australia

Ejo #100 – A Love Letter To Melbourne

The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not
be questioned.

Maya Angelou

Melbourne, my beloved, you are not the city of my birth, but you became my home before I was old enough to form memories of anywhere else. You will always be my hometown. And no matter where I live, you will always be my home.

I became aware of my capacity to love you only after we parted ways, nine and a half years ago (ack, has it really been that long?). Oh dear Melbourne, when I moved away in search of adventure, to “broaden my horizons” and to see more of the world, can you believe that I was actually happy to leave you. I was excited to embark on that brave new endeavour. It wasn’t that I was leaving you, it was just that I was going somewhere else. And even though my journey has been more difficult than I could have imagined, even though I left behind all my family and all my friends, and even though I have struggled with that, I don’t regret any of it. I have seen the world, and it’s wonderful. I have broadened my horizons and I have had adventures. Hopefully I will continue to have them.

What I do regret are all the years that I took you for granted. All the years that I failed to appreciate how entwined we were, and how dependent my sense of self was to yours. I moved away to have new experiences, arrogantly presuming that I would find the same sense of belonging and the same sense of security and oneness that you and I have always shared. Naïvely thinking that these things were inside of me.  But they were not.  I found that I did not belong anywhere else. I do not belong anywhere else. I blamed myself, for years, thinking that there was something wrong with me. Only after a great deal of painful introspection (and therapy, lots of therapy) could I see that you and I have something special, something that I will never find anywhere else in this world, no matter how hard I might search for it.

Melbourne, you have contributed so much of yourself to so much of me. I spent my formative years, my growing up years, inside of you. But until it was gone, how could I have known the extent of your influence? Does anyone ever realise how much they’re shaped by their environment, until they leave it?  The place I live now is nothing like you. The place I live now hates me, and quite frankly, I hate it back. I will always belong to you. And you will always belong to me.

I recently spent two wonderful weeks back in your embrace. In the comfort of your big sky, your clean air, your beautiful light. Enveloped in the glow of your sparkling constellation. You are my galaxy, and though my chosen orbit forces us apart, I am forever drawn to you. We resonate, you and I.  My cherished family is with you. My friends live in you. My history resides within yours. When I am “home”, I am normal.  My guard drops.  I breathe more deeply, and with less effort.  I remember who I was.  I know who I am.  I like myself more.  I regain a sense of belonging. And I do belong.

My beloved Melbourne, please, wait for me.  I promise you, one day I will return.

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Best fucking coffee in the world.

 

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David and I missed out on the “smashed avo” trend, so we make up for it every time we go back.  Also: bacon!!!!

 

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Afternoon cocktails at Madame Brussels. A quintessential Melbourne experience.

 

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Of all things, a lichen covered mailbox in Mount Waverley brings on waves of homesickness.

 

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Park.  Land.  Every.  Where.

 

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A track behind my childhood home.  You don’t realise how much you can miss trees and dirt and insects and bark and grass and fallen leaves and dappled light and twigs and Mother Nature until you have to live without them for so many years.

 

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The light.  Just, the light.

 

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A delightful afternoon in a delightful garden with delightful friends.  Melbourne.

 

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Yes, you can hire a yacht anywhere in the world.  But only in Melbourne is it helmed by such a good mate.

 

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Mah bitchzzz!!!!  Melbourne is where I am free enough to be my crazy self.

 

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Friends.  I’ve lived with these people.  I’ve danced with them.  I’ve gone to university with them.  They know me.  I know them.  Love is in the air!

 

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My gorgeous Mum in her incredible garden.

 

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My best friends in the world.  My sisters.  Melbourne girls.  ❤

Ejo #61 – Status Quo (Not Coming Home)

So, I don’t need to tell anyone how I feel about Dubai. We all know. No need to beat that dead horse. So surely, given the opportunity to leave this joint and go back home to Australia, I would jump at the chance, right?? Well, I guess if that had been the case, this ejo would have a very different title. Something along the lines of “Ejo #61 – Escape At Last” or “Ejo #61 – Fuck Off Dubai, We’re Going Home” or similar. You get the gist. As it is, my ejo this month is not about the colossally magnificent news that we’re packing up and moving back to Australia. Nope. It’s about having the opportunity to do so, carefully (oh, so very carefully) considering it and then rejecting it.

