On Sunday, the world celebrated another International Women’s Day. But how far we come in addressing gender equality globally? I speak with WOW (Women of the World) Australia 2020 Executive Producer Cathy Hunt, whose conference will explode onto the stages of the Brisbane Powerhouse from April 2 to 5, with more than 100 speakers including former Governor General Quentin Bryce and Australia’s first female Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
We’ve just celebrated International Women’s Day. Where do women currently sit?
I know that we are slipping and we’ve been slipping on many different charts. Even though we see some fantastic work, it is a hard one to push past a particular threshold. You’ve got to keep the conversation going and push these boundaries. This is not a zero-sum game. There are not “x” number of jobs and women are going to steal your jobs. If we had true gender equality it would mean more jobs for everyone.
What are the big issues women still face?
Some of the big cultural issues, and these are cultural issues, are the issues of domestic and family violence. We are still counting dead women. What is that truly about? When you pare that whole thing down it is that lack of equality from the start, which is why we do a festival.
What about men? Should there be a similar festival for men?
There is with WOW in London. They do a festival all about men. In Brisbane we include some of these elements. We are trying to open WOW up now. The odd man has come to a conversation and they walk out and the first thing they say is “it was brilliant, I wish more men could hear that.” We are encouraging everyone to bring a bloke to WOW.
Are there any male speakers?
Yes. On Wednesday, April 1, director Tom Donahue will talk about his film This Changes Everything. On Thursday, April 2, Social Commentator Jane Caro will interview Journalist David Leser about his #metoo movement book men, women & the whole damn thing. On Friday, April 3, David Leser, specialist in gendered violence Professor Patrick O’Leary, former cricketer/now educator Michael Jeh, and Group Executive Aurizon Ed McKeiver, will discuss the issue of domestic violence, and how it is not a “women’s problem” in a session called Owning It.
You also have an Under 10s Feminist Corner. What do children this age understand about feminism and what do you wish to teach them?
There’s one for boys and one for girls and they are specific workshops which teach children about issues in the playground and at home. At WOW London one year, one of the Under 10s created a petition about the issue of boys’ toys and girls’ toys and they got thousands of signatures. It was presented to a particular toy shop in London. They may not understand the term feminism, but they understand about inequality more than we realise because they begin to see the way genders are treated differently. It all starts too early, blue for a boy and pink for a girl.
You describe the main event as “three days of fun, laughter, inspiration and reflection”. What is the MAIN message you wish attendees to take home?
We want to inspire women and girls to make changes in their lives for the better and we want to give them the confidence to do that. We want to provide them with skills they may need along the way and introduce them to new networks and people on that journey. We want to bring men along on the journey with us. If you look at the UN Sustainability goals for 2030, gender equality is one of those goals. I am a true believer we won’t meet any of these goals until we have gender equality. How can we solve the climate crisis and poverty unless we think about women and children? We want people to go away inspired that they can change a situation.
Tickets to WOW are on sale now through wowaustralia.com.au, Brisbanepowerhouse.org and premier.ticketek.com.au. This colourful program includes a cabaret extravaganza Glittery Clittery, songstress Christine Anu in concert, and Spinifex Gum – a choir of young Indigenous women. Other highlights include workshops, short talks, readings and soapbox moments, and a healing space.
A FEW years back, concerned that Australians no longer seemed to be sending letters in this most technical of ages, one of my travel writer friends decided to do something about it. They established a Facebook group (the irony was not lost on us), labelled it Friday Postcards, and invited those of us in love with the written word, and partial to the odd postcard or two, to join. The motive was simple: send a postcard on a Friday to someone. Spread the love. Keep the written word (and Australia Post) alive.
I love being a part of this group: collecting cool cards when I travel, the tingle I feel when I send off a handful of post cards, and the rush when one lands in my letterbox. Over the years I’ve noticed a trend emerging among those I’ve been receiving. Yes, I’ve been receiving male, plenty of male…I present to you some of my favourites, which have made me laugh like a lunatic while standing at my white picket fence in Brisbane.
