Tag Archives: world

Wanderlust Part 1: Hong Kong and London

Since the age of 15, I’ve wanted to travel to Europe. This year, I decided it was time to stop thinking about it and actually do it. For the next few weeks I’ll be blogging my journey through 11 countries on Topdeck’s Winter Spirit. Enjoy!

DAY 1: DECEMBER 25TH. Sydney to Hong Kong. 

I can’t get over how crowded Sydney Airport is. But somehow I manage to make it through security without any trouble. The journey ahead is daunting, a solo trip to the other side of the world, a trip I am unexpectedly taking alone. My emotions are mixed. A few tears saying goodbye at the famous departure sign only fuel the feelings. Am I doing the right thing, going alone? But in my heart I know this is what I need. I have to do this by myself. I have to.

Thankfully, I’m much better prepared for the long flight this time around. The last time, on my trip to America, I was not ready. I wore the wrong clothes on the plane, I got my liquids confiscated at security for being over the 100ml limit, I took a VERY strong sleeping pill way too early in the flight and barely lived to regret it….well, not this time. This time I’ve done my research. I know what I’m doing.

First stop, Hong Kong. 9 hour flight.

The Cathay Pacific plane is packed. There’s not one empty spot. But I’m pleased to discover that the seats are VERY comfortable. Almost like an armchair. Unfortunately my recline doesn’t seem to work, and lucky me, I get the seatmate from hell.

She’s an entitled teen who takes pleasure in elbowing my armrest constantly, sticks her legs into my space and feels the need to snicker at and criticise my movie choices. Even her mother joins in. Well, I’m 25 years old and if I want to watch Muppets Christmas Carol/Harry Potter then I will, your opinions be damned. However, it’s 10:20pm and soon I drift off to sleep.

DAY 2: DECEMBER 26TH. Hong Kong. 

My flight was meant to land at 5am Hong Kong time. But the plane has landed at 3:55am.

Hong Kong airport is almost deserted. Immigration takes about 5 minutes and soon I’m in the arrivals lounge. It’s so early, the train station is locked behind a heavy metal grate. Looks like I’m going nowhere until it opens. I snap a few pictures and settle in a seat. Everyone else is sleeping in chairs, waiting for the trains.

At 5:30am the gate is open. But first I head to the bathroom to freshen up a bit. There’s a little area in the ladies’ room dedicated for makeup application. Thanks Hong Kong.

The MTR train from the airport to the city takes on 24 minutes. The train is spotless, fast, and smoother than any ride I’ve ever had on public transport. At Hong Kong Central, screens show the airline schedules. You can check in for your flight at the station. I follow the excellent signage to the Island line. I haven’t even been outside yet and Hong Kong is already finding its way into my heart.

Every train is behind a glass wall, the door only opening when the train has stopped. How many lives must be saved because of such a simple measure? I want to take this whole system home to Sydney.

I’m meant to meet my friend Brooke a bit later, so I kill time at Sheung Wan by getting hot chocolate at Starbucks, searching endlessly for WiFi to contact both Brooke and home, and then I go for a walk to the famous Star Ferry pier.

At 10am Brooke arrives. My flight leaves at 3:05pm so we waste no time heading straight to Hong Kong’s iconic Peak Tram, much like Australia’s Scenic Railway. The view is stunning, though unfortunately partly obscured by smog.

We head back down and catch a cab to the Star Ferry. There’s another item ticked off the bucket list. On the next island Brooke shows me the Garden of Stars and the performing arts centre. It’s a shame the museum has closed for renovations. But I’m very keen to find one place in particular. A jewellery store I promised Grandpa that I’d visit. He went to Hong Kong regularly for business trips and every year since the mid 80s, this particular store has sent him a Christmas card without fail. We do find it, although the pieces are a little too much for my taste. Still, mission accomplished.

With only a couple of hours til my flight leaves, I head back to the airport. The train journey takes less than an hour (are you listening, Australia?). No need to check in, since I did it online but I need to find what gate I’m meant to board at. Apparently it’s Gate 65. Before I know it, I’m on another train to a different section of the massive airport, only to find there’s been a change. To gate 63.

Today I’ve managed to navigate a foreign city, alone, without getting lost once. I can’t help but feel proud.

