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.

Memories

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.
CHRISTMAS HERE IS MAGICAL
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.

Tuesday, November 4

It just happened

In this shifting continuum of the love / hate relationship I have with my adopted culture, I have realised that in part I have become European.

When I first met my husband, he was living at home with his mother. 34 and still at home. She did his cooking, ironed his shirts, cleaned the house, made his bed. You know, all the things that parents (well other people´s parents) did before their children left home. At a normal age. Like 18 or 19. When they went off to Uni or moved into a grotty share accommodation and lived on 2 minute noodles and did not even own a broom.

Like you, I wondered what might be wrong with him to live at home so long. Thoughts of `Mummy´s boys`and pants pulled up to arm pits came into my spectrum. Until I looked around and saw that this is just how people live. Life is not so agist or age segregated as it is in other countries. Here life is a conglomerate of all experiences. Life are inclusive. It is common to find four generations sitting around the same table at a party. When parents turn up to teenage parties to find their children drunk and lying under the table, doing something sordid with some strange person, they will go over to the corner to talk with their mother, or sit and have a Schnapps with the birthday person (you can´t keep secrets in a small village anyway, so might as well do it in the open). This is just how things are. Children inherit the house where they will look after their parents. And in return the parents look after the children.

Sounds ideal. But it is like any family. There are fights. There are disagreements. There will be times when people don´t talk to each other. But we live together. We either ignore it or work it out.

But think of the advantages. I did this week when I had one child at home sick and another which needed to be taken to kindergarten. Oma was there to help. It was a matter of sending Sweetie over to ask. When I was sick she was able to give me the space to sleep without having children crawl over me (with my husband unable to take any time off at the moment). And do all the shopping. And the cooking. And the cleaning. And the cake that needed to be baked for the party. And the letters that have to be signed for. And financial help as she lives here too. And ironing those few shirts so I can focus on my studying. And playing Uno thousands of time when I am played out. And those hundreds of other things that I would take too long to list.

It was in an Ikea magazine that one woman said when moving to Italy, 'yes, it is an adjustment to learn to live with your mother-in-law, but after adapting it is more of 'how can I live without them'. I have become European. I understand the importance of family. Family - the extended version.

Tuesday, October 28

Time

Running Twirling Spinning Whirling

Time keeps running by

Sometimes life has a tendency to catch us and sweep us up in it´s ferocity. I don´t have time. I have too many things to do. I´m too busy. I need to do this now. I don´t know how I am going to get it all done. Our whole being is taken over and it becomes integral to who we are at that time. It allows for us to excuse the dust which has developed it´s own personality. It gives us a reason to make excuses for boring outings where the only thing you have in common are children of the same age. It allows for excuses to why you have put on weight (too busy to watch what you are eating). It gives excuses for the lack of effort you put into relationships. It is the explanation of why things don´t get done. Excuses.

But what do we do when it stops? For me, all of a sudden I have spare time for the first time in nearly six years. My equilibrium has gone. I am used to running. To scratching just the surface of my To Do list. To multi-tasking. I´m not used to this feeling of not knowing what to do. Do I catch up on all the cleaning I have said I have been unable to do (yeah, like this is my main priority. My family have survived with the minimal level I have provided to this date)? Do I just sit and do nothing? Read a book? Surf the internet rather than just skimming? Really read my favorite blogs? Spend more time doing my crafts? How long can I do this before I go mad? I need something to do.

Saturday, October 25

Beautification

I remember getting ready to go out. It used to start about 10am on a Saturday after breakfast when I would go shopping for a new outfit. Maybe not a new outfit, but a new piece of jewellry, a new jacket, shoes or dress. I loved exploring the markets for something funky and original, or maybe an vintage clothing oufit or maybe something slinky and in black. Often I would meet a friend and we would shop together. Lunch, coffee. Then back home to get ready.

Any night out started with a bubble bath. Smothered to my chin with white fluffiness which smelt devine and made me feel liked a hasbeen movie star from the 50`s. I would listen to some nice blues, Billie was always my favorite, and read a book or trashy magazine, while luxurating in the softness. Relax. I would emerge two hours later walking on air.

Then getting dressed and putting on makeup if the situation required. A process in itself which could take an hour or so (particually if I planned on the said clothes to come off at some point). Finally I was ready for the next stage.

Friends were always important to have to 'put oneself in the mood'. Usually dinner before hand. Sit, glass of wine or two. Talk. Gossip. Laugh. Ready.

Now. Getting ready to go out means waiting until the children are in bed. Little hands watching me put on makeup and 'looking' with their fingers just adds to the fun (which I can do without). Putting on the dress or outfit which was specially ironed on this rare occurrance, to find that curious fingers had beaten me to it - chocolate or something brown. Scramble to find something else in the last few minutes. Hope it matches and my belly doesn´t stick out to much. Notice black bra under white shirt doesn´t match. Search for another bra. Can´t find one. Question whether I can risk going without one. No. Look for new shirt. Not ironed. Going for wrinkled look. Yes. It was designed that way. Height of fashion!!!!!!! Realise eyes are weeping. Most probably eye infection from makeup which hasn´t been used for years. Scrub it all off. Going for the lack of makeup look, the natural look. Take little one to the toilet and put back to bed. Sleeve wet from the intensive hand washing session (water play). Husband getting frustrated as everything taking more than 10 minutes which was allocated. Trip down stairs as not used to walking in heels anymore. Toes already hurting. Shoes don´t fit after having grown bigger after two pregnancies yet don´t see point of buying new heels when not used so often. Put on my long skirt so I can wear my comfortable flat shoes. Find handbag. Find it in the playshop where it was used to go shopping with. Take out plastic fruit and cheese. Find the barbie shoes that someone had obviously hidden at some point and then forgot about which resulted in at least an hour of temper tantrums and accusations. Find my watch I have been searching for. Get jacket. Ready. Where is the wine? Need it NOWWWWW!.

Come home early at 2am. Great night. Dancing. Boogying. Flirting with my husband. Just the right amount of tipsiness. Children wake up at 5:30am.

PLEASE CAN WE STAY IN NEXT TIME. Sit in my pyjamas, watch a film. Drink more than what is socially acceptable. Cuddle on the sofa. Go to bed happy and relaxed.

