Wednesday, March 31, 2004

So I met up with Emilie yesterday. It was really nice. We talked for hours about Australia and life and I was really happy to meet her before she left. I'm really jealous that she's about to leave for Australia for 2 years and I'm... well, here.

Don't get me wrong: Canada is beautiful and I love my family and I'm even having a nice time being home. But it's not like being there.

I woke up early again this morning, made myself a pot of Earl Grey tea and read my National Geographic Traveler magazine. I got so excited about some of the stories that I read in there. I just wanted to get up and go again. But I have no money and I really do want to see my friends and have a bit of an exciting life here for a while. So, I have to ignore that feeling in the pit of my stomach that tells me how little time I have to do all the trips I wanna do...

Last night Will and I visited my cousin, his partner and their baby here in Ottawa. The baby, Balin, is SO big now! Last time I saw him, though, he was just born! Just goes to show how much can happen in a year.

He's such a cute kid! So active and happy! He's only 1 and 1/2 years old and he's already figured out what a digital camera is. He got so excited when I took mine out. He started posing and reaching for it so he could see the photo I'd taken. Kids amaze me; they are such complete miracles.

Today I'm taking the bus back to Toronto at 2:30pm so that my mom can pick me up and take me home again. I'm planning to visit another old friend of mine who had a baby while I was gone. Can't wait! I get a little teensy bit jealous of all these people with cute babies...

Maybe I can convince Will and Lisa to have a baby soon. Well, I'm on my way now to meet Lisa in the city so that we can go to the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography. Maybe I can just drop that hint into the conversation...

ie: "So, Lisa, how 'bout popping out some puppies?" No?

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

It's a sunny, crisp day in Ottawa/Hull and there is still ice/snow on the canal. I'm online at the local library/bibliotheque (where I also read a very interesting article in my favourite magazine, Scientific American). French keyboards are a little different here, so bear with me.

I'm meeting up with Émilie this afternoon, meeting up with her in the Byward Market.

I'm staying with Will here at his place in Hull (just across the river from Ottawa). We drove out yesterday along a beautiful backcounty route. I couldn't believe how scenic it was! Quite a long drive, of course, but I suppose I'm used to driving long distances.

On the drive out, I had several moments of panic when I thought we were on the wrong side of the road. But however bad a driver my brother might be, he's not that bad. I'm still getting used to looking right when I cross the road. And still saying things like "toilet" instead of "bathroom", "washing powder" instead of "laundry detergent", and no one seems to know what a "POM" is.

We had dinner at Will's girlfriend Lisa's house (at the Rounding's house). The Roundings are so nice! Lisa's parents, Anne and Mark, showed me pictures of their trip to St. Maarten, where they stayed in my timeshare. They had lovely photos and really seemed to enjoy it, which made me happy. Sadly, I started to get tired even as they served a yummy fajita dinner.

Of course, the glasses of wine didn't help much.
So, it was off to bed at 9pm, only to awake at 3am!
I repeat: I HATE JETLAG!

I've started wondering if maybe I should move to Ottawa. I'd really like to improve my French. I had the chance to use my French three times while away in Australia/NZ and I was surprised at how much I remembered as well as how much I forgot.

I just keep thinking about where I'm going next and what exciting adventures life has in store for me....

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Just a quick post before I go for my shower here at my mom's friend's place...

Being home with my brothers has been EXCELLENT! I can't believe how much I've missed them and Kendra.

I'm still working on my scrapbook, but I'm still working on Sydney, only a month into my trip. It's slow-going.

Especially when my cat is being so cute. And when Matt wants to go shopping. I've missed shopping with him.

Tomorrow, I'm off to get another test done at the hospital and then I'm going with Will to Ottawa for a couple of days. Should be fun!

Friday, March 26, 2004

Could my body move into this time zone please?

For goddessakes, I woke up at 4am. I tried to go back to sleep for 2 hours before deciding it was useless and getting up for my morning tea and to start work on my scrapbook.

And now? I'm TIRED.
About as tired as when I arrived in Perth after almost no sleep. When I was falling asleep on my feet. Except now I'm falling asleep at the computer.

