Sep 29 2009

D minus 6 days

Category: adventure,travel,website metaSami @ 1:12 pm

I’ve added a lot of functionality to the Gallery page, including RSS feeds, a nicer look, options for rating and commenting on pictures, etc. I still want to go through and fix up all the existing photos – tags, captions, etc – but I’m a lot happier with it than I was just a couple of days ago. (Functionality changes also include some stuff that makes it easier to add photos and so on, which helps.)

Trip planning things continue – but I’ve had the sudden realisation, of late, that I will regret it if I don’t properly factor into my plans that I can be back in Western Europe on the 11th of November this year…

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Sep 24 2009

D minus 12 days

Category: if only you have your health,photos,travelSami @ 10:13 am

So, on the 10th of September (so says the file dating), Chas and I were passing through town when I spotted an odd sight. As I exclaimed to Chas: “There are mans on the building!”

So I pulled out my camera, and then my telephoto lens, to take pictures of the mans.

In case anyone’s wondering at the tendency for my pictures to have the slightly odd dimensions of 475 pixels in one direction and 713 in another: that’s a 15% resizing/resampling from the base image size my camera takes.

Travel preparations of late have been… well, pretty much nonexistent, for the most part, but the last week’s been occupied by an aggravating dose of acute vertigo triggered by a severe adverse reaction to medication. Fortunately that’s finally passing, because I do still have a couple of things to get done before I leave.

Primary items:

1) Acquire International Driver’s Licence
2) Buy some relevant foreign currency
3) Buy some warm socks

No, really. I own no warm socks, this is a problem. I barely own any socks that are longer than ankle-height, at that. I have a warm climate approach to sockdom.

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Sep 18 2009

A miscellany

Category: if only you have your health,travel,web-loggingSami @ 4:11 pm

I just watched How Not To Write About Africa. A couple of things leapt out at me:

1) “Make sure you show that Africans have music and rhythm deep in their souls.” My thought process: I wouldn’t say that about Africans, specifically, but I do kind of believe it about all humanity. Especially rhythm. Rhythm is one of the deepest things in the brain – by which I mean it’s something that it’s almost impossible to lose, through brain injury and the like. It’s also one of the things that makes us stand out. Most animals have no sense of rhythm.

And rhythm is part of the general human tendency to perceive patterns – which, to me, is what’s behind an awful lot of what takes us to the place of being human – to crib from Terry Pratchett (in Hogfather), to being the point where the falling angel meets the rising ape. Science, art, literature – our most rigorous critical analysis and our wildest and greatest creativity (and sometimes those are the same thing) all, ultimately, start with the rhythm and music that are deep in our souls.

Obviously, though, the comment people make about Africans is patronising, racist crap.

2) “You also need a nightclub called Tropicana…” I’ve been to a place in Africa called Tropicana. It was a restaurant. A nice one.

3) I am realising that I have a curious confluence of capacity for travel. I can enter the United Kingdom on United Kingdom ancestry, if I go to the trouble of application; I have not one but two grandparents born there. Australia is reasonably well-liked in Europe; I don’t have to get special visas to go anywhere I’m planning to visit.

In that video, Binyavanga Wainaina talks about a stereotype of Westerners on their way to trying to Save Africa being denied visas – but if I wanted to go to any part of Africa, I suspect I could do it easily, because I could just get a South African passport. I was born in South Africa and left it as a young child; as of a couple of years ago, this meant that I retain the right to citizenship under South African law.

I don’t have a South African passport, because I have yet to plan travel anywhere where I won’t be far more welcome on an Australian one, but I could get one.

4) I have long known that I am somewhat chemically sensitive. Today this came to a head when I discovered that my recent mild vertigo isn’t as much a byproduct of poor sleep in the course of switching antidepressants as an adverse reaction to fluoxetine.

According to my psychiatrist this is incredibly rare.

This morning, though, I woke up feeling pretty much fine. I had breakfast. I had my medication. A little while later, I headed out towards my appointment at the Perth office of Passports Australia (a division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade), and found myself feeling fairly profound vertigo and mild nausea.

I tried to call my psychiatrist’s office, but there was no answer, so I called Dean, because, apart from being, you know, my best friend and all, she works in a hospital, and has access to doctors, and even if she didn’t, she has about as much medical knowledge as it’s possible to get without actually having a degree in Medicine.

I got her voicemail, left a message, and by the time she called me back, mere minutes later, I could barely tell up from down and was in a cold sweat. She assured me that this was an adverse reaction to medication, her office deals with them all the time, and promised to chase up my psych’s office for me.

It was established before long that my psychiatrist was to be having lunch between 1 and 2 this afternoon and I could speak to him directly then.

I staggered in to the Passports office, only to discover that in my state of wrecked physical wellbeing I was a few minutes late and had missed my appointment. I was advised to go to the counter and see what they could do.

However, I was feeling so intensely miserable that this was the last straw, and I started crying uncontrollably in the line.

So the woman at the main counter excused herself from the people she was dealing with then, and came out and around to see if I was okay. Through my sobs and apologies I explained that I was having a bad reaction to medication, and I was feeling very sick, and I’d missed my appointment.

