Home – a poem

Meditation walk in the morning sun

letting my mind wander until there are no more thoughts.

geese call wild in the key of D

trying to tell me that it is

ON SURRENDERall about being free.

since not a soul is stirring I sit with the river

at the base of the mountain

and wait for the rocks to tumble all over me.

But nothing moves,

only the steady whir and burr

Of old worn thoughts that I release.

Stretching legs and arms I flow

feeling the ground steady and sure now

beneath the feet thatnot-so-long-ago

could not fly.

The river says

there is no one waiting to tell me

what they think

Or what I think

no one to correct me

Direct me

Protect me.

Cause that gets really old.

“this is all in my imagination”

the river whispers loud enough

So that I can hear.

And frankly speaking I have to believe the river

because he is so old

and has been recycling himself

over and in and through all time

returning always to this place

just waiting for me to come and

Ask the right questions.

The mountain stands behind the river

arms folded across her breast

Appearing calm and pensive as she considers river’s advice

(about the truth of course)

She sends the geese popping out over the ring of trees

that is her crown.

Geese emissaries acting as her voice

which would otherwise be silent

(except for when she really has something to say:

please see: Avalanche)

and frankly speaking

I have to believe the mountain

for she has been waiting for me

through all time

to return to this place

where the geese sing

to remind me that we have always been here

 

And by the river I awaken and see that

I have never left home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angels in the Outback

hubble-starburst-large-100706-02One of the things I like so much about life with my husband is that we travel really well together; we are both friendly and have a real love for people and have an immediate desire, in whatever place we land at, to know the local culture and people right away – and steer clear of all tourist attractions.
This trip is very different because for two major reasons: first we really are not tourists this time.  We are what you call “expats” – or temporary residents. And second, it is winter in Australia and all the tourists have run away, so we get to see a side of this life that most people don’t.

When we arrived in St Andrews beach, a small resort town about an hour outside of Melbourne. After two weeks of traveling in Asia, and all the emotions of leaving everything we know half a world away, we felt pretty disoriented not only with our surroundings but with each other. Our relationship has always been in the context of the kids or the people that we are involved with in our lives. Suddenly there was me wandering aimlessly in my floppy slippers, john trying to work in his office, the silence of the house deafening. I mean silence. No phone calls, no door knocking, no kids talking upstairs, no music from bedrooms, no having to line up for the shower. Weird. In fact, the first night I heard the chaotic running of possums on the tin roof I actually had a sense of relief and not fear: chaos I can do. I can handle unforeseen noises, chaotic occurrences by nature and children, winds, cyclones – yes I am good at those. But silence? Peace? Nothingness? That was going to drive me wacko.

We both knew we needed to find something outside of the house to keep us going, so of course we turn to music, the passport to the universe. We began to ask around for local jams and very quickly found the first local place that would give us something to do other than watch 80 episodes of House on Netflix for the next three months.

What we didn’t realize is that Jamming and music in Australia is something like a sacred religion.  We would soon discover that not only is Australia the Jam capital of the planet, but that there is an amazing group of underground jammers: normal humans who by day may be disguised as moms or dads, accountants and business folk- but once a week, they get their hippie on, dust off the old axe and drive to the strangest places that come alive with jammers and jam supporters.
Here we are called musos – an expression referring to a talented jammer. To be called a muso is to be accepted into the popular underground culture of the jam world. We found our home base with other musos quickly, at a little taco joint called Baha’s, in Rye a small bay town ten minutes away. The very first Wednesday we jammed there the owner asked us to put together a band and do a full three set show on the Saturday night, as he had lost his band and needed a fill. Soon we were in the full throws of rehearsal with Dan our newly found multi-instrumental bass, saxophone, guitar, drum, keyboard guy with an amazing studio in a house that overlooks the whole world. Our new friend Jaci (Jaycee), a sweet original folk player who knows everyone, goes everywhere and immediately adopted us and began bringing us around with her, expanding our network of muso friends exponentially – our experience in australia began to widen as though we had lived here for years.

I enjoy that our relationships with people are never basic – we always go deep. We don’t talk about the weather, politics or other things that don’t really concern peoples hearts. And because Australians seem to be willing to engage easily in this level of “real talk” we have really found some amazing stories.

Last night was one of my favourites so far. It began as a very sad story: a man with a Ford tee-shirt sitting across from me, having imbibed ten or so too many pints pulls up his sleeve and says to me in a thick slightly drunk Aussie drawl.

“This ‘ere was my son – Cammy – he was the best boy evah. Gone now two years he is”, and he stopped and smiled at me weakly. I heard john take a deep breath and try and absorb it – I could his his mind thinking about our boys, all around the same 20 years old Cam was when he died in a biking accident.

My heart squeezed as he told the story about how his boy had just gotten a loan and had paid for his and his father’s tickets to fly across the country to attend his sister’s wedding in Cairns. The man known to others as “Spoons” because of his talent playing musical spoons, told me how he had spoken with his son the night before his death. Cam told his father he was going to the highlands to go mountain biking. The accident happened when a low lying wire unseen by the boy clotheslined him causing his neck to break.

