Beware the Clowns – Donald Trump

[Update July 2020] And now we have COVID-19 Trump and it just looks like such a mess in America. The man talks foolish every day. He does himself no favours in the wider world. And while I know that he will have his supporters in the US, because we are all different and entitled to our opinions, hopefully many are ready for change – and that change may be Joe Biden. In my opinion, that seems like a bloody good idea!

{Update 1 September 2020} And the race is on to see whether America will vote Donald Trump back in – or take on someone in a new costume; statesman, not clown! I am always wary of commenting on the politics or culture of somebody else’s country, as I don’t have to live it. But as raised in the original article above, the POTUS is a world leader and therefore the rest of us have expectations. And the look for America is bad with Donald Trump at the top. 
Good luck to America and my friends in the American writing community. I hope you get who you vote for in November 2020.

{Original Post}
I’ve just finished reading All the Stars in the Heavens, by Adriana Trigiani and while reading it there was a scene where the protagonist (Loretta) and her friend were visiting Italy. This was in the 30s and Mussolini was the leader. Loretta, an American, asked the family what they thought of Mussolini? The reply was that the mother thought him ‘a braggart and no one takes him too seriously.’

Loretta said she’d been at a dinner party and a famous author she met said “Beware the Clowns.” The leaders who start out as jokes – people make fun of them, they’re caricatures, cartoons in newspapers and people decide they are harmless. Those men are the most dangerous. The day comes when they use their power against their own people.

Well, that struck a chord. I’ve been wondering for weeks what America (the few who come out to vote anyway) see in Donald Trump as a potential POTUS. It is okay that he’s a successful businessman – if it works for him whatever he does – then okay. Do they seriously think he’s the man they want to represent them to the world?

I first began to worry when he came out with his infamous comments about proposing to ban Muslims from entering the USA.

Trump Time Cover

A couple of days ago I was getting groceries and saw Time’s cover page and they used TICK boxes (see above) – bully (tick) showman (tick) party-crasher (tick) and demagogue (tick) with the box for 45th President of the United States (unticked). The man is a loose cannon and a hatemonger. The author/s of the article in Time (Australia) suggest that he is working on fear ‘… fear in the pit of millions that globalisation is a rigged game … Americans are the mark’.

He comes across as a bombastic buffoon and and a horrible person. It is unbelievable to me that he could even be a possibility to lead America and the world (because seriously, the American President does (traditionally) have that standing). Compare him to President Obama and it’s not just chalk and cheese – but I can’t think of a clearer way to express the difference here.

Obama is humble, intelligent and compassionate. He is respectable and respectful. He has ideas and ideals and seems to be a genuinely good person. He has tried very hard over his terms as POTUS to the do all he can for his country – and the reality is that he couldn’t please everyone. Also, as politics goes, to achieve much in the way of progress you need the opposite political party to be willing to cross party lines and vote for sensible policies. That is not the way of modern politics. There are so many agendas that a political leader has to try and work around, that it is amazing anything is achieved.

President Obama is a leader and a steady hand; a family man and a patriot. Mr Donald Trump ‘leads’ with bluster, babbling, bluffing, bullying and stirring the cauldron. And the mixture consists of fear, hate and intolerance. Are the people coming out in support of Trump only those that believe they are hard done by, being taken over by other countries, losing work to ‘lesser’ people, paying for the rich. He is counting on fear holding the key to his political success.It is hard to imagine that sensible and ‘sentient’ Americans are going to vote for him.

And the Republican party – in the interest of having ‘somebody/anybody’ from their party in the race – are turning a blind eye, essentially. Their lily-livered lack of action, their ‘sit back and watch’ attitude is not a party with an eye to the good of their country. They are for the good of their party – and that means their own riches and success.

It is a pity that Obama can’t be re-elected – even though he could be tiring by now and ready for a change. He’s probably devastated at the possibility that a Donald Trump would be his legacy. He would surely want to leave the White House and the most powerful leadership role in the world in ‘capable and trustworthy’ hands.

Ha! Is the nightmare of Donald Trump as leader of the Western World a real possibility? Let’s really hope not! America could never be taken seriously again. It would be close to Armageddon. In my opinion. And all of this and all my posts are only opinion – I’m not an academic.

MICRO-AGGRESSION – Charade or Truth

Hello again! Well, I’ve been on an up and down emotional roller coaster since early August 2015, when my beloved youngest son and his girlfriend thought to take offense at a comment I made on my Facebook page.

I was in a new town, having relocated from country Western Australia to NSW and was looking for a beauty therapist. Now there seem to be a large number of salons offering beauty treatments and massages here run by ‘Asian’ ladies and this was new to me. They seem to be particularly Thai in cultural background and one day I walked into a salon looking for someone to do a manicure and pedicure.

I entered the premises, to find several women and some children seated on the floor and sharing a meal or snacks. There was no sign of the typical beauty salon paraphernalia – you know what I mean? Products, seating, basins, nail workstations, annoying bird song playing in the background, the smell of varnish remover – a reception desk! None of these were evident. I thought I’d walked into the wrong place; but then a lady came to me and asked did I want a massage! I explained what I was looking for and she said, yes that was available.I actually was unsure if I had made an appointment for an actual beauty treatment.

