Friday, December 26

My Unfortunate love affair

As any woman that enjoys life and indulges, my body weights frequently shifts..... I am still consciously trying to remove the excess of a five kg baby. Not done so seriously as I am happy with whom I am and as long as my clothes fit, there is no need to change the status quo. I must add that I did manage to lose many kilos to be able to fit into my current clothes, through weeks of sacrifice and tightness of thought and being (a sad and sorry affair that affect my personality as well). But, alas, I have succumb to the Christmas (and November. I think it was when my studies finished this semester) excess. My surviving thought was that next week I will be in Australia; warm weather, in a swimming costume all the time, oodles of fruit and healthy foods, no car so we will be walking everywhere, sweat..... The excess weight will just drip off!!!

But it was last night that I was thinking about all the experiences about Australia that I miss that I want to re-experience. Now that I can allow myself to wallow in them. It has made me realise that maybe I will need to continue to be happy with my weight as it is.

Some things I miss from Australia:
-salt and vinegar chips
-turkish delight bars
-crumpets with apricot jam
-vegetable pasties
-hot chips smothered in vinegar
-cherry ripe bars
-caramel mud cake from the cheescake shop
-vanilla slices
-mint slices
-tim tams
-strawberry tarts with crisp chocolate lining and custard
-chocolate bullets
-darrell lea licorice
-banana paddle pops
-cadburys chocolate

The list could continue. Some things are just uniquely Australian.


Living here for nine years, I am mainly immune to the twinges of homesickness.I have adapted to my new homeland and can consciously assess the assests and deficits of both countries.

But it is always something small which is my madeleine. It is always something unexpected which will catch me out. It seems to draw me back into past memories, senses. An essence of my being. It makes my heart race. I am overwhelmed by a feeling that I can´t explain.

For me, this time, was to hear an Australian talk about the theories of train travel in Australia. I sadly chose to give up the wonderful and exhilerating past time of postulating (usually with a bottle of wine). Theories, views, politics, current events. How we could save the world. Not coffee gossip. No talk about nappy changes or breast feeding. No difficulties with language and easily able to put my ideas across. No cultural differences. This is part of how my identity was formed and created. Expanded in my new land but built upon from my past. Sometimes I am unconsciously reminded that my past still dwells within, no matter how deep.

Tuesday, December 23

What Spirit?

I´m not religious. I believe, just not in the panderings of organised religion. So when Christmas comes, there also comes the inevitable `what is this about?` thoughts.

It was easier when I was alone. Christmas was a time to eat, drink and be merry with my friends. Go out. Treat myself. Buy special little things I wouldn´t buy usually. Meet up with people I wouldn´t see often. Have fun and be indulgent.

But with children it is different. We have tried to think about and plan what is best for the children on many things. My husband and I gave up smoking when our children came. We made decisions about bringing up children bi-lingually and researched the best way to go about doing this. Christmas was another decision we had to make.

One of the good things about living in Austria is that Christmas is celebrated as the birth of Jesus. Living in a Catholic country, the Catholic version is the dominating force. Christmas is more a religious celebration rather than a focus on `getting`and `presents`.

Christmas starts in the beginning of December where people meet at Christmas Markets to warm themselves with mulled wine and cider and punch. Families bake cookies together to give as gifts as well as for when friends and family visit in the leadup to Christmas.

The 24th of December is a family day. This year we will go to the zoo in the morning as a family with friends. We will come back to find that the Christkind has visited and has decorated the tree and placed presents underneath. The children do not run straight to the presents, but sit around the Advent Wreath and sing carols about the birth of Jesus and Christmas. Then we eat together as a family. Usually sausages and sauerkraut. Then the candles get lit on the tree, symbolising the light that lead the three wise men, and we sing some more. Just one present usually. Then the children go to bed while the parents go to Midnight mass. Afterwards the village meets and greets each other outside of the church with some punch and cookies and wish each other Merry Christmas. People may hang Santa all over their house. But Christmas is something else.

I love Christmas here. I love that the focus is on the rituals and the religion and not on the presents. I love that children are being socialised to think about the giving, like the presents that were given to Jesus. I love the sense of family and community that is created throught this Christmas celebration. I love that the children understand ritual and sense of purpose actions. That the children are participating in something that has been celebrated in the same way for hundreds of years.

I get a bit frustrated that there seems to be only one religion here in Austria. It doesn´t seem to acknowledge that a large proportion of the population are Muslims and a handful are other religions. Muslim children are taken to the Catholic church by the kindergarten as part of the celebrations. They are taught to sing carols. We made a decision that we will teach our children about different ways that Christmas is celebrated. We will teach our children that other religions do not believe in Jesus and that he was born. Other religions which are just as valid as the Catholic religion.

We decided that Christmas for our family is a celebration of family. Of being together. Of being happy. The gifts are a symbol of these feelings. The tree is part of this togetherness as we all decorate the tree together. Each year we each choose a new decoaration and have memories in our future times together. We celebrate the Christkind on the 24th with our Oma as a symbol of the Austrian community we live in. On the 25th comes Santa which is how our other culture celebrates. But these are only Symbols. Of beliefs. Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 1

goodbye until March

I´m sorry. I am too busy. With christmas markets and advent calenders and packing suitcases and building snow men and getting the children dressed and undressed numerous times each day and christmas performances and christmas theatre and finishing off the last of the house that gets done before winter break and sick brother in laws in hospital which means driving mother-in-law around. So my ideas haven´t been written (well not many anyway as I have been panicking about not getting everything done).

Thursday I have a babysitter so I can go to the city to go shopping (half an hour away into the big smoke)
Friday comes Nicholaus
Friday is Nicholaus Gymnastics
Saturday comes the neighbourhood Nicholaus
Sunday to see Peter and the Wolf
Monday is a public holiday
Tuesday is christmas cookie making with the children and friends
Wednesday is christmas tree cutting with the kindergarten children then back to put up our own christmas tree
Wednesday until Saturday we are going away so the girls can see their father before we fly out
Sunday has Herzie her birthday party
Monday is birthday party in kindergarten (cake number 3 to be made)....................................
Then Christmas and then we fly back to Australia for 2 1/2 months.

So I say goodbye and Merry Christmas as I have no time before I fly, and in Australia I won´t have any internet access. Back in March.

Sunday, November 23

Where am I now?

I have decided that I am going to become an eccentric. I have been fullfilling social obligations where I have tried to be nice to people and tried to fit in while realising that this is not being true to myself. As readers may be aware, I am not always nice. I do not believe that life is rosy all the time. I think everyone has problems of sorts and do not think that keeping it in is a positive thing. I also don´t believe in making things complicated..... Why can´t people just be upfront and honest about themselves and their beliefs and their thoughts. Why does everything have to be such a mystery and complicated??????????

So due to my social ineptness and my inability or undesire to play these social games, I have decided that I will become an eccentric. I know I´m a bit young and that this is usually something that belongs to the old woman, cat loving, creative widow or old maid categories, but why should they alone be allowed this priviledge? I will create a new genre of eccentrics.

I don´t like cats much so maybe I will be the funny woman who goes for walks in the forest with my alpaca. I won´t go for the grey, natural hair look, as it makes me feel so old, but I think I will go for the bright pink or maybe ginger hair. It is long anyway to begin with. Í often have paint or clay on my clothes (along with the other gobble that devine children feel their right to imprint you with) so I always seem to have that ravelled, unlooked after look that seems to be associated with eccentrics. As a mother of small children and teacher in the kindergarten, I am often ranting children´s songs or merriments under my breath which could easily be interpreted as the obseqious muttering of poetry by a non English speaker. I can easily imagine myself as the eccentric. Part Dame Edna, part Van Goch, part Julie Walters.

But what I love about the idea of being an eccentric is this ingrained sense of not caring about what other people think. Don´t mix this up with not caring about other people, as I think I will always care about people and want to be as nice as possible, but it is not caring about what people say, or how they react or their lack of response. It is creating a world where you only focus on the things you view as important yourself. Why go to a banal social event just for the sake of maintaining contact with people, when staying home and reading a book will create a warmer sense of well being. Why do what other people expect of you, when you feel uncomfortable in how it makes you feel? I think I am past the stage of being so desperate for the need of companionship and the desire of contact that I just wanted people around. I have reached the stage of my life where I need to have things which are real in my life. Like the old eccentric women. They live their lives for theirselves. Not for what ís expected (leaving out any possible mental illness concerns. This is my fantasy.)

Sunday, November 16

Tis the season

The Christmas Season has started.
Tis the time of Gingerbread Houses,
and advent calenders,
Hot roasted chestnuts and caramalised almonds,
of Christmas markets filled with an aray of georgeous crafts and delicacies,
the drifting scent of spiced mulled wine and cider
and the sugary cinamon infusion of cookies.
The crispness in the air with the promise of a white christmas.
Of dreams and fantasies from children.
Of time spent with families and friends.
And makes living in Austria feel like something wonderful and special.

Sunday, November 9

How to make your life more exciting

My life is boring. I do the same things every day. Nothing exciting. Nothing out of the ordinary. Boring.

The problem with this is that I crave excitement. I get so jealous when I hear of people tracking through Nepal. Or getting volunteer jobs in developing countries. Or adopting 30 children. I would have loved to become an actress, or an artist, or some other struggling, exciting career (I just would not have liked the lack of money). I crave the idea of dressing in extravagant outfits, dancing the night away until the sun comes up, finishing in sex on a beach or something else hedonistic. But my reality is boring. What other choice do you have when you have children, husband and work committments and live in a small village in a little country?

So I live vicariously. I live through films and books. I can imagine the lives of other people. It seems to enter my being and becomes a part of who I am. Each day I live the fantasy of my new life.

Tonight I am in a small village in Ireland, having a Craic of a time. I can hear the fiddle. I am feisty and outspoken. I can a good laugh and dance while kicking my skirts up (well I would if I was wearing a skirt. It doesn´t look the same wearing jeans, but I can pretend, even if my husband is laughing at me). I can ignore the poverty and the conflict. This doesn´t belong in my fantasy life.

Tomorrow I am going to be an eccentric, like Julie Waters in Driving Lesson. My friend is joining me in this fantasy. We will put a basket of wine in the boot of the car. Start swearing. Say what we think. Sprout poetry. Do what we want to.

And when reality starts to fall, like when people take offense to the bad language in our small village and start to cross to the other side to avoid me, maybe I will become the professional, sophisticated, sexy Uma Thurman.

Boring, not our lives. We are inspired.