Thursday, March 01, 2007

i'm back!!

a good welcome home from rae, mum, dad and luke has been a great start. it is great to be back, eating mum's lasagne and crumble, soaking in a hot bubble bath, looking at the embarrassingly large number of clothes i've accumulated this year, seeing all the changes in the home i have known all my life, just the luxury of chatting away with people who know me better than anyone.

no post holiday blues yet, just tired so taking it easy today, hoping to keep a looming cold at bay which i seem to be getting already. it really is pretty cold here eh?!

thank you so much for remembering me, for your thoughts and prayers, for taking time to see whats been happening for me on my journey. i reckon you will hear more about it whenever you hear from me as i'm sure this year has made a deep and lasting impact on me that i hope will have far reaching consequences from here on.

i don't know how much more i will say here as this form of communication is only necessary when distance prevents face to face or at least phone conversation. so this may be the last from me for a while, but who knows the desire to tell the world about my life may hit me sooner than i think.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

last day

well its 12.30, as in after midnight, and we are all off to the airport at 1.30am for a stupidly early flight home.. i was meant to fit in a few hours sleep but there are too many thoughts rushing around my head of the past and future, so i've given up trying to sleep and wanted to let you know about my last indian adventures instead. sadly this means mum and dad will be getting a comatosed daughter back with them tomorrow, but hey!
the photos not one of my best but its evidence of my best market experience yet, in mysore. i wandered around getting friendly attention from various sources, got given a free bindi, persuaded into spending 5 rupees on a string of jasmine for my hair which a passing woman was then talked into tying on for me, bought some lovely wooden kitchen utensils for the usual rockbottom price, got flowers painted on my hands with some of the amazing colours you can see in the blog before... it was a lovely wander.
sadly the following day was one of my worst on this journey. although even then nothing is ever that bad and there are still always joys hidden in there somewhere, so don't worry.. but lack of sleep thanks to early wake-up call from nextdoor room and lack of food thanks to restaurants in the lonely planet being full or relocated meant i was far from at my best. additional complaints would be a drunk man following me onto a bus, sitting next to me stinking and making occasional attempts to touch my thigh for the next hour and a half; expensive rickshaws refusing to take me on the meter and quoting stupid prices instead, then when i finally persuade someone into taking me on the meter they just got lost and end up costing me as much anyway; wandering around with all my gear in the heat feeling a bit faint from lack of food.
but this was earlier in the day, the real problems started at the station in the evening waiting to start my 38 hour journey back to calcutta. i had never seen so many people before, the platform was packed, only one white face in the crowd who was a lovely guy from slovenia who was kind enough to share his edible treats of banana and peanut bar with me. then the train arrived on time but my carriage was locked so i waited for a few minutes with some others, then the train slowly started moving, i assumed just to reposition on the platform, so walked with it for a while. but it kept picking up speed and people were starting to surge forwards getting a bit panicked, people were jumping on and off carriages.. i had split seconds to decide whether to jump into the wrong carriage or wait for the train to return. despite regular announcements every 5 minutes before the train arrived, from when the train arrived onwards there was not a single word from the announcer so we were all pretty clueless. amongst all this confusion various guys were using the cover of a crowd to grope me whenever possible which was not helping me remain calm. so i am sorry to say once the train had gone i did start to lose it a bit and the resulting scene was me sobbing in a corner surrounded by a semicircle of bewildered/concerned gentlemen trying to chat about what to do next.
i feel very blessed as one man in particular took me on as his own mission and led me back to find his wife and son who had also been sobbing as they had lost him and had jumped from the moving train and were generally as confused as the rest of us. the man's brother had jumped on the train just in time to be reunited with his 15 year-old daughter who would otherwise have been left alone on the train.. anyway, all this chaos, lots of mobile calls later and the friendly man reunited another passenger with her bag that was on the train where his brother found it for her, he calmed me down and kept relaying whatever information he had.. and 4 1/2 hours later the train pulled back in after rumours of an assualt to the driver and a derailment. i am none the wiser as to what really went on, i was just glad to finally get some sleep just gone midnight.
it really was an unusual experience for me in india, i rarely felt my vulnerability as a white woman and i rarely saw such organisational chaos. but it was a timely experience to make me very ready to come home. and it was an eye opener to see the crowds waiting for general compartment space on a train, i had never realised the system before, that hundreds of people who cannot afford a reserved space just have to surge at the first opportunity for room that must only fit a fraction of the waiting crowd.
i would still definitely love to come back here some day, to enjoy the beauty of draping saris, the delicious food, and amazingly friendly people. india has been a perfect last treat for me giving me many last treasured memories. but i am now ready and happy to be coming home.

