My name is Ajok. I come from South Sudan (in 2005). Before I came from South Sudan, it was all Sudan, not separate. But we are separate now, we are South Sudan now. And when I came to Australia, I go to Khartoum first then to Egypt. And we do the process with my husband and my kids. I born two kids in Egypt, and we came to Australia.
How long did you have to spend in Egypt?
Three years. We do process three years in Egypt.
Was it dangerous leaving Sudan and can you describe the journey from Sudan to Egypt?
When we come from Sudan to Egypt we have war in Sudan. That’s why we come to Egypt, with my husband. Egypt is very good.
What was the hardest thing for you when you arrived ?
When we arrived here ( in Australia), I don’t know the language very well. We have Dinka and we have Arabic in Sudan before. But when we come here, we don’t know English. I’m listening, but I didn’t talk. When I came here, I didn’t go to school. My husband went to school first and I stay with kids. It’s hard. When my husband go to school I will stay with my kids and when we don’t have something in my house, we wait until my husband coming back home.
You couldn’t go out and do the shopping?
Ah no. I have small kids, two or three, no-one with me. I’m waiting for my husband coming. My husband learn to drive and this is helping. We do everything together. And now we are happy. My husband finished school in 2010. When we coming from Sudan, he had three years in uni. And now he finished here – medical doctor. And now my children – the older one now is going to the uni, designer, and we are happy. And the second one now in year 11 and we are happy too. And the last one in year 1. I have six boys and one girl. And my husband and me we are happy in Australia.
Not all kids, but some kids, they don’t listen to us. They say these rules in Australia is good. But when they go out, they don’t do good things. Your Mum not there, your Dad not there, no older ones to say to you “Don’t do this, Don’t do this. ” That’s why they do crime, crime in the streets, crime everywhere. And then every white people they see black people and think they don’t do good things. But not all. This is not our culture. This is the rule for Australia culture.
Ajok in Wyndham Women of South Sudan 2017 calendar
How does it make you feel?
We feel no good. For us, when you see on the TV they say black people do this, they do this, you not feeling good. You feeling like tell your kid and your family to go back in your country. But not safe in our country. That’s why we are here. We don’t do anything.
When we come to Australia, the Australia rule say when your baby or child turning 18, they go out. But in our culture, no. You stay with your kid. Your boy – when they have married they stay in the house, not go outside. And girls too, when they are married they go with their husband (family). And here rule in Australia this is a bad rule in Australia, that when the kid is 18 and then they go out to take care of themselves. This broke our hearts. And we sad for this one.
But now our kids not listen to us.
We want to talk with the Australian people. We are good people. We are not bad people. This is kids who take the rule here. This rule is not our rule.
This is my dream, I pray to God, all my kids to be good, not take the Australia rule and all this. They follow the school and they follow good things, not follow bad things. This is my dream.
Wyndham Women of South Sudan 2017 calendar
*The Wyndham Women of South Sudan group was set up to provide English literacy skills and to build a community. The English class produced a 2017 calendar which features some traditional Sudanese recipes.
https://womangoingplaces.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Ajok.jpg480640Rosalie Zycher//womangoingplaces.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/wgp-logo_new_v18.pngRosalie Zycher2017-04-16 12:05:362017-04-16 13:11:15Ajok - Women of Oz
My name is Fatma. I come from Sudan with my husband. We have eight kids, six boys and two girls.
Where did you come from in Sudan?
We come from Khartoum and then we are moving to Egypt and then we come here in Australia 2004. We are happy in Australia. Just I’m sad, I didn’t have anyone here, no sister, no brother, no anyone.
You left family?
Yeah, all there.
About your journey, how did you travel?
From Sudan to Australia, I live in Egypt four years, and then we do the process to Australia. From Egypt to Australia by plane.
And from Sudan to Egypt?
From Sudan to Egypt by boat.
Can you describe the journey?
It was difficult. Me alone with the kids, four boys, it’s very hard for me. And every day I pray, Oh God help me with my kids, until we get to my husband and I’m very happy about it.
Was it a dangerous journey?
Yes, very dangerous, very scary. Some people stealing some things, some people steal kids. I’m scared, I say, Oh my God, me alone – no-one to help me. Just me with four boys and all just small. Then we are coming very good, nothing happen to us until we get to Egypt.
