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the kwokkie diaries: day 22

July 18, 2018

The sunrise at Washington Reagan Airport at 6:13am, when the day was fuss-free and still full of possibility! 

 

Day 22: Washington to San Francisco…eventually!

It’s been a LOOOOOOOOOOOONNG day! Flying from Washington to San Francisco, and my flight got delayed by 3 hours due to the middle fuel tank not working properly. 😳

Plane was fine, just couldn’t access fuel from the centre tank of the plane. So we had to take the scenic route to San Francisco via Kansas City for a refuelling stop! 😂

Pit stop in Kansas City. I can now say that I’ve visited! 

 

But I’ve made it! And I am ETERNALLY grateful for the cooler weather, a temperate, walking-friendly 18 to 22 degrees, and LESS than 70% humidity.I had to put on a jumper! 😄

Various patches of sky flying from the east to west coast. Beautiful!

 

WHHHHHAAAATTT?! 

First meal in San Francisco; a vegetarian Muffuletta sandwich with grilled eggplant, grilled artichoke, chopped roasted veggie salad and olive chutney, which was delicious. Followed up by an over-the-top salted caramel + pretzel milkshake. FABULOUS! I was starving after getting off that plane!

Necessary training for all of you wanting to travel…!

the kwokkie diaries: day 21

July 18, 2018

the kwokkie diaries: day 20

July 15, 2018 5 Comments

Day 20: New York to Washington.

The Day of Unexpected Okay-ness! 😃

Today I’m flying from New York to Washington. Not gonna lie, was expecting many moments of today to suck. So when things sucked less than I thought, or actually reached a level of okayness, I was super-excited.

1. The trip on the LIRR line from Penn Street Station to JFK. Hey, it all worked! They post the departure platforms like the post baseball scores, then everyone goes ABSOLUTELY BUNTER to get on the train, and then it’s literally half empty! I got a whole row to myself. 😆

2. The TSA + security line at JFK Terminal 2, which has a reputation for sucking THE MOST out of all the terminals at JFK. Wow. What an honour. And yet, I flew through in 15 minutes. AND got a smile from on of the security ladies who said, “You’re a long way from home and those damn-fine Tim Tams you got goin’ on there, Missy!” 😂

3. The ACTUAL terminal, which has the same reputation as above. On reading the reviews, I thought I was going to be walking into chaos + squalor. It just reminds me of Adelaide Airport, it’s not a comprehensive shopping mall and I didn’t need it to be, but it has everything you could possibly want before a flight just like in Adelaide, and it was TOTALLY FINE.

4. The toilets. Wow, the reviews were HARSH. But being well-hydrated comes with the need to go, so I took a breath that I intended to hold the whole way though the bathroom stop + ventured in. THEY WERE OKAY! DEAR GOD, THEY WERE OKAY! They’re not the Taj Mahal, and I wouldn’t stay there any longer than I needed, but they were clean, they worked, they had toilet paper, and soap. Free woman, oh what a feeling! 🤣

5. The coffee. Yes, I KNOW. What was I thinking?! But when I was tossing up between a kombucha + a flat white, the flat white won. AND IT DIDN’T SUCK! It was, in fact, low-key successful Cibos level. Mind. Blown. 😜

6. Places to chill. Reviewers cautioned over-optimistic travellers that they would struggle to find a seat, that they would be screamed at for loitering, and don’t even think about finding a place to do some work. I’m sitting in my quiet little nook, with my coffee that doesn’t suck, completely chill + ready to start my new novel.

Today, at “OKAY”, ended up being a “GREAT SUCCESS”. 

the kwokkie diaries: day 19

July 14, 2018

Day 19: Exploring Brooklyn, NY.

It appears Brooklyn has a sense of humour!

the kwokkie diaries: day 18

July 13, 2018

“Miss? Miss? Pardon me, are you from New York?”

Me: “No, just visiting. I’m from Australia.”

“Really?! ‘Cos DAMN, you walk like a New Yorker!”

Erratically + on a mission?! 

the kwokkie diaries: day 17

July 13, 2018 1 Comment

A chance catch-up with a very special Brighton old scholar who is making waves of the best sort here in New York. Hilarious that Australians can never get their act together to catch up when they live in the same city, but can do it on the other side of the world.

Such a joy to hear of all your successes + adventures, Anthony Zatorski!

#proudmamakwokkie

the kwokkie diaries: day 16 + double the smile returned

July 11, 2018

Day 16: New York. The Butterfly Effect, where a smile begets another double its original size, and twice as heartfelt.

