March 11thOk I have been spoilt, my economy seat is now a business class seat which also means I don't have to get to the airport early. The flight to Fiji goes via Sydney. The airport run is fine , some traffic but i make good time. I refuse to let Mark go to my car as I know i will cry. If it's a week, or even two it's a long time when you adore your partner. It feels a bit surreal and I'm still not convinced it's all this easy.
I call Marky from the airport just so he knows I'm ok. Troy calls me at the freaky flyer and he sounds rested. I can't imagine what he has been through. Such a hero. He will be at Fiji airport (Nadi International) an hour plus before me. The flight is nice, I start reading my Ronnie Biggs book, avoid all alcohol and manage to have a second desert. Such a short flight, a mere 4 hours. I read my medical book too, I plan to be the perfect helper during this Tonga mission. I just don't want to embarrass Troy , pathetically eager to impress him i guess. He has made this happen.
We arrive and he is waiting. I expected after the Ukraine shit storm to see him worn, grey, exhausted, and ruffled. Instead there is this guy and it really makes me sick. He's been in a war zone and he looks like he is some sort of Hollywood star, this tall handsome man gives me that smile. I look about and it's the same thing as home, people are just staring and admiring him. Incredible. I walk up and he just gives me this bear hug, I am so glad he is ok. I laugh if I think of what could of happened. "I got you these", and he hands over 2 duty free bags, full of chocolates. "I couldn't remember what you liked so bought 1of each". I just shake my head. Fuck I am happy to see him. I have a couple of amazing men in my life at the moment, they all drive me nuts at time but they are the real deal, so incredible.
The driver arrives at the house, this private mansion with it's own beach. Some of the staff are out front. Jeezuz! It's majestic and I keep saying "can't we just stay here for a week or two". "If you want" was his reply, maybe he doesn't know that I'm jesting. I'm not use to staff, I like to carry my own bag and unpack it. Saying that all of them are lovely. I was happy with a high quality Hotel but no but hell it's for one night, I will suffer it (yeah poor me). I think of those in Ukraine suffering and it guilts the shit out of me.
I chat to one lady after our dinner, she tells me her sister is on another island. I ask her do they need assistance and she says basic medical supplies. I get a name, contact number and write it in my work diary. Her name is Langi.
We go for an evening walk along the beach, the night is perfect, but sounds like bad weather coming for Tonga. I take a selfie in the golden sands, my disaster vest off.
A fairly early night, well anything before midnight is early for me. We leave the adjoining doors open between the insanely big rooms. I soon hear Troy having nightmares and I gently wake him. Poor guy. I spend the night just talking and watching over him. Not sure why i feel like I am suddenly more of the Gryphon than the human, need to make sure he is ok. You are not alone I whisper in his ear. He holds me tighter. I'm always ok with any of my mates having their arms around me or vice versa.
March 12thJone wakes me as requested and he tells me that breakfast is ready when we want it. We head down, while our bags are packed. It's delicious and yes Carol they did track down some Mangasteen fruit for me and you were right it's lovely. It tastes like if a banana and a peach had a baby! The staff wave goodbye, it is seriously hard to leave this paradise.
We are driven to our private transport. I recognize one of the pilots, a son of a mother I knew back in the Hills of Kalorama. He was a kid and now a man, what a small world. He laughs that i'm here , tells me it will be a smooth ride. Another short flight, 1.5 hours, but we made it in way shorter time. Tonga from the air, you see the destruction, you see the repairs, it's like super monsters have been fighting on the main island and flattened it kicking up that grey volcanic mud.
The 6 of us are met and Covid tested (again), all clear. We are told of Tonga's first 2 Covid deaths, such sad news. For two years Tonga had 1 Covid infection the entire time, since the Tsunami disaster, we relief workers have infected Tonga, to the point that in the next day or so it will be 3000 cases. I'm glad they are being so fussy about Covid checks and guilty over the limited visits. Troy smiles and we are in.
A local, Heneli is waiting for us, his name is similar to Henry here in oz, so we tend to call him Henry. Holy shit another handsome guy, he looks 19 but is in his mid twenties. A sweet bloke. He whispers to me if Troy is my husband. I grin. "nah just a mate, too handsome for me". I think of Marky and his gorgeous green eyes, my heart belongs to this bloke at Kalorama, always will. INXS "Never Tear us Apart" is playing in the car.
I stare in awe as we are driven to our digs. A hell of a lot has been done, the locals are onto it. Still more needs doing. We throw down our stuff, I leave my Camo's on, grab a bottle of water and some of Troys chocolates and we head off. The battery on my phone has gone flat, so I don't even take that. The bare essentials.
Our work area is great, freshly painted, clean. Troy inspects it, very happy. I stand back and watch him do his stuff. The Dr in him takes over, and after 30 minutes I have 2 pages of things to do. I'm onto it. As Troy says "Head down arse up". A few times the power fluctuates, i guess the grid is still stuffed. I hang one of the solar chargers near the window as I need to charge my phone at some stage as I want to attempt to call home. By the time we finish the weather has turned, thunderstorms. The air smells tropical, it excites me.
Henry takes me closer to the newly installed communications tower, I get about 0.5 of a bar, but for a minute i call Mum. I leave amessage. I try Mark next and the signal dies. I'm soaked but will try tomorrow. I concentrate and send a psychic message to him. "I am OK". I know he will get that at Kalorama.
28oC, the humidity is about 85%. The rain falls down, it kind of washes away the bad smells and I keep getting a whiff of tropical flowers. Ota'iki for dinner, I think it was called that. I enjoyed it, some sort of coconut pie for desert, I asked Troy if he thinks Mary Ann made it, got to have a Gilligans Island reference. Ha! he tells me he is so happy I am here, he is fading. It has been along day.
We are both exhausted, I smile like a happy puppy when he tells me I was "terrific" and he meant it. I didn't mess much up. PHEW! Again the night jitters return and I look after him. Fucking PTSD.
March 13thI pack some supplies and Heneli takes me to Ha'apai (Pangai) a decent boat drive using his uncles amazing speedboat. The ocean is happy and calm. Troy gives me his blessing, he has plenty of nurses that are dying to help. I start calling him Dr Eye Candy. He hates it so I stop.I remind myself that he is fragile.
The supplies are appreciated and Henry tells me of this cool lagoon not too far away, so we take the boat. The sun is out again and this little oasis looks like it somehow mostly survived the Tsunami. The water is so clear, it's like the best Blue Lagoon remake ever. We swim and eat lunch. Hike and back for another swim. I look out to sea. "Hey Henry is that what i think it is. FUCK!". Yes another BIG storm on the horizon, exactly where we should be heading. He tracks down Troy and the message that we are staying on Pangai for the night. We have a tent, we find the safest place away from falling palm trees. Basically lock ourselves down for the big wet. "is your sleeping bag on the boat" Heneli asks me. "I don't have one. My other husband is getting me a new one" I jest. "You have two husbands" ? Eyes wide like i am some sort of super stud. "No I'm kidding, joking, he's a good mate, he is away with the floods and has it at his place". Henry smiles, "It's alright , mine is a double". God!!! are you testing my willpower I think in my head. Oh well, we'll be dry and snug. It buckets down, steamy wet but I somehow fall asleep, exhaustion. "Night Henry". "Can I be husband number three?". "NIGHT Henry"! HA. I think he does get my sense of humour. I try not to think of what is poking into me!
March 14thIt's weird to wake up with an almost stranger that close, he does smell great. We eat some meagre breakfast and head back. The storm has passed but the sky is grey, a lot more wind. Troy is happy to see me. "Rough night" I ask. He nods but he is functional. "So a double sleeping bag" he laughs. I just smile. Another busy day , and the afternoon storms roll in. I clean 2 shells I found. I rarely take shells from beaches but I have almost zero places to buy a couple of gifts. One of the nurses tells me her brother might be able to help. I just want to take something back for my friend Dean, who I guilt is not here and of course Marky. He is no doubt being amazing looking after people in the Queensland floods, and Marky keeping the home fires burning and looking after Banshee who is not healthy. My other two heroes.
Troy has his camera with him and snaps a picture of me in my Covid medical get up going through stock and looking official. I left my camera at home, simply no room but also worried I'd stuff it up in all the mud. It's so expensive and Marky saved up so long to buy it for me. Plus I have no urge to take snaps of peoples suffering. I'm here for work, to look after Troy and those two things are my priority. In the evening I take a break and walk to that blasted radio tower, I squeeze under the blue tarp nearby as the heavens open up. I try Kally again but no luck. I do send out a SMS from Dean and get a reply. A few short back and forths. I think he's kind of proud of me, well hopefully. A nasty lightening blast hits the tower and scares the hell out of me. There goes my signal. It's kind of shit anyway. I hear Telstra are flying in from Australia to continue communication repairs in a few days.
