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December 20, 2011

Bali, Lovina

By Maryanna Gabriel

This county assails ones senses in an exotic kind of a way. I didn’t realize it is one of many islands in Indonesia that includes Jakarta, Samoa, Lombok and thousands of smaller islands. Bali is an island that is roughly 80 by 300 kilometers. It has a population of 4 million. The average wage is around $120 per month.

It considers itself to be the spiritual center of Indonesia. It is a melange of historic influences and neighbouring cultures, some I recognize and other references I do not. It is a confusing hubhub, or vortex of chaos, and a desperate place in the sense that the people are poorer than I understood. I am not comfortable being harassed, ripped off or in a blatant patriarchy so I am I happy to be with a tour that is together. Our guide is Balinese, we are seeing the underside of Bali, and at the same time I feel that I can relax. There are art and carvings everywhere. Prayer is called by priests three times a day throughout the towns and each town has at least three temples. It seems to be melange of Hindi, Bhuddist and Muslim with strong oriental influences. Offerings and shrines are everywhere. They are little banana leaf baskets with offerings of flowers and incense to give back to God in gratitude for what has been given. I am travelling with an average age that is much older and again with people who are from all over the world.

I have been seeing my first cinnamon tree, it is so much sweeter when the bark is fresh, seen a mongoose coffee place with mongooses for the most expensive coffee in the world (the coffee bean is eaten by the mongoose and then excreted – I passed on giving it a taste, thanks), been exposed to fruit that looks like sheep brains and tastes like blue cheese, seen the largest temple and been assailed by sellers, faced certain death in a the cab drive from the airport in the insane traffic while the driver appeared to have his eyes rolling uncontrollably.This is a photo of what they call a Flying Fox clutching a piece of water melon. Today I go to a waterfall and hot springs. Next week I am going to Lombok. A glass of wine is three times more expensive than the dinner. They are big on fried rice with satays and peanut sauce or wrapping meat or fish in banana leaves. There is lovely fruit here. Flower petals decorate the beds in our rooms. I miss my girls terribly. May you have a wonderful and precious Christmas and know you are in my heart. Thinking of you all....

December 12, 2011

New Zealand, South Island

By Maryanna Gabriel

The news from the front is that we passed Peter Jackson and crew filming The Hobbit on a river an hour north of Nelson a few days ago. Kiwis back up their own. It has been suggested that should New Zealand become a sovereign state they would like to replace the image of Queen Elizabeth with his. As he hails from Wellington it was proposed they name the airport after him. He said, “Why would you want to name the airport after someone who could potentially go crazy?” Maybe he was filming that day. I am certain he will have a place in the museum right next to the All Blacks exhibit in the future.
The north island has four national parks and the south island has nine national parks. We spent a night by a river in a lovely lodge. I was fortunate to be able to kayak in Abel Tasman Park and an enormous pod of dolphins came right around us moving very quickly. There were hundreds of them. That was a sweet and extraordinary experience. We have been introduced to some local colour and characters and right now we are in Franz Josef Glacier Park. I wouldn’t have said I am a glacier snob but I am not going to mislead you. Canada has this covered, thanks. I have kayaked in Juneau in front of a calving glacier, the same in Stewart/Hyder, voyaged up the coast all the way to Skagway past some stunning glaciers as well as stared in gob-stopped wonder at what lies between Banff and Jasper to say nothing of the Icefields Parkway, a stunning and beauteous experience. We have glaciers that hands down don’t even come close to this receding icefield halfway up the mountain here. I kept my money thanks (do we charge in Canada? I don’t think so) and was more impressed with hot pools with stones and ferns and spent the morning lolling in a heated “glacier pool” and trying to figure out how I could build one. I am off to kayak a Lake Mapourika. I am looking forward to visiting Queenstown and Milford Sound. My daughters are spending Christmas with their father and I am getting ready to say goodbye to New Zealand, taking advantage of being down under by making an excursion now into Bali.

December 7, 2011

New Zealand, MidIsland

Yes, it is true. I have been to The Shire. They were filming the movie The Hobbit and the prequel to it up until two weeks ago. Peter Jackson and company are now down in Queenstown filming the rest. I was just thrilled to see it. The gardens and some of the props to the set were still there, including a vegetable garden. It was all created so charmingly and lovingly. It was quite an enormous area where The Shire was recreated and the hobbit houses are extensive. I wasn’t sure what was more amazing. The set and the fact I was seeing it so soon after the filming or the amazing company I was keeping. The bus driver had me laughing so hard I thought my sides would explode. I also met a great guy who proved to be wonderful company. People are travelling from Europe, mostly Britain, in droves. While others were jumping out of planes I went sailing on pretty Lake Taupo to see rock carvings. We also had further exposure to the Maori culture in Rotarua with a wonderful feast they cooked for us. Here were amazing geothermal pools that gave off steam, much like Yellowstone, and the town reeked of sulphur. Driving south we passed active volcanoes and plains of what looked to be lava fields. It is all about adrenalin with this group, whether it be jumping out of planes, bungying off of cliffs, white water rafting, or underwater caving. While all this has been going on we make our way to interesting places and I realized that if I wanted to eat I was going to have to carry it with me, food not being a priority. I now carry an assortment of plastic spoons, crackers, tangerines and what not. We are just getting ready to leave Wellington, which experiences frequent earth quakes and now we head south.