And THE magic moment of my day, amongst many, but THIS was the most poignant for me. It was such a reminder to me of how small a gesture can have such large repercussions of the best sort. That the tiny moments of kindness really do count.

p.s. Pictures today are courtesy of Olive et Gourmando’s Instagram + website. Look them up if you’re in Montreal!

 

The Email: 5th July 2018

Dear Olive et Gourmando,

I wanted to say a big THANK YOU for a wonderful + delicious breakfast yesterday morning, and especially to give thanks + appreciation to the wonderful front of house staff member who looked after yesterday morning’s shift, Wednesday 4th July.

It was ridiculously busy, and she was patient, professional and welcoming despite how much pressure she was under to get everyone seated and inside the cafe.

My apologies I did not get her name, but she was amazing.

I am travelling from Australia, Adelaide, and was recommended this place by friends who had recently travelled through Montreal. I am so glad I came and for me personally, it totally lived up to the recommendation and more, because of the care of your customers.

Keep up the fabulous work and food!

Cheers + thanks,

Annie

 

The Response: 11th July 2018

Dear Annie,

Thank you for writing us such a lovely email! I have to confess that I avoid the feedback inbox, but your message made my day.

It is so wonderful to receive kind and generous feedback such as yours. For the most part, when a client takes time to write, it is to share a complaint rather than give a compliment. Evie, our front of house that morning, was so touched. We’d have you back any day. Please come back and visit us!

While we welcome negative feedback and understand that it’s all part of the job, I won’t lie and say that for sure it’s way more fun to read an email such as yours. It just puts you in a good mood for the day and motivates you to work harder + better, rather than reading all about the negatives when you’re trying to do the right thing by everyone and not let your customers down.

We sill share this with the whole team!

Safe and happy continuing travels, and hope to see you back at O+G one day. We’ll save a table for you, no matter how busy it is! 😉

Sincerely,

Dyan Solomon

Co-owner of Olive et Gourmando, Montreal.

And THAT totally made MY day! 🙂

the kwokkie diaries: day 15

July 10, 2018

Day 15: Charlottetown to New York, via Montreal [my favourite airport, and the place I single-handedly spent more time than any other while visiting Montreal! See previous posts.]

I’m in New York! And in the languid and iconic ballad as performed by Alicia Keys:

New York! 

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of.

And a jungle it is. I am exhausted today, but I absolutely need to share the place that I am staying!

I am staying the the Library Hotel in New York, a themed boutique hotel where there is free continental breakfast, free daily wine + cheese afternoons, unlimited tea, coffee, water, fruit + pastries, and free access to the New York City public library. 

But the COOLEST thing?! The rooms are themed. Each floor corresponds to one of the hundreds in the Dewey System. And each room is actually furnished with books + pictures corresponding decimal identification that it would be in a real library.

I GOT LEVEL 7: THE ARTS!

And the absolute cherry on the cake; I’m in room 700.003; PERFORMING ARTS. 

the kwokkie diaries: day 14, and a prayer for the weary

July 9, 2018 3 Comments

Day 14: Charlottetown

“A moment to nestle with the heart”.

Today marks exactly halfway in my travels; I have 28 days on the road. And while I am so incredibly excited to be travelling, today’s post is a tender one. Travel is hard. Travel is not just tiring, it is exhausting in a way that you feel in your bones. While you can rest physically, the soul is always thinking, wondering, and on the go, and you are always trying to stay awake and alert to the places and people around you, because you want to take it all in, and because you want to be safe.

In addition to all of this, I have only been sleeping 5-6 hours a night since I have started travelling. I have been very gentle on myself and tried to rest in the middle of each day, but today, I am feeling the sort of in-the-bones tired that warrants a day of just “nestling with the heart”.

To be able to find that quiet still place inside you, despite the tiredness, despite the noise, despite the excitement, despite the joy; this has been my greatest challenge while I’ve been travelling. I want to enjoy and be present for every moment, but I don’t want to come home exhausted. I wanted to come home expanded, changed, and affected. To do this, you have to have access to that wonderful still place inside of you. Especially when your heart and mind are racing over what you should be doing in your free half an hour, and all the while your heart is yelling, “YOU NEED TO EFFING BE HERE TO ENJOY EVERY MOMENT OF THIS!”

I have also been keeping alert to all my Year 12s, returning emails and answering questions; and I KNOW that a holiday is not supposed to be about this, but it actually soothes me a little to commit to half an hour a day, just to make sense and order out of things. It’s what gives me peace and joy, so I do it. But actually getting into the zone for that half an hour has been the most challenging and gruelling request I have made of myself, and resulted in my feeling worn-out, down, anxious, unsettled, resentful, and a whole mixture of other things I do no normally feel at home when I tackle work. Solving problems whilst on the road is so much harder than when you don’t have “your people” around you. Problems and doubt are magnified, and solutions are harder to reach.

