…landsharks

I just spent a brief half hour lunch, staring out the large second floor window here at a small black speck half a mile away making its way slowly across the ice field.

Stopping every 20 paces or so, the tiny figure would turn a shuffling 360 degree circle, checking for predators or possibly just staying on track, before setting off again across the ice, little feet flapping along, heading who knows where.

You can barely make him out but he’s way out there just past the central tine in the pitchfork -shaped shadows out on the ice. A tiny black spot moving through the grey-white nothingness.

A lone Adelie penguin sneaking home to the rookerie on one of the larger islands in the bay.

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His cautious, meandering odyssey reminded me instantly of a forgotten dream I used to have quite regularly as a child ( and less regularly as an adult).

I would be about somewhere in the world, usually in the countryside, running and always moving, relentlessly pursued by massive grey sharks – landsharks. There was only every one or two but they were the size of jumbo jets – and deathly silent. These nightmares would burst up through the very crust of the earth looking for me ( and only me) and try to gobble me up. They could go anywhere and break through any surface : the only warning an uneasy feeling and a shadowy ripple underfoot microseconds before they attacked.

Luckily always with just enough time to escape – my only tactic was to keep running.

They never got me – I’ve always been a fast runner and in these dreams I move like a parkour-savant ninja and am an artful dodger at the best of times anyway.

It occurs to me just now that this scenario is an actual possibility here, watching this little penguin wanders the ice alone. How does he feel at the moment? Nervous? Lonely? Or just hungry and looking for a meal. Hyperalert. He must be so tired.  Paranoid (if that exists for animals – trauma is trauma after all ) and constantly vigilant for killer whales or leopard seals that can smash up and grab him through the thinner sections of the sea ice.

He’s still walking though – still stops every 20 steps or so – has a good look around. Keeps on.

I wonder would he see their shadow under the ice as they came for him?

What would flash thought his little penguin consciousness as the crushing jaws closed around him and the teeth tore into his delicate skin.

“Squark…?”

…maybe.

Whatever the penguin equivalent for “Shiiiit!” is I guess.

Could these things grab me once I start walking out and about here on the thinning seaice, heading to the nearby penguin colonies or just walking around the shoreline.

Maybe.

There was a lady killed by a leopard seal not long ago, dragged down under the ice floe.

Drowned her real good it did.

My fantastic Landsharks are real here.

It’s not the first childhood nightmare that has rang eerily true since I’ve been here in Antarctica. Dejavu galore.

Many moments where I’ve felt that Ive lived this moment before, seen in a dream when I was a kid. Even stupid things like a breakfast conversation this morning, the person sitting opposite me and what they were eating. It’s the details that stick, their ripples sending me back into childhood.

Super odd.

*speaking of recurrent nightmares, remind me to tell you about the red glowing pig eyes at my window, the exploding TV room or the persistent (and annoying) werewolf calling himself “the British Umpire” who would stalk me along quiet country roads and launch himself ferociously at me from the darkness.

No wonder I write.

Hmmm.

Anyway…

The winter crew had their official station handover just now – informal speeches and the handing over of the station key to the new station leader for summer. What a great group  – 18 or so dedicated personnel who roughed it over the toughest and most blizzard filled winter in history. I hope the 80 or so of us can hold up to the same standard set for us.

Later this after noon the old crew will wander out to the ship and then they’ll be heading home with a lifetime of stories to tell. Traditionally the Summer Crew set off flares and farewell the departing Winterer Crew on their 2 week voyage home. Some of them have been here for a year or more through one of the toughest Winter seasons on record and getting home to friends and family is the only thing on their minds at the moment.

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As the ship finally pulls away, there’s a strange mood – a mix of elation, melancholy, relief and excitement for the time ahead of us.

Tonight the bar opens, the embargo on alcohol lifts, and we finally get to test out the local Vestfold Brewery fare -the legacy of an endless selection of fine ales, ciders and lagers brewed by the Official station Brewmaster. All on tap. All free. Open bar and hijinks.

High quality home brew and 3 weeks of forced sobriety should make for an interesting evening as everyone can finally relax after a busy resupply, with no work tomorrow.

Today for me has been power outages, flaky UPS issues, annoying network issues but overall a much better day work wise. I’ve had a few wins today and they’re finally outweighing the losses.

