Category Archives: Under the bonnet

Old friends

I’ve been scratching my head, trying to think of a gift for one of my besties. He’s one of those guys that department store catalogues describe as “the man who has everything”. In other words: virtually impossible to buy for. And today is his birthday.

We’re presently on opposite sides of the world so I can’t give him a big fuck-off hug, savour a fancypants meal with him, or neck 300 Jamesons’ in his honour. So, I decided on an old-fashioned love letter.

Dear Scott,

We’ve known each other since we were kids, haven’t we? To my reckoning, you were in the 7th Grade. I was in 10th. That makes it 25 years. A quarter of a fucking century. I think that makes us Officially Old, my friend.

I can’t quite remember the specifics of how it was when we met. It may have been at an inter-schools student leadership camp.

And I’m not really clear on how our friendship evolved from there but one of my earliest memories is your mum dropping you off to my 17th birthday party. She sternly wagged her finger at me & warned me not to get you drunk. I’m *pretty sure* that was the first time you drank Tequila. And I’m *pretty sure* your poor old Mum wiped you off the bathroom floor that night.

There were many more parties after that. And you were always there til stumps. You still are.

Life ebbed & flowed. And as a result there were times when we didn’t see so much of each other. You moved to Japan for a while. And then to Canberra. I got lost in love. I travelled through Europe for 6 months. I moved down the coast. You got married. There were renovations. Careers that got in the way.

But we always stayed in touch. Calls. Visits. Letters. Cards. I have all yours stowed away safely in a shoebox. I think we’re incredibly lucky to have lived in a time when people actually put pen to paper. To think there will be people who will never have such precious memories in a tangible form! (And to that end, I’m sorry this isn’t one of those letters & I urge you to print it out in case one day my Dad breaks the internet.)

Over the last 5 years or so – we’ve been able to spend a lot more time together and I feel like the bond has grown stronger.

We have been fortunate to have jobs where we got to do lots of cool things after work. Sold-out gigs, gallery openings, bangin’ parties, fine dining. It’s been fun being your ‘Plus One’ (and having you as mine).

And, yes I admit, I did think it was kinda cool in a ‘this is so silly’ way to get picked up in a limo from work and be driven to a red carpet entrance at a venue, just two blocks away. That said, I do still think you owe me big time for that dreadfully boring 80th birthday ‘bash’ of that famous classical musician that no-one our age has ever heard of.

You’ve always been bighearted with me, Scott. Sometimes I’d come home to an empty apartment after a rubbish day at work, I’d pick up the phone and you’d intuitively be on the other end. More recently… when I was trying to dig my way out of a bit of a pit – you checked in on me daily until I found my ground.

One night I valiantly decreed I would be our designated driver to a party we were going to. I then had one too many, picked up an outrageously hot guy & left the car (and you) there. You not only got yourself home, but while I was dying a slow death the next morning – you picked up my car, filled her up & had her washed.

You’ve showered me with some ludicrously generous gifts including the biggest bouquet of flowers ever, on a particularly lonely Valentine’s Day. A thoughtfully created house-warming hamper with the ‘right’ sort of teatowels (I didn’t even know there was such a thing). And an iPad when I set off on these travels.

You were instrumental in making my ‘surprise’ 40th birthday party, a totally rockin’ affair. And then just two months ago you were good enough to visit my dad for his 65th birthday and help me surprise him with a Skype date on your laptop.

Scott – if I’ve never told you, here are just some of the reasons why I love you:

You’re the ultimate gentleman (taking after your gorgeous grandfather, may he RIP). You always find the positive in every situation. You treat all people with respect. You’re a natural leader. I’ve never once heard you raise your voice. I like that you have an appreciation for the finer things in life. You are measured. And smart. You laugh easily. You’re a go-getter. And I like that the older you get, the more energy you seem to have.

But you’ll have to be a bit faster if you want to catch up with me, mate.