When I got home and was updating my Facebook status, I made a throwaway comment that was totally aimed at myself and my fears – and it was a joke, being shared with my friends and family, people who actually know me. I said something along the lines of ‘I thought I’d walked into a sex or drug den or something’ and I joked that maybe I was in danger – although I’m middle aged and overweight! Like who would want that?!

That was the joke – and it was thoughtless from the perspective that I didn’t THINK AT ALL that I was possibly offending anyone, because it wasn’t specifically directed at anyone, I guess. But there was absolutely no malice intended. And then my beloved son commented with a rant – effectively. It put me firmly in my place and told me what I was really doing – and it was all in an academic voice that was a pain in the behind to read and I was clearly being lectured to.

Hurt is the simplest way to describe how I was feeling. We aren’t a family that does confrontation. I’ve raised the kids in a calm and peaceful environment. Things are kept very light. And yes, that means we don’t have really deep and meaningful conversation about things. We all read and have always read. My husband and I have always worked. We are middle class. We are all kind and thoughtful to each other.

So my son publically (that is, in front of my friends) lectured me about my wrongdoing. My sister and daughter pulled him up about how he was treating his mum  (and this is regardless of whether they agreed or not, by the way) and suggesting that she was racist; and his further response (another academically worded lecture) included that as he knew that I could be racist (WHAT?) he thought I could learn something. Then my daughter got really angry at him, because previously he was suggesting I was racist and now he was saying that I was racist.

I’ve deleted the conversation from my Facebook page, so this is a rough recollection of the comments made. And for the record, the same sister who defended me later explained to me that her first impulse thought was ‘Racist, much?”, but then she went “No, this is Trish!”.

I responded privately to my son that the world had gone political correctness mad! That it was very Australian to poke fun ‘at ourselves’ in this sort of way and that there was no offense intended to anyone; that they were being too serious about it and that I didn’t appreciate being lectured to. Especially as the wording of the comments was clearly from an academic viewpoint, therefore essentially coming from his girlfriend who is currently being educated in something like ‘gender studies’ (I’m probably incorrect in exactly what she’s studying, but it’s along those lines) and although it was great and understandable that he was interested in what she was learning and able to take it on board in his own dealings with the world –  I still didn’t appreciate the way I was being told.

That was okay. I’d been told. I’d listened (although they don’t think I have) and it was past and done with.

Then some time later – weeks? – I got a text message from my son. Had I looked any further into the issue. My answer “No, I haven’t really.” Well, they’d appreciate it if I took the time to learn something about it. I basically said that I wasn’t that interested in ‘researching’. That I was well read; I followed the news and I wasn’t unaware and I was considerate of other cultures. I didn’t need educating. I quickly said that I was happy to have another look (in the spirit of not blindly saying “no”)  – and confirmed that it was ‘human trafficking’ that was the issue. No mum; it is micro-aggression. See you weren’t listening. They hadn’t actually mentioned that term before; and I thought they were upset that I was joking about human trafficking, because of the Asian sex and drug den comment.

So, I said Okay I’ll take a look and he said he could recommend some sites, or his girlfriend could get on Skype with him to talk to me about it, because she is academically qualified to do so. See how serious they are being about this? I’m struggling to get past that!

I said “no thanks, I’m capable of googling and I can read, so I’ll do my own informing!” And when he asked me again, in the middle of another text conversation, had I done any reading yet. I answered “Yes! Really only one site, but it gave me the gist of what they were saying, so that was enough!”

They disagreed that one site was enough (and that’s fair enough, if I was interested in doing some heavy research into the issue, which I wasn’t) and that if I was truly interested in understanding their position I’d do more about it. I again said to them that I loved them, but I didn’t need to be pushed. It is definitely acceptable for gentle nudges – “Oh mum, do you realise what you just said? You know, it might not be the best thing – people might think you’re racist!” Me, “oh, really? You know I didn’t mean anything by it!” Them, “Yes, but that’s what everyone thinks mum. They don’t mean anything about it, but it’s the way that racism and stereotypes continue to be perpetuated and that is how they become normalised and how they can become so harmful.” I might then have responded, “Shit, I didn’t really think of that. I’ll be more careful in future”. END OF STORY.

But no, that’s not what has been happening. And last night, while the world was hearing the first stories about the terrorist activities in Paris, my son was texting me again to ask if I’d done any more looking at micro-aggression. 😦

Son, I have taken a look. I’m a quick study. Thank you for pointing out my faults. I’m not interested in looking anymore. Your responsibility for educating me in this instance is over. Let it go.

And of course another long long text came saying that he’s sorry that he’s trying to help me understand, more than I want to. He’s sorry that I care so little about it. He’s sorry that I think they’re exaggerating issues that have ‘entire academic disciplines dedicated to them’. He doesn’t want to talk to me again until I’ve taken time to look into the issues more and am prepared to talk to him as adult to adult.

Okay, so yes I forget to mention that the old-aged issue of parents not talking to their adult children as adults has also come into play here.

I eventually said to him last night that what I was feeling was bullied. And judged. That they’re adopting a high handed ‘we’re right and we won’t talk to you until you admit it and accept what we’re saying’ position – and that they were effectively being radical and that kind of attitude leads to terror and hatred. I suggested they look around them and that there were a lot more important things to worry about than beating your mum into submission – and saying they didn’t want to talk to me until I was prepared to learn more, was emotional blackmail. Way to hit below the belt with your mother. I also said (tongue in cheek) that I’m worried they’ve joined a cult!

