So there I was. Two years in Glasgow and just about to head off again. The destination this time: a one-nation-continent full of kangaroos, barbecues and surfers. I don’t mind kangaroos or barbecues (in fact, Germans have always upheld a cuisine that consisted mostly of food made out of meat and drinks made out of beer).
It’s the surfers that I am fearing more than any poisonous animal Australia has to offer. I find beaches monotonous and dull and would never pursue a career in chilling, relaxing or “chillaxing”. The closest I come to being laid-back is indifferent.
I don’t think there is another way to put it: I am the worst Australian ever.
Among the horde of tanned surfboard-lads I will be like a fish out of water. The only silver lining on the marine horizon that awaits me is that my prejudices are very unlikely to take the biscuit.
In fact, Melbourne is labelled “Australia’s most european city”, which sounded like a metonym for nice. It plumes with a multitude of lanes and alleys covered in street art and stuffed with cafés, bars, boutiques, shops and pubs. But art isn’t just on the streets, Melbourne features many of the continents finest museums, galleries and festivals. Theatre, music and visual arts all find fertile ground in this city of four and a half million people.
A busy place that sounds like the perfect habitat for the non-chillaxing.
Was I excited? Yes. Was I prepared? Not at all. In fact, my cluelessness exceeded my excitement tenfold. I had not received my Certificate of Enrollment from the University of Melbourne, I had no confirmation of my payment for my health insurance – which ironically cost exactly $666. I had no flight, I had no visa. I had only a little more than a month left.
And still I embraced every opportunity for dalliance and procrastination to delay my worries. I sat in Glasgow and watched the rain, read more than during the entire term before, congregated with my friends and meandered back and forth between my favourite cafés.
This was 3 weeks ago. Now I am back in Germany and still without a clue, flight or visa. But my preparations have progressed. The visa application is processing, the only missing part to be conducted is a medical check. Having lived half a year in Swaziland I was vaulted into the highest health risk category being treated as a possible biohazard, threatening to contaminate the entire continent with everything that’s contagious. Or so it seems. But even now that I finally started my groundwork I find the time for otiosity.
My parents and me spent four days in Italy, climbing and mountain biking and I thoroughly enjoyed our time at Lago di Garda, drinking espressi, eating pizze and bathing sun. From our home in Germany it was a 7 hour drive in our (very German, I know) camping van. This ride was an absolute pleasure cruise compared to the journey from Glasgow that I endured only a few days earlier:
For emotional and financial, rather than ideological reasons I had decided to take the bus to Germany. With too many, too spacious and too heavy bags (two backpacks, one bag, one suitcase, and one 30kg bicycle transport bag) we already had difficulties finding a taxi.
The bus drivers at Buchanan Bus Station weren’t happy either when they saw me hauling twice as much luggage as allowed.
In London though I was warmly welcomed, with various baggage porters fighting over me like hyenas over the carcass of a rotting water buffalo. And to be honest, I must have smelled similar.
One day had to be spent in London and together with Lucia – who to my utmost joy accompanied me to London – I went to Hyde Park and the Tate Modern. In Serpentine Gallery we saw Marina Abramovic’s new performance piece 512 Hours. It aims to make the audience the centre of attention as well as the subject of the artpiece. After leaving all belongings behind, the spectators are invited into the empty spaces of the gallery. Abramovic and a team of artists then started to approach spectators, take their hands and walk with them. Everything happened in a quiet and cautious manner, exuding respect, awareness and great care. At random spots in the rooms these couples would come to a halt and the artist would lean over to whisper “close your eyes. feel the room and its presence. observe. breathe. stay still as long as you wish. we take far too little time for such things nowadays.”
An artistic installation, a landscape of bodies was created. Some still and observant, others moving and examining. Both parts were equally important for the complete image. But not only was the spectator made aware of their complicity in the artwork but the stillness also created a meditative awareness of the self in the present.
Marina Abramovic continues to be one of the most exciting performance artists in the world and she is an exciting figure to meet. She impressed me with a charisma of authoritative and soothing presence. The pressure and touch of her hands felt both comforting and decisive. Oh yeah. I held hands with her.
The second bus ride from London to Nürnberg was longer and yet far more agreeable than the first. The bus was only half full so that I could roll up on two seats to drowse. It was filled only with Czech people who, although noisy, at least seemed friendly and sincere and showed some vitality instead of the apathetic torpidity exhibited by their british counterparts the night before.
And now, having left Glasgow, London and Italy, I am back at my parents house, slowly feeling apt to depart.
Any questions about preparation, waiting and readiness? Send me an email at email@example.com
Or check out my blog for more: oneyearmelbourne.wordpress.com