My husband and I took the story in; we aren’t afraid of talking about death the way some people who want to be very polite about it can be. Spoons leans over and we look at his tattoo –

“Cameron ….. it says – “Never Forgotten”-  He was 20 only years old.”

I watch the man like he is an enigma wondering how anyone survives the loss of a child – I just can’t imagine it. I feel such love for him, I just want to make it go away. I want to say something encouraging to him, but my own experience with grief tells me that nothing brings solace to a heart that is so broken. So I decide to really listen to him – be very present – and let him tell me all sort of beautiful stories about his son, which I see brings a sparkle to his eyes and an aliveness to it all.

Suddenly, as he is ending his story and I am trying to find a different way to repeat what I have been saying over and over “God, Im so sorry…I’m so sorry…”, a young man with messy brown hair and his friend a smiling blond boy, both in their early 20s come up to Spoons and sit right down beside him on the couch.

“You were Cam’s dad eh?” said the boy to Spoons smiling widely “I knew him yeah…I was living with him in town”.

My mouth falls open, and Spoons just looks at me with wide open eyes like he has seen a ghost
“That’s him!” I say probably louder than I meant to, feeling like somehow we had just won the lottery.

I feel tears come into my eyes –

“Spoons! That’s the way they keep talking to you! Your son is here to tell you he’s ok!”

We jump up – everyone is hugging and smiling, dancing a little jog with our arms around each other. We don’t care that an hour ago we were all strangers and now are crying quite openly together.  Everyone around realizes what has happened and there is a giant resounding toast with lifted glasses, everyone’s eyes slightly upturned addressing Cam directly

“To Cam!!” everyone cheers.

Spoons hugs the boy beside him so long his tears don’t have a chance against his failing willpower and he comes out of the embrace wet faced – both men smiling understanding and accepting that Cam continues somehow.

I feel very honoured to be a witness of these experiences. It is my only wish not to waste the time or the learning. They remind me that life is really very magical. I also feel incredibly lucky to be a musician, because I experience life through this world of colour and sound and emotional openness that brings about these instances of incredible joy and pure honest humanity.

After Cam’s appearance, Spoons now calls me “his sister from another mister” and we are friends. The musicians call john and I Musos – and we are one of them now.

What a miracle to create and find this community all the way across the world. I still marvel at how far I had to travel only to discover how very small the world really is.

WICKED BEAUTY

Dawn breaks slowly in Australia. At around 6am it appears in a succession of silences broken by bird song, screeches and warbles alerting all the living things to the impending day.  The ocean, only a kilometer away, provides a constant gentle roaring – an auditory background, like big deep breaths by the Great Mother Herself.  In the mist of the morning I can imagine myself as something cradled deep within her, and I feel safe and fine. There is a wildness everywhere you go – even in the cities, and everywhere I look I am reminded that nature has its own way; like the cockatoos that have adapted to the city and float like giant yellow and white clouds between buildings early in the morning. Or like yesterday when I saw a sea gull on the beach who had only one leg.  I was surprised at the intensity of my sadness for this bird – maybe it had to do with the connection we feel here? Somehow I related to him – like any of us could relate to a determined one legged bird.

But Australia is a wild place – and fairness is really not part of the deal.

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In such contrast, it is the most beautiful and the most wicked of all places on the earth.  In terms of Ying and Yang, everything about Australia demonstrates these diametrical opposites.   The first thing I have become aware of here is that even the locals don’t take mother nature for granted. They take things seriously – like if you tell them you have discovered a giant spider that has survived swimming in your pool all day – they come over, and want to see.  There are serious spiders here and snakes and weather.  I was even warned against the birds and that I should not “commune” with the magpie because they were territorial and would peck out my eyes.  But this does not stop me from having frequent conversations with the local magpies that I am coming to know in my back yard.  They are intense in their energy and unimaginably beautiful with their stark black and white feathers. \some of them are as big as a small dog, and when I play music in the back yard I feel like a rock star because they come from all over, and curious about my recording device spend time making funny noises and poking at it, while providing perfect background chorus. But these birds are not aggressive – I have also seen that the very smallest of the birds can push a magpie off their food.  They are big wimps in the face of their feathered  cousins.  And yet sports stores sell helmets with long funny looking spikes  for bikers who travel too close to Magpie nests in the fall and winter (June through august) because the males are known to attack anyone within 50 feet of their nest, and they can

“peck right into your skull they will…”

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Everyone who arrives in Australia wants to know what to do if they are confronted with a giant man eating spider or poisonous snake. So, the second most important saying you’ll want to pay attention to in Australia is:

“Just don’t poke it”.

Sounds good to me mate.