Friday, February 23, 2007

and the winner is...

best display of colour - india
best scenery - new zealand
best beach - costa malabari, kerala, india
best town - joint winners luang prabang, laos and hoi-an, vietnam
best food - india, with special mention to savage garden restaurant in udaipur and costa malabari in kerala
best song lyric to fit my year - 'fantastic expectations, amazing revelations' from Ian Brown F.E.A.R.
best travelling from A to B - slowboat in laos
best adventure - desert in namibia
best swimming pool - at jim's flat, bangkok
best shopping - india
best day - stand out memory is City2Surf day in sydney. i couldn't say why it wins - maybe the quality time with my brother, the delicious and long-awaited lunch, the sense of achievement, the endomorphines running around my system, the well-deserved swim in the sea, the feeling of being part of a 63,000 strong crowd, coming home to my parents...
best email received - from helen on the morning of her wedding
best letter received - mr andy mason wins every time
best present received - caramelised peanuts made by innocence
best comedy moment - falling into pit dug for toilet at innocence's house on morning of day 2
best miracle - meeting a friend who could show me the way, filippe, in the dark on my first eve in mozambique
best book read - gilead
best tv programme seen - grey's anatomy
best church meeting attended - gospel choir competition in blantyre, malawi
best wildlife spotting - amazing coloured fish whilst snorkelling on great barrier reef
i could go on, there have been so many joys. of course there were also not so great moments..
scariest day - in desert in namibia
worst sunburn - snorkelling on great barrier reef
loneliest times - getting around sydney suburbs alone
saddest day - last day in mozambique attending a funeral and saying goodbye
most wanting to come home day - christmas day missing my mum!
but overall i cannot believe how good this year has been, and i'm not even quite finished with it yet! it has been a year of blessing - that is the best word i could use to sum up my time. it has been a year full of fantastic hospitality shown me by others, good health, amazing scenery, eye-opening experiences, freely given friendship, care and kindness shown to me, the unexpected joys of my own company and awe and wonder at life in this beautiful world.
i wouldn't say this is chance, good luck or a result of my excellent common sense! i definitely credit this year to my lord who led me on my journey and created the beauty i saw and who never left my side. i think this may be a first on this blog, but a little bible quote for you (slightly edited by me!) from psalm 4
let the light of your face shine upon me, o lord
you have filled my heart with great joy
i will lie down and sleep in peace
for you alone o lord make me dwell in safety

Thursday, February 22, 2007

beach treat success

no pictures of the beach, sorry, but it was amazing. mostly because it was normally deserted, the way a beach should be in my opinion. it wasn't photo worthy enough to warrant the risk of leaving my camera whilst i went running though, hence lack of evidence. it was the perfect beach for running on - nice flat sand hardened by the tide. so i managed to get a bit of exercise in which was great. it just seems too good to be true to spend a few days at an amazing coast like that where there just aren't more than a handful of tourists staying and hardly and locals for that matter. beautiful.
the real highlight of this treat was the food though, served on a banana leaf every evening, and always so delicious. everyone staying there ate together for lunch and dinner which meant lots of lovely chats with people, and lots of opportunity to get some last minute insights into job possibilities.
other treat was a trip to a handloom co-operative which i found fascinating. such lovely colours of cotton and such a lot of manpower to produce what are essentially simple everyday textiles.
all in all definitely glad i splashed out for a last treat, it really was that, a special time with all the space i could ask for to get excited about the future homecoming and reflect on my last amazing year. i'm busy compiling my nominations and winners for this last year to sum up the highlights, so i will reveal shortly my very own oscars, seeing as i miss the real thing being stuck on a train for 36 hours. will be back with that soon.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

luscious green

i cooled down, i walked in amazing peaceful tea plantations, i started to read 'a suitable boy' and am still only a third of the way through it, i watched too many movies on a tv in my room, i found stupidly cheap places to eat and i started to think more and more about coming home. it was a good trip to the hills. definite highlight was being blessed by the small miracle of seeing flowering coral trees once more (my favourite tree in sydney). my lovely colleague in sydney, glenda, showed me the coral tree in some botanical book and i noted that it is a native plant of india, but up till now had never seen them here. and then suddenly, i find myself back in coral tree land and at a time when they are flowering! well that made my day.
it is funny to continue holding so much in my mind - memories from this journey, thoughts of home, plans for the future, thoughts on india, reflections on life... luckily i have the time to mull it over, i'm not sure how i will manage when daily life once again starts to take up the majority of my brain space. i would hate to miss out on the remembering especially, although the joy of looking back over such good times is always tinged with the sorrow of being apart from those i grew to love so much and at the lack of plans to return anytime very soon.
my major concern from some of my mulling is how much i love being alone. it doesn't seem quite right when i always thought one of my main desires in life is to love others. but the reality is i really enjoy making decisions that are so spontaneous i almost manage to surprise myself. i think its to do with not having to communicate a plan, just getting on and doing it. i love the freedom of setting off on a whim, not having to be patient with anyone, not having to explain myself. before the joys of solitude were balanced by a strong sense of missing people so much, but now i am so close to home, i don't seem to miss people in the uk, only those in other countries that i won't be seeing in a couple of weeks.

anyway tomorrow i'm off to my extravagant last splurge, a place on the beach (a splurge at 12 pounds a night including all food!) where i hope to continue enjoying a life of luxury and beauty and reflection.