A blurry existence

I haven’t had a chance to sit down and reflect on my experiences in Europe. Maybe I never will. It feels like three lifetimes ago. I know that I am different and everything else isn’t and I have to find a way to bridge the gap, or smudge it, or take comfort in it.

I landed in Sydney and went to the coast and started full time work almost instantly. I travel two hours to work five days a week and two hours home. That’s 60 hours a week dedicated to this job and a lot of money in transport. It does give me a chance to read some of the books on my growing list of 300 though. I manage to read, in between dozes, about 200 pages a day. I am on my 6th novel of the year. By the time I get home I am awake a mere hour before I retire to bed and drift into dreams in a matter of seconds. The weeks are blurring together prematurely.

I am tired and the little light that once burnt bright is starting to dim. I haven’t worked sufficient hours in a long time and such a sudden change after 200 days of travel and an uncured case of jetlag is hitting me full throttle. I start university by distance in a couple of weeks as well, to add to the load. I don’t have a weekend free until April.

Welcome to Australia, Ruby.

Is this really what life is though? Draining work day after day and a weekend of attempted relaxation or, rather, catching up on other responsibilities like paying bills and doing housework? I don’t think I have the stamina for that. I need constant change, constant challenges. Difference.

I now have a big art studio at home, thanks to the relocation of my little sister to the garage. Alas, I have no time to immerse myself in my paints and tools and wood and papers. I’ve decided to wag a big conference in the city this weekend for the comforts of my new room.

Those of you who are still reading this thing, what’s your life looking like at the moment?

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A blurry existence

The last of Europe | Budapest

Sometimes we visualise upcoming events through a lens of hype or disappointment, fear or happiness. These lenses can be peeled away quicker than they were created and everything that occurs thereafter arrives with a somewhat sour taste. Even if the event is joyful and we expected less, we feel disappointed in ourselves for wasting our time on believing something was doomed to a certain fate. We realise how much we don’t know and how much we can’t.

I was really looking forward to coming home. My parents greeted me in gallops and tears and made a huge banner from materials and sequins screaming ‘Welcome home Ruby!’. My bed was made and covered with my favourite foods, belated Christmas gifts were exchanged and stories and photos were shared. I never felt more loved and more thankful for such an incredible family. But nothing had changed. Everything was ordinary and how it was when I left it. Except now there are more chickens in the pen and the lavender is no longer flowering and the lounge is draped with a new fabric. I don’t know what I expected but it just felt like coming home after a weekend away. It brought me peace and at the same time left me wondering what else I expected. An overwhelming psychological experience? A physical change in the wind? An out-of-body release of homesick tension? I don’t know. I know I’m glad to be home and glad to be here and ready to sleep though.

Jetlag. Rambling. Nonsensical nonsense.

My final weeks in Europe were nothing short of incredible. We partied, we caught long trains after big nights, we had dinners and late evenings of cards. On Australia Day my apartment hosted a party, and a surprising number of people rocked up. So much so that you couldn’t really move at all. A few of us escaped to my bedroom for a surprise birthday and hid there for the rest of the evening. I’m struggling to enjoy large groups of people – the groups I once thrived in. Give me a small group of close friends anyway. (Exchange really has changed me…) What a glorious mess we made! My landlord arrived in the early morning for inspection and I managed to talk him out of seeing my bedroom. Thank God.

Before we left, the girls, Joe and I visited Maastricht. We went to the Dominicanenkerk– a modern bookstore constructed inside a 14th century cathedral. Despite a small number of English books, it was incredible to witness. The books still smell the same. After saying goodbyes and gifting the girls with a favourite novel of mine that suited each one, and receiving similar and thoughtful gifts from them, I caught a cheap flight to Budapest. It quickly became one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen.

Places worth going if you’re ever there:

Ruin Bars, particularly Szimpla Kert: We wish we went here earlier. Probably the coolest bar I have ever seen. I can’t even describe it, attach photos of it, write much more than this: GO THERE. Go there even if it’s 6pm on a Sunday night. Bring cards.

Buda Caste and the labyrinths below: 16m under the castle is a dark labyrinth that, 500 thousand years ago was a series of natural underground caves. In the last however many centuries they have been connected and used in wars and as prisons. Dracula was even held down there. The view over the city is magnificent in all hours of the day. We managed to see it with snow, without it and at sunset. 1D5A9058-Edit

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Szechenyi Baths: You can’t not go to the baths if you’re there in winter. The steam envelops you and the warmth is nice after walking in the snow in the morning. I, naturally, took a book and read by the side after floating between all the hairy man boobs.IMG_4055 Lotz-terem Book Cafe: How can you not, I mean really? Budapest Zoo: It doesn’t stand out in terms of zoo quality, but the zebras were cute and I probably could have sat and watched them all day. 1D5A9158

I should probably do a more comprehensive post on my final weeks in Europe but honestly, I really can’t be bothered. It was amazing and the whole experience was incredible and I advise every single person to get out of their comfort zone and spend a significant time away, but I am going to leave post-exchange reflection for another time. Just book a damn trip.

I will probably be closing down this little blog in the next few weeks while I spend a significant amount of time revamping the layout, potentially the server and photographing and getting into my craft again in order to open up my old store. It’s going to be difficult without a studio, but I have no choice but to make do. I just bought myself a Macbook Pro (and it’s beautiful, I regret not converting earlier) which will assist in the design and media work. I start full time in Sydney next week as well as University by distance. It’s going to be a very, very busy year for me but I have big plans. If the blog disappears suddenly, you’ll know why.

Sending love from country of birds and cicadas and crickets and cockroaches in kitchens. I’m off to the beach and I am so excited I could cry!

(All photos by Joe Brammall)

The last of Europe | Budapest

The final fortnight begins

I realised yesterday as I sat in my final Post Colonial class in Utrecht, Netherlands that it was in fact the last physical class of my entire life. Never again (well, not in the next 5 years at least) will I pack my backpack and my lunch, wake up early and stroll into a classroom, sigh, open up my exercise books and slouch into a chair as a student. The next time I do this I will be a teacher (and most likely I’ll still be sighing).

I will probably look back at this time in my life and see this as a momentous occasion but for now, it is swiftly passing by.

My time here is quickly coming to a close, and while I’ve had a few dilapidating hits of homesickness this week, am really going to miss my life here. I’ve been taking spare moments to visit Den Haag (a Dutch city by the beach) and pack picnics to have under bridges with my best girls.

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2015/01/img_3674.jpgWe’ve been spending most nights curled on a couch watching films, playing 500 and talking about philosophy and art and human relationships until the very early hours. I think I will never stop feeling rejuvenated after intelligent, worthwhile conversation. I’ve been learning so much about the world.

We saw sun yesterday for the first time in over two weeks. It’s still strange to experience such cloudy, wet, cold and windy weather for such extended periods of time. We celebrated by playing tennis, cooking a meal and inevitably studying for our final exams and papers. There is a 90% chance of snow tomorrow and so I’m almost excited to see the sun leave! I regret typing that already…

I’ve signed the contract to work full time as the Assistant Manager in an art store in the middle of Sydney when I get back to Australia (anyone got a couch?), which is all the guarantee I need for my two months planned in India and South East Asia this year. It’s a liberating feeling! I haven’t worked in a year and a half, the longest and most blissful time since I entered the workforce at 15. I’m excited to have a disposable income and build up my savings again (and pay back all my debt, ahem).

Joe arrives this weekend for the duration of my European adventure and Budapest is in the books. Australia Day, of course, is also on its way and I am flipping keeeen (despite negative temperatures, I will be wearing my swimmers, duh). This fortnight will fly! Updates at the end of it all. xxx

The final fortnight begins

A snapshot of Utrecht, Netherlands

A couple of film shots from the little city I’ve been living in for the last five months, less than an hour out of Amsterdam. I have three weeks left in this lovely place, and on the day these images were shot on my Pentax p30, I took a moment to really appreciate it.

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A snapshot of Utrecht, Netherlands

Christmas in Bonn, New Years in Berlin

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The German fortnight that I’ve been counting down to for months is now coming to an end. I am sitting in the corner of an old cafe in Berlin with my backpack and a shopping back of (more) freshly purchased books lying on the floor and sticky pink donut pressed between my fingertips. The cafe is playing The Monkees.

I spent Christmas in Bonn, Western Germany by the Rhine with Joe, after haven’t having seen him for 6 long months (yes, he was armed with flowers and smiles and me with tears and tight hugs). We stayed with his extended family and were able to sneak away and explore the local forest for a while to catch up. Hello cubby house.
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Under the Christmas tree were decorative plates filled with over 10 different kinds of homemade cookies, wrapped chocolates and a mandarin collated and baked by Hedwig, an older distant relative of Joe. This German tradition along with presents and plates upon plates of delicious foods and perfectly carved turkey meant that I was fed and full on the most consecutive nights I can remember. We went in to town and played Tourist and ate sausages and schnitzels. I went to a church service that was entirely in German. I saw the first falling snow of the season (and of my life!) and we made the most of it by walking through the forest to a castle.
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We drove up to the North East of Germany, back to Berlin for the new year, to join 1 million others at the 2km strip where the Brandenburg Gate sits. Despite no countdown and deplorable fireworks in comparison to Sydney’s, the environment was unlike anything I have ever seen.

Firecrackers were falling like rain from buildings, fireworks were being thrown into busy intersections. At each street corner a group of people of all ages gathered to shoot fireworks into precarious locations. The streets were permanently cloudy with kaleidoscopic smoke; it sounded like a war zone. People casually strolled by with a beer in one hand and and a bouquet of fireworks in the other.

At one point, in a last attempt to enter the busy street in the centre of the city, a fence was pushed down and suddenly we were among hundreds of others pushing through the forests and over another fence to get into the site. I saw only one immensely drunk person, so it meant that the scene was more happy and vibrant than seedy and sickening. It was such an awesome way to enter the new year! The bangs and explosions continued into the early hours, along with the never ending ambulance sirens.

The following day we visited the East Side Gallery where famous imagery and street art lined the long wall. A lot is lost on the tourist, because we do not understand the extent of the history behind each political statement or joke. Nevertheless, it’s an incredible site that does encourage you to reflect on Germany’s history. /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/2be/17525335/files/2015/01/img_3388.jpg

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‘I painted over the wall of shame so freedom is ashamed no more
inferno ruled too many years
until the people chose the light
I put my faith in you, Berlin
and give to you my colours bright.’

Oh, and of course- in true Ruby and Joe style, we managed to do a little bit of urban exploring. I took him to the abandoned building in the centre of the city- the same one I visited a couple of months ago. This time at sunset. Armed with cameras (as usual) and jackets and scarves and beanies, we got into the building that is now, very clearly, being taken down. It was sweet to find our way in one last time. We topped it off with some cheap, shitty thai nearby.

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I finished reading ‘Everything is Illuminated’ by Safran and ‘We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves’ by Fowler while I was away and recommend both (easy, ~illuminating~ reads). This explains the bag below. Getting into Lolita next! Hoping it will keep me from the pit of boredom that usually engulfs me when catching an overnight bus.

Until my next update, happy new year!

Christmas in Bonn, New Years in Berlin

2014 | A Year in Review

Countries visited: Spain (Madrid, Barcelona), a boat between the two, Italy (Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre), Germany (Berlin, Munich, Bonn), France (Paris, Nice), Switzerland (Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald), Denmark (Copenhagen, Holbaek), Sweden (Stockholm), Netherlands (Utrecht, Amsterdam, Groningen), Belgium (Brugges, Brussles, Gembloux), England (London), Czech Republic (Prague).
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Australian adventures: Skydiving w/ Joe for our anniversary, Byron Bay and Nimbin road trip w/ housemates, Gold Coast w/ family, urban exploration in Mittagong and Alexandria, camping in the Australian National Park, hiking, camping and leading 200 volunteers in the Blue Mountains, camping in Forster, art retreat in Tamworth, cooking for 40 at Thredbo, a week away in Port Macquarie, two engagements and a wedding, waving goodbye to my first rented house, a week away on the Central Coast.

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Gigs: Blink 182, James Vincent McMorrow, Boy and Bear. (I need to pick up my game for 2015…)

Things I’ve learnt: that I will die if I eat quinoa, pottery (after taking classes at the local studio), how to cook more than just pesto pasta, to check my sources before making ignorant blanket statements, how to love people better.

Goals for 2015: visit 5 (new) cities, get my flipping license, move to a new place, run an ecourse, build a bookshelf, save $7000 ( = get a boss job when I return to AUS), volunteer/serve in a new way, finish my Bachelors degree and start my Masters, print and frame some black and white shots, buy a car, sell some art, buy myself a (proper old school) record player, grow spiritually, go to India.

2014 | A Year in Review