Gap Year Journal (archive)

cropped-jasminonajourney-copy2.jpgJASMIN ON A JOURNEY

This is a record of the blog which I originally created as a travel journal so I could keep up with my friends during my Gap Year, way back in 2008/2009.  Below are the complete unedited, not proof-read, entries from my travels to America, Australia, New Zealand and India.  Apologies for inconsistencies, typos and unintentional offences caused!  I hope you can still enjoy it nevertheless…

Introduction

There is a slight irony that this page is called ‘Home’ when currently, I am a wanderer.  So this, the first page that you come to when reading my weblog, shall attempt to explain the most accurate home I have at the moment:  Me.  I am my own home.  What I carry is my home.

So what am I carrying?  Let’s unpack my back pack

ITEMS OF NOTE:

One penknife, 42 attachments.

Clothes…  Skirts mainly, shining and bright, colourful as peacocks.  There’s a pair of flip-flops with little red roses on and, two items I am eternally greatful for, my worn black hiking boots.

Traveling water-colour paints and a thick, crackling sketchbook.

Books…  Books to write in, books that are written on.  A decrepit copy of Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, passed down through the hands of seventies hippies until it reached me from my grandmothers bookshelf. It brings any insanity I face in the world into objectivity.  And thats saying something because the world’s a crazy place.  The rest is mine; reams and reams of scrawled papers.  Some of it is good.  Some of it is bad.  Most of it hasn’t had a chance to be either yet.  I might share some of the better stuff, we’ll see.

A toothbrush.

Biro’s.  All black.  And a secret wish for a fountain  pen set against the knowledge I would ruin it in my current state of travel.

Photos.  Of all my friends back home.

That is my back pack.  In the same way that walking into somebody’s bedroom and seeing their personal possessions explains a lot about them, the contents of my back pack may well best explain me…

America

November 16th 2008 – Los Angeles, California, U.S.A

So. I’ve begun my journey.

Having been subjected to Norman Foster’s trippy design whims in the new terminal five at Heathrow* I boarded my plane to L.A. To be honest the flight was your average ten hour flight: Pretty damn dull. And exhausting. So that when I finally did get to my destination I was so out of it that I didn’t really know where the hell I was or what I was doing and it was dark which made everything even more surreal. However the sense of disorientation was remedied by Joel, Michelle and Petie – the people I’m staying with.

img_1723The first thing to hit me when stepping off the plane was this strong, gorgeous smell of burning. I am told it’s caused by the fires in the hills around the city which happen, it seems, quite often. These blazes are about forty five minutes drive from us, but the wind blows the ash up into the air and quite often the cars have little flakes of ash on them when you go down in the morning. Earlier today I was sitting with Joel and mum having freshly squeezed orange juice (which I love and which the Americans do a lot of) and the ash was falling very lightly on us, like half-hearted snow for about five minutes. The dust in the air is also causing the most amazing sunsets – deep, vibrant reds and oranges which, because the sky is completely clear of clouds, magnify the sun and make it look like dusk from about four in the afternoon.

It is a little surreal here, though on one level, because ‘famous’ people are sort of right next door. I was casually told upon arrival by Joel “Oh and that’s Ozzy Osbourne’s house.” And Petie squealed “Yeah, but Christina Aguilera bought it and painted it a horrible colour – now it’s just unbearable!” And there was a tour bus which pulled up next to us earlier full of tourists who apparently had been chasing us because they thought Joel was a comedian called Ellen who apparently has the same car as him. We all laughed a lot at their mistake. The irony was we had someone in the car behind following us to an arts fair who they probably would have recognised – a nice man, one of Joel’s friends, called Jonathan.

img_1749One thing that you can’t help but notice about America is the size of everything – the cars are massive! You know those land rovers everyone (myself included) complains about in England? They’re and average sized car over here! And there’s so much FOOD! It’s all amazingly good though. We went to an arts fair today – kinda like the Royal Norfolk Showday but in America so it’s infinitely more excessive – and there was so much free food. We got to try everything and it was all delicious. My favourite thing by far was this lobster chowder. It was a really creamy, rich soup and it was — yum!!!

It’s 28 degrees outside nearly every day and the pool’s just getting heated up again so we might be able to swim tomorrow. Guess what? This is their winter! California is unlike anywhere else I have ever been: Everything is beautiful. (That I’ve been shown anyway.) And everyone seems to be happy. It’s like a beautiful, happy bubble. I’ve only been here a day and already I’m starting to forget the rest of the world exists. Not the people in it – I’m missing everyone like crazy!

Jet lag’s sunk in and I’m exhausted. Write more soon. Going to sleep. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

November 18th 2008 – L.A, California, U.S.A.

Yesterday Michelle drove us down to Malibu in her convertible. (Sorry I just had to say that coz it was as cool as it sounds!) The beaches here are really amazing – long wide strips of sand that stretch out forever with this gorgeous deep blue sea. The water’s really clear, but the ground beneath it drops away steeply creating this truly excellent surf. Lots of surfer dudes down on the beach!! In fact the head teacher of Petie’s school is a surfer – when we went to pick her up (coz her school is in Malibu) he asked us what the sea was doing – I can’t quite imagine a surfer-dude head teacher in England!!

img_1792But the main reason for our trip to Malibu was the Getty Museum there. Basically, the Getty’s are this really rich family in America and one of the was a real classics nut, so he decided to build a perfect imitation Roman villa and fill it with precious artefacts from ancient Greece, Rome, etc. Needless to say I totally geeked out and had the time of my life!

One thing that really stood out was how clean everything was kept – there is literally no rubbish anywhere here! Joel says that people are a bit obsessive about keeping public places clean around here! It’s nice though, like people respect the places they’ve built. I guess that’s kinda a contradiction though, because, and I’m not being mean or anything, but the consumption of resources over here is crazy compared even to England so maybe they should respect the planet a bit more and their public places a little less.

I found that the equivalent to a Greasy Spoon over here is a surfer cafe. They do freshly caught fish – as in they practically take it out of the sea in front of you – and then cook it the way you like it and serve it with fries or salad or veg. I had the New England Clam Chowder though because it is a truly, truly American dish and it tastes SO good!

When we got back home, Petie and I made cookies – or should I say cake-ies – they were so thick and gooey and gorgeous. And all us girls clubbed together in the kitchen and made curry – mum as the mastermind, Michelle as chief rice chef and Petie and myself doing whatever little jobs were necessary. It was a really tasty meal but unfortunately my jet lag kicked in just a few minutes before the meal and I nearly passed out in curry! Thus ensued early night…

P.S – Just to clear up the confusion I am in L.A for five days only – despite the fact I shall probably be returning for a month later on – so my first proper stop is Australia!

