The road I took…

Leaving Australia

3rd May 2007 – getting ready to return home to Scotland

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost

It’s tough to believe it’s been 6 years. 4th May 2007 was the day I landed in Edinburgh, jet lagged, still a bit nervy from a girl who had got travelsick on a long haul flight from Singapore. I had no idea what would happen next. And it was not the easy path I had chosen. It was the unknown one.

The previous summer I had graduated from university. A graduation five long years in the making. But for the first time in a very long time, I was contented. I had finally settled in my Aberdeen life. I had a great family of friends. Things with my blood related family were better than they ever had been. I’d begun a relationship with a Christian guy who I first thought was on the same page as me. I split my time between Edinburgh and Aberdeen working some weeks as a care worker, others as a receptionist or clerical worker in NHS hospitals while I looked for a job. I’d been rejected from my applications to study medicine and midwifery. I was about to start re-applying and looking to study some of the qualifications I needed to do medicine. My boyfriend convinced me not to. Instead, I started applying for jobs, and got a temporary contract as a Community Education Worker. I was thrilled. A proper wage (I now realise the pay was AWFUL) and the hope of a permanent contract at the end with the promise of them paying for me to do my Community Education diploma while I worked.

In those seven months, I worked myself into the ground. I was out of my depth. I was asked to lie to people. Or at least to me it was lying. My boyfriend brought the worst out of me. He discouraged me from doing things I was scared to do. I don’t know if it’s possible to forget the first time I led worship at my church. Afterwards he told me he thought I should never do it again. Every time I’ve led worship since (and those times have been few) I’ve heard his words and seen his face in my memory. In March 2007 I was invited to reapply for my job to get a permanent contract. I prayed about it, and felt like maybe I was to go back to Edinburgh. I told him so. He broke up with me.

Relief.

It was however an upsetting day. He stayed in my flat for an hour and wouldn’t go away until I went to work. I went through my day, and when everyone else went home, I locked myself in the Senior Community Worker’s office. I called my friend and started bawling. That day I made the decision – I was returning home.

The plan was sensible. Finish my contract til March 31st. Get the flat ready for selling, and live there until I sold it or found a job in Edinburgh. My Dad and stepmother offered to financially support me until I was able to do this.

Only it didn’t happen like that. That night, I went home after that evening’s youth work meeting. I cried on my friend’s shoulder. And then overnight I developed a fever and by the next morning I had the flu. I lay on a mattress on my living room floor for days. Friends came in and out. I prayed to God, and the answer I received was clear audible one: It’s time to go home. And I’m not going to tell you what you’re going to do when you get there. You’re going to have to trust me.And then I call came from Los Angeles.

It was decided I’d go out to Australia to meet my friends.

And then I’d come back and look for a job and sell the flat.

Only it didn’t happen like that either. The day my friend walked with me to STA Travel to make sure I  booked that flight, we bumped into my (now ex) boyfriend’s best friend and his girlfriend. They desperately needed a flat to rent that they could afford. And so I said ‘why don’t you rent mine?

And suddenly I realised that I had 3 weeks to move out of my flat. And when I came back from Australia I had nowhere to live, and no job to go to.

I did let my friends at the respite home I’d worked at know I was coming back to Edinburgh, and I was grateful that they had said ‘yes’ to putting me back on their pool staff team. That put me at ease a bit as it made it all sound better when I was explaining to people what I was doing, why I was leaving so suddenly.

God did a lot of work in me during those 4 weeks in Australia. It’s why Australia means so much to me. I feel like Australia gave me my life back. It made me myself again. All the rubbish that had been spoken over me and into me began to fade away. Courage and confidence I thought I’d lost forever, I found once again. I returned home, still unsure, but very much at peace.

I realise I could have followed the sensible path. I could have stayed, sold the flat, never gone to Australia and waited to get a job. Or I could have applied for a permanent contract and perhaps I’d have that all important piece of paper that says PGDip in Community Education that I need to get a full-time job in this city.

