God Loves Boat People

I love spring

I love spring

I’m listening to Kevin Rudd give his concession speech as I type this post. While I’m not surprised at the result I must admit I am disappointed. The entire process that proceeded this evenings results has been disappointing. As a recent returnee to this great southern land, it has been distressing to witness the apathy, the fear mongering and the blatant lies that have been served up to the Australian public. However, it has been appalling to witness how we gobbled it up.

During this election, we have been presented with policies from both the Labor and Liberal parties on how they plan to tackle the ‘problem’ of refugees who are attempting to flee from the home they love to a safe harbour.  We have watched people take their life savings to secure places on boats in the hopes that they will have a future. Not a better future. A future.

“refugees who flee to places like Australia embark on journeys that are fuelled not only by fear and desperation, but also by hope – a hope to find a country that will offer them protection from persecution, a hope for a safe life for themselves and for their children.”

– Gillian Triggs http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/story/1583278/blog-restoring-hope-for-refugees/?cs=12

A refugee is someone who is forced to flee.  To escape their present circumstances. 90 percent of those claiming refugee status in Australia are found to be refugees. A third of these after appeal (a process that will now be taken away from refugees under our new government).

Tony Abbott is a christian. Kevin Rudd is also a christian. As am I. It is not news to hear that Christians often disagree with one another and more often than not we use the Bible to support our version of the argument that we are currently having. However, you would think that this would be an issue we would agree upon.

Jesus is quite clear in his words. (Matt 25:34-36):

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“I was a stranger and you let me in.” There is no ambiguity in this statement.

If you’re struggling, imagine Jesus, fleeing his homeland in fear for his life. Not a difficult task as the Bible describes such a scenario for us. Jesus’s parents fled to Egypt when he was a child, to escape Herod, out of fears for his safety. (Matt 2:13-15).

Imagine Jesus sitting on a boat that is bobbing on the seas between Indonesia and Australia. Imagine him sitting in a detention centre in the Australian outback, living in a caravan. It’s 40 degrees celsius in the sun. It is nearly as hot under shelter.

Imagine him being denied refugee status and sent back to his homeland. The land that, out of desperation, he left his family, sold his possessions and embarked on a perilous journey with no certainty of his welcome.

How about this one. In Luke 6:31, Jesus tells us to do unto others as we would have them do to us. We’ve all heard this stated and probably pass it on to our children regardless of our believes. The Message version of the Bible phrases it a little differently:

31-34 “Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.

Place yourself in the shoes of another. Think about how dire life would need to be for you to leave your spouse and your children. To flee under the cover of darkness, knowing that if you are caught, your freedom or your life is at risk. To put your life and your savings into the hands of strangers in the hopes that they will keep their word and deliver you safely to a land of hope. How would you wish others to treat you if your circumstances were so desperate?

How selfish is any response that is not one of welcome! How selfish that we do not wish to share what we have! How selfish to push the problem onto another nation! To another group of people who are not nearly as privileged as we are.

Australians have voted today to elect a government whose leader stood on a platform proclaiming that his government would stop the boats. He has no policy to help the people on the boats.

I am no statistician however I guesstimate that at least 90% of Australians voted for either the Liberal or Labor party. Both of whom had policies that focused on stopping the boats rather than helping the people on the boats. We allowed fear and self interest to swamp all other feelings on this issue. One electorate voted in the candidate, Fiona Scott, who blamed the traffic congestion and hospital queues on refugees.

We, in the lucky country, should be ashamed of ourselves. We should stop calling ourselves Christians and think about behaving like Christ.

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The Monotony of Life

Freesias in my front yard

Freesias in my front yard

Life is not monotonous. Not mine at any rate. Life is slow, life is busy. Life is full, life is never empty. Life is jam packed with events and things to do until I find that sweet moment when I can put my feet up and wonder what I should do.

Even work which sometimes feel as if it has a dreadful monotony to it. You get up, go to work, come home. However the hours in between are full of conversations, disagreements, stuff ups, new jobs, meetings, and paperwork.

My life outside work is full of the endless changes to the calendar that is my husband’s life. The replanning of basketball on wednesdays followed by the football games, dinners out and get togethers he organises. The tasks and events my children’s lives generate coupled with the family get togethers that leave very few spare weekends.

This is before we get to the internal workings of my mind. The topics I flesh out to write that never find their way to digital paper. The tops I sew, the cardigans that I knit, the books I read. All occurring within the confines of my mind in the hopes that I will someday be organised enough to complete them.