Yes, the above response was emotive; because I’m not a robot and I’m not a professor, or university educated. And yes, I’m the mother – the mother that has been loving and supportive his entire life. They don’t seem to be able to let it go, which is something I’ve trained myself to do in my lifetime. Deal with it now; whatever the outcome – whether satisfactory or not – you’ve tried and now ‘let it go’. They’ve tried – at least they know I’m more informed than I was – I now know there’s such a thing as micro-aggression and that they’re serious about it  – and I will think twice before sharing my witticisms again.

Even though I’m an Irish/Australian and both of these cultures are big on cheekiness and taking the mickey out of everyone and anyone – including ourselves. With no malice intended!

I’m well-travelled – and I’ve always been proud to say how multicultural Australia is; but recently I’ve been amazed at how much vitriol there is about how we treat our ethnic groups. And I’ve written before in this blog about how embarrassing it is to be an Australian, when our government treats ‘illegal’ refugees so badly.

Now about this ‘micro-aggression’ term they’re bandying about.

The first link I read was this one http://www.buzzfeed.com/hnigatu/racial-microagressions-you-hear-on-a-daily-basis#.oq7D49L92 – 21 Racial Micro-aggressions you might hear on a daily basis. And I have to say that I’d never say any of these to anybody. If I meet an ethnic person – such as in my current bookkeeping classes – I ask them what their cultural background is. And that seems to be an acceptable way to start the conversation. I’ve learned that the girls behind me are speaking Hindi and that most Indians know several languages; at the very least 2-3.

Then I found a definition of Micro-Aggression ‘Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or. unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalised group membership.

I read the following GREAT article – great because I agree with him? Probably!

http://thefederalist.com/2015/03/24/microaggressions-and-trigger-warnings-meet-real-trauma/

And this article, to which the author of the article above refers to:

http://www.city-journal.org/2015/25_3_snd-bias.html

So, Micro-aggression – a term first coined in the 70s has suddenly become a mainstream (academic) phrase and now the ‘word of the moment’  to explain the ‘logic’ behind what has become an ‘excuse/reason’ for forcible reactions by perceived ‘minorities’ to refuse to be educated in how to get on in life, because they perceive slights at every turn. I believe that what it is encouraging – more than understanding – is a generation of potential victims. Whingers, Australians would say!

We already live in a narcissistic society – it’s all about me and what I can get (for free) and what you can do for me – and look at me, look at me; poor me; look what’s happened to me. We are already like that – people want something for nothing. And now we’ve a new excuse for “sooky la la’s” to cry and moan and encourage tension – instead of seeing an obstacle and working out how to jump it, how to prove themselves – as individuals; not as an ethnic minority.

Casual remarks blown out of proportion, hypersensitivity and irrationality – do you know that minorities want to be recognised for their qualities, culture and value, but we aren’t allowed to refer to their qualities, culture and value as a way of quantifying their value or worth? Because if we refer to their ‘differences’ we are racist.

For example, we might assume that an ‘Asian’ applying for an IT job will be great at it. Or that ‘Asians’ work harder than Australians. Hello! If I make those assumptions – I’m being positive! White Australians can be (and I’m generalising here) lazier than many ‘Asian-Australians’, ‘African-Australians’, ‘Indian-Australians’. We know in Australia, whether we are prepared to acknowledge it or not, that migrant Asians – like previous generations of Italians or Greeks – come here starting with nothing, grateful for the chance at new beginnings and they work their butts off. They put us to shame! We know that historically; but if we acknowledge that history in our assumptions or comments, we are racist.

We aren’t allowed to comment on a cultural difference such as colour, ability or performance – because that’s racist; but then we are vilified because we don’t acknowledge that these people come from a different culture and should be acknowledged outside of white society’s norms.

I’m not educated. I read these papers and articles and I get the gist of their commentary – but I can’t articulate myself that way. I can attempt it more in writing; but I can’t articulate it verbally. Especially not when the son or girlfriend ARE trained academically and blah blah blah at me.

If humanity had not had all the difficulties we’ve had to overcome as we’ve evolved, we wouldn’t have come as far as we have. When things are too easy we stagnate. When we play the victim, we don’t grow. When we have challenges and we work at them, we evolve; we grow.

Build a bridge and get over it – is a great Australian saying. And that runs through my mind as I try to understand why my child can’t accept that he’s made his point and now it is up to me to do with that as I will. It is important to him and he’s tried to direct me – his job is done. He’s caused me emotional distress; think of that son, instead of how ‘racist’ I am.

Charade or Truth, is how I’ve headed this. Is the umbrella of ‘micro-aggression’ pretentious; deceptive; farcical or a disguise – a place to hide and not grow and put blame. Or, is it a truth – the honest reality.

My life credo is honesty. It is often painful to me to live honestly, realistically and in truth; but I aspire to this and at heart this story is about honesty. And owning your own life, reactions and determinations.

