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.
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. 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.
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)