taxi

Friday night at a friend’s exhibition in Docklands. Beers and good chats with good pals, good art, and a blinding sunset over the river. Whippets and dachshunds. Platform shoes. Dancing. Haddaway’s “What is Love” just as I was leaving, making me think that perhaps it wasn’t the time to leave, that I should stick around and do the robot with my bestie, and try to channel the awesome moves of Hanna from Girls, or Liz Lemon…

But I left. Took a stroll along the Yarra with two lovely friends and their black whippet, as the ridiculous gas towers at the Casino burst into flames in the sky. They hissed and sizzled and I heard the rumblings of a tram – my tram. Imogen said “You can still make it!” and I said “I never run for a tram” and I didn’t, and I missed it. Because I’m lazy and a derbrain and the city on a Friday night is a horrible place and I should have just quickened my pace and j-walked and I would have made it. But I didn’t.

We strolled a little further, and Tim and Imogen and Peppa the whippet left me at Southern Cross station – them to catch a train and me to hail a cab, bougie-style. I headed to the taxi rank, and a cab stopped in no time.

I try not to catch cabs. Taxis in Melbourne are usually not the most enjoyable places. I’ve had my fair share of rude, speeding, texting drivers, and mostly I prefer to walk. So last night, when an older gent with twinkly eyes stopped for me, I counted my lucky stars.

Last night was a night that I was so very glad I didn’t run for the tram, that I didn’t lazily hail a car as soon as I saw one, that I ummed and ahhed long enough before heading to the rank.

I hopped into the car, told him where I wanted to go, and looked out the window.

After a few moments, he asked if I was in the city the previous Saturday, for Melbourne’s White Night event (I wasn’t). We chatted about it briefly, then I asked him where he was from.

“Guess,” he said.

“I’m no good with accents,” I confessed.

“Persia,” he told me. He’d been living in Australia since ’89, first in Adelaide, but moved to Melbourne 3 years ago. He’d been driving taxis three months.

“What were you doing before then?” I asked.

“Bits and pieces,” he said, “When I lived in Persia I was a Sales Manager at an engineering company; selling parts to big companies all over the place, but you can’t get a job like that in Australia. My English isn’t good enough… so I do this.

“What do you do? Study at uni?”

I waved at my face, feigning flattery (I was!) and told him that, no, I wasn’t at uni, I work at a media agency, writing copy for websites.

“You’re a writer?” he exclaimed “I’m a writer! Well, I’m a poet. I’ve written four books of poetry that I’m trying to have published here, but so much of the meaning of my work is lost in translation. I write in Persian and it’s just not the same when it’s read back in English – it loses everything.”

He dug around in the glovebox and pulled out notebook after notebook of words, written in Persian. Curly cryptic squiggles dancing across tiny lined pages. The first poem, he told me, was about a canary in a cage, losing its’ desire to sing.

The crazy thing was that then, after I’d flipped through a few pages of script that I couldn’t read or understand, he said, “You are too good for what you’re doing. Have you written a novel? You need to write a novel. You need to think about your life, up until now, and you need to think about the one occurrence in your life that you always come back to, the one story you always tell, and you need to work that into a story. It’s like making a recipe, but without actually following a recipe. You need to start writing, and add a bit of this other story, and weave in some of that story, and then you need to read it back and cross things out and add a few more lines, and then you’ll have it. But really, you just need to start. Just sit down, and start. And the rest will follow. You must. You must do this.”

I pointed out my street, and thanked him for such a nice chat. Kinda jokingly, I said “Well, next time I see you, I’ll give you my novel!” and he said “Next time I pick you up, I’m expecting great things. I’m expecting that you’ll have a grant and you WILL give me your novel.”

It was such a strange journey, and one that had me buzzing with inspiration. I bounded (this isn’t a lie; I actually did) in the front door and declared to Rich and Beev “I’VE JUST HAD THE MOST AMAZING TAXI TRIP OF MY LIFE!!!” – it’s funny to meet someone in passing who just seems to understand so much, despite my giving nothing away about what I do and what I want to do.

And so, on this balmy Saturday night, I sit on my bed, with my dog at my feet, a glass of wine at my side, with a house full of teens, and I think, I’m gonna write this. I’m gonna try my hand at a novel. It was a goal for 2012 that never eventuated, but 2013 is the year. It doesn’t have to be anything – it just needs to be something. I just need to find that story. And I’m pretty sure I’ve got one.

