Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

It was dark in the platypus habitat, and I was happy for that when I realised there were tears streaming down my face. I’ve always dreamed of getting up close with them, but you can’t see a live platypus outside of Australia. In that moment, I realised that I had done the “impossible.” It tumbled into me that we are actually here- this is real this is HAPPENING!

And so I stood there and wept. I wept for joy, and I wept for the little girl I was so long ago- the girl who was told time and again that my options were limited; that I could only ever go so far in life; that opportunities really only come for those who have the luxury of options- and that didn’t include me.

I watched the goofy, bumbling creature knock about- bonking up against the stones and plants in her underwater habitat- searching endlessly for food. I tried to take a photo, but the slippery girl was too fast, too random in her movements to track. Perhaps I need to reconsider the rhino as my soul-match animal. I see a lot of myself in the platypus.

Since I couldn’t get a clear photo of her, I went over and got this shot of a skeleton. If you want to see her live, you’ll have to come on down here yourself. I’ll make the bed for you.

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While I was rapt with the platypus, O was equally entranced by the Tasmanian devils. I have to admit that these guys were a lot cuter than I had anticipated, which perhaps says more about how gross I thought they would be, rather than a testament to their cuteness. One of the devils was particularly active, trotting about through the three large, interconnecting habitats. He was playing to his audience, clambering up on a log to greet us with that- that one sharp snaggletooth the only indication of what he is capable of doing to us should we actually attempt to touch him.

And, I realised, I could probably have touched him if I wanted to. There seems to be a different safety standard regarding proximity to beasts here.

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We saw the dingos next. To which O stated “It’s just a regular dog.”

I think the dingos would disagree, but no one ever asked them.

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Aside from the platypus, I was most excited to see the wombats. I am a weirdo freak for wombats. This is the animal that makes me shake joyful fists in front of my chest and make that “squeee” sound that happens when you see something too cute to comprehend. But wombats are A) nocturnal, B) lazy, and C) less impressed with me than O was with dingos.

So, I took pictures of them sleeping. A lot of pictures. An embarrassment of pictures. And then found a little hidey-hole where O and I pretended to “cuddle up” to them. I would have stayed there all day, but some other families saw what I’d found and wanted to get in on the action, too. I’ll spare you the multitudes of images and just post these two.

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For those of you who know me- you know how actually terrified of birds I am. Yes, I kept chickens- but those don’t count- and no one ever said I wasn’t scared of them, too. I didn’t get any photos of the section of pathway that is flanked by bird enclosures. This was partly out of fear paralysis… okay, it was entirely that- but I did find it interesting that cockatoos come in more colours than just white. We saw black ones, pink ones, grey ones.. all of them equally disturbing. Something about those raptor eyes. The evidence is clear- these are just dinosaurs in feather drag. They will kill us all.

Which brings us to the big birds.

In the kangaroo enclosure, there were also emus. I was fine, so long as they were wandering away from me- but then one came right at us. Yeah- nah. Not so much with the cool then.

Far away from all the other everything, there was also a cassowary. A very scary cassowary. With big claws and a chilling glare. Again, I was surprised that nothing but a chainlink fence was between us and this cold-blooded killer. If we had wanted to reach through and touch it, we probably could have. Maybe this is Australia’s way of serving survival-of-the-fittest.

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Some random photos before the jump to kangaroos. “Jump”- get it?! Ahhahaaa- I kill me sometimes.

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X and O trying to get our bearings.

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The kangaroo enclosure was super cool. Except for the part where there was an echidna overlook which overlooked exactly zero echidnas. I assumed that they were just hiding somewhere, sleeping. But I met a man a few days ago who said he used to eat porko-sammies, or porcupine(meaning echidna) sandwiches, as a child. He said they were delicious. So, maybe someone ate the echidnas. I don’t know.

Anyway- there were so many kangaroos! This photo is nowhere close to representative. These were only a handful of the ones who were in the designated no-visitor “Kanga Lounge.” There were many more. I would put the number in the hundreds.

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At $2/each at the gift shop, we bought two bags of kangaroo feed, which was more than enough. Kangaroo food, by the way, looks suspiciously like guinea pig food. Turns out, these ‘roos are so calm and well fed that you don’t even have to try to ply them with treats. They don’t even bother to look up when you approach. Some of them just lounge on their sides, pellets scattered around their heads, occasionally making the half-effort to nibble from your hands.

