We left our friends in Pearl Beach by train, picked up a car at the Sydney Airport, then drove down the South Coast about 4 hours to Ulladulla–well, Kings Point, actually–to the lovely cottages of our friends Chiaki and Colin. Ulladulla is an Aboriginal word meaning “safe harbor.” There was a long-standing myth that the name derived from the Aborigines’ pronunciation of the colonial era’s “holey dollar,” but that has been proven to be apocryphal.
Chiaki was my graduate student (by default: her advisor left so I took over, knowing nothing about Japanese art but something about Arts & Crafts), and we’ve been friends ever since. She is a serious scholar of Japanese art and its connections to Western art, has been a translator for Australian TV, and is a practicing Buddhist. She is tremendously honored that a renowned Buddhist nun, Robina Courtin, once stayed here, in the very room where I am now sleeping. (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-01/one-plus-one:-robina-courtin/7806504) Her partner Colin was a newspaper photographer, and is the one who found these wonderful cottages in the bush. We find them to be the most inviting kind of beach houses, unpretentious and perfectly comfortable, unlike all the suburban-style houses that Australians usually build now in the bush and along the coast. Chiaki and Colin now live here full time, and each lives in one of the cottages. A nice set up, eh?
As Buddhists, they believe in killing no living creatures. That includes wasps, flies, cockroaches, ants, mosquitoes, and other beasties. We are trying very hard to comply with the house rules. As evidence of their commitment to these concepts, I present the story of the guinea pigs.
Apparently one of their neighbors a few years ago was going to “toss” a pet guinea pig that they could no longer keep. Chiaki rescued the one, and put it in a big cage. Feeling that the male needed companionship, they got another guinea pig that they were assured was a male. They were misled; within a few weeks, 4 baby guinea pigs arrived. Ooops. Before they could correctly sex any of them, another 4 babies had arrived. Ooops. They now have 10 guinea pigs, appropriately separated into girl and boy cages, and they are “determined to give them a good life.” The care and feeding of guinea pigs now occupies much of their morning routines. They give them all the best of food, and they even have a “camp-out” station on one part of the property. I just think this is the sweetest story!
They also feed the birds, which means that they have an abundance of regular and very cheeky visitors. We’re thrilled to see again so many of our old bird friends, even the Gang-gang cockatoos, my favorites from our ACT days.
A nice environment in which to deal with the tiny fracture of my big toe (bye-bye, long bush walks!), my forgetting of my walking shoes in Pearl Beach, and a rental car that has some mysterious beep that won’t stop. I am also finding it hard to get psychically acclimated–driving on the other side, for example, has been particularly unsettling this time for some reason. No doubt our fears for what will happen after tomorrow’s Washington “event” is contributing to this sense of unease. We are also appalled by the cost of things here now. Housing is through the roof; it’s true that there are NO HOUSES in Sydney under $1 million! NONE! The other night we went out for pizza and a few of us had a fish plate. For the 4 of us, with minimal drinks, it cost over $150. Yep, that’s right. For pizza. In a small beach town. Already it’s looking highly unlikely that we can afford to return here for any long stay, and even short visits are going to be dicey.
But there are the birds!
And the incomparable beaches!