Being Dingo Aware

Every time I’m due to leave Australia, I start my goodbyes at least six months prior to departure, as there are so many epic adventures to be had!  This past weekend was one such weekend, and it saw me, JFord and Dasha missioning up to the north coast for some camping, cider, sand and sun.

JFord picked up a hire car in Canberra, then collected Dasha and I up in Penrith in order to bypass the city.  We went to a mall, where my mission was to get cider while the other two made sensible food choices.  Of course, being the broken specimen that I am, I’m pretty much only able to carry one six-pack at a time, and with all the choices it made for quite a lengthy task.  The fact that I’d go into the supermarket to find my friends after every two six-packs surely had the guy behind the counter thinking I was buying for underage people or something haha.

The drive up to ‘Treachery Rocks’ (which was neither rocky nor treacherous) was fairly epic.  We arrived just before midnight, a long drive, several unsurfaced roads and quite some pot-holes later.  We were however there well after closing time, and so there we were, middle of the night, searching poles and rocks using lights on our phones in order to find the key to the gate’s padlock.  Eventually JFord was victorious, and we made our way into the rabbit warren that was the camp site.

Now, we were expecting somewhere out of the way, with maybe only a few camp-sites and sparse people.  Instead we found a heaving morass of tents, with probably 800-900 people, and freaking nowhere to site our tent.  We ended up settling for just by the barbecue hut, next to some very funky-smelling bushes.  Ew, biology.  Either way, we were finally all set up and kicking back with some ciders when we had some unexpected visitors.

Sigh.  Before I tell the story, I should probably mention that it was well past my bed-time, I was verging on giggly-tired hysterics, and the epic size of Rekorderligs was going straight to my head.  Add three freaking blind drunk teenagers to the situation, and things were going to end up with me Giving Tone.

“Do you have any mixer?” asked our visitors, after an ineffectual knock on the tent wall.  “Um, no,” we replied.  “Yeah, of course you have some mixer, you’re having a party!” they tried to argue back (16/17 year olds).  “No, we don’t usually drink cider with mixer,” I answered.

At this, the boys retreated for a brief moment, pausing to regroup.  Then comes a wheedling voice at the door: “Hey, Margaret Thatcher?”

“The former New Right Prime Minister of the UK?” I ask.  “Because she’s not here.”  Dasha and JFord, meanwhile, have opted for silent and continual hysterics.

“Aww,” replied one of the confused and deflated young men, who had now entered our tent and was propped up with his face smushed against the fly-screen.  “Why are you so mean?  Why don’t you want to talk to us?”

“Well to be honest,” I replied, “you’re drunk, annoying, and kind of boring.”

Outside the tent, I can hear his slightly-more-sober friend start cracking up.  “He is kind of boring!” he announced, then continuing in an aside to his mate: “I think I love her.”

Enough was enough though, and these guys weren’t freaking leaving.  I decided it was time to take action, so stood up and made to unzip the fly door.  “Time to evacuate?” asked JFord, following me.  “Yup!”

Stepping over the guy sprawled in the annex-y area, JFord went for his ankles to start dragging him, and I picked up the bottle of JD on the ground.  I wasn’t that keen on any kind of physical contact with these idiots, so instead walked to a few metres away from the tent and unscrewed the lid.

“I have your alcohol,” I said, giving All The Tone, “And I am going to pour it onto the ground unless you get the fuck out of our tent!”

“Nooooo!” wailed one of the guys.  “No, don’t do that!”

“Get your friend out of our tent!” I ordered.

Sprawled-guy, now dragged most of the way out of our tent by JFord, came stumbling up, crashing into me.  “Nooo,” he said, whining.  “Don’t do that, don’t pour it out!”  I pushed him back off me and started tipping.  This carried on until they agreed to leave.

Shortly later, their friends came to apologise.  JFord and Dasha went off to clean their teeth while I stayed with the tent, and they freaking came back again.  I was *not* pleasant.  It was the last time they came back.  Haha as Jess said, once I start Giving Tone, it’s time to get out haha :p

At this point Dasha taught me a new saying in Russian: на новым месте, приснись жених навесте (na novym mectje, prisnys’ zhenikh havestje) – essentially, that when you’re in a new place, you’ll dream of your future husband ;).  I mainly dreamed about assembling flat-packed furniture, so I’m not totally sure what that says about me.

In the end, we had a fairly restful albeit short night until facing an onslaught of dinosaurs in the early morning.  By which I mean little kids yelling that they were dinosaurs and going to eat each other, and chasing each other around the barbecue.  It was pretty hilarious tbh.

We were determined not to spend another night in the funky-smelling noisy spot, so after a stellar breakfast, set out along the various tracks in the camp-site, only to find them all full (or wayyyyy too far away).  As we were about to give up and leave the park for a different one despite pre-paying, I asked our driver JFord “what about there?”  We backed up, and sure enough, in JFord’s words it was freaking perfect.  “You’d really think I’d be better at Where’s Wally,” I said.

Once set up, we headed straight for the beach, which was freaking epic.  Lots of sun-baking, lots of jumping in waves, lots of spraining my freaking ankle at one point when I was dragged under the waves.

