Posts Tagged ‘Travel’


I’m doing that thing I always do when I come back from new and wonderful, and I try to transport the lifestyle. When H and I went to Borneo by steamer sometime back in the 1800s, we came home and bought an entire pantry’s worth of ingredients to make complicated sambals and rending pastes, not to mention buying five limes for what would have bought us 100 kilograms of them in Kota Kinabalu.

I’m doing the Scandinavian equivalent. I’m eating rye bread and smoked fish, putting dill on everything, and being genuinely baffled at why everyone is so loud and rude and demanding. Why can’t my children be more Finnish, and refuse to make eye contact or talk to me? Why can’t they be more like the Swedes, and dress effortlessly stylishly and get about on bikes like it’s normal? Why can’t they be more Danish and tidy the fuck up occasionally? (more…)

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My suitcase, in disgrace

It’s my fourth day in Finland and I know three words. They’re same three words I knew before I got here. Sauna, hej (hello) and kittos (thank you). That’s fairly disgraceful, but it’s three more words than I actually need to get by here, because every Finn I’ve met speaks better English than I do. Thanks, Finnish education system.

We flew over on the A380, a sort of flying shopping centre affair operated by Qatar Airways. Our seats were near a door that in an ordinary plane you’d think would lead to a toilet, but this one kept opening and flight crew would disappear into it. For a few hours I thought it was where they went to practice their mime tricks, because whenever they went in, before the door closed behind them I would catch a glimpse of them doing the ‘walking down a flight of stairs’ trick. I mean, that had to be what they were doing because it was a plane and on a plane there’s nowhere downstairs from economy class, is there?

But the A380 is basically an airborne Downton Abbey, and the reason the crew looked like they were walking downstairs was because they were walking downstairs. I don’t know what was down in the plane basement. Probably a long kitchen table and some snarky liveried footman brewing trouble. Or perhaps it was like the galley of slaves in Ben-Hur and they were all down there taking turns to row the thing through the air. I don’t know how planes work. (more…)

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This useless slack-jawed snake will not do its job.

I swear to Odin, the first thing I am going to do when I get to Scandinavia is go find the iCloud. I presume it’s up that way somewhere, around the top of the world. Surely that’s where you’d put it. Then I am going to go through it and figure out if any of my photos are really in it and if not why not.

I’ve spent hours trying to back up and sync and download and delete and free up space on my phone and my computer so I can go overseas and fill them both up again, but the Jobs are conspiring against me. It’s almost as if the universe is telling me that that I will have no one to blame but myself when I arrive in one of the most beautiful parts of the world and cant take any pictures of it, because I haven’t deleted a single email in seven years and haven’t edited any photos ever. It’s almost as if the technological world is judging me for taking so bloody many pictures and videos of my kids.

So on the electronics section of my Getting Ready To Go checklist I am doing very poorly. Very much Below Expectations. I was planning to download some TV shows to watch on the plane, but that doesn’t look likely because computer says no. I will be left with only the TV offered by the airline, which in my experience is usually nine hundred episodes of The Big Bang Theory. (more…)

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scandilandphotoTwenty-three days from now, I am going on a trip, without H or May Blossom or Garnet, to the other side of the world. This makes me, according to my calculations, the worst mother in the world. To make matters worse, I am going on this trip with my friend Jess, and thus I am an accessory to depriving her children of their mother for two and a half weeks, which is an infinitely more serious crime since she is a significantly better mother than I am.

That aside, we are really very extremely excited. We are going to Finland, Sweden and Denmark. The trip has come about because Jess is a teacher and very interested in the schools in that part of the world, which are apparently better than ours for reasons that will be revealed to me as we go along. I believe it has to do with starting school a bit older and not having homework and maybe also herrings? To be confirmed. Anyway, Jess wants to visit some schools since that is her Area of Particular Interest and I thought I would go too since shirking my maternal responsibilities is my Area of Particular Interest, and what better way to do that than to bugger off up to the frozen north for several weeks, where the aquavit is cold and the living is easy.

Since we are going to Finland, I decided I ought to cultivate a more location-specific Area of Particular Interest. I’ve chosen saunas. Jess is being very accommodating and treating it like it’s my genuine hobby, so we are working our itinerary roughly equally around school visits and saunas. Because my other area of interest is not dying, we are skipping the sauna I discovered in my research that is in a ski lift. A smouldering wooden cabin, swinging hundreds of feet above an icy hill? What could possibly go wrong? We are restricting ourselves to ground-based saunas. The same goes for schools: strictly terra-firma educational institutions. (more…)

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This seems lovely, doesn’t it? Until you realise that is not the ocean Garnet is wallowing in but actually self-pity. See the ripples of misery he is causing? See how they threaten to knock H off his stand-up paddle board? 

The school holidays are over. May Blossom went back to class this morning, creeping like snail unwillingly to school, after we’d located her lunch bag and drink bottle, and wiped the slug trails off her hat.

The family Gusto spent a good part of these holidays on a tropical island in Vanuatu, which was, as always when you travel with a three- and a five-year-old, roughly equal parts so good we never wanted to leave and so bad we wished none of us had ever been born. (more…)

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globeSydney’s weather over the last few weeks has been stifling. Humid, hot and generally unpleasant. It’s always like this in February, and it makes people cranky and forgetful: every year we act like this weather is out of the ordinary. February coincides with everyone sobering up from the summer festivities that begin here with the Melbourne Cup in November and run pretty much through until Australia Day on 26 January, the kids all head back to school, and the daily rhythm of life returns to normal, just with more sweat.