I’ve now spent time writing 2,487 words in reaction to my emotions! They could have been 2,500 words put towards my novel-writing activities! 😀

[Update}

A year later and this is still a burning issue with our son and his girlfriend (specifically that we have a history of racism and manipulation).
We want to welcome his girlfriend with open arms to our family – and we’ve been trying to do this. She is a beautiful and intelligent girl. When they’re ready to make babies – they will be so cute! 😛

However, today my husband and I are going to a counselling session. I’m not sure whether it is to work out strategies about how to deal with this situation – or teach us that we’re wrong. But it is at the request of this couple.

They haven’t yet answered my request for specific examples of what we’ve said or the way we’ve acted that has made them uncomfortable, to help us identify areas for discussion with the counsellor. Anyway! 😦

It means that in our discussion with the Counsellor, it will be all from our side and therefore unbalanced and if she only hears our side of things, she’s not going to fix us! 😀
Please don’t come back and rant at them – they’re young and trying to find their way (I guess). 😀 xx

NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH – NOVEMBER 2015

Typing Corner

Hello Everyone!!

Well, those friends connected with me on Facebook will know that I committed to writing 50,000 words (a small novel) over November, with NaNoWriMo.

This is an inspirational and goal orientated writing site developed to encourage ‘would be writers’ to let their creative juices flow – and write, write, write!!

I signed up in 2013 and 2014, but didn’t write a cracker!! This year though, it is on!

On, as in I thought about the story and who my main character is (protagonist?) outlined some chapters and did some teeny research – about some background. I read interesting items on the NaNoWriMo page, writer’s magazines and one of the books my daughter bought me a couple of Christmases ago – ‘No Plot? No Problem!’ by Chris Baty, the founder of National Novel Writing Month. And it has all helped.

Of course, readers make writers, is the saying – and I read A LOT!

So, of course, bursting with enthusiasm and excitement I bounced out of bed on Sunday morning 1st November, the first day of the event! (1st November to 30th November – 50,000 words in 30 days). Jumped out; leaped even; joyously and with energy to spare – really! Really, really!!

Actually, it was more like “What? What time is it? Oh, 45 more minutes!” 😀

Eventually, by the time I got up and had pancakes (regular Sunday morning treat thanks to my lovely husband) did some housework (I know) and some gardening, got the bins ready, had another coffee (I know, I know!) it was about 12.30 AEST. Now, I know that sounds very late in the day to enthusiastically and joyously get up on the day of beginning your first 50,000 words – BUT IN MY DEFENCE – I’ve been a WA person for over 30 years!!! My body clock believes – and there is no changing its mind – that it is actually 3 BLOODY hours earlier!!! So, really it was only 9.30am!! 😛

Anyway, I sat at my gloriously old “American” IBM Selectric typewriter – chosen because I sit in front of a computer most of the day every day (when I’m working) and I do not for one second (except when I’m blogging?) feel creative! And I’m an OLD typist from WAY back! It feels comfortable – and I like to see my hard work recreated on tangible pieces of paper.

And the old “American” typewriter is a little scary – because I couldn’t find a secondhand IBM Electric in Australia I resorted to getting one in from the USA and it has to be connected to a big old transformer thing – before it is connected to the power. I’m always just that little bit frightened to push the ON switch! You never know ….. 😦

So, amazingly my first 30 minute stint finished with 1276 words! I know! Bloody miracle! Then I got distracted in the office helping Eric with things and getting him ready to go to the Google masterclass he’s headed off to in Sydney. Eventually, at about 4.30pm I had another go – by the end of the day 2776 words. I need approximately 1700 a day to ensure I hit 50,000. BONUS!!

And crazy, random Irish weirdo that I am – I also decided that I would blog through the month – perhaps not every day – but share the adventure; which realistically will be more of the above. Probably with more expletives, less hair (or at least more grays), but hopefully with JOY because I’m doing what I’ve been promising myself I’ll do for MY WHOLE LIFE!

Yes daughter, I’m writing! Yes, okay mother, I’m writing! YES, TRISH, I’m bloody writing! OKAY? Get over it! Grrr 😀

So, lucky peeps! Bear with me on this journey, if you’d care to. And we’ll see if I can hit that magical 50,000 word goal by 30th November, when I can claim the title WINNER and Writer!

Love you all! Bye xxx

Update: 2nd day I wrote 2100 words! YIPPEE!

REFUGEES … and how we handle this tragedy

Australia has developed a bad reputation when it comes to being a ‘refuge’ for displaced, endangered, scared, hunted and genuinely unhappy human beings. This is very sad – since our entire history is built on ‘immigrants’ and ‘refugees’ – and I would argue that a number (probably a large number) of ‘immigrants’ were seeking ‘refuge’ here also.

Seeking refuge doesn’t have to only be about extreme circumstances! Why do you choose to leave a ‘home’ country to build a new life somewhere else? The glowing message is usually along the lines of ‘make a better life’ and I guess, ‘the adventure of it’! Sounds positive – both of these declarations. If we go with ‘make a better life’ and think about it, then we can ask ‘what was so bad about your former life that you needed to come to Australia (or elsewhere) to make a better life?’ The reasons can be as mundane as the weather or the economy or as extreme as the regime, intolerance, persecution (religious, gender or disability). Some of the extremes are unbearable to live with – but don’t qualify these people to enter another country as a refugee. It could be that they can choose to live with their situation – because it’s them that is outside of their ‘cultural norm’ (or at least what everyone else is prepared or resigned to putting up with) – or they can choose to go somewhere else to enjoy more freedom.

Now clearly anybody who risks their life and their families (in particular their children) to get on a rickety boat – usually not seaworthy or in fact not seagoing vessels to get away from ‘whatever’ it is; gun-wielding terror, rape of women and children, economic rape (dictators or tyranny) discrimination that affects your entire life (females not able to be educated, being married off young and unwilling, not safe in their own families OR homosexuals living in fear of death OR not believing in or belonging to the dominant religious ideology) IEDs, warfare (some of which is due to ‘do-gooder’ western countries ‘helping’) – ARE DESPERATE! One of the arguments proposed in Australia about whether ‘they are true refugees’ seems to come down to the fact that they’ve paid large sums of money to come here. Therefore, if they have thousands of dollars to pay a boat smuggler, then they must be okay. They must be false refugees. Because clearly the assumption is that having money equals safety, or lack of need! AND clearly this assumption isn’t correct.

If we go outside of Australia and look at the flood of refugees leaving Libya (and Africa) trying to make it to mainland Europe – the numbers are amazing. They are being sent by people smugglers and they have paid to be sent to Europe – but they are often forced on to the boats at gunpoint (I assume because people see the boats and go “no way!”). A CNN article written in April reports that since the beginning of 2015 more than 35,000 have crossed the Mediterranean with 23,500 landing in Italy and 12,000 in Greece. In 2014, approximately 219,000 refugees AND migrants sailed across the Mediterranean and most of these were rescued by the Italian navy and coast guard. It is estimated that 3,500 people died at sea.

Now there is clearly a humanitarian crisis happening. People want to do the right thing, including the governments of the countries being overwhelmed by this ‘sea’ of refugees. But the government also needs to look after its resident countrymen, their culture, resources, wants and needs and we all know and usually understand the pressures that government feel just to meet our own needs. Therefore many of us feel protective of what we have and how it will be affected. The Federal Budget has just come out – and many are worrying about how that affects them. Pensions and welfare, education, health, policing and defence. Shouldn’t our government care about us first!? Only?

Government (and it seems especially so of Australian government leaders) encourage us to fear refugees. They encourage us to fear certain religious or ethnic groups – and I say that yes they do surreptitiously encourage fear of Muslims / Islam. Mainstream media certainly encourage fear (generally). Survival of the fittest is a human’s default mode. That’s how we have arrived where we are – the dominant creature of the earth. And our very first priority is to ensure our families and neighbours are well and safe. But at what point do we accept that we can reach out to others in need? And how do we agree which people are genuinely in need – especially when welcoming and accepting them will make an impact on us? Personally, I feel that apart from how welcoming refugees affects us financially (welfare and when they ‘take our jobs’) and culturally (the good and the bad) how our Australian identity is affected bothers me. We have only been enriched by the multi-cultural country we live in – food being a big one. Vietnamese refugees brought into the country in the 70s have become a well loved part of the Australian community. And generally there is a perception that ‘Asian’ immigrants work very hard to achieve success. Mostly they put the rest of us to shame! If you are accepted and welcomed into a country how much should you be expected to ‘blend/assimilate’?

Cultural differences should be treasured. If I visit Morocco for instance – however uncomfortable I may feel or derisive I am of their ‘cultural norms’ – I have a responsibility to respect their culture. I will cover up and when visiting their mosques or sacred places will show respect. I’m an Irish Australian! We enjoy freedoms unheard of in many countries. We speak our minds, do what we want (within sensible laws) are reasonably carefree, enjoy access to education and home ownership, employment and entertainment; beaches, nature, music, art and freedom of religion! A country ‘has the right’ to decide who enters their country – and I believe that. It’s about getting the right balance and blend. If you are welcomed as either an immigrant who entered through the correct avenues or a refugee you need to respect that our country works for us because of the freedoms we enjoy and the carefree nature of our beings. It doesn’t mean that you can’t continue to embrace your own cultural norms – particularly relevant as many new arrivals will group in communities with their ‘own’ people. But in the wider world, it isn’t right to try to impose your norms on Australians. More and more we adopt changes that allow other ethnicities to feel more comfortable. For example, not celebrating Christmas in schools or Cadbury making their chocolate Halal. In other words, changing our own cultural norms – what makes us Australians predominantly from Anglo, European and Christian heritage – to suit everyone else. Political correctness going mad!

I have a friend who is an immigrant from an African country. When on Facebook a couple of years ago I made positive noises about finding a way to support refugees and she went off her face! After her and her family had lived in Australia for a while, they tried to get her mother over. But they had a real battle on their hands – because of restrictions in our immigration rules. She was so emotional and devastated about how hard they had to work to get her mother into the country that there was NO WAY that she could accept refugee ‘boat people’ making their way here, without going through proper channels! She was livid! Blinkered and immovable!

I was stunned. This family had been ‘allowed’ and ‘welcomed’ into Australia. On the surface they are good people; but really what kind of people are we allowing into the country. They’ve ticked all the boxes – but are there boxes for compassion, morality, heart!? Hey, you LUCKY PEOPLE! Have a heart! Now that you are ‘safe’, look outside yourself for a minute.