And was it dangerous for you to leave your hometown?
Yes, it’s dangerous. It’s very dangerous. The people just kill people and everyone is scared. My Mum died and I didn’t see her and then my Dad died too.
What was happening in your hometown when you left?
Just rebels, they took people and there were some bad people.
Was there hunger then?
Yes. Until now, it’s not safe. Everybody’s scared.
When you first came to Australia, can you describe how you felt?
Yes. When I first come, it was very hard. In Sudan, I would just go to school with Arabic. English, it’s a bit harder. And then I know A,B,C….I know some stuff. And when I come here, I don’t know the money. My husband start work straight away, my husband good, he have full English.
I call him when we need to go shopping and ask what do we do? He say “ Just take the money and give to some person and then take the money back.” And then when I go to shop, every day I give fifty dollars. I was scared if I give small money, maybe they say, Ay, this lady steal.
One day I tell my husband, “See, a lot of money I put in the bin.”
He say, “Why put this change in the bin? “
I say, “ Nothing you can do with it, all this small.”
He say, “ No, no, no. This a lot of money.” And then we go to the bank, and they count the money and give us five hundred for (the coins). They say “ This is a lot of money Fatma, don’t do that.”
Fatma in Wyndham Women of South Sudan 2017 calendar
All my English, I get in the group (Wyndham Women of South Sudan English classes*). I didn’t study school when I come here. Always I have kids, I have kids, I have kids. Ah, I say when can I go to school? When my kids come home hungry nothing can eat, I don’t want to go to school. And then when I get the group like that, I start group until my English now is good. Yeah, I’m very happy.
You love coming to school?
Yes, yes. This time I have only one daughter, 3 years-old. I don’t want any child now for the moment. When I improve my English, I need to find a job.
What sort of job would you like?
A lot of people don’t know a lot about Sudanese women. What do you want to tell them about yourself?
We are Sudanese. We have full respect. We don’t like trouble. We don’t like someone just shouting like here. Some white people like shouting at people. We are Sudanese, we are scared. And then someone talk with you, you put your eyes down, and then the Australian, he doesn’t like that. When you put your eyes down, he say, “Ah those people, she didn’t have respect.” We have full respect.
We don’t know how to eat outside. Everything I do it at home – cooking, cleaning – everything. You do everything at home on time, and then when your husband coming, you respect your husband, give him food, eat the food, and then you take the dishes, do for him some tea. Everything we are doing at home. No-one go out, say I go eat out today. No, we don’t have that. We have full respect. Here some people just forgot the respect.
For the kids, not hard. When we’re come here, they all young. Now, all have full English. Sometimes, I want to speak my language, the little one, she didn’t understand and then I push them. I tell them don’t forget your culture, don’t forget your language. Yes, just like that, every day I tell them that.
Australia now is good. We are just scared about our kids when grow up – a lot of trouble. It’s very hard for us.
Now I understand everything, I know the rules, I’m driving the car. Everything is good.
Wyndham Women of South Sudan 2017 calendar
*The Wyndham Women of South Sudan group was set up to provide English literacy skills and to build a community. The English class produced a 2017 calendar which features some traditional Sudanese recipes.
https://womangoingplaces.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Fatma-2.png7141017Rosalie Zycher//womangoingplaces.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/wgp-logo_new_v18.pngRosalie Zycher2017-04-14 16:23:172017-04-16 21:19:09Fatma - Women of Oz
WomanGoingPlaces interviewed Esther, aged 107, with her daughter Norma. Esther has lived in an aged care facility since she was 102. Prior to that she lived independently. Throughout her long life, she travelled extensively in Australia, especially in the family caravan, with her late husband and her daughters. These trips were a joyful and an important part of Esther’s family life. She and Norma share some of these memories.
Esther: Oh yeah there was always picnics.The picnics? We use to go in a horse and cart. That I remember. (See photo below)
Rosalie:Did it take long? You were in Elwood at that point?
Esther:I don’t remember where we were living then.
Augustine: How long did it take you to get to the beach in a horse and cart?
Esther: Haha, a long time. Then I think we all must of had a little swim.
Norma: Do you remember the bathers that you use to wear? That the men use to wear, from the neck to knees?
Esther: Oh yes, and the ladies.
Augustine: What sort of bathers did you wear?