So, here are my birthday wishes for you, babe: That your day-to-day life energises you. That you find time for simple pleasures. And that you be blessed with the love of someone who will see you as I do.

Love always, your old friend



You can’t hurry love

So here’s a question for you. This Zen Buddhism concept of letting go of that which you desire most: How do you NOT want something that you really want?

On NYE in a moment of drunken honesty, I confessed to a stranger that there is a really big hole in my life … I was of course, talking about love.

And it’s silly in some ways. Because my life is filled with love. There are many people who I love. There are many people who love me right back. And I am blown away by the quality of people who love me. They tend to be of the emotionally intelligent, funny, generous, talented, and quite simply remarkable variety.

But of course, I am talking specifically about romantic, intimate love. This is what is lacking in my life and has been for a decade.

Days after my confession, this lady brought it up again, saying she’d been thinking about what I had said. She looked at me with such sadness and earnestly told me I needed to find happiness within myself before I could find happiness with someone else.

I didn’t need to think about this for more than a moment. Wanting intimate love has nothing to do with not being happy within myself. I like myself. In fact, I can honestly say I love myself. Not all of me, not all of the time. But mostly. I can rattle off a dozen reasons why I am lovable. But I also see myself for the imperfect being I am – I am completely okay about being a work in progress.

In response to Brene Brown, can I honestly say, “I am enough.”? More often than not: Yes. Some days, no … And that’s okay.

This doesn’t take away from the fact that I feel there is an empty space waiting to be filled.

I have watched so many of my friends fall in love, share joyous moments with their partner, unite in front of all their family & friends in beautiful ceremonies, create their first home together, miraculously produce healthy babies, and then find their way through the chaos to go on to become amazing role models for their kids.

I know it’s not always perfect. In fact, very rarely so. I know that many of my male friends desire more freedom & more sex. I know that many of my female friends desire more freedom & more help around the house. And that’s just the beginning. But none of this detracts from the fact that I want all of this for myself. Flawed as it can be.

I realise that it is precisely for the fact that I don’t have all those things right now – that i am able to travel in the way that I am. And don’t get me wrong – I am extraordinarily grateful for the opportunities that have come my way & the choices I have made. What better way to distract yourself from the fact that you are feeling lonely than to busy yourself with the joys of travelling?

And right now, I am more content than I have ever been. I love seeing how other people live. I love seeing different landscapes. I love eating different food. I love hearing different beats. I love having intimate conversations with people I’ve only just met. More than anything, I love having time.

I smile most of the time, most of my days.

But I am tired of waiting. And there’s a part of me that feels I am running out of time.

I have just finished reading The Time Traveller’s Wife. And to be honest, i really struggled with it. It’s well written but I found it laborious. The plot jumps about so much, it’s disconcerting. I found it difficult to truly connect with the characters. And it irritated me how she was forever waiting for him. But it did make me think alot about love. and time. and the gift that is bearing children. the stuff we can’t control.

Let’s park the idea of intimate love for just a moment.

I will be 42 this year. If I am to have a child, it needs to be soon-ish. I have moved my cut-off year for having kids a few times now. 30. 35. 40. Soon it just will not be an option.

So given there is presently no-one to have / raise a child with – it seems I need to decide whether i am prepared to go it alone. Not really what i want. Besides it feels like that choice comes with the consequence of accepting I would be single for the indeterminable future. Which is something I don’t really want, either.

So I feel like I need to give up this very strong urge of mine to become a mother. Something I have always felt I would be great at. How do you NOT want something that you really want?

Let’s assume for a moment I can do this. That I can just write it off & forget about it. (And this is a point I feel I am coming closer to.) Then that eases the pressure of having to find someone love, by a certain date. Which should in theory, make things easier.

But it doesn’t. Because today, right now: I still crave intimate love. Sometimes it’s just a fleeting moment, carried away on a summer breeze. Sometimes it’s a big achy hole I can feel inside my belly. That is what I was talking about on NYE.