The Construct My Own Lumberjack
Fresh from her travels in the Yukon, Julie Miller posted me my own lumberjack. As the card says: “As it has become increasingly difficult to clear airport security with a rowdy lumberjack.” Thanks Julie, he was very handy with the, err, wood…
My Own Maori Warrior
Fellow Brisbane travel writer Lee Mylne, who hails from the Land of the Long White Cloud, kindly sent me “a little bit of Kiwi culture” in the form of a Maori male. Two months earlier, while travelling in our home state of Queensland, Lee sent the post card, which leads this blog, from Agnes Water. Yes, I caught her excitement and am off to get my own net for a spot of fishing…
Colorado Has Awesome Scenery
Kris Madden sent these thoughtful greetings from the USA. We all enjoyed the scenery immensely…
A Terrific Toy Boy
While travelling back to her home country of New Zealand, Briar Jensen went to the trouble of finding me this toy boy. “Have fun with him!” she wrote. Oh, I did…
A Myanmar Man
A few years back, Deborah Dickson-Smith and I were travelling through the River Kwai and staying in a floating Mon Village on the Thai/Burmese border. We loved the idea of finding me a Mon man. Deb was up in Myanmar looking for Mon for me…
A Hairy Man
Travelling around the Baltic Sea in Northern Germany, Philip Game pondered whether I like my blokes with a few whiskers. Nothing at all fishy about this card…
Melanie Ball found this “cutie” at the National Folk Festival over Easter and while recognising he wasn’t a man of the human variety, she thought he was an interesting crittter all the same…
Sending me a bit of tundra Tinder, Kerry van der Jagt wrote that “polar bears are the pin-ups” in Norway’s Svalbard. Yes, and about as endangered as a decent bloke in Brisbane. I get where she was going with this…
Never underestimate the power of the post to brighten someone’s day. Write to someone you haven’t seen in a while. Pen a love letter. Believe in the written word. Dust off those handwriting skills and then write your heart out.
With love from Brisbane, The Global Goddess
FACES and places. As I reluctantly relinquish those long, languid days of cool sarongs, cold beers, ocean swims and sunsets, and sit down at my desk to plan 2016, the thing that most excites me is those faces I haven’t yet met. For me, travel is all about the characters, the people whose personalities sing the true story of a destination. Sitting here in Brisbane, I can’t begin to imagine upon whom I’ll stumble this year, and that thought alone is incredibly exciting. Today I’m launching a three-part photo series of my Indonesian adventures over Christmas. And I thought it would be apt to start with the faces that made me smile. Happy New Year! Please enjoy.
There were the cool dudes…
The happy kids…
The beautiful Muslim women…
The elegant older men…
And even the statues seemed to have something to say…
The Global Goddess funded her own travels to Indonesia
IT may seem strange to be looking for a boyfriend in a place called Fatboys, but this is where I found myself last week, at a resort in the Solomon Islands. And there’s not a fat boy in sight. Named after the character Joe who ate too much and slept too much in The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, life in this South Pacific resort revolves around the same delicious concept. Drinking, eating, snorkelling and sleeping. And I have bagged the best bed of all, the Honeymoon Suite overlooking the lagoon where reef sharks circle in a hypnotic symphony at night. Two things strike me about my room: Am I the first woman in history to spend the night alone in this suite? And why is there a replica of a human skull among the collection of seashells on my balcony?
I’m in the Solomons searching for a solo man and am reminded that it was only about 100 years ago that the islanders liked to eat little white girls like me. But these days you’ll find a place infused with rustic romance and islanders as warm and welcoming as their aqua lagoons. Meria, 25, warns me it’s not going to be an easy task finding a husband here, as things are very different around these parts.
“Here the ladies are mostly shy, even if they have an interest in men they don’t ask them out. Before there used to be arranged marriages. My grandparents had an arranged marriage,” she says.
“Our age group is educated and goes to Fiji and New Zealand and Australia and Japan and most pick their husbands or wives from outside.
“But between islands there is no intermarriage because of former head hunting. In Honiara you have to convince a guy to marry a western woman. Here the men are very shy. Even though they appreciate a lady they are quite shy.
“If you spend three days in a location they are used to talking to you but the western woman has to start up the conversation.”
Unfortunately, my travel schedule has me staying two nights at most in each location, so Meria’s three-day rule blows away with the south-east trade winds.
