Travel tales

Travelling, observations, fact files, people

Australian authors, writers, journalists, editors, publishers oppose amendments to the RDA!

Anita Heiss

14 April 2014

175 Australian authors, writers, journalists, editors, publishers, directors, artists, filmmakers, academics and supporters (as seen below) have made a submission to the Exposure Draft of The Attorney-General’s Proposed Amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act 2013.

2014-04-14 Submission to the Attorney-General

We, the undersigned authors, writers, journalists, editors, publishers, directors, artists, filmmakers, academics and supporters lend our support to this submission and urge the Government not to proceed with the proposed amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975:

1. Dr Anita Heiss (author)

2. Ms Alice Pung (author)

3. Meredith Curnow (publisher, Knopf, Vintage)

4. Janet Hutchinson (editor)

5. David Whish-Wilson (author)

6. Kerry Kilner (academic)

7. Bruce Pascoe (author)

8. Susan Johnson (author)

9. Donna McDonald (author)

10. Dr Evelyn Juers (author and publisher)

11. Angela Savage (author)

12. Bianca Nogrady (author and journalist)

13. Alison Lyssa (author)

14. Bronwyn Mehan (publisher)

15. Michelle de Kretser…

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We’re not racist but …

“Why don’t they like people coming to Australia by boat?” Our child doesn’t understand why people in Australia are reportedly up in arms about welcoming people from other countries, people who are desperate to start a safe life here.

“Coming over on a boat is dangerous, and no-one wants people dying in the process,” I begin to explain.

“But that could take ages and they’re only trying to escape hardship in their own countries,” she reasons.

“Yes, but people objecting don’t think any reason is a valid reason to enter the country without a visa. They want them to join the queue.”

“They’ll all die waiting.”

I can’t answer, there’s no logic. See, this argument floating around, the one about “illegal immigrants” who take government funds, who don’t contribute to the community, who don’t assimilate – it just doesn’t stack up.

Calling people “illegals” and making diverse peoples feel unwelcome here while ignoring wealthy overstayers implies that it’s ok to be an economic migrant in Australia, but not someone fleeing for their life, often losing it in the process. Particularly an “illegal” who has brown skin, one with a funny name that has double the number of vowels than ‘normal’ names have.

Humankind this isn’t. The conversation continues.

Streets of Sevilla

Tapas in Sevilla

Tapas in Sevilla (not La Trucha)

Calle San Vicente 44, then Jesus del Gran Poder, now Santa Cecilia. The latest street on our apartment-share carousel is in historic Triana, opposite La Trucha Bar Cafe with its tried and tested tapas offerings: Gambas al ajillo, Espinacas con garbanzos, Chipirones.

Dani, Sarah, Tomas and Tati are a good mix of characters from easy-does-it, to direct and self-assured. The latter is a trait I admire – inner strength delivered without the maliciousness of assertiveness in overdrive.

This flat has a television! Salem’s Lot is on, pierced by an advert for Les Miserables which has arrived in Spain. Tomas and I head for a foot expedition through Triana district. Cars on cobblestones k-thunk k-thunk; metal shutters rattle down, shielding the snoozers inside. Small balconies protrude from rendered walls, homes closer to the street than I’m used to.

The smells of wholesome meals, cooked by someone else, sway us into turning toward home, toward our own lunch of tinned-tuna-with-something. But after an hour of wandering and chattering we’re so disoriented that we’re forced to ask for directions.

“I live here,” protested Tomas to doubting pedestrians, “but I’m lost”.

Streets of Sevilla

Streets of Sevilla

Crested Butte, The ASSASSIN-WICH and I Made It Out ALIVE!

Tragicomic tale of author Kristen Lamb’s desperation as she prepares to present at a conference despite being violently ill. Was it the town water? The Zucchini of Doom? Or the salad dressing?

Kristen writes: “I am a person who honors my commitments to the point of lunacy, but…
Mostly I want you guys to know I pale in comparison to what other writers are willing to do for their craft”.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Last weekend I taught at the Crested Butte Writing Conference in Colorado. Amazing conference with fantastic presenters (highly recommend) and though it was memorable and magical…I thought it would KILL me.

It Didn’t Begin Well…

I am NOT a fan of early morning flights. Even though I had everything packed and ready to go, I wake up WHEN?

