Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What someone should of told me at seventeen

You'll grow into your skin and into yourself. I promise. Years from now people will come to you with their insecurities and self-doubts like broken phones they want fixed because they'll see you as whole and brave and born-that-way. And you'll tell them you weren't, you aren't. That they should have seen you at seventeen. It is a continual battle between the waves of all your darker thoughts breaking on the solid shore of your beliefs and better self, you'll say.

There is a world bigger than the shots you take at the clubs you want to go to with the people you think you want to be with. Outside of the over-confident guys with the too tight t-shirts and girls you are jealous of because of their ability to attain the afore mentioned stereotype, there is a world of magic and wonder that will make everything else look paper thin and two dimensional. It is so wide that your mind's eye will not capture it in memory, so deep that you will fall giggling and disbelieving reaching for the floor. You will remember only with silliness the thumb sized club room you thought was the world before.

The right people are everything. You need to sift a little more. Be a bit more choosy. Remember that you are the company you keep. Make room for the kind that will be there when the photos aren't being taken and the conversation turns to something deeper than the puddle you like to see your reflection in.

Break out of your prejudice. Not everybody who wants to talk to a young filipino girl is or is becoming a creepy old man with a yellow fever complex. Not all the girls that don't look like you or talk like you are unlike, or vapid, or ignorant. Drop the paranoia, and even if it's justified, be civil. Being a bitch is unnecessary and does not mean you're strong, being mean is easy and that doesn't make you better it just makes you mean.

Read more non-fiction. Books from the real world do not all read like encyclopedias. They will kick-start a curiosity and awe that you did not believe could exist outside of the made-up.

Make up your own mind about everything. Challenge the definitions you were given even if you believe them to be true. Be open to the possibility that you may change. Be okay with life-long held definitions being scrapped and new ones be scribbled and scratched out dozens of times in their place. Don't feel ashamed or embarrassed about changing your mind - the shame and embarrassment is reserved for drunken ramblings in so-called spanish, losses in dignity you deeply regret and blanks in your memory that are filled in by friends who rightfully laugh the whole way through the story.

You'll have your turn. To be on planes over oceans, to have your tongue fumble over a foreign language, to fall deep into a search for purpose, to have your eyes opened to the light and dark of humanity, to be self-indulgent, to be selfless, to be challenged, to be reckless, to be loved, to discover the plethora of variations on what love is not, to decide what your life is going to look like and to dance your way there on a rainbow brick road fuelled by sweat and luck and gratitude and privilege and the incredible possibility of the universe that you will hold, twirling infinitely in your small brown hand.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Amiga, Amigo

Being an ex-pat in another country has all kinds of challenges. Learning the language, if you don't speak it. Learning the accent, if you speak the language. Making friends for coffee catch ups, dinner dates and much needed drunkenness. Meeting locals who will hang out with you sober and put up with your errors in grammar. Finding a place to live and people you can share a kitchen with. Figuring out what you're doing - whether it's volunteering or getting a job or just being the token gringo who goes to parties and hangs out while everybody wonders what it is you actually do. And saying goodbye to all the people you meet who are using the place the same way you are - as a kind of transitory life-experience factory.

That's been the hardest pill to swallow. The onslaught of Goodbyes. One of the things I'm learning over and over again is how to have people in your life and how to let them leave. How to separate the feeling that you want everything to last forever and the reality that there's always a closing scene before the next mini-movie of your life can begin. They say the decade of your twenties is the most transformative, we are all still delaying adulthood in different ways, changing jobs like we change hair styles, trying on relationships for size and not quite committing to anything one hundred percent. But people are the ones that attach themselves more permanently than most anything else. On the crazy spinning tea-cup carnival ride that is the decade of the twenties, there is the meeting of such an incredible volume of delightful characters and fast-friends that you will have trouble letting go of more than a job or a place or an opportunity.

That's the price to pay for all the spinning round, the dizziness when you have to take a moment to stop. In exchange for the two hour conversations at a cafe about whatthefuckisrealloveanyway and howdoesonehelpinanyrealsenseoftheword with the characters that pass through this city, in exchange for the fullness of a house of nine people plus those that seem permanently plastered on a couch or a seat at dinner - in exchange for this there are the bittersweet farewells. The wondering if, even though you say you will, you will really see these people again. The people that have formed the cushion of your life with every familiar question 'How was your day?' and 'What are we doing tonight?' It's that blanket warmth of community that makes it better when you get home tired after work, that makes you sleep deep after a night of drinks and stupidly hilarious laughter, that substitutes for a family of like-minded children who have not yet grown up all the way.

People are always the ones that steal your heart a little. Places in a different sense. Places in a way that is less real and more visceral. People in a way that has everything to do with conversation and small gestures as it does with shared experienced and the recognition of and admiration for the other persons deep and inherent awesomeness. Ain't no ship like friendship, yo. And it's always sad to see somebody else sailing away when you're the one standing on the shore but you get better, little by little, at letting people in and being okay with them leaving, letting go, letting go, letting go.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

These are the days that must happen to you

Skype conversations are a norm in my life now. I adjust to the fifteen hour time difference between Sydney and Cochabamba. I get home in the late afternoon to talk to my sister or my friend before they head off to work. I make time because these conversations have been the lifeblood of all my relationships. The conversations that are nothing but tonterias, the conversations that are all weight and depth, the conversations that are like wars of words where nobody wins but nobody loses because there's so much to say and it's been too long. All of these conversations keep me sane and give me a different sketch of reality to the one I drew myself. I talk to see my thoughts float out before me and be rearranged in so many different ways by the person on the other side. There are conversations that must happen to you, just as There are days that must happen to you.

A few weeks ago I had a long overdue conversation with my best friend. The conversation steered from recounting of recent events to present doings to the comparison of our past selves. Our past selves who would not settle, who would not sit down, whose dreams clawed out of us impatiently and always. Ghosts of then who would fail to recognise the sleepy faces we wear today. Past selves who would have covered their ears had they heard our conversation - We are not as ambitious as we once were. We do not want the whole world, just a small part of it. We no longer want to conquer, we want to nest. We do not want everything, anymore. We want less, but we want it more. 

What happened to us and the endless possibility that spilled in excess from our mouths at every turn we had to talk about the future? Days, weeks, months, years happened. Reality happened in the realist way possible. Dreams came true and achievements were reached and still the constant ache, the restlessness that did not fade. Problems, instead of being forgotten with the old clothes and ideas we threw out, simply stuck to whatever else we put on.

