Darwin Mon Amour

IMG_4140

We were greeted this Dry season by a lively green frog jumping out of the toilet bowl. Forget your city ways, it croaked, you’re living with Nature in the Top End. I was not inclined to agree until said frog had been safely deposited outside, where it glared at us from the arm of a chair while we ate our first al fresco meal.

IMG_5033Each morning we’re serenaded by bird cries: the chirping of the spangled drongo, the warbling of honeyeaters and the olive-backed oriole, all species native to Darwin. We have two resident black cockatoos, a flash of red from their tails displayed in flight.

It’s been a season of blue cloudless skies by day, cool breeze by night, with locals revelling in their release from an unusually long buildup. Climate change makes itself felt here, with mangroves dying and dams diminishing in the practically rainless wet. Easy to forget this ever-present threat as we bask in Dry season warmth and cool off in the backyard pool in nearly every home.IMG_5037

A season too of music, dance and drama as the city comes to life with its annual Festival, held each August. Lights festoon the trees and people throng to Festival Park to watch vaudeville or circus shows, and eat their way through a variety of ethnic food offered by the many food stalls. Being so close to Asia, Darwin is one of Australia’s most multicultural cities.

There are darker aspects here: the recent revelation of children being tortured in detention shocking locals and the world. Along with hundreds of others we attended a rally to call for action to redress these injustices. There are many asylum seekers awaiting visas, some under threat of return to the countries from which they fled. I did a stint giving information about DASSAN (The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network), founded by my eldest daughter, at the busy Nightcliff Markets, one of three held each Sunday.IMG_4949

Being theatre buffs, we enjoyed two excellent plays: ‘Lippy’ by an Irish company which had its Australian premiere in Darwin, and ‘Broken’ by Darwin’s own Mary Ann Butler, and for which she won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award. Both were excellent productions, and so easy to get to, compared to struggling through traffic jams ‘down south’.

FullSizeRenderThere’s plenty of culture here if you know where to look, from the outdoor Deckchair Cinema, showing mostly art films and serving yummy food, to the activities for Science week. We enjoyed solar-powered movies under the stars at Darwin’s seaside ‘de la Plage’ café.IMG_4759

We are now given the title of ‘Temporary Territorian’ after spending a good part of each year in these tropic climes over twenty years, not only in the Dry, but in all seasons. Our many friends here ask ‘How was your time away?’ when we return to Darwin, as if our home is truly here and we occasionally take a trip down south. They’ve even stopped saying ‘It must be the Dry ‘cos you’re back!’

The main reason for our visit is to catch up with close family, children and grandchildren, who are lucky enough to live here and to enjoy Darwin’s carefree lifestyle. But I have a sneaky feeling that even if they weren’t here, I’d still come back to Darwin!

IMG_4768

Advertisements

Until We Are All Free

photo 5My 13-yr-old granddaughter, Zoë, on Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers:

My name is Zoë Davis. I live in a comfortable home with a room all to myself. I go to school, have three large meals a day, have a hot shower whenever I want, and have a family who love and support me. I live in a city where I have access to everything I could ever need, a state with a great education system and in a country that is currently at peace with the rest of the world.

When I was 9 years old, my twin sister Bella and I found out about these asylum seekers. And, like any other 9 year old humanitarians out for blood and justice, we decided to make a difference by busking; first grade flute and trumpet – those market regulars must’ve loved us. We decided to raise money to buy toys for the kids stuck in the detention center nearest to our home in Darwin.

Soon after, we drove to the detention center to join the organised peaceful protest, meeting our activist aunts, uncles and cousins. Our grandpa was also there, holding a big sign that read: ‘Until we are all free, none of us are free’. The detention center certainly looked like a prison to us. We had been allowed to hand deliver some of the toys we had bought to representatives of the asylum seeker community. A brief meeting though it was, it was such an eye opener to the reality of the situation. We met two families in a small area between two high, menacing fences. What was scary about it was that one of the girls was barely younger than us. How is it that while I get so much opportunity and comfort in my life, hers was torn apart by her one chance at safety, spending weeks, if not months travelling to Australia only to find that while she was finally safe, she was not at all free?