I decide to enlist the help of Stella, 42, who married a Fijian man and now has a 4-year-old son.
“We don’t date in restaurants and stuff. We sit along trees and playing fields. We don’t sit down for candlelight dinners. We do it by our eyes or pass messages through a person we call Solair after Solomon Airlines,” she says.
“Our parents don’t allow dating so we use a friend or a sister or a cousin to do it for us. Sex before marriage is very big but very secret. Once someone in the family knows they can demand compensation money.
“There are a lot of things to do with dating here.”
Stella says mixed marriages are considered OK and that the women in the central province of Malaita are considered the most beautiful.
“Each place has their own beauty…fair blue blonde, ginger blonde to purple black. Most of the locals go for their own colour. We are multiple-coloured people. Some you will see are black black, some are chocolate and some are black blonde. We speak Pidgin English, that’s what unites us.
“Most of the western men go for western region women with curly black hair, black skin and pink lips.
“Western women like their hubby to be hard working both in bed and out of bed. Nowadays you can find a rustic farmer boy with tough hands.”
I spend the next few days looking at the hands of every man I encounter, while secretly hoping they like very white blonde coloured girls.
Still no closer to catching my solo man, I ask a local bloke. Panda, 37, says Solomon Island men are good lovers because “they like the girls”. And he should know. Panda and his wife Sarah have four children aged 9, 7, 5 and 4 months.
“A man looks for a nice wife who is good looking, hard working and educated. We have lots of small islands here, you just go and choose one,” he says.
“He needs to have good resources, some land and a hard job. It is very easy to find a husband here. Once you go to one of the boys and say ‘I want to marry you, they will says yes…no question!’
“They love the white skin. There are lots of good boys around. If you come to me I can help you to find a good man. I think you will be the boss and he will do everything for you. He will think ‘I’ve got a white lady’ and he will treat you like a Queen.”
I don’t end up finding a fella, but I do discover a forgotten paradise. The Solomon Islands is sunsets, seashells and sandbars. It’s local markets of cod, wrasse, green coconuts, peppers, peanuts, mangoes, watermelons and bright red betel nut smiles. These are dugong days set to the sound track of the babble of the ocean crashing over the outer reef. Here are the “Hapi Islands” where optimism spills out of shop names such as Excellent Fashion, Fantastic Hardware, Happiness Shop and the Yes OK Shop. Home to three main groups of people – the Melanesian, Micronesian and Polynesian – there are more than 900 islands spread across 1600km of ocean and more than 70 languages spoken here. But my favourite phrase of all is in Pidgin English: “Me lukim iu behind” which means: “I’ll see you again.” Yes, I’ll be back, and I’m sure my solo man will be waiting for me.
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of the Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau – http://www.visitsolomons.com.sb and Solomon Airlines – http://www.flysolomons.com
LYNDAL is devastatingly thin like Audrey Hepburn…and sports the mouth of a sailor. Only half of this sentence is true. Lyndal may have urged me to describe her as the screen siren while peppering our conversation with profanities but Hepburn, eat your heart out, for Lyndal is rolled gold. I’m on a 12-day Real Food Adventure with Intrepid Travel through Sri Lanka and Lyndal is one of the 10 colourful companions with whom I am travelling.
My adventures in this mystical land in the middle of the Indian Ocean start well before I meet my travelling party. Mozart is inexplicably being piped through the arrival’s hall of Colombo’s Bandaranayike International when I disembark at 1am, and among the usual swag of Duty Free cosmetics, cigarettes and alcohol, there’s a store selling washing machines. Just what I always imagined I needed after a 16-hour trek from Australia, a Simpson 5kg front loader.
A tropical downpour greets me on the street unlike the driver who has been arranged to meet me. Just as I’m about to chalk up yet another bloke who has refused to keep a date, someone kindly points to an obscure man sitting in a dark corner who it turns out is my “fixer”. He leads me to a car and the driver takes off into the inky night. We weave in and out of empty back alleys and the exotic blend of heaving humidity, travel exhaustion, and mild anxiety prompts me to break into a cold sweat. Half way to my hotel, when I am almost convinced this is how I will finally meet my maker, he pauses to point to a name of his manifest which is meant to be mine. I’m sorry Linda Treware, but I hope you enjoyed your evening being me and eventually arrived safely at your destination.
