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Author Archives: supertiph

Sick and Sorry

It’s been almost a year and a half since I last wrote. We didn’t die in Iceland. We kept travelling west, we saw the US, we made it home, I finished my Masters’ Thesis, I graduated, I had a baby (he’s divine). A lot has happened.

But many things in life that I have, at some point, had time to do, have fallen by the wayside. Not because I was studying. Not because I became a mum.

It’s because I’m sick.

I don’t really like to talk about my physical condition very often. It’s hard. It’s hard to explain the chronic-ness of what I live with. I have a back injury from a car accident 4 years ago, that will never go away. I also have chronic fatigue, which is a garbage diagnosis, because it’s really doctors admitting that they don’t know what is wrong with you, but they’ll concede something must be wrong, because you look bloody awful.

Chronic fatigue (or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or CFS) affects people differently. Generally speaking, people with CFS aren’t refreshed by a night’s sleep, and this symptom carries on for more than 6 months before you can be considered to have it. So you act like someone who hasn’t slept for 6 months or longer. This is often coupled with other symptoms. For me, too much physical exertion and emotional exertion can result in a “crash”. This is exactly what it sounds like. I just stop being able to move for a day or so. But these “crashes” don’t come out of the blue. There’s a build up. While my sleep is not refreshing, my body still knows if I’m not getting it. That lack of sleep shows up as physical pain. I feel it most in my joints, and it starts in my shoulders and hips and moves outward. So once I get pain in my fingers and toes, a crash is inevitable. Normally, it can take 1 – 8 days to recover, depending on how much physical and emotional rest I can get. As a mother, I haven’t been able to fully recover from the crash that was giving birth. So live nearly every day on the knife edge.

This makes the everyday tasks in life pretty difficult. And now there’s a little baby around, it’s a bit harder again. Grocery shopping isn’t a single task anymore. It’s about 15 tasks. Get self and child into car. Drive to shopping centre. Get self and bub out of car. Locate shopping trolley. Simultaneously push trolley and read shopping list. Talk to deli attendant like human being. Get groceries into shopping trolley. Pray you haven’t forgotten anything because coming back will be murder. Assure bub shopping trip is nearly over (as though that will put off an impending outburst. Ha!). Get groceries onto checkout belt. Get shopping bags into trolley. Get trolley back to car. Get shopping into car. Get child into car. Get home. Get child out of car. Get shopping into house. Put away the essentials and leave the rest for super-hubby. Pray little guy has a snooze. Lie down.

And granted, I imagine nearly every new mother views grocery shopping this way. But there’s the layer of pain and additional fatigue that sits atop these many mounting tasks. Imagine a sharp object repeatedly being jammed into your lower spine all day. Imagine that feeling of needing to crack a joint, but you can’t, you just have to live with that pain (in all your joints). Imagine going to sleep exhausted, knowing you’ll wake up feeling the same. Now you’re starting to get the idea.

But more than just household chores are difficult. A regular conversation is difficult. The innocuous, “How are you?” is fraught with traps. I normally say, “Not too bad.” But I’m lying. I am bad. I’m always bad. I used to have good days, but the demands of motherhood mean there aren’t any good health days anymore. “Is he sleeping?” Sure, sometimes. Doesn’t mean I’m sleeping. But I don’t want to be the little raincloud that whinges about how hard life is. No one likes that person. Why should they? With a roof over my head, a beautiful little family who love me and food on the table, it could be far, far worse. And I’m aware of that. I want to acknowledge that.

So instead of grappling with the difficulty that is explaining myself, I retreat instead. I opt not to talk about my health. I try to steer away from subjects that could be touchy. I engage in less conversation. I don’t explain myself. And I imagine that makes me seem a bit cold.

And seeming cold is not a good idea when you can’t be particularly social. I’m not a particularly social person to begin with anyway, but oftentimes just getting out of the house is too much for me. I didn’t sleep the night before. I need to rest today because I have work tomorrow and I don’t have enough energy for two days worth of being out. I hurt too much to get dressed today, or brush my hair, or eat properly. But when I do come out, people are generally nice. A little perplexed, because I look perfectly normal and have offered no explanation for my general absence, but they are nice. “Will we see you next time?” “Maybe. I hope so,” comes my ambivalent response. I wait for the charity to end. Because I haven’t explained that I’m sick, that every day is bad, that I’m doing my best, but that looks like I’m not doing much. I’m just the cold bitch that doesn’t come out much.

