The ocean was like a barely stirring millpond – barely a swell nor roll to be felt onboard, and the night brought overcast skies and a promising sunset.

Saturday was a long day – 12 hours of drills, briefings, and IT problem solving. It vanished in a haze of weariness by 7pm, and I decided to put on an Oscars themed movie night for this voyage in the cinema onboard – all the top nominated pics from this year’s Oscars. (yes I got fast internet in Hobart and abused it completely)

Let’s see how the movie night goes over the next few weeks… tonight I’m starting with The Shape Of Water , which is my new favourite film for several reasons, only one of which is related to the film.

It’s Sunday now, and the seas have decided to challenge us as we approach Macquarie Island, only 24 hours away.

The Southern Ocean is not happy to be woken so early on a Sunday and I’m not thrilled about it either.

Monstrous grey waves 🌊 angrily pound and crash across our portholes; wind-whipped white capped 6 metre waves , driven mercilessly by a 35 knot wind, have finally started to make this trip interesting and the bulk of the passengers are hiding in their cabins (seasick or watching movies on their laptops)

All my morning tasks are complete and I’ve just flicked in our vhf repeater in preparation for the boating operation tomorrow.

Let’s see what today brings πŸ™‚

… more of the same.

Fleet broadband communication issues outgoing from the ship to station was a headache as was getting support out of Kingston ( being a weekend and a public holiday, key support personnel were uncontactable – which always sucks). Best efforts were made but issues and workarounds are the order of the day here so we did the best we could.

The seas are calming also, which is a good sign for the operations ahead.

So now it’s Monday, and the Groundhog Day feeling was just starting to kick in again as a shadowy cloud front on the horizon slowly revealed itself to be Macquarie Island.

The upper bridge was packed as word spread around the ship : we were here.

For the incoming Winterers, this was to be their new home for 6 to 12 months. For the roundtripper, this was where the next 10 days would be spent frantically trying to complete projects and objectives before the weather turned it they ran out of time.

Science and logistics in competition with the plant and its elements in a race against the clock.

Today, Team Science is a clear winner, as the waves calm and the winds drop.

Boating operations with the IRBs ( zodiacs) and the LARCs ( repurposed military DUCKS) commenced and the passengers and equipments started to flow.

King penguin flocks (?) escort the IRBs to and from the ship, their curiosity drawing them closer and closer. More and more animals are visible in the beach but we are just a little too far away to see clearly what they are.

I’m on Bunker Door duty today – a special door usually reserved for pilot transfer in the side of the ship – the three of us being team leads for the next 10 days. Day 1 we are learning the ropes – literally.

It’s a great gig – and we are close (15 feet or so) to the waterline. We will be controlling the passengers and their baggage on and off the ship – passenger processing basically : biosecurity checks and boot baths, PPE and life jacket checks, carry on luggage transfer and of course, helping people climb up and down the long swaying rope and timber ladder slung out over the side of the ship – the only was passengers can get in or off the ship here.

It’s fun to do something different and not IT related. Plus am getting some great photos from this perspective.

Tonight I’m putting on Blade Runner 2049 in the theatre here – continuing the Oscars 2018 theme πŸ˜‰

Tuesday and our Phone issues seem to have finally been sorted out by head office. Having a long weekend back home makes support difficult and frustrating but luckily there are some talented people that know what they are doing.

The ship is deserted as most of the expedition era are leaving this morning to commence their operations on the island.

I have a shirt 3 hour shift in bunker door today, and then am helping out where I can. I have to stay on the ship – Comms Officer and all that – in case they have to haul ass outta here.

Hopefully when the returning Comms guy get on board later in the week I’ll get a chance to go ashore.

**also met Emily coming out of Macca – a friend of Ashley’s (my old housemate) and Kim (summering Bio at Davis with me). It’s a small world indeed.

A little extra duty today as I’ve been tapped in the shoulder to assist the DVL with cargo and manifest duties in deck – helping with the logistics of moving hundreds of pallets/cages of equipment off the ship and into station. We are boating everything across using the ducks ( LARCs) and IRB for passenger tender. It’s certainly a change of pace for me and it’s great to be up on deck where the action is πŸ™‚

I’m a little ill today I think… tired and flat. There’s been a virus getting around on board and I think I’m coming down with something. It’s always seems to happen with an influx of new expeditioners. Some bug ran rampant – an early night for me I think πŸ™‚

Tonight’s movie is Lady Bird.

Wednesday : this place looks like the Island from Jurassic Park. I’m not convinced that there aren’t dinosaurs there. It looks…cinematic.

We circle the island at night and come up close to the station during the day, waiting for the weather window to start ops.

Waiting, waiting, waiting…

The winds have come up and although the oceans are smooth, SOPs won’t allow boating operations until the winds drop below a certain speed. The remaining 15 or so personnel waiting to go ashore are in hourly standby but at this stage it look that best case we’ll get refuelling some but that’s it.

Looking for work onboard today – digging in corners for things to fix so I don’t have to update documentation (ugh). Save that for the trip back.

So tired today I just want to sleep.

Lates, my peeps.

Tonight’s movie is I, Tonya.

Thursday now, and the last of the day trippers have gone ashore. There are three expeditioners left on the ship and it’s eerily quiet.

I’m stuck on board and today is the first day I’ve been bored. There’s nothing to help out with and no tasking from the Div. I might help out in the kitchen.

The island is a 15 minute swim away 😦 but the weather changes every 5 minutes from sun to rain to sleet to snow and then back again

Monday 19th – has it really only been a week???

Feels like an eternity now.

There’s only three of us that haven’t gone ashore yet, and it looks like we won’t. The weather is our enemy here and every window of opportunity is focused on cargo and projects.

