Time to jettison some physical and emotional baggage

Last year unbeknownst to me I began on a journey of decluttering my existence and renewal.

It began with letting go of a very unhealthy friendship I had. Every time I saw this person I felt worse off for it. The subtle put downs, her embarrassing sleazy behaviour, her negativity hanging around my neck like a dead albatross.

Once I removed this draining person from my life, I had a lot more time for my myriad of other fantastic, creative and positive people in my life.

Next to go was my unfulfilling job, giving me space to think of my next endeavour. Perhaps a little too much time.

With all this newfound time on my hands (thank you redundancy), I have continued to unclutter my physical and my social surroundings. According to the psychology of clutter, surrounding yourself with lots of stuff, activities, people can be a convenient way to keep yourself distracted from noticing the bigger issues you may have been ignoring, or going after what you really want in life. Hmm… sound familiar?

On the physical side of this decluttering process was my recent garage sale. A little money making venture, but mainly I wanted the things I never use to have a second life, to be of value again. One of the sales I delighted in was my Camper shoes going to a disabled girl with wide feet. The shoes are stretchy leather with Velcro straps, and for those of you that have owned Campers you know that they last forever. To me those shoes meant another trendy trophy to my Imelda Marcos-challenging shoe collection that I never wore because they didn’t quite fit. To this girl and her mum it meant she had a pair of shoes she could put by herself, unassisted, that were comfortable and of good quality.

The physical clutter is easy to deal with, but the emotional clutter – feeling socially obliged, self doubt, procrastination – are much harder to acknowledge and therefore deal with. But I’m getting there; it’s all a process.

This post is dedicated to Lyn Adamson, thank you for the gentle kick in the pants.

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My year explained through the subtle humour of fart jokes

“One never reaches home, but wherever friendly paths intersect the whole world looks like home for a time.” (H. Hesse)

It’s one of my favorite quotes of all time, and very suitable for a gypsy girl like me. Somehow this year I’ve been a restless little sausage, unable to find my niche in a city I’ve called home since I was 18. After all the excitement, challenges, angst, white sand beaches, tattoos and copious amounts of cheap rum of the Philippines, this year has seemed a touch ‘meh’.

Not to mention the cosmos has farted on my crumpets a couple of times this year,  in a professional and romantic capacity – I mean things have gone slightly awry, not that the universe has actually started to flatulate on my work desktop or romantic dinners for two, that’s just silly.

On Saturday night I was having an in-depth analysis of my existence and my place in said space of burning balls of hydrogen and helium (yes, my farts analogy is based on pseudo scientific fact). Ok, I was drunk and having a bit of a whinge to a friend who made a very good point, geography is immaterial, it’s the community in that geography that counts. I’ve been reluctant to invest in the here and now, always poised to jettison it all like a little squidlette *pfftt* one squirt of ink and I’m outta here.

Despite my love of romantic poetry I have issues with the ephemeral nature of life, I blame my folks – one should always blame their neuroses on their parents, it pleases Freud. Happily married and in the home I grew up in, always there for me when it all goes pear-shaped. No wonder I’m screwed up.

This year hasn’t been without its moments of elation and achievement, Masters done, conquered the art of making smutney (spicy mango chutney, it is life changing), fabulous stomps in the forest and good times with great friends. So where to in 2011? The geography is immaterial, it’s the friendly paths that count. And I need to learn French and how to play the ukulele (my flying v sanchez, the most rad-arse uke the world has ever seen).

Men and their digits

You know when you have been living in a city for a long time when you can judge a man by his postcode.

Date #1: 2209 – Beverly Hills
General stats: Male, late 20s, works in IT in the city.

Mr 2209 takes me to Surry Hills (2010) thus putting a lot of distance between himself and his home turf. He seems quite lefty despite the fact that he looks like a young liberal and gets very passionate about the failed emissions trading scheme while he orders me another shiraz. Which all sounds good you would think, but then he attacks me for the Greens failure to pass the ETS. I thought by the dress I was wearing alone he could tell that I wasn’t Bob Brown.

Then the postcode arises, “if he lives that far away, he must live with his parents,” me thinks.

I am on the money, he talks up how he is always in Newtown (2042) and his folks are usually in Hong Kong. Thanks for a lovely night, please don’t contact me again.

Date #2: 2205 – Arncliffe
General stats: Male, late 30s, works in IT in the city.

Mr 2205 takes Miss 2042 (me) to Glebe (2037) and everything is split down the middle. I gag my inner feminist to a chair in the corner of my mind, it’s the first date – cough up buddy. Then the clogs start moving, “Arncliffe, for a guy who’s into foreign films and has a motor bike?” – light bulb moment – “this man has a mortgage!”

And yes indeedy do, after years and years of being a hedonistic tumbleweed across Europe, Mr 2205 wants to settle down. Settle down? *insert comic strip style roadrunner dust between my heels*

Date #3: This is a tricky one; he is close to home and therefore too close to home to talk about. Oh the intrigue, which Mr 2042/2016/2048 am I alluding to?

In all fairness I should point out that I am such a postcode cliché that it is beyond ridiculous – Miss 2042:

  • Has a Lily Allen style haircut
  • Loves Camper shoes
  • Works for an NGO
  • Has a worm-farm and a membership of Alfalfa House
  • Frequents the Courtie, Sando and Townie in the wee hours
  • Knows the staff at Sultan’s Table by their first names

Like all good pirates, I’ll stick to the ‘code. But they are just a guideline.

Bits and pieces of existence in Samar

If you are looking for profound cultural insights and keen observations you’re at the wrong corner of cyberspace (why does no one use that term anymore?)

I think I’m running low on go-go juice and I ain’t talking about the always obtainable Tanduay Rum which is cheaper than water.

My family has come and gone and they gave me a much needed break from blackouts, work and flushing my ta-e away with buckets of water. And for those of wondering the fate of porky, she feed the neighbourhood and my father was incredibly impressed. What better way can a daughter show her love and gratitude to her Dad’s tolerance and understanding over all these years? Get the man a pig; a tasty, dead pig.

It’s funny the information that you absorb in your surroundings without even realising. Although Dad was well pleased, I was very unimpressed with my lechonerro. I thought to myself when he was cooking, “That is too hot and he is turning too quickly.”

Like when I watch sport during the Olympics and I’m suddenly an expert in synchronised diving or table tennis; I’m now an authority on cooking whole pigs.

Two months of trabaho left and I gripped by two diametrically opposed states of mind, “Oh crap” and “F’k yeah!” The latter is the side of me that is sick of the same conversations (“Where is your companion?”, “You’re a Mormon ma’am?”, “Where are you going?”); the multiple sets of eyes that are constantly on me where ever I go and whatever I do; and the shittiest music played on repeat for hours (My my my myyy Poker face … Umbrella ella ella eh eeh eh…).  And I miss the amazing bunch of freaks I call my friends and family back home, sometimes I’d kill for a Margaret River shiraz, perving on boys with scruffy hair at the Courtie and a crumpet dripping in butter.

But the “Oh crap!” is I still have so much to see and do here and the clock now has an audible tick. I doubt I’ll have time to see the stunning rock formations of Biri or go spelunking in Western Samar. More importantly I can see so many marketing opportunities for SPPI that I just don’t have time to get off the ground. Hopefully another AYAD can carry the torch.

My suggestion to the next intrepid volunteer that ventures here, bring the mother of all ipod docking stations to blast any tropical depressions away.

A fresh pair of eyes in the swamp

I have recently adopted an intern at the Grameen Bank of Catarman and taken him under my wing.

He literally got of the plane from Sweden and I plunged him head first into life in a developing country. Rust-bucket ferries that leave 3 hours late, pedicabs with children hanging off the roof, torrential downpours and a bunch of drunken Aussie volunteers on a deserted island. Mabuhay to the Philippines Sir Mam Po.

Seeing Joel gasp with amazement at more than 4 people on a motorbike and the marvellously pimped-up jeepneys made me realised how indoctrinated I have become to life in the provs. Having a child/chicken/bag of dried fish in my lap, crammed into some form of uncomfortable type of public transport has become such a day-to-day occurrence for me it has become ‘normal’.

It’s been over 3 months since I arrived in Catarman, and if you told me when I arrived that I could live without a fridge, flushing toilet, real coffee and lovely shoes I would have thought you were insane. And that my home could be walang (without) power and water for either minutes or several days sounds like an impossible existence.

But the longer I am here, the more I realise how much I have. In Sydney in my uncle’s garage is a fabulous array of handbags*, treasured books and curios from around the world. And the voyages I’ve had to collect those trinkets are even more precious. Most of my colleagues have not seen as much of the Philippines as I have already, let alone the world.

Although my colleagues will never have the material wealth or the international adventures I’ve had, there are aspects of Pilipino rural life I am envious of. The tightness of the family unit, the understanding of needing a true life/work balance and an innocence.

Seeing that word on the screen sounds patronising, but my English vocabulary appears to be shrinking here and I can’t think of a better word so I will elaborate with a situation. Joel and I witnessed some spectacularly bad karaoke while having dinner. Rather than snide comments that you would expect in either of our home countries, there is a type of respect in the crowd. Everyone is entitled to their moment of glory.

Many business meetings I’ve had here have involved singing, games, dancing or giggling about ‘gwapo’ (attractive men). There is a lack of inhibition which is really beautiful.

I’ve had many frustrations and stressful situations lately but having a fresh perspective through different eyes has reminded me to truly value and embrace my time in the swamp. 

* Of course I value my family and friends more than stuff, but you are not kept in my uncle’s garage and that would have broken the flow of that lovely mental picture. Miss you xx