December 2, 2011

New Zealand, The North Island

Kia ora. I feel immediately at home here. Landing could almost have been the Vancouver area and the drive in to Aukland could almost have been Granville Street. I read that New Zealand separated from Gondawarra (of which Australia was a part of) over 80 million years ago and 75% of the plant and birds are completely unique to here. Aukland is built on active volcanoes. They seem pretty philosophical about it. (“Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice” Will Durant, an American historian.) These people are so mad for Rugby they even have a display for the All Blacks in the museum. The national symbol is the Kiwi, a bird which is a descendent of the Emu and the Kiwi does not fly. Aukland lacks the humidity I experienced in Sydney and I seem to need my sweater today, however when the sun shines it burns. It is full on summer. When the New Zealander’s talk there seems to be a mumble that gets progressively worse and towards the end of the sentence the volume is barely audible all of which is clearly interspersed with a pronounced British accent. I learned today that the word Maori is said with a roll of the r and that all r’s are rolled in this tongue. The Maori language is very much in use. I saw a Maori cultural performance at the museum that was wonderful and saw the Haka which the All Blacks mimic before they play. Haka is a performance that is threatening and where the tongue is protruded and is meant to instil fear in the enemy. The dancing I saw seemed so much like what I saw in Hawaii and Tahiti except that the hula is replaced by the waving of the hands and the eyes are widened a great deal. It is very beautiful and graceful to watch. It seems to me that Fiji is more influenced by New Guinea and Samoa and that the Maori’s are descendants of the Polynesians. The Maori culture, like our First Nations, have strong carving and artistic traditions. The Maori had gardens. Their weaving to me is in part, like our Coast Salish. Their traditional house is made of wood, and is called the marae, and is considered representative of the human body. The door is the tongue, the interior is the embodiment of the tribe, and the eaves represent the arms and legs. It is ornately carved with tiki or amo and depict fertility or genealogy much like the clans of our tribes. It is tapu for women to carve. I am in seventh heaven. I am now in Cormandel Peninsula at a place called Hotwater Beach. It is geothermal and if one digs holes in the sand the water is extremely hot. People were bathing in the pools tonight and there were shovels everywhere.I am travelling with a tour group that is a bit startling. I am the oldest and the accommodation is coed. There is a young man getting undressed in front of me. It should be an interesting two weeks.

November 29, 2011

Australia, Coffs Harbour

It has been great to visit Leone in Coffs Harbour, where the forest meets the sea, a city of 100,000, halfway between Sydney and Brisbane. Pristine beaches of endless sand, excellent food, memorable dining, a visit to a farm called “Kiwi Down Under” that is a kiwi plantation, were all part of wonderful new experiences and even better, new friendships. The beauty of Australia, new sounds explored, and wildlife discovered has been a series of unexpected delights. A special day of touring into the Dorrigo Hills, led us to where waterfalls abound, into a World Heritage Rainforest Preserve that is special because of the primitive vegetation is as it was millions of years ago.

Pictured here is a Bush Turkey, an inhabitant here, and also pictured is a touching encounter with a kangaroo and her joey, who ended up keeling over backward into the pouch and having a nap with his two feet sticking out and toes dangling nonchalantly as mama grazed.The visit concludes with a magical sunset stroll on Muttonbird Island, the glow in the west resonating with the kindle in my heart alight with the wonderful gifts of friendship and warm hospitality.

Leaving with mixed feelings I note that Australia has the most amazing trains. They are far more comfortable than buses, they have hot meals, bar, and Devonshire tea with hot scones, cream and jam. It is a bit like something out of an Agatha Christie novel. It is with sadness I depart for I have made some amazing friendships here. I ride south to collect my passport and leave for the next part of my journey, New Zealand. Australia has exceeded all of my expectations. As it is said by the first people’s here, “Reverence for all creatures is the dreaming.” Australia, you have restored my faith in humankind.

November 21, 2011

Australia, Melbourne

Negotiating a city of 4.5 million is never easy and I felt turned around in Melbourne and did not like the hostel that I landed in. I was sad to have to part with Sarah and acquaint myself with the city alone. Melbourne was truly worth getting to know. It is a city that endorses the arts and they seem to flourish here. Elegant tall buildings line a river and there are parks, sculptures, and trees to intrigue and make the experience as comfortable as a city can be. I am happy to report that there was a stunning art exhibition of aboriginal art that had been recently funded and which I thoroughly enjoyed. I was able to connect into some tours. One of them was “The Ocean Road” a curving coastline revealing the famous Twelve Apostles, stacks similar to the state of Oregon.

I saw koalas in their natural habitat in a manna gum tree forest. It was a day that took me through coastal towns so I feel I have a good sense of half of the entire coastline of Australia now. I was surprised when I had an alpaca spit on me. I asked what it meant. I was told it means that the alpaca liked me and that I should go out and buy a lottery ticket as it is a good omen. Alpaca spit is not something I want to go through again, thank you.

I also went on tour to see the penguin march. These penguins are known as the Blue Penguin or Fairy Penguin or Little Penguin. They are the littlest penguins in the world. I wasn’t prepared at all for what I saw. They came out of the sea at dusk, furtively, for they instinctively are avoiding birds of prey. They come in “rafts” together to the beach. They are bringing food they caught to their nests on the land where their young are. They march up in lines to the nests. It was an astonishing site. What was hard though was that about 700 people were right on the nesting grounds on a platform. There were people and penguins everywhere and as darkness fell I felt I was in a strange dream. I couldn’t understand why the penguins were not afraid of people and I couldn’t understand why people were allowed to be here. Penguins were marching all over the sidewalks and up into the parking lot and under the cars. I started to cry. It was the people being so horrible. They are not supposed to take photos because the flash blinds the penguins and they are unable to find their way to their young. People however do not seem to respect that. It was one of those terrible situations demonstrating how poorly we can behave as a species. I am to visit a friend next I met in Vanuatu next who lives in Coffs Harbour. In addition to Sarah, Leone has been a great support. Friends in foreign lands are extra especially wonderful.