As fate would have it, several hours later at breakfast I meet Linda, or Laura as it turns out. A lovely American Jewish girl, Laura says “I’m basically Beyonce. My alter ego is a black girl with a big arse who says ‘fuck you bitch’.” At this moment I know Laura and I will be life-long friends.
For a food tour, we seem to be doing a lot of temples including the towering Sigiriya Rock Fortess with its 1000-odd steps and a height of 1120 metres which I miraculously climb. Regular readers will remember that among my long list of neuroses The Global Goddess is petrified of heights and some may even recall the trip in which my sister and me climbed the Remarkables in New Zealand…only to have me abandon my sister in a white-out while I begged two sherpas to carry me down that slippery little slope, sobbing hysterically. On this journey down I vow not to cry and instead channel my inner Peter Allen and chant I Still Call Australia Home as I leave what I can only describe as the “death zone”. I later learn from one of my travelling companions that someone passing them on the way to the summit asked whether they knew the strange English woman who was singing. On the plus side (and there is always an opposite reaction according to the Buddhist teachings in Sri Lanka) I haven’t had to wear my “temple dress” – lest my sexy knees and shoulders provoke unwanted attention – in days.
It would be fair to say I knew nothing about Sri Lanka before I arrived here 9 days ago and due to a hectic travel schedule this year have had even less time to do any research. So appalling was my knowledge of this country that I am half convinced a Tamil Tiger is an exotic Asian cat. I do glance at my trip notes before I depart which suggest I have access to $USD500 “in case of civil unrest”. I wonder whether this means I will be allowed to trot down to the ATM if a war erupts or whether I should bury some greenbacks on my person. A girlfriend suggests I should stash cash in my underwear as “no one will ever look there”. What I do find is a country filled with heart and soul and the most peaceful of people.
The weekend just gone found me in Kandy where I held a vague hope that I may meet the elusive man of my dreams, or in this instance, a Kandy Man. We attend the Kandy Cultural Show where one of the acts is described as “10 male damsel drummers in harmony”. There is even one fine fella in the show who smiles at me and drops his tambourine, such is my sex appeal, but our interaction ends there. I half hope that the yoga teacher we visit that afternoon will yield more luck in the romance stakes, but my fantasy is dashed when he hands out what he calls a “special herbal cream” and instructs us to rub it on our boobs and face. I look at the container, and it’s a jar of Vicks Vapor Rub. But as Buddha would say, every action has an opposition reaction and on the plus side my boobs have never felt hotter.
The Global Goddess is in Sri Lanka as a guest of Intrepid Travel – www.intrepidtravel.com
HAVING exhausted every possibility or hope of ever finding the man of my dreams in Australia, I’ve cast the net wider and my search for the love of my life last week took me to Papua New Guinea. I may have also been up there writing a series of travel stories, but never let it be said that I waste any opportunity to find love. What I really adore about my travels is that no matter in which new country I find myself, I merely need to tell a local that I’m looking for love and they are immediately on the case. In this instance, the lovely Lucy, a 50-year-old PNG woman who works at the Kokopo Beach Bungalows Resort, instantly becomes my latest wing woman, and she knows a thing or two about love.
Lucy was married for 18 years to a European man who left her for another woman, breaking Lucy’s heart, but not her spirit. Sure, she went a bit “long long” or crazy for a bit, but who can blame her? We’ve all been there, sista. Then, after six years on her own, raising two children, she met the love of her life, who treats her like she’s royalty.
“I tried to go out with the white man, but he leave me for another woman, so now I only go with the black man,” Lucy says.
“He cooks, he cleans and when I come home, everything is done for me. I love him…and sometimes I hate him.
“My first husband, he came back and asked my second husband if he could have me back. But I don’t worry about that any more. That’s why I look so good. I’m 50 and I look good.”
