March 24, 2013
Hello my friends,
it has been a while and I know that you all know that no news is good news. I am well, working hard on our The mining boom:Let’s Spread it Around campaign (catchy I hear you say? yeah well it wasn’t up to me as always we paid some comms firm gazzillion dollars to come up with that title) but it’s all good.
I have great colleagues, I’m meeting people who are committed and inspiring and know how to have a laugh. I’ve learnt many things about all kinds of issues relating to mining, construction, manufacturing, the Australian dollar etc. and best of all get to talk to other people about it too.
The only drawback is that we have an election in September which means that (apart from probably having to live under a Conservative government) I won’t be making my summer trip to Europe. But am hoping climate change will make Europe warmer in late September by when I’ll be able to visit 🙂
Apart from that as cliched as it sounds time flies and between work, friends, family, gigs, and the occasional French class there’s not a minute to spare.
I just had another round of my 12-weekly scans and again nothing has changed so all is well in the world. I’m feeling good and even manage to drag myself to the gym at 6.15 am from time to time.
For all those in Europe and the US I hope that spring comes quickly – I know that my Bruxellois friends are anxiously awaiting for the weather to turn and my thoughts are with you.
Take care and until next time
I know it’s been a while but I have the hospital to blame since now I only have to have scans every 12 weeks which is good and a sign that the doctors are less worried, but bad for my blogging habits.
Clearly much has happened since my last correspondence and it being November I thought it might be nice to look back on the year that was.
Some of you remember that at the start of the year I was in Argentina enjoying Buenos Aires, Areco and it’s many natural wonders, including wineries. It feels like it was forever ago, but no it was just the beginning of this year. By the beginning of February I was gainfully employed at Oxfam, working on labour rights issues which led me to two weeks in Jakarta in April, and gave me a fascinating look at trade union politics in Indonesia and much respect for their capacity to organise. By managing to shut down the entire city they got the government to back down on abolishing the fuel rebate. The environmental merits of fuel subsidies aside, this reform would have severely affected the many poor people living in Indonesia and the unions’ victory showed just how powerful social movements can be.
July found me in London, Serbia, Brussels, Paris and Amsterdam on what perhaps was a bit of an overly-ambitious tour of Europe, but one that did lead me to Tollpuddle Martyrs picnic a fine British tradition where I saw Tony Benn speak, which warmed the cockles. It was also the first time I had been to Paris without having to queue for anything which made me understand just how much of a crisis Europe is in, something I’m sure many of you know all too well.
It felt like I had only been back for a few weeks and it was time to go to Cambodia for a workshop I had co-organized on “urban livelihoods” (Oxfam speak for jobs). Despite the incredible poverty and corruption, I could but only admire the Cambodian people for the way in which after really only 20 years of freedom from the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese (who invaded to save them from Pol Pot but stayed for 10 years) they got back on their feet. Of course China now looms large in Cambodia but also in Lao, un unstoppable phenomenon, and combined with the rest of the world’s insatiable appetite for fertile land, there’s no signs of anything getting easier for the many living on the margins of survival.
At the end of October my contract at Oxfam came to end, a bittersweet experience with the labour rights program being phased out and many people being made redundant, as well as leaving of their own volition, during my time there. But I met some great people, and made friends I hope will keep for life.
Finally, last week I facilitated a workshop in Chiang Mai for the clean clothes campaign which was a great privilege and gave me a real insight into migrant worker issues in the region, and particularly the plights of Burmese and Burmese ethnic minority workers. It also gave me a chance to go back to yoga, which of course has made me sore still today three days later. But good sore. Am now in Sydney, writing this from Rushcutters Bay, on a beautiful sunny day with far too many people around me playing sport and making me feel bad about my un-athletic ways. I’m thinking of lunch instead…
I’m here to see Radiohead my favorite band in the world after which I will return to Melbourne to start a new job at the National Construction, Forestry, Mining, Energy union. I’ll be running a campaign trying to convince both sides of politics to not squander the mining boom and spread the wealth that mining companies are making from China’s appetite for Australian metals. It’s a bit more complicated than that but being given the chance to have a go at Australia’s richest woman Gina Rheinhart, talk about fiscal and monetary policy and wear a hard hat (maybe even go down a mine, who knows) really gets me going. Watch out for tweets and other updates from our Spread the Wealth campaign.
