CROC AND ROLL

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QUELLE horreur! The first shock of my day comes when I realise I am on a flight to Cairns, not Cannes, as I had originally hoped. But I am quick to recover from this minor detail, Tropical North Queensland being, after all, one of my favourite destinations on the planet with frankly far better beaches than in France.
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It does, however, take me the entire 2.5 hour flight from Brisbane to come to grips with the fact that somewhere along the line, someone at Qantas appears to have made the incredulous decision to cancel its inflight love-song dedication channel “From the Heart”. Now many people wouldn’t understand but over the years it has formed the highlight of my Qantas flights, the channel to which sad singles like me have long aspired to hear our names.
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Oh yes, I’ve spent the best part of the past decade bouncing around this big brown land with the flying kangaroo hearing Peter dedicate something schmoopy to Pam, all the while fantasising that one day that girl would be me. I do note, however, that Qantas does now offer in-seat messaging and I surreptitiously turn mine on to see if anyone is interested in communicating with the girl in 11C. They aren’t. To entertain myself, I spend the rest of the flight staring at the inner thigh of the 30-something man in shorts sitting two seats over.
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I’m in Cairns for business, but it never feels like work when you’re in the tropics, what with World Heritage Listed Rainforest to my left and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to my right (which frankly beats the usual clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right), as I drive north. I’ve hired a car for my brief visit and even the bloke at Europcar is so jovial when I tell him my plans that he suggests we both keep driving and head across the Nullabor, on some kind of bizarre Thelma and Louise meets Wolf Creek scenario. I reject his invitation, as lovely as that sounds, and drive along the Coral Sea, quite happily alone.
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I am headed for Thala Beach Nature Reserve 15 minutes south of Port Douglas, but first I stop in Port for a pie. It’s not any pie I’m after, but a crocodile pie from Mocka’s Pies. Yes, plonk me in cane and croc country and all of a sudden I turn into Bear Grylls picturing myself all woman versus wild as I hand over my $5.80, and imagine tackling this beasty boy with my bare hands. I ask the woman with a soupy Greek accent behind the counter where the croc has come from and become excited when I think she says “the bush”. “The bush!” I squeal back. “No, the butcher,” she replies, deadpan. But it takes more than that to deflate me and fully sated I head on to Thala. Me: 1; Croc: 0.
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Now, at this point, I should mention it has occurred to me that the very next day I am going to be sea kayaking in croc territory, and I wonder how long it takes for a croc pie to pass through one’s system and for no trace, no scent of this sucker to remain. I can just imagine a float of angry crocodiles splashing around my sea kayak, stalking me to the death. But when I arrive at Thala I discover my tour has been cancelled due to high winds. Me: 2; Croc 0.
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I soon discover there’s plenty of other wildlife at this eco-tourism establishment to admire as I embark on a nature tour with the head gardener. One of the highlights of a nature tour is you learn about all of God’s creatures on the property. One of the lowlights is that you now know too much and I soon replace my ridiculous fear of crocs with an ill-founded worry about other things that go bump in the night. Me: 2; Other Critters: 1; Croc: 0.
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But I have nothing to worry about, not even the giant carpet python I hear of lurking five doors down outside Cabin 42. For I am in the tropics, and while there is plenty of wildlife, there’s not much that is going to kill you and I’ve got more chance of dying of boredom back in Brisbane on a bad day than anything here. Me: 3; Other Critters: 1; Croc: 0.
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In fact, the nature tour turns out to be the highlight of my stay, and I spend almost three hours with Head Gardener Brett Kelly as he takes me around this 58ha property pointing out spiders, butterflies, birds and plants. We end the tour at Oak Beach where Brett combines an element of one of the many other tours, the Coconut Odyssey, and husks a coconut for me to drink. Now, it’s not often a man husks a coconut just a basic spike and his bare hands and I find myself off in fantasy land again, this time picturing the man of my dreams, clad only in loin cloth, presenting me with a husked coconut. If there’s anything to get a city woman’s loins racing it’s the thought of a fella going all primal. I think Brett senses something is amiss and we end the tour shortly after the coconut husking. Me: 4; Other Critters: 1; Manly Men: 1; Croc: 0.
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I head back down to the beach and sit at Herbie’s Shack, where I have ordered a picnic basket ploughman’s lunch and ice-cold beer. Fully sated, I crawl into a hammock slung between two coconut trees and listen to the waves. I can’t see him, but I just know there’s a croc out there somewhere. Waiting and watching. Me: 5: Other Critters: 1; Manly Men: 1; Croc: 1.
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The Global Goddess stayed as a guest of Thala Beach Nature Reserve. To book your own stay, go to http://www.thalabeach.com.au
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River Kwai Delights