Every day Lucy tells me that I am beautiful and that I even look like her daughter “she has a sharp nose like you”. She says when I return to Rabaul I must come and stay with her in her village and she’ll find me a man. One night she cooks a traditional dinner in her village home for me and brings it into the hotel where I am staying. She even takes an unexpected photo of me one night while I’m working on my computer, so she can show prospective partners. “They can see that you are hard working,” she says, before scuttling away with a half startled snapshot of me on her phone.
And look, it’s not as if I’m not attracting attention up here in the tropics. Everywhere I go, men, women and children stare at me, and when I catch them staring, they flash me those megawatt smiles synonymous with the South Pacific. It’s in those moments, when the humidity is bearing down on me, that I hallucinate a little and think it’s because I’m stunning, and not simply an anomaly with my blonde hair, green eyes and fair skin, that I am attracting my fair share of stares. It’s only when the baby daughter of my friend Joel, who is showing me around Rabaul/Kokopo, begins to cry uncontrollably when she sees me, that I realise they don’t get too many white women around these parts.
Which is a great shame as this is truly a beautiful country with incredible people, stories, superstitions, customs, cuisine, tradition, adventure and history. Hendrika, 33, a tour guide at the Kokopo Beach Bungalows Resort, has six distinct dots tattooed near her right eye to signify that she is from the neighbouring island of Kimbe. Hendrika says PNG once operated on an arranged marriage system and still does in some parts. But the modern PNG woman looks for a man who is “hard working, honest, has land, is good looking and strong,” she says.
Lawrence, 29, a driver at the Kokopo Beach Bungalows Resort and a Tolai man, says a woman must be “beautiful and hard working around the house”. And “sexy”, he adds.
“In PNG we think the white lady is sexy. We’ve seen a lot of movies. A PNG man and a white lady…why not?” he says.
“PNG men like a woman to look after him. I had an Australian girlfriend once but she was here for work and left after 2 years when her contract ended. Of course I cried.”
I learn that shell money is still used widely throughout the island as a type of dowry and according to Lawrence, I would be worth lots of shells.
Ellis Waragat, a 55 year old Tolai woman, says some traditions remain.
“When there is a sing sing or traditional dance the men will sleep out in the bush, dress up, put on tribal masks and oil and look shiny and they make magic and it is powerful and they can make a woman fall in love with them,” she says.
The good news, at least for me, is women can also use this special oil to attract a mate, which Ellis says is a foolproof approach.
“You put oil on your body and you put your shell money together. When you put this oil on your face any man will fall for you. Just put it on your face and people will be calling to you and talking to you…men especially.”
My time at Rabaul/Kokopo has come to an end, and unfortunately I run out of time to find a tribal man with his magic oil, but this land in which I find myself is so alluring, I hope I’ll be back. I feel there are plenty of fish in this sea, and hopefully enough shells on the beach for someone to be able to afford me.
The Global Goddess travelled to Rabaul/Kokopo as a guest of the PNG Tourism Promotion Authority. http://www.tpa.papuanewguinea.travel A special shout out to Air Niugini for assisting her with airport lounge access. Air Niugini flys weekly directly from Cairns to Rabaul. http://www.airniugini.com.pg
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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.
ALWAYS on trend, I spent last month indulging in my own little version of Eurovision but rather than it being all about the music, it’s been all about the men. Oh yes, I went all Euro trash on you and spent the best part of May “observing” the male species of the northern hemisphere in the vague hope they may differ somewhat from those blokes south of the Equator to whom I’ve already devoted too much ink, sweat and tears.
It all started in Berlin where I was researching and writing a story about 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. In my spare time (and because I am extremely gifted at doing two things at once), I fumbled into a bar one night and stumbled across Jerry. Jerry, possibly not his real name and of South American extraction, was the official entertainment claiming his skills lay in “music and magic”.
I was with several newly-discovered friends: Calamity Jane from Chicago; Mike, a jolly gay Welsh man; and Eva “I’m just a poor girl from the Czech Republic”. It was Calamity’s birthday and she insisted we stand at the bar, a bit like Russian prostitutes, and drink wine until Jerry started up with the musical part of his two-pronged performance. Mike’s suspicion that Jerry was lip-syncing turned out to be true, as part-way through one of his love songs his voice kept crooning while he simultaneously whispered in Eva’s ear that he would “see her in an hour”. Our poor Czech girl scuttled promptly back to her room, followed soon after by Mike – the jolliness rapidly draining from him.
