Why wait until you are dead to have other people struggle to write your obituary? Do you really think they are going to get it right? Unlikely.
Always the control-freak I decided to write my own in advance.
And when I shuttle off this mortal coil, I don’t want a funeral or a memorial service. Instead, have a party, drink a toast to my somewhat irratic lifestyle that I enjoyed so much and tell some Jody stories.
My ashes are to be put in the Old Dutch Potate Chip tin that was our childhood cookie jar and occupied a proninent place on the kitchen counter.
Anyone who wants some of my ashes is welcome to them. As I learned when my two brothers were cremated, jewelery etched in ashes can be soothing. They can be scooped out with a silver spoon from Nekselo that was a weding present to my paternal grandparents. The tin is to be buried in the family plot.
My obit is sprinkled with more photos of me than you likely want to see. And at the end there is a photo gallery of kith and kin with a brief clip of where they fit in my life.
When Google — in its relentless pursuit to totally controlling our lives –disbaned Picaso I lost a lot of photos so apologies to anyone who feels slighted. But you can remedy the situaiton by sending me a photo to load.
Ever the minimalist I don’t want a headstone. But if I were to have an epitaph it would read “Some loved her; some hated her; everyone had an opinion.”
Dated at Medellin, Colombia June 6th, 2016 while I am still very much alive. Check in from time to time if you want to see the updates of my obituary-in-progress.
Jody Lois Anne Hanson was born on January 24, 1953 and raised in small towns in central Canada. As the first child and grandchild she received more than her fair share of attention – until, that is, she learned to walk and talk at nine months. Since then, according to family myths and legends, it was downhill.
But, really, what else would you expect from a child whose first word was “mama” and whose second was “why”?
But, that isn’t surprising, as she was born in the Year of the Dragon: “Whether breathing fire or generally causing a stir, Dragons often attract, and enjoy attention and are also more at home in demanding situations that require assertive action than in routine everyday business.”
Furthermore, Dragons are flamboyant, original, iconoclastic, utterly irresponsible and convinced that rules and regulations were made for other people.” And Jody was the quintessential Dragon.
As the oldest of six siblings she would never do as she was told and she readily embraced the role of the black sheep, a title she proudly defended to the end.
Realizing that domestic skills could lead to marriage, Jody refused to learn to cook, sew or crochet. Instead of spending time in the kitchen, she took refuge in books and read voraciously.
Rather than merely taking the road less travelled, Jody grabbed a machete and hacked her own path through the jungle of life. Early on in the piece, she decided men were wonderful – but she didn’t take them too seriously.
Consequently, she never married, although she had three significant relationships. She also heeded the parental warning of “Wait until you have a child just like you!” and didn’t bother with motherhood.
While at university Jody started doing short-term teaching contracts on
isolated Indian reserves and splicing her work with taking classes, getting a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and a Bachelor of Education in English along the way.
With a teaching certificate in hand, she bought a log cabin at Stanley Mission, an isolated settlement in northern Canada, that served as a base as she came-and-went. She quickly adapted to hauling her own water and cutting her own wood, not that there was much choice in the matter as the survival chores of living in the bush had to be done.
After a few years, Jody traded the cold of northern Canada for the heat of West Africa and accepted a two-year teaching contract in Nigeria.
There she was posted to a small bush village with no electricity, no running water and once-a-month mail delivery.
Her postcard comments to her adopted Cree family and friends on the reserve in Canada read, “The weather is hotter, the people are darker, but other than that I haven’t noticed much difference.”
The village chief socially reconstructed her as the mulatto daughter of the Chief of Qua and Jody was addressed as “Rankaditti” and accorded all the privileges of an African princess. She enjoyed her – albeit brief – stint of royalty.
Returning to Canada she did a term as a vice-principal at an Indian controlled school and then worked at a northern community college as a programme coordinator.
Again she became restless and secured a teaching contract at the South West China Teachers University in the People’s Republic of China.
In the Middle Kingdom she improved her ability to eat with chopsticks and learned to say nihao ma (hello) and fourteen other Chinese words, generally related to greetings or food.
At the end of her term, rather than flying back to Canada, she took the Trans-Siberian Express from Beijing to Berlin.
Along the way she learned that the Mongolians in Ulan Battour look a lot like the Dene in northern Canada – except that they eat yak meat rather than beaver – and that Siberia looks just like southern Saskatchewan from hence she came (a revelation that didn’t impress the farmers there).
On returning to Canada, Jody went through a series of short-term contracts, working as an educational consultant for a tribal council, a communications officer for a school board and a principal of a school.