The result.
The result.

Starting to burn, it was an afternoon of naps.  Then, realising I was pretty much incapable of walking, JFord went to buy me some ice, and I finally got onto some first aid for my munted ankle.  We had one of the camp rangers turn up, and I swear, it was this dude:


He told us that if anyone bothered us, call him and he’d “spoil their fun”.  It was honestly totally hard-core.  Haha thinking on it now though, we were the only group of girls by ourselves: there were a few young families, a few groups of friends, but mostly big groups of surfer bros who were there for the break.

Speaking of sausages, we drove to the barbecue (seriously—my ankle was fucked), and there some nice VB-drinking coast-type man did all of our cooking for us.  What a winner!

Sausage fest.
Sausage fest.

The night finished with Dasha and JFord discussing my romantic prospects, as you do.  Dasha was recounting the virtues of some ‘adventurous’-type men she knew back in Kiwiland, to which Jess interjected “yeah, but do they also have an MBA?!”  Haha realising I only like really, really smart guys, Dasha then started telling us about one of her guy friends who is a rock-climber and currently undertaking his Masters in Engineering.  “Engineering, hey?” I asked.  “I do like practical men.  How’s he feel about moving to Belgium?”  “And sleeping on the floor?” added Jess.  Haha oh dear. Dasha didn’t seem to think he’d be into it :p

In the morning I again woke up just before day break, and went for a hobbling wander to the beach to take in the light on the surf.  Some surfer bro (in the pic above) made small talk, then I cruised back to the tent to read.  We decided to take a staged approach to the day, looking for some calmer waters to swim in.  After some incredible tetris-packing of the car by JFord, we were on the road once more.

Our first stop was Newcastle for an idyllic lunch spot on the coast.  Then we drove down to Caves Beach, an hour and a half further south, and got some more sunshine—well, the others did.  I covered up my sunburn with a towel and sarong, meaning that only my face was actually exposed.  We went for a few lovely swims, though, leaving the beach just as the weather started to close in.

It was such a great weekend!  Awesome places, awesome company, and some truly delicious cider (Winter Rekorderlig, I’m looking at you ;)).  How good is summer?!*RBexe*y7VsblWxDMmp8RgQbq*REywPjEg34qcpjwrfrqCwscJMjexzOpLjDWCjjBcC0l4CpXebBtJQ/puppiebasket.jpg?width=721


It has been a big, big month.  There have been a lot of ups and downs—realising someone very important to me is very sick; finding out I got a scholarship for my course; meeting my uncle for the first time since I was 8; getting good book reviews; getting bad book reviews; letting go of one big friendship; travelling all around the place; saying a thousand freaking goodbyes to people, the majority of whom I won’t see again; finishing work; continuing to meet new people (that’s the problem with goodbyes—they lead to more hellos!), the list goes on.  And I am done.  No more emotion for Laura.  Haha luckily (?) I have done this a lot of times before, and have all of the best maladaptive psychological methods for dealing with it :p

Seriously though, it’s getting really hard to keep uprooting all of my life to start all over again.  This is the longest I’ve been in one job (technically I was at the law firm longer, but I took leave without pay in the middle to go spend a couple of months in Eastern Europe), and it’s by far the longest I’ve lived in one place.  Even where I’ve lived in the same city before, I’ve moved from house to house as leases expired etc, and so this is the most stable my life has ever been.  I’ve met some amazing people this year, done some crazy things, had an awesome flatmate and been on a zillion adventures (dragging poor JFord along to most of them).  But now it’s suddenly all over again, and it’s time to start from scratch.  In a new country.  Again.

It really is all too much and too overwhelming, so I’m pretty much pushing it all to the back of my mind and focusing on getting through things one step at a time.  Today JFord and I are going to the beach and I’m farewelling my housemate; tomorrow I’m going to another beach (expect a blog post about that one, it’s going to be quite an ‘experience’); Wednesday I fly out.  Thursday morning I get to Düsseldorf, then hang out for around eight hours before flying to Manchester.  Tilly is going to pick me up and drive me back to Liverpool, where I’ll spend the rest of the day with her and her family.  Boxing Day apparently we’re going drinking, then at some point I’m headed to Cardiff to go and catch Nastya, who had a baby last week.  (Haha I’m not going to give explanation of who these people are, as if you’ve been reading my blog a while, you’ve already ‘met’ them all!)  On New Year’s Eve I’m catching a train from London to Bourg-St-Maurice in the French Alps, where Wicklund will pick me up at 9pm at night.  Commence the drinking.  Then I will go riding for a few days before heading up to Brussels.  Incidentally, my snowboard has led to potentially debilitatingly expensive excess luggage… :/

What else?  Well, I need to find somewhere to live of course.  I should probably revise my French at some point, too (not going to lie, I’m going to be completely fucked at first).  My orientation week starts 12 January, then the course itself starts 19 January—less than a freaking month from now!  That weekend I should be catching up with a guy I met in Colombia, and then, no plans.  Well, apart from a few visits to/from people.  I definitely need to get onto that—I’m unfortunately the kind of person who needs things to look forward to, so they don’t have to think about everything they’ve just left behind!

