Pirates and Poems

My special interest as an Aspie is language.

At uni it was the language of power and propaganda. That gets me jobs.

At home it’s poetry and prose. That gives me joy.

On stage it’s comedic poetry, wordplay, political statements through satire and parody. That gives me satisfaction.

Yesterday I performed in a Melbourne poetry event – my first since I moved here.

Got to include another love (costumes) with poetry and comedy and got to dress up as a zombie pirate in a dead pirates themed event.

I’ve poetry slammed twice in Alice Springs and was wanting to continue when I moved. Last Dirty Word I did in Alice I did a serious poem about DV. It was very personal and very hard to do. But I’m glad I did.

Here’s one of my more serious poems…

Me as Zombie Pirate.

Dumping the bucket list in the bucket…

So many people are living for the rush of some idea of a future that isn’t grounded in the¬† right now.¬†A future holiday.¬† A future job.¬† A future home.¬† A new smart phone.¬† And they forget to live in the meantime.

Like the ancient Pharaohs, it’s almost like a lot of people are stashing possessions for an afterlife – but in a twisted way that will just see them dried up, albeit pretty, corpses (maybe even before they die). Even the concept of a bucket list of travel experiences is used in this way, it’s not about enriching our experience through our lives, but towards some mythical end of life experience (which for many is too late). ¬†I think we need to dump the idea of a bucket list and change it to the “Grateful heart list”.

In mentioning the Pharaohs, I mean no disrespect to Egyptian culture, I’ve just spent four weeks experiencing it and I love Egypt and the Egyptian people.¬† So the comparison between the Pharaohs lifestyle and modern Western materialism is very tongue in cheek of course.

Because folks, we Westerners are definitely not Pharaohs – late stage capitalism makes us more like consumerist addicted zombies.

I realised today that I haven’t had that kind of thinking for over ten years now and just how liberating it is to be free of it.

The irony is that since I freed myself of that kind of thinking all number of things I once dreamed about, happened.   Particularly in regard to travel and adventure (and on shoestring budgets too! I am far from wealthy in a material sense).

I do a running tally of all the “little” things I am grateful for every day, as much as I possibly can. This also means setting achievable goals for life’s experiences (like travel or study, not material things) that give me joy and a sense of contribution.¬† It’s all funded through meaningful community based work (in both community services and the arts) – work that I love (not dread).

I come from a family where travelling overseas was not common.¬† Not in my immediate family.¬† My Dad travelled to fight in World War II (he would be 95 his coming April if he was still alive) but for many of the generations before me, they didn’t get to travel like I do.¬† *I need to add that when I travel, I do not do “tourism”.¬† I use responsible and ethical travel options, homestays, support local economies and try and keep my carbon footprint as low as I can.¬† I do not do checklists of places to “say I have been there” and try to avoid hanging around in “cliques of foreigners”. I spend time with local people and immerse myself as much as I can for as long as I can (usually four – twelve weeks). ¬†

Basically for the past three generations in my family Рthey travelled to (potentially) die in a war, migrate to another country, or flee a fascist regime.   They then built a life for themselves and future generations.  However for me I had to abandon the things they prized once settled in a place to achieve a more privileged form of travel.

I don’t have a mortgage and I don’t aim to own the latest in anything.¬† Happily, willingly.¬† When I move house it’s two small cars worth of moving.¬† I could pack up tomorrow and be in whatever location I desire, still earn good money and still contribute to any community.

I realise I am very privileged in this sense. I hope that my contribution to the world will mean that generations after me take what I have for granted. That is indeed my hope.

However I don’t own much.¬† What I do own is:

  • A heart full of respect for other people and their culture/s,
  • A passionate desire to see the world find some peace with itself,
  • A sense of joy at the beautiful little things all around me each and every day,
  • An appreciation of nature and it’s gifts,
  • A wealth of great stories about fantastic places and people,
  • Language skills in six languages now (from beginner to intermediate),
  • An ability to problem solve and feel good about my contribution to the world,
  • A university education (again something my immediate family were not privileged enough to be afforded), and,
  • A life filled with intelligent thoughtful work, art, comedy, writing, regular travel and adventure.

I don’t own a bucket list.¬† I threw that idea out with the ‘before you kick the bucket” bucket it came in.

What I do own is a grateful heart.  Let me rephrase that another way too.

A GREAT FULL heart.

On writing and my Hachette mentorship.

The only word I can find right now is “strange” to sum up how I feel. So, I’ll write a story and share it here. A story about writing a book.

“I want to be a writer or a journalist”, said the thirteen year old who had been writing poems and complex stories as early as eight. She had rushed home from school to announce this. Her English teacher had just poured over her work and given her what felt like the first genuine praise that she had ever received.