It’s nearly the end of August. I am another year older and over a year into my repatriation. Last year’s to do list is pretty much complete and next year’s is rapidly filling up with new plans. Life is trundling forward – sometimes at speed and others at a crawl.

It is nearly spring and time to think about the garden.

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Twelve Months On …

A yellow Dahlia I purchased from Kmart. Hoping it bounces back to its former glory in Spring.

A yellow Dahlia I purchased from Kmart. Hoping it bounces back to its former glory in Spring.

Here is a piece I wrote for a school newsletter …

We all have expectations. Our move back home to Melbourne was a premeditated move allowing us plenty of time to think through what life in Australia would look like. For myself, I did research. Having worked in a relocation company during our first posting in Singapore, I had encountered the idea of repatriation. I knew the term and knew that I needed to become familiar with some of its concepts. People were writing books about this, there must be something to it.

So I did. At the end of my reading I felt good. Not anxious at all. I had it all worked out. As we were now a family and we had never lived in Melbourne (or Australia) as a family, I would not be moving back with a series of expectations that would leave me in a state of reverse culture shock. It was going to be a piece of cake. No shocks, no surprises. It would be no different to moving to Singapore, Shanghai, New Jersey or Denmark.

It should come as no shock that I soon found myself proved wrong. I was wrong to think that I came home with no expectations.

It was no shock to realise that finding friends in the school yard was going to be difficult. This I had anticipated. What I hadn’t anticipated was that I would throw a little tantrum and decide that I had put myself out there enough times in my life. It was time for people to come over and make friends with me. Fortunately, I did know one other parent at the school and she helped me meet a few people who I deigned to talk to. Otherwise I would still be sitting in the pagoda wondering why no one was coming over to introduce themselves.

Another shock was the way the children took to being Aussie’s. I knew that they were excited to be living closer to family and having the chance to immerse themselves in a culture that they had been told about but never understood. I had not expected the running through the gates, no turning back mentality that they embraced as soon as they set foot in their new school. The chief aim in the last twelve months has been to slot themselves in as if they had always been here.

Initially the aim was to throw off their foreignness. This proved tricky. They both sport accents, don’t understand any of the cultural references and, horror of horrors, their mother was watching the wrong reality cooking show. In the last twelve months, my daughter has come to terms with being different, embraced it, and decided to speak only in Danish when people annoy her. My son has found that an obsession with AFL footy, a club membership and a footy cards to swap will mask the foreignness. He now argues footy stats with his Dad, Uncle, grandparents and mother. I think he is trying to educate me and he still holds out hope that I will be converted.

The hubby moved home with the same company who had funded all of our travels to date. As far as I was concerned, his life had not changed at all. In fact, it now came with additional perks. He could now utilise his sporting memberships and he has proceeded to try and make up for lost time.  What we had not anticipated was how far away he would feel from the rest of the world. His regional centre, Singapore, was seven hours away. Thanks to a project in India, he manages to satisfy his need for travel and connect with other networks. Add to this package a home of your own to tinker with, a garden to cultivate and a deck to sit on at the end of the day … life is sweet.

By the time Christmas rolled around, we were exhausted. Was it the international move, the buying of a house and cars, the new job or new school that had taken its toll? No! It was the family get togethers. In retrospect, we should have moved in January rather than the end of June. That would have given us four months to settle before the birthdays in our family began. Arriving in July allowed us celebrate my son’s birthday almost straight away. Then there was mine in August. Two in two months was easily doable.

In September we had both our dad’s birthdays and Father’s Day to contend with. Being grown men, they were okay with joint birthday/Father’s Day celebrations. Three birthdays in October, two in November, and M’s in December followed ever so quickly by Christmas. The new year bought a slow down on the birthday front.  However, I hardly seemed to draw breathe before April was upon us with it’s three birthdays.  Followed by May which brings two and Mother’s Days galore. We’re back in hiatus until my son’s birthday starts us off again in July.

While the birthdays can at times be overwhelming, that was not the shock. Birthdays are easy to predict as they occur every year with alarming regularity. What I had not predicted was how I would feel within my family.

Every year when we came home, it was an event. I had thought, as I often do, of how it was an event for me. It involved the packing, the traveling, the visiting, the repacking, more traveling ending in the unpacking. However, it was an event for everyone here as well. Our family looked forward to our arrival and spending time with us. There was a certain amount of excitement and fanfare attached to the event.

Not any more.

Now we are as exciting as everyone else. We are part of the furniture of our families every day lives. Much loved, of course, but not missed to the degree that an impending visit is accompanied by a sense of excitement and anticipation. Where people want to know what you’ve been up to and what you’re future plans are. You’re home now. Your future plans have been fulfilled.