The hardest part at present, is not being able to connect with other mothers. I need the village that is meant to help raise the child. But I can’t always get to it. And when I do get there, I can’t launch into what life is like for me. These are mothers. Nearly all of them have more than one child. They have hard days all the time. In all honesty, I’ve been to mothers’ group once. I didn’t have to do anything. I became a mum and, BAM, I was invited. The people were nice, but I’d just had surgery on a breast abscess having had mastitis. Someone said, “So you obviously aren’t breastfeeding anymore.” I felt really sheepish admitting that I still was. I don’t know why. The exchange still makes me tear up. It’s a fair assumption that once you’ve had a massive pustule on your boob ruptured by a surgeon, you wouldn’t let a tiny human gobble on it anymore. But I did. Still do. And admitting that makes me cry like a looney, so I don’t like to talk about it. And thinking about that comment makes me afraid to go again. So when the day is rough and I feel sheepish, I don’t go. But I do crave time with mums. I want to make friends. I want my boy to make friends. But I can’t escape being sick.

I don’t like to talk about it. And while I hope people read what I’ve written here, I don’t know that I’ll want to talk about it in person. I don’t want a pity party. I don’t want to be ungrateful for what I have. But I don’t want to be that aloof, unexplained acquaintance that sometimes comes out.

So, I’m sorry this isn’t straightforward. This blog doesn’t end with a bow. The loose ends are loose. I’m sorry I haven’t explained myself before, and I’m sorry I probably won’t want to talk about it much if you read this and bring it up. But there you have it.

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2016 in Illness and Injury

 

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Arriving in Iceland

Iceland (or what I’ve seen of it) is breathtakingly beautiful. The landscape is otherworldly: mostly even, with little vegetation and large volcanic masses jutting out of the earth at irregular intervals as whispers of snow dot the ground. (Take that, female character on the Mighty Ducks 2, whose best description of Iceland is “very green”).

Upon arrival I discovered how difficult it is to adapt to a no-decimal system of currency, especially when tired (I may have taken ten times the amount of cash out of the ATM than I had intended). I had also read that Iceland is expensive. It really is. Not particularly friendly to a couple of students on a tight budget staying for a week. The experience of being here is quite thrilling enough, but it’s difficult to keep running into people who insist you must go angler fishing, scuba diving, snow mobiling and eat at the fancy revolving restaurant or else you’ve wasted your time coming.

Reykjavik is beautiful with all the Christmas lights still up and advent candles in so many windows. The sun begins setting around 2:30pm and it is completely dark by 5:45, so the lights are fully appreciated.

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So far we’ve had a bit of a lazy time here, tending to  domestic tasks. We did the grocery shopping, attempting to find the simplest foods we can prepare for the most reasonable cost (not an easy task). We have also discovered there are exactly zero Laundromats in all of Reykjavik. Our small guestroom basin has now seen a fair bit of handwashing and is likely to see a fair bit more.

We did got for a walk this afternoon, but after all the shops had closed (turns out they all turn in early on new year’s eve), and we did find that the frozen city pond was home to a number of geese and ducks.

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Fireworks having been steadily increasing since about midday today and we are about to head up to the church (the high point of the city) to witness the majority of them being set of from after 10pm. Hopeful we will find a famous Icelandic New Year’s bonfire as well. There is also snow forecast for around midnight – we might be lucky!

Life in the world’s most northern capital  city is quite enjoyable so far. Happy New Year’s Eve all!

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2015 in Misc 'n' Stuff, travel

 

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London, Day Two

The day began bright and early as we headed to the British Museum to be there as it opened. It was very exciting. Here are a number of the artefacts:

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We went from the British Museum to St Paul’s Cathedral:

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Where there is a statue of John Wesley:

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And a squirrel:

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The next all important stop was the TWININGS HOUSE! Opened in the 1700s it is the longest trading location selling the same wares:

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And they give you free tea:

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From there we headed to Harrods to get lost and crushed by many strangers. It was terrific. I like Harrods:

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We leave London tomorrow, which is a pity. It is a truly remarkable city. Hope to be back soon!

