Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The belated closing bracket

planting my feet firmly back into the Indian Ocean, at Fremantle :)

It's been over 2 weeks since the wheels of my plane touched down on Perth tarmac, and time has flown by since then.

At first fitting back in and feeling comfortable in Perth was a bit of A Thing, but now I feel very much at home. It's so nice to just be close to people, and be able to hop in the car and see someone I care about within 30 minutes.

I've started my final semester of uni, and I'm am seriously loving it. Experiencing a different kind of course in London definitely put some things in perspective and I'm more than ready to tackle my upcoming projects. I'm excited! I love my course. I'm aiming to get nothing less than a distinction for every unit. I feel more confident in myself now, and I think there's a little part of me that can achieve that (the marks, that is).

In many ways, I feel like nothing has changed since I left, and it's almost as if I never left at all. I got my old job back at the Chinese restaurant near my house. I made sure I'm not working Friday nights though, because I need those to go out and socialise/get my art on. I also purchased a hula-hoop, to keep with my goal of taking up the hobby on my return to Perth. I just really don't want my life to become stagnant. While I was in London/travelling, I always felt a sense of satisfaction because I was achieving a goal simply by being there/doing it. I think travelling also allowed me to feel that way because I was seeing new things everyday, going to new places. I could quantify my experiences by mentally keeping track of where I'd been and who I'd met. I love to feel like I'm making progress in any aspect of my life, and now that I'm back in one place for the forseeable future, I need to reevaluate how I measure something like that. Either way, I've really started feeling like I'm genuinely happy to be back in Perth. It's a beautiful place to live.

I'm really glad I kept this blog. I haven't gone back to look through all my old posts yet, but I'm sure that's coming. In some ways, London feels like a bit of a dream, slightly hard to recall. For those of you who have read and commented on my blogs consistantly - thankyou. It was always nice to feel like people cared about what I was up to.

Best of luck for all of your onward journeys, whatever they may be.


Thursday, 28 June 2012

Walking on the shady side of the street

I am loving Rome. It's hot and full of tourists, but that's ok because it's beautiful and there's lots to things to explore. I've located the few places in Rome that sell vegan gelato and have been eating it daily, but alternating between the stores so the staff don't get suspicious. Spaghetti pomodoro and pizza marina are also featuring pretty heavily in my diet at the moment.

I went to The Vatican yesterday, and even though I'm happy I went, I'm also happy to say that that is one country I will never be visiting again, haha. The crowds were just horrendous.
This is in the hallway leading up to the Sistine Chapel. Photography is forbidden inside the Sistine Chapel because a Japanese company (Nikon, I think?) cleaned it a few years ago and now have the copyright on it.

This is me, in St. Peters Square. Just finished the 3 hour tour and was in the process of getting as far away from any person/crowd as I could manage. Behind me is St. Peters Basilica, which was beautiful to be inside and look at, but as I said I was a little sick of all the crowds at that point, so I barely spent more than 5 minutes in there.

Tonight is my last night in Europe and tomorrow I will be getting on a plane to Singapore. I am MOST EXCITED about this. I would like to go out and be all crazy tonight, but to be honest I just don't see it happening. I might just stuff myself with enough pasta to hold me off until the next time I come to Italy and call it a night.

So I get back to Perth in... 9 days now (!!!) and I'm so excited to see my friends and family. I'm also interested to see how things have changed, and, in that, ever-so-slightly worried about how I will cope with these changes as I encounter them. I'm expecting to see changes within my friends group (which is something I cannot control, so no point in worrying), as well as in my personal relationships with certain individuals (which is something that I can control... or really, I can control my part within said relationship). Um, so yeah, there's that.

I'm hoping to put up another post or two before finishing up this blog, but still, the end is fast approaching. I like blogging, I'm really glad I chronicled my exchange/travel adventures. It'll be interesting to look back on once I'm done.


Monday, 25 June 2012

Things to do when I get back to Perth/Goals for the next 6-12 months

I'm in Rome at the moment. Here's a list of things:

-Take up hula hooping.
-Take up yoga.
-Get more involved in Perth art scene (Friday night openings, voluntering/internships/entering competitions)
-Do final semester of uni. Do it really, really well.
-Get tattooed.
-Get accepted into honours (my grades are good enough, so hopefully I do).
-Move out of home (time frame: by the end of the year).
-Work over the summer, possibly phonebook delivery (I did that last summer, it pays really well) as well as gallery work.
-Travel US and Canada June/July 2013.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Revelling in wunderlust

Oh man, getting myself to sit down and write this update has been hard. My laptop has had some problems (not turning on, keyboard not working, fun stuff), so that was hindering me at first... and now, now it's just me. I'm being the hinderance. I just don't know what to talk about. Expect lots of rambling.

