Get set. . . GO!

packedbag

Two hours before we find ourselves at the first of a few airports. I’m packed. Sister has cold. Down to testing the various merits of blow up neck cushion as opposed to reliable stuffed neck cushion. Last minute phone calls from friends.

I should have timed this so that it happened on my birthday in 2 days – that way I could rightly claim to be stretching the celebration out for 48 hours. As it is, we leave here at 5pm from Auckland, on Saturday, and arrive in Houston at midday, same day. I’m also wearing layers of clothing to compensate for a move from deep south to high north – the blur of spring blossoms to the rich colours of Fall. Gotta love time travel.

I hope to blog again soon – much will depend upon ease of Sim card acquisition, and wifi range. Until then – Bon Voyage!

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My American Trip next week

Rather than write lots of responses to tweets and posts asking what I’m doing in the States for much of October and November, I thought I’d just do a blog about it. I’m very excited to catch up with family and friends I’ve known before, and my trip is about that, this time. I hope to come again, in the next year or so, and make it about meeting all my Outlander friends – what a trip that will be too! THEN, I will be completely open to meandering around that vast continent and seeing/staying with whoever is available. Watch this space.

Meanwhile, THIS trip is about these things:

I have NEVER been in the same place and the same time with my girl cousins/sister since this photo was taken in 1963/4:olderjeffriesfamilyopahekegirls

My father (far right) lived in New Zealand, and we four blonde children are on the right, me being the eldest girl. Dad’s youngest brother is second from left at back, and his oldest child is in the front row beside me. She and her family are now in Australia. Dad’s middle brother has lived in America for most of his life, and his family are far left. His daughter is on her mother’s knee. We are all meeting in Philadelphia, and going to ‘hang out’ for a couple of weeks. A particular thrill will be to meet and stay with my Uncle and Aunt, who are still hale and well, for a couple of days.

We are very much looking forward to getting to know one another, and meeting up in various family gatherings, and seeing some of the places my cousins live. New York, Baltimore, Pennsylvania are all on the agenda.

Then my sis and cousin fly home, and I go south to meet up with very good friend in Jacksonville, Florida. I lived here in the South for four years from 1996 – 2000, working for a small Christian publishing house. My focus was living in Christian community and discovering life in an ‘organic’ rather than organised, neighbourhood of Christians who met in their own homes. We saw a lot of each other. I absolutely loved it, and paintings I have done since, reflect that experience. (Without going further into a discussion about what took me there, I will say that I still meet in a similar way back here in Auckland.)

I’m looking forward to meeting with the older man in the painting on the left, with his glasses on his forehead. Some of the people in these pics are still around. I intend to catch up with them, to see the publishing house, to help out if needed, and basically hang out with my good friend with whom I’ll be staying. She’s like a sister to me. So the second part of my trip is tied up in those relationships. I intend – as well – to see some of the dear Outlander fans who were so gracious to me when I was over a couple of years ago. They live near where I am staying, so it will be like walking next door.

THAT’s what my trip is about, this time. Not so much the scenery but the deeper connections I’ve already got. I hope to blog some of it here, and I hope it’s interesting enough for others to read.

I can see another trip some time soon in the future, which is about seeing more of America from my kiwi eyes, and then I will blog that journey and write a book about it. THEN it will be a case of the more the merrier, when it comes to Outlander friends with whom I can meet up. I hope – if you’re one of my regular corresponders on FB or TW – that will be YOU.

The Space in between. . .

I’m between trips overseas right now, and planning my next one, in two weeks. But that’s not what this post is about. It’s about ‘Getting There’ – or that horrible vacuum of space, time, noise, discomfort that is our method of transport from one place to the other. The place occupied for a while in a metal capsule flying through space.

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Outlander 2014

Not to make light of the terrible trauma experienced by Claire when she approached the Stones, and heard that buzzing and that sensation of falling apart and coming back together, but I sort of wish there was some truth to the story. And it’s not for want of trying either:

going-through-the-stones

It hasn’t worked for me yet. But I’m prepared to try any other similar options that have even a dash of plausibility about them. . . damn it, or even no plausibility at all.

dr-who

ANYTHING to avoid the horror of economy class travel by air. And please be aware that, coming from New Zealand as I do, EVERYWHERE requires long periods of air travel. My experiences are not as they picture them in the advertising – and I doubt anyone ever experiences economy class travel like this:

planetravel5

Look at them. He has space between his stomach and the tray table. They have gently styled hair, still in place.EVERYONE is smiling and that man at the far end can LEAN FORWARD and see past five other people to view us, with room to spare. The closest man is holding CHOP STICKS!! He is – look at him! She has a cut crystal goblet with drink in it. No one is crouching over the tray staring down at a lumpy mass of plastic boxes with tinfoil and wondering what is under it. Someone could actually pass by in front of everyone and shake the hands of the man by the window. It. Is. A. Dream. Why we swallow it, and don’t protest openly outside airports with placards and banners demanding that they do something about the great LIE, I don’t know. We all know reality is more like this:

planetravel6 THAT’s what I experience when I sit in those seats. I dread the person in front moving his/her seat back because the only available room to see my food or the screen will be lost. I can’t help feeling that there will come a day when people in economy will be injected with a sleeping substance and slid into a dark cavity next to other cavities, where they will remain in stasis until the end of the trip. I might almost prefer it.

OH, ROLL ON THE DAY that time travel becomes possible. When merely by placing a hand on an inert object, I can step through into another country – or time – and just be there. In the meantime, in two weeks, it will be like this again:

I can remember back to my first trips as an adult, flying to Australia, and LOVING it. The little tidy plates of airline food, the big screen up ahead to watch movies through the bodies of moving passengers going to and from the toilets. Things weren’t as clever, digitally, but there was more room, (I was smaller too), and I often found three seats in a row to lie down along. I know – you’re asking why I don’t spend twice as much and upgrade to business class. . . well, it’s something to do with a built in mechanism I have which says, “Wait, couldn’t you spend that on some neat thing/experience at the place you’re going instead?”