These are the days that had to happen to me, to us. The knowing that this is the way things are. There will never be a point on the graph of living years that signifies the end of change, of struggle, of figuring it out. The days where you realise that much of the events in your life cannot be controlled by you anymore than the clouds that move and flood and clear without warning or obedience to your sun-filled day dreams. The days where your heart bends to the point of breaking, is set on fire and begins to melt then dries rock hard into a shape you do not recognise. The days the events around you turn to swirls of dust that choke you because you are too slow or time is too fast. The days where you choose wrong, you do wrong, all the while entirely convinced of your rightness. The days where you crawl into a cave for a while to draw paintings and maps on the inside of your mind to try and figure out where to go from here, and when. There are a lot of these days, and although I fight it, I know they have to happen to get to other places and other days.

Listen! I will be honest with you;
I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough new prizes;
These are the days that must happen to you:

...
Forever alive, forever forward,
Stately, solemn, sad, withdrawn, baffled, mad, turbulent, feeble, dissatisfied,
Desperate, proud, found, sick, accepted by men, rejected by men,
They go! they go! I know that they go, but I know not where they go;
But I know that they go toward the best - toward something great. 


- Song of the Open Road, Walt Whitman

Monday, November 11, 2013

little people, big dreams


When I was still in high school I went to visit my dad where he worked as a prison officer in Sydney for over two decades. It was father's day and he was working, so my mum, my four siblings and I brought him a picnic lunch. The boom gates were busy, cars were streaming in and out and like so many other children of inmates, I was there to visit my dad. While we chatted happily, the visiting families were stoic faces with painted on smiles. While I waved casually bye to my dad other children's tiny fingers were uncurled from their father's arms, their cries hushed with reassurances of another visit. I was going to see my dad when I got home but those children with fathers on the other side of the wall my dad was working would go home to an absence that filled all the rooms.

Here in Cochabamba I work with children living in jail with their parents. The little boys and girls sleep in the same bed as their mothers and siblings, snuggling tight like jig-saw pieces on a single mattress. There are typically eight families in a single room, bunk beds and no ventilation. There are newly born babies that cry all night because they are hungry and mothers who frustratingly try to lull them to sleep because their prison diet cannot produce enough milk to feed their own babies. The women wash clothes and sell food to make money to pay for their own rooms, the men make furniture six days out of the week in hopes of gaining a little money to perhaps buy an extra blanket or even a bed to sleep on.

And yet the children I work with in CAICC, Centro Apoyo Integral Carcelario y Comunitario (Centre of Integrated Prison and Community Support) are like all children - incredibly amazing little people with giant smiles, golden hearts, limitless imagination and big dreams. These kids tell me confidently they are going to be doctors or teachers, they are going to come and visit me in Australia because they will grow up and learn english and have jobs and travel. They are not limited by their circumstances, they see beyond, CAICC makes sure they can get there. It's not just children from the jail. Some kids at CAICC are there because there parents work long hours or overseas or in other cities. There is no difference between the hearts or minds or dreams of the children, except that at the end of the day half of them board the bus and head home to their prison cell beds.

It broke my heart to visit the jail where these children lived and to see them run along walls and prison guards. It gave me courage to realise that these kids have a place to grow up in and out of the cycle their parents fell into. I have seen with my own eyes the sense of family and community that has been created by CAICC, its director, its two teachers, the cook, the bus driver and the volunteers that have come through before I came, during, and that no doubt will come after. The children have breakfast there, do their homework, muck around, do 'officios' such as cleaning the floor or setting the table for lunch. They learn responsibility, they learn routines, learn work ethic, have adults and peers to look up to, learn how to treat their friends, how to respect their elders and that the world is bigger than the prison they grow up in. They are part of a community and a centre of people who not only care for them but so desperately want them to succeed in life, and do their very best to ensure that happens.

CAICC however has a precarious future and they cannot continue alone. Just like the kids, they need support from all the networks they can muster. They need people to be their champions, as they champion the need for these children to have a better future than their parents. If you want to be one of CAICC's champions and support these kids and their futures the fundraising page is here! 

Because even the smallest dreams and the biggest people need people to back them up. And it is CAICC that supports these beautiful little people with their big and lovely dreams. Everybody gets by with the help of others and if you can help CAICC continue their work, well, that would be a dream come true of this little person.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Remembering in Potosi

Potosi is a city replete with legends, superstitions and nostalgia. Once the Villa Imperial and richest city in the world it is now forgotten by it's own president who, like so many who have passed through, promised but never delivered. Where is our international airport? No nos han dado nada an ex-miner complained to me.

Everything was closed for the feriado of Dia de Los Muertos so I spent Saturday afternoon watching Potosinos replace old flowers with new ones at the cemetery. Families sang songs, cried, made jokes and burnt tiny fires in front of the little windows donned with candles, photographs and inscriptions - 'Viviras eternamente en la memoria de tu esposa y hijos'. 

Remembrance and forgetfulness seemed to hold hands here and stroll along every worn out facade. The street signs bear the names of both the new streets and the names of the calles antiguas. The cerro rico is the same mountain sucked dry by the Spanish conquistadores, the same place where eight million indigenous bolivians died, where countless slaves were bought and brought over from Africa to have their lives taken for colonial wealth. It is the same place where still today thirty five tonnes of minerals are produced every month, where bolivians continue to work and live and mine.

My first impression of Potosi was a few months ago along a trip to Salar de Uyuni. We were just passing through but I remembering thinking no hay nada. Igual, I knew I had to come back, if only to see during the daylight what I missed that early morning in July. It was at dusk on the micro to the bus terminal yesterday night that I saw, and one could say believed, how this city was once one of the most celebrated in the world. The sky cast only shadows of the towers, arches, churches and the leaning hills. My mind conjured up parades, parties, corridas and all of the magic that wealth brings. The wealth just like magic disappeared in a click, a puff of smoke leaving the audience dumbfounded, unaware. Potosi is really two cities - one before the magician waves his hand and one after the swish of the cloak. Now you see it, now you don't.

And it was there that I remembered what it was that I had forgotten. That when you visit places you don't just see what is there now, you travel through time and through lives. Your imagination doesn't hold a candle to what is the story of the past. And I remembered, in Potosi, that the past is never really over - we are tourists not only of the where but also of the when. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Cochabamba


I live in a place called Cochabamba. Some of my friends from home call it 'bamba and some people here call it Cocha. This city, like everything about Bolivia to me, holds a wonderful sense of deja vu. There is something familiar here that contrasts so much with the novelty of Spain I felt only a few years ago.

Malaga was frivolity, ruffled fun, idle days, constant travel plans, a omnipresent sense of disbelief and an insatiable, hungry restlessness. Bolivia is a calm sense of real life, o sea, how life should be. 

My first love in a lot of ways, Spain had the effect of turning me into the eager, passionate and solipsistic adorer. I loved intensely and sometimes blindly because it was the first place I'd lived out of home, the first language I'd ever learned, the first time I travelled by myself and so many other novelties.

