Sunday, April 29, 2012

when the meaning of life isn't 42

I know I'm not stoned enough to really get into this right now the most pondered conversation in today's world. Yet lately my brain has been driven by a need to have some answers. When I was in Kuta I did as you do and partook in some extra curricular edible items. Needless to say I ended up lying in my hotel room listening to soft trance and asking the universe questions about global acceptance. I tried to explain to Dominik my thought patterns but he was more interested in conversing with some imaginary person instead of relating to me. Unfortunately I ended up in one of those horrible loops which can only be explained if you have experienced it yourself and never came to a conclusion, except of course that humanity was so flawed and I was so frustrated people wouldn't listen to me.

When reality returned to my brain so too did understanding that what makes humanity so unique and special is the underlying essence which creates those differences. But you can't change the world with one thought and you can't change the world with a stupid 20 minute exaggerated video. But you can help the world by opening your mind.

So speaking of global acceptance I was recantly offered a marriage proposal by a fairly devout muslim. One could wonder why a muslim would ask for my hand in marriage. I'm not exactly the poster model of muslim living if you know what I mean. I've got no issues with showing skin, I drink like I should be a construction worker, my idea of prayer involves asking the powers that be for the bartender to give me a free shot, I bloody LOVE bacon and to top it off I dont exactly believe in marriage! I've known this guy for only a few weeks and consider him a good friend. In the middle east only knowing a females name can create a lifelong partnership.
I let him know how I would drive him crazy due to my beliefs (or lack thereof) so he let me know that he would change me. We got on the subject of religion. I guess the english barrier saved me a little here because we couldn't get quite into the depth he required not knowing some of the words. He had a hard time understanding why I didn't care about the afterlife but I tried to explain to him that just because I don't pray to any particular god I live my life well. I know I am a good person and to think if I'm wrong and there is a god would he really keep me from heavens doors because I chose not to worship him?
To which my friend replies "no god loves everyone" so why do I need to pick a religion if god will love me anyway? There just seems to be too many rules and regulations in religion which impact on me enjoying the life I was given. In fact wouldn't you assume that if god did exist he would want you to appreciate the gift of life and not spend hours every day praying to him?

Now wouldn't it be slightly humourous if religion was definitely real and god did send all the non-believers to hell. So all those atheists are like.."well fuck me, burning for the rest of eternity perhaps I should have listened to that crazy homeless guy on the street telling me armageddon was nigh" And all us agnostics get to be in some kind of limbo where as long as there is still beer I really couldn't give a fuck because if alcohol is the work of the devil I think I would enjoy being a little closer to hell! Could you imagine seeing me skipping amongst the clouds playing my golden harp and dancing on rainbows.

No me either.

As far as acceptance though this guy has informed me that I am one of his best friends (ok ignore the fact he doesn't actually know anyone in australia) and enjoys talking to me. He still thinks I am a good person despite that I don't worship his god and I never will. And that is in the face of all the people that try to explain to me how muslims only accept other muslims. I get that whatever your religion is you wish that every else would follow you in it. Especially the people you love because your faith is so strong you believe that there is this afterlife and it would be catastrophic if people you admire & respect weren't in the afterlife with you. Yet we will remain friends and he has accepted me for who I am no matter what god I follow. If more people met muslims like him than perhaps the veils of ignorance could be lifted and the world could move closer to a perfect existance.

In the midst of our semi-debate he asked me if god is not real then who made me? To which I replied "I don't know" and retorted "who made god"

his answer?

"thats a secret only god knows"

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Amed in a nutshell

The beauty of no plans in Bali, well any holiday to be honest is that your open to whatever random adventure that might come your way. All I knew was that I wanted to dive, Dominik talked me into doing the advanced open water course. Now that the course was over we still had four full days in Bali and no idea what else we wanted to do. I contacted a couch-surfer a hungarian guy who lived in Amed. We decided we wanted to dive more since Dominik wouldnt have a chance to dive in Germany and we had gotten a taste with our course and our appetites craved more dives. Stefan told us about some awesome choices in Amed so next thing I knew we booked in two dives and were off.

