Saturday, 30 April 2005

one night in my own bed. That's all I got.

Upon returning from the cycle tour, all I got is one night in my own bed on Thursday, and then it was off to Avondale for a long weekend.

Kristin is directing the play The Devil's Disciple by George Bernard Shaw at Avondale and tonight's opening night. Have to do what best friends do and be there for the play, so after one night in my bed, I'm spending 3 nights in the Avondale dorm bed...

Actually woke up completely confused in the middle of the night last night, with absolutely no idea where I was.

Will be back in Sydney on Monday evening.

Maybe this blog will resume some normality after that.

Monday, 25 April 2005

it is true that once you hit rock bottom, the only way to go is up.

Mal, the cameraman, got a rental car yesterday for the tour. Guess who's his travelling companion now?

What with the fact that I'm now in a completely different vehicle, travelling at 100km/h and having conversations with the ones who annoy me kept to a minimum, I'm actually enjoying this trip!

Just too bad the extra car wasn't obtained a week before. And just when the trip's getting better, I leave at the end of two days.

Still grateful that I'm returning to civilisation though.

Sunday, 24 April 2005

I’ve always thought my job is easily understandable, without needing much explanation. After all, in this day and age, we are so inundated with the media that practically everybody grew up at least indirectly knowing someone heavily involved with either journalism, public relations, marketing or television or radio production.

I never thought people who don’t understand the media and what I do, existed. Then again, if they didn’t, why do people like me need to go to university to study communication? How na├»ve of me.

My job for this 5 week cycle tour had been to develop media relations, ensuring premium media coverage for the entire event. I’m supposed to write up media releases, arrange for press, TV or radio interviews/coverage, provide the latest news, as well as help maintain the website with the webmistress. Pitching the story to the media is not easy work, sometimes repetitive, often lacking recognition, but certainly satisfying.

I’ve always loved doing background work like this. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve always told my friends who think I crave the limelight, “I studied Communication, not Theatre Studies.” I’m happy with staying out of the attention, but arranging it so that someone else gets it.

And I’ve been very satisfied with my work so far. We have had numerous coverage by all forms of media. I don’t care that my name hasn’t been mentioned once, or that I haven’t been thanked once. All I need is the knowledge that I’ve done my job, and that my boss knows that too.

Sadly, I’ve come to realise, in the eyes of some people in the team, this usually means that I get taken for a freeloader. Someone tagging along on the trip for a free tour across Australia and for the free food.

Yes, this may be a once in a lifetime experience, but I am perfectly happy with living in the city instead of trudging across the burnt countryside of Australia at 30km/h with only sandwiches for lunch, 5 hours of sleep daily and so far away from creature comforts. I’m not knocking the trip. I’m only expressing my exasperation as to how misunderstood I have been.

My scope of work, to the understanding of some people, has been relegated to simply taking photos for the website and making sure that the details on it are correct. The number of times I’ve been ordered to take certain photos of certain people, the moments when it’s been mentioned, “Oh, Melody has to do some media work – she needs to take photos of the website,” has been incredible.

To top it off, I was once told, not very nicely, to make an immediate phonecall back to the office so that the name of one of the team members can be changed. Yes, I admit that there has been a mistake and it needs to be rectified. But I am stuck in the middle of nowhere without mobile coverage, and in the grand scheme of things, the name is not that important. After all, it’s probably the least visited page in the entire website.

The aim of the website is to get the word out as to what the cyclists are doing, the message they’re bringing to the communities. It’s not about them, much less the support crew. It’s not about how often their family members see their photos on the page – I am certainly not paid to maintain a “Look at me” website. I am paid to ensure the message gets out.

But logic obviously does not work when self-importance comes into play. So a CDMA phone with coverage gets shoved in my face and the demand, “make the phonecall back to work so that the change can be made NOW,” was given. Who cares that I had promised to call back to work when we arrive in the motel later in the day? Who cares that the cyclists are already a kilometre down the road and would need protection from the support cars that are waiting around to ensure that I have made that call?

More ironical the fact that the people making the demands have been calling me Melanie from day one.

Journalism and public relations work seem to be such a misunderstood line of work. I am here to create media interest, not focus on the logistics of the tour. But when we arrive in town and do not know where to go, I get the blame for not organising it properly. When the town mayor comes out to meet the cyclists and I had no idea about it because I wasn’t informed, I get incredulous looks for not recognising him.

Sometimes, I wonder what they think I’m on the trip for when even my knowledge about writing and journalism gets doubted.

When I mentioned in passing that a journalist can conduct a one hour interview with someone and include only parts of the entire conversation and not have to justify himself, I get shocked looks of horror.

