It rained in Sydney today, and it rained hard. Despite the intensity, the rain is much needed. You'd have to be living under a rock to be unaware of the fires that have burned hundreds of thousands of hectares in New South Wales, some of which were in the suburban fringe of Sydney.
As the rain fell, it occurred to me that, thanks to my luck of having lived in four countries, I know a few different rain expressions.
These I just learned: It's raining chair legs. (Greek) It's raining female trolls. (Norwegian)
Speaking of rain, remember this? I don't, just stumbled upon it. I am really glad I did. Let me know if you also think it is one of the most visually compelling music videos ever. (Pretty cool song, too.)
I am not proud. Rather, I am humbled. I am also thankful. And I am sad.
I have never accessed welfare benefits before, and I must admit it has been difficult to admit that I have to resort to it. But nine months of continued unemployment tend to hack away at the confidence in one's ability to self sustain. Fuck the stigma.
Ever since Mark ended our relationship a few weeks ago, a few folks have asked why I don't just pack up and move back to the US. There are a number of reasons for that, some simple and some complex. Unless they have been through it, I don't think anyone understands what it means to move to another country for a partner--especially during middle age and after just receiving a doctorate, (thereby charting a professional path that would ultimately lead nowhere in the new hemisphere). It wasn't easy to get here. Why the hell should it be easy to leave?
Anyway, being on welfare won't be forever. It may not even be for a month. But for however long it lasts, I am thankful. I wouldn't receive the same benefits in the US. Not at all.
I am optimistic regarding my chances of finding work in Sydney. I like Melbourne, but obviously my shingle wasn't welcome to hang there. So be it.
The flatmate moved out this week, and I am finally back in our old room on the top level of our Waterloo townhouse. And in a real bed...our bed! Since May of last year, I have been sleeping on an inflatable mattress in my office at home. Because Mark and Zane stayed in Tucson--see my other blog, Casita Klatsch, if you don't know what I'm talking about--it was necessary to continue renting the upstairs bedroom to the flatmate. Maintaining a home in one of the most expensive cities in the world is a daunting task, and his rental income greatly subsidized our mortgage. Add to that the rent we have had to pay for a place in Tucson and you can quickly imagine the benefits of sacrificing a little comfort.
At times the office has felt like a prison cell. Moreover, it is strange being a guest in one's own home. But now the flatmate is gone. He felt it was time to move on, and so he did. I don't blame him. It worked to everyone's benefit to have him here. He got a sweet deal on rent, and we had someone to look after our pets while we were all in Tucson. I am grateful he took such good care of Roger and the cats. He'll be back now and again to visit Roger and take him for the occasional long walk. The two of them have become very attached, and it made me happy to see Roger's nub of a tail wiggle so gleefully today when the former flatmate came over to fetch some things he'd forgotten. If anyone understands the human-animal bond, it is me, and I am delighted their friendship will continue.
So now it's just the critters and me in this big ol' empty nest. But things will change again soon, for we are listing our townhouse to sell. It's time, for various reasons. We don't mind, however, because we have been considering renting the place out and moving elsewhere anyway. I love our neighborhood and will miss it dearly, if it turns out that wherever we move next takes us out of these environs. There are other, equally wonderful neighborhoods in Sydney, and I am keen to experience another part of the city, if we even stay here. And so we'll downsize, something we've been meaning to do regardless. After all, we don't really need all this space. And we definitely don't need the double car space, certainly not for a Vespa. If Zane gets into one of the US boarding schools at which he interviewed last month, we'll be able to downsize somewhat more. It is not like he would never be home again, but at least we can economize the space that he'll call his when he stays with us during his breaks. Strange to think about.
Maybe one of these days, I'll be able to say that I know where we'll be and what we'll all be doing for the next few years. Until then, I'll just try my best to trace time.
This time we went to Cockatoo Island, a former convicts prison site and shipyard in the middle of Sydney Harbour. Roughly a 20-minute ferry ride from Circular Quay, Cockatoo Island now belongs to the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, which is transforming it into a unique attraction. Visitors to the Island (free admission) can walk around the entire area and explore most of the old industrial and prison buildings. The site also offers camping and holiday housing.
Throughout the year, a number of special events are hosted on Cockatoo Island. Zane and I saw many of the artworks installed as part of the 17th Biennale of Sydney. The Biennale of Sydney, curated this season by David Elliott, is one of the oldest and largest of its kind. Contemporary artworks from a range of international artists are installed all over the island. Many pieces were designed specifically for this event, either in keeping with Cockatoo Island's history or specifically for the exhibit space.
I found the juxtaposition of the desolate nature of most of the seemingly deserted buildings with the slick, colorful and often ultra-modern appeal of the artworks compelling. It was a fascinating day, and I am glad Zane and I got to share it together.
Many more photos from our day at Cockatoo Island, along with artist credits for the works shown in the above photos, can be seen here.
Yesterday I took the day off work and spent it with Zane. It was a gorgeous winter day in Sydney. We boarded a ferry from Circular Quay and headed over to Taronga Zoo, just across the Harbour in Mosman.
Taronga Zoo, opened in 1916, is situated on 50+ acres of remarkable land atop Bradley's Head. It is home to the Cammeraigal people, but it, like so many other areas, was taken from them during colonization.