I'm in Munich, which is my half-way point, both time-wise and geographically. Prague was amazing, I get warm-fuzzies just thinking about the good times I had there. I miss it already, haha. Vienna was beautiful - ornate, austure buildings and clean/orderly streets (a noticable difference to Berlin). After the craziness of Berlin and Prague I told myself I'd give myself (or really, my liver) some down time, so in terms of socialising Vienna was unremarkable. Vienna was like this: art, art, food, sleep, art all over again. Satisfying.

I've found that what has been standing out for me on this trip to far has been the experiences I've been having with the people I meet, rather than being awed or challenged by my surrounds. I've met some really cool people (Canadians, US-ians, Germans, Irish, etc) and it's those experiences and interactions that make me most happy, and are most fulfulling. Again, satisfying.

Yesterday a small bird fell out of the sky (it hit the pavement with a soft smack) just behind me and a friend from my hostel. It was in shock, so we just held it for a little while (it was in the road, we couldn't leave it), and then it flew away when it was ready.

A few days ago I met up with some people from CouchSurfing and visited some art galleries. Great art, great people. I might never see them again in my life, but that doesn't matter.

Last week I went to a Czech beer festival, had a few steins of beer and then went on the bumper cars with a friend. This one is a warm fuzzy memory.

This is Munich:

And... this is me awkwardly, and abruptly, finishing this post.
Thanks for reading :)

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Broken German

Broken German: what is spoken when Cathryn attempts to speak German.

I'm now in Prague, after a fantastically busy (or do I mean fantastic and busy?) week in Berlin. I found Berlin to be very gritty - posters caked onto the walls, different types of people, lots of colourful buildings. Some cities have big skylines and tall buildings, but Berlin is very eye-level, with lots of graffiti, as well as lots of cool bars, and public spaces. I think I came at a good time - spring - as lots of Berliners seemed to be out and about, enjoying the weather, which added to the 'happening' kind of vibe I was feeling.

 Bubbles in the Tiergarten
Graffiti, south of Kreuzberg.

 East Side Gallery on what remains of the Berlin Wall, Frierichshain.

Whilst enjoying the city, I was also hit with surprising bout of homesickness. I was surprised by it because I see this 7 week backpacking trip as the separate ‘last leg’ of my 6 months away. I thought it’d be easy: I’m on my way home, I’m travelling and going to places I’ve always wanted to go to. I figured I'd be too busy/occupied to be homesick. But, obviously, that was not the case. I found (and sometimes still find) myself daydreaming about coming home; what it’ll be like arriving at the airport, spending time with my boyfriend and friends, going to parties, having conversations with people at home, etc. I’ve had this all along, but, particularly late last week, it was really, really strong. I'd be walking along the street and not taking anything in because I'd be daydreaming. Probably because I’m so close to coming home. Like, when you need to pee really bad and then after waiting for ages the urge to pee is most intense just as you’re locking the toilet door. Anyone else get that? Anyway, to be honest, catching myself daydreaming about this (the arriving home bit, not the peeing) really bummed me out. I didn’t want to not be present, and then get home later and realise I’d wasted my whole time in Europe wishing I was home.