When the flight to London boards, I’m thrilled to see that there is nobody in the row in front of me, nobody behind me, I have a whole row to myself and the flight is almost empty. Forget first class. I have a great setup here.

I pull up the armrests, grab a few spare pillows and blankets, and manage to sleep soundly for 10 of the 12 hours. Best. Flight. Ever.

LONDON, HEATHROW AIRPORT 

It’s 8:20pm but Border Control has a ridiculously long line. While I’m waiting, I log into the Topdeck App and discover that one other girl from the tour group is here in line for Border Control. Her name is Sophie. We make plans to meet up at baggage reclaim. Five minutes later, we realise we’re practically next to each other in line. Apparently her flight from Melbourne was delayed eight hours so if that hadn’t happened we wouldn’t have met up. We both decide it’s fate.

After more than an hour waiting, Sophie gets a real grilling by immigration, while the man checking my passport doesn’t even mind that I made a mistake on my landing card.

It’s close to 10pm, so we head to the taxi rank. We’re greeted by a massive line and precisely zero taxis in sight. We head back inside to find the Tube.

Unfortunately for us, the Heathrow express isn’t running. Thankfully the attendant is helpful (despite mistaking us for students) and tells us how to get to the hostel. Or so we think.

It’s a long trip to the station and neither of us a phone reception to call the hostel. Mercifully, Sophie manages to get some data roaming once the tube is above ground. She contacts the accomodation so we don’t lose our reservations. It’s getting close to midnight.

Finally, we arrive at the station. There’s free WiFi at the station so I connect and pull up Google maps. The guy said it wouldn’t take long to walk from here. And that’s when we realise the horrible truth. I told the man we wanted to get to Tower Bridge Station. He’d told us to get on a train to London Bridge Station. The genius has sent us in the wrong direction.

At this point it’s almost 1am, we’re both tired and a 26 minute walk from where we need to be. It’s also freezing cold and we have suitcases.

The London Bridge station staff tell us where the taxi rank is, and we get there to find it almost deserted. Though neither of us say it aloud, Sophie and I are seriously doubting whether we’ll make it to the hostel before sunrise.

Sophie spots a man hanging around near a fancy looking building. I assume he’s security because he looks like someone the mafia would hire. He sends us to the main road and within minutes, we’re finally in a taxi towards the hostel.

Unfortunately the driver sees fit to give us a PHENOMENAL lecture on how we could have gotten a cab at Heathrow if we’d just XYZ….maybe he thought we were insulting the taxi industry. I don’t know. And I really don’t care. I just want to get warm.

It’s well after 1am when we finally get to the room. After a shower I’m finally feeling human again. The bed is pretty comfortable too.

It’s taken us 5 hours to get from the plane to the hostel room. I tell Sophie that someday we’ll be laughing. But for now, sleep.

DAY 3: DECEMBER 27TH. London.

When I wake, I can feel a cold starting. Drat. Last thing I need is to get sick. But it figures. More than 21 hours on planes which are just massive bacteria breeding zones. I’ll have to take something for it.

Sophie’s already up. She says she couldn’t sleep. I suspect jetlag, although I’m feeling a bit groggy too. But I’m not sure if it’s jetlag or this stupid cold.

We head down to breakfast, where there’s a great spread of all-you-can-eat food and we meet another girl from the Winter Spirit tour. She’s from Perth. While we’re chatting away, I happen to glance out the window and see the snow.

I jump up from the table and run up the stairs, through the foyer door and start snapping pictures. Everyone is laughing at me.

“What are you so excited about?” Someone asks me.

“I’ve never seen snow fall from the sky!” I explain with the air of a child in a candy store.

The guy looks at me like I have three heads. “Where are you from that you don’t see snow?!?”

“Australia. I haven’t seen any since I was twelve and never falling from the sky,” There’s one item off my bucket list. And on my first morning too.

Sophie and I decide to head out to the Christmas market by the Thames. It’s raining so I take the umbrella I packed.

Neither of us have ever experienced such cold. Even layered up with thermals and down coats, the wind chill hits you. Within minutes my stupid umbrella is broken. It kept out the rain but it’s no match for the wind. Damn it.

We cross Tower Bridge and find that it was worth braving the temperatures for what we find. The stalls are in cute wooden shacks, beautifully decorated for the holidays. At one stall, we find a great umbrella built for London’s weather and big enough for both of us. And it’s only £10. Sold!

