World Federation for Mental Health
Melbourne, Australia, February, 2003
Sylvia Caras, PhD
This anecdotal travelogue and report is around 6000 words; Ive extracted under bytes the highlights.
Chris left me materials from the New Zealand Mental Health Commission (I dont have the URL here; Google will find it). Im struck by the clear and compelling and personal language. New Zealand advocacy seems to focus on inclusion, work, recovery, respect. The Commission is well funded and produces quality products and leaders.
The initial consumer networking session was omitted from the printed program until the last minute and I was called demanding for wanting consumers to know where to meet each other and when.
WFMH has been invited by WHO to further "advocacy" projects to develop country legislation.
User Guests at WFMH board meeting: Janet Paleo and Anna Gray from TX, Chris Hansen from NZ
Conference organizer report: 485 paid registrants; 47 countries. An all day pharmaceutical symposium was cancelled; there were only 10 registrants. Organizer blamed consumer pressure that caused the pharmaceutical companies to pull out.
Over 30 came to consumer welcome networking meeting.
A consumer pointed out that Garrison repeatedly used the word commit in his remarks.
Moved from the floor under the urgency provisions, and passed: "This assembly joins the consumers/users/survivors attending the WFMH 2003 Biennial Congress to resolve that: all people interested in mental health strive for peace, and all world leaders should exhaust all peaceful means of resolution to conflict if they represent the wellness of their people."
OHagan called for "culture of recovery - autonomy and self-determination - personal resourcefulness, equality and partnership, diversity of models and choices, citizen rights and inclusion"
Franciosi says up to WFMH UN Main Representative (who is not here), not Board, whether I can be accredited to attend June NY meeting as WFMH delegate. This has been bucked from Executive Director to Executive Committee to pre-Congress board to post-Congress board. I am not feeling welcomed!
It took 24 hours to get from Santa Cruz, CA, via Los Angeles and Auckland, to Rotorua, NZ. I flew from Auckland on in what is nicknamed a pencil, all window seats in two columns with a center aisle, 10 rows of seats. I am staying in a cottage in a Maori village on land full of geo-thermal activity; theres a bubbling mudhole in the yard and close views of tall geysers. Chris Hansen and her partner Maureen and their guest Merenda Epstein from Australia collected me, showed me around while we shared advocacy adventures and strategies. They will all three also be in Melbourne.
Because of the thermal activity and eruptions, the air smells of minerals and sulfur and I feel Im being holistically healed at each in breath. The owner of the cottage, whose own house is next door. I am very isolated, yet at the end of the driveway are neighbors and tourists who explore the village paths and geysers during the day.
The living/sleeping area of the cottage is old; 13 children were raised in it. Theres a high peaked ceiling, only exterior walls, and its decorated with Maori artifacts, carvings and weavings, and has a wall full of books about Maori and New Zealand. Added on are a large modern bathroom and full kitchen and a refrigerator stocked for my use. I made breakfast this morning, bacon, and mushrooms, and tomatoes, and eggs and I had to really pay attention to what I was doing and was totally present, in the moment for quite a long time and its such a clear pain-free place to be and I wish I had the discipline to more often focus in that way.
I watched a Maori war dance, men intimidating opponents with face paint and mannerisms, lifted eyebrows so that eyes bulge, rolling those eyes side to side or up out of sight, tongue protruded towards chin, and of course banging of sticks and feet.
Chris left me materials from the New Zealand Mental Health Commission (I dont have the URL here; Google will find it). Im struck by the clear and compelling and personal language. Not academic, not bureaucratic, not distancing. And I remember being drawn to New Zealand authors and artists - Janet Frame, Sylvia Ashton Warner, Jane Campion. A society of poets.
New Zealand advocacy seems to focus on inclusion, work, recovery, respect. The Commission is well funded and produces quality products and leaders. I mentally am contrasting with the United States where we use an legal adversarial process to make change and while we do that we use zero sum strategies that leave user and survivors with a very small share. I wonder if the differences are because New Zealand has national health and benefits and the US has no entitlement to care and no universal health care.