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THE River Kwai is a jade jewel as late afternoon concedes languidly to dusk. The longtail boat in which I am travelling roars and sputters like an indigent politician up the infamous waterway towards the floating jungle rafts I have come to know and love so much. Travel writers don’t particularly like returning to the same place – there’s too much world to explore – but there are some destinations which become firmly etched into your psyche. And so entrenched in your soul you are unwittingly lured back. And for me, this is one of them, in part for its brutal war history involving the bravado of Australian soldiers and in part for its sheer natural beauty.
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I penned these words a year ago on my fourth trip to the rustic and incredibly beautiful River Kwai region, pondering what it was that kept drawing me back to this part of the world. I still have no answers, but the pull to return there has emerged again, and this year, I’d love to take some of you with me. And so, I am delighted to announce I have launched a new tour River Kwai Travel Writing Delights with The Global Goddess. In early August, we will be meeting in Bangkok where we will spend two nights in a luxury five-star hotel, before we embark on our journey to the River Kwai. And along the way, we’ll be observing, day dreaming and writing about our travels.
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If we’re lucky, we’ll bump into my good friend Sam Season, about whom I have written before. I first met Sam Season several years ago, and over the years I have been speaking with him about the most salacious of all subjects: love. Regular readers of The Global Goddess will remember this 22-year-old tour guide, a Mon man from one of the earliest tribes to live in South East Asia. Considered neither Burmese, nor Thai, the Mon exist in a small slither of land along the River Kwai, not far from the Burmese border. The Mon number some 8.14 million people but I remain captivated by this one man. This man called Sam.
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At night, he paints his face in traditional Mon markings but speaks with an English accent plucked out of a south London pub, with a smattering of Aussie twang – picked up solely from the tourists with which he works every day. He moved to this particular village when he was 9, and has been studying to finish High School since, in between working 6 days a week at the River Kwai Jungle Rafts. And Sam is in love with a girl called Jaytarmon with beautiful long black hair who lives in a neighbouring village down the river. But access to this girl, like internet, electricity and hot water, are elusive in these parts. And to complicate things more, Sam is being pursued by a girl in his own village, who cooks for him and washes his clothes.
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Last time we parted ways, on the banks of that beautiful river, Sam had plans to spend the year perfecting his English, so he can gain a mechanics scholarship in Australia and work towards his dream of becoming a car mechanic along the Thai/Burmese border. His plans included professing his love for Jaytarmon and asking her to wait for him and his love. Those of you who know me personally, or have met me through my words alone, know that this will be a journey of humility, heart and humour – the three cornerstones I believe make a great writer, and good human being. Please come and join me in one of the most beautiful trips I have ever done. It will change your life.
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For more details on my tour River Kwai Travel Writing Delights with The Global Goddess, please click on this link: https://theglobalgoddess.com/joinmythailandtour/
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The Imitation Game

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A COMBINATION of heat stroke, boredom and the usual malaise, which strikes every January, led to me rejoining a dating site last week. (I may or may not have also been looking for a blog before I start travelling again for the year). I elected to go back to BoganDating.com (not its real name) to see if things had changed in the year since I was last desperate enough to sign up. They have not. In all fairness, in the deep dark recesses of my mind, and with yet another Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, I may also hold some grim hope that the man of my dreams is lurking somewhere in the shadows on BoganDating.com. He is not. But it has certainly been an amusing week.
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This time around I named myself after a popular travel site to at least see if anyone out there possessed a sense of irony. They don’t. At the time of writing this, I have attracted 209 views, 29 kisses and engaged in 1 email conversation. I think the rather low ratio of views to kisses and actual conversations may have had something to do with the fact I stipulated I am not interested in one-night stands, thus knocking out the majority of participants. Yes, “Fairdinkumkiwi”, “Gazza”, and “DancingandRomance” were all scared off by that one. “ChristopherB”, 27, was an interesting entrant in the game, particularly given I stated I was looking for a man aged between 40 and 50.
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“Paul3000” was not looking for “anything serious” nor a “one-night stand” but just “regular fun”. I’m pretty sure we all know what that means. Yet Paul was quite the serious sausage himself, stipulating: “Please read my profile carefully, and only respond if you do want to chat and do like what you have read. Sorry for sounding like a grouch, but it has been getting annoying.” I’m believe Paul actually lives in a garbage bin and his real name is Oscar. “RhythmLover”, aged 64, also viewed my profile. He wanted to “encounter a friendship of epicurean attraction…a curious glance across a shared vintage…the chink of glass, one hand upon another…mmm”. I think RhythmLover has just finished reading 50 Shades of Grey. He is, however, keeping his options open, stating he wants to meet anyone between the ages of 18-120 and, most reassuringly, stating “my iPod remains young.” Phew. Can’t date a dating iPod.
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“Charlie” was not interested in “pushy women” but definitely wanted someone “with their own mind” (I’m SO confused). “RichobytheCoast” went straight for the sales pitch, leading his profile with “I have just bought a beachfront apartment at Kings Beach”. Unfortunately for Richo that is the most exciting thing about him. I actually responded in the affirmative to “Devoted2U” prepared to overlook the corny name, as he said he wanted a woman he could “spoil”, one who was “independent” and “one that knows how to put a man in his place”. Devoted, you had me at hello! Unfortunately, Devoted’s idea of “spoiling” a woman, seems to be actually responding to her email. He has since gone walkabout.
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Walkabout seems to be the theme this season, as was also the case of a detective who also went missing in action for three days, straight after I emailed him back. Which made me wonder. Had he been killed by a Gold Coast bikie? Was he on a secret assignment? Or did he do a criminal check and discover I got a speeding fine on New Years Eve? In my defence, Your Honour, it was a scorcher, I had a hot roast chicken in the car, and I needed to get the chook home. And no, I don’t condone speeding, but I thought it was a 60 zone in which I was clocked doing 65. And yes, the chicken ended up costing me $227 and 3 demerit points. Lesson learnt. And so, too, may my lesson be learnt on this dating site.
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Now, before I sign off, I have been speaking with a close male mate and he too has been dabbling in the whole dating disaster site business. And, remarkably, he has similar tales to tell of the female of the species. Like me, the minute he contacts them in the affirmative, they tend to disappear off the face of the planet. His worst tale is of a self-confessed spiritual guru who expended considerable energy painting a picture of what they’d do when they next caught up, and even spoke of an overseas break with him. And just when he was about hooked, she then revealed she had “reconciled with her partner”. We both don’t believe her but thanks for playing around with someone’s heart, lady. So, I am none the wiser on what makes this dating business tick. Or why there are so many imitators playing this particular game, but if the survival of our species relies on men and women actually forming healthy relationships, then we’re all doomed.
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Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

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I’ve been to Nice and the isle of Greece
 where I sipped champagne on yacht, 
I moved like Harlow in Monte Carlo and showed ’em what I’ve got. 
I’ve been undressed by kings and I’ve seen some things that 
a woman ain’t s’posed to see, I’ve been to paradise…Charlene (1977)
FOR me, Christmas is a time to reflect. It’s when I briefly stop travelling, slow down and glance back on the year. It would be so easy in my job as a travel writer to stumble from destination to destination and chase the rush of the next story and adventure, discarding the last place I’ve visited as simply a fuzzy memory. Recently, while filing a piece to camera for my colleagues over at TravelThereNext, I was asked what I “collect” on my travels. And it’s pretty simple. I collect characters. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things in every corner of the planet. I try to capture them in my stories and in the quiet corners of my mind. Store them up for those rainy days when I need reminding that the world is truly a remarkable place. And so I present to you some of the great characters I’ve met of 2014.

