Perth, Western Australia – Meeting Waltraud

28/11/16

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Lolly, the Saviour of Wanneroo

Alright. The horror trip from Kalgoorlie to Perth is out of the way. Lolly (my brother in law’s girlfriend) graciously put us up for the night with next to no notice, and while staying up till 11pm for us to arrive, and we make the trip into Perth to catch our first flight.

We are sitting on the bus from St George’s Terrace in Perth’s CBD, yakking away to each other and making retarded faces, largely forgetting that were not alone on the bus, and then exchanging a look of horror once the realisation sets in again for the 10th time in half an hour.

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‘That’ look.

Were pulling up at Terminal 1, (which to give some scope to those in larger cities, is Perth’s only international terminal), and this lady who I guess would be in about her mid 50’s says in semi-broken english that she is looking for international.

We tell her that this is the stop for her, so the three of us disembark the bus like a mismatched tourist posse that should never have been a posse.

She’s head over to the bus sign, and is just standing there trying to make sense of it. I mean, I can barely make sense of it, so good luck there mate. We already know that she is going to the international, so we kinda just scoop her up and tell her to come with us, as were flying out overseas too.

“Sooo… When are you flying out?” we ask to get conversation underway. There isn’t much worse than walking with a stranger in awkward silence, especially when you’ve just asked to help them out.
Her: “Oh. At Vive pazt vive tonight”. Her english really wasn’t as bad as I expected.

Me: “Oh cool! We fly out at five twenty tonight”

H: “Oh. Where are you travelling to?”

M: “Were heading off on a 6 month holiday. Were going to Canada, then NYC, then to Europe for a few months. Where are you heading?”

H: “I am ghoing back to Ghermanee”

M: “Oh nice”

H: “Yez. I stop in Abu Dhabi first”

M: “Oh same!”

*Bec turns her head in mild curiousity*

I think to myself, “2 flights to Abu Dhabi 15 mins apart! Ha. What are the odds?”

I quite literally think a split second later, “Were probably on the same flight…”

I then think “Our flight is probably 5:05 too”.

I start thinking a little more, and Bec kinda naturally slips straight in with some conversation as my attention is drawn to our tickets to make sure that were actually boarding at 5:20 tonight.

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All loaded up, post-german straggler, headed to the Terminal

As sure as the sun rises, the ticket says 5:05, and I am reminded that whatever the old lady says is law. I should know better than to question it.

Were about the walk into the terminal, and I ask, “Sorry, whats your name?”.

She looks me dead in the eye, and without flinching: “Valtvord”.

I have no idea what I just heard, so I try my best in my retarded application of the german accent to reiterate what I think her nme might be, while in the back of my mind all I can see is Voltorb. An english speaking stranger pronouncing a name that is vaguely familiar to a pokemon with an uneducated application of a german accent is really not something you want your children to hear.

I would would recommend washing your ears out with some holy water afterwards.

She kindly repeats it, but I can see in her eyes that this isn’t the first time. I kinda don’t feel as bad, but I’m not going to desecrate her soul with my attempt at her name again. So, in true Australian form, her new name was:

  1. “Mate”, or
  2. “So…. *blank stare* *continues conversation*…”

Its just a bit safer this way.

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Meet Waltraud

Its a good 2 hours before we can even check in, so we head over to the coffee shop, and this older German lady has got me a little bit intrigued hey. Her demeanour screams youthful passion and her eyes let slip that hint of childlike wonder periodically as we exchange dialogue over a half-burnt coffee. I’ve weaned myself down to half a sugar, but this was definitely a 2 sugar coffee.

The conversation helped overlook the rattiness of the typical airport coffee. When we asked what she was doing in Australia, she told us that she was just over here for the past 12 weeks for an athletics competition.

Theres a bit of a puzzled look on my face. I can tell that despite her age coming on, she is still a fit woman. She just looks healthy.

Waltraud: “Yes. I am zigzty eht now”

Me: “SIXTY EIGHT?”, I rudely probe while simultaneously leaning right over the table. I have no idea why I would lean over the table like that. She obviously heard me. Idiot.

Me: “What are you doing at the athletics event?” It was a bloody big event too. Some sort of international shin digg.

Me: “Were you coaching or something?”

Waltraud: “No. No. I avive and zee one day, and go zee Perth”.

So now both Bec and I are curious. She carries a real sense of youthfulness, is full of joy and laughs and is on the other side of the world for an international athletics competition.