We pass a chemist and head inside, partly so I can pick up something for this stupid cold and partly to get warm. Everything is so well heated here. I quickly find some cold and flu tablets. Better to nip this thing in the bud.

Sophie is really starting to shiver and I have to admit we need a break. We decide to head back to the hostel to get warm, (in Sophie’s case) get some thermals on, and figure out our next move. Our city map didn’t hold up so well in the rain either. We need a new one.

Back at the hostel, I discover my socks got slightly wet from the deep puddles. My boots are a little damp on the inside too. Sophie offers her hair dryer which does the trick. Not even 24 hours since we met and we’re already a great team.

We both want to go to the Tower of London but we’re also keen for lunch. We set out to see if Britain’s fish and chips live up to the legends. But Google maps can be deceptive as the place we were looking for is closed. We resign ourselves to pizza instead. May as well get some practice in for Italy.

After we eat, Sophie says she’s feeling tired and I’m quite relaxed too. We walk back to the hostel to figure out what to do next, but Sophie’s so tired she decides to get some sleep. It’s probably best I take it easy today as well, with this ridiculous cold threatening me. Besides, it’s not even 4pm and the sun is setting.

Tonight, the tour group plans to meet at the bar for drinks. Tomorrow, we hit the road. First stop, Paris, the City of Light.

Stay tuned!

#metoo

August 2016

The Old Fitz Hotel Theatre, Sydney. My second attempt at watching Low Level Panic. A few weeks previously, my first viewing had ended at intermission when I had suddenly come down with a virus. But here I was again, this time ready to see Act 2. Low Level Panic by Clare McIntyre is a powerful masterpiece of theatre showcasing the subtle ways sexism bleeds into society.
As the first act concluded, I turned to ask my companion if he wanted a drink. Instead, I was greeted with the sight of tears streaming down his face.
“What’s wrong?” I was alarmed at this display of emotion. He was crying so hard I had to lead him outside.
“Have I ever made a woman feel like that? Have I ever made YOU feel like that?” He was nearly hysterical.

~

Every woman knows the feeling. A man who just won’t take no for an answer.  Who lingers, leers, follows, gropes, touches, makes some crude remark, licks his lips, asks how much you are…I could go on. And as always, every single time you get harassed or assaulted, it’s the same questions/statements we’ve heard a million times.
What were you wearing?
You must have led him on.
That’s just how guys are.
Lighten up.
How much were you drinking?
Learn to take a compliment.
Come on, you aren’t going to turn him down are you?
Give him a chance.
You were asking for it.
Well what did you think was going to happen?
You shouldn’t have been there/done that.
You’re lying.
You’re just trying to ruin his life.
Have you thought about what this could mean for him?

Even though I have never been raped, I’ve still heard a number of those things. Like every female who has ever existed past present and future, I’ve been hurt by men. I’ve woken up to sexually explicit messages or pictures from strangers.  The last time I dared look at my Others folder on Facebook, there were countless propositions. I’ve been leered at. I’ve been followed by men, sometimes in pairs. In August this year I had my path blocked by a male who later tracked me down at my day job. Just a few days ago, I was doing a corporate event dressed as Elsa with sleazy middle aged men asking for hugs, for me and my female coworker to come do the housework. Guys have made me their little conquest mission to take my virginity. Men have told me I can’t possibly be the manager at work and is there a man they can speak to instead? I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many times men have yelled out “SMILE!”
And of course, I’m an actress/singer. An industry rampant with this sort of behaviour as we’ve seen with Harvey Weinstein and countless other disgusting individuals. Without naming anybody, I did my first professional show at 21. During the callbacks, girls were made to give lap dances to the boys. I am not making that up. I never knew lap dances were the way to tell if you can sing, dance and convincingly portray a character. But apparently, that’s considered appropriate behaviour for directors!

The first time I remember a man making me feel uncomfortable, I was about 5. It was someone I’d never met. He kissed my hand and told me how pretty I was. I didn’t even know how to react but I remember feeling scared and embarrassed.
Since then, it’s happened more times than I can count. But here’s my highlight reel, for lack of a better word.

I’m 9. A boy from school chases me around the McDonald’s playground, pins me down and says he wants to kiss me. I kick him off and get away.

I’m 12. My creepy teacher is always trying to get me alone in the classroom with him. Then he invites me to lean against his chest. I say no.