“Why? Do you want to live in a garage and eat dog food? Cause that’s what will happen”, came her mothers response. She knew, deep down, not to expect any more than this, it was the nature of how her family saw the world. Later in life, her mother would become one of her biggest supporters in encouraging her to finish the story.

But her little girl’s heart craved for “Well then, what courses can we enroll you in? How can we support you?”

Instead she became an aircraft technician, then a hodge podge of other things.
But when she was 26, in the basement of her existence she wrote a short story. It was about a place she had traveled to, for extended periods, when she was a girl. A place in the centre of Australia that her father loved and where he had lived and worked during the 1960’s. The area around Alice Springs.

Finally she became an anthropologist, the main thrust of which, was describing people and things.

Writing. She never stopped writing. But it became technical, functional. Privately, the story written about the desert continued to create itself, emerging in pieces. Always hidden but occasionally mentioned and revealed to a small group she trusted.

She moved to the desert at 35 and worked on country with the people it belonged to. The story grew. She liked this story, but she was terrified no one else would. She didn’t care if it never got published, she just wanted to finish it.

At 44 she committed to finishing it. Only because she had lost everything in her life that meant something, everything except this one story. She worked teaching English for a few months in China and finally finished the story. At least to a point it needed to be seen by someone who knew what a good story was. To have it measured. She knew there was more to be done, but for now, it was where she wanted the story to be (alive).

It was a story not like the writing she did for work. It was historical fiction about Central Australia. It was about themes that were important, but also about being human. About a place and the experience of the people who live there, a place that most Australians do not know or understand. About being fragile. About being real. About the frontier of the past and the now, the frontiers of culture, care and healing. But it was also a piece of her own heart.

It sat. She returned to the Desert at 45 and the place that first birthed the story in her teens. A dear friend sent her the Hachette publishing mentorship links. Just shy of her 46th birthday, she pushed send on the first three chapters, sending it down an internet wormhole to judgement.

In the dark of her living room, she sat and cried. A whole tub of ice cream was consumed. The little voice in her head said “dog food”.

To her complete surprise, the story won the mentorship. 12 months of review and technical edits were awarded to the story. She sent the whole final draft off, the voice in her head saying “garage”.

The first literary agent review came in five months later. Not really the perilous wait you might imagine, as she had convinced herself the story would be rejected.

It was feedback that made her believe in the story. That’s not to say she didn’t like the story. But the fact that an expert did, well that was something.

There is no way to describe how that feels. But it’s not jumping around wildly. She’s still kind of, well, pleasantly frightened.

It still has a way to go. But writing will commence again and the second draft will take some of the characters where they need to go. Some of the work needs to be “less academic” or rather, needs to be as brave as the other chapters.
She knows the story is good. She probably always did. But the makings of a great novel? Those were the words. Great. Novel.

It’s one thing to believe in yourself and your ability (which she does). It’s another thing to act. It’s altogether another thing to rise above those little voices that recite negative messages from our pasts.

But they are just voices. It will take some more time, but not as long as the 20 years it took to get to here. She’s in a different headspace now.

She doesn’t particularly care if it doesn’t make it onto the shelf as long as it continues to grow out of her heart. If it ends up on a shelf, a piece of her heart will possibly leap into someone else’s. Either way, it’s a beautiful, although sometimes confronting, place to be.

Welcome: White Fence.

Creativity, childhood, confidence et. al.

As 2016 draws closer to its conclusion I have found myself reflecting on the most amazing year I have had in terms of personal growth.  The pic in the featured image was my very first stand up comedy gig in May.  I have been writing and performing comedy ever since.

Til I was about 44 I repressed my creativity into pursuits I was convinced were “more productive”.

“What do you mean you want to be a writer? Do you want to end up living¬†in a garage eating dog food?”

Those words spoken to me when I was announcing at 12 what I wanted to be, rang loud in my psyche until very recently.  The arts and anyone even vaguely associated with the arts Рwere scoffed at in my FOO (family of origin).

You had to get a serious job and pay the bills.  NO room to be creative was allowed.  The irony is that some members of my family still brag how I wrote my first poem at 8.  It was push/pull.

One minute I was praised for my writing and creative ability and the next minute verbally punished.¬† *I need to make it clear, there is no blame here just discussion. There were positives and negatives with this FOO experience. ¬†My post-war baby boomer parents acted in this way cause this was what you did to ensure your child “survived”.¬†

So I channelled my creative mind¬†into a “profession” and even though I thought I was in the drivers seat, something else was.

Me.¬† I was driving and not driving, there was choice and not-choice simultaneously.¬† From a technical career I hated, to moving into¬†anthropology (which I love); a career that meant I had to observe and comment, albeit in very “dry” terms.¬† I had to immerse myself in life and write about it for purposes such as cultural heritage management, cross-cultural literacy projects, teaching/lecturing, field work of various applications of my training.