Monday 24th of November 2008 – Brisbane, Australia

Bad Jazzy for not reporting back to base camp sooner! My only (and somewhat feeble) excuse can only be to do with crossing the International Date Line and suffering a fairly moderate state of jet lag. But here I am, finally, in the land of Oz! More on that later, first I must explain the last couple of days in L.A…

Getty Centre 1On the 19th, mum and I made a visit to the Getty Centre. The Centre is owned by the same family as own the Getty Villa (what a shock) but it serves to house art which, although again is mainly European, is much more modern. They have works ranging from the sixteenth century to the present day, and a photographic exhibition of American landscapes. I have to admit, however, that it was the architecture of the Getty Centre that really draw my eye. The architect was a man called Richard Meier who, to put it bluntly, really knows his stuff: The building rises out of great white slabs of stone in a towering, curling wave of white. Every wall and window glares out at you beneath the L.A sun (which, I have discovered, never fades), almost blinding in it’s ethereal beauty. It seems almost impossible that such a building would rise out of such a barren landscape, the city on one side, the scrubbing beginnings of the canyons on the other. Yet it does. And it is so magnificent that it almost entirely eclipses the fact that the art, though pretty, is not American, but European. L.A. is very much a colonised city and as such, it strikes me they have tried to take art from their immigrant root’s. However, their home countries – Spain, Italy, England, Holland – have not parted with their own masterpieces: Note that David is still in Florence and Turner is still in the Tate. As such, their is no master stroke within the art – there is no doubt it is good – but it is not genius. This is why the building is so necessary. The building provides the genius which the art does not, or so it seemed to me.

From the top of the Getty one can look out on at least half of the city (this is saying something because I could barely see the whole thing from the window of the plane and that was at night when the whole thing was lit up and easy to spot!) From this bird’s eye view, Los Angeles is by no means a city of angels. While the sky scrapers should provide architectural awe, the eye is draw instead to a thick, painfully obvious layer of brown smog, pollution, which hangs above the city. Again, I have to ask myself: The Americans have gained so much, have such beautiful houses which are so readily torn down in favour of the new – and at what cost?

Getty Centre 2I had an interesting conversation with Michelle about it, actually. We were in a restaurant and the portions, though delicious, were utterly enormous. It is almost impossible to eat an entire meal: Most of the time I had to leave half of what was on my plate (though, my English manners felt extremely rude and wasteful doing this.) Michelle said that she hadn’t thought about it in a wasteful way before, she had just taken it as normal, but then she saw it through new eyes and could see what a waste was going on. I suppose humans – and here I’m talking the world over here – can do their bit only within the confines of how objectively they can see their lifestyle. Joel and Michelle have solar panels on the roofs of their house, yet Michelle did not see the food being wasted until mum and I turned up with our prim Englishness! Personally, in England, I will shower for half an hour without a thought – even sometimes shower in the morning and bath in the evening. But as soon as I got to Oz I was faced with a drought and now I have to shower for a maximum of about two minutes. There are loo flushing rules and teeth brushing rules simply to conserve life here. I couldn’t see the wastefulness of my water habits back home until I came to a place where water is valuable.

Getty Centre 3For all that L.A cannot see it’s own consumption habits – perhaps because it is used to consuming so much – the American’s do amusement parks better than any other country I have ever heard of! A trip to universal studios proved a fabulous day out: Every ride was trying to out-do the last, every sight more fantastical than ever! To begin with, the whole thing is just totally cheesy and cliche, but if you relax into it and laugh, as mum and I found ourselves doing, there is an infectious excitement and childish glee which comes with every step. Erm, well, that is, until the HOUSE OF HORRORS!

I swear I have literally never been that terrified in my entire life. Ever. Not in the sense of pure and utter terror. So as you queue up they show you props from Van Helsing and The Mummy and The Munsters and a lot of things from The Hammer House of Horrors and Alfred Hitchcock’s hat and favourite stuffed bird, and you’re shown signs which say ‘not suitable for under 13’s’ and you think ‘Yeah, right, they’re just covering their backs, coz people love to sue.’

READ THE WARNINGS!

When mum and I first went in it was fairly average: A couple of mummies, fake lightening, lots and lots of people around, lots of hilarity and fake screams. Then you go through into another room and another and each one gets steadily creepier. The temperature drops. Threads are hung from the ceiling, tickling your face in the almost-dark, feeling like spider webs. The whole thing is choreographed perfectly to play on the human brain so that when an actor dressed (rather convincingly) as a demon leaps out at you from inside a coffin you’re screaming as much as anyone. Actually, perhaps mum and I were screaming louder, because the creepy ******* came after us, chasing us up some stairs! Every time I looked back, he was there, until the last time when it was some poor old Korean couple who I thought were the demon, promptly squealed at, and ran with mum to the top of some stairs. At the top, we overtook some young girls – and I have to say they were far too young – and went on.

It wasn’t until we walked onto the set of Van Helsing that we realised we were now entirely alone. After that set we tiptoed through a tomb filled with very convincing dead bodies. Then a set of curtains through which you could see nothing. Pulling them back was a terror to believe: What would be behind. It was a mirror maze. An endless corridor of mirrors and mirrors. I was so scared I ran into my own reflection. Then I was really scared and ran all the faster. Mum and I were clutching each others hands. I think we both stopped at the same time when we saw the hanging body. Bodies. In plastic bags. Hanging from the ceiling. In a fridge. Oh. My. God. And they’re all so close together that you have to push them aside to step through. I bet you can feel their weight. I really don’t want to go through here. Mum goes first, with me right behind. I was right, they weigh something. They weigh exactly as much as a human body.

OHMYGOD!! ohmygodohmygodohmygod!!!

Then they let you run down three flights of stairs to get away from the bodies and you come out in the bottom of the Van Helsing set (in any other circumstance that would have been really cool) and then you find yourself in this room full of wooden crates, out of which jump a load of mangled corpse dolls threatening you with machetes and worst of all you can’t find your way out and then there it is and you’re in a butcher’s freezer, bodies and animals hanging up like carcasses akin and the – holy **** – there’s the bloody butcher and he’s got a bloody knife and he’s bloody coming straight towards you…

Mum being eaten by a sharkYeah and then you get out and you can laugh on a bench in the sun as the adrenaline settles back down because really, you know it was all make-believe and you knew it was plastic and ketchup and you knew the were just stage knives and bags of flour and sacks of flour not real bodies. But for a few moments there, your brain flips out of itself. You realise the people in horror movies aren’t dumb, they’re just scared. And the fact that any of them ever survive is a miracle. It is such a play on human feelings and emotions – and do you know what really makes it terrifying? The hall of mirrors. When you’re faced with yourself and the images of yourself alone and you don’t know where on earth you’re going and what is coming next that is truly terrifying. For all the the English joke about dumb Americans let me tell you they are clever folk: They know how to get inside your mind and make it play tricks on you. They just have a habit of electing really dumb leaders. Looks like they might have broken that habit, though, hey? Let’s keep those fingers crossed!