And in the haze of being semi-exhausted, I find that concentrating for any period of time can put me close to tears of stress. It’s such an unusual feeling for me.

I have had to practise working and being gentle upon myself in these last 2 weeks. I have taken one step at a time; reading a brief or an email, jotting down notes in my journal over coffee for a lesson plan, writing down dots points as to which 3 drafts I will edit and whose work I will put notes on in Sibelius, and even where I will go for lunch, to help look after myself. This sort of work + holiday combination takes the utmost of care and determination, but I know that after being on the road for a month, I will figure it out. This is just the very exhausting and emotionally demanding part of it, and I have to be gentle on myself and have faith. I have to also find new ways to energise myself, like taking a walk, or figuring out which places I’d like to explore while I am trying to get this balance right, and what I will eat whilst trying to enjoy all the local specialties.

I was in tears of joy and relief last night when I sent off my first draft-return to one of my students. It seemed in surmountable, but I just took one step at a time. And I guess the human spirit is far stronger than you realise; even when there is doubt and exhaustion, if you keep walking, one foot in front of the other, and gently, quietly, and simply get very clear over what you need to do, you can do it. Even if it drives you to tears.

So here I stand, very tired + tender, walking one step in front of the other. So utterly exhausted today, but so mindful of how very lucky I am to be here, travelling, being a teacher, and figuring out this working balance.

Let me be determined. Let me be gentle, but quietly determined.

the kwokkie diaries: day 13

July 8, 2018

Day 13: Charlottetown to Cavendish, Prince Edward Island

IT’S ANNE OF GREEN GABLES TIME!

Steps taken: 22,489, mostly around the glorious Prince Edward Island National Park, which is on the doorstep of Green Gables. Did you hear that?! On the doorstep of Green Gables.

One memorable meal or food item: I finally got my Cows ice cream, an absolute Canadian staple, and somewhat of a feature in Prince Edward Island. The names are all cute, corny, and cow-related; gems such as “Cookie MOOnster”, “Wowie Cowie”, “Cowconut”, and “Caramel MOOcacchino”. I chose the very aptly named “Cownadian Maple”, which was a maple syrup, maple butter swirl, and maple cookie concoction that was as overly sweet as it was UTTERLY AWESOME. Even the chocolate-dipped cone was fat and rich with over-done chocolate, slightly too thick to bite through daintily, and completely, wonderfully, honest in its welcome. You cannot get ice cream like this in a big city. This is real country love.

One special photograph: Green Gables, in all it’s glory, the place where a feisty little red-headed girl taught so many other girls to love wholeheartedly, imagine possibilities with wild abandon, unrelenting resilience in times of struggle, and to be bold and stand your own ground, and to never apologise for your background because YOU own the story from here onwards. Anne Shirley, you were an inspiration who crept into our hearts before we even knew how to analyse just how extraordinary, and totally “Brené-Brown-perfectly-imperfect” but damn exceptional that you are.

One decent coffee: Receiver Coffee is totally getting my vote! Australian standard coffee in small-town Charlotte. Five stars.

One amazing moment: Seeing Anne’s room. To read the books and to be inspired is one thing, to stand in the hallway and look into a room that has captured the imagination of so many through the words of Lucy M. Montgomery was so very special. And the fact that she is not even a real girl, but made so UTTERLY REAL in the hearts of people all around the world; that makes it even more special.

One unplanned detour/adventure: A chance meeting with Jay + Sujing from Korea who are planning to move to Australia following their teaching degrees. A day of connection + wonderful conversation followed. I am sad, surprised and joyful at how I don’t connect so easily and freely when I am safe at home, and to see how easily and joyfully new connections can be made when travelling. Let me open my heart up, that I may remember this way of connecting, with child-like joy and wonder, when I am at my most busy at home.

20 minutes reading: Anne of Green Gables, on the bus to Cavendish.

30 minutes composing: I’ve finally rolled up my sleeves and hit a commission that I’m editing! What I’m most happy about is not what’s on the page just yet, but the feeling of working, reworking, and getting deeply into a piece, with steadiness and methodical focus. I always have that flip of the stomach where I wonder if I can immerse myself so deeply, or if my mind is too flighty during a trip. Can I do this? What if nothing works? And then I start. And that wonderful reliability and weight falls on my shoulders, and I find I am at peace because I have finally started the process.