How I cope with this is to put aside what I should be doing (perhaps preparing my keynote speech for the International Conference on First-World Problems) and spend a lot of time researching where to go on holiday later in the year. I am looking exclusively at places where the weather is exactly like the weather I hate so much here. I’ll admit it doesn’t make much sense. (more…)

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plam trees

Waikiki at dawn. I like this place best between 4 and 6 am.

Aloha from Hawaii, where I am finishing up a three-week lecture tour of the United States. I have lectured May Blossom and Garnet in public and private, day and night, on planes, in hotels and restaurants, through three states.

The first two weeks of our trip were to the mainland USA – Denver and the mountains of far southern Colorado, where we spend a very strange and tumultuous week that needs, and will have, a post all to itself. Now we are in Hawaii, which seemed like a really good plan when I made the booking back in December, and now feels like purgatory, but more expensive, thanks to the Australian dollar which seems to have taken a leaf from Garnet’s book and sat down in the middle of the footpath and refused to walk.

In traditional Gusto Family style, our vacation has been light on relaxation and heavy on visits to doctors’ offices. Garnet kicked it off before we left home by getting croup, which by the time we landed in Denver after twenty-four hours’ travel had morphed into conjunctivitis, or pinkeye, to use the deceptively cute term the Americans prefer. Once the crusted eye-rot cleared up, he was left with the croup again, with an additional helping of bronchitis and strep throat. I had strep throat too, and May Blossom succumbed to it a few days after. The three of us all had a course of antibiotics, which worked briefly, but as soon as the course finished the throat infection reared up like a zombie and Garnet and I were left with the undead living on our tonsils again.

My lectures to the kids are working somewhat. For the most part, the children are behaving beautifully in public, where lots of people have come over to compliment us on their behaviour. Behind the scenes, it’s like living with two small sarcastic tearful wolves. They are okay as long as they are able to do exactly what they want, when they want. Mostly that is sitting on the window seat in the hotel room watching Aladdin on the ipad while scooping hummus out of the tub with their thumbs, but there’s only so many hours a day we can permit that. Fifteen hours, to be precise.

Sometimes we drag them out and make them do other things. That’s when it gets hard.

This morning, for example, Garnet had a weeping collapse because after H went back upstairs to our room to retrieve some drawing materials, at May Blossom’s request, he brought back the wrong drawing book for his son. Garnet only wanted the one that was still upstairs, even though all his does in it is draw with a purple glue stick that dries clear, thereby leaving his art invisible and the pages stuck together. Garnet is an extremely tortured artist because of his choice of media.

So while poor beleaguered H marched back up to get the right book, I launched into a stern talk about how Daddy was not having a nice time at all on this vacation, and how after we did some drawing under the gorgeous banyan tree in the marble courtyard of this overpriced hotel, we would all be going shopping and how they had better smarten up and behave or there was going to be no television or swimming ever again in their lives.

‘Right, so there will be no more fussing today. About anything. Is that completely clear?’ I finished.

May Blossom agreed, apologised and said that would indeed be fine.

Garnet, on the other hand, stared into the middle distance with a firm set to his jaw.

‘Garnet?” I repeated. ‘Will there be any more fussing today?’

‘He seems to be speechless,’ observed his sister. Garnet was not planning to be a signatory to our non-aggression treaty.

In the end the shopping trip didn’t end too badly. The kids rabbited about the mercifully empty H & M and accepted bribes of $1 necklaces to stay mostly under control.

It was only when we were paying at the checkout that Garnet lost his shit a bit, because I couldn’t make the plaited gold belt that he wanted to wear as a tail stay on him without doing it up. He seemed to want it to float behind him. He got pretty shirty with me because, you know, if your mother can’t overcome gravity and other simple laws of physics then what use is she at all?

Luckily, irrational jetlagged people, large and small, are ten-a-penny here in Waikiki, so we aren’t standing out too much. Our five day-stay here was cut short by a night because of a flight delay from LA, and when we first got here I was so exhausted from the mucked up travel that I didn’t know if I was ahi or mahi mahi. I tried to reserve judgement until I had settled in a bit and wasn’t so tired. Now I have recovered enough to know that the delay was a blessing in disguise because it turns out Waikiki with two small children is not my US$9 cup of tea at all.

I’ve spent a lot of time in Hawaii, mostly as a child and teenager, when my grandparents used to live in the tiny town of Hana on the island of Maui. The Hawaii I am familiar with is nothing like Waikiki. Hana is like the Hawaiian version of Huskisson. Waikiki is like the Gold Coast. I sort of knew this was the case, but it still came as a mighty shock to me. Waikiki is no longer like a Beach Boys song, if it ever was.

There are people everywhere, all the time, all trying to walk on whatever side of the footpath is customary where they come from. They’ve all got at least one selfie stick. Someone on every block is busking badly on the ukelele, and they are only know how to play ‘Tiny Bubbles’ and ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’. I’m going to hide in our room, gargle salt water for my sore throat, watch Aladdin and eat hummus off my thumb until it’s time to go the airport. I will only venture out for happy hour mai tais.

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