And yes sadly, after a mad year of running around (which has ironically been disapproved of by my parents but approved of by my doctors) I will not traveling this summer. I’m looking forward to some good old fashioned Aussie beach and camping action…”Camping!” I hear you say in shock…well yes I guess two years of being back has convinced me when in Rome….but don’t worry, they will be short camping trips with good coffee within easy reach, so no I have not changed that much.
I’ll write again when I have my scans in December. Hope you are all well and for those in Europe I hope that winter ain’t interfering with your joi de vivre. Off to find that lunch now…
July 23, 2012
the good news is that the doc says I only have to have scans every three months since everything is stable, the bad news is that it probably get even lazier about my blogging since there really wont be that much to report. Unless you want to hear about my blood test results which, for the first time, I was told showed I was low on protein. It’s true that recently I have been trying to be gentler and kinder to the Earth by eating less meat but I reassured my doctors that since I was going to Serbia to eat my grandmothers’ food it would surely sort itself out. Now, having arrived in Serbia, I find that my grandmother has for my sake decided to cut down on the meat content of her dishes. Oh the injustice of it all!
But its ok – I have a festival of meat and fish lined up over the next ten days when I visit relatives , which should really bring my protein levels back to normal. And yes, all you vegetarians I know that I can eat eggs and mushrooms and whatever. I’m just saying…
So far I spent a lovely misty time in London, while all my friends complained about the weather, I thought it appropriately Dickensian and cute. The Olympics of course are about to hit town, and whilst I went through Heathrow in record time on my way there, on my way out I was in a queue for an hour. Given that I was flying Lufthansa the flight was filled with Germans, who aware of their own stereotype were turning around and saying to anyone who would care to listen “I’m German, we don’t like this”, whilst the British airport staff rather exasperatedly repeated “It’s not us, it’s the airline”. It was a welcome return to the foibles of Europe and gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling. Whilst in London, I went to my favourite art gallery the Tate Modern, and once again it did not disappoint with an excellent Munch exhibition (I really have to ask my Norwegian friends how its pronounced).
There was work trip tp Oxford which whilst I didn’t see much of Oxford made me feel all scholarly and learned as I did actually learn a lot from my Oxfam colleagues who were very generous and created a program of very interesting meetings for me. And of course the Sunday morning of my landing I was picked up by a TUC colleague who took me to the yearly working class festival, the Tollpuddle Martyrs march (you can read all about the historical significance of this here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tolpuddle_Martyrs), the irony being that even though you would think that the title of this historical yearly event suggests someone died, or at least got tortured, they just got sent to Australia. And after a big campaign for them to be freed and returned, they came back heroes, but as Owen gleefuly told me, two of them went back to Australia and a few to Canada of their own free will. So the fact that the British trade union movement celebrates a bunch of convicts who preferred to return to their “prison” made me smile all day as I handed out leaflets for the Play Fair at the Olympics campaign (http://www.playfair2012.org) and tried to understand the variety of English and Scottish-accented folks who were telling me the latest Olympics outrage. My favourite one of course is that the UK government, through outsourcing security for the Olympics to the private G4S group, made a monumental stuff up and now has to rely on the army to provide security. Having armed soldiers on streets pretty much sums up the spirit of the Olympics I reckon.
Am now in Serbia, putting up with the siesta-lifestyle, and its pretty tough. Off to Brussels next, will try to send a missive from there, but no promises.
Until next time, take care y’all.
May 21, 2012
Well as always it has been a while dear readers and I won’t bother giving excuses. Instead I will try to give you the econometrics of my life over the last few months in annotated list form. I’m hoping this will give you a flavor of what your unfaithful correspondent has been up to.
Spent two weeks in Jakarta which included 5 days of meetings and training, 4 side meetings and 7 meetings with unions, women’s groups, adidas and the ILO. On average spent three hours a day in traffic and only had one near-accident in a taxi. Apart from the traffic, thought it was a pretty cool place.
