April 18th, around 39.000 ft, flying over the Indian Ocean, right where it meets the Gibson Desert of Australia
Earlier I saw the reflection of clouds in the ocean, the wide ocean. My view from here is like the one on Discovery Channel – red and blue blend in a canyon. It looks like small bits magnified, when it is actually the opposite. Pink and blue, surreal blend. There’s no line between the sky clouds, the water, the land, the blue, red and pink desert. Even the clouds are pink or I’m starting to imagine things. The temperature outside is -47 degrees and the view is a wonder of the world. Regular and irregular – nothing can beat the nature. Blue veins in pink flesh or blue roots in pinkish red soil. Makes me remember of the histology plates I played with in my first years of school – my mom was teaching the subject at the Med School. Finally, a road, like the track of a plane, like a line drawn by aliens. Is this a nature made pointillism painting? Is this Seurat? Low lands all pink and blue, dots, waves, small valleys, all in colors and brushes.
April 18th, on the bus from the airport to the hotel, Melbourne, Australia
Flipping the Melbourne Official Visitor Guide, I’m automatically attracted to Burma Lane Restaurant. Why? Because I am Yangon; Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh and Phnom Penh. All at the same time.
But why all this love for Asia during the last months? Maybe because I have some Asian blood?
Later that night, Melbourne, Australia
I pass by the bar in the lobby where all four pilots are having a drink, I say hi and they don’t answer, but that’s none of my business.
The hotel staff in front of the main entrance whistles for a far-away taxi. As I search for my map to tell him to go to Acland Street, I catch his accent, right at the same time I listen to the beautiful instrumental Romanian music he’s listening to. Because the Universe is not sleeping, the taxi driver is Romanian and he’s quite a smart one, but a bit laid back. He cannot speak Romanian anymore and he speaks to me in English and I don’t mind, we speak English. He has an opinion on Qatar, on Baku – where I’m going later this month, on the non-culture of Australia. He says “We – the Romanians, as a culture – are unique, the rest have nothing”. Indeed, Romanian folklore is authentic and unique, but there are so many other beautiful cultures around the world. True enough, if you have not seen them, it’s difficult to make a comparison. I did not appreciate much this about him, but I think it came from a deep homesickness.
I asked him what is his name in Romanian, but he said “Romanian, Australian” and I got it he’s struggling in having an personal identity – caught between his obvious love for his country and the huge distance in time and miles that separates him from it.
What’s your name? Ion, Vasile? Oh, Viorel he asks and I can see the tears in his eyes…
I walk past some delicious looking sweet stores showing colorful cupcakes, ship shaped chocolate desserts, rocky road in chocolate and almonds and wonderful cream cakes and walk on a small narrow street full of graffiti. Wherever I go, I take the package, such as these colorful street ads saying I killed the Prom Queen, the street art, the cafes and restaurants, the birds that fly my way, the kids that smile, the couples that kiss. My almost all black – rubber boots from Italy, black tight pants and leather jacket from Perth, huge black bag – makes me blend in with the colorful walls of the parking lot behind.
Gary Moore’s “Still Got the Blues” plays in the corner restaurant at the end of the street, corner with Barkley Street and I step in. It’s a cute place called The Big Mouth having two floors, with different specific. I stepped into the Bamboo Room upstairs, decorated with vintage chandeliers and real orchids, black and gold ornaments, red walls with gold big golden motifs, mirrors, 20s chairs and all different Australian maps table cloths, Chinese decorative pillows and flower bowls, baroque lavish couches with burgundy and gold velvet and carved wood. I ordered mussels with jamon and prosecco (Katnook Estate – Coonawarra; Australian), wrote some thoughts, I listened to the guitar half looking outside the window at the tram and half thinking somewhere far.
Outside the window three places called Chakra, Veludo and Witchery make me smile.
I enjoy the world my way and I want to dream big and build. Evolve. I know I look like a lucky girl and in many ways I am, but this place and especially that song playing when I stepped in reminds me of some hurtful truths of my past.
At The Monarch Cake I take one godly Oreo cupcake and click some pictures of the library like sweet store.
I will not say my traveling around the world is meaningful and I gather the messages along the way, as in a video game. Lately, however, I seem to receive more and more messages and the more I fight it, the more I get it to understand it is not a mistake.
A place invites me: “Sister of Soul – Step into the Lightness”, then I see 40 Thieves & Co.
There’s a bar called Lone, but I don’t like the way it looks, so I’m on Nelson’s Street at Pablo Honey, an awesome place with nice design (lots of skulls) opened just 6 months ago. The bartender turning up to be one of the owners – it always happens to me, my friends know – prepares a Tequila Sangre, so spicy that it makes my nose burn. This is what I need before the flights to keep my nose unblocked. My lips are burning and he is proud that it’s his invention. Makes me remember a spicy cocktails I drank from a Cosmo glass by the pool in Yangon, Myanmar…and the disaster that followed.