Today has been a fixing-computers-day (catchy title, huh?). My dad's computer is being weird, so I've been trying to run ScanDisk and Defrag and I think I've got it working now. Then I had to tweek a few things on my mom's computer at work before going to my doctor's appointment. More work on Dad's computer. Got an x-ray. Got a new Health Card in Barrie (a half-hour away). Returned to do more fiddling with my dad's computer. Picked my mom up at work and now I'm taking a stab at my mom's friend's computer. <poke>

And this weekend, Matt is bringing me MY computer! I can't wait til I get my computer in my hands so I can pet it and give it kisses.

Today, as I was driving around, I remembered some things that I had forgotten to miss about Canada:

  • the radio - ohmygosh, Aussie radio sucks ass
  • Canadian music (somewhat related) - today I heard Sarah McLachlan, Barenaked Ladies AND Our Lady Peace. Heaven!
  • driving standard (manual) with Canadian music blaring on the radio!
  • free health coverage

I found out that stupid people from Holland and the UK can get free Medicare in Australia, but not nice Canadians. What is up with that?!

Equally sadly, it's raining and muddy and there's still snow at the side of the road. In Perth, it is a perfect 24 degrees. Kill Perth. OK, maybe just hurt it a little. Then I won't feel so bad.

Another piece of sad news is that the "handy-man" who's "working" on our bathroom still hasn't finished the shower. I cannot be nice to the man. I feel bad that his wife is sick but, come on, seriously. My parents have only one bathroom. They TOLD him when it had to be done (that was Tuesday). I don't know if you've noticed, but it's Friday night.

It's not done.
So I'm having a shower at a friend's house. (And using their computer. And eating their yummy Pizza Hut which is WAY better in North America than it is in Australia, trust me.) However, perhaps I should ban pizza because I tried on some clothes that I left behind and discovered that they... um, shrunk. Ya, shrunk. Spontaneously, right there in the drawer! Weird.

Good things:

  • My brothers are visiting me tomorrow! (Actually, they're coming so that my dad can help them with their taxes, but I can pretend it's to see me. I might even be able to go shopping with Matt!)
  • I found my yoga tapes
  • At least I have new clothes (and shoes) to wear that I don't have to carry around on my back
  • My cat sleeps at my feet. That's not to say he likes me, but that I'm a convenient prop. Well, at least he lets me pet him. And he's not dead.
  • I chatted online with Jan last night and made a date to do so again tonight! See? Australia's not so far away! It's REAL!
  • I might be able to use my Australian mobile here in Canada with Rogers AND I found out that since I've been away, they've introduced text messaging. YAY!

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Last night I slept in my OWN bed. My lovely, sweet bed. I can't even TELL you how amazing that was. Ohmygosh. It was almost as good as having my mosquito bites scratched.


Actually, on second thought, it didn't even come close to being as good as that.

Still, sinking into my mattress was heaven and I slept so deeply, that I woke up and had no idea where I was. But I still managed to wake up at 6am.


Well, then I got up with my dad and made a fire so that I could read my book and drink my tea with my feet up on the woodstove. Magic.

But it all seems so strange. Nothing seems to have changed. I mean, OK, my parents' house has changed. They don't have a bathroom, for example. Right now, I'm at my mom's friend's house so that I can have a shower and do my laundry. (And, as with most modern homes in Canada, she has high-speed Internet access and a lovely computer, so I can geek-out a little while I wait for my washing.)

But Australia (or "Straya" as my mom pointed out that I say it) seems so far away and it scares me. I miss my friends already and I want to talk to them. I read my emails from them greedily, laughing and wishing I were there. So strange.

Don't get me wrong, it's really good to be home. I almost cried when I saw my parents at the airport. And they almost did, too.

And when my brother, Will, called me last night, I almost cried to talk to him. I'm so excited to see him this weekend. I found out that Matt and Kendra will also be coming home to see me this weekend! I have missed them all so much!

But, writing in my journal last night, I had to go back and read over some of my old entries just to remind myself that it all really happened. And I'm sure that I'll be boring everyone, showing them all my photos over and over. I just need these tangible things to bear witness that I've not dreamt it all.