So how does one give up on the desire for intimate love? Isn’t it our desire to connect with other people, and with one person in particular, that which keeps us going? I believe we all want to find that one person who ‘gets us’. Who will silently sit by our side if we’re sad. Who will fall about the place laughing at the same things we find pee-your-pants funny. Who will bring us a hot drink when we’re feeling unwell. Who will spontaneously tell us we’re beautiful. Who will gently set us straight if we’re not seeing things clearly. Who we can share our stories with. Who will encourage us to get our there & chase our dreams. Who will know how to pleasure us Right There.

And moreover, who will inspire us to do all those things for & / or with them. Who will make our heart skip a beat when we see them. Who will motivate us to be a better human being.

I have often questioned why love hasn’t come my way. There’s a bunch of possible answers to that question. I know there are certain things that I do and don’t do which could influence this. Recent events have taught me some valuable lessons. I won’t go into those here. What I will say is this:

It’s one thing to want something. It’s another to be open to it. It’s another to invite it in. And then another thing altogether to let it be.

We do need to be vulnerable. We do need to take risks. But we also simultaneously need to practice detachment.

How do you NOT want something that you really want?

Trust. That the universe knows best. It’s that simple. And yet, that complicated.

Diana Ross was right when she said, “You can’t hurry love.”

Sweet dreams

I was welcomed back to Little Morgan’s with wide open arms. It was a good feeling to come back to somewhere I’d been before, have new friends smile with recognition, and not have to go through The Standard Questions again (where are you from? how long you been on the road for? headed for central or south america? yadda yadda yadda

One of the reasons I came back to Little Morgan’s was because the girls who worked there were all leaving the following week and because Morgan had said if I came back, he’d throw me a party. Actually it might have been his sister who had said that. But same same.

I am luckyluckylucky to have a ridiculously good bunch of people back home who I call friends, who I would normally celebrate my birthday with. i knew I would be missing them all sorely. So I really liked the idea of partying in a trippy pretty place with loveable mad hatters I had already met and had shared some seriously fun times with. Morgan had to pick up his little boy on the day of my birthday, so we decided to have to the party on the Thursday night.

Before I had left the girls had decided it would be an 80s theme night. Back home this would be a simple trip to Vinnies on Hall St and the local $2 Shop. Bit harder to coordinate when you’re on a tiny island in the middle of a lake in Nicaragua. But I had miraculously found a party shop in Managua and had picked up a few bits & pieces including a couple of wigs. My wig-wearing friends back home would have been proud.

Just before things kicked off I jumped on the one computer they have there with dodgy internet connection and checked my emails. Because of the time difference, it was already my birthday back home so messages were beginning to filter through. The best of them though, almost brought me to my knees.

My besties Andrea and Scott had produced a 2 min Youtube photo collage of friends from all over the world holding up signs with “HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHELLE” or variations of (i particularly loved the “felic cumpleanos” by the Rollstons!) I started weeping as it commenced and was a blubbering mess by the end of it. The thought & energy that would have gone into making it happen. All the happy faces of people I love. I was floored that someone would do something like that for me. I felt a bit honoured and pretty fucking loved. Just the ticket when you’re miles away from those who know you, love you anyway, and make you laugh like a 5 year old.

My other birthday present was word from Steph that John had given the okay for me to come work at Tranquilo, back on Little Corn Island. She would move into the manager’s room at the back of the bar. And I would take over her house-sitting gig. It was just for a month. Starting on Monday.

I didn’t really need the work – for me this would be more about just having the experience. (What a luxury to be able to say that, hey?) I had always fancied the idea of working in a bar. And what better place to do it than on a Caribbean island. I also really liked Steph & just knew we would have a bunch of seriously fun times working together.

I loathe to admit that Island Boy might have had something to do with my excitement as well.