We visited two supported housing units and the Rotorua district hospital mental patient unit. The unit was clean, had lots of public space and large bedrooms, and an oppressive dark feeling that I cant be more specific about. I talked with two inpatients - both well groomed and well dressed and showing no sense of being heavily medicated.
As recommended, I arrived at the Rotorua airport 30 minutes before my flight, ample time to check in and buy a departure tax sticker. The plane to Christchurch had four seats across in two columns, 66 seats, boarded from the rear, first 10 rows first, a less than 2 hour flight.
When I checked my email I found a fax from the WFMH board president omitting the initial consumer networking session from the printed program, thus effectively cancelling this easy opportunity for users and survivors to find each other before the meeting started. The memo continued, chastising me for harassing the organizers by requesting this be in the program, informing me this was not a board sponsored activity, that local consumers couldnt come to this pre-Congress meeting without paying the full registration fee, and besides there wasnt money to serve beverages and cookies and I should understand there was low registration and low attendance expected. This did not put me in a good mood! I felt angry, shamed, very embarrassed since I had already informed about 40 consumers and survivors that the event was planned and we were welcome. It will be hard to hold my head high at the board meetings when I feel so totally discounted.
In the past users and survivors have used the time and the space provided to organize and present material but the process has already been changed to require all substantive resolutions in advance for consideration As a result there were no resolutions at all for the annual Assembly and two held over from Vancouver were circulated to all Voting Members for input, again, in an attempt to make them more palatable to the board, which doesnt want to feel bound by the votes at the Assembly.
Im staying at a shared bath, full breakfast hotel on the tram loop. Breakfast in indeed full: hot and cold cereals, fresh and canned fruit and yogurt, eggs/bacon/sausages/beans/corn/spaghetti, toast.
In Christchurch, I took a tourist tram that runs on tracks in a loop around the center city, with the driver narrating sights and suggesting good restaurants. A delivery van was double parked, blocking the tram pathway. The tram driver dismounted, tooted the van horn and waited, then got in the van, and using the keys left in the ignition, moved it off the track and parked it across the street. While we watched, an astounded van driver looked up and down the street, noticed first the tram driver and then his van, and got a talking-to. Tourists in the tram were astounded, applauded our driver, who commented, "Happens all the time."
All the local people Ive met here are helpful and friendly and outgoing. The airport shuttle arrived at 4:30 AM for my 6:30 flight to Sydney where I arrived at 7:30, after setting my watch back 2 hours. I checked my bags and took a train to see the Sydney harbor, bridge, and opera house. I havent a verb for the opera house - over the harbor it soars, perches, hovers, protects, graces. Its a wonderful architectural event. Then I went back to the central station, where the toilets are lit with blue disinfectant lights, and checked in for a two day two night train trip west and north to see some of the Australian countryside. I got to talking to a fellow passenger from Montreal, and we were enjoying sharing travel adventures and political views when he mentioned he was a neuropsychologist. Mental alarms started firing and I felt a sense of panic and I said not a word, we kept chatting, I calmed myself, and it turns out he is interested in the part of the brain where language is and compensations when language is lost or brains infected/destroyed and he works with brain surgeons. I said not a word about mental health and felt very wise to not raise the subject at all! Im wondering whether to raise the subject of chemical interventions instead of surgical. The motion and rhythm of the train seems to also affect the pace of conversations; there are more pauses, more opportunity to follow-up on a tangential idea. The first leg of the trip has had only a few passengers and because the cars are therefore lighter in weight the ride is bumpier. And it indeed was bumpy last night!
There was a mid-day stop in Adelaide and I took a bus trip around the center city and surrounding green belt and am now waiting for the trip to resume. We are currently 30 minutes late and Im thinking I may miss my plane connection tomorrow morning <sigh>.