Esther: The same – Neck-to-knees.
Augustine: Did you enjoy being on the road?
Esther: Yes, it wasn’t what it is now. There were no idiots or drunks or drugs or anything like that.
Norma: We could pull up and camp anywhere and nobody worried, and you weren’t worried about being robbed or anything.
Esther: We camped one year I remember it was getting late, this was when the girls were with me in a caravan. I said “look we better go in here, its getting dark.” It was dark and we didn’t know where we were. We were at a cemetery. Do you remember that?
Norma: I do remember, Dad always said you never know where you might wake up. It might be somewhere wonderful. It’s an adventure.
Esther: In a cemetery. That didn’t worry us.
Norma: And you had a very good philosophy about it, and I do it now with my children and my grandchildren I tell them the same thing. When we got lost, remember what we use to say? You’d say “Oh it doesn’t matter. It’s just an adventure. Who knows where we’ll turn up?”
Augustine: What holidays did you take when you were married?
Esther: You want to know how I met my husband? Back then it use to be a Jewish dance every Sunday night. And this particular one I was in was a . . . what sort of a dance was it?
Norma: Tap dance.
Esther: And if you just got tapped on the shoulder they had to exchange partners. They just tapped you. Well actually they tap the man, so he had to go. And so that began our romance.
Augustine: How long were you married?
Esther: Oh God! Fifty-five years.
1920 – Esther ( front row third from left) her family & their horse and buggy on a trip to Mordialloc Creek
Augustine: Do you remember any other holidays, or trips or outings that you had when you were growing up, or when you were married?
Esther: Oh, when we were married we went to many places. Especially school holidays. We had a caravan and we went here, there and everywhere.
Norma: Remember when we woke up in the morning and what we saw way out in the sea? Whales! Dad said we’re lucky if we see whales and sure enough we woke up to this beautiful blue sea just beneath us, under the cliff and there were the whales. But the whale station wasn’t so nice, do you remember that? It stank to high heaven.
Augustine: And how did you eat on the trips? Did you have a barbecue? Did you stop at places? How did you feed the family?
Norma: We never went out for meals. Mum was a very, very good camper. We did a lot of camping as well. She was a very good camper. Remember what Dad – of course there was a little stove in the caravan – but do you remember the barbecue that Dad made. Remember the kerosene tin?
Esther: Oh yes, yes. He made it into a barbecue and grilled the chops on the top.
Norma: It was one of these um, an old kerosene tin. It was about that big and he cut a hole at the bottom, for the draft. And he made his own, he did his own wrought iron stuff. During the war he worked on aircraft or something. And um, he was pulled out of school because his Dad had a heart attack and he had to run the family business.
Esther: When he was about 16
Norma: And he had spent about 4 years in bed because of a congenital hip deformity so he didn’t have a lot of formal education but he was, he really thought outside of the square. But he made this sort of a grill thing that you put on top and we had the best barbecues. He’d put the potatoes in the, remember the ashes at the bottom wrapped in foil, the fish. He cooked the fish there and the toast, But mostly we had …
Esther: I remember the toast yeah.
Norma: …But mostly you cooked a bit in the caravan. But tell them about the other holidays we had. We had three different sorts of holidays, all wonderful. One was a camping trip, one school holidays. The other school holidays Dad gave you a break and what did we do? We went to the guest houses, Marysville and places like that.
Yeah, there was Sherbrooke and Marysville. Each year we would do a camping trip and then Dad would say Mum needs a break, we’ll have a guest house holiday. Then the long summer holidays and every weekend, which is where we’re both keeping the skin doctors in business, was um in the family holiday house in Edithvale. But Mum said I don’t want that big house and garage. We’ll have the garage thank you, where they use to keep the horse and cart. And Dad made it into kind of a bungalow thing. And we had a boat shed and boat, so we spent our entire summer down at the beach, from breakfast till sunset, didn’t we?
Esther: Oh we had the boat shed which was very convenient to sit on the beach and watch. Just sitting in the boat shed when it was too hot, you have your swim and come out and . . .
Augustine: And where did you learn fishing? Where did you pick up your love of fishing?
Esther: Fishing? From my late husband. He enjoyed it.
Norma: Because of his hip abnormality … he was a real outdoors man wasn’t he? He couldn’t run so he took to the water. But they spent their life, we all spent our lives on Port Phillip Bay, and then the various rivers and oceans around and up the east coast.