For the first time since we’ve moved to Dubai (way, way back in October 2008) Airservices Australia (the country’s only Air Navigation Service Provider – and our previous employer) has opened up recruitment to overseas air traffic controllers. When we first heard about it David and I kind of looked at each other sideways trying to assess how the other felt about the possibility of chucking it in here and finally heading back from whence we came.  Neither of us wanted to ask the question, and neither of us wanted to answer it.  But we both knew what the question was: Are we ready to go home?

Eventually we got around to talking about it.  The conversations would go something like this:

“So, do you want to apply?”

“I’m not sure.  Do you?”

“Not sure”.

In the end we decided that we would write to the recruitment people and ask them a few questions.  Dealbreakers like where we could expect to get placed and whether or not we could expect to get placed in the same city.  If Rockhampton was our only option, the scenario instantly became less palatable.  And if one of us could go to Melbourne but the other would be placed in Sydney, same deal.  I’ve always said that my marriage is more important to me than my career, and I’m not about to start a long distance relationship with David now.

When they got back to us we discovered that Melbourne Tower was not even on the board.  This drastically reduced the attractiveness of the idea of moving back for me.  If I go home, it’s to go home.  And for me, that’s Melbourne.  If I’m living in Sydney or, even worse, Perth then I’m not home and I might as well stay where I am.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against either of those places, but the deal would be made a lot sweeter if we had the chance to move directly to Melbourne.

In case you didn’t know, the main reason that David and I moved to Dubai in the first place was an increasing level of disenchantment with the management style of Airservices Australia.  When we first got to Dubai, our employer was the sharing and caring antidote to that and we were happy.  Unfortunately, over the years our current employers’ management style has rapidly deteriorated to the same level as we were experiencing back home.  I’m talking about deceit, derision and downright hostility towards their air traffic controllers.  Morale here is not good.  People are resigning in droves and returning to their home countries leaving behind radar units and towers that are painfully short staffed.  The company is unable to recruit air traffic controllers from elsewhere because they aren’t offering an attractive enough package.  And we’re not just disenchanted, but also disillusioned and disengaged.  So it ain’t a happy place.

So why do we stay?  Let me make you a list of things I miss from Australia.

* my family

* my friends

* coffee (oh my god, the coffee)

* no smoking in restaurants, bars and cafes

* the weather

* the amazing restaurant scene

* the sound of birds

* the lack of in-your-face racism

* the culture

* our house

* our neighbourhood

* road rules

* clean air

* trees, plants, flowers, the colour green

* jobs done by those who want to do them, rather than jobs determined by nationality

* quality healthcare

* good service

* not being called sir EVER AGAIN

* being able to wear whatever I like

* being able to kiss my husband in public

* being able to swear in public (I’ve started doing this here and think I’d best stop)

* not being afraid to be drunk in public for fear of being arrested

* not being afraid of being thrown in jail for no good reason

* being able to flip people the bird if I feel like it (it’s the principle)

* great fashion

* reliable mail

* no freaking construction

* no sand EVERYWHERE

* Madame Brussels

* cleaning ladies not being terrified that I’m going to beat them

* pornography (again, not something I necessarily want, but give me the choice god damn it)

* freedom of speech

* reading magazines where they call it wine and beer, not grape and hops

* bacon, oh crispy bacon

* being able to log onto Skype, Spotify etc. without having to hide my location using a VPN

* the countryside

* being able to ski within three hours of the city

* OPSM (seriously, I’ve never had a pair of prescription glasses made properly here)

* no in-your-face wasta

* people that turn their headlights on at night (der)

* wineries

* skilled tradespeople

* OH&S

* minimum wage

* human rights (OK, Australia’s record of that isn’t so great either, but at least you aren’t subjected to it on a daily basis)

* recycling

* addresses (there’s no street name/number system here – you navigate using landmarks)

* great live music scene

* people washing their own damn cars

* not needing the aircon on 24/7

* good hairdressers*

 

I really could go on, but I think you get the idea.  Now I’ll list what I would miss about Dubai if we were to move back home.