A passenger from Vermont was on her way to meet her son and his wife who have been sailing around the world for five years and have wireless internet access on board through a ship relay system.
The train became 2 hours late, made up an hour, I made a list of what to do if I missed the once-a-day plane, and worried, expending considerable energy being anxious. However, the train manager stopped the train and allowed me to debark at the highway near the airport where he arranged for a taxi to drive me the five minute ride and I checked in an hour ahead!
20 February WFMH board committee day
Because of insufficient attendance, those present met as a group instead of in committees. There was a discussion of whether to move the February 05 from Cairo. Theres an undercurrent of personality politics, marketing issues, as well as issues of disrespect to the organizer and to the middle eastern region. I had planned to only stay for breakfast but decided I wanted to participate for the morning, and chimed in on the side of staying in Cairo, to not let terrorism win. Also discussed was the proper level for registration fees and who is the audience for the Congress - academic, lay, members of mental health associations, ... Translation when necessary is a huge expense.
WFMH has been invited by WHO to further "advocacy" projects to develop country legislation.
Discussion about making board activities more transparent, and some resistance.
Discussion of how to strengthen regions, get more visibility.
Sara Clarke, Melbourne advocate came to meet me and we got acquainted, walked through downtown, and looked at opals. I stopped to use the bathroom in a department store and was surprised to see a needle disposer in the stall. "Is there a lot of diabetes here?" I asked. "No, a lot of heroin addicts; this is part of the needle exchange program."
19 February WFMH board meeting
User Guests: Janet Paleo and Anna Gray from TX, Chris Hansen from NZ
Conference organizer report: 485 paid registrants; 47 countries. An all day pharmaceutical symposium was cancelled; there were only 10 registrants. Organizer blamed consumer pressure that caused the pharmaceutical companies to pull out.
I think that would be wonderful if it were true, but I think it was to cover the poor registration numbers (they need 800 to break even) and they need pharma support. Also blamed was the world situation, US health advisors cancelled because they are currently on call and were refused leave. Middle Eastern countries were refusing travel visas. (However, people from both Yemen and Palestine were subsequently at the Congress.)
What was skirted was that the Official Opener, Hollingsworth, is involved in a situation involving his handling of sexual abuse allegations. His prominent inclusion might have discouraged Australians and others aware of the news.
"Psychopharmacology - New Treatments has been cancelled due to lack of adequate registrations justify the full day program. The pharmacy community were aware that some disquiet was being exerted within some groups in Australia about the efficacy of running a symposium for pharmacists in conjunction with the Congress. Intelligence was received that the pharmacists network became aware of the group controversy. The group initially indicated interest in the program but were uneasy about perceived possible difficulties and subsequently did not register. 10 registrations were received." (From the organizers report) Also from the report, no user/survivors not included in the list of populations providing significant input.
The initial consumer networking meeting is listed in a handout, obviously added after because not bolded as are the other events in the list.
There were three replies to the outreach for comments about the Vancouver resolutions developed by WNUSP and introduced by me, representing Voting Member The Madness Group. Replies were received from the Mental Health Association of Ireland, The World Schizophrenia Fellowship, and board members Sylvia Caras and Ed Pennington. The contents were not provided, nor a summary, and I asked from them to be provided to the board..
The Vancouver conference netted WFMH $ 155, 000.
A recommended procedure for managing disruption and demonstrations has been proposed.
This is considered risk management and the procedure will likely be to either recess the meeting or remove the disrupters. I am guessing this would only apply to the General Assembly. (Im told Scientology picketed/protested - I didnt see them.)
We discussed a model contract for subsequent Congress organizers. Much of what users and survivors had asked for in Vancouver had been included in the model. I spoke strongly that the networking welcome be printed in the program, from the preliminary version forward. There was waffling, and I was firm. Well see if it happens! I also asked that day scholarships for local consumers be required. There were none provided in Melbourne. Preston Garrison, the Executive Director, noted the costs of providing day scholarships, that there might be larger meeting rooms needed and rental fees would rise so there would be a cost burden. (Ive already been told the Congress cant afford cokes and cookies for this years networking meeting.) Theres a lack of graciousness and inclusion to this organization, a tight holding on and restriction. By this time, and there were a few other comments, board members were asked to send in comments in writing and there would be another review.