Esther: We camped on the river…Yes, it was the Murray. Oh and someone had left all their gear there for fishing which was very convenient for us. So he fixed it all, threw it in the water to catch a Murray cod. Well it started to rain cats and dogs so we had to leave it. We came back in the morning, the first thing he wants to see if he caught anything- Yes it was a set line, and “oh” he says “I think I got a horse on the reel.” He pulled it out and it was a Murray cod, forty-…
Norma: Forty-six pounds.
Esther: It was this big.
Norma: No, it was this big, they could barely carry it. And then how was it cut up?
Esther: It was put into a butcher’s refrigerator. He obliged us. And when we came back, the meat was still frozen. My late husband’s brother was a doctor and we invited him to come over and come and do something with the fish. He operated on the fish, cut it all up and of course the whole family got…
Norma: …And all the neighbours and all the cousins and everyone we knew. And all their freezers were full.
Esther: And nowadays, I don’t think you’re allowed to take them out of the sea.
Norma: You’re probably not allowed to have set lines either.
Esther: No, you wouldn’t have set lines now.
Augustine: Why do you love the beach so much Esther?
Esther: Oh… I don’t know. I wasn’t use to it before I met my husband. I remember him, where he bought a boat and he use to fish in it and I wouldn’t go on it. And he said “Oh come on, it’s flat, very flat and calm and when you want to stop and want to come in I’ll stop and take you in.” Well it was such a perfect day, that was the beginning, I didn’t want to go in.
Norma: And then Mum use to drive the boat when Dad water-skied. Mum only learned to drive at about what? Your mid twenties? But then she was driving the speed boat all over Port Phillip Bay well into her late seventies.
Esther: And now you’ve got to have licences and…
Augustine: You mean you drove a speed boat around Port Phillip Bay without a licence?
Norma: No, but you didn’t have to have one then.
Esther: No you didn’t have to have a licence.
Norma: Mum’s a very good pennant bowler. How old were you Mum when you stopped bowling?
Esther: Oh, ah, I’ve been an outdoor person all my life. I started when I was a teenager, playing basketball then I switched to tennis and then I . . . where did I go after tennis? Maybe there’s more in-between there. Anyway I played tennis till I was in my eighties and I couldn’t see the ball quick enough to hit, return it. So one of the girls said, who was a bowler also, said why don’t you come and play bowls and give it a try. Which I did, which I enjoyed very much. I played bowls until I was ninety-eight. Yeah, ninety-eight I played bowls. When I was ninety-two I bought a new car and they said “Oh, I’ve never sold a car to a ninety-two year old.”
Augustine: I read in the article that you said the secret is just to keep going.
Esther: That’s right.
Norma: And forget your age.
Esther: And forget your age.
Augustine: And how do you deal with all the ups and downs in life and all the stress and all the worry.
Esther: Oh, you try not to think about it.
Norma: She’s pretty good at that. She’s been through quite a few things and she copes. She’s very sensible. Very, very sensible. Common sense.
https://womangoingplaces.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/ESTHER-Aged-107-NORMA-Her-Daughter.png7511194Augustine Zycher//womangoingplaces.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/wgp-logo_new_v18.pngAugustine Zycher2016-12-27 18:27:442016-12-28 09:15:32Esther aged 107 and Norma - Women of Oz
I learnt to be on my own later, travelling as an older woman, because I think I have been left alone as an older woman in a way that I never was when I was younger. I used to be followed. Spain was a nightmare. You couldn’t be on the street in those days in the sixties. You could not go to Spain alone, under Franco. I was there. You could not go to Greece alone. And you could not be in Italy unless you wanted to be followed all the time. Now I feel very free because no-one even sees me! No-one sees me. They’ll help. I can ask questions and they’ll come to my aid, but no-one wants to follow me and touch me.
Oh, it’s great! It’s fabulous!
THE KIMBERLEY, AUSTRALIA
One memorable trip for me is going to the Kimberley a few years ago with my husband. And I feel like I’m a millimetre high when I go into that country, Australia. I feel like I don’t exist. I’m so insignificant. I always feel that when I go into that sort of country here. And the Kimberley was just extraordinary because of the colour, and the vastness, the silence and just so much going on. But you need a guide. You need to be shown how to look. Whereas, you go to Europe, you know how to look. I don’t know how to look in my own country. It’s fabulous.
