Monday, September 15, 2014

Reflections on Repatriating

We've been back in the States for about a month and are slowly settling back in to life in our native country.

All told, we lived in Australia for three years and six weeks. Long enough to make lots of wonderful friends and to get used to the pace of life in Australia. Long enough to settle in and for it to feel like home.

Packing up our apartment

During our last couple of months, there was a long list of things we wanted to do One Last Time, many of them food-related.
The day before we left, my friend Kelli came over to show us the true way to eat Vegemite—on toast with butter. I had to admit, it was much better than on crackers. 
Gourmet desserts from High Tea with friends.
And of course, we packed our time with movies, dinners and soccer games with friends. 

At a going away BBQ, we taught our friends about an American campfire tradition—s'mores.
Surfers at the beach, photo taken during a Girls' Weekend with friends
Even the animals seemed to be sending us off in style. I think I saw more parrots in the last month than I'd seen in the whole three years previously.

This possum posed for pictures for quite some time before deciding to scamper away.
A very grainy photo of 4 kangaroos, spotted on a hike on our last evening in Australia
It was incredibly sad to leave Australia. I tried hard not to, but ended up crying as our plane took off from the runway.

There is such as a think as 'reverse culture shock' and we definitely experienced it in our first few weeks back in the U.S. First off, we immediately noticed that there are a lot more people everywhere. There are 24 million people in Australia and 318 million in the United States. Now, the countries are roughly the same size but not quite, so another way to look at is that there are 8 people per square mile in Australia and 83 people per square mile in the United States. No wonder we were feeling claustrophic!

The other major difference that I didn't remember from three years ago is the feeling of being constantly marketed to. Everywhere we shop, people are trying to upsell us on discount memberships or trying to convince us to buy warranties and insurance on products (some of which only cost $10 to begin with). As soon as I updated my location on my social media accounts, I started seeing more ads.

Luckily, we had tons of family and friends waiting to welcome us back to the States. A few days after we arrived in Virginia, Drew's family threw us a lovely Welcome Home party. They supplied the food, drinks and games and we brought the Vegemite (which, not suprisingly, was unanimously voted as 'gross').

My mom put this beautiful arrangement of flowers in my bedroom.
(Also, she left me chocolates, which didn't last long enough for a photo op...)
In addition to our Welcome Home party, we filled our first days back here eating our favorite American foods and reacquainting ourselves with the local wildlife.
Peanut butter! The Aussies aren't as enamored of peanut butter as we are, so shortly after arriving, I had to indulge: peanut butter fro yo, with Reese's peanut butter cups and Reese's pieces and chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. 
Lunch from The Cheese Shop, a favorite from our college days at William & Mary
Eastern Red-spotted newt
We also treated ourselves to a trip to the beach, a must-have for me so that we didn't go straight from Australian winter to American autumn. On our way to the beach, we stopped in Williamsburg for a delicious lunch from The Cheese Shop and we stopped at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens to stroll through the gardens where we got married.

Tree-lined walkway at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens
Our favorite beach in the U.S.

It's been an adjustment and I imagine it will continue to be so. We'll miss Australia for a long time and a little part of us will always be a little Aussie. Hopefully, there will be many trans-Pacific visits with our Aussie friends in the years to come. 

I haven't decided yet what will happen with this blog, whether I'll continue to write here or retire it and move on to the next project. There are a few more posts I want to put up here before the end of the year though - about wombats and cork trees and maybe some tips for anyone moving to Australia. Then, I'll turn these words and photos into a lovely coffee table book as a keepsake for us to remember our adventures. Not that we'll forget anytime soon...

Monday, July 14, 2014

Hitchhiking and Train Riding in Australia: A guest post

Guest post by Ryan

My last night in the Ayers Rock Resort campground, I decided to take a shower instead of a dip in the saltwater pool. I went to the men's "bathhouse" and the only showerhead was in a handicapped stall with a broken door latch. I'm not sure if that was indicative of all the amenities of the campground but in that particular men's room I just accepted my fate and used the handicapped shower. Thankfully, nobody else needed to shower then.