While I never expected fanfare, recognising the sudden lack was a return to earth that I had not anticipated and I am still trying to deal with its loss.

And it’s not only family that feels this way. Friends who I had known overseas and now live in proximity again, although not in same suburban network, are keen to catch up. Our plans these days lack the urgency so prominent in our past life. Lacking any urgency, months go by and you still haven’t seen each other as work, renovations, kids sport and life in general take up so much time.

Rereading this, I seem a little maudlin. I’m not.

This new life is still unfolding and I am still adjusting. Life no longer holds the same uncertainties and predictability’s that accompany expat life. I am now working full time which I never really thought I would do again. There are now horizons in my future that I can explore without the limitations of time frames as my life is now independent from my husbands career.

Life’s good.

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Ramblings from Work

Flower in Daylesford

Flower in Daylesford

I have a friend who regularly blogs a list of things that she is grateful in life. It has always impressed me with the lists she comes up with. Some of the things are huge and I find myself nodding, thinking, “yes, that is a gift from Heaven”. Other times, I’m squinting at the screen, thinking, “well yeah, but it seems such simple thing. Hardly worth mentioning.”

I don’t list those things in life that I am grateful for nor do I regularly thank God for them. I know I should as it’s good manners at the very least. However, I am so used to having these gifts that I take them for granted.

Working with people with disabilities forces me each day to focus on something that I can do without thinking that others I work with strive to achieve. There is one man who repeats endlessly, why are you (or Susan, Frank or Elroy) better than that than me? Why? Why? What’s your secret?

“What’s your secret?” It always makes me smile when he asks because there is no secret. For some reason I have been given greater gifts. I haven’t done anything to deserve them and there is no answer I can give to satisfy him. It just is.

He also thinks I have bigger muscles than he has and wants to know if I do weights. Hmmm .. no.

Today, I watched an employee suffer a seizure. I have only ever seen one other person experience a seizure before and it was quite dramatic. Today’s was without drama. It just was and then it was over. That is from the spectator’s point of view. For this man, it isn’t over. It is one in an endless stream of seizures. Each one leaving an impact on his body. Each one leaving another dose of fear of what the next will bring.

He’s not always the most pleasant person to work with. Most times he’s pretty grumpy. I struggle with his grumpiness trying to decide if it is an effect of his seizures or his personality. Perhaps a bit of both. He is easily irritated and often fearful. He will snap, bark and refuse to work with people for seemingly no reason. It is difficult to decipher what the issue is as he is beyond rationality. He can express his most basic feelings and that’s about it. For a moment. Then I can talk to him and begin to understand what has happened.

Every time he will come back and apologise. He will always apologise to me (without prompting) and to those around him. It’s more than I can say for myself when I behave badly.

Today he wasn’t grumpy. He is a man without a sense of humour (not just my opinion. I asked him what he found funny and he said nothing) and yet today he cracked a joke. There was a glimpse of a side of him I had not seen before. As he came back to himself, he thanked me for placing a pillow under his head. Incredible considering only last week I thought he had no manners at all.

It was his birthday last week. He’s in his mid forties, not so much older than me. Yet he is. His seizures have aged him. I’ve been told that he used to be taller and broader. Not frail. Perhaps he used to also have a sense of humour. Or a lightness that is now harder for him to find.

It seems a little absurd to be writing this. And then, isn’t that what a blog is for? It’s my own public diary. A place for me to flesh out my thoughts – with or without an audience.

It’s difficult to describe this to others. I find it makes people uncomfortable. It is outside the experience of most people I know. It is outside my experience.

But there it is.

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The Home Stretch

Our Resident Cockatoo

Our Resident Cockatoo

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted to my blog and I have no apologies. I have been exhausted. The hubby choofed off over the pond for some fun times which he calls work. For three weeks! (Well it will be .. almost .. by the time he gets back).

Yes, this is a whinge post. Now in the big scheme of things, I know my life is not that tough. There are possibly people reading this who are single parents for longer periods than I am and others for whom it is a permanent state. I take my hats off to them. It’s tough.

Actually it was tough when I wasn’t working. Now that I am working it is very, very hard. One of the great ironies of life is that now that a maid would come in handy, I don’t have one. Someone, somewhere is probably laughing.

However, I am now on the home stretch. The hubby returns at the end of this week. AND!! I have a day off work tomorrow to catch up on all the housework that I have let slide. Or I may just relax. I’ll probably relax.

That’s all I have to say today. No … there’s one another thing. For everyone in Melbourne, freezing is when the temperature hits 0. Before that … it’s cold.