So this week, as the handyman finishes up the bathroom and my mom goes to work, I'll throw on my Jack Johnson or Powderfinger CD and start putting together my Australia/NZ scrapbook.

And, based on how emotional I am these days, I might just cry a little. But let's just pretend that I won't. Let's just pretend that I'm going to believe what I'm telling myself about this all being part of my continuing adventure...

... to bad this part of the adventure is so cold (it's a grey 5 degrees here, but a sunny 25 degrees in Perth).

Monday, March 22, 2004

Sitting in the Narita Airport Starbucks. A chorus of "konitchewa" (however you spell "hello" in Japanese) rings out from all the girls behind the counter whenever someone enters the shop. Cool.

Just waiting for my flight to board.

Japan is so strange/cool/different.

The bath last night? MMMMMmmmm so good. But you can tell short people live here. I think Jan might have gotten his butt in the tub, but that's about it (he's about 100 feet tall). Still, it was nice and decadent and I slept really well and had a lovely free breakfast and met lots of people from Canada heading home.

Yay, home!! I can't wait to see everyone at my welcome home party on Friday!
In Tokyo, land of weird keyboards.

The flight was OK. The hotel is lovely and I am going to have a BATH tonight!! I am really just trying to make Jan jealous here. But I am still pretty excited about the fact that I have my own room with an ensuite bathroom that actually has a BATHTUB in it.

Tomorrow morning I board yet another flight bound for Chicago. Then, something like 14 hours later, I change planes and head to Toronto. There I will finally see my parents and I am SO excited about that now!

Have finally decided to stop being sad about leaving Australia and instead think about how lucky I am/was to meet all the great people here and what a new adventure I am heading towards when I return home. Anything can happen! And I know that I will meet up again with all the truly important people from my trip. So, what is there to be sad about in the end??

Only that I am just slightly terrified that I will no longer fit into my old life. Ya, just that.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

PLEASE NOTE: I may not have Internet access again for a while.

I'm leaving Sydney tomorrow morning, early, and staying overnight in Tokyo. There MIGHT be Internet access in the hotel they're putting me up at, but I don't know.

Then I'm headed home on Tuesday. My parents live on a farm and they do not have Internet access. Seriously, they're lucky to have their own phone line, for goddessakes. So be patient if it takes me a while to post and to answer emails. I know you'll all be waiting with baited breath for my return.

Good bye Australia!
The caffeine is draining away. Getting sleepy. VERY sleepy.

Tonight they're showing Seabiscuit at the hostel with free popcorn! Sometimes I really love hostels.

I loathe saying goodbye. I loathe the panic of leaving. I'm glad that I gave myself a whole day to get things sorted.

Now I have time to think about those things that were so cool about my trip.

  • Enjoying/making fun of accents and idioms
  • Learning a lot about Aboriginal culture
  • Seeing some lovely beaches
  • Meeting the most amazing people with different life philosophies
  • Making friends from around the world
  • Gaining enough confidence in myself that I truly believe that I can do anything
  • Finding a happy, loving, smiley Cathy inside the stress-box-Cathy that left Canada a year ago
  • Discovering how I like to travel
  • Enjoying the artistic talents of others
  • Trying so many new things (thanks Jan!)
  • Remembering how young I am
  • Seeing/touching all those beautiful that I've only seen in photos
  • Renewing my faith in the human race and life in general

    I guess that kind of makes it all worthwhile, or not? (see point #1)
  • I'm staying in the Sydney Central YHA for my last night in Australia. It's a lovely hostel, although a bit expensive. I was originally going to stay with my friend Sonal for the evening, but then I got here so early in the morning (3am Perth time, 6am Sydney time) that no one was awake yet. That meant that:

  • I had no where to store my bags
  • I was soooo tired that I just wanted to take a nap right away until the rest of the world woke up.

