Monday, October 10, 2005

pakistan : polo : prayers

polo match at the highest polo ground in the world : 3 days june 2004 : shandur pass @ 3700m straddling the hindu kush and the himalaya and the karakoram ranges : chitral vs gilgit at the mooney polo ground : thundering afghanis ... thoroughbreds ... pelts and hearts and guts and sheer power ... glistening flanks of these horses ... bloodlines : the elegance, the skill and grace of polo men : a freak mountain dust storm ripping tents and blinding men and turning cars but leaving ricebag untouched in her macpac : illegal cherry wine and homemade mulberry schnapps by army fires in the hutch : mountain-men whirling dirvishes and beating weatherboards among glittering log fires under a moonless sky : dignitaries and helicopters, tent city and tea groves : beautiful japanese girls hitching with sleazy operators : ... sexy dutch kevin with the sexy dutch-english, pale blue eyes and reserved smile, his red nuristani belt : mangoes for breakfast and long afternoons kissing my dutch-man in my one-man : a waving sun burnishing bridled heads in the low of an ice-capped vista

Lord what can I tell you of Pakistan? Of the 2.5 months last year that I walked and hiked and mountain-climbed and breathed in Pakistan? I heard my soul there. I understood the tools required to be able to accept who I already am and honour what I am becoming. I began to identify and claim all the little shitty and all the little perfect parts of me. I realised that love has a place in every act and every action does have a consequence. Pakistan kind of stripped me down to my essential parts and it wasn't cathartic but it was emancipating.

I understand now what beauty is. And how completely transcendant it is. Do not even begin to underestimate how powerful that knowledge can be. It releases you. It gives you freedom you didn't know you'd been denied. Freedom from human frailty and regret and fear. The freedom to know and to be the love-in-everything. And that is the dynamism of those mountains. Of those monolithic ranges. Of the vast and the sublime. Pretty goddamn humbling. You start to become or at least understand that you are sort of irrelevant. And that can feel pretty damn good if you let it.

So when I heard of this earthquake emanating from Kashmir and measuring 7.6 on the Richter Scale, I shuddered. Then came the pictures. Early estimates say 20,000 have died ... but I know it's going to be much worse ... whole entire schools were buried.

Massive landslides have ocurred, making it impossible to travel up the Karokoram Highway and into the mountains ... we can only imagine what has happened to the hundreds of villages perched along the valleys of this himalaya.

My prayers are with you the Pakistani people. And especially my 2 dear Aussie friends working their dream in Chitral - Cathy and Kirsten ...

There was so much incredible. So much vista. And the people. Open hearts. Intelligent. Questioning. Struggling. Learning. Ancient. The people. Were the best part. Are the best part.

I know on this blog I speak vaguely of my travels - refer in general terms to specific events and distant geographies and various emotions and all that breathing hesitant love - it's mostly that those memories remain a little alive and a little too real/unreal for me to capture and put their startled bodies & beating wings in an old jam jar for mine and your magnifying yet cursory, non-commitant scrutiny. I don't know how to tell you how fucking physical and hard and terrifying and boring and brave and brilliant and escapist and educational and breathtaking and lonely and selfish and self-defining and awesome and introspective and retrospective and just bloody exhausting most of it was. I don't know how to do that unless I have the freedom to write it all out or say it all out and you have the time to absorb at least the heat of it and touch it somewhere other than on this internet space. It's not the stuff of blogging.

Here is part of a (very) lengthy liturgy I wrote in email to my friends when I was in Pakistan. I had met this German farmer in a small town called Minapin astride the brown foothills at the base of Mt Rakaposhi (7788m) ... where one afternoon I had a blinding black-out, a fit, a fainting spell. He roused me in the gossamer shade of a thinning cherry tree ...

As I lay in the recovery position, willing away the tingling sensation in my head and welcoming the hot kisses of sunlight on my toes, Habib said that the biggest voice in me is fear. Habib Aziz (Translates: Free Friend) is a German man, 50ish, organic farmer and mountain-walker of Austrian extraction, which makes his hobby our adventure, his walk our pilgrimage, his amble our conquest. He spoke slowly. I shifted my weight on the bristly goats-wool rug and understood that what he said was true.

Before I had said a single word, Habib Aziz looked me long across the shadows and said: "You have many voices inside you. Some of them are beautiful. But the one voice that is sitting on top of all the others is the voice of fear. Fear is making you think too much.

Don't think too much. I don't know much, I am just a farmer. But don't think too much. It's dangerous."

Suddenly I found my failures tumbling out of my mouth, telling this father of grown daughters about the detritus of things done wrong, half done and not done. He smiled as I dribbled a litany of the doubtful I have to offer and he said that this is what makes me more. More interesting, more worth knowing, more than the tattiest parts of the sum of me. That those weaknesses require strength and without them character cannot form and having character means sometimes having more.