The reconsideration of the statement submitted to the UN about the Convention of Human Rights of People with Disabilities was postponed to the post-Congress board meeting when I will not be present. I suggested that since I was the only one there and they wouldnt have the benefit of my input, they might want to discuss the issue now. So I was allowed to make remarks, but the statement itself wasnt made available. I asked if I could be a delegate for the upcoming June UN meeting. I asked several times despite the obvious wish to not allow me to represent WFMH and that discussion was also proposed to post-Congress meeting (and now until later).
The nominating committee presented its report; the chair of the committee holds enough proxies to elect the slate and feels bound to vote the slate, so there seems no point in allowing myself to be nominated from the floor. Two other board members were also dismissed, not included in the slate, and they have chosen to withdraw their names.
The Vancouver resolutions were again discussed and again nothing was done (and the inaction subsequently reported to the Assembly).
WMHD 03 theme: Mental and emotional disorders or children and adolescents - kits expected to be ready by July 1.
WFMH is creating a consumer/carer advisory committee WFMH CAG. It will meet electronically and the initial members will further develop the process. There will be a couple of members from each of the WFMH regions and a balance between consumers and carers. US will be represented by Janet Paleo and Cynthia Wainscott; Australia by Janet Meagher and Tony Fowke.
I presented a written report of user/survivor activities since the September meeting. The board was impressed, as was I, with the materials I circulated from the NZ Mental Health Commission that Chris had shared with me.
There was a cursory thank you to the three departing board members as a group, no individual recognition of Maxs 18 years, Johns four years as treasurer, or of me. (Nor was there anything but a pro-forma recognition at the Assembly.) The board meeting is over, I have a few social responsibilities left between now and Monday, and am feeling sad, unappreciated, unwelcome. Im *so* glad that Chris was here this morning and that Janet and Anna stayed for the whole meeting so will be here to debrief with and hug.
Melbourne is receiving much needed rain and its not so nice for walking to meetings. User/survivor welcome had a dedicated room, 25 chairs in a circle and more around the perimeter, two flip charts and markers. I asked for tape to put up notices and instead they wheeled in three velcro boards and gave me a handful of dots for mounting. I asked for water and they brought half a dozen large bottles, which were emptied, and some glasses. About thirty people came. Some, plus a few others I met in the halls: After two years of hassle about putting this meeting in the program and inviting local people and being refused, it turns out the actual room is off the hotel lobby not the innards of the convention center and there is no problem walking in from the street without a badge. It seems so hostile to not have just told this to me!
Some of the names and countries (Chris Hansen, who, throughout, has been a huge help, has collected the names and eaddresses of all present and that will be circulated soon through the wnusp list (email@example.com www.wnusp.org)):
a medical student and a doctor who both identified as belonging to a consumer group - Elena, Mariana
Janet Paleo, TX
Carmen Lee, CA
Bill Compton, CA
Richard Ellis, NE
Peter Ashendon, NY
Steve Onken, NY
Anna Gray, TX
Jesse Allen, OK
Mildred Reynolds, DPSA
Sylvester Katontoka, M H Users Network, Zambia
There was a general feeling of not being welcome at the congress and some discussion about how to make known the discomfort. The lack of local or day scholarships was remarked. And a fear of chemical/pharmaceutical encroachment.
Conference organizer Burrows is known as a man whose ego precedes him by at least five minutes and who believes there is no problem that increasing the dosage wont cure.
About 20 came to the second user/survivor meeting and we set times for the next days, decided to suggest ideas for resolutions for Cairo and to work on the process in between, talked about making a peace and mental health emergency resolution for the Assembly, talked about asking for a 60% users/carer representation on the WFMH board, ... .