 Well ideally we were "off" but the only way to amed was via scooter. AS we began packing all the gear onto the scooter we got some assistance from several balinese guys outside our hotel. They helped considerably laughing at us a little. But then they asked about my helmet.
 "Police will stop you"
 "but there are people driving around all the time without helmets"
 "they are balinese"
 Oh great so my white westerner skin foils me again.
 "What can I do we dont have a helmet?"
 "20,000 rupiah. if one policeman 10,000 two 20,000" with an exchange rate of 9200 rupiah for $1AU I was fairly certain I could handle the bribe amount.
 "No worries" I said grinning. I got a few rupiah from outside my bag and stuffed it into easy to grab random pockets. Then we were off.

 Despite our preperation we didn't see one policeman. so my bribe money was pointless. We made it to our dive company with mere minutes to spare we had booked in two dives with Eurodive @ 50EU for two dives. Our guide was an incredibly skinny balinese local. I forgot his name. We hit a drift dive first. Where you float in the current along the reef. The dive was called buntanan I think. It was so awesome. But I ran out of air so early. I was having a little bit of trouble with my mask so I think it might have added to my stress level. Not sure but I was on 50 whilst dominik was on 80 and all the other times we had worked out that we had the same levels of air. in awesome sync or what! So I had to share the guides air and we floated hand in hand. Man why didn't I think about that with Eric?

 On reaching the surface we had a short coffee break before heading off to the Japanese wreck. wow. wow. wow. the wreck was overrated, but the corals near the wreck were incredible for a short time I was in this forest of sea life. Have i mentioned what diving is like. OMG its this whole new experience. When I travel im not into culture, cities, temples etc. I love everything natural. I grew up in Darwin, Australia. Our culture involves beer & BBQs. we dont really have a culture being such a young country. For me its always been about the outdoors, the wildlife, the natural scenery. So diving just opens another door to mother nature. To think that such intense beauty can be created from such simple beginnings. I think my brain is in spiritual overdrive recantly... when you think about the world as a natural thing race, colour, nationality doesn't matter. I've just realised my brain is stuck on this equality thing lately especially with all my recant refugee dealings. Its hard for me to focus on whats important for me in my life when I am watching the world as a whole. Hence why diving makes me so happy because when i dive i feel that oneness with the world. ok weird. im that drunk vunerable girl at a bar right now.

 where was I up too.. I just caught a motorbike from Kuta to seminyak and now im just chilling waiting to catch up with another old couchsurfer of mine rohdiana. she is a bali local. got 20 minutes, i have just realised that in seminyak beer costs more...

ok back to amed. After our second and LAST dive of our bali adventure we had lunch at a little local resturant wth stefen. it was one of the best meals ive had fish in bali spices baked in banana leaves. I almost ate the banana leaves as I was a little confused on how to eat them, but all good stefan pointed me in the right direction. we attempted to purchase a helmet more to aviod police than personal safety I was quite used to cruising without a helmet now. all part of the balinese expereince right? anyway we ended up with an offer for 120,000 rupiah about 12 bucks but i was not interested in being ripped off and ended up deciding to risk it. heck I still had my bribe money stashed in various places. As we paid up for dinner we realised that we didint have enough cash for much more and suddenly accomodation became an issue. as there were no money changers or atms in amed we were down to our last 250,000 rupiah. Stefan reccomend a homestay for 100,000 RP so we took the bike down. Only to discover that it was already booked out.
 now what?
 but in typical balinese fashion everyone is a friend of someone and everyone can help the other people make money somehow. so the manager of the place we were going to stay at took us to his friends hotel rising star. we told him about our money issues and he informed us that our prices would work. AS we walked down to the hotel I was stuck by how quiet it was. We ran into this guy gardening who turned out to be managing the place for now. He told us 300,000. even if we pooled all our cash together we didnt have that much money. there was no option. so we let him know his friend had told us it would be 150,000 and he grinned and accepted our offer of 50% of the normal price. wow having no money served us well. kind makes you think that no matter what you can work something out.

 As for the room it was actually pretty awesome considering it cost us $16 a night. AC, wireless internet and a gorgeous pool overlooking the ocean. breakfast included. the kind of room you would pay over $100 in australia. cost us less than a shitty hostel in darwin. as we stretched out on the bed we pooled our money together. Dominik tried to pay the guy in US$ but he would have none of it. so after police bribes, fuel money & room cost we were left with about 120,000 to spend for dinner and beer. that was the hard decision with bintangs on average costing 25,000 each we couldnt work out how to afford dinner and beer. so we went for a drive. we saw a local supermarket pulled in and next thing you know we have 3 large bintangs, some weird chocolate bread and some raspberry shit for 89,000. sorted? thats a full meal right?? it really goes to show our priorities when 90% of the money spent was on beer. so we celebrated our last dive with our meagre earnings. and I guess thats Amed in a nutshell, the reef far surpassed anything tulamben had to offer but the Liberty Wreck was way more awesome than Amed. so make the hard choices. At least if you go to tulamben you can meet eric.

