Friday, 30 November 2012

Brotherly Love: A Play In Six Acts.

These guys fight like crazy. You'd think six years difference would mean no fighting.


Wrong. They can fight so often and so relentlessly that the voice out of my head sounds like a strangled cat on a hot day.


I hiss at them to stop fighting. Right now! YOU get to your room and YOU get to yours bloody HELL YOU GUYS!!


It's infuriating. Fighting is the one thing that really grates on me. I ask other mothers of boys if their guys fight and the answer is always yes.


They miss each other, make up, and it starts all over again.


They laugh and fart, laugh about farts. (All bets are off if someone ever mentions a penis.) 

They adore the hell out of each other.


I adore the hell out of them too. So much I can hardly stand it.


Thursday, 29 November 2012

My Strict Magazine Rules.


Sponsored by Magshop

Mum passed her love for magazines onto my sisters and I. We grew up on a
steady diet of Woman's Day, Australian Women's Weekly (when it really did get
published weekly!), Dolly Magazine … and the Holy Grail if you are a teenage
girl: Cosmopolitan.

The day I was old enough to read Cosmo was a very, very happy day indeed.
There were strict rules in place when it comes to reading each others magazines.
You were NOT allowed to read somebody else's brand spanking new mag if they
hadn't read it first. If you did, there was hell to pay. And you
just KNEW when somebody had read your new magazine before you.

I've read magazines through my teens into adulthood with a passion. My
consumption has changed a little since having children and not getting enough
time, but there's still the question between my sisters, mother and I when we stay
at each others houses:

"Got any mags?"

One of the few indulgences left in life is to take a cup of tea and some chocolate
to bed .... alongside a brand spanking new magazine.

Dave always steals my magazines, so we've had to adopt some pretty hefty
rules.

1) No coveting of other peoples magazines before they have read it.

2) If you are reading a magazine that the other person hasn't read yet, you are
not to sit there gasping and spilling the beans on things the other person HASN'T
READ YET. (This especially applies to surprise celebrity pregnancies and break-
ups.)

3) If a magazine gets generously shown to you by the owner, you are NOT to then take advantage and start flicking through the pages. The owner will sit, quietly fuming, holding nothing but a resentment.

Dave and I are now at an understanding around acceptable magazine-reading
behaviour. At bedtime I still hide my new ones underneath my pillow or in the
cupboard. He always manages to sniff them out.

"Where's your new magazines hon?"

Sometimes I buy two and I pull them out, so we can both sit there reading. We
never seem to finish at the same time, so swapping can cause anxiety. Which
brings me to my last bonus rule: No magazine reading over another's shoulder.
Ever.

The answer to all of these problems is to just buy a whole heap of different titles,
which I sometimes do. It's so decadent. One of Dave's favourites is Men's Style Magazine. 

When I buy him a subscription for Christmas, there is no doubt that he'll mock me, hold it close to his chest and tell me I am NOT allowed to read his magazine before him.

I'll just pull out a few new ones from underneath the bed and say, that's cool hon.

Here's some I prepared earlier!



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Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Love And A Strong Nose.


"Mum, when you were away ... a wart grew on my arm."

We're not really a wart family, so I was surprised. I turned to look and laughed so hard. He popped that strawberry and cream wart in his mouth, smiling.

The other night I was kissing him goodnight. He told me how excited he was about his mates coming over this weekend, pointed to where everybody was going to sit when they watch movies.

"PLEASE can we watch Saw?" 

There is no WAY he is watching Saw. Told him if he wants to start watching horror, he'll have to start with some classics like Jaws and Alien. We bargained for a while. Parenthood turns you into an awesome and deftly skilled negotiator.

In a restaurant the other day, munching on green chicken curry he announced:

"You know, the universe has actually got NO end."

I put my arms around him and drew him close.

"Welcome to the mystery, my friend."

Last week I showed a photo of him to some new Indian friends. They remarked on how strong his nose is, how it would see him through life very well.

I already knew this. Nobody has ever commented on it before - it's true. He has the nose of a Roman Emperor. I built that nose, in my tummy.

That nose came out spread across his face all wide, from being stuck in the birth canal so long. One of the midwives told me to gently squeeze it back into shape, every day.

I never did.




Monday, 26 November 2012

Ground Control.

I got off the plane at Sydney and everything was orderly and civilised. Walked out of customs and saw Dave and the boys. They were so WHITE. And clean! There wasn't one ounce of dirt on their faces. Their clothes were fresh. Dave looks better with each passing year ... how is it that men age so well?

I thanked him so much for everything. He winked and carried my bags to the car. We ate sushi for lunch, I had two double-shot skim lattes in a row, then we went up to the beach for the weekend.

I'll be doing Pinterest tutorials on how to achieve such a fringe.

I couldn't wait to see my mum. She invited us for lunch and made four different salads including a baked potato salad.



 She was beautiful. I could tell she'd been crying. Jim was still gone. Sometimes I want to drive to the hospital to pick him up because surely there's been some kind of mix-up?

We finally drove home last night. I didn't want to come home. To be honest I don't really want to be home. Home feels weird and strange. You could fit Rashni's entire house into our front foyer. I've never felt comfortable about living in such a big house and often apologise when people come to visit for the first time. "Sorry the house is so big!"

I keep wondering why I went to India. I keep worrying that what I did, said, wrote, wasn't enough. It probably wasn't. It would take months for me to convey everything I saw and felt and learnt. What will I do with it all, now? Shake my hands and say, well, that's THOSE poor people of India done!

I hope their stories spill out of me for a long while, yet. I hope I do them justice.

It's been a long, hard slog. I went there for ten days and now I'm home again .. I don't have the stamina or tenacity to be a World Vision worker out on the fields, making all the difference.

I bought a new bedspread. The textiles are AMAZING.



The textiles are made by women like this:




Women so proud that they have jobs, have created a workspace for themselves INSIDE the slums they are living in. (All achieved by self-help groups made possible by World Vision donations.)

These women now have the chance to work hard, save up, open a bank account, and get a loan to further their businesses. These women are extraordinary. We asked them so many questions. I told them how loved and adored their handiwork was over here in the west. They beamed.


They love their babies just as much as we do. They live in the same world, are entitled to the same rights as we are.

Yesterday a fire broke out in a Bangladesh garment factory, at last count the death toll was over 110 people. Mostly women. Women just like the women in the photos above. Just trying to earn money and make a living, making beautiful textiles, colourful clothes ... pink bedspreads.

Life isn't fair.

::

I expected to return home annoyed at all of the Christmas decorations and music and mania - but I'm not. (I hereby give you permission to celebrate Christmas, whities!) Christmas is one of my favourite times of year. I'm resolved to not buy fake cheap crap from China, though. Know any cool fair-trade gifts or websites? I like things that mean things. That don't literally cost the earth.

In a mad scramble to get out of the car at Delhi airport to start the long trek home the other day, I left my fancy expensive phone on the back seat. I stood there and cried like a little baby, so sad and frustrated and angry at myself. And India. Curse you, India! I was only trying to help!!

I sank to the ground like a distraught toolbag. Did not care who was watching.

Carly rubbed my back, Joy stood right next to me, and Misho put his phone on international roaming so he could call the car company in Delhi to get them to turn the driver around. The driver who we didn't even tip because we'd ran out of rupee. I tipped like a KING the whole time I was there, except this driver.

I did what I always do in extremely stressful and emotional situations: completely gave up. Told Misho not to worry. But he got through, so I found myself standing at the drop-off section, waiting in vain for somebody to do the right thing. That's all. Sometimes we can't move mountains or learn a symphony or reinvent the wheel. We just have to do the right thing.

The driver came back.  Passed my phone through the window of his shabby car. He could have sold my phone and fed his family for a month. I was crying and so grateful, grabbed his arms and said "THANK YOU! SO MUCH!" He was embarrassed, like it was nothing.

