Wednesday, 17 December 2014

We Just Left On A Whim.

I'm outta here. Gone. Up in the sky right now with my two boys, on our way to Queensland to stay in a hotel with a pool and do all of the worlds - Dreamworld, Movieworld, Wet'n'Wild World. Not Griefworld - they have seen me living there far too long and I will not spoil their holidays. I want them to be blissfully unaware of the worlds problems while they still can. I will not stay a minute longer in this house where all the sad memories are. I cry in the street about foreign aid cuts because babies will die of preventable diseases and vaccinations cost less than a dollar. That literally doesn't add up.

So I'm taking my boys for a huge holiday and we're going to order room service, watch in-house movies, read, talk, laugh, and be together. I love my two boys more than I love myself. That is why I stay. I will give them awesome memories and ice cream at 11pm and I'll listen to them when they speak.


The other day at the park? The most important thing in the world was waiting until this ladybug flew off his finger so he could make a wish. He kept accidentally dropping it in the lake about three times and fished it out while I scrunched his blue jumper and held on to him so he wouldn't fall in. I am his keeper, his minder, his carer. Finally the bug flew off and he asked me nicely to go away because he wanted to say his wish out loud.

I hope it comes true.

He received a christmas card today - the envelope absolutely slayed me.


As for this guy?


He knows too much - has overheard too much, seen too much in the past year. He is the only person who initiates conversations about Cam with me and I am so grateful for that. Stories I didn't know - he still plays a game that Cam introduced him to years ago as they both sat bored together on the couch at a family do. The last time we saw Cam I hired out Waynes World for Max to introduce him to some old-school humour because I knew my brother and I would talk for hours, outside on the back deck. We did. I wrote a blog post the next day about it and I purposely wrote "I hope to see Cam again soon" and I wrote it just for him to read because I knew his dark thoughts. I knew his dark thoughts.


I was totally just in Uganda for World Vision and have hardly begun to tell the stories that need to be told. About how inclusive a specialised school is that they incorporate teaching children with disabilities in their classrooms. And ALL the kids learn sign language to be able to communicate with their deaf friends. So beautiful.

I was really down yesterday and needed a chai so I went to see Owen from Fresh Katoomba and they were out of chai so I said ok better make it a double shot flat white. He reminded me that he hadn't done me a picture for a while, asked what I wanted.

"Please don't say the Mona Lisa. EVERYBODY asks for that."

I told him to surprise me. So he said he'd go old-school for me and do something he used to draw back in the day. I laughed so hard. Laughing is good.

(Hint - woof)

For the first time in my adult life I haven't put the christmas tree up. We have exactly one decoration in this house, bought from an over-priced gift shop near the River Nile.

A HANDMADE SANTA DRIVING A WOODEN CAR WHAT MORE DOES ONE NEED?

Like everyone, I'm reeling from world events. Especially the Sydney siege. The children in Pakistan. I worry. I worry.


::

So it appears I kept going, after the most devastating year of my life. I'm still here. And so are you. Well done you. There's always hope.

It drives me spare that I appear to have inspired other people but couldn't inspire my own brother. I've started to collate all his stuff laying around the house and my bedroom - photocopies of his death certificate. His aftershave. Wallet. His actual real suicide notes not just photocopies - to me, to his friends, and the first responders. In one of them he wrote how disgusted he was of himself. The pain he was in pains me beyond belief. He is not in that pain now. I'm a bit jealous of that, but I got stuff to do. I always had a sense that me starting a family and having children made him feel a bit pushed out, like he didn't want to be part of us, didn't want to intrude. My friend Beth told me that maybe Cam taught me how to love my own children. I think she's right. But I never replaced him with my own. He will always be the first human I ever loved. I never knew exactly how sensitive his heart was until after he died. And until my dying day I will always just want one thing for Christmas which I will never get.



As they say in recovery, acceptance is key. Acceptance is also very very painful.

So me and the two boys that grew in my belly like miracles are off up in the clouds, visiting my friend Megan and I can't wait. They are SO EXCITED. I didn't get them that much for Christmas - some books, games. They already have everything. But I'm going to love them so furiously, I am going to give them the best holiday they've ever had and eat burgers and explore and the beds will be made by someone else EVERY day and I'll try not to feel too guilty. Eden Guilt Riley, that's my name, don't wear it out.