Bolivia, en cambio, has grown on me slowly and naturally. There is none of the butterflies, the surreal feeling that this is not my life, the hyperreality of being child-like again. It is the casual way I came to know this city and build a life here that reminds me of how far I've come from the glassy eyed kid I was when I boarded that plane almost three years ago.

It's true you associate places you've lived and cities you've loved with people who hold your heart and the person you were when you were there. Spain will always be a time capsule of a giant first love. Bolivia has turned out to be a reminder of how far I've come and how a second love, in the shadow of the first, may not be as big an explosion but will burn longer, illuminate more and leave you not dumb-founded but fully awake in its warmth.

To Cochabamba, to Malaga, to Sydney - to all the places you can love and all the ones that may come afterwards.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Everyday Bolivia

Some mornings when I least expect it I am woken up by the Bolivian 'call to prayer' - Pa-pa-ya, piñaaaaaa, pla-ta-nooooooo. A coffee coloured man selling yellow, orange and green fruit from a cart along my street. His voice stretches the words in deep nasal bellows that make the words sound foreign and almost incomprehensible.

On my way to work I walk past the university students, mostly my height, my skin colour, my hair colour. In contrast to my sun dresses and statement necklaces and feather earrings their uniform, despite the heat, is defiantly jeans and t-shirts. The girls have their proud manes of hair and the boys wear their short cuts styled according to their chosen 'look'. They stare at me back, noting the confusing combination of my coquettish show of legs and the boyish hair.

The micro is always interesting. It is a bus about half the size of the ones at home but twice as fun, owing largely to its red chinese-new year style paint job and interior poster pastiches of Che, Jesus, the Virgin Mary and random half naked American pop stars. I open the window despite the influx of car exhaust and dust and watch as the nicely lawned, if unevenly paved, Cochabamba centre becomes a little less trim the more kilometres we pass by on Avenida Blanco Galindo.

Cholitas hurry on with their babies on their back or toddlers in a vice-like grip in their hands, their colourful swags filled with goods they'll be selling that day. Yesterday the seat in front of me was graffiti'd with the words 'Evo Morales, Indio Culo' - referencing Bolivia's president 'Evo Morales - Indian/Indigenous Ass'. The micro music is never a varied selection and usually consists of my children's favourite songs with lyrics entirely inappropriate for six year olds. This makes up my everyday.

The first few months I was here I held an ambivalent curiosity towards my host city and country. I was interested in losing myself in it, escaping into the surface of a place and floating ignorantly on top as so many ex patriates do - and at once I had an almost ubiquitous feeling that I should be seeking out the heart of not only the city, the country but this continent. This continent of guerilla warfare and puppet governments, mythical revolutionaries and everyday coups, of poets turned presidential candidates and extensive pre-spanish empires that still baffle historians.

My everyday life has been my kindergarten education on Bolivia. I snatch glimpses into the poverty that skirts at the edge of La Cancha - the giant open air market that sells everything from baby chickens to hard drives. I furrow my brows with failed understanding when I hear comments from Bolivians I work with and have met who drop lines like 'There are too many indigenous people in Bolivia' and 'Before Evo Bolivia was completely united as a country'. I steal instagram shots of the political graffiti, laugh at the homage of Che Guevera in the main Plaza and follow the recent protest of mainly indigenous Bolivians through the main streets of Cochabamba.

As a foreigner in any country there are many puzzles you could choose to figure out. Some only arrive at familiarity - a favourite cafe frequented on weekends, a vendor of strawberries where you have planted your loyalty. Yet there are always other more complicated puzzles to make sense of, ones whose shapes and patterns might not be apparent at first; kaleidoscopes whose rainbow colours serve to distract from the harsh angles and warring pieces of society, of history, of politics, of race and class that signify something more than a beautiful escape for a foreigner if they were willing to see more than the surface.

Four and a half months into my stay here and I am finally begin to scratch, to dig, to see what I was perhaps too busy enjoying myself to care about initially. This remarkable city that brought down a transnational company, this country whose president so cheekily and sincerely gives the finger to the USA, and this continent that breathes heavily and fiery in a way that I can't believe I have only just begun to pay attention to. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

You are still here


Youth is such a good liar. It tells you that things will last forever, that you will always look like this, that you will always feel this way, that you will live forever. But you don't - although youth doesn't let you believe that. Life in general does a good job of distracting you from the point where forever ends.

Death on the other hand has a sure fire way of reminding you at breakneck speed how sharp that point can be. Every time somebody I know passes away I am suddenly, cruelly, throbbingly aware that I am alive and that they are not. Being truly alive is an almost death - one that is not your own, or one that could have been your own; a too close encounter, an almost, a could have been. Your veins pump searing hot adrenaline that burns the thought I am still here, I am still here on your mind.

And that is the only truth sometimes. Everything else cannot be trusted. I think of all the people I know that are no longer. How their memories and words and laughs live on in photographs framed on bedside tables and flowers laid too quietly on the ground. The photographs I have are not precious enough to be framed, I have never had to lay flowers on the ground.

So I think of those who I am scared to be alive without. I think of all the parents of friends who aren't around anymore to embarrass them on facebook or worry if they're feeding themselves okay and combing their hair before they leave the house. And I remember my parents are here still to like everything I do on facebook and worry if I'm feeding myself okay and combing my hair before I leave the house (Yes I get fed Dad, No mum I don't comb my hair). I think of class mates and neighbours and people I barely knew or not at all who were my age. I think of their parents who never had and never will have the chance to do that. I think of how their kids will never be older than thirteen, seventeen, too young, too soon. I think, I know, I feel how alive I am - how alive everybody is in my life.

Because that is it and I don't ever want to forget it. The YOLO people have it wrong, I'm with Moliere - 'We die only once, and for such a long time'. But we're here now and that is it and that's all we have, that's all I have. To be here even if it burns you, even if it makes you sick, even if you are here and alive and somebody else is not. To be here, to live, to know what that means.

You're still here,
You are still here,
You still are,
You are here. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Up Up and Away

Last week I went paragliding. I've always had dreams of flying, swimming in the open air like a seal rather than a bird. Doing tricks and spinning round and moving my arms in big goofy strokes to get higher to the clouds or closer to the ground. While I was up there all I wanted was my instructor to shut up for a second with the small talk so I could just let my mind float away the same way my body seemed to be. Weightless. A part of the wind and so far away from the grid of life below my feet. I could have stayed up there forever.

When you're in your own world it becomes hard to see anything outside of what you're living. Sometimes you forget there is more to life than what you're living day to day. Our minds are hardwired for autopilot, to cruise along without learning how to drive stick shift, without being able to control where we're going or remember where that was exactly. That's how I get sometimes.

I forget how awesome my problems are, how great the mess that is my life is. I forget how much I love that mess and making that mess and how beautiful and brilliant messiness can be. I get so absorbed in the automatic instinct that I should be cleaning up, putting things in their place and making life tidy and resolved that I don't take a second to let myself enjoy it - the knocking things over, breaking rules, the incompleteness and uncertainty and playfulness of being alive. I forget how much better everything looks when you're floating above it, when you let the mess zoom out beneath you and melt from jagged pieces that don't fit to some abstract pool of dotted art.

Being up so high is addictive because you see everything. You see that there are far worse things in the world than what you are immediately feeling, than being indecisive, insecure, confused. You point out your problems from the air like a signpost on a map and see how easily you can get from A to B to the lightning bolt realisation that Your Problems are Problems People Would Kill For. They are where they should be, firmly beneath your feet. It's so easy to lose perspective and it may just have taken jumping off a mountainside to remind me to shut the fuck up sometimes and just enjoy the process. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Real Talk



I can't write when I'm unhappy. Generally speaking my words are always twisted by my own hands into a shape I want the world to see. Rainbows and lollypops and grace dancing on a couch. I detest negativity and negative people. I abhor depression in all its forms, culminating in my dislike for winter.

So little accustomed to not soaring amongst the clouds of lala land, I don't know how to be when my wings are clipped a little, when gravity is hugging me a little too tight, when I am descending. I fight it, I hate it, I push against it. In short, I refuse to be unhappy.

This doesn't work out for me so well. I forget to recognise that anxiety and sadness and confusion have their uses too. I miss out on the meaning of these moods because all I want to feel is good. And blind to all things golden I don't realise that unhappiness is not A Bad Thing.

It's okay to wake up some days and not be bursting with smiles and good mornings. I'm allowed to be down, as obvious as that sounds. I have to remind myself of all of this. I shouldn't have to apologise for not burning up with my usual inferno of loud mouthed laughter. I don't need permission to be conflicted. It's okay to be a little sooky sometimes.

I have to write this down because otherwise I won't believe myself. Everybody has to give themselves permission to be wholly who they are, every shade and point on the spectrum. Even the tones they'd rather not be aired live. The not-for-sale face that is reserved for days you do not leave the house. The way you are when nobody else is around.

The truth is that sometimes I'm unhappy. Sometimes I am stalked by doubt and insecurity. Sometimes I can't get to bed for hours because there's an angry mob of unhappy thoughts that swarm my sleep. Sometimes I blindfold myself just so I won't have to see the natural dark around me. Sometimes I get a little crazy, a little sad, a little unhappy. And that's okay. It's fine. It's allowed. I'll allow it. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

spring

You and I run in one season
songs sung in the same keys
out of tune and out of time
rock and roll was never you and me

we rock, we roll, we roll, we roll
kids spinning in cocoons down a hill
because the world would be too real
if we dare stand up, stand still

spring is our season
that of greedy youth
where everything must be
christmas time new
even though the tingles
and midnight wakes stopped
too many decembers ago

it is the time to bottle butterflies
and other uncatchable pretty things
putting your ceaseless want into a jar
and wondering what it means

winter autumn summer are nothing
but the sleepy dream of spring
where the days deal in do-overs
where the clock strikes lightning
where the night is held at arms-length
as if to say no, not yet
we're not ready for you

spring is the real purgatory
the invention and rebirth of us
you and I, into a million different wrongs
trial and error, try it and err or

maybe tomorrow
when we have grown into our resignation
maybe tomorrow
when we wake bleary eyed from the lethargy
of too many dreams

maybe then will come
the end of this eternal spring
when we will know what we want
when we will want what we know
when we will have what we want
or want what we have

maybe then our want will
blister first in the sun
and wither then in the cold
and perhaps at last, at last
we'll have got what we want
and have grown old

grown old of being young
and tired of forever spring
got over rolling down hills
without seeing anything

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Home

"You are only free when you realise you belong no place - you belong every place - no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great."- Maya Angelou

What I would do to fly home for the weekend to see my friends and family. To talk loudly in restaurants and over each other, the stories tearing out of me and bouncing off the walls. What I would do to be able to sit at all our favourite haunts and be those people that are there long after the food is gone, the people who are nestled together in an impenetrable barrier of noise, the people who the waiters have to eyeball and give the check to so they know they'll have to move the conversation elsewhere. I want to be part of those people again. My kind of people.

And then I would fly back home, well, my other home - here. To settle back into my routine, to see all fifty or so of my kids again, to walk by my senora that sells juice, to chat to my milkshake lady, to open the gate to my house which is guarded by the dumbest (and I write that somewhat affectionately) german shepherd you will ever meet.

Or maybe I would go and visit all of my other people. The ones I met here and in Spain and travelling and back home. My people who are still a whole hand stretch away on the world map, who are equally as far in all directions away from where I am. Friends whom I haven't seen for years, the first flat mates I ever had in Spain who made me bloody marys and cracked open my mind, other students from France and Germany and Poland, we'd gather in a tiny tapas bar and converse in stilted, accented Spanish. Friends who I only met a few months, weeks ago and for whom the missing had already started before they'd really left, back to LA or Sydney or Philadelphia or New York. People who left me with the stiff resolution that, beg borrow or steal, I would get to see their faces again somehow. And other people who don't fit neatly into any box I draw, they're the overlapping shaded part of the venn diagram. All my kind of people from random encounters that couldn't have turned out better if they were planned.

I already know, without having to visit, that it would be like home. That they'd quickly show me where they live and what they're doing now and it'd be as if somehow time stopped and we were immediately back in that space, wherever it was, when we met and became friends.

Being home and away just means your chest has a steady, slow throb for everyplace and no place at all. For all the places your people are, all the places you met, all the places they are now and are going to go. Just like time, geography means my head and heart are often so divided - my skype dates and emails and facebook inboxes are exchanges between Europe, Australia, the States, Asia and those who are scattered amongst South America too.

Sometimes you have to carve out a home for yourself, whittle away at the unfamiliar until you have something you made yourself. Other times home forms itself around you, sticking to your clothes like the smell of a bonfire after a night of making smores. Mostly it's to do with people, your kind of people in your kind of place that nod their heads at you affirmatively in a way that says 'you belong here'. As long as you've got your people you'll always belong somewhere, even if that is everywhere and no one place forever.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Yesterday, today, tomorrow

It seemed like yesterday my cousin was leaving to live in Barcelona, my best friend was graduating with me in Sydney, my friends and I were reminiscing about that time we lived in Spain. Today my cousin is back home after over a year away, my best friend is living indefinitely in Shanghai and my friends are in between coming and leaving Sydney for Thailand and New Zealand and Spain once again.

And me? I'm here in Cocha, really being here in Cocha, not on buses every weekend or plans on plans to go somewhere where I am not. Occasionally though I find myself slipping between the portals of yesterday, today and tomorrow.