We partied hard that night. There was a talent show. Which most of us weren’t prepared for. But fun all the same. Morgan & Kate’s mum took on the role of Dicko (from Australian Idol) in terms of being a harsh judge. A few guests made the effort to make something from nothing and give a nod of the head to the 80s theme. There was a lot of bad music. And much singing and dancing. At one point Morgan had me in a headlock and was bellowing at me about how great my nipples were. I’d call that a good night.

The next day – my actual birthday – was a quiet one. I watched the multitudes of butterflies do their opening act for what would be a very peaceful, tranquil day. I thought a bit about what had transpired over the last year. The year leading up to my 40th birthday had been a sad one for me. I was sad for a lot of reasons. Things I didn’t have. Things I couldn’t control. Love. Children. The White Picket Fence. And Roger, still.

The year leading up to my 41st birthday had been quite the opposite. All those things I didn’t have became the reasons I was able to take this opportunity. I don’t know if it’s part of my destiny to have those things. In my heart of hearts, I really hope so. In the meantime, travelling around Central and South America sure does make for a damn fine distraction.

I went for a swim in the lake with its amazing view of Concepcion & its cloudy mushroom top. Never in a million years, would have I imagined this was how I would spend any of my birthdays. I was thankful for the way things had panned out, and the choices I had made. I sat around & drank endless cups of black coffee with shots of dark Nicaraguan rum (Skye: I am now officially a rum drinker!) and I made plans.

I climbed into a bed that night which was tucked away in the corner of a treehouse with a thatched roof, and watched the gheckos do their pushups from under my mosquito net. I listened to the ‘waves’ lapping the lake’s edge and gave thanks for the cool night breeze. I was one very happy birthday girl.

All the ladies were leaving the following day (Saturday). Shannon & Queso were heading to a place on the coast called Gigante to rent a house for a month & do some volunteer work. Kate & her mum were going to Costa Rica for a border run. While Sabine was headed back to Germany for good. So we had a lovely farewell dinner that night, at one of the little comedors in Santa Domingo. Which incidentally comes with a free motorbike ride home. (Yes, I know I said i’d never get on the back of a bike again, but you know. Hot young Nicaraguan boy. What’s a hot blooded woman to do?)

Kate, Queso and Shannon had all said they would come visit me on Little Corn Island around New Year’s, so it was a bye for now, rather than a bye for ever. It was weird after they left. I spent the rest of the day just chilling out with Richard, Kiara Morgan and Morgan-cito. I bid them farewell the next morning.

The last image I have of the place, is Morgan and his son waving wildly at me from their porch as my taxi climbed the steep long rocky driveway. I was sad to be leaving Ometepe. But on the other hand I was very excited about going back to Little Corn. From one island to another. My chicken bus ride back to Managua was filled with island dreaming.

Computer games

So, this is my first post using my new little netbook, which I am freaking excited about, folks. I will admit the iPad is a bit sexy, and you can do the swipey thing with your fingers and that looks kinda cool for about a minute but then the screen gets all smudgey and then it’s just annoying.

The iPad a bit like a young Eastern suburbs girl who goes to Randwick Races all dressed up, but then ends up walking home trashed with her heels in her hand. She looks to be a bit of an alright on first glance, but really she’s a bit tarty, pretty superficial, and deep down inside she’s just a bit stupid.

I mean, the iPad is just a glorified web browser. A big iPod (why anyone would need a big iPod is beyond me). She’s a storage unit. Without a freaking USB port. And she can’t do more than one thing at time, which in my eyes, renders her a bit of a retard.

I say this, having spent the past few months on the road with an iPad and, look: it was a gift from a very generous friends of mine, and it did allow me to start writing and stay in touch and i don’t want to seem to ungrateful… BUT:
The upsides of my new purchase include having a proper keyboard to type on! being able to use the bits of WordPress which aren’t iOS-friendly (ie, incorporating search tags, uploading images, linking to stuff, etc! being able to use Office instead of dumbarse Pages and Numbers! being able to edit and upload photos easily! being able to see my friends when i Skype them! and being able to view websites (read, porn) with flash!!!