If you look carefully at the below picture, you can see that the kangaroo that O os feeding has a joey in her pouch. He kept sticking his feet and head out, but she would shove him back in. Guess she wanted all the snacks for herself. I can get down with that.

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X thought this lifestyle was exactly his speed.

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Ya know, just hanging out with a lazy ‘roo- like ya do.

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Now, about the koalas. There are lots of koalas at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. “Heaps” of koalas- as they would say here. There are at least twelve different “houses” and a koala forest for them to …  do whatever koalas do (sleep?).. in.

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There is also a part where you can cuddle and have photos made with koalas.

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Before we get too far, I must say that I admire the system they have in place for this. The koalas are all hand-raised, so they are accustomed to being handled, but they are also put on a time-limit of half an hour per day of visitor contact. Also “cuddling” is merely an adorable term for standing very still and holding them. The keeper instructed us on how to hold our hands just so, and to “act like a tree- BE a tree!” She then placed and positioned Minty on me, and I did my best to tree-cuddle her wooly tummy. And Minty grabbed my boob pretty hard, and I did my tree-like best not to jerk away. This was for a family photo, after all.

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So, if this were a review- I would give Lone Pine all the stars. We didn’t get to see the sheepdog show, or the Tasmanian devil feedings. They also have a reptile house that was closed when we got there, and barnyard with tiny goats and chickens and some guinea pigs that we didn’t get photos of.

And, despite the kids insistence on never smiling for any photograph never-ever, they did actually have a wonderful time. We’ll certainly be going back when our visitors from the US start showing up.

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Boggs Road Gaol- Part Two

In Part One, I tried to focus on the small kindnesses at Boggo Road, but that paints too simple a picture of this place. It was, as all acknowledge very publicly, “A HellHole.”

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Opened in 1883, the prison grew and changed quite a bit before its closure in 1989, or 1999, or 2002 (depending on which part you are talking about). However, some things always remained the same.

Modern electrical and plumbing updates were never made in the windowless cell blocks. This meant that inmates were subject to brutal heat, cold, persistent darkness, and having to relieve themselves in urns that would be taken to a “slop yard” for rinsing every day. Every day, that is, if they were allowed out of their cells.

 

*****

In 1935, a woman named Constance Clyde (who was arrested for reading tea leaves, and refusing to pay a fine for it) wrote an article for a local newspaper about her experience there.
I include this section mostly because I feel a strong fondness for Ms. Clyde. She a suffragette, contemptuous of Puritanism, and writer of short stories, poetry, and investigative journalism. Most of all- she was not one to be fucked with, and I respect that. I like her.
A lot.

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*****

Back in Boggo Road, court-ordered floggings were issued feely, and deaths by suicide, murder and medical neglect reached into the hundreds. Escapes were frequent in the early years, and not unheard-of later. Riots began to break out as early as 1921, but became extremely violent and frequent in the 1970’s and 80’s. Prisoners staged hunger strikes and stand-offs with guards and personnel. Prison staff were also prone to striking, or just plain giving up on trying to maintain order in the trouble-plagued complex. It fell into chaos.

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International attention was garnered in 1987/88, as Brisbane prepared to host the World Expo. Instead of changing to modernise or raise

Of the 42 people executed by hanging at Boggo Road, at least two of them are now known to be innocent, including the only woman executed. Her name was Ellen Thompson. And true, it was much more complicated a storyline than just that she was framed for killing her abusive husband- it almost always is. The fact, though, that the politicians, judiciary, and wardens knew her to be innocent before they proceeded to murder her is appalling.

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Her body, like all the others, was dumped in an unmarked grave in the nearby Brisbane State Cemetery.

Later, the site was marked with a plaque. We know because this plaque on the entrance to the pedestrian bridge we cross to get to UQ told us so.

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The boys and I have looked for the grave. But the cemetery is quite large, and we have had no luck so far. I am determined to find it in this lovely stoneyard.

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*****

There is a blossoming friendship between my family and a man named Larry Campbell, who spent more than his share of time (off and on) at Boggo Road. He has a stand at the Farmer’s Market in the prison plaza every Sunday, where he sells his many self-published books and a few other mementos. He speaks passionately about prison reform and the importance of early intervention and youth opportunities to promote pro-social behaviours. He speaks little about the conditions he suffered under at Boggo Road- but his books explain why he is loathe to utter the words aloud.

The woman who acted as our tour guide was brought here as a child- her father employed as a guard. She clearly loves this place. There is no sweetener added to her recounting of what happened. She acknowledges the full range of experiences- from kitty cats to stabbings- with a matter-of-factness that is refreshing. There is no pageantry here.

 

*****

So what is to become of this place?

Efforts to privatise the site have met some resistance, but as many of us know- pushing back against corporate interests is Sisyphean. And yet, we keep rolling those damn boulders up the hill, don’t we?

There is currently a petition to maintain the prison as a heritage site. You can like them on Facebook and keep up with tours, speaking engagements, and Inmate and Indigenous Art Shows.

I am dismayed that they want to gentrify the Boggo Road complex by converting this space into a “cultural centre” where- for the right price- you can take in a meal where once people starved, or purchase luxury items in a place where human beings had to physically fight to secure jam or toilet paper.

It doesn’t have to remain in stasis as a trophy of historical denigration, but it shouldn’t be converted into a showcase of modern materialism.

What about a community hub- with free programming to offer opportunities to lower-income families? What about a library dedicated to social justice literature? What about a Peace Centre?

Men and women had their dignity stolen here. We should give it back to them by honouring their memories and utilising this space in a way to promote resiliency of the communities in this area.

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Boggo Road Gaol- Part One

We pass the jail every weekday. It sits at the top of the hill, across the street from O’s school. And it is lovely, and tragic, adorned with rusty razor wire- pretty much everything that piques my interest. I knew we would go on the tour, and I knew I had to write about it.

And yet I was surprised at my own resistance to writing this post.

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There are countless coming-out processes, innumerable private shames to overcome, often impressed upon us by outside forces. Ways of being, ways of thinking, things we have done, or had done to us… a bottomless well of ambivalence:

Do we own these things publicly and take whatever the rewards or consequences are? Knowing that there are rewards.

or

Do we bury them in fear of negative repercussion? Because maybe it has been used to diminish or damage us in the past?

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The jail (or “gaol,” as was the old spelling) waits for me everyday. I walk right up to it and sit in its shade as I wait for my youngest child to meet me after school. And I often think about what the tour guide told us- though the jail was “officially” closed in 1989, the women’s unit stayed in operation into 2002. If I had been here then, I could have been here then.

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But I’m getting ahead of myself. The tour. We should talk a bit about the tour.

It was originally called a “gaol” because it was a temporary stop for convicts on the way to the gallows. Forty-two people were hanged there. More on this later. Suffice it to say that, eventually they realised they couldn’t just kill everyone and turned it into a “prison”- or long-term incarceration.

In 1903, they moved the men’s prison across the way and converted the space we toured into a women’s jail. In that time, women were subject to laws that prohibited their being intoxicated, “disruptive” (read: loud or outspoken) in public, using curse words, indecency (which was left up to the arresting police to decide), and any number of other arbitrary rules often made up on the spot to put them in their place. Many women were also arrested for petty crimes such as theft (usually from markets- to feed children), prostitution, and other survival crimes.

The women were typically only there for a few days or weeks, though there were some long-timers. The guards were generally sympathetic to the sensitive nature of the women in their charge and allowed women to protect their identities from the swarms of journalists, who flocked to the grounds, by facing away from the cameras. This allowed them to go back to their everyday lives without the shame of having been seen in the newspapers. They were able to tell friends and neighbours that they had been off visiting family, or some other excuse, to save face and – potentially- their livelihoods, homes, and children.

In addition to the vegetable gardens that provided produce to the jail, there were also flower garden that the women were allowed to cultivate and tend. This brought a touch of beauty and homeyness to an otherwise dreary place (it was later removed after the space reverted to male housing and the inmates pulled out the brick edgers to use as weapons). Around this time, there also appeared a community of jail cats that guards and inmates alike doted on. You can see a cat door cut into the bars of this cell (lower right corner).

And here I have to reckon with the fact that the only way for me to impress upon you the importance of these small acts of kindness is for me to turn my face to the camera.

I was in “prison” in 2001. If I had been here then, I could have been here then.

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I put “prison” in quotations because it really is a hyperbolic title- it was just a jail. But: Pennsylvania *shrug* they like to make things mundane sound important.

In the women’s unit- our “yard” consisted of a paved basketball half-court, edged with fifty foot tall chainlink fence. Through it, we could see vast expanses of green valley dipping down to touch the edges of a forest. And above the treetops there, the soft tops of the Allegheny mountains that glowed lilac in the setting sun.

