Saturday, 27 December 2014

Culture, this year.

This year I have really learned to appreciate different cultures. This occurred to me as we drove home from dinner with my brother's girlfriend's Greek family. The meeting of the families is the prelude to him "putting a ring on it".

I've always had a curiosity about where other people come from - both their family origins and their opinions. This has increased this year. Perhaps the PhD study has really taught me to not assume anything and ask "why" and "how" without judgement. Perhaps its that thing about getting older; it is not that you know more, but that you appreciate what you don't know.

So with a belly full of Greek food lovingly cooked up by the Greek mother in law, and a head full of red wine, I started thinking. I have travelled extensively, but the memories I cherish are those where I have had a meaningful personal exchange with somebody of a different culture.

Sri Lanka - Meeting a Muslim family, being presented with beautifully wrapped gifts of tea. Seeing a traditional Dance.

Turkey - great family-style hospitality in the hotel, with the staff teaching me Turkish words. Getting scrubbed by a big strong Turkish lady in an Hammam. Hearing the strains of the call to Prayer from the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.

Singapore - meeting up with my "Singapore family" - the mother and sister of a dear friend of mine. We are the "Ang Mo" family. Ang mo literally translates to "redhead" and is the colloquial term for whitey! I now send text messages to my expat Singaporean friend in "Singlish".

I treasure having friends and adopted family who hail from overseas. It was such an honour to be invited to a friend's Sikh wedding, in a Gurdwara. The reception was held in the Grand Hyatt, but there was Indian music playing on the dance floor. The Bride's mum sang her daughter a traditional Punjabi song, which moved everybody to tears.

We had a dinner with my fella's PhD student's family, from Thailand. They were so proud of their daughter for getting a PhD, so proud of their cuisine, and so grateful to my fella for supervising. They bought wine and cake for the occasion, and took hundreds of "family photos" with us. They insisted we visit them in Bangkok.

Last night, our family finally formally "met" with K's family. This, as I mentioned, is a traditional prelude to betrothal. It was warm and exuberant and we had a wonderful time. My knowledge of 5 words of Greek made them improbably impressed.

So this might all sound a bit twee.

It just makes me really sad when I see, increasingly, xenophobic views being legitimised. The filth that spews from people's mouths (or facebook accounts) in the wake of what we saw in Sydney. It makes me think that people like that really have no experience with people of other culture. I have had a lot of experience with people for my years, both in a private and professional capacity. I can say that the vast majority of my exchanges have been positive. Not all of them have been pleasant, but these less pleasant episodes are instructive.

Off to enzed tomorrow, to see the Fella's family and then do some outdoorsy stuff.

I braved the sales yesterday - I was quite restrained. Got me a new pair of running kicks at 30% off. Also scored a necklace I had my eye on for less than half the original price.

I hope you have all had a great festive period. Hope your NYE is fun.

Have you bought anything in the Sales?
What are you up to on NYE?

Thursday, 25 December 2014

An exmas message.

Howdy, friends!

Just a quick post to say Merry Christmas to you. I hope that you had a lovely day, or at least managed to find some joy, peace and rest in it.

Last night, our family had dinner at Longrain. It was lovely and relatively stress free. My family did not do presents this year, instead being happy with presence.

The fella and I stayed at the Crown Metropol and started the day with a dip in the pool. We had some brekky at the buffet and headed home to the dog, who had been outside overnight. She was glad to see us. We went for a long walk with the dog, outfitted with matching fitbits. A quiet afternoon on the couch with champers, cheese and nap followed.

We have a big family event tomorrow night. We are doing the big meetup with my brother's girlfriend's family. He is likely to put a ring on it (16K worth).

Beforehand, boot camp, then off to brave the sales. I have a shopping list in mind.

On Sunday, we are of to NZ for some time with my fella's family, some hot pools, some hiking and some kayaking.

In work news, I seemed to have scored an ongoing position with the place for which I am currently covering maternity leave.

Again, my very best wishes of the season. Stay safe. Drink the good wine (but don't drive afterward). Love youse lots. x

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Trying to make sense of it all.

This week has been a harrowing one, for Australia, for Pakistan.

We all know about the siege in Sydney. On Monday, Australia watched in horror to the same newsreel repeated all day. Operational tactics rightly dictated that there was very little information disseminated about the siege while it was in progress.

We woke up the next day to images of the police storming the cafe, terrified hostages running from the building, ambulance officers performing CPR. The shocking news that two hostages died. It was heartbreaking watching the news in the morning.

It has taken me a few days to get my head around things.

Basically, it was a bad man doing a bad thing. Bad men often have a rap sheet. There is talk about whether this could have been prevented if he were not out on bail. That's probably a very valid question. I can think of a few instances where bailed or paroled criminals have gone on to commit murder. We could be more swift to incarcerate, or at least watch these people more closely. I would imagine that there would be some logistical issues with that, namely that the jails would be full. We can't pre-emptively jail people before they have been found guilty. That may not even work.

This was an absolutely outrageous act, but fortunately, it is exceedingly rare, compared with most other countries. It is tempting to ask "what did we do wrong", but the better question would be "how can we continue to do right?"

Why is this sort of violent crime against strangers (as opposed to by a partner, that's a different kettle of fish) so rare?

We all remember the horror of the Port Arthur Massacre back in 1996. After the event, then-Prime Minister John Howard very swiftly acted to tightly control access to automatic and semi-automatic weapons. So that deals with the access issue.

We are a relatively wealthy country, and democratic. There is not the gross income inequality we see in North and South America, or Africa.  Nobody needs to commit crime to get enough money to eat or live. There are those who might wish to harm us as a country, and these people are stopped by our functional law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Fear and hate breed violence. We have our share of bigots and xenophobes, but this is counterbalanced by a large part of the community that believe that we do well if we embrace other cultures. Even if we don't embrace, we tolerate happily. We could have felt incredibly helpless as we watched the news on Monday, instead people took action and proclaimed hashtagillridewithyou. Love and compassion are the best antidotes to hate and violence, and we definitely took that route on Monday.

Short of pre-emptively locking up every sociopath, we need to keep up the good work we are doing, and ensure that the social checks are kept in place.

Now, the horrors in Pakistan. 141 people, mostly children, massacred in a school, by the Taliban.

I can't get my head around why anyone would do that.


Christmas is almost upon us.
We are having a family event on Christmas eve. Christmas day, it is just the two of us - members of my family have work or other events. We haven't had any invitations. I felt quite sad about that. I had been hoping that there may be a little one around to spoil next Christmas, but what will be will be, and hoping too hard will put too much pressure on things.

I have embraced the situation by reserving us a night in a hotel in the city for christmas, with a big buffet breakfast. Then in the evening we will drink wine and eat cheese. It will be a day of rest, we are both pooped. We are off to NZ after Christmas, and we are immensely looking forward to it.

The events of this week have reminded me to be grateful for the wonderful people that I have around me.

If we don't talk before, a safe and blessed festive period to you and yours.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Once. Sussan 10km fun run - Belated Report.

I am sitting on my couch, making a half-arsed attempt at chapter 2 of my thesis. It is nearly finished. But I handed in a draft of Chapter 1 a week or two ago! Wahooo!

In honesty I am feeling like I've been hit by a truck today. Really tired, a bit dizzy when I stand up. Was a big day yesterday.

Last night, we saw the show Once, which is a multi-award winning musical that I didn't know much about before, other than I had heard it was good.  The film (which I haven't seen) was from about 8 years ago. The story is set in Dublin and it is a simple, beautiful and restrained love story. The production was simple and pared back. The stage was set like a pub. The chorus/characters all sang and danced while they played instruments. This was not the usual highly produced musical. The music was a mix of exuberant Irish songs and love songs. The main song, Falling Slowly, has won an Oscar. Have a gander Here.

Those of you who are my friends on Crackbook will know that I ran the Sussan 10km fun run on Sunday. Click away now if run reports bore you!

I was up at 5:30, an ungodly hour for God's day of rest. I heard the rain falling heavily on my roof and pondered how the term "fun" run might not be applicable here. For five of the twenty minutes I had to get ready, I pondered how I might pike out of the event. However I was going with some other girls in my training group and I didn't want to let them down so off I went.