Several people, all strangers to my past but all friends to my soul, have told me this exact thing, in one way or another, over this past year on the road. Fear is making me heavy ... my heart, my chest, my shoulders ache ... it's making me run, opressed and laden and making my mind manic and disorderly. I've always wanted to do too much, to know too much, to see too much, to understand more, feel more, hear more, see more, know more. Know More. Desperate for accumulating experience, hording all the bitter, all the sublime, the wretched, the poignant, the unimaginable, holding it all like an offering to some weary adjudicator as a small recompense for all the weaknessnes and all the less-thans that form the skin of my Self.

Exactly what forms the contours of this fear remains unclear to me. I thought a large part of it was a fear of failure. I used to name this the Fear of Regret. I didn't want it, not a bar of it, would rather die than rue the undone, the unseen, the unloved, the unhurt. But it's more than that - somewhere it's also a fear of failing me. My own harsh demands on my less than the strongest body, on my less than an excellent mind and on my less than a pure heart.

Pakistan didn't make me whole. She just gave me the chance to break it (me) down, to separate all the pieces and look at them with some objectivity and without shame. And even, with love. That's all. I'm still a little in awe of what I started to see. But I'm not fascinated or riveted or obsessed. I know I am just a part of everything else. Of this massiveness of life. I know that everything does not happen to me. But that I happen in it.

This journey is nowhere near complete. I think, for that, you'll need to stay tuned ...

Saturday, October 08, 2005

leah & enoch

Leah : Enoch : Korobosea 2005

3 years ago my old nanny Lucy was driving me down the Poreporena highway in the dark red utility with the daisy-sheeted seat-covers and some warm, sweet tears were sliding down hier high-boned cheeks. We were taking about MyDad ... who we both miss so much even after so long that it hurts to say.

Reminiscing. Telling a story. The one about how he used to record me and BabySisters voices and then have that on constant play-back when his work took him on a jet-plane away-away all the time.

Then we stared talking about Lucy's kids - 5 beautiful, perfectly-formed boys. All of them lovely golden promises. And she said Yes, but ever since taking care of you and BabySister, all I've ever wanted is a girl of my own.

Ok. I said. Then you shall have one. Promise.

6 months later I was marvelling at Lucy's large round exposed belly as she lay back for the ultrasound at Dr M's clinic. And two tiny perfect hearts were pulsing on the screen ... blip, blip. blip.


And because they were mine, I named them, I named them Enoch and Leah.

In the Old Testament of the Bible Leah was the first wife of Jacob and the mother of seven of his children. And now Leah is the 7th child of Lucy's and the first daughter.

Leah is one of those totally loved-up babies. Even Enoch protects her like she is his raison detre ... her little bodyguard. She is a little princess and growing into a right pain in the ass in the very cute-can-kill-you way - she is going to be a WILD one! !!

We love you Leah & Enoch. We waited for you. We prayed for you. We wanted you. Your'e both just so loved!!

3 men to dinner

As per a conversation a little while back, if ricebag, MyMama and BabySister could each invite one of their favourite deceased heroes to dinner ... the company would look something like this ...

MyMama : Mahatma Ghandi BabySister : Elvis Presley Ricebag : Che Ernesto Guevara

*all pics taken from sydney morning herald website*

Friday, October 07, 2005


bee-hives : minapin pakistan 2004 : golden villages in crevices along karokoram mountain valleys : bee-keeper babies and orange groves

Just finished this really, this incredibly annoying book about bees and this 14 year old girl in South Carolina during the civil rights movement ... yadda yadda yadda ... the book is ... "Secret Life of Bees" ... BY Some Totally Annoying Self-Satisfied Bob-Cut Mousy-Looking Brown-Nosing AVERAGE-Writing Mrs ... and the incredible hype & popularity of the book are inexplicable to me ... and I think it comes down to the nice little purple hard-cover and the nifty smaller, compact, so-easy to drop-in-your-hand-bag size ... go figure. It does shit me. Just ones of those things that shits ricebag.

Talking of shit, a friend of mine is a funny old gel, miss can-can, and she came up with this term:

Shiterature: Reading matter that gathers around the toilet; usually the Sunday supplements, old magazines and comics that you can't bear to throw out, and books that you can never quite seem to finish.

Clearly this book about bees was not shiterature (most unfortunate but due to the techincality that I did actually finish it). It was just shit.

soon out-of-office

ricebag on ferry on harbour : sydney : february 2005

Hey Sydney ... I just wanted to say hey.