This year I committed to making a living through a day job and a creative life outside (which has three parts,¬†performing comedy, speaking gigs¬†and painting)¬†of work that I plan to build into my full time career in the next ten years.¬† The day job is still there, but the monotony of it allows me to do the other “more important stuff”.

As I do more stand up comedy and learn to promote myself properly. See one of the head shots below that I just had done professionally.  I found really hard to do cause I was talking to myself like my mother would.  Instead of listen I channelled that negative voice; thus the middle finger on the cup.  However I grapple with this undercurrent of disapproval even to this day.

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As a child I was not allowed to shine, perform, sing or act without encountering considerable negativity.¬† Perfor ming was¬†considered¬†vain, superficial etc. etc.¬† I still have significant performance anxiety I have to overcome every time I speak publically or perform.¬† So many people I talk to, who have seen me in action, find this hard to believe, but it’s true.

However the¬†caution and care that comes from that negative undercurrent of childhood discourse, is¬†a good thing (I have made it a positive).¬† Because all my work has meaning and is not intended to just benefit me.¬† Cause I can’t stand money-obsessed “Khardasian” culture as I call it.

In a world becoming incredibly narcissistic it can become easy to label performers unnecessarily.  But there is still a difference between craft and art.  I would like to think I will take this new career on as art Рseriously with the intention to give to others, make a living and not become a commodity.

I haven’t believed¬†that phrase “make a living” has to mean a career to merely pay the bills and conform to societal expectations for about 15 years.¬† I believe it should be an extension of who you are.

So culturally I think we have to bust the “starving artist”¬†discourse.¬† It just serves to punish creative people and try¬†and put them on a capitalist factory line¬†¬†of producing tax paying drones with depression.¬† Lots of people make a living from artistic work (and pay tax too!)¬†and we need to revalue the arts.¬† The arts provide us with a sense of the world¬†in more ways than we acknowledge and realise.

Here’s the thing.¬† If you have a creative child and you are not particularly creative, don’t label them.

Don’t let some teacher or doctor tell you it’s a behavioural issue that they seem easily distracted or day dream.¬† So they are not going to be the Civil Engineer you wanted them to be. Maybe they will become a architect and build amazing structures or a graphic designer or something else.¬†¬†Creativity and a career don’t have to be mutually exclusive.¬†¬†Let them find a path that honours their creative mind.

I don’t resent any path I have taken.¬† Each one has given me experience to get to here and I am grateful. However part of me wishes I had been encouraged to be as brave as I am now – when I was 12.

If you are interested in my comedy agency (my non-day job) – visit http://www.ginandtitters.com.

Early next year I will be preforming stand up comedy¬†at Adelaide Fringe Festival and doing some speaking for International Women’s Day in Alice Springs and Darwin.

Or drop me a line on the contact form below.

 

Monks on motorbikes and Cambodian hearses…

Hello from my first proper day in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I arrived at 3.15 pm Cambodian time yesterday after a 2.30 am start in Darwin and was met by Sarry and the V-homestay tuk tuk.


We chortled through Siem Reap overtaking monks on motorbikes and an overburdened tuk tuk carrying wicker to the market.

 


After an unscheduled dash for petrol I got to sit in the tuk tuk and watch the world go by. Sarry engaged in world class negotiation to obtain to Coke bottles full of petrol and we were on our way again.

V-Homestay – like it on Facebook here –¬†https://www.facebook.com/V-homestay-787501231296932/

Is a family business competing against the emerging and foreign owned tourism of Siem Reap. As I mentioned to Vanna (the owner of the homestay) today – I don’t come to Cambodia for a hotel.

I came to Cambodia for Cambodia and Cambodians – not a hotel and certainly not one owned by foreigners.
The homestay is very much like how a number of what you could call working class Cambodians live. They done okay and the homestay is just part of what they do to keep the family economy going. They’ve done okay for themselves.
I was greeted by my new best friend – “Puppy”. We had an early evening aperitif of spring rolls.

I amused my hosts by showing them the vehicle I had videoed on the drive from the airport. I commented “I want one of these buses”.

There was chuckling.

“Do you know what that is? It’s for carrying the dead person to the funeral”, Vanna informed me.

It’s not a bus. It’s the equivalent to a Cambodian hearse…

“Oh! On second thoughts I don’t want one!”

More laughter.

We then took a trip some 3 kms to the family farm plot. Under the moonlit evening we admired the burgeoning project of a home and farm for the family separate to the homestay visit. It will generate food and tours income (come learn about Cambodian farming tours).

Dinner was a lovely simple meal of curry and pork and rice.  As was breakfast this morning.

The accommodation is very basic – but if you love homestays – it’s very good and the family are beautiful. ¬†The kids have promised to teach me some Khmer. So fair it’s just yes, no, hello and thank you.