3:00 a.m.

…and CANNOT get back to sleep.

So I get up, do some work and have plenty of time to get to the airport. I figure, “Eh *waves hand* I’m not presenting today, so I will just go to bed early.”

I finally get to Gunnison, Colorado, my ride picks me and the other presenters up. She’s already scouted out a restaurant that had gluten-free and dairy-free food. YAY, ME!

The Assassin-wich

Whenever I go to different regions, I make it a point to try what’s local. I ordered the Trout…

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Joy, a full time job

Have you ever worked long hours in a kitchen to pay the rent? Know anyone who has? A kitchen dweller for a while, I’d become immune to the strong scents of work that followed me home. I shared the stench with passers-by – it hitched a ride in the fibres of my shirt, the strands of my hair, my bag and shorts fabric. Even my cap was splattered, it too stank.

Washing clothes in our share house was a first-come best-laundered, stressful undertaking. Finding my one and only spare apron, shirt and shorts trapped in a malfunctioning washing machine sent me into a spin. It meant I had to hand-wash the uniform I had on before falling asleep, but by the time I woke it was still damp and stinky as I peeled it on for my shift.

That morning, the greasy wafts ripped right up my nostrils. I got through that shift by telling myself ‘It’s only temporary’.

That’s when kitchen guru Michael lifted me: “Do this work as if it’s the only work you have to do. Maintain your focus and do it well.”

How do you do that when you’re up to your elbows in fryer fat and chicken bits for 10-hour shifts, home, sleep, then head back again for more?

“Do your job happily, no matter how horrible your work, and you’ll be content. At the very least, your shift will go faster.” Sweet-smelling advice.

English: Advertising postcard, picture side, f...

This is the Way we Wash our Uniforms: The Happy Day washing machine by National Sewing Machine Co. of Belvidere, Illinois. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tap Into Mt Tamborine

The green behind the Gold Coast‘s glam is as cool and alluring as its bronzed image is bold. The entire hinterland stretch offers tranquil spots with majestic views. All there’s left to do is to get up there.

A few people cycle, some bus it. Others walk, hikers often seen sweating on slopes while warming up for the 96km Kokoda Challenge. We pack our chariot with a few children and set off.

Tamborine Mountain [525m (1,722ft) above sea level] is made up of North Tamborine, Eagle Heights and Mount Tamborine villages and its peak was named Wonglepong by Aboriginal Australians.

There are a few ways to attack the volcanic plateau. Turn off at Oxenford, or take the more vertical, winding route of Henri Robert Drive as we did, our bodies leaning into the turns like racecar passengers. It can be done in 30 mins, I allow a cruisey 45 from the beach.

It’s a 10-minute stroll to Gallery Walk from our parking spot. Mt Tamborine bedazzles visitors and residents alike with drawcards, but in the balancing act that is family life, fairies are our focus. We wander into Fairies On The Walk and become entranced by seemingly thousands of sparkling, glitter fairy wings, precious presents, and hanging, cackling witches. Fortunately there’s no “Touching Tax” in that shop because we’ve left our fingerprints smeared over nigh on every gift, crystal and spellbox.

After the fairy fiesta we spy a fudge shop, where we spend what seems like the best part of an hour. We taste, and buy, and taste again, then buy some more “for Grandma”. (she says hers never arrived in the post). We walk past the cuckoo clock shop, then backtrack for a nosey, losing ourselves in the ever-dwindling day.

It’s time for a snack. We eye up the gorgeous restaurants and make a note to return, seeing as we have a terror in tow. We resume the wandering – a rhythmic stroll, holding hands, holding children, holding fudge – and I awake from the strolling reverie at something-o’clock.

Finding that my hands are finally fudge free, I make a To Do list:

  • Thunderbird Park
  • Glow Worm Caves
  • Rainforest walks (Witches Falls was Queensland’s first National Park)
  • Skywalk
  • Songbirds in the Forest
  • The Polish Place
  • Witches Falls Winery
  • Cedar Creek Winery
  • Tamborine Mountain Distillery

We have some more travelling, and taste testing, to do!

A version of my article first appeared in Proctor Magazine, May 2011.

Tarifa to Tangier

Ticket to Tangier

Ticket to Tangier

Elevator music for boats is playing on the Tarifa to Tangier ferry. I didn’t know this genre existed until now and if it were playing on my last watery trip from Devonport to Melbourne then I don’t recall.

