Sunday, 29 May 2011

A Room with a Window

The baggage was 17.9kg, plus 5.8kg carry on- and it all followed me obediently to my destination. 

Out the window in Dar Es Salaam there is a call to prayer and someone is hammering. There is a corrugated iron rooftop littered with plastic water bottles, black plastic pipe and pieces of wood. Laundry drying on breezy balconies is being fetched in by a woman in purple scarves and voices are conversing in an unfamiliar language while food is frying. There is a blue cloud sky.

Inside as well the blue sky continues, the walls are painted with clouds, rippling waves and island oases. 

It is balmy but with the fan spinning overhead perfectly pleasant. No hot water bottles needed today.

The power drops out occasionally and well practiced generators kick in, scenting the air with diesel. I am near the coast but I may put down the mosquito net this evening, just for the romance of it; because I am in Africa.

Despite the proximity of so much that is new (or perhaps because of it) for this evening I am too sleepy to be anything other than a window adventuress.

Postscript: My flight to Zanzibar the next morning was so quick and so early that I arrived before I was scheduled to depart. Zanzibar it turns out was the place painted on my walls.

                                               Prison Island, Zanzibar

Monday, 23 May 2011

This Packing Life

I am about to set out on a trip around the world- and while this will (hopefully) lead to any number of exhilarating experiences, the thing I am looking forward to right now is that when my trip starts I will have finished the exhausting task of packing up my life.
I have been packing for months. First was moving out of my house. I am a crafter, a reader, a cook, a gardener, a hoarder of this and that very significant piece of treasure, and because I was moving to nowhere I had to say goodbye to every single item and then find it a new home. 

While I was sorting my possessions into the keep and get rid of piles I tried to keep Mirka Mora on one shoulder- to remind me of all the future possibilities for creativity and memories that were tucked away inside my treasures- and on the other shoulder was the specter of the scary people who never throw out a single newspaper.  But that balance between being an artist and being plain bonkers is tricky. I fear that I have gotten rid of some things that I may one day regret- and I also fear that I have kept a lot of junk. 

I got rid of a lot of stuff, sold some to happy new homes, gave some to family and friends, op-shopped some, but despite my efforts I still ended up with an awful lot of possessions. Entering the world of digital music has been very helpful with downsizing. I now have a tiny little device which holds all the music from my most loved CD’s- although all the CD’s themselves still have to live somewhere. Lucky for me I have been able to distribute my precious books, pincushions, baubles and boxes of miscellaneous crap amongst my very generous family members.

Packing up my house took three weeks, four rolls of packing tape, thirty or so scavenged boxes,
one station wagon and trailer load of books to Horsham, eight hours garage sale-ing, seven trips to the op-shop, one ute load to Nowa Nowa, one car and trailer load to Williamstown, one car load to North Melbourne and one backpack to Nowa Nowa. 

If you are out of breath reading that sentence just imagine how I felt living it.

After all that I still had another round of packing (and downsizing) to do.

When I started planning this trip I had visions of traveling light- I was going to take a little backpack with one pair of perfect pants, a few singlet tops and my camera and head off for two months of summer adventuring. Now with a trip of unknown proportions ahead of me my little backpack is too small and the list of things I just can’t live without is too big. 

As I near my departure date I have to acknowledge that I am a failure.
I am doomed to walk the earth hunched over under a giant backpack. 

I have failed to pack light.

My last attempt to whittle down my travel essentials amounted to me removing the following:
6 coloured pencils
6 DVD’s
A hand towel
Spare toothbrush
Almost empty panadol box
Another spare toothbrush
Spare razor
One pair of grey socks
One dress
Another spare razor

I am a packing light failure. 

