Kids of The Red Dust

On the weekend, these local kids chased me down the beach, calling out, “Miss Jess, Miss Jess!” all the way until they reached me.

I recognized one, so I said hello and asked how she was…

… Silence. Continue reading

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Gemstones Of Nepal

“We have over 10,000 rivers in Nepal, with the collective power to generate enough hydro-power for the whole of Nepal and then some- but we don’t have the power stations built to harness it, so we continue to import electricity from India!”

We are sitting in a small shop in Thamel, Kathmandu, glass cabinets of gem stones and jewelry glinting up at us from under the fluorescent light. Continue reading

Aka.

Aka.

Her arm disappears into the thick greenery of her overgrown garden, emerging a moment later with a fat green tree frog clutched tightly between her frail fingers. The frog eyes us with some level of concern, and Laila turns to me expectantly.

I stare back at them. Not an overly unusual sight to see this lovely lady with some form of wildlife wrapped around her, but I haven’t joined the dots yet. Finally I get it. Continue reading

Red Dust- Bright Skin and Sky Eyes

Our little white girl.

This is how I became known for the better part of 2 years, living in the communities of the NPA in far north QLD. In the communities, you will hear people refer to themselves as black or white skinned. It’s generally not meant in a derogatory way, but simply as a straight to the point way of speaking, common to the region.

Injinoo Culture Love Week 404One of the most beautiful descriptions I ever heard was ‘bright skinned’. People would often describe someone by pointing to my skin, saying ‘like you’ or to their own, ‘like us’. It’s not meant as an insult, simply a description. It seems that through our own political correctness we have attached these stigmas to personal descriptions that disable us from identifying race in polite conversation. Not here. Some of the descriptions I heard here will stay with me forever.

One day, I was speaking to Aunty Agnes Mark (who took to affectionately introducing me as her daughter, and gave me the name of little white girl) at the arts centre in New Mapoon. She was explaining a relative who she had seen after some time, as having ‘white man’s neck’. I didn’t understand what she meant, was his neck white? Was it sunburned?

She meant that his neck had wrinkled as caucasian Australian’s skin does when we age. She said that white skin, like mine, looked fragile to her. She was afraid to touch it, not because she disliked it, but because she felt as if she might damage us.

I held out my arm to her, palm up and she pointed to the blue tinge under my wrist where the veins could be seen. “It’s so fragile,” she said, looking at my arm but holding her own, “I feel like it would break if I touched it.”

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At one event I was standing with some young girls on the sideline of the footy field, photographing the game. They watched me cautiously as I moved about taking photos, so I pointed my camera at them too and they began to giggle and pose. With the ice broken, they came over to see the photos I’d taken, sparking another round of giggles.

As they grew more familiar with me, they started to stroke my jeans and shirt, and as I knelt down to show them the photos, they began stroking my face and hair, twisting their fingers through my curls asking why it was curly and red. I pointed out that they had curly hair too, and they laughed, but kept hold of mine.

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As they stared at my skin, my freckles and strangely curly hair, they noticed my eyes were blue. One of the girls gasped and came close, peering into my eyes. Gently, she put one small hand on my cheek and pushed my face toward her friend, “look sissy, she has sky in her eyes.

That’s a description I’ll never forget.

Red Dust… the wet

In Queensland, it seems the further north you go, the slower things become. The people run on what we call ‘island time’. It’s a desperate attempt to find some sort of order we can set our watches to taking the form of a bewildering time management system with no visible regularity other than this. Things will happen when they happen. Never before, and rarely after.

Even the weather runs on it’s own special schedule. Continue reading

Red Dust – Sticky Fingers

Sticky, gross, covered in dust and altogether too close to your face for comfort… a description that might easily be used for a number of things that day, but in this exact moment it was the tiny, little dark fingers making their way through my hair.

The fingers belong to a little boy, aged 3 or 4, just knee high to a grasshopper and conveniently the perfect height to reach my face as I sat cross legged on the dusty red ground. Continue reading

Carvings from the Birthplace of Buddha

Crouched over a partially finished wooden window sits one of Nepal’s finest craftsmen. His brow is creased in concentration, his arms moving swiftly across the wood, deftly craving away the wood to reveal his design. Small piles of wood shavings carpet the concrete, each coil delicately hand carved by craftsmen and women sitting cross legged on the workshop floor or balancing above their work, their suspended weight used to drive their tools and aid their craft. Continue reading

Quit Your Job and Learn to Surf

Taste the salt on your lips, feel the heat of the sun on your legs and the gentle push of the wave as it takes your board. Paddle, lift up, arch your back, back leg, front leg, crouch…. and stand. You’re literally walking on water, riding the swell of the sea gently into shore, passing the bobbing heads of swimmers as they duck under the incoming wave. The first time you stand up on a surfboard is a pretty incredible experience.

So, he says, you’ve quit your job and now you’re learning to surf. His skin is tanned like leather and his hair bleached from the sun. He’s been surfing everyday for the last twenty-something years. He helps me glide the foam long board through the baby surf. Continue reading

Ode to the Paramedics at BDO

SMACK.

My head hits the ground. I only recognise small glimpses of vision as my own, a blur of colour, the brightness of the sunlight outside the tent. Blackness.

I’m on the ground looking up, a full circle of faces stare at me, eyes wide and untrusting. A few arms reach to help me up, closer to the staring faces and my vision starts to swim again. We go towards the blinding light outside the tent, with the heavy music still swelling around us. Blackness. Continue reading

Two Weeks

That’s interesting.

Before I the thought had even registered in my mind, I felt it slipping out my mouth and heard the words as if hearing the idea for the first time. Reaching for my phone, which was precariously perched on the windowsill as to catch a few bars of reception, I uttered, “oh come on, someone please distract me from my life.” Continue reading