Number 66 on my day zero list is “Participate in a photo scavenger hunt” and while searching online for a suitable web challenge, I came across sh1ft.org. Turns out, it’s exactly the kind of thing I’ve been looking for. Some of you will know that I’ve quite recently bought myself a little beauty of a camera and I haven’t the slightest idea how to use it property yet. I’m hoping that participating in the sh1ft.org challenges will help me learn how to use the camera better. Anyway without any further ado, here is this month’s challenge:

Q&A : The Photographic Interview is running during September 2009

To play, take 1 photograph as your answer to each of the questions below. The aim is to get to know you better, through your photographs :)

Upload to your blog, flickr account or anywhere else on the net, then come back and share your photographic interview.

1. What is the first thing you see in the morning?
2. The biggest thing to happen to you recently/soon?
3. Your best mirror shot
4. The person that you see the most in a week
5. Your favourite shoes
6. Your favourite meal
7. The colour of your eyes
8. Your favourite place to be on a Friday night

I’m off to brainstorm. Anyone else in?

It’s Monday morning and I’m back at work, though the countdown has begun (5 weeks!) which makes it easier to bear. I had a really wonderful weekend, Saturday in particular was one of those perfect kind of days where everything seems right with the world.

On Friday night I met M & B for dinner in the city, we ate vegetarian food at Gopals on Swanston Street, saucy Kofta balls and rice with loads of salad. One of the nicest things about it was the fact that when we hugged goodbye at the end of the night, I wasn’t actually saying goodbye, which is usually the case after dinner with these two, usually I’m in town for a day or two, or they are in Sydney for the weekend, we eat a meal, fall in love with our friendship all over again, plan to change the world, or move into a commune together, and then go our separate ways. This time we said goodbye with a carefree hug and kiss on the cheek because we would be seeing each other the following day. What a wonderful feeling that was.

Friday night I spent some time of the phone with my lovely husband who was at home in our furnitureless house (what a lonely image), watched a movie on my laptop (Swing Vote – surprisingly enjoyable), and finished off ‘The Reader’ which I loved – and which was also one of the books on #60 of my 101/1001 list (1o1 books I own that I haven’t yet read) so I was able to cross another thing off there, then I fell asleep

I slept well in the hotel bed, especially in comparison to my previous night on the floor at home, and woke up to an sms from the lovely Chris telling me he’d meet me at ‘the clocks’ at midday.

We met under the clocks – he was early, I love that about him – and we hugged hello, tightly, like old friends, he grabbed my dreadlocks and flapped them around “they look great!” he said and I basked in the thrill of seeing him again. We walked to Degraves Street and he bought us some take away coffees, and then we walked. We walked most of the day, through the streets in the sunshine, talking and laughing and smoking (well he smoked). We went to the Eureka Tower, which was still being built when I left Melbourne. He took me to the viewing deck and we wandered around drinking it all in, he pointed out landmarks as we wandered and talked. He took me out onto The Edge – a glass viewing booth 88 floors up which creaks and groans and shakes as if at any moment you will fall into the streets below, it was scary and thrilling at once. After The Edge, we had coffee in the sun and looked out over Melbourne – one of our shared loves. Once we were back on solid ground, we caught a tram to St Kilda and had lunch, minestrone and gnocchi, a table for two, we ate outside – another tick off my list for #99 – and then walked along the beach (another one for numbers 9 + 42). We caught a tram back to the city, walked through the streets in search of more coffee and ended up back in my hotel room. Totally innocent of course. Five hours we spent together and it was really just perfect. We laughed so much, we shared some secrets and sad news, we confided in each other and joked at each others expense. Sometimes we stood close enough that his arm rested against mine. We took photos of our various reflections, in the windows at Eureka so it looked like we were floating through the air outside, in domed mirrors designed to save cars from precarious corners. We laughed at our differences, me with my impulsive moves and hairbrained schemes, him with his order and neatness and control. When we said goodbye he hugged me tightly and then he was gone, him back to his world and me back to mine.

That night I met with the gang for dumplings and beers. We ate at Camy’s where the waiters yelled at us for taking too long to order and refused to bring us menus. It used to be my favourite spot, but the service was just atrocious! It was kind of hilarious though too, when we were being scolded by the waiter like kindergarten children, or when one of us ordered a beer and they walked away in a huff and then came back and slammed a beer on the table and stalked off without waiting for anyone else to order, which just meant they had to keep coming back. The dumplings were as good as I remember though, and there was a queue out the door and into the alleyway beyond, so I guess they can afford to be rude. We ended up getting kicked out the second the last dumpling past our lips, “we need the table!” they shouted at us and shooed us out the door.