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Posted by on December 30, 2014 in travel

 

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London, Day One

Our train ticket advised us to arrive at least 30 minutes before departure. Having not had any qualms getting onboard our train from Rotterdam to Paris, we figured 30 minutes was sufficient. We arrived, French security let us through, and the UK Border Security had only 2 officials on. The line was not moving at all. So we waited. I watched boarding for our train open. The rail staff starting bumping us up the line. We waiting more. We were skipped from line to line until we finally spoke to the British Border Official. He asked the standard questions, then rolled his eyes when we said we were theology students. Sorry we aren’t lawyers, doctors or customs officers. Our belongings were scanned and we hoped we were going to hop on to the waiting train, but alas, boarding had closed. Thankfully they put us on the next train. We were split up though. I got to sit with a family of three who were sleeping and Ben met the French versions of his 9 and 12 year old self and got to play cards and discuss politics. Again, the train journey was a lot of fun and I definitely see the appeal of train travel over air travel for short trips around Europe.

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Having now arrived in London an hour later than expected, the race was on to see all the sites we possible could in just a couple of hours.

The first stop was to get our London Breakfast from T2 in Shoreditch, a walk from our hotel.

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After that, we headed to the water’s edge and took in the Tower of London:

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And the Tower Bridge:

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We headed on to Westminster and by now the sun had set. Passing by the London Eye:

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We saw Big Ben:

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And the buildings at Westminster:

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A good walk up the road, we came to Buckingham Palace, where the flying flag indicated the Queen was in:

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And if you look closely, you’ll see a guard:

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We then walked The Mall to Trafalgar Square, where the dim light made it difficult to see things, but I could make out Nelson, the lions and silhouette of he rooster on Nelson’s fourth column:

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We then hopped on the tube as quick as we could and headed for the Dominion Theatre in time for church:

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We finished the evening by treating ourselves to dinner in an English pub:

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So, if you would ever like the 2 hour, whirlwind tour of the London sites, I have a couple of tips!

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2014 in travel

 

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Paris, Part Two

 

Our second day in Paris, we went to the basement for our complimentary breakfast. It was cosy and cramped, but exciting to eat croissants and baguettes in a stone basement. Ham and cheese was the filling of choice, and with breakfast behind us, we headed out into the cold day. The metro was starting to make sense to us and we found ourselves on the most beautiful bridge:

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From which we could see a most astounding structure:

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Full expecting it was not going to meet expectations because how hyped up it has been in the past, there was no disappointment here. It is as majestic and stately as any description you have heard before:

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We found our way to the Arc de Triomphe and it does live up to its name! However, the roundabout is super chaotic, it’s any wonder we didn’t see a number of accidents while we were there! Mind you, it can’t help that we (and dozens of other tourists) were just milling about the median strip. It makes for good photos though:

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For a while we thought we were going to have to leg it across the hair-raising intersection to make it under the Arc itself, and then we noticed the underground stairs, so we made it safely across without crossing moving traffic.

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It was now time for a stroll down Champs Elysees, which I’m not certain, but I think roughly translates to “Avenue of Car Showrooms”. Peugeot, Mercedes, Toyota, Citroen, Renault all had Christmas spaces with a few cars and plenty of branded knick-knacks for sale.

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Partway through our stroll, I noticed a ‘creperie’ down a side street and we decided it was time for lunch. I had a truly French crepe and it was thoroughly enjoyable. We carried on towards the Christmas markets which were a welcome diversion and we followed the sights and sounds, and the distracting shops all the way to end the street. We hopped on the nearest metro and made our way to Notre Dame.

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It is a beautiful building form the outside (the line was too long to go in). We stood and marvelled at the many carvings, both Ben and I wishing we knew more about the symbolism represented in the carvings and doing our best to describe what we knew.

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As we meandered further and the evening turned to night time, we realised that Paris favours those who can spend money. The shopping looked luxurious, the bars and restaurants lively (but expensive) and the hotels nearer the city centre looked inviting. So the verdict is, Paris is a nice city, that smells like wee, and is most fun when you travel on more than a student budget.

 

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2014 in travel

 

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Paris, Part One

Paris wore me out too much to keep up with the blogging.

Catching the train from Rotterdam to Paris was a breeze. The train ride itself was pleasant and straightforward, despite the lack of room for suitcases. You’re allowed to take 2 large suitcases per person. Do they make provisions for two large suitcases per person? Don’t be silly. Plus it was then that my suitcase handle decided to jam, so stowing it was not easy. (The train ride did jostle it free again, so suitcase was fine going onwards). The Belgian and French countryside provided an excellent backdrop to the journey and three hours was over before we knew it. We had arrived in Paris.