First World White Girls, who performed at the Judith Wright Centre, reminded me of how fortunate I am.

First World White Girls, who performed at the Judith Wright Centre, reminded me of how fortunate I am.

I began my travelling year in Bali in January where I met Cekorda, 85, a respected medicine man. “How old are you?” he asks as I sit with my back against his knees, his wiry fingers probing my skull.
“43,” I respond.
“Not so young,” he mutters to himself, much to my amusement. He then asks me my problems.
“I have a broken heart,” I reply.
I lay down on a mat and he presses between my toes with a stick. My third toe on my left foot hurts and I yelp.
“Your broken heart is healed. It is your mind. You have self doubt.”
Cekorda then stands above me and traces his magical stick over my body to clear my aura, before announcing that I no longer have a problem.
He turns to an Western bystander who speaks Indonesian.
“Women are very complex,” the bystander translates for Cekorda. I laugh all the way from Bali back to Brisbane.

Bali medicine man Cekorda

Bali medicine man Cekorda

In February, I’m up in Thailand, where I return to the River Kwai and meet up with my young friend Sam Season, a traditional Mon Man who works on the River Kwai Jungle Rafts. Sam has two big dreams: to gain an apprenticeship as a mechanic in Australia and to marry the love of his life, Jaytarmon who lives in a neighbouring village. I ask him whether this mysterious girl with the long black hair is still beautiful. He doesn’t hesitate. “Oh, awesome. I want to listen to her voice.” He pulls out his iPhone until he finds a photo of her, laying dreamily on a bed with her hands in her chin. “I look at her photo every night before I go to bed. I have to make her believe in myself and trust in myself. When I finish my education I will be ready. I have to show her ‘can you wait for me?’ One day, when I have an education we will have a good life and then we will marry.”

Sam Season

Sam Season

March finds me back in Brisbane, struck by the sadness of the drought which is consuming my country. My journey takes me a few suburbs away where I catch up with Tom Conley, 3, who was born just before the 2011 Brisbane floods and ironically now bakes for drought relief with his mum, Sally Gardner. “Tom gets involved in all the cooking adventures in our home. He especially loves baking and as soon as I get the utensils out he rushes over, climbs up and wants to measure ingredients, crack the eggs and lick the bowl, We talk about who we are helping or who we are baking for, he enjoys drawing pictures for the drought-affected families.”

Tom Conley

Tom Conley

In April I return to Bali, to spend Easter alone at a yoga retreat and to recover from yet another disappointing relationship. Purely by chance I select OneWorld Retreats Escape The World program in Ubud where, along with twice-daily yoga sessions, I am challenged to sit with myself for one glorious day of silence. Claude Chouinard, who runs the retreat with his partner Iyan Yaspriyana, reminds us that despite everyone around us seemingly being able to travel, we are only a small percentage of the world who is wealthy enough to do so. He encourages us to embrace our 24 hours of silence and see it for the gift that it is.
“For just one day you can consider this silence a form of torture or one of the greatest gifts you’ll ever give yourself. What we know as time is in fact an illusion. For human beings, time is limited to the moment we are born, to the moment we leave this planet, a very short journey considering the age of the universe. Live every day by the minute and enjoy as much as you possibly can…the illusion goes by quickly.”

Iyan Yaspriyana

Iyan Yaspriyana

May is chaotic and colourful as I spend nearly a month in Europe chasing a range of stories. And I meet a range of those fabulous characters I so treasure….A sultry Slovenian who compliments me on my “good English” when I reveal I’m Australian; Skanky from Mumbai who eats one gigantic meal a day as he doesn’t wish to “get sick on German food”; Suzie, the Filipino Canadian whose love of Schnitzel knows no bounds; Calamity Jane from Chicago who wanders the streets of Berlin pointing at every single wall and asking our tour guide whether it is a piece of the Berlin Wall; and a jolly gay guy from Wales.

A bold Berliner

A bold Berliner

June is spent in Christchurch, which was devastated in February 2011 by an earthquake in which 187 people were killed and 1000 buildings destroyed. At the C1 Espresso café I speak with owner Sam Crofskey, 37, who not only lost his original café across the road in the quake, but his house as well. Sam was working in his high street café when the earthquake hit.
“I was a little bit confused. The coffee grinders fell off and landed on my legs and the power went off and then I could hardly stand. We needed to get rid of the customers, the staff and then ourselves. We had more than 100 people in the café at the time. Out on the street everyone was distraught and I thought everyone was over-reacting. I thought we’d come back tomorrow and clean everything up. It took a lot more for me to understand the city was actually gone. When you are here with no power or phone you have no idea what’s going on. I was like, my business if fucked, my house is fucked…that’s annoying.”