All Sydney lovers - you know what - my yahoo is STILL fucked - and I just found out why (after emailing Yahoo Help) - this is how F'd my workplace is - they've disabled something called JavaScript so now I can't use the internet to email - pretty goddamn fucked. Fucked I tell you. Why so CURSive today ... because my employers will only allow only about half the firm have work email addys that can email externally - the other half (my half) suffer in silence ... we used to be able to rely on hotmail and yahoo but alas no more. I mean - doesn't that sound kind of OUTDATED? There is a lack of progressive thinking in MANY areas here and its definitely NOT like that at other highly professional environs in this city ... so there you go.

Anyway - I'm not all that mad coz yeah ... I almost forgot - I'm LEAVING!!!!!!!! No more monitoring of ricebag by 2 twitchy bitches in middle-management (why are the ones in the middle always the thickest??!!) - couldn't tell you all the fun to be had there!

I'd better roll off before I get done for defamation.

Just to let Bear and Woo and Gutter and Bartercard and African Nik and Ballerina Nik and Bare-Bum and Crispy and Keffer and Bruce and Meloo and Smelly and all the rest of you beeeatches know I do love you - I just can't communicate with you.

Soon I shall be out-of-da-opis and shall be stealing internet time at some strange Malaysian cafe in town that charges too much money for too slow connection (due to PNGs incredibly backward policy of a monopolozed dinosaur called Telikom) ... but at least JavaScript will be working - so it will cost me to write you then, but it's worth more than what not-paying is costing me now.

I am already wildly spending-in-advance my time out-of-office and will be so busy it looks like I won't have time to vegetate in front of the 24/7 Asia Cooking Channel until Novemember 9 at the earliest ... ahhhhh ... who says ricebag don't have stuff to do?? Ricebags got plenty! Including some exams in a few weeks ... sheizer ... here the fun just does not end.

Ricebag has several books to read ... and one to write. She's got a family to go look-see. She's got some serious down-time waaaaaaaay overdue ... never really having stopped after a year and a half of playing running-islandbaby across Asia and the Mid-East ... never stopping after being 'away' for 3 years, coming home on a sailboat from Bali and jumping into her Zara pin-stripe and Berlei serious-back-black-bras and black smacking flats ... never stopped to say more than hey-it's-me-I'm-back and just spending the last 6 months post-poning all of that really ... yeah - and ricebag is looking to rest. REST. To sleep on Tuesday some old Tuesday day when the sun is in the sky and then waking several sev-er-al days later. Just letting the sleep seep in and fill the dry. Yeah ... still so tired is me. Still chugging on like some demented I-think-I-can I-think-I-can.

So don't worry - the next few months are going to be special. And very filled. And I suspect they are going to sound a lot like me - which is going to be the best part of it! Promise.

viva le ricebag

Dearest all.

Ricebag in office ... will be in office another week. Unfortunately little sick spell means she can't run away as soon as she had planned.

Life in the tropics is bubbling along. I will miss my work-mates ... all the girls ... our lunch-time trips to China ... to SH shopping in Bads ... our greasy BigR take-outs ... our mish-mash left-over-rover altogether messes in the office kitchen ... I will miss our indecision (3 hours to discuss/decide whether to go out or not ... I will miss our funny grabs and small flashes of illumination ... it was all just ways to spread some the unfairness of being an office-working chic ... I will miss them!

Most of all I will miss my secretary. Dearest Geko. Don't mess with Geko!! Don't even begin to mess with her. She is cool and calm and organised and just everything a professional should be. Love you Geko! Love your spanish combs and the lovely smile and the secret smirks behind our bosses backs - those 2 would be lost without you!

So a weekend looms ... for ricebag its going to be one spent in the office ... ricebag a la opis ...

But first I am going to have a TGIF glass of wine down at the hotel on the beach ... where a certain someone is going to be there ... ahuh ...

Thursday, October 06, 2005

islandbaby sick

Brussels Winter 2003

A path of illness ... on Tuesday my doctor, the sleazy Philipino Dr El Dorado who kept looking at my boobs while I was braying and sneezing and generally whooping coughing and crying and sniffing ... Dr El Dorado whose gold chains clang against his hairless chest, and sideburns look groomed and wanted ... Dr El Dorado standing in locum for my real Dr, Dr M, Dr M who delivered me when I was born ... so back to Dr El Dorado ... the big creep ... kept saying to me "you are a mess" ... "you are a mess". At first I thought he was being light-hearted but then it sounded a bit like something else so I stopped smiling and cut to the shit - look here, I said, I need some medicine and I need it now.

w/end before last : violent diarrhoea & mild vomiting
last week : mild diarrhoea
last thursday : start of mild fever
last saturday : fever worsens and massive earache begins
last sunday : earache goes, fever stays and dry extra-dry cough/cold starts
tuesday : fever in high gear and cough = very very bad
wednesday : symptoms start to disspiate with application of strong antibiotics

And I am supposed to be finishing work this week - dreaming! Will be back next week finishing up work unfinished - yucky!!

