#33 Talking Urbanism- Fixing the Heat in Cairns.

I’m breaking a sweat from J-walking across Grafton Street.

For the first time in a few mild months, I am reminded that this is the tropics. 


The feel of humidity rising in the morning leaves a lot to be desired as I get caught in the mid-Friday-morning sun darting into Rusty’s for the ritual coffee and samosa. 


Friendly nods between the frenzied buzz give way to warm murmurs interjected by the whizz-shhhhh of the coffee machine at Billy’s.


Flippy-floppy thongs slap hard against concrete followed closely by the clip and clop of a heal and a shoe.


Someone mentions in passing that it looks like ‘it’s going to be a hot one’. 


But I can’t tell if they were talking about the coffee or sun.


I notice the first signs of redness beginning to show on our melanin-deficient brothers and sisters who have ventured a bit too long without sunscreen. 


The morning streets will soon be a buzz with tropical professionals zipping into air-conditioned hideaways of the next cafe to avoid unsightly sweat patches. 


But the weather this time of the year is temperamental.


The rains do poke through humid blue skies on the odd occasion, cooling streets and shrinking sidewalks. 


Rains Descend
Wet Weather brings a welcomed reprieve from the heat.

It lingers long enough to make us yearn for more sheltered walkways. But it stays away long enough for us to forget we need them. 


The indecisive weather is part of the lifestyle. A short walk from the Esplanade to Cairns Central would attract an unwarranted public baptism by either precipitation or perspiration. 


I call on a thought to distract myself from the rising hunger as I wait in the samosa line. 


How is it that our city stops short of catering to our tropical lifestyle? 


Why does my daily commute to work have to involve navigating patches of sweat from rising humidity? 


We praise the outdoor tropical lifestyle, yet accept, and think it normal to spend the better part of the week inside air-conditioned cubicles glaring through double-glazed tinted panes.


This is the disjuncture of our existence that evades the public forum, but one that concerns us all. 


This may be about to change. 


I bite into my tamarind sauce topped samosa to settle the hangry morning monster in my belly.


James Cook University, under the vision of Dr Lisa Law and Dr Silvia Tavares, have initiated the Tropical Urbanism and Design Laboratory (TUD Lab) – a space to think about these particular issues. 


Taking advantage of JCU’s agenda on pursuing research with a tropical focus, the JCU TUD Lab will pursue important questions concerning the livability of tropical urban environments. A feat warranted by a State of the Tropics report that claims close to 50% of the worlds people will live in the tropics by the middle of this century.


After having the Cairns Regional Council’s Tropical Urbanism vision applauded at the state level, this TUD Lab would mark an important milestone for thinking about tropical planning and urban design in Cairns, if not the world.


The Lab is set for launch at JCU on the 20th October with registrations essential for catering


Maybe there will be some respite from the heat soon.


By

Hanslee

Image Sources

  1. Foodvixen.com
  2. RamblingsOfAGlobalCitizen (blog)
  3. TropicNow.com.au
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#31 Cafe Whispers in Lae, PNG

Cafe Whispers.

Cafe whispers muted, rustling and audible. Ice in my coffee, K4 wara, na K2 coke, surrounded by non-Indigenous Papua New Guinean residents. This is what the weekly pilgrimage looks like.  Same-same but different. 

I put on my best grin as if to greet a long time friend. It’s only the girl behind the counter. I expect something, but not even a momentary silence could solicit a response. No courteous pleasantries. 

I sigh.  It’s different.  Different is just another normal – I tell myself for the hundredth time this week. 

I hope she makes good coffee though. She’s cute, I could stay in her eyes for endless moments but I check out instead.  Her innocent smile gives her away,  I see a whole world between us that would be pointless crossing. 

No small talk today pretty lady. 

Short. No sugar. No milk. I like mine black. 

I find my place in the middle of the cafe. In the corner, there’s a group of expatriate wives and girlfriends sharing a laugh over their regular Friday coffee-mornings. Behind me, a group of ladies, both non-Papua New Guinean and Papua New Guinean sit huddled practicing their Tok Pisin, mastering the art of ‘Maus Wara’, all dressed in Morobean meri blouses. A missionary pilots wife and the mother’s leaderdship group – she is pregnant. There is something oddly calming about it all.

Cafe whispers muted and rustling.

But there’s the noticeable absence of men here. Why?-

A child scurries across the floor to catch her mother’s laughter. Between the ladies, the table is set for play. Toys lay littered between mugs and plates of half eaten cakes. The child is passed around, resting in the arms of the oldest in the group. The child’s mother prepares a bottle of milk. A well rehearsed drill between the six of them. 

The strength of women. I am reminded of my aunties and mothers sat atop woven-mats spread across a creaky wooden bed in a ‘haus win’, sharing a child’s cries. 

Same-same but different. 

Cafe whispers take on a whole new meaning now. I see this third space more for what it is then what it was. Here, the humble cafe serves more then just coffee. It is an elevated space – almost sacred to these non-Papua New Guinean residents – offering a taste of what is normal for them in a land foreign to them. A space to reproduce some semblance of their culture while they wait out their time in this timeless land. Sharing stories, rearing children, creating their version of a Papua New Guinea they will not soon forget – that their children will call home forever. 

Sitting between both worlds, I too have come to associate the humble cafe with a space for respite. I gravitate to it to escape the strangeness – to make sense of the strangeness – but mostly to find familiarity, to sit and meet with my thoughts, to make memories I would not soon forget. 

I notice these things more, the more I come back to this place. 

I catch a young Papua New Guinean child pierce the hum-drum chatter of the cafe with his curious stare. Hiding behind a plastic pot plant, he peers through his fear of being seen, wondering how far apart our worlds really are. An outside observer making mental notes, who will no doubt tell his friends of this strange gathering of white people and this black guy at the monestary of the black juice. 