The next morning, I woke up and broke camp. I bid adieu to the only patches of grass in hundreds of miles and walked the short distance out of the campground. I stopped to say goodbye to Taylah, but she wasn't working. I posted up on the road across from the resort and extended my left thumb, indicating that I needed a ride east. I've hitchhiked over 1,000 miles, mostly in California, Oregon and Alaska. Alaska, in particular, is notoriously easy to get rides. I was interested to see how the Aussies treated the vehicularly-challenged travelers. It was less than 15 minutes in the 30 degree Celcius heat before a white van screeched to a halt and I grabbed my pack and hustled to catch up. The vehicle was a vanagon/westfalia style with a mattress in the back. I later learned that the couple who owned it were on a pre-marriage honeymoon trip. They bought the van in Sydney and built drawers and shelves in the back and were planning on driving all the way across the continent to Perth.

The travelers were a young couple from Israel. I wish I could say I caught their names and if I were a real reporter, I would have. I sat up front in the middle while the girl drove and the guy made conversation. His English was better than hers but as those conversations go, we stuck to things that weren't too complicated. I think I actually prefer talking to people whose first language is not English. You can talk about anything; the clouds, the cows, the fenceposts, the roadkill and compare them to where they're from. The guy explained to me that that she was a decade younger than him and was not very confident in her English. Of course, I'd picked that up but still conversed as if they understood me equally. As with any beautiful girl I am introduced to, I looked at her ring finger. She was sporting a decent sized rock so I commented to her "Congratulations". They were to be wed after their journey across Australia. I wish I had the funds and the commitment to take a significant other to a vast country and drive across it with no reassurance that our vessel would make it. I mean, with no side trips, Sydney to Perth is 4,000 miles and that's completely bypassing Uluru. I've had breakups that ended on roadtrips—I couldn't imagine that kind of journey.
I told them about my camel ride since I had so much fun and they laughed hysterically. You paid $120 to ride a camel? In my country, you would pay $5.

Throughout the trip, we had a pleasant conversation and they were, hands down, the most genial couple I've ever caught a ride with. We chatted about the dangers of Australia (snakes, spiders, crocs, etc.) and the driver just smiled and told me, "Australian people like to talk about how dangerous it is to live here. The natural hazards aren't very bothersome. We live in a place where people get killed by other people and get away with it. That is the real hazard, a human wanting to kill you for no good reason."

A couple of hours later, they dropped me off at what can only be described as a pitstop. It was about lunchtime so I went into a pub and dropped my backpack on a stool. I ordered a Victoria Bitter and some potato wedges with sour cream and sweet chili sauce. I took in the ambience of a true outback outpost—reptile skins on the walls, flies darting in and out of beers, and a state-of-the-art karaoke machine... probably the main source of income in this dump.

Tipping is basically unheard of in Australia, which is quite a change from the States where tipping anywhere is expected at more or less fifteen percent. Tipping can be annoying but let me tell you, it is better than the flipside. Waitstaff in Australia usually greet you, take your order, then ignore you. They then check Facebook on their phones and space out until it's time to bring out your food. Forget about getting a refill without a response of rolled eyes. After half an hour I got my taters and I saw a scraggly, exhausted, sunburnt bloke wander in and sling down his pack. I figured he'd been hitching, too so I asked him, "Where ya headed?" Uluru, he said, in a British accent. "Where ya comin' from?" "Alice Springs," he told me. "I just got a ride from a guy who's headed back to Alice." He then asked me if he could snag a potato wedge and I jumped up and told him they were his if he pointed me in the direction of the man driving to Alice Springs.