Things are straight forward here – it either IS or it IS’T. There is an absence of conversational beating around the bush that we employ in the more American culture.  Here – things are what they are. Say what you mean and mean what you say.  And if you ask someone a favour the response is inevitably –

“No worries Mate”,

By the way – Koalas look like this because they get high eating the gum of the tree. Buddy here is completely buzzed and will wake with munchies – which is why they can also be a little grouchy.

And that’s true too.  In Australia, you are invited to put your worries away and live each second in its incredible wicked beauty.

The center of Australia is basically a big dry pot of sand, that gets bigger and bigger each year because you can’t plant in it, and roots are what keep soil on top with minerals and hydration able to sustain plant life.  Without plants – the top soil blows away with the wind and keeps eating away at the land around it until everything is a desert.

You see this happening in Africa, especially if you compare maps from twenty years ago to today, the change in the desert is incredibly frightening. Australia however, has been putting actively enforcing eco-protection measures and land protection for a long time.  It seems everywhere you go there is another national park with magnificent beauty all alive and open to anyone who cares to spend time in it.  You can easily within the same day be at the beach, in the desert and in the rainforest.  You can drive up to the mountains and go skiing, and you can be in a city in time for dinner.

The Future…

Because of rapid and irresponsible industrial development in Asia and the natural current of winds, Australia’s ozone layer has been effectively destroyed.  You don’t really understand how important the ozone layer is, until you don’t have one.

The first time I came here I mistakenly did not heed the  advice to wear sunscreen because I thought my well worn skin could take anything after Africa. And frankly being jet lagged and time confused didn’t help my cause.  I went out my first morning at 11 am to the beach for two hours and returned with second degree burns on my shoulders.  I have never seen a sun so BRIGHT – most children wear sunglasses as young as three years old to protect their eyes. It is a very different looking sky from what we have back home.

I feel very fortunate to be able to have seen Australia in the summer time – at the height of the sun – and also to be living in the autumn and winter. I wasn;t sure what to expect and our first few days spent here were the worst weather I (or even many of the locals) have ever seen. Every day 50km winds dangerously whipping palm trees this way and that, rain dousing the roads in misty sheets at unforeseeable times.  Contrastingly,  people traipsing about in shorts and tee-shirts or cycling through the maelstrom because they seem to be in denial that it is only seven degrees out.  Sometimes the dogs better dressed than their humans. But that is Australia.

The real land of ying and yang – each day opposite to the one before and SO quickly changing you can’t keep up.  There is a favourite saying in these parts –

“Don’t like the weather in Melbourne? Just wait a minute…”

And it is true – the weather never stays the same for very long. In a way it seems the winter differs psychologically here, not only because it is warmer, but because you know you don’t have to settle into the “horrible weather” daze of -40 degree winters that keep you trapped inside your house staring at the same four walls for 6 months.  In Australia, when the bad weather comes, maybe the streets quiet down from tourists who prefer to summers of +30, but they come alive with locals venturing out into the safety of streets not crowded with confused drivers from Asia and America trying to figure out how to drive on the wrong side of the road, and on the wrong side of a rental car.

I have to admit that I often experience some anxiety, especially on the overhanging cliffs of the Great Ocean drive when I see an obvious tourist blasting down the roads in Australia.  I was saddened but not surprised to read that car accidents are now the number one cause of death in China, resulting in over 2500 deaths a month!  That makes Quebec highways look tranquil.  But whether we are American, Canadian, European or Asian – a tourist is a tourist – and we are all obviously lost.

That’s my pet peeve – I don’t like looking lost and I certainly never want to look like a tourist! Its a strange mentality I have acquired over so many years of travelling through different countries and experiences.  Being a tourist leaves you in the out – you don’t find out where the best restaurant is (where locals eat) and places to hang out. They will tell you the standard “tourist spots”, which rarely if ever have anything to do with authentic culture in the place where you are at.  So the goal is to “fit in and belong” to a place right away.

No matter where we go, for example, my first desire is always to see the grocery store.  If you know what people eat, then you learn allot about them right away.  I have bought food in some amazing places – French Town in Honduras where we had to be guarded by a guy with a big machine gun so we wouldnty get robbed of our food and money as we exited the store.  In Guinea where the food container only came once a month or six weeks across the ocean and you had to stand in long line ups to get even the smallest comfort like shampoo and soap from home. Arguably though I have to say – grocery shopping in Australia brought me to a whole new level of experience.  For example, there is a remarkable and immediately noticeable absence of American products. Like there are none. Not even Tylenol – here it’s called Panadol and it has nothing to do with Tylenol. Everything looks different,  packaging seems to be more simple and even the commercials on TV are more basic.  Not as “high tech” and manipulative as the ones developed for teh European and North American markets.   And because Australia and New Zealand are a traditional cattle and sheep farming culture, there is allot of cheap beef and lamb on the shelves. It seems like  New Zealand lamb, which is very popular also in north America is everywhere.   Eggs are clearly indicated whether or not the chickens are cage raised or free range. I like that. Its more expensive for the free range eggs, but I like eating happy food. The bread is expensive and big – except for the amazing Turkish bread we found, seeded with sesame and poppy seeds like a soft delicious Ciabatta.