Tuesday, October 21

Changing the world

When I was younger, I was going to change the world. I used to get so upset about the things that were wrong and unfair. I gave World vision sponserships as presents. I did lots of voluntary work. I wrote letters to the editor and often spoke my mind. I applied to go to Volunteers Abroad (but you need to have lots of money to do that). I thought that by being a social worker I would assist in making changes to the inequalities which exists.

I was angry about discrimination. I was angry in the degrees that discrimination existed. I supported the underdog. I supported the black, disabled, uneducated, refugee, homeless, poor old woman. I couldn´t imagine what they may have gone through, but I wanted to make their lives better. I wanted to eradicate war (or send some choice decision makers to fight it themselves). I wanted to eradicate poverty. I wanted equal wages for all. I wanted people to be able to make their own decisions in life and be empowered to do so. I wanted a fair and just legal system where people were punished for crimes and not for lack of appropriate legal reprentations or because of a difference in interpretation or even because their social situation was not considered important enough to be given attention. I wanted everyone to have access to suitable and affordable housing. I wanted I wanted I wanted

Then I started to work. I was overwhelmed by a workload that did not provide opportunities to think. Staff continued to fall and social problems continued to rise. There became less and less that we were able to offer people who needed it. I was surrounded by other social workers and welfare staff that were burnt out and wanted to personally survive. Their main object was to get through the day and get home to their family. It is only a job after all. There is a life outside of the workplace. As a person you slowly start to shed the skin of idealism to the bare basics of reality. How can you keep fighting for ideals when you can´t provide the basics for the people you already have? How can you keep fighting after putting in ten hour days and spending weekends on committees? Need to sleep at some point and there surely can´t be enough wine in the world.

Finally it became too much. My narrow minded supervisors who wanted to stifle any opinions I had and wanted me to work as a robot, resulted in me handing in my resignation. What would I do next? Would I retrain? What I would I study instead? Should I get another job? Where? Everyone is suffering from Howardism and is experiencing the same as I. How long would it be before I would be in the same position. Time to discover the world!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well, Europe is not much of the world. Just like Australia but more Australian 18-25 year old drunk backpackers than I would usually come across. Even so, I saw art. Met the locals. Visited churches. Learnt new words. Tasted new foods. Travelled in new ways. Met lots of really interesting and nice people. Did things I wouldn´t usually do. Ok, I worked as a social worker in England to earn money, which is even more dire than Australia (I worked with professionals who had to decide which month they would go to the movie as their only entertainment). England has real social problems, but I wasn´t there long enough to want to do anything about it. I wanted money to travel; England, Iceland, Greece, Italy, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, France, Belguim, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia. 6 weeks in Africa from Nigeria to Victoria Falls. Then I met my husband. Back to Australia for 6 months, via Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Bangkok. Children. Family holidays in Greece, Italy. Soon to go back to Australia. I found a new interest.

My choice to be married and have children meant that my life has changed. Learning how to adapt to a new culture and growing with my family have become more important. In this process of adapting, I´m not sure of the ways any more of how I can challenge the system. But then with two small children, it is a matter of finding the time and energy as well. Things are on hold at the moment. I feel all soft and fuzzy. I´m slower. My life has another meaning.

I still think about the values I have. They are still there. It is just trying to work out how the two lives can become intercorelated. While I am studying Applied Linguistics (so as not to get bored) I think that what I would like to do is record the stories of refugees and the struggles they have worked against. I want to record their narratives. This will fit in perfectly with my next degree in communications. Until my girls grow up and I can actually go back out into the world to fight. It doesn´t go away. It just changes and is built upon.

Thursday, October 16

One of the most inspirational people

Whenever I feel down or feel that my life is hard done by, somtimes I think about the most amazing woman I know of. She is my father´s cousin. She lives here in Austria in the sort of area my husband describes as the place where the fox doesn´t kill the chicken or else they would be all alone (although Austria doesn´t know isolation like Australia does. This is the Austrian version of it. But come winter when the snow is 5 metres high and you can´t get out of the front door, the sense of isolation and hardship is just the same).

M is about 60 years old and has 5 children, all who have left. She has spent the past 40 years in this same house which has not changed at all in that time. The house is more than primitive. There is only concrete on the floors. Very little furniture. She still cooks on a wood stove. She buys virtually nothing from a shop as it is too far away and costs too much. She says that she only goes into town to go to church. She has only an outdoor 'long drop' toilet and a cold running shower. In winter, the snow is piled high and you have to dig your way to the toilet. When I was pregnant I always thought about what it would be like for her to have to go outside in the cold five or more times a night. She has one good set of clothes that I have always seen her in, and offcasts the rest of the time. Her husband buys a tractor for €50 000 in cash. She still waits for over 30 years for an indoor toilet. She worked until the babies fell out and picks up the pieces for when her husband decides he has done enough. She carried her husband miles to a neighbour when he gave himself a vasectomy because there was no way he would actually spend money on anything.

I think of the hardships in my life which makes me feel as if things are difficult and I wonder if I am functioning. Moving to a new country. Horrible pregnancies. Friends talking behind my back. Feeling lonely.There have been many times when I feel too tired or grumpy to go outside. Or felt that things were a bit too much and just stayed inside and cried. Sometimes I feel sorry for myself.

But not M. She greets everything with a joy. When we visit, she will go and change into her one good dress. She will take out every morsel of delicacy to share with us. She will stop what she was doing to stain her fingers purple picking blueberries for us. She will show us where we can find mushrooms and insist that we take them, even though it most probably means that their meal will be limited the next time. She will pick flowers from her garden to give to us and pile us with the raspberries which have just ripened. She never complains. She only speaks of joys in her life. She has endured in life more than most people I know and not one ounce of her has been soured. She is the person I know who has the most goodness of soul and has been given the least. She is one of the most inspirational people I know.

Saturday, October 11

The twisting of the senses

Every day I communicate with many different people. People with whom I have shared secrets, thought, desires, menial conversations. I gossip, I discuss, I lecture and debate. All without opening my mouth.

With the amazing technology that is internet, I interact with people I would previously have had no contact with. I have moved to a new country. In 'the olden days', communicating would mean saving up all your pennies to make an operator assisted call back home, where for ten mintues (which is all you could afford) you would share all your histories and innermost thoughts with your dearests.

Now, I have made contact with people I thought I have lost forever. I talk regually to my best friends, and have made new best friends on the way. I talk to my family. I am studying a degree. I discuss the course with my school colleagues. All without opening my mouth.