From there we went to Section 8, a funky little bar/carpark next door to Camy’s which is a newish edition to the Melbourne scene (this just means it arrived since I moved away). It is basically a fenced off parking lot with a bar in the corner (nice way to get around the non smoking laws), filled with stacked pallets (for seats) and graffitti and trees. The music was excellent, the seats were surprisingly comfortable and I felt surprisingly in my element there despite the fact that I’m essentially just a loved up housewife these days and rarely go out. We spent hours there huddled in our little corner booth under the gas heaters, smoking and drinking and bopping and laughing at the world. It was lovely and wonderful and excellent. I cuddled with the gay boys, laughed with old friends about the ridiculousness of our youth, planned future weddings, pep talked a friend going overseas for the first time, encouraged illicit lesbian affairs, discussed the effects of ‘teeny weenie willies’ and other such humiliating sexual experiences, the list goes on. One by one my friends slowly trickled away and soon it was just D and I bopping along to Michael Jackson tunes and having deep and meaningfuls until the early hours of the morning. Later on, once it was ‘that’ time of night when the boys in the start hitting on everything that moved we left our cozy little booth and wandered into the alleyway and walked home (one married woman and one funky little lesbian does not make a good pick up opportunity make). She dropped me off at my hotel and wandered on home and that was that. I couldn’t sleep for a long time after I got home – most likely all those coffee’s I’d consumed with Chris since I am normally a coffee non drinker. I called my husband, waking him from his sleep, and rambled to him for a while about our friends and the day I’d had, but eventually he went back to sleep and I was left in my hotel room on my own to ponder my day.

Sunday wasn’t such a wonderful day, in fact after only getting a couple of hours of sleep I woke up with a nasty headache (though I only had half of one alcoholic drink so who knows why!). I packed my things and trudged my way to the airport where I spent the day reading my book (The White Tiger – very good, but unfortunately not on any of my lists so I can’t cross it off!) and waiting for my flight. Eventually, after 6 hours at the airport, I got on a flight and headed on home. My favourite thing to do on a plane is watch the other travellers as they file in and pick the people I’d like to be friends with; the boy with the top hat and the sparkly red shoes, the girl with the purple dreadlocks almost to her knees, the man with the swirly tattoos all down his arms and the backs of his hands, the woman who is lost in her own thoughts and has a secret little smile in the corner of her mouth. Last night though there were suprisingly few, perhaps I was just too tired.

I am not one to shy away from a challenge so I was pretty pleased to discover the Blog This website through another blogger (The Lovely Leila). I suspect this is just going to become another way for me to procrastinate – if you know anything about me, you will know that when it comes to procrastination I need no assistance! – but I’m going to give it a go anyway.

Here is the challenge:

Everyone loves Holidays. Everyone has had a holiday – be it a great big backpacking adventure, a luxury weekend away,a caravan trek as a kid with the family taking in Big Bananas, Big Prawns, Big Pineapples et al, Camping in the neighbours yard under the stars for a few nights. Elaborately planned holidays, impromptu ‘let’s get out of here’ holidays. Blog about a holiday you’ve had that stands out – adventure, relaxation, family, friends, disaster, hilarious events! Who were you with? Where did you go? What made it so memorable? Share a photo if you want!

I am a huge fan of holidays. My friends are always picking on me about the fact that I am either on holiday or planning my next one and they are mostly right. As I type this I have 4 holidays ‘on the go’ in my planning book; The ultimate year long campervan adventure around Australia, The spiritual journey through Peru, The whirlwind backpacking adventure through India and Nepal, and the foodie paradise European jaunt. I’m hoping that at least two of them will happen in the next 48 months, and I expect that one – either India/Nepal or Peru – will be the backdrop for my 30th birthday next year, fingers crossed anyway!

It’s hard for me to pick a holiday to write about, because each holiday holds such special meaning for me and each of them has shaped me in some way. My first holiday with my husband (back when he was just ‘that cute boy I like’) where we quit our jobs and packed our lives into his car and spent 4 weeks driving from Melbourne to Perth and camping on the side of the road, before the car broke down in the desert leaving us stranded. My first time overseas – Christmas bungee jumping and drinking beer in Bali. ‘Finding myself’ by spending six months backpacking through South East Asia. Long weekends of foodie bliss in Melbourne. Sweltering summers filled with parties and drama with my Perth crew. Exploring rural Vietnam on the back of a motorcycle. Skydiving weekends in Temora NSW (lol – not the best holiday destination, I wouldn’t recommend it).. the list goes on, and they have all stood out, for some reason or another. Friendships were forged, memories made, heartbreak witnessed.. there was adventure and discovery and wonder.