November 14, 2011

Australia, Katoomba & Orange

“An immense gulf is unexpectedly seen through the trees… this kind of view was to me quite novel and extremely magnificent.”
The Voyage Of The Beagle 1836
Charles Darwin
The Blue Mountains were named so because they appear blue. A sort of haze hangs over them that refracts the light. Katoomba is on a plateau and a valley falls away from it of enormous scale. A fire burned here a month ago around the many trails in the national park that burned right up to the town side. Another fire was set two weeks ago in a different part of the Blue Mountains, hence it is thought it is arson. Today we walked through the trails and saw immense waterfalls and a man, pictured here, played his didgeridoo.

It is apparent to me that the aboriginal presence and heritage is barely invisible, minimally incorporated into the signage and presentations. It would very much enrich the experience if there was more inclusiveness. I am working on the hopeful theory that this most ancient culture is able to keep its secrets intact and that it could likely survive long into the future. Much in this landscape is sacred to the aboriginal peoples. Pictured here are three rocks called The Three Sisters and the story goes in aboriginal lore that they were transformed into rock and the medicine man who did it died unexpectedly and was unable to transform them back. There seems to be a connection to the Pleiades in the lore but how that is related was not clear to me. This area is a popular tourist destination and historically it was a holiday retreat for the rich and fashionable. There are buildings here that we have been admiring that carry the grandeur of the Victorian era in their architecture.
You may want to know that KD Lang did a knock-your-socks-off permormance in Sydney and got a standing ovation for Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and many other ovations besides. We attended an outdoor sculpture show beside the sea in Bondi, with installation pieces that interplayed with the ocean environment with sculptures represented by an international community that went on for some kilometers. We are now staying with friends of Sarah’s in Orange, which is inland. It is absolutely charming here in an “Out Of Africa” kind of a way. Yesterday we had a picnic. I was enchanted. In addition to their home they have purchased an Anglican Church and they have converted it into a country retreat. The building is made of stone and was built in 1875. It was an adorable and amazing space. Now I want one. The Australians continue to amaze me with how hospitable and kind they are. Sadly my time for parting with Sarah, a great friend, is drawing near.

November 9, 2011

Tasmania, Hobart

As I process my thoughts and experiences during my travels I am moved to say that Tasmania has exceeded all of my expectations mostly because of the people and the purity of the beauty here.

On a personal note I am deeply moved that Sarah would hostess me to this extent. I am also deeply indebted to Madeline who is looking after my affairs by making the trip into Victoria, British Columbia, with my birth certificate in order that a new passport may be issued from the consulate in Sydney, Australia. I am also amazed by how kind people are that I have met here. It has been incredibly healing for me.

 Last night I read this:

“A mujaheddin fighter once told me that fate gives all of us three teachers, three friends, three enemies, and three great loves in our lives. But these twelve are always disguised, and we can never know which one is which until we have loved them, left them, or fought them,” from Shantaram by Gregory Roberts. These words struck me deeply. Characters in our lives can play more than one of these roles in ways that invoke challenge in integral and critical aspects. Upon thinking about this I am always surprised by who ends up where.
Mount Wellington

We are being hosted by friends of Sarah’s in a home with a lovely garden. We have been meeting tons of people. Sarah has performed in an "a cupella" group. We have explored the famous Salamanca Market and also hiked on nearby Mount Wellington. Hobart is lovely I have decided, with a spacious, clear, and open feeling. There is a strong British feel to the city as well as being characterized by a strong component of sweet Victorian homes. I understand now why Sarah has chosen to make a life here. Today we are seeing an unusual and private art gallery, MONA. It is funded by someone who it is said who acquired his money through gambling on horse races. It is his private collection and it is reputed to have a strong theme of sex and violence in the contemporary art genre as well as exhibitions of  antiquities from all over the world.

I have been introduced to Rosellas, very pretty birds, and we have been watching then feeding. We are leaving Tasmania tomorrow and are headed for Katoomba, The Blue Mountains, on the eastern side of mainland Australia.

November 4, 2011

Tasmania, Freycinet National Park

Beautiful blue seas, red rocks, white beaches – we have been doing a lot of walking and hiking in this extraordinary beauty. Sarah has done a lot of camping here and knows the area really well so I have been fortunate to have her here to guide me. I would not have seen so much so comfortably otherwise. The rocks are the kind that seem to have a personality as though a spirit inhabited them.

We met a wallaby and also a spotted skink pictured here. A skink is able to shed his tail if he is caught by it and regenerate a new one. The people here continue to be incredibly kind and warm. We had dinner with a friend of Sarah’s and I felt like I got an intimate view of what life is like on the fringes of the park – perhaps a bit like home where one is subjected to influxes of tourism. I saw the biggest spider I have ever seen in my life come out of the trunk of our vehicle – I kept saying I am not afraid of spiders as it scuttled out of view while I was trying to catch my breath. This area was occupied prehistorically by the aboriginal peoples, the Toorernomairremener, but record of their life has not been documented and little is known of them from the time of contact.

Settlers used the middens as a matrix for making bricks which further destroyed physical records. Whales cruise by here on their way to southern oceans. The south-artic winds blow across Tasmania but on this the eastern shore it is more protected and temperatures tend to be a lot warmer. I am having a difficult time because I have lost my passport which is proving to be quite tricky and I am not sure how this is going to translate into what is trying to unfold for me. It is difficult to be calm. The policeman said his wife lost his, hers and their child’s passport along with 1,000 Euros in a Korean taxi cab and they got them back. I think that was to help cheer me up. Pictured here is a flower called “Pigface.” We are headed now back to Hobart, the main city of Tasmania, where Sarah has deep roots.