Sam Crofskey

Sam Crofskey

The mercury had plunged to minus 2 degrees out in Southern Queensland Country in July when I ventured to the Dalby Cattle Sales in search of myths and men. I spend two hours chasing cattle and cowboys around the cattle yards before I decide to leave. On the way back to the car, I hear a voice behind me. “So, have you got your story?” a cowboy says, following me quickly out of the cattle yards. “Yep. I don’t have all morning to be chasing you boys around,” I say defiantly. “Where are you staying tonight?” he directs this question at my breasts. “Chinchilla,” I say. He stands and considers this for a moment, calculating whether I’m worth the hour drive to the next town. And just as I’m about to turn to leave he says: “Well, I guess I’ll see you around then.” The interaction keeps me entertained for several days and hundreds of kilometres later.

Dalby cowboys

Dalby cowboys

I spend the most perfect August day with a close mate where we escape to the Sunshine Coast and the Eumundi Markets and Noosa. We stroll and laugh. Steal languid pauses to smell the roses, or in this case, the pungent soap on sale. Chat to a stallholder about his carnivorous plants. Try on eclectic outfits. Resist the seduction of sparkly jewellery. Wander through aisles of books. Observe the colourful characters. Pat a camel. We stumble across a “Willy Washer” and spend some time discussing its purpose. There’s a male fairy guarding some jewellery that resembles the young man selling the silver, fashioned from old knives, forks and spoons. An ancient typewriter has been dismantled, somewhat to our dismay, and crafted into trinkets. Colourful hand-woven handbags remind us of our travels around the globe. We discover Noosa Reds – plump, juicy tomatoes bursting with the distinct flavours of this fertile region – deliciously packed in crunchy brown paper bags. A giant gecko mural hugs a pole. There’s glass-blowing and some beaut ukes. And all the while, we keep winding through the marketplace, unravelling our lives.

A Eumundi Fairy

A Eumundi Fairy

On a stunning September afternoon I find myself staring at boobs and Broadbeach on the Gold Coast, at a High Tea to launch Kim McCosker’s cookbook Cook 4 a Cure to raise funds for the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and to celebrate the opening of Australia’s newest resort brand ULTIQA Resorts. Guest speaker Mark Wood volunteers his time to speak about breast cancer after losing his wife Annie to the disease seven years ago, and says one in eight Australian women will be told they have breast cancer at some stage.
“Today, 37 women will be told they have breast cancer. To think that’s happening to 37 people today and the day after is far too many. And seven people would have lost that battle today. My wife got a death sentence but my daughter, who was 12 at the time that Annie died, got a life sentence losing her mother so young. Twenty years ago, 37 per cent of women diagnosed with the disease died, but that’s now been halved through awareness and education.”
All of a sudden I feel tired and emotional, but as I furtively glance around the room, I find I am not alone. There’s not a dry eye in the house.

Kim McCosker

Kim McCosker

October was spent in Fiji at the Australian Society of Travel Writers Awards where I won Best Food Travel Story for a piece I wrote about a group of six hardcore Wellington prisoners who were being rehabilitated through a cooking program “From Prison Gate to Plate”. Talk about collecting characters. And the words of celebrity chef Martin Bosley, who runs the program, still ring in my head. “I didn’t realise what a loss of freedom truly meant before I went in there. As a community we need to change our perceptions and be prepared that one day these men are getting out and we need to pick up where prisons leave off and reduce re-offending.”

Fiji School Kids

Fiji School Kids

I returned to Hawaii for the first time in 22 years in November, where there were characters galore including the mythical menehune. Sheraton Kona Cultural Tour Officer Lily Dudoit explains these little red men. “Everywhere in Hawaii we are known for our myths and legends. We have the little people who only come out at night to do their work. We call them Menehune and they are said to have reddish skin colour. There was a couple who had their wedding photo by this tree and when they had the photo developed there was a Menehune peeking out from behind the tree. They like to make trouble. Sometimes things go missing or they move something. You don’t find them. They find you.” I spend the rest of my time in this land of rainbows searching for possibly the most intriguing men I will meet all year.

Hawaiian Kids

Hawaiian Kids

Which brings me to December. While many leave Brisbane and Australia, this is the time of year where I sit on my back deck with a cold beer and warm memories. There’s movies and coffees and catch ups with friends and family, the all-important support cast of characters in my life. Thank you to everyone I have met out there in the big wide world this year, to those who have come on the journey with me, and to those who continue to love and support me back at home. Sending you love and light this season and may we all experience peace on earth.
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Freedom…not Fear

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LATE yesterday afternoon, while trying to make sense of the Sydney siege, I stood on my back deck in Brisbane for a bit of quiet time and noticed this little bird watching me as I watered my plants. I walked inside and grabbed my camera and for the briefest moment he paused, posed and then flaunted his freedom and flew away. This little bird reminded me of the best thing about living in Australia: our freedom. Sending love and light to all of those involved in the Sydney siege, and my deepest condolences to those who lost their loved ones early this morning.
#prayforSydney #illridewithyou