I waited for the driver to emerge from the truckstop restroom and then intercepted him on his way to his car. He was only caught off guard for a split-second. He was singing some sort of college sports song for football or rugy or cricket or who knows what. It was a fight song and he was in his own little world. He accepted my request without hesitation and continued singing while he filled with petrol. Honestly, I asked his name also but I didn't catch it either. Let's call him Bob. He was definitely a "Bob". He was a retired Navy veteran who enjoyed driving aimlessly. It was my lucky day because he had no reason to drive to that intersection in Erldunda—and he was running an errand in Alice Springs and saw the gangly Brit signaling for a ride. Two hours later, he was on his way home and the poor guy was still there, so Bob took him all the way to the junction. Bob really wasn't interested in the States or me at all, I was the sole maker of conversation for the first half hour and then he cranked some tunes and we didn't really speak. I actually dozed off for at least 45 minutes. Bob had 3 cds in his car. Fleetwood Mac, Crowded House and John Farnham. I haven't given too many rides to hitchhikers but it is a power trip—you're in control of the windows, music, conversation, everything and if you feel like kicking them out, well, that's the end of the ride. Of course most people who pick up hitchhikers are good-natured people. I actually had a girl pick me up in Alaska in 2007 and ended up dating her the rest of the summer. She drove me 269 miles out of her way to Denali National Park that day. Bob drove me 259 miles out of his way. Bob was a perfect traveling companion because he didn't care if I talked or slept but he did have an incessant fascination with John Farnham. Bob informed me was known as "The Voice" in Australia. In the late 80s, early 90s, apparently, John Farnham was a legend. Farnham is not a bad singer, but he made some of the most god-awful videos of music video history.
Finally, I boarded The Ghan (rhymes with can), the famous train that dissects Australia North/South from Darwin to Adelaide. I've logged many miles on Amtrak and Canada's VIA Rail, so I can make some informed comparisons of the different trains. First of all, Australia Rail made me check a bag under the train that I could not access for the entire trip. Strike one. The seats were fine. Some power outlets would be nice but really nothing was lacking. All "red" economy seats shared two bathrooms. One had a shower though, which was a nice surprise at first. 40 or so people shared the shower but it's better than no shower at all. There was a dining car/minibar car as opposed to Amtrak that has an entire dining car with a downstairs minibar car. Not to mention an upstairs viewing car with seats pointing towards the windows. I'm not saying that AusRail is not worth the money, I definitely found that it was. I spent the first day talking with this German girl Julia/Yuliya (or some variation of that) who was across the aisle from me. We shared a lot of laughs. She was a part of a group called G Tours. I have a friend from Virginia who has been to Costa Rica with G Tours. I'd never in my life considered paying to travel with a bunch of strangers, but they really were fun and they included me as much as could be expected. I get the concept of the group tour now—you get to experience a country with tried and true accommodations and excursions with other people who are equally excited to be on vacation and you can watch each others' backs.
The Ghan, the train that runs from Adelaide (in southern Australia) to Alice Springs (in the Red Centre of Australia) to Darwin (in northern Australia)
The next day we had a "whistle stop" which was actually a 3 hour stop in Katherine to visit the Katherine Gorge. I didn't have it in me to hike to the gorge. The G Tour did, though. In the peak season there are two ferries going back and forth across the Katherine River and in the middle is a designated swimming zone. I would assume that the boat traffic discourages crocodiles, but when I was there the ferries were not running and swimming was prohibited. I went by myself to a tributary creek of the Katherine River. During that time I didn’t see a single human or crocodile, so I decided to go swimming and forgo the line for the shower back on the train. I could see the bottom of the 7-foot deep creek so I wasn't too worried. After surveying my surroundings for half an hour I took the plunge.

In Darwin, I said goodbye to the people I'd met on the train and got some email addresses. I took a taxi to the airport and my driver must have been a true bogan (Australian for ‘redneck’) because I couldn't understand half of what he was saying. He told me he wouldn't book a flight longer than 4 hours because that was the maximum amount of time he could go without a cigarette. He asked me how many elderly ladies were on the train. Eight, I think. They were sitting behind me. The Ghan is one of those bucket list trips for Australians, so he was surprised there weren't more old people.

Australia's first European inhabitants were exiled prisoners sent to Botany Bay in 1788. In 1859, the Outback still remained uncrossed, so the government offered a reward for the first expedition to successfully navigate from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpenteria. This led to the almost successful but ultimately disastrous Burke and Wills expedition. I say ‘almost successful’ enough because they didn't actually reach the northern shore, the thickness of the mangrove swamps caused them to fall a few miles short. The disastrous part came on the return journey, when seven men died, including both Burke and Wills. The remaining men required several rescue expeditions to return home. Today, 9 out of 10 people in Australia live within 50 kilometers of the coast. Life is good on the coast and hard in the interior. The Great Australian Desert remains an unforgiving place where the sun shines down hard and the landscape offers little shade. I was expecting red dirt as far as the eye could see, but 2014 brought more rain than average and what I saw was mostly scrubland, sage-looking bushes and plenty of red dirt in between. Eventually, drought will choke the water out of the land and bushfires will clear the dry vegetation.