November 1, 2011

Tasmania, Sheffield

“A traveller without observation is like a poet without wings.”
Persian Poet

I write to you from the unlikely setting of a French chateau located in a beautiful valley in an area of rolling hills. We are guests of Elizabeth and Gilles, friends of Sarah’s and this is very much a working farm. I have made acquaintance with a number of interesting creatures as well.

Pictured here is no less than the pig used in the movie “Babe”, yes, I travel in high circles. We have been working in the garden, tending a sick goat, as well as visited a national park, a world heritage site, called Cradle Mountain. Cradle Mountain is where we picnicked and hiked around a lake that has an alpine type of setting. I saw my first wombat, a casually strolling kind of furry creature, pictured here. Wombats have no less than square scat which they leave to demarcate their territory on top of logs and rocks.

We also have seen more Echidna and Sarah is teaching me that when they are threatened they curl up in a ball and put down a muscle that makes them impossible to pry loose from the ground, much like a limpet to a rock. Sarah also says that she knows of two reports where the Tasmanian Tiger has been sited although the Tasmanian Tiger is considered extinct. This animal looks like a chesty large dingo with stripes and no mane. I have yet to see a Tasmanian Devil. The devils feed on road kill and are nocturnal. There are pockets of them in certain areas that are still not affected by the disease that is killing them. Sarah has worked with the devils in a conservation site and really likes them. Here where we are staying there are kookeburras and when they get going in unison they sound like laughing hyenas. We are getting ready to leave these good people who have been wonderful hosts. Next we travel to a very beautiful national park called Freycinet Park to the east.

October 25, 2011

Australia, Byron Bay

After carefully perusing the news about all the people being eaten by sharks in Perth, I made my way to the ocean. It was a sweet pathway I was walking but something noiseless caught my attention. I turned and there was a snake that had just crossed my path behind me. Not prone to hysteria when it comes to this type of thing I calmly surveyed it. My eye travelled the length and I said to myself, 7 maybe 8 feet. I told myself to take in the markings. A constrictor I said. Maybe I will just be moving right along, time to go, no time to stop for tea, and I slowly backed away thinking, my goodness. In the wattle I could hear brushing noises and my heart wildy leaped and settled again as I determined it was a turkey type creature looking for bugs. The path opened and the grand vista of the ocean appeared before me. The base of a creek formed a lagoon there and I thought I could maybe put my feet in a foot of water without worrying about great whites. As I sat and watched the ocean, it became clear to me there were whales breaching out there. I have read that this is where humpacks come but the whales looked to me like Killer Whales because I could see black and white markings. That magic of seeing them uplifted me. They seemed to be having such fun.

The beach is amazing, it goes on and on, much longer than anything we have on the west coast. In fact I have decided Byron Bay is like Ganges grown about 15 times and the surrounding beaches like a tropical Long Beach that is also 15 times but clearer, whiter, bluer, softer and emptier. The town is teeming with people, not the laid back place I envisioned at all.
This area was first discovered by Captain Cook and he named the bay after Lord Byron's grandfather. It became a place where whales were slaughtered up until 1960 or so when it was made illegal. Now the whale population has returned after almost dying out. There is a huge alternative community here to the point where I feel I have gone back in time. There seems to be a predominantly younger population, all healthy and beautiful. The energy here is quite wonderful. I am glad I came.

I am readying now to travel to Tasmania. I am joining Sarah there. Sarah and I turned 17 together when we worked with the Anglican Church in the Yukon, travelling from town to town. Our birthdays are on the same day. We have been good friends ever since. Sarah was extremely important to me this spring when she stayed with me on Salt Spring. She tells me she has a lot for me to do there to help her. I will be so glad to see her. I am also hugely curious about Tasmania. I will write to you again from there.

October 24, 2011

Australia, Travelling Up The East Coast

I have seen wattle. It was clearly signed. I could say the echidnas were in the wattle or better, after I ate the pavlova I saw the echidna waddling through the wattle. The man on the ferry said, “Please dispose of your rubbish thoughtfully.” She thoughtfully disposed of her rubbish after eating pavlova then waddled with the echidna in the wattle by the billabong into the dreamtime never to be heard or seen from again. Okay. I’m fooling with you. Here for yes, they say “Hmmm”. Or they say “Yeeaah”. Depending on where you are from one replacing the “e” with “i” to really draw it out. I had an egg and cos sandwich (egg and romaine). A bathing suit is a costume, luggage is a case, dinner is tea, alley is laneway, really chill is really relaxed, and guy is bloke. Good morning just won’t do. I get looked at strangely. It has to be g’day. As one comes up the coast “How are you going?” gets shortened to the colloquial “How ya go?” Dame Edna isn’t kidding. The bus driver calls me darling, the lady in the shop calls me darling. Seeing myself with a different “overculture” is why I travel. Not in one’s own world but not in the other, one can step back and look at things with new moisture and richness, creativity germinates to life, events reveal themselves in new light. Someone who I thought knew me well spoke of the “invisible woman” and said that she “saw” me. I just stared at her. She is the same age as me and I am very much in front of her. Why are we even having this conversation? There is a change, though. I can sit and feel peace and not be marauded by men.

