Australia: Not the place I thought you were

The other day after work, I was flowing with the peak hour crowd down Anzac Parade, when I witnessed something awful.

An Aboriginal man was heckling and shoving an East Asian man. The Indigenous guy was yelling obscenities and things like “Go back to where you came from!” to the suited up Asian guy, who was trying, literally, to shake him off. That was Awkward thing Number 1.

People just watched. And did nothing. That was Awkward thing Number 2.

By people, I mean mainly Asian people. The University of New South Wales appears to be predominantly Asian, even the law faculty – a contrast with the College of Law at my own alma mater. That was Awkward thing Number 3.

And I did nothing because, frankly, I’m both Asian and female. I actually thought I might get hit. That was Awkward thing Number 4.

It made me think about how Australia is not the place I thought it was when I was little. Continue reading Australia: Not the place I thought you were

Re-entry. Still from the movie Gravity.

367 days after re-entry

Ten years ago, a lady named Debbie asked me if I was studying Spanish because I wanted to be a missionary in South America. At the time it was a seriously long bow to draw – I in fact had no better reason for studying Spanish other than Age of Empires and the Spanish national football team.

Once I started learning the language, I discovered how beautiful it was to the ear, the mind, the tongue. But even then I didn’t have any particular interest in Latin American culture. I had even less interest in becoming a missionary.

Debbie and I are unlikely to cross paths again, but what she said turned out to be rather prophetic. Continue reading 367 days after re-entry

What feels like home

4,000m above sea level and 400,000m from the closest shore of the Pacific Ocean, playing beach volleyball every Sunday afternoon in the park somehow became one of the defining elements of my life in La Paz.

Now, at sea level and right on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, playing beach volleyball every Monday evening in Manly is becoming an anchor, a touchpoint, to each week here in Sydney.

It’s funny, the unlikely things that make me feel at home. Continue reading What feels like home

The opposite of vertigo

The opposite of vertigo
Is your wings poised for flight
and your feet stuck in cement;
Is the skyward pull that makes
you ill to be on the ground.

Gravity versus your dreams.

The opposite of vertigo
Is conversations about the weather
and getting angry at traffic;
Is display windows taunting you
with things that won’t make you happy.

You can see right through them.

From the pit of your stomach
to the tip of your tongue
the air here’s thick,
swallows up inspiration.

The opposite of vertigo
Is the sickening sensation of settling;
Is being shackled when you should be airborne.

The opposite of vertigo
Is the curse of those who come down from altitude;
Is the Icarus in you and me. Continue reading The opposite of vertigo

How South America messed me up good

People always ask me about my time in South America. Some are genuinely interested, while for others it’s the polite and logical thing to ask. In either case, the truth is that these conversations have started to get a bit repetitive and I’m often left wishing I could say more than: that Latinos are warmer; that Andean dishes contain too many carbs; that working with survivors of child sexual abuse was hard as you’d imagine but so rewarding; that I’m not sure how to answer your question about how good my Spanish is.

The worst thing is that I can’t seem to do Bolivia and Ecuador justice – not in a brief conversation that could turn to a different topic at any given moment.

So below are a few noteworthy things I don’t generally get to share about the impact that my time in South America has had on me as a person and who I am now. Continue reading How South America messed me up good

Next stop: Sydney

Tomorrow will be my first day in Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, paid employment in Sydney. There is so much “normal” in that one sentence it’s not even funny. Don’t pretend you’re not disappointed. I’m trying not to be. “So when are you going back to South America?” “What are you doing here? Just here for a break?” These are things people have actually, literally, … Continue reading Next stop: Sydney

Reconfiguring Home: Weddings and Earthquakes

October 3 She is lovely. Creamy vintage lace, delicate buttons all down her back, descending into a sweeping fishtail. I fumble through the chapel, out of time with the music, but whatever. She floats down the aisle after me. Dad is smart in his officer’s white dress suit although he only reluctantly links arms with her. The day is lovely. Agreeable sun, genuine smiles. People we haven’t seen in years. A photo here, … Continue reading Reconfiguring Home: Weddings and Earthquakes

Almost-no-longer-twentysomething

“You’re not 25 anymore, y’know,” my sister says. She’s being gracious. After another year abroad, I re-enter my bedroom where the posters, postcards and photos plastered against the back wall are peeling off, the Blu-Tack tired of supporting them. This is interior decoration befitting a 16-year-old, and I am now (sigh) an almost-no-longer-twentysomething. But what does the bedroom of an almost-no-longer-twentysomething look like? Probably a … Continue reading Almost-no-longer-twentysomething

Cold feet?

Thanks to the infamous Canberra winter, I think I have cold feet both physically and metaphorically. I’ve just come off the back of a week of talking quite a lot about my upcoming Bolivia trip (not to mention Russia next week). I did some planning and made reservations for accommodation. I had my first farewell (work) and have been discussing several other ‘last catch-ups’. It’s really … Continue reading Cold feet?