Hello folks and happy new year! Well my last post was about my experience in India almost a year ago in January 2010, quite a bit has happened since then! I found myself immersed completely with living the experience, and documenting it along the way through this blog became more difficult, hence the huge gap I now feel very guilty about! Traveling India was most definitely the highlight of my entire 12 month travel adventure, and has indeed changed my life, perspective, dreams and desires. Meeting family, being able to converse with the locals, the sights, smells and sounds felt like my home, my motherland. Some of the beautiful places I visited included Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, Rajasthan, Varanasi, Kolkata, Hampi, Kerela, Orcha, Mysore and Amritsar.
From here I traveled onto Thailand going from Bangkok – Chiang Mai – Pai. Here I took a bus into Laos and traveled down through Luang Prabang, spent a couple of days in the Capital Vientienne, then onto beautiful SiPhan Don. Cambodia was next for Angkor Wat in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. I loved Laos and Cambodia, the people here are warm, friendly and there is a relaxing feeling about being in these places. Memories and scars of the past are everywhere, and still people here are suffering from crimes committed by powerful, greedy short-sighted leaders. You would think that historical records and living histories of such atrocities would prevent us making the same mistakes today.
From Cambodia I went to Vietnam and spent a few days in Ho Chi Minh City learning about the Vietnam war, and took a tour of the Mekong Delta. Next some much needed relaxation time in Nha Trang at the beach to catch up on some reading. From here to beautiful Hoi An a pretty little town, Hue for some history, then onto Hanoi in the north. From here I took a 3 day trip of Halong Bay and a trekking trip to Sapa. The north as everyone quite rightly says really is beautiful. I flew back to Bangkok to check out Phi Phi Island giving into the hype and wanting to see ‘The Beach’ that caught my attention in my youth, ah the years of Trainspotting and Pulp Fiction, popular culture that got into our heads in the student days. Well as I expected it was trawling with tourists but still I’m glad I made the effort, not a highlight but an experience none the less! From here Kuala Lumpur was next and I loved it, the people, food and culture, I went to a few mosques and a Sikh Temple here and met some great new friends. Then on the bus to my last stop Singapore. CLEAN is what this place is, almost unreal. Some interesting arts offerings- on my last night I went to Esplanade for a classical music concert by a Chinese Orchestra and spent my last day as a backpacker at Raffles Hotels enjoying a few Singapore Slings to celebrate my year around the world, and what a year it was!
I still feel overwhelmed with the amount of experiences; sights, conversations, locals, backpackers young and old, challenges, tiredness, excitement, happiness, peace, joy, fulfillment, enlightenment, buses, trains, planes, taxis, timetables, beds, hostels, hotels, eating out, poverty, homelessness, beggars, politics, leaders, war, pain, death, destruction, flowers, nature, mountains, beauty, dust and dirt, my old rucksack, the same old flip flops and clothes to wear every sing day, currencies, tickets, photos, beautiful men and women, languages, smiles, children, my ipod, lonely planet, cities, towns, urban, rural, shoulder pain from carrying my luggage, beer and wine, more beer and wine, bars, clubs, pubs, too many eggs for breakfast, laughing, laughing and more laughing, thinking, contemplating, tears, no fear, delhi belly, being ill, paracetamol, bottled water, ATMs, lack of sleep…I could go on and on and on but will stop here and say that from South America – India – South East Asia, from August 2009 to July 2010 I had the best year of my life-so far. This might sound cliched but hey it really was. It’s not over, in fact it is just the beginning as far as I’m concerned, in terms of the relationship I would like to have with some of these countries, people and places in both a personal and professional capacity.
1st August 2010 I flew from Singapore to Melbourne. I last touched down here in 2003 and fell in love with Australia’s capital of culture. My friend Ursula whom I lived with in London almost a decade ago met me at arrivals and I went to Gippsland in rural Victoria to stay on a farm she takes care of. Before I knew it a month went by, I used this time to relax and adjust from being in great weather for such a long time to the cold! as well as getting organized and finding somewhere to live and work in the City-this was difficult without internet connection or mobile phone reception! I loved spending time with the horses, cows, chooks, cats and dogs, harrowing paddocks and helping Ursula with the daily feeds, but the City girl in me had to get out eventually! ! In September I moved to the City to a wonderful house with two lovely Australian girls in the suburb of Brunswick and I love it. Andra spent two years in Europe and lived in London so understands where I am coming from, loves to bake and is an expert on naughty treats, constantly giving me hints and tips on getting around and top tips on saving dollars here and there. Adelia is half Italian and regularly cooks sensational pizza and pasta dishes, and is a keen gardener so we are spoiled with fresh herbs, lettuce and tomatoes coming straight from our back yard. Oh and not forgetting our black and white cat Whisky.
I used September to meet and greet the local creative community and had a great time volunteering for the Melbourne Fringe Festival and Kultour, Australia’s peak organization for raising awareness of and touring multicultural arts across Australia. These opportunities gave me the chance to learn more about the arts infrastructure in Australia, meet various artists and see work be it dance, theatre, music or visual arts from local and national creatives. I also busied myself meeting with lots of interesting organizations and cultural leaders from various organizations including Asialink, Footscray Community Arts Centre, the Victorian Arts Centre, Cultural Development Network, Big West Festival, The Torch, The University of Melbourne, Arts Victoria, British Council Australia, Multicultural Arts Victoria to name but a few, to build a picture of what is happening in the creative industries here in the state of Victoria of which Melbourne is the capital. Oh I also did a bit of waitress work on Lygon Street (the Italian Quarter) and some temporary office work, joined an Amnesty International Women’s Group in Collingwood, and made lots of new friends from around the world-wow September 2010 was a busy month! Why Melbourne? It’s thriving, multicultural, creative and oozing with possibility, potential and originality. If you’re a lover of diversity, creative expression, live music, the arts, good coffee and boho bars and cafes this is the place to be-hence why I am here.
In October I joined the team at Regional Arts Victoria as Program Officer within the Arts Across Victoria team (patted myself on the back for securing paid employment withing a month of moving to a new country and city following an 18 month career break!). AAV has 40 years experience in touring artistic works throughout Victoria and Australia, working with key stakeholders and producers on cost effective, multi-disciplinary tours, as well as audience development. My role includes administrative, communications, stakeholder liaison and program delivery, working with the Arts Across Victoria team on logistics, touring and marketing. I am currently focusing on delivering and developing tours in 2011/2012. This has been a great introduction to the presenters around the country, and Victorian producers, as well as a great insight into the nature of the practicalities of touring such a huge country, as well as funding, programming and audience development challenges. It has been interesting to look at this with a UK perspective, and even more so as two of my colleagues have experience of living and working in England’s creative sector (one of them lived in Birmingham and lived on Newhall Street!), so much interesting comparison, discussion and debate occurs in our office!
Over the last couple of months I have been supporting Monica Singh an Odissi Dancer from Delhi, who has very recently arrived in the country and is continuing to build a career as a performer and teacher here in Australia. Her premiere performance in Melbourne takes place on 12 February at Dancehouse. I have become an associate member of the Natraj Cultural Centre that has been bringing the best of Indian Classical Dance and Music to Australia and New Zealand via the Spirit of India Festival for 30 years. I will be attending WOMADelaide in March 2011 wearing my NCC hat and supporting some South Asian musicians as an interpreter for media interviews and workshops at the international music dance and arts festival. In between I am continuing to make the most of what this wonderful City has to offer and trying to keep up with the number of events and festivals filling Melbourne’s cultural calendar that is about to burst.
So that’s my update for the last year. Over the next few months I am continuing to digest what I have experienced over the last two years, as well as research and plan my next project. Current musings are around forging interculturalism and creativity to find innovative solutions to current global social, economic and environmental issues. I’ll keep you posted, in the meantime have a great 2011. Peace and love to one and all.