Basically, she had a short attention span when it came to employment. During this time her jobs required extensive travel to isolated northern areas, so evenings in hotels or being weathered into Fond du Lac for the weekend because the bush planes couldn’t fly provided her with a lot of time to pursue graduate studies. By the end of this stint in the north, she’d finished a Master’s degree and a Ph.D in adult education.
Wanting a base in southern Canada, Jody sold her log cabin and bought an A-frame on a farm 15 km from the town where her parents lived.
Hank – her brother who claims she caused him more angst and anxiety than everyone else in the world combined – did the renovations.
Subsequently, whenever she visited Canada for the next 19 years, she was in-residence at her pointy-little-house-on-the-prairie.
Once the pointy-house was done, she set off on a 29-country round-the-world trip with Cathy. In Botswana Cathy headed for West Africa and Jody went to eastern Europe.
When they met up in London a few months later, Cathy quipped, “You know, I’ve turned out to be a lot more like you on this trip than I ever wanted to be.”
The Land of the Long White Cloud
Following her global jaunt, Jody accepted a tenure track position at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand. As Dr. J, her research focus was how women learn to work safely in the sex industry.
It was during this time that she met Toni — or “The Madam” as she called herself — who ran Toni’s Escort Service.
They were on the same wave length in many respects. And hanging out with the sex-workers was much more fun than going to the faculty club. Toni and Jody also did a number of public speaking engagements about the sex industry and managed to raise a bit of controversy from time to time. Imagine that.
During this time she did field research in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Thailand, Viet Nam, the Philippines, Fiji and Tanzania and subsequently wrote The Business of Sex.
After three years in academia Jody resigned from the university to pursue creative self-employment as a consultant. She moved to Auckland where she rented a flat behind Jill Summerfield’s house.
As anyone who has ever worked freelance very well knows, the available work varies and consultants have to be free to reinvent themselves accordingly. Translated, if you have time to travel you don’t have the money; if you have the money, you don’t have the time.
Jody thrived on the challenge and the financial panic attacks of being a sole trader. She needed to stay healthy as she simply couldn’t afford to be sick. Fortunately, she had picked the right parents and came from study genetic stock: The last time she visited a doctor because she was ill was in December 1997.
On her 50th birthday she decided to forego all medical tests: no annual checkups, no mammograms, no pap smears. She always said that if she died of something preventable there was only one person she could blame: herself.
After three years in Auckland Jody moved to Australia. Realising that the regulations about trans-Tasman migration were about to change she arrived in Melbourne in August of 2000. The woman at Immigration stamped her New Zealand passport with a permanent resident visa and said, “Welcome home.”
Six months later the rules changed, but she was already in the country and took out citizenship two years later. At this point, she became an Aussie sheila with a somewhat flattened Canadian accent holding three passports.
Jody lived in the Fitzroy district of Melbourne for three years.
J and friends spent considerable time hanging out at The Bar With Know Name that everyone called “Laura’s.” This little place was the social centre of the area.
Larua was a feisty little thing. And when she got tired she would announce, “Okay, I’m over all of you. Get the hell out.” and everyone would quietly slink out the door, only to return the following evening.
North to SYD
In August 2003, Jody moved to Sydney where the weather was warmer, the work was more available and the cost of living was higher. She lived in Surry Hills, an inner city suburb, where she didn’t need a car.
Everything a single woman could possibly want – a multitude of restaurants, theatres, art galleries, bars, shops, supermarkets, wine shops, florists, and an outdoor Olympic pool that is heated all year around – was within walking distance.
Her diverse urban-tribe in Sydney varied from Carmen, a famous drag queen from New Zealand to a multi-millionare spy to a psychiatrist. Her tribe also included doctors, pilots, sex workers, waiters, cross-dressers, trannies, restaurateurs, writers, artists, a disproportionate number of lawyers, a retired supreme court judge, the most notorious paparazzi in town and a smattering of interesting others. Her open invitation parties reflected the variety.
On Turning 50
Jody celebrated her 50th birthday in Timbuktu. The pattern had started when she turned 30 in Nigeria and then 40 in Ethiopia so there was no point in breaking a winning streak.
Although she invited over 500 people, only one – Karen Owens aka The Nurse – showed up.
When J told Hank about it, he snorted, “Right, The Nurse has travelled extensively in New Zealand and Australia and now she is going to go to West Africa with you.”
The overriding tone was that she must have been holding her curling iron too close to her head.
The low turn-out rate at Jody’s 50th inspired her to give everyone a decade’s notice that her 60th was going to be the Zambian side of Victoria Fallls. And her 70th is planned for Kampala in 2023. No point in leaving things until the last minute.
