After three days of sunshine, relaxing and beautiful scenery, we were ready to go back to a busy week in Brisbane, and even more excited for our longer trip in three months time! Let the countdown begin.
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” ― Pablo Picasso
Most days I spot something I want to take a photo of. This has been with me since I was young, when I would snap photos on my family farm with my Barbie camera. For my father’s birthday one year, I gave him a still life drawing I had done of him working on the farm, that I had reproduced from a photograph I took. I took a winter photography course with my best friend in grade school, where we learned how to develop black and white film on weekends with our local photographer, the guy who snapped our school yearbook photos. I used my techniques to capture the ice storm’s effects on my farm in 1997, giving my grandparents a framed photograph of their yard as a gift.
In high school I participated in drama and visual arts classes, thinking I may try my hand at moving to New York at some point to work on Broadway or join a group of artists or writers. As a teenager, I could often be found scouring fashion magazines, then designing my own sketches for the day I may become a fashion designer. I spent the summer of my last year of high school painting a mural for the library, which is still displayed as far as I know. Instead of theatre or the fine arts, I chose a sensible course to study in college ― print journalism. It was a mix of photography, creative writing, pagination and copy editing. In my spare time I styled photo shoots of friends in order to compile a portfolio for a fashion magazine internship I never summoned the nerve to apply for. I loved to read magazines, write stories, capture moments in time on film, but I struggled with the idea of working for a fashion or lifestyle publication. I didn’t think I would fit in.
Instead I’ve spent the last 10 years drifting in and out of art galleries, museums and boutiques, wondering if I could ever do something similar or I guess more accurately, let myself go and forget about my self-doubt in order to create something as honest. When I find myself in a new city or town, these places are often comforting to me, perhaps because I spent the two years before I moved to Australia working to promote artists’ works and educational programs to the public. Galleries always feel especially warm and calming (it could be the complimentary wine at the vernissage)…but it always seems restful. There are a lot of programs linking art with mental health but sometimes it’s as simple as going to a place where you can escape into someone else’s thoughts or perceptions of the world. View their experiences and try to interpret their meaning. Or just sit and stare at a canvas or installation. I have even created a Pinterest board so that I can get inspired online, wherever I may be.
I recently purchased a series of reproductions of 1860s woodcut prints of the Brisbane Botanical Gardens, view of Government House in Sydney, the habour in Fremantle and a beach in Melbourne so that we could have a reminder of Australia when we move to Europe. I will frame them for our future home (or apartment) and think of all of the places we have visited on the other side of the world. On weekends I will most likely explore our new neighbourhood and city with a coffee in hand, escaping into the local galleries, museums and shops when it’s raining, too chilly or just for a bit of respite. If we have a family some day, I will continue to visit these places, seeing them through a new set of eyes. It’s one thing I love about the arts, no matter where you go there will always be a community built around creating. Maybe some day I will join them, for now I will continue to admire from afar.
“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ― Sylvia Plath
Alright Sylvia, I’ve fallen off the blog bandwagon and it’s only been one week. I blame Canada Day and a series of other events, but I am back again and sticking to my commitment – to share moments, experiences, desires and other fleeting thoughts. Today (and lately often), I am thinking about politics.
Chalk it up to an adolescence spent reading the morning papers over breakfast with my parents, a few inspirational journalism teachers or a moment when something ‘clicked’. As I have spent the past 10 years working and volunteering in between studying away throughout my early 20’s, it seems as though my experiences, combined with an upbringing in rural conservative (but overall fairly liberal) Canada have resulted in a strong desire to do something. Make something. Improve something. Change some things.
I have spent time supporting emerging artists, volunteering to raise funds for doctors and nurses to set up basic medical clinics in Africa and walking 60kms for breast cancer research each year to raise money for a digital mammography machine in our local hospital, among other things. In biology class in high school, when asked to do a research project, I chose the AIDS epidemic in America. Instead of working for a sexy advertising agency for my college internship, I chose the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies so that I could help them improve their branding and communications over a four-month period.
Why have I always been so drawn to working with others? Helping others?
My Irish husband introduced me to Mary Robinson’s autobiography, Everybody Matters. As I read about Mary’s intentions, her motivations behind studying law and her passion for representing those who could not represent themselves, it ignited something in me that had been laying dormant for a while (it’s easy to become distracted by your surroundings when you move across the world for three years).
I never looked into studying law and I chose journalism because I enjoyed English in high school and thought I could write for a living some day. While studying, I focused on feature stories and the ‘soft’ news beat, the Arts and community events. After rolling through 10 years of marketing and communications roles with varying degrees of community involvement, I now feel a sudden and strong urge to work in a manner that is more connected to society. Maybe it has been growing, fermenting for some time. I started to become engaged in this thinking during my first year in Brisbane, as I studied international journalism, media law and social marketing. The restrictions in other countries and the motivations behind changing a target audience’s behaviour, as opposed to purchasing decisions resonated with me. Instead of brand identity and positioning, bylines and word count, I was thinking of current events, issues and marginalised groups.