Monday, April 23, 2012

did somebody say advanced open water?

"What do you do after this?" Eric from Tulamban Bali asks us
"I don't know"
I look at dominik eyebrow raised, he shrugs.
"We have no plans"
"Good!" Eric smiles and nods with approval.

Its 3pm Bali time. I finished my theory and now I just have spare time to relax, chill and enjoy my long weekend in tropical paradise. I guess its sinking in that now I am advanced open water certified.
I should say I am writing this drinking *large* Bintang beers and eating seaweed pringles chilling on the balcony looking over the ocean the sounds of scooters in my ears. The combination works I promise. Dominik is passed out on the bed we were watching the great barrier reef BBC documentery but two days of excessive diving has worn us out and he chose sleep. I chose another beer hehehe.
On arrival to denpasar my plane was delayed what jetstar delayed thats crazy! by half an hour. For no reason except the plane before us was delayed... so we had to wait for them to fix their issues before we could leave. even the pilot over the intercom was saying "I dont understand why we were delayed but singapore flight had priority so we had to wait for them" I almost missed my flight showing up 45mins before departure the girl at the check-in desk was less than impressed and informed me of her power to not let me through so I batted my eyelids and promised I wouldnt do it again. She let me through. Im certain it was because of my superior seduction techniques that and because I had no check-in baggage & had checked in online already.... Anyway the flight was short & uneventful for a cheap airline ticket I must say I was comfortable & my seat could even recline! not like my flight to Ho Chi Minh which was 4.5 hours of discomfort!! Honestly though you get what you pay for.

I had booked my advanced open water diving course & accomodation for Tulamben through Tulamben Wreck Divers which included the 2.5 hour return transfer to the airport. As I arrived late it was nice to have a driver waiting for me with a sign so I didnt have to worry about making my way to the small diving village. The drive was shit, I was so tired, the 1.5 time difference meant so much when it was 11pm / 12:30 am my time. I dozed in the back seat, but as we went through this random town about 12am there were about 20 police men blocking the road they waved us to the side and then my driver disappeared. So Im sitting on the back seat ...alone in the middle of fucking no where as policemen search the whole car with no idea what the fuck is going on. Well I did what any normal person would do I stretched out lay my head on my bag and went to sleep. WHo knows how much time went by but i was woken by my driver who mysteriously reappeared.
"Are you ok"
my eyes blurry i mumbled that yes I was but I was tired and asked him why we had been trapped there so long
It turned out the car was unregistered. wow. fantastic.
But honestly who the fuck decides to have a police check point at 12am thursday morning in fucking nowhere bali?

Thankfully we made it to the resort I got my keys and stretched out on the bed promptly falling into a deep sleep.

When I woke up the next morning about 630am I noticed the sun outside my window. So I rose and walked over to my balcony yes thats right I suddenly discovered I had a balcony, and not a small one either a beautiful balcony overlooking the ocean. I took in the sunrise with a smile. Paradise.

Breakfast was served in a quaint little cafe by the pool, all included in the ever reasonable $30 a night accomodation cost. expensive for bali apparently but cheap for me! Hot water, wireless internet, swimming pool etc. I got bacon & eggs with coffee and I was good to go. But I had 20 minutes so I headed back to my room and relaxed. A knock on the door drew me out of my sedation and there was dominik in all frizzy haired glory! I've mentioned him a few times an old couch surfer of mine from sept 2010. I was his first host, we hit it off & kept in contact. He returned to darwin dec 2011 staying for about three months and then left again end of february. When I heard about his Bali plans I kept an eye out for cheap tickets and lo and behold $150 return arose next thing you know I was heading to Bali to have one last hurrah with one of my favourite germans!! Its always nice when couchsurfing can bring people who would never normally meet together. SO many awesome people ive met since hosting!!