I think about the past because it was and is so golden. I get to scrap book images in my mind, culling the tiresome moments and framing all the too good to be true times. The what happened then sucks you in because it is a sure thing, you make it a solid wall to lean against when the confusion of the future or the frustation of the now has you wavering and unbalanced. The past won't let you down. You reconstruct it with all the nostalgia you can muster, the magic photo-shop brush of your imagination and the conjuring of all the places and people that are no longer. The past is all the nights you stayed out dancing until your eyeliner ran and the sun rose, the conversations and connections with strangers and friends whose words stay with you and echo in your mind and all the travels that made dots on a map come to fleshy, breathing life. Yesterday never looked so good.

Then there's tomorrow, the promise, the great perhaps of calendar days soaring past. I fall a little in love with the future too, mostly because I imagine it bigger and grander than the past. While yesterday is comforting glory, the future is pure adrenaline, thrilling and limitless possibility. In the future I can speak to my parents in their native tongue, I speak spanish still and maybe Portugese or Arabic too, I talk about my job with eyes lit up and work like there's a fire lit under my ass, I've lived in the Philippines and all over Australia and perhaps again in Latin America, I have fabulous dinner parties in a small but awesome apartment that is decorated with souvenirs I've bought from India and Bolivia and Mongolia. I can afford expensive imported Chilean wine and treat myself to fancy eco-hotels when I travel, I have a garden where things don't die, I know how to cook in the way that means you don't follow a recipe and I have a room with wall-to-wall shelves full of books that make me feel smarter than I am. It's all my ambition and dreams melting together. The future couldn't get any better.

Though as good as being a tourist in Yesterday and Tomorrow is I've made peace with where and when I am, today. Here, now, today in Cochabamba where I divide my time between children who teach me more than I teach them, where I roll balls of bread while I listen to music in the bakery, where it is almost watermelon season and the end of papaya season, where I am trying to make time to finish my online course in Community Development and where there is always a shared dinner, a new volunteer, an old one leaving and my heart that is constantly being tested and told to open up, again. Today where I am in Yesterday's Tomorrow and Tomorrow's Yesterday. Today where I am as equally far away from where I used to be and where I want to be. Today where I am exactly where I need to be. There's nothing more real than now. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

All of the Good Byes

When you live in a place where people come to volunteer or travel or visit sometimes it feels like all you ever do is say good bye. Every good bye turns into a 'see you later', a softer parting full of hope that wipes away the cynical thought that maybe you'll never see each other again. Though the possibility is still there, maybe you'll never see each other again. Even the dim wish of a few years time can feel like never. So you just give thanks because that's all you can do. That's all you should do, and remember that despite the odds it's never 'adios', always 'hasta luego'.

Part of me thinks that I should
freeze the way you make me feel
and store it up for when it's no longer in season
When I can't find it in the produce section
in the supermarket and
when I'm choking on the foreign
air of a distant city

Part of me thinks that I should
freeze the way you make me feel but
will I be preserving anything more
than the taste of a ticking clock?

I want you
and your impossible, rare flavour
I have made a lover of planning
I resent the word 'time'
(Now that it is preceded by: we just
met at the wrong)

Don't you
You and your impossible, rare flavour
find it interesting that,
after a lifetime of timing
your hand found my waist
and my watch stopped?

from here

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Welcome to the other side


This is the part where you feel like you are exactly where you need to be, doing exactly what you need to be doing, exactly where you need to be doing it. Contentment is a stranger when you're so used to going to bed with restlessness and dreams on dreams on unlikely dreams. There is no "If I was there... ", "If I did this...", "if only...." because the great perhaps has come to fruition and you are living out all of the two toned hypotheticals that kept you sane and staring out the window when other people's expectations were calling your name. You've come to it. Welcome to the other side.
How else can I explain now but with this poem?

So Much Happiness
It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.
But happiness floats.
It doesn't need you to hold it down.
It doesn't need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
it too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records…..
Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

On my mind

Excerpts and links from the articles I liked best this week:

This is what I mean by time warp:

"We construct the experience of time in our minds, so it follows that we are able to change the elements we find troubling — whether it’s trying to stop the years racing past, or speeding up time when we’re stuck in a queue, trying to live more in the present, or working out how long ago we last saw our old friends. Time can be a friend, but it can also be an enemy. The trick is to harness it, whether at home, at work, or even in social policy, and to work in line with our conception of time. Time perception matters because it is the experience of time that roots us in our mental reality. Time is not only at the heart of the way we organize life, but the way we experience it."

In case you're looking around and thinking everybody is better than you - wise words by Marianne:

"Jealousy, says Pinkola Estes, is a many armed monster that ranges over the earth looking for vulnerable people. And we are vulnerable when we forget that we don’t all have the same pathway. We are vulnerable when we want the treasure without being willing to pay the price"

Advice to young people on being on your own  :

" I think I’d like to say only that they should learn to be alone and try to spend as much time as possible by themselves. I think one of the faults of young people today is that they try to come together around events that are noisy, almost aggressive at times. This desire to be together in order to not feel alone is an unfortunate symptom, in my opinion. Every person needs to learn from childhood how to be spend time with oneself. That doesn’t mean he should be lonely, but that he shouldn’t grow bored with himself because people who grow bored in their own company seem to me in danger, from a self-esteem point of view."

And for a change an article on Asylum-seekers in Australia that doesn't make you lose your faith in humanity

''This has helped my idea of breaking from the welfare model. I had been feeling responsible for Ali. I was buying into the crisis. I had forgotten that Ali is a very resourceful man, far more resourceful than I will ever be. The experience really taught me I am not the solution; I am a person to support these people finding their own solution. And again, most of them are more educated and skilled than I will ever be. That is what keeps me in the job now - people like Ali, and the understanding that anything is possible with people who have that kind of dedication and resilience.''


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Un momentito


I feel like I'm living in a time warp. We are all the lost boys of never never land who have forgotten where we came from and where we are supposed to be going next. Our lives exist in a vacuum of life-changing events and momentous adventures that never cease. You cannot live here in a way that is half hearted, it is in your face, takes all of your breath, is relentless. A moment is a lifetime and a lifetime is a moment. Events squish together, drowning you in epic memories that you can't believe are real.

And people leave and people leave and people leave.
The bad news is that nothing lasts forever.
The good news is that nothing lasts forever.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Only here, not anywhere

Today I woke up and
thought the sky was the sea

It's too easy here
to play pranks on me

My eyes are,
they are,
they must be

because I look up and think
the sky is the sea

and the stars are tiny boats
flickering fireflies of a fleet
that sometimes race
across the waves
and burn but never meet

Only here,
not anywhere
I'd believe anything
you told me

because today I woke up
and thought the sky was the sea

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Maybe, Possibly, OK why not.

I want to go everywhere and see everything. I am getting have always been greedy with my travel dreams and bucket lists. It's not enough that I've been where I've been or seen what I've seen, I want more and need more places and people and experiences.

My to do list expands and engulfs even my have-done lists. I am all exhausted sighs and hurried breath, longing for all the road trips I have not done and the places I have already fallen in love with that I am yet to meet face to face. I am spurred on by the people I have already met and the promise of everything they love already.

To go back to Europe again. To go to North America. To travel South America. To return to the country I was born and learn the languages of my own people. To learn Tagalog and Ilocano and Portuguese and French and Arabic. To get a real job in Australia. To do all of the things that I am dreaming of while being in the place I dreamt of being.

Restlessness. Possibility? Chronic dissatisfaction Possibility? Maybe, Possibly, Ok why not? 



Sunday, July 7, 2013

Politics and Colonialism in Bolivia

You can't be in South America without taking note of the politics. It's written on the cracked concrete walls and ties every westerner, whether they know it or not, to history then and what is happening now. The world is connected in ways that we don't care to acknowledge because they are not the advertisement mottos of 'staying connected' or the social media promise of facebook.

The silver from a small unknown town in Bolivia was used to construct the wealth of Europe for over a century and is now left with nothing but arthritic miners and cheap dynamite. How strange it is to think that my beloved Spain has such a terrible and gruesome legacy - hundreds of years of exploitation of raw materials, slave labour, extortionate taxes, restriction of the rights of indigenous populations and tyranny expressed through the repression of so many insurrections.

Stranger still perhaps to acknowledge the tumultuous nature of Bolivia and Latin America's relationship with the United States. The propping up of dictators, the beyond violent war on drugs - a first world drug and a third world problem - the long history of the hard line neo-liberal policies imposed by American run institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and The World Bank. Most recently the heinous detaining of Bolivian president Evo Morales in the search for Edward Snowden. Yet this history is intertwined with non government organisations, aid from the US (not without its controversies), volunteers, journalists and writers who seek to right wrongs and to see with clear eyes what is happening, what has happened.

It is these dichotomies in every country that exist just as in Australia. There are always dark chapters, there is always history sitting in a chair in a dark corner waiting for us to come home to reality after a night of light heartedness and oversight.

I am caught between my love for spain and my loyalty springing from my recent residence in Bolivia. It was only years ago that I so fell in love with the beauty and history of Europe and only now that I come face to face with Latin America, Spain's biggest ex-colony whose passionate and lively spirits were broken and forced to build the empire - an empire that has long since fell and a Spanish economy that is now in recession.

Bolivia, having such a distinctly colourful political and colonial history, now stands with another term of its first full blooded Indigenous president Evo Morales. And while back in Australia the Labour party has just voted to change the leader for the ex-leader who the now ex-leader ousted only a few years ago, just a few months shy of an election (pause for effect) - it still pales a little in comparison to the 200 attempted coups Bolivia has had in its political history.

I am drawn to the connections here between the past and the present, Europe and its colonies, Spain and South America, the Philippines and Bolivia, Australia and the United States. The present has so much to do with the past and there is nothing to do about history other than to learn from it, to delve deeper, to discover the riches that all the mistakes and events and heroes and villains from the past have to tell you. A cheat sheet that we still get wrong, that somehow we still choose to ignore. The present perhaps is just the freedom to make our own mistakes, to paint history with a different brush, a new style with the same old materials. People, power, politics. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A day in the life of

There are good days and there are bad days where I work in Bolivia. There are good days in the bad days, and there are bad days in the good days.

I'll grin stupidly to myself when the kids tell me stories that make no sense, when they ask me what their names are in english, if they have cars where I come from and how come I have no hair. I'll laugh out loud when they say 'sayonara' to me even though I'm not Japanese, when they ask me silly questions and I give them silly answers, when we're playing games or when they want me to sing or play or push them on the swings. Those are the good bits.

I'll bite my tongue and blink back tears of frustration and anger when the afternoon rolls around, one kid is crying because some other kid hit him, the kid that hit him is yelling that it was because the kid who is crying hit him first, the other kids in the room are chanting and screaming and running around and dobbing on both of them and none of them are doing their homework and nobody is listening to my fumbling spanish commands to be quiet, to calm down, to stop crying and screaming and yelling and hitting and to just, pretty please, stop. Those are the not so good bits.

It's hard to measure the value of the work that you're doing when it is something that is meant to inherently add value to somebody else's life. It's easier if you work in the corporate world or a part time job where your KPIs, your monthly reviews and the contracts, projects or sponsors you get provide validation and a clear measurement of success.

A good day is when all the kids get their homework done and we get to play at the park or on the swings in the backyard. My only measurement is if there are more good days than bad days. If somehow I can learn how to make bad days good, if I can make everyday a good day, or even if I can just make it to work everyday - even if it is just for the little ones that run up and hug you as if you were the most special person in the entire world and they had been waiting all day for you to arrive.

That's how everyday begins; it never is a bad day with good bits, just a good day with bits that aren't as good as that. You can't compete with the pure affection of a child who thinks you are the bees knees and maybe that's more the value that's been added to my life rather than any homework I can help them with anyway. That was today anyway, a day in the life of..

Monday, June 10, 2013

Bolivia

Sundays are the best days to walk around Cochabamba. You don't have to risk your life crossing the street because the flood of cars, micros, trufis and motos is replaced with a slow trickle. You see people walking the few dogs that aren't the strays that run the streets and lie baking in the sun all day. You can stop and take photos of the graffiti that is almost always about politics or love. You can walk unencumbered by crowds because the Cochabambinos are having their weekly holiday. The only downside is that there are not the cholitas selling freshly cut papaya and pineapple on every corner, they are taking the day off.

The life style suits me here, the weather and the city that feels more like a town is so much of what living in Malaga was like. Mild winters that seem only to bite with cold right when the sun is down or right before spring arrives. Living in the centre of the city means you can walk to the markets to buy any of the fresh, organic produce. You can walk a block and buy hot empanadas, salteñas or choripan from the street stalls.

It reminds me of the Philippines too. La Paz was like Baguio City, high up in the mountains and cold even during the day. The cobbled and concrete hills, the power lines that hang in fat bunches like jungle vines, the fresh bread sold on the side walk. Maybe because of all of this or perhaps because it seems like the natural course of things, it quickly feels as if I have been living here far long than the few days it has been.

Things have changed, things have stayed the same. I am not as skittish, I do not act as viscerally as I did in Spain but there's also the familiar experience of arriving somewhere new. It's been over two years since that winter I arrived in Malaga and it's winter here now that I've arrived in Cochabamba. A new beginning to a new anecdote "When I lived in Bolivia....".