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Boopity boop clickety click…computers : meh.

Settling into a routine now and I have 4 months to whip things into shape.

Winter is over.

Let the summer begin!

 

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…blur

Its easy to lose track of time when there is no discernible difference between day and night – its all the same here. Just a small variation in the quality of the light. Bright midday sun all day long heightened by the constant blazing glare off the snowcover and the glistening ice, softening to a false dusk and then shortly after its sunrise again.

Good Morning means nothing here – it’s just Good Day. Every day.

I can’t sleep so I’m blogging. It is Sunday after all.

The biggest surprise of today is that the snow here is very very dry – the driest I’ve ever seen but that’s not saying much since I’ve seen so little – like when melting water from fresh snow apparently its take almost twice as much snow to make half the amount of water…or something like that…math was never my thing.

You can pick it up in your hand and your hand doesn’t even get wet – so weird. It feels…chalky.

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Black ice is everywhere (I know what that is now, as Ive never really seen it or understood what it was before) and several people have slipped and hurt themselves already – its treacherous and tricky to walk around outside especially as the rocky landscape is angular and unstable at the best of times. Add crusty honeycombed snow cover and black ice everywhere, its a real gamble just walking about. There’s a a chance that if you slip and break your arm/leg  before the ship leave that you have to go home, so people are walking on eggshells outdoors just in case.

The environment down here is magical and the record 22 winter blizzards have left their mark. Rapidly melting snowdrifts and crystal clear icicles form random art installations sculpted by the summer sun – this place is almost a natural modern art gallery now. In a month or two it’ll all be gone though – even the sea ice. The curiosity of a endless static snowfield replaced by the open ocean, returning penguin colonies and the local elephant seal population roaring away in a nearby wallow. Unless a summer blizzard comes 🙂 I kind hope it does.

How fortunate do I feel to have this unique opportunity? – very.

I’m starting to go out more and more to explore the station limits on my own (its been too busy otherwise). Tomorrow I’m going to walk out on the sea ice, head out to the ship before she sails on Tuesday. It’ll be odd to see the Aurora Australis sail away as this means I’m an definitely stuck here for the duration – its a very final feeling. But then the real expedition starts, and the specialist science and engineering teams will head out into the field and do their thing. The real work begins.

You can see everyone bonding already here – most people seem to know each other from previous expeditions – but its a place that really fosters mateship and everyone is very open and friendly, at least so far. I can see how people keep trying to come back time and time again. I’m trying to make friends but I’m a team of one and a feel a bit like the last one picked at soccer practice at the moment. It’s my school formal all over again. Being super friendly and uncomfortably sociable so hopefully that’s gonna help break in.

I sent some postcards today – the last post went at 7.30pm from the old Post Office here at Davis – a small round red and white building that used to be one of the original huts build on Heard Island in 1957. It was decommissioned and transported here back in the day, and rescued as the new Post Office – we also have a Postmaster – an official Government role with official stamps and everything. Very weird.

After that I wandered over to the Music Hut / Band Room that they have here to suss out the musical intruments – no left handed guitars as I’d hoped (knew I should have brought one with me) but loads of acoustic, electric, drums, and piano/keyboards. I was hanging in the band room last night doodling around on a guitar and a few of the other guys came in and we stated chatting. There quite a few musicians here this year and If i can restring a guitar lefty-style then I can join in and jam. Should be fun! 🙂

The accommodation here is really cosy and cute – small but comfortable single rooms – I lucked out and got a room with a second bunk so I have a little more storage than most. There’s not enough room to swing a cat but there is just enough for a quiet meditation in the morning and even a little yoga practice!

Where I live is a red two story building about 50 metres from where I work and about 50 metres from where the coffee is, so its pretty damn ideal apart from the massive GODDAMNED GENERATOR next door – lucky my ear plugs are holding up.

*Just now the guy next door is snoring his head off – his time on Earth is short.

The shutters automatically close and lock at 10pm and can’t open til 6am – it scared the crap out of me the first time. There’s a Lidar dome and light sensitive scientific experiments nearby to any ambient light in the evenings if a no-no. Hence the lockdown. It’s a bit like a horror movie when they come down though – feels a bit ‘trappy’.

This week has been a blur really. We are still balls deep into the Resupply operation and been working around the clock – 12 hour rotating shifts to get all of the cargo unloaded, the fuel and water transfer completed, and the Personnel handovers  finished. Ive been really lucky in that I didn’t have duty on resupply ( yay) it that I got flown over. It was so much fun and such a thrill to be flying over the endless ice. As the only IT dude I qualified as critical – I got flown off the ship by chopper days ahead of the bulk of personnel – tickled my ego immensely .

The reality though is that almost EVERYONE that has arrived has had IT issues and that’s been my constant role for the past 3 weeks almost – while cleaning my teeth, while I’m getting dressed, making a coffee, in my room, and even while I’m trying to put a fork full of pasta in my mouth – to sort everyone out immediately and get them operational. Or at least get their Facebook and email to work . Its always fun but as the Internet here is a bare trickle over a heavily oversubscribed satellite link, its now very frustrating – especially constantly explaining to people about procedures and rule while they complain about their Facebook isn’t loading like back home, or instant messaging and Snapchat doesn’t work ( its blocked) or the 200Meg video of a seal they are trying to send to their kids isn’t going through (but why can’t I send it?)

Because we’re in fucking Antarctica.

*i was going to delete this but that didn’t seem honest plus it’s a nice indicator of how tired I was yesterday… enjoy my vitriolic rant. Feel free to skip it though.

Grr <rant begins>

So I explain time and time again – over and over and over “But this is a government network with internet proxies and rules and shit”.

And we’re in fuckin Antarctica.

Meh noone cares and just wants their video to upload. Who cares where we are. Screw corporate data. Fuck meteorological and scientific data upload requirements, I just want my MTV. Where’s my Netflix?

“Why did you block my iphone from the wifi?”.

“Well because you downloaded 4.5 GIG of itunes crap/pirated movies/tv shows over our tax payer funded satellite link in 48 hours during which noone else could use the Internet, dumbass”

“Oh Really? I had no idea”

Yeah right.

Ahh in the good old days of 90’s IT I could get away with telling it like it is . HA!

Now it just becomes “hmmm really?” and then its now my problem to find out why your damn phone/laptop/tablet is doing it, quietly knobble it and not rock the boat.

That’s the public face of what I do here – Phone bitch and Internet wrangler.

That bugs me a little  – yes I know its just ego – but man it REALLY IRKS ME now I think about it.

In an environment full of tradies, Managers and scientists, most people here have two or 3 personal devices (tablet, phone, laptop) and rarely does anyone actually have a clue how to set them up.  Its just “my personal phone/laptop/PC doesn’t work – that’s now your problem Jamie – I don’t need to know how to use something or that I created this issue by ignorance – you just make it work how I want it to IMMEDIATELY).

Behind the scenes I’m looking after systems that everyone relies on but people rarely see or even think about; network administration, managing switches and routers and satellite links, server and systems maintenance, managing active directory, email groups and operations, system integrity, backups, printers, voip and telephone systems, data security, redundancy and disaster recovery – but none ever sees all that . Its the curse that comes with any IT role – you only become visible when something breaks and only important for the time it takes you to fix it, and then back into your little cupboard you go.

<rant ends>

Grrr. This is why I dislike IT work now – it also irks me and makes me curse a lot. I’ve tried to get out but it just keeps dragging me back in. Like the freakin mafia.

Maybe next year, eh?

ANYWAY the long voyage and then working 10 days straight is making me cranky and its a bit like groundhog day at the moment here. Work/sleep/work. The ship leaves on Tuesday and then (rumor has it) well get 3 days off and the bar will be open.

Well deserved beers for all AND hopefully none will ask me to fix their phone when the bar opens, cos after a few beers it’ll probably end up lodged in a penguins arse. Or theirs.

Tomorrow is another day…maybe a more positive post then, but remember this blog is also for my benefit as well.

But til then, raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens … I’ll simply remember my favourite things and then I won’t feeeel so baaaaaad!

See i feel better already.

🙂

Day 2 and still here …

Well after the best damn nights sleep I’ve had in ages, we are still anchored just off Port Arthur, sheltering from the massive waves that stopped us leaving yesterday.