THE NAKASENDO WAY, JAPAN
The Nakasendo way (Japan) was an ancient road that linked Tokyo with Kyoto, and it was controlled by the old warlords. Along that way there are stations like forts and they controlled who went on that road and it was for their own survival. It was a very violent time in the 12th and 13th centuries. So this road goes through the mountains, literally through the mountains behind Kyoto.
It’s a 10-day walk, and you walk from Ryokan to Ryokan (traditional Japanese inns). You stay in tiny, tiny little ancient Japanese Ryokans. You have to just carry a little day pack. You’ve got to be fit enough to walk up to 8 hours a day. But you go in the autumn or the summer. And the road can be hilly, very steep or it can be quite flat. And little paths, little beautiful tiny mountain paths. You’re surrounded on all sides by trees, bamboo. It was autumn so all the leaves are changing colour, and in that 10 days, the leaves went from green to brown to scarlet to yellow. And it’s meditative because the only thing you need to do is concentrate on your feet – that’s it! I tried one or two times…, things came into my head but I had to push them away. So you basically just get up in the morning, have a divine Japanese breakfast, and you put on your shoes and your jacket, take your walking sticks, and walk – until dusk.
It’s very spiritual. It’s very ancient. And it’s a challenge beyond. There are some days when you are walking on the original bluestone. They’re like 500 years old and you’ve got to walk on them in a certain way and you’ve got to be very, very careful. You’ve just got to plod. They’re sort of sticking up. It might only go on for half a mile because a lot of them are not there. You’ve got to plod. You’ve got to walk as slowly as your heartbeat. And what’s the challenge for me, is slowing down. You can’t run because you won’t make it.
And the other challenge was just to know I could get there. Because on about the third or fourth day you think, I’m not putting my boots on again.
We probably ended up walking 300 kilometres.
So, I know lots of people that are doing that right now. People of my age, women who are feeling – if I don’t do it now, I’ll never be this fit again. Because you must be reasonably fit.
Every time we build (as part of the Tabitha Foundation Cambodia), it’s a challenge because 40 to 50 people build 40 homes in 3 days. It’s heads down, bottom up, hammer away. It’s always a physical challenge.
And what do you do?
When we go there, there’s usually a cement base that’s already poured and a frame and a roof. And we hammer floorboards. They can be bamboo or timber. And we basically hammer. One project, I think we did 3000 nails in 2 floors and also we used corrugated iron around the external walls. It has a cut out door-frame and a window, and I guess it doesn’t sound like it’s a beautiful luxury framework in which people live, but it’s dry – Cambodia has so much rain – and it’s a protection for their property and anything that’s precious. It’s a safe place for them.
I’ve been doing it for 9 years. I took my daughter last year, for her birthday, for her 21st. We went to visit Sue Huxley’s school, which was amazing. And I took my 21 year-old daughter and a friend of hers. I wanted to take them to Siem Reap because Siem Reap is one step away from heaven. That’s the temple area. It’s beautiful. That always overwhelms me because that’s so amazing. So taking Jessica last year was really important. Rather than her just being involved in the build, I just wanted her to get a sense of the country, just to understand why I just keep having to go back, why it’s just in me. It’s almost like I feel, it’s one of those places that you become so involved in it, that it’s almost hard not to go back.
It’s like watching the twin towers fall. It’s like you watch something horrific or you understand the circumstance of something and you think, I’ve seen this same picture, I’ve seen this same circumstance again and again and again. The footage just keeps coming, the environment is still there. But it’s like, do I have enough? Do I just go to bed now because I’ve already seen it? It’s like you can’t give yourself permission to step away because it’s like a responsibility. That’s how I feel. It’s a bit of a responsibility.
So that’s why I keep going back. But it’s so much fun. I love it. It’s so energising. It’s such a remarkable experience. As I said, it’s a way for me to go very safely into a country, really make a contribution. You see that. We drive through all the areas. We see all the Tabitha houses. They’re so well recognised. Each time we build, it’s usually 40 houses in a province. So maybe we do 4 houses amongst my team of 8 people. That’s a lot of houses. But there’s a lot of people that don’t have a shelter.