I still have a small amount of hope that life on the road will teach me to release my hold on all those things which now seem essential... but for now I am working on strengthening my shoulder muscles and trying frantically to learn Swahili so as to actually enjoy my first stop- Tanzania.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The year of big

With both a tied grand final and federal election 2010 was tagged the year for indecision.
It was clear pretty early on that 2011 would be the year of big things. 
It started (and has continued) with the weather and has very quickly spread out from there. 
In no particular order the still quite young year of big things has so far led to:
One girlfriend buying a house
One girlfriend breaking up with her partner
One girlfriend getting engaged
Friends announcing they are having twins
One friend deciding to up and leave his job to go and teach English in Indonesia
My turning 30
Oh and my full time job turning into no job at all, leading to my moving out of the house I lived in for seven years and into a caravan park in East Gippsland.

Each of these big things has exploded outward to cause other big things. Many of them have had impacts on me, but for the purpose of this blog I will only expand on my jobless state.
Losing my job left two options for a soon to be Flamingo explorer:  dump or delay the trip while I find another job or dump or delay the whole work thing and go Flamingo exploring... 

After about fifteen minutes of soul searching my little two month jaunt to see Flamingos became something of an extended trip.  

Being ever the early bird at the point of discovering I was without a job I had already locked in some elements of my trip- which left me with a two month gap between finishing work and heading off. So I did what every self respecting 30 year old would do and I moved back in with my mum. And she just happens to own a very cute caravan park in Nowa Nowa.

In case anybody is uncertain about this point let me state very clearly that there are no Flamingos in East Gippsland.  There is much birdlife, tourism is encouraged and anyone interested should check out as a great starting point: BUT THERE ARE NO FLAMINGOS HERE.

                                                      not a flamingo at Lake Tyres Beach

Some years (like 2010) life ticks quietly along as quietly as a digital watch, and sure if you take a microscope to your diary you can find this and that noteworthy event, but on the whole things stayed in their same old pattern. And then...

Everything changes around you. 
Job loss can be a traumatic experience, but for me it has meant time and space to actually ponder all those big questions:
Whats important?
What am I excited about?
What else is out there?
What do I want to do with my life?

So as I pack my backpack I say thank you to the year of big things for the chance to search out some answers.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Why Flamingos?

I don’t have a good answer to the question.
I don’t have a quest, or a cause. It was just one of those online meanders that led to a walk to the library and back to the internet and somehow along the way the idea for the trip stuck.  I had been pondering trekking in Asia, an expedition to Antartica and walking in New England but the Flamingos won the day.

I began plotting in October 2010, and my diary for the occasion reads nothing more momentous than: ‘be fun to see if I can put it together- “round the world” ticket perhaps?’

 The plan was to take two months off work in the middle of 2011 and to go and see Flamingo’s.  Tanzania and France were early frontrunners as my Flamingo destinations- despite the birds being also spottable in Namibia, Bonaire, Portugal, the Galapagos and many more destinations. 

But while trip planning rolled happily along my answer to the question did not improve.
The truth is I have reasons they just don’t roll off the tongue easily, or perhaps they don’t seem worthy enough as an explanation. So I tend to scrunch up my face and say ‘because’.
My answer is more like a jumble of ideas than a nicely arranged soundbite, so when you are asking the question and I am looking at you a little blankly what I am really trying to say is:

It is possible that it is because of whimsy. 
Because they are beautiful and strange and larger than life. 
Because Lewis Carol imagined them as mallets in the Queen of Hearts croquet game. 
Because they are pink and I like pink. 
Because they live in arid landscapes. 
Because I thought they looked good in neon when I went to Las Vegas.
Because it makes me smile.

If it is an absurd plan I am ok with that. The absurd is worth embracing I think. I only hope the Flamingos are more happy about it than they were about being used as mallets. 

At the moment it is about a month until I head off and since the initial germ of an idea took hold a few things have happened to change life the universe and everything; and I will try to write a blog or two about that before I meet my first Flamingo. 

 And just in case the question should arise, I am also lacking a good answer to the question of what this blog is about. The nearest that I have come up with is that it is a tool to make me write while I am traveling, and to share my travels with anyone who is kind enough to take an interest.  Something more worthy may arise as I go along but I am not holding my breath.