I guess the most special holiday – of recent times anyway – would have to be my wedding and honeymoon earlier this year, it had everything: six weeks, 3 countries, family, friends, luxury, fun, disaster:

One of the problems with being a nomad, is that it involves a lot of leaving people behind, you spend a lot of your time saying goodbye. Because of that, getting married was very much about being able to get all the people we love in one place at one time. It seemed silly to have everyone travel to Sydney for the day, when we could travel somewhere new and interesting and since the (now) husband and I love to travel we decided that we would choose somewhere that none of us had been before to have our wedding. We decided, in the end, on sweltering Far North QLD, specifically the Daintree Rainforest. Our friends and family flew from all over the country and we all spent the week before the wedding in Port Douglas, drinking and eating our days away, lazing by the pool, having nanna naps in the afternoons. Each morning we would meet for breakfast in the hotel restaurant, dragging tables across the room to form an island where we would kiss each other good morning and eat toast and eggs while comparing hangovers and planning the day ahead. During the days we broke up into groups and did various activities, we scuba dived the Great Barrier Reef, went whitewater rafting, scoured markets by the water, did road trips through the cane fields and rainforests, had massages and facials, went shopping. It was wonderful.

The wedding itself was perfect, the setting was beautiful, and the whole day was lovely. Having our closest friends and family by our side, our short – but lovely – 4 minute ceremony, exchanging rings, the nerves and excitement, the ridiculous music requests at the reception, the food, our friend’s altered tuxedo, Mum walking me down the aisle, everything about it was exactly what we hoped for. Well except for the part where I cried all the way down the aisle, that was just embarrassing!

The morning after the wedding running on 3 hours sleep, my new husband and I woke up well before dawn and drove from our beautiful cabin in the rainforest along the windy coastal road to the Cairns airport. It was steamy, even though the sun was still 2 hours from rising, we drove with the air conditioner on full. We flew from Cairns to Sydney, caught a train to transfer us between terminals before getting on a flight to Fiji. Our first night we spend on Nadi mainland – we were exhausted and there was no point wasting a night at our super expensive resort when we had arrived so late and were so beat – but somehow there had been a miscommunication with the hotel and they had lost our booking. Luckily people tend to be extra nice to honeymooners and we managed to get a room where we promptly fell asleep.. how romantic!

The next morning we caught a bus to Denarau, spent an hour on the ferry and then were whisked from the ferry to our new – very luxurious – resort in a tiny little boat with an outboard motor. The Fijian men, shiny and smiling, pointed out parts of the island as we approached, the sun was shining, everything radiated with beauty.. it was like a brochure. The water was so clear we could see the colourful fish swimming along side the boat. We arrived at the resort and it was like the whole place existed just for us. A band met us at the pier singing the ‘welcome song’ and we were greeted with cocktails and ferried to the restaurant where we were placed in a quiet corner and bought the lunch menus. I’m ashamed to admit how much we paid for this holiday, I can’t even think about it without feeling overwhelmed but it was worth it for the special touches, like the personal menu they made up for me when they realised I was vegetarian, the chef created it specially for me when we arrived and a new one was created for me each morning. We were taken to our room – in a golf buggy – a huge and beautiful bure set right on the beach, with our own private plunge pool, a day bed set up with champagne and strawberries.. what bliss!

We spent 3 incredible days, eating unimaginably good meals, stuffing ourselves silly – huge buffets for breakfast, 3 course lunches, 4 course dinners. We had massages and walked along the beach at sunset, ate warm cookies delivered in the afternoon by the restaurant staff. It was absolute heaven.. until the rain came.

I have never seen anything like it, I was sure that the roof was going to fly off our Bure at any moment. Coconuts flew from trees and crashed on the ground, branches fell, waves crashed so ferociously that I feared we would be swept away. We were on the edge of a cyclone, though we didn’t know it at the time – no TVs in paradise. Then, as if the weather wasn’t bad enough, I got sick from the water, I couldn’t get out bed, except to crawl the bathroom and back. Eating was out of the question. I spent 2 days lying in bed moaning and listening to the rain and the wind. On the third day the manager of the hotel came and knocked on our door, worse weather was on the way, we were being evacuated. They gave us 20 minutes to pack our things but I was still sick and I hadn’t eaten in days so hubby did all the work. They wrapped our bags in big black garbage bags and off we went, huddling under a tiny umbrella as we rushed to the pick up point. They piled us into a tiny little boat with a tarp overhead (you think I’m making this up don’t you?) and we climbed aboard. They started her up and took us out into open water. It was black and raining, the wind howled and our little boat rocked and pitched. I watched the lightening in the distance and wondered if this was how I was going to die. I fought back nausea – from my illness as much as motion sickness – and waited. We sat there like that – our shiny Fijian men now as solemn as we were – for over an hour while we waited for the ferry to come and pick us up. I could have cried with relief when I saw it.