The great thing about accomodation like this is that it’s not only a great experience but affordable. I get to see the real Cambodia without paying a lot of people to pay others – but direct to a family enterprise. ¬†A whole lot more of these would mean a whole lot less poverty.

Yeah, of course, this is not everyone’s travel ideal and the other styles of accomodation will never go out of fashion – but it sure feels good to my Buddhist sensibilities.

They are also proud to have a “5 star” western toilet in the back outhouse. It’s very flash indeed!

I woke up this morning to monks chanting just down the road and music next door. Lovely comfortable Asian style bed (they are hard but somehow comfortable).

I’m now recovering from running around the pagodas in the city centre….

Have a great Monday! More soon….

Walking to work – A short stroll from “Ming to Modernity”

My walk to work is nothing short of magic. 

Guiyang is situated in one of the least developed regions of China, once ruled over by Kublai Khan (grandson of Genghis).   It is one of the smallest of China’s cities with a population of a mere 4.4 million.

Walking the 1.5 km to work is, as I have mentioned in a previous post, a complete delight. With each block there is a new sight and experience.

It’s like walking through time in some respects. There are pockets of town like areas still wedged in between modern high rise. Some of the lane ways in between the large modern four lane city streets are like the market towns of old.   You can see the same connection to the old village ways of living even in my own apartment complex.

This morning I walked through the car parks and weave my way in between the two other apartment blocks between mine and the road. I passed people boiling bok choy and Chinese cabbage to sell to restaurants and street vendors out the side of their ground floor apartment. It’s a large fire pot in the lane, the side door to apartment open and the kids rushing in and out. The hot coals under the fire burn red and the bundles of produce are stacked along the side wall.

They say hello to me now, and I always wave at the kids. Of an evening you can often here the group of children from this apartment rushing around playing out in the courtyard/carpark. It’s lovely to hear the sounds of their shouts and laughter as they play.

This morning a man was walking down the lane into the apartment complex carrying a freshly killed (unplucked) goose and a large hare. When I get the 50m out of the complex and onto the road I turn right and pass the dog grooming salon and peak through to see what divinely pampered creatures are there. On the way home they turn on a massive red neon sign that says in both Chinese and English ‚ÄúSPA‚ÄĚ; for dogs, not humans.

Then another 30m and the village-like markets I have described. I love walking past these, food carts, fresh fruit and vegetables straight from the outlaying farming areas and prayer beads and some jewellery. There is an entire laneway that is pet products to the right and a complex of low rent shops that I have not yet fully explored that the locals shop at. I figure this will be my regular shopping spot and I have picked up some yummy treats here.

In the mornings, under the highway overpass that covers the market here, there are groups of people gathered sitting on their back baskets. These large baskets shaped to fit on your back are hoisted on like back packs and double as comfortable seats. They await an employer and sometimes there are many waiting and sometimes very few.

There are two areas like this one on my journey and they are the places I dwell the longest. You also see people with bamboo poles across their shoulders with two suspended baskets on the ends full of produce in these locations, a stark contrast from the rest of the walk through modern shopping areas. The food carts vary and there are a few that are clearly permanent and they are the ones I tend to gravitate to. Noodles and a variety of other things I cannot yet name and will describe at a later date ‚Äď but nonetheless very tasty. A favourite sells delicious bacon and egg omelettes. Next to them is a stall with egg based pastries with a variety of fillings and shapes and sizes.

Some of the shops here sell massive urns with bluestone Chinese glazing with magnificent designs and one shop sells the most diving jade and other gem stone jewellery and statues. These more exclusive shops are tucked away inside the markets where you wouldn’t expect to find them. Unless you are a sticky beak like me! These are the places the locals buys beautiful things to grace their homes, not cheap crap, but things crafted by artisans.

Then within 100m you go from the old to the new and the Hunter shopping mall which is as glitzy as any in any other large city in the world. This is where the street is fronted by Pizza Hut, KFC and Starbucks as well as H&M fashion. In front of the high end shopping are fewer street vendors and I tend to walk more briskly pass.

I will sometimes stop at the Laodongmen relic site (see pics) behind which is the public primary school I teach at on Monday afternoons.

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It has the most divine eatery tucked up the side of it. Rows of little coal grills and they bring you skewers with vegetables and meats of your choosing (and tofu) and you cook them yourself and enjoy the heat of the fire as well. It’s a pleasant spot and I just love the way the seating is arranged, low benches and tables that encourage groups of four to six people to eat and enjoy close conversation. They are in a wide but quiet thoroughfare and are spread out far enough between them to create a leisurely eating experience right in the middle of the city.

In the mornings there is tai chi here and public dancing in the evenings. The rest of the way, the last 700m is largely shops until I get to work and every day I notice more and more. I do love my walks to work.