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Following in Mum’s Footsteps

Wattle

Wattle

When I was five (or so) I started Brownies. Through several moves throughout Australia I stayed in the programme and progressed onto Girl Guides, Ranger Guides, and became a Junior Leader. I loved my time in Guides although must admit at certain times I needed a little more encouragement – moving will do that to you.

Last Thursday, we packed my daughter’s bags as she prepared to attend her first camp. We went through my box of memorabilia and pulled out old hats, scarves, photos, blankets, badges … my guiding history. I hardly recognised my fifteen year old self with her long skinny arms and legs. This was before my boobs showed up in all their glory. It was strange to look back at our formal uniforms that we wore to absolutely everything. It brought back memories of the rushed ironing job that occurred before every meeting. The shoes that were polished, the badges that had to shine. So different to the uniforms they wear today.

While there have been some changes in guiding there are still many things that have not. I didn’t get a chance to see the tents they slept in but we warned that there were no floors to the tent. Consequently, the girls still needed to bring a bed roll. A bed roll consists of a piece of tarp, a piece of foam to sleep on, some blankets, and a sleeping bag. You roll it all up, tie it up with some rope and some gorgeous knots … voilá.

So simple except for one little thing. The way Mum does it is different to how Amy has been told. So there were a few words which ended along the lines of “too bad”. And I must say, my version of the bedroll looks pretty good even after twenty years.

I loved camping when I was in Guides. So it was wonderful to see Amy’s smiling face at the end of the weekend. I’d been expecting a grumpy teen-ette who would be struggling from lack of sleep. Not this little bunny. She was giggling, running, and giggling some more. The 45 minute trip home was filled with the stupidity that my children delight in accompanied by endless giggles. She was missed.

And the joy didn’t end once we arrived home. She did what she was told, had a bath, washed her hair and ate all her dinner. Fantastic result.

Moving on a regular basis is a shared childhood for my children and I. It came with endless rewards but a few trials as well.

The opportunity to share a different experience that was such a large part of my childhood is huge. I am so pleased that my daughter finds enjoyment in activities that I enjoyed as a kid. I hope she sticks with it. I hope she continues to enjoy the unique experiences that guiding offers.

I hope she’ll continue to have fun.

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Time Poor

Flower Displays at the Garden Show

Flower Displays at the Garden Show

One of my favourite things about myself is my ability to recognise what is bothering me, give it a name, give it a place and then sit and stare at it for awhile. It is entirely possible that this highly desirable trait regularly drives my husband up the wall.

It would be incorrect to say that I am a ponderer. However, if there is something in my life that I need to resolve (or fix), then I do like to sit and ponder. Reflect on the problem. Get irritated with the problem. Vocalise how I feel about the problem. Try to dissect the problem. Lay down for a bit until I am ready and energised to vocalise a little more on how I feel about the problem. Eventually, when everyone around is at their wits end, I might just think about solving the problem.

My current problem is my lack of time. I must admit, it did take me some time to realise that I have a problem with time. The main reason was that I was too exhausted and falling asleep. However, now my body is adjusting to the rigours of working and I seem to have a little left over energy for thinking. And all I can think about is the many things that I need to do. Unfortunately for me, my energy levels have not yet recovered sufficiently that I can do anything about this. (If you live near by and disagree … I don’t want to hear about it … smiley face).

Once upon a time in a world not so far away, I was not time poor. I was time rich. I had plenty of time to waste … and I did. I am so glad I did. Otherwise, I would be feeling so miserable now. It would feel as if I had let a golden opportunity slip by.

Since I did embrace the luxury of time while I had it. Since I did wallow in it and often achieved very little, I did not adequately prepare myself for the time when it would be gone. Like now.

Now I have less time (I’d say little because I have to allow some periods for complete exhaustion to take over thus depleting my time even more) I am often frustrated that I don’t have the time to do the things that need doing let alone the things I want to do. For instance, my cupboard needs to be tidied so I can hopefully find my watch and my wedding ring. I was going to do that today but decided to write two blog posts instead. Now the day is over. I could start but it’s almost dinner and the period of the evening where I put my feet up and relax is fast approaching.

I seem to be spending my precious time on things that ‘need’ to be done rather than things that I ‘want’ to do. I believe that it might be possible for me to resolve this issue by taking less time to put my feet up and relax. However, the relaxing is keeping me sane.

So as I finish off, think of me, staring at the door of my messy cupboard as I ponder when I will actually get off my butt and tidy it up. It is beginning to irritate me somewhat.

 

 

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