Waking up late (9.00am) and having no formal duties aboard (my actual work starts at Davis station ), a cooked breakfast (food here is amazing) and a brewed coffee (did my coffee machine induction yesterday) today was looking pretty damn sweet.

Fed and caffeinated. Weather calm, suns out, guns out !

Still have mobile service so yay for that. They had Sharknado on last night in the little cinema here so that was fun 🙂 

But today has been slooooooow – downloaded more TV shows while waiting for the 12.00 briefing and lunch.

I did volunteer for the phytoplankton sampling project so I’m getting my lab coat on during the voyage and helping out in the science labs, taking seawater samples, filtering, freezing ( woohoo liquid nitrogen) and bottling for return to the boffoms at Kingston. Wohooo SCIENCE !!

So then what to do? 

Thank God there’s a decent library aboard and loads of board games !!! At least learning cribbage wasn’t a total waste of time. Thanks JK.

Also there’s a group of yoga peeps here so I’m going to join them for a daily 4pm informal class. And the small gym is getting hammered so no luck there as far as access.

Lack of physical activity will be an issue so I have to figure out ways to address that. No more 12 km walks per day. Already stacked on too much weight from the US.

Hmmm.

As for meeting new people – it’s been like the first day of high school – a NEW High School where 60 % of the people know each other and you are the new kid in town. There’s a few of us in that same boat but luckily everyone is super friendly so far.

Plenty of time to make new friends and it’s eyes open mouth shut for me at this stage. Learning the ropes here is important and every person here is exceptional in their field. Best I just shut the Heck up and learn.

Tonight is Halloween and they have “the hit mans bodyguard” on in the cinema – I’m downloading a bloody horror movie to get in the Halloween spirit a bit 🙂 House of the Devil – cool cool cool cool.

Awesome sunset tonight. Shame I just missed it.


But for now it’s 7.00pm relax time … read a book, watch a movie, haunt the helo deck. There’s simply nothing else to do.

Aw Damn

😉

*im keying these boring short barely readable entries on my phone and I HATE typing on this Fkn iphone. Drives me insane. Might clean it up later. Might not. Apologies.

…downtime

So I’m in Hobart now.

Hobart Tasmania, the Island state of Australia located due south of Melbourne and thrown back about 25 years in time.

The whole state has less people living in it than Portland, Oregon.

What a weird place it is.

Almost not like Australia at all – at least until someone opens their mouth. An aussie boofhead sounds the same in Tasmania.

Shops close here at 5.30 pm every day and the city is deserted apart from a few hole-in-the-wall takeaway joints and some dodgy bars.  There is no late night shopping – it doesn’t exist here.

Luckily there are tons of boutique pubs and breweries, cafes and craft beer places. I even found a decent Nepalese eatery. But there just aren’t many people.


The waterfront is beautiful, quite expensive and as generally waterfronty as waterfronts tend to be. Lots of craft beer, trendy beards, tattoos and bottle blonde women. Which may not be a bad thing.

But I’m more interested in the other wildlife 🙂

**meet my new friend Alex, scrounging for scraps amongst the fish and chip punts.

​Also I think this is where the Sydney to Hobart yacht race finishes. That’s a sport so just guessing here.

Downtown does come alive on a sunny Sunday though. Crowds appear and flock to the markets. There’s a City organic market happening at the moment – it’s pretty damn good with loads of organic produce, food stalls and music galore.

I even saw Koshie from Sunrise wandering around with his wife. Yay.

This single sunny day aside, my initial impressions from flying in and living here over the past few weeks hold true: Hobart is generally sleepy and the people ruggedly outdoorsy with stunning wilderness areas and oceans to explore – not a lot of Subaru’s but despite that it reminds me of Washington a little. 

A cashed-up version though and no homeless people (or at least haven’t seen any yet).

I can’t really explore – no car –  so am at the mercy of the elements and the daylight. Its good to get out and walk my ass off though.

*these two were so good.

It’s Fall Weather here 6 days out of 7 and today is a rare but welcome sunny one.

There are a lot of beards, yoga pants and everyone else is in adventure wear – loads of bike riders out and about. The outdoor stores do well here for a reason I guess.

…anyway.