Spent 5 days in Sydney last week. Went to attend the Australian Council of Trade Union Congress, which featured three current and former Prime Ministers, a couple of Cabinet ministers and 4 ex-ACTU general secretaries. It was a veritable who is who of the trade union movement. It would have been great had it not been for the scandal engulfing the trade union movement over an ex-union official, now Labor member of parliament who used the union credit card to pay for prostitution and escort services and withdrew some $101,533 in cash. This has been going on for 4 years but it is only now that a full report investigating these issues has come out so of course all the conservative/Murdoch forces have seized on it as evidence of the decadence of the union movement. Because of course that never happens in the corporate world.
Rode my new bicycle a total of 12 times, gotten wet once and felt road rage twice.
Attended 2 out 4 Spanish classes – my travel schedule keeps interfering.
Become a convert to twitter and am now averaging 3 or 4 tweets a week.
Attended one 50th and two 40th birthday parties.
Had 3 scans and 2 doctors’ appointments – all good and now finally moving to 6 week appointments.
In 10 days my bestie Jon will be moving back to Melbourne.
So that’s about it for this edition. I’ll be coming to London and Brussels in just under 60 days so if you’re on that side of the world be afraid, very afraid.
Until next time,
March 18, 2012
I winced when I saw the date of my last post.myou could have been forgiven for thinking I had been lost in the jungle of Argentina. Alas no, there are other more mundane reasons for my lack of communication, mostly related to my recent adventure of going back to work full-time at Oxfam Australia. I’m doing a maternity leave cover position until October.
So what can I say about being a waged slave again? Well it has it’s challenges, like working in an open plan office of two hundred people and the organization facing a financial crisis which has led them to announce 25 jobs will need to go. It also has its benefits like some great inspiring colleagues and being able to work on issues close to my heart.
It is also good to have some routine and surprisingly I’m not that tired after a week’s work, which is good as it allows me to still study Spanish, do an hour of French conversation, go to the movies and dabble in philosopu by taking the odd Foucault course etc.
My health is good the last two sets of scans we’re stable, the doctors are happy even if my traveling schedule annoys them. I’m going to Sydney for Easter, then to Indonesia for two weeks for work, then July is just around the corner and I will be going to Europe.
I have been enjoying the Melbouurne food and wine festival by going to some fancy restaurants at a cheap rate and have seen a host of acts, ranging from Kanye West ( I know, how down with the kids am I:-)) to Will Oldham and Bon Iver. As the weather here gets cooler we are having some beautiful autumn days and I have been enjoying sitting on my little balcony reading and playing with my ipad. There’s also been a swathe of birthdays 40s and 50ths which have all been a wonderful opportunity to reminisce about the past, dance to some golden oldies (by this I mean britpop and chemical brothers and not pink Floyd or some such thing).
I hope you are all well and send you greetings from the land of Oz where our billionaire mining magnates write poems like this one (I kid you not).
December 30, 2011
Thanks to my faithful Brussels 20km crew I have now fullfilled one of my life’s dreams- am sitting on the balcony of an apartment my friend Kristian andI have rented in Buenos Aires and enjoying the hustle and bustle of this amazing place. In the week or so that I have been in Argentina I have seen the home stadium of Boca Juniors (the football team Maradona played in for the uninitiated), seen the San Telmo market in all it’s bohemian glory, eaten a pre- Xmas lunch with a group of micro finance workers and seen the ironically-named “villas” of BA, ie the city’s slums. I have also travelled and toured the wine region of Mendoza, stood at the foothills of Acancagua and crossed over into Chile where my friend and I spent the night at a ski resort in the Andes. I spent Xmas with the incredibly generous Maloney-Ratto clan, whose hospitality in the heartland of “gaucho” San Antonia de Areco was unparalleled and who i can,t thank enough. My friend Yann also joined in the traveling teaching me much useful Argentinian (Spanish would be a misnomer:-).
Looking back at the year I once again feel so lucky to have the family, friends, doctors, nurses and general trouble-makers that I have in my life. Getting me through my steroids-unduced insomnia phase, my masters thesis phase, my chemo-brain unreliability and my “oh my god what do I do now” phase has required lots of your love and patience. The last report from the doctors is that once again everything is stable. I therefore declare the state of emergency over, and intend to get on with my life (as much as possible). What this means exactly I don’t know. I do know it means looking forward to a year of more music, more gastronomy, more laughs, more little people, more travel and most likely more righteous indignation at the state of the world. And of course more friendship.