But would I have learned so much, been as brave or met the friends I know now?

Most likely…no.

Photo on 2013-04-28 at 17.28 #4

Aussies go one better…

You might remember a few months ago, the video I posted of the foam phenonmenon that occurred in the North East coast of Scotland due to storms in the North Sea.

Well, a tropical storm known as Oswald has been creating havoc for Australians once again, and on the Sunshine Coast they’ve had a bit of a coastal foam party too.

Just a wee warning that the commentary from the Aussie dude videoing does use some typical Aussie lingo that may be offensive to some readers. ;)

That is most definitely what I’d describe as an ‘Only in Australia’ moment. Classic (and dangerous – don’t do that in the foam kids!) In all seriousness though, there are a lot of people in Queensland who quite frankly have had enough natural disasters from floods and cyclones for a lifetime in the last 2 years and it’s simply heartbreaking to hear the stories of people losing everything they’d tried to rebuild AGAIN. Please be thinking of and keeping them in your prayers, and as always this is where I giving my shout out to amazing people who work with the Red Cross. I’ve heard story after story praising the help of Australian Red Cross who are once again bringing support and comfort to people in need. If you can, please do consider giving financial or volunteer support to Red Cross so they can give provision to people in need.

Thanks everyone!
LA x

The Giant Stuffed Koala reloaded

So it was Australia Day this week, and I changed my profile pic on facebook to this picture (as I’ve done for the last 2 years on Australia Day).

My Mum’s response?

please do not bring a koala that size home. No room.

My retort?

I’ll just have to get a house in Australia for it then. ;)

My Mum has a fear of me moving ‘too far away’ (note to blog readers, when I chose to go to university 2.5 hours away you might have thought I was moving to the ends of the earth). So she backtracked..

No need we can put him in the hut and let him eat the hedge instead.

I’m wondering if the builders can put in some eucalyptus in our garden. To replace the hedge. And then at some point I’m going to have to get a giant stuffed koala from Sydney to Edinburgh.

What Australia meant for me

4 weeks. 4 years ago.

Australia.

In now seems like a lifetime ago. I’m so far from the girl I was then listening to Nada Surf over and over and over again.

To make a mountain of your life is just a choice. But I never learned enough, to listen to the voice that told me: Always love…

It was saying goodbye without being able to properly explain why I was having to say goodbye.

It was repairing the damage from a relationship with someone who didn’t have a clue how to love me.

It was trying not to compare when someone I once loved had found happiness and I had done the opposite.

It was finding contentment walking through Glebe & stopping by the bakery to meet old friends.

It was taking the hits of spiritual attack as cultists tried to recruit me in trains & bus stations.

It was watching penguins waddle up the beach as the sun set over the 12 apostles.

It was freaking out as I travelled across Sydney Harbour by catamaran or ferry.

It was getting advice and encouragement by text and e-mail from friends in Scotland & Kenya.

It was terror at finding a blackened scabbing mole on my stomach in Brisbane Airport.

It was feeling so alive crashing & surfing through the waves of the Pacific Ocean.

It was not realising that herbal tea I was drinking contained liquorice.

It was stepping out solo to find that God would provide a friend to share a koala hugging experience with…

…and to feed me when all the shops are closed on Anzac Day.

It was having total peace when my passport, credit card & ballet tickets were stolen.

It was discovering that TimTams are a great cure for oceankayaksickness.

It was rediscovering my love for the arts in gorgeous setting of Sydney.

It was struggling through pain to drive down the Great Ocean Road.

It was meeting Dr Karl Kennedy and cartwheeling down a beach in St Kilda the next day.

It was an opportunity to share stories with a Hare Krishna in Byron Bay.

It was being released with so much love from a church family who gave me the strength to do it all in the first place.

It was leaving with hope and faith that I was lacking on arrival.

It was trusting God that I would come home to find a place to live and a place to work.

More crazy weather in Queensland

Cairns – not my favourite place in the world, but never would wish what is currently happening to them. A cyclone more powerful than Hurricane Katrina is hitting the North Queensland Coast right now.

To give you an idea of the magnitude of this thing:

That gives you an idea of how big a weather system this monster is.

As with the floods, Premier Anna Bligh has been keeping it together, but with 1000s already without power, evacuated and some sheltering in places with the roofs lifting (and have been told to stay there until tomorrow afternoon – the ‘life span’ of Cyclone Yasi is expected to be 2.5 days). Even the emergency services have had to evacuate – that means if they call ’999′ (I can’t remember what the equivalent is in Australia!) there is noone able to come to their aid.

Once again, my thoughts are with my friends in Queensland…

 

 

Australia Day: Adam Hills, Jimmy Barnes & London 2012

You know, next year the Olympics & Paralympics are coming to the UK. London 2012 people.

And you know, our friendly rivals downunder (we like to invade each others countries with backpackers on ‘gap years’) are pretty decent when it comes to sports.

I think it’s because they have that season…what’s it called? Oh yeah. SUMMER.

I was thinking on the lead up to Australia Day…what would I pay to have Adam Hills come out and sing his Jimmy Barnes version of the Australian National Anthem when the first Australian wins a gold medal?

What do you reckon?

Happy Australia Day!

 

Travelling Tuesday: The Giant Stuffed Koala

Last year, I posted this picture on Australia Day but I didn’t actually ever tell the story behind this picture…

Most readers will know (or maybe if you are new around here, you don’t!) that in March 2007 I felt I was being ‘called’ back to Edinburgh for reasons unknown*. A few days after I made that decision, my friends Kate & Vikki called me up from Los Angeles and said ‘Why don’t you come meet us somewhere?

Somewhere turned out to be Sydney, Australia.

3 weeks later. The day after I packed up my flat, handed the keys to friends about to be homeless and dumped a suitcase and many boxes in my Mum’s house. I had no idea where I would live or work or go to church on my return from Australia.

Because I flew out on Easter Monday, my Mum was able to take me to the airport, but on my return (a Friday afternoon) my Mum would be working so I needed my Dad or Step-Mum to pick me up from the airport.

“We’ll pick you up only if we have proof you’ve hugged a koala while you’re in Australia” was their response.

You have to understand that at the time my sister was 16 & my brother was 11/12 and they gave me my marsupial nickname. So when they heard Big Sister was headed to Australia – home of koalas – they were pretty excited.

So when I arrived in Australia, Kate & Vikki had asked what were the things I really wanted to do – and my answer was simple. 1) Hug a Koala and 2) Learn to surf !

On my 2nd or 3rd day in Sydney, we took a trip to Taronga Zoo where we’d been told that you could have your photo taken with a koala. However, when we got there, we discovered that you didn’t get to handle the koalas, but you just stood below them for a ridiculous price – at least in our potentially unemployed when we get home to Scotland opinion.

So we went for the next best thing – the giant stuffed koala next to one of the gift shops!

It got e-mailed back to Scotland and it made my family laugh, but they didn’t think it counted enough to be picked up from the airport in May.

Thankfully a week later I got a picture next to a koala in the wild when we drove down the Great Ocean Road, and then later I got to hug a koala on ANZAC Day at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane. I had picture proof, they got it, and my Dad did pick up his very jet lagged daughter from the airport.

The nice appendix to this story was that last year I got back in contact with one of my Dutch friends (from a high school exchange programme) and he had been travelling in Australia, and indeed he has a picture with the very same stuffed koala in Taronga Zoo. :)

It makes me wonder who else has a picture like this one….!

PS It’s Australia Day tomorrow!!

PPS It’s Burns Night tonight

*Unknown = to work in a pregnancy resource centre that I didn’t know existed. Yet.

Queensland

**I only found out tonight from online friends that the media coverage of the floods in some countries has been poor. A number of my friends have friends & family who live in flood affected region which covers an area that is 5x size of the UK (2x size of Texas) and have been begging for people to pray & asking for those who are able to donate to the Queensland Flood Disaster Appeal.  If you are on twitter, I would love if you could show your support to the Australians by tweeting using the #QLDflood hashtag. Thank you to many of my twitter friends who have already done this – it is very much appreciated**

Of all the stops I made on my trip to East Coast Australia, the stop in Brisbane was one of the toughest points for me. However, it also gave me one of the memories I will treasure forever…hugging a koala!

Australia has a special place in my heart, and 2 years ago I watched with horror the scenes of the Bushfires in Victoria – some of them in places where I had driven through in the pitch dark trying to find our way from the Great Ocean Road back to the main motorway back to Melbourne.

Over the last fortnight, I’ve watched with horror again at the floods in Queensland. I didn’t see much of Queensland on my trip as the girls couldn’t afford to road trip up to Cairns  from Byron Bay like we had originally thought we would do, and I ended up flying to Cairns from Brisbane while they headed to Fraser Island.

I’ve been so thankful that my friend who lives in Queensland has so far been unaffected by the flood – but he’s one of the lucky ones. Thousands have had their homes & businesses destroyed. 10 people are known to be dead, 80 are missing after flash floods hit several towns in a sort of inland tsunami. Some people had just returned to their homes & towns clearing up after floods before New Year, only for another flood to hit them once again.

As the floods head South, they are expected to hit Brisbane today, and one of my favourite places I visited while in Australia is in the suburb of Fig Tree Pocket, and right next to the Brisbane River…

…Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.

From memory, Fig Tree Pocket was mostly residential houses, and I’m sure many families may have evacuated their homes and for some of the Brisbane residents, this will be the second time in their life to have experienced a flood disaster after the 1974 flood.

It’s awful, unimaginable. One resident of a town hit my flash floods yesterday described it as ‘armageddon’. But if there is one thing I know about Australians, it is that they are resilient.

It’s also likely that there are a TON of backpackers out in Australia just now – January is a popular time for people to start trips in Australia. Most of the backpackers I met there had been in Australia since late Dec/early Jan and left in May/June.

Anyway. Prayer is needed. But also practical help – the damage caused is already in the AUS$ billion mark.

You can help by giving to the Queensland Relief appeal here (to the QLD government appeal) or here (to Australian Red Cross appeal).

My thoughts and prayers go to everyone who has been affected, especially those who have lost loved ones or are missing.

It’s Christmas Eve

And don’t forget that you can all be tracking Santa all Christmas Eve & Day (depending on which time zone you are in) on the NORAD satellite footage

You might remember last year a whole bunch of us read the Night Before Christmas poem and popped it on videos online. If you’d like to see them again, the links can be found by clicking back to here.

But I thought since Australia is one of the first places to be celebrating Christmas (being 11 hours ahead of GMT and all), that the Aussie version performed by David, Diane & Paula had to make an encore.

Dreaming of an Australian Summer

So I had grand plans to do a TON of work from home today. My plans faltered when I got interrupted by the phone this morning (yes, I was eating breakfast at 9.30 a.m. – Go me!!!) and a trip to the bank & the supermarket (dull but necessary errands) and a return to the house where I could not get warm. Even with my thermal fleece top, fleece slipper boot things and wrapping myself in a big fleece blanket. Nope, I shivered away until I fell asleep. Doh!!

The heating is now cranked up.

And I need to be thankful because it has been SNOWING today in Aberdeen. Yes. Snowing.

In OCTOBER!

(Was it not enough that it snowed for like 5 weeks straight, and even snowed in April?!)

I think I may have to spend the rest of the afternoon begging God for a visa to go live in Australia. Seriously.

Dreaming of a 27 C Autumn in Byron Bay today. Or even just catching up with my friend in Queensland…