    So that's what I did.
    I met a woman named Pam from Collingwood, ON, while waiting for the bus. She was going to get a hotel so that she could really sleep well. I suggested a twin room to save a little money. That worked out well because we got off the bus, walked about 20 metres to the YHA, got a twin room straight away, without having to wait for someone to check out. It even has an ensuite bathroom! LUXURY!

    I had a nice 2-hr nap before heading to The Coffee Roaster for a couple flat whites. They seemed happy to see me and wanted to hear about my travels. They marvelled at my tan.

    Once I was sufficiently caffeinated, I headed to my old place in Surry Hills with a dozen croissants to thank them for storing my stuff. There was only a brief moment of panic when I thought that Ander had given the wrong box to the Salvation Army. But no, he'd thoughtfully stored my important boxes in his room. Whew!

    Sonal picked me up from the house and dropped me back at the hostel with the package sent from Melbourne. Of course, then I had to go buy a new piece of luggage for all my extra crap. Easy: $35 got me a massive rolling suitcase.

    Only problem: I'm probably over the luggage allowance. Oops.
    And yet I can't stop buying things. STOP THE INSANITY!!

    Now I'm catching up on email and blogging and trying not to fall asleep. It's a tough order.

    I feel like I should do something fun to commemorate my last day here, but I honestly cannot be assed. Besides, even if I wanted to go to the beach, for example, the weather in Sydney is pretty grey and spotted with light rain. I could have gone to the markets, but then I'd just spend more money. And who needs that, really??

    People keep asking me what it's like to be going home. I keep telling them that I'm just not ready.

    Coming to Sydney has been almost like going home. Everything is so familiar. But I just want to go back to Perth or even Melbourne, where I have friends. Stupid Sydney.

    I feel like I haven't had enough time.

    Don't get me wrong: I wanna go home to see my family and friends. I do. But it's weird to be leaving behind so many great people and such great weather and such a fantastic lifestyle. Let's face it: once home, it's back to REAL life.

    I plan to fight "real life" all the way. I have plans. I don't want to get stuck again. I want to keep being because I've had so much more fun. So I'm going to try to keep things interesting. And remind myself often that there are infinite possibilities in life.

    My day with Dave yesterday was interesting because we talked about that. After being away for a year and getting used to being away, you start to realize that, although home is where your family is, there's nothing HOLDING you to "home" because of the wonders of modern communications. The entire world opens up to you. And suddenly, you can do anything, go anywhere. Doing anything less seems, well, boring.

    So here's a cheer for living life with passion!

    Tomorrow I'm off to Tokyo overnight and then home at 1:30pm EST. Wish I could just close my eyes and BE there already, hugging my parents, sleeping in my fabulous bed with my cat. Sigh...
  • Saturday, March 20, 2004

    Well, here I am at the Perth airport, waiting for my flight to Sydney.

    I can't believe how difficult it is to leave Perth. I've really had a lovely time here. I realize that I probably didn't blog as much as normal, but that just goes to show how much fun I was having. It's usually a bad sign if I'm blogging too much and answering all my emails; it just means I'm not all that happy.

    Here in Perth I feel like I have friends. Natalie, Mike, Jan, Jaap, Dave (whom I hung out with today and went cycling in King's Park!) and various other people that I hung out with along the way. I have a warm feeling about the place. I feel like I have a family here and the Witch's Hat is like my home.

    Dave was quite surprised by the vibe in the hostel. He couldn't get over how all these random people stayed in a place together and that people TALKED to him while he was waiting for me. And you do that when you travel: you become each other's family because your life is just so transient. We need each other and we're really THERE for each other because we've all experienced the homesickness, the great adventures, the really bad tour guides, the horrible food, the sunburn, the stolen money, the forgotten items of clothing, the hangovers, the tricky holiday romances.

    And when at last you feel close to these amazing people that you've met and done all these crazy things together and had a good laugh, you just have to say goodbye again and start all over somewhere else.

    Thanks to all the amazing people who served as my family in WA. You made the end of my trip into such a warm fuzzy memory, that I smile even now just to think of it.

    Wednesday, March 17, 2004

    In Margaret River at the moment. Stayed at the beautiful Surpoint Resort last night. What a TREAT!!