How primitive they must be to work so hard, to earn that money, to spend on expensive dirty black water. Samting bilong ol waitman.

Our eyes meet and hang a second too long, reminding me of my own foreigness – both in this cafe and in my own land. 

I avert my eyes. I sip my coffee. I continue to write. 

He’ll never know how much I need my dirty black water. 

Sigh. 

It’s different. There is nothing wrong with different.  

One-hundred and four. 

Hans

#30 Poem – A letter to Mr & Mr Too-Wrist

A letter to Mr & Mr Too-Wrist


Dear Mr & Mr Too-Wrist,

I hope that you’ve enjoyed our town.
Our sights,
our smiles,
and our sound.

And for that while
you felt a ‘lil lost.
Direction, I pray,
came at no cost.

And I hope you ventured
beyond the beaten path.
To find those moments
now etched to your heart-

Mostly, I hope you found it
all without trouble.

Our forests, our rivers.
Our coffees, our beers.

So in the end
when you settle,
into your seat
on that plane,
I hope your thinking, and planning,
of your next trip
back again.

Yours,
C. Arnes

by Hans Lee

Explanation:

Continue reading “#30 Poem – A letter to Mr & Mr Too-Wrist”

#25- Poem: Arabica Or’robusta

Sex sells so please read with an open mind. A poem inspired by that which inspired gods to make man and for man to make words to praise gods that made man.

Arabica’or-robusta

He asked me,

– “How do you like yours man?”

 

I like mine black.

Black.

Complex.

Delicate.

None of that milky. White. Shit.

 

Short.

Tall.

Regular.

Full bodied.

Intoxicate awake senses.

 

Sunny day, 

Rainy day, 

Cold day,

Any day.

Give me one –

to keep me awake all night.

But I don’t mind two –

to wake me up in the mornin’.

 

Night in a vessel.

Dark.

Tannin. Melanin.

Bold.

Delicate.

From a flower –

like a flower,

Bitter? Yes.

Sweet? Without question.

(pause)

 

“Ready.” 

 

Come to me

I feel your heat in my hand

Sip your body.

Taste. Wet.

Bitter and sweet. Tannin.

Breathe you in. 

Tease the senses.

In my hand.

Carnal – I. Need. You. 

A taste.

You in my mouth 

A sip from the lip

warm aqueous dark.

No. Milky. White. Shit. 

In my mouth.

Heaven.

 

In. My. Mouth.

Acquired taste.

Black juice.

Tannin spill.

Melanin resi-due.

Libation due.

Offer  pray’r.

Stay strong,

my black,

Coffee.

 

-by Hans Lee

#24: The Thoughts of a Poet without a voice

Hi everyone,

I’ve been struggling to really write lately after having been distracted with life lately. It is not to say I have been short of things to say, it was more so because the words were finding it difficult to fall on paper and take form. It wasn’t a writers block, I guess I’d explain it more like a creative block. Strangely enough, that was where I drew inspiration from to write this poem exploring my own thought process during the last couple of weeks.

Also keep in mind that this was written particularly for performance.

The Thoughts of a Poet without a voice

Let me lose.

Release me. 

Save me.

I will torment you. 

Hold you captive until you set me free.

 

The thoughts of a poet without a voice.

 

Why are these words cooped up in my mind tormenting me?!  

 

Words that mould into being conjuring thoughts from the depths of my imagination. 

Like rivers from springs in desserts flow in a torrent bringing life to the depths of my imagination

Rising through sands disappear into sands in the endless desserts of my mind.

And without seeing day light, thoughts die inside without a voice to let lyrical metaphors of rivers flow down the valleys towards your minds eye.

Thoughts die.

 

A dictionary and thesaurus of unmarked graveyards litter my mind – 

here lies a thought you will never hear nor feel.

They were all imprisoned in the highest towers 

summoned for an execution that never took place

though no one heard their last sounds

they lost their last breath 

with the undignified loss of the poets voice.

 

Thoughts that take no form could not have lived.

We only remember those who were written to life

who lived long lives, short lives, regardless, just lives lived.

 

So I confront blank pages, a sea of white to sail my thoughts on, but unheard voices and ink-less words cannot set sail when they never made it to the shore. 

And it pains me knowing that my thoughts are unaccounted for. 

Never named, whispered or brought to life on blank pages 

To carry my thoughts across white seas.

Now they taunt me ‘a poet with no voice, a poet with no voice’.

 

Without words I am an 

Orchid without flowers

Sunsets without colour

A smith without fire – 

Meaningless.

 

Admitedly, there is a wall my thoughts cannot rise above, 

I call that wall a dam because it does not give a damn.

It holds back a torrent of words so poetic it would make Jesus weep, but instead I weep.

For the river that leads no where will never reach the white sea,

virgin pages remain ink-less,

unheard voices torment me like a poet with not voice, a poet with no voice. 

They will hold me captive until I set them free.

By Hans Lee

 

#18 Failure on the Trodden Path

(Updated to include Business Insider insights on 15th August 2017)

I am always fascinated by the weight of criticism offered to those who found ways to become successful in life.  This piece of prose that lyrically explores the mentioned theme of how we swallow success when it looks different to how we imagined it to look.

Failure on the Trodden Path. 

Continue reading “#18 Failure on the Trodden Path”

#14: Beware the Tropical Breeze

Destructive beauty is elegant and wild. I really love the juxtaposition of living in the tropics because we know that the beauty here is a product of the destructive nature that the tropics can unleash. One day all is peaceful and serene, then the next the winds of change arrive and change happens as natural as time in tandem.

Continue reading “#14: Beware the Tropical Breeze”