Tag Archives: Australia

Australian Spiders

are the freaking scariest things.

Huntsman Spider

Seriously. They are huge; they eat birds; they eat snakes; they take over the trees. Driving through the outback, we would pass stands of trees that look like the picture below – a nice place to wander through and connect with the land. Until you get closer and see the massive spider webs between the tree blocking most of the paths (as we were driving and not stupiding braving the guardians of the trees, I don’t have any good pictures of those massive, Mirkwood level webs). Outback Queensland

And, just in case they weren’t scary enough, they also take over farm land (granted the move to the farm avoids drowning, but still the fact that Aussie spiders make places in Australia that haven’t seen snow in millennia look like they are ready for a white Christmas is terrifying).

I’m pretty sure Australian spiders were the nightmare kernel at the heart of the amazingly terrible Kingdom of the Spiders with William Shatner (embedded below because everyone should know this gem).

Australian spiders must serve some purpose beside keeping the tourist travel at a reasonable level or inducing nightmares of being wrapped up and eaten, but I’m not entirely sure what that is. The good thing about most of these spiders? They’re so large it’s hard to be surprised by them.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3HEvlkQeQV8

 

The undisclosed costs of weightloss

The artifacts of identityNormally, I could care less about my weight. I don’t obsess over what I eat unless it tastes delicious, and then I tell everyone I can pin down. I don’t really exercise, because I dislike the sun, and I enjoy reading.

But over the last year and half, I’ve lost around 40 pounds. Which is cool because I now only weigh about 10 pounds more than when I graduated high school 10 years ago. And I love that I’m not as concerned about weight-related health issues. Pretty much, I’m content (and pretty pleased with myself) that I can manage my weight by making smart (if expensive) choices to eat healthy foods.

Except that it means I have to be more careful about my jewelry. Continue reading The undisclosed costs of weightloss

Des

You probably never met my friend Des. I’m sorry for you. But I don’t want you to miss out on what I learned from his life, so I’d like to introduce you to him through the stories I’ve cobbled together.

I’ve spent around 6 months in Brisbane, Australia over 4 trips since 2004. Each trip has been different in the adventures and experiences. Each trip has remained consistent in the people I’ve shared the adventures with.

Des and his wife Lena were and are 2 of the people who were always part of what made my time in Australia joyous. And they were and are part of the group of people who have become my family.

One year, I mailed them an Edward Gorey Christmas card that showed an assorted collection of creatures throwing fruitcakes into an ice hole. The next time I saw Des, his first word to me were “What’s with the fruitcake?” It had been a year since I’d seen him. That was the only greeting I got from Des for most of that trip. I hadn’t realized that fruitcake is actually eaten in Australia. I will never forget that now.

I saw Des last summer. The schedule was crazy, so there were fewer moments to share. My favorite is rather longer.

20 or so of us, U.S. and Aussies, traveled 6 hours north and west from Brisbane to the tiny town of Eidsvold on the edge of the outback. We were doing some work around the Christian Centre which the community uses for day care and events that need space.

Des was leading the 20something U.S. boys in the cleaning up of junk that had to be taken to the dump, but they were working through lunch. And since we were all there together it meant that we were all waiting until they were done to start eating. People were starting to get restless, and I figured they didn’t know we were breaking for lunch, because when to 20something guys ever listen to group announcements?

So I wander over to the very short fence that marked a border on the property, and I told Des that it was lunch time. Des’ deadpan response was, “Well, you may be here to fill your belly but some of us came here to do the Lord’s work.” To which I calmly responded, “Shut your face and get over to the lunch table. You’re holding up the food for the rest of us.” And then I walked back to where everyone else was, with Des and the boys not too far behind.

Later that evening there were pockets of conversation, and Des and I happened to be in one of those pockets. I’d been thinking about our exchange earlier and I told him that I thought people who didn’t know is might think that we didn’t get along. And he seemed surprised by that.

I think these stories are so clear in my head because they explain so much of who Des was. He was straightforward and dedicated and funny. And he wasn’t too concerned with the way other people saw him. He was himself and never apologized for that, but he didn’t try to drive other people away either. He accepted people without hesitation but was never afraid to call people on the crap they were pulling.

He was a very dear friend whom I admired greatly. 33 is far too young to have your heart attack you, and I am having a hard time believing that he is dead.

I wish I had told him more of this the last time I saw him.

But I hope for so much more. I hope the stories of his life encourage people in his stead. I hope that Des’ example of a fearless life inspires those who know it to walk a similar road. I hope that sad regret does not cloud the memory of his life lived well.

I hope for life

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A Broken Ring

So my time in Australia is ending very soon. And I’m very sad. I’ve met so many great friends and reconnected with some that are like family and enjoyed this time tremendously.

And this time around I’ve had one of the best farewells of my life.

I’ve been spending a lot of time this trip with the people at a small church in the heart of the city called Ann St. Church of Christ. It’s a great little church because the best people are there. The heart of the church is with several families who all support the church in their own way. One of the larger families come from one of the Eastern Torres Strait Islands, and on Sunday they bid all of us (because there was a large group from the church I go to at home) by dancing for us. And not like dancing you’d see in a club if you went to one. Like dancing that their family has done for generations.

family dancing

This time of year is when the people and this family do a lot of dancing to celebrate when the first missionaries came to their island and brought the message that God loves people enough to set aside divinity and take on humanity, die, and come back to life to fix the relationship that we broke.

The dancing was beautiful, and what made the dancing even more amazing was the fact that the dancers are all people who are now family. And when I thought that I couldn’t appreciate their generosity and love any more, they taught us all several dances where the dancers have to sit.

So we all (probably around 50 or so people) sat on the floor of the hall in a giant circle. And then the beat started and we all started slapping our thighs and then we started slapping the ground in front of us and the dance just continued from there. And we all laughed and tried our best and had a great time as a family.

And in the midst of this great time, my Australian Iron Ore ring that I’ve had for 4 years broke into several pieces and fell on the ground.

If it had happened anywhere else or at any other time, I would have been incredibly sad because I have connected numerous memories to that ring. But I think because I was surrounded by family having such a great time learning a new dance, the saddness was brief.

Because even though I cannoth possibly ever wear the ring again as intended, I will never forget that I was dancing with family when it shattered. And I will still have the memories because how could I ever forget dancing with family?

a broken ring

Alice in Wonderland Moment

I'm around 5'7", the little house I'm in was only a few inches taller, and I had to take the broom off the handle to use it effectively.

This is me working in Eidsvold. It’s the name of the town where this playhouse is located, not the name of the house. The house is probably just under 6 feet if you’re measuring to the very top from the outside. I am around 5’7″. The broom I was using, on it’s handle was probably on the far side of 6 feet.

And I had to use that broom to sweep the cobwebs and spiders out of this play house at the Eidsvold Christian Centre so that the neighbourhood (do we spell this word with a “u”? I guess all this time where people spell the British way has completely confused me…) kids can play here.

Sidenote: I hate spiders. Not to the point of being incapacitated with fear, but still that instant moment of panic when they appear, especially if they end up on me.

I had been working on a different project, and when I went to the man with the plan he gave me this job. And, swallowing my fear and hesitation, I started in on sweeping.

And where I was sure I would be freaking out, I had peace. And when I thought I would die because my back was incredibly sore from bending over to sweep the house out, one of my favorite 3 year-olds came over and started playing in the house just after my friend took this picture. And while I was feeling like something out of Wonderland because I was using a broom too big for me to clean out a house smaller than me, I saw the importance of doing something so simple as sweeping because that ridiculous moment for me provided the local small children a clean place to come and create their own Wonderland moments.

Cemeteries!

6 July

So today we went to the Eidsvold cemetery and it was fantastic. This isn’t the first cemetery I’ve been to in Australia because I love old cemeteries everywhere (I took my MA graduation pictures in an old cemetery close to my parents’ house). I feel like I need to write a blog that expresses and explains what cemeteries mean to me.

They express the high cost of living. They are the remnants of stories. They are the potential that was never realized. They are the home of life. They are the monuments of our loves. They model how all life fades while still becoming part of the lives that continue on. They are beautiful. They are life.