While the benefits of this technology are obvious, I also find it all a bit sad. I miss talking. I miss the personal contact. I spend more time talking to friends on-line than I do in person. Have I created a substitute? (This is what happens when your husband spends all his time on the building site just so we can have a nice house to live in and all I have to talk to are my two little honeys). I am moving into the robot age where technology takes over the functions that people used to fullfill? I also wonder if this is what it is like being deaf and living in a world without sound. That is what my world has largely become as I sit in front of my screen. My world is flickering lights emited from a box. Will my visual ability improve over my sense of hearing based on need and use. Will my mouth lose it´s ability to talk and be more a function to feed with?Will my fingers evolve to enable me to type better? (Will my typing and spelling improve?)

I find that I am also having to learn a new way of communicating. I usually fumble my way through conversations, using body language as a sign whether I have been able to communicate. In this technical world, the only sign whether the person interpreted just as I had intended is whether or not they stop communicating. My mind whirls why. Is it something I said. Is it that they don´t like me any more. No, be rational, maybe things are going on their own life that they just don´t have time and then as time passes they forget. Friendship now is a fleeting thing whereby people will only keep in contact if you can keep them interested. The need to grab them in the first sentence. It´s not like you can bump into people in the street and ask them why they stopped making contact, you don´t know where your new friends are.

And who are the people you are communicating with? The little thumbprint really doesn´t give anything away, that is if there is a photo at all. People have become scared of being true to themselves. They keep themselves guarded only giving away little tidbits. OK maybe you knew them 15 years ago, but who are they now? Can you know someone without actually talking to them? Can you build a proper relationship on-line. Obviously, as people get married after meeting in chat rooms. Maybe someone can let me into the secrets of how to manage with this new distant, obseqious community. How can I become a member and functionally live my life on-line instead of fluffing about at the edges? Do I really want to? As the only person I know without a mobile, I sometimes question how much do we want to evolve and to what cost?

I think on these thoughts, I will go now and find someone to talk to. And hug. And snuggle. Try doing that with your computer.

Friday, October 10

Remembering


Remember those olden days when we used to read books like The Famous Five or The Secret Seven, Magic Faraway Tree, Nancy Drew, Roald Dahl? Remember reading them, but not really connecting as they spoke about another world. About pheasants scurrying fussily out of the way (putting the saltanas in Bundy to try and make the galahs fall over never really worked for us). About forests where deers roamed. About white christmases. The cuckoos in the forests. Woodpeckers. Birds flying south for the winter. The world over there.


But this is the world I live in now. It never fails to amaze me when I see a pheasant. Or hear the cuckoos. Or like I did today, seeing the birds flying in a V shape on their way to Africa. Or the storks sitting in the garden (and no, I am not pregnant). These are all the things I used to imagine about here as my reality.


But now I crave to look out of my window and see the colouful birds eating at the feeder instead of the little brown ones. I go a bit silly when I´m at the zoo;


'Look over there, that comes from Australia. In Australia we don´t have to see them in cages. And that one comes from Australia too. And that one....'


My girls are growing up in the antithesis of me. We read the books about Australia and they ask me if we really have kangaroos in our back garden. Or trying to explain an echidna, 'yes Honey, it is like a hedghog, but different shape and a bit bigger. No it isn´t a hedgehog, it is an echidna.' Or about the colours that you can see all around, all year round in the birds and the bush. And the bush is not the forest, it is different. And most trees don´t lose their leaves in winter, not just the pine trees, and we have a Barbie for lunch at christmas and sit outside in our bikinis (well we would if we fit into one). But I hope that my girls will have two cultures and understand about living on both sides of the world.



Tuesday, September 23

Adulthood (just a misplaced childhood)

Reading one blog (please forgive me in my ignorance in remembering), someone defined their home as their first 'non-child' home, not wanting to define themselves as an adult. It started me thinking about how I define myself? I think of myself as an adult, most of the time. But when did this start?

I think it started with my decision to stay with one person rather than living a selfish, self orientated life. This made me take responsibilities of things. There is no more moving or leaving when things are not fun or are not working out how I would like. I had to stay and work things through. Like an adult.

Deciding to have one partner was also a big step for me as I used to like having fun with lots of different people. Different men for different parts of my personality. One for my creative side. One for my intellectual side. One for my 'sluttish' side. One for teenybopper side. One for my need to conform side.......

Although I have had monogomous partners before, that was more me playing grownup and thinking through unrealistic expectations. I can remember that very early on we would plan on getting married, having children, talking about when we were old (yet only a few months later look at moving for a new job as I was unsatisfied with the old one).

I didn´t fully feel like an adult with my first child. It was too unreal. Being pregnant was more real, but having a baby was like having a complicated doll (or maybe I was too tired to think).

When I had to start telling off my children (or child at that stage) I can remember thinking that I did not like this. I would like to have a happy well organised house where children act appropriately. I want lots of laughs and fun. I don´t like telling my children what to do. Or 'disciplining them'. It makes me feel like an adult when I have to do it. It makes me cross and grumpy and ends up in a vicious cycle.

Budgeting and saving for serious things like a house, instead of travelling and having fun makes me feel like an adult. Making long term plans. Never been much fun.

Feeling older physically. Being tired at the end of the day. Not interested in going out so much but happier to sit and read a book, watch a DVD (with my glass of red). And on that note, actually buying wine for taste, not just cheap price. Being more interested in clothes for comfort than clothes for style (OK on reflection, the few occasions that I do get dressed up I find an inconsisent pleasure in getting my husband to rub his hands over the mix of satin and rubber in my skirt, although not actually fitting into the groovy clothes after two children has an enourmous effect on the relationship between me and clothes). These things make me feel like an adult.

But the biggest effect of feeling like an adult is the reactions from the people around me. People don´t like it when I am silly. Or maybe they just don´t understand it. I don´t have any silly friends here or know people who are silly. The people I know are even sophisticated when drunk (well actually, in my peer group, I am yet to see one drunk). I don´t know people anymore who put traffic cones on their heads, make skirts from aluminium foil and dance to Devo. I don´t know anyone who will sit and sing 80's tunes, badly, loudly and obnoxiously. People I know don´t even get up and dance to groovy music unless it is with their husbands/partners and only when the right music comes one and never first. I don´t see anyone in pyjamas at 10am because they are too lazy to get dressed. I hear people talking about me, though and who tell my mother in law how shocking it is. I don´t know anyone who wears clothes other than mainstream. When I wear my carpet skirt over pants (as my thighs have grown) people just look away and make no comment. Or my baby doll dress which I love as it is furry (although they do ask if I am pregnant). In my effort to acclimatise, I have GROWN UP!!!!!!!!!!!! Don´t know if I like it, though.

