A lightning fast trip to Sydney I did *not* have time for, given the terrible juggling of writing and reading deadlines I am trying to wrangle at the moment.
The plane flew in low over the suburbs, not along the coast as I'm more used to: all the little houses lined up, shuddering each time the planes fly over. Taxi to hotel, walk to dinner with colleagues (where I disgraced myself, I suspect, hogging 90% of the gorgonzola pannacotta on our shared tasting plate), walk back, sleep soundly, walk to campus, walk into the beautiful old quadrangle building
for an all day meeting, discussing the government cuts to the organisation's fundings, and cutbacks and suspensions of many of its most useful programs. A 30 minute lunch break — no time for a walk in the sun as I usually insist on in all-day meetings — then back into the air-conditioned, very claustrophobic room. The air-conditioning made a continuous low reverberation, like a car running, that made my brain seem to vibrate, all day. Then at 4, we jumped into cabs then back to the airport. No time, obviously, to catch up with Sydney friends, I'm sorry.
During our dinner I heard about a colleague who'd lost a child in traumatic circumstances several years ago, and the devastation that was still spreading rings around everything. It sat with me all through the meeting yesterday. And yesterday evening as we flew into Melbourne around 7.00pm the flight took us low over a little cemetery. Very small, but the little tombstones so distinctively small and grey in a landscape of houses like the Sydney ones. Cemeteries usually appear as grey blurs from the air, and on google maps, but we were very low, so you could see the miniature streetscapes. I think you fly over another cemetery as you fly into Adelaide. This one seemed particularly small: a little village of the dead under the bustle of folk itching to get out their mobile phones and reconnect with the world.
I drove straight to the school, for a meeting led by its extraordinary principal about a trip he leads to PNG every three years or so. They stay in villages (boys in the men's hut; girls in the women's), and work with communities, and also attempt an overnight 5 hour hike up Mt Wilhelm, comparable to the Kokoda trail (one guide per three students). This trip is not about tourism, or buying souvenirs, nor is it about testing yourself against the elements, it's about building a relationship between the school and this village, and with the students and staff who go.
If Joel goes, he will perhaps be seeing dawn on Mt Wilhelm the day his VCE results come out. Now there's a perspective.