Termite mounds as seen from the train window
Uluru is inconvenient and even expensive to get to. The cheapest way to see it would be to fly from a coastal city to Yulara and then back, but then you'd only see a tiny speck of the Outback. I wanted to spend time in one of the world's least populated regions and I'm glad I did. To quote my favorite author, environmentalist and desert advocate, Edward Abbey; "I find that in contemplating the natural world my pleasure is greater if there are not too many others contemplating it with me, at the same time.”

Monday, June 9, 2014

To the Outback: A guest post

Guest post by Ryan
                Terra Australis is the name of a theoretical continent that can be found on European maps made between the 15th and 18th centuries. Aristotle first posited that, for all the known landmass at the time (Europe, Asia and Africa), there must be some landmass of similar proportion in the Southern Hemisphere. Aristotle lived and died before Christ. As we all know, the Americas were first documented by Europeans upon the arrival of Columbus in 1492.
Terra Australis Incognita, 1593 map by Gerard de Jode.

As the Europeans raced to "discover" and claim new lands advanced quickly in the next couple of centuries, it seems that some mapmakers just went nuts with Terra Australis Incognita. After finding nothing but water at the southern tips of Africa and South America, more and more scientists jumped on board with the idea of a supercontinent to the South. The Dutch landed on Australian soil in 1606, but didn't seem very interested in the land. They were happy to report that they had found a new continent and, for the time being, mapmakers were content to draw an enormous blob on the bottom of the globe called Terra Australis. Maybe they weren't content. Maybe it drove them mad, going their whole lives and never really knowing what was out there. Think about that next time you casually fly to Venice on Google Earth and virtually walk the streets frozen in time.
                The southern counterweight they were looking for is what we now know as Antarctica, combined with the landmasses of Oceania. Australia was just the first big island they found and the name stuck. Don't get me wrong, Australia is enormous. Almost 4.5 times bigger than the state I've been living in: Alaska.
I wanted to get a feel for just how expansive the land is, so I needed to see the Outback go by slowly. I figured 24 hours on the train would be enough to experience the vastness of the desert. And I wouldn't have to keep my eyes on the road or worry about finding petrol for a rental car. But first, I flew to the center of Australia to see the iconic rock, Uluruor Ayers Rock as it was formerly known.
                I flew in to Ayers Rock Airport and took a shuttle to the campground. Uluru is a great example of how a park should be laid out. Several miles away from the natural landmark are the airport, town, and resort. At the rock itself, nothing but a parking lot, a toilet and a trail. Not even a park ranger to be found.
But I didn't go to the park that day. I paid $35 to set up my tent on a patch of grass and hopped on and off the shuttle that makes a round of the circular resort every 15 minutes. Ayers Rock Resort offers several different options of lodging accommodations and dining. I went to the Desert Gardens Hotel first and had a couple of $20 cocktails in the air-conditioned lounge. Eventually, I found my way to the Pioneer Lodge, which I found much more suited to my tastes. Cheap onion rings, relatively cheap beer and bottles of wine for sale until 9:30. There was even live entertainment, one lone guitarist singing half-assed renditions of Journey and Barenaked Ladies songs. Just my kind of joint. The Pioneer is where the employees go when they get off work, having no other options out there in the desert.
                The next morning I woke up in my tent and wandered down to the pool. It happened to be exactly 8am, just when the gate to the pool was unlocked. I hastily hopped in. I didn't need to shower, just a dip in the pool would be fine. I resurfaced and my mouth sent a confused message to my brain—something was off here. The pool was saltwater. I'm not sure if that was one of the many unexpected Australian quirks that are delightfully surprising to a foreigner or if saltwater swimming pools are a new trend I haven't encountered before.
                No memorable trip is complete without a snag or a hitch. Mine turned out to be a doozy. When I went to book a shuttle to Uluru, I found that my credit card was declined. Luckily, I had Drew's cell phone. I called Mandy and she was able to finance the shuttle, a camel ride at sunset, and another night at the campground. It was not an easy process, but we got it done after a few phone calls and emails. Helping me throughout the morning was a girl at the front desk named Taylah. Not Taylor. Her name tag said Taylah, and she signed her name "Tay". She explained that I still needed $25 in cash to buy a National Parks Pass. I tried the ATM at the petrol station (again) and got nothing. So, how do I come up with 25 bucks in a few hours? Well, about 10 years ago I worked a summer in Yellowstone National Park pumping gas and washing windows. If there were such a thing as a professional windshield washer, I would still qualify. So, I picked up a squeegee (or whatever they're called here) and asked each driver as they got out of their cars if they would like their windows washed. Most declined. The ones who said yes, I washed their windows and did not ask for money. Nobody was giving me tips, but I still wouldn't ask for one. Finally, a guy pulled up in an especially dirty van and I posed my question. He responded, "Sure you can wash them, but I'm not giving you any money." I explained my predicament and he said he had some extra park passes and I could have one for $20. He probably worked for the resort and got them for free. I gathered up all the loose change I had, still a couple bucks short but he rewarded me with the pass nonetheless.