The following year I did a stint in the public sector where I was involved firsthand in launching a policy, the first of its kind in the state of Queensland. Seeing the machinery of government from the inside, the relationship with stakeholders and the forward planning and analysis that goes into public policy switched me on again to current events and my new ‘journalism beats’ became food security, agriculture and education.
This morning I went to my usual coffee shop to see the dynamic duo that always bring a smile to my face – even when it’s before 7am!
I mentioned I’m keen to learn how to make coffee and asked my barista how long he’s worked for, if he took a course, etc. I’ve been told some companies in Brisbane are better than others and I’m trying to suss out which is the best choice for me before we head overseas and I can apply my new espresso experience. From what I’ve seen, many places could do with a good Aussie flat white, long black or latte.
What happened next is a typical occurrence in my everyday life. Sometimes you only need ask the question, for someone to be willing to show you the answer.
He invited my behind the counter where he told me you should always wipe the grounds out of the handle before getting your coffee grounds. He let me smell the beans to show how fresh the roast was. He showed me how many flicks you need to pull a good amount of coffee grounds, evening the coffee with a tamper before running the machine. He even gave me tips on timing and volume for the best espresso extraction.
Et voilà! I am now that much closer to beginning my barista career.
I am from Canada, the part that borders on Quebec, yet I don’t speak fluent French. My husband is Irish and we have been living in Australia for the past three years.
While I have never been mistaken for a French-Canadian, I have been asked if I am from New Zealand, America, England and Ireland. People in Ireland think I’m American. People in Australia have asked if I was all of the above, only sometimes asking me if I am Canadian. Last night at the hair salon, my husband stopped by and the stylist thought he sounded like me – American. Thankfully, most people understand me and all of the exchange students I’ve met since moving to Brisbane have told me quietly they love how easy it is to comprehend what I am saying. It’s nice to know that Scandinavians and South Americans alike can relate to you.
Some days I long for conversations with friends, family or perfect strangers I could meet in Canada that understand me and don’t pause to ask, “are you ______?” Other days I think that by the time I go back to Canada (for a visit or a move) that I will sound different anyways. All of my recent visits have been interrupted with jokes about my new Aussie slang or an Irish turn of phrase. The most popular is my new way of indicating the time, instead of half-past four, I now saw half-four. Thank you Ireland.
We are going traveling in a few months and once we relocate again I can only imagine the future accents I will be associated with. I am learning to embrace this recently mandatory part of my discussions with new acquaintances and am convincing myself it is part of me becoming a worldly person.
One of the nicest compliments I’ve received as of late was from a lovely English man at a friend’s birthday party who told me I spoke “with an intelligent accent”. I will take that any day over all of the above!
“I love New York, even though it isn’t mine, the way something has to be, a tree or a street or a house, something, anyway, that belongs to me because I belong to it.” ― Truman Capote
While I work by day, I often look at my New York City Information Guide to Subway and Elevated Lines mouse pad, thinking of the time I spent a whirlwind 48 hours in the Big Apple with four girlfriends in a hostel in Central Park West on a chilly February weekend. I stepped out of work at the daily newspaper I was working at that Friday afternoon, to join my other two friends as we hopped on a bus from Ottawa traveling through Montreal, Albany and finally arriving in New York City on a Saturday morning at the crack of dawn for our first Subway ride, complete with scurrying rats.
We were visiting another girlfriend who was interning for a few months, living in Brooklyn and really, living the dream. We explored Manhattan, Ground Zero, Chinatown, Fifth Avenue, Central Park, headed to see Chicago on Broadway and spent one wild night at Hogs & Heifers in the Meatpacking district – you know, the one they based the movie Coyote Ugly on.
So you can imagine my enthusiasm at the fact that once my new Irish hubby and I head north in a few months, we will only be a short six-hour flight from NYC! We’ve both been to the big city but on separate occasions (months apart), a full year before we met while he was working in Canada. We can create new memories together and with friends from Canada and Ireland on our next cross-Atlantic trip to the Big Apple we’re so fond of. Until then, I will be avidly reading the Cup of Jo Guide to NYC.
It’s been quite a bit rainy here in Brisbane, which is all well and fine by me. Plants need water to grow, it can’t be summer in the sunshine state year round.
However, it does get to me when this early morning rain, fog and mist causes me to get ready in my full corporate wear, trench coat and all ready to seize the day – only to be absolutely roasting by the time I get to the bus stop! It’s days like these when I think cooler temperatures wouldn’t go astray in winter Down Under. At least I could settle into a cosy pub or a nice cafe while sporting stylish layers (and my perfectly matte, cool and calm complexion).
It still makes me laugh at the irony of it all every time I spot someone sporting their oh-so-trendy faux fur vest/hat/coat in Brisbane. If they really think this is winter, then they are in for some surprise on their next Euro-trip!