The Economic Crisis of 2008
When rumours of the financial crisis began circulating in 2008, Jody questioned clients who were merchant bankers, investors, and corporate lawyers, as her knowledge of international finances could best be summed up as “total ignorance.”
When she realised that they, in fact, didn’t know any more about what was happening than she did, it was time for concern.
Even though Jody possessed the mathematical acumen of a four-year old, she quickly figured out that working freelance, living in inner-city Sydney, maintaining a decadent lifestyle and having an unpredictable income added up to a precarious perch to be on during an economic meltdown.
By this time she had declared that she “never, ever, ever wanted to see snow again and that the only acceptable ice was in her vodka and tonic” so anywhere less than temperate simply wasn’t an option.
She’d had a spectacular eight-year run in Australia, but craved adventure and challenges. The empty spots on her map of the world were north Africa and South America.
So on November 20, 2008 – she was 55 at the time—Jody announced that she was moving to Casablanca in six weeks.
Her reasons for choosing Morocco? She’d never been there, didn’t know anyone and didn’t speak the language.
It was, however, an ideal place to teach English, the global lingua franca. As for challenges, it was something Arabic North Africa was sure to offer. So she downsized a two-bedroom terrace house into two suitcases and a carry-on and headed out on a one-way ticket. No backward glances; no regrets.
Her 18 months in Morocco provided the adventures she craved. She rented an apartment in Derb Omar – where she was the only occidental woman – in the old part of the city.
And while experiencing Ramadan and the sheep slaughtering festival wasn’t a movie she
wanted to see again, she was glad she’d done it
Further, she made some spectacular friends, did some travelling in the region –Portugal, Algeria and Tunis – and regularly played the pianos at the Churchill Club and Sky 28.
During that time she also took on the national and international bureaucracy and helped Hamza, an orphaned computer genius, study in Canada. He graduated with top honours four
years later and now has a spectacular job. Hamza is oine of those people who is going to make a difference.
Ramadan loomed on the horizon and things Arabic started to get to her, so Jody decided to move to Santiago. Remember, the two blank spaces on her world map in 2008 were north Africa and South America. One box was ticked so it was time to tackle the next.
Life in Chile
In Santiago de Chile, she found the almost-perfect apartment at Plaza de Armas, the historic and cultural heart of the city.
Not realising that she was moving into a national monument, she ended up in a 3-ring circus, where the evangelicals regularly screamed outside her window. This particular sect believe they had to shriek at god to get her attention.
This was the view from her window where she spent so much time looking at the people in the plaza that she started to feel like the Lady of Shalot.
Meeting the Locals
While sitting at a bar underlining the Spanish words she knew in a newspaper she met Patricia Guzman, an actress. Other friends — check the photo gallery — included the artist/song writer Camilo, and Caroll, a graphics artist.
In the Kitchen
A positive development of moving to Chile was that Jody started doing her own cooking – the restaurants in Santiago were as bad and as expensive as they were good and cheap in Casablanca.
All her food was fresh, in-season and came from the market a few blocks away.
She also developed an idiot-proof exercise programme to stay in shape and dropped a dress size without trying.
Becoming a Real Writer
Although Jody went to Chile as a teacher, on November 1, 20010 she decided to write full time. Even though she had always written since she could hold a pen, this time it was the difference between having dinner parties and being a chef: it was her source of income.
She harboured no illusions about the first year being hard-slugging and it was. Starting off with how-to pieces – her piece de resistance being How to crochet a horse sweater – she also wrote travel articles and “graduated” to writing research papers for UNESCO by the end of the year.
While Jody was in Canada in the summer of 2011 she decided to sell her A-frame. So she gutted her pointy-little-house of all her art treasures and inflicted them on kith and kin at her parent’s 60th wedding anniversary.
When her mother asked her if she wanted to store some things in the garage she responded with “Mother, pleassseeeee, if I haven’t wanted anything from there for all this time do you really think I’ll change my mind?”
Jody’s friend, Iris, summed it up precisely when she chuckled,
“Its good you don’t want your body shipped back to Canada when you die. Now all Hank has to do is call the local authorities in whatever country you happen to be in, tell them to creamate you and to give the contents of your two suitcases and the carry-on to the street people.”
“Yes, exactly,” Jody replied, “Easy.”
Jaunting Around South America
At the end of 2011, Jody again became restless so she cashed in her One World travel points and set off on a trip to Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Galapagos with only a carry-on and a computer bag.
The plan was that a month later she would return to pick up the two suitcases she had stored with her friend, Patricia, and move to Buenos Aires.
Living in Argentina
In the midst of a financial panic attack, Jody rented an apartment and she discovered the world of slum landlords. Scumbags about sums it up.
San Telmo, however, was an artsy location, location, location sort of place. And there was so much to do and see in BsAs.
In April 2013, life added another twist — from keeping a diary since August 1981 when Jody headed for Nigeria — she took up blogging.
Andres and Carolina designed a new www.j-hanson.com and her forum to keep people who to date on her latest project was born.
After six months in BsAs Jody left for Bogota, Colombia. The morning after she arrived she woke up to an editing contract that lasted for two months, which was a plus.
After a month in Bogota she went to Trinidad where she and her friend, Nick – whom she has known since she was 18 – teamed up to review luxury resorts around the Caribbean.
The Spice Island Resort where they stayed for three days. Curiously enough, people go there for months at a time, even though the all-iniclusive fee is $1.329 per night.
From there it was on to Petite Anse — a simply delightful place run by Annie and Philip –and then the Magdalene Grand Beach & Golf Resort in Tobago where she did a scuba dive.
J was always amazed that she got a PADI certificate as she truly was the worst diver ever.
After a month in Canada, Jody returned to Buenos Aires for four months. Then it was time to head southern Africa and make her way to her 60th birthday party at Victoria Falls.
At this point in time, she had further downsized so that her worldly possessions tucked into one suitcase, a carry-on and a diaper bag.
Turning 60 in Zambia
In December 2012 she headed out for southern Africa.
From Johannesburg she flew to Capetown, and then set out overland to Lesotho, Swaziland Mozambique. Back in J’burg she met up with The Nurse — always the best attendee — her partner Andrew.
Later Cecile –whom she has known since 1981 when they were in Nigeria — arrived. Next it was off to Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
As it evolved, her 60th turned out — check the blog for details — to be a spectacular surprise.
South East Asia
Why the Kingdom of Cambodia? Why not? Jody’s two-year stint there proved to be interesting. The food was good, the expats were eclectic and eccentric and the weather was steaming hot.
During this time, Jody did a variety of writing – including becoming a restaurant reviewer for a local newspaper – and ended up running a project for a questionable philanthropist.
Her next career development was to become the editor of the Khmer Times. Her stint there lasted five months, eleven days and one hour.
Another perk of the Kingdom was that The Nurse – the only attendee at Jody’s 50th – moved to Phnom Penh. They first met in New Zealand in February of 1995 and have crossed paths a number of times. Unexpected adventures were always on the horizon as the Nurse helped Jody with her Down in the Dumps project and later took over Educate a Girl.
Time to hablo espanol
When leaving the Kingdom – as she always called it—Jody decided to head for Cuba. She first visited there in 1978 and liked the island.
Good plan, but the Internet was so weak and so expensive that she had to reroute her sojurn to Medellin, Colombia.
Mention Colombia and people often think of Pablo Escabar and the narco-trafficing. Jody, however, found Medellin to be a delightful city where she extended her visa by becoming a student.
Unfortunately, the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana was hideously expensive for disorganized classes making it like paying for Champagne and getting plonk wine.
The year 2015 turned out to be one of the most difficult ever. First of all Paypal froze Jody’s account for 77 days for committing the sin of visiting Cuba. The argument of being Canadian didn’t wash as Paypal is an American company.
On 3 September that year, Jody’s 56 year-old brother Murray dropped dead from a heart attack.
Three months and three days later Chris – her 48 year old brother who was bigger than life – did the same thing. Jody went to Canada for the funeral in a state of shock.
On 30 November, her 92-year old father quietly checked out. So for the Hanson, the saying that deaths come in threes proved true.
Jody was a self-confessed travel junkie and she visited 107 countries. Initially she wanted to be eligible to join the 100 Countries Club. However, once she had enough stamps she pulled a Groucho Marx and didn’t bother.
For a quick reference she started keeping track of her sojourns on a map – complete with dates and lists, of course.
By material standards Jody was a failure, as she didn’t have possessions by which she could be judged.
She did, however, have a supportive family, a spectacular – and eclectic – urban tribe, an impressive collection of passport stamps and thousands of photos and stories about her escapades.
Jody wasn’t the least bit afraid to die, because – always her pretentious self to the end – she felt that she had lived.
If you want more detail about what Jody was up to, check her articles and blog pages. There is more than enough information to solve insomnia problems for years.
And now it is up to you to decide if you loved her or hated her. The most important thing, however, is that you had an opinion. And she woulnd’t have wanted it any other way.
Photo Gallery — stilll have a lot of photos to load. If there is a happy snap you would like included, please send it and I will add it to the gallery. The photos are in no particular order of events
Friends in Canada
At the Mardis Gras with the Scarlet Alliance in Sydney, 2008.
The Kingdom of Cambodia
Masala Photos From Here, There, Where Ever
|Angkor Wat, 2007|