Light Enough To Travel
The forgotten offering
Monday, October 30, 2006
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Postcards From Australia
So for the few of you who headed to the orble site, thanks! I have been offered an opportunity to freelance blog for the company. And, since they enjoyed my snap-shots of a life lived abroad i thought i would republish the posts that I had done for them here, for those among you who happen to stop by :)
Some are better than others, the goal was to post every three days, at least...
if you haven't already done so, please, enjoy my postcards from Australia
10 October: ...Even in Australia
Everything goes wrong sometimes, for all of us, please tell me not just for me!
Everything goes wrong and sometimes you just lack the drive to fix it. School has me in a funk today. I had an early class so i got up (earlier than i like) and i sat through the most tedious, useless lecture imaginable. And then I called home. And then I checked my email, and here I am at 1:30 in the afternoon and I haven't done any work on my lastest assessment. Its 1:30 in the afternoon which you would think would leave me plenty of time to get something done, but I can't find the motivation. I can't be asked to care about looming deadlines, and theories of international relations. North Korea may have just tested a nuclear device, arguable the reaction of the world community will have long-lasting effects on global security and especially security in my asia-pacific region and i can't be bothered to care. So where does motivation come from on a day like today? The sun is shining so I'm motivated to go out to lunch. The sun is shining so I am motivated to go on a run. The sun is shining so I am motivated to be doing anything but sitting in front of this computer any longer. And I want to fight the urge to blow off the day (who can afford to blow off an entire day of work!) but then I have to wonder if i'll be able to get anything done in this state of mind. Will anything go my way today should I try and make my own luck, coral my own fate, fight for my own internal threshold of procrastination to be crossed spurring my otherwise unmotivated butt into work-mode? Or, should I just heed the advice of the great Alexander (you know, Alexander of Alexander and the terrible horrible no good very bad day) and let today slide by, because in the end you have to waste some time, and sometimes things won't go your way, and no matter how much you fight it: SOME DAYS ARE LIKE THAT...EVEN IN AUSTRALIA!
8 October: MYSPACE procrastination
Being far away from home has its advantages. Afterall, if i was not a perpetual traveler I would not have acquired friends around the world, and if I was not constantly dashing from one place to the next there would be no need to 'stay in touch.' I would BE in touch, literally. And thus, if my penchant for travel had not taken me around the world and back I would never have discovered the miserable , fantastic procrastination device that is: myspace!
An easy way for friends in any location, from any venue with internet access to have a quick update of what I'm doing, when the last time I logged in was, how many friends I have, how many pictures i've taken, and generally more information than you'd typically want one to be able to acquire without your knowledge ;) Nonetheless, we're all guilty of providing that information once we join. We caption our photographs, choose selectively the friends we want to display on our top favorites list, and generally continue to act as though we're close to people who we have long since lost touch with. Old friends become old strangers in a matter of yeasr, but this way, we still have the access to their lives without involving them, at all. What a clever invention of moderntity: Friendship without interaction, Procrastination, without distraction of another.
5 October: An Inexplicable Truth
I am sad for my country today.
I saw An Incovenient Truth the other night. The Al Gore documentary on climate change... Anyway, I sat there watching the slideshow, listening to Gore go through the information and I was struck by something more powerful than the information he was conveying. This is a smart man. Here is a man who was introduced to a revolutionary (and less than mainstream idea) by a professor in his undergraduate training. Here was an Your text goes hereengagedYour text goes here man, someone who absored information, felt compelled by ideas, struggled to comprehend was sat on the verge of his absorption. Gore, for all his personality flaws, or campaign woes, is fascinated by knowledge, and he has the capacity to be changed by changing information.
In the course of the movie Gore points out to what lengths he's gone to really grasp the ideas at hand. He has distilled difficult scientific understandings, and put together conclusions in a way that they become available, know-able, to the general public. And yet, here is a man who is not the President of the USA. More moving than the faux sentiment running through the movie, more saddening than the news that one day soon we will be faced with dramatic climate catastrophes, was the thought that this man did not compel the people of the United States to vote for him. That the anti-intellectual sentiment raging within the borders of this super-power brought to power an igornant, bumbling, distainful, disasterous, administration. How do we stand a chance in realizing the potential for good embodied in the position we have in the world if we can't, as a country, put a smart man in power?