As a Canadian I find discovering the food and becoming accustomed to life in Australia,  very easy.  We do allot of the same things, we enjoy similar cultural mannerisms.  When asked by a local man what the difference was between an me and a  person from the United States I was able to answer him quickly and easily:

“Well, if you bump into me, I will apologize”, we had a good laugh because somehow that made perfect sense.  We share a similar gentleness as well with our Australian cousins that I am coming to appreciate not only in the people I meet here, but in the ones I have left back home.

There is still so much to learn.

Lesson 1- Being Remembered: Montreal to Hong Kong Pt.1

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There was no joy in my heart as we left Montreal for Hong Kong late Tuesday afternoon. Just a closed eyed fist clenching oblivion, like when I was a little girl on a roller coaster, and I couldn’t wait to get on the ride, and then once on, I just wanted to scary parts to be over.

When you are uprooting everything you know, love and understand to move across the world, you can’t really afford to think about it too much – you just do the next thing that is right under your foot, not even looking much past your toes.  My friend Jacques, while he was dying of cancer taught me about “doing the next right thing”. It’s a tactic I use in my head to keep myself from imploding emotionally.

So –  leave at night – get through the line ups – get on the plane – don’t look out the window cause I’ll cry – let the plane take off (what’s the alternative?) – up in the air…close your eyes.

Its a one hour flight from Montreal to Toronto, then 15 from our connection to Hong Kong. Ouch.

Arriving in Toronto at 11:30 in a sleepy airport with only a few hundred Asian travellers, closed stores and dark hallways was a part of airport life I had not yet seen. Like a city tucked in for the night – I felt like a trespasser.

At the time I thought that the terminal for Cathay Airlines flight to Hong Kong had more Asian people in one single space than I had seen – in a long time.  Everything about Asian cultures to me seems crowded.   I had already been to China, the first year they opened to tourists…it was a very different place then.  I was very young, maybe 15, and my father was the only parent who joined us on a high-school field trip. It’s one of my favourite memories with him, because he was the only parent who came and we had such a terrific time together.   My school mates in the private international boarding school I attended were mostly from all over the world, didn’t get to see their parents very much so my dad was “the cool dad”. He would arrive at school with a trunk full of groceries and delicious things for all of us, he took us out for dinners and “real food” (not mystery meat form the cafeteria)  He attended my soccer games, called, wrote me letters, an for my 16th birthday rented two school busses and surprised me by secretly bussing half my school to another town for a party in a beautiful hotel restaurant. I think I was abit the envy of the other kids, but he loved all of us, and they felt it.

During our time in Asia, dad had become very good friends with my soccer coach and our school’s chemistry teacher Mr. Chen.  I remembered Mr. Chen during my flight; patient, kind and probably the only teacher that had not had a reason to get incredibly angry with me at some point – I wasn’t exactly the easiest kid in the world. I found them both entering my mind during the long flight; in a fresh way – not the way you think of people so long after they had died and the memories of them have dimmed to a sad grey or some faded sepia that takes the poignancy from the joy of the moments you live with them, and only leaves the sadness of loss. I saw them with a joyful vibrancy that allowed me to relive the happy feeling of the moments without the tugging at my heart.

Now, I saw my father again in  vivid Technicolor – struggling up the great wall of China with me. The Wall had not yet undergone renovations, so the road was broken and  treacherous. He was always dragging his enormous video camera, panting determinedly, recording every moment.   More memories, ones that used to make me cry for longing, now make me smile. I see him again, on a bridge over a pond, in a small village in surrounded by little girls at a Chinese orphanage who saw a “fat silver hair’d man” as a person of affluence and wisdom. “Lucky Buddha!” They called him – I’m sure he loved that more than anything.

He would kneel on the ground and tell them stories in a language they didn’t understand somehow they understood the intention of the story and would watch quietly wide eyed in rapt attention.  I had bought a guitar at a pawn shop in China and we would travel in schools and to children to sing songs – Old MacDonald Had A Farm seems to be a universally known ditty. We even met Dick Clark who joined us for some of this fun.

During our first time in china, Hong Kong was like a break for us.  The New York of Asia – in a time where I cared about what I wore, and enjoyed the vibrancy of night life, music, dancing and fun- Hong Kong had all of that to offer. Because China had only opened it’s doors that first year to tourists, the hotels and places we stayed on the Mainland were abit rough to say the least. Little gangs of cockroaches, scary bed sheets, and there was no chance in hell I was putting bare feet on the ground. Food always seemed to still have a face on it, eye balls as delicacies, and wormy things for breakfast – Hong Kong was a break – it had pizza! I cherished these great memories with my friends in the New York of Asia. I was returning to a place that was once brand new – the Royal Garden Hotel had just opened that long ago year of 1983. Now, 31 years later, it was older – like me- and was undergoing some major renovations – like me.