All over the world, people are forced to flee their homeland because it is no longer safe for them, and gamble their lives on a cramped, unreliable boat, to come to a land where they hope they and their family will be safe – and then when those people arrive, our hard-hearted government, who may I add we can openly verbally disagree with if we choose, decide to lock these people up in isolated places called detention centres.

Refugees come to Australia hoping for safety and shelter only to be locked in what will grow to be their prison. Their crime? Seeking safety from situations where their very lives are in danger. The more people stand up for the rights of every single human being, the more likely it is to happen. Alone, we can fling pebbles and stones. With a twin sister and a family who believes in you and what you are doing, you can hurl boulders. Standing together as a community, we can move mountains.

It’s up to us to join hands as a community and strive for the equality and freedom of everyone. Because, after all, until all of us are free, none of us are free.

richard-1050x1662IMG_2732

Au Revoir Darwin

IMG_1815IMG_0253

Au Revoir Darwin 2013

Three more days. I want to embrace this place, to squeeze the last moments of joy from this my second home. Today we’ll visit the markets, for the jostle of colours, the smells of sizzling spicy food and the taste of my favourite mango lime juice, its stringent iciness going straight to my brain. Then to an Open Garden, once again to view the wonders worked in an oasis of tropical plants and swaying palms. Later we will go to hear the Gyoto Monks from Tibet perform their amazing chants, deep guttural sounds that vibrate in the soul. Tomorrow at 4 o’clock, we will witness the ritual of the mandala, an intricate sand sculpture which has taken the monks ten days to create, being swept away into the sea.

Darwin, my Lotus land, has been my second home for close to fifteen years. I will take back the deep warmth that soothes my body, the memory of the clear bright light, and the startling brightness of the stars at night. I leave it this time only on the assurance that I will be back, perhaps sooner than anyone thinks. I leave behind my children and grandchildren to continue their full lives, knowing we are closer after each visit.

As well, I leave behind some dear friends, both new and old, some of whom are the members of our Darwin Authors Group Yesterday four of us met in my favourite café in Coconut Grove. Thank you Kaye, Kaye, and Helen for managing to fit that lunch into your busy day. To be with fellow writers, talking about everything under the sun, was for me a fitting celebration of my three months here, rather than a sad farewell.

I will miss you all, and take comfort in knowing we can meet online from time to time.

So au revoir, auf wiedersehen, a bientot, a la prochaine. Nothing can keep me from this tropical paradise for long!

Darwin in the Wet

IMG_3438 IMG_0466

DARWIN, NT, FEBRUARY 2014

Here in February the air is heavy with moisture, sweat, and an all-encompassing blanket of sticky heat. There’s that special Darwin smell, a mixture of wet earth, tropical air, and the ubiquitous spices of lemongrass, curry leaves, cumin and chile. We could be somewhere in south-east Asia.

“Fecund” is the word to describe Darwin in the Wet. Everywhere gorgeous blooms are exploding into vibrant colours. On the way to the noisy crowded Rapid Creek Markers on Sunday we had to stop and witness delicate pink blossoms opening on the overhanging tree. They looked like tiny tutus with a dainty fringed skirt decorated with the diamonds of raindrops. Other plants sprout spontaneously wherever a stray seed happens to fall, like the fragrant basil that accidentally grew in my daughter’s garden.

At the Markets it seemed every second woman was either pregnant or carrying a baby. Toddlers wearing rainbow-coloured singlets and little else trailed along behind their parents. Every imaginable vegetable was on display, some quite unknown to us southerners. It was hot and steamy, so we made straight for the icy cold mango and lime juices – so cold they make your brain freeze.

Even the clouds looming overhead are gravid with their own pregnancy. We wait thirstily for them to give birth to the first of the monsoonal rains which will bring longed- for release from the longest Build-up ever.