Which left Calamity, me and Jerry, who paused to say: “Ladies I have some bad news, there’s two of you, but only one Jerry”. As it was Calamity’s birthday I insisted she receive the spoils and I was content to do my own interpretive dance in front of strangers I hope I will never see again. I may or may not have been a little rusty the next morning when after breakfast I returned to my room to find not one, but two Romanian men standing there. I assumed they were the cleaners, such as they were grasping some of my most intimate items, and so I spoke to them in German, to assure them I was just popping back to clean my teeth and then I’d leave them alone. They just stood there looking scared and confused. So I spoke to them in English. Again, more confusion. To this day I remain unclear on whether they were the cleaners or two Romanian robbers but they did line my shoes up nicely when they left.
In the sexy Saxon town of Leipzig, Calamity and I snuck out half way through a Strauss Concert to hit the bar street, where we spent several pleasant hours drinking beer in the company of two young men, one of them who claimed to be Germany’s third-best dancer and quite possibly a distant cousin of Jerry. But we had little time to dance and so we headed on to Bremen with Mike and Eva in tow, and where I promptly fell in love with a Passionate Pole. Women around the world will attest to the fact it’s always the bad boy to whom we are initially drawn, and so it was with the Pole. I was absolutely delighted he had randomly chosen to join my tour of the Bremen Space Centre the next morning. So delighted was I, that I insisted he sit next me on the bus. He even told me the photo on the fake ID I used to get into the Space Centre (bereft was I of my passport or driver’s licence at that particular point) was very nice and the most interesting thing he had to say all trip.
Yes, it took me no time to realise that, like all bad boys worldwide, he really had nothing to say and was actually a Greasy Pole, so I shuffled down to the back of the bus at which point I turned to my right and happened across the Hot Hungarian. His first name was unpronounceable but he said I could call him “Andrew” which didn’t really fit with his gravelly deep voice, thick curly hair and bushy beard. I actually invested several days in fantasising about the Hot Hungarian, sitting at the back of the bus staring at his head, imagining crawling up into his beard for a nap. Things got a little sticky when he actually caught me taking a photo of him standing at the port at Bremerhaven but I simply pretended I was happily standing in the freezing cold, taking a photo of the unimpressive wharf.
As luck would have it, I made friends with a Hungarian woman called Suska who offered to act as my wing woman and asked me what I’d like to tell the Hot Hungarian. The only phrase which came to me was “I want to see your Hungarian sausage” which I’m sure is sexy in several languages. But it was not to be. On our last night in Bremen I noticed the Hot Hungarian had attached himself to a gorgeous German with whom I could never hope to compete – all long wavy dark hair and bad-ass boots. So I conceded defeat and amused myself with the plethora of wing women I had accumulated along the way.
When I eventually dragged myself back to the hotel lobby, I bumped into Suska, my Hungarian wing woman, who happened to be sitting with the Hot Hungarian himself, all traces of the gorgeous German gone. At this point, he leapt to his feet, handed me his business card and asked for mine. “It’s such a shame you won’t be coming to Budapest on your European travels. I would have loved to have shown you around,” he said. “And if you’re ever in Brisbane, I will show you around,” I said, taking one last lingering look at that beard before I turned on my not-so-bad-ass boots and walked straight for the lift.
Just when I thought my adventure was surely over, into the lift appeared another man from absolutely nowhere. And he started to speak rapid-fire German to me. I was tired and asked him to repeat himself in English, at which point he declared he’d love to have a drink with me, before proffering his business card. His name was Gerhard and he was a Lufthansa pilot, or a cousin of Jerry masquerading as a Lufthansa pilot. Exhausted and confused I just keep repeating: “But where did you come from?”. Gerhard was not fazed and asked me to call him during my Bremen stay. It was tempting Gerhard, particularly the thought that sometime in the near future there might be a Lufthansa upgrade with my name on it, but I’m in love with a Hot Hungarian. The bushy boy from Budapest, whose name I cannot pronounce.