I’m over-warm in my thermals but less to carry means I’m content to perspire away. I take in a distant, hazy vision of Tangier and ache for the 3-D version.

Aboard the ferry this pulled-together crew: Dean from Vancouver, Robbie from Scotland, Andy and I in front of them, Chris and Grant just behind us, Chompy and Caly next to Stabby.

Robbie borrows my pen to fill in paperwork for the customs officers and within minutes the pen is missing. Travel pens. Now that I’m home there are 42 in my desk drawer but while travelling, all pens disappear into a quantum warp field.

Waves send us rocking and lurching about as I surf down the aisle toward the ferry toilet, obeying the internal nanna-logue that implores: ‘Go! You never know when you’ll next get the chance’.

Back to my seat, I fondle the leather of my freshly-polished boots and twiddle my laces, a tactile meditation.

Dean, handsome rugged type and worldly too, hands me this address with a been-there-before nod: CHECAUEN. Hotel Salema. Hotel Rif. At the foot of the mountains, southeast of Ceuta and Tetuan.

By 6pm I am with the crew on a train bound for Fez. With a maroon and gold kaftan-thing and with a carpet reminiscent of Peter Hack’s house in Brisbane but without that pen.

Caricature-culture looms large

Berber rug from Tangier Kasbah

Berber rug from Tangier Kasbah

Try visiting Morocco and Not coming home with a carpet.

Surely everybody, fresh into Tangier, has heard voices sing-spruiking: “I am Mohammed – I will buy you for Five Thousand camels”. Or: “I will take you to the most special, the finest place in all of Maroc. Other tourists don’t even know this place exists.”

Ali, our railway greeter, takes us to a carpet shop, followed by another carpet shop. Our Grant pipes up: “Have you ever seen the Fast Forward skit on TV?”

“SalEm. SalEm. SalEm.”(*) We inhale, then sip, and inhale once again, the peppermint aroma, putting down our herb-filled tea glasses as this rich cabaret begins. Listen, they announce, this is the history of carpets, and they talk in time to the showing.

Energetic forearms wave gigantic carpets. Woven mats and rugs unfurl and colours weave in the air, dust drifts down through muted sunlight, settling on more rugs.

I lap up the simplistic designs including stripes; Grant prefers the precise and detailed mats, ones made of silk with birds, flowers, intricate patterns. His choices belie a higher intelligence, a higher-end taste in art.

The ring masters continue: “The colour in this one is made with real saffron, please, and over here, if you will, please, you will see a real Berber, a Picasso of Berbers, if you please.

“As you like (x3). That is to say (x 3). Do you understand? (x 3). They’ve received Mrs Lambert’s memo about delivering messages in threes for greatest impact.

“Close your eyes,” one continues, “imagine it in your home”. “Send it home, just like a flying carpet.” “I don’t usually show this one, but because you are So nice, especially for you, here it is…”

The final sales pitch? How carpet was Perfect for natural sports. Carpets don’t squeak or move around, unlike a Bed, they wink.

I don’t get it, but, I’m SOLD.

* Salem/As-Salaamu Alaykum

Throwaway society

Clean air of Austria

Clean air of Austria

Come November I’m clear-headed after a few months spent inhaling my favourite season. The air in this winter paradise is cold, crisp and clean without the bite of February’s deep freeze.

An older local acquaintance behind the counter of a small shop is confounded by a shopper who doesn’t want a plastic bag.

“Don’t give people a plastic bag if they explicitly don’t want one,” I suggest.

“But it’s all in the name of service,” he insists. “That’s how I know they have paid for what they have. Plus, they pay for their bags, I add a few cents on.”

“I’m not talking about the economics of it all, I’m more concerned about the environment,” I reply.

“Oh, I don’t care about the environment. I’ve lived here too long to have to worry about it now.”


^ The above is from a lost’n’found travel notebook.

The following is from Satu Hassi, a Green MEP in Finland, writing on Public Service Europe:
“In the consultation that the [European] commission conducted in 2011, more than 70 per cent of the respondents agreed that a ban on plastic bags across the EU is needed … Austria has been urging the clarification of the situation and calling for either national bans or an EU-wide ban.”