Skype.

14 Mar

Technology is a beautiful thing.  Without the miracle of the internet, keeping in touch with family while traveling would be challenging, if not impossible. Skype has changed everything.  I have nothing but praise and thanks for the inventors of Skype.  If it weren’t for Skype my mom would still be back home thinking that I’m living in Australia without any teeth.

Yes.  You read correctly.  Teeth.  For some reason on multiple occasions when I video chat my mother on Skype she ends our conversation with, “Well it was so good to see you, make sure you look healthy and still have all your teeth.”  Apparently living life on the road equates to losing your teeth.  I have reminded her that they sell toothbrushes and floss in Australia and I even still wear my retainer at nights.  So yes, all my teeth are still in my mouth.

Skyping with parents is a wonderful and ridiculous thing.  I assume it is because they are old, but I’m sure they would say differently.

I skyped with my dad last week.  He told me at least 8 times that I look completely exhausted (I had just woke up) and told me 5 to 6 times that I looked like I had dreadlocks (again, just woke up).  Each comment was followed by my mom telling me not to worry, that I look great, so ignore my father.

Aside from the insults and compliments on my appearance, my parents really enjoy commenting on the scenery and noises in the background.  I spend 75% of the conversation explaining that the sound they hear are birds outside my window or my housemates talking in the other room or that the thing behind me is not a cane, its a mirror and the thing hanging on the mirror is not underwear, its a hat.

It’s really fun when I’m skyping from a public computer, in a mall or an internet cafe.  Someone will walk by behind me and they ask me who it is…  I have no idea who it is.

And despite that we have been skyping for years now I still spend a few minutes of each conversation letting them know that I am skyping from a computer.  Not a phone, not my kindle and not my ipod shuffle.

I’m not sure if my parents look in mirrors very often but every time I talk to them they comment on their appearance in the video, Dad: “Geesh I look old, who is that guy!?” Mom: “Yikes. whats going on with my hair.”

I supposed I shouldn’t expect anything else.  Computer skills aren’t exactly my parents forte.  The most recent communication my mom and I had via Facebook was a comment she left on a picture I was tagged in that said “Snowed here last night, very pretty.”

Even with the technical difficulties, strange comments and absurd questions I appreciate Skype more than anything.  Because of it, my mom knows I have teeth and I know that they are the same weird and wonderful parents as when I left.

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Where am I??

6 Mar

At least once every few days I look around and I think to myself, “Where the fuck am I?” (Excuse the profanity, I tried using “heck” and even “hell” but neither word seemed to really capture what I feel.)

Don’t worry, I’m not in some drugged-out stupor unsure of which way is up or down.  I know physically where I am, but it confuses and amazes me how I got here.  It feels as if life is one of those mechanical walkway things at the airport and has taken me to where I am without my input or help.  But I have helped.  I built my mechanical walkway thing.

Yesterday as I sat outside in a broken lawnchair chatting with my Welsh housemate trying to understand the story he was telling amidst all the curse words, I got that feeling.  How did I get here and who is this guy??!  The tattoos of naked women on his back, sculls on his arms and barbed wire around his nipples tell me I should be nervous.  But the story about how he began his collection of antique bottles makes me think differently.

And when I’m at work, givinng the 45-year-old dishwasher relationship advice.  I’m in the middle of cutting mushrooms and telling the guy that he shouldn’t be seeing women who are dating married men, it hits me.  Who are you and what is this dirty cafe that I’m working in?

Or while I’m holding my neighbors pet snake and he is telling me that when snakes misbehave you have to hit them on the head.

And when I’m running along the coast at sunrise, trying to take in the beauty of it all because I know I just can’t take it for granted.

Throughout the past year I constantly wonder how I arrived at my situation…

When I was living in a car, hanging out in McDonalds to use their wi-fi.  When I was working in a bar in a mining town spending my shift chatting with a man named Wombat.  When I was cleaning the bathroom at a hostel in exchange for paying rent.  When I worked at a nightclub in Darwin until five in the morning.  When I was couch surfing and drinking beers with the immigration officer hosting me.  When I spent a week sleeping on fold-out beds at a rifle club in Western Australia.  And when I realized that if someone wanted to find me it would be very very hard.

Its strange because right now in my life, more than I ever, I am deciding exactly what I want to do, when I want to do it and how I want it to happen.  But for some reason, more than ever I feel like I have absolutly no control over what is going to happen next.

Grown ups.

3 Mar

As I look around at my friends and housemates taking tequila shots and bong hits.  I am struck by a realization that it has happened.  Myself (to a smaller extent) and my peers and friends have made the transition into being “grown-ups”.  Unfortunately the tequila and marijuana are not to blame.  It is mostly a situational kind of thing.  We certainly didn’t choose to do this whole growning up thing.  Its just happened and we are attempting to handle it as best we can.  This basically means we can handle it poorly or we can handle it really poorly.  So cross your fingers, take a shot and pray for something better than the worst.

It has been interesting to observe “grown-ups” being created before my eyes.  It is actually frightening to realize that soon the entire world will soon be run by my irresponsible and continuously confused peers.

One of my housemates is in the process of planning and building a bridge in Sydney.  He holds the lives of millions of people who will eventually drive over that bridge in his hands.  And yet I sit next to him as he unwinds from a long day at work to throw back a couple dozen beers.

Another guy, when asked what he’s been up to lately…has been delivering babies.  He literally is catching and then holding lives in in hands.  It doesn’t seem possible this guy, who gets drunk and dances all weekend long goes to work on Monday and brings a bunch of gifts of life into the world.

Whether it is designing and planning explosions at mine sites or importing products into China, I blinked and everyone transformed into mysterious and elusive “grown-up.”

I had always had an idea of what a “grown up” should be and what they should do.  It usually involved less drinking, less drama, fewer tears, more high heels and suits, less confusion, more fancy dinners, less cans of tuna, less wondering what the heck I’m doing with my life and more just innately knowing the path I’m supposed to take.

I was wrong.  As far as I can tell, my thoughts on “grown-up-hood” were not just slightly skewed, they were entirely backwards.

Thankfully its not just me.  Even my peers with their high paying and high profile jobs are in a state of confusion.  This whole “grown-up” thing sneaks up, hits hard and I don’t think its lives up to anyone’s expectations.

I’m beginning to realize that these so-called grownups may not actually exist.  The world isn’t run by perfect and emotionless robots who call themselves grown-ups.  It is run by a bunch of goofy kids disguised in adult bodies just trying hard not to mess up.

Living with boys.

19 Feb

I woke up yesterday morning, walked into the living room, sat on the couch which happened to be next to an inflatable sex doll wearing a Mario (Luigi’s brother) costume head with a beer bottle in its underwear.

I woke up this morning, walked into the kitchen and thought raccoons had invaded.  The refrigerator was moved, a bag of raw penne noodles had exploded, some sort of purple drink was spilled on the counter, the floor looked like it had rained crackers and beer bottles were littered about like the raccoons had stayed to party.

I got home from work this afternoon and before I even turned up the driveway I could hear Metallica blaring from the backyard.  I walked into the backyard here five shirtless dudes were pumping iron and discussing foods that make you fat.

I also just finished a twenty minute discussion with my Welsh housemate about welding,

Oh the joy of living with boys.

 

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Easiest move ever.

15 Feb

Immediately following my last post concerning the amount of stuff that Charlotte and I had accumulated, we were required to move out of our quaint studio apartment.  A few nights later we were a few drinks in when we agreed to move into a soon to be empty room in a house of six boys aged 23 to 28.  Some might view the move as a downgrade but due to the apartment cockroach nest in our walls and the every evening vacuum of the cockroaches, the move has a been a step up.

In most moving situations, some thought and planning is required.  When to move, when to pack, when to pay, and how to go about the whole thing.  However, if one is lucky enough to find themselves living a permanently temporary existence then a severe lack of planning is not only inevitable but preferable.

The new place is only about a ten minute walk from the old place but if you read the last post, you know we had lots of stuff to carry.  And being someone who would rather break a grocery bag full of eggs and milk than take two trips from the car to the house, I knew we needed something more than our backpacks to aid in the move.  So we “borrowed” a shopping cart then spent about three hours piling all of our stuff into the cart and cleaning our apartment.  Voila!  Packed.  Now for the moving.

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For some inexplicable reason, every single shopping cart in Australia is drunk.  The carts all prefer to be pushed sideways rather than straight.  All four wheels turn 90 degrees and the cart rotates. So, with one beer in hand and a six pack in the cart, we began the uphill battle, pushing the cart not from the handle bar but from the grated side.

Just as we began to pick up speed a bump in the sidewalk came out of nowhere.  The cart went flying, we went flying and everything inside the cart went flying.  Luckily our beers remained upright.

The rest of the move was fairly uneventful. We got a few strange stares and a taxi driver laughing and pointing at us.  When we arrived at our new home we were obviously too tired to actually unpack, so we rolled the shopping cart into our room and parked it next to the bed.

Move complete.

Undiagnosed Hoarding.

31 Jan

I arrived in Australia with a backpack.  And when I say just a backpack I’m serious, it wasn’t even a very big backpack. Bigger than your average school bag yes, but smaller than the fantastically oversized hot pink Jansport backpack I wore when I was 14.  Yet somehow, through lost and found bins, nightclub dance floors, thrift shops, free piles at hostels/front yards and the occasional looting of vacant apartments within our complex, I have collected a heap of stuff.  Well Charlotte and I combined have collected a heap of stuff.

I am truly amazed as I stand looking around my 12 ft. squared studio apartment.  A couple things came with the place, couch, tv, bed, fridge and a bit we brought with us, backpack, clothes, a couple cd’s, the rest of it… I’m not sure where it came from. 

Somehow a backpack of clothes has exploded to become full wardrobe, a full four drawer dresser, five stuffed shelves and an exploding suitcase.

And that’s just clothes… the combined four pairs of shoes we brought with us to Australia have procreated into 12 pairs.

As for just good ol’ fashion wasteful material possessions that will most certainly end up in the landfill… we have plenty.  We have a stand up mirror, a stereo, a vacuum, a juicer, a lamp, about thirty plates (taken over time from working in restaurants).  We have two fake Christmas trees as well as a duffel bag full of decorations, we have a dvd player and one dvd, we have hundreds of gossip magazines ”borrowed” from the Laundromat.  We have a basketball, a jump rope, three hair straighteners, a blender, a toaster oven, a kerosene lamp, a tea set. We suddenly have hairsprays and lotions and perfumes and facemasks, hair oils and hair dyes

Now you may be dialling the hoarders hotline right but before you do, remember this, we came with backpacks. Just backpacks.  We spent four months  living in a car, two months living in a hotel room, one month in a hostel, one month couch surfing, a couple weeks in Bali and a couple weeks living in a van.  All with just a backpack.  One might think that I would continue on this path of traveling light. However, I think that the past few months of “being settled” in one location with one place for my things has encouraged a sort of accumulation of stuff.  Not important stuff, just general stuff.  And even though I seem to be getting much more than I am getting rid of, it is an oddly gratifying and freeing sensation to know that if necessary, I could grab my backpack, a toothbrush and my passport and be on my way without concern for any of that stuff.

Strangers.

28 Nov

Before coming to Australia I didn’t truly understand the compassion of strangers.  I had read the random acts of kindness section in Chicken Soup for the Soul and I understood the whole concept of paying it forward but I don’t think I had entirely been introduced to and experienced the absolutely genuine care that one stranger can have for another.  From the moment our plane landed in Australia, Charlotte and I have been repeatedly stunned by the selfless help we have received from strangers.

One of the things about being away from home is that you miss it.  You miss being cared for by the people that you love.  While the care from strangers does nothing to replace the love from your family, I have found that it eases the ache that comes with being away. 

I lost my job at the bistro a few days ago and today as I was walking around handing out resumes, I bumped into the food delivery man from my old job.  I told him what happened and he told me not to fret, that he would find me work in no time.  Then I went to the bistro to say hello to the chef and he told me not to fret, that he would find me work in no time.  These people who barely know me are willing to take a chance on me and go out of their way to help out.

The moment on this trip that most exemplifies extraordinary compassion shown by strangers came about three and a half months into our trip.  We had left Adelaide and were about to begin our trek across the Nullarbor, a 2,600 kilometre stretch of desert.  About 40 kilometres from the nearest town our car broke down.  Our phone was dead, we were in the middle of nowhere and at a complete loss for what to do.  After attempting to fix the pulley and tug on the fan belt by ourselves we realized that we were no mechanics and our efforts were in vain.  So we resorted to waving at cars.  After close to an hour and plenty of cars driving by, a small sedan finally pulled over.  It was a woman and her two daughters.  The woman called her AAA service for us, unfortunately that didn’t work out, then she started waving at cars with us.  A trucker pulled over, gave us a tow rope and tied our car to the sedan before driving off.  The rope was not strong enough however and snapped.  So we began waving again.  A cop stopped.  He wanted to help, so he put on his flashing lights and pulled over another trucker and stole the truckers tow rope.  We doubled this rope up and the woman and her daughters towed us 40 kilometres to Port Augusta.  We dropped our car off at the local mechanic and then she drove us to a caravan park. We didn’t have the heart to tell her that we slept in our car and couldn’t afford the park.  So we ended up walking a mile or so back to our car in the mechanics parking lot.

Because it was Easter weekend and all business were closed, we spent the next five days in Port Augusta going crazy.  This video explains the events and may cover our temporary insanity.

The kindness shown by this woman is just one example of the extraordinary measures people are willing to take for strangers.  It will never cease to amaze me how kind people can be to one another.  And while it won’t replace the love from my friends and family back home, it certainly is nice to know there will always be people looking out for me.  Even if I don’t know who they are yet.