Day 1 at the Division was giddily exciting – the bus picked a group of us up outside an old sandstone building near the hotel, all of us strangers and nervously wondering who the others were. A few “first day of school” comments, some IT crowd in-jokes and the 3 IT people (my colleagues bound for the other 2 stations) gravitated towards each other – inherent geekiness drawing us together.

Walking into the Division HQ is cool cool cool – all “Get Smart” automatic doors and security – I’d find out why later.

The most thrilling thing is being part of Australia’s incredible history of exploration, and assisting science in the Antarctic region – following in the footsteps of the great Explorers as it were.

Ross, Amundsen, Shackleton, Scott, Hillary, Mawson –  in no particular order. Their faces look down from the walls of the Antarctic Division headquarters, their exploits and adventures inspire.

Relics and photographs of their expeditions pepper the offices and buildings in silent memorial to their achievements and give us newbies hints at what is to come.

Its just mind blowing how much history is here.

But this is Government – some things never change.

I expected a well oiled machine of IDs, induction, paperwork, maybe a briefing…after all they do this every 6 months.

Hmmm. Nothing of the sort. IDs sorted and then we just kinda… wandered. Had a few short welcomes and then left to our own devices. Clock watched til 5pm when our bus arrived. We were all exhausted from doing nothing, said little and just stared at Mt Wellington on the way home.

Being in a human petrie dish / office environment again I immediately picked up a flu bug on Day 1 and have been sick and out of sorts since.

Day 2 was kitting but started the same way :  early morning bus, wait til the workers wander in around 9.00am, then more hurry up and wait. Kitting was really exciting and fun – getting all of my allocated polar survival gear and PPE: masses of gear, protective equipment, parkas, ice chains, crampons, gloves, hats, sunnies, boots, more gear than I’d ever expected.

Then the pace slowed to a yawning crawl. The training program stalled and we would spend hours trying to fill in time productively. Once again IT was on the absolute bottom of the priority order and we were largely forgotten.

With no access, and little documentation, there was little we could do despite asking constantly for work or training.

My colleagues were struggling as well – it wasn’t just me. Struggling to stay busy, struggling to stay awake. With all of us coming from extremely busy private sector technology backgrounds, this change of pace – moving from 100 miles and hour to virtually zero was jarring to say the least.

This would change when we were deployed but now it all seems to be just wasting time til we go. Id rather be outside.

Despite the boredom, my start at the Antarctic Divisions headquarters in Kingston was a shock to the system for another unexpected reason. Not only was getting back into the rhythms of a 9-5 working life again hard, but being indoors is much much tougher than I thought it would be. Feeling a little trapped at the desk. The lack of movement and momentum is excruciating.

I really don’t like it at all. Downtime sucks.

So anyway as of Friday, 2 weeks in and we’re only just getting access to the systems we need to manage and the scope of my role seems to diminish the more I dig into it.

GOD government process takes forever.

***UGH – IT…

Look my coworkers are nice, the IT side of things interesting at times, but there’s an element of uncertainty in this role that troubles me.

It’s all far too casual.

Don’t get me wrong, its still going to be an incredible experience and I’m extremely grateful for the chance, but now my year in Antarctica has been shortened to a summer only (November til April) but “SORTA KINDA MAYBE PERHAPS a winter but nothings certain and only if they get funding but don’t worry you can just get extra gear sent out on the resupply voyage at the end of March – we’ll let you know”…

I’m mindful I tossed a job for this but the attitude here to my predicament is “meh you’ll be fine”

Grrr.  I gotta roll with it.

We toured should the ship a few days back which was fascinating and will be my home for a few weeks from the end of October.

I love being at sea almost more than anything ( except my mountains and rainforests of course) . It’s been almost 15 years since my last stint on a ship,  but it felt very familiar stepping aboard – the smells, sounds and constant vibration under the feet was comforting – I wondered aloud “ how the fuck did I end up on a ship again” … a few people glanced at me with odd expressions but I didn’t feel the need to explain myself.

But I always need a Plan B.

Ive been applying for other jobs next year, dusting off the crystal ball and looking into the future – getting my famous Plan B up and running in case I’m back 6 months earlier than planned.

So today, Sunday, I’ve finally found a nice cafe with good coffee and thought I’d plug this update in just to keep the record up to date.

Coffee first. Gotta get my priorities in order.

Anyway I’m shortly off to find a bookshop if there are any open and maybe wander down to the wharf.
Still 2 weeks to go before I head off!

All will be well, I’m sure.
*the “Get Smart” doors are there because so much kit is carried around between the buildings – everyone has their hands full all the times. It’s super cool though 🙂

…FREEEEEEEEEE!

Monday morning I fly to Hobart for the next part of my journey

So far I have packed 4 times (not unusual), stopped myself from buying shit I don’t need (highly unusual), and caught up with friends (lucky as its a long weekend and everyone’s away). Totally running out of time but still procrastinating massively today. The jetlag and alcohol means sleep escapes me, and when it does come my dreams are a confusing mess of self doubt and worst case scenarios.

I am Jamie’s rampaging insecurity.

Of course I’m going to write about it…but for today there’s this.

Getting back into the country on Tuesday was much smoother than I’d expected, even when I lost the usual day with the time zones weirdness. It was 5am Sunday morning – my farewell-induced hangover was barely in check, the flight from Seattle to Honolulu was on time, and traffic on the i5 was light. Shay dropped me off at Seatac dead on 6am after the 55 minute drive up from Olympia.

See you in Nepal next year, Shayster 😉

Check in was a breeze and even the TSA lines weren’t unbearable. On time all the way,  the 5 hour flight to Honolulu passed in a blink – even the 35 minute transfer in Hawaii went perfectly, giving me 4 entire minutes to buy a Hawaiian shirt on the way to the Gate. The only worry was luggage transfer, but I’d convinced myself it would be ok and as usual had packed all the essentials in the carry on.

God I love Hawaiian Airlines.

Arriving in Sydney 11 hours later, the luggage met me at the carousel and passing Customs and Immigration was ultra fast. Ooops  – totally forgot the beef jerky in my bag!

Now only one thing was left.

Survive Sydney Airport.

Once the decision to keep my money in my pocket was made, Sydney Airport transit became a challenge more than a financial crisis. Usually the vampiric cash drain starts from the moment you set foot there and a cash sacrifice to the Goddess of the City of Sydney is needed to survive at every step.

The City of Sydney (at least in my minds eye) is a vampiric old barslut in Victorian lace that sidles up, quietly slips her grimy hands into your pants and while dazzling you with technique, steals your stash, shivs you in the kidney and then leaves you bleeding out in an alley.

I wage a constant war to stem the flow of cash from my wallet into her voluminous coffers. Look the harbor is nice but this hoary bitch sucks the State of NSW dry revenue wise. And Sydney people – jeez don’t get me started.

Anyway…we’ve been over this.

Due to the odd flight schedules and curfew, I got in at 7.30pm, but couldn’t fly out til 7.30am the next day. Sydney International Airport (pssh) closes at 11pm and if you have en early flight, you are fucked only have a few options : these include book a $300+ hotel room at the Airport hotels nearby, catch a $20 taxi and book a $200+ hotel room 1.5 kms away (if there are any), book a city Hostel at $45 a night and then take a $16 train ride (each way) and then HOPE the return train arrives on time or the flights aren’t cancelled.

You get the idea. Sydney is expensive and Sydney Airport doubly so and there are little services offered to the budget traveler.

BUT – I found out that they do put aside a small waiting area inside the main terminal near the train and taxi entries for “transit passengers’. You can sleep there for free, on a chair or on the carpeted floor. There’s free internet and an internet terminal (till 11pm when they turn it off), a phone recharge station, there are toilets available but no shower, and you have to sleep with your bags tucked under your arms etc as there is no real security. There were about 5 transit passengers sleeping there when I arrived, and after an hour or so that grew to 40 so get there early.

But its FREEEEEEEEEEEE!

So I thought, why the Hell not! I found a spare leather chair (mmmm worn sweaty pleather) and flopped down, wearily hatching a duffel bag and nursing a backache/headache from the 15 hour flight from Seattle/Honolulu.

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Its cold, the security guards will harass you at odd hours and demand to see your ongoing ticket or at worst kick you out if you don’t have one. I arrived at 8pm, and flew out at 7.30am (well within the acceptable 12 hour window) so was ok to stay.