I can’t think of any downsides. As in none.

I justified the purchase by saying it would make completing my TEFL course easier (and it did), but mainly i bought it because i want to do more than the iPad will allow me. Especially when it comes to blogging and sharing photos of my travels.

iPads are shithouse. There i said it. Rant over.

(Scott, thank you – but she’s coming home in a box.)

Oh, and for those of you who are reading because you want to hear about me doing cool stuff in places you’ve never heard of. Stay tuned. Posts with tags and pictures and links and all sorts of features to come x


Since I’ve begun traveling, I have stopped:

wearing beauty products, except deodorant
wearing makeup, save for a little mascara and sometimes lipgloss
weighing myself daily
reading the horoscopes in the hope that someone else thinks today is going to be a good day
wearing 12cm stilettos
setting the alarm (I’m naturally waking up around 6 most mornings)
watching shit television
worrying about things I haven’t got or haven’t done
fretting over petty issues with petty people
losing sleep over loser boys
trying to understand office politics
running for public transport
being a coffee snob

With the exception of the last item, i think these are good things. On the other hand I have also stopped:

exercising (unless you count walking at snail’s pace, everywhere)
eating home cooked meals (although this is all about to change, as I have a proper kitchen until the end of September!)
eating vegetables (capsicum & onion are NOT the only vegetables, Latin America)

All in all, reckon I’m coming up on top!

6 Sept

The long and winding road

I am exactly where I am meant to be.

I believe that we all have a bunch of lessons we’re supposed to learn in this life, based on what we’ve learnt in previous lives.

I believe there are a number of ways that we can go about achieving these predetermined objectives.

We can linger on a lovely lane, ride a rocky road, stagger up stupid street (my preferred MO) or do the sensible thing and take the most direct route (no alliteration necessary).

We can go via limo or in a tuk tuk (sometimes people have no choice in terms of the vehicle and i am of the view that it’s completely irrelevant, anyways).

I also believe certain people will come into our lives to test our knowledge or confidence of where we are going. Some will come into our lives to distract us (and this can be a bad thing or a good thing). Other people are sent to help us along our way.

So I always try and tune into this concept of “Am i in the right ‘place’ (and i use this word in the broadest sense) to facilitate whatever it is I’m supposed to be learning?” (the big one for me at the moment, after seeing an amazing TED talk by Brene Brown is ‘vulnerability’. I’ll save that for another post).

So, what I want to know is this: Do you ever experience déjà vu?

I usually experience déjà vu when I’m having a really inane conversation with someone I’ve known for ages… You know we’re talking about the price of broccoli or something equally fascinating. Or I’m with a colleague I’ve worked with for years, and we’re mulling over a spreadsheet. So when it’s in this context, you can kind of write it off as a weird-arse / boring version of a memory (or a glitch in the matrix, if you prefer such things clad in cool black trench coats).

I have long harbored an image, that my brain is a room that contains a raft of filing cabinets. And there’s this really tiny & wiry old man who’s been keeping the files for years. And he’s lovely and all, but while he used to be good at his job, he’s getting a bit slow and doddery these days. He forgets where things are. Or it takes him a long time to retrieve a file. Sometimes he snoozes on the job. And he doesn’t maintain the room as well as he should. The lights above the cabinets are a bit sketchy.

When I have déjà vu, I feel like the light bulbs are just flickering on and off momentarily.

Now… i did a bit of reading about this, and psychologists make a distinction between déjà vu (which translates to ‘already seen’) and jamais vu (which translates to ‘never seen’).

Jamais vu describes that sensation you have, when you feel like you’ve been there before – but you know it’s simply not possible.

