Day 1: So I’ve chosen to travel with William Moisis for a month. Am I crazy?
Day 6: We have finally arrived at Nectar Home, an orphanage two hours north of the Ghanaian capital Accra. Twenty new faces that we would soon come to know and love – but, like all first meetings, there were a lot of stilted conversations, misheard names and polite nodding. Already, Ghana is perspective changing. It’s another world from Australia – but everyone is friendly, happy and family-oriented. It’s food for thought.
Day 11: Today I taught my first class at school: Year 8 English. The students, used to getting caned when they get an answer wrong, took some coaxing to brave raising their hands in my class.
Day 27: Marking a students’ homework today, I came across a multiple choice quiz in her book. My favourite question: “All of the following are important qualities for the workplace EXCEPT: a) punctuality b) politeness c) reliability d) faith.” The correct answer: c) reliability. This epitomised my Ghanaian experience thus far. With school classes often starting half an hour late, or not happening at all, it’s hard not to become first frustrated by and later caught up in ‘Ghana time’. The teachers’ lackadaisical approach to their job hugely disadvantages their enthusiastic young pupils. The cycle is perpetuated with undereducated and ill-disciplined school graduates. In developing countries, questions of what we can do to make a difference are easy to ask and hard to answer.
Day 35: Spent the day at the Canadian Embassy in Havana. This may surprise you, but it wasn’t on my initial list of sites to visit. Neither was a Cuban police station nor a Cuban hospital. I like to think I got to visit authentic ‘local’ places that tourists would normally miss out on. But, really, getting your passport stolen in a foreign country, especially one without an Australian Embassy, is something I would not recommend.
Day 47: The Mayan ruins of Mexico and Guatemala are phenomenal sites, where buildings have literally become embedded into the jungle over the centuries. These people were incredibly intellectually advanced and architecturally sophisticated. However, if you thought Chinese foot binding was bad, the Mayan equivalent made me even more squeamish. Elite children had their skulls deformed into aesthetically pleasing ‘coneheads’ by having wooden boards strapped to their heads as infants. Modern anthropologists are interesting in studying the effects of this practice, but so far there haven’t been any volunteers offering up their children for a trial. Funny that.
Day 52: Guatemalan street hotdogs, called ‘shukos’, contain 4 different types of meat and literally translate as ‘dirties’: no sugarcoating there. We had two each.
Day 57: In Argentina, they show off by cutting steak with a spoon. I was in my happy place.
Day 60: A 16 hour flight home to contemplate how excited I was to see all of you!
A not very summery summer…
Despite having studied in Australia for more than two and a half years, I am yet to spend a summer holiday here. A strange fascination for temperatures below zero and a dislike for sunshine have always drawn me back to Europe, and the past three months were no exception.
While I usually stay away from my native Sweden and live the life of a ski bum in Austria, the impending sense of “holy shit I’m graduating soon,” and the peer pressure from other investment-bank-position-seeking commerce students, made me retreat to Stockholm for an internship, rather than chugging Jägermeister and hitting up the powder once again.
Hence my summer-slash-winter was spent in Stockholm, Sweden. Not able to entirely let go of my ski bum ways, I managed to get an internship doing marketing and sales with a Swedish ski and outdoor brand called Houdini. There, I actually got to combine what I love; skiing and materialism, with knowledge acquired in my marketing classes at uni.
Though I spent most of my time in the office scoring ‘adult-points’, I did manage to cram in a spontaneous long weekend in Austria, a freezing New Years in the north of Sweden and, of course, get some skiing done. I also had access to a fully stocked fridge, liquor cabinet, free washing and my own bed for three months.
So while temperatures never exceeded zero in my summer holidays, and I am super happy to get around ‘straya again, I must admit Europe definitely has its perks.
So whilst everyone else was venturing off to the far corners of the earth this summer (Ghana, Indonesia, France, Alice Springs, etc.), I stayed here in Melbourne and attempted to explore the city I’ve been living in for the past two years. I didn’t move home, instead I moved in with some past Ormondians to learn what real world communal living is all about. And you know what? It was awesome. I worked most days on Lygon Street, but I had more than enough free time just to live here. We spent the summer hanging in Fitzroy, going to Workers Club, eating Vietnamese (Viet Rose doesn’t look like the fanciest place, but do yourself a favour: go and order the rice vermicelli), and complaining about the sweltering heat. We had an array of houseguests, and arguably the most enjoyable two weeks of the summer were when our small three-bedroom was home to five. The best thing about living in that fantastic house was how much living with those people turned us into a family, and how quickly you acquire your own routines and quirks as a unit of people. So, no, this summer I didn’t travel the globe or study overseas, I stayed here in this fantastic city we all call home. And I regret nothing.