The bar’s motto: “Tequila probably won’t fix your life, but it’s worth a shot”.
Earlier I saw two homeless hugging on the sidewalk, sleeping on their belongings, but they are so affectionate to each other. Now they’re walking in front of the fancy bar where I am. Why they’re homeless and I drink $20 cocktails?
Brad offers me a glass of Clas Azul Tequila and later on I find out he has a special tequila bottle that costs 200 Australian dollars per shot and if you get one, your name will be carved in a wood piece that shall be displayed in the front window. Selling a story, he is already at the second bottle. Tequila’s name is Clase Azul Ultra – considered world’s most luxurious tequila. Forget about Patron! Aged for five years, the tequila is only bottled in 100 pieces batches and sells as it is released on the market.
April 19th, around noon, Melbourne, Australia
Drank quite some tequila last night, but I did it with style, it’s true – and topped up with prosecco in the hotel lobby (De Bortoly Prosecco – King Valley; I love the bottle, it inspires traveling and adrenaline, class and bubbliness – is this a word?).
Dreamt of my place catching fire and me fighting the fire.
I’m in the tram passing by stop 19 – Shrine of Remembrance and the Royal Botanical Gardens.
La Boheme is coming up soon in Melbourne and huge ads are on the facade of The Melbourne Arts Centre. It reminds me of the man who took me to this musical where we served caviar and champagne, then took me for dinner with the conductor in his fancy restaurant, introduced me to the most beautiful actress of the show only to find out she’s one of his old flames. Like all of the actresses, models, singers and TV presenters. Or at least that’s what I thought.
What I noticed is that men are stylish. Not guys, men. Above 40-45. Ladies are also well dressed, but I was more impressed with the ones in Buenos Aires – so much class.
I’m a few steps away from the National Gallery of Victoria – International (St Kilda Road) and I’m here to see the Andy Warhol – Ai Weiwei Exhibition (so lucky to catch it in its last days before it ends on April 24th; 26 AUD), which exceeded my expectations.
Why go at the museum? Because you see cool, interesting people and God – this world lacks them. Museums are a different worlds than the one we live in.
Why do I like Pop Art so much? In the end, you might say, it is non-art, it’s cans of soup and digital photography. Well, I remember when we had to present an artistic current for the Art class and I chose Pop Art. The teacher, one that I owe a lot gratefulness for seeding the love for art, for explaining its’ basics and insisting on making us recognize styles and artists, encouraged me for choosing something…different.
Every exhibition I see brings me closer to who I am inside, who I want to be.
You probably know who Andy Warhol is and if you don’t it means you’re not interested.
However, you might want to read about Ai Weiwei, Chinese artist, very little known in his own country and famous abroad. Fighting against government non-democratic policies, for liberty of expression, Weiwei went big on his blog which was closed by the Chinese authorities. He was also arrested and his passport was revoked.
“Expressing oneself is like a drug. I’m so addicted” – Ai Weiwei
What I liked most: Warhol’s Screen Test: Marcel Duchamp (one of the hundreds Warhol made in his studio – The Factory on East 47th Street in NYC), Mao paintings, Hammer and Sickle, Electric Chair, Elphaba from Wicked – making me think of Defying Gravity song that I sing every now and then in my mind and which is a landmark of my motto; Ai Weiwei’s With Flowers – pictures of the new bouquet of flowers he would put in his bicycle basket everyday as a peaceful protest to his arrest and revoking of his passport in 2011, Circle of Animals – of the Chinese Zodiac, . The initiative led to a movement called Flowers for Freedom and Weiwei got his passport back in 2015, the Lego Room featuring Julian Assange and violence on women, women’s rights, religion, love.
“I have no imagination, no memory. I act on the moment” – Ai Weiwei
I leave the museum by the Australian Ballet, where a young couple sits with their daughter in pink ballet costume in front of one of the beautiful ballet poses sculpture. Walking towards the Yarra River, the skyline of the city is almost revealed and as I get closer to the Federation Square on the other side of the river, the architecture of The Melbourne Arts Center is fully visible.
It’s autumn time in Melbourne, but during the day a T-shirt is enough. I’m already in Federation Square and the vibes are great. The Squares climbs up towards the National Gallery of Victoria: The Ian Potter Center – Australia Section of the Gallery. The red line on the Eureka Tower matches the red in the Australian flag. This Square is such a pleasant place to be and the architecture is simply wonderful – edgy, yet inspired by the Aboriginal Art.
And guess what, I arrive at The Atrium – a sort of galleria between the Suare and Flinders Street – right when a Meditation class takes place with a Buddhist monk. Yes, should this be the exact reason why this trip follows my Cambodian sip of Buddhist and Hindu lessons? No, I don’t have any thoughts other than expanding my knowledge continuously.