Since Friday we have done nothing by dodge the weather and stooge up and down the coast, hiding from the swell, swooping in to anchor quickly to put whatever we could ashore whenever we can.

We may we’ll be late back to Hobart but at this stage it’s all a big ? – completely dependent on the wind, waves and swell. The uncertainty is fucking annoying to be honest – you can’t plan anything and have to be prepared at a moments notice to move.

For the past week or so I’ve been team lead on our bunker door team – basically passenger control and quarantine for peeps getting on or off the ship – and that’s been fun. Hanging out a door in the side of the ship helping people up and down the ladder only a few metres above the water gives you a new perspective on the ocean and the island . **I cracked the viewfinder glass on my good camera (grrr) on some dangling metal fitting on the harness we have to wear. Hope it’s a cheap replacement :/

Finally saw The Last Jedi – Sunday night movie 🍿 here and what a beautifully shot piece of shit that was. Such a stupid movie with stupid characters making stupid decisions and stupid speeches. And the stupid attempts at comedy. And Frozen Space Leia. And that whole stupid lame casino caper fucktarded thing. And Porgs. And mincing villains with Family Guy- type humour. And Phasmas big moment. AAARGH FFKS. My God, Disney are killing Star Wars already. So disappointed 😒… ut it was absolutely beautifully shot and designed though…kudos for that but the whole story was a b grade stinker.

Monday 19th and nothing has changed. We are advised to bunker down and burn the day. Great. Movies, read my books and the odd IT job to do. Yawn. Another 12 hour shift on call.

Tuesday 20th and we’re still here.

No cargo ops today although they are going to try after lunch. The weather is improving as is the ocean conditions – still a day and a half of cargo ops that they need to do so it looks like we are staying out til it’s done…

I’ve started a midday movie and afternoon tv session in the theatre and as boredom kicks in on board, I’m getting quite a few people in πŸ™‚

Today it’s a 12.30pm matinee of “The Shape of Water” , then at 3pm my “Stranger Things” marathon finally starts πŸ™‚ … tonight it’s “Bone Tomahawk” at 7.30 for some Western action.

Tomorrow is another ” maybe you can go ashore depending on the weather” day but I’m not holding my breath. It’d be nice to get into the island for a while and explore but my world won’t end if I don’t . I’m getting a bit sick of being on the ship to be honest – it has been almost a month at sea now if you don’t count the 3 days alongside between voyages – cooped up inside isn’t a lot of fun.

Im running out of things to do so to stay productive I’m starting on documentation.

DOCUMENTATION!!!

That’s how bored it’s getting now it’s not that busy. I keep asking myself (and everyone else in my chain of command) “is there anything I should be doing that I’m not?”. The answer seems to be “as long as you keep the punters happy”.

So far so good.

This post is too long and boring

To be continued.

Whodathunk

Tuesday.

I’m just back at the Winston for dinner ( Beer and burger) before hitting the cinemas again to see Black Panther – the late show.

They do brew a damn fine pint.

( oh and weapon of choice tonight again is the Winston burger REMIX: sheer genius for you burger connoisseurs out there. This is basically a bacon double cheeseburger served in a Cinnebon but add fries and a horseradish/wasabi sauce …. mmmmmm kill me now I die happy)

… skip to 9.30pm – Beer and burger buzz installed successfully. Just waiting for the film to start and I’m the only one here.

πŸ™‚ perfect.

Hey let’s chat!

So what’s new?

Im glad you asked!

…after a relatively breezy Monday of debriefs and goodbyes, I thought that all this talk of readjustment issues on return from Antarctica was a load of bunk.

It’s only been 4 months!

What could possibly change!

Well! Let me tell you …

I now have super powers ( at least temporarily)

Whodathunknit!

1. Super Hearing – In the 10 story apartment block I’m in, I can hear a constant hum of conversation all the time – like hundreds of voices gibbering in my head – except they are not in my head ( God at least I hope not – can you hear them, Frank?).

I had to leave a cafe today as there was a group of people talking extremely loudly and it was massively unsettling.

2. Super smell – the vehicle exhausts, petrochemicals and even cigarette smells are driving me crazy.

3. Super Chatty (shut up, you) – I can’t stop talking to strangers. My shopping rounds today took all day as I bloody well introduced myself to people in shops, randoms in cinemas, and many cafe people and had a damn good chat.

4. Super Confidence – I’m 10 foot high and bulletproof at the moment.

5. Super tired – not sleeping at all (See 1.)

6. Super restless – I can’t stop moving. 20km walking around town yesterday, 10km today so far. Crazy! (See 7.)

7. Super Caffeination – I can’t get enough good β˜•οΈ. Yum.

8. Super Preparedness – all packed and ready to go to Macquarie Island.

9. Super Luckiness – to have worked with so many awesome people.

10. Super gratefulness – to be handed these opportunities and have the life I have.

Not a bad top 10 of super powers, I reckon.

So I have powers now, and as with great power comes great responsibility, I promise to use them for good and not evil purposes.

(Unless it’s all because of the caffeine, in which case it’s every person for themselves)

Sorry World but I’m fairly certain it’s less Antarctica and more the caffeine… mwahahaaa

Now all I have to do is get on the ship Friday morning and not fuck it all up for the next few weeks.

Totally and honestly, I’m loving life at the moment.

*chatted to my lovely and intelligent daughter Isabel today ( she’s the coolest, smartest, most quick witted chick I know – giving me shit for an inaccurate Bitmoji )

**bought a syndicate entry in the 30 million $ lotto tonight – if you don’t hear from me again, I’ve won.

***there’s a new Jack Reacher novel out!!!!

****AND I saw The Shape Of Water finally – so beautifully moving moving, original and a wonderful film – I’ve fallen in love with cinema all over again – thank you Guillermo πŸ™πŸ»

Happy days!!!!

πŸ™‚