Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Australia!! Part One

Truly, I had to pinch myself several times to believe that I was traveling to Australia to teach at Creative Soul Retreat!! The top slot on my bucket list, along with New Zealand, and I am on my way to a dream come true!! The night before I left, I was on pins and needles, sitting on my living room floor, weighing every item I put in my two check-in bags with my bathroom scale to be sure I came in under the 50 lb. per bag limit. When I arrived at the airport, I had less than 2 pounds to spare. But I check through with all of my supplies to teach in Judy Wise's place, who could not go due to health problems. My heart went out to Judy for her missed adventure, but I am so thankful to be going in her stead and I know I will be bringing her presents and stories and photos galore.

The first leg of the trip is Portland, OR to San Francisco, CA, leaving in the evening in hopes of getting a good sleep on the planes. It's a flight I have done many times before, but have never boarded in the International area of the San Fran airport. On the wall above the check in is the most beautiful mural of the ancestral origins of the people that settled this area, bordered by wood carvings of native fowl and wildlife. The colors are vibrant and the artwork amazing.

Then on to the 747 double decker. There is less leg room in couch on these huge planes than on the smaller planes that ply the skies of America. Thankfully I am short enough to fit behind the seat in front of me. I gather my blindfold and cover, put away the baggage and settle in for a long nap...with a flight time of 14 hours, and not much ability to move around, napping will pass the time more quickly. I am amazed to be fed three times on the's been awhile since I have had much more than the peanuts and pretzels on Southwest. And the food was good. Between sleep, a good book and a little journaling, the trip passed quickly and before I knew it, I was landing in Sydney, Australia. Looking out the window, I see quaint homes, red tiled roofs and gum trees everywhere and for a moment, I think I have flown to San Diego, CA instead. But then you see the beautiful bay and meandering river and the traffic on the wrong side of the road, and you know you have reached hour late.....

I am off the plane in a flash and running for the next gate with 15 minutes to spare. As I round the corner, I see a secondary security checkpoint come into focus and, yes, it's me they motion over for an additional check. By now, I know I look like a panicked herd of buffalo rushing for the cliff and I am talking before I get there about missed flights and planes taking off without me when the security man looks at me and tells me "no worries - take a breath - you'll be there in time." No worries? But I do as he says, put down my bags to be checked and find my place. And realized how much of my life has been caught up in needless worrying. Really, the worst that could happen is that I spend a night in one of the most beautiful cities on earth while I wait for the next plane. Once I'm through the check, I move towards the gate to find the next flight was also late and indeed, there were "no worries".
The two sayings I heard most frequently during my time in this wonderful country were "no worries" and "no drama". And truly that is the beauty of this country. They take the time to appreciate life and and don't seem to worry the small stuff. I sit and chat with an American artist from San Francisco who relocated here 8 years ago. He loves it here. He needs no car. There are trams, trains and buses to take you where you need to go. He says it's relaxed here. People reach out to each other. There's little pretense and a greater acceptance for differences and he says he will never go home to the US. Before we can talk more, we are herded on the plane for the last leg of the journey.

Upon landing in Melbourne, I experience Australian customs. We get in line (queue up, they say) and wait to check through the initial stage of customs with our declaration slips. Large black labs with chocolate eyes sniff gently at bags and people alike for illegal drugs. Then off to pick up our check in luggage. Luggage carts are free here, unlike Portland where they are $4. Since I have almost 150 lbs. of luggage, this is a blessing. Then on to the next line, where we are told to put our handbags on the floor next to our luggage, where they are thoroughly inspected by cute little beagle dogs, to ensure no spare fruit, nut, vegetable or mineral slips through. Finally through the final passport check, I exit under the sign, "Way Out" to find my hostess, Eva. And there she is waving at me and off we go to her home in the hills.

As we chat and get to know each other, we realize we have much in common. Single, working girls with a mutual love for art, how could we not get along!!! After dropping off the luggage, I am determined to remain awake until proper bedtime to overcome my jet lag quickly. We head for the Dandenongs to have a look at the view from the top. More hills than mountains when compared with the Cascades, we stop at the top at the Lookout and see a view of distant, downtown Melbourne. The air is alive with strange bird sounds, the astringent fragrance of eucalyptus tree and a multitude of exotic flowers. After enjoying the view, we are off to a nearby picnic area, where I see black cockatoos, crimson rosellas and a kookaburra laughing at me from a distant tree. And as we leave to go home, we turn the corner to see a small wallaby sitting the the road. Who could ask for more on the first day?

I feel at home here. There are major differences, such as the wrong way driving (to us), sensible signs we could use such as "way out" instead of exit, "aged" signs to caution driver to slow for pedestrians near retirement homes, "give way", instead of yield and "take away" instead of take out food. But the people are friendly, the culture relaxed and common sense has a place here.

We slowly make it back down the mountain, where we stop for a Souvlaki at a local eatery, to take home and savor. After 20 hours of travel and the exhilarating trip up the mountain, it is finally time for bed.


Dawnie said...

Written with much LOVE dear Jan...I sence a second trip coming on ??? We certainly loved having your special self were a super teacher and loved being in your class
hug you
the bookkmark girl
Dawnie T

Jen Crossley said...

Jan you write so beautifully I only wish I could.We so loved having you here in Australia and yes No worries come back LOL.
Miss you heaps,love your photos

artymarty said...

Can't wait to read the rest of your trip. It was a pleasure to meet you and do 3 of your classes. Hope to see you again soon.

Eva said...

You were a wonderful and delightful person to have as my guest Jan. BUT ... you'll be even more wonderful a person if you took that horrid pic of me off your blog (lol).

My kindred friend ... you will always have a 'B&B' here - ANYTIME! So ... start planning your next trip 'Down Under' ... next time, strictly a holiday!

Thank you for your friendship and artistic inspirations!

Eva xoxoxo

Gwen said...

What an interesting post! I look forward to reading more about your trip! sounds like you had a brilliant first day!

purple bird art said...

I miss you all so much already!!! Thanks for keeping in touch...I look forward to seeing you and your beautiful country again soon!!! xoxo Jan

Bevlea said...

Loved you post Jan... was so nice to meet you and have you here... hope to see you again in the future... you were a real gem!

Cindi V. Walton said...

I WANT TO BE WITH YOU!!!! It sounds like a dream! Can't wait for the next installment.

lindacreates said...

What a joy to read about Australia. I feel like I am reading a beautiful novel, sharing the sounds and sights of your fabulous journey. I love the "no worries," I hear it a lot from dear Jen! I am off to find your art.