As we headed down to the dive shop together we met our instructor. Eric, a local indonesian guy who grew up 1km from Tulamban area. Not going to deny it but it was hard to concentrate on learning the nesscary skills, he had what it took. looks & personality. He was so adorable and well sculpted I was easily distracted. Since we were diving which involved getting in and out of the wetsuits a lot I was offered a lot of skin that kept me satisfied. It could be the bintangs talking right now but whatever, you should go with Tulamban and ask for Eric and you will understand me. He joked around with us a lot and his smile was to die for! Ok ive rambled on enough. maybe when I become one of those rich westerners I'll go hunt him down and carry him around as my trophy husband. hehe.

Our first dive was the deep dive. Was I scared, yes. I was terrified. I remember my first feeling when I was getting my open water. I have slight claustrophobia and the idea of being surrounded by water to me sounded terrifying but the reality is quite the opposite. Being underwater actually gives an immense sense of freedom that cannot be found above the surface. if anything agrophobia is more likely to affect you. thankfully agrophobia is not a problem that has ever affected me. But the difference between 10m deep and 30m deep is the real risk that if something does go wrong you can't just swim for the surface. So heading into the deep dive esp since it had been about 5 months since my last diving I was freaking the fuck out. Yet as I entered the water and began my descent that peacefulness overcame me. If you have never dived it can be almost impossible to comprehend the feeling on the ocean floor. Its as if the outside world no longer matters and suddnely everyone everything is equal. you swim along in this perfect harmony its easy to forget all the problems in the outside world all that matters is the beauty in front of you, and maybe how much air you have left. It does remind me of those bluebird powder days where you the only person boarding fresh tracks through the mountains wolfmother pumping in your ears the mountains stretching out in front of you.

So before I knew it I was 28m under water sitting on the bottom looking up and thinking about the distance to the surface. not being the slightest bit worried if something did go wrong i was a long way from help. Eric pulled out a chalk board and got us to do a few simple maths sums under the water to see if we got affected by nitrogen narcosis. I passed, nice to know my brain could still work. A thumbs up and a slow ascent and then it hits. 30m is no issue. ive dived 30m and surived. I am fricken invincible.

Our second dive was peak performance buyoancy and despite passing it I know my buoyancy control can use some work but its learnt with exerience rather than theory so hopefully down the track i can improve my skills. After checking off a few points we headed down to the deep end of the wreck - did I mention I could go to 30m now? Wow, being that I am quite new to diving it really doesn't take much to impress me but the Liberty Wreck was proving to be spectaculor. My only regret that my camera couldn't capture the beauty. I know I will be purchasing special lens & colour filters for my barrier reef dive in a few months! We only saw one part of the wreck as the next day we would be swimming the wreck in full. But my appetite was now wetted.

Thursday night was dive #3 of our advanced course. Night diving. Only a few skills were learnt and then we got to explore the reef in the shroud of darkness. We saw this awesome cuttlefish moving along the corals because we shone the torch at him he got confused what colour to change to and his skin kept changing designs as colours as he moved. we also saw this awesome caterpillar with science fiction type good looks. no snakes sadly despite my best wishes. Thats cool though we watch part #1 of the BBC Great Barrier Reef documentary and then fell asleep early probably because the anticipation of visiting the Tulamben wreck in full at 630am had us positively wet!!

The next morning I very grumpily crawled out of bed, no coffee just staight into my wetsuit. Eric was so cheery, did I mention how good looking he was? well he was and with that grin at 7am in the morning my day was suddenly brighter. So I grumbled and I groaned but whatever I could follow his shirtless torso into 40m & below into fricken Antartica.
Back on topic. The Liberty wreck is OMFG UNBELIEVABLE!!! drawing my eyes away from eric occasionally ;) I was able to see the omfg beauty of a man made wreck we swum through the wreck at some points and got to see the cannons. As I was swimming something stung me on my left forearm causing welts to appear underwater. The pain was encruiciating but I didnt want to give up my dive for a sting so I beared it and maybe 15 minutes later the pain was gone. As I came to the surface I looked at my arm and red dots like mosquito bites eric came over and grabbed my forearm and ran his finger along the welts WORTH IT ALL THE PAIN WORTH IT!!!! "oh you got stung" I shrugged "yea but its all good now pain is gone"
then my moment was over.

