Friday, June 17, 2011


So, I've spent two weeks packing and saying my farewells and sorting out final things to do with this beautiful flat where I've been able to spend the first half of 2011, and all the while, I consciously think, I am so calm. I'm moving coast to coast, and it isn't bothering me at all.

Today I threw out the last of the trash. Waited for the on-time arrival of the removalists. Signed away my 20 boxes-and-parcels in faith that we'll meet again, me and the compactly organised, compulsively inventoried sum of my worldly possessions (in this country, anyway). Ate a quiche; ate a cake. Did some vacuuming. Put out some things for Freecyclers to collect at the pre-arranged time. Went for tea with a friend and her two very bright, entertainingly tangential children. Came home. Walked out again for dinner. Came home.

And it hit me all at once, what I've been trying to tell myself for weeks.

I'm leaving.

I really am.

I don't know when I'll come back here. I know I will, but it's all hazy and abstract, and it's unsettling that the place that's been my very concrete reality for three and a half years is soon going to be just another place in that miniature world in my head, in that part of me that stores the essence of eateries well loved and places that held my blood and secret bookshops that none of my friends know and benches in Hyde Park near the guitar busker where the shade never leaves you and the pavilion in that little waterfront park in Glebe where you're bound to get ambushed by a joyous dog on every visit and... and this post is running too long for someone so short on sleep.

So. I'm leaving. That's pretty huge, considering everything that's happened here.

But on the other end of this journey, I'm arriving.

That's even huger.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Under Cover

It's a wet, grey Queen's Birthday (eastern states only).

Best not to forget your umbrella, if you're brave enough to step outdoors.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

One day in Tamarama

In the midst of the packing frenzy, at times I think about how little time I've given myself to say goodbye to Sydney.

I wondered a couple of days ago: am I being fair to us? We've had three and a half years together, packed to bursting with intense memories. Don't we deserve a little more time to linger?

The answer, I've decided, is no. I will fill this last week in Sydney with good things to remember, but I don't have to go out of my way to remember what's past. I've lived with a reasonable amount of purpose and presence in each day, and the things I'll miss most can't be recovered with new visits anyway, because they're filled with precious people and times that I can never bring back in this life.

Maybe I'll dig up a picture from time to time, and tell you the story so you'll have a better grasp of what the past three and a half years here have been for me. I've never divulged very much here before; the full unedited story has always been reserved for my private journal.

It might be a picture like this, taken in October 2009.

There had been some rough news over that past weekend, about the sudden and tragic death of a relative. Also, I was contemplating the imminent conclusion of my Master's and where I'd go next. Unhelpful comments had been made by the people I trusted most at that time to give me emotional and spiritual guidance, and I felt unsupported, misunderstood, unsafe.

On that day, I left home long before class was to begin and took a huge detour to a lookout at my favourite beach.

A beach that my cousin once described as "unpleasantly turbulent", even on the most placid summer's day.

Maybe that's why it's my favourite beach.

Because maybe as deep calls unto deep, turbulent calls unto turbulent.

Every time there is something to celebrate, something to ruminate, anything at all that gets me out of the infuriatingly complacent plodding rhythm that sometimes overtakes my life, I find myself at Tamarama.

On this day in 2009, shaken by the news of my relative's unexpected death and confused about my own life's path, I found an empty pavilion and sat. The waves rose and curled and slapped each other around; I sat. They peaked and cast themselves onto the sand; I sat. I sat until the anger and apprehension had settled; until it seemed the ocean had taken all of my unrest to spend on more rising and curling, peaking and casting.

And then I walked away and drove to class, another day closer to where I want to be.

And the waves, they're still rising high and crashing hard, so I know I don't have to.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Mexican night

Last dinner at Northside for a while. It was a few nights ago, but time flies when you're having trouble deciding what goes into the same box as eight years' worth of journals.

There's so much goodness waiting to meet me out west, but there are also many things I'll miss over on this side. This is one of them.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Punishment and punishment

We were talking the other day about discipline. Someone's toddler nephew has recently got into the habit of hitting his sister, and the Big People are trying to make it stop.

In addition to reprimands and stern warnings, spanking is on the list of methods used to stop it.

I think it's ironic. You think it's wrong for the kid to hit other people, so you hit him to make him stop.

I could be mistaken, but to his little brain, won't the logical process look something like this?

I don't like something my sister does. I hit her.

The Olds don't seem to like me hitting. They hit me.

Hitting must be the standard response to something you don't like.

I shall go on hitting my sister when she bugs me, then.

Maybe I'm oversimplifying. I know I'm not diminishing the need for discipline and boundaries and, not being a parent myself, I am not criticising my friend's family or telling them what to do. Just questioning whether theirs is the best approach -- questioning stuff being one of the things my brain is constantly occupied in.

It got me thinking of how society does exactly the same thing to the people who do Bad Stuff ("bad" as defined, usually, by the majority and by the law. I'm not saying crime isn't bad... I'm just asking, who got to decide on the definitions of crime?)

I have a friend who, from time to time, posts news articles on Facebook about the latest child sex violation case to hit the Malaysian news. It doesn't take long for her other friends to pop up with expressions of outrage or just... rage. It reminds me of the time a few years ago when a few of us were having lunch and somehow, conversation turned to the case of the moment.

(It's a sad thing that for a relatively small country, Malaysia has a thick history of child abuse. And that's only the cases that get reported. We do tend to conform to the general Asian practice of sweeping things under rugs and pretending there are no lumps.)

Around the table, my friends were talking about what the offender deserved to have done to him because of what he'd done to his very young victim. Things got a little graphic and I was stunned by how violent my nice little urban acquaintances, with their expensive chemical perms and manicures and designer outfits, could be.

And then came my turn.

"You don't think that maybe whatever you think should be done to him in retaliation for these horrible things... maybe all of that pain is already in him, from something that happened before, and that's why he's like this now?"

Silence. And glaring.

"Are you saying he doesn't deserve to be punished?"

This is me four years after that lunch. I still am not saying he should have been let off the hook. My point, then and now, was that abusers are usually abuse victims who've finally got big and strong enough to act on the powerless feeling that most often arises from being abused. Unfortunately, frequently they turn on someone weaker as a victim, rather than confronting their abusers -- because no matter how big you get, it's hard not to feel smaller than the person who shattered you to fragments. And then their victims grow up and hurt some other, smaller person. And then that smaller person grows up and...

... and while this pattern repeats on and on, like the seasons of a low-quality daytime soap opera, we sit at our linen-clothed tables eating expensive fusion food while shielded from the relentless humidity that, except for our being so fortunate as to have access to air conditioning, should be ours to experience in sticky discomfort. And so it is that we get to take for granted the grace that has put us here, all pretty and smug in our weekday make-up and fancy office outfits, instead of on the front page of the news to be hated and spat at by all who see.

I'm only asking if we even know why punishment as we understand it exists, in our families and in what to many of us comfortable middle-class types who do not have careers in law will only ever be a cloudy abstract idea: the justice system. Is it for the sake of correction, so that after the event the perpetrator will have a firmer grasp on the makings of a life at peace with him/herself and others?

Or is it just a slap on the wrist, a retaliation for making our family/community/country look bad and for wrecking our blissful little delusion that we've constructed a safe place for ourselves and our families, far from evils large and small?

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Behind every dark cloud

Lies a primitive graphic representation of happiness.

I don't know why I allow my craft-less times to stretch so far apart. We need to meet more often, felt and I.
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