We inmates would crush against the fence to look at a herd of deer passing by, and point out the flocks of birds passing over on their way South. In late Summer, we would reach through the metal mesh and pull up dandelions and clovers to put in our hair. These were always taken away by Ms. Brookens- the oldest, and cruelest, guard there. She slapped me once in the mouth, hard, for having a four-leaf clover tucked behind my ear.

But some of the guards were kind. They left the radio on “by accident” after lights out so we could have dance parties in our cubes (like cells, but open- think Orange is The New Black), and let us convert the crafts we made with the Mennonite volunteer squad into contraband jewellery. The most special thing, though, was when they let us keep a bunny.

It was Autumn, and the grass outside made one last push to grow before it shrivelled up yellow and died. Though the groundskeeper hadn’t been out in weeks, I suppose he felt he should take care of it before the snow came and matted it all down- which would make it impossible to mow come Spring. Usually, the guards hustled us all inside when the lawn men were out- worried we would flash them (which we would) or have them throw in contraband (which, I sure we would have tried). The guard who was with us that day was easygoing. She just yelled at us to keep our clothes on and let us stay out. It was, after all, one of the last warm days we would have for a while. She even rolled up her uniform legs to get some sun on her shins.

As the tractor-mower crested the hill, we could see small movements on the ground in front of it. Rabbits. Maybe seven or eight of them scurrying, panicked, ahead of their certain doom. Someone screamed, and we all started waving our arms. The driver did as I am sure he was strictly instructed, and dutifully ignored us. We watched as one, and then another, poor creature disappeared beneath his wheels. The mother rabbit was pushing her babies- darting from one, shoving it with her nose, and then over to another. One lost its footing and came rolling toward us- safely out of the way of the machine- just as its mother and sibling were sucked under.

Most of the women by then had taken themselves to back inside, disgusted or dismayed, or just bored with trying to prevent the carnage. There were only a few of us left outside- all from the same, smaller cell block- and the guard. The mower turned and disappeared down the crest of the hill, leaving the bunny alive, but shell-shocked.

We made kissing noises at the poor creature, trying to lure it over to us. It was paralysed with fear, but we eventually managed to woo it. She- we guessed it must be a “she”- was small enough to fit easily through the small openings in the fence. We yanked some grass through the fence and tried to hand feed her. She was, understandably, not hungry. We passed her from person to person- stroking her ears and nose- making cooing sounds. We asked the guard if we could keep her.

The answer was no. She could lose her job just for letting us hold it out here. But, not to be deterred, we asked her to look at its face- how could we send this sweet orphan back out to her certain death? We were allowed one night- “ONLY ONE”- she said- and that was only because she was back on duty the next morning. And we had better keep our lips ZIPPED.

Only a handful of us know about the rabbit, and we gathered in the cube of the two that had been decided as caretakers. They had a laundry bin we could use as a pen, and some extra vegetables brought back from dinner. We didn’t sleep that night, five of us laid across the small floorspace, wrapping legs and arms around each other. Letting “our” bunny explore the space between us, feeling special when she chose to sniff at our pants and fingers. We shared stories of loss and violence- using the bunny’s fate to frame our own- hoping we were each the one shoved out of the way of the machine in our stories, rather than being left to churn under its blades.

The next day, the guard smuggled the bunny out after her shift. She gave it to her daughters, and brought us in photos and updates on her wellbeing.

Eventually, we would all be released from that place. I wonder still how many escaped the gnashing of the machines in our lives- be it poverty, addiction, racism, or any number of other brutalities.

I wonder how many of us rabbits are still out there running.

People In The Neighbourhood

When trying to think of a title for this post, I was mind-blasted by this song from Sesame Street. When I went to grab the video to share, I was delighted to find this version, starring David instead of Bob (who usually sung it), and starring a male librarian and female plumber. Seems things were a bit more progressive on the ‘Street then than they are now (don’t even get me started on baby-voiced characters and dopey girl fairy-things).

 

Deb

Our first trip to UQ campus was on a Sunday, weeks before the students and faculty returned. We spotted more turtles in the lake than people on the sidewalks that day. As we entered the main quad, I noticed a woman walking.

