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.