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Yes, it’s been well over a year since my last new blog post (in September I posted an old unpublished one I’d found, which was basically a glorified photo of the day). Yes, I survived my skin graft surgery and continued, albeit only for a short time, on my journey. Yes, I’ve been home for almost a year now. Yes, the last post I wrote (about the volcano incident that put an end to my mianderings for several months) was just about exactly 15 months ago and yes, that is, coincidentally or not, just about exactly the amount of time I’ve been back in the States now.
No, I did not intend to abandon my blog. Believe it or not, even after I stopped traveling and returned home I still had every intention of continuing to write posts. And yes, that means I am now well on my way to hell.
But in any case, I am finally doing it and am hoping that this magical ability I seem to have found to force myself to finally write something for the blog (Is there a law against how many times you can use the word ‘blog’ in a blog post? If not, perhaps there should be.) will, if not continue, at least serve to guilt me into not letting 15 months pass before the next one.
The truth is I still have photos galore and gone-but-not-quite-yet-forgotten travel stories to share. All I need is some more of that magical motivation dust to get me to, in the wise words of a previous generation’s Nike ad executives, just fuckin* do it.
And so I shall give you the briefest of updates and then direct you to what is, OK, really the briefest of updates: my six-word memoirs recounting the end of my trip. (Yes, I finished those back in February right after I got home, but no, I didn’t ever get around to telling anyone.)
Without further ado (about nothing, we know), I give you a brief account of the last 15 months.
Learned from a scientist friend (a rocket scientist, actually, and we know that rocket science and brain surgery are our culture’s jobs with the highest degree of apparent difficulty) that I’d inaccurately named my ‘lavafoot’ photo album. What had left me with third-degree (aka full-thickness) burns was volcanic mud. Lava, you see, glows. Which makes it a lot harder to step in accidentally. Who knew? Well, aside from the rocket scientist, apparently quite a few people—all of whom thought I had to be crazy for stepping in lava and who had obviously paid more attention in science class than I had.
Had skin graft surgery in Sydney on October 30, 2009. It hurt. A lot. A whole hell of a fucking lot. Awoke from the anesthesia to be confronted by the meanest nurse in history who basically yelled at me for moaning in pain. Spent another month at my cousin’s slowly starting to walk again with two crutches, one crutch, no crutches, escaping an oxycodone addiction by getting headaches and nausea from oxycodone, and wondering at my twice-to-thrice-weekly hospital visits why on earth that stupid-ass surgeon told me I’d be ‘better’ in a week. (It must be stated here the my cousin Tara, her husband, Andrew, and their lovely daughter, Scarlett, have my undying love and gratitude for taking me in and taking such good care of me [and taking me to all those damned hospital visits] for way longer than they should have ever been expected to.)
Graduated from twice-weekly dressing changes and evil skin-scrapings by the least sympathetic physician’s assistant in history to a compression sock which hurt like hell at first to wear but now (yes, 15 months later I still have to wear it) now luckily only hurts if I don’t wear it. Had twice-weekly physical therapy with the two kindest, most sympathetic, sweetest physical therapists in history. Had my health insurance run out on me but was treated anyway by said kind, etc. therapists (whose kindness made me cry more than once, I’ll admit. Yeah, things were really rough there for a while.)
Healed enough that I was ready to leave my cousin’s and go on a 10-day silent meditation retreat—my third and, as I said after my second, my last. Spent a few days in the Blue Mountains which were quite lovely but not, like I’d originally thought, anywhere near my meditation retreat. Returned to Sydney for a week or so more of recuperating, then went to stay with my friends Lars (whom I know from high school) and Jilli and their son Nemo in Castlemaine, about an hour and a half outside of Melbourne. They were wonderful hosts to me for about two weeks and I’m so very lucky to have gotten to stay with them. Went to Melbourne for a week or so. Met some lovely folks there and enjoyed the city quite a lot.
Flew to Tasmania to finally start ‘traveling’ again. Found you couldn’t really ‘travel’ anywhere in Tasmania without a car, so rented one with two boys too young to rent one themselves. Saw beautiful scenery. Felt really old. Traveled for another incredibly frustrating week on my own basing my itinerary on whatever buses happened to be running on whatever days.