I fear – like everybody else! I don’t want things to change. I like what being an Australian means. We were welcomed to the country as Irish immigrants – although maybe Mum and Dad would have stories about how really welcoming people were in the first instance! I like the relaxed pace we live at – whether to follow a religion or not and acceptance that there are a multitude of religious faiths being practised. Welfare available for those that need it, even though that can be abused it is better that we can help those in need, than not.

The EU at the moment is trying to ‘force’ agreement by EU countries to accept more of the African refugees – to spread out the burden. Nobody wants to be ‘forced’ to do anything. People are overwhelmed already – EU countries already have influxes of straightforward ‘migrants’ due to the disappearance of borders. Paris/France being a great example of angry masses of ‘unwanted’ – they have a glorious history and culture to preserve. The Netherlands and Denmark are vocal about their aversion to continued acceptance of refugees and the impact it makes on their culture.

Banning the boats – sending them off to Manus or wherever – might be an ‘expensive’ solution for Australia, because we have to financially support that – but the idea here is to give a strong message that they won’t be accepted without going through proper processes – stop the boats and they won’t continue to arrive. But that makes it someone else’s problem. And it doesn’t help these people. They live in limbo, in terrible conditions, children in detention – no hope for the future. Not only are these people miserable but it makes for new enemies for Australia.

We should ‘accept’ all refugees – process them quickly (supersonic speed) – and if there is no obvious threat bring them into the community, with rules. In particular, they cannot commit a crime (Australian law) within so many years – say 5 – or they are immediately deported! Welcome and support – until proven they aren’t worthy!

Anyway, I’m not any kind of authority on these issues. I’m just a run of the mill Australian middle-aged woman. These are my thoughts and meanderings and I haven’t come up with any solutions. How do we help these people in dire need while keeping our own freedom, culture and security intact? I don’t know – but we should try.

WOMEN OF A ‘CERTAIN AGE’ – TODAY!

I had an afternoon this last week (in the city) where I had a few hours to kill, while Eric was at a meeting. It was an afternoon of people watching, really – wandering around a large shopping mall, sitting in a street cafe and then reading in the local library.

I began to notice all the ‘middle aged’ ladies. In inverted commas, because I was guessing that they’re middle aged – I WAS actively seeking out ladies that were probably about my age! I observed and then wondered how I appeared to other women. There were so many BIG ladies and it occurred to me that if these are my peers, where did we go wrong?

Lower socio-economic (and therefore reduced) circumstances leading to bad quality/poor food choices (no money and little education) and combined with the ready availability of cheap and fast food!? Or comfortably well off and therefore self-indulgent, able to afford to eat when and what we want. And/or in comfortable relationships and no longer needing to try hard? Perhaps, unluckily trapped in a ‘sugar world’ before we realised what sugar does to us!

Of course, there are plenty of middle aged and older ladies (50, 60, 70 …) who haven’t gained weight. And they’ve got it all ticking along nicely – weight, clothes, hair, skin – they could be 70 or 50. And of course, there are large ladies who got that way due to health reasons or genetics – but they won’t be the majority. So we aren’t talking about them!

There ARE MANY unsatisfied people in our Western society. Too many choices and options lead to a lot of decision-making, which causes anxiety and stress and uncertainty. Also there’s a lot of fear (of what, you might say, here in Australia) but I say fear of failure, of what people think, what they might say – what they see when they look at us! Dismay at what we see in the mirror, disappointment at not reaching imagined heights, or failure to be what we might have been and sadness at facing up to a lack of life-time in which to make that mark! Time has been wasted, roads not taken, decisions incorrectly made. In hindsight, is there much you would have done differently?

Children, job choices, love, education, travel – extremes or boundaries – and at the root of all, your personality type and your childhood experiences! How did they mould you and your reactions to the world and the events you’ve experienced and decisions you’ve made – that lead to the hole that you need to fill – with sugar, alcohol, drugs, recklessness or excess just to cope with what you feel is a savage world?!You know you’re doing something wrong; you’re trying to own your own behaviours; you realise that these are ‘coping’ behaviours, that are not REALLY HELPING YOU!! But it is so hard to change!!

What if you let go and nothing changes? If you bring attention to yourself people may notice the change and have opinions about that. You’re now under pressure with the weight of (perceived) expectations. You’ve struggled to make changes, but are you really now you?! For so long you’ve had high expectations of yourself, but low outcomes. Through effort and strength of mind and soul you’ve begun to live … to overcome the self-imposed hurdles … to let yourself be proud of you!! Can I do it? Can I be free and happy? Am I as good as everyone else?

Walking around this shopping area were A LOT of overweight and unhappy looking women, of approximately my age. How many of them are caught in this struggle? Do they put on a brave face before family and friends? Is their ‘true’ self scared, disappointed and unhappy? I’m sure some of them are oblivious; aren’t they? How many are self-aware enough to think about how they got to where they are and how and whether they could change things?!

If you have the urge to beat yourself into submission – remember that change is difficult BUT not impossible! ‘Mentally healthy’ people can find it difficult to understand what these women are going through or how they got there. It was interesting to imagine putting these women into a line and seeing how they fit into the box I’d put them. The more we think we are individuals – and we all strongly hold on to that right – the more we learn how similar we are. Running the same race to death, fearing being forgotten and waiting for someone to fix it for us!

Reach out now. Forgive yourself! 🙂

Forgive others. Let yourself love and be loved. Be kind and charitable – and start at home! Start with yourself! 😀

We don’t have to be perfect; or the same as someone else; or the best. Try and be true to who you think you are IN YOUR SOUL – and the VERY BEST YOU will find the way!

WE BLOODY WELL MADE IT – IT’S ALL OKAY!!!!

We walked into Alora up the hill, turned the wrong way and proceeded to walk up many more hills – didn’t actually find what we were looking for, but managed to walk pretty much all around the town.

Found the Chinese restaurant – got takeaway (he didn’t have English)! Went back to the ‘deli’ style shop to get supplies (because we couldn’t find the larger supermarket) but they’d closed – because we’d taken so bloody long to get around the town.

Luckily, found a smaller deli-style shop that was closing, but kindly let us in and we pretty much got everything we were looking for!!

So, good news – we have Chinese for dinner and lots of chocolate!!! PLUS food for dinner for the next couple of days.

YAY!

Also, when we got home Mark (our host) had found us a local to give us some survivor Spanish – by way of taking us on a tour of Alora and giving us a history lesson and getting us to practise our Spanish on the locals AND later on a tour of Malaga doing the same.  Pretty cool!

xx

Lingua Franca – AKA an Australian trying to speak Spanish/French punctuated with crazy arm gestures!

We’ve known for a couple of years now that we were taking this long break to Spain and we had visions ( :O ) of being as fluent as ‘book-taught’ Spanish speakers could be!

Funny story!!!!

Those of you that know me through work know that I’m a machine (visualize the Energizer Bunny!) – head down, bum up – no time for chatting (heaven forbid!) lunch break – what’s that? Coffee break – ha – I laugh at coffee breaks (although it is also well known that I have a weakness for a Coffee Cat coffee on route to work – ha ha!).

However, when I get home – a whole different story!! I could be described as Amoeba-blob – although to be fair to the Amoeba he’s probably very busy multiplying and evolving! I have also previously described myself as zombie-like – but to be fair to zombies they actively ‘zomb’ (made up word!).

So, picture a room filled to overflowing with language courses – well, maybe not overflowing; perhaps not filled – but if you look closely at the bookshelf behind the pedestal fan, behind the glass doors, mixed in with the ‘somewhat interesting, but I’ll really never get around to reading them’ mind-expanding books (as opposed to the total escapist , lots of thrills and excitement-filled tomes that I constantly read) you’ll see the sad and lost-looking language courses (yes Lorraine – opened!).

There are perhaps 5 different Spanish courses – all promising great results in a super-speedy (ridiculously speedy, some of them) amount of time. Unfortunately, none of them promise knowledge or fluency through proximity or osmosis! Neither do the Mandarin, Italian, Japanese, French (even though I did 5 years of French) or Irish Gaelic courses also filling these shelves. (I do sometimes imagine that these language courses aren’t totally ‘living’ barren and meaningless lives. Imagine when we are all asleep these languages yabbering away with each other, having a great old time – enjoying the multiculturalism of the Nankivell office bookcase! (Weirdo Trish; I know 🙂 ).

So (again!) I’m a workaholic (at work) and Eric has the stamina of … something with a lot of stamina and high personal motivation – BUT somehow our best intentions have gone by the wayside and pretty much we have learned NADA :).

I have the feeling that we will be cramming ‘hopefully’ very useful phrases and vocab into our brains over the coming six weeks … or maybe the last two weeks (2 days?) HA! Of course, living in Spain for 10 weeks we will be immersed and learn some of the language – but we could have been ‘pre-immersed’ and arrived in Barcelona in August raring to go and able to be engage with the locals straight away!! 

Now? Nice chatting with you …. agradable charlar con usted, bello chattare con voi, 漂亮和你聊天, and 素敵なをとのチャット – couldn’t find a translation for Irish Gaelic – Mr Gilsenan?!

😀

So, blogging (the beginning)

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So, blogging – the modern phenomenon. Like keeping a diary and instead of having it securely hidden away you share with people that you hope will hear you without judging – warmly chuckling and shaking their heads (perhaps) at your silliness and idiosyncrasies, but with you and not wishing you harm, while thinking ‘what an idiot!’.

I had a very quick Skype chat with my parents this morning before leaving the house. They just wanted to let me know that they’ve been following my blog (such as it is so far) and that they found it interesting and are learning new things about me. Dad, I hope you don’t mind me sharing this 🙂 I loved hearing you say that! x

Mum and dad live in Tasmania and we are in Esperance, Western Australia. Travel-wise that’s about three flights and a car drive OR an eight hour drive, two flights and a drive OR one flight or eight hour drive, another flight, a 14 hour ferry trip and another drive to visit them OR (as Mum and Dad did) a train trip across Australia, then a ferry trip and then another drive. Many hours and some days later – depending on mode of transport and need, occasion, mojo and time available – you find each other!