Cheers to that

Cheers to that…

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heading home…

OMG ZOMG. Did you think that the trials and tribulations of our Inca Trail adventure caused my hands to freakishly stop working, and my fingers – crying out as they were to type up my latest tales of tall and true – to cease their digit-y dalliance with my keyboard?

Alas, there is no such story of numbness or sudden loss of hand-eye coordination or anything like that (which is good, I think!!); instead, our travels have come to an end, we’re back in our Melbourne abode, and I have been busying myself with a frenetic bout of summer spring cleaning and early morning dog walks. Added to the hurricane of 6-month-old dust bunnies and dried leaves in unusual places and weeding and shed cleaning (am I turning into a 45 year old man, preparing his mancave for the coming apocalypse???) I have been without wifi ever since we got home, making blogging a little bit trickier than it should be.

So. To fill you in. When we last spoke, Rich and I were tired and stinky and thoroughly enjoying an agua con gas in the town of Aguas Calientes. Exciting stuff! We caught the train back to Ollantaytambo, then a bus to Cusco, then – in a moment of extreme love and a need for further bonding – our trek group went out for dinner. Beers, mojitos, and a guinea pig was ordered.   Yes, a guinea pig. It arrived at our table on a bed of giant corn with a tomato forced between its teeth, his baked, leathery face still housing a few whiskers and a contemplative expression. I did not partake in the guinea pig feast, but contrary to popular belief, GP does NOT follow the ‘tastes like chicken’ logic applied to nearly every ‘unusual’ meat, and was likened to a tough old boot. After dinner, a storm blew in and we all ran, drunk and exhausted and happy, back to our hotel, where I KNOW we all slept like behbehs. Our first sleep in a real bed in four nights. B to the liss….

The next day Rich and I headed back to Ollantaytambo for a few days of R & R. For four days we ate amazing vegematarian food and slept and read and strolled and that was it. There are no adventures to report here. All the excitement and torment of the Inca Trail meant we had to balance it out with some extremo nothingness.

So after Ollantaytambo we started the long trek (figuratively speaking) back home. We flew out of Cusco (just as terrifying as our arrival) back to Lima, where we spent the evening at the Magic Water Circuit (with about 10 million other people); the next day we visited the gallery and ate a bourgie lunch and wandered about looking at Incan jewellery and crazy sex-pots (no really – the gallery was having an erotic art exhibition, and two rooms were full to the brim of weird ancient pottery depicting all kinds of sex-stuff: people-sex, people-sex-with-a-baby-being-born-at-the-same-time-sex, dog-sex, cat-and-giant-mouse-sex. It was… interesting. And the furthest thing from ‘erotic’ I think I have ever encountered. And I’m not sure telling you about it here is the wisest move either… Do I really want traffic from peeps searching ‘cat and giant mouse sex’ in Google? Hmm…). After the gallery I had a $3 manicure, then we moseyed back to our hotel and sat around until it was time to leave. In our humungous, strangely decorated, 3-single-bed-ed room.

At 8 o’clock that night, our cab arrived, and whisked us off to the airport. Do you know that in Lima, instead of straggly-haired, missing-a-few-teeth window-washers at the traffic lights, there are fire-breathers and jugglers and kids who breakdance on the road in front of your car when you’re stopped at the lights. How good is that?

After the dramz of Miami/Brazil a few weeks ago, I was anticipating similar issues when we got to the airport. Why? Because, despite 5 months travelling around with my fella, and feeling relaxed, and having implemented several tips from the Happiness Project into my daily existence, it is now a FACT that airports stress me out. This stressure (that’s a new word that I just invented) was exacerbated to no end by our good friend (that’s sarcasm, BTW) Mariana at the TAM Airlines desk in Miami, and I figured that if we were going to be faced with another round of bad luck, now would be the time for it.

But guess what? It didn’t. We checked our bags through to Sydney. We were given our boarding passes, which did not have an SSSS on them (did I tell you what happened when we left Toronto? My passport was flagged as ‘suspicious’ and I had to sit in a room at the airport with a scary man with a baton while he asked me questions like “Have you ever lost your passport?” (no), “Have you ever reported your passport as stolen?” (same question really – no), “Are you SURE you’ve never lost your passport?” (yes, I’m sure, no, I’ve never lost my passport) – on it went. SSSS is a heightened security code, so you get pulled aside and questioned like nobodies bizniz, but then you get whisked through security and you don’t hafta stand in the super long lines). We actually had seats next to each other (we had SO many flights where we had to sit next to strange, tomato-eating Venezuelans and middle-aged Poms on their first ever overseas trip…). We spent the last of our Peruvian Soles (on chocolate, FYI). We made it to the gate lounge in plenty of time. Our flight was not delayed. Our take off was smooth. All was good and all was right.