When I wander around cemeteries I find myself drawn to those graves that lack names. The ones that are marked by broken stone or generic crosses or some other simple way that lacks specificity. Those are the graves where I feel most connected to the lives that are represented because I wonder more about whose life is marked so simply. Did they know that they would be buried there? Did they know there would be nothing to distinguish them from everyone else? Were there people who were sad they died? Did anybody care? Or were they hated in life to the point that no one bothered to acknowledge their non-existence? What circumstances surrounded their life at the time of their death to make it so they are part of the unnamed dead?

I also wonder what prompts some people to mark graves lavishly? Were the families neglectful of the person whose grave is marked? Did they even want the child that lies in the grave? Do they mark the grave with plastic or carved flowers because they know that they will not come back to visit ever? Do they feel guilty that the person in the grave will never be visited? Do they feel like they have to pretend to care about the person in the ground? Are the flowers for themselves or their need to feel like they care or their need to appear as though they care?

And then I wonder why we have to make the graves look tended at all? Is it because we are afraid of the life that might spring up from the death the stones mark? Why not simply embrace life in all its stages? We in the US tend to keep the grass clipped short, we attempt to discourage life from moving in, we try to keep death contained in its small plot. I think that we do this in an attempt to ignore what we will all face some day – not being alive.

And that terrifies some people, so they try to avoid cemeteries and they look at people who enjoy spending time in them oddly and as though they are breaking some rule. But I think that if we embraced the fact that our lives will one day end and our bodies will be in some place like a cemetery, we might see that the time we have to actually make a difference and leave a longer lasting impression on the world than our brief grave is very short and be more motivated to leave that longer echo of ourselves in the lives of others. We might risk more if we were more accepting of our already brief life, and we might live more if we really accepted the cost.

What I love about the Eidsvold cemetery, and most older cemeteries, is the respect that is shown for the last remnants of the lives marked.  The grass is kept down so that people can walk more easily to the graves they want to spend time at, but not to the point of obsessive suburban gardener. The grass on the edges comes in long, and there are snake and other small creature holes by some of the graves. There is an air of life amongst the death, and it invites the living to come in and commune with the past. And it stands as a living history of the town of Eidsvold, telling a story that no book could completely capture.

Unspeakable Moments

I’ve just come back from a trip 6 hours northwest of Brisbane to a tiny town of about 400 called Eidsvold. I love this town and I’ve been there several times. Each time is filled with moments that I love to share, and this one was no different but most of those moments will have to wait until I’ve finished downloading the pictures.

There are numerous other moments in this trip that are unspeakable. A few because I would prefer to forget them, several because others would prefer to forget them, and different ones that should never have been.

But then there is a category of moments that are unspeakable because the language does not exist to express them truly.

I could recount the details for you and include all the descriptive language that I know and have a utterly factual retelling of the moment, but that would still not capture these unspeakable moments. The language that I have and can share with others does not cover or encompass the truth of these moments because the moments are somehow beyond expression. To the point where the best way for me to share them with any who are reading this blog is to say that I cannot share these moments because to do so would require me to have the ability to trade places with you in that moment. And I would risk losing the moment entirely in giving it to you. So, because I am selfish, but mostly because there are moments that are too precious for me to relinquish, the only way I am willing to share them is by saying that if I could have you experience those moments and retain my own experience I would, because my unspeakable moments in this category are my most valuable possession.

Australian Sport

I counted up the time I’ve spent in Australia over the last few years and it comes to roughly 4 1/2 months. Which makes me someone who is very familiar with, but no where near an expert on, Australian culture. But I wouldn’t have to be an expert to get that Australians love sports.

In the four trips that I have made here I have been to 2 Australian Rules Football games (GO LIONS!) and 1 Rugby game. I’ve seen several State of Origin games on TV here (GO MAROONS!) and watched part of a cricket match, part of a soccer game, and a tiny bit of Wimbledon this year. Rugby is generally on TVs here if the interaction is informal, and if it isn’t Rugby it’s some other sport. Most every kid plays on some organized sports team, and everyone knows how to play some sort of football (Rugby or Aussie Rules) and that’s the pick-up game that happens in nearly any venue.

This might be why there are parks on nearly every corner.

