Archives for posts with tag: life

‘You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.’

Miriam Adeney



Ah, the joys of the postal service here in Sri Lanka! I do love it really! The paperwork, the bureaucracy, the non-existent queuing system…

Every transaction is handled manually – nothing is computerised – with hand written ledger books, and copious amounts of carbon paper for all the required copies.

Even at our little branch in Norochchalai, if the doors to the offices behind the main counter are open I love looking at all the piles of paperwork and imagining how long they’ve been there and old they are! And wondering what happens to it all?!

photoAnd of course, no transaction is simple. Whilst postage certainly is not expensive – it’s less than 20 cents to send a postcard anywhere in the world, and a letter to Australia costs about 70 cents – it is made a little more complicated because of all the combinations of stamps required to make that 85 rupee! I sent a birthday card to my brother-in-law recently and the envelope ended up being more than half covered! Somehow I think the address was still visible.

And then, if they don’t have enough change, you get more stamps back! For next time?!photo-3

There is no queuing system. One clerk can be dealing with several customers at once, and your personal space can feel a little compromised. You finally get to the ‘front’ of the queue and think you have the clerk’s attention for your five letters – but for every one action she does for you she deals with someone else who is reaching over and around you, or leaning over the counter in front of you. Fortunately most of the time it works without too much drama!

If you want to send anything registered – well, that will double the time you’re at the post office as you deal with several clerks and more paperwork!

And then once you get all the stamps for your letters, you have to keep them in the correct combinations and take them back to the other counter to paste them all on the envelopes! Sticky fingers…

photo-2The other day I had to pick up a parcel that had been sent from Australia. Sometimes they just get delivered, other times no, you have to go to the central office and pick them up paying any applicable fees and import duties and taxes, etc. How this is decided I’m still not sure about.

Jude, the trusty tuk-tuk driver, picked me up and took me to the main office in Colombo. He has done this before and knew the order of all the counters we had to go to and helped with any translation that was needed.  We were one of the first ones there that morning – hopefully a good sign, hopefully this would mean we wouldn’t be there that long! First, to the clerk who was still straightening out yesterday’s carbon paper ready for the triplicate copies needed. That lot of paperwork done and then passed on to the next clerk. ID recorded, and my signature on every page. Then asked to sit and wait. Finally number 7 was called and to a new counter. I had to wait for them to locate my package, and then they opened it in front of me. Upon seeing the contents someone then somehow decided on the taxes and fees associated with the contents. They resealed the package in front of me – but it was still not mine! Onto the next counter… And I had to wait whilst she finished ruling up her ledger book and organizing her pens and rulers and pencils for the day. I paid the fees and still had to wait as I could see the parcel sitting on the floor behind her. But it was not her job to give it to me. We had to wait until some ‘underling’ was available to pick it up and then give it me – with the clerk who I had just dealt with checking all paperwork again! And then finally it was mine!! All quite comical really!

As a system it somehow manages to work quite well and certainly keeps a lot of people employed – including the carbon paper manufacturing company!

by Raymond Carver

Thanks Sophie T.

I have packed up and left New York… again. And it was only a year ago that I left London, again moving house… and moving country. And in the midst of this next adventure into the unknown, I was ‘home’ briefly in July, visiting family and friends in Australia. So whilst I am excited about the possibilities ahead and without a physical address for the next few few months, in these times of change and uncertainty, I am, naturally, thinking a lot about the concept of ‘home’.

What is ‘home’? Where is my home? I’m sure everyone has their own concept but with my current experience of ‘limbo’, it’s something I am trying to work out for me. Does a home find you? Or do you need to make a place home?

I have lived overseas for 12 1/2  of the last 15 years. But I have moved address at least every 2 years during this time, lived and worked in several countries, and travelled in many more. I have never claimed to have migrated to a new country, a new ‘home’.  I get back to Australia about once a year to see family and friends – although have recently stopped referring to this as ‘going home’. When people ask me where my home is, I do struggle to come up with an answer.

A home is more than the physical structure, a home really is where the heart is. To me, home is about belonging. It’s about the people, the places, the passion. Is it possible to feel that in different places? Or maybe, as a friend and I were discussing last weekend, different parts of my heart can belong to different places… I guess until I work that out, or some particular place ‘finds’ me, I am going to keep on exploring!!