* the travel.
 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, maybe the cheap and plentiful taxis too.  And that’s about it.  But that one thing, right now, is worth sacrificing all those other things that I miss about home.  I’m not done travelling yet.  I don’t know if I ever will be.  I’ve got a severe case of wanderlust, and I’ve got it bad.  And living here allows me to regularly, and frequently, scratch that itch in a way that I wouldn’t be able to do from Australia.  So I forfeit my family and my friends and great coffee in exchange for being able to see the world.  I can’t even say if it’s a fair exchange.  I just know that I’m not ready to give it up yet.  And (thank goodness) neither is David.  If one of us wanted to go home, we have agreed that we would go.  But for now we’re staying.

In other news, we are coming home in February for a  couple of weeks so that we can get our fix of all those things we miss about it.  Best of both worlds.

 

 

* If anyone can recommend a GREAT hairdresser in Melbourne, I’d be extremely grateful.

Ejo #51 – Time Ticks Away (And How I Met An Aussie, Sporting Legend)

 

Age is a really terrible thing, isn’t it? Those of you who don’t realise this yet, will – one day. Haha, don’t fret, it happens to everyone. Yes, including YOU! Apart from the wrinkles, the slow but steady onslaught of grey hair proliferating on my head and the increasing creakiness of my body I’ve noticed a very gradual, but definite, fading of myself. What do I mean by this? I’m talking about mattering to the world at large, to society. It’s a young person’s world out there and the older you get, the less you matter. The less you are seen. I admit to having been guilty of this very same crime when I was younger. I would look at “older” people with a filter. And, at the tender age of 42½ I am starting to feel that perhaps now I’m being filtered. Not by everybody of course – certainly not by people my own age, but I think that’s what stops us from going crazy, right? You’re not going through it alone and there are always others of the same generation experiencing the same thing (though I’m sure we all feel it in different ways).

 

For instance, when I think about how old I am, I’m not too concerned with the number. I have a look at how I feel, and to be honest, I still feel 23. Doesn’t everyone feel like this?? Sometimes I’m shocked by how little time I probably have left to accomplish all the things I want to do. This sometimes serves as inspiration, but often it just leaves me feeling shit scared. I guess in the greater scheme of things I am at the younger end of the “old age” spectrum and I often wonder how those towards the other end feel. My mother is, I suppose, smack bang in the middle of this timeline. Officially a senior citizen (which kind of freaks me out – though I imagine it freaks her out even more!!!). I know that she is feeling the vagaries of time, especially as she faces the remainder of her life without my Dad, who passed away ten years ago. It must be hard. On the one hand, time must seem to stretch out like a very lonely road, parts of it insufficiently lit, and parts unchartered. On the other hand, time just keeps on tick, tick, ticking away and before you know it…. well, you know what.

 

I admit to not ever being close to my grandparents, having never lived in the same country as them. In a way, not having the chance to develop a relationship with people of their generation means that I probably missed out on something rather special. Perhaps that’s why when I was younger I had a total blind spot for people with wrinkly skin and white hair. I didn’t know how to relate to them. I didn’t actually realise that I could. They were always “other”, and foreign to me. Sure, I’ve always had an easy affinity with people of my parents’ generation. I was brought up to be respectful, but relaxed, around them. But old, old people? I was at a loss.

 

Of course, now that I’ve joined that old age factory line towards death (albeit at the younger end), I have become aware that older people are… well, they’re just like me. They are interesting and engaging. Their outer casing may be wrinkly and spotted and scarred and sore and stiff, and unable to do the things they used to do. And sometimes their memories aren’t great either. But these people have lived, and they are still living. And what’s exciting to me now is meeting someone who can paint me a picture I’ve never seen, in words I’ve never heard before.