Seriously, which journalist in their right frame of mind will include EVERYTHING that is said in an interview? That’s why journalists need to practice their writing and analytical skills, as well as their ability to ask the right questions. Otherwise, why bother hiring a journalist? It would be more cost effective to buy a tape recorder.

I’m not exactly reeling from the shock as to how some people have such limited knowledge, or should I say, absent knowledge as to how the media works. I’m reeling from the anger that despite their minimal knowledge, they deem it their right in life to tell me how I should do my work.

The media does not make firm commitments to cover events. If the pope has died, who would honestly be interested in talking to six cyclists cycling across Australia, an event repeated by different people several times a year?

Yet, when a TV crew or journalist changes their mind about turning up for a photoshoot or an interview, I get snide remarks and doubtful looks. And the person no longer believes me when I say another TV crew will be meeting them in another town.

How does one work in such an environment of distrust and lack of understanding?

Thankfully, this will all end on Wednesday night when I return to Sydney from Mildura.

Friday, 22 April 2005

in Kadina tonight.

Exhausted and sleepy. Having only 5 hours sleep and waking up at 4am everyday can take its toll on you. But well, I guess at least I'm not the one cycling 180km each day!

We get to sleep in tomorrow. We don't have to wake up till 7am.

You know you've reached a very sad stage in life when waking up at 7am is considered sleeping in.

I miss my bed....

Wednesday, 20 April 2005

Once again in mobile-less land.

Having an easy day today. Living in the pockets of 12 other people 24/7 does not bode well for the soul. Which means while half of the group are off to the town meeting and the other half out for dinner, I’m staying in my room for a much needed me time.

Have managed to see most of the Australian wildlife by now. Yesterday, foxes, kangaroos and emus were busy crossing the streets which was endless entertainment for me.

The weather is getting much cooler now, which makes 4am starts rather difficult. But the scenery has changed significantly. Travelling so near to the coast now means the landscape is slightly less sunburnt, although still looking significantly dry. However, rest stops consist of frequent visits to small coastal towns with amazing beaches.

Wildlife is in abundance here, have passed several sheep, cows and llamas too I think. Wheat silos are a frequent sight as well.

Still visiting really small tiny towns, although in honesty, I haven’t been able to see much of the places I visit anyway. We’ve been arriving in the early afternoons, but my time has been spent cooped up in front of the computer and phone, busy making arrangements for media commitments.

Interest and fulfilling work, especially when you know that a particular interview has been aired on the radio, and articles and photos have been published in the local newspapers…but it tends to make the trip consist of sitting in the car in the day writing media releases, arriving in towns in the afternoon to make phonecalls and send out emails and attending meetings in the evenings with hopes of hitting the jackpot in terms of stories (which hasn’t happened yet).

Back to work now…

Sunday, 17 April 2005

Streaky Bay. Population 1,000.

A real beautiful little coastal town though. In fact, since I arrived on Friday night, we’ve been having gorgeous coastal scenes, passing through really nice beaches.

My arrival into Ceduna was a once in a lifetime one. Flew into Adelaide from Sydney. Met up with Jess, daughter of one of the riders, at the Adelaide airport. She was on the phone when they made the “first and final” boarding call. As she didn’t get off the phone fast enough, I had the pleasure of having my name called out over the airport PA system, informing me that my “fellow passengers” were waiting for me.

While walking on the tarmac to the plane, spotted one of the small 34 seater planes I took from Newcastle to Gold Coast. Assumed that was our plane until we passed it without stopping, and what came into view was probably the smallest commercial plane in the world.

It only sat 20 people, I literally had a window and aisle seat all at the same time, and once in the plane, one could not stand up straight at all. There were no overhead baggage compartments and hardly any space under the seat in front of me. Most amazingly, I could look right into the cockpit and have a pilot’s eye view of the entire flight. The plane was that small.

The Ceduna Airport was a little wooden shack, and the baggage carousel…well…this guy walked with this trolley towards the plane, unloaded the luggage and dragged them to this waiting area for us to claim our bags.

Talk about small country towns.

The weather has gotten much cooler now…the jackets are all coming out. Much more beautiful views and break stops here though, what with being right by the coast. Still rather dry however.

The days have been pretty easy so far. Late starts of about 8am, and riding into towns at a reasonable hour. Pace will pick up soon though…

Thursday, 14 April 2005

leaving again tomorrow afternoon to join the folks on the cycle tour.

two more weeks of frantic phonecalls to newspapers, radio and tv stations.

two more weeks of living out of a suitcase.

two more weeks of visiting small rural towns with main streets all of 500m long.

two more weeks of furious writing on a laptop in a car going 30km/h.

two more weeks of being paparrazi, sticking the camera in the cyclists' faces.

two more weeks of unreliable internet and mobile phone coverage.

two more weeks of unbelievable, once in a lifetime experience.