                I threw on my backpack and started back towards the campground when I was approached by a security guard. "We got a call from a cashier here that said-," I interrupted him, "That I was washing car windows? I'm done with that." "Yeah, that's not allowed here," he said. We nodded in agreement and I walked off. I stopped at the office to show Taylah that I was successful. "How in the world did you get that?" she beamed. I explained my brief entrepreneurship and she grinned with approval. "I'm impressed,” she said, "Very impressed."
                At 2pm, a white van arrived to transport me and a middle-aged German man to Uluru. I asked the driver about the dark marks on the left side of the rock. He sighed, probably thinking to himself, The job description said Driver, not Tour Guide. He started to explain how showers wash sediments into the valleys of the rock. Basically, he was about to explain gravity and erosion to me but I wasn't talking about the grey streaks on the rock, I was talking about the big, black pockmarks. I pointed and said "No, I mean are those just shadows?" They would have to be pretty big caves to cast such large shadows at midday but he confirmed it. "Yeah, mate. Those are shadows." Driver, not Tour Guide. He slowed down at the entrance kiosk and the ranger waved us through. They didn't even want to see my National Parks Pass. Unbelievable.
                We had two hours to explore before the driver would return to give us a ride back. The German man went one way, I went the other. Two hours is not enough time to walk around the rock, that was obvious. I would walk for one hour and then turn around and head back. Having spent two months living in Moab, Utah one winter, I've photographed my fair share of red slickrock so I didn't feel like I was cheating myself by only walking so little of the base of the rock. Of course, I'd never seen a single monolith this big and it was particularly red. I passed a few hikers, most of them wore hats with mosquito netting draped to their shoulders. I had 4 or 5 flies that stayed with me, repeatedly trying to dart into my mouth or nostrils. They weren't too bothersome in April. I was intrigued by the lesser known park I could see on the horizon, Kata Tjuta. Also known as Mount Olga, it appears to be made of weaker mineral than Uluru. The seasons have cut deep vanes in the rock. It wouldn't really stick out in Utah, but on the Outback landscape, the two rock formations are the only things in sight taller than a eucalyptus tree. If I had visited the area with a vehicle, I would probably allot one day to leisurely hiking around Uluru and one day to doing the same at Kata Tjuta.
                The same driver was back at 4pm sharp, and didn't say a word as we drove back to the campground. I then took another shuttle to the camel ranch. If you go to Ayers Rock, do yourself a favor and take a sunset camel ride. It is pricey, but worth it. Each dromedary camel in the pack is capable of taking two riders, but you can opt to ride one alone like I did. My camel's name was Rex, and he plugged along at about 2km per hour while our guide walked beside the seven camels tethered together, telling us about the flora and fauna of the desert, looking for lizards and butterflies to point out to us. Ayers Rock was ever present in the distance. The guide also delved into a bit of history about outback exploration and why the camel is far superior to the horse in a desert environment. A camel can go a month without a drink of water and their feet spread out on the sand like snowshoes, conserving energy with a slow, steady gait. Before the sunset peaked, we stopped at a clearing and he asked us if we wanted "pickies". He then took each of our cameras or cameraphones and snapped a few pickies of us on our camels. Our pack string sauntered down the trail back to the ranch.

                Back at Uluru Camel Tours headquarters, we were greeted by the other employees, three pretty blonde cowgirls (camelgirls?) and a spread of hors d'ouevres along with beer, wine and champagne. We stood around and chatted for a half hour or so, and I mentioned my credit card troubles. They packed up the leftovers from our soiree and gave them all to me. Fair dinkum.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Adventures in Brotherland

We've been lucky that we've had lots of family and friends visit us while we've been living in Australia. Our latest visitor was my little brother. He was here for four weeks and we did our best to show him our favorite things about Australia, plus get in a few new things ourselves. Here's my top 10 most memorable adventures Ryan and I had this time.