 

On a recent trip to Australia, my husband and I stayed a few days in Adelaide to catch up with his parents. They arranged a lunch with some old family friends that David hadn’t seen in several years. Meeting Shirley and Alan Dawe was quite honestly one of the highlights of my trip.

 

From the moment Alan sat down opposite me at the table, he had me enraptured. He is a dynamic, intriguing, charming fellow and he has lived an incredible life. In fact, you could say that he is one of Australia’s unsung living legends! Let me tell you a little bit about him.

 

Alan is 79 years old. He retired 15 years ago but has always pursued post-retirement activities that would give structure (and perhaps, meaning) to his life. He is still an avid golfer, playing every week. But even that’s not enough for him. A few years ago, he walked into a bakery that a friend of his owns in Adelaide. While chatting to the workers, he picked up a broom and started sweeping the floors. It was the beginning of a new purpose in Alan’s life. Nearly three years later he still goes in to the bakery two or three times a week to “help” out. He is now in charge of the quiche department! And he does a damn, good job, paid in left-over quiches and cartons of milk.

 

Oh, and Alan Dawe used to play basketball. I mean like, for real. Over a career that’s spanned decades, he’s been the recipient of two “Best & Fairest” Woollacott medals (in 1958 and 1959), represented Australia in the first basketball team to play at an Olympics (Rome, 1960), acted as Olympic selector (Montreal, 1976) and served as Assistance Coach (under Lindsay Gaze) to the team that played at the Moscow, 1980 Olympics.

 

Australian Basketball Team (Moscow 1980).  Alan is in the front row, third from the right.

Australian Basketball Team (Moscow 1980). Alan is in the front row, third from the right.

 

Wow, right??

 

I’ve never met an Olympian before and I admit to being a little awestruck. But Alan is such a self-deprecating, easy-going fellow that, before long, we were chatting like old friends. He told me stories, and I lapped them up! He reminisced about a mid-winter trip to the US with the Australian national team where they landed at an airport at the beginning of a snow storm. The entire airport closed down, but their jet was priority-taxied to a position where the players could disembark and climb aboard police-escorted limousines that took them through the middle of the grid-locked city to the stadium (green traffic lights the whole way). The way he told the story was so captivating, so engulfing, I couldn’t help whispering across the table, wide-eyed, “Did you win?”. He waved me away with a laugh, “Nah, of course we lost.”

 

By the end of lunch, I still hadn’t had enough and when the Dawes invited us all back to their place for a taste of Alan’s famous home-brewed beer, I was first to say yes! Back at the house, we settled into the backyard for a couple of hours, enjoying Alan’s beer (the finest home brew I’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking) and chewing the fat.

 

Alan's amazing home brew.  His secret?  Patience.  He allows it to ferment in the bottle for 2-3 months, resulting in a clean, complex taste.  YUM!

Alan’s amazing home brew. His secret? Patience. He allows it to ferment in the bottle for 2-3 months, resulting in a clean, but complex, taste. YUM!

 

I would be a liar if I said I didn’t notice the liver spots, the wrinkled skin on his upper arms or the unsteadiness of his hand. But when he spoke of his experiences, travelling the world, representing his country, carrying the torch at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Alan’s age became irrelevant. His stories, his life, took centre stage!

 

Knowing what a treat it would be for me, Alan brought out his Olympic torch, the one he carried for the Sydney 2000 Games.

Knowing what a treat it would be for me, Alan brought out his Olympic torch, the one he carried for the Sydney 2000 Games.

 

And, later on, when he recounted the anxiety and depression he suffered as an elite sportsperson artlessly falling from the pedestal of fame he became, once again, just a man. But one that still had the power and magic to charm a (relatively) youthful 42½ year old “girl”. Perhaps the day we met will stick in Alan Dawe’s memory as a day he was appreciated and feted (many years after his achievements). More likely, that day will stick in my memory as the day I met a living legend. Either way, it’s a day I’ll never forget (though you never know, my memory ain’t what it used to be).