I've never cared much for myself, but if I don't have a proper holiday I will implode. So bring it, Queensland. There's a deck chair by the pool with my name on it. I will even eat all of your bananas in public with nary a care. NARY.

I hope you guys out there are ok. Have a warm shower. Eat icing. Walk. Keep moving. Keep moving.

If you tell yourself you'll be ok often enough ... you start to believe it. Pinky swear.


Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Peace On Earth (Warning - Graphic Images)

I'm tired. Are you tired? Wondering what it's all about?

Imagine if the world ends up ok in the end after all? Ever think of that? Imagine if the right people come into power and didn't take vaccinations out of the mouths of babies, that people stopped killing each other for no reason, that social justice became law. That we looked hard and long inside ourselves to find .... a different way.

I like to think we end up taking care of planet earth, and all of the people in it. All of those beautiful, beautiful people.

This is a pretty brutal clip to my very favourite christmas song. The reality is hard to watch .. but listen to the beautiful lyrics. Maybe if we start opening our eyes a little bit more, we can start to change things, change ourselves, change the world. We can. I'm not sure how but I know we can.





Friday, 12 December 2014

What The Water Gave Me.

Check it out.

video

I filmed this at the most FURIOUSLY ANGRY and raging part of the Nile River last week. It felt so good to stand there and watch it, FEEL it. Just so thunderous. You could see all the water coming slowly down, no idea what's in store. Suddenly it all gets caught up in this cluster of rocks and swirl and force and my god those water particles never knew what hit them.

It was blown apart, atoms to pieces, shredded, annihilated. That water was unprepared, innocent, just cruising along without a care in the world.

BAM.

It's not how many times you get hit, but how many times you get back up again. We all got stories. We've all sat slumped in the boxing ring spitting out our bloody mouthguards vowing "No more. No more."

Not all of us get back up to face another round. But a lot of us do because from the instant that sperm shot from our fathers dick towards that egg it was on a frantic mission for life and it has been your bodies job to survive for as long as it possibly can. Despite and in spite of EVERYTHING the human spirit can survive the insurmountable, the unsurvivable. It's one of the last few mysteries on earth. But it can. I have seen it, watched it, felt it.

When the water finally came through the seething rage it was clearly shaken up, smashed up, changed forever. It swept on down the river, shocked and shaken.

Better prepared for the next time. There's always a next time.

That water knew something it didn't know before.




Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Home Is Where The Hard Is.

What happened was just this.

As our plane started the descent into Sydney airport from Africa the other night, there was turbulence so bad everybody screamed. Except me - and I am ALWAYS thinking I'm going to die in a plane crash but frankly I was too tired and cranky to be scared. The young French girl next to me was so freaked out she grabbed my hand tightly and I held it hard and looked her in the eyes and told her:

"This plane is not going to crash. We are not going to die. I have kids and I've been through too much shit to die right now. I promise you it'll be ok."

And it was. Did you know they have screens now where you can WATCH the plane cam? ("Watch the plane, Cam." "Can't Eed. Dead, remember?" "Oh that's right I keep forgetting.")


You can watch everything - takeoff, flying, landing. It's quite comforting. The French girl next to me couldn't use her phone so I gave her four dollars and when I finally made it through the airport the vending machine didn't take notes so I walked up to another vending machine but this woman SCREAMED at me to get back, that area was closed. "GET BACK THERE IS NO WATER HERE."

And I screamed back "WELL THANKS FOR BEING SO NICE ABOUT IT."

Then I got to my car and somebody has put a ding in it that I have to get fixed through insurance. I stayed in a hotel for two nights and man I think I'm getting too old to be globetrotting the world like some crusader. The whole time I was in Uganda I was looking forward to attending a workshop with acclaimed poet and performer Anthony Anaxagorou on the Saturday after I got back. SO EXCITED. But I got an email and the dates got mixed up so I came home on Saturday, saw all my boys - SO WHITE!


So, so weird to be home. Siri what is "dirty dishes?"