I presented briefly on the UN Convention, on a panel with five others. There were about 40 in the audience and lots of users/survivors. One question raised was why psychiatrists accept the responsibility to compel. The two chairing the meeting sat in the front; the panelists sat in the front row. Water was only provided for the chairs, not the speakers, not the audience, and despite my request none was brought and there are no water fountains and the building is air-conditioned and the provided sandwich lunch (no vegetarian option) was *very* salty and I am grateful for my full water bottle.
Carmen found the Holiday Inn business center and there is free-so-far Internet available in their business center. I cleared out about 80 spam and sent notes to my family. (There is a charge, about $6/hour, but it is rarely collected <shrug>.)
A few new faces at this mornings user/survivor meetings. Representatives from Japan spoke passionately about problems there and came equipped with four handouts of comprehensive material. We developed a sheet of signatures for our Japanese colleagues to take back with them to try to shift their legislators away from passing an oppressive mental health law. We talked about the need for an international clearinghouse/database of peer and related programs/activities. We decided to agree in principle on resolutions for Cairo and assign development. One will be a suggestion for more user/survivor board members, perhaps a percentage proportion. One might be a process suggestion for the board to honor the voting member resolutions. One might be a statement about peace, which could be introduced here, as an emergency resolution. I had a great conversation after with a man from London about the importance of the language we use to understand our experiences. Preston Garrison met with the US CMHS scholarship winners and impressed them with his attentive to their concerns and his positions. Despite my position on the WFMH board and the CMHS SOCSI, I wasnt invited to the meeting <sigh>. Afterwards I spent a little time at a huge Sustainable Living Festival in the center of town, and looked at the crafts displayed along the riverbank.
Next day I went for an early morning walk and arrived at the Congress in time for tea and cookies, lukewarm water and tea bags, and a lonely small plates of sweets. More than 30 users and survivors from 10 countries agreed in principle to call for a vote on an emergency "peace" resolution, a small group drafted some language, it was carefully discussed and voted in, volunteers typed it up, I handed a copy to the Chair of the WFMH Resolutions Committee, an attorney and a carer, asking for permission to introduce in under the new rules. He said hed speak to his committee, then just before the assembly said it didnt need action, I was able to clarify and the ED helped and it was introduced under the urgency provision with a few words changed appropriately and something added inappropriately which again I was able to clarify, this time in front of the whole assembly, but anyhow ... the assembly voted to consider the resolution, I made the motion, Max Abbott from NZ seconded and he and I spoke to the motion and no one spoke against and it was voted in.. I said that it was drafted this morning, that people with psychiatric disabilities have considerable personal experience with trauma, that we would like to not see increased the trauma burden in the human global population, that we know war generates trauma, and that hence this resolution. Max noted that the content was consistent with a prior letter WFMH had sent about war. Chris Hansen has the full wording on disk and that will be posted to wnusp. The conclusion after the whereas is: "This assembly joins the consumers/users/survivors attending the WFMH 2003 Biennial Congress to resolve that: all people interested in mental health strive for peace, and all world leaders should exhaust all peaceful means of resolution to conflict if they represent the wellness of their people." When you have the whole resolution, it can be circulated to local press in your area and used in other ways.
My board service ended at the elections at this meeting. I feel more free to be critical. The slate was voted in. Janet Paleo, TX is the new consumer board member at large; Janet Meagher continues as Secretary. There are two self-identified carers, Tony Fowke from Australia and Cynthia Wainscott from the US. There are other family members on the board though they have other roles, as representatives of their region or at large. Richard Stouter is Patts selection for the board.
The World Mental Health Day theme must be of sufficient interest o pharmaceuticals for them it fund it, thus some connection to illness, disorder, depression, ... Let Janet know if you have ideas youd like her to put forward.
Re the 2001 resolutions, pharma funding is included in the annual report, theres been nothing on ect to react to so there has been no action, there will be more inclusion with the formation of the WFMH Consumer Advisory Committee, the question of the templates is under exploration, and treatment without consent is a complex question for the WFMH varied membership.