They took me into a meeting room where I could sit down (I think I was swaying a little), where I was supplied with cold water and tissues, and someone came and did do my passport application for me.

By then more contact had been made, and Chas was on his way to meet me at the passport office, because I was very very sick. This was fortunate for everyone when I collapsed in the office – not quite unconscious, but unable to stand unassisted, barely able to sit.

A woman who’d just been going up to the counter herself interrupted her own dealings to come and make sure I was okay. She was very nice – and will return to this tale.

Chas arrived to find me lying on the floor of the office of Passports Australia – where the staff had fetched pillows for my head and someone with a managerial air about him to try and look after me and make sure I was okay.

I was turned over to Chas’s custody, and, leaning heavily on him and my walking stick, made it to the lifts. There we encountered the woman who’d been concerned before. She asked if we were driving back, and, learning Chas and I were planning to bus home, offered us a lift, as she was going back to Campbell Barracks anyway. (Which is a fair way off, and it’s not a huge detour.)

I remain desperately grateful to her, because I was still sick as a dog. We talked a bit on the way – she’s military, in logistics and deployment – she spends a lot of time dealing with the passports office on behalf of our soldiers. (She’s heading back to the Middle East herself soonish, where, she says, the boys are doing a lot of good that’s just not reported in the media – I can believe it.)

She deposited us in our driveway, where Chas helped me to the couch, where I’ve remained since, drinking diluted juice and playing Yes Minister DVDs to pass the time. I’m feeling much better, comparitively, though still pretty terrible. Chas has been very good to me – fetched me my arrangement of bottles of drinks, made me lunch, even helped me to get to the loo and back.

It’s a terrible thing to lose the ability to get from one room to another without someone else’s assistance, it really is.

I’ve cancelled my appointment for a haircut this afternoon, declined an invitation for this evening, and am now planning to spend the rest of the day keeping my fluids up, keeping warm, and avoiding collapsing. It does mean I have to let people take care of me more-or-less completely today, which sucks. Chas and Dean are going out tonight, but our friend Oliver is coming over in the evening and can keep an eye on me then.

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Sep 16 2009

Departure minus 19 days

Category: adventure,travelSami @ 1:53 pm

Critical Preparations for my trip are approaching completion – I’ll be getting my passport sorted today, and my plans for the first few weeks I’m overseas are firming up: after I land at Heathrow, I’ll be staying a few days with my uncle in Wiltshire, then heading up around the weekend towards Edinburgh. I may spread the trip over a couple of days to do some sightseeing on the way, since it’s a six-and-a-half-hour drive – which is doable but not exactly fun, plus I want leisure to stop and photograph the flowers, I’ll be on holiday.

I stay with my cousin in Edinburgh for a few days – spending time with her when she’s up to it, sightseeing when she’s resting (she’s 95, and her stamina is limited), then the plan is for me to head onwards to the family seat in rural Aberdeenshire. This is around a three and a half hour drive, which I vaguely plan to do over the course of a day – meandering a bit and taking time to admire the scenery, and such.

After a few days there, it’s time to head south, to cross the Channel to Newcastle and then take a ferry to Amsterdam. (Apparently the ferry to Stavanger is no longer running – I suspect it’s too late in the year.)

This saves me the trip from Newcastle-latitude to Dover, then from Calais to the Netherlands. From Nederland I drive up through Germany to Denmark, and take the ferry from Copenhagen to Oslo. Things may be quite serendipitous – looking up things like ferry timetables, I can conveniently go from Newcastle on the 22nd, arriving in Amsterdam on the morning of the 23rd; have a full day to go from Amsterdam to somewhere in the vicinity of Hamburg, then get to the Copenhagen ferry port in time to for the Oslo ferry that leaves on the evening of the 24th; that gets me to Oslo on the 25th, and from there I go north towards Karasjok.

I want to see Karasjok not least because it’s the capital of the Sami people. The indigenous population of Norway, but also: THE SAMI PEOPLE. I am compelled to seek souvenirs of the Sami People.

It’s also a good stopping-point from which to travel to the North Cape.

It took me some time of looking wistfully at stuff around Finnmark before I realised that no, actually, this is a holiday, and my lack of Norwegian kin or affinity for Scandinavian history doesn’t mean I can’t go to Scandinavia just because I’ve always wanted to. Because I have – I want to see the fjords, I want to see the mountains and I want to go to the Arctic.

So I’m going to. I’m going to Norway, and I might well take a snow machine tour to the three-border point, or along the Russian border. (I don’t have a visa to visit Russia, but hey, I can go where I can see it.)

Things to get in advance:

- How to ask for gluten-free food in Norwegian.

- Seriously warm clothing.

After that, I’ll go southwards again, and perhaps visit some places in western Europe, before heading back to Britain and my plans to explore that green and pleasant land.

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Sep 14 2009

Oh dear…

Category: UncategorizedSami @ 12:17 pm

Really, I’ve been rather terrible about keeping this updated, haven’t I?

Posts will be forthcoming shortly. In three weeks I shall be departing for Britain, where I intend to travel and explore – including a trip across the Channel and northwards to Scandinavia.

In the meantime, I do still post photos to the gallery fairly often…