The tour of the studios itself was mighty good fun – really enjoyable – because you’re touring where the special effects were done they actually do the special effects for you – right there and then – they flood an Indian village, they make it rain under a blue sky, the put you in an tube station, give you an earth quake, make a lorry drop down from the street above as the ceiling caves in AND flood the whole place with a ‘burst water-main’. Yep, it’s cool to see the cars from Fast and Furious dance amongst flames for you, and to see the houses of horror movies, to see where Ben Hur was filmed and see the set of almost every Western that came out of Hollywood (who’d believe they were nearly all done on the same set?!) And yes it’s even cooler to see a load of stunt men burst out of one of the Western sets and start to shoot each other. Now you’re waiting for a ‘but’ and there isn’t one. I had a really good day out!!

The last day in L.A we just hung out at home – actually, that’s a lie. We went to Michelle’s shop which is – I have to say – fabulous. The shop is called Metamorphoses Couture and is filled with designer couture. I have to say I’ve never really been one for the labels on clothes but having seen the quality of clothing up close, I have to say the style and stitching is phenomenal. Michelle was incredibly generous and gave me a sequinned top which I absolutely fell in love with. To say it’s sequinned brings it down a bit – it’s sheer material with sequins embroidered onto it on sworls. Simply beautiful.

I have to say Joel and Michelle are some of the most generous people I have ever met – they have exquisite taste and were simply the perfect example of hospitality. I feel I have made some real friends – also in Petie who is such a good humour little being you can’t help but love her! And I am extremely grateful for the time I sent with them. I shall look back on L.A. with many fond memories!

I think, actually, looking back at how much I’ve rambled on, I shall leave you to digest this last bit before explaining Oz to you. I say explaining – I do not pretend to understand this country by any means – it seems to me so far to be even vaster and much rawer than the U.S.A. Looking at the size of my entries I think i’m going to have to rearrange my blog… Hmm… Until next time (and maybe next new-look blog), adieu!

Australia

November 26th 2008 – Brisbane, Australia

One thing about my Auntie Delia which I noticed, and which I had previously forgotten, is that she laughs when she finds something funny. I mean, really, truly laughs from inside. It seems to me that her entertainment is sincere and real – and she does not laugh if she does not find something amusing. I like this. It’s rare.

img_1960Australia itself is hot. When I say hot the stones burn like brimstone out of hell, crawling with lines of fat black ants. Every creature is eager to make its existence known, shouting, crowing, squealing at the op of its voice, the insets frantically flapping their wings to make themselves heard and seen. Dumb, pendulous Christmas Beetles lose their way and find themselves colliding with bodies, tables and chairs in the cool shade of the veranda. Cicadas groan long into the night. Human flesh feels warm, the same warm as comes from being tucked up in bed on a winter’s eve, but here the radiation of ore heat is inescapable. Sometimes the whole family gathers in the one room with air conditioning, animals included, just to feel alive again. The cat and dog conk out on the floor, lying so still and flat I mistake them for dead.

We brought ice creams from the ice cream van, my cousin Elle and I, desperately licking at them as we ran back to the house to give my auntie hers. At point of contact with the air, they seemed to just disintegrate, dribbling down our hands and the sides of the cones. Mine arrived with colourful sprinkles, but the colours ran within minutes, turning the white ice superficially brown. The sprinkles were hard against my teeth. We ate the ice creams hanging over the edge of the veranda, which is on the second story, raised off the floor on Australia’s characteristic stilts. The dog foraged about in the grass below, trying to lick up the cool spots of melted cream from the ground. The drips landed for the most part on his head after that, much to our amusement. We fed him the cones as a reward for entertaining us. But they were stale or we probably would have finished them.

I have become a complete fruit bat: Every orange, papaya, apple, pear and mango is swollen with a pregnant ripeness. The taste runs down your gullet with such sweetness it is as addictive as golden syrup. Even pineapple, which usually I cannot eat because it’s sour hairs irritate my throat, is sweet and pleasing.

My older cousin, Jocelyn, took us all out to a wonderful hippie place called The Shire the other night. Tin Can Radio played a great set, their music swirling between the crowd of ecstatic dancers. Everyone was so relaxed and friendly, I felt right at home.

The houses here are built like cardboard boxes. The walls are extremely thin, the outside doors always open to the hopeful breezes. Because of this there is very little privacy: Everyone hears everyone else all of the time. It isn’t like a terraced house in England where the walls are thin brick and people feel intrusive for over-hearing things, here the walls are wooden board and one can’t help but over-hear things – everyone does and everyone knows everyone does so nobody is… I’m trying to find the right word… Ashamed? about hearing these things. Perhaps that is the roots of the shamelessness that comes with being Australian.

I spent quite a lot of time with my youngest cousin – Archie – yesterday. I admit I know him least well of all my cousins and have not seen him for a good five years – if not longer, now I come to think of it. He is an extremely talented young man, intelligent and friendly, yet intensely private. I hope I get to know him better in the future – I think we have quite a lot in common. I am finding it very interesting watching my three cousins, in terms of they are siblings and I haven’t grown up with that opportunity for siblinghood so I find it intriguing. Archie and Jocelyn are very alike, at least in terms of their gestures and mannerisms. Elle seems most different out of the three.

Mum and I are both still waking up at weird times of day (and night) which is making us both a little spaced-out. I have to admit, though, for everything that is going on around me, I am bored. An excursion into Brisbane during the day showed it to be a new city, lacking history and depth. I found that quite eerie and strange having been raised in England and it reminded me strongly of America. Yesterday I drew a lot. It was warm and still everywhere, as if an invisible cloud had settled over the land. But it always feels like that here, even when it is blowing up a storm. The days here seem to take longer than most people’s whole lives…

Sunday 30th November 2008 – Brisbane, Australia

On the way back from the Cultural Centre in Brisbane, mum and waited at the bus stop for over an hour. The humidity built until we thought we might burst, but when the rain finally fell it was such a relief. Brisbane bus shelters, built so well to shade you from sun and heat, overflow with water in the rain. The downpour brought a whole hoard of crickets out of the sewers who hopped around in puddles and were avoided by passers by – not because they were disgusted by the insects, but because it is bad luck to tread on a cricket.
Orange skyThe cultural Centre itself hosted a science museum, an art gallery and a modern art gallery. The science museum housed an impressive collection of stuffed animals, arranged in height order down a long alley Noah’s Ark style, and the largest crystal ever mined in the country of Australia. The crystal weighs over a tonne and glistens like flawed glass. It is truly beautiful, with pieces of it arcing up into the air, growing pointily out of itself… The modern art gallery was quite fun – one exhibition was a maze of white fluffy cactus trees that stood at ten feet tall. I’m sorry to say I laughed, and then stroked the trees, and then saw the whole point was, in fact, that the trees were supposed to serve as upright beds for visitors. I was very tempted to fall asleep in the fluff-trees but instead went to the other gallery. It struck me looking at the Aboriginal art on display that since the Westerners came into Australia, the Aborigines have been adopting more and more of the Western artistic techniques: Painting on canvases with synthetic colours instead of on pots or cave walls or stretched skins with paints that come from the earth. This would be all very well, but I don’t think that the Aborigines are doing themselves justice – their style is beautiful at its roots – the old paintings from the culture are simply stunning – but the newer paintings lack conviction.
But there is a much wider issue at stack here than just art: Aborigines have been forced to adopt a Western culture which is disrespectful to the Earth, un-harmonious, obnoxiously loud and very self-concious – the complete opposite of their own! They have been treated appallingly by ‘whitefellas’, thus have either become hyper-defensive or have tried their hardest to fit in. Neither option has a beneficial outcome for them and though most of the world is at rest now about the treatment of the Aborigines, they are, in fact, still treated very unfairly here. I went to see ‘Australia’ with the extended family the other night and when we left my cousin Jocelyn just turned to me and said: ‘That film is misleading, because in the end it implies everything has changed. Nothing’s changed. Aborigine’s are still treated like **** and it makes me sick.’ I have very little experience of the ancient culture myself, but this is odd because, surely, one would expect in Australia to come into contact with and see Aborigines. I haven’t. I haven’t seen one. Jocelyn says they keep themselves to themselves because otherwise they get hurt. There is a fairly shocking level of racism in this country. But very few people inside have an objective view on it at all.
Ok, political rant over; I went to see ‘Cirque Du Soleil’ this afternoon. Amazing. That is all that can be said. If anybody ever gets the chance to see them, do! They give a simply stunning performance!!
I also saw Jocelyn’s band, Dujalu, last night. They are pretty damn good, it must be said, and are just in the process of recording their first album. They really know how to groove, as do the drummers who took over the stage afterwords. Soundbites and video footage coming as soon as the internet connection allows! Until then, check out http://profile.myspace.com/dujalu/ they’re worth a listen!

Thursday 6th November 2008 – Melbourne, Australia

Dusky lavender skyMajor events of the past six days break down as such:
1. Arrived in Melbourne.
2. Was shown house where I lived as a baby. I didn’t expect it to effect me so much but all of a sudden a whole life that I never had flashed in front of me, all based upon the question: What would have happened to me if mum hadn’t decided to stay on in England? It was so easy to build for myself a perfect life, which I then felt the loss of. Interesting that it is so easy to mourn for a thing that I never had – perhaps it was easier to mourn for it because it never existed so never had blemishes. What brought me back from crying over something I never had? The thought that if I had stayed in Australia, I would never have met my friends.  Cliche – I know – but so damn true!
Koala3. The animal sanctuary. Very fun. Australia has some damn weird animals, let me tell you – half of them look like they just walked out of Jurassic park! The other half are really sweet, cuddly things – that is until you try and cuddle them and then, I’m assured by people who’d know, they bite.
4. The Federation Square Art Gallery. I contains some of the most moving imagery of the Indigenous people I have ever seen. The work ranges from the late fifties to the present day. It’s a real culture trail – such a relief after the one-sidedness of Brisbane! It shows how the Aboriginal Art went from it’s core roots into a time of uncertainty – where it was trying to work itself into a white man’s world (this was where I thought the work lacked something – I called it conviction in my last entry, but now I think it’s more lacking identity) – then becoming more sure of itself as, in recent years, the Indigenous People have taken modern art and turned it into something their own. For the first time I understand what Western modern art is trying to achieve through the way the Aboriginals have worked. The reason that it works for them is because they have a statement – a strong and bold statement – a need for their plight to be heard. ‘Whitefellas’ have got all they bloody need so they can’t make the statements necessary for modern art to work. They don’t have the passion or desperation to be heard. It touched me so deeply that when I walked out of the museum I wished I was black – so that I wouldn’t have to be ashamed of being white. We, as a nation, have really done some atrocious things.
Kangaroo5. And somewhat shallowly, my new pair of bargain red suede boots brought from the most fabulous second-hand shop I have ever encountered. Vintage, style, economic and ecological – what more can you want for a browsing paradise?!
I’m sorry it has taken me so long to write in…
P.S – Who’s reading this? I had 95 hits in day a couple of days back! I don’t think I ever know 95 people!!

Saturday 6th December 2008 – Melbourne, Australia

Yesterday evening, mum and I drove down to the beach at St. Kilda. The sun had just tipped below the horizon so the sea looked like a great black bruise spreading out across the world. The sky was tinged pale blue at it’s rim but above us it was completely black. Street lamps blotted out all but the brightest stars and the half-empty, upside-down moon. Birds were highlighted against the inky darkness, glowing above the glare of the stark white bulbs. They looked like improbable pale pages of ash floating serenely out of the sky.
We paddled in the very shallows of the water, chasing each other down the strip of sand, then sat in hanging chairs in a beach front cafe, swinging in front of the view, two wicker chrysalises against a dark ocean.
I was told by an ex-traveller once that when you travel you can leave all responsibility behind you, but I am in fact finding quite the opposite: Though I can perhaps be freer and more outrageous, because I know I will never encounter most of the people on my way again, at the same time the only familiar thing around me is myself. I am in a foreign country with foreign food, surrounded by strangers, staying in relative stranger’s homes, with foreign customs and alien ideas. As such, there is nowhere to escape to: I cannot hide in my work, my home or even my friends and family: I am forced to be utterly honest with myself at all times and as such my conscience is heavy with the threat that I might go astray. In fact, I don’t believe I have ever been more answerable to myself before. As such, I think my behaviour has improved 😉
Then today, Siladasa and his partner Rosemary took us to Hanging Rock. What a stunning climb it was! The many crags and peaks are hidden amongst a dry green blanket of eucalyptus trees so that you do not realise its full beauty and awesome proportions until you are right amongst it’s towering rocks. I perched a top the highest point and looked out across a neverending, seemingly uninhabited land, brown and golden beneath the scorching rays of the sun.
Veins of red rusty iron run through the rocks, which are beaten with the feet of many people. I wondered, too late, if the Indigenous people would mind my climbing the rock as they mind people climbing Uluru. but, I reasoned, they held rites and rituals on these rocks themselves, so surely they do not mind my little feet…
I shall post some pictures soon! Also, I now have a video of L.A ready so will post that up in due course. It’s a YouTube video which I will have to embed, but if you want to watch it on YouTube itself for any reason, my user name is jasminonajourney.
Hope you’re all well… Love Jasmin x

Wednesday 10th December 2008 – Sydney, Australia

I found the flaw in travelling: When you have no internet access and want to write on your weblog! Grrs!!!
I have been staying with me most lovely family imaginable. In fact, when I think about it, all the people we have stayed with haev just been extremely generous and friendly – even if they barely know us or, in fact, don’t know us at all! It’s really restored my faith in humanity – the kindness offered to us has been phenomenal…
Melbourne at Night
Yesterday in particular was simply magical: Mum and I and Moksavajra (the dad of the family) went down to the beach to swim. I have seen blue skies before. And clear blue water. And flawless, fine white sand. And creature-inhabited lush cliff-tops. But I haven’t ever seen them all together at the same time. I tell you, the Ozzy beaches are something else! After swimming, mum and I went rock-pool observing and found little tiny fish that disguised themselves as stones, lots of barnacles and sea-slugs (massive great warty things, they are!), lots of little crabs, and even two enormous green ones. the only downside to the ocean-trip was that my sensitive English skin got sunburnt! *sigh* what I have to put up with!! 😉
After that, mum and I went to the Sydney Opera House where we had come into possession of two standing ticket’s for the ballet, Manon. This divine and etherial little creature was playing the lead role – the way she moved so lightly and elegantly was just magical. Say what you will, but I love ballet; it’s got this ability, for me at least, to just utterly take you away in the moment. The music was beautiful, too. It reminded me of my grandma – which made me happy because I understood something about her love for classical music – but also sad because she wasn’t there to share it with me. She took me to my first ballet, The Nutcracker, which is also perhaps why I love it so much. It conjures up a very safe period of my life.
Going up to Byron Bay for some sun, sea and sand for about ten days and don’t know how well I’ll be able to get internet access up there – if you don’t hear from me, please don’t take it personally!
Hope you’re all well, love Jasmin x

Sunday 14th December 2008 – Byron Bay, Australia

So here I am in the culture of the beach.  Literally.  I can see why, though, the sea is simply stunning, deep aquamarines and prussian hues twisting in the water where flooded sand dunes play with the tone of the ocean.  The sky peaks overhead, a ceiling without bounds, the sun devastatingly hot.  I am directly underneath where the o-zone layer is thinnest and I swear the sun is so hot – you can fry eggs on the pavement here in summer.  I had to wear flip flops on the beach today, the sand was burning my soles.  Incidentally the sand here is fine – so fine that it squeak when walked upon – and white.  Veins of dark grey sand weave through the body of the beach,  traces that this land was once full of volcanoes and pumice stone.  The other giveaway are the green-blue peaks of mountains which ring the town.
Dusky lavender skyThe town itself is very small.  Most of the residents here seem to be hippies or parents with small children.  Most of the permanent residents.  But I would say about sixty per cent of the population is passing through on the way to somewhere else:  Backpackers who promise to work for six months then only stay for a week; holiday makers from Europe, Japan, China and other regions of Australia.  Business is difficult:  If it’s not in the tourist trade, it doesn’t survive.  There is a transient feel to the place:  It is not a place to stop in.  And yet it is also very insular:  It took half an hour on the freeway to reach the next town. You feel the isolation of this place if you stay here for too long.  And everyone’s so relaxed because most people are on holiday so I get the impression that people here are always the last to know about big news.
When it rains there is little to do but sit on the veranda playing guitar, listening to the animated bird life.  My god the creatures here!  On the first night, Brand had to kill a spider for the squeamish girls.  It was a Huntsman Spider.  The size of my hand – including my fingers!!  Big.  Big.  Big.  Spider.  Also, there have been sizeable black cockroaches, their glistening bodies skimming across the wooden floor.  After the initial *gross* factor the game of catching the insects under the glass is quite fun.  Not that I want anymore of them around.  There was a baby gecko by my bed last night, though, which was cute.  Cicadas sing almost constantly.  It is said they only sing when it’s above 26 degrees.  Just to give you an idea of how hot it is:  they were singing when I woke up.  I think the heat slows everyone down as well.
Love Jasmin xxx

Saturday 20th December – Byron Bay, Australia

The seas long arm stretches out to the land before falling back, exhausted, into the body of itself, scratching sand, silt, stones and shells in after it.  Little fish are left dwindling on the ebony sand.  A blue-nosed jellyfish eeks out its last, poked by the worried tourists who approach it with sticks so as not to get stung.
Surfers in a flotilla, out further than anyone else, seals upon the waves, waiting for their moment.
A lighthouse blinking against the lavender hued sky.
Drummers by the rumbling ocean, I one of their dancers, flinging my limbs through the air to the beat of their music.  There is something very real about meeting every night to drum the sunset out of the world.
Brand and his cricket team playing as bright, burning magnesium specks in the hot, green world.  Practise starts an hour late.  Nobody cares who wins.
Spiders hanging motionless in their webs.
A blue-tongue lizard which runs like a bowlegged child.
Crickets and cicadas, the constant serenade of the brilliant sunlight.
A private cove in which to sunbathe, the cheeky tide coming to bite my toes.
The purple-khaki hue of the bush for as far as the eye can see.
Dull paradise.  But paradise never-the-less.

Friday 26th of December 2008 – Brisbane, Australia

Once more I must apologise for not reporting back sooner, however there is not much to report in all honesty:  Family Christmases have a certain form worldwide, I think.  It seems to be that everyone convenes, eats, gives gifts, pretends everyone knows each and that you are a normal, not dysfunctional family (though I have never met any family that was without its problems so I think dysfunctionality is normal) and generally makes merry.  Nevertheless I find it thoroughly enjoyable season, in which my favourite part – get this cliche – is giving people presents, not receiving them.  This year, all my presents were very homemade on a very tight budget – yay!  Metal dreamcatchers and precious stone earrings were rife beneath the tree…
The tree!  Two days before Crimble, my Auntie Delia came through and declared her dislike for the Christmas Tree.  Hence, outing to bauble and fairy light store ensued and we composed the mast fantastic tree on our return.  We twisted tinsel round the banisters on the veranda, decked the white tree with gold and red stars and candy canes and twinkly lights and a big light up star for the top – coziness in extreme!  And I forgot that one of the big things about large family Christmases was the veritable ocean of presents that appear under the tree:  Think about it like this, eight people each buying a present for everyone else and putting it under the tree.  That’s sixty four!!  Phew!
They took a while to open because we did them one at a time so each present could be fully appreciated.  It was a very friendly experience involving a lot of laughter.  Delia perhaps brought about the most laughs as her expressions of appreciation – whilst whole heartedly sincere – were utterly over the top!  She gave us such thoughtful presents:  Little shoe-boxes filled with individually wrapped presents.  It was like having a stocking.  This year has been my first year without a stocking.  I did miss it.  I suppose I count as a grown up now though and should begin referring to myself as such.
Today, Boxing Day, extra family came over and I got to meet my cousins once removed on my cousins fathers brothers side – what confusion!  Jocelyn and I spent an idyllic few minutes dancing together.  It felt like it did when we were children – the world a whirling ball of colour around our spinning bodies, everything safe, happy, the world there to be enjoyed – I felt for a few moments ignorant, perfectly naive to my own impermanence.
The last few days I have been having a little trouble with panic attacks which I haven’t had since I was fifteen.  I think it might just be my body trying to deal with the level of loneliness and placelessness which unavoidably comes with travelling.  It’s also something I suffered from a lot after my grandmother died, a form of grief, and I have been finding it quite strange having a big family Christmas without her.  She used together everyone together with such harmonious magic…  It’s two and half years now since she died, nearly one thousand days which is quite spiritually significant.  I just feel like I should have stopped grieving by now but I suppose the feelings do what the feelings want to do!
Anyway, MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Much love to everyone!
xxx

January the 1st 2009 – Cairns, Australia

So I return from my seaward adventure!
The balance to the sights I have seen at the Great Barrier Reef is that I suffered most arduously from sea-sickness.
I feel it was a small price to pay.
So, I have never snorkeled before in my life so it took a try or two to get the hang of duck diving and breathing through a tube!  It’s a weird experience!  But soon I totally forgot about everything else in the world – even the jellyfish – in the face of a whole world below the surface of the blue water.
The reefs were like the rainforests of the underworld – bizarre mutations of trees floated gently below me, the breezes replaced by currents.  But the bark is not uniformly brown and white as on land:  Blue twigs poke up from the sea floor, boulders of brimstone yellow fungus play host to waving arms of pink.  Deep red mushrooms of coral climb toadstool-like upon the sides of great catacombs of pale white sticks, perched in the ground like blanching bones.
Fish of every hue darted this way and that:  One pair sap green, gaping mouthed, swam as mirrors around each other.  Fluorescent blue droplets of fish, contrasting brilliantly against parrot fish, dark bruising sea anenomes and the ochre hues of their favourite corals.  Small white reef sharks lurk on the sea bed, their sleep disturbed by divers playing with them.  So many divers below me and I, often one of only two or three snorkelers.  Craters drop between cliffs of shimmering shades, the sand below visible through the crowing fishes.
A baracuda hugs the top of the waves, its long nose shining like glass.  Blue star fish clung to the bottom of the sea, bedmates with seacumbers and strange beasts which look like mouldering bread.  Ridiculous box fish bulge their round eyes from their cubic head, big brown splotches on it’s back disguising its khaki scales among the rocks.  Swarms of little fish flee from my scooping hands as I gently paddle among them.  Striped black and yellow zebra fish scatter in the wake of a fish printed like a leopard.
And I talk to people.  A Japanese family let me swim out with them.  They have a seven year old son, braver than all of us adults.  He dives and touches the coral with innnocent inquest, not like the group of tourists who pose with the coral to get a good photograph.  He is not even afraid of the Trigger Fish that Korin warned us of when she taught us to snorkel.  Muhammed and I swim far out – too far, perhaps, for when we return we get strange looks.  But it was he who showed me where the crabs hide, how to coax a clown fish (the Nemos which are so friendly) right into the palm of your hand.  He pointed out my first shark.
At night, our dinner table is full of the laughs of a dozen countries:  Adreas from Germany and Hanuka from Holland.  Barry (which I’m sure is a nickname) who emigranted from Israel and Matthew, one of the only Australians among our little company.
But the seas are changing:  Something I realised too late was that the boat I was in was pumping petrol into the water and bleaching the corals of their wild reds and solemn blues.  The temperatures of the waters are changing; the seas brushing the skin like a warm bath will kill off the fish and the delicate eco-system will unbalance.  But the greatest threat, the largest destructor of these stunning landscapes, is a small red starfish.  There are thousands of them and they are eating the reefs.  Within perhaps a century (if not less) there will be little left.  And these starfish, I am lead to believe, are natures own doing.  Independent of human interference.  In places the reefs are dead already, great barren deserts of dead colours and fading skeletons.  I feel like I am already too late to see its true glory.
The greatest peace I found on these reefs was one morning when I summed up enough courage to go snorkeling alone:  I planned out before I went my route so that I knew where I was most likely to find one.  I dived of the end of the boat and swam until my legs seared, the coral bleeding past me in a dream of unreality.  That was when I found one:  A turtle.  Large and green and very, very chilled out.  I swam with it, just me and it, for about five minutes.  I can honestly say it was one of the most serene things I have ever seen.
Metaphorically speaking, to the mind’s eye, I think an enlightened person would look like a turtle looks.

Saturday the 10th of January 2009 – Takaka, New Zealand

Hello!  Sorry for no update for a while but I was quite ill with a stomach bug!  I am almost fully recovered now, though, thank goodness!
New Zealand is a sleeping country.  Its great Maori spirits seem to be lying across the islands dozing, their weighty chests and hips forming mountains and valleys.  The people here are slow, untroubled, careless with tardiness and happy to sit on the side of a hill and just exist.  They talk ardently of the weather, without the subtle anxiety of the English, but as equals and friends passing the time of day.  Gossip here is a casual thing, passed on from mouth to mouth as slowly as a cow chewing cud.
On a train journey I took up the East Coast, I saw the yellow-golden hills trundle pass, breathing imperceptibly as slumbering giants.  The humans in their shadows never forget about their might, respecting the earth.  People are not afraid to look at the mountains and at the sky here.  It is company in this nearly empty land.  Vines grow in neat rows, thin, flat windbreaking trees keeping their boundries lest the world spill in upon them.  Hops clambers upon a string and a man stops his work to watch the train pass.  Sheep scuttled off the rail tracks in front of us.  A large saltery is pointed out on the overhead speaker as a major attration.  Fields with nothing in them at all, fields content to be just fields, wander by aimlessly.  Hawks wheel over a herd of cattle.  One of them pauses his chewing to look at me intently.  His ear flicks.  A string of grass-spotted spittle hangs down to its kness, swaying in the wind.  Notice that the train was going slowly enough for me to see all of this!
When dad picks me up we stop off for some hokey pokey ice cream – New Zealnad’s speciality.  The woman behind the bar chats to me and hands me a cone with a scoop of ice cream on it so large it would fill my hands if I cupped them together over it.  Wandering down to the river I see signs for preventing the insiduous Didymo, nick-named snot-rock for self-explainatroy reasons.  Didymo is taking over New Zealand’s waterways, covering the pristine rocks in slime and polluting the clean mountain water that runs in the rivers.  It is a natural process, like the red star fish on the reef.  But we humans are speeding it up.
Up in the Valley it is a major topic of conversation:  There is Didymo in the Anatoki River!  I find some when I go swimming there, but not much.  You could probably drink the river water if you wanted to, it is so clear.  And emerald green.  Rocks line the floor and rapids top and tail the little pools of water like book-ends.  We play for hours in its freezing clutches then lie on boulders on the bank, made hot by the midday sun.  Today I went down and two beautiful hippie women were swimming naked in the water, like little nymphs.
I have been staying with my half-sister, Tania, her husband, Aiden, and my nephew, little Eli.  They are such a lovely family – really great to be around because they’re so relaxed.  They have a nice house in Takaka, not far from the Valley and my dad’s land, so we go up there quite a lot.  The other night, we went down to the beach to have a barbeque and made a fire from driftwood before setting the iron plate that served as a heating pad on top of it.  It was totally idyllic to look out upon the bay, still water reflecting the moon as it came up and the dying light of the sun as it went down.
Bush-walking with dad, he picked a plant and crushed its leaves.  They smelled of spices and cut grass, pure water and shaved bark.  In short, they smell like all of New Zealand.
If you come to New Zealand, I think, you have to come for the countryside, not the cities.  The mountains surround everything like the sides of a nest and the very earth itself has a far away feeling:  You are safely perched on the edge of the world.

Friday the 16th of January 2009 – Thames, New Zealand

I went caving with Dad and Aiden before we left Takaka.  It was truly amazing.  The day was hot – seriously a sweat bucket of a day – and the track through the bush was a proper bushwhack.  My legs and arms were covered in scratches from Bush Lawyer and Cutty Grass, my clothes were stained with dust and perspiration.  My feet were damp from wading through a stream on the valley floor.  Then we reached the mouth of the cave.  It was a stout, gaping, small opening in the side of a amassive rock face.  I stood before it while Aiden had a cigarette, feeling the cold breath of the moutain exuding from the caves depths.  It chilled my skin, stood my hairs on end, dried the sweat on my back in cool trickles.
Inside there were moments of panic as I descended into the darkness, feeling the weight of hundreds of tonnes of rocks above my head.  Then I flicked my torch on and saw – to my utter delight – intricate rock formations crawling across the cathedral sized landscape of the cavern.  Stalamites dripped from the ceiling, water coursing down them and dropletting into half-formed stalagtites on the ground, which were hollow in the centre, little pools of pure water lined with salt crystals hiding in their limestone depths.  One in particular, dubbed for years ‘The Wizard’s Font’ twinkled under torchlight as if a thousand Sorcerers were trapped in there.  Sitting on the rocks deep inside the cave, a trail of candles lighting the way back to the daylight, I could hear an undergrounds stream bubbling away somewhere in the depths of the earth.  An orchestra of water hung through the air, a gentle breeze brushing against rocks, pools and my own body.
I should mention that these caves are not tourist caves – in fact, if you go searching for them you probably will not find them – they are a local knowledge thing, empty of health and saftey regulations and quiet apart from those you travel there with.  As such, a quiet solitude rests upon the place, a comforting amazment and safety.  You can feel the Earth around you, can be comforted by its soft energy.
The next day, dad and I proceeded on our road trip up to the north island.  On the ferry crossing between New Zeland’s two islands, we got to go on the Bridge of the ship as my cousin, Kerry, is one of the officers.  It was pretty awesome, I have to admit!  Back on land, we took the Great Desert Road up past Ruapehu.  Great dusty scrubland interrupted by the constant web of powerlines that blights the New Zealand sky, stretched out before us, giving way to the stunning heights of three volcanoes, Ruapehu the largest and by far the most dramatic, wreathed as it was in mysterious cloud.  Passing through the pungent Rotarua, renamed Rotten-rua for the sulphuric stink of rotten eggs, we decided to stop on the way back when we had a better idea of what to do in terms of seeing geysers and mud pools.   We stopped over the night in a small town whose name currently illdues me.  But there was a wonderful view out across a sizeable, glass flat lake at dinner, and in the far distance could be seen the giant Ruapehu itself.
The next day, we drove quickly to Thames, where we have been staying at Sudarshanaloka, a Buddhist retreat centre set in stunning bushland.  As always in the bush, there are clear flowing rivers to swim in nearby, but the temparature of the water here is much more barable than further south!  This makes for more swimming!  The people here are all lovely – mostly Buddhists with a dash of pagan influence and excellent fun at playing cards, as I found out last night after dinner.  The pace of life here is chilled out completely, but there seem to be more problems in the North island than the South in terms of yobs etc.  which I think is a sign that the North island is more crowded.  This means sometimes you have to wait before you cross the street during rush hour!
On an unrelated note, why does January always go so damn fast??

Tuesday 27th of January 2009 – Takaka, New Zealand

I apologise most profusely for my inattentivness, I shall amend my ways (I hope!)  This update will account for what has been going on in the last couple of weeks, so I cannot account for how long it will be, nor how bits-and-bobby it will be.  I might divide it up into pieces.  That will make it easier to understand.  I shall also not go through a step-by-step guide of everything that has happened, simply the highlights…
*
On the way back to the South Island, dad and I stopped off at Wai-O-Tapu (Sacred Water) which has been dubbed for tourists the ‘Thermal Wonderland’.  The middle section of the North Island is a very volcanically active area, meaning bizarre landscapes sculpt themselves from the Earth:  A geothermal powerstation rises out of the bright thirty-degree sunshine wreathed in steaming geysers and fumeroles; Forty acres of lake are dyed a poisenous green by sulphur turning the water acidic.  Thirty foot deep pits, formed by underground erosion caused by acid streams, rumble with the discontented bubbles of boiling mud, thundering and echoing thickly through the ground.  As you walk, every footstep is hollow, your eye constantly drawn to the signs cautioning you to ‘STAY ON THE PATH OR QUITE POSSIBLY DIE’.  In one of the pits, a particularly steamy one, birds nested in nooks in the cave walls, their eggs incubated by the rising steam, not by the soft warmth of feathers.  A large luminous green pool glares out of the ground.  Terraces of building silica grey outwards across the land, covering trees and bush.  At one point we watch as a man drops soap into a geyser and cause it to shopot boiling water twenty feet into the air.  Like I said, this is a wierd country!  And constantly the blup-bu-lup-blop-bup of bubbling water and mud.  I think the most vividly atmosperic thing about this place was the smell, though:  The constant rotten-eggy, thick steaming stench of sulphur amongst air.  It billows in cluod of white vapour, settling on hair, clothes, skin and sending the rocks in yellow and orange hues.  Jade and turquoise rivers are lined with deep vermillion and lemon as the minerals settle in their depths.  A strange and wonderful country…
*
A couple of days ago, Tania, Aiden, dad and I went down the Anatoki river on tyre inner-tubes.  It was marvellous fun, very beautiful and also quite an adventure.  The bush rose right from the waters edge, occasional strips of dark grey and black sand forming gentle beaches where swimmers lounged warming themselves on sun-hot boulders.  Between the teal pools, rapids beat us round on our little floats, making us squeal delightedly at the adventure, then not so delightedly at our bruises!  I think one of the most amazing things was not knowing what would be around the next corner, and constantly finding it to be becoming more and more beautiful.  Virgin bushland rose to the sky in lush greens, burning browns and purples and hints of navy blue.  The water is just an extension of this beauty, and for a while it felt like I was totally a part of that, floating downstream with the water, totally relaxed and caught up in the moment.  Then I got dunked by a rapid and the peace was lost!  Dad and I both lost our snorkels in the river on theat rapid and had to go diving to get them back again.  I also got EATEN ALIVE by sandflies…  I have so many bites it’s unreal!
*
An Ode to the three Hitch-Hikers:
The first Hitch-Hiker we picked up was a fairly down-and-out chap who looked as if he had been in a couple of fights recently.  I didn’t realise this until he was in the car with us, because on the road, the sun had been behind him, casting him into a silhouette.  I’m not sure dad realised this either until we were already bound to give him a lift.  He schpeeled quite a lot of rubbish, and had a plastic bag which dripped salt water all over the floor of the car.  Right before he got out, he reached into the bag and drew out something which I couldn’t see until he had reached across into the front and was holding the things directly under my nose.  They were mussels.  New Zealand mussels, which means they are large, a bit bigger than my hand perhaps, and they were covered in seaweed, barnacles, baby sea snails – they had literally been plucked from the water without further ado!  The Hitch-Hiker muttered through his non-sensical mouth ‘DO YOU WANT SOME MUSSELS?’.  I declined his offer.  And, thank god, he got out of the car…
The second Hitch-Hiker was a bubbling, pretty girl who was conversationable and entertaining.  She had been working as an apple picker all summer and joined us on the long hike over Takaka hill.  She made the journey seem a lot shorter and thanked us very politely at the end.  Needless to say, this incident somewhat restored my faith in Hitch-Hikers…
The third Hitch-Hiker was found wandering down a road in a pirate costume.  He had no bags and spoke little English:  He was German.  A German pirate, bagless, in the middle of nowhere.  How strange…