March 15thOne of the staff gives me this tiny packet of Tonga ancient postal stamps, which is a present for my charity boss Carol. I don't think the local post office is standing, so not even attempting buying stamps, these are cool. I awake to loud rain and the side room has a tiny leak, that i'd obsessed over during the night. I send Mark another ESP message " I love you". My usual amount of Antigen Covid tests, we are both ok, Covid numbers jump past 3000 now. I fess up that I called and a replacement Dr & he arrives soon, the PTSD needs addressing, he shouldn't suffer this. No one should. He sounds relieved, thank fuck he wasn't angry. He gives me a cuddle "thanks for looking after me". He doesn't let go for what seems like forever, and I'm just happy he is alive.
Tonight Heleni brings his best mate and some Kava, Gin and god knows what else. We have a BBQ under the outside cover- yes you guessed it - rain! We are all a bit pissed and the odd funny ciggy. I tell that a disaster mate has a song he plays when he heads to a disaster so decide I really must have my own. I pick the Screaming Jets "Helping Hand" which Troy does have on his ipod. So Dr Troy is a Jets fan, I never knew that. Anyway imagine 6 half pissed blokes dancing around to that song, again and again and again. By the 8th play everyone is singing, some neighbours come visit , and it's become a bit of a street party. I am so going to suffer next day. Oh my aching head.
"Sometimes, things get a little hazy
Sometimes, I think I'm just a little crazy
I don't even know my own name
Soon all of me will go up in flames
Wearing scars, on my arms and in my eyes
Are you friends or enemies in disguise".
March 16thOK I am not too bad, others are worse. Even local booze doesn't get rid of Troys night jitters. But I got a deep sleep. Sadly i wake up to find my favourite Wolverine boots are covered in grey volcanic mud. I spend time cleaning them, I get most of it off. I've tried to avoid wearing them but last nights wild PG dancing, obviously I didn't give a rats, fuck the mud I'm dancing up my own storm man. I have my morning Covid test, and just fruit salad and Tupu'anga coffee. Really nice local coffee. We pack a few things and head into work. We meet the new Dr. I give him my updated stock list. I also sneak some basics to the two woman looking after a small stock area elsewhere. I try to call local Leki but he isn't answering his mobile, once more probably the shitty communications tower. We say goodbye to loads of people, some cry, I shed a few tears. The people are so beautiful here.
A nice night at the Digs. Private and serious, loads of laughter too. I thank Troy for being so patient with me and so exceptional to offer me this chance. It means far more than he knows. What an amazing man.
March 17thSo Troys heading to his Aunt in London for some R&R, a shit load of recovery. I could of stayed longer but didn't seem right without him. Plus I am missing Marky. I also want to check on Dean and make certain he is ok, he's been in the flood zone for almost 3 weeks , that is along time. I know he hates that I fuss so, but I do care this much about all of my mates. It's a nice day when i touch down in Melbourne. I grab some groceries on the way home and call Mark. He is stoked I am home. It's early and I hear the Charity is short staffed, so yes you guessed it, a quick shower, de-mudding and PG with a spikey "almost" beard heads into the Salvo's. Yes I have facial hair, well some. Troy and myself have never had beards so we both decided what the hell, whilst in Tonga lets attempt to grow them. Mine is as itchy as all fuck. So glad when it has gone.
I'm home to find a message from my old surf crew. They are in Victoria this Fri-Sat-Sun and wondering if i want to catch up and hit the waves. That sounds great, it's been so long. I check with Mark and he says go for it. It was going to be Saturday but tomorrow has nicer weather, so tomorrow it is. I feel really guilty around Mark, he is so amazing, and just shrugs, and he knows I will feel the guilt and come home same day.
March 18thSo i am up early and wake Marky up. My board is in the car, and I zoom off, surf coast here I come. The traffic is so light, I miss all the work cars. It's the best run, all the way past Geelong near Torquay, the Great Ocean Road. I wind the window down so I can smell the salt sea air. I catch up with the crew at a table outside of SWELL. This really really cool cafe at Jan Juc. These guys never change, they all joke how I manage to look younger. It's all that bloody Tonga mud I jest. The owner brings us our coffee, fuck it is great. They know we will be back for lunch. Pip has a wetsuit for me, I so need a new one and a favourite board. I hate not having my own board, I worry on a "borrow" in case I dent it but he waves that thought away. "You'll be great man".