Sunday, September 21

My six year old has a boyfriend

Well, she doesn´t have one on her own, she shares him with two others. She likes him as he lets her jump on top of him. They chase him around the classroom at kindergarten. Then they lie him down, sit on top of him and try to take his pants off as he doesn´t like it, but he has a friend who they don´t want to have as a boyfriend who pulls him away.

She tells me that they will get married. When I told her that in Austria that only one wife is allowed to be married to one husband, she tells me that they will take turns. She said that they will just get divorced and share him around. She thinks that they will all live together in our house as it is the biggest. She thinks that maybe her husband won´t want to live in her room as it is pink and he doesn´t like pink so maybe he will have to sleep in our old house and come over so she can jump on him each day. The other wives can share with her. Daddy has to put another layer on her double decker bed so they can all share.

She thinks that she will have about 10 children with her husband, and share the children with the other wives. She thinks that maybe she will want to go to work so I will stay at home and look after the children. She doesn´t think that her husband will work as he can´t write like she can. She thinks that if he does work he might be a builder or something so he can build them a bigger house to live in. At the back of our house.

My little daughter thinks that having a boyfriend is lovely. She doesn´t want to kiss him or anything, just jump on top of him. She said that she doesn´t think that I jumped on top of daddy, but thinks jumping is better than kissing.

And to think that I thought that I had a few more years. It´s all the pink, I´m sure!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, September 20

FELTING

These are examples of some of the felting peices I have done.


Mixed media nano based felt.
Approximately 1 m by 70cm



This was an old bag I had which was a basket on the bottom
and this material on top. I always loved it even though it was
very 70's. With time the basket broke. But at least I have preserved
the material. I have learnt, though, that polyester doesn´t felt so well.

The next two are experiments with the 5kg of white wool I brought over e-bay very cheaply. It smells a bit like a ram, which is most probably why it is cheap, but thanks to the internet I learnt that if you do a final rinse in hair conditioner, the smell goes away. These will be gifts for my lovely friends in Australia when I visit. I hope they like them. They are about 70cm in diameter made with fleece and other mixed fibres (old curtains of my mother-in-law and a shirt which I melted once with the iron. Non-natural fibres can be felted into a fleece fibre)


This is my attempt to move away from the reds I love working with (guess my favorite colour?????) I have a crappy camera (only brought as it was red) and am not very good at taking photos (can´t work out which settings work best) so I don´t know if you see the different textures so well. I was trying to get a sea type feel. I don´t think I achived it so well so I think I will do another peice with more waves which I will attach to the side.

Creating things is the thing which makes me the happiest (after my family and a good film and galss of red). Felting is such a magical process and it is perfect for a busy person as it doesn´t take long to create something. I know that my photos are crap and I´m still to work out how I am going to frame them, but hope you enjoy them. Would love feedback and ideas of what I could do with them.

FELTING

Felting is my new obsession. I don´t always get the time. But my biggest source of procrastination. I get so happy when it rains as it means that we are inside and I can do felting while the girls play. As you know, it was only a few months ago I first tried felting. I attempted a nano felt. I have been experimenting with different fibres and textiles to make a form of art. This is for all the people who have asked me to show what I have been doing.






This is an example of the different fibres I have used. Most natural fibres will felt.







This is a close up. The material was my favorite dress. Of course I don´t fit into it any more as I brought it when I was 21. It is a shot silk dress. Although I can say that I can still put it on, unfortunately my belly doesn´t have the same muscle tone as before. I now look pregnant when I wear it. I think it is put to better use here. I use ordinary wool, fleece, material, string.
















And this is the final piece. It is two felted peices joined together by little felted strips. It is about 1m by 1.5m approximately. This will go over the staircase in my new house. I want to make another peice to attach as the wall is so big.

Thursday, September 18

The Simple life.

Living in the country, I am surrounded by gardens. I have apple, most pears (for making an alcoholic cider) plum and walnut trees in our back garden. I always grow zuccinis and pumkins each year (as they are so easy to grow). The problem is, come harvest time, I always seem to be so busy and swear that next year I will do something about all the produce.

But not this year. I am so proud that I collected all the apples around. I have dried about 10 kilos worth (now that it is so cold I have the wood stove on where I can just put them on top to dry). I have stewed 15 big pots of apples to freeze. I have made apple pies and apple cakes. I have dried all the excess zuccinnis (I´m still not sure what to do with them. My attempts at freezing made them only OK for soup which we aren´t too keen on). The nuts are currently drying to be ready to be stored.

I feel like an old fashioned maiden working on my wood stove. I just need my pinny and hat to fit in. But at the same time I feel liberated. I feel that I am putting my feet on the towards living as self sufficient as possible (remember that TV show, The Good Life?). It feels like we can start reducing our dependency on the capitalistic forces which determine how things will be. Sometimes my Honey and I sit and dream of how we will enjoy our life - work to live, not live to work. We have plans on the wind generator in the back yard. How we will link the television to a bicycle so the children will get exercise and generate their own electricity if they want to watch. How we will have our alpaca (that is my dream too Julie,) where I will shear the wool and dye it with natural dyes, like from berries (I have a jumper I dyed with elderberries), spin it and then knit it up (Honey comments that our girls will be dressed in those wool outfits from the 70`s you used to see in magazines). All our food will be from the garden. Honey insists on a pig as he can´t be a vegetarian. Candles (with wax from our own hives), wood fires, making our own pottery and burning in our own constructed wood kilns....

This is just how people used to live here only 40 years ago. My grandmother kept rabbits that she would spin and knit into socks and shoes which she would trade with someone else who had something she needed. It´s amazing how far peopel have come in such a short life - overconsuming, debts, materialism, a Now society rather than a save society. Are people happier because of this? I know that I appreciate the chance to travel and see the world which wasn´t something that happened much before, but I also know that living here in my little world and the simpler my life gets, the happier I become.