All the islands had been evacuated so the ferry was filled to the brim with soggy tourists, I briefly wondered what we would do if the ferry sank, we were clearly over capacity. In my mind I saw the news story complete with crash footage but I was too exhausted to dwell on it. I found a dry spot in the corner of the ferry where the bags were stowed and sat down – I couldn’t have stayed standing if I tried – I closed my eyes and waited. After what seemed like hours the ferry docked back at Denarau. I’d never been so happy to see dry land – even if it did seem soggier than expected. We picked up our bags and started heading to where we could get a taxi and find the hotel which the guys at the resort had booked for us in advance but as we turned a corner we saw hundreds of tourists milling about looking worried. A man – Australian – stood up on a box and shouted for us all to be quiet. He told us that Fiji had been hit by the worse storms in 20 years and that Nadi was completely flooded. He told us that there was no way off Denarau, that he didn’t know how long it would take for the flood waters to recede, that all the accommodation was already booked and that if you didn’thave accommodation you would have to sleep where you stood. I sent up a quick thank you to the gods of likuliku for having the foresight to book us somewhere in advance (and sent them a huge tip once we were home safe and sound) and got bundled into a taxi who took us to our hotel. It was more like a disaster zone than a resort, filled with worried locals who had been working and unable to get home for 3 days straight, and tourists wondering if they would ever get dry again. We were still drenched from the adventure in the little boat and we had to wait 2 hours for our room to be ready but we didn’t care.

When finally we got to our room we ordered room service (steamed vegetables for the sick girl), had showers and hung our clothes around the room to dry before falling into a catatonic sleep – what a day! The next day we woke up to find a note slid under our door from the management of the hotel. They still didn’t know when the roads would be opened. They had no way of getting fresh food to the hotel, we were on food restrictions until further notice, no more room service, instead they were having 2 buffets in the restaurant one at lunch and one at dinnertime using whatever provisions they had. I survived the next few days on mashed potatos and bread rolls – sometimes being a vegetarian can be very inconvenient and this was one of those times – practically everything on offer had some kind of meat in it. I was getting pretty weak after my illness and not eating for days and I briefly considered eating some chicken stirfry for the protein but chickened (haha) out when it came time to actually eat it. I couldn’t bring myself to put the meat in my mouth – I was feeling sick anyway and idea of eating meat was making it worse so I stuck with the bread rolls and hoped that we would get out soon. We stashed bottles of water in our backpacks from the mini bar and the shop downstairs just in case things got worse.

After 3 nights at the hotel we got notice that the roads were open and that although it wasn’t completely safe yet more rain was expected so if we wanted out we should get out now. Our flight wasn’t until the next day, but we didn’t want to risk getting stranded again so we made a break for it, even though it would mean spending a night at the airport. Driving through Nadi was devestating, the town was in tatters, and still very much submerged. The whole place was littered with rubbish and bits of houses and trees. Peoples homes were destroyed, schools in pieces. It was like a war zone – a wet one. We made it to the airport in one piece and settled in for the long wait until our flight the next day.. for 30 hours we waited and then finally we were on our way home. Well technically we were on our way to New Zealand where the second part of our honeymoon started, but you get the drift.

The one thing I can say, is that through it all the Fijian people were amazing, they were so considerate and wonderful to us. These people were watching their homes get destroyed, they were cut of from family and friends and not once did anyone treat us with impatience or rudeness. They were truly wonderful, though that isn’t really enough to convince me to visit the country again. The next phase of our honeymoon was really great, it was that trip that convinced us to make the move to New Zealand full time (though, I’m willing to concede that maybe it was just so great in comparison!). But I have to admit that I am still a little traumatised by bad weather, if I wake up in the middle of the night and it’s particularly rainy my heartrate raises a little, and after that holiday I have changed my ‘ideal home’ plans, before Fiji I always thought it would be so beautiful to live right on the beach like that, but now I realise that the ocean can be a very scary place and that the sound of waves crashing on the shore can be as terrifying as it is relaxing.

There are some people who have heard the story of our honeymoon and feel so sorry for us, I’m sure that some of them even think it is a sign of bad juju in our marriage but I feel quite the opposite. I figure if we can survive something like that in the first week of our married life then we can survive anything. And truly it really was a wonderful feeling to know that no matter what was thrown at me that week, my wonderful husband was right by my side holding my hand and carrying my bags and making sure that I was going to be okay. That’s a pretty great feeling.

Here is a bit of a photo montage of the holiday
(NB: the photos of the wedding day were taken by Shaun at Port Douglas Photography).

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