January 1, 2010

The Year that was 2009

It seems an impossible task to describe how amazing this year has been, even harder as my concentration is constantly broken by exploding fireworks as Neuk├Âlln residents get warmed up for tonights celebrations. It is still daylight and the snow is thick on the ground.

I guess I will start at the beginning...

Sunrise New Year's Day. I sat on a hill along with hundreds of hippies, free spirits and music lovers at the Woodford Folk Festival. Cheers went up as the sun broke over the horizon and metres from me a male my age, stood up sky-clad and blew on a traditional horn. Laughter followed at the unexpected act. This was the start of my year.

A week later I was on a plane to India, somewhat nervous as it was so soon after the Mumbai attacks. My sister and I were there to participate in a program called 'Discover Your Potential' run by the Girl Guides & Girl Scouts Association. There we worked with an orphanage. 36 children aged between 3 and 16 lived in one small room watched over by one very caring lady. We brightened up their room with a wall mural which I helped to design and invited them to the Guide centre where they were able to play games and go swimming- something very unusual for them. We also built a garden at Ishwari, a women's centre in Rural India and there I met Sister Rosaria whom I wrote about earlier.

Above: Outside the Orphanage after sanding off the existing paint to make way for the mural
Above: Helping at a Creche. It was here I learnt the shocking differences between education of the rich and poor and especially how poorly educated girls are. School is free in India yet uneducated parents still don't think it important to send their girls to school. The girls will only get the very basic education that the creche provides.

For the following months I was very active in Girl Guides and this was very fulfilling and also challenging. Highlights were taking our Unit camping, Leadership training, canoeing training and giving talks along with my sister about our experiences in India at major Guiding events.

A long held goal was to have an exhibition at the Queensland Centre for Photography and this was achieved with the exhibition of my series Archimedes Field in July.

Two days after the opening it was off to Europe with my partner for a six week journey around almost all the major European cities. The highlight by far was the nine days spent in the Greek Islands. I have never laughed so hard in my life or had so much silly fun. I met many wonderful and intelligent people and it seemed like there was never going to be a tomorrow, that the fun would never end.

Above: Paros, Greece

I had planned to settle in Frankfurt Main with my partner but I was restless there and things weren't going well between us. Another thing that bothered me was that in the six weeks we had travelled we had met mostly only Australians. I knew the remedy to this and headed off on my own to Poland and Couchsurfed with locals who were kind, generous and gave me a truly honest experience of Poland (the good and the bad). I even hitchhiked from Lublin to Warsaw with one of these hosts which was something I never thought I would do.

After that I headed to Berlin and if you have read my blog you know the rest. Berlin feels like home to me for a million reasons.

I had my first white Christmas in a small town in Germany and I could easily describe it as a story book Christmas: Snowmen, snowball fights, piano playing while the dog warmed itself by the fire, games of charades, cookie baking, singing songs around a real Christmas tree. As an Australian who has no memory of seeing real snow (apparently I saw some at 6months old) it is very exciting for me. I am very grateful to my friend and her family for allowing me to share in their Christmas celebrations.

Above: A few Christmas moments, Armenian Cognac, peace and our snow woman

Some of my favourite moments where I knew I was truly alive:
  • Rickshaw riding in Pune, India. Enough said.
  • Canoeing on a lake on a moonlit night along with many other strong and independant women. The lake was so calm that the stars were reflected in the water.
  • Cliff-jumping at the Isle of Paros (Greece). I am petrified of heights but I did it anyway and I did it WRONG despite being told that it was impossible to get it wrong. I smacked into the water on my thigh and it was the worst pain and probably the most hideous injury I have ever done to myself but I got up and did it again the right way.

Above: My spectacular Cliff Jump and the accompanying bruise just as it was starting to come up. Later it went black.
  • In the Greek Islands, at 4am in the morning running home from Ios party central to the camp and falling backwards down a hill because of the stupidest thing I ever did (but I'm keeping that a secret). I landed safely in some thorny bushes but still laugh when I think of it. Life must have it's comedy!
  • At the summit of a mountain in Zakopane, Poland- drinking Wodka with two Polish Policemen.
  • In Warsaw, Poland. At 7:30 in the morning I sat on a park bench, a little bit lost but feeling truly free, more free than I have ever felt before. I had just two small backpacks and no plans at all. At that moment I didn't have any agenda for the future, I didn't know where I would sleep that night or even what city I would sleep in. I was completely alone and completely happy. I realized that I never wanted to have as many 'things' as I used to. It is true that what you own owns you. I think that was also the moment I decided to move to Berlin and pursue my creative ambitions.
  • Walking around Berlin alone at 3am in the morning, getting lost in the Red Light District, drinking Prosseco with random Germans who tried to give me directions all the while feeling 100% sure of myself that I could find my way home.
The year has not been without it's pain. I find myself single for the first time in eight years after a five and a half year relationship had a slow, pro-longed and painful death. But it is for the best and we still remain friends.

In November I challenged myself with a new project exploring alienation and technology. For the first time I photographed people for a conceptual work. I was previously too shy to do so despite the fact that I am also a wedding and portrait photographer. But more about this project in the new year.

2009 has been a year of intense personal growth for me and I have become much more independant than I ever have been, much more self-assured, much more honest and much more determined to live my life my own way and not by anyone else's standards.

Above: Happy, ferry from Ancona to Greece

Yes, I think 2009 has been the best year of my life.

Here's to saying yes to dreams and a wonderful 2010!
Happy New Year!!


the world is my oyster said...

You have no idea how inspirational this entry was for me. can't wait to hear about more of your adventures. makes me want to travel even more.

Paula said...

It's one of those coincidences... I was to India for 5 months, learnt to be single after 5 years and decided to go for a creative career and drop everything else. Oh, and Berlin feels like home for me too. Amazing post.

Rachel said...

Courageous and inspiring indeed.

Sally said...

What a beautiful and inspiring post. I'm now single after a ten year relationship and find that the best succor is the facing the fear of the unknown. Thanks for reminding me that I'm not alone. Peace.

Elizabeth said...

Especially like your photo of the bruise! [I got one like it in Croatia awhile ago]

Best to you Rachel, keep up your unique journey.

Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox said...

Your BLOG is such an inspiration. This last post painted so many pictures in my head. And, of course helped by your wonderful photographs. I really loved the 'Our Greatest Fear' in your post before this one too. The clarity of your images makes me feel I am there! The Optimism Creed is also wonderful, and I will be giving it to my 3 children and hopefully they will respond the same way you did when you were a teenager. Harsh words from your previous lecturer about resilience, but I detect that he/she is totally wrong! Persistence in the artworld is the secret and out of that comes the resilience, even though at times, there are moments where you question everything...I know!
Thanks for putting my link on your blog too. I am going to put your link on mine...will do it now.