Wednesday, September 17

Who am I?

My sense of self has changed as my language skills have grown. The more German I speak, the more settled I feel. The more belonging I feel. Less of a stranger.

When I first came here, I was treated as a foreigner. I can remember a situation where I asked for directions and the man told me he didn´t know. My husband coming from the other direction didn´t see me and asked the same man for the same directions which he then gave.

Foreigner. I couldn´t get a job as I couldn´t speak the language. I had no friends as I couldn´t talk to anyone. I was scared to talk on the telephone, go shopping, meet people, read a newspaper, leave the house. Me!!!! Someone who travelled throughout the whole of Europe alone. Who went to Africa. Who moved all around Australia. Who sought out opportunities without fear (yes, I am Superwoman is disguise). Yet all this changed when I came to live in my little village. I became a mouse. All because I was isolated. I was lonely. I was fearful and desperate.

But with time, I took risks and started to communicate with my bad German (with children you are often placed in situations where you have to talk). I took my little dictionary with me at all times and said what I wanted even if it took so long and was incorrect. I realised that I had to stop worrying about what people thought about me. I was often treated with contempt, and often this made me feel sad, but I realised I had to purservere as I made a choice to live in this bloody country (this did not mean that I didn´t spend copious hours bitching to friends in e-mails or crying or writing blogs or hiding away when things became too hard or drinking wine .......... add in any number of other coping mechanisms).

But eight years on I can now speak in most situations and understand what is being said. I will still come across new words or ideas that I haven´t learnt yet but it gets less and less as time goes on. I was so proud today when I read a whole letter and understood every word. I feel just as comfortable talking in German as I do in English. I have German speaking friends. I have moved onto a new stage of my life where I am more relaxed. I enjoy life so much more. I am able to focus on other aspects of my life, like my felting and pottery and my garden. I don´t feel the pull of having to run away to somewhere more comfortable (which doesn´t exist anyway). I don´t need to hide. I´m back. (Just don´t ask me to write in German. Sweetheart and I will learn together).

(and for all those interested, todays posting is a result of me procrastinating instead of reading about sociolinguistics and the formation of identity. It just got me thinking about my own situation).

It´s bloody Freezing

In Australia, I don´t think I thought about the seasons too much. Oh, except for when I lived in Melbourne where you needed to take a t-shirt, jumper and umbrella every day. Or when I lived in Canberra as winter meant that you smoked less as it was too cold to go outside. Or in The Mountains where you would notice ice puddles right in the middle of winter. OK maybe I did. But I can remember that I didn´t even have a winter jacket most of the time. Autumn was just the time when you watch the leaves change colour. When the nights were finally cooler. When it starts to get darker a bit earlier. But nothing spectacular. I don´t think I noticed too much when I had to start wearing winter clothes. Life didn't change much between the seasons.

Not here. Last week it was 27 degrees and we were wearing t-shirts but the last few days I have been lighting a fire all day. It seems that overnight the weather has changed. Summer is over. On my bike ride I can feel the penetrating forbodingness of ice particles creeping into my bottom and ears. The leaves on the pumpkin plants are dying. I need to prepare my garden for the freeze. Harvest time has arrived. The trees are already started looking bare and the air is filled with the woody smoke of leaves being burnt (yes, we aren´t all environmentalists here). Thoughts of hot chocolate and christmas markets fill my mind and tickle my toungue. All warm and cosy.

Saturday, September 13

Who would have thought?

I have been suffering this week from the most excruciating headaches. They have been all encompassing in that my life outside of the headache barely functions. I have a tiredness that I can´t shake from the moment I wake up until I go to bed at night. It is just like when I was pregnant. I needed to have naps each day. My head would fall onto the table while trying to read my lecture notes. I had a knawing pain in my stomach that just sat there like a stone. I was grumpy and cross and very difficult to be around.

I didn´t understand it. I had thoughts of cancer and other life threatening illnesses. For someone who is rarely sick (when do I get the time!!!!!!) I find it very difficult when I am. I think the worst and suffer intollerably. But I don´t have time to go to the doctor until Wednesday next week, so battle on and swallow pain killers.

It was when I was filling the coffee grinder that I noticed the possible cause of my misery. We have been drinking caffein free coffee. I have been sufferring from withdrawal symptons. My most awful suffering has been self inflicted. I have been pouring caffein down my throat since. The headaches have gone away, but 2 days later my belly is still not the same and now I suffer from lack of sleep. I can honestly and assuredly say that I am an addict, and it is not something I am going to give up.

Tuesday, September 9

There is no bloody bicycle

I have just finished my first essay in 15 years and let me tell you, there is no perverbial biycyle. What seemed like a piece of cake 15 years ago now seems like a trial of agony. I was thinking about it on my ride this morning and decided that certain factors have change resulting in a study deficit:

- I don´t smoke any more. I´m sure it is a fact that nicotine assists the learning processes. More ciggarettes, the better the essays were.

- I haven´t borrowed notes from Peta (usually as I wasn´t at the lecture to get them myself) who used to have small insightful comments on the side which usually were the basis of my essays.

- I haven´t totally disregarded references like I did previously due to always being too late and hence finding that all the books had been borrowed (on this note, I would like to say that no Lecturer ever noted that I had misrepresnted a text or that my information was incorrect).

-I was unable to work through the night the day before the extension finished as I started it 2 weeks before and went to bed by midnight as I knew I would be woken at 6am by my darlings. Ít is a known fact that the hours between midnight and 5 am are the ones where the ideas flow.

- I wasn´t surrounded by lovely friends who would bring me thought induced fat from some take-away or idea inducers (usually jelly snakes) on a regular basis as they saw me suffering. I actually shipped off my children for the day to a friend. Peace and quiet is also another inhibitor I have found.

So let me tell you, on my limited expectations, my dreams of having a HD average no longer look promising. But at least the essay is finished and I have the knowledge that I can do it and studying at least is more interesting than worrying why people aren´t talking to me, or why I am not invited to a party, or working out the exponentials of how often I have to invite a child over based on my child being invited out, devided by the amount of chocolate they were fed, mulitplied by the lunches cooked for them, inverted extra if they were driven somewhere, etc............