Thursday 29th of January 2009 – Takaka, Golden Bay, South Island, New Zealand

So…  I’m leaving the valley.  For my whole life, dad has banged on about the Anatoki, the valley where his land is, and how beautiful and inspiring it was as a place.  I have to say, in photos I never got it.  Images simply don’t allow for the quality of green in the undergrowth and the sheer distances which make up the landscape.   Nobody ever told me about the smell of the summer bushland – spicey, muddy, grassy, floral – and nobody ever explained how it felt to dive into the freezing, pure river in the midday heat.  I was even brought here four years ago, at the dog-eared tail end of summer and I still didn’t get it!  (Partially because the summer had been a hot one and it had burnt the land to cinders.)
But now, finally, this trip, it’s cast its spell.  The land has beat itself into my bones.  I get it, dad, I finally get it.

Wednesday the 3rd of June 2009 – Norwich, England

So it has taken me a while to land back home again.
Let me begin with India.
India is a very personal experience.  Nothing anybody ever says can prepare you for it – partly because India is different for everybody – but mainly because it is SO different how can you ever explain it to anyone?  Every inch of culture is bizarre in such a familiar way.  At the same time as India is the polar opposite to everything I have ever known, it is also stunningly similar to the way life is here in England…  Everywhere you go people are just existing:  Working, living, dying, laughing, crying…  It’s all the same.
I will not try to cover everything that happened to me in India – that would be ridiculous.  What I will do instead is copy an excerpt from a book I am writing about my travels – the book is written from other people’s point of view.  Mum and I are the two white women on the platform…

*EDIT FROM 2012 – STORY SECTION WAS REMOVED DUE TO BEING AWFUL – AFTER SOME SERIOUS EDITS I MAY PUT IT BACK IN.  THIS IS THE ONLY EDIT I’VE MADE.*

Eight hours after I returned to India from England, my dad’s house caught fire and burned to the ground, with most of my belongings in the attic.  Really, there was not much salvageable left, the odd bit or bob here and there.  All my life’s writing, most of my art, all my best books, my childhood teddy-bear, my saxophone, the things I had left from my grandmother – it is all gone.

I took some time out and went to see the guy I was seeing throughout my travels at his home in Wales.  I had a really lovely time with him but, shortly after I returned to Norwich, we split up.  It hurt a lot.

I was going to continue travelling but for financial and emotional reasons, I stayed in England.  It was a good job too because on the day I would have left my dad told me that he had had some medical tests and it looked very like he had prostate cancer.

Mum and I found ourselves without a house, staying with friends, and unsure where to live.  We tried Brighton for a couple of weeks but it didn’t work so we came back to Norwich.  For my part I think I was trying to run away from everything but life doesn’t work like that:  You can’t ever run away from what you are carrying.  I have certainly learnt that…

But things are looking up:  I have a job now and my friendships are stronger than ever, I think.  My heart is all mended and the things I resurrected from the fire are slowly coming back into their own:  I have patchworked the remains of my old teddy into a new being called Snout who is a mouse and my puppet is almost back to her old self too, if a little singed.

I will post some photos of India up – though you won’t get it from the pictures.

I think this may be the end of my blog.  I have to go eat dinner now, but then I might read it from the start again.  I never re-read anything before posting – it just went up!  There must be a lot of typo’s…

Thanks for reading – keep in touch!  Enjoy your own journey!

Love Jasmin xxx


6 thoughts on “Gap Year Journal (archive)”

  1. Wow! Glad to hear you’re having an amazing time out there.
    I imagine that it will be even more awesome when you’re over the jet lag.

    I’m a little confused, I thought you were going to Australia first…

  2. I second Ben on the confusion front! I guess that’s spontaneity for you. Sounds fantastic out there, it must be amazing to have the whole world out in front of you to explore! You must be loving it. 🙂 Reading your entry made me think for a moment I was there also! (rather than in my London cupboard….doing calculus!)
    Thinking of you,
    xxx

  3. Jazz-a-mung! Really enjoying reading your journal – I look forward to sitting down to it every week. It’s gaining a lot of momentum actually – I told you you’re becoming a celebrity!

    I’m about to check out Jocelyn’s band. Awesome.

    Hope you continue having a great time! Travel safely and go wild!

    Loads of love from Serene Moon-Lady x x x

  4. Hey Jas! Sound like you’re having an amazing time. Where else is on the schedule? Are you going to Fiji at all? If so come and visit me! I’m hoping to go there for 6 months to build a school form late Jan. Also how do you set up this lot? I really want one! xxxxx

  5. Hi Jazz, Bitterly cold here, Happy New year!!
    Very interesting what you say about aboriginal art – I’m truly fascinated by it and by dreamtime- would like to find out more.
    Sounds like you’re having the time of your life!!! Wish I was there with you – but loving reading all about it. Loads of love and great appreciation for you sharing your journal.
    Karunachitta XX

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