After being spoiled by the beauty of the Netherlands, Paris did not make a good first impression. The other train passengers in the metro were quite protective of whatever space they had claimed and weren’t keen on travellers with suitcases. Plus it smelled like wee. Then we got off the train and the city smelled like wee and cigarettes. However it was a surprise to emerge from the underground train station and be staring at the Moulin Rouge. Turns out we were in some kind of red light district.

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The hotel we stayed at wasn’t great. I know you get what you pay for and a student budget won’t allow you to pay for much, so the tiny room and the disrepair didn’t bother me. I think the mould bothered me the most. It wasn’t a great start at all. But we pulled ourselves together and decided to see if a wander might improve our outlook on the city.

It did.

Rather than getting strait back on the metro, we took a wander down to a more direct metro station and discovered the pretty streets of Paris, narrow and cobbled. Beautiful buildings dotted our walk.

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Finally we hopped on the metro and hopped off to discover the Louvre. And the giddiness began!

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These things I had seen in pictures and read about were now before my very eyes! The other things before my eyes was the incredibly long line to get in. I had read about ‘hidden’ entrances to the Louvre, so I decided we were best off searching for them. After walking in circles/the wrong direction for a while, looking for number 99 and the underground shopping centre, we decided to call it a night and give up trying to get in the Louvre. Time to hunt for some food. Heading back towards the metro, what should I spy but number 99, the underground shopping centre! Dinner forgotten, the Louvre entry was back on the cards! We found the inverted pyramid and the ticket seller. It took about 5 minutes to purchase tickets, which allowed us priority entry at the main entrance. Heading towards the main entry, we gained our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower.

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At the Louvre entry, we walked straight in, got scanned for bombs and we were in the clear! The whole process was still quicker than lining up at the main entry. We were stoked!

The Louvre is an enormous warren of more treasures than you can possibly take in. Here is Athena, in her many forms:

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And Artemis, in her many forms:

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We went inside an Egyptian tomb:

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Were astounded by the Islamic mosaics:

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There was this big statue as well:

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We wended our way to the Italian paintings:

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A Da Vinci:

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Finally arriving at the Mona Lisa:

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But the real beauty is what stands opposite the Mona Lisa, The Wedding Feast at Cana:

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This painting filled the entire wall, yet the majority of the crowd spends their time with their back to the beautiful vista, because of a small, dark portrait of an unknown woman. People like to force their way forward to take their photo next to the portrait, so here is a picture of Ben taking a picture of the painting. It’s as good as we were going to get.

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It had been hours in the Louvre, seeing many astonishing artefacts, and weariness was beginning to get the best of us, so we left and headed for some food. Procuring food was more difficult than we had anticipated. The language barrier was far more of a struggle than we thought it would be, despite most people being able to speak English. However, we did find some food and then headed back home to collapse straight into bed. The pouring rain had dampened our desire to explore much more, but Paris had improved!

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2014 in travel

 

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Christmas Eve

We went into the township of Ermelo, which is reasonably typical as far as Dutch towns go. Its paved road down the centre of town becomes a walking only road after 11am (so we didn’t have to  dodge any bikes). We went into the bakery, and discovered that the Dutch makes things Christmas-y by adding Christmas elements to ordinary baked goods. So regular roombotter biscuits become Christmas biscuits when wrapped in cellophane and tied with red or green ribbon. It’s wonderfully pragmatic. We also went into a sweet shop and discovered you can buy sticks to chew on. As a treat. And they aren’t poisonous (clearly its very Australian of me to assume all plant and animal life is poisonous).

Nearby to where we are staying is a huge heather field that is beautiful for walking.

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Amongst the heather were ancient burial mounds there were over 4000 years old. Heather fields that aren’t maintained turn into forest, so these fields have been maintained for as long as the burial mounds have been around, which is roughly the age of the pyramids.

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Just beyond the heather is a forest and in the forest is a mansion. There are signs explaining about it, but they are all in Dutch. So it was a very pretty mansion.

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There was also a folly up the hill from the mansion.

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Ben knocked, but no one was home.

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In the evening we went to Thousand Hills Church for the Christmas Eve service, the Harris cousins (and the women they love) together.

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It was so much fun to be involved for a special service.

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The choir was outstanding, the message was simple and poignant and the atmosphere inside was toasty warm. We couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas Eve.

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2014 in Misc 'n' Stuff