There’s no mucking around, let’s discuss it. It’s like: there it is, there’s the materials, the floor’s in place, start hammering! The most important thing is: where is the sun and how do we put up what walls to protect us from that beating? Because by the time you’ve been out since 8 o’clock in the morning and it’s 38 degrees and it’s 1 o’clock, wow, that heat! It’s the only place that I ever feel that complete, not dehydration, it’s different. Something happens to your body, it’s completely spent.
We had the opportunity to visit the site of a school being built in honour of one of the leaders and organisers of the build initiative Sue Huxley. I happened to go into the building to take a photo when the teacher came in. She had probably 60 or 70 students with her and they all walked in. I was sort of stuck in the middle of the room thinking “Ok, might be time for me to go now,” I was disturbing them by being in their space. So I was saying “Excuse me, I’m sorry I’m in your little space,” and she said “No, no, no.” And they started to sing. And all of my colleagues in the build team were outside the frame of the building looking in, and I was just in the middle of these amazing children singing, singing, singing. And that was a really overwhelming experience. I felt like a giant as I’m so long-limbed. And they were so open-faced and everyone participating, just singing their little hearts out. I felt like Maria out of The Sound of Music.
And oh, this Cambodian man, came out of the lush undergrowth and he looked like a warrior, bare-chested, strong, physically strong, I mean, these are people who work hard and he just looked like a warrior. And he had something (in his hand) like a spear or utensil he must have been working the ground with. He obviously couldn’t speak English but his eyes were wide and white and he gathered the children up. We thought wow, that’s amazing and our interpreter got out of the van and went and spoke with him. And he sort of then settled down. And when the interpreter came back to the van he said that these people were targeted, the children were going missing because there were people coming from Phnom Penh to take children, for them to be taken back to the city to be prostituted. So that is an issue too, if you’re living in isolation, that’s what can happen. Children walk long distances to get water, or they walk between villages. So they have an unsupervised period of time. And that was very frightening, and obviously for that gentleman as well. And he had never seen people with white skin, so we’re talking a remote area.
For me, my travel is always to have an experience, to immerse myself in a culture, to understand the history. And I hope that makes me a more interesting person. That’s what I’m hoping.
The most outstanding trip I ever undertook was with a group of 5 women and we climbed Kilimanjaro. It was an amazing, emotional experience. We trained really, really hard. We trained together. We made a schedule. We trained at least once a week, sometimes twice. And we’d go up a thousand steps, and we’d do 5-hour hikes, and we went and did altitude training. So we were really probably the fittest we’d ever been in our lives.
We arrived there and we were at the bottom of Kili, and we’re having a group hug, and of course, I burst out crying because it was so momentous. We got to the top, I burst out crying. It was an emotional experience because it was really, really tough. The altitude was horrendous. We had really bad weather – it rained, it poured – so much so, that the 4-wheel drive that was supposed to take us to the bottom of Kilimanjaro couldn’t make it. So we had to walk an extra 6 or 8 kilometres before we even began.
It was just amazing. When we got to the top, it was the most amazing experience – the camaraderie, the fact that the 5 of us started and the 5 of us finished together. We were always together. If someone was feeling a bit bad, you would help them to put one foot in front of the other. It was just the sheer exertion of getting there. It was the physicality as well as the emotional experience. So physically it was really tough. It took us 5 days up and 11/2 days down or 41/2 and 11/2. It was 6 days, 5 nights.
Was it the most difficult thing you’d ever done physically? Emotionally?
Both. It’s almost like the 9 months of carrying a baby and then finally having the baby. And just being so elated at the top that you forget about all the problems that you had getting there.
Why do it?
Because it’s there. And it’s a challenge. We all love a challenge, and that was my physical challenge. It was a now or never. We were all in our early 50s. I think you need it because you need it for the mental aptitude and the ability to do it mentally ‘cause it’s a head thing. Apart from it being physically difficult, it’s really hard to keep yourself going. There were nights when we didn’t get into to the camp until well after dark, exhausted, fatigued, not even wanting to eat. And you know you’ve got to force yourself to eat. You’ve got to force yourself to do everything because you’ve got to get up the next day and do it again.
Do you think you were mentally and emotionally stronger now than when you were younger ?
I did a marathon when I was in my early 40s and I only believe I could do it because I had the mental attitude to keep going. When you’re young, it’s not that important, give up, who cares?