*They don’t like doing letting people do it apparently, but it’s definitely available.

After a less than optimal but FREEEEEEEE! night in Sydney, I began the new day by fudging my carry on and baggage weights as best I could.

Coming from an International carrier (Hawaiian Airlines) that allows 2 x 16KG bags and 2 carry on bags I’d loaded up on gear in the US.

REX on the other hand allows only 1 x 16/20KG check in and 1 x 7kg carry on.

Their excess baggage fees completely freaked me out so I spent the morning putting on multiple t-shirts, 2 beanies and several pairs of heavy pants plus 3 jumpers. Strapped every heavy Item available to my body, and finally slung the Beats headphones around my neck. Walking like John Wayne, looking like the Michelin Man and sweating like a Muslim at a Patriot rally.

Waddling over to the T-Bus stop, I boarded for the Domestic Terminal, which is minimalist but efficient and at 7.30 am sharp was ready to roll (after a minor panic about timezones and missed flights) .

Convincing Airport Security that the massive metal Slackline winch in my bag was a delicate instrument that couldnt be checked was a challenge ( I can actually act a bit, it would seem) but I eventually boarded the world’s prettiest, narrowest and most insecure aircraft and headed West.

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Before long, this narrow aluminum bullet was winging its way out to the dry dusty plains of Dubbo, and as the landscape below shifted from green to dirt, my spirits drooped as expected.

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Back again. FFKS.

Luckily it’s only for 6 day…its only for 6 days…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…moments

9am Sunday, Portland Oregon. Downtown.

…a gaunt bearded man in sandals, torn black pleather and dirty grey tracksuit pants shuffles by the corner window of Powells Bookstore cafe, wheeling a wobbling red Zimmer frame overflowing with glistening black garbage bags filled with everything he owns in this world.  He doesn’t look up, doesnt see me.  I see him through the aromatic steam of a scalding black Americano.

Sip.

A tanned young woman in blue jean shorts , oversized sunglasses, rainbow tshirt and California halo of beach-blonde curly hair struts past, a look of disgust on her face. 

So close they almost touch, but not quite.

Completely engaged with a shiny red apple taken from a Whole Foods bag, she scowls and rubs it on her spectacular breast, trying to remove a spot of wax or a blemish, or maybe just as an excuse to turn away. She curses silently, tosses the apple into a bin without breaking stride and then rummages in her bag.  

She looks up but doesn’t see me quietly judging them both, invisible through the glass.

He sees only his filthy feet and she only sees her reflection.

They don’t see each other. They’ll never see each other. The moment slides away.

Sip.

The man with a map walks to the corner, never looks up, walks to one corner, then another, checks his map. Scratches his head and checks his watch. He is late or lost or both.

A confused indecisiveness surrounds him. He stops again as the pretty girl on the pink bicycle runs the “don’t walk” sign and cruises diagonally through the crosswalk, instantly blinded by the sun.

I wait for it but the man spins right in a pirouette of fortunate confusion, the pretty girl on the pink bike glides past, legs still pumping on the pedals but squinting into the glare.

So close they almost touch, but not quite.

They don’t see each other. The moment slides away.

Sip

I am my cup today.

…care factor

Last night I saw one of my teenage idols – Pat Benatar – live in a small Indian Casino close to here (SO good), then met a friend at a local bar to catch up after.

That turned into another post 3am night out. As a result I am slightly hung over today and my thought processes aren’t quite firing so this could be a total waffle – bear with me.

My drinking bud told me last night that one of the things she likes about me is that I don’t give a shit (in context the conversation was about toned cute-as-a-button PT instructors getting constantly hit on/competed with by guys in bars <or at least I think it was – things get hazy after 2am>

Yo Hayley.

I hadn’t thought much about it until my second coffee this morning to clear my foggy head.

Replaying last night as best as I could, this little thing stood out.

When did I stop giving a shit? 

More importantly how come people can see it? What’s happened to my masks? Hmmm…

There was a time where the thought of sitting in a bar and talking to people frightened the Hell outta me (that was a while ago admittedly), but these days – pffft – easy peasy Japanesey (sorry about the casual racism – its a generational thing).

