The Derwent River Valley in Tasmania
The Derwent River Valley in Tasmania.

I am safely home, back in cold upstate New York. It is 12:45 PM Sunday as I write this, and my body thinks it is 3:45 AM Monday because it is still on east coast Australia time. My head is woozy, my feet are swollen and my heart is 14,000 miles away. I am pretty sure this is jet lag.

I have not unpacked from my trip, and I am unsure when I will. Remember all of the apartment renovations I wrote about which were to be completed while I was gone? I returned home to find they were not done.

No new carpets. Incomplete paint job. Piles of boxes still surround me and I have just enough room to maneuver my chair from room to room. The mess would have been horrific but for the kindness of my friends Sally and Susan, who spent hours cleaning my bathroom and kitchen yesterday so I could function for the next few days. I already have an appointment with the property manager tomorrow.

Here’s the good news. My wheelchair survived the entire trip, all eight airplanes, with NO significant damage! That’s right – NONE! The seat elevation control box is bent a bit, but it is still attached, still functional and there is no other damage! Yes, I just wrote three sentences in a row which ended in exclamation points. But, when you consider this is the first trip I have EVER taken which did not involve me filing a damage claim for wheelchair repairs, I think there may be a need for even more exclamation points! Especially since this trip involved more than one airline, more than one country, and more than one opportunity for damage!

Thank you Southwest, Qantas and JetStar for delivering my chair promptly and in working order at every stop on my trip. I will be writing letters to each airline, commending them for the excellent service I received during my trips.

I will spend the day writing other posts and updates on my trip. I hope to have posts about each day completed by the end of the week. My posts for Redefining Disability will return next week.

In the meantime, I will start unpacking and figuring out my life back at home. And I think there may still be a basketball game or two on….

Day 6 – GASP and MONA

The day offered a clear view of Mt. Wellington
The day offered a clear view of Mt. Wellington

Today started out cloudy with some early morning showers. I was a bit leery because we had planned an outdoor activity. But by the time we were ready to leave the house, the sky was clearing and sunshine was starting to break through.

Malcolm drove Kelly and I into Hobart where we met a new friend and fellow blogger. A few months ago I stumbled upon a delightful blog called Walking the Derwent. The Derwent River flows past Hobart and is the river visible in the photos I have been sharing. The blog is a collection of stories about walking paths and discoveries along the river. When I found the blog, I contacted the author to see if we might be able to meet up for a walk on an accessible path.

We started our walk at the Glenorchy Art and Sculpture ParkThe sun came out and soon we were shedding our sweaters. We followed the multicolored boardwalk around to Montrose Bay and then took the path down to the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA).

MONA opened in 2011 and after walking through it, one of my first thoughts was, “This would not have happened in Tasmania twenty five years ago!” The museum exhibits change so the works we saw on our visit today may not be there if you go for a visit in the future. Visitors enter the museum at the ground level then decend down three levels to the underground exhibit spaces.

We took the glass elevator down and worked our way back up. The building is completely wheelchair accessible and I was able to navigate without assistance. We had a delicious lunch outdoors, where we were visited by an eager duck who thought he might try to take a bite from Kelly’s hand. It was so nice to sit in sunshine and warmth! Have I mentioned it has been a long winter back home?

At the end of our exploration of the museum, Malcolm came to collect us. We drove back home through some afternoon showers, which left some beautiful rainbows over the river valley.

When I sat down at the table to write before dinner, I noticed a flurry of color outside the window. I looked up and saw some visitors at the bird feeder. I wasn’t able to make it outside to capture a photo, so the image has some reflections in the window. The clouds over the river glowed pink during sunset, the colors changing by the minute.

I have been having difficulty uploading photos to my blog posts. I have many to share, but for some reason, WordPress doesn’t want to let me. I will post them when I can. I have been sharing some on my Twitter feed, so you can look for them there. I will try to add galleries of photos when I get home.

Writing visitors
Writing visitors

During my first visit in 1990 I often encountered Australians from other states who, when hearing I was living in Tasmania, expressed sympathy. As if Tasmania was a back-water, hick location nobody would want to visit, much less stay. Now, there is an appreciation for the beauty of Tasmania, and the wonder one can find on the island. It makes me happy to see others recognizing and appreciating this amazing island, realising what I have always known. Tasmania is brilliant – and you should come experience it for yourself.

And if you need a tour guide – I may know someone who might be willing to offer her services.

**Today’s post is brought to you by my friend and fellow former Ms. Wheelchair New York, Luticha. Luticha – thank you for being a part of this amazing experience. If I find any yarn, I’ll be sure to share!

Day 3 – arrival!

We’re here! After a 36 hour journey, I am finally in Tasmania. My wheelchair arrived undamaged, which is always an amazing accomplishment. We had some great flights with super friendly and accommodating airline staff and flight attendants.

Our hosts, Malcolm and Rae, met us at the airport. Driving through Hobart, I noticed changes but the feeling of the city has not changed. One noticible difference was the presence of a cruise ship in the Derwent River. It was diverted to Hobart due to a cyclone in the Pacific. As I type this, the ship is traveling back down the Derwent out to sea.

Speaking of the Derwent, the river is so blue today! As an exchange student, I was spoiled by amazing views of the river at each of my host family houses. I’ve taken photos, but for some reason I can’t upload them to this post. I will try to get some photos up tomorrow.

I love being surrounded by Australian accents. When I came home from my exchange year, my friends and family made fun of “my accent.” Whenever I spend time with Australians, my speech pattern changes back to the way I imagine I sounded then. I expect I will be using rising inflections for sentences, “speaking in questions” as my sister Caroline used to say. This is not a conscious effort on my part – it just happens.

Kelly and I made ourselves at home and had just started a snack when a local newspaper reporter called to interview me for a story about the Rotary District Conference. As I answered her questions, all I could think was, “I’m not awake and alert enough for this!” Kelly assures me I sounded much more coherent than I felt.

Malcolm and Rae are organizing a barbecue in my honor on Wednesday. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with friends. I know this trip may be the last opportunity I may have to see some of them, and I want to make every encounter matter.

My rough estimate tells me it has been approximately 45 hours since my body last saw a bed. It is time for me to sleep. I’m fairy sure it is impossible for me to string any additional words together.

**Today’s post was brought to you by Kathy. Kathy’s daughter was my first college roommate. They heard all about my Tasmania exchange year during move-in day as I hung photos from my trip on my dorm room wall. Thank you so much for helping this return trip become a possibility!