The coolest blue.

I love days that are forecast to rain, yet against all odds, the sun forces the clouds apart to illuminate the land in a soft glow in glimpses in between rebel clouds. This day was one of those days.

Blue lagoon is the quintessential tourist destination on big-island Efate, Vanuatu. A large, still, almost-neon blue lagoon (hence the namesake) sits amongst bordering trees and grasses within a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it entryway just off the main road. As somebody who is ever-wary of tourist traps (having been a victim of them many times in the past), the first thing that caught my attention was the meticulously constructed carpark and “reception area” smack bang at the paved entryway to the lagoon itself. Yes, in fact, you do have to pay to enter the lagoon area – and be aware that it is quite pricey for Vanuatu standards. We did, however have an advantage – being a group of 10 people with local Vanuatu as part of the group, we were able to bargain down the price per person to a cheaper “group” price.
I can’t deny it – the lagoon is beautiful. The water of the lagoon itself is clean and cool in temperature (something you really come to value in the tropics). The mouth of the lagoon is tucked away behind a bend where the waters of the lagoon snake to open into and meet the ocean. As is the rest of the island, millennia-old whitened coral and coral sand lines the bottom and sides of the lagoon, theoretically allowing for snorkelling within the lagoon itself (I didn’t try, but others that were with me did).

Being a weekday, it was a quieter day at the lagoon – however it was hard to miss upwards of 50 Australian tourists and their young families splashing and swimming in the water and lining up to swing from a large tree’s branches via rope swing, in 2 different spots on the lagoons edge. Nevertheless, our local friends found a sheltered rocky outcrop on the water’s edge for us to lay our sarongs, bags, snacks and an entire whole watermelon (as is the norm – who said you couldn’t have a whole watermelon as a snack on the go?).
Although quite obviously a touristic destination, some locals were also enjoying the cool waters on an opposing bank of the lagoon away from the tourist action; themselves having found a fallen tree to use as a springboard to launch into the water and lounging like sleeping cats on the lower branches.

Contentedly sitting on a shared sarong by the sparkling azure waters, I asked my Vanuatu friend Melodie if she had been many times before to this mini slice of visual paradise. A few times with friends, she responded matter-of-factly, before they built it up and started charging for entry. While this news momentarily struck me, a big grin spread across her face and she suddenly jumped up. “Come on, lets climb the tree and jump from it”. Without waiting for me she jumped into the water and started making her way across the lagoon to the tree on the opposing side.
As much as I really, really want to write here that I followed her, climbed to the topmost branches of the tree and fearlessly jumped with her, I didn’t. Instead I climbed half the tree, decided I was too scared to climb the thinning branch she was on, jumped off the “kid’s platform”, and instead floated in the water watching everybody else have a go at the tree.

Let me divert you to an off-track side note for a second: The natural, unforced patience and kindness of the Vanuatu is something to be admired. There’s a reason why they are consistently voted #1 happiest people in the world. Melodie would stand there and wait in the tree for her “turn” to jump from her place in the tree for up to 10 minutes at a time, always waving through the tourists that were lining up for the smaller platform. I couldn’t tell you the amount of times I heard her (even from 100m away where I was swimming) call down to them, “no, no, love, it’s okay, you go, I can wait”. She never lost her patience, never rolled her eyes, never sighed at the scared & hesitating children that were causing her to stand on a precarious branch on top of a tree in the sun waiting, waiting, waiting to jump into the water. In a nutshell this is the Vanuatu mentality – selflessness, and universal love for all. Try not to fall in love with that, I dare you. (Back to the main piece).

After cracking open the watermelon for us all to snack on (flies & humans alike), we lazily spread out on the cool rocks, sat in trees & slid back beneath the refreshing surface of the water to escape the days humidity. Yes, even with the shouts, screams & movement of all the tourists around us; for the first time it didn’t bother me and I shut them all out – or, rather, shut us all in, in a sealed little bubble in our corner where no one else mattered.

Serenity was the universal theme for our time on idyllic Efate. Not only did the mere week we spent there feel like months; but the time away from technology and submerged entirely in both nature and in the moment, replenished our energy supplies as we surrendered to the slow-going lifestyle, no-worries mindset and incredibly family-oriented way of living. Indeed, every day morning to bed was spent in the family ‘group’ dynamic – group breakfast gathering & prep, boardroom-like life discussions sipping coffee & devouring sweet local fruit, venturing out for the day to explore, even group-appointed nap time, washing up and the like. I may have already mentioned this (but I’ll say it again anyway), but spending so much time together allowed us to connect on a deeper level with each other than we had done for the years we have all known each other. Conversations were had and stories were shared that strengthened our bonds & friendships in a way that wouldn’t have happened, had we not let go of our material selves & our possessions.
One afternoon whilst walking the dirt track leading from the beach home, we happened by a group of Vanuatu men sitting outside the local Nakamal, and amongst them, a slightly spaced out blonde Canadian man, smile plastered across his face, the effects of his hand-held cup of Kava clearly having had taken effect. His pale skin tone & strong accent were the only factor standing him out from the crowd as he dressed & acted as a local. Too intrigued to keep walking, we asked him how he had come to Vanuatu and what his story was. His answer, he had simply decided one day to retire, sell all his property & belongings in Canada and move his life to Vanuatu. De-cluttered and completely simplified, he now spent his days at a slower pace in the happiest country in the world. It was the best decision he had ever made, he said. Even completely high on Kava I believed him. I had only spent a week here and I found his life upheaval completely understandable, if not covetable.
Whilst I could go on for 10 more blog posts on my time in Vanuatu, I’ll leave you at the post on my front page – sitting on the return plane, pen in hand, completely inspired and ready for change.

Au Revoir Mama Vanuatu – thank you for your lessons, and until we meet again.

THE BENEFITS OF BEING AT ROCK BOTTOM – pt. 1

Hey guys!

I hope you liked the first installment of my ‘benefits of rock bottom’ series. I actually want to address 2 things first & foremost –

  1. If I look upset at the beginning of this video, it’s because I was. I had just received some really terrible news, I was having a hard week financially, I was unsure about my future regarding employment and was just having an incredibly low week BEFORE I had been given the news prior to filming. That news just happened to tip me over the edge on that day. However, I had already planned on filming that day & wanted to keep on schedule with filming. I think it was actually perfect timing & everything happens for a reason, as I didn’t want to look picture-perfect, in fact this video is about the exact opposite. Please don’t worry though, as I do feel way better throughout the video & now at the time of writing, it’s a week and a half later and I’m 100% fine. Life happens and I don’t want to edit out the bad stuff.
  2. This video is a long one, as I wanted to include my story & experience about failure, as well as detail the first theme of ‘failure’. Future videos will only be around 10 mins long so I hope you don’t mind the length!

ANYWAY!

I hope you enjoy, & I’d love to hear some feedback from you! Watch below NOW:

Its never the right time to say goodbye.

It’s never the right time to say goodbye.

 

Although this may evoke Chris Brown’s cheesy vocals ringing through your mind singing the above sentence, it is a sentence that has been playing through my head over and over again for the past 2 days.

 

Yesterday I had the absolutely horrible, horrific task of saying five words that I never in my most horrible nightmares could have conjured up saying about my little love. “Lets put him to sleep”. That single moment my world stopped, my mind blanketed in a thick fog. I knew it was coming but the words coming out were foreign to me, as if it wasn’t my voice saying them. I was checking the letterbox for mail at the time and all I could do was stumble back into the car and sit down, defeated, tears escaping my eyes and rolling in a consistent stream down my face with the vet doctor’s last words to me ringing in my ears for eternity, “I think we all knew this was coming.” I did but I didn’t. I couldn’t believe it. He was only 3 years old. It wasn’t his time. How could such a young, lively, cheeky, playful animal be so sick?

To you looking at these pictures, he’s just a cat. I cant expect you to understand, just as I wouldn’t be able to understand if this was your situation instead of mine. These few, 2D pictures don’t tell the stories that I have lived through with him and how he pulled me through my dark times and celebrated my happiest.

The day he came into our lives he was just an 8 week old, small, cheeky black kitten with a naughty rebellious streak that had been born on the streets and abandoned. His siblings had all been adopted out and it had just left him – reluctantly, I agreed to have him – we had just lost a cat and were now renting and didn’t have the room for him – yet I took him on anyway. The day I went to pick him up I drove 2 hours across the city in the pouring rain and fog with no GPS – I was driving blind, no idea how to get to the vet where I would pick him up, yet I eventually found my way there, paid the $50 I had agreed to, and was led to the small cage in the back where he was waiting for me. He was tiny with blue-green eyes and a big blue bow around his tiny little neck – like something from a Disney movie. I was hooked and in love immediately.

I was concerned for the drive home as, being such a tiny kitten, I was alone and worried that the long car ride would stress him, and so he rode with me in the front of the car with a seatbelt around the carry cage that held him. Halfway through the drive home, I lifted up one corner of the towel as he hadn’t made any noise yet, and saw that he was curled up in a tight little ball, fast asleep, with only the positioning of the bow allowed me to see which end was which. A half-hour later he awoke and poked his little paw through the cage bars, claws out, wanting to play. So I played cat-and-mouse games with my finger through the cage bars for the rest of the ride home.

This is also how we spent our last car ride together, on the way to the vets yesterday. This being his fourth time to the vet in a week, he knew the drill and was trying to escape the cage as he thought it was just another routine check. So out came his little paw through the bars, looking for an out, and I held it for the last time in ironically exactly the same way that he came into my world. Paw to finger. This time I was stroking him imprinting the feel of his fur on my mind forever so I would never forget what it was like to touch it. Kissed his round nose and the spot behind his ear where he always smelled like fresh laundry, because that was his favourite place to sleep.

To me, he was not just a cat. He was as good as my child. He had an obsession with the outdoors and looked very at home in it; thus the nickname of ‘panther’ was born. On the few occasions we tried to coerce him inside or catch him due to it being past his bed-time (sundown), he would let you come within inches of touching him before running a few metres ahead. Everything was on his terms, he was rebellious, wild, untouchable; and that cemented our love for him even more. Moreover, he was a small cat, yet one that never stopped him from dreaming big. One afternoon I was ironing clothes in the dining room near the big bay window and I could hear a wild bush turkey running and squawking in discomfort every now and again. Finally I looked out the window & saw a small, black figure down in the long grass, relentlessly stalking the poor turkey (that was double his size) before running up behind it, biting it on the bum, and then starting the whole charade all over again.
My little boy knew when I was in a dark place. One day during a brief period in 2014 when Gab & I had broken up, I remember sitting on my balcony feeling brokenhearted and in despair. I was staring out to nothing, trying to make sense of my life’s state when I felt something soft brush up against me. It was my little cat, intertwining himself between my legs, something he had never done before as he wasn’t usually so affectionate. I like to think he sensed my pain because he sat with me for as long as I was there in that position, rolling around on my lap and sleeping with me there until I moved. He has been there through it all.

 

In the last few weeks I like to think he knew his time was coming to an end. He started sharing his sleeping arrangements with me, my mum and my brother; spending all his days curled up with us inside rather than exploring the outdoors like he usually would have done. He followed me everywhere like a shadow and scratched at my bedroom door if I dared to close it with him not in there with me. One day I picked him up and realized that I could feel his breastbone and hips way too sharply, and each nodule of his vertebrae. He was hungry and yet not, and started looking for grass to chew. Thinking it was a tummy bug or an infection I took him into the vet to sort it out. That was only a week ago today. Things can change so much within a week. On Monday, after a last-ditch ultrasound scan, I was called into the vet clinic after-hours to discuss the scan findings. There were 3 large dense masses in his liver, that the doctor put down to two things – a very, very unlikely occurrence of a series of abcesses, or – more likely – 3 large tumors. My heart knotted, as somewhere within me, I knew it was the latter. The only way to know for sure was to take him back the next morning for surgery to physically see what the growths were. The vet told me that if they were, infact tumors, that it would only be cruel to Leo to stitch him up and wake him up to take home, as he would only suffer greatly until he eventually died. He didn’t have a definitive answer for the reason for cancer in my gorgeous boy at only 3 years old, only that he was at risk due to his breed. It was a genetic lottery and he lost.

And so I took him home with heavy everything, so we could all say our goodbyes. In 24 hours we had all gone from the prospect of a tummy bug, to now saying goodbye forever. And so we just did. And it was the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do, say goodbye forever to our young threenager who had the world at his feet to explore had he not lost the genetic lottery.

I feel like this is a release for me to write this. I don’t know how many of you are going to even care. But I felt the need to tell the world just how much he meant to me, and how much love I felt for an animal that I had once reluctantly rescued for a measley $50 and came barreling into my world, full force, paw outstretched with a big blue bow on his soft little neck.

Rest in peace baby, I know we’ll meet again. I love you so much. Goodbye.

we are the dreamers.

To my younger self,

How old are you when you’re reading this? 8? 15?

You should know you’re a dreamer. You should know that you love to write.

Sometimes the stars in your eyes make you anxious for the future if there’s ever any doubt or thought that creeps in that maybe, just maybe your dreams are too big. See, a lot of people settle. A lot of people have dreams that aren’t big enough. That don’t terrify the fuck out of them. Not to worry, you are and never will be one of those people.

You always knew that you’d get somewhere with something, but figuring it out also induced a mild anxiety and panic. See a theme here? You’re an overthinker. You worry too much. You can feel that you’re standing on the precipice of something big and great, but the final piece of the puzzle hasn’t quite been found yet and so you’re trying to force it to fit. Don’t. Just don’t. I’m sure you’re laughing right now at this because you don’t quite understand what I’m talking about, but you will. Give it a few years.

I want to let you know that your older self takes risks. She is bossy – no assertive. You will be happy to know that throughout your life, you have never lost the sparkle in your eyes or given up the chase of a big dream. You have about 10 big dreams at the time of writing this, and each of them must work out because there’s no back up plan. Combined together, they are the fabric of the parachute that hopefully activates when you made the jump. I wouldn’t know enough to tell you at the moment, because I’m currently still in free fall. The lack of control feels good.

 

To my older self,

How old are you when you’re reading this? 35? 45?

I’m kind of jealous because you already know how this is all going to work out. I always wonder about you, more than I do about the younger self. It’s a habit I need to stop. I know you’re better than okay. I like to think you’re everywhere I want you to be and doing all the things I’m planning for you as I type this.

Most of all, I hope you’re happy. I hope you don’t think about me at all except to smile at these moments. Please don’t try and communicate with me to tell me how to do something different/better or stop me from doing something you think I’ll regret. I can’t hear you. And I prefer it that way. You see, the more I wish for this for you, the more I realise I’m being hypocritical because I can’t seem to let you go. Maybe this is what I needed to do so.

I want to let you in on a little secret before I cut all ties with you and never think about you again. I don’t care what you have to think or say. I’m going to work damn hard every day of my life – however not in a work sense. In a happiness sense. Luckily for you, I’ve realised already that your genetic predisposition for anxiety & depression doesn’t mean shit. I’m not going to let it mean shit anymore. Too many years of our 20’s have already been spent in that barren, dark wasteland and I’m going to leave it now for good. It’s not going to be easy, but you probably, of course, already know. Because you’ve already done it. I hope you gave it hell.

Lastly, as cliché as this is, I hope you’re sitting on an ice-white beach in the Bahamas surrounded by everything you’ve ever wanted with the biggest smile on your face that you can produce. I hope you have wrinkles that are a result of smiling so hard. I hope you’re brightening up the lives of everybody around you. I hope you have as much rest as you need and the luxury of time and freedom to explore your terrain.

Goodbye for now but not forever, dreamer; until we meet again. I’ll see you there.

I haven’t been honest.

“…just because you’re “documenting” doesn’t mean you’re not creating content. It’s just a version of creating that is predicated more on practicality instead of having to think of stories or fantasy — something that’s very hard for most people (including myself).

Think about it: you can ponder about the strategy behind every post and fabricate yourself into this “influential person”… or you can just be yourself.”

– Gary Vaynerchuk

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It’s time for me to put my post-Vanuatu travel diary on hold for a sec, I’ll come back to it – don’t worry – but there are heavier words resting on the creative parts of my brain that wont let anything else flow out until I come clean about this.

I am a self-professed marine biologist. Since I was 12, since I first experienced a dolphin up-close (albeit at SeaWorld – don’t worry, I’ve since learned my lesson) I knew that if I wanted to do anything, it was marine biology. I asked the presenter at the dolphin show that day what she did to be able to work with such magnificent mammals, and she mentioned marine biology and from that day I was hooked. I didn’t want to be no office girl, retail worker, checkout chick or corporate high flyer. I wanted this. And of course, other teenage dreams came and went (including a short-lived acting career) but I found myself always coming back to marine biology. And so at the age of 20, when my life cycled back around yet again to marine biology, and I had the choice between a 3-year degree at a prestigious acting school in Sydney or a 3 year degree in science/marine biology, I forfeited my $1,000 deposit I had paid to reserve my spot at the acting school, and instead accepted my offer to study at the University of Technology in my long-awaited degree.

I am a self-professed marine biologist because I feel like I deserve it. With no science backing to my name (due to more creative electives being my choice in high school), I started at ground zero, throwing myself in the deep end with university level chemistry, anatomy, physics, data analysis. I had to learn it all in the first 3 months of my university career, from nothing. I cried more frustrated tears during that time, I felt more dumb than I had ever felt in that time, I self-doubted more in that time than I had ever done in my life. Maybe once or twice I entertained the idea of quitting the degree altogether but I knew in my heart of hearts the threat wasn’t serious. I was in this, for the good and bad. My grades were good, but not amazing – yet every time I saw a ‘pass’ next to a subject following the end of semester exams, I was euphoric. It was a sign that I was where I belonged and was meant to be. I moved to Sydney for a year of my degree to be able to cope with the 30-hour a week class time and extra workload on top of that. My peers were getting distinctions and high distinctions and yet I didn’t care as I was never in competition with them – only myself. And I was right where I wanted to be.

I am a self-professed marine biologist but I feel like I am lying. Sometimes. My graduation day came and went way too quickly. In fact, holy crap, it has almost been two years to the month that I put on my cap and gown and waited for my little bit of paper for hours on end in the hot grand hall of my university with 500 of my peers. I bought the graduation mug, I took the photos, I went out to celebratory dinner afterwards with my family. Some of my peers were continuing their studies with Honors, Masters degrees or pHDs, yet I always knew this wasn’t for me – the research was stressful, data analysis and programming was never, and will never be my forte, and I wanted to be out there in the world making a difference, doing speeches, inspiring, educating people and making a difference. I wanted to be working directly with the animals I loved instead of cooped up in a lab for 10+ years doing research on a topic I don’t really believe in or care about, just to say I am qualified.

I am a self-professed marine biologist, but I’m not really. I feel like I’m putting on a bit of a facade when I say it. To talk myself up in a sense. I dont work full time as a marine biologist. In fact, I dont even work casually as a marine biologist.
In the two years following my degree I worked assist-managing a retail store, travelled a little bit, and now I’m in-between. I will never forget having to lie through my teeth to the area manager of the retail chain I was applying to assist-manage, when she asked why I didn’t want to pursue my degree. I looked her in the eye and told her it didn’t interest me anymore. I’m pretty sure I was holding back tears.

Truth is, no one tells you what to do after university. There is no, next step. I feel like I put in the work, my dream was big enough, I was willing to work hard and travel an ungodly amount of time to work so I could potentially make it in the career I wanted so badly, but -.

I like to call myself a marine biologist because I know I deserve it and am worth it and I can do it and I’d be the best bloody marine biologist that you ever met, because my passion is what drives me.

Yet in the past few years I’ve learned that its okay if you come up against a couple of brick walls along the way.
In the past few months I’ve learned to realise that its okay to pursue something different if its what your soul is telling you.
And in the past few days I’ve learned that its okay to be upfront and honest with people about your struggles.
Its all okay. Because chances are, that most of the people around you are going through a parallel experience. Its just that everyone likes to build up personas surrounding themselves that are a far cry from the real – its what they want. Its what they hoped had happened. I am doing the same. Its human nature.

So – here it is. for the sake of honesty, here it all is laid out on the table.
1) I still have the dream of being a marine biologist and I always will. I will never give up on this dream. However , I’m allowing myself to be released from the title and the pressure that it brings, for now. I’m giving myself permission to be real, to have struggles, and to not be picture perfect to the outside world. I’m relieving myself of the guilt that I’ve harboured for two years for not “having it all together” straight out of university (or even 2 years after).
2) I want to be an activist and role model for oceanic conservation, and especially marine mammals, cetaceans, and sharks. And so I’m going to document that journey.
3) I’ve forgotten how much I used to enjoy writing as a child, and so I’m going to pursue this – starting with this blog.
4) I always have, always will, and will never stop, love travelling. I’m a hardcore wanderlust-er and so I’m going to find ways to explore more. And also document my exploration via my writing and videos.
5) Its okay to be between jobs, its okay to have down days, and all in all the best thing you can do is be honest.

And – finally –  I’m going to be okay. I’m not perfect. I’m not where I hoped I would be. As well as scaring the s*** out of me, this prospect also excites the s*** out of me too.

I hope you stay with me, follow me, see where this all takes me – and I really hope that its helped you too.
If it has, I’d love to hear about something you want to be upfront and honest about – even if it means tearing down any preconceived notions you had built up of yourself as a front to the world. I’d love to hear your story too.

-anislandmermaid

VANUATU: Clarisse (pt. 2)

Banana Bay, Efate

Banana Bay is beautiful in the sense that the water of the calm bay reflects everything the sky displays almost like an artwork, a masterpiece oil painting. Fossilized coral cliffs jut, and then drop to the gritty sand of the bay about 2 metres below. If you were to swim out with mask, snorkel and fins handy and can shimmy yourself horizontally across relatively shallow coral flats and a field of stinging anemones, the flats suddenly drop down to reveal, in parts, shelf walls edged with plate and branch corals sheltering an abundance of tropical fish. Ever the adventurers, the boys instantaneously discovered (or re-discovered from a previous trip) a swim-through cave/archway hybrid fashioned through the coral shelf that they disappeared into and popped up on the other side, unrelenting and never tiring of the thrill of swimming through the same cave again and again. Not surprisingly, the water is tepid, however tiny vents popped up through the sand release shimmering streams of salty cool water that blur your vision and tickle your skin with goosebumps momentarily as you pass through them.

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I’ve always felt strongly about immersing & experiencing the culture of any certain place I visit rather than just being a ‘tourist’ in it – which is why I’ll probably never, ever go on a cruise or a contiki tour. I got to experience the next level, the next layer, something only one can experience when closely linked to people of a certain culture – and this is what manifested when Clarisse died. Our vans were just about to pull up at our dinner location at Banana Bay, and of the group received a text message that she had passed just as we slid the van doors open.

As the orange glow of the evening’s sunset spread out across Banana Bay the shockwaves seared through our group and we all sat in groups in silence – processing the information with blank expressions staring out into nothing, while those closest to Clarisse, her non-biological family, those who hadn’t been able to say goodbye, went to grieve alone. This tragic turn of events in the centre of what had been a joyful, peaceful, calm and happy trip had suddenly blanketed us in a thick smog of sadness. We moved from the cramped bus to the clean, thick grassy lawn in front of the beach and sat in mutual silence. Bassy music bounced in the distance from some unknowing strangers evening party, and suddenly three chunky puppies came rolling over and settled right in front of us to play with each other & stretch out to rest.

As we watched them nip each other and roll around – on the grass, on each other and their fed up mother, on us – we all awoke out of our reveries and sat in a line along one of the cliff edge walls and watched the brush-stroked sun slide out of view before returning to our vans to take us home to the farm. The ride home was pitch black and silent except for the wind whipping through the bus windows. Finally, my friend Melodie, sitting in the back corner, asked us all to sing a song that had sprung to her mind then and there – Hallelujah by Rufus Wainwright. With not a scrap of musical talent between us we all whisper-sung the half of the song that we knew the words to – unbeknownst to us, in the second van carrying the other half of our group – the same song had been suggested and was being sung at exactly the same time.

I don’t know how and when exactly it happened, but it seems that the song was the catalyst for the end of the shock and immense grief that came with the news of Clarisse’s death and the beginning of the celebration of her life instead, in typical Vanuatu style.  Somebody had suggested buying a bottle of Kava – a tradition of Clarisse’s to enjoy after church service – however as everyone settled in for the evening it became apparent no-one was going to make the short journey to the Nakamal, so out came the bottles of whiskey, wine and vodka instead. After a shot of whiskey to toast the life of “Aunty Clarisse” we went about making dinner as a family with a drink in hand. Talk of “I can’t believe she’s gone” turned instead into stories about the woman that was, as it became apparent our native friends felt the need to share every strand of memory they had of her – and I drank every word of it in, drawn into the joy of their story telling and jubilance in which they laughed and openness in which they cried.

Even as I type this I can feel the intensity of the love I felt at that moment for the people and the country that I was visiting because of the love that they carry for everyone around them. Emotions are openly expressed, people intensely love each other, everybody is family regardless of blood and no one is left out. Life is lived minimalistically yet enjoyed grandly. Lost lives are grieved intensely but only for a short period of time – and then celebrated onwards and made legend through stories and memory. Throughout the next few days, we made Aunty Clarisse proud by wholeheartedly celebrating each day. We sang songs that she liked, jumped from trees, held hands, and talked about our deepest fears and anxieties, and our grandest hopes. We speculated exactly what kind of party that our dearly departed would have waiting for us when it was our time to go.

As that night came to a close and people were starting to make their way to bed, a small group of us sat around a log fire, wine in hand and reading out angel cards. The night was balmy and calm. We all hugged each other a little tighter goodnight and went to sleep with light hearts, ready to explore the next day as fully as ever.

Aunty Clarisse – until we all meet again, I’m sure you’ll be waiting for us Kava in hand.

[pt. 3 coming soon]

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