Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 - the Year of Crazy

It's been a wonderful, crazy, challenging, frustrating and eye-opening year.

I know I said that I was finishing up with this blog, but it's NYE, and this seemed like as good as any place for an annual recap on the year that was. Incidentally, this is my 100th post on this blog, which seems like a nice round number to finish up on!

January started with unemployment and an uncertain future. As good a reason as any to splurge all of my savings on a week-long dance camp, a month-long backpacking / swing dancing trip around South East Asia, and to try out a new cabaret show at the Adelaide Fringe. The rest of the month involved tearing my hair out getting the show written.

February saw my return to the Adelaide Fringe, which was what I thought was my best show to date, with mostly positive reviews, and small-but-appreciative audiences. I also lost a heap of money, and started to age prematurely as a result, but these things are all learning experiences. I may have sworn that I would never perform a show at a festival ever again. Several times.

March started in another country, having touched down in Kuala Lumpur the day before, preparing for a weekend of dance workshops and socials. In the tropical Malaysian heat. Multiple showers and changes of clothes a day were necessary. This was followed by four weeks of backpacking through Thailand, Vietnam (with another weekend of social dancing at the Vietnam Lindy Exchange), and Cambodia. I was bedridden in Saigon with an awful sinus infection when I received the news that I was successful in an application to go to Alotau in Papua New Guinea for two months with the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program.

April consisted mostly of mentally preparing myself for PNG, with various training courses, a lot of injections, and working out if I could still do my Masters coursework online whilst in PNG. By the end of the month, I was touching down in Port Moresby. Definitely new territory, both terrifying but also beautiful and fascinating.

May flew by in Alotau, adjusting to a new lifestyle of being home before dark, working out PMV routes, teaching myself how to use a card catalogue, and taking boat trips to weird colonial island outposts. I also learned to live with limited internet access - which was insufficient for online research and study. I also found out that I'd been accepted into another assignment in Rabaul, beginning in July.

June finally saw the arrival of some new friends in Alotau, which made the stay more comfortable, but also more bittersweet when the time came to leave. Gifts were exchanged, and for the first time in a while, I felt truly appreciated for the work I'd been doing, yet humbled by the simple grace and love with which my host organisation expressed their thanks. Then another flight back to Australia, with a few days in Melbourne, and a couple of days in frosty Hobart for a swing dance exchange, before flying out on the last day of the month...

The first of July saw me arrive in Rabaul - a relatively isolated town in East New Britain, wedged between an active volcano, and a dormant one. There was a lot of rumbling, and even more internet-related frustration. However, I also attended the National Mask Festival, which was definitely one of the cultural highlights of my year.

And then July was over, and August flew in, and before I knew it, I was thrust back into Melbourne's winter. Facing unemployment all over again, I rewrote a chunk of my show, to perform in Melbourne and Sydney, and vaguely considered my future. Fortunately I also had the Melbourne Writers Festival to keep me occupied and entertained.

September saw the remount of my cabaret show at the Kew Court House, Darebin Music Feast, and Sydney Fringe. I also found out that I was going to Hoi An for three months, on another volunteer assignment. More injections were required. I also turned 35. There was an election, and the result made me happy that I was leaving the country again.

October started with being burnt-out at the Sydney Fringe, but glad that I went. It saw me run my first 10km run at the Melbourne Marathon, where I surprised even myself by actually enjoying it. A few days later, I found myself broken-hearted at the airport before 12 hours of flights from Melbourne to Hanoi. The rest of the month is a bit of a blur, to be honest, but I recall a lot of rain, and making new friends. November brought more weather warnings, with a near miss from Typhoon Haiyan, and widespread flooding in Central Vietnam. It otherwise involved discovering the cultural and culinary delights of Hoi An, of which there are many. It also ended with a permanent job offer, to start in Melbourne in January.

And so, finally, in December, the rain mostly stopped, and though the sun came out from time to time, it was still on the cold side - perhaps a case of nature mirroring my emotional state. It began with a festive weekend in Saigon, with Christmassy goodness and lots of swing dancing about town. There was a somewhat indulgent but much-needed relaxing weekend at the Nam Hai resort. A weekend in Hue ensured full of dreary weather but wonderful food and company, ending with an epic motorcycle ride over the Hai Van Pass. I've somehow managed to amass a new wardrobe full of tailored clothes, ready to break out when the time comes to hit the fashionable streets of Melbourne next year.

And so, 2014 awaits. It will be a very different year - perhaps the year of becoming somewhat more settled and sensible about my future. I'm looking forward to the responsibility of taking on a permanent role again, which promises to have its share of interesting projects and challenges. But there are already new adventures planned, starting with a brief trip to Dalat, my return to Melbourne, and 10 days in Adelaide to get my swing dance mojo back up to speed (I'm definitely rusty after three months!). I'm putting on my show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. I'm also about to submit an abstract for a conference paper - my first in three years - and actually finishing off my Masters. Actually, that already sounds like enough to keep me busy for a while!

Ultimately, this time next year, I want to be celebrating New Years Eve somewhere in Europe. I've yet to travel beyond the Asia-Pacific region, and by then I'll be sure to be yearning new horizons...

To the future.