I’m 14. Walking home from school. A group of about ten boys from my class swarm around me in a tight circle. They ask me what my vagina looks like. About my clitoris. About all the boys I’m supposedly sleeping with. Would I ever sleep with them? I’m a desperately shy virgin. Male teacher laughs and tells the boys not to do that again.

I’m 15. Wearing a school uniform. A middle aged tradie wolf whistles at me while he drives by.

I’m 16. A boy in science class gropes me, then follows me onto the school bus and does it again.

I’m 18. A boy at school slips his hand down my uniform and starts sliding my bra off. When I push him away he replies coyly that he’s “Just keeping his hands warm.”

I’m 19. While working, a group of boys in their early twenties point at me and ask my male coworker “Can you ask that girl to show some breast?”

I’m 20. A man slows his car down and shrieks “I’d f*** you!” at me as I walk down the street.

The boy I’ve been dating for almost eighteen months breaks up with me because “Women need to provide sex for men,” and I wasn’t ready.

I’m at my friend’s 21st birthday party. Her grandfather makes a pass at me. Later on he comes to find me and rubs himself against my body. He laughs. People at the party wave it off as him being a dirty old man.

I’m involved in filming a music video. The producer reaches for my chest asking where my boobs are because I’m the only one on the shoot wearing a high necked top.

I’m 21. The only passenger on the bus. The middle-aged driver doesn’t open the door at my stop. He tells me I’m hot. I have to ask him to let me out.

I’m 23. My 46 year old co-worker asks about my sex life. I ask him to stop. He calls me a bitch. He tells me I need to start having sex to get the dicks out of my brain and into my life. I’m called the perpetrator.

A random stranger comes up to me at the train station while I’m reading a book and hugs me. I have to shove him off. He giggles “I like hugging people”. It’s reported, but never followed up.

I’m 24 and trying on swimwear. An old man walks over and asks if he can take over the fitting. The older sales assistant starts lamenting my generation and how we don’t like “those comments” anymore.

I’m walking around the shopping centre/mall dressed as a Christmas Elf for work. A man slips his hand up my skirt.

The #metoo hashtag is surging on social media right now, but this is far from the first time sexual harassment and assault has come into the public eye in the last two years. There was the Stanford case where Brock Turner was given a ridiculously light sentence for sexual assault because he can swim. Prominent members of the entertainment industry have been exposed for the predators they are, predictably leading to shrieks of “THOSE WOMEN ARE LYING”. America currently has an orange self-proclaimed sexual predator in the White House and he of course has no end of defenders in his conduct towards women. This is a man who openly treats women like objects to be defiled and played with, who bragged about sexual assault in that revolting Access Hollywood tape (his victims were mocked with the hashtag #nextfaketrumpvictim), who dismisses women as gold diggers and still became President of the United States. Remind me again how accusations of sexual misconduct will ruin a man’s career? God help us.
Domestic violence is rampant in Australia. One woman every week is killed by a current or former partner and people just shrug and ask “Why didn’t they just leave?”
And of course, everyday sexism is screaming from all directions. We all saw the ridiculous carry-on when Jodie Whittaker was announced as the first female Dr Who. Female politicians are constantly questioned first and foremost on motherhood and fashion choices. Any woman who dares express an opinion online or try to do a job in a “man’s industry” is met with jokes, threats of rape/death and an order to make sandwiches. I’ll probably get a few for writing this blog.

Women have put up with this since the dawn of time and we’re all over it. Instead of teaching girls to not give men the wrong signals or how to prevent being raped, we should be teaching boys how to respect women. Enough is enough.
And yes I know, #notallmen and all that jazz. But if your reaction to any mention of sexism, rape, violence against women or the concept of mansplaining causes you to go into a foaming rage, maybe it’s time to take a look at yourself and think, “Does this make me sound like a Grade A douchebag?”
Catcalling is not a compliment. It’s not funny. It’s threatening and intimidating and it is NEVER ok.

Ladies, keep talking about this. It’s not acceptable in any situation. It was wrong in the 50s and it’s wrong in 2017. Men, call out your friends and co-workers. Be a man and treat females with respect. Not because you have a mother/sister/daughter, but because we’re all human.

And this may come as a shock to the faceless morons on the Internet, but that includes women.