Tuesday, 12 April 2005

spending money is gooood.....

started off the day in Sydney with a haircut - I now have short dark red hair with red highlights and an asymmetrical fringe. Look like some kind of teenybooper actually and got mistaken for a 18 year old.

Going back to do media work for the cycling dudes on Friday (send them an email if you can! They'll love it!). Hope will get taken seriously with my hair.

Also got a the Oz and NZ Public Relations Handbook, so I can be really studious and read about all the advice I can get with my job. Stupid book cost me $88! Thank goodness for book subsidies...

Fluffed around for other stuff as well...finally bought an autumn jacket in pink. Yes, pink. Not bright pink, or neon pink, but well, pink. The pigs will fly tomorrow. But at least now I won't be too hot or too cold.

And to make myself feel better by betraying my colours, I got a bright yellow scarf.

Oh, and finally donated blood. The blood bank here is really weird. It's in the middle of Sydney, but only opens for very limited hours during the day. No wonder they don't have much blood in the bank...the times when working people actually want to donate, they're closed! If it weren't for my day off today, I doubt I would ever be able to donate!

Bruna wants me to take tomorrow off as well (you can't get a better boss than her), but I may have to go back to work in the arvo...there's just too much media stuff to coordinate!

I am really loving this project at the moment. To be able to call up the media, sell the story idea to them, and then hear them say "yes, we'll like to interview them and feature them in our show/paper/etc." is really satisfying. And then to see it actually published in the newspaper or go live on air...

Who cares that my name is nowhere to be found? Who cares that at the end of the day, the cyclists are the ones that people will remember? Who cares that nobody even knows I exist?

Simply to be able to help them get the recognition they deserve is enough for me.

I love my job...

Monday, 11 April 2005

i'm baaack....for 3 days at least.

so good to be back in my own room. It's not home yet, but it's still my living space.

And better yet that I can finally do some laundry and wear fresh clothes.

Best of all? The ability to finally have conversations with girls my age, not 40 year old MEN. (not that they were lacking in coversation or utterly boring or anything like that. They were really nice people whom I enjoyed talking to. But talking about Johnny Depp, Matchbox 20, shopping and things like that somehow don't really interest them...)

Day off tomorrow. Going to Sydney for a haircut, some shopping and to immerse myself in city life all over again.

I missed the smog.

Friday, 8 April 2005

The weather is finally cooling down a little. The sky is currently overcast and rain has been forecast. Currently on our way from Coolgardie to Norseman. The cyclists are covering almost 170km today.

Had been feeling really sorry for them the last few days. Starting their journey at 5am everyday, cycling 12 hour days in that unbearable heat, then arriving in town only in time to have a quick shower and dinner before they have to go for their meetings. Not being able to sleep till almost 11pm and having to repeat everything all over again.

Those guys are incredible. To be able to push themselves so much to the limit and still maintain an amazing spirit of good cheer, joking and still having fun.

The towns have gotten fewer. Was driving at about 30km/h for close to 8 hours before we actually managed to stop in a service station for a quick toilet break. Well, for me at least. Throughout the ride, the others had simply pulled over and went into the bush.

I was in such a hurry that I didn’t even think to look which toilet I was going into. I saw an entryway and simply rushed in. There were some pretty embarrassed conversations going around when two of the cyclists nearly tore the door to my cubicle down thinking the door was stuck. I had dashed into the gents without thinking. And yes, I saw the urinals, but simply thought it was a unisex toilet.

Honestly, if you had to hold 2 litres of water in your bladder for 8 hours, you wouldn’t be looking hard as to whether you were entering the correct toilet.

Still having problems with internet access. We either had phone lines in our rooms that did not work, or no phones at all.

First night, we had to beg the use of the motel owner’s computer.
Second night, I struck gold while chatting with a girl staying and working in the motel – she had keys to the town’s telecentre which was closed. Amazingly, she very willingly handed me the key and gave me directions there.

Yesterday, we were all in such a rush that by the time we returned to our motel, everybody simply crashed on their beds.

We had actually done good time yesterday, arriving in Coolgardie at about 3.30pm. But the TV news crew were late and so the interviews did not finish till about an hour later.

Then the motel we stayed in last night stuffed up big time, and our rooms were not organised at all. We ended up having to unload the luggage into an unused kitchen, load up the bikes and drive 30mins into Kalgoorlie to make a photoshoot.