The last dive to become advanced open water was navigation. Fuck navigation who cares. Im an IT nerd I use gps and when i can afford it ill buy a dive computer! So me trying to navigate using a compass involved a lot of confusion, esp which way was north. despite the obvious i tended to go every way but north!!! I guess the positive is eric had to grab my hand and point me the other way a few times ok so I might have deliberately made mistakes in order to have contact but I am honestly a horrbile navigator. And im ok with that. so we dived I probably should have failed but he passed me. therefore next dive maybe watch me instead of your guide kk?

and that concludes tulamben and dominik has awoken so i think we will go eat something, or drink some beer. whatever this is Bali we can do whatever the fuck we want....within reason ;)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

nothin wrong with a bad muslim :)

I am sitting in the passenger seat of my mothers car as we drive around the streets of Darwin, northern territory discussing random topics in a typical mother daughter relationship. Its early and there are plenty of people enjoying the cooler morning air as they jog along the sidewalks. We pass one man he is wearing only running shorts which is typical to see in the tropical climate, his body is well sculptured I admit my eyes linger a little longer on him.
“He needs to put on a shirt” my mother’s face shows signs of disapproval. I smile and nod although I don’t agree with her comments I understand her opinions. My mother is not traditional or reserved we have always had an open relationship where we can discuss anything drugs, sex, religion. She was born in Victoria to a strict Italian father and her Australian mother died when she was only 20 years old. She was raised catholic though married my father quite young who was a serious atheist. My sisters and I were raised to make our own choices. She is quite typically Australian very social enjoying life as it comes. Hardworking and generous with an open attitude towards people from all cultures & religions.
Despite her relaxed attitude towards sex and life she has an issue with men jogging shirtless. To me it seems insignificant in the grand scheme of things in fact I would be all for more fit shirtless guys jogging down my street but that is how she feels and I don’t judge her because of it.

Yet as I visited her for lunch one Sunday afternoon we were discussing refugee integrating into Australian life and the topic arises about how they try to change our culture with their own. In muslim culture women are to be covered and I hear time and time again how they disrespect Australians because the women show too much. The problem with this is my mother has never met any muslims, in Darwin they keep a lower profile yet she continues to tell me how they want to force all women to dress according to their customs. As far as tolerance and acceptance go my mother rates highly in my eyes yet still that seed of ignorance is festering below. How many people have actually been in contact with muslims who tried to force their customs on them? How many women have been spat on because they are thought to be disrespecting by showing their skin in Australia? I have never found my way of life threatened significantly by other peoples opinions. Personally I would love to see the religious sanctimony of marriage be abolished and a universal partnership involving gay & straight couples to be recognised through-out the world. But does that make me a terrorist because I don’t believe in marriage and would like to see it struck from everyday living? I don’t sit there and mock people because they get married despite what I think and my mother’s opinion that men should jog with tshirts on does not impact the man whose choice it was to jog shirtless.

The beauty of Australia in my eyes is that we embrace cultures from all around the world and create a harmonious way of living with understanding. Despite our disagreements we should be able to see the personalities of the people we accept and appreciate that each of us are different in some way. To chastise an entire clan of people because of an extremist minority is far from acceptable and we need to open our eyes and see the people inside. Because my mother disapproves of shirtless joggers does that mean that all typical Italian/Australians should be ostracized from everyday living? Fact is I am not going to agree with everything you say and I do believe some change is good. Nativity scenes are welcome to remain in public places but therefore so are muslim’s allowed to wear burqas around the streets. Gay couples shouldn’t be scared to show affection publicly whilst Mormons continue to door knock and ride in the intense heat if they so wish. This is Australia and everyone and every opinion is welcome.

I spent another enjoyable few hours at the detention centre the past Sunday where I was educated on the practices of “bad muslims” The conversation came to light when I was conversing with a couple of my new found Iraqi friends regarding consumption of alcohol and contact with females who are not their wives or family. They informed me that they were muslim but were “bad muslims” because they would still drink. I asked them if it was ok to hug females they are not married too since I enjoy hugging my friends hello & goodbye and it begins to feel more personal than the handshake. I was to discover much to my delight that hugging was ok to them and I got to give them both a friendly hug as we said goodbye that day. Already my original perception of muslims has been shattered I always thought following the religion meant extreme practices thanks to media & mass opinions yet here I am meeting two amazing guys who consider themselves muslims but don’t follow it to the letter. So similar to devout catholics or Christians where there seems to be blurred lines between sex before marriage, visiting church, using the gods name in vain. It really stresses my opinion that each individual is different and practices their beliefs how they desire and to me that is important to realise.

I must admit I quite like the “bad muslims” ;)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

just keep smiling..