She had teak-colorer skin speckled with dark freckles across her nose and cheeks, thin silver dreadlocks, and wore a light blue linen dress. She looked so much like a friend back home, I did a double take- which, of course, she noticed. I fumbled out a “Hi, how ya doin’?” before peddling away.

On our way back through, we saw her again. This time, she was walking with another woman. She flagged us down and asked where our accent was from. When I told her, she clapped her hands and did a little hop. She told us that she is from Chicago, but moved here on a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship (!) fifteen years before. She gave me her card and told me to contact her soon.

Like an overeager suitor, I agonised over how long to give it before reaching out. It was a little over a week- mostly because I temporarily lost track of where I put her information (found it in with my sporks- don’t ask- I have no idea). I emailed her some basic info about how we came to be here and asked about possible connections we may have through Rotary.

She called me a few days later. Turns out she works in Trans-Cultural Mental Health and is nearing the end of her PhD program at another nearby university. We talked for a long time that first day. She shared that she seeks out other Americans because even after nearly two decades, she still gets lonely and homesick here. She offered some helpful hints and things she still finds surprising. We arranged a weekly call time to stay in touch and, hopefully soon, set up some in-person coffee dates.

We’ve spoken a few times now- sharing our experiences, challenges with coursework and professional life, and building a friendship. I am so grateful for Deb’s honey voice. I am so happy that she stopped us that day, and that I overcame my awkwardness to reach out to her.

 

BusStop Wally

On days that it’s my turn to walk Xabien to school, I stop to say hello to Wally. Wally always blinks at me like he is surprised that anyone noticed him there. Wally is the type of person that most people might not notice.

He is small and elderly, with a tattoo on his forearm that has gone muddy with age- a blue blob that was a ship, or a dancing lady, or something that was important to him when he was a youth shipped overseas in the armed forces. He has a hopeful smile and eyes surrounded with white lashes. His teeth are tiny.

Wally sits at the bus stop near the shopping plaza with exactly four plastic bags full of fruit and crackers and tins of flavoured tuna cocktail. I am always happy to see him.

The first time I waved at him, he looked behind himself to make sure it was him I was greeting. We escalated to “hello” and, later, comments on the weather. One day, Wally was accompanied at the bench by another older man. We said hello, as usual, and as I walked away I heard some grumbling about my tattoos from other-guy. Then, I heard Wally say, “You hush. That’s a nice girl, that.” I pretended not to hear any of it.

Yesterday, I took the leap to ask Wally his name. We laughed that it was about time we were properly introduced. Today, I stopped to ask how he was doing.

He told me that he likes to get out to the shops early, to beat the heat. It’s hard, he said- his wife’s been gone for a few years, and she used to do all the shopping. He always thought it was a simple task. Today he got himself a Turkish Delight candy bar as a special treat just for making it through the chore. I told him that it seemed a great way to drive the blues away. He agreed, and added that sharing the fancy tuna fish with his cat while they read the newspaper together was another. His bus came and he said he’ll see me tomorrow. Maybe I’ll bring him a Cherry Ripe.

 

Mahesha and Naveen

We would pass them occasionally on the way back home. The bright broad brim of Nabil’s hat announced that he attended O’s school. It was particularly noticeable because most of the other students live the opposite way down the hill. Ours were the only two bobbing blue heads this side of the railway bridge.

They approached at the school one afternoon. Mahesha presents a cat-like combination of shyness and extroversion. Naveen has her smile and dips behind her skirts, more to get my attention than to hide from it. This is his first year at school, and she hasn’t met many of the parents yet.

We spent some time talking and discovered that they moved to Brisbane from Sri Lanka eight years ago, when her husband attended UQ. She likes it here, but says that sometimes it gets lonely. Her mother recently moved in to help out with their two month old daughter.

She told us that they see us walking home, and would like to walk with us. But Naveen complains about it hurting his legs too much, so they take the bus instead. The hope is that seeing O, the “big kid,” do it everyday will inspire him to give it a try. We ask every day, and Naveen consistently defers. So we walk and they ride, and we often end up at the bus stop at the same time. We have at least the last few blocks home together.

 

Gabe and Dave

Before our internet was set up at the house, Brian and I spent a lot of time at the library trying to keep up with emails and other dispatches from home. *Well- we still spend a lot of time there, actually- it’s nice, and they have air conditioning*

One day, I noticed scored the rare seat at an actual table. This never happens- it’s quite a bustling, small library. I happened to sit next to Gabe and Dave.