I hope you all have good holidays if you are having them, as good as mine have been so far. Next stop is Iguazu falls, but right now I must go and tear into half a kilo of beef – when in Rome…
Hasta la victoria siempre
November 12, 2011
I write having just spent my first really lazy day in what feels like forever. Yes there were a couple of social engagements but they were very nice and relaxing. I also pottered around the house, read my novel in bed, read the newspaper sitting on my balcony and spent outrageous amounts of money on concert tickets. Overall, it was a beautiful, languid, lazy day. Yes this means I finally finished all my studying – the last three weeks involved handing in a thesis, writing a couple of essays, an exam and some Spanish lessons on top. Have I enjoyed it? Yes in the same way I “enjoy” exercise -when you are doing it its bloody painful, when you’re done you realise that it’s goof for you.
So now my holidays begin. I’m looking forward to my trip to Argentina (hence the Spanish lessons), seeing my friends there and getting down with the kids in Buenos Aries. Am still in planning stage so if any of you have great tips do let me know. I’m also off to the coast this weekend and next, so my cup runneth over.
On the health front I saw the doctors and had some scans last week – all is good and stable, maybe a couple of millimeters of shrinking. I feel good, a little bit unfit from 3 months sitting in front of the computer, but apart from that very well. I plan to spend the next month reading some light things (plus another book on financialisation – but from a former City trader so lighter nonetheless:-)), going to the cinema, seeing a few bands and devoting a couple of hours to the cause of public art… oh yes and finally returning all those emails. I may even spend a few minutes seeing if I can upload some photos to this thing – I will conquer my technophobia, I will, I will, I will…
For all my friends in Europe, I have been thinking of you watching what’s going down and finding it all rather perplexing. We in Australia have our own problems, with Qantas CEO locking out his entire workforce and grounding the entire fleet, inconveniencing some 10,000 passengers and generally just being a jerk. Normally the media claim that Australia is riddled with “union thuggery” but even they this time saw it for what it was (at least a little bit)- corporate bullying on a grand scale, from a man who gave himself a 71% pay rise a week earlier. But yes watching the Armaggeddon in Europe from here makes me worry. The only good thing to come of this is that that man in Italy is finally going to go away!
On a more somber note, today is Armistice Day, and whilst I’m not normally a fan of the nationalist crap that comes with that, I do genuinely think its good to remember all that devastation and pointless loss of lives (and I so wish I had gone to Ypres when I had the chance). In my heart of hearts I’m just a maudlin Slav soul. Tip: maudlin is a good one to look up for my international friends, although it probably comes from French:-)… in fact I just looked it up myself ( you gotta love etymology) – according to Wikipedia:From the Middle English name for Mary Magdalene in the Bible, typically depicted weeping.
There you go, it wasn’t from French after all:-)
Hasta la vista.
ps. Big love to all the people who kept me sane during my thesis, including: Jess, Kate M., Jon,Chris, Claire A., Kate C. and Jacky G. who helped and the countless others who fed me and took me out from time to time.
September 30, 2011
the last six weeks have been filled with much action in the university library. Action is not really a good way to describe it since it mostly involves sitting in front of a computer screen for at least six hours each day, but even though its a pain (and has given me back pain) I feel like I’ve actually learnt something. In my eagerness to share with people just how excited I am about financialisation, my thesis topic, I often watch my friends’ eyes glaze over as I explain defined benefit versus defined contribution pension schemes, why house prices in Australia will go down, why the Greeks should just default and just generally why we’re all up shit creek without a paddle. Well they asked for it with that naive “So what’s your thesis on?” question…
And yes whilst the weather has been getting better and I’ve been stuck in the library, I have been dreaming up my next escapade – my trip to Argentina to check out Buenos Aries, the rest of the country, hang out with some old friends and hey maybe even learn some Spanish (Juan Carlos if you are reading this its only taken 4 years but I’ve finally decided to take your advice). I had planned to go to Brazil as well and had booked my flights and everything. However, my plan was foiled by my doctors. Despite the fact that I’m feeling pretty good and that I take my medication daily in pill form (so don’t actually have to go to hospital for treatment) because I’m a part of a clinical trial I have to show up every 3 weeks for blood tests. Apparently they are the Pfeizer rules, and if you don’t follow the rules you get kicked off the trial. So after protesting about how my freedom was being curtailed by the evil big pharma industry and trying to negotiate with the doctor (when you’re a trade unionist you think you can negotiate everything, including your own healthcare), it was pointed out to me that I did in fact sign the consent form which outlined these conditions.