I think I was also a bit flat while in Berlin because I felt like I wasn’t experiencing all that I could. My days consisted of going to art galleries, museums and tourist spots, and then my nights mainly consisted of going out drinking with some cool Canadians I met in my hostel. I mean, none of those things are bad, they’re really good – but I thought, ‘isn’t this what every tourist in Berlin does?’ I was feeling dissatisfied – with myself. I’d come to this fantastic city, and all I was doing was letting myself feel down, and like I wasn’t making the most of it.
Two things helped changed this. 1) Skyping a loved one at home. Seeing a friendly, loving, beautiful face really helped reaffirm a few things for me. 2) Couchsurfing! I couchsurfed on my last weekend in Berlin, and I got to do and experience a lot of things I wouldn’t have otherwise.
Verena (my couchsurfing host) and I rode bikes to Tempelhof, which is an abandoned airport. It's pretty much just a huge park now - so many people were out, tending to little garden plots, skating, flying kites, kite-boardings, playing Frisbee, flying miniature toy planes. It was so cool to ride down the length of the runway too :)
 Then we rode to the Karneval der Kulturen. Saturday was the market/fair day, with lots and lots of stalls selling clothes, accessories, food and cocktails. I even found an Australian stall, which was selling (amongst other things) 6EURO jars of Vegemite. There was also a lot of performance/music stuff happening as well.
 On Sunday there was a parade, with lots of music and dancing.
The photo above is of the Electro Swing Berlin float - it looks like a stage in the photo, but it was actually a big truck moving along the parade route, playing awesome music! The crowd followed behind, dancing to the music. I joined in :) It was such a friendly, fun atomosphere.

I also met some really cool people at a vegan dinner I went to later on Sunday. I think it was at that point that I felt satisfied - I wasn't just scratching the surface of Berlin, I was actually meeting people who lived there, and having experiences I wouldn't have had otherwise. I think that's what's important to me when I travel - I like to feel I'm doing the kind of things I would never and could never do in Perth.

Thanks for reading!
Sending lots of love home.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Traffic marmalade

Ok, so I'm in Berlin and this blog is now officially misnamed. I've just come from Hamburg, having spent 4 wonderful and busy days there.  

I spent my time in Hamburg with Marina, a friend of my mother and aunty’s from many years ago, when they were all travelling through Europe together, just like I am now. I really enjoyed staying with friends, as opposed to staying in a hostel and being a 'tourist'. Marina made me feel so welcome! I'm incedibly grateful to have met her and spent that time in Hamburg. If she's reading - HI MARINA! Haha. I feel it was a good start to Germany, and it also allowed me to learn a practice a little Deutsch before heading to Berlin on my own. 

 Here's Marina and I in her amazing garden! I think I definitely came to Hamburg/Germany at the right time - spring is in full swing, all the flowers are blooming and the sky is (mostly) clear. 

Marina took me sailing! The weather was a little bad in the morning (overcast, light rain), but then in the afternoon the clouds opened up and we got some good wind. We sailed along the Elbe River for most of the afternoon.

Other things:
I’ve packed too much, I need to throw some stuff out. I don’t want to, because the items I’m thinking of throwing out (my winter coat from London, for example) have sentimental value to me. On the other hand, I really want to throw them out, just to force myself to break this ridiculous hold that these objects have on me. They serve no purpose now and are quite literally weighing me down. Also personal possession related: I'm stressing about the boxes of stuff I've sent home to Australia from London because I forgot an important form and now they may be getting sent back to London. I'm sure it'll work out, but I'm also prepared for the worse case senario: I'll just have to get my landlady to resend my stuff and pay for it all over again myself. I hope the customer service rep at the company I'm shipping with shows a little (more) patience. *crosses fingers*. I just wanna sort it out, so then the rest of this trip can be as stress free as possible.

Money-wise I think I need to set myself a budget. I might make some time for myself either tonight or tomorrow morning to sit down with my diary and my bank accounts and work out how much I will be spending/have spent on accommodation/transport, and the work out from there how much more I can spend on this trip. I’m trying to think back to my trip to New Zealand 3 years ago to remind myself how to be frugal, as I did really well on that trip spending-wise. I find food is my main downfall. If I find something that’s vegan and looks delicious, I buy it regardless of price/hunger because I reason that I may never come across it again, or at least elsewhere on my trip. This generally leaves me eating too much food, and with not enough money in my wallet. 

Here's a question: what's the difference between a tourist and traveller? To me, tourist = bad, traveller = good/genuine. I have a few ideas, and perhaps in thinking about this question while being a tourist/traveller myself, I'll find some specific answers. I'll share them in a later blog post :)

Until next time...
Cathryn :) 

Ps. Just realise the title for this post needs explaining. My first morning in Hamburg, we were all sitting around the dining table having breakfast, and I was explaining to Marina how jam and marmalade are different things in Australia. Someone - I can't remember who, but it was either Marina or her husband - then made the observation that since jam and marmalade are different, you could not use the term 'traffic marmalade' in place of 'traffic jam' and have it mean the same thing.  I thought it was very funny at the time, and it's amusing in that it's the kind of joke that would only come up between people who speak different languages. :)

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The only taste I know is bittersweet

Well, here we are. I'm sitting in my room, it's totally messy and I really should be packing... but instead I'm blogging. Tomorrow I leave London for good. I've know this day would come since I first got here, and now it's finally arrived. I wasn't entirely sure what to blog about for today, but I knew I wanted to at least write one - to mark the occasion, so to speak.

I'm a very sentimental person. Over the past two days (and even over the past 2 weeks), I've been counting down, taking note of the things and people I won't see again, the things I won't do again.

I'm sad to be leaving - I feel a sense of loss, of knowing I will no longer be near a place that I like to much, and doing things that I find so exciting. But, on the flip-side (and this is something I have been unwilling to admit to myself for a while) I'm also happy to be beginning my journey home. I'm going home! As much as I loved being here, and fulfilling my dream of living abroad, there was always a sense of distance, and of lonliness. I have some regrets after my time here, and I'd like to list them:

Not making friends
This is a big one, and an obvious one. It kind of snuck up on me... I keep hoping friendships would happen, and then when they didn't I clumsily tried to make them happen myself (in hindsight, I see that I was a little too heavyhanded/desperate, but at the time I felt I was being earnest and open). However, I also learnt that long friendships are not necessarily the most important. Irony is sometimes the best teacher. I formed significant, temporary friend/relationships with people who I wasn't expecting to form them with (such as my landlady, my counsellor, etc). I look forward to meeting lots of interesting characters in my travels through Europe, and allowing myself to be open to these fleeting friendships.

Occaisonally being too complacent
Sometimes I felt like I spent too much time on the internet, not taking advantage of being in this city. But, I'm aware that I have done quite a lot in the past 4 months, so it's a matter of acknowledging good times along with the lazy times. And it's ok to have both.

I'm a firm believer in learning from ones mistakes, so I know that in time these regrets will be lessons learned (and to be honest they mostly already have). So, having a few regrets is small change to what this whole experience has been to me in the long run. I say, with only the faintest shadow of a doubt*, that this has been the best 4 months of my life (and in my head I'm expecting to say 'best 6 months of my life' once I'm home). I say this, not because it's been a flawless few months, but quite the opposite: it's been a coalescence of painful, difficult times and positive new experiences. I've learnt and relearnt some difficult lessons, moved to another country (and thus, acheived a life-long dream), experienced loss in some of the deepest ways and all the while been reminded of the beautiful adventure that life is. Here are a few high lights of my time here in London (big and small):


So, snow was a first for me. I can still remember how quiet it was that morning. I've since learned that that silence is because Londoners don't know how to open their front doors when it's snows.

I don't have a photo to illustrate my counselling sessions, because... y'know... taking a photo of my counsellor and I never really seemed appropriate, haha. I started counselling sessions here in Febuary, mainly because it seemed like a now or never kind of thing. I could go to counselling when I get back to Australia in 6 months... or I could start tackling my issues now. I chose the latter, and it has been immensely beneficial.

Travelling (with Ella, sometimes)
I'll always be really grateful that Ella was in Europe around the same time as me. This photo was taken in early January, as I was about to board my bus back to London from Amsterdam. I was starting my exchange in London, and she'd just finished hers in Amsterdam. I remember feeling like it was really poignant, with both of us starting our different adventures. Since then we've travelled together a lot, so my 'highlight' here is twofold: having a friend/good coincidences, and being able to travel to lots of cool places with relative ease. I love how central London is!

Museums and art galleries
 The Natural History Museum was probably one of my favourite museums. I also tried to go to a new gallery or event every week. London is such a busy city - I could go to an event every night of the week and still be missing out. When I get back to Perth I plan on going to many more exhibition openings and private views, because they're something I really enjoy here. I never went to a lot in Perth before I left because they're almost always in a Friday night and I usually worked Friday nights. So when I get back, depending on how/where I'm employed, I'll make sure I have Friday nights off.

Next time I post I will probably be in Germany. I really want to update as much as possibly during my travels, because I like keep this as a log of my activities. However, backpacking can be a fickle business, so I'm acknowledging now that any plans I have for regular blogging may fall through.

Much love to those reading,

*I say 'faintest shadow of a doubt' because it feels like a big call to make. Also, if I say it's the best 6 months of my life, then the rest is all downhill from here, right? Let's say: best 4 months of my life so far, in progress :)