This does mean that there’s not a lot of meaningful contact and catch ups tend to be about the mundane, the everyday – kids, weather, TV or movies (you get it). Opportunities to say ‘Oh, so that’s how you think or feel; that’s how you are like or unlike me’ are rare; life is busy, demanding and complicated. “Life is full of interruptions and complications”, Karl in Love Actually. (I was so disappointed that this relationship was unresolved!”.

Whatever ‘work/job’ I happen to be doing, I tend to work at it until I’m a zombie – only good for the sofa and vaguely coherent mumblings (luckily with no gratuitous people eating or moaning!). So, developing deep relations outside of the marital relationship does not happen!

So, blogging! If I’d ever thought about it before I might have thought that ‘bloggers’ were seriously in love with themselves; self-absorbed, self-involved – all the ‘self adjectives’ that we (society) typically frown upon.

In fact, when I asked my son Mathew had he accepted my invite he said something like “Oh no, Mum – as soon as I saw the word ‘blog’ I was over it. I’m pretty sure I’ve deleted the invite”. My immediate feelings were embarrassment (because the word ‘blog’ incites similar feelings in me) and some hurt, because he wasn’t supporting me.

So (I know, I use ‘so’ a lot 🙂 ) first instinct at hearing ‘blog’ (for some) might be negative on the whole – but these days people blog for all sorts of positive reasons. To tell stories of strength in adversity, to support causes or people in need and to highlight concerns that need attention.

So, I’ll refer to my travel blog as ‘the Story’ – and the story so far has lead to me sitting in a coffee shop for an hour writing this – on my day off – with the pink Parker pen that Becky gave me to ‘note all my great writing ideas’. THAT is a positive outcome.

Lots of love xx

P.S. For those of you who have only very recently become friends and may be thinking ‘What? I thought this was a travel blog’ please don’t feel pressured to stay with me! The idea did start off as writing specifically about our trip to Spain; in the meantime it has morphed somewhat to a story of life and a long introduction to our ‘hopefully amazing’ holiday adventure! xx

So, why do we travel?

One could travel for freedom, education, a challenge, doing something new, getting perspective (the grass is not always greener and our way isn’t the only way!) personal growth and developing skills you never knew you had – like learning a language!

For me – it’s a combination of all of the above – particularly to take a break from the routine and as a transitional thing. Eric and I can spend more time together, instead of spending most of our time with other people, at work.

I’m hoping that we’ll be more active every day – because at the end of a day in the office the last thing I make myself do is exercise. We’ll be walking and perhaps cycling – we’ll be swimming and in fresh air for many hours of the day. Also, we are hoping to help some way in the community.

We’ll read (like we always do) and we’ll go out to local music venues (like we don’t now!). Where do you go in Esperance (or indeed in regional Western Australia) that isn’t the local pub – and our full-on drinking culture?

The original idea of this extended holiday was to celebrate our 20th anniversary. Then we realised that David was still at school (Year 11) and what crazy timing that was, so we’ve made it 2013 when David is in his first year at Uni.

It also happens to be the year of my 50th birthday – so there is the flavour of a mid-life reassessment! Perhaps I’ll be more creative, be braver and talk to more people – coming out of my shell a little. The kids are grown and don’t need me as much and I’m bored with working in admin and am looking for insight.

Talking about being bored with Admin – straight after I finished the Cert IV in Travel last year, I signed up for a double Cert IV in Frontline Management & Business Admin. Pretty much immediately I thought ‘why have I signed up for another dry and uninteresting course?’. Well, of course it was a ‘practical’ decision – related to growth in my work skills (these days, everyone wants you to have a new certificate!). Nothing to do with spiritual or creative growth.

After much fighting with the College,they’ve thankfully let me transfer to something else. There wasn’t a lot I was interested in truly and I’ve ended up enrolled in a travel writing and photography course! At least it is not Admin related and I do want to write and I am going to be travelling – BINGO! Perhaps a step in the right direction! 🙂

So, why have we chosen to spend such a large block of time in Spain? Well, we’ve travelled a little in Europe – a 2 week bus tour in 1994 a couple of visits to Paris over the years. I was born in and lived in Ireland and Eric and I have travelled extensively through the UK – 2 months in Edinburgh and several weeks based in Wales and Scotland – as well as a 2 week bus tour of England.

We’ve also done 4 weeks in Canada, 2 weeks in South Africa, had holidays in Mauritius and Fiji and a week each in Hong Kong and New York. Apart from New York, I’m not interested in America at all!

In our European travels though we never got to Spain. And with its combination of Christian and Moorish history (particularly Andalusia) it feels like somewhere that we can really explore and delight in. For a long period of time the Christians and Muslims lived quite happily together – the Moors ruled the land, but were quite tolerant of their Christian neighbours. Something to aspire to really!

Chuck the Greek Islands in for 10 days and 10 days in Morocco and you’ve got the best of all worlds – ancient Greece and North African heritage! Sounds like magic to me!

So why am I travelling? Personal growth, adventure, culture, escape from the ‘real world’, potential writing fodder, time for quiet and many days and hours in my beautiful husband’s company! Muchos gracias!

Why do you travel? Where do you travel to? When are you travelling again? The daily grind can wear you down and escape to where nobody knows you and there are no demands on your attention, other than what you sincerely choose to pay attention to, can be so rejuvenating. Why humanity likes to holiday, yes?

Bye for now xx