The thing is, travel is one of my greatest pleasures – arriving at some distant destination, one I’ve dreamed/read about for years sometimes. There is so much joy in being immersed in a totally different culture and environment, and so much to be said for the experiences that brings. The wider breadth of understanding. My artistic side gets an injection of life. I meet people whose backgrounds are very different but with whom I share the same excitement in life. All of these things make it very worthwhile going through the torture of the first few days of travel to get there.

It IS a delicate balance for me though. As I get older, my body is less er, flexible, and now succumbs to various hitherto unheard of ailments and aches. It means I am measuring out my future, planning my trips, and doing my best to enable that body to cope with the rigors of travel for as long as I can. It might mean NOT sampling every item of cuisine offered to me upon arrival. It might mean dragging myself out of bed every morning to do a brisk walk, and some exercises, to keep flexibility. It means watching my diet at home, and being conscious of what my body needs as opposed to what I am used to eating.

I can tell you – after flying for a day without stop overs, from Auckland to Edinburgh, last year. . . crawling in and out of airports and getting little sleep, I was ‘not my best’. But then at last, I looked out the window and saw green land below the wing of the plane, and an announcement overhead that said, “We descend into Edinburgh in 10 minutes.”

NOTHING acted more like a restorative than those words. When I left the plane I was almost bouncing, and I made my way into the city as if I had, indeed, just walked through stones to get there. Facing a trip to the USA in two weeks, I know it will be similar. The dread leading up to the flight, the horrible flight itself, and then the joy upon arrival. A bit like giving birth really. (Not that I’d know). At this point I’d finish with a platitude along the lines of ‘the best things in life do not come easy’ – but better than that. I’m sure there is one out there. You get the gist, I think.plane

Almost over

Tomorrow I leave this crisp dry air up in the mountains of the Australian Alps for the moist humidity of life on the inner harbour of Auckland again. Despite the best efforts of a heavy head cold to dampen the excitement of my visit with my cousin, she and her husband have been wonderful hosts and tour guides. 

I’ve posted already about my first day, arriving in greyness and rain. By Sunday, Kath and I awoke to a clear day and I took my first extensive tour of their property, newly bought two years ago. We walked past a small cabin, followed a wombat trail, went up to the immense three car garage and barn, which has a small studio on the side. Beyond the drive is the cottage, another simple living arrangement with daffodils and blossoms just popping into bloom nearby. Then it was down the steep walk to the beach. We drove to the road up to Thredbo to a cafe there for lunch, before returning via a small supermarket to laze around the rest of the day. In the evening, to my horror a tiny bat started circling above my bed while I begged Kath to get rid of it. It took her 20 mins of careful manouvering before she caught it up in my dressing gown and threw it outside. 

Monday, Kath took me up to Blue Cow, where she did some snow boarding and I hung out at the restaurant enjoying the view and taking photos. My cold was beginning to take a firm grip on me by now so after lunch on Mt Perisher, we went home and I to bed for a while. 

Tuesday was the worst of the cold and I spent nearly all of it in bed, dragging myself out to greet Kath’s husband who arrived after a weekend away with the boys. He did a good job of not flinching when I emerged wild-haired and red-eyed from my room. He had brought a hoard of fresh seafood with him for us to have for dinner, and we sat enjoying the evening gazing out at some snow capped peaks and eating prawns and swordfish. 

I felt much better Wednesday, and so the boat was hauled out and lowered into the lake from East Jindabyne. (In the very spot on the other side of water in photo).

It was still, and we were the only boat on this vast lake. I took great pleasure in looking out for the buried old township, and particularly the church steeple. This was once a valley with the Snowy River flowing through it, but in the 60’s it was all flooded to make a dam for hydro-electricity. Our boat took us up to the pumping station where it is all pumped up and over a ridge and down a series of other lakes. 

Rest in the afternoon, and then a trip in to Japanese restaurant with a friend of theirs along for the meal too. At 7pm, the three of us sat with cups of hot tea and turned the bright outside lights on to watch for wombats running along the trail below. Nothing. Kangaroos are prolific, though, and everytime we’ve driven out, a small group of them have scattered.

Today we will be doing a pleasant one-hour walk to the Rainbow lake, off the road leading up to Mt Perisher. Time to open my breathing passages again! Then a delicious pork roast is planned for my last night. I shall miss this absolutely stunning corner of the world – the bright, raucous birds, the odd creatures, the mountains and lake, to say nothing of my lovely easy-going cousin and her equally warm-hearted spouse. And of course, two very loved and adorable dogs, Leo the black ‘rescue’ dog and Peppa the French Bulldog. I head home via a brief look around Canberra tomorrow. 

First day in Australia

My first day in Australia

Following Claire

I’ve just woken up and remembered I’m here, in the heart of the Australian Alps. The strangest bird calls outside and – despite some very familiar weather – a very different view outside my window.

I had the BEST night’s sleep ever – an extra two hours of darkness – and now have a cuppa and am preparing for a lazy day enjoying the local environment, catching up with cousin and taking it all in. I wandered out to put the kettle on, woke the dogs, and took these:

Yesterday we surprised lots of kangaroos on the fields and drive leading down to this place. I’ve seen unfamiliar birds on trees outside. But the most bizarre sight was stepping into this shop from the long road leading to Jindabyne. Almost no other settlements nearby and suddenly this:

I think it must be the largest Christmas store in Southern Hemisphere! The…

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