Now I comfortably jump onto a plane, live in a foreign country for months, make new friends and form connections almost as a byproduct of just being there.  (ok so its not beer and skittles all the time but generally its pretty good)

So WTF? When did that happen?

I guess quitting work and striking out in a new direction has really been the last bullet in the head for my care factor levels and it must be showing.

Warning : Overshare.

This social anxiety thing that I’m hoping most of us feel in a strange situation was really amplified when I was a kid. Super shy and quiet,  I would rather read, wander or talk to my horses than interact with people.

You can imagine how that went down once I hit school. 

Overwhelmed, I ran away on my first day of Primary School and climbed up high into a tall tree out the front of the school – the Year 6 boys had to climb it and get me down. That happened more than once and the tree’s still there I think, at Wombat Public School.

*my sister and I back in Ye Olden Times.

High School wasn’t much better (less tree climbing though) and opened a whole new can of worms. Who exactly was I? How to fit into this micro-society, an odd shape that didn’t quite belong anywhere (at least in my head that’s how it seemed).

So I settled on being ‘clown’ : a funny/smartass camouflage developed as a survival mechanism at school, a sarcastic shield of protection and emotional armor, a way to overcome paralysing shyness and low self esteem – a product of many factors that I’m not going into. Today.

Girls? Not a chance. Baffled. Clueless. Completely oblivious (well at least ’til High School). Embarrassingly so. Head up my ass introverted.

Looking back, so many “Ohhhh so THATS what that was about” moments that I had no clue about at the time.

*my favourite school Photo – the last one I ever smiled in.

So anyway it’s taken a while to overcome all that – remember my ‘fake it till you make it’ motto?

So whats changed lately?

Well many things, but I think its basically the “care factor” – caring about how you look, how you dress, what you say, what the future holds, whats happened in the past, what people think of you (that’s the killer one). Money, career, marriage, houses, fancy cars, stability, conforming, fitting in, following the rules. It’s all a trap.

So the lower the care factor, the freer you become. So simple! 

Is it the same as confidence? I don’t think so but perhaps it can be mistaken for it.

Maybe reducing the care factor brings you closer to the actual person that’s buried underneath all the layers of bullshit – letting go of the emotional armor, masks and defence mechanisms that keep us emotionally separated from other people, that stop us creating actual real soul-to-soul connections instead of only temporary insubstantial surface level encounters.

Derrr… of course it is. You know this already. Everyone knows this, right? Feel free to bail out.

But I’ll continue my thought regardless…

Let the ‘this is me’ of you peek out from behind the curtain and take a tentative step forward and be. To the ‘real’ if it.

Other real people will respond. They’re hungry for it just like you are.

(All this is assuming you aren’t really an asshole underneath and in that case, all bets are off)

There’s to much bullshit in this world already. Why contribute to it? That’s just sad.

We saw a lot of masks at the BroHo last night. More in the late night diner after, even more outside the clubs and bars in downtown Olympia as the 2am crowd oozed out into the chill air, hunting for the next club or burger. 

Reality and bullshit clash after 2am, hungry for a fight or a fuck or a hotdog in the dim alleys or neon lit streets, queuing in club doorways and dark places smelling of urine and dogshit where the hopeless homeless live, hidden in the clouds of cinnamon vape smoke or in the pungent wafts of weed enveloping like warm spots in a cold swimming pool as you dodge through the crowded sidewalks milling with circus freaks and pretty party people .

An unrehearsed ballet of bullshit – all pretenders and posers, creeps and creepers, homeless and hopeless, the lit up and the hyperactive, the happy and clueless all lipstick, glitter and laughter, or the sobbing high heeled dripping mascara tears, tattooed with torn black stockings , cats eyes and smeared facepaint. Everyone masked up and parading at the Ball. This is who I want you to think I am.

It sounds like I think I’m different from them but I’m no better or no worse – definitely less fake than I used to be and still a work in progress.

The realest person I met was a dog that some dude brought into the bar. He was just happy to be there.

Anyway, my meandering point is that I think my care factor has finally dropped to a level that can set me free.

Care Factor Zero achieved and I’m just happy to be here.

 

Wow this coffees kicked in I think. thank God. That was quite a rant.

Sorry about that! 

Still here? Here’s a pic of a cute chipmunk on Mt Rainier as a reward.

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