The flight from Toronto to Hong Kong is 15 hours long. You are in the air without really standing or walking or moving.  My ankles swelled to about 3 times their normal size, and I began to remember stories of a woman about my age dying in mid flight of a pulmonary embolism that had accumulated because of lack of circulation.  Great.

The female flight attendants, John and I noticed, all looked like beautiful dolls. Perfect shiny skin, smiles and sweet faces, gentle and attentive.  I have to say – our North American airlines could take a serious lesson from Asian airlines.  They put us to shame.

The food was delicious, the service was incredible and since there is a TV right in front of your face, there was a plethora of mindless movies to choose from – mostly Asian (no lack of Bruce Lee) and notably (and happily) very little American viewing.  This was my first taste of life without American influence.

For 15 hours we slept, woke, slept. Shifted, stretched, grunted – its like being in a fever – you don’t quite remember the time passing like a foggy haze. My neck cramping head bobbing open one eye position – checking the flight status on the screen – 8 hours left to go. Ugh.  8 hours – a full work day, is the worst part. Its the endless part which seems like an infinite and impossible amount of time when you’re stuck in a tiny 2 foot space squished between your snoring husband and an Asian lady who wont make eye contact with me but keeps putting her head on my shoulder to sleep.

AND SO….My lessons in patience began, and as I would soon come to learn – and certainly patience would be the focus of my time in Hong Kong.

Miraculously the flight ends and we arrive in Hong Kong.  It’s 5:30 in the morning, and still dark over the city.  They have built a new airport – in the late 1990’s, which is the size of a small city.  The old airport was an epic landing – supposed to be the scariest landing in the world between the insanely crowded buildings on Hong Kong Island.  I was grateful for the less freaky landing I must say.

We unfold our bodies, everyone grunting and stretching trying to make a impossible mad dash for the front doors.  The Flight attendants routine “Thank You…Thank You…Thank You….” as we leave the plane. They still look perfect.

We are there for sunrise, and John’s work mate – Rodika and I chat excitedly about all we will see.

This was Hong Kong waking up.

I had no real idea what day it was.  We had left on Tuesday – and now it was Thursday – where did my Wednesday go?   John, I had to remind myself, was here on business and had a meeting later that afternoon. This was our first taste of the “Chinese work ethic” – which is something like “all work and no play all day every day”. Relentlessly hard working people – everything about Hong Kong culture, we were soon to see, is geared towards doing business.

The Royal Gardens was still as beautiful as I remember it. A Center garden atrium, hotel rooms overlook the interior, glass elevators and a piano player every night. Stores inside that I would never shop at – Rolex, Dolce & Gabanna, Versace.   I was happy to see things had not gone downhill since I had been – it felt exciting for me to bring John and his co-worker to a place I knew and remembered with such fondness, allowing me not to feel so displaced from my family.

Because I went to an international school, and thanks to the benefit of social networking, I had been in touch with two old school friends before I left, who had moved back to Hong Kong after high school. We had travelled together during springs  breaks and I really liked these guys, so we arranged lunch and drinks.

I missed dinner the first night with Johnny, only because I didn’t know what day or time it was. He was a sweet friend who I had gone on spring break with to Florida when we were younger.  I had always liked this guy, and when he suggested we get together for drinks that first night, I was excited. I felt like a kid again – going out after 9:30 just for fun.

I met him and his lovely wife Linda downstairs at the RG and we walked a short  ways away to find a small cafe for drinks.  The city was quiet – although stores only close at 11 each night, a store keeper explained to me that the rents were so high they couldn’t afford to close.

We hugged happily like old friends, and right away he says

“Did you know Mr. Chen moved here again?”

My heart exploded. I couldn’t believe it!  Mr. and Mrs. Chen were alive and well! I had assumed he had died I guess because my father was dead – so this felt like such a miracle!  Johnny quickly dials his phone and within seconds the bridge of three decades disappeared and I hear Mr.c’s voice…

“Sir!!!”

“Marie-Josee?” – he was one of the only people that called me by my full name.

I hear his trademark laugh…

“You’re alive!!” I said.

“Well of course I’m alive…” he laughs.

We make excited plans like old friends to meet the next day with his wife and another old student friend.  We will surprised Derek who also had not seen M. C in so many years.

I have to say – my reunions were amazing. Mr, Chen was very sad to hear about my fathers passing – he was one of the only people in the world, I saw that had a real “friendship love: for my dad. Most other people just saw him as a business guy, or politician.  But here – he was a friend, and we talked about things I hadn’t talked about in so long, my heart was exploding with happiness. I felt so at home in this strange foreign place after this meeting.,

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Mr Chen an his wife took Derek and I to the Kowloon Bowling and Cricket Club, a beautiful private club on the island facing Hong Kong.  I must mention here that Hong Kong is a VERY small city. The most populated city in the world, everything is built very very tall, and on top of each other.  During the day, the streets are nearly impassable for walking.  You are regularly jostled by incoming walkers. Very few regular citizens have cars, public transit is absolutely the only way to go.   But at this place, in the quiet of the club, it was cool and quiet an spacious.

