It was definitely a sign. The second one, in fact.
As I sat in the taxi, stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, I noticed a familiar design on the car in front of us: Sunshine Coast number plates.
I’d left the warmth of the Coast a few hours earlier and arrived in the congested, noisy, bright and cold environs of Sydney one Thursday evening, well past peak hour - and we’d barely progressed beyond the perimeter of the domestic airport terminal.
“Here,” said my uncle, passing his keys, “take your aunt to the supermarket.”
“Um… okay, sure…”
“I thought you said you can drive a manual.”
“I can,” I replied, “I just haven’t driven on the other side of the road..."
Hine Hukatere was an adventurous young lass who loved climbing in the mountains and persuaded her lover Wawe to climb with her.
Wawe was a less experienced climber, but he faithfully accompanied Hine Hukatere on her hikes, until one day an avalanche swept Wawe to his death.
The broken-hearted Hine Hukatere cried and cried; her tears flowed down the mountain and froze to form the glacier, Ka Roimata o Hine Hukatere – the tears of Hine Hukatere.
Heavy tear drops continued falling from the sky, as Shaz and I stared disconsolately out the window. Rain was forecast for the next three days and we were literally grounded.
The immigration officer stares at my passport.
He looks at me wild-eyed as he realizes it’s a foreign one.
He stares back at my passport, looks at me once more and then runs away - with my passport.
It’s midnight. I’m on a train, somewhere between the Ukraine and Russian borders. It's June 1994.
“Oh my gosh. Impossible. Turn around, please.”
Ahead, four near-empty traffic lanes stretched across Brisbane’s Gateway Bridge.
I continued driving along, ignoring the persistent voice.
“Err… shouldn’t there be another plane in front of us?”
“No, we’ll be winched up.”
“There’s cable attached to a V8 motor a mile down the paddock.”
Strapped into the glider, we sped down the grassy field, pulled along by the distant motor whirring at full throttle.
“See you tomorrow,” said my Romanian host as she walked out the front door, leaving me with the key to her house.
I was spending my homestay night in Bucharest alone; an Australian backpacker entrusted with a stranger’s home.
May 1994. I’m in Beijing, China, riding around on a rickety rental bicycle.
As I navigate around the hordes of fellow cyclists, I realise that I’m near the embassy compounds and on the spur of the moment decide to look for the Ukraine embassy.
A little voice in my head was telling me to sort out my Ukraine transit visa before I arrived in Moscow, as I planned to stay there only three days.
In that brief decisive moment, I have two choices:
New Zealand 2008
New Zealand 2006
United Kingdom 2004
Athens Olympics 2004
Beijing to Athens 1994
I acknowledge the traditional Custodians of the land on which I work and live, the Gubbi Gubbi / Kabi Kabi and Joondoburri people, and recognise their continuing connection to land, the waters and sky. I pay my respect to them and their cultures; and to Elders past, present and emerging.
© 2023 HARI KOTROTSIOS