We arrived in Buenos Aires and sat around for 6 hours, playing Scrabble and Gin Rummy and drinking lemonade and coffee and eating those gigantic croissants that only seem to be sold in airports, or in glad-wrapped six packs at rural supermarkets. We went from being the only people in the terminal, to being surrounded by shorts, Crocs and Australian accents as far as the ear could hear. Our fish-out-of-water, overseas adventures were seemingly over. Even though we were in Argentina, we were pretty much home.

The flight from Buenos Aires to Sydney is pretty much the worst flight ever. It’s SO. FLIPPING. LONG. Rich (lucky sod) was able to sleep for most of the flight, but I passed the time watching such cinematic greats as ‘Our Idiot Brother’ (good) and ‘Friends with Benefits’ (not good) and ‘Crazy, Stupid Love’ (Gosling-y!!), along with an entire season of ‘Parks and Recreation’, and multiple episodes of ’30 Rock’. And that only got me through 8 hours. The rest of the time (yes, 7 long hours…) was spent closing my eyes and trying to sleep (unsuccessful), eating (not enjoyable, but at least we got icecream), drinking (which is never a good idea on long haul flights but I managed to enjoy it), and shooting stink eye at the multiple peeps in our cabin who refused to shut their blinds. I realise we were flying over Antarctica, but guyz, YOU CAN’T SEE ANYTHING!! IT’S JUST CLOUDS!!!!

Finally, after a bajillionty hours, we touched down in Sydney. Home soil. Almost there, but still not quite. We went through immigration and to the baggage carousel and guess what? My bag was the first one off the flight!! Hurrah! Which I guess is why Rich’s bag failed to arrive… Boo…. We chatted to a baggage rep and he looked at our flight details and said “You’re gonna miss your flight if you hang around here; file a report in Melbourne” and with that, we hotfooted it to the transfer counter so I could check my bag through to Melbz. A rep there said “Unfortunately your flight to Melbourne has just closed, but we can get you on the next one” which was half an hour later… Boo… But when we got to the ticket counter, a rep there said “Actually, your flight’s been delayed 15 minutes, we can keep you on that one” – hurrah!!! We bussed it to the domestic terminal and arrived at the gate just as it was boarding (hurrah!!). But then. A voice came onto the loud speaker, announcing “Attention passengers of Qantas flight blah blah to Melbourne – there is a mechanical issue with the plane. Please standby until further notice”. Boo…

Tired, narky, in-Sydney-for-the-weekend passengers filed off the plane. Rich and I looked at each other – one bleary, blood-shot eye to the other. Would this day of travel – now spanning nearly 30 hours – ever end?

A few minutes later, another announcement: “Our engineers are working on the issues on Qantas flight blah blah to Melbourne, we hope to resume boarding shortly”. Hurrah!

Then, a few moments after that: “We regret to inform you that Qantas flight blah blah to Melbourne has been cancelled.” Boo…

Passengers yelled and stomped their feet. Others huffily crossed their arms and glared at the desk staff. Rich and I went to the food court and had a beer.

An hour later, a new plane was found, passengers boarded and then… we were off. Again. But this time it was the last take-off, the last safety demonstration, the last mini can of ginger ale of our adventures. After an hour of almost-falling-asleep-but-waking-up-when-my-head-dropped-too-far-forward, we landed. In Melbourne. Hurrah!

We got my bag, stepped into the unseasonably cool December air, got in a cab, and hightailed it home. After opening some mail and putting on a load of washing (and other scintillating tasks I had been DESPERATE to do) we got into our bed with our pillows and our doona; our cat crept onto my feet. We slept the sleep you sleep when you’ve been awake for over 40 hours. Which is pretty much the greatest sleep ever.

So. Our worldly adventures are over. For now. But Wembolina’s adventures will continue. I have LOVED writing this blog, so this will keep going. While I probably won’t be regaling you with tales of mountain treks and overzealous dogs and diving off boats and donkey races, I will definitely keep you posted on country’n’western junkie crooners outside my office and epic bike rides through the country and a weekend in the bush painting portraits of friends and drinking wine and eating cheese, among other things.

Till then, dearies!

Wembolina xxx

p.s. I actually feel a bit teary posting this. So let’s make things a bit sappier and tearier: