The Rewild Return

Once again I went bush with the ReWild Tribe and these are my very belated postcards and musings on all the wonderful things I found again out there in the wild.

POSTCARDS; Amazing moments

Rain Dance

A storm was brewing at Bhundoo and people were seen flocking to their tents to zip doors and shut car windows. In whatever world I normally exist in rain usually requires a run to cover inside a building but at ReWild it means let’s go dance. As the storm swept in the sky was marbled with grey, green and blue. As the first drops fell from the sky there was a yell on the hill and all of a sudden figures ran from everywhere to dance, spin, twirl, bounce, yell, scream and sing the rain down. A cha-cha conga line formed and disintegrated, a body rhythm started and ended all while the rain streamed down in cool bursts and sudden stops.

Thunder thunder, lightning lightning, rain rain!

Bluegum Circus

The Long House was busy with post dinner chatter when some poi and a hula hoop were seen nearby, gently swinging through the air in bright pink swishes and black, blurry circles. One by one people drifted in from the field. “Can I have a turn?” “Sure.” Another hula hoop appeared, music shakers were tossed around and a beat started in the Small House. Drum by drum a whole troop appeared. A glow stick fairy appeared from the dim hill and soon there was colour everywhere, on heads, in hands and in ears. Floating rainbow coloured poi appeared in the growing dark and the drums beat on. A spark in the dark led a running band of kids to shout, “Can I have one?” “Who’s got the sparklers?” and each in their turn set the night alight with tiny buzzing fires held at arm’s length or whirled around happy heads.

Wood Chop Victory

One ReWild afternoon when the sun had lost its bite and the shade had hit the woodpile, three ReWild boys picked up hatchets and axes. A watchful dad stood with eyes fixed as arms and axes swung and cautiously connected with their wooden targets. A few watchers gathered as with a thud a huge piece was put on the block. BOOM! The master wood chopper split the block almost all the way through but there was still a way to go. The ReWild boy lifted his axe and thud after thud he came closer to splitting the block. The suspense built until the watchers almost couldn’t keep their mouths shut. An axe was stuck in the wood and the ReWild boy struck it with another axe, again and again the axe swung and the wood ever so slowly creaked and cracked open. Until finally with a last swing and thud the piece of wood fell in two. A shout and applause rang out from the watchers as the wood chop victory finally arrived.

Python

As week one was drawing to a close, the field was a little more quiet as it’s wonderful occupants emptied out onto the highway with cars packed high. Our convoy of two was pulling out along the dirt road when red brake lights came on and a head popped out of the car. “You have to see this!” There in the middle of the road just beyond the front gate was a beautiful python. He had beautiful yellow markings but he wasn’t too happy to see Georgie and I so we quickly left him alone. The fact that he wasn’t in a zoo made him… or her even more special because that’s maybe the best kind of animal you can ever see, a wild one.

Goanna

The first time I saw the Goanna he appeared behind Nella’s tent and I was just as in awe when he later turned up trying to steal rubbish from the kitchen. He had beautiful brown patterns on his tail and yellow markings down his neck. The way that he ran and his hilarious attempt to hide on the other side of a dead tree even though I could see his hands and feet gripping the tree was really special, not everyone gets to see a comedic Goanna.

Like A Kid

Rope Swing

The rope swing is a pretty popular place so most of my rope swing antics happened late at night. Swinging and looking up at a night sky full of stars couldn’t have been more perfect. Add to that two other mentors swinging my feet causing me to laugh uncontrollably and it was the perfect rope swing scenario.

Duck Diving

This used to be my favourite thing to do in the water but somewhere along the line I became really conscious of and uncomfortable with being unable to breathe. At first I wondered if I’d be able to convince myself to do it again but with one decisive motion I was under and along the bottom of the river like I wanted. I let my control get washed away with the current and gave in to the feeling of being under the ripples left by my feet.

Running

I really liked running as a kid before running became a competitive pursuit which pretty much ruined it for me because I didn’t want to be compared, I just wanted to be free. This camp I discovered while rushing back and forth from my car that I could run a fair way without choking for breath. With that tiny discovery I started running everywhere, even when I wasn’t in a rush, even when I had nowhere to be and it felt GREAT.

‘Tattoo’ Evenings

My favourite phrase in French is Raspberry Lemonade (Framboise Limonade). My ‘tattoo artist’ was really good so I ended up with a beautiful script complete with crest/shield. I even tried my hand at tattooing because I was so relaxed my fear of stuffing it up wasn’t around and a beautiful pattern emerged which I was glad I could give to someone else.

See you in the wild?

N.

Years later in Germany

I really enjoy looking through old photos, there’s something really interesting about what they capture. I was around at Mum’s house looking through old photo albums and found a whole heap of photos from when Mum went to Germany as a teenager. I have seen these photos before but hadn’t purposefully set out to reproduce them. I unintentionally ended up with some really similar photos and I found it really cool to see the comparison from decades ago to just last year.

Anyway here is my little photographic comparison.

Marienplatz Glockenspiel, Munich

Zugspitze, Bavaria

Schloss Nymphenburg, Munich

It’s really cool to see how the mountains have weathered and how different seasons bring out different angles in them. It’s also really interesting to see how the buildings have been preserved while the city surrounding them has grown and changed.

N.

Sterling Silver in the Wild

Caution: Long read ahead, put aside your plans and maybe bring along a cup of tea.

I recently decided to throw myself in the deep end and help out on a nature connection (Rewild) camp in the bush with a whole heap of families and their kids. When I got there everyone was tanned and beautiful and sure of themselves (or so I thought), some people knew each other and I was this pale, anxious figure following familiar faces around, my arms adorned with the most blindly white sterling silver jewelry.

So begins my long list of things I had no idea I could do until I decided I could do them. I cannot express how glad I am that Gina kept asking because without that gentle nudge I would never have had the courage to find out what I could do and who I could be, out there in the wild.

Talking to New People

TERRIFYING! Usually when I meet people for the first time I get really nervous. I tend to cram everything that I need to say into one sentence without breathing and then run for the hills.

So when Gina asked me to be a welcoming committee for people arriving at the camp I was terrified, this is right at the top of the list of things I AM REALLY SHIT AT!! And to start off with I was really shit at it. I rushed, I wasn’t calm at all nor was I particularly welcoming.

However every time I screwed up one car load I was determined that the next would be better and I pushed on. I replayed Gina’s voice over and over in my head when I could feel my nerves getting the better of me. “Slow down” it said, “Ask them how the drive was” it said.

And I succeeded! Every new car got a better version of calm, collected and welcoming and in the second week I even convinced them that I was friendly! WHO ME? NO WAY!

Peeing in the Bush

TERRIFYING! Am I going to pee on myself? Am I going to scar some poor child for life? Why is that bird watching me?

First Leech on Camp

Strangely not as terrifying as peeing in the bush.

First Time Camping

Sleeping in a tent on a yoga mat, cooking on a camp fire, waking up at 5 o’clock, going to bed at 8 o’clock, watching leeches crawl over the top of my tent, using bush toilets, completely cut off from phone reception or Wi-Fi for two weeks. At one point waking up in the middle of the night thinking holy crap it’s raining, is this tent really water proof?

First Time Sneaking through the Bush at Night

There was something about the opportunity to sneak up on kids in the dark and scare them that I knew I would regret it if I didn’t go. Although once we were assembled around a mud puddle I have to admit it didn’t seem like such a great idea anymore.

But like with every other thing I had thrown myself into I thought okay just do it, get the mud and put it on your face, humour the wild teenagers and put a bit on. I traced two lines across both cheeks and felt like I’d taken one for the team. Until Gina presently applied it as if it were foundation. After that I just repeated to myself, it’s just like a mud mask, it’s just like a mud mask and tried not to think about what else could have been in the puddle apart from mud.

Once we were in sneak mode I completely forgot what was on my face and just enjoyed every second, even throwing myself on potentially leech invested leaf litter when the beam of a torch swung through the trees looking for ‘deer’. Never before had the snap of a branch or the rustle of footsteps been so loud or the beam of a torch so terror-inducing. Never had roaring out of the bush been as hilariously funny or running as entirely enjoyable as it was in that moment.

Later that night in my tent I realised that the mud on my face actually looked really good! I looked and felt wild, messy and unconventionally beautiful and I had finally stopped thinking about what was in that puddle!

First Time Lighting a Fire

The first morning I woke up and a seven year old kid was more able to keep that ember alight than I was. But like with everything else I tried to avoid doing because I thought I was shit at it, fire maintenance then crept its way into every other day and I mastered it before long with lots of smoke in my eyes and swear words in my head.

First Swim in the River

My toes were almost immediately numb but the river was so clear and beautiful with its red yabbies, tiny fish, flat stones and birds in the branches that the numbness just became background noise.

One of the first things I learned at camp was how to skim rocks from a very wise teenager and I was so ridiculously excited about that one tiny achievement. It set me on such a positive learning curve for the rest of my time in camp, just one tiny flat stone skipping on the surface of the water.

First Event Management Task

Delegating responsibilities and instructing people has never felt completely natural to me. I often feel like I have no clue what I’m doing and in terms of answers to questions, I’m usually fresh out of those too.

Again once I figured out I could do it, there I was telling people what to do, when to do it, how to do it, where to do it and what to do it with. And they actually listened! (I know, unbelievable right?)

First Time Hanging out with Kids in the Bush

If you think adult humans make me nervous and awkward try sitting me next to a kid. I have no idea what to say, no idea how to be age appropriate and no idea why kids still seem to like me despite all of that.

On camp I tentatively started up conversations here and there and soon I had a tribe of helpers where ever I went, willing to teach me things, help me stir dinner or just hang out. I successfully made friends with teenagers without saying anything particularly uncool. I even conquered my biggest fear with under 5’s by playing fart monster games which turned out to be as much fun for me as it was for them.

First Camp Fire Sing-Along

I can belt out a song in the safety of my car like it’s no one’s business but I can freely admit that my dingo howls, my echo calls and my singing were conducted at a level which blended into the sounds everyone else was making. Letting my voice be heard is still beyond my comfort zone in a lot of settings but it’s a little closer now than it’s ever been.

See you in the wild?

N.

http://www.bluegumbushcraft.com.au/

Extras on a Promo Video – Sure We Can

Another episode of jumping into something I had never done before and learning a whole lot. A little message popped up in my inbox one day saying hey we’re doing a promotional video for a few businesses in Kangaroo Valley, would you both like to come along, stand around and you might even get to kayak?

Sure we can.

Lesson one: Learning to be at home with a camera hovering nearby.

Lucky for me my life has involved a lot of cameras hovering around my face with various family members acting as paparazzi. Having cameras nearby takes on a new dimension when you realise that your standing around and walking from spot to spot is meant to attract people to visit a destination. What is my head doing? Am I walking like a dude? Has this leaf been in my hair the whole time?

After a while though it becomes apparent that there’s not a whole lot you can do other than enjoy whatever scenery you have, sip the wine and do what you usually do when you walk around a shop. The ‘act natural’and ‘pretend the cameras aren’t there’ advice has never served me better.

Lesson two: Learning about the technical side of things

Always use a tripod. Always bring your giant lense. Drones are impressive and complicated pieces of equipment, do not trust what you see on your screen and ALWAYS dread the sound of blades ripping up leaves. ALWAYS.

Lesson Three: Learning on the job – Kayaking

Giant wobbly raft, giant stick with a flat bit on the end and the comfort zone is back on shore. So you put the stick in the water and you use your muscles and the wobbly raft goes forward, towards the large rock wall and then you panic a little as Daniel tries to explain how to turn the kayak. Then you turn it the wrong way.

Then you figure out what you’re doing and wobbly rafting becomes really fun and you don’t want to get out.

Our little taste of life in front of the camera was a whole lot of fun and we appreciated being invited along. The finished product looks more professional than I felt in the kayak and hopefully it draws some people to Kangaroo Valley with the promise of beauty, a bite to eat and kayaking.

N.

Volunteering; Why Haven’t I Done This Before?

My first day volunteering the only thing I could think the whole time was – why haven’t I done this before? I couldn’t believe how good it felt to get out there and use skills that I had had for years for something that wasn’t just retail, it was retail with a heart and soul, retail that was going towards something real. And it made me wonder: Why I hadn’t pursued this before?

“Not feeling qualified– “I don’t know what to do.” Henley 2011

The first answer to this question that I could come up with was that I felt like I didn’t have anything to offer which upon reflection is a load of crap. I didn’t have to have a degree in anything at all to give my time and that’s definitely something I wish I had realised sooner. I also didn’t have to be the most successful salesperson on the planet to sell merchandise with a smile on my face.

Afraid it will take too much time- “I am over committed right now as it is.” Henley 2011

The second reason I could come up with for not having a whole lot of volunteering experience up my sleeve was time. I felt I didn’t have time, I’ve been busy for years undertaking the juggling act that is life in your early 20’s. I felt I couldn’t fit that one more thing in. Again completely untrue, when I first looked into volunteering for the Cancer Council their online signup sheet had three hour shifts just waiting to be filled and I thought, why didn’t I know about this? Well because I didn’t look.

Not knowing where to go or what cause moves you– “Soup kitchens are not my thing.” Henley 2011

Which brings us to the final reason I could come up with for not having volunteered before, being unsure of where to go or what cause needed my help or even what causes I felt strongly about. Up until five or six years ago cancer hadn’t touched me nor anyone I know. Then in the space of a few years, I saw three friends lose people they loved and it opened my eyes. If I could contribute to keeping someone from going through the process of saying goodbye to someone they weren’t ready to let go I would do it every day. If one day the dozens of pens I sold adds up to finding just one tiny link in the cancer chain then great! That’s something worth contributing to.

And with that one thought I realised all the other things I believe in and want to support, animal adoption, environmental conservation and now I can’t wait to find all the wonderful organisations I can volunteer for.

Until my next volunteering adventure! Adios!

And maybe you’ll look for your own volunteering adventure too.

References

Henley, 2011, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kari-henley/why-dont-we-volunteer-thce_b_218155.html?ir=Australia

Things I Learned About Myself While Travelling

wpid-20150404_092137.jpg

I am a truly annoying person

I can throw a tantrum to rival most three year olds, I can fuss about a messy suitcase as if it’s a life changing problem and when I’m anxious or unsure about something I am almost unbearable with worry and a determination that we’re walking into a disaster and it’s everyone elses fault except mine. I must have some pretty amazing redeeming qualities because if I were Daniel or anyone who has ever seen me in a bad mood, I would probably have put me in a bin long ago and shut that lid… with super glue.

I am really indecisive

From choosing between Nessy souvenir or a ‘Honey’ the highland cow souvenir right down to what I want to eat for dinner I was at times incapable of making a choice. I’ve been this way since I was a child but with the pressure of travelling there were times when I would walk out of a store because I simply couldn’t make a decision.

I can push through sickness

Normally I hate being sick and will curl into a ball and whinge the house down but while I was travelling I had no time for it, I wanted to see it all and do it all and neither cold nor migraine was going to keep me from meeting London’s cats or eating my weight in croissants.

I can push through discomfort

I make really crappy decisions sometimes and the things that I wear are often involved. From wearing heels when I definitely should not to layering too much or too little. Again though, I had no time for my poor choices and just got on with it, whether it was traversing the streets of London in heels to overheating in Italy for fear that my passport would fall out of shallow pockets, my discomfort was pushed to the limit.

wpid-20150410_164320.jpg

I can adapt

I can eventually say the right french words at the right times, I can eventually figure out the transport system, I can eventually remember not to wear shorts in a moderate Islamic country.

I am not unfit

I spent hours walking the dog trying to make sure I wasn’t going to be exhausted after every single day of walking around new cities on our holiday and it actually paid off. I’ve never thought of myself as fit but I can’t be too bad if I can walk the whole way to and from the Eiffel tower sans public transport and hike up a mountain in Germany sans chairlift.

I am lucky

I have a million lucky circumstances which keep me out of war zones, off the streets, away from crime and safe in my own home. I am lucky to have found someone who wants to spend time travelling and exploring the world with me. I am lucky to have been able to broaden my perspective of the world, to see and experience things that you don’t see in brochures or from a bus.

Gallipoli: 100 Years

Disclaimer: the perspectives found below were sourced from a number of tour guides and personal observations, they are not comprehensive just a snap shot from our trip.

My favourite thing about going to Turkey was the differing perspective it provided on Gallipoli. Our tour guides were so interested, passionate and knowledgeable. They had memorised all the same numbers and figures, the years and the soaring statistics of loss, the stories of the battles and the moments of integrity and respect. They quoted and marveled at these things just as Australians do. In our ownership of Gallipoli as Australia’s story I think some of this common ground gets lost in creating an image of an enemy worthy of going to war with. It was so intensely interesting to hear stories we knew so well in the place that they occurred but also be introduced to another perspective we knew was out there but hadn’t heard much about.

Key moments

Spatial scale

Everything seemed only a stones throw away, you could see different battle sites from others, you could see Suvla bay from the Nek, you could see Chunuck Bair (the high ground) from the beach. It all seemed so close and it brought to life how frustrating it would have been to see how close they were to one objective or another and not be able to reach it time and time again.

Simpson and his donkey

Our tour guide produced a piece of paper and asked if anyone would like to read about Simpson and his donkey. He then pointed out the valley Simpson would have traveled down for weeks before his donkey made it’s last descent and Simpson was fatally wounded. We then visited his grave which was a short distance from where we sat under a tree looking out to sea listening to his story.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Daniel reading about Simpson

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sitting under the tree looking out to sea

Trenches

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There’s no way that a photo or a sentence can convey the feeling of standing in a trench and reflecting on what this weathered soil means and what the soil below it regularly gives up after it rains. Pins, badges, bullets.

ANZAC Cove

It seemed unbelievable that the small beach I was looking at was the one that looms so large in the history lessons we learned in school. It was so beautiful and the water was so blue that I couldn’t imagine anything as large and grim as war marching up it’s shores.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Key New Perspectives

Turkey was defending it’s country from an invading force.

“We have to remember again, he’s fighting for the Motherland, for the heartland” Tuncoku 2004

Australia has never been faced with a situation where an invading force (as opposed to a colonising force) was on our shores and so matter how hard we try we struggle to imagine how that feels. It is a perspective on Gallipoli that is unique to Turkey and one that I perhaps naively had never given proper weight to until I was standing on their soil looking down from the high ground imagining ships in the night coming in to land.

Turkey won the battle

I think the fact that Australia and it’s allies were forced to pull out of Turkey is one of those things that is recognised but it is seldom talked about in terms of win or loss. So maybe that’s why when our tour guides spoke of victory for Turkey it seemed new to me. I felt the same when our guides were piecing together all of the small mistakes that caused Turkey to experience that victory. These seemingly tiny human errors that changed the whole course of the war. The one described below is just one of the many that we heard of.

“Because the Australians, when they saw that Turks were fighting from up in the hills, they thought that there were a great number of Turks there so they hesitated and they stopped.” Tuncoku 2004

Australian soldiers decided to dig in as a result of being cautious in a new country and not having the information at hand telling them how many individuals were defending the area which turned out to be a couple of hundred men. If they had kept going it is possible they could have reached the high ground and the war would have taken a very different turn.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Turkey was thrust into the war by Britain and Germany

Turkey paid for two ships. Britain, who was about to be at war kept the two ships instead. Turkey was not pleased.

Germany found itself running away from enemy ships. They came into Turkish waters to get away and gave Turkey two ships to say thanks. Turkey renamed the ships and put Turkish colours on them.

Those two ships, still with German crew intact, then attack Russia. Turkey is now in the war.

Stories of respect and compassion

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There is a statue of a Turkish soldier lifting a wounded British soldier off the ground and returning him to within his own lines during a ceasefire. The British soldiers had been listening to this soldier calling for help but could not go out to retrieve him.

The Nek

“Now, from the Turkish lines, comes a strange . . . pleading . . . call: “Dur! Dur! Dur!” (Stop! Stop! Stop! Do not keep running into our guns, slaughtering yourselves.” FitzSimons 2015

Turkish soldiers at the Nek were yelling at Australia soldiers to stop after it was evident that they would all be machine gunned to death as a result of a failure in time coordination. I wasn’t 100% certain about this claim although the compassionate side of me wanted to believe that humans, no matter what side of a battle field they were on could feel for the humans on the other side, running into peril. However I have found mention of it occurring even in Australian writing so perhaps it is true that they were pleading with them to stop.

References

FitzSimons 2015, “The battle of lone pine’s impact on our nation is still felt 100 years on”, The Age, http://www.theage.com.au/national/the-battle-of-lone-pines-impact-on-our-nation-is-still-felt-100-years-later-20150805-gis8ez.html.

Tuncoku 2004, “Gallipoli – A Turkish Perspective”,  Web blog, The Great War, http://www.pbs.org/greatwar/historian/hist_tuncoku_01_gallipoli.html.