I’ve experienced this 2 times here in Antigua. And it kind of freaked me out. I got all goosebumpy. And shivery. And hairy. You know what i mean, right? But post the mini-freak, I found there was also something slightly reassuring about it.

It made me feel like – I am. exactly. where I’m supposed to be.

I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I don’t actually care. I trust that the Universe knows what’s she’s doing.

I trust that I am on the right road. And as far as I’m concerned a tuk tuk is way cooler than a limo.

4 August

PS: I’m particularly keen to hear your stories… What have been your weirdest experiences of jamais vu.

You can’t always get what you want

The following night, I linked up with Mr Belize. His brother and his sister-in-law, from Cayo, were visiting. They were up for a big night and I had a dive planned in a place called Shark-Ray Alley the next day, so I called it early.

The next morning, I used the coconut wire to tell Mr Belize to meet me at Hurricanes for lunch at 1. And went on to have another great splash about in the big drink. I saw my mate on my way back, and he confirmed Mr Belize would indeed, be meeting me.

I showered and went to the jetty bar for a Michelada and some ceviche. While waiting (Belizeans are even less concerned about time than Mexicans), I got talking to a lovely Polish lady who had been raised in Italy and lived the last few years in Belize. She was an English teacher. I have a feeling I will be in contact with her again.

I was headed to Caye Caulker that afternoon, a tiny island about 30mins away from San Pedro. Mr Belize offered to take me there on one of his mate’s boats. Sahweet! Russell was black as the ace of spades, sported a big gap between his two front tooth and wore his dreadlocks short and neat. He was from the dive shop I’d been out with, that same day, an outfit called DownUnder, which I thought was quite amusing. All the boys wore Australia tee shirts. I’d met them on day 1 and asked them if they were Aboriginals. They knew I was taking the piss immediately.

The boat comes around to collect me from my hotel’s jetty (which sounds a lot fancier than it really is). We go and collect the brother and sister-in-law and a ‘niece’. The boat stops about 1/2 way across, and we all jump out for a snorkel. Mr Belize catches a snapper with a spear, which I must admit, I found a bit sexy in a Mills & Boon kinda way.

We cruised into the lagoon called The Split at Caye Caulker, with a bar built over the point, and reggae was pumping out of a massive sound system. There was a mix of locals and tourists hanging out in the water, drinks in hand. A sweet smell of ganga perfumed the dusk air. We watched the sun set; i got eaten by mosquitoes; and Mr Belize decided he’d stay the night. He ended up staying two. Again I was lucky to jag the top floor of my hotel with sweeping views of the Reef. We scored a little Jamaican goodness and had a lovely couple of days, just lazing about the hotel, chatting, drinking, sleeping…

I feel compelled to let you know, that while this all sounds very romantic – I do feel a bit compromised.

You see, Mr Belize had come across to Caye Caulker, without his wallet. I had invited him to stay the night, knowing that in all likelihood, he wouldn’t be taking me out to dinner. Everybody here is just getting by. I had a great time, and got me a bit of much needed lovin-  but in retrospect, there’s a part of me that feels like a rather silly gringo girl. Okay, so he cost me a total of $50, mas o menos… It’s nothing to write home about, in the grand scheme of things. However, there’s a part if me which feels like I just participated in a transaction of the oldest kind.

They call these guys, ‘sharks’ here. A lot of them don’t have regular work, if indeed they work at all. They cruise the tourist bars, making the lonely, old or ugly feel desirable. In return, they might get dinner, drinks or at the very worse, *just sex*. And they’re good at their jobs.

At the end of the day, I don’t have any fanciful ideas of having an enduring relationship with a boy I met in Belize in a bar. But do I want to pay for a fling? I suppose that even if it’s not cash – there’s always a cost of some sort, isn’t there?

Am starting to sound like Carrie Bradshaw, so will stop now. But I am interested to know what you think. Hit me up with a comment, a judgment, a story or a bit of advice.

Mon 8 August