On friday there was a peace rally for refugee rights in Darwin. Pretty stupid since being good friday everything was pretty much closed so we protested to like five people still it was kind of symbolic and the media was there video & article here you can see me at 00:30 in the video in a black and white striped shirt. It was broadcast across australia my sister text me from Sydney to inform me that she saw me on the news.

After the rally I headed down to Wickham point again for my second visit. The guards had decided to change the rules and we were to have one on one visits instead of the group that we had last time. but I guess something went wrong and we ended up with everybody not only that we got an extra half an hour visiting time. So there were a couple of new people I hadn't met and a few I had seen the week before. I am starting to get a hang of the names now and talking to them I get to hear their stories and really start to find out how much they have gone through to try and have a better life. As I find myself getting more involved with their stories I find my focus in life is drastically being affected and I just want to be able to do more.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

& I just said romance was dead..

My newest couchsurfers a couple from France have already gotten my approval and I haven't even met them yet :)

Dancin' by Myself

So what does a self-confessed CS junky do when she has a four day weekend, no plans & an entire house to herself?

Why she accepts every CS request that comes her way and next thing you know there is a party going on the balcony of awesome.

Despite my addiction to the CS world I am also a gamer geek and often the two worlds intertwine forcing me to make the hard choices of being social over playing video games. This weekend could have gone that way and I guess there is a chance it still will. I've had a shockingly intense week at work which a bunch of issues well over my pay grade that I was forced to resolve on my own despite being uneducated on the situations. My superior has been away and I took on all the workload. This four day weekend is well deserved I tell you.

One of my incoming surfers is a polish guy who I accepted purely for the fact he was polish. I have hosted one other polish person and I love to host from different places around the world

So if you would have a little time to meet, or a small place for sleeping, would be nice. Im actually a newbie on CS, and because im still on moving (ex. visiting a new city first i walk at the day, and than wait till night - i love to take pictures at night and to enjoy some romantic places-like parks, if its possible :) ), and had no time to complete my profile.

So hilarious though that his request tells me he wants to go to a romantic park. I think its just bad english translation but whatever I still accepted him. Maybe we can go for a moonlight walk in the Botanic Gardens. I can look for some frogs and he can take photos of the moon. Now frog hunting is romantic to me! What if I ever said that in one of my couch requests.

Hi I love romantic frog hunting expeditions, I especially love catching snakes. The reptile kind...I know what you were thinking.

Romance is dead.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

yesterday I beat an Iraqi at chess

I know the object of this blog is generally adventure or misadventures through CS. A lighthearted selling point to come and visit me in the best city in Australia. It goes without saying as I am having a few months off CS whilst the Kitchen gets redone that the adventures seem to dwindle and my political side runs a little rampant.

Once again you'll find me on the topic of aslyum seekers I have focused more on the aslyum issues with my spare time just recantly. Spare time... thats a joke. Sunday was my first day off in two weeks after working 12hour days slotting in University in between, volleyball & more work. But CS takes a lot of my time as well so as I am not hosting I do have a spare hour now and then inbetween jobs.

So what do I do on my first day off in weeks I joined two other ladies to head out to Darwin's newest Detention centre Wickham Point for my first ever unofficial - official visit.

You can sit there and preach that aslyum seekers are all good people but reality is I still had that nervous apprehension of actually meeting some of them. The term "detention" does its job of creating an undeserved stigma to the "detainees" You instantly think they are criminals when in fact they haven't done anything illegal.

Its. not. illegal. to. seek. aslyum. in. Australia.

Entering the compound I had heard horror stories about the SERCO guards and how the rules changed as their moods on the day but we were greeted with a smile and a hello from the gate guard a happy guy from New York who had met a Darwin girl over the internet, had a baby with her and had been living in the NT for five years. Thankfully it seemed we had arrived on a good day.

The compound had huge electric fences doubled up with barbed wire on the top and all the gates needed buzzes and guards to escort you. As we were signed in the three guards at the desk smiled and chatted to us letting us in with relative ease. We headed over to the visitors room which had another guard to watch over. We were to meet 13 detainees all up however we were a little late they had all left so we waited for a short while and three guys from Iraq showed up. Their english was so minimal it was hard to determine if they understood me or not. We chatted and they smiled and nodded saying yes evey now and then. Two of them were brothers the other guy had met them on the boat. It all seemed a little awkward trying to have a conversation with people who didn't understand me but they were so nice and helpful I was taken aback. One of the ladies I was visiting with had brought a whole lot of food for them she handed it over telling them to eat yet they took the plate around making sure we ate first. As we moved from outside into the airconditioned room they picked up all the chairs not letting us help at all. Making sure we were all seated and comfortable before they themselves were.