A new Season for Sam

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THE River Kwai is a jade jewel as late afternoon concedes languidly to dusk. The longtail boat in which I am travelling roars and sputters like an indignant politician up the infamous waterway towards the floating jungle rafts I have come to know and love so much. Travel writers don’t particularly like returning to the same place – there’s too much world to explore – but there are some destinations which become firmly etched in your psyche. And so entrenched in your soul you are unwittingly lured back. And for me, this is one of them, in part for its brutal war history involving the bravado of Australian soldiers and in part for its sheer natural beauty.
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He doesn’t know I’m coming back to this place with no electricity and where internet connection is notoriously unreliable on the limited generator in his village. And anyway, I wish it to be a surprise visit to an old friend. Six months ago I found myself on my third trip to Thailand’s romantic River Kwai Jungle Rafts and I told him I’d be back for the next chapter of his story. But even I didn’t know it would be so soon.
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I first met Sam Season several years ago, and over the years I have been speaking with him about the most salacious of all subjects: love. Regular readers of The Global Goddess will remember this 22-year-old tour guide, a Mon man from one of the earliest tribes to live in South East Asia. Considered neither Burmese, nor Thai, the Mon exist in a small slither of land along the River Kwai, not far from the Burmese border. The Mon number some 8.14 million people but I am remain captivated by this one man. This man called Sam.
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At night, he paints his face in traditional Mon markings but speaks with an English accent plucked out of a south London pub, with a smattering of Aussie twang – picked up solely from the tourists with which he works every day. He moved to this particular village when he was 9, and has been studying to finish High School since, in between working 6 days a week at the River Kwai Jungle Rafts. And Sam is in love with a girl called Jaytarmon with beautiful long black hair who lives in a neighbouring village down the river. But access to this girl, like internet, electricity and hot water, are elusive in these parts. And to complicate things more, Sam is being pursued by a girl in his own village, who cooks for him and washes his clothes.
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Last month I returned to the River Kwai Jungle Rafts on a last-minute work trip. Word travels fast in these parts and I’m sitting at dinner when a young man, his face painted in Mon tribal markings, walks up to me, his arms outstretched and in that unmistakable Aussie/British accent says: “It’s so good to see you, why didn’t you Facebook me to tell me you were coming?”. We laugh, hug and chat politely for a few moments and I tell him I am here to collect the next chapter of his love story. He blushes, coyly. “Well, it’s complicated but a few things have changed in that direction. I will explain to you tomorrow.” The one thing I have learned about my many visits to this beautiful region, and this young man Sam, is that you must take your time. Pause. Enjoy. Sway in a hammock and daydream. Listen to the river gurgle like a baby. And the story will eventually float down the rapids towards you.
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The next night after dinner and by the light of a kerosene lamp, Sam pulls me aside to give me his next chapter. And he’s excited. He’s learned that a scholarship exists in Australia for which he may be eligible. He’s going to apply for it in one year, when he feels his English is adequate. He tells me he has only told his parents and me of his dream. “I really want to go for it,” he says, “I think it will change my life. I want to help my parents and we have a house but it is just bamboo. I want to build a house for my parents. I need to keep going with my dreams.”
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I ask him about the state of his love life. He has finished his relationship with the girl in his village who cooks for him because “she is not nice to tourists. How can I introduce this girl to my family when she acts like this?”. So Last January Sam phoned Jaytarmon after an absence of a year. “I said Happy New Year, it is a New Year and I want to start new things with you. The past I just want to forget it. You can punish me however you like but please apologise me but don’t push me away,” he says in his broken, yet impressive English.
“She said it may be too late and that maybe she has a boyfriend. I said ‘I don’t want to have anyone else, please give me a second chance’. I told her ‘you are the one who can keep going with me for my whole life’. I told her ‘I have tried another girl, she doesn’t work out for me, but you are one of the best’.
“I asked her ‘when can I call you?’ She said maybe once a week. She just wants to test that I will keep going with this to test me. So I call her once a week, sometimes twice a week. We talk about our daily work and how many tourists.”
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We wade into the murky waters of sex. “We are traditional Mon people. If we kiss we need to be married.” I ask him whether this mysterious girl with the long black hair is still beautiful. He doesn’t hesitate. “Oh, awesome. I want to listen to her voice.” He pulls out his iPhone until he finds a photo of her, laying dreamily on a bed with her hands in her chin. “I look at her photo every night before I go to bed.”

Photo of Jaytarmon, courtesy of Sam Season

Photo of Jaytarmon, courtesy of Sam Season


In the meantime, Sam will spend the next year perfecting his English, so he can gain the scholarship and work towards his dream of becoming a car mechanic along the Thai/Burmese border. If he is successful, he will be in Australia for between four and five years, which raises the question of Jaytarmon.
“I have to make her believe in myself and trust in myself. When I finish my education I will be ready. I have to show her ‘can you wait for me?’ One day, when I have an education we will have a good life and then we will marry.”
Our short but magical time comes to an end. The next morning Sam walks me to the long-tail boat to say goodbye. I go to shake his hand and he says “come on” as if to say handshakes are for strangers, and gives me a big hug. I wave farewell to my friend, this impressive young man, and smile all the way back down that beautiful jade river.
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The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Thai Airways. Sam’s original story, and others, appears in Christine Retschlag’s first book (just released) Destination Desire – The Global Goddess, a single woman’s journey. This travel and dating book is available as an eBook via Amazon for $4.99 or as a limited-edition print run for $14.99 through The Goddess herself at Christine.retschlag@theglobalgoddess.com. http://www.theglobalgoddess.com
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Capturing my Kavorka