    Yesterday we were at the most south-westerly point of Australia near Augusta. It was beautiful. Sigh!

    Today, off to see some caves, wine tasting and a chocolate factory before staying in Bunbury for the night. Then it's back to Perth tomorrow night (friday).

    I have decided I don't want to leave. :(

    Monday, March 15, 2004

    Forgot to tell you about the dinner that the guys made us.

    They told me that it was ready and I should go sit down outside. I asked "what table?" and they said, "you'll figure it out."

    Well, I did. It was the only table covered with mini tealights, and all set for dinner. Very impressive. I contributed my bottle of Goundreys Unwooded Chardonnay to the affair. And then came the first course of soup and then a lovely meal of yummy marinated chicken, smiley potatoes, pasta salad and green beans. And ice cream for dessert!

    I was astounded. It was one of the best meals I've had while travelling. Certainly the most romantic setting, anyway. Congrats, guys.
    The weather in Albany could be better: it's overcast and quite less than 20 degrees (OK, but that's COLD for Australia right now!). And it promises to be pretty cloudy here in the southwest for the rest of the week. SAD! But they say it's much like Melbourne here: 4 seasons in a day.

    However, we did manage to get out to the BlowHoles at Torndirrup National Park, which were not doing any blowing today since the seas were not that rough. We also saw The Gap and Natural Bridge. It kind of reminded me of my Great Ocean Road trip.

    We drove to the wind farm, which was really quite cool. I've never seen a wind farm before, so Jan, Mike and I did the loop walk while Nat stayed in the car, hiding from the cold wind.

    At Mt. Clarence, we got a cool 360-view of Albany, Jan as a statue and the surrounding bays.

    I've set Jan up to post on my blog now. I'm hoping he doesn't mess it up too badly. Please email him to let him know if he does, though. He's still young and is just learning English, poor dear. He's going to wait to post cause he's really gotta think up something cool to say so that he can be as famous as me. Ha. Good luck.

    Sunday, March 14, 2004

    I'm now in Albany.

    Yesterday, we stayed out at Wave Rock, about a 4-hour drive southeast from Perth. Ya. Wave Rock? It's a rock. And it looks like a wave. Pretty exciting. If you like rocks that look like waves. Not exactly hours of fun.

    However, we did get a nice cabin there at the rock for the 4 of us and had a lovely dinner and watched Coyote Ugly, cause it was the only thing on TV. And I taught Jan some new words... "craving" (as in "chocolate craving") and "gag" (as in, certain things make you gag when they touch the back of your throat... um, it was in a magazine we were reading) and "elaborate" (as in, "hey, that was a very elaborate pick-up line"). I also taught him the value of sloughing the dead skin off one's heels. Mike didn't like that lesson so much.

    Today, we drove out through the Stirling Range and Porongurup National Park and did a walk there to Castle Rock, which gave us a beautiful view of the surrounding area.

    We're staying at a cute hostel here called, appropriately, Albany Backpackers. We just had a lovely free coffee-and-cake social and now Jan and Mike are making Nat and I that beautiful dinner they promised to make us in Perth. I'll let you know how it turns out if they don't kill me with it.

    Tonight should be an early night (for once) so that we can get up in time to drive out to Torndirrup National Park and do some walks there, even though the weather is supposed to be a little overcast.

    Of course, one never knows what will happen when we give Cathy a little wine... I met up for dinner with Jaap last night and it was so nice to see him again (and really sad to say goodbye, as I won't see him until I visit him in Holland in Spring 2005).

    Jaap and I went back to his hostel so that I could see his photos and then we went back to the Witch's Hat to have a few drinks. When they kicked us all out of the common area, the whole hostel staggered over to the local pub for more drinks and some drunken games of pool. They had to kick us out of the pub, too... But not before some local man with a SERIOUS moustache told me he'd been watching my belly button all night and he suggested that I take up belly dancing.

    Then, clearly not sure if I understand Australian, he demonstrated what he meant by "belly dancing." Good, thank God. Because if I wasn't sure that I didn't wanna take up belly dancing before, then I'm sure now.