Thursday, September 4

Maudlin

I know that my period is due when I start to get maudlin. When I start to look at all my friends on Facebook and wonder why they all have more than me. When I write e-mails to people with whom I have been out of touch with for so long. When I start to have those high school angst feelings that I am not as good as everyone else; not as nice, no wonder no-one likes me. My belly swells in it´s ugly response. My body responds with sensitivity. Stabbing toes are agony. Little bumps ache. I cry for no reason or have tears in my eyes constantly. My children look at me in wonder when I start crying while reading about Max´s mummy leaving his supper even after he is sent to his room. I get cross and cranky. My thoughts are all jumbled. I can´t remember things so well. All for the joy of womanhood!

Bring back my normalcy. How many years of this must we endure. It must make us stronger or at least a better person?????????? I wish.

Those days are over

So unused to being on my own, I walk inside and turn on the baby phone as I can´t hear my children. I forgot that both are at kindergarten and I am on my own.

A sad time, but a chance to do all the things I have put on hold for the past 6 years.......... A chance to do housework while similtaneously entertaining at least one child at home. A chance to have a cup of coffee without feeling guilty. A chance to do the shopping without having to have my pockets full of gummy bears or take things back out of other people´s trolleys.

(Oh!, I forgot that I have a building site and lecture notes to read as well as getting ready to go to Australia in a couple of months. Oh dear, my time is gone again).

Sunday, August 17

THINGS TO DO IN MY TOWN FOR (ALMOST) FREE MEME

THINGS TO DO IN MY TOWN FOR (ALMOST) FREE MEME (from Ariane)

Here are the rules (because it wouldn't be a meme without rules):
1. List (at least) five things to do for free in your city or town, not just well publicised touristy things, but things YOU might do too!
2. Write it with a visitor in mind.
3. Tag three people* - extra fun if they live somewhere you'd like to know better or you're going to sometime soon.
4. If you're anonymous/coy about where you live, choose another town or city that you know.

I think it is a bit enthusiastic to call my village a town. And everything is for free as there are no attractions to pay for.

1. Go for a bike ride. Through the forest. You may see deer, pheasants, hares while hearing cuckoos, woodpeckers, wild pigs, hunters shooting their guns. When you come out one side you head up to the dam along the Danube where you can watch the ships gliding by. Down the hill and past the disappearing village. This village is in a flood zone and was brought up by the Government. Each time you ride by another house goes. And the grass grows so quickly that it is soon difficult to see where the houses were. Below the whispering trees which reach down to tickle you. Alone the road and back home again.

2. You can visit the church which is always open during the day. An old woman will shuffle over each night to lock it. There is Roman font there which dates back to 1200AD which is where all children are christened.

3. If you take a metal dectector you can seach the fields for old Roman coins. This was the area that the Romans first settled in when they came to Austria before they realised that it was a flood zone and a bit useless.

4. Pick wildflowers or look for mushrooms or wild berries in the forest.

5. Sit in my backyard under the apple trees and watch the children play.

I will send this meme to Linsey Woolsey, Dreaming of Daisies and biglittlesister.

Thursday, August 14

How to easily part with your money

Living in my little village with two small children I have become a big fan of internet shopping.

No more darting around trying to look at clothes I most probably wouldn´t fit into anyway while simultaneously trying to catch my darlings when they decide that it would be so much fun to play chasings - pulling the clothes off the racks, scaring little ones who have just started toddling, losing themselves among the massess. Or the time when I needed shoes and turned away for 2 minutes to find that they had taken every sample off the shelves to try on for themselves - all laces undone and zippers unzipped (and where were the attendants when they needed to be stopped? They turned up quick enough to berate me!). Or food shopping where my 18 month old had manage to climb into one of those long freezer compartments and was throwing out the bags of fish. I was only around the corner running to catch her again and the cabinet was nearly empty already. Or when they decide it would be so fun to run around and put things into people´s trolleys without them knowing about it. Or the time at IKEA when they played hide and seek with me and crawled into a cupboard waiting for me to find them (nearly an hour). Or on the same day when they climbed into every made beds to see if they could sleep like Cinderella. Yes, I love shopping!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The other problem I find is that when I physically go out to shop I can never find what I need. In the first place I have to go to the city which is 30 mins away, then find a car park, which is about an hours work, then empty my wallet to pay for the car park, then finally go to the shop. And then when I get there, I can search and search and search but never find what I want.

I don´t know if it because Austria is a small country that the markets are smaller or if my expectations are unreasonable. The things I want are based on the groovy shopping I used to do at Paddington and Balmain markets, Newtown, Glebe, Oxford Streets and the one that ran off it (what is it called), the back streets around Sydney, Nicholson St, St Kilda, Brunswick, South Yarra, that groovy shop in Braddon and the ooddles of op shops where you can always find wonderful gems.

So I have turned to the internet. You can buy anything on the internet. I buy my books from Germany and England. Wool from Iceland and America. My coffee machine is from France and grinder from Italy. I brought half the fittings in my house from e-bay. I buy my children toys that you can´t get here. I search for original items from ETSY. It´s amazing. Most places I don´t even pay with cash or notice I am spending money. You don´t even have to do anything with the bank as most places just charge it to Visa and we have a deal that Visa is paid directly from our account. It is like when I play shopping with my children. It´s not real. I noticed more what I was spending when I had to give money out of my wallet. Now, the numbers are arbitary. It has become a dangerous hobby. Thank goodness that I have the gumption to check my account regularly to keep an eye on things........

Monday, August 11

my inspiration to write

I write my stories in my head when I am riding my bike. The wind in my hair, the endless fields, the wildlife that abounds. I become inspired. Thoughts that I have had during the day or the week go round in my head and I write it down while cycling.

Usually I take Sweetheart to kindergarten and put Herzie on the back and set off. We usually have a set route which takes us to visit the cows or the chickens and ducks. It´s not uncommen to see deers lazily wandering through fields, hares sprinting away, pheasants clucking importantly along the roadside. Herzie sits back and sings away to herself.

But we now have school holidays. Although we have a trailer where I can ride with both, Sweetheart is now big enough that she takes objection to being shunted off only for my benefit. Sometimes we can go for a ride with Sweetheart riding herself. But this is not the same as I have to go so slow. And when we do ride, both clammer to speak to me...... 'It´s my time', 'listen to me'. My time is spent as an adjudictor most of the time. And my head is no longer clear to think through my stories.