Why is it important now?
Because if you don’t do it now, when are you going to do it?
Did it in anyway change your relationship with the other women?
Yes. We’re best friends now, we’re all friends.
Yes, absolutely. We’re really close friends. We’ve accomplished something together and experienced something together that is really inexplicable and you can’t take that back. So now even if we don’t see each other all the time, they are counted amongst my best friends.
I’d never been out of Australia until about 6 years ago. Well, I thought, it’s now or never. And now I’ve been to over 30 countries.
I say to people who say -“I can’t afford to travel” – I tell them: “Go to the travel agent and book it – and then the money seems to magically appear. That’s how you do it, otherwise you can’t afford to go anywhere.”
The first trip ever was to Thailand. I back-packed north and south with my daughter. We did a trek through the jungle. We rode elephants, and we went down the river. We went to a Thai wedding and I got into the Thai wine and got a little bit merry. Phuket was like paradise for me. That was probably the happiest trip, with my daughter.
I always wanted to go to Ireland because of my ancestors. Absolutely loved Ireland.
They had the singalong in the pub until 11:00 at night and then the old people would go home and us youngies would stay for the nightclubs.
I used to look at England on the TV and never wanted to go there, always wet, always raining. And yet when I arrived there, that was my most favourite. When I got there, I had a strong sense of coming home.
In New Zealand, in the morning, they picked me up and I jumped out of a plane. And then I did Level 5, white-water rafting.
In America, I went to LA, went to Las Vegas, and as I’m a marriage celebrant I loved all the corny little wedding chapels. I went to Washington and because I’m a detective, I went to the spy museum, and Maxwell Smart was there. I found that rather amusing.
I’ve also been a scuba diver here in Australia. I’ve dived Mount Gambier – the caves and I’ve dived the Great Barrier Reef, plus the coast of W.A.
The trip I most remember was to Mexico, about 4 years ago. My daughter was working there with Cirque du Soleil. Flying into Mexico City was just unbelievable – flying in and seeing all the poverty That huge population, all living on the hills with virtually no shelter. I just found that quite incredible. And the experience of being in Mexico city – it was amazing and how they all survived, I just found that quite incredible. I stayed with my daughter for about a month. She was working but we did a few trips around Mexico. But just Mexico city was amazing. The fact that you could get around so easily even though they didn’t speak much English, and I felt safe, and I love the culture, the dancing, the music the whole history of the Aztecs, going to the pyramids and just the people. I just loved it.
What was that the happiest trip you had?
My mother took me away when I was 17, on a ship over to England for 6 months and then we had a trip around Europe – that was pretty amazing. I guess that was the happiest. It was special because it was the first time I’d been out of Australia. And the fact that Mum did that for me, I thought that was pretty amazing. We met another lovely mother and daughter who were doing a similar thing. I had my 18th birthday in London and we went to see Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev at Covent Garden doing Swan Lake. That was amazing. I remember that as being special.
I loved the experience of travelling and working overseas. I would much prefer to do that than do a whole lot of sight-seeing really. Although that’s lovely too. I lived in Singapore for 4 years in the 70’s and that was pretty amazing. In Singapore, just getting to know people from all over the world, an absolute melting pot in Singapore, it was then. Seeing a completely different culture. And I did some nursing there as well. I just loved the fact that I worked with local people. I had local pay, which as a nurse was very usual. I just think that’s how you get to know how people function.
And had a child there too. My son, my first child, was born in Singapore. And we went back there recently, last October, and found the house where we lived 40 years ago. And the hospital where my son was born and where I worked. That was very special.
What trips in Australia have been special for you?
I suppose, one recent trip in November, when I went up to visit my family in Charleville, in Western Queensland. It’s where our family property has been for 80 years. And I loved going back out there again amongst the Mulga* and the kangaroos. That’s a very special place for me. I just went out there and visited my first cousin who’s still on the place. They have cattle. My cousin’s been there for the whole of his life, 70 years, and they educated their children with distance education before they went away to school. And they’ve managed to battle it out with a 3-years drought. It meant a lot to me because Dad used to take me up there. We took Dad’s ashes back there.
Recommendations: Singapore, California, and Mexico would be up there.
And I did love Spain although it’s been a long time since I’ve been to Spain. And Italy.