    Friday, March 12, 2004

    PS: Happy Birthday David!
    Went on a sunset wine tour of the Swan Valley last night. It was great! We visited 3 wineries, including cheese tasting at one of them and a full gourmet meal at another and finished up at a microbrewery (ya, didn't like that part since I hate beer). I've decided I really like Chenin Blanc. Quite fruity and sweet, but I'm a sucker for bad wine, I guess.

    Meeting Jaap for dinner tonight. It'll be SO good to see him again!
    Unfortunately, despite any plans we might have had for travelling together here in WA, it looks like it's not going to happen!

    Jan and Mike, Natalie and I are picking up our rental car tomorrow morning and heading down the southwest coast. It's really quite cheap for us to get a rental ($70 each for the week, plus fuel). We might be gone for a week or 4 days, depending on how well we all get along.

    This could very well be an issue.
    Mike is a say-anything typical English guy taking a break from work (engineering). Shameful... but hilarious, especially when him and Jan get going. Jan and him met up on their trip around Uluru. An odd "couple", Jan (on break after high school) is probably the tallest Dutch guy I've ever met (and I know many tall Dutch guys) and the two of them are always taking the piss out of each other. Nat (a nurse from the UK) has been travelling around the world and arrived in Perth after her adventure in South Africa. As of right now we all get along really well, so it should be a good laugh. But just wait until we've all spent 7 day/wk, 24-hrs/day together...

    If you don't hear from me, don't worry. I'm safe. As long as Mike hasn't crashed the car yet. Or killed Jan yet.

    Wednesday, March 10, 2004

    Hey, check out what nice things my friend Emilie wrote about my blog on her website!
    Still trying to get through the avalanche of emails that arrived during my absence. It's funny that so many people were worried about me... gues that goes to show how good I am at staying in touch with people. I even had an argument with David that I wasn't obvious enough that I was going to be away for an extended period of time.


    Well, I guess I didn't talk about the stuff that I did on the tour. Some of the highlights include:
  • abseiling/rappelling in Kalbarri National Park
  • getting my passport stamped in Hutt River Province, a small breakaway country right in the middle of Australia with its own prince
  • feeding the dolphins on the shore at Monkey Mia
  • sleeping around the campfire at a real outback sheep station under the stars
  • swimming with reef sharks at Coral Bay
  • snorkelling at Turquoise Bay
  • drinking too much, sleeping too little
  • making new friends

    Tonight, I'm off with said new friends on the drink AGAIN. They're such a bad influence on me!
  • Tuesday, March 09, 2004

    Well the weather in Perth is back to normal. It's 27 degrees and sunny today.

    I've been allowed back into my email account again, so I'm TRYING to get through all my emails and respond if I can. But I only have so much time and patience to spend in an un-airconditioned web cafe. Also, Jan (pronounced "yahn" - from the RedEarth tour) is getting bored and will want to leave soon.

    Was surprised that my mom was so worried about me. No contact with me for 8 days, though... I suppose that would be a worry, especially with the cyclone/flooding warnings and the fact that I'd been so sick. Bless her for loving me that much. I'm sorry I worried her, though.

    Now I'm in Perth for a week or so.
    Jaap will be arriving in Perth on Friday, so I'll be meeting him and then taking off shortly afterwards for the southwest coast of Western Australia.

    Tonight, I'm off to a BBQ with one of the girls from the RedEarth tour I just finished. Should be fun.

    Monday, March 08, 2004

    Back from my tour but having problems with my email at the moment.

    We came close to driving into a cyclone up north, but thankfully missed it.
    The weather in Exmouth was HOTHOTHOT and the flies were probably the most annoying things on the face of the planet. I swallowed several.
    (Kill them. God. Please. Kill all the flies.)

    Otherwise, it was a fantastic tour, although there were a few dramas with Dave, the tourguide. He was a riot though. A right Aussie through and through.

  • Crocodile Dundee-style hat
  • Calling the girls "sheila's"
  • "No bloody dramas, mayte!"

    Now I'm back in Perth for a while, staying at the Witch's Hat again. Not sure how long. At some stage I do want to head to the south west. We'll see.