We check the surf at Bells, a tad rough and I'm more relieved when he hit Jan Juc instead. Nice calm waves some good rollers. Well stuff it , I take on the first, much to Jace's surprise, off I go, I focus and suddenly really relaxed. The board is perfect, hell the board is in control, i get my balance, I'm smiling in between my brow creasing from confrontation. A small wipe out but I whack my shoulder and it does hurt but I fake it. I could so go into shore, lie on the golden sand in this fine sun and watch the others surf. I don't, my pride and ego, and my love of this- I go back out. It's all fun, tired all of us, and all of us faking it, old age is a bitch but this is also rather awesome and nice to sit on our boards and have a laugh.
We dry off, have lunch back at Swell. The locals are really cool, a nice community though some trying to be Seachangers do stink of dollars. I take my Boogie board out for a bit and it's a glorious beach afternoon. Share a spliff, go for a walk below the cliffs and watch two paraplanes fly overhead and we all wonder if they are stoned?
I give Deano a call and he is home, he sounds sad. Between you and me and the other 600,000 readers I think he fried himself during the Flood Relief. he broke rule #1 I bet, "have a break". The man is a bloody Saint but he does need to one day listen to his own advice. Grrrr. I will chat when I am home. Thankfully I had such little of the dreaded weed, I tend to never drive when stoned, hell I'm rarely ever stoned. These bad surf crew boys dragging me astray. HA, little old innocent me. We hug we wave goodbye. I'm off home and determined to spend more time with Mark.
I soak in the bath and wash the salt off, talk to Laura and Kevin. D and let Pip know I got home safely. They are partying at Bird Rock, sounds like all of Jan Juc are partying with them. Good on them.
March 19thI am up early and do some washing, mostly my beach gear, a lot of Tonga stuff done, thanks to the kind local washer woman of Tonga & gorgeous Henry thinking ahead and looking after us. I think our mate Katja said she met a Henry when she was in Tonga delivering natural medicines. The same person?
Our glorious niece MIM is hanging out with Delta Goodrem at soundcheck at Wollongong. Chatting about when they both started playing the piano. My sister sends me this funny snap of 8 year old Maddison with 2 glorious Wollongong Drag Queens at the show. Brilliant!
I watch the SA election, I go and make a cup of Green Tea, by the time I am back, brother Antony Green from the ABC declares it a huge Labor victory. So just a single term for the SA Liberals. Incredible. I chat to Wendy & Doug on the phone, I say labor will get 28 seats-that is a lot-we shall see I guess. All of us shocked at how fast the result was. Ex Liberal Premier Marshall may well lose his own seat, now that is rare. This will send shockwaves all the way to Canberra and rattle PM SlowMo's cage. Welcome Peter Malinauskas as the new SA Premier.
March 20thI wake up to the sounds of ancient car horns, Yes the 64th Kalorama Car Rally is on at the oval. I head on down and take some photos. My Norton motorcycle mates are not in attendance but one guy has some ancient Norton bike, I love it. I snap a photo and send it off to Troy. He loves his Norton bike. I leave some bread baking at home, so by the time I return it is ready and the house smells sensational.
I have my final Covid test around Tonga and yes all negative. My mate Laura calls and she is all positive. So that sucks.
I add a few more shampoo's etc into a big bag for "Pinchapoo". Twelve years ago this cool girl called Kate started this company. People would donate spare shampoo etc that they grabbed from hotels, very Robin Hood. We love it. They have helped hundreds of thousands of people, homeless, the recent flood victims and even us here at Kalorama during the disaster. These cool disaster packs , and the best part is that Pinchapoo HQ is only a 10 minute drive from our place. So this coming week I'm calling in with this little bag of goodies, hopefully meet Kate and see if we can help. (Footnote- we did and they really need New Toothbrushes. So if you want to mail us some drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org this is something everyone can easily support). Kate turns out to be friggin' awesome and the volunteers that work with her equally so. Lets hope we can help make it a better world. I'm seriously considering volunteering to lend them a helping hand! (that song again).
That's it for another short diary. Once again a big thank you to Deb. All these years and so much effort, so thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Love to you all and Up Yours Putin. Good will win out over evil bastards.