So am back in the air-con today. Still hollow-in-the-chest feeling but overall am feeling much better, despite the EL Sleazo Dr El Dorado. Not to mention Dr El Sleaze knows my boss - no doubt they're rum bums from down at the Wet Bar at the good ole yachtie, haven of foreigners.

Anyhew ... missed you lovers!!

Monday, October 03, 2005

ricebag quits her job today

shhhhhh it's still not officially official for a few hours yet ...

So relief sweeps over ricebag. 6 months exactly since she started at this firm ... and taking a break. As you may or may not know, it's a little complicated so some time out won't hurt.

They don't want me to go, definitely do not want ricebag to leave ... but ricebag needs must

So ... my family too sigh a little relief ... more ricebag around for them ... I was worried they'd be feeling that ricebag still isn't 'settled' but rather, they've shown me up again - they can see there is just 'more' to ricebag ... that office-sitting isn't just a way to pay the day, it's killing her best-ness when she isn't making the most of every single thing she calls her product. So ... really, they get me. They might not understand me. But somewhere along the way when I was away, they began to understand I am not an animal easily fed ... that somewhere I also started to accept that the tiger within needs harder surfaces to scratch than the surface we see.

This is my last week. Then I'll be on a jet plane, not sure when I'll be back again ... off to Lae and Wabag and other parts known. Got some catching up to do and bits and pieces to take care of and some unfinished business to finish.

On another note, my heart goes to those in Bali who are affected by what happened on Saturday night.

Almost exactly a year ago I was crossing the border from Israel to Egypt when half the Hilton at the border crossing was blown away.

The threat of an act or acts of terrorism surround us every day. I really believe the best way to combat them is to keep going on in the face of it. That the real damage is the way it alters our freedom every day in every way, if we let it. Take the right precautions, as ever, but keep on going on.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

sori tumas

ricebag a la loo : neutral bay pub : school reunion 2004


What is wrong with you ricebag. In the last 2 weeks 3 perfectly nice, intelligent, gainfully employed, good-looking and responsible guys have asked me out. But nooooo. Ricebag can't do lunch, dinner, canoeing, the markets or forever. Sori tumas.

Every time I get asked, or even just know (you know when you know) that someone is in like of ricebag, I just can't be arsed.

As I tried in vain to explain to my boss at after-work drinks yesterday ... ricebag is all-or-nothing girl. She knows KNOWS if someone is the someone for lunch, dinner, canoeing, the markets and forever ... I don't do part-time love ... I am not capable of the casual encounter ... unfortunately or fortunately ricebag is built this way baby.

I can be your mate. If you are a boy, I will be your mate. I will be the girl you call on to bitch with; I will be the girl you call on to have a beer with; I will be that girl. Thats ricebag. But if you like me and you can't help it you need to be careful because I don't do casual love ... it's never going to even go there ... I still want to be your friend, your girl-mate, that girl who is not like all the others ... but you need to get over liking me if this is going to work. Coz I hate to tell you ... but if I wanted to be with you - you'd know it! There wouldn't be any prelim. And ricebag doesn't make the forever-kind of love unless she's smitten-and-sure and that doesn't happen to her very often and if you've passed over into her matey territory, then that means you're not IT.

SO so so so ... one of my bosses T-REX ... loves me. She loves me loves me. And she is dying for me to get all cosy and boxed up with a certain mate of mine. Sorry I said ... T-REX you must be DEAF ... so let me make myself clear ... ricebag tried casual love and guess what - she's no good at it ... she can't do it half-way ... she's tried love in all the wrong places and some of the right ones and right now it feels good to know that it only matters to her when its real. I am not looking for A Man or even The One. Just someone smart enough and ready enough to let me put my bags down and peel back some of the layers ... I will know and hopefully he will too. Until then, I am currently carrying on a pretty full-on love affair with my family and they are consuming all my time and energy out of the office, which is only about right considering I left home aged 10 and haven't let them see behind my holiday-face since then. Having been absent-daughter, ricebag is now trying her shift on for size and that's exhausting!! Getting to know the ones who love you more than sunday is a secret blessing and I ain't givin it up for a part-time so-so ... just can't. And when I do find someone, the one, he is going to have to fit into the space I am carving out so that means I need to really really want to be with him ... coz right now the cosy I have with the people I call home is as close to holy a place as ever I've been.

So yeah - ricebag has lots of room for love. I've been giving away pieces of myself forever. And it's free. Just know when ricebag lets you in, that's her way. It's an invitation to treat, not a promise.