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I’VE packed my passport, swimsuit and sarong but somehow I’ve lost my kavorka by the time I arrive in Bali. But if ever there was a destination in which to rediscover my animal magnetism, or kavorka as it is explained to me, Indonesia’s Islands of the Gods is the place to come. For this is a land of rice paddies and romance. Of medicine men and mysterious healers. Of traditions, secrets and sensory overload where poverty and generosity co-exist. Of surprises and sunrises. And I’m on an escape which captures it all. I’m experiencing Bali with Eat Pray Live.
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Eat Pray Live operator Nicole Long specialises in helping women rediscover their kavorka, that sensual part which exists in every woman, on her bespoke holiday experience in her villa which offers a home away from home. This is not a spiritual retreat, rather, an authentic Balinese escape where like-minded people are introduced to Bali’s best dining, shopping, spas, and local healing experiences.
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This particular journey begins at Kadangu where I meet the family of Nicole’s assistant Putu who has asked us to join them in a sacred Hindu temple ceremony at Tabanan. Dressed in traditional Balinese sarongs and sashes borrowed from Putu’s mother we walk down a sliver of stairs. First we join several other Balinese in a ceremony which involves a series of prayers combining smoke from incense and flowers in a small basket we each possess. An elderly priest blesses us in holy water and we select a pinch of rice which we stick to our foreheads, hearts and sprinkle over our heads. We head over to a second section where we cleanse ourselves in water before the third and final prayers at another part of the temple. Days later we learn that Putu’s seven-year-old daughter Gita has asked her mother how we western girls sleep. Gita is concerned that we sleep with our eyes open.
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Two days later we undergo a cleansing at a waterfall near Ubud, trekking down some 300 stairs in our tight sarongs, sashes and white shirts. A similar process to the temple ceremony is repeated before we walk, fully clothed into a gushing cold spring. Here we must focus on letting go of our bad experiences of the past, and embracing the new as the water pounds our bodies. I focus on forgiveness and moving forward. I ask the Gods to help me find true love. Just as I turn my back towards the water and lift my face to the sky, the sun comes out. I smile.
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On the way home we visit Cekorda, a respected medicine man, a high priest from the highest caste. Cekorda is 85. “How old are you?” he asks as I sit with my back against his knees, his wiry fingers probing my skull.
“43,” I respond.
“Not so young,” he mutters to himself.
He then asks me my problems.
“I have a broken heart,” I reply.
I lay down on a mat and he presses between my toes with a stick. My third toe on my left foot hurts and I yelp.
“Your broken heart is healed. It is your mind. You have self doubt.”
Cekorda then stands above me and traces his magical stick over my body to clear my aura, before announcing that I no longer have a problem.
He turns to an Western bystander who speaks Indonesian.
“Women are very complex,” the bystander translates for Cekorda.
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On my final day, I undertake a session with Intuitive Healer Paula Shaw, a Gold Coast woman who went to Ubud, fell in love, and hasn’t left Bali since. The fan overhead clucks like a gecko as Paula interprets my birth chart in her heavenly husky voice. Paula specialises in sharmanic astrology. She knows nothing about my career as a travel writer or The Global Goddess.
“You are looking for more spiritual journeys and asking yourself ‘how can I be more sacred?’. You are going to share more of your personal experiences. You can be quite funny and you really don’t take yourself seriously,” she says.
“You can put a spin on things that is really palatable to the Australian market in general. Your biggest learning in this world is from where you share your wounds. There are no rules for you and that’s really liberating.”
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I have a mozzie bite itch to ask Paula about what she sees for my love life just as she asks me to shuffle, split and select a series of tarot cards.
“You can be attracted to the bad boy, but you need a man that is really sacred, very intelligent and a little aloof. You need a very sensual man, that’s very important,” she says.
“To find a man to be with you will be difficult as you are going against the patriarchy with your career. You are taking one for the team by being this woman but being The Goddess will pull them in.
“You will have a busy 12 months with travel, a new business partnership and healing around love. The universe is setting you up so when a man comes along you won’t give yourself over completely. But love is coming.”
While I wait for my sacred, sensual, intelligent and aloof man, I’m going to take Cekorda’s advice. And I may even sleep with my eyes open.
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Want to capture your kavorka? The Global Goddess is delighted to announce she will be working with Eat Pray Live and holding regular writing retreats up in Bali. Eat Pray Live – What’s Your Story with The Global Goddess will teach guests everything from how to write a book or blog, engaging in an entertaining manner on facebook and twitter, and even becoming a travel writer. Join The Global Goddess for her morning practical Heavenly Hour session, partake in Eat Pray Live activities, and come back for a Happy Hour session to discuss and pen your experiences. The Global Goddess and Eat Pray Live are on hand to guide you and introduce you to the best of Bali and most of all, to help you rediscover yourself.
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Eat Pray Live – What’s Your Story retreat with The Global Goddess will be held from April 20 to 27. This 7 day/6 night retreat in private villa accommodation costs $1715 for a shared room or $1900 for a private room and includes:
• Return Airport transfers
• Breakfast daily
• Welcome drink on arrival
• Eat Pray Live Personal Concierge
• Eat Pray Live “welcome gift pack” (bag, sarong, products and other goodies)
• 1 x 1 hour “in villa” massage
• Manicure and Pedicure, Hair conditioning “cream bath” treatment with head, neck and shoulder massage (per person)
• Transport fees for scheduled trips
• Cleansing ceremony in the holy waters of a Balinese temple, to heal your past and energize your future
• Visit a medicine man / healer, (a small personal donation at the time of visit is required)
• 5 luncheons & 1 in-villa dinner
• Free Wifi
• 24 hour security
• Complete housekeeping services
• 10 minutes walk from the beach
• Situated in a typical Balinese street away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist areas
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For more info go to: http://www.eatpraylive.com.au. For bookings please contact Christine Retschlag: christine.retschlag@theglobalgoddess.com
Tel: 0437 655 525
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Eat Pray Live