On Sunday I force myself out of bed, tread on and break my glasses that are now held together by sticky tape and drive all the way back down to Sydney for this workshop I've been HANGING for. Because I really gave so much of myself lately I had to fill myself up, you know? And this guy Anthony, he is extraordinary. But I got the dates wrong and it was the day before and man. So gutted I sat in the gutter outside the space he held his workshop in the day before and I just cried so hard. It was the one thing I knew would spark me up. So I'm sitting in my cowboy boots crying in the street but nobody was around because it was an industrial area.

So I just cried more - I cried all the cries about my brother that I didn't cry in Uganda because man it felt nice to not be in the country he killed himself in. BANG - Die Hard IV with a vengeance. I rarely ever say this - but it's not fair. It's not fair he died and left my heart shattered for as long as I live. It's not fair that I missed meeting and having a workshop with one of the most extraordinary poets I've ever heard of. It's not fair that all those kids are still back in the slums and young boys and girls are being forced into prostitution and slavery and marriage and World Vision have all these incredibly amazing hopeful projects in place but those hard things I saw? I cannot unsee. Stupid heart that cares too much. (I'll be receiving post-trip counselling and debrief from WV soon.) And I get back to Australia where there's an ad on the television for a supreme cheese-crust pizza with nachos around the outside? What the actual fuck?

I tell all my kids constantly that the news we are fed is only somebodies version of the news and it always usually comes with an agenda, that things are going on around the world every second and all we see are stupid bite-sized pieces to dumb our brains down.

It's not fair. The world's not fair. And when I drove the two hours back home I was a bit slow in a lane and really pissed a truck driver off so every time I went to switch lanes he swerved in front of me and it was just, really? And when I FINALLY had the chance to drive past him I sucked on my middle finger before I stuck it up at him just to confuse his pants. Ahhhh, Straya.

And so I got home again except, deflated, defeated, tired, not knowing what to do with myself. And my glasses are broken and I'm too tired or probably scared to get them fixed. Fly across the world to visit HIV tents and rehabilitated young sex workers? Sure thing. Drive to Katoomba Specsavers and get my glasses fixed? No fucking way. What is UP with that?

I can't get to sleep until 5am I'm so jetlagged - Max called me a zombie before school this morning and I was, so I'm really going to try hard to not nap at all today and crash early. I keep thinking I'm in a hotel and I think about all the sewerage puddles the babies were playing in and then I see stupid Christmas ads on TV for crap that we can't afford for people we don't even like. I used to love Christmas. Not so much these days. It really is hard to keep going when you're so defeated but these guys, I swear.

Top left - sticky tape. STYLIN! I feel as crap as I look.

I have to be ok for them. And I am. When they're near me my heart light is on, especially when this one wraps a purple slinky around his waist and gives birth to a soccer ball out of it and starts cradling it and singing lullabies saying he has a baby now.


And just a few days ago I was taking photos of hippos on the River Nile.


And I brought back a rock from the Nile to prove that I was there - the tour guide said it was fine to take a rock, no bad luck.

Oh, the places you go!

The first night back home I wept so hard for my brother in the middle of the night that I woke Dave up, so I moved to the couch. And I spoke to Cam, whispering in the darkness.

"Sweet guy if I was with you when you died I would have stroked your cheek and kissed you and told you how much you were loved. Nobody deserves to die alone and I miss you and I love and please be my ghost please."

Last night we had dinner alfresco and Rocco sat in the exact same spot Cam sat when I last talked to him, the last time I ever saw him. The memory of that day is fading around the edges now, and as we ate Rocco asked why my eyes were wet and I said it was because my spaghetti was too hot.


Dave has taken Phoebe Rose to SPAIN. I am so excited for her, begged her for a selfie before she left and she was straight out of the shower and would like people to know that she DID have a towel on. My relationship with her has shifted and grown. I love her. She has all this creativity and ideas and wonderfulness inside of her and I want her to grab life by the reigns and soar. I can't wait to hear what she experiences. God I hope she stays safe ... you just never stop worrying.