Anyone who has traveled with me comments on how quickly I make myself at home with the local cafe/restaurant/bar, getting to know the staff by name, and becoming a ‘regular’.  That is one way that I feel at home.

Even living in new York’s West Village, a ‘home day’ does not mean staying indoors, but relaxing in some of my favourite nearby places – coffee on the High Line, shopping at the Chelsea Market, brunch at Gottino…

And every time I return to Bali, upon entering Ubud’s Jazz Cafe, Ayu greets me – ‘Welcome to your home!’

I have spent the last week in Jakarta – I lived here from 2001-2003, and haven’t been back for at least 8 years. My first day out and about, navigating the traffic and mayhem that is Jakarta, I was surprised at how at home I felt!

To all those people out there who think this self-questioning might mean I’m ready to move back to Adelaide, I’m afraid not yet! I still have plenty of travelling to do! But if there’s some way I can create a more permanent home to come back to in between the adventures – that would be great!

The time has come for me to leave New York.  The thought has been mulling in the back of my mind for the last few months, but only settled just recently.  And I’m ok with it!

Work finishes in 4 weeks’ time. I have a few plans for July and August, and then I step bravely (or not so bravely) into the unknown.

New York has been my base on and off for the last 7 years. I nearly called it ‘home’ but I’m not sure whether it has ever really been my home. And maybe that’s one of the reasons why it’s time to move on. Don’t get me wrong – it is an amazing place to live, and I’ve had some great experiences here, the work has really stretched me, I’ve learnt a lot, and I’ve become more of the person I am supposed to be. But it’s time.

This was always going to be a short-term option for me – so to have stuck it out this long amazes me – and the people who know me well!!

I’ve never had the love for New York that I have for London – they are very different cities. But there are many things I will miss. And some special people.

My neighbourhood – which I never leave on the weekends!  6.30 am coffee every weekday morning with Alan and Steve. The dry cleaner who knows my name. The girls at the salon who know I will always say ‘yes’ to a 10 minute foot massage with my pedicure! Sunday morning coffee on the Highline – before the crowds arrive, reflecting on the week past and the one ahead. My bar ‘Gottino’ – equivalent to my local pub in London – where I spend (too?) many an hour sipping prosecco, chatting with friends.

Then there are the ‘big’ New York things – opera at the Lincoln Center, jazz at Carnegie Hall, exploring Central Park, revisiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art to discover something new every time, shopping in Soho, walking across Brooklyn Bridge, the skyline from the apartment deck…

Anne, Bill, Sheena, Alan, Allison, Avon, Pam, Rhonda, Robyn – some of the important people I will be leaving – although they will never be truly gone from my life.

And just to remind myself of some the things I won’t miss about New York – people shoving to get on the subway carriage as I’m still trying to get off; a lack of good coffee options; a very ‘test driven’ schooling system…

I don’t know what the future will bring. And most of the time I am OK with that – except when I wake in the middle of the night and start thinking too much!! I was talking to my Mum recently and, although I know she is worried about me, she also said how proud she is of the way I resettle, re-establishing myself and finding my feet time after time. She knows something will work out. And so do I.

I’m back in NY after a great trip to Sri Lanka. The photos here are some of my favourites.

And whilst I was only away 2 weeks, there’s always a period of ‘coming down’ from the high of travel.  Where suddenly everything that happened seems so far away and so long ago, and you’re caught back up in the necessities of work and everyday life. Fortunately the jet lag, annoying as it is, is a constant reminder of your travels that keeps you going mentally even as your body is physically exhausted.

Friends are interested in your trip, some more than others, but there is a limit to how many photos they will sit through, or how many stories they want to hear!

I like the person I am when I travel. I am more of a risk-taker. I’m more open to the possibilities. I am more patient with myself and with others. I feel less need to be so organized and planned; changes, uncertainties don’t frazzle me as much. I like the challenge. I learn new things, managing in different situations each day. I eat better. I sleep better. There is a balance – much needed to my otherwise busy and stressful life.

Even though it often takes me quite a few days in settle into holiday and travel mode – I have to get away from that feeling that there is always something I ‘should’ be doing – I come back refreshed, with goals and plans, trying to inject some of the balance I found into my ‘everyday’ life. I also try and work out how to hold onto the person I am traveling – the ‘me’ that I like and admire.

Don’t get me wrong – New York is an amazing place, and I recognize how special it is that I’ve had the opportunity to live here the last few years!

But then, there’s always the next trip to dream about and plan…