Another Iraqi turned up whoose english was amazing and he soon started to translate for us things became a little more comfortable and before you know it another five detainees arrived a mixture of Iraqis & Iranians. We sat around in a circle showing pictures & talking. Previous to the visit we were informed of the racial tension between Iraqis & Iranians but as we all sat in that room I never noticed anything they all seemed so grateful that we were there visiting them. I really believe that whatever issues they may have had in their country need to be corrected if they are to become Australia citizens and what better way to do it but when they are all forced into manadatory detention. Maybe something good can come out of detention.

Out comes the games so I started up a game of chess with the Iraqi whoose english was awesome he had a pretty sarcastic sense of humour I thought he would fit right into Australian way. I can't remember their names as we all know I am horrible with accents and difficult names one guy told me I could call him Ali but it turns out 90% of them had Ali as the start so I wonder if they mind if I create Aussie nicknames for them. I'm not going to lie I was wondering if I should play my best chess because I felt guilty if I was going to win at chess when they were trapped in detention but surely they wouldn't want me to throw the game? I am a little bit of a guru at chess I warned them. Hell when I was 12 I was champion of my school and competed in a Territory wide school tournament. Granted I am now 30 so my 12 year old accomplishments probably don't hold up so well... but I am good at chess.

I decided not to throw the game I feel sympathy is not always the best approach. I think if I was in detention I wouldnt want people to let me win because they feel sorry for me. I ended up "wiping the floor" with my opponent quite quickly. Perhaps too quickly another Iraqi who was some kind of backgammon champion said next visit he wanted to play me at chess.

As we were forced to leave early due to a shift changeover I wanted to leave some board games I had accumulated from Lawn Sales the morning before. The guy who was watching over us informed me that I wasn't allowed. So this was when defensive Amanda almost caused an full blown argument with the guys who have some of the highest security clearance in the NT.

"Why not, on the Immigration website it says they are perfectly acceptable gifts"
"No you can't leave them"
"Well what can I do I want to leave them what do I need to do"
"They need to go through clearance"
"Where can I put them through clearance the guys at the door let them all through"
"You can't do this today"

It was very much a case of 6pm Sunday afternoon I want to get the fuck out of here so I am not going to get involved with clearing some board games.

Despite the fact they had been through the scanners it appeared that that day the guard had decided they weren't allowed to have gifts. Perhaps he had woken up on the wrong side of the bed or his wife had used teeth on his morning blowjob who knows but he was a jerk and I had to step back in case I was written up as a security threat by my arguments. Stepping back from an ignorant argument drives me insane in fact its Monday morning and I am still angry!

Despite that the guy who wanted to vs me at chess had a packet of dominoes I had donated and managed to talk another guard into letting him keep it. With a grin and wink at me he walked off to his room his prize in hand.

As we left all the men said goodbye to us shaking our hands thanking us for coming. One man who I had not managed to talk with with came up and spoke to me in good english.

"Its so good that you come and visit us we appreciate you."
He placed his other hand over mine as he shook and his eyes expressed such intense gratitude it was then everything really hit home and I felt this kind of purpose thats been a little missing from my life recantly. This man had barely spoken to any of us arriving late and we had to leave early (heaven forbid we hold up the serco guards!) but he was so happy to have that short time with the outside world.

I couldn't believe my experience. I was so nervous and apprehensive wondering if I was going to be in a room with violent depressed people the stories that had been beaten into your head from the media & politicians. Not going to lie even the people on the detainees side stories had scared me a little. Yet instead I was greeted with some of the nicest people I have ever met, with such easy going calm personalities. Some of them with awesome sarcastic sense of humour. Normal people who just wanted a chance that I was born with. People I would much prefer to be surrounded by then some of those I see every day living sheltered lives around me. Granted they hadn't been in detention as long as some of the other people some only a couple of months perhaps their moods would change as time goes on. But maybe with my visits I can help keep them from falling into that depression. I left Wickhams Point that day my brain going over a million times my experience. I just wish all those bogan ignorant Aussies would take an hour out of their day and meet some of the people. Maybe we could change more minds.

I have another visit with the same two ladies for Good Friday after the Rally I will proudly march in.

Until we are all free none of us are free.