So I'm doing solo parenting for a while which I quite like. I'm chill, the boys get away with more with just me. I watched an interview with Steve Irwin one day about how if Bindi wants ice cream for breakfast he just gives it to her because who cares? And two weeks later he died from that stingray and I felt so, so sad that he wouldn't be able to give her ice cream for breakfast anymore.

This guy is with me all the time so don't even think of breaking into my house because he will rip your face off and I sleep with a machete.

I used to have a cowlick but then I learned how to kiss like everybody else.

So that's me. I just asked Siri "what will I do with the rest of my life" and she told me to search the web and I'm like Siri, I'm asking YOU.

As I was sobbing in that gutter on Sunday after driving to Sydney for no reason at all I messaged Anthony and asked if he was still in Sydney and he messaged me straight back, apologising and it wasn't even his fault it was a stupid email that gave me the wrong info. He said he was on his way to Canberra but Melbourne people - do yourself a favour and go see him this Thursday at Club Voltaire. You will be witnessing something incredible and if you go I'll be so jealous so you'll have to tell me all about it.

There is something about him that gives me something - hope, something other than the usual stuff we consume. Anthony, I am so sorry to have missed you and I am going to meet you one day.

Watch this - it's worth it I promise. Talk about being a prophet.





Friday, 5 December 2014

Is DFAT Slang For D-FATCAT White Racists In Charge Of Australia?



Last year I was invited to dinner with the then Prime Minister. There was some conversation - about keeping in shape, tough jobs, manicures. I was sitting right next to her and she looked at my tattoos and kind of wrinkled her face.

"But WHY would you do that to yourself?"

"Because it just feels so good."

The Prime Minister didn't understand. I was waiting for the appropriate time to talk to her about foreign aid and asylum seekers, decided I'd just have to butt right into the conversation between the main course and dessert. I did, loudly. As I spoke the Prime Minster sat up straight, back stiff, recalibrating her brain to talk about something "official."

"So, do you really know how many people in Australia care about asylum seekers? And how we're treating them in this country is inhumane? We have detention camps. What are you actually doing about it?"

The dessert was served - exceptional. The Prime Minister tried to explain to me how complicated it was and we ended up the conversation about how a lot of the people smugglers take desperate peoples money to step onto leaky and dangerous boats - even with their children. For a better life. Away from their unsafe countries. Her focus was on the people smugglers, not the people themselves.  Nice dodge.

Then there was the "funny story" she told us all during dinner about an asylum seeker "centre" (detention camp) where often, desperate people disguise themselves and lie about coming from other countries in the chance they will be allowed to stay in Australia.

She said that oftentimes, Pakistanis look a lot like Afghanis and it's hard to tell the difference so you know what they do? (This is so funny you guys ...)

The Prime Minster told us that in the middle of a hot sweltering day, one of the guards in the detention camp drop a huge cricket bag in the middle of the field while everybody is just standing there with nothing to do.

And then they wait. It's a generalisation that only Pakistanis love cricket because people from other countries love cricket too but MAN. Can you imagine being bored out of your brain, your wife and children back at home hopefully somewhere safe while you try to establish yourself in a new, safe country ... and you're standing in the heat so bored and could quite go a game of cricket?

By the end of the day, the guards can weed out the Pakistanis who have said they are Afghanis GOTCHA!

I told my therapist this story and he said that Afghanis do actually play cricket too and I said "I KNOW!"

At the end of the Prime Ministers story I didn't laugh, just kind of wrinkled my face.

I knew I was being used to get people on her side before the election and I did all I could for Abbott to not come into power because Abbott. Didn't work so well. She needed better advisors. The Labor party were actively working against her and everything she did was pulled apart and dissected. The treatment of her was disgusting - if she were a man she'd still be in power. But still, the mentality of what she was saying was way off.

And now there's talk of the current government cutting aid AGAIN so I'd just like to quickly illustrate  what the two words "cut aid" actually means ... here's some facts. I made sure to get them right.

I just got back from a gruelling week-long trip to Uganda where World Vision Australia partner with UYDEL, a local -based organisation who identify at-risk girls. These girls can hire a room in a brothel for $30,000 Ugandan Schillings per night which would require them to service six men just to recuperate this money.