Last night it actually rained, great sheets of water pounding on the roof. In our sleep we stir and smile with relief, knowing the morning will be cooler. Soon the frogs join their guttural chorus to the downpour. In the morning I see a tiny, shiny green frog sitting perfectly still on the doorstep, and tiptoe over it.

This is an Australian city like no other.

Darwin in the Dry

DARWIN, JULY, 2013.

Clear blue skies, balmy days, cool nights. Temperature in Darwin today 29deg top, 16 low. Cool for Darwin. Locals are shivering. Out come the doonas,  bed socks,flannelette sheets. It’s not  uncommon to see hoodies and fleecies being worn, when the temperature is in the low thirties. In the dry, the breeze off the Arafura Sea is cool and refreshing. Gone is the stillness, stickiness, and heaviness of the humid build-up. The rains of the Wet have dried up, leaving almost empty water-holes and a sky so blue and clear it’s like a child’s painting.

IMG_0354 IMG_1366

Another name for the Dry is the ironically named Mother-In-Law Season. Granny flats are suddenly occupied by families who’ve driven or flown the 4000 kms to be with their loved ones. Grey nomads in their vans and motorhomes invade the caravan parks, and NSW, Victoria, and Queensland number plates fill the streets. The letters page of the NT News abounds with snide suggestions such as ‘Southerners Go Home’ while the front page inevitably bears an image of the latest crocodile scare.

We from Down South are greeted in a friendly fashion with ‘Must be the Dry; you’re here again.’

I hasten to defend myself, assuring Darwinites that I’ve been here in  the Wet, the Build-up, and the Knock-Em Down seasons, as well as the Dry. Admittedly it’s supremely satisfying to be revelling in warm sunny days while those at home are freezing.

The markets are on again, now that the rain’s stopped; stalls overflow with brightly coloured  tropical fruits, the like of which we rarely see down south. Likewise the Deckchair cinema, where we recline on cushions under a clear starlit sky, and watch movie after movie on the Big Screen.

It’s the long school holidays here: four weeks in July, perfect weather for camping. The families pack their camper trailers or bundle tents into their 4x4s, and take off for Kakadu, Litchfield, or the Douglas Daly hot springs, where you can bathe in a blissfully hot natural thermal spa, while feet cool in the colder currents.

There’s been a flurry of end-of-term concerts, a circus performance starring three of our four grandsons, school reports presented for inspection.

Our time here is drawing to an end all too soon. So this year we’ll be braving Sydney’s winter a lot sooner than usual.  😓 Cheers, Dina  💦😎

Au Revoir Darwin

IMG_1103

Au Revoir Darwin 2013

Three more days. I want to embrace this place, to squeeze the last moments of joy from this my second home. Today we’ll visit the markets, for the jostle of colours, the smells of sizzling spicy food and the taste of my favourite mango lime juice, its stringent iciness going straight to my brain. Then to an Open Garden, once again to witness the wonders worked in an oasis of tropical plants and swaying palms. Later we will go to hear the Gyoto Monks from Tibet perform their amazing chants, deep guttural sounds that vibrate in the soul. Tomorrow at 4 o’clock, come and witness the ritual of the mandala, an intricate sand sculpture which has taken the monks ten days to create, being swept away into the sea.

Darwin, my Lotus land, has been my second home for close to fifteen years. I will take back the deep warmth that soothes my body, the memory of the clear bright light, and the startling brightness of the stars at night. I leave it this time only on the assurance that I will be back, perhaps sooner than anyone thinks. I leave behind my children and grandchildren to continue their full lives, knowing we are closer after each visit.

As well, I leave behind some dear friends, both new and old, not least of who are the members of our Writing Life group. Yesterday four of us met in my favourite café in Coconut Grove. Thank you Kaye, Kaye, and Helen for managing to fit that lunch into your busy day. To be with fellow writers, talking about everything under the sun, was for me a fitting celebration of my three months here, rather than a sad farewell.

I will miss you all, and take comfort in knowing we can meet online from time to time.

So au revoir, auf wiedersehen, a bientot, a la prochaine. Nothing can keep me from this tropical paradise for long!