The Global Goddess travelled to Germany as a guest of the German National Tourist Office. To experience your own German escape, go to http://www.germany.travel
THE hour hand is nudging midnight when I eventually arrive at my Stockholm hotel and for the first time in weeks since I touched down in Europe, I find myself in a less than sparkling mood. In terms of travel days, it hasn’t been the easiest, but you’re bound to strike one of these when you’ve been on the road for several weeks, tackling different countries, airports, time zones and languages.
It all starts while I’m still in London, where I mistake the British two pound coin for a fifty pence piece, and hence tip the driver the equivalent of $AUD8. He deposits me near Victoria Bus Station where I order a red wine and pizza before my trip to the airport. The colourful Italian feast arrives at the very moment a small child walking past suddenly violently vomits all over the footpath right alongside the outdoor café at which I am dining. Not only can my churning stomach not face the pizza, I fear I may never eat again. I watch in horror as other travellers drag their suitcases through the pavement Picasso.
At the airport, the budget carrier on which I am travelling is supremely strict about the two kilograms extra weight my luggage is carrying (if only they knew how much lighter I was before my schnitzel and beer tour of Germany), and I am forced to creatively repack in front of an angry queue, who it seems is bemused by my cache of colourful comfy undies. Finally at the other end, the instructions I’ve been given for the bus from Stockholm airport to my hotel are incorrect – as I’ve arrived at a different airport – and after I’ve paid the insanely high taxi fare and refuse to tip the driver I alight from his cab, both of us cranky. As the driver flings my luggage onto the pavement, comfy undies threatening to spill everywhere, a strange Swede appears in the dark from absolutely nowhere, offering to buy me a glass of wine. For a brief moment I think it’s Gerhard, the gregarious German who popped up out of the blue in a Bremen lift a few weeks earlier, and who I will write about in next week’s blog about European men. And if only I’d known at this late hour there would be no food or wine in the entire hotel when I do check in, I might have said yes to the sleazy Swede’s offer. Heck, at this point if he’d possessed a stale bread roll, I would have married him.
My pilgrimage to see the museum which pays homage to the best band to EVER strut the planet – ABBA – has not launched with quite the bang a boomerang I was expecting. I am feeling less Super Trouper and more Chiquitita. But after a dinner, which consists of the four chocolate marzipan love hearts my German friends have secretly hidden in my suitcase and a glass of tap water from the bathroom, I tell myself things will look better in the morning. And they do.
Stockholm has turned on a dazzling day, 20 degrees, warm and sunny and I elect to sit atop a hop-on, hop-off bus to familiarise myself with this city in which I have just 24 hours. And I know one of the stops is at ABBA The Museum. I impatiently sit through 13 other destinations which outline the historical buildings for which this city is famous, my mind on Stop 14 and the real reason I find myself taking a side-step to Sweden. There was nothing to do growing up in 1970s country Queensland except listen to ABBA and my three sisters and me were virtual Dancing Queens. Such ABBA tragics are we, that one of my sisters still has the collector bubble gum ABBA cards, including a list of the ones she is missing, in the unlikely event she should meet a like-minded person who happens to possess the others, and this strange quirk should come up randomly in conversation. I was more of an end-of-the-skipping-rope singer, fighting with my best friend over who got to be the “blonde one”. My darker-haired bestie looked more like Frida, so it all worked out in the end, at least as far as I was concerned.
And on this sunny Stockholm day I wish my best friend or sisters were here, as I discover ABBA The Museum is much more fun in a group, if the funky Frankfurters dressed as Benny, Bjorn, Agnetha and Frida are any indication. But I delight in watching them prancing and dancing and their European enthusiasm is infectious. I may only be a one-man band, but one of us is not lonely, and pretty soon I’m partaking in all of the interactive displays, including standing on stage and becoming the fifth member of the band. It’s not every day I fly to a country solely for the purpose of visiting a museum. The immigration officer at Stockholm Airport was incredulous when I told him my reason for visiting his country and demanded to see evidence of my return flight out of the Swedish capital. At one point I thought I might need to start singing Take A Chance On Me in order to enter the country, but he eventually understood my insanity. And the trip was worth every Kroner. I fly out to Berlin the next morning, the lyrics to The Winner Takes It All swirling around in my head, my Super Trouper ready to tackle the long flight back to Australia.
