- They are made of chocolate.
- They seem to follow me around.
- It makes me happy to just know that they exist.
If I am with others, I want to be alone.
If I am alone, I want to be with others.
If I am without work, I want work.
If I am with work, I want no work.
If I am hungry, I’d rather be full. And if full, hungry.
A man once held my head in his hand and said –
Suffering is the human condition.
You are insane.
And such all I can do is follow the voice that speaks to me in the quiet of the night,
The one who gets excited, and won’t let me sleep,
The one who reminds me,
That I am nowhere else but here.
And more than that,
The one that wants nothing else,
But to be here.
At least you will be happy, I think.
My three-reasons-to-love San Francisco (at this time of year)
- They speak funny here.
- The Redwoods. Merin. Reyes Point. And how it is impossible to buy non-organic.
- You can be 2m from the edge of the road, about to jay walk, and cars will STILL stop for you.
So I have this thing.
It’s called the “just do one” rule.
Some days it can be hard to get started. Some days it can be hard to keep going.
So I tell myself – ok, just do one.
I’m in the middle of doing energy needs assessments in Nepal. We’re going around asking people what they use for lighting and cooking to see if there is a renewable energy product which would save their money, or their lungs.
Which sounds awesome, and totally is, but like any job there are times you just don’t have the energy you’d like. Or people aren’t reacting the way you’d like.
I’ve found the assessments work best if you try and vary the questions just a little every day. This can lead to a whole new conversation, unearthing information you’d never thought to ask.
But some days I just can’t do it.
So I just do one.
And that’s ok.
Because that’s the rule.
- It stops me from falling asleep. Always a good thing.
- Not only does it stop me from falling asleep, it forces me to think about it differently. (Actually, it just forces me to think about it).
- The outcomes are usually hilarious.
There is something about leaving a country which you have lived and worked in, and straight away moving to another one.
This year I have done this so many times I am starting to lose count. Already I am at 7, and I think that I will have 3 more before the year is out.
(For the travel hackers amongst you, I think my year is going to look something like this: SYD-MAU-ACC-ATH-ACC-SYD-ILO-KTM-SFO-PNH-CGK)
At the beginning of the year I kept asking people who moved around a lot what the hardest thing about travelling was. I thought maybe I would get tired of living out of a bag, or that I would miss my family, or my close friends, or you know, zucchinis.
I didn’t think it would be the transitions.
I am not upset to be without roots this year, in a way I feel like I have been without roots my whole life.
But somewhere in the transition of picking up everything to put it back down into a new place, my body seems to go into a state of shock.
I usually cry on the plane. When I went back toSydneyfor 3 weeks I felt bizarrely numb for a few days, in a way I could not explain to people. It was just plain weird. And then everything came crashing down and I cancelled all my plans, instead spending a weekend inside with my brother, staring at a wall.
(Don’t worry, insane amounts of partying still happened, just later on).
I think part of the reason for this is the last week before I leave anywhere is totally packed – catching up with friends, finishing off projects, getting through all the “lasts”. I am usually utterly exhausted by the time I leave. And the first week in my new country is always relatively quiet.
So it goes from super intense to super quiet, and the realisation of what I am doing hits me. Where exactly am I? What exactly is it that I think I am doing? Am I crazy?
Not to mention the the thought of all the amazing experiences that I have left behind. The people I will probably never see again.The fragments of language and expressions that I have learnt. And the weird nuances of culture that you only get from being in a place.
(In Mauritius– being in a meeting where three languages are spoken at once. In thePhilippines– the flamboyant culture. In Ghana–the MASSIVE religious billboards. And in Nepal– the relaxed attitude to privacy).
The flip side is that this outpouring of emotion has brought on some of the best ideas that I have had this year. I have written beautiful poetry. Come up with business ideas. Followed up on hard things which I really needed to do. And formulated all of the things which are most exciting about this year. Including achieving all my goals for this year in 7 months – and they were not small.
Call me crazy, but I can only conclude that there is something remarkable about the combination of exhaustion, devastation and airports. Alone, they are just irritants – but with their powers combined…?
My brother reminds me of often of my own words:
“I don’t mind being upset, because I often do my best thinking when I am upset”.
As I prepare myself for the shock that will be leaving Nepal for San Francisco, I am going to do my best to take solace in these words.
- They are just so ridiculous looking.
- They are often attached to an awesome folk music player. At an awesome event. Like a farmers market.
- They remind me to tease my father. (Once a piano accordion player, always a piano accordion player).
Earlier this year my family and I visited Kythera, an island just south of the Greek mainland where my grandmother was born.
We saw the tiny parcel of land that she grew up on with her 8 brothers and sisters. We saw photos of the two room house – where one room was for the animals and one room was for the family.
We saw the church a stone’s throw away, just across from a poppy filled vacant plot of land, which had been seriously damaged by a recent earthquake.
The same earthquake that destroyed my grandmother’s house.
I wondered how many times the nearby fault line had managed to shake up the lives of my ancestors.
Kythera is gorgeous. The people are friendly, the climate is good, the food unbelievable.
And yet, my grandmother did not have fond memories. She only received a few years of schooling and told stories of having to line up for an entire day for a potato.
After entering into an (agreed) arranged marriage with my grandfather, she left for Australia. Where she did not speak the language. Or know the culture. Or anyone, actually.
And yet, she did not want to go back.
Australia was hard work, but she saw opportunity. She worked hard. Learnt English. Started a series of businesses. Managed to put her son through primary school, high school and not one, but two university degrees.
All things that could never have happened in Kythera.
Now looking over the Himalayas, where I see beauty, I cannot help but think how many only see hardship.
Like the two women I heard of last week – who killed themselves on the same branch. “Economic hardship” some of the townsfolk said.
Kythera was all I could think.
My three reasons to love Nepal:
- The women here, they wear COLOURS. And they have their OWN festival.
- The traditional greeting “Namaste“. And how when you say “Namaste” to people on the street who are staring at you, they turn around to see if you are greeting someone else. And then when they realise you are not – how much they laugh!
- The tea. Not just the taste, also the frequency. And of course, the famous tea gardens. Which look so soft I feel like I could jump around on them all day.