They have a facility to rehabilitate and provide vocational training skills to 300 girls. The rehabilitation program goes for 6-9 months. They have seven centres in different districts. They get taught new skills, training, a better way to live their lives.

Photo: Suzy Sainovski/World Vision

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) also fund the UPLIFT Project,  Currently in its second year of implementation it will run for four years. Hopefully. Sexual and reproductive health outreach is key focus and the targets are 13-25 year olds residing in slums. You ever been to a slum? Has any politician travelled to these places deciding where and why to cut money? These places are filled to the brim with people who need big help. It's as simple as that. Before he killed himself my brother Cameron would ALWAYS go to see Henry Rollins when he was on tour in Australia. I wish I went with him, just once.

Henry said a quote once about the poorest people in the world. "These people are your peers."



And they are. This is Ryans mother. Ryan is two months old and his mum is 13 years old - no dad on the scene. Unless she gets help to go back to school - which she really wants to do - then I don't know what will happen to her. At the moment she sews clothes by hand and man I just wanted to pull out my wallet from the car and give her money for a sewing machine but I couldn't be sure the money would go to a sewing machine and being part of the World Vision team, you're not allowed to give money to the people we meet in programmes. (Which didn't stop me hanging out money to people who WEREN'T in the programmes.) These projects that World Vision work on SAVE LIVES and let's be clear that when you talk about "cutting aid" you're talking about killing desperate people because without such life-saving programmes they will go back to poverty and misery and no hope. And these programs? Bring a lot of hope. Lack of hope can kill a person.

Look at the world from a broader perspective. My whole twenties I was on and off government welfare payments because I was too messed up to get a job. In and out of rehabs, a no-hoper. But I received free healthcare and enough money to get by and I don't know where I would be if I didn't. 

Probably dead.

Photo: Suzy Sainovski/World Vision

I am so grateful for the help I received when I needed it the most. We can all be oak trees, if given the chance.



I am SO DISGUSTED by the Abbot government. Asked a taxi driver in Uganda if he'd heard of Tony Abbott and he smiled.

"Yes. I saw him on CNN making derogatory remarks about women."

Yep, that's Abbott. Shame. You know how Joe Hockey danced with his wife in his office after he delivered the budget? (Hi Joe remember me? Though you didn't really look me in the eyes back then because I was beneath you.)



You know how when you're playing a game of cards and nobody is getting everywhere and the game is just not working so you throw them all in, mix them up, and start again? That's what needs to be done with this government. Chuck 'em all out, start again, people with new faces and good hearts. Tanya Plibersek is pretty cool. So's Penny Wong. Bill Shorten puts me to sleep. We need politicians with the same values as the rest of us, a bit of fire and passion in their belly. Not over-ambitious people who tread all over people to get power.

It's ironic that I filmed that piece above from Uganda before I even knew about talk of new foreign aid cuts. And if you don't like World Vision there's plenty of other causes and organisations you can get involved in. The few coins you toss into a basket, the goat you give somebody for Christmas, the child you sponsor? I take my hat off to you because you give your money in the HOPE that your money is going to the right place. It is. I have seen it. You are saving lives.

In the words of World Vision CEO Tim Costello today: "Today we are staring down a third successive cut to our aid budget in 18 months. More than 20% of all savings from the Government’s budget came from aid, and we need to tell him that enough is enough – every cut to aid has a human cost. You can contact Prime Minister Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey and call on them to maintain Australia’s aid budget.

Contact the office of Tony Abbott MP. Telephone: (02) 9977 6411 Email him via the Contact your PM page Send him a message on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #dontcutaid. Contact the office of Joe Hockey MP. Telephone: (02) 9929 9822 Email him on J.Hockey.MP@aph.gov.au Send him a message on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #dontcutaid. Thanks for your ongoing support -  Tim Costello

And Joe? If you can ever be bothered to stop crunching numbers for a second and actually go visit the slum funded by DFAT in Kampala, Uganda, make sure you tell your wife to bring more than one set of stilettos for the dancing because when it rains in a slum the water overflows and raw sewerage goes everywhere and children die and your wife may get her shoes dirty.

And hopefully Ryans mum could possibly have a sewing machine by then and won't be selling her thirteen year old body to men while Ryan sleeps in the corner of a filthy hotel room.