Who. Are. You?

She she starts telling us that she started training when she was 10 years old, but her parents weren’t happy about her attending a club because she had to ride ages far to get there or something. She’s super interesting to listen to because she’s really animated with her stories, and is really intent when tell you a story.

Its one of those instances when the person genuinely cares about the conversation that they are having with you. As the saying goes, “Wherever you are, be there”. She was here, all of her here and it was great.

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Explaining to us how easy hurdling really is.

So as the conversation goes on, we learn that she pretty much trains in sprinting every day. In her opinion there isn’t much point in training twice a week. You have to be practicing every day to get good at it. She teaches Bec and I about hurdles too, and how that the hurdles have different heights depending on your age. For instance, the hurdles at her age are about .6m high. So, as she would so casually elude, “Its zuper easy”.

But! the height of the men’s olympic hurdles are massive, so much so that to clear them, you have to essentially hunch right over, while at full sprint. No easy feat. Her strong point is in the actual leap though. Thats where she will gain the coverage to win the races, not in the steps between.

I never would have thought there was so much to hurdles.

She proceeds to tells me how she (at 68) has a 1.03m vertical leap, and a 4m long jump. To put that into perspective, I train crossfire twice a week (I have prepared my soul for the hate), and we have done a few .9m box jumps, which I can only just make, and on one occasion, did clean myself up and have what is almost like a permanent callous because of it.

I’m 23 too. She’s 68. Almost 3 times my age and has a higher vertical leap than I. As for the long jump, I would probably be better just doing a rolly polly and save myself the embarrassment.

She’s quite the cool lady to stumble across, and I wouldn’t have expected to make a friend before the trip even started with a 68 year old athletic-loving german. I leave Bec and Waltraud to chat while I duck off to take a snake’s hiss.

As I’m coming back, I notice a familiar face sitting at a table. I know who it is, but this person shouldn’t be at the international airport too. But it is undeniable, and I do the usual, *arms open, slight crouch* “Whaat?!”

Sheries (my kinda sister in-law), and her grandmother Doll are flying out that evening too. I had completely forgotten that we were flying out on the same afternoon, and only an hour or so apart. So far the trip has been a success. Ran into mates and made a new mate.

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Sneaking in a quick snap of the lovely Doll

I leave Bec to chat with Waltraud, and I look over periodically to see that they are still having a jolly good chat. Bec is usually a real home body and keeps to herself, so I’m not sure whether it’s the fact that we are going on a whole new experience which is brining out this adventurous side of her. But, I dont think I’ve seen her so engaged in a conversation with a stranger in recent years. It was really cool to see.

I have a few laughs with Sheries and Doll and sneak a photo or two in, and tell them that we have to get a group pic before they go to board. I slip back onto our other table, and I’m expecting the girls to be talking about sports or something still, but Waltraud, in true Waltraud fashion was telling us all about how her eyes. She says that she had what is best described as a heart attack in the eye, which contributed to some kind of cataracts.

Thats boring. The not boring part is how they did the surgery. Her face is telling the story better than her words are. Her hands are mimicking a filter just sliding across her face and her expressions lighting up as she recalls watching the world gain more clarity. She then goes to a whole new level of reminiscent awe as she tells us about watching the world gain even more clarity as they insert a new lens in place of the cataract.

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Waltraud telling us about her new found appreciation for eyesight.

While her face is still beaming with excitement and the recollection of her eyesight being restored, she lowers her gaze, and looks to see what our faces are saying in reply. I would love to have been watching my expressions during her story, because I am sure it would have been a whole mix of eyebrows and mouth gestures operating as their own beings without any sign of possible unison.

Regardless, she still has to wear glasses, and she kindly let me try her glasses on so I could see how disabled she really is. She’s not so disabled.

Remember, at this point, I still don’t know what her name really is.

Were going to have to head off to the check in soon, and she tells me that she lives in a little town near the german mountains. I grab her number and I get her to write her name in my phone instead of me trying to type it. My God. If we get to hang out near the German mountains. The time is closing in and we grab a quick photo with Sheries, Doll and Waltraud then head to the check in.

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Bec, Me, Doll, Sheries and Waltraud pre-flight hangouts.

We say our final goodbyes.

It was well worth our time meeting Waltraud, and I am hoping we’ll actually get to visit her home town in Germany. It looked absolutely amazing.

Come back,

Billy

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