\Just like when I was young, Mr. And Mrs. Chen ordered food for us. Delicious crispy sweet and sour tofu, Mushrooms marinated in something unpronounceable and yummy.

“Remember sir…nothing with a face please”, I smiled at him

“I know, Marie-Josee, I remember you”.

It felt so good to be known and remembered – he felt like family.

He told me I was one of about 20 students that really stayed with him in his mind – I figure because I had a big mouth, but he seemed to remember me with pleasant memories. .  I felt so honoured to be loved by this fine man.

Mrs. Chen and I catch up, share pictures of our children, our grandchildren. How remarkable it was to share these things with them.

I have so much more to tell about Hong Kong, but  that will be for another day. I still need time to process the incredulity of it all. For this entry, I am happy to remember and be remembered by these beautiful people and memories.  The next few days before leaving for Melbourne, I explored Hong Kong deeply.  Remember – I am here on a self proclaimed pilgrimage – I want to understand the world, THE TRUTH – not from the perspective of America, Canada or Europe media, but from my own eyes, my own discernment and my own heart.

So, until next time…greetings from down undah….

Peace.

From: Travelling Clueless Half a World Away: Hey! Who Stole My Friday?

maxresdefaultWe are getting ready for Australia and I am a little daunted at the trip I am about to take. You see I am Canadian and Australia is literally half a world away. Not only is the time zone thing confusing, but apparently I will lose a complete day of my life.  It will be taken from me by the intrepid date line…and I don’t understand where it goes?!! I leave thursday and arrive saturday…so…where did friday go?? Is it replaced later? NO because I leave on a Monday and return here on a Monday. HOW does that work??

Let me explain the little I understand…

I live in Montreal.

I leave Thursday at 5:30pm (mtl) and arrive Vancouver 11:00pm (mtl time) 8:00pm (Vancouver time)

I leave at 11:30pm Vancouver time and fly for 14.5 hours to Sidney where we arrive on Saturday – at 2:30 a.m Australia time. Hunh?

Because of leaving a) late thursday so it’s already friday in AUstralia and b) crossing this “date line”, friday is taken. Gone. poof. Just getting there is the first incredible thing to get over.

I am packed two days before leaving.  If you knew me then you would know how totally and completely out of character this is for me.  But I’m excited.   Something about this is feeling eerily like my beloved Africa.

I researched the animals and wildlife which brought memories of Africa closer.  Except I think Australia is more challenging even.

We forget how lucky we are in Canada.  When I look up “Canadian Wildlife” on google images i get something like this :

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Here, we may have to contend with “a little” cold, but in the summer you can walk barefoot and you can drink water pretty safely, you don’t have to be afraid to put your slippers on in the morning and you don’t check every bite of bread for weevils.  There are some real challenges that we simply don’t face here in North america. Our most dangerous snake being the Rattler or something equally benign compared to the insanely big and venomous Black Skinned Tiger Snake.  Our waters are incredibly safe for swimming in terms of the creatures they house.

When I look up “Australian Wildlife” on google images I get something more like…this:

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What the fuck is that?

In Australia there seem to be many things waiting to kill you everywhere. Spiders and snakes on land, Box Jelly fish with 4 meter long tendrils causing you to die within an hour of asphyxiation if you just touch them a teenie tiny bit. Oh and they’re basically invisible…yeah. how do you fight that?

Australian water life is a hole other topic. People actually dive there…just watching the documentary on ocean life made me want to sell my scuba gear and declare heartily “never again!”. I am a dummy. shark

It’s funny because here in Canada I am extremely comfortable with nature. Snow-white-with-animals-the-forest-animals-28290596-400-275I feel connected to animals and have a very good level of communication with the things that live around me. But uproot me and put me somewhere like Costa Rica and it’s a whole new world to learn. So many different sounds and smells. Even just the “feeling” of a day passing is so different I often would find myself not having any clue what time it is because I think at home we have a natural connection to the placement of the sun, but in a different place, we need to realign ourselves and this takes time.

Vacationers don’t have time to waste.  I am making plans to not make plans. My favourite part of this trip to take so far will be when john and I go “walkabout”. We are renting a car and heading “thatta way” down the Great ocean road off the coast near Melbourne.   I think neither of us wanted to mention that we were a little more nervous about doing this since we watched the documentary together last night, with the teenie-weenie spiders that inject a small glob of venom into your toenail and you die. You just stop breathing and die and never even see it coming.  Maybe we weren’t so comfy with those.

imagesJZPMTI21Or maybe we were both having second thoughts when we learned of the GIGANTIC DINO-LIKE-CROCODILE that can out-run A FRIKKING LAMBORGHINI.

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Maybe it was the big fuzzy ugly gigantic icky spider with shiny horrible black spikes in its mouth that attacks forward so it can pierce your boot.  Kind makes you love a good blizzard eh?

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Or maybe it was the snakes that just lie waiting for you in every single shadowy part of every city or rural area in Australia. Yeah…I have to say that made me think:

“Panic!! We need a guide!!”Aboriginal-Shaman

John and I are celebrating 15 years together with this trip. Our relationship began basically with a trip like this one, but to friendly little Boston in 2000.  Now this trip is our most adventurous and over the years I have learned about my beautiful husband that our likelihood of getting a guide is about as much as him stopping for directions at a garage….

I wonder if you can buy portable anti-venom for long trips?

Airport Culture and The Dalai Lama

imagesED0G4VTXMid winter crazies – and once again a weird thing has crossed my path to break the dismal feeling of this season – this year…Australia. Really? Every  year this seems to happen, where I find myself by some bizarre circumstance in a foreign land.

The last time was Costa Rica. My house was being renovated for months and months and I absolutely had to get out of the chaos or go completely bananas.  My understanding husband (having me around crazy couldnt have been helpful!) helped me figure it out and I  booked a resort.  I hate resorts but it was the only cost reasonable way to do this. I was on my own in the middle of South America and there were serious learning moments, I tell you, when I questioned my own sanity. I was there for only 48 hours when my phone and money were stolen and I was harassed by all forms of man – the worst of them being an angry Canadian (ex girlfriend, done him wrong blah blah…talks too much.)   I kept the conversation short and moved on heading to my resort in a little white taxi with my guiatr and backpack, I looked like a total Canadian hippie.

He found me on the beach the morning after we arrived.  I was sitting in the rising sun playing guitar, and he arrived with his violin.

“This is gonna be fun!” I thought.

Except I was wrong.

He immediately offered to sleep with me if I would share my hotel room with him. Beware of gross men while travelling ladies.

I smiled. “Um no. Not what im here for. I don’t even really want to have conversation with you – never mind sex.  Plus I am happily married…”

I was calm when he told me I should feel privileged to have someone like “him” hitting on me. That I wasn’t exactly “the prettiest woman in the world”.

Oh brother…

He went away and all was well. Costa Rica was a blast. I left the resort and ended up in a magical place with horses, and Canadian and South American musicians whom I have kept in touch with and have since gone back to visit.

I love the unpredictability of travelling…and I love love love going to places that are totally different from what i know. it’s wonderful to see that you can exist in so many different contexts, with other people. You really learn about yourself.

Travelling has given me a certain amount of important knowledge and personal flexibility:images725J2IMY

– I’ll eat just about anything – except chicken in an airport, or sea urchin in China. Blech.

– I’ll talk to anyone willing to listen – even if we don’t speak the same language.

– I can sleep standing up

– I can find ways to entertain myself while sitting on a small 2×2 space for 12 hours in ways that would astound you.

– Junk food in airports tastes better than anywhere else in the world

– You will need a mortgage to afford eat in an airport

– all airport eating areas look like they were decorated by the Jetson’s.

The flight(s) to australia are very very long; definitely the longest I have ever taken in my life.  From Montreal we fly to Vancouver overnight – a six-hour flight.  Then Vancouver to Sidney will be a whopping 14.5 hours on a plane. Airplanes have their own culture.  Really when you think of it, an airport is the most BIZARRE energy to be in. A kabillion different cultures all mixed up into one place – every kind of variety of person you could ever wabnt to see is in an airport. Everyone is sort of together and disconnected all at the same time. harassed, annoyed rushing bag dragging folk from all walks of life, run hither and thither gate to gate – focused on the next leg of their journey.  people have no clue about their personal space in airports.  You get banged and bumped – quick apologetic smiles as people continue on the harried way.onaplane

for someone like me who lives a really quiet farm life – with the occasional extremely public performance nights – being in an airport with all those people and all those bundles of energy is exhausting. Not exactly a place that i feel “spiritually connected” – actually the opposite; airports make me feel totally ungrounded.  I guess that makes sense since we are all a bunch of people trying to get “up in the air”.

When I found out about Australia (only like a week and a half ago) I balked.  I was concerned about leaving the horses and so much heavy farm work in what I see as the worst cold winter in years (I think I say “it’s been the worst winter” every year). I am so grateful for my eldest daughter Meagan who will be coming to care for them. Still, I know how tough this will be for her. Mucking ten stalls every day, hyper horses to turn out, heavy bales of hay to haul.  Craziness.

But I know all this worry will magically go away once I cross those airport doors. It has to do with surrender and weird airport energy. A feeling of surrender and abandon once you pass through he front doors of the airport – because you realize that the next few hours (or days in my case) of your life aren’t your own really.  These people are completely in charge of your existence in every way, from your security, to food to being hauled into a giant piece of metal that will climb into the air 30,000 feet and, miraculously remain suspended for FOURTEEN AND A HALF HOURS.  OK, I am not a nervous flyer, but this to me, is simply unbelievable. So, flying can teach you about surrender.