By the time we got into town and the photoshoot was done, it was past 6pm and the guys had not had dinner or showered. And they had to return to the motel only to make the trip back to Kalgoorlie for the town meeting at 7.30pm.

I ended up sitting in the car with 4 of the cyclists, driving at a speed that I shall not disclose, with pizzas and soft drinks being passed all around me. We made it to the meeting only about 30 mins late.

The cool weather is certainly helping the guys today. They’re actually going at 50km/h! At this rate, I’d be able to get into town and sort out more media stuff! Provided I get mobile coverage…

Check out the website for daily photos update and the cyclist’s journals!

Wednesday, 6 April 2005

My office has been transported from Fox Valley Road to a green Ford Territory travelling at 30km/h along the Great Eastern Highway from Perth to Sydney.

Am in a ghost town called Burracoppin as I’m writing this. There are traces of pubs, general stores and primary schools, but everything looks deserted and shut down for a while. Other than the cyclists I’m with and their support crew and the occasional road trains (huge trucks that transport all sorts of stuff from one end of the country to another) passing through, there isn’t a soul in sight.

It has been a really interesting 2 days on the road so far. Taking photos whenever possible, typing up press releases on the laptop in the car, downloading and editing photos…and then wishing that there is internet access in the next town I visit in order to send everything back to the office.

We are in such an isolated part of Australia that even mobile phone coverage is rare. My mobile has gone out of range more often than there has been reception. And during the short 30mins bracket where there is coverage, furious phonecalls are made to journalists, radio DJs, news producers as well as touching base with work.

Bill Bryson was really accurate when he called this the sunburnt country. The landscape so far has been of red earth, brown grass and everything is as dry as dry can be. This is an amazing country and I wouldn’t give up this opportunity I’ve had to see all these in a hurry.

Yesterday, we passed through Meckering, the site of a 6.9 earthquake inn 1969 that practically wiped out all the buildings in the town. And as I write this, we just passed the start of the longest rabbit proof fence in Australia which the movie is based on

Woke up at 4 this morning to set off from Cunderdin to Southern Cross. The nightsky is gorgeous over at this part of the country. The sky was awashed with stars and everything was so clear and felt so crisp.

Managed to catch one of the few gorgeous sunrise I’ve seen in my life, having always avoided waking up at strange unearthly hours. The road simply stretched on for as far as the eye can see, with flat sparse grassland to on both sides. You can imagine how magnificent the sky would look.

Jumped out to take a photo of the cyclists riding into the sunrise and nearly got blown away by a road train while standing by the side of the road.

While taking a break somewhere in the middle of nowhere, we saw a whole train of 79 big, fat, hairy caterpillars crossing the road. Still makes squirm thinking about it.

I still cannot get over just how dry, hot and harsh the landscape is. And yet, there is a strange resilience present, evident by the trees and bushes as well as beautiful multi-coloured birds flitting around. Not to mention the fact that people actually live around here, even if towns are small and few and far between.

Time to get back to work in my travelling office.

Sunday, 3 April 2005

in 30mins, I'm leaving for the airport to fly to Perth to start media work on the Circle of Courage Cycle Tour.

9 days on the road, living out of a suitcase and visiting small rural countrytowns.

I can already guess it will be an interesting trip. It's going to be a fantastic and unique opportunity to visit towns people normally don't and to get the off the beaten track experience.

On April 10, as the cyclists cycle across the Nullarbor Plains, I'll be making my way back to Sydney for about 4 days.

Then I fly back to join them in Ceduna, and return to Sydney again 2 weeks later.

Will try to update when I'm on the road.

Saturday, 2 April 2005

the debate of the Marys...

For the last month or so, I have heard from various worships and sermons that imply Mary Magdalene and Mary of the Martha and Mary fame are the same Mary.

I am confused.

I have looked through the Bible and have not come up with something solid that confirms that theory. In fact, more often than not, what I've found seem to refute the relation.

And yet, 4 preachers I've heard have stated that. And a book written by a respected Seventh-day Adventist pastor has been based on the sole fact that the two Marys are the same, and that she is also the prostitute whom Jesus had the whole "he who has no sin may cast the first stone" incident. (do not even get me started on that one)

I honestly cannot find anything in the Bible.

I am still in the process of research, but would highly appreciate it if somebody is able to clue me in further on this issue. Even if it is just a point to a book or a website.

This is not to enhance my faith, or strenghten my belief in God, or to get into senseless theological debates that has nothing to do with a relationship with God.

Loving God and sharing God is not about who interprets the Bible best. Or who wins an argument about God.

This is simply a search to understand His teachings better.

Friday, 1 April 2005

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