We only have 3 more weeks to go. As much as I enjoy the time together with my girls where we can be lazy and where I don´t have to yell at everyone to get ready in time and not just ignore what I am saying, where I actually get time to see them without having to run off for jazz ballet or aerobics or music or some other after school activity, where Sweetheart actually will come for cuddles and ask me to read stories, where both my girls seem to need me and appreciate me and want to be near me and talk to me constantly and show me everything.......... As much as I love this, I can´t wait until I get a bit of time (however little this is) for me and me alone. I´ve only waited 6 years.

Sunday, July 27

Babies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It seems that the babies are back in season. Everyone I know seems to either have just had a baby, is pregnant with one, trying for one.......... The magical sense of babies is drifting in syncronicity.

But not with me. I´m not going to be one who harangues lyrically about the mirth of pregnancy. I´m not the one who will have looks of rapture of my face as I explain that being pregnant was the most important and magical time of my life. In fact, for me, pregnancy was something to be endured in order that my children can be brought into this world.

My pregnancies were textbook cases. If the textbook said that you may get swollen feet, I got it. If the textbook said that you may experience indegestion, it means that I spent nine months waiting for the pain to go away. When the textbook says that some woman may experience nausea the whole pregnancy, that was me. My pregnancy with Sweetheart had me getting swollen fingers like arthritis when I went into the heat. And of course this was over the hottest summer in 50 years. With Herzie my belly was so big that I was unable to drive for the last four months as my feet couldn´t reach the pedals (and we live in the country which meant that I was isolated until my husband came home each day). Through both I had such exhaustion that was unshakeable. I had baby brain where I couldn´t remember anything. I had hormonal deficiencies which had me crying when people talked to me. I had to wear maternity clothes at two months and I didn´t have any pregnancy bloom, I just looked fat. My bones ached. My body ached. I waited for the end.

Then once you get over the pregnancies, the birth comes. Both my babies refused to come out. With Sweetheart I was 3 days late and had to be induced homeopathically as my waters had broken. (six hours). Herzie was another story. At 10 days overdue I refused to leave the hospital until she was in my arms (not very politely. I just sat and said I´m not moving unless it was to the maternity ward). I was induced. First with an infusion. For 5 bloody hours. No contraction, just aching pains. The fabulous midwife tried everything; homeopathic drops, massages on every part of my body, crystals, klangschale (you know those Tibetan bowls) massage, chanting, clanging balls, baths. To no avail. Then a suppository. Then the second. For 2 days I was in hospital being induced. F. went to bed at 10pm on the second night but I said that I was going to keep walking until the baby was out. Finally a contraction at midnight. Then another. I asked a midwife (another one) if this was labour. Most probably not, she said. I lay down. After an hour I asked for F. to be woken. They were busy and asked me to go myself. But I couldn´t move. At 1:30 am he came and I screamed for an epidural. While waiting for an anaethesist I was told that I couldn´t have any pain relievers (no such things as gas and air in the hospitals) as I was in the last stage. At 2:30 am Herzie was born. 5kg. Two and a half hours labour from first contraction to coming out. She is our last baby.

But I must admit, it wasn´t all bad. It is magical when the baby starts to move for the first time. And how they move when they hear particular music or when they hear F. talking. And when they are in your arms, it makes it all worth while. Not that I haven´t forgotten (unlike the textbooks which say you will).

Tuesday, July 22

In the Olden Days

When I left Australia, GST had just been introduced. No-one really knew what the impact of it would be, just that it was going to be a whole lot of trouble and extra work. The Referendum which asked if we wanted to stay a Republic had been held. Hey Hey It´s Saturday completed it´s last episode. Desperate Housewives was only something our mothers` thought about. Petrol was 0.66c per litre and life was grand. Every young family was working to buy their own piece of bricks and mortar and obtain that Mortgage. There were no stories about people bribing landlords so they can get a dark, greasy, one bedroom flat for their family of 4, just to beat the other 60 people lining up for it. Australia was gearing up for the World´s Best Olympic Games and those stories of all the homeless people being shipped out of Sydney was only an Urban Myth. This was the age of Fair Work Relations. Unions had an impact in the work force and workers had rights. The Australia was the Lucky Country and everyone was jealous of us and wanted to be a part of our Golden Dream.

This is my Australia. Australia is the country where the cost of living is low. Australia is the country of multicultural living. Every type of food is available in the supermarkets. It is a land of sunshine. Outdoor living. Weekends were bush walking, or perhaps a market somewhere full of creative arts and crafts and homemade foods. Most people have a University Education or at least a good job somewhere. You can do what you want to do without being subjected to necessity. My brother is pursuing his dream of being a film maker. People had good supportive friend networks. People were generally happy. Life was a beach........

The longer I am away, the more rosy my view of Australia becomes. I´m like those people who tell you about their favorite place to visit, but when you do you find the parks have been dug over for high rise buildings and the favorite restaurants are now McDonalds. I´m like those old people who can´t see that life has changed. Those who always see the world as it was 20 years ago. I realised after I recently met someone who was in Australia over Christmas last year, who told me that the cost of living was double of what it is here that I no longer know what living in Australia is like. 4 years ago the cost of living was half of what it was here. My idea about life in Australia is different to reality. But it has always been a way for me to cope by remembering the Good Olde Land. So I will continue to live in my dream world and think of this glorious country called Australia. I´m sure that in 10 years or so, Australia will be so perfect that I won´t be able to picture any problems. No problems with the cost of housing. No problems with rising costs of inflation. No problems with the rising costs of education. No problems with the power in the workplace being handed over to the employer. No problems with a lack of water or natural disasters. Just a land of perfection.

Sunday, July 20

Cultural Differences - Part 1

When I first came to Austria:

-Pumpkin and corn were for feeding the pigs with, not for eating (now can be brought in supermarkets).

-Potato can never be eaten with the skin on. It has to be peeled. Peelings are for the pigs (still the same).

-Vegetarian means taking out the meat in a meal. If you are in a restaurant, vegetarian options are frozen veges with a fried egg on top, or baked cambemert (frozen from the supermarket) (now a few more options, but not many more. This is a meat country).

-Instant coffee is only for putting in cakes. Thank god, as even the coffee machines on the station have freshly ground coffee in them.

-Tea means herbal. No Liptons here.