Wednesday, 3 December 2014

I Just Want To Show You Something Before My Plane Crashes.

I fly out of Uganda today and my mind only just arrived here yesterday. Jeez I could stay. I could stay a lot longer, soak it in, understand it more, talk to more people. People LOVE to talk to you here. Even a whitey with bedraggled red wet hair in a rainy street looking a tad confused until a kind woman came out and asks me if I was ok, pointed me in the right direction.

Sometimes that's all we need, to be pointed in the right direction.

I just need to quickly show you some things.


An HIV sign outside a grade four classroom in a school. Photo: Suzy Sainovski/World Vision

Further up was another sign saying "Don't accept gifts" because child predators and sex-traffickers often groom children with money and food before they take them away, make them do things. Awful things. Unspeakable things that maybe we should talk about more because if our government cuts aid AGAIN I will fly to Canberra and stage a naked protest. You heard it here first.

         Photo: Suzy Sainovski/World Vision

This is a community centre for youth set up by World Vision right in the middle of a slum. Young people come here, learn vocational skills, read books in the reading room, have meetings, mingle. This beautiful girl next to me is 22 years old and has seen more things in life than anybody should. She told me, matter-of-factly, what she's been through. She's a peer leader now.

Also a peer leader is Ronald. We needed a translator but MAN WHAT A COOL GUY.

Photo: Suzy Sainovski/World Vision

Ronalds parents knew there was something wrong with his legs when he was four months old. He lives with his dad, and has a side job "tinkering" - fixing old bike parts, radios. He teaches the others how to do it to.

"I want to show them they can do things, too."

Photo: Suzy Sainovski/World Vision

Hands down the best classroom I have ever been to in my LIFE. All five of us girls said that, afterwards, some even teared up it was so beautiful. The teachers have incorporated children with disabilities into the whole school. We watched as ALL of the class were taught sign language to interact with their deaf friends.

A beautiful boy proudly showed me his braille machine. So proudly.

Photo: Suzy Sainovski/World Vision

I spoke a lot to the little poppet sitting to my right, who is also blind. She is nine. She is FAST and shy and beautiful and World Vision, man .. they do all of these things. And so much more.


I was completely terrified before I left Australia. "Talismans. I need talismans." My friend Pam read a book once about how we must give away the things we love so she sent me her dead fathers dog tags from the war. I've never worn them before but man they have helped me here. Thank my Pammy-la I love you and they soothed me when I freaked out. Which has been a lot. I've also worn a copper skull that a beautiful woman called Kairan from WA sent to me engraved with "Be real." I finally realised that's why I love skulls - they don't lie, or hide. They're real. Kairan I have met some incredible midwives over here ... you're going to do just fine. And Lila from Mama Nourish - I have been wearing the silver cloud ring on my pinky every single day. I like how the cloud doesn't just have a silver lining - THE WHOLE CLOUD IS SILVER. I got you the cross you wanted.


Goodbye Uganda my beautiful friend. I will be back. World Vision you blow me away. I've been trying to work out why I feel so much better during my time here and even though it has been SO hard sometimes, it's given me purpose and possibly helped save my life. Thank you for aligning yourself with somebody like me.

::

Letters to Home (written before I left)

DAY TWELVE 
So, a few more days and I’ll see your faces. I probably need a big bubble bath by now. This is just a reminder to change the damn toilet roll, unpack the dishwasher, and sweep the kitchen floor. All the boring stuff. Get the boring stuff out of the way first - it makes the fun stuff more enjoyable. Rocco, how many kicks are you up to? Max, you have nearly made it through your first year of high school! Dave, how’s that big bed all to yourself? I’m sorry I watched the rest of Sons of Anarchy without you hon - THE LAST FEW EPISODES WERE SO GOOD. You missed some corkers LOVE YOU GUYS xxxx 

DAY THIRTEEN When I was a little girl I used to sit on my bed at night and wonder what would happen when I grew up, who I would end up marrying, and if I’d have any children. And now I know. And it’s you guys. And you are my biggest treasures in the whole world - yes you Tim and Phoebe. And I cannot wait to see you again. I can’t believe I’m so far away from you right now … but soon I’ll be back, stomping around, being cranky but also awesome. I’m not a perfect mother - nobody is perfect. But I try really hard. Really hard. xxxx

::


Hey Cam. Did you see the Nile? Did you know there's only one equator? Just like there was only one of you. xxxxx Eden


Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Romancing The Crocodile - I'm Sorry About The Safari!