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THE seductive scent of clove cigarettes hangs in the air like an unfinished sentence on this heady evening, which is already punctuated with sweat and music. It’s all Japanese and jazz at Bali’s Ryoshi bar on this mellifluous Monday and Rio Sidik is one cool cat with his trumpet and a voice which is part Dean Martin, part Louis Armstrong. Randomly, Rio’s sister Marina joins The Rio Sidik Quartet up on stage and unleashes Indonesia’s own Tina Turner with a pinch of Pink tossed in for good measure. I’m in Bali on an Eat Pray Live tour and this part is definitely what I’d call living.
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Sydney’s Nicole Long, who runs Eat Pray Live, advises her guests to “be careful what you wish for” because in Bali, it might just come true. That is certainly the case for this 41-year-old former Brit who moved to Australia after a neglectful upbringing and has had quite the ride since. In the past six years she divorced her husband, started her Bali business, and in an incredible twist, celebrated the resurrection of her marriage with which she credits Eat Pray Live.
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As part of this bespoke Balinese experience, Eat Pray Live guests partake in a cleansing ceremony and visit with a respected healer, which proved to be the pivotal moment for Nicole, who escaped to Bali for a holiday in 2011 when she thought she had run out of options back in Australia.
“I had this moment in the water and I thought ‘I can do this business’. If only I had somewhere to go after I got divorced. Where do you go when you just want to be blah?” she says.
“I went for a session with a reputed medicine man and at the end of my session he took my hand and said ‘you are going to use your experience to help many women.’
“There is no way he could have known what I was planning to do with Eat Pray Live. I went back to Australia and said to myself ‘Ok, it’s now or never’. I didn’t have any money to do this but I just had this fire.”
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While it would be tempting to describe Eat Pray Live as a Balinese retreat and focus on the spirituality the Indonesian Island of the Gods exudes, this experience is so much more than that. Nicole has designed a bespoke holiday which focuses on all aspects of eating, praying and living in her villa she describes as a “home away from home” for guests. The concept eschews the typical tourist traps and takes guests to local and new restaurants such as Warung Talun for a delicious Indonesian feast overlooking the rice paddies, or to the hip and happening Potato Head to lounge and drink cocktails at this cool beach club. There’s plenty of pampering and even in-villa spa treatments, shopping in local markets and high-end stores and lots of secrets and surprises all designed to connected like-minded women who are drawn to this escape.
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Despite numerous obstacles since her day of revelation, Nicole persevered and welcomed her first client in October 2012, initially operating Eat Pray Live from a hotel in Seminyak. Mid last year she stumbled across Villa Griya Asih in charming Canggu while taking her first horse ride since her Australian horse and soul mate Surge died. Eat Pray Live now operates from this beautiful Balinese villa which comes complete with six bedrooms and copious living spaces around which to lounge including a gorgeous day bed around the private pool. There’s a lovely third floor meditation deck overlooking typical Balinese fields and even a resident dog Blackie – a stray who wandered into Nicole’s life not long after Surge died. Curiously, Blackie even has a print of a white horse on his coat, which might seem pure coincidence in Australia, but in Bali, Nicole believes anything can happen.
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Incredibly, Nicole reunited with her husband David after they reconnected for the first time in six years, following the suicide of his best friend.
“He came over for dinner and as I opened the door I thought ‘this is my man’ and everything, all the past evaporated and he was standing in front of me and I didn’t know what to think or feel,” Nicole says.
“He said, ‘I love you Nic’ and I realised I was home.
“Throughout this whole journey I’ve found my truth and Eat Pray Live has led me back to my love.”
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For more information on Eat Pray Live or to book an escape, go to http://www.eatpraylive.com.au


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Happy New You!

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OUT on the patio we sit, and the humidity we breathe. 1980s Aussie rock band GANGgajang is on stage, stating the obvious on a scorching summer day, which feels like Satan himself has tossed a hot blanket over the entire Woodford Festival site. There is no respite from this cauldron so I have two choices, to complain (which strangely doesn’t make it any cooler) or, as GANGgajang states, laugh and think…this is Australia.
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Under the big canvas of the Blue Lotus tent, Mary-Lou Stephens – author of Sex, Drugs and Meditation – has lured me in with her talk entitled “Change Your Life Without Doing Anything”. It’s an enticing concept, borne from Stephens’ tortured childhood and time spent in silent meditation retreats.
“I changed my life, saved my job and found a husband through meditation,” she tells the sweltering crowd. But, we quickly learn, it’s not as simple as all that.
“I grew up in a charismatic, Christian family. I was told at the age of eight by my mother that I was a prophet, a healer. My mother was desperate for me to be special in some way,” Stephen says.
“I developed a lot of addictions and had a childhood described as being akin to growing up in an alcoholic household. I never knew what to expect when I came home. I knew my family was different to everyone else’s family and I was embarrassed to bring my friends home to this.
“There is an urban myth that the youngest child is spoilt. But by the time your parents get around to you they are tired. They don’t care what you do. I grew up a victim of gross neglect. I grew up wild and feral, stealing money and food.”
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So damaging was her childhood, that one of Stephens’ brothers died from alcoholism and two of her sisters nearly died from anorexia. And while she went on to have a successful career with the ABC, even that was not without its anxieties – at one point she was using heroin and speed just to get up in the morning. But through meditation she not only conquered this, but went on to meet the man she would marry.
“I had been very bad at relationships. I had been like a frightened animal. I just felt so trapped and vulnerable,” she says.
“But I discovered there is a thin membrane between the conscious and subconscious. When we meditate we drop into a different place, into that place which really drives us.
“Even the most hideous thing, the most painful thing, will eventually change.”
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Change, it emerges, becomes my personal theme for this year’s Woodford Festival. Even Australian musician Gotye has gone back to his roots and is performing as somebody that we used to know, with his original band – The Basics. Later that day I stumble across The Lettering House, Woodford’s first post office. Here you can send real letters, strung on a washing line with pegs, but also leave a random note to a stranger. I find this concept too seductive to resist and hence pen a note which simply says: “To the man of my dreams. Please find me…”
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The next day I happen across the postie on her push bike. She looks so cool amid the heat I ask to take her photo. There’s no letter for me, but an unexpected compliment after the final click of my shutter. “You have the cutest smile,” she says, before riding off. That one kind comment from a complete stranger makes me sparkle all day. In return, I attract the most interesting strangers and companions along my Woodford wonderings.
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I’m waiting for my breakfast, a tantalising Turkish Gozleme – pastry filled with spinach, cheese and mushrooms – when I encounter a Turkish/Australian woman. Bilge, 34, was born in Istanbul but moved to Australia in 2007 to learn English and is performing in the Fokloricka tent at the festival.
“Have you been to Turkey?” she asks as we wait for the soupy Turkish coffee to boil.
“Yes,” I offer. And in the manner in which many foreigners try to connect to Australians by mentioning a well-known Aussie, I add that I have been to Gallipoli and was deeply touched by former Turkish leader Ataturk.
Quite unexpectedly, fat, salty, serious tears fill Bilge’s eyes.
“I get very emotional about Ataturk,” she smiles through her tears, “he was such a great leader.”
“They say once every 100 years in the world comes along a leader who is a true leader. Ataturk is that man.
“He believed in women and allowed us to work and lose the veil.”
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I stay struck by this simple, yet powerful connection I have with Bilge, and memories of this great leader who believed in positive change, for the rest of the day. Down in the Greenhouse, on a subject called Essays From Contemporary Australia, author Ben Law talks about racism, his writer sister Michelle Law about sexism, indigenous curator Bruce McLean about Aboriginality, and feminist Clementine Ford about mental illness. Again big change, it emerges, needs to happen in this country. The issues are sticky, just like the Woodford weather.
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Before I depart Woodford, I have one more task I wish to achieve. I visit Woodford’s acclaimed clairvoyant. She’s so popular that I sit outside her tent in the shade for an hour, watching the colourful parade of festival goers saunter past me. Interestingly, at the very moment I’m about to enter her tent, my ex-husband walks past me, looks at me, looks at the tent, pauses as if he’s about to say something, before moving on. I enter the tent feeling sick and rattled. But we read my cards and they are good news and more importantly, accurate. At the end of the reading, the clairvoyant asks me whether I have any questions.
“I have two,” I say, before relaying the ex-husband incident as I entered the tent.
“That’s just your past, walking past you,” she says.
“Is it finally over?” I ask.
“Yes. And now you need to really learn to be comfortable in your own skin, and then you will meet someone. He is out there but you need to change a few things,” she says, answering my predictable second question.
And so, this year, that’s what I aim to do. Simply sit with myself. Out on the patio. Breathe in the humidity. And laugh and think.
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The Global Goddess was a guest of the Woodford Festival. For more information on this year’s event, please visit http://www.woodfordfolkfestival.com
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My Spring Fling