1. We got stuck in a cyclone.

The intent was to go up to Queensland and spend a few days hiking around the rainforest and swimming on the Great Barrier Reef. Unfortunately, Cyclone Ita decided to visit at the same time. What that meant was we spent a couple of days in a hotel room or driving around trying to find roads that weren't closed due to flooding or fallen trees.

2. When we weren't stuck in the hotel room during Cyclone Ita, we checked out the local souvenir shops.

3.  We went for a drive on the Great Ocean Road.

This is a beautiful, winding road in along the stretch of Australia. Along the way, we saw stunning views of the ocean as well as some amazing rock formations.

4. Forget lions and tigers and bears. We got to pet kangaroos and wombats and Ryan held a snake. 

5. We spent a few nights in Melbourne. From there, we made trips to see Little Penguins and more cool rock formations.

6. Ryan took the Food Challenge and also beat it. (He made fun of the High Tea experience but I think he secretly enjoyed it.)

7. There may have been some swimming in crocodile infested waters. To be fair, we didn't see the sign until we were headed back to the car.

8. We saw some rocks on the beach. Only they weren't rocks and when we tried to stand on them, we sank to our knees in black goop.

9. I laughed hysterically while Ryan had a conversation with a parrot.

10.  We talked and talked and talked. Like only brothers and sisters can do. And that was my favorite part.

And somewhere in all that, Ryan took a trip to the Red Centre of Australia to visit Uluru National Park and ride the Ghan train up to Darwin. But I'll let him tell you all about that adventure...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Philosophy of Things

I've been thinking a lot lately about the stuff that we own—the belongings that we've acquired over time, the keepsakes that we can't part with, the detritus that we really should get rid of.

Our belongings are currently scattered from Australia to Colorado to two houses in Virginia. There's no order to that madness either. My treasured collection of books is at my parents' house, the plates with the dragonfly design that we bought on our honeymoon are at Drew's parents' house, all of our photos and artwork are in storage in a friend's basement.

The scene at the end of a rainy day yard sale, right before we left for Australia.

Right before we moved to Australia, I became intrigued by the idea of narrowing my belongings down. I flipped through the book The 100 Thing Challenge by Dave Bruno, where he whittled his worldly possessions down to 100 items. Andrew Hyde floored me with his extreme minimalism, living for a year with only 15 things.

After putting most of our stuff in storage, we moved to Australia with 4 suitcases, only 7 boxes (one of which contained a computer), and a guitar. Not a lot of things. Mostly, it was clothes, camping gear and rock climbing equipment. We had a limited budget for moving expenses, so we had to think carefully about what we packed and what we left behind.

Somewhere between 10–15 books made their way into our boxes. You might think that's crazy. Why waste valuable space and fill our boxes with heavy books, thus making the shipping costs higher? The only true answer I can give you is that we're both readers and books are essential to our wellbeing.

One book that came with us to Australia was my first edition hardcover of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I packed it in the hopes I would be able to meet him while living here (he's Australian), and I had that opportunity last week when a friend and I made the 7-hour round trip drive to Sydney to hear Markus speak. The event was co-sponsored by the Australian Society of Authors and the New South Wales Writers' Centre.

Signed at last!
My friend Elle wrote a great post on her blog about how inspiring Markus' talk was. It was most definitely worth the 7 hours of driving.

At some point, our time in Australia will come to an end and we'll have to make the tough decisions about what to pack and what to leave behind. Looking around our bookshelves, I see certain books that I know will make the long trek around the world and find a new home in our old bookshelves that we will take out of storage.

There is one book in particular that I know will make the journey. It's another first edition, this one already signed by the author. Going Over by Beth Kephart is one of my newest favorite books.

Going Over is about a pink-haired graffiti artist living in West Berlin in the early 1980s. Her name is Ada and she loves a boy who lives on the other side of the Berlin Wall. It's hard to sum up the book in just a few words—it's about counter culture, about artists and rebels, about Berlin and its people, it's about the ties of friendship and family that bind us, and the sacrifices that are made in the name of love. And, like all of my favorite books, it made me cry.

I snapped this shot of a Canberra graffiti artist at the Art Not Apart Festival.
If you were moving halfway around the world, what would you take with you?