The Global Goddess paid for her own flights to Stockholm and stayed at the comfortable Ibis Styles Stockholm Jarva – which does indeed have lovely food and wine if you arrive at a decent hour – on a media rate – http://www.ibis.com. She visited ABBA The Museum courtesy of the museum – http://www.abbathemuseum.com
I RECKON they were good signs. Literally. I’m out in the Queensland countryside on a man hunt. Well, I’m actually meant to be doing a story on polo. But I know bloody bugger all about horses, contrary to what I told the editor of a new horse magazine whose title sounds suspiciously like the tome for which Hugh Grant pretended to write in the film Notting Hill. And so I do what Hugh did. First rule of journalism: fake it till you make it. Second rule: hope like hell you figure it out somewhere along the way. (For the record, I’ve been doing this for 25 years now and suspect any day now I shall get caught).
But I wasn’t entirely lying. We did have a pony when we were children which one of my sisters ridiculously called Fairy Twinkle. I’d never call a pony Fairy Twinkle. Particularly a male pony such as ours. Unless it was gay. But no one was gay in 1970s Queensland. Not even my two uncles who wore tight white shorts, as many rings on their fingers as Liberace and lived with other men. They were the only men back then who crossed their legs when they sat down. Which in my opinion gave the game away. Mum insists to this day it was because they lived in New Zealand.
But I digress. My sister most prone to nostalgia believes it was she who gave the horse such a stupid name. Fairy Twinkle died on the eve of one of our sports carnivals, and our parents didn’t tell us, because they feared it would “upset our performance”. Just for the record, there was no “performance” to upset – the girls in my family more apt in scholastic than sporting abilities, only just beating the fat kid to last place. The day after the sports carnival Mum sat us all down and simply said: “Fairy Twinkle has gone to the glue factory”. And then she went all Senate Estimates Committee on us and refused to take further questions.
So here I am, on a sunny September reminiscent of my sports days, out in the country about to write about a polo game. I’m told there will be men. Plenty of stallions. I’m driving to country Canungra and the first sign is a good one. It simply says: “Boyland”. I drive a bit faster and sing along to Katy Perry. Five minutes later, I past through another town: “Wonglepong”. If that isn’t a sign, I don’t know what is. Canungra’s Café Metz is full of men in army fatigues when I arrive, but men in uniform scare the anti-authoritarian in me. Instead, I grab a coffee and sit under a sign which simply states: “Today Is My Lucky Day.” Another sign.
I’m here to interview Australia’s top polo player and my photographer friend Cathy is here to shoot him (not literally, as my accountant Shaun thought recently when he saw that I was claiming my phone on my annual tax return for “shooting” jobs). Cathy and I both like a bit of eye candy and the prospect of spending the warm afternoon with a bunch of hot men and getting paid to do so is all rather attractive. If only we could get to the men. You see, there’s the issue of the horses, who seem to have taken a liking to both Cathy and me. At one point I feel some rather rapturous breathing down the back of my neck, followed by a slow, sticky, unmistakable slobber. It seems Mr Ed has gone all horny and has found the back of my head a rather attractive prospect. Meanwhile, Cathy isn’t faring any better, and with each click of her camera, the mob moves in and she’s flat out photographing the subject.
But professionals that we are, we spend six hours on this job, Cathy shooting it till it’s dead (again Shaun, if you are reading this I don’t mean murder) and me, tiptoeing through the tulips of manure and interviewing every human I can find. Which is where I stumble across 72-year-old Jim MacGinley. Jim’s been playing polo for 52 years and he’s my go-to man about how to find a fella on these fields.
“Well, it would be best to be a player…you can take that whatever way you want,” he chuckles outrageously as his naughty joke.
“The Aussie boys are there for the games and want to play polo. Go to England or the US if you are looking for a fella with money and Argentina if you are looking for a playboy.”
And hence we two fine fillies leave the polo field. Hot, a bit bothered, with no fellas but a nice story, some great pics and a good tip on how to find a polo player. Don’t be surprised if next time you read me, I’m off to South America. Chasing a story about a horse, of course. Just don’t tell my accountant.