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Buenos Aires

Walking around cities for the first time has always been an ambivalent experience for me. I am drawn at once to the main streets crowded with people and the empty lane ways that seem to promise some obscure and dangerous perhaps.

After travelling europe I came to the realisation that I didn't care much for cities themselves. The draw card was the people, the teams and crowds and suburbs and sky rises full of people who had come to live squashed over each other in giant grey lego blocks with tiny cut out windows and views that mostly led to other tiny cut out windows of giant grey lego blocks.

In cities you are anonymous, you blend it, you are lost. This doesn't happen in country towns or in nature in the same way. You can be lost in a forest by yourself but being lost amongst the wilderness is not the same as being lost amongst humanity.

You lose count of cars, cafes, people, apartment numbers - you cannot count them all. You are one among many, there is nothing special about you amongst these forests of people. Your reflection is barely recognisable in the windows of departments stores you walk past. Graffiti artists attempt to make their mark but it is always temporary, it will always be painted over.

Buenos Aires is like this. It reminds me of many cities, or just reminds me of what it is like to be in a city outside of my own. Travelling by myself I often find myself just walking around, trying to get a feel for it as if the cities subways and avenues could move me.

I spent a few hours meandering the main streets, listening to that unmistakable Argentinian accent that will always remind me of my friend's room mate back in Spain and our merciless teasing of his spanish. They say "vos" in the place of "tu", they say "aca" instead of "aqui" and their rhythms rise and fall as if speaking was a dramatic exercise in theatre.

Perhaps my favourite thing of my entire twenty-two hour stop over in Buenos Aires was perusing the many bookstores filled with Argentinian history, second-hand books, South American and Spanish poets, revolutionaries and so many ideas from all over the world - all in spanish. I'm not sure if it was because I was looking at the books in such a possessive manner or seemed so intent on scanning the shelves that I got asked twice:
"Vos sos de aca?"
"No, no soy de aqui"

"Are you from here?"
"No, I'm not from here"

Cities allow you to be anybody and nobody at the same time. Medianeras is a film set in Buenos Aires about exactly that. It's about living in Buenos Aires amongst its haphazard architecture, the detachment of living in a city so large and how connections with people can sometimes be so elusive. And it has a cute indie romantic comedy feel. What's not to like?



Saturday, June 1, 2013

Hasta Luego


“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colours. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” 
-Terry Pratchett




It's here, it's here, it's here! This morning I woke up in Sydney but tonight I'll be in Buenos Aires. The knots aren't twisting in my stomach but are somewhere in my chest wrestling with my better judgment and attempts to breathe. Deep breaths, deep breaths. 

Change, both self-induced or brought on by external circumstances, is inevitable. Yet it still makes my heart race, still finds ways to conjure up doubts and anxieties and the really fast thoughts that race by screaming whatareyoudoingwhatareyoudoingwhatareyoudoing... 

And you see everything you love in a way that is more distinct, more obtuse than the everyday blur. Leaving makes you see so vividly what it is that is going to be left behind. Friends you cannot possibly believe you will survive without, family that you cannot possibly believe you will survive without, food and drinks and home comforts that you cannot possibly believe you will survive without.

But somehow, you will because you have before and you will again. It just takes some remembering. Like riding a bike. whyamileavingagain is an old question you ask afresh every time you round the gates at the airport and stand amongst strangers in a queue for other places and new ideas and the beginning of something you can't predict yet. 

So here I am, saying goodbye for now. again. See you on the other side. 

x

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Before sunrise, Before sunset

The secret in that curve
the detour from the frown
apparitions of some forget-me-not
a postcard that returns like a boomerang
and hits you hard, curving, spinning
until it is caught on your lips
the shy outline of a smile
that holds the before sunrise
the before sunset
the before midnight
of a memory

glorious mirages of perhaps
a projection or a hologram
or a sketch that your desire drew
with dark shadows where the mystery lies
and quick, lascivious strokes
imaginings of love
the heirloom of so many
romantics past
whose ideas you plagiarise
and claim as your own
you are captain cook
and you have just discovered
a place to store the convicts of your heart
where you can unleash them from their chains
and brand your name on its earth

you and grace
grace and you
the name and never the lyrics
of that buckley song
that swedish guy sung
when you told him who you were

so you walk the lanes of your past
the alleyways where you exchanged
more than just introductions
or the verandah of rehearsed lines
that you still fell for, while you knew
you were falling

and the guy from the overnight train
who smuggled cartons of cigarettes
through borders, walked you quietly
to your hostel and said to drop by his restaurant
all day you dawdled past
the waiters and the cobble stones
and the tourists with their sunglassed eyes
hoping he would be there

no names now
no numbers now
just that boomerang smile
that hits you
every now and then
on a train
or in a lane
by an alleyway
and sitting on a verandah
when the hands rewind

before sunset
before sunrise
old time grows young again
behind those moonshine eyes

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Change it

Over two years ago, the beginning of the Christmas period in 2010, I first stepped foot in Darwin detention centre - a place where people who seek asylum (that is, have applied for refugee status but have not yet been recognised) are held in what is essentially a prison. The crime? That they wish to remain alive and have done all that they could to do so, to keep their children safe, their family out of harm's way.

The month-long experience of volunteering in that detention centre was one that, more than the entire year I spent in europe, changed my life. I had little awareness of government policy on asylum-seekers, other than the headlines that screamed 'queue-jumpers' or 'boat people'. I was familiar with the rhetoric, the fear-mongering of the major political parties and certain media outlets and yet, there was a piercing and consistent siren going off over and over in my head that I could not shut off. It was the alarm signalling a truth I knew to be true on the most rudimentary level - it was wrong.

For those of you not from Australia, you might not be familiar with our famous infamous policies dealing with a few thousand of the world's most vulnerable people who have braved wars and borders and treacherous seas to ask us for asylum. We lock them up, we send them offshore to other countries, we spend billions of dollars trying to keep them out of sight and out of mind. 

It's not all bad news, though. There have been innovative public awareness campaigns aimed at educating the public on the truth about seeking asylum versus the popular notions born of fear that many politicians and conservative shock-jocks cling to. There was Go Back To Where You Came From there was Dumb, drunk and racist there was Amnesty International's Rethink Refugees campaign and the fairly recent organisation Welcome to Australia's efforts that include rallies, consistent social media updates and the like. 

Despite this, the myths of illegality persist, the suspicion surrounding their right to be here becomes more entrenched and the fear - always the fear - of who they are, why they are here, what they want is fed by morsels of misinformation. 