I'm so bone-tired, so emotionally exhausted. I feel like one of these guys.



I'm being as kind to myself as I possibly can, cutting myself some slack. My boys .... they are so clean, and so white, and so impressionable and beautiful and my biggest treasures. I'm beyond lucky, and have a big spirit of gratitude.

Maybe I went to India ... simply because I was asked.

Life can really crack you open when you say yes.

World Vision gifts for Christmas.




Thursday, 22 November 2012

Breaking The Girl.

India is blood, piss, shit, filth, poverty, dirt. It's unfairness, arranged marriages, stunning women, STRONG women. India is ridiculous, infuriating, outrageous, and bloody stupid. She is intricate and heartstrong and rude. Hopeless. Creative. Colourful. Never boring. She is the most beautiful country on earth. She is hell on earth. She's not fair.

If you're lucky, she will crack you open and grab hold of you and never let you go.




I'm resolving to do small things for a while. They are just as vital and important.

When I write here again, I'll be home. Home! Thanks. Heaps.

PS Do you think life is real or just a dream?



Tuesday, 20 November 2012

This Is The Only Blog Post I Came To India To Write.

Yesterday I went to a slum. No big deal. There's heaps of slums here. I actually said the words:

"This is quite a nice slum!" 

Before I left Australia I sponsored a child in India - specifically a girl.

Specifically, this girl.

 Photo by Misho

Rashni is exactly two days younger than my four year old son Rocco. The day she was born, my heavily pregnant self was walking the earth in a panic because my husbands appendicitis was actually aggressive cancer and the doctors were pretty grim.

She's lived her whole life since then.


So has Rocco.

Oh my lord I can't believe I will ever see them again Dave you are a SPUNK and I love you. Max I hope you had a great time at camp sweetheart. GAH!

Rashni cried when she met me. She was terrified, thought I was a doctor with scary goggles on who was there to give her an immunisation. Her mother is unemployed, her father is an office worker, and they live with her grandmother and extended family in a tiny room in a slum in Raipur. TINY.

Photo by Misho

I took my glasses off, made some soothing sounds, then gave her some shiny bangles and hair accessories. Switched my phone onto "narcissistic blogger selfie mode" and when she saw herself she BEAMED.


She was still very suspicious. Good - you keep being suspicious, Rashni. The world is full of people who will take advantage and rip you off and hurt you.

But the world is also full of people who care for no reason at all and expect nothing back in return.

Hmmm, the strange white doctor may have taken her goggles off but I *still* don't trust her.

Rashni was very excited and happy when it came time for me to leave. I don't blame her ... it was like a doof all up in her slum house, a seething mass of humanity that is India every step of the way. Madness, chaos, people shouting.

She waved goodbye to me as I sat in the car.


I turned and watched her fade to view as we drove off. Told Kelly and Smaggle and Joy that I will see her again one day, yes siree.

Silence for a moment.

"When I pay for her to fly to Australia after her university graduation because I'm never coming to this country again."

We all laughed.

I'm a very jaded, suspicious, paranoid person. There's only a few things I believe in at this point: karma, love, redemption, compassion ... and the importance of giving to others. Sponsoring a child with World Vision is the real deal. You can see all of their admin costs, percentages, facts, and Annual Reports HERE. Where the funds go HERE. They are refreshingly transparent.

Most people will not get to meet their sponsored child at the beginning of their journey like I did yesterday. They just sponsor a child anyway. We did back when Max was little - a little boy called Melku from Ethiopia. Dave has Melku's photo up on his office wall ... he's turning into a strapping young man now, like Max.

When I get home I'll stick photos of Rashni to the fridge. My boys will learn all about her and all the children in her slum and all the other slums. (There's a lot of slums.) The memory of meeting her will fade. But right now she's as real to me as anything. I hope she gets to grow up, with compassion in her heart. Maybe even sponsor a child herself.

I hope I see her again. But it's ok if I don't.

Sponsor a child

(One-off gifts HERE.)

Monday, 19 November 2012

The Women And The Colours.