Oh well, at the end of the day, at least I won’t be in Russia.

Taking awkward to new heights

Ohhhhh my.  This afternoon’s lecture resulted in rather more misadventure than I really anticipated.  It all started last week (was it only last week?!) when I had lunch with the head of the Australian Society here in Belgium.  She mentioned the organisation ‘YPFP‘, Young Professionals in Foreign Policy, and suggested I sign up, saying that this would help me in attending a lecture ex-Aus Prime Minister Julia Gillard would be giving the following week.  (Incidentally or otherwise, ‘YPFP’ reminds me of the film ‘YPF’, which is just wholly inappropriate.)

Anyway, one thing led to another—as it often does—and this afternoon I headed over to the VUB campus to see Jules giving a speech about global education for the Kapuscinski Development Lecture series.

So, after drinking a litre of water, I wandered across to the uni in plenty of time.  I got to the venue and decided to take a precautionary bathroom trip, which was fine (thanks for asking) but for the busted hand-dryer.  ‘No matter’, I think to myself, and walk off to find the entrance to the auditorium.  Then, out of the corner of my eye, I see somebody I recognise—sure enough, it’s the girl who runs YPFP in Brussels, who works at the Aus Embassy and whom I had coffee with on Monday.  I figure this must be where to go, and I can see coats hung up behind her.  ‘How fancy’, I think to myself, ‘I get to put my coat away properly!’.

I walk on into the room where YPFP lady is standing.  It’s actually pretty empty, with only 10-12 people.  I can’t figure out what’s going on: is this not the right room?  Are people putting their coats up here then heading into the venue properly somehow?  Either way, I hang up my coat and go to speak with YPFP lady.

This is when things ?start? to go downhill.  YPFP lady introduces me to the other two she’s standing with as the girl who brought minties and redskins (Australian lollies/sweets) for the Aus Embassy.  YPFP lady then introduces them as high-ranking Aus Embassy staff: one of them was the Deputy Ambassador for the Australian Mission to the EU.  EEP.  Thanking me for the lollies, Deputy Ambassador then reaches out to shake my hand—my weirdly damp hand might I add—and the internal mortification begins.  Likewise with the other lady.

The group then goes to join the other 8 or so people at the other end of the room, when suddenly I see red hair, and a terrifying thought dawns on me.  Sure enough, red hair turns around and it’s Julia freaking Gillard and I am clearly crashing the wrong room.  Then, everybody else starts to introduce themselves, and they’re all Embassy staff, Ambassadors, and Vice-Chancellor of the uni.  Oh god.  And I’m like…. “I’m Laura.”  Because I don’t have a cool title.  Though “Laura, who is about to die of mortification” may have been suitable.

People start talking, and I barely—just barely—stop myself from making a facetious comment about Australia now being allowed in Eurovision.  Thank god my usually non-existent filter chose this moment to cut in.  Can you even imagine?!?!

After about ten minutes of this, I saw my chance, and I tried to quietly scurry out of the door.  I was not only dying of humiliation on my own behalf, but on that of YPFP lady—she clearly knew me, and I didn’t want to reflect badly on her with my politician-fiesta-crashing ways.  Oh god.

I couldn’t see Aus Society girl when I made it into the actual venue, so sent her a text.  It then turned out she was sitting a few rows in front and there was room, so given I was sitting in the middle of the row and everyone had the little tables in front of them down, I had to ask everybody to pick up all their stuff, put away their tables and stand up so that I could get past.  Both to exit my row and to enter Aus Society girl’s row.  At least I’m consistently a nightmare?

The lecture was very interesting—I don’t know much about global education initiatives, but did volunteer on the national campaigns team for a development NGO at one time, so there was a fair bit of cross-over.  What was really cool though was that, at the end, the uni gave Julia an honorary doctorate—it was so touching!!

Once people started to file out, Aus Society girl voiced what I’d been wondering—would it be okay to get a selfie with Gillard?  “Let’s do it,” I said.  “After all, I’ve already been awkward in a room with her once tonight, I may as well continue the streak!”  So we headed down to the stage, waited, and jumped on in.  I automatically reached out to hug the people next to me for the photo, meaning I hugged Australia’s ex-goddamn-Prime-Minister!!  Oh Laura.  Is that some kind of protocol breach somewhere, somehow?

It was finally time for the ridiculousness to end (or so I thought), until YPFP girl grabbed Aus Society girl and I at the end and asked us to do a vox-pop about the lecture with a journalist.  She said that we were both “erudite” women, so volunteered us.  And now the two of us are in front of a video camera, for posterity, talking about the lecture.  Thankfully though, for the first time tonight, I wasn’t a socially awkward pile of confusion, and I’ll post a link to the video in the next couple of days.  And then, home time!  Because apparently I need some sleep.  And/or to hide under my doona (duvet/quilt) with my good friend chocolate and never come out again.


In other news, I wrote a guest post on Pure Jonel’s blog last week, and you can now find a link to this and all other guest blog posts/interviews etc under About>Me Elsewhere.