I want a president who is more captivated by learning than I am, than I will ever be. I want my fellow citizens to feel the same. But that is not Australia's strong suit, either. Intellectual curiousity doesn't win much of anything for politicans, anywhere it seems. And I am sad, for my country, my countries, this world and its future.
2 October: Australia Goes to the Theatre
I remember long drive up the Eastern seaboard of the United States when I was a child. My family would pack ourselves into the mini (or the maxi) van, and drive all the way up the coast enroute to a ski-town for a weeks vacation. Mostly my dad would drive, and we would fill eight hours with discussion and music, but mostly music. We would listen to the soundtracks of many a broadway show, some of which would fill hours of our journey. We would listen to the words of these songs and we would analyze, delve beyond the words and find hidden meanings, contextualize the references, and debate over what the sub-text was supposed to illicit. The beauty of these musical operas lay not in their simplicity, or in their surface, the brilliance of the theatre was the interpretation of the experience, the meaning hidden below, which pulls you from complacancy and invites you to create meaning within the story.
Not so of Australian theatre. Perhaps, not so of Australians in general. Sub-text is not a virtue for aspiration. Bluntness is worshipped. Why make people struggle to find meaning when it could be laid bare for them? Why risk that people may never understand what it is you hoped they'd understand by talking around the subject. Pragmatism. Say what's on your mind, plain, simple, no beating around the bush. No looking, no delving, no space for personal interpretation. The Australian theatre going experience is forthright. The plot develops along a simple trajectory. You almost know where its going before it gets there and you're hardly surprised when you arrive where you do. Almost like Australians themselves. Never giving you time to wonder, never giving you much to ponder, to savour, to hold on to, toss over and over, and inject with meaning never intended. The simplicity of life in general might be what drew me to love it here. My own fondness of being blunt in interactions might be what makes me happy here. But still, I don't believe that theatre should lack emotional subtext. If you can't create drama in your own life (which I am fond of doing, no doubt) than certainly a night at the opera should provide something more than straightforward recitation, something greater, more captivating, more invigorating...more drama.
23 September: Paris Hilton Hair
Its always surprising when someone picks me out as foreign. I know i sound different, and as much as I LOVE the Australian obession with 80s fashion, i probably look different, I still can't figure out how people know, from a distance, and in an instant that I am not frome here. This is specifically disappointing to me as I struggle to become Australian, but the feedback people give me is wonderful. Stereotypes really can be useful in placing people it seems. I've been told that people knew I was not just American but from which coast and even which state of American I am from for some of the following:
1) my accent (that's pretty easy)
2) my clothes
3) my choice of alcoholic beverage
4) my personality
and my favorite
5) my hair style
Some of those things i just can't change. My accent is significantly weaker than most who come from my state, so its always shocking to hear that its strong to an aussie ear. My clothes, well, most are purchased here in Australia so i'm not sure what i'm doing wrong there. My beverage choice will not be altered, I refuse ;) Likewise my personality. My hair style, well who in the world knew that each state of America is attributed with a stereotypical hairstyle? Apparently mine is Paris Hilton hair. I've got that bicoastal, vacuous, blonde, heiress hair going, or so i've been told. And truth be told, that's probably not going to change anytime soon either. So i guess maybe my quest for Australianness is not really about being Australian in so much as Australians can't tell the difference between us, but rather about knowing why it is, exactly, that from a distance it is clear that Australians think I am foreign.
21 September: Bar Room Brawl
Have you ever found yourself in the middle of an argument when it suddenly dawned on you that you were neither going to win, nor were you making yourself look good? Have you ever witnessed someone else in such a position and thought to yourself how stupid they were making themselves look? Since having this experience, have you learned anything?
Last night I was in a small pub in my city with two friends from out of town, and two of their friends. It was a reunion, to be sure. I haven't seen these girls in 3 years and there was heaps to catch up on. So, over our pints and the din of a 'D-list' performer we happily reminisced, laughed, enjoyed. At the close of a really terrible song in which the performer attempted to rhyme the word potato with special, we applauded quietly but politely. Poor guy we thought, he must struggle to find work. And then he began to speak. We were sitting off to his left but he looked straight ahead and commented: "i like this space. Its very linear. And its perfect, y'know, because the quiet people have all congregated down, as far off from the stage as possible, at the door almost, and the loud people, well the loud people who want to have a conversation are all sitting by the stage."
Usually such a diatribe might be accompanied by a turned head, some eye-contact, and the a smile. Afterall, you're a performer at a local pub in which most of the people look as though they haven't washed in several days. To be fair, you, yourself look as though you haven't seen a good scrub in at least a week. Did you think people came to listen to you? All the while having these thoughts in my head, the man is still going on about how loud me and my friends are. What a prick! I thought about making some nasty comment in return, mostly regarding the quality of his performance and his talen (or significant lack thereof) but restrained myself, thinking that it would, inevitably be me, who ended up looking foolish for fighting with this man.
Oh but twenty minutes down the line i found myself enraged once more and unable to keep my mouth shut, unable to capitulate to the self-preservationist within. I was arguing with a government employee about immigration policy in Australia. Not much convinced he knew anything at all, and pretty positive that what he knew was rhetoric and brainwashing, I proceeded to attack him when i meant to be attacking the thought process behind the government's program. Offended no doubt by the hypocrisy of this American, he proceeded to become defensive and use the statistics he was privy to that were not confidential. Though I believe he was incorrect it dawned on me when i had my face twisted into an aggressive scowl, that it wasn't him who looked bad, despite how very ignorant he might be, but rather, I, who was making a fool of themselves. One day I might need this man's good graces, or the good graces of a friend of his in government. One day I might regret that I let my academic banter turn to passion in the bar.
So i guess we never learn. Not in the space of minutes, not in the space of years. I guess no one ever does, or at least I hope that I'm not the only one who has ever saved themselves the embarrasment of confrontation in one instance to go even bigger in embarrassment-factor the next time around.
19 September: America Australia Relations
I had the unique opportunity to induldge in my "own culture" this weekend. Ok, not exactly unique, any aussie out there can find a few americans and spend the night talking sweet fa, but i haven't done it in a while. I got to hang out with a group of Americans and all of a sudden i felt really conspicuous. I was no longer cute when I approached the bar, I was in a pack of slightly obnoxious people about to descend and cause chaos. And, let's face it, I was no longer unique, a novelty, I was one of a few, all congregating around a table at the bar, and no one had any reason to single me out to talk.
Of course this made me ponder what my quest for Australia is all about. Is this to remove myself from people like them? In the beginning I thought it was. All these people, highly educated, like myself, but aroogant. Poppies growing wildly out of control and no one there to cut them, no one there to have taught them that arrogance is not endearing and the only people that everyone truly respects is those with every right to be arrogant and yet remain humble. But i'm more 'show-offy' than most australians so it couldn't have been their arrogance alone. Was it a desire to remove familiarity? It has been said that familiarity breeds contempt and perhaps I was too complacent, too comfortable, though ever seeking drama. Perhaps I need that feeling of ambiguity, the feeling that everything might be new today, could be new today. Was it to articulate my individuality? Like I said, there is great fun in going out and being noticed for nothing more than your 'accent.' Great fun in being something different, ubiquitous and yet somehow exotic.
For all these reasons I am seeking Australia. Its as much about me as it is about the place, though certainly, i love Australia for reasons i have not yet pinned down on the page. I love Australia in ways I have yet to discover, for reasons I have yet to know. But i love America too. I love America as my first love, a part of me I can't erase. I love America as my identification with it (or my being identified by it) influences everything i do in Australia, and perhaps, being something other than an American in Australian wouldn't be so much fun.
15 September: Summertime Iced Coffee
The weather is finally warming again. I moved to Australia the first time having absolutley no idea that anywhere in the country would have a cold winter. I returned the second time with full knowledge of the facts and found myself surprisingly shocked by the onset of the cold in early june. But the sun is back and day-temps are climbing steadily. Celcius temps still mean very little to me and i find myself constantly doubling and addint 30 (is it 32) to aproximate a Farenheit temp.
Without exact degree measures, however, there is still no doubt, summer is on its way. And you know what summer means....ICED COFFEE. But of course, sadly, if you're Australian you do not know what iced coffee is. Iced coffee does not have ice cream in it, nor is it a flat white that has been chilled. You have not experienced the joys of $2 large Dunkin Donuts Toasted Almond iced coffee and you probably never will. Instead you will continue to maintain that iced coffee without ice cream is ridiculous and that a flat white is what is meant by iced coffee. And most of the time i want to accept Australian foods, words, and ways just as they are, but I am resolute in my proclaimation that iced coffee in this country is a disgrace! Iced coffe is french press coffee chilled (preferably overnight) for 12 hours. It is then combined with milk/cream/half and half and whatever type of sugar or sugar substitute you prefer. It usually comes with ice so you've got to drink it quick before your coffee turns to coffee-water in the sweltering summer sun. I can't tell you how much i'll miss iced coffee this summer. I can't tell you how many moments there will be, trapped at my desk, sunligh glittering through the floor to ceiling windows, tempting me away from work, tempting me outside, tempting me to find an American iced coffee. Still, I wouldn't want them here anyway, its a slipperly slope, afterall, and Australia should remain as uniuqe and individual, as far from American-pop culture as it can possibily remain. So, i guess in my ceaseless quest for Australia I will learn to enjoy iced cream in my iced coffee....
13 September: Home and Away: Traveling On
For those of you who have ever stood on an ocean coast and wished you could get to the next large landmass…this is for you….
I have wanderlust. Borne of fascination with that which I am not experiencing, and an endless desire to have no opportunity denied me, no doors closed to me, I am curious and roaming, if not in actuality than in mind. Some clear thinker, articulate and succinct (though whose name I cannot for the life of me remember) has said it best: you want a man to build a ship, do not waste your time teaching him the engineering of ship building, or the mundane task of learning what type of wood to collect; do not bother giving him sewing lessons so he may make the most perfect sail; instead incite within him a longing for exploration and lust for the ocean. This desire for changes lies in perfect opposition for my endless longing for stability and continuity, this desire for change always wins out. I hate to leave, I am a miserable, stressed-out, anxious disaster when leaving time arrives, but I need to go. I can’t turn down the chance to go.
And I have always lived on the water. I have had that lust for oceans as a constant, my whole life. I have never been but mere moments from the salty water of ocean or sound or bay. And I’m sitting here, at my desk, longing for change. Never complacent for long I can not bring myself to research countries I have not yet seen, not without a small nagging tug at my heart, at my heels. But money comes in short supply, and time even shorter. To know that I will end up here is not to say I am willing to forgo a chance to see what I have ultimately turned down, and I am not willing to turn it down without, at least once, seeing it all. The fantasy of Home and the fantasy of Away; the dream of roots and the mirage of the journey (S. Rushdie)—these are the irreconcilables in my life…
10 September: RED EARTH UNDER MY SKIN
If Australian advertising is entertaining, perhaps the exact opposite of their movies is true...
I watched the Japanese Story the other night. Toni Collette is in it along with heaps of unfamous actors of various quality. The movie is set in the Australian outback and its funded by, none other than the Australian Lottery Commission! I jest. Its actually quite a story and very Australian in its perception. True to form its filled with stereotypes that are blatant. There is no apologies or excuses or dancing around stereotypes (offensive as they are to some.) That is not the Australian way. Obviously these stereotypes focus on the Asian cultures which surround Australia both geographically and within their daily lives in the country! Anyhow, the plot proceeds in the most "un-american" way, killing off an important character and focusing on stoic faces, tears sliding down cheeks, and awkward out of body moments in hotel rooms. I can't ruin the story for you but ultimatley the cinematography is gorgeous and the acting is strange but not wholly unappealing. The script leaves something to be desired when you first encounter it, but like much in Australia it grows on you, seeps into your skin and holds on tighter than you'd imagine. Isn't that the Australian way? I've got an Australian man like that too, but that is another story...
8 September: The Billy Kane Beaumont
I own a car. In fact, I am in possession not only of a car, but of a
license. And it is a source of great pride. It reads 'Driver License
Australian Capital Territory.' I keep it in my wallet in front of my
old New York Driver License and I love flashing it at bouncers and
bartenders throughout the county and watching them with a little bit
of confusion as they try to reconcile my accent with my license! That
license is my ticket to fitting in, to calling Australia home, and
though I certainly would be devastated to see it taken away, I have to
wonder sometimes 'who gave it to me?!' I mean, I learned to drive on
the right side of the road (some would say the correct side, but I
mean right, as in right/left). How difficult is it to follow
traffic patterns, some might ask? Perhaps people overestimate how
intelligent foreigners are. You see a car in front of you, you stay
behind it, hopefully at least one of you will be a native and be
traveling in the correct lane, no?
