The town of Coñaripe is an interesting place. Located about 700 km south of Santiago, it sits on the shores of Lake Calafquén and in the shadow of Villarrica Volcano – one of South America’s most active. Coñaripe is a popular holiday spot for Chileans who can’t afford to stay in the flashier town of Pucón, on the other side of the fire breathing mountain, which caters to international tourists.

While Pucón has a neat grid of boutique hotels, bars and manicured parks, Coñaripe has a pot-holed main street that is dotted with cabins for rent and cheap-but-cheerful restaurants that churn out traditional favourites like pastel de choclo and cazuela. One thing both towns have in common is tourism companies. Lots of them. You can’t go for a five minute walk without being asked if you’d like to climb the volcano, go rafting or relax in the termas (natural hot springs).

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Hunched over on the bench,
The old man sits.
His shoulders droopy
And those once toned legs,
Hang stringy and wrinkled.
Battered knees, hips replaced,
He’s in no hurry.

Peering out from
Beneath the silver fringe,
His eyes meet mine.
“Wanna swap places?”

Gasping for breath,
Almost choking on saliva,
My feet slam the ashpalt
And my lungs protest.

I hold his gaze.
“Sure!” I say. “Why not?”

It’s been a tough week in the USA. A series of “unrelenting” heatwaves rolled across the country, leading to widespread power outages, destroying crops, causing roads to buckle and drawing attention once again to the polarising topic of climate change. Health officials believe the oppressive heat has contributed to at least 36 deaths, and while everyone agrees that the situation is a cause for concern, the debate about whether or not this weather event is part of a broader, pernicious trend or simply a ‘natural’ phenomenon, is still raging.

Worlds away, in the mountainous land of Nepal, the problem seems to be much simpler. And perhaps even starker. This weekend, at the TEAR Australia national conference, I heard Ben, a former aid and development field worker in Nepal, give a short talk about climate change. In 2008, Ben went to live in the Himalayan nation with his wife and two children, making it their home for more than three years. During that time they worked with several local organisations that were assisting poor, rural communities to build dignified lives against the harsh backdrop of unrelenting poverty.
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When Monday morning rolls around and the alarm goes off, I spring out of bed with a huge grin spread across my face. Well, there may be a slight bit of exaggeration in that sentence but the general sentiment is true enough. I like Mondays.

Because come Monday evening, when the first day of the working week has been put to bed, I sneak into the men’s toilets, change into my running gear (Kevin 87 t-shirt, swimming shorts and a pair of well-worn sneakers covered in drips and drops of old paint) and head down through Darling Harbour and Pyrmont to Wentworh Park for a jog with Paul. As well as being my running buddy, Paul is a dear friend, prayer companion, former work colleague and mentor, whom I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for the past five years. He’s also the editor of a magazine about trucks. Read the rest of this entry »

I believe.
At least, think I believe,
I believe I believe
And I know I want to believe.

But sometimes the very thought
Of belief
Is unbelievable.
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Sometimes it’s hard to pay attention to the news. The litany of bad stories never seems to end and it’s easy to let compassion fatigue set in. Or sometimes it’s just more convenient to watch MasterChef. But other times, there’s a story that is so compelling it jumps out at you and sucks you in, forcing you to mix your metaphors in the process.

Just like late on Friday night when I came home and jumped online and the headline of the lead story on the SMH website caught my attention: ‘Sydney’s ‘Dickensian’ scandal: six dead’. Clicking through, I found that the article was about a boarding house in Marrickville where six people had died in shocking conditions between 2009 and 2010. The state coroner had told reporters that her investigations had uncovered a culture of neglect in the home, resulting in widespread malnourishment, oversedation and inadequate medical care.
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A sandstone wall on the F3. (Photo: RMS)

It’s now almost two months since I arrived back in Australia. One thing I’ve continually been reminded of in this time is that it is people, more than places, that give me a sense of belonging. There have been lots of opportunities to share special moments with family, catch up with old friends, meet new babies and resume long-running conversations with close friends and mentors. These ‘people moments’ are easily the best part of being back home.

At the same time though, places can be important too. One such place for me is the small stretch of Parramatta River near my apartment, where I go to jog, walk and lap up the view on a shady park bench. There’s a lot to like about it – the smell of salt water mixed with mangroves, the gentle breezes, the acres of green parkland and the playful sea gulls. It’s a highlight of my neighbourhood and, after walking along the muddy, brown trickle of Santiago’s only river, the Mapocho, it seems even better.

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