Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Old acquaintances

Christmas cards might seem like an old-fashioned habit in this electronic age, but for me they are a wonderful reminder of my ecclectic mix of friends scattered all over the world. At the end of each year I find myself remembering old aquaintances, fun times and past kindnesses.

One person on the Christmas card list is my dear friend from Germany who plans to visit me in March. We met by chance in a hostel in France ten years ago where she, having only just met me, bravely offered me a place to stay in her student room in Germany. I, feeling just as brave, accepted. Following a hilarious evening of cooking pasta together, giggling about the phrase "Ich bin gluklich" and finally falling asleep on the floor, we embarked on a friendship that has seen us meet up in Germany, Australia, Switzerland, and now Australia again.

Another is a dear friend and previous flatmate and colleauge from London who reminds me of sharing a bunk bed in a small 2-bedroom flat with a woman and her son, two cats and a couple of fish. We have since met up again in England, France and Australia. My colleagues from Geneva are still very much in my life and call up from time to time and send cheeky emails - it's so nice to hear their voices and remember a life that already seems like a long time ago.

Of course, this time I am feeling particularly sentimental, as a good friend of more than a decade died earlier this year. It's difficult to accept that he will never be around again, but also nice to be able to remember the good times and give thanks for the happy memories. My New Year's resolution is to be thankful for all the friends that I do still have, and to live each day as fully as I can.

Photos - Top: Annette and I in Zurich, Switzerland. Bottom: Aziza and I in Annecy, France.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Sensible Shoes

Today I reached a significant milestone. I bought my first truly sensible Quakerly pair of shoes. The large buckles are remarkably reminiscent of those on my first ever pair of sandals, but on the plus side they are comfy and close to the ground and I am sure I will be able to ride a bike or walk for hours in them.

I do believe you can tell a lot about a person by the shoes that they wear. Quakers, uncomfortable with outward expressions of wealth or extravagance, seem to have developed a reputation for their practical footwear. Apparently, the best way to find the Quaker group at any large event is to look for the people with the sensible shoes. In England, Quakers are particularly noted for their determination to wear socks and sandals throughout the year. In Australia the socks are less common, but the principle is the same.

I often take note of the shoes worn by Quakers at yearly gatherings. There are a couple of favourite brands/styles that they love, such as the Birkenstock (they last forever and are extremely comfortable - these are for the trendier Friend), orthopedic "dress" shoes (this shoe falls short ever so slightly of being "cool"and I plan to avoid it for a couple more years) and jesus sandals, thongs or bare feet for the young ones.

So, what does this mean for me? I guess I have decided to accept my Quaker roots, and embrace the dag within. I feel like these shoes were inevitable. It's the sensible shoe that we had to have.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Travelling vicariously

Now that we're based in Sydney and there aren't really any overseas adventures planned, we have had to resort to travelling vicariously through our overseas visitors. Since we joined the couchsurfing network we've had a steady flow of "new friends" to hang out with, share photos and stories with, and introduce to our friends. When these cultures are in our home, we feel like we're travelling too.

Our French visitor entertained us with stories of his love life, our Korean visitor delighted us by writing on her reference that "Aletia is cute and Peter is loves her lots". Our most recent visitors, from Canada, insisted on cooking delicious vegetarian meals every night, and were brave enough to join in such strange activities as the Matthew Hallis Modified Magic Word Game and a Danish Christmas celebration which ended with a trip home wearing animal noses.

Yes, hosting is a great way to "travel" without clocking up any carbon debt. After all, who else can say they've been to France, Korea and Cananda in the past month. Pete says there is a downside to having international visitors - eventually it's time for them to move on. Oh dear. But don't worry, we're "off to" India in a few weeks!