We were stuck in the doldrums. Drifting aimlessly between breakfast and bedtime, numb hands and mind focused only on my e-mail inbox. For seven weeks, Hadyn and I waited, responded to messages, waited more. The whole of our future hung on the confirmation of a de facto Australian visa, and any ensuing employment.
Something about the mere word, waiting, can cause us to lose our sense of direction. Especially when it freezes us in a foreign part of the world.
And though it’s easy to lose sight of a destination, or a sense of purpose, there’s only one way out of the doldrums: become a tourist again.
“Today’s catch: Cod, Turbot. All fresh, none of that frozen crud!”
So this afternoon, I did something I’d missed on all previous visits to Queenstown. Camera held obviously before my right eye, I got lunch from Aggy’s seafood shack. Just plain fish and chips, though the menu’s ‘Wild Foods’ options – muttonbird, abalone patties, kina – tempted.
Aggy didn’t smile when I ordered, he merely nodded and turned back to the fryer. In front of the queue, I took clumsy photos of the diners, the chalkboard menu, the dark-haired back of Aggy’s head. Just like a visitor. Then, Styrofoam square in hand, I fought off flocks of seagulls and finished my food on the beach wall. The birds screeched, passerby stared, and one Chinese man took obtrusive photos. It was such a relief, this one-hour excuse from being a local…
Swarmed by new friends as I defend my lunch on Queentown’s beach.
Regardless of the reason – anticipating an extension visa, recovering from food poisoning, preparing for the next outward ferry – you must step out onto familiar surrounds like they’ve never been seen before. Don’t hide your camera like a local, but hang it proudly round your neck and explore the once-boring setting with new eyes. Force a bit of wind in your sails and glide outside your current sticking point.
Even under a doldrum-inspired cloudy sky, Lake Wakatipu stretches majestically onward.
Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, no breath no motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.
-Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner