Looking for an apparently non-existant office supplies outlet in the lunchtime rush-hour is a surreal moment when there’s a visa application to complete. It was already ten past noon and I still needed more documents downloaded and copied. The shop was no-where in sight so I needed to find my bank. It was blocks away but at least certain to deliver what I needed. The visa officer had kindly frozen my paperwork until 12.20 when the office would close. I couldn’t freeze now, this was my last chance to complete the task or wait for another month until the next available appointment. Adrenalin kicked in.
It was 12.18 when I slid the documents under the plate glass window. The officer smiled at my dishevelled appearance and added the papers to the pile. I’m still not sure how I managed to run those city blocks, get my statements printed, stamped and signed before reaching the office two minutes before closing time. Note to self: climbing the bureaucracy tree was a high but really, I’d rather be in a forest.
My resolve didn’t waver. I want to get back to Europe, in spite of the ocean paradise I’ll leave behind in Australia.
It was now 11.55am and the consulat general’s office closed at 12.20. I wasn’t about to wait another month for a new appointment so I firmly grasped the paperwork and rushed out the door with directions to find a Justice of the Peace and an office supply outlet. The elevator plummeted 26 floors to ground zero.
By the time I reached the pharmacy, it was was close to 12 noon. This lead turned out to be futile but the woman kindly suggested that I might find a JP in the tall building with the revolving doors. So I retraced my steps. I found a chartered accountant on the fifteenth floor. He was busy but I wasn’t deterred. Pleading has it’s place. By 12.05 I was out of there and hit the pavement running. I still needed updated bank statements. I had fifteen minutes left.
One drip at a time. Will it all fall into place?
Yes, the city girl met the tall, handsome stranger and ran away to the bush where her life was forever changed and enriched, beyond anything she could have imagined. There have been many stories since, lives lived and died, but I think this one is worthy of a dusting down and airing in the sunlight, just so that people know that magic does sometimes happen.
‘There were several huts but the intention for each was that it could return to the ground and not leave a trace. Our first hut achieved this goal and you will find no sign of the building if you search the dry forest flats along the river. We cut dead wattle logs into short lengths to infill a pole frame. We hauled the smooth volcanic rocks from the river bed in a homemade wheelbarrow. Flattened stringy-bark sheets covered the roof. We had no power, power-tools or machinery. This was a labour of love, brute strength and endurance. But above all, it was a symbol of innocence and hope. We didn’t own the land, it belonged to the Crown. At that first moment, when two young city-dwellers chose a building site above the flood line, then adjusted it several metres to avoid a meat-eating ants nest, it seemed impossible that they would forge a life in the wilds that would last for the next decade.’
First hut: Photo Jeni McMillan