I knew before this trip here that a part of Australian identity is found in their sports. What I learned this trip is a little of the history of the sporting venues around Brisbane.

I was told by one of the guys here, whose family comes from the islands of the coast to the north called the Torres Strait Islands, that most of the sports venues were gathering places from before the time the British moved to the land. These were places of great importance for various reasons, either because the location had abundant water or because it held spiritual meaning or it provided the right type of meeting area. One of the locations has gained importance because it marks the site of one of the slaughters of the indigenous people in the area. He explained what each location had meant and what sport is played on the land now.

And along with the sadness I feel with any story of one culture attempting to erase another and write over what was perceived as wrong or bad, I saw that the locations were still set aside as gathering places. The palimpsest in these areas is easier to see through because the purpose remains despite the tragedy and sorrow that has occurred – these are places that bring people together. Because little else in Australian culture brings people together like their sports – even people who go for opposing sides come together in generally friendly rivalry (though occasionally more serious) for the love of the game.

Getting to really understand some of the sports here has been one of my favorite aspects of the trip this time around. And I think that it has been one of the best ways that I’ve been able to get to know people and connect with them, because Australian sports is where we come together.

Rugby Try

Time

Time is a very funny construct. It’s ubiquitous to the point of non-acknowledgemet. Everyone knows that there are 24 hours in a day and that they are made up of 60 minutes and that there are 60 seconds in each minute and that 365 of those 24 hour sets makes up 1 year.

Unless you’re off Earth.

But since most people will never leave the planet, that doesn’t really count. But what’s crazy about time is that wherever I am feels like the time should be the same for everyone. Or at least the same day.

But it isn’t. Because time is crazy and, like most commonly accepted standards, is rather shoddily constructed. Time is not the same everywhere. It isn’t even always the same day everywhere.

I never fully appreciated the crappiness of time until this trip to Australia. I’ve never been so easily connected to family and friends at home, so I have never had to really keep time in 2 places. I’ve always simply switched to the time standard where I am and not thought about home time. But this time I’m conscious of the fact that the people I am chatting with as I am finishing off my day are getting ready to start theirs. And I’m talking they’re waking up for work as I’m over-due for sleep.

And that I can manage. What really trips me up is the fact that they are getting up for the day that I have just finished. The time difference from Brisbane to Orange County, CA is 17 hours difference, with Brisbane ahead. It’s a mind trip because I’ve talked to friends who are sending out invitations to events that in terms of days would have happened the day before.

Like my friend invited me to an art opening. The event happened on a Friday night and they sent out a text not long before it started their time. I received it when they sent it, and my time in Brisbane was Saturday afternoon. I couldn’t go, not only because I was in another country, but mostly because I would have had to travel back in time, and I haven’t quite mastered that yet. Maybe after I get flying down I can tackle time travel. Or start a quest for a blue police box.

I wish I could manage time travel because I would be able to participate in so much more around the world. I’d be even happier if I could get my mind to understand this time thing better. But since time is rather wibbly-wobbly, I guess I’ll just have to learn to count correctly and invest in Tylenol for the headaches…

The Outback

The Outback

7 June 2009

First of all – internet is hit or miss. This is why haven’t posted here as much as I’d hoped.

But it’s gorgeous. It’s the land of solitude. It’s flat as a pancake and clear for miles. You can pretty much see the horizon in any direction. And any deviation in the road is a notable sight, as it doesn’t occur often.

And there’s no one around.

Like seriously, no one.

We drove through several towns where the population was around 100. That’s awesome, especially since these towns were miles and miles away from any other town.

It’s also a little intimidating because it is so vast. The closest place I can think of is sitting on the shore of the ocean and seeing out to the horizon. Except the ocean is behind, and beside, as well as in front. Driving through this land, one thought that has kept popping up is that if something were to happen, it might take other people awhile to notice. And that is a very foreign thought to me. I’m definitely used to there being a lot of people around. Not that those people would be any more likely to notice, but something about their presence comforts me. And then I think of A Street Car Named Desire and part of me laughs a little.

It’s gorgeous land, and I’ve loved exploring it. I don’t know that I could ever live here, because it is so remote, but visiting has been great. I would love to come back and have even more time to see this land.