When I was younger I was never left alone to the point where it was often uncomfortable, the attention unwanted, travelling through North Africa and around the Mediterranean (oh Sicily!) fraught with harassment. However I am so visible I am etched - that is visible to myself, which is what it is all about. My own interior landscape is reflected to me as I survey brick house after brick house go by, winding rivers, a surprisingly pastoral geography and the startling image of cows grazing under palm trees, I feel a kind of quiet happiness. It is good to be here.

October 20, 2011

Australia, Sydney

It is a beautiful city. I come from Vancouver and I am using that as a reference point when I say this. I concede. Yes, Vancouver, perhaps may still have an edge with the snow-capped north shore but this city is truly stunning and I don’t often like cities. Harbours glisten with sailboats, charming architecture that is reminiscent of old glory, and streets that are often paved with brick, well-marked, well signed, (Vancouver cannot claim this) and when one stands at the curb it has painted on it “look right” which is an extremely helpful reminder for me as everything is opposite here in terms of traffic direction. What also strikes me is that the city is teeming with younger people in business; it seems healthy and thriving economically with a compassionate socialist network. It is a pleasure to be here – Australia has forged economic ties with China and their natural resources are a huge factor. There seems to be a strong sense of family, lots of school children, often in really smart looking uniforms. They are big on suits, women as well as men. I was warned about the costs of things and still I find myself gasping. It is two, three, and four times what one would pay at home. Endings and beginnings are difficult, and as this was a new beginning, I found I was deeply moved by the ties I had formed with the Australians I had met and was sad by our parting. I also felt comfortable embracing the city given how friendly I knew they all could be. That said, next I had one of the worst nights of my life in a cheap dorm, it was impossible to sleep, and strange things happened. I moved on. Last night I had a room to myself and slept like a baby – worth every expensive penny. I have seen the museum, art gallery, botanical gardens, the zoo. I have explored the creatures that abound here at present and historically and there are a lot of rat-like looking things that just aren’t all that cuddly. The museum had a good cultural display of the indigenous peoples and I really took my time to hear the stories and study the tools and art. I am surprised there isn’t more interface with the culture that is endemic and the culture that was introduced, it is an impression I have. I loved the zoo. It makes an amazing impression as it overlooks the harbour and one may view giraffes for example with a stunning ocean backdrop.

They have gondolas that can be ridden up the vertical face the zoo is positioned on. I saw a Sun Bear for the first time, a creature that looked like a dish mop with a long cute snout that ate ants called an echidna – similar to the porcupine family, kangaroos, markeets, Himalayan goats, a beautiful big aging Kodiak Bear that must be dying of the heat here eating bok choy and celery – she made my heart leap out of my chest, a snow leopard that seemed very intelligent. On the whole the zoo appeared to be well tended and well kept. Everywhere here there are exotic birds, by that I mean parrots and other types that are colourfully marked. The botanical gardens were really an amazing place, exotic, beautiful, very old with huge plants and trees, some of which are completely strange but all looking well kept. It is a greatly inviting place and I found myself entranced by it. In my walk through I saw enormous bats hanging from the trees as bats are wont to do, the Aussies call them Flying Foxes. I made a wish at the wishing tree and admired enormous cacti and ancient tree species with coniferous looking leaves.

Everywhere one goes though, the reference point of the Sydney Opera House is evident, it really is a stunning piece of architecture, just perfect where it is and the landscape would be almost wrong without it. The structure is reminiscent of sails, a``showcase of innovative design and engineering.`` Last night there were people all dressed up spilling out of it having wine along the ocean wall waiting for the performance and I was almost hit by the wall of sound that was the conversation of hundreds of people at the side of the ocean. It was wonderful. Tonight I am going there to see a performance and I am really looking forward to it. Then I will travel 13 hours up the east coast to a place called Byron Bay.

October 15, 2011

Fiji, Savu Savu & Dravuni Island

The firewalkers were really amazing. I was glad to have seen them. They did walked the stones with a priest overseeing them and wore grass skirts made of hibiscus. Traditionally one has to be chosen to be a firewalker - one is not supposed to eat coconut before walking the fire, or be with a woman. There were a lot of yips and howls as they prepared for the walk. Legend has it that the ability to do this was given by a sea god. Later we watched dancing and a kind of a Fijian play. They did a good job of it.

I have to say that the people seem so welcoming and kind. It really surprises me. You know it is hot when the Fijians themselves are complaining and the perspiration is dripping off of them. I can barely manage. It is summer here. Rain just seems to increase the humidity. Don`t ask me how that works.

Yesterday we were at Dravuni Island which I think is part of the Tonga Islands or very close to it. It was lovely to be on land and rest on a beach. I was not feeling very well so I just let myself relax into the tropical paradise without trying to keep up with my overly busy mind which apparently is what my body was asking of me. The people seem to be getting physically larger, darker, and curly haired as we travel south, and again I am struck by the cooperation of how they work with one another and the friendliness. It`s humbling.

I was asked if I wanted a Fijian husband, I was sorry to tell the man that I probably didn`t, nice as he seemed – I am wearing a ring now on my fourth finger – I don`t have the strength, maybe because I am not feeling well. Women here have to stay seated on the ground or always be lower than the man, especially the chief. I don’t think this opportunity is me, really. Tomorrow we will be in Noumea, New Caledonia, which is French. The Australians are quite fussed about it as they don’t learn French in school and the New Caledonians will not speak English. I am very grateful to have been able to experience all of this. Soon this part of my trip will be over and the next leg of my journey will begin. Australia.