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SPRING has sprung and The Global Goddess’ thoughts have once again turned to love. (Not that they’ve ever really left this topic, but in recent months, I’ve also been preoccupied with lots of travel). And so, I did what I said I wouldn’t do, and rejoined a dating site. And it’s not at all like my bogan dating site, this one promises to find me the man of my dreams based on my core values. Or, so the survey says. And I really, really want to look like the handsome couple they have on their television advertisements.
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Now, this may shock no one, but things have got off to a bit of a shaky start. Yes, I’ve been contacted by a number of men, but whether we share the same core values based on the 400 odd questions I painstakingly answered, remains to be seen. Hot off the blocks was Wayne, followed quickly by Newton, which made me immediately think of Wayne Newton and question whether I needed to don some sequins and book a ticket to Las Vegas. I overlooked Wayne and Newton as they were significantly older than me, and I’m not interested in aged care. There was also a bloke who called himself “Chicker” who happens to be black and clearly hasn’t stumbled across any political correctness manuals in the past few decades. There’s also a fella whose name is Innocent…in case the police are looking for him, and another one called Yasser, who looks mysteriously like the late Arab leader. Seriously, I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.
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But my favourite so far has been a guy called Guy, who is not only peddling the aged pension, but cited the “three things he can’t live without” as: his rifle, his Bible and sex. I am entirely unsure about what I said in my survey question which could possibly match me with this pistol poppin’, God-fearing sexaholic, but Guy and his gun won’t be getting near me anytime soon. (Lord knows I can’t sew, so I wouldn’t begin to know how to make a white pointy hood from a bed sheet). On the plus side, there was an age-appropriate bloke called Adam who actually conversed with me until I told him what I did for a living, at which point he confessed he couldn’t spell (which was quite apparent from his written conversation). It was my moment of truth, but I decided (against my better judgment and on the advice of a few male mates) to let that one go, and joked instead how I couldn’t count. I never heard from Adam again. Adam, if you are reading this (you can read, can’t you?) where are you, my love?
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So what has drawn this slurry of strange men to me? Perhaps it was in the way I answered the questions. There were a few curious ones, such as “Do you slip, slop and slap?” Silly me, I thought they were referring to applying sunscreen, so I diligently answered that I indeed do this regularly, enjoy it and particularly like it all over my face. And then it occurred to me. What, if in hell’s name, this was a sexual question? Was this what was encouraging this gaggle of Grandpas out of their retirement homes and into my inbox?
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What has interested me is that each and every one of these men who have contacted me has asked a curious question. Out of all the questions they could have posed from a long list supplied, they chose this one: “What is your view on traditional gender roles?” Oh, fellas, puhlease. That question is more transparent than grandma’s nightie. I get it. You don’t want a woman with a mind of her own, but rather someone you can boss around, all the time complaining that your missus does nothing but spend all your money. In the meantime, one week in and the site itself has shown interest in me, emailing me at 4.45am the other day to tell me “you’re doing great”. Really? How do you know this, computer-generated message? How do you know I’m not clutching a bottle of Sav Blanc and weeping into my pillowcase, when I’m not waking up from nightmares about bad spellers, who are on the lamb from the cops and who love guns and bibles?
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And so, after week one, things are going as well as expected. I’d love to stay and chat, but I have my own income to earn, a mind of my own, and some more sunscreen to apply.
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AND THE WINNER IS….

The winner of the Gaia Goddess competition is Annabelle Watt. Congratulations Annabelle, Gaia will be in touch directly with you to organise your gorgeous two-night stay valued at $1585.

Thank you to the hundreds of people who entered and please keep reading and following The Global Goddess as there will be more interesting competitions and prize giveaways in the future.
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