Friday, July 18

It´s hard to be sophisticated when toilet training

When I was younger, I always wanted to be part of the IN crowd. They seemed like they had so much fun and so many friends and always doing exciting things. I just wanted to be the same. Of course I wasn´t. Child of a migrant father, my head fulled with teenages angst and worries, never in the right place, wrong clothes, always saying the wrong things. I looked from afar, keeping busy in my books.

Then school was over. University was a time of `Finding Out Who I Was` (oh, is that what I call those years of alcohol usage and those blatant use of male anatonomy??????). I tried changing my clothes and myself. But for whom do I change? Do I change for the people I was living in college with? B&S afficiandos? Can I really `Beer Bong`like they do and drink until I vomit? Is this what I wanted to be? Do I want to be like the studious ones who have `Study Parties`and have sophisticated conversations? What about the intellectuals in the coffee shop? The cool groovers at the Uni bar? I wanted to be a part of it all. I felt like a chameleon. But give too much of yourself out and you end up with only pieces. It is always the constantly looking outwards and the desperation to belong. Scared of being on my own, alone. Not being true to myself or others.

Really, I think I was in training in becoming the perfect ex-patriate. Always being different to the people around you. Eat differently, dress differently, do things differently. Always the foreigner. But the longer I stay here, little bits adapt. I´m not Australian any more (was I ever?). But then I am not Austrian either. Being an ex-pat is the constant knowledge that you live on the outside.

Having children changes all of this. Fitting in is no longer a priority. Getting enough sleep is more important. Getting all the toys back into their places without yelling too much. Cleaning up vomit, wet spots on the floor, wiping faces, instigating the wisdom of Solomon. Making sure my children are happy, Making sure that when I leave the house I actually have clothes on, that they don´t have too many noticeable stains on them, no smears of face cream on my face (as who has time to look in the mirror), not too many grey hairs. I think it was picking up the poo that my daughter proudly made on the carpet (look Mummy, no nappy!!!!!!!!) that made me realise that it is hard to be sophistocated when toilet training. But then again, who wants to be. In my life I am truly happy. I worry about the important things (most of the time). I enjoy the small things. I know that I don´t fit in, but this no longer has such an impact in my life. I now just live.

Sunday, July 13

My Creative Need - Part 4 Knitting

I would love to say that I am a knitter, but in truth I am only a dabbler. I knit, but when you look closely (sometimes not even that close) you will see the miriad of errors. I started knitting about 5 years ago when Sweetheart was a baby. My cousins were all sporting babies with handmade garments, but alas my child was bereft. My mother has a jumper for my brother which she started and has not finished. He is now 30. My mother-in-law says she can only make socks. In men´s sizes. So I decided that I will learn to knit and do it for myself.

I brought a book which had the instructions at the bottom which you can look at while reading the pattern above. The first thing I knitted was an Intarsia pattern which I actually did well with only a few mistakes. I learnt, though, that when you change the suggested wool you can actually change the desired results. Mine I knitted in this lovely Alpaca wool (as here in Austria I am yet to find nice 100% wool other than this Alpaca wool which was on sale as no-one wanted to buy it. I brought up the whole stock in 4 different colours), but it was a bit thicker than the suggested wool which meant that we were unable to put it over anyone´s head. I keep it for memories. The next jumper I made for Sweetheart which actually turned out well, but she refused to wear it. From here came numerous hats, scarfs, and a couple of jumpers for me.

Knitting was wonderful as it gave me something to do while watching my children. They could play by themselves but needed 100% observation (my children are the types that try everything and find every form of danger). From knitting sourged my creative desires and fullfill these needs. Knitting was the panacea to the gaping hole that had been growing since I started travelling and wasn´t able to do much creatively. Knitting became my outlet. And my addiction.

I always have a knitting project on the go. Knitting now has been relegated to a night time activity as my life is fuller now than 5 years ago and I have other things to do during the day. Nightime (when not studying) means sitting and watching a DVD, a bottle of wine (a good Hardys at the moment) and a packet of chips. Things start out OK, but as my sobriety slips, so do my knitting standards. I have never been able to knit things with a complicated patterns, such as a lace, as my attention is constantly distracted with small children. My project for the past year are blankets for the girls I saw in a magazine. A patchwork of small squares with little hearts in the middle. Easy to knit. Standard pattern. Just don´t look closely as there is a multitude of mistakes (like my typing I guess). Advice for careless knitters like myself: knit in chunky wool as it is harder to see the mistakes.

Saturday, July 12

A warning to all Feminists

I had it all planned out before they were born. My girls (as I was sure that they would be girls) would be dressed in non-sexist colours. There would be no gender differentiation. They would be encouraged to explore all aspects of themselves, including the masculine tendencies to have no fear, be muddy and dirty, and realise that a girl can do everything a boy do can if they want to. I brought all the feminist story books such as Princess Smartypants and The Paperbag Princess. They will have tractors and trucks as well as toys such as dolls to encourage role playing. I did not buy any Barbies which suscribe to unattainable notions of beauty for women. My girls would be brought up to value education and learning, books, the beauty of nature and life, creativity, honesty and sensitivity. They would aim to be independent and not rely on another person unless they wanted to. They would be brought up to be able to have choices in life. There was no way it could fail with all this planning, could it??????????

As you can see, some things are out of your hands. If it doesn´t have pink or glitter on it, is not a skirt or a dress, my girls refuse to wear it. It held out until kindergarten for Sweetheart that I could influence her choices in a sense, but the power of peer pressure lost out. So quick does the second fall. My little Herzie was lost from the moment she could put her own opinion across. Glitter. Pink. Barbie (oh yes, guess what every girl receives as a present in this village). They play Princesses and Wicked Witches. They play Fairies who are so beautiful and need to be rescued by Princes. Sweetheart insists that she has to be the Princess as she has the most pink dresses and a Princess has to be the prettiest. They play Weddings as everyone has to get married and have lots of babies and stay at home until they work in a supermarket (and unfortunately Sweethearts favorite game is McDonalds. Guess what else she is deprived of?) Herzie is an expert in putting on lipstick (age 2). The dress-up-princess-dresses are so glamorous they must be worn shopping, to visit friends in, birthday parties. Where did I go wrong? I think my mistake is thinking that children can be brought up with the strongest influence being within the home. Maybe some day they will realise the values I have instilled, but in the meantime, I live with my two Princesses, who I love to pieces.