October 10, 2011

Fiji, Port Denerau

We have travlled a couple of days to Fiji consists of an astonishing 333 islands, with many dialects, one in common being the business language and what is taught in schools. Bulla means hello, and everywhere people said this to us and waved, not a lot of people speaking English.
We were entreated today to more tales of cannibalism, Fiji being known as the cannibal isles. Explorers avoided Fiji because of this. It is a more diverse country, ``the crossroads of the Pacific``; the Melanesians (Africa origin), Micronesians (Marshall Islands) and Polynesians (Hawaiian). Many people from India were brought here for the sugar cane work - this was instituted by the British. The religions are Hindu, Muslim, and the more fundamentalist Christian sects. It was a Hindu holiday today, something to do with a festival of lights, it being a new year, not really sure. A red flag means the home is Hindu. If one wears a flower here behind the left ear it means one is available for a husband and the right ear means one is married. ``Left is for looking, right is for cooking.``

I signed on for a tour that was a kava ceremony and that was really quite lovely – I didn`t have any kava but the singing and dancing seemed friendly and gentle and I was asked to dance twice with the male dancers – which I readily did. I didn`t want to say no in case they decided to have me for dinner.
We also visited an orchid garden that belonged to Raymond Burr, I didn`t know Raymond had an orchid garden. I understand now why my orchids at my home go into some kind of inert stasis. They need a lot of heat and moisture in the air, not necessarily much light. I am doing poorly in this heat. Not an orchid, apparently, am I. I don’t think I will be moving here. Tomorrow I am seeing firewalkers.


We arrived in Vanuatu, which is a country liberated from a joint ownership between France and England. This area was formerly known as New Hebrides and before that this was known as the Sandwich Islands, I believe so named by Captain Cook. Vanuatu is an archipelago of 83 islands in the Coral Sea with over 100 dialects, populated by a quarter of a million peoples. These islands are volcanic in origin (whereas New Caledonia was a makatea, a coral atoll) and the volcanoes here are active. There is a lot of earthquake activity in this area. The language is varied but one that is spoken is a kind of pigeon English which looked nonsensical when written but as I studied it the words and meaning revealed themselves to me. It is very humid in this country, the humidity at this time is 85%, something which my celtic blood literally wilts in. Trying not to keel over, I visited a gallery, museum, the city of Vanu and on a tour also, visited a cultural village and was introduced to the people and chief who live here close to traditional ways. Cannibalism was known to the north as recently as 25 years ago. It makes you wonder what doesn’t make the tourist news. If one marries one’s front teeth are knocked out to indicate marital status. It is a patriarchal culture, the wife must leave her family and live with her in-laws. Wealth is transferred to the son. It was also mentioned that the first born, being a girl, would often be killed because of this. The number of feathers in the headdress indicates how many pigs owned and therefore a lot of feathers indicate great wealth. We were shown a means of fishing with using a spider`s web to create the fish net and we were shown the spider that was used for this. It was enormous, the size of my hand, very graceful, with globules in the leg joints that refracted light. We were show marae, gardens in the forest where these 500 people live and gather, the sky canopied by jungle, orchids flowering, the sound of cicadas a deafening whir.

I was intrigued by the spirit poles, they looked so much like space beings, and not particularly the kind I should like to run into. They eat a land crustacean, that is blue in color which one traps by leaving coconut on the ground.

We were told that burials were vertical with the head above ground, as it is believed that if the head is underground that the soul will be trapped. We were told that the brains are believed to be the residence of the soul, the guide used the word heart so let’s say both, and verily brains are considered a delicacy. These people are deadly serious. This isn’t a joke. I think I might be more at home on the islands further to the north. :)
On a less sobering note I was further intrigued by a gallery of “found” art, the artist being European French, who worked much in the fashion of Picasso. It was a visual feast and one I wasn’t able to spend enough time in.
The Chinese have made business overtures and built the parliament buildings as a “gift” in thanks for the trade, a fact that the tourist guide spoke proudly of which I should think isn’t all that settling. Tourism is half the business here as well.
The tour guide (who did not have front teeth, by the way) read my palm and guess what? It is all coming up roses with me. She said I have an interesting life (I do) and there will be a miracle at the end of it. She said more but I will leave you with that as I have to chase down a cappuccino as my next order of the day.

I hope I can get some photos mounted to this page, it really is impressive the cultural exposure I have been blessed to experience and my words I fear, fall far short.

October 7, 2011

New Caledonia, Papaya Trees & Blue Lagoons

Well it’s tropical all of a sudden. Coconuts, palm trees, searing temperatures, beet red face, that sort of thing. Still I was the only one in the pool this morning. I’m Canadian, after all. To me the water is warmer than the public pool on Salt Spring. Not to the Aussies. I am the only Canadian on board that I know so far. Today we were in New Caledonia, the largest of the Loyalty Islands and this is Micronesia. I vaguely remember taking an archaeology course about Micronesia. Can’t really remember much about it really. New Caledonia is a French territory. I did well being from Canada. I can speak French. I met the nicest people. Honestly, so incredibly kind. They worked cooperatively with each other to show me a lot of amazing trees, a grotto, blue crabs, how to hunt.

I danced with them. They were just so warm hearted. The women wore missionary dresses in bright colours with headdresses made of what looked like chicken feathers. The boys did dances for us. A lot of them had white paint on their cheeks. The ocean of New Caledonia was well, incredibly warm. Almost bathtub warm. I thought I saw a manta ray. Tomorrow I might be seeing fire walkers, not sure. The internet connection is abysmal and expensive, by the time I load a page from Google it costs me an obscene amount of money. If I get this up it means the connection is better. Vive la France.