The new ED in his remarks used the word "commit" over and over.
The hired Assembly facilitator, who did a nice job, commented on the unyielding nature of the organizations policies and procedures.
Roper: what do you call the problem, what do you usually do about it, how can I/we/this place help. (Reminiscent of Kleinmans work and question, an anthropological approach.)
Australian carers are noting the lack of family representation, presentations, networking.
Jean Campbells plenary was well received.
Mary OHagan: Force in Mental Health Services - visuals, slides with large font summarizing key points with a screen-size padlock in the background, definition of terms, rift in consumer movement about how much force to protest and in what ways, "millions of citizens ... have lost the freedom ... " ..., self-determination, international historical overview, force in psychiatry violates human rights, post-modernism stripped psychiatry of any monopoly of knowledge, compulsory treatment controls who you are, compulsory detention merely controls where you are, challenge biomedical model which assumes incompetence and that services help, failure to support people to avoid crisis, risk averse culture uses force first, (audience coughing and wiggling in discomfort as force and its impact was detailed), instead needed is a culture of recovery - autonomy and self-determination - personal resourcefulness, equality and partnership, diversity of models and choices, citizen rights and inclusion, biomedical model of limited use, peer support and alternatives, life outside the mental health system and on our own terms, reducing force will increase social status, people not drugs used to calm and support, mediation instead of force, de-escalate before force is needed, coercion contributes to aggression, ... Q&A: defensive long-winded provider insisting on illness/treatment/gratitude for intervention, ..."Im not drowning; Im swimming" Proposed UK act allows people with personality disorders to be treated for the benefit for society. Force is a negative performance indicator. Horrible situation in Japan.
I walked across the Yarra river to join a harbor cruise to visit the little fairy penguins. 18 people, two other singles, one who never spoke, one US military stationed in Antarctica, one kid, ... A small boat, sodas, wine and a simple plated supper - bread, salad, chicken or veggie egg rolls, a *rocky* trip across the harbor, and then 10 minutes slowly passing the breakwater which is the penguin home. Crew shone large spotlights on the birds as they were sighted in ones and twos, and some water rats. I would have liked to hover there for several hours, in daylight, and watch, and was glad to have this taste. Those who had done both said this was better than the standard day/evening trip to Phillips Island where there are more penguins and many more tourists.
User meeting - there were 34 at the final meeting, from more than 10 countries - Australia, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka, UK, US, Zambia, Zimbabwe, , we basked in the successful resolution passed, talked about Cairo, media, noted the ideas for resolutions that need to be prepared, shared appreciations which were deeply moving and I forgot to ask anyone to minute the meetings so as to capture some of the words, and ended with Shozo leading us in "We Shall Overcome."
I gave away that sense of group spirit and well-being when a consumer cornered me to share her input, not wanting to hurt my feelings of course (but I was hurt and regret I didnt say that), that I had barked and bullied and not shared the chairing and only allowed my own views to be heard and there were people who werent coming to our meetings because of that and she didnt share this with the whole group, when something could have changed, because ... I suggested she submit a workshop for Cairo about good group process. I reflected afterwards that a networking meeting at an international conference is not introductory and that local consumer meetings are the place for shy people to test participating and for finding ways to embrace many views. Im still annoyed at myself for taking on her dismay at me and not calling her on how she was giving input, in a way that couldnt make change and would do more than meet her own needs. <sigh>
have donations of about $130 US towards the $200 WFMH Voting Member dues and will renew the membership for two years so that there is that vote in Cairo. I asked if people wanted the name changed from The Madness Group to People Who and two said yes, one said there was strength in using the word madness (she lives in The Midlands and wasnt allowed by the system there to name the local group Madlands) and I decided to make no change until there is a groundswell. I like see the word madness in the list of WFMH voting member mental health associations! It seems to me to balance the smugness of many participants here. In the past someone from WNUSP has chaired these meetings and I have belated appreciations! Its been a lot of work, and has limited the amount of notes I can take for you about other proceedings and presentations.
There were several interactive session and a wrap-up one where the board received suggestions/input. The lack of diversity and indigenous presence was noted, the inaccessibility was obvious as a board member was helped down the equivalent of three flights of stairs (no podium level entrance, no lift) and a person using the wheelchair spoke from the rear and couldnt access the microphone, comments were made about the hierarchical nature of WFMH procedures about slates/voting members/nominations, and about life quality, rights, issues of aging and gender.
The new board president, Patt Franciosi says it is up to WFMH UN Main Representative (who is not here), not Board, whether I can be accredited to attend June NY meeting as WFMH delegate. This has been bucked from Executive Director Garrison to Executive Committee to pre-Congress board to post-Congress board to Nancy Wallace, who has already been told, about the joint SCI WFMH statement last year, that she cant act without approval of the board or its representatives (I would assume the President and CEO). I am not feeling wanted!
I have felt quite calm so far, hurt a few times, a little depressed which wears off during the day, and hardly angry at all. But now that my service has ended, this weeks slights and five years of pushing at the board are roiling and boiling and Im glad that I have a friend (efriend become f2f) here with whom to debrief. She is soon coming to meet me and we are going to lunch at a Turkish restaurant. I spent six delightful weeks in Turkey in the 80's, love the food, and delighted to be shifting my attention to sightseeing. We went to the Victoria Market, all kinds of food and wares and I bought postcards.
I spent a little time with 60 local consumers and nurses who met at an education session organized by the "consumer academic" in the school of psychiatric nursing where Mary OHagan spoke about the work of the NZ Mental Health Commission, and others told about the projects in Melbourne. One idea suggested was a journal of user/survivor studies and I thought this could be an e journal and a project that could happen.
I notice many people smoking, and familiar fast food - McDonalds, Hungry Jack (Burger King), Kentucky Fried Chicken. I heard Melbournes size compared to Los Angeles and the coast compared to California, and both cities were deeply influenced by gold rushes and I wonder about other comparables.
I took a bus tour, 11 hours, 21 seats, 18 people, 600 kilometres, which included spending 20 minutes strolling through a loop walk at Maits Rest, a still, lush, drizzly rain forest, ferns and shaggy eucalyptus sparkling and glistening, saw a Koala sleeping in a mannegong tree crotch, undisturbed by the clicking cameras of eager visitors. The rock spires at Twelve Apostles and the formations at Loch Arde gorge that the ocean has carved from the limestone, all remnants of the land that used to connect Tasmania to Australia, are bold images I will remember, and the sky was clear when we were there, despite a day of intermittent rain and some fog and clouds.
Australian tourism seems less commercial; the several tours Ive taken have *not* stopped at places to spend money and buy plastic souvenirs and have focused on delivering the sights promised. The food on the three packages I bought was less inviting - this days vegetarian lunch was a piece of lettuce and a bit of shredded carrot on buttered white bread. I now travel with protein bars and trail mix always at hand so I supplemented.
Saturday Sara and I took a tram to St Kildas, a suburban seaside town, ate fish and chips, ducked for cover during the days intermittent squalls, and checked email from an internet café. Sunday we met Chris for a Chinese lunch, took a tram to Toorak and walked around, and said a regretful goodbye.
I have 29 emails written here off line and ready to send when I connect at home from this laptop, and these notes are ready to convert from .wpd to .htm and upload..
Appreciations to Sara Clarke, Melbourne, for keeping iris lively this past month. Ive been carrying her voice phone number in my pocked like a talisman for this whole trip.
Its Monday March 3 and Melbourne airport is on high alert. There were 8 security people at the gate and a long line of passengers. Every passenger on the full Qantas flight to Los Angeles is having all hand baggage opened and searched and each person is being wanded and asked to remove their shoes for checking.