Gabe promptly started blowing raspberries at me. Dave told me that Gabe would like to say “hello” and showed me the iPad he used to communicate. Gabe reached over and pressed the icon again. The computer said “hello.” I said hello back to Gabe and introduced myself. There was a flurry of tablet-tapping, and Dave translated it for me, “We are checking emails right now. You can email me if you like.” I said I would love to do that someday.

I saw Gabe and Dave again this morning, while waiting for the nail salon to open up. Gabe swerved his walker over to me and we chatted for a few minutes. He told me that I needed to get a sparkly colour. So I did.

 

Pool People

I am endlessly fascinated with the people I see and meet at the Southbank swimming area. There are your to-be-expected “beach” people: ridiculously fit surfer type guys that are constantly emerging from the water like a cologne ad (seriously- how do they ever get in there if they are always walking out, shoving carelessly damp hair from their eyes?), tan and shapely girls lolling about on towels pretending not to enjoy all the attention their tiny bathing suits attract, confused and frustrated parents lugging about diaper bags and trying to chase down maverick toddlers who are made extra slippery by ten layers of sunscreen, and the ever present scowlers- people who seem to go there just to cast scornful glares on the people who dare to go out and enjoy themselves. I generally see them as a collective- more a backdrop to my own entertainment than individuals in their own right.

There are a few people, though, whose images got lodged in my brain. I find myself wondering about them, hoping to see them again.

Two women in long jeans and beautiful silk hijab kicked off their sandals and dangled their perfect pedicures over the edge. A boy and a girl clambered over them and cannonballed into the water. They paddled around a bit before making their way back to the women. The younger woman scooted closer to the edge of the pool, her denim-clad legs in up to the knees now, so that the children could each ride her feet while she kicked them up and down. They were giggling and shouting in Arabic. The other woman threw back her head and slapped her friend on the back. In an instant, the younger woman was in the water, having given in to her children’s urging to join them. She waded around for a few minutes before turning and diving under the water. As she passed me, she twisted her body around to come to the surface face-up. Her expression was beatific. She was still there, playing in the water in her long jeans, when we left an hour later.

Another mother led her children to the edge of the water, but did not get in herself. Her children were both nervous, chattering in their makeshift swimsuits of neon-coloured stockings that hung loose from their narrow hips and bunched around their ankles. Mom pointed at the pool and told them not to be afraid but, no, she would not come in with them. They moved incrementally into the water, squealing first that it was cold, then warm, then arguing with one another over how cold or warm it was. Eventually, they were in up to their bellies. Mom sat down next to me and said “This is their first time. We don’t have any pools where we come from. It’s quite exciting.” She dangled her fingertips in the water and shuddered.

A man with white-blond hair and a giant iron cross tattoo carried two equally blond little girls on his shoulders into the deepest part of the pool (which is not very deep). They jumped off and splashed around screaming “Daddy help!” until he retrieved them, and drug them along the top of the water back to the ramp end. When they got there, he told the girls to be gentle and not bother Mommy, because she was tired and needed to rest. He then got out and walked over to a woman leaning against a baby carriage in the shade. He took the fussing newborn and carried her ever-so-gently into the water, kissing and nuzzling her brown cheeks until she quieted. The older sisters came up, each giving the baby pats and smooches. Dad told them to be careful not to get water on her face, as he ran his fingers through her full head of curly, black hair.

Three teenagers, two boys and a girl, clambered into the water. They were loud and obnoxious, as teens left on their own tend to be. The girl wore her ankle-length dress into the water despite the fact, pointed out by her friends, that she had a bathing suit on underneath. They teased each other about a wasp floating dead in the water, until I scooped it out and threw it up into the rocks. Which was, perhaps, a mistake- as then their attentions turned to me. It is never comfortable to be in the spotlight of a teen-group gaze. “Oi! Mad tats!” shouted the redhead, ogling me. The girl asked how many tattoos I had, and I responded that I’m not really sure- I don’t count them individually anymore. Her eyes boggled “Hey! How you talk! Are you American or something?” I nodded and she yelled, “An American! That’s MAD! Completely mad, mates! We met an American! I knew coming to the city would be an adventure.” The redhead asked me if I was married and, not to be discouraged, said “I would double-marry you! I don’t mind sharing. tell your husband, okay?” Later, I did. Brian seemed less enthusiastic about the prospect than the teenagers did.