Living One's Own Life

G’day mate. How are you going? Good on you. Here drinking “Flat White” and enjoying the denizens of the Land Of Oz. I survived the flight – however on landing we were quarantined on the plane while they sprayed the overhead luggage and we had to sit in the spray for 15 minutes trying not to keel over. A bit difficult, really. Sidney was a surprise. I like the flavour of the Victorian architecture built with pale stone. I saw a large bird with a curved beak walking on the sidewalk.

The Aussies I have met have been full of teasing and fun – a great sense of humour and so very friendly and helpful. Slipping away from Sydney Harbour on this ship embarking for points east I enjoyed the views of the famous Sydney Opera House and the charming harbours dotted with sail boats.

I am voyaging with predominantly Australian passengers – we are headed for New Caledonia, amazingly a French territory, and the rocking of the ship is extremely relaxing and soothing, the weather surprisingly cool. I marvel at the innovation of Steve Jobs and how he lived with the courage of following his intuition and in his own words not “living someone else’s life.”

September 29, 2011

Worried About The Weight Of My Shoes

My shoes seem to be at least half a pound. I have stepped on and off the scales twice to check. I should have bought those pink mesh numbers that were on sale that I noticed on my last trip to town. Too late now. I’m committed to the hefty leather protection these render. One has to have stout walking shoes, after all, this is a walkabout I am undertaking. I stare at my new Birks feeling somewhat calm. Some items packed feel just right. I have unpacked and repacked three times and I am considering a fourth today. I thought I could just do this and be done with it and move onto something more constructive but packing seems to be a pervasive and thoughtful process that takes up an entire room and more days than I care to acknowledge. I have decided this is a bit like ascending K2. Every item is considered for weight, usefulness and compacted where possible with the thought in mind I might have to marry a chiropractor if I wish to get on in life. I have lost weight recently I notice. I must be lightening up. I take this as a good sign.

September 27, 2011

The Beauty Where I Live

I am writing from the harbour of Ganges, the sunlight is reflecting off of the water, the boats are at anchor, and I am eating an exotic breakfast lovingly made, a rainbow is shining over the home where I live, the rain has abated, and the world seems luminescent in the light of a new day. This world we live in is so beautiful. Now I journey. It will be a beauty out-manifesting from the great pallet of creation that is a different form. I go to Sidney, Australia and then I am boarding a ship. The journey will take me to islands that are French and Fijian with exotic names such as Savu Savu, Dravinis Island, Suva, New Caledonia, Vanuatu. Maybe I will see fire walkers, eat exotic fruit, and walk turquoise lagoons, and stare at tattoos of woad that tell stories. Candied pink and yellow colonial architecture will be set amid jungles, and interesting peoples will populate my day. I will not be the same. My life is changing and I am glad of it. I wonder what will come of this and how I will be affected by the paintbrush moving through my soul of new washes and impressions of the beauty of this jewel of a planet where we live.

September 24, 2011


Heliotropism means going towards the sun. It was first noted by Leonardo Da Vinci as sunflowers were observed moving their giant heads of yellow petals in circular motion as they follow the sun’s passage through the sky. As the season turns I find myself getting flashes of the south, a land I have often wondered about and where I will soon be. To accomplish this I am already discovering sundry knowledge that my daughters are well versed in - such as seeing a doctor for shots for the journey are not covered by Medicare, neither the visit, nor the vaccines. When did that happen? It used to be! I am now apprised on the habits of the mosquito that give yellow fever and am armed with a prescription should I ever have to repeat what I went through in Cairo all those years ago, an indelibly etched experience of clutching an Egyptian bidet praying mightily that I might meet my maker and be put out of my misery, the sooner the better. I have also solved the problem of excess weight, being a bibliophile. After seriously worrying at the bit, I bought a Kindle. I am absolutely amazed to discover I love the thing, a surprising turn. It is small and light yet has on it 15 or more books. It isn’t as fancy as an Ipad but it is actually smaller and weighs less, I can cart it easily in my purse and I find that I love how it handles and feels in my hand. Horizons are being expanded, my soul warmed by the fires of the south at this distance, and there are people to meet, places to go, magic to feel, experiences to be integrated, wisdom to be deepened. It is good to be feeling hope deepen.

September 21, 2011


I love my home. Don't get me wrong. I am starting though to feel a little feint. Suddenly my own bed seems remarkably cosy and I find myself clinging to familiarities, like a barnacle. Someone asked me recently why I was doing this. It seemed suddenly like an incredibly personal question and while I answered from my truth, I felt my insides turn to jello. I seem to remember that I love to travel and I seem to remember I have always been curious about the part of the world to which I am going. I am noticing that my preparations for departure are akin to that of a zen master, it requires great focus and concentration. I realize I cannot get bogged down by the reactions of others, plans have been made, tickets bought, and now I must shoot out of the womb-like quiver of my beloved home and straight as an arrow make my mark. There is a an interior soul reconstruction that is formulating, a moving geographic meditation, as I respond to my soul that has coaxed and called me to this. As Wayne Dyer says, in a hundred years, none of us will be here, a startling but obvious thought, and one that renders perspective. Each day is a present and I go to open my presents with presence.

September 12, 2011

Honouring My Soul's Call For Movement

I am preparing to travel "down under". (What do they say when they come here? Do you think they say "up above"? Maybe not. I will try to get back to you on this.) Not only has a major earthquake just occurred where I live, a major earthquake has occurred where I am going. As if in response, my bones seems to be reverberating to all this movement and today I am booked in with a chiropractor. Are my bones responding to the earth and also to my inner call to travel? And what will be the outcome of all this movement? Sometimes it is best to be still and sometimes it is best to move. I am wondering at the timing of this but I deeply trust what is coming from within and am going with the flow, trusting all is well no matter what the crackling changes are within the bones of the earth and within the bones that contain my soul. I am grateful to be living at a time where being attuned to such new experiences are possible.