The colours here are amazing. You can be driving past one of the poorest villages and see brightly coloured buildings, splashes of paint so vivid and so beautiful your heart just lifts.


Your heart also lifts when you visit a village of strong, fierce women.

 

Women who have successfully abolished alcohol and gambling from their village. Women who, with some help, have formed self-help groups and are now learning how to start their own businesses, save money, and be approved for loans from the bank.




I want to be like these women. I can learn things from these women. It was so exciting to listen to them, to feel the fire in their belly.

 

Not long ago I went to a spiritual healer who told me to stop wearing black. And that I need to forgive my fathers. I kept wearing black and scoffed at ever forgiving my fathers.



I'm going to stop wearing black and I'm going to let colour into my heart like it's never been before.



Because it hasn't. I'm going to forgive my fathers and stop being so angry and use the remaining time in my life to be more open, to consider myself worthy of good things .. to believe I can make a difference and change and grow and learn.

To know when to let go and know when to hold on.
 

I have a feeling that World Vision is doing much more for me than I could ever do for them. (Thanks to Misho for the photos.)

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Under Indian Skies.

I found porn under the mattress of my hotel bed.

I'm also constipated, but keep eating all the garlic naan anyway. When I *finally* felt like there was movement at the station, I was "out in the fields” as they say here in World Vision, so was faced with this:



It’s cool. I handled it.

Every day we are met with different, huge challenges. Mostly for the Indian people, but sometimes for us. We went to a hotel in a rural area the other day and it felt yucky. Carly found blood on her mattress and Kelly couldn’t breathe in her room from all the cigarette smoke. It was decided to all sleep in the one room, Carly and I lift my mattress up to carry out and she said, “Is … is that porn?” My first thought is that I’d accidentally brought porn with me on a World Vision trip to India, so I turned to look. “OH MY GOD. Carly, it’s not mine.”

We laughed so hard that we cried. Because who finds pornographic material in a remote Indian hotel? Bloggers do, that’s who.

That night we itched from bed bugs and there was no hot water and the window was broken. At midnight, a guy knocked on our door and wouldn’t go away. We were terrified, I got very angry and defensive and shouty. He wouldn’t leave … I pictured five guys waiting around the corner to jump me if I opened the door. Turns out he was there to spray for mosquitos. Which he did, and Kelly shouts "HE'S SPRAYING PETROL!" So we thought he was about to strike a match.

We didn't sleep very well.




This is Joy Toose from World Vision Australia, jotting down notes and facts on the organic farming practices and projects World Vision are implementing in villages in the Bilaspur area. It's taken years for these projects to be adopted and practiced. Familes are now growing healthy, sustainable crops for themselves and their communities, which means they do not pack up their belongings and end up in slums and huge garbage piles in Delhi.


The more I hear and see of the work World Vision does, the more I realise that it's all linked up, well planned and thought out. I'm not much of a fact person and I never pretend to be. I've been led by my heart my entire life. Some wonderful information can be found at www.worldvisionaustralia.com



We travelled out for hours to get to see some farmers. They were so proud of their worms, their compost, their crops of pumpkin and chillies and zucchini. All organic.



  
 They welcomed us into their community with much fanfare and gifts of flowers. We sat underneath the most beautiful marquee. Forget the boring white ... the colours of this country are spellbinding. And somehow fill me with hope.
 


I took this photo of mundane washing in remote India for Mrs Woog ... who wrote a beautiful post HERE.




Carly put her welcome flowers in her hair and I told her she looked like Delta Goodrem at the Melbourne Cup but BETTER.

 I'm so grateful and relieved to have Carly, Kelly and Joy as travelling companions. The girls consoled me when I finally broke down yesterday ... I can handle threatening men at my hotel door at midnight but I can't handle walking in the hot sun to look at farming crops. Our theme for this trip is the name of Tim Costello's book - Hope. We keep saying it when things go awry, which is often.
I have hope that I may one day not be constipated. Hope that this papaya won't kill us. Hope that we get our internet connection sorted. 

Most of all, we have hope for kids like this.

I don't have much hope that I'll sort out the formatting problem in this blog post. But I have to let that go. I have hope that I might fall in love with this country the way other people seem to but even if I don't, that's ok. We are all different, what works for some does not work for others. I didn't come to India for a free curry ... I actually am passionate about using my blog to raise awareness about issues in the world that might not get the same exposure. I actually really do care about my fellow human beings on this planet, and get sad when I see injustice and unfairness. My trip to Niger back in April ended up being worth about $300,000 in media exposure for World Vision. Joy told me that the other day and I almost fell off my chair. 

It's taken me four hours fighting internet connectivity to get this post done. I'm going to have to skip breakfast and jump straight in the car to travel two hours on a dusty road to visit some local women's groups that World Vision have facilitated. This does not make me a hero. The real heroes are the World Vision workers themselves, as well as the people in these communities who are brave enough and strong enough to keep fighting and trying for a better life.

Because THAT is universal. 




Friday, 16 November 2012

There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Pile.


Why am I here?


This little girl tapped on the window at the traffic lights in New Delhi, begging for money. Her fingernails on the glass sounded like a rat scratching at the door. I looked into her eyes, saw my kids eyes, your kids eyes. All the kids. She walked around to the other side of the car. Other children followed her, tappity-tapping too. Some couldn't have been more than two years old, walking out into the traffic and begging at the cars with skill and ease.

Yesterday we went to visit the place where a lot of these children live.


They live here. Photo by Misho Baranovic

It was disgusting. I had to put my scarf over my nose. Thought I would vomit. My brain was all "ABORT THE MISSION. ABORT. WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"

I figured the least I could do was witness it, this huge pile of debris they called home.

I've never seen anything like it in my life, sat there on a plastic chair like some kind of visiting royalty while an amazing group of young people previously addicted to drugs performed skits about HIV awareness and the value of education. I clapped, dutifully.

Obviously, the only logical conclusion would be to bring the army in. Because it's a disaster, right? Get that stuff away. Clear it all up, build some new houses, plant gardens, then find all of the people jobs. They'd never have to go ragpicking again. Simple!



The kids were so excited. So thrilled we were there, looking at them, shaking their hands and taking their photo.







It's the only life they've ever known. For generations. "Solving" issues like urban poverty is variable upon so many different things. I take all of my hats off to all of the World Vision officers in the area, working with these people and showing them options, choices. Showing them that people care.

Thank you for reading this blog post. I know poverty is hard to digest ... I wanted to eat their pile up and take it away forever. Instead I walked away from it gladly, my thongs sliding in the dank mud and strangely soft ground. I couldn't wait to leave. I never want to go back.

Here's some quick footage I shot as I was leaving.




My stupid phone stopped filming just as I walked past a gorgeous group of young children.

I said "Goodbye!" And they all said, "GOODBYE!!" And laughed, gleeful I was talking to them. They get ostracised a lot in the greater community. When they go to a doctor, they must wait until they're very last, let all of the respectable people get seen to first.

They blew me kisses when I blew them one. I'm sad I didn't get it on film.

Luckily I can just describe it to you instead. Maybe that's why I'm here.

::

A bloody brilliant gift idea for anyone of any age is this book by Tim Costello.



"Hope - Moments of Inspiration in a Challenging World." I have my copy over here with me, like a bible. Because this whole world's crazy and wild at heart and the older I get, the less I understand. All proceeds go to support World Vision's work across the world. You can buy a copy HERE

The brand spanking new World Vision blog is up! HERE ... we flew in to Bilaspur today, soon we'll be off to Raipur.

More information on World Vision and child sponsorship: www.worldvision.com.au

I don't know if this post is right. I could have written it a hundred different ways ... never have I seen what I saw yesterday. None of us had, and we were all silent when we sat at lunch afterwards, slathering antibacterial gel on our hands. With help, some of the kids there will escape that lifestyle, get an education, and make something of themselves. It will be hard. Most worthwhile things are.



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