The monk talks about strength, stability, concentration, clarity, lucidity. About possessions – the mind and body = the self. The self we rely to is a concept based upon our possessions. No possessions, no self. Lunchtime Meditation – Tuesday in The Atrium.
He adds concentration is a product, a matter of alertness. The real meaning of effort is a state of mind, it’s a mental factor. I try to concentrate, but my mind is too alert, always thinking of something, too fast, thinking in three directions at the same time, running away.
“There’s no other way to train the mind other than train the mind” – he says.
I’m now in the The Ian Potter Centre: National Gallery of Victoria Australia, where the 200 Years of Australian Fashion Exhibition is on until the 31st of July (15 AUD, 10 AUD when presenting the NGV International Ticket). Oh, it’s so good, making me feel as in a real Fashion Week, in the first row. As I walk through the époque dresses, lovely hats making me want to wear each of them and step boldly in an equestrian competition, sequined jumpsuits, backless leather jackets, classic cuts and embroideries, bold cuts and modern designs, lace umbrellas, feather fans, furry shoes, flower jumpsuits, geometric motifs, Aboriginal motifs, Que Sera Sera plays and I find out “the future is not ours to see”. Should it be all connected?
At the upper level permanent collection galleries I admired John Brack’s works, Jean-Broome Norton’s Abundance, some weird photograpies, Aboriginal Art, the sharp angles of the museum itself, the irregular shape of its stairs and windows, found a spot to look at the Atrium from above and took particular interest in the vast works of Jan Senbergs – depicting mostly cities of the world.
Why do I relate to modern art? To pop art? Because I am a piece of it. A product of society going against its rules.
Since I saw the creations of Collins Street salons, I’m off to the street itself, walking by St Paul’s Cathedral. I’m not impressed with the fancy street so I walk back towards Flinders Street through a lovely narrow path called Centre Places.
Here, at Jack’s Barbers the quote of the day says: “Beware of devils quoting scriptures”. Hmm…
Small restaurants and cafes are so charming, next to chic clothes stores. I liked The Soup place where you can pay 3,5 AUD in a Pay it Forward system meaning that homeless people can come and ask if someone paid a soup for them in advance.
Lots of graffiti, street art and non-art, stickers, inscriptions. Then I walked down Flinders Street and I saw the most beautiful street art ever, so colorful and bright. Even the trash bins were painted.
Stepped in Quick Brown Fox vintage store and thought about returning someday to buy one of their unique pieces, but for now I’m on a sort of shopping ban, not because I’m in some saving plan, but because I’m worried about where am I going to put all these stuff I gather from around the world.
Tens of 11s, 22s, 33s, but I stopped counting. Anyway, they’re everywhere from the number of streets, to the trams, to the phone numbers and anywhere in between.
I’m right in front of Crown Melbourne where some steps are covered by a green carpet imitating grass. Here I take my shoes off and look at the Yarra River, one lady eats her lunch, another licks an ice cream and a couple seems to discuss some issues. One guy tans in his shorts only. He’s almost 50, but very fit and tanned. On the right of his body Roma is tattooed in huge letters. As he stands up – probably his lunch break is over – I see as big as his back, The Vitruvian Man, Michelangelo’s genius work. Wow! Is there a meaning in the way and order I see things? Do they make sense, a bigger picture? And there, in the sun across the Melbourne Aquarium I realize I wear size 38=11.
Funny to see I am tanned on the feet after the shape of the shoes I had in Cambodia, especially in the villages exploration days on four wheeler and horseback.
Nobu is right behind me, but I just had some sushi and I would love to try the desert platter, but I’m not in the mood for fancy restaurants now, but thought of my very first Japan experience in Osaka and Kyoto at the end of February.
Sat down again looking at Eureka Tower and the spectacle of the Southbank people passing by, tried to guess their stories for a good half an hour and decided I don’t want to up to the observation deck, but I will go to see sunrise in the flight deck – wherever it might catch me, drank a double espresso and tried to wake up, walked to the Shrine of Remembrance and saw the flame lit up and the 5 pm lowering of flags, took my shoes off and walked through the lawn looking at the plaques by each tree, spotting a poppy flower every now and then…
I stop by the statue of Sir Edward Dunlop, an Australian hero. I read about Changi and about The Burma-Thai Railway and I’m so proud I know about them and that I’ve been there in Singapore and in Yangon and had extensive talks by the pool in extreme rain and thunder with a war veteran – another war – about the casualties of the railway and of the Japanese cruelty and current distortion of facts through a free newspaper.
Museums and memorials, street art and pop art, Poppy flowers and history – all in Melbourne, Australia.
I end the day looking at the sky – and there, made of clouds, I see a huge bird and a human figure…