August 4, 2011

Rocky Mountain High

Sometimes one gets a lot done by taking a break, changing scene and hitting the road. In the process of taking space a lot of inner knots magically unravel, issues simplify, solutions present themselves. I took my space in the jagged peaks of Alberta, heard wonderful music, visited with family and friends and generally felt renewed. The sense of expansiveness that province enjoys is so very different from where I am from and it was like an opening up and letting in of the beauty, majesty and rapture that is that stunning and inspiring geography. Here, I have returned home to majestic trees that soar upwards, unique to the west, and a different kind of space the ocean provides, one with an edge that also shifts and clears the psyche. Sometimes in doing very little a great deal is accomplished.

July 28, 2011

Why Blog?

Why blog? I have been asking myself this question. It was recently suggested to me by someone I deeply respect and who cares about my inner creative progress, that I blog. For one, it runs in the family, really. My mother had her own radio show in the Maritimes that was successful and was continuously getting herself into print with varying submissions over the years, a propensity I admire about her. My daughter is a blogger and a very good one at that. I am aware, after a bit of a struggle that it is important in many ways. For one, while I have published two books, I still do not feel as though I have hit my stride in terms of writing and this is a good way to loosen up, find my voice, much as the artist sketches before the preliminary canvas. I have written for the web, ghost written for others, and too often rescued butchered text that was part of my business to bring to redemption. This however, is sole voce, albeit sotto voce and a prelude, a search, a means if you will for finding my stride and searching for an inner beat that is a creative loosening up. Perhaps it is interesting to you dear reader, or perhaps not, I will leave it to you to decide. If there is more to this question I have not yet come upon it.

Nurturing Body & Spirit

Whilst contemplating such profound thoughts such as, I am not my brother’s keeper and varying permutations of I am the captain of my soul and the master of my destiny, with a little hum, as it were - one has to, in the meanwhile, nurture oneself. I have seized the peace of the day and brought out my pasta machine which has not seen the sunlight in years. This meant, of course, handmade ravioli. One hour later I had managed to produce a presentable ricotta-filled ravioli with an olive and tomato sauce which was delicious but not before muttering rabidly that surely one gets better at this and in Italia what exactly is the methodology? Suddenly, as if the fates were, in a rare moment, granting my every wish, I saw an Italian cook make ravioli on television with the identical machine I had. She just whipped the pasta through the machine but not before I picked up valuable tips with flour, tea towels, widths, and what not. Tutti a tavola a mangare! If the spirit is flagging there is always handmade ravioli. Maybe not quite ready for the next book but definitely uplifting, especially when shared.

Loving One's Spirit

My cheque came with the deducted sum. Whilst deciding to blog or not to blog, to not get blogged down - I decided that changing patterns is starting to become pervasive with me. I just had the good fortune to hear a motivational speaker and published author, a man who works with angelic energy, discuss a period in his life when he realized that he was attracting a lot of negative people and associated behaviours into his life even although he was working very busily trying to please them. He decided that he had to do some inner work, change how he was relating to himself and externally and along with that he came to the conclusion that he literally had to release these situations as he worked with and raised his frequency. This meant eliminating anything that lacked integrity and was not respectful or appreciative. He said that as he went through this process about thirty people left his life and never subsequently re-entered. I recently found these words:

"The things of this life that we don't appreciate will disappear. The things for which we have no gratitude will become invisible to us, and can provide us with nothing of value." Peggy Rometo

I have a strong response to this. I am reminded of a fairy tale that was in a book that came from my father to me when I was a child. It was a story where angels came to test humans to see if their hearts were true. When the humans did not show kindness, were consumed with self importance, and were dishonest, the moral of the tale is that blessings left and so did the angels. Like this speaker I am feeling that radical change on many levels is on order for my life. It goes beyond shopping patterns. This feels like honouring and loving my spirit. Sometimes change that is all a part of the walk along the red road comes in this manner. In doing so I honour my soul's calling for movement.

July 21, 2011

And How Is This Profitable For Business?

Okay. So I phoned them and after some deliberation and security checks my money is finally being returned to me but not after deducting $3.35. This is the “handling fee”. Yup. Great. This is all new. I have never experienced this before. You got your fee from me folks and that is deducted but a) I won’t purchase like this again b) I took up time with your employee to retrieve my money which cost you c) the paper work now to send me the money and issue the cheque is involving how many people? and at what cost? Yeah, so really this fee is more costly to enact and more inefficient in terms of the business which is now permanently minus one disgruntled shopper. I would cancel my card except that I am held hostage rurally and if I need a new appliance this is the way to go. However I will be exploring options with that as well.

July 19, 2011

Altering My Purchasing Pattern

This week I discovered the reason for a puzzle I was having with a credit card I owned where a catalogue company was charging me for overpaying their bill. I kept overpaying so that they would stop sending me bills saying I owed them when it was, I have lately discovered, their policy to charge for the "inconvenience" of this. Charging me for having a credit? This is legal? Today I returned an item on the same credit card. I was only given a credit by the retail outlet. I began to worry that this company would penalize me for this too and I decided I wanted my money back. I phoned them and they told me that the credit was not showing up on their screens and to try again in 5 days. I will. I have decided I am not buying from this famous chain any more. I am altering my purchasing pattern. I have cancelled all my catalogues. I am sure there must be many shoppers out there coming to the same conclusion. It more than a matter of principle. Do I not want transactions that are straight forward without delays and hidden charges?