There were thousands of sprightly women crowded in St Kilda at that ungodly hour, waiting to start. We were given tribute cards to pin to our backs - it was a run supporting breast cancer research. It was really sad to see some of the tributes - mums, sisters, aunties, some of them having passed quite young. I felt acutely grateful for my good health, and had a surreptitious grope of my boosies to check there were no lumps and made a mental note to check them more thoroughly at the appropriate time.

I had not been attached to a particular race time, as I had just learned a new running technique and wanted to see how that might play out over the course of 10km. I focussed on form, and set out. I got to 3km and was about 2 minutes faster than my goal pace.

I did my usual mid run panic at about 4-5 km "I can't keep this up", but I kept it up, cheering on other women. One was running to celebrate her 40th birthday and had this marked on a cape and balloon she ran with. The rain was not too much of a problem, but the wind was a bit bothersome. However, we had a good tailwind on the final stretch.

I was feeling good after 9km so I picked it up for the last k, passing a few other women. I bought it home in 68 minutes, the fastest I had run in 3 and a half years and about 4 minutes faster than my previous run! My personal best time is 66:55, so I am not too far off chasing another PB!

I am certainly not about to break any land speed world records. Running, for me, is about learning to be happy with what I can do, not comparing myself to anybody else, believing in myself, and hanging in there when it gets hard. All good things for me.

We are on the fast road into Christmas, now. Next week will be the last full working week before the silly season. I have lots of events on.

Et Tu? How are you managing to find a balance in this frenetic season?
Any big events/things planned?

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Research Rage. Thoughts on Christmas.

Well hello there from under a new government!

Yes the libs took a bit of a hiding. Some commentators are saying that this wasn't a backlash regarding the federal budget and the electorate knows the difference between federal and state issues but I disagree. It was a retaliatory bitch-slap; I think Victorians, particularly the urbanites, are a more left leaning bunch than average. The Greens got a lower house seat and will get some upper house seats.

My colleague, a card-carrying Liberal party member, said that the recent Lib government did not achieve much. That says a lot, I think.

Having said all this I don't know how much better Mr. Andrews is going to fare, or how he will weasel his way out of the East West link palaver unscathed. I am undecided on the EW link, but believe that we need better public transport. The population has grown but the PT infrastructure hasn't really.

I would like to see the Ambos paid as much as their interstate counterparts, though.

Ok enough about that.

It's been a bit of a bleh week here. A few general stressors have come up, most of which I shall not bore you with here, and they are firmly in the realm of "first world issues".

But I will have a rant about this.

I put a paper in for a conference in Boston. I specified "oral presentation only", not poster. I don't really want to go around the world lugging a poster that I will stand beside and nobody will look at. It's a bit of a let-down.

I got an email on Tuesday - the bastards gave me a poster presentation. That just shat me.

I think of my research as kind of like my baby. If somebody does not give it the respect (I feel) it deserves, I become cross. Because a lot of blood sweat and tears went into it.

Also, it plays on the fear of "maybe it just isn't good enough".

Although looking at the program, all the big-shots with the big studies are giving the talks. I just have to suck it up and stand meekly beside my poster and hope somebody takes an interest.

Gotta have a tough hide in this game.

Aaaand enough about that too.

Last week I did 1 on 1 running technique session with a former Olympian, who did a video analysis of my running, and gave me some tips to improve. I am now running about, imagining a plank of 4 by 2 on my chest, and trying to hold it up. It's interesting. I shall be trying it out at a fun run I'll be doing on the weekend.

Christmas preps will be mercifully absent this year. My family have decided to go a "no presents" year, and we are going out together to a nice restaurant on Xmas eve. I still get the heebies going around shopping centres, and feel very overwhelmed. Even though Christmas is a more enjoyable time of the year now more than ever, I have memories of fairly sad Christmases, which I am shaking off. Keeping things simple seems to work. It will be great when (hopefully) I have a little 'un for everybody to spoil; Christmas really is all about the kids.

And what about you guys?
Share your rant here? Can be anything. No judgement here.
How do you feel about Chrissy? Excited? Nonplussed? Fearful?