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Ship Log

Train of Thought to February

[Cairns, QLD, Australia] I’ve been working on moving my website from WordPress to my own place, HMSHenning.com. So instead of writing posts in the last couple weeks, I’ve been taking notes that have quickly disintegrated into random musings, which I am only too willing to share.

Meanwhile, we’re in Australia, a land of many wonders, free internet not being among them. In Tasmania we rarely had a phone signal, and even in the big city hotels it is rare to find free wireless. Periodically we pay for internet time (sooo 20th century) and it’s only good for one device at a time.

So Tom is travel-planning this morning, saving me from hours of legwork – that can sometimes be met with a quick veto if we’re not communicating well.

But I have no connection while Tom is travel planning. See my predicament? I wonder if he’s working on the travel plans or watching another episode of The Incredible Hulk on the Bad Acting Channel.

The little rice paper notebook from Bali comes in handy. A month in Australia comes down to this: visiting with dear old friends. Hire a car and keep left. Roundabouts, airports, marinas, hotel reception desks. Tall blonds. Street fashion. English spoken, though funny sounding. International crowds gathering for poker tournament, Australian Open, and Chinese New Year. Several young French workers in Queensland say they are fleeing a depressed France for paying jobs.

More notes include what I’m reading (In Tasmania, by Nicholas Shakespeare), what’s recommended to me lately (Death on the Galician Shore; South with Endurance re Shackleton’s expedition to Antarctica; and The Slap by Tsiokos, recommended by the delightful Aussie Dunns we met in Strahan.) I’m pretty sure the Dunn’s son and us have friends in common. Our guide in Strahan spent a summer in Minnesota working for Camp Courage. Small world-isms without connectivity.

Damn, can’t get the Bluetooth transfer of photos from Blackberrry to my MacBook Air. Damn, can’t get internet on my Blackberry in Australia, at least via Vodaphone. Damn my Blackberry. Out of touch with kids, with Connie. Wonder how Connie is doing today, back in Council Bluffs. Reminder to send a letter.

As if my Blackberry heard me, it just messaged me that I have some $400 credit to be used by February 4! Could that be right? Maybe I’ll call Jane and talk for a really long time. I wonder if she’ll answer.

Scribbled notes detail research of airfare and hotels, comparing flights to Darwin and Bangkok and Bangkok via Darwin. More notes listing house sitting options in Australia. There are plenty of options including a farm with chickens and pigs. Another with horses.  All include dogs, and this is sounding better all the time. We really should pursue the house sitting option. Or book a flight?

Names and phone numbers are interspersed, including Lure Restaurant in Port Douglas’ marina. Why aren’t they calling me back? I think I left my camera there. I could check the number, but I don’t have internet. That’s where we had a beer with Jong Lee from NY on our way back from the reef. His number is there, too. Can’t believe he bought our dinner last night back in Cairns. I hope he meant it when he said, “let me get this,” unlike Minnesotans who are just offering to be nice, knowing they will lose the argument. I think we should have at least split the bill or paid for the wine. I have trouble letting these things go, being Minnesotan. Tom’s from Iowa. Maybe we’ll run into Jong again and be able to return the favor.

[How much time will be left on our five hours of web time when Tom is finished? Maybe I should do some laundry while I wait. I need a haircut. And I think I’ve put on a couple pounds. More like a couple kilos. All these restaurant meals are not good for the body or wallet. Or maybe it’s the tropical weather. Tom’s testy and I’m down on myself.]

Maybe I’d feel better if I finished something. I could clean up the story on Tasmania so I can submit that to sell, which means I can’t publish it on my site. I’d like to tell my friends about it. Here, just read Tom’s posts on Cradle Mountain and on the convict heritage, and imagine my slightly different version. Can you do that?

Here are notes on the Freemasons in Australia. There’s maybe a story there, but probably not. They’re everywhere. Didn’t realize that Mozart was in the brotherhood.

My review of The Magic Flute was published in Sydney’s Alternative Media press, thanks to my old mate Lawrence. Year-old story from Valparaíso and Viña del Mar in Chile is finally going to be published, too, in International Living Magazine. But my IL story itself went nowhere. I should be working on the audio story of Agung Rai. Maybe we need to land in one place for a couple weeks or more to get some work done. We keep saying that.

And here is one more haiku in the notebook:
I kept her waiting
She with more patience than health
Me wrapped in handbags

What else is in my notes? Peter Waterman the Greenie. He’s an environ consultant we met in Hobart, TAS. At least climate change has improved the Tamar Valley wines, he says. And he believes hard cider is easier on the stomach (or figure?) than beer. [Did you know that Australians surveyed on Australia Day said they like being Australian because of a) freedom and b) beer. That’s hilarious.] Wonder if Waterman is on Facebook. Wonder if he is related to my Minnesota friend, Sally. It’s a good thing I’m not on the internet or I’d never get anything done.

Waterman offered these gems: “I won’t be a tick,” Australian for “I’ll be right back.” “He’d strapped on the wobbly boot.” Self-explanatory. We talked about books related to Tasmania, and I noted those, too. The Tin Drum by Günter Grass. All Quiet on the Western Front. Remains of the Day.

More stray notes. In two months I’ve met two individuals instrumental in establishing World Heritage sites, Steve Lansing in Bali and Peter Waterman in Tasmania. I’ve visited two privately founded museums, Agung Rai in Bali and the MONA in Tasmania. I’ve taken pictures of two stars: Phil Ivey and Rafa Nadal. And a personal first: an intro scuba dive. Life is good.

The convict history is everywhere in Australia, but especially in Tasmania. The history of covering it up and now uncovering it for tourism is almost as interesting. I have notes from Port Arthur. William Cary (family name) arrived February 2, 1849, my god, 163 years ago today as I write. How many generations is that? Police number 21494, from County Cork, sentenced to seven years for larceny. It’s cool that you can look up their convict heritage the same way you can look up your World War II connections in Normandy.

Everyone in Oz is pleased to know we’ve spent some time here, that we’re not just passing through. The Tassies seemed impressed that we visited their land at all. Not too many Americans come this way. We’re advised to take our time. There’s no rush. We hear this a lot. There’s even a Timeout Valley, I think. That’s what my notes say, but I’d have to look it up. Need internet connection.

$18.50 for a movie? I had to write that down so I wouldn’t forget.  Same with the funny diminutives: Footie for football. Bikie for the badass biker. Biskie. Cozzie. And the coffee jargon: Flat White, Long Black. What’s a regular cup of coffee?

People watching in Melbourne duly noted. If I’d had a connection on my phone, I’d have posted this to Scott Seekins’ FB page: “I just saw your ‘separated- at-birth’ twin. Turns out to be a Chinese woman.”

Australia hospitality workforce is paid more than in the U.S. and is not tip-driven, which is why our Australian friends confirm that you’ll get some of the worst service in the world right here Down Under. That reminds me of lunch the other day when two-salad Tom suggested the waiter ought to have pointed out he was ordering two courses of green salad. The waiter said Tom was passing the buck. (Important Note: this is not an effective apology.) According to my dictionary the phrase originated mid 19th century “from the use of a buck-handled knife to indicate the dealer in a poker game.” Fitting.

Tom played a bit of Texas Hold ‘Em in Melbourne and here in Cairns. I had a quick profit at the Blackjack table in Melbourne. Not here.

Have I mentioned having unlimited travel options with no deadline results in hours of pointless browsing? (BTW, wotif.com is great for our pattern of last minute, one-way travel.) But I think Tom has it done: Cairns to Bangkok on February 3. Vroom. My turn to log in, but now I don’t feel like it.




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