(Firstly I'd like to thank EVERYBODY who wrote words to me regarding my last post. You made me cry for an hour. Jeez people are nice. Thank you xx)

I have a confession to make and I’m sorry if anybody is offended … but I am on a Ugandan safari.

Before I left Australia, I was asked by Lou from World Vision if I’d like to stay on a few more days and travel to Murchison Falls to do a safari. My first question was, “What if we get criticized for going straight after such a full-on trip to all the projects?” And she simply replied, “Eden, the world is just too beautiful not to see it.”

So I said yes. Then I changed my mind but by that time she’d already paid the deposit so I had to go. Still hadn’t cleared it with Dave yet and when I finally did, I broke down and told him the truth.

“Look, hon, do you mind if I do a safari? It’s not many times you get asked in your life if you’d like to come along and see some wild animals in Uganda and ….. it’s just, Lou said the world is too beautiful to not see it and Cam gave up and didn’t want to see the beauty in the world and if he IS hanging around then I get to take him on safari too. He can see the beauty too.”

I have this theory that one of Cams cells or atoms or some tiny part of him is stuck behind my retina and whatever I see, he sees. WEIRD. So the official World Vision trip finished up on Friday and Lou and I are here (completely on our own coin) staying in an amazing place seeing antelope, buffalo, elephants, giraffes, eagles.

Then we went on a boat trip yesterday ON THE RIVER NILE which blew my mind so badly until Lou said, “Eden, you do know that Egypt is part of Africa?” ARE YOU FOR REAL? I’m so dumb, missed a lot of facts at school because I went to NINE of them including four different high schools. Have vowed to never do that to my kids.

On the road to some projects last Friday we were all sitting down talking about how we’d just driven over the equator and we should stop for a photo. And I was all, so how many equators are there? There was a silence until Suzy said, “Eden are you actually really asking that question?”

I wasn’t even embarrassed. I'm smart in different ways, just said I got confused with the tropic of cancer and capricorn and what linked up to what and THEORETICALLY there could be an equator that goes transverse as well. I failed everything at school. Absolutely everything. Just couldn’t seem to learn facts properly - but man did I always top the entire year at every school I ever went to in creative writing.

                                           There's only on equator? LAME

So we’ve been at the safari park for two days and leave today back to Kampala for one night and THEN we leave the country. The safari has actually been a little boring, just saying. I can tick it off my bucket list but it was never on there to begin with ... frankly I’d still prefer cinnnabons in Hawaii. But I love Lou and knew it would be cool and it has been.



Before I left I said to Dave “Hon, I’ll be having 6am starts. It’s not even my kind of holiday.” And he goes “No it’s not - IT’S MINE!”

So your holiday was great hon!





The rooms and the food and the service is impeccable, and the boat trip yesterday (ON THE RIVER NILE) was pretty amazing. We saw hippos, so many hippos! And some crocodiles. The brochure promised us “crocodiles just romancing on the riverbanks” but that didn’t happen. Considering lodging a formal complaint.

Going from slums to luxury is odd and I’m never comfortable with fancy anyway. But I took FULL USE of the laundry service and was so grateful when I saw my previously filthy clothes all clean in a little basket like the Baby Moses floating down the river. My undies were IRONED. Now that’s love.

                                   Happy pants. Literally.

The wildlife has been amazing. Talking to Lou has been WONDERFUL. She’s originally from Northern Island and she’s full of stories. We all are. She sent me a link to how she cooks potatoes. “I don’t care how cliche it is … Australians can NOT cook potatoes properly.” I completely agreed! Told her Dave and I talk about it all the time - how DOES one cook the perfect potato?

Lou and I were sitting outside having coffee yesterday afternoon and a WARTHOG JUST AMBLED BY NEXT TO US. “Whaddup, ladies?”