Returned to Hobart (Tas’s capital. And yes, all Aussies call it Tas. Or Tassie.) for a few more days of sightseeing nearby but fell into a funk which became a depression which I later self-diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder.
You see (the theory goes), my foot was finally healed enough that it no longer needed 100% of my body’s energy to be focused on its healing. And once that physical stress was no longer in the spotlight, well, what appeared to happen was that the emotion, trauma, whatever you want to call the non-physical stress I’d been through for the last three months finally caught up with that other part of my body: my brain.
At that point I became entirely dependent upon the kindness of strangers, and I am forever grateful to a German woman my own age named Steffie who was my roommate in the godawful youth hostel in which I was staying. She took me out for brunch to celebrate my 41st birthday and, as I deteriorated shortly thereafter, cooked soup for us in the hostel kitchen to make sure I ate something other than the eggs I had boiled for myself before the PTSD had really taken hold.
After one godawful week boarded my scheduled flight to Christchurch, New Zealand. My plan was to travel a month there and then fly back to Australia to catch my already-booked flights to Thailand and Burma (both tickets I had already purchased back in Castlemaine when I still thought I wanted to keep traveling). Almost wasn’t allowed on that flight because the one leg of the trip for which I was missing a ticket was the one from NZ back to Australia, and apparently you can’t enter New Zealand without having an exit ticket. Even if you can show proof that you’re booked on a bloody flight from Melbourne to Bangkok one month later, so OBVIOUSLY you’ll need to be leaving New Zealand to do that.
Spent a tearful hour or more putting a very nice travel agent (who assured me she’d seen worse) through hell finding out what my options were (A ticket to Fiji I wouldn’t use was in the offing. Clearly they’d done this before.) and trying to choose one. Finally I decided, since I was not allowed to purchase that one missing flight back to Australia (which I’d previously just assumed I’d purchase when I was in Kiwiland) because I didn’t yet have a visa, which was required in order to buy a ticket to Australia, that I’d simply had enough and this was probably a sign that I should just go home.
Spent approximately $1,600 on a flight from Auckland to New York for a month later, having been told by the travel agent that it would cost me only $150 to change the date. Made it to Christchurch, which was fucking cold. Realized New Zealand was fucking cold, especially the more beautiful parts to which I’d planned to travel (I was not, however, no matter how desperate things got, going to sign up for that Lord of the Rings Tour), and not only was I miserably depressed and lacking any motivation to plan my month of travels, I did not have the appropriate wardrobe for said month of travels.
Was made even more depressed by staying in yet another youth hostel (this was what my budget would allow, unfortunately), was lucky enough to meet a friendly local yoga instructor / web designer with whom I saw several movies and basically had my only social contact in New Zealand, and decided what I needed to do was just get the hell out of there and go home—which I did, one week, several more tearful trips to travel agents and over $500 more dollars later.
Realized on my way to the airport that it was the first day in weeks I hadn’t felt depressed.
Knew I’d made the right decision.
I’ve written way too much now to bother going into detail about the last 11 months at home. It’s pretty boring stuff anyway, so you’re not missing much. Suffice it to say that after recuperating with my dear friends Jessica and Hartley (and the lovely Zoe and Mollie) in Allentown, PA, and couchsurfing with various wonderful friends in the city, I moved back into my old apartment in May, two weeks ago finished my second long-term temporary job of the year, and am once again officially unemployed (the kind of unemployment without the unemployment check, unfortunately).
So I should have plenty of time to edit and upload those thousand-plus photos, some of which (can anyone say Angkor Wat?) I’ve been sitting on for almost two full years (!) now. Well, I didn’t do it any of the other times in the last year I was unemployed for several months at a stretch, so…don’t hold your breath. But do wish me some more magic motivation dust and…well, in the wise words of a past generation’s New York Lottery ad executives: you never fuckin* know.
Lastly, for the curious of mind / strong of stomach, what post-volcano blog post would be complete without updated photos? The ‘lavafoot’ album is still online, and new and, I’m pleased to report for all our sakes, much-less-gruesome photos have been added.
*OK, that particular word was mine.