The view of the Harbour from the Zoo is stunning. It boggles the mind to imagine how much this land would be worth to greedy developers. I find it strangely comforting that these animals have what are probably the best views of the Harbour and city from their homes. It's the least we humans could do for keeping them in captivity.
Zane and I enjoyed our day together. I will certainly miss this little guy when he returns to the US next week.
You can view all the photos from our day at the Zoo at my Flickr page.
I won't say much about Jase's awesome stag night (bachelor party, for you U.S.-ers) on Saturday, except that playing dress up in slutty clothing was a helluva lot more fun than the actual pole dancing. Otherwise, I'll let the Facebook pictures speak for themselves.
I will say that on Friday, Mark and I recorded our first podcast of Tripping on the Rainbow. Despite some issues with a brand new studio, it all went relatively well. Ginger Lee Poke even made her studio debut. We thank the folks at 2SER, who are letting us use their studios and will host the podcast from their website. Definitely stay tuned.
It was Zane's weekend with his mum. Mark and I enjoyed some "us" time with friends, at home and at the beach.
As a final note, I'll share some photos of a few birds and trees that struck me as particularly cameragenic during my various time out of doors this weekend.
Mark and I are busy discussing the complexities of our son's secondary education. He'll enter 7th grade next year, and in Australia, that marks the beginning of high school. (For us Americans, that means no middle school or junior high...it's straight to high school.) There are a number of options. We could continue sending him to the private school he is currently attending, but I am growing increasingly wary of this institution and its curriculum design. There are some good state schools out there, and yesterday he sat the selective schools exam to determine whether he would get placed in one of the top-tier public schools. As with any parent, we just want him to have the best education available to him, all things considered. It's a difficult decision.
While Mark and I were discussing the various options, some of which are pipe-dreams and some worst-case scenarios, the topic of St. Andrew's Anglican School came up. I had glommed onto this idea of sending our son to an Anglican school when we first moved to Sydney and were exploring school options three years ago. Having been involved with a number of Episcopal Churches in the U.S. during my 18 years as a church musician, I was excited about the prospect of sending our boy to a school that I felt was aligned with principles I could understand and relate to. I had wonderful experiences with the Episcopal Church (the U.S. counterpart of the Anglican Church). It was so different from the stifling, rule-driven, homophobic Roman Catholic environment in which I had grown up. The Episcopal churches I worked in were open, affirming and welcoming to all. I felt loved, needed and wanted, both as a person and as a human.
Then I heard about the Anglican climate in Sydney, and was that ever a rude awakening. The Sydney diocese of the Anglican Church is one of the most homophobic and bigoted environments with which I have ever come into contact. But one need look no farther than its leader, the Most Rev. Dr. Peter Jensen, to see why. Here's a quote of his from an ABC interview in 2003:
ABC: Do you concede that there has been injustice done [to gays and lesbians]?
PETER JENSEN: Oh, doubtless over the years, there has been.
ABC: But, I mean, in relation to this issue of same-sex unions and gay bishops within the Church?
JENSEN: In that regard, no, I don't think so. I think folk have been
put in a situation which they should never have been put in. Christian
religion's a very awkward religion. It calls upon all of us to do
things which are sort of against our own natural instincts and drives.
are many folk I know, for example, who are heterosexual, who are, who
would rather be married but who are not able to be married and, uh, who
have to live without sexual expression in their lives. Others of us who
are married, for one reason or another, can't have sex.
Christian religion calls upon us to live chastely. It's not a matter of
homosexuality as such being condemned, it's the practice of sexual
relations by homosexual people or heterosexual people, outside the
rules that God's laid down.
Pardon my français, but WT ever-living F? Is it really possible that a highly educated leader of such a large and powerful cultural institution could have been...and is still...so sociologically deficient?
Those of you who know me well, know that my chief complaint against those who fear or decry homosexuals is the way these people cleave to the prurient, misguided notion that all it boils down to is what happens in the bedroom. The quicker these ignorant people realize that it's about living one's life with the freedom to love, the better off we'll all be. The choice is which person, not which sex. Why is that such a difficult concept?
Anyway, to return to the original discussion, Mark mentioned to me at dinner this evening that he'd just received word that St. Andrew's was now accepting Aboriginal students into its mainstream classes at the high-school level. I gave him that blank stare, indicating that I had no idea what he was talking about. Then he explained to me that a couple of years ago, St. Andrew's had begun taking Aboriginal children into the school, but isolated them to three floors of the same school building. In other words, they were segregated from the rest of the students. This new school was called "Gawura". I don't care if it does have a different, "culturally sensitive" curriculum or bears an Aboriginal name. They say it is part of the "closing the gap" scheme, but it's fancy segregation. "Yeah, I know," says the corpulent, aging white man, "let's focus on their education, but we'll make them social pariahs at the same time!" Oh yeah, that's socially enlightened and responsible.
I'm surprised Mark didn't throw a glass of cold water in my face to snap me out of my wide-eyed stare of disbelief. Disgusted, I had pretty much closed the lid and shut out the troubling, socially retarded entity that was the Sydney Anglican diocese a few years ago. It was no wonder I hadn't heard of Gawura, the fancy name (and spin) they put on this institution of ethnic segregation. But then Gawura's head of school came up with the idea for the school after spending some time in South Africa. Hmm. Fancy a game of tidy apartheid anyone?
So apparently students of high-school age are integrated into the main school at St. Andrew's. No matter. I think we'll be looking elsewhere for potential high schools.