                                              HOMIES

We were in stitches laughing so hard. Also very glad it wasn’t a leopard. I’ve gotten to know her much better and found out her adorable quirks and foibles as well as her beauty and toughness and she’s a great travelling partner. I knew she would be. And if I was to fly back home straight after that gruelling World Vision trip bang head-on into domesticity? Would not have turned out so well. I was exhausted on every level. And these days if I don’t put my mental health first I really suffer. I’m even staying in Sydney for two nights and then going to a spoken-word poetry workshop on the Saturday and THEN driving home. Mummy’s cup runneth over!

                                 Do not feed or molest wild animals

I’m so, so lucky and grateful for it all. AND SELFISH. But you guys I haven’t had a break for … I can’t remember when. It’s been a hard slog, living in Grieftown for so long and I was so scared to come to Uganda but now I’m scared to go back home! I don’t want everything to be the same again! I’m glad the house we’re living in at the moment is only temporary because it’s such a sad house with SO many hard memories. I’ll be glad to leave it and start afresh. Starting fresh is good. And every time I do something in my life like start afresh or have an amazing or awful experience, I hope Cam is with me, behind my retina. Just the one eyeball is enough. To see what I see. It’s a comforting thought. I feel like I’ve absorbed him, who he was - his pain and his light and his beauty. Life is really hard. Really really. But not all the time.

                                   No I will not be in your photooooooooo

So if anyone is offended I’ve come on a safari please stand to the left and dial 1800-WHATEVER-BRO and for those who understand that I needed to recalibrate after seeing HUGELY impacting things that I haven’t finished writing about just yet - thank you.

                                   HIPPO KEY!

My brother used to call himself “the little engine that could.” So that’s what I decided I was yesterday on that boat on the river Nile looking for romancing crocodiles. I’m the little engine that could, now. For the both of us. I scooped some Nile water up in my hand and baptised myself on the forehead in Universes name Amen. Let’s keep doing this, Eden. Keep going in spite of everything. All new.

(Then I got that hand sanitiser out quicker than you can say hungry hungry hippos.)

::

It's my Maxs THIRTEENTH BIRTHDAY TODAY. Wow. Cannot wait to see his beard when I get back home. Got some surprises in store for him when he gets home from school today, with some help of some beautiful women. Oh this boy.


::

Letters to Home (Written before I left)

DAY EIGHT Dave Riley, one day years ago we were having this week-long fight and it just got so stupid and boring and you got so frustrated with me you just stopped and looked into my eyeballs and half-yelled “HON! I WOULD TAKE A BULLET FOR YOU.” And I knew you meant it. It’s taken me a long time, to accept your love. We’ve hung in there together after all this time when we could have walked away. But this love that we have …. it seems to come from another place. I often think about how you would take a bullet for me. And I want you to know that I would take a bullet for you straight back. I would. (But hopefully in the leg or arm.) xx 

DAY NINE Hey you guys so I’d be well and truly into this trip by now. It’s probably blown my mind in ways I can’t even imagine right now. How weird that somebody so broken and WEIRD as me can do such a thing? You know why I went? To tell other people stories, stories of people whose stories don’t get told much. There’s a whole world out there, and a lot of it is messed up. We need to always think of the good in life and in people, and we need to show care to strangers when we can. I hope my blog posts are doing this trip justice. I hope you’re all ok down there in Australia. It’s a beautiful country. But I think it could do better. I love you all so SO MUCH xxxx 

DAY TEN So I’ve probably cried about Uncle Cam over fifty times by now. I cry about him all the time. I cried just then, writing that sentence. This past year is the worst I’ve ever felt in my whole life and I am so sorry you’ve had to see your mum be so sad. I miss him so much I can’t stand it, I wished his life turned out differently, and I don’t want ANY of you kids to get to that level of despair and hopelessness that he felt. I don’t want you to ever feel so lonely that you can’t make it through anymore. I am always, ALWAYS here for you and so is your dad. Open up your hearts and love as much as you can, whenever you can. Life is hard but it’s also stupid so don’t take things so seriously. Be an idiot. Make good friends. Hang on. xx

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