This morning, however, I pulled out of my driveway to discover there was no one else traveling down the road. It was early, I was tired, and for a good 15 seconds I pondered which lane I was supposed to pull my car into. 'The left one, the left one', my brain repeated, but I was paralyzed, all of sudden I couldn't tell my left from my right. Feeling unsure and overwhelmed I pressed on the gas and hoped for the best. I pulled out onto the empty street and was relieved to see a car traveling in the opposite direction in the opposite lane. A small step in my quest to
become Australian, a huge victory for road safety!
September 6: Aussie Adverts
I watched the Emmy's the other night with my friends from North
America (leave it to us northern hemisphere folk to stick together!)
Though the program is American the advertising most certainly is not.
Do you know that Australian's must be the most naturally
prone-to-consume people on the planet? How else can you explain their
consumerist tendencies when their advertising could not entice a fish
back to water?
Perhaps Australian advertising is the ultimate
expression of the Australian egalitarianism and 'fair-go,' and
identity that the country seems to rally around. How else can you
explain the homemade commercials aired on prime time television? At
first its shocking. This is a country which advertises for skilled
migrants on its Department of Immigration and Multi-Cultural Affairs'
(DIMA) website. There is a need for electricians and plumbers and
hairdressers—this they know, but what about advertisers? Has it
escaped the attention of all but the foreigners residing amongst them
that Australia is in desperate need of some over-priced, make you
gotta-run-out-and-get-it advertising? How is it possible that
advertising has lagged behind so much in this country? Upon pondering
the subject further, with more than a little ridicule, I must admit, a
more accurate picture becomes clear. This is Australia epitomized.
And, while American's pride themselves on their 'pull yourself up by
your own bootstraps' ethos, Australia embodies it, letting their
hardworking, small-business owning men and women make a name for
themselves with their prime time advertising. And though I can't
remember what product the commercial was advertising for, I must say I
was struck by the theme song which featured a man on a shed roof
indicating that he was 'proud to be a react man.' I can't say with
any certainty that I know what being a 'react man' entails, but it was
kitschy and catchy and in my adopted home of Australia, as I struggle
to make amends with those values that I adore but have yet to
understand fully, I can say honestly, I too, am proud to be a react
man. This country, its people, and now its advertising, never fail to
make me smile, to laugh.
who gets anything for two dollars?
so my trip to vietnam.malaysia/singapore/cambodia/india/bhutan/nepal/uzbekistan/hawaii/rome seemingly is going to manifest itself into a trip to vietnam (b/c we can find cheap airfare) and then really to cambodia. For $AUD 1000 we can make it return Sydney to Saigon (yeah Ho Chi Min City just doesn't sound as good) and then for $US 12 dollars we can catch a bus from saigon to pheom penh from which we can hop a boat tour to siam reap and angkor wat.
i checked out some site to see how much accomdation and all that good stuff and they say reasonable accomodation is between $US 2 and 6 a night...that's pretty sick.
so anyone out there been to vietnam/cambodia give us suggestions!!!
Saturday, October 14, 2006
i have spent 4,334 words explaining why the responsibility to protect is impossible to put into practice when what i really meant to be saying was that the responsibility to protect IS being put into practice and it still does not provide strong enough criteria for intervention that we will see any noticable shift in the situation in Darfur based on R2Ps principles. My paper is only supposed to be 5000 words. I don't care any more. Is this bad?
Remember senior year of college feeling a little burned out like you were really done with school for a while. Excited to hit the real world, have a job where you did more than think theoretically all day long....yeah, i'm there, times A MILLION!
Saturday, October 07, 2006
Ohh I'm up for a fight. But not the right fight, and not the good fight.
I have a teacher here who called me pugnacious the other day in class. I wasn't there ( i attend the evening class) but the students who were there maintain that it wasn't a vicious comment, it was probably a poor word choice. He probably meant 'fiesty' but he said pugnacious, and now, here I am, ready for a fight.
I'm fighting with my own destructive desire to blow off his paper. For reasons other than the poor word choice to be sure, but I'm not finding the motivation to blow him away with my paper. I've got 11 days to write the best 5000 words he's ever seen and I can't even sit at the computer at get 100 pinned down.
So even though I want to fight with my professor, i'm fighting with myself instead to find the motivation, fighting to remember this isn't about IR its about PR, fighting to remember that i don't care what he thinks, I care what I think. But i think I'm tired, and a little burned out. I think I'm running on empty. I think i'll have to remind myself more than once that the fight I'm down for, the only fight I'll win, is the one with myself, cause fighting with him won't get me very far.