Airports can also teach you about serenity – because if you can find it there my friend, you can find it ANYWHERE.

I wonder what H.H. the Dalai Lama does? He flies everywhere all over the world, and he is like 73 years old.  Makes me feel a little wimpy worrying about how my back is going to handle 14 and a half hours of sitting with intermittent spastic stretching in front of three hundred people who are doing their best to try to ignore each other. Have you ever tried stretching in the bathroom. Impossible I tell you.

If you travel enough you get to know certain things about certain airports:

– the six kilometer walk from the terminal to security and customs is TOO LONG everywhere – especially if you arrive late and are irritable and tired.

– Traditionally religious people often travel together usually in large groups with many small children. You see more single white male travellers than any other.  Japanese travellers usually have really nice luggage.  Just sayin.

– Airports in small countries have no real runways and landing is always terrifying

– The air in all airports feels strange.

– Airport bathrooms are always horrible

– Airport chicken will give you salmonella. Ok. Maybe not all the time – but if you don’t want to find yourself projectile vomiting all alone in +40 heat in a unwalled airport in costa Rica, passed out on the floor while people step over your prostrate body – then don’t eat chicken in airports.

– All airports are (now) filled with hordes of people who are not looking where they are going because they are all very very busy making last-minute contact to the outside world on their I-Phones to be in any way aware of their physical surroundings.  It seems like the Minute one enters an airport they are trying to find a way to be in some other reality. really, who would blame them? ( I wonder if H.H. Dalai Lama tries to meditate his way out of is body so he can tolerate the experience? )

baby_airplane_350w_263h3 Listen, anyone who has flown has had the crying baby experience, spoiled kid, dude who talks to much experience, the too much perfume lady, the sleeping on your shoulder drooling guy (ok maybe that was just me). Then there’s that crammed, crowded claustrophobic get-me-the-hell-off-this-plane feeling – but that only happens towards the end, because until then, you know you have no choice, so you surrender. you surrender tot he bevy of smells that assault you as you walk down the aisle. then in a few minutes when the artificial air is turned on, you wonder even more about where the smells went, and a new sort of vapid air replaces fresh clean earth air.  It begins to compress as the plane readied for take off, and a sort of insulated feeling comes over you, making you sit heavier in your seat.

Take off is my favourite. commercial-airplane-taking-off-and-high-resolution_227318

I know that statistics say that it’s the most dangerous part of the flight because if one little thing goes wrong in a certain 6 second window, poof – it’s all over. But really, that’s out of your hands once you have bucked that seat belt. Being nervous would be a waste of time.

instead you can enjoy the feeling in the pit of your stomach as the huge piece of metal curves upwards for the first time making it feel as though even your skin is being pulled downwards. Gravity falls on you like a comfortable blanket. And even at 48 I am like a little kid and always want the window seat.  Watching the world fall away beneath me is spectacular, especially if the plane tilts the direction I am looking and suddenly it feels as though we are being pulled up and down all at the same time.

The world is so incredibly beautiful from the air. Before you pass the cloud line you see where you live in a whole new way. So small, and part of some bigger piece of land always in some way.  Everything looks perfectly connected from the air – like we planned it like that or something.  But we didn’t. It just all ended up looking perfect. even the lands that aren’t touched by us, but by some unseen force that relegates the direction of things, it all seems to just fit perfectly.

I need to share these pictures with you…

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Flying over mountains is the highlight of any flight.  I flew over the Alps once in my life and I will never forget it.  They are  majestic and indescribable.  They are so high, that when you first see them you are sure they are part fo the clouds, rising often above like I suspect Mount Olympus would look, big enough to hold Zeus himself.  The white snow on top of the Alps is so white, it looks like it is made out of light itself, just shining like diamonds in the sun. The hard rock of the mountain so dense it held a bluish grey tint, not like mountains I had seen before that were more grey and dull, these looked like they had been painted stunning hues of deep midnight blues, I suppose because of the freezing of the ice at the awesome heights.alps

I didn’t get any time in Zürich, we had to transfer but made sure to stop at a stand to buy some freshly made chocolate.  I could see the mountains from the airport window.  They made me feel incredibly small but big all at once.

I’ve always wanted to try to pinpoint the strange experience flying to foreign places encompasses.  I know I am very lucky to have had these chance, and everywhere I go, I try to learn as much as i can about important things so I don’t lose the experience.

I’m very lucky. I think I have a karma that require seeing many may things. Since I have been very young, I have had chances to see most of the world – china, africa, europe, most of north america – even Alaska.  The two places “on my bucket list” which have yet to materialize are india and Italy. we’re working our way to the “I’s” 🙂 We will be greeted by +37 degree weather according to predictions upon our arrival. I fully suspect my skin to just simply fall off and I will molt like a snake under the vapid heat.

Australia is a new idea for me and i’ll let you know how it goes )

peace