It's enough to make me scream, to rant, to pull out my hair, to feel physically ill, fatigued and perhaps even apathetic. History can sometimes be the surest way to lose faith in humanity by seeing what lessons we refuse to learn no matter how many lives are lost in teaching it to us; on the other hand it can be the surest way to regain courage and take up arms once again by knowing that there are those who have come before us, frustrated with a change that seemed would never come. A change that did.

I remember reading somewhere that change is like molasses. Change can take a lifetime, a generation or even a few. So in times like these, when the current Labor government passes an immoral, irrational and completely absurd bill that only a few years beforehand they had fought against when the conservative Howard government proposed it, I remember that change is coming

It might not seem like it, the future may look bleak, hopeless even, but history was never made by those who decided that it was too hard, too long, too little, too late. It takes somebody everyday to stand up for what they believe to be right, in a million small and big ways, for change to be realised. It might be every day for twenty days, or every day for twenty years or every day of your life until it comes to fruition. 

Even then, there are many advocates, revolutionaries, change-makers that did not live to see the fruition of their dreams and us here who enjoy the results of what always begins as an idea of what is right and what is wrong.

Never give up on what you believe to be right, because one day history will prove to be on your side.


“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." ~Martin Luther King Jr 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Rolling Stone

It's hard to stay where you are when you feel like you should be somewhere else. It's difficult to face the fact that the resolutions you made a year or two ago may no longer be relevant to your life, because your mindset has changed, because you no longer have the will power or desire for the things you used to swear by.

When you "go away" for a while you come back and you are not fundamentally different, the world you inhabited has not undergone any metamorphasis. For my cousin who lives in Barcelona and my best friend who resides in Shanghai, the world of Sydney, Australia continues unperturbed. The same events, the same feel, the same circle of friends that will go on with or without them in it.

And so it is again this time round. I will "go away" for a year or two. And then I'll come back. And it will be as if I never left. Except that maybe I'll feel different and maybe act different and think a little different too. And I'll try and hold on to the difference as long as possible. Try to remember why I don't want to be the same.

You don't change the world, you change yourself.

Every time I go somewhere I come back determined not to lose the new mindset or challenging ideas or strong motivations that have led to a difference in opinion, lifestyle, behaviour, mentality etc. Change lasts for a while but everyday life is a tide you can't fight without getting worn down. You are the environment you are in, the people you live with, the food you eat, the clothes you wear. All of these, same or different, matter. You are the life you live.

So you have to choose wisely the life you have, where and when and who and what and why. And you have to be okay with the same or with different - as the situation arises.

I keep coming back to the idea of life in flux, out of grasp and unable to be set in stone, regulated, static. Things change, things stay the same. People change, people stay the same. Life changes, life stays the same.. and I gotta be a rolling stone. The inertia of movement that just keeps moving, not necessarily forward but not always backward yet always in motion.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Latin America


Nosotros, los de entonces, ya no somos los mismos.
Ya no la quiero, es cierto pero cuánto la quise.
Mi voz buscaba el viento para tocar su oído.
De otro. Será de otro. Como antes de mis besos.
Su voz, su cuerpo claro. Sus ojos infinitos.
Ya no la quiero, es cierto, pero tal vez la quiero.
Es tan corto al amor, y es tan largo el olvido.
Porque en noches como ésta la tuve entre mis brazos,
mi alma no se contenta con haberla perdido.
Aunque ésta sea el último dolor que ella me causa,
y éstos sean los últimos versos que yo le escribo.


- Pablo Neruda


I have a lot of words for Australia, a lot of love for spain and yet for Latin America I have nothing. or next to nothing. small, curious ideas of what it might be like that I already know are probably wrong and that aren't worth investing my imagination into. 

Before I went to Spain I had expectations and loud, flashy hopes of everything I wanted to happen. Some of them did, some of them didn't. Mostly so many things happened that blew all of what I thought was going to happen out of the water. 

So this time, I'm just letting it happen. Whatever happens, happens. Que será, será.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Australia



Say Australia to somebody overseas and more than likely their eyes will light up. We are far enough away yet still enough of a presence on the international stage for people to recognise the name and still find it exotic. The land of economic prosperity among so many recessions, the land of the never-ending sun amongst so many european winters.

Just as I fell in love with spain, people can fall in love with the idea of Australia. It's easy to do when you're a foreigner that has a home to go back to and is seduced too easily by the surface of what you experience living or travelling through another's borders.

Australia is not perfect, although there is a lot to be grateful for when compared to the rest of the world. We have never had our 'own wars', when our politicians disagree they shoot each other only with words, we have medicare, land to spare, job opportunities, support networks, a national disability scheme - the list goes on.

On the other hand, we have to confront the truth of ourselves as a nation, like any nation. We are not perfect and we need not suppose that we are. There exists racism, bigotry, xenophobia, moral panic, discrimination, a history of colonial genocide and the white Australia policy and today we see a morally bankrupt approach to some of the worlds most vulnerable people - those who seek refuge and asylum.

Yet I love Australia. I do, I love this country - even though there is still so much that I find enraging. Maybe that's why I find fault or have an aversion to patriotism because it treats the nation as a faultless entity and too often an excuse to act in ways that might not be deemed acceptable if it was not for supposed and all consuming 'good of the nation'.

I love this country despite its dark history and moody chapters that are too often glossed over still. Despite the shameful debates and policies that continue to discriminate, to withhold a recognition of other people as deserving and human as those that reside legally within the borders of this nation we call Australia.

I love this country, not because as any patriot claims of their country 'it is the greatest nation on earth' (to suppose greatness achieved implies a lack of imagination and a failure to recognise shortcomings, the many steps forward that are lacking) but because of its possibilities.

I am grateful for my right to vote and aware that it has not always been this way. A female asian woman participating in democracy was unthinkable only a few generations ago in Australia. I am happy just to be here.

It goes without saying that I will miss this place when I leave, but today I'm here and feeling a little bit sentimental about this big ole island and its tiny little specks of other islands.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Graduation Day





All the feathers in the world
are not congratulations enough
nor the champagne or 2pm tequila shots
that taste like so many end of essay thursdays
enough to conciliate the student within you
that can't help but ask, is this it?
once more, with feeling
is THIS it?
this is it?
this..
is..
it?

why didn't anybody tell me!
piece of day old cake
slice of life's jokes
knock knock who's here? there?
we're not anywhere yet
and that's the punchline

still, well, still
your day is a palindrome of
smile, sigh, drink, sigh, smile
a canteen sandwich of
drink, smile, drink
a morning tea routine of
sigh, drink, sigh

the future and all that
but first - champagne! 
and second and third and fourth
champagne!

the sentence of your life is punctuated
by these moments
a semicolon, a hyphen, an ellipsis
where you are waiting for the champagne
and drinking the champagne
and wondering, yet again, when is it time to drink champagne?

today, yes today,
is a champagne day
so punctuate it
with an exclamation mark
because the next mark is a question