Given that I just had some good results, with apparently some of the brain tumors showing signs of calcification (which is apparently good because it is a sign that they are dying), I decided to stop worrying and love big pharma.
So now I have resigned myself to just going to Argentina for 3 weeks – well more or less, give or take a couple of days either side, am still negotiating:-) – and am getting very excited about the trip. Between now and then stands the thesis, a couple of essays, an exam, some more scans and my first Spanish lessons (and possibly in between some episodes of Mad Men, True Blood,a concert or two etc.)
Hope y’all are good, and if I have anything exciting to say will write soon.
Hasta le victoria siempre!
Ps. something exciting did happen – the Australian High Court ruled that the government could not send refugees who reach Australia by boat (all 12 of them, its an invasion, you don’t understand!) to Malaysia. Yay for activist judges!
So dear readers I know its been a while and I could make the usual excuses but time just flies when you’re having fun. Lets get the health stuff out of the way: had some scans last week and the doc says its all good – no change either way, he seems happy. I feel good apart from self-inflicted temporary injuries – a few too many big nights…
As for the rest well spring is coming, which seems to have brought with it some kind of fever with climate-deniers, truckies and tea-party types demonstrating in Canberra calling for the government to resign. There’s a good piece on it here http://newmatilda.com/2011/08/17/great-big-crazy-carbon-conspiracy if you’re interested in Australia’s version of the Tea Party. But even though the demonstrations may not bring down the government, Craig Thompson, a Labour party MP who got caught paying for prostitutes with his credit card, just might. If he’s forced and there’s a bi-election, the government will most probably lose the seat and thus not have enough votes in the lower house of Parliament to govern. Then we’d have to have an election and then it could get really ugly…
In other news there have been babies (welcome to the world Henry and Thea), much watching of episodes of Dexter and Big Love, and the enjoyment of that well-know edge of the seat thriller -Financialisation at Work: A Reader-it really is a ripping yarn for anyone interested in how finance runs our world. If you’re keen on modern dance the new Wim Wenders film called ‘Pina 3D’ is worth a looksy, but the latest Terence Malick ‘The Tree of Life’ is a bit of a chore.
I’ll be going into lock down mode for a few weeks to get those 12,000 words written for my thesis, but will advise you all if anything exciting happens.
In the meantime, lots of love
July 21, 2011
Well folks I don’t know about you but I have been enjoying very much the unfolding Murdoch drama – it has all my favourite elements – villains who think themselves untouchable, corrupt cops and Tory politicians eating humble pie…
Back in my youth, when I was young and enthusiastic I set my heart on becoming a journalist. I worked hard to get into journalism school but within few weeks I knew that I could never be a journo – after I found out that Murdoch controlled 70% of Australia’s newspapers and countless TV stations. It was clear from then on that I could never be a journalist, at least not in Australia or the UK. This was before he even brought us Fox News, which is a whole other world of hate-spreading evil masquerading as journalism. I suspect that this is a particularly anglo-saxon obsession, but anyone who has lived in a county where Murdoch holds substantial media outlets, who pursue conservative, racist and generally mind-numbing agendas can tell you that watching his empire fall apart (even if only a little bit) is the best thing that has happened since sliced bread.
My last week of holidays which I spent in Morocco was a wonderful and relaxing time, made all the better by the fact that I just got to sit around and put my feet up (literally) while all my friends did everything. Now that’s the kind of holiday everyone should get to have once in a while. Tangiers really is a fascinating place: at the risk of sounding all cliched, the historical influences and its proximity to Europe make it a place rendered with hope and despair, and everything else in between. It was exactly what a perfect holiday should be like: spending time with friends, reading my book, watching as the world went by.
The contrast with the cold Melbourne winter couldn’t be starker. Its the kind of windy greyish weather typical of Brussels, so lucky I’m used to it. But unlike in Brussles where people decide against all odds to go outdoors, in Melbourne everyone kind of goes into hybernation. Which is just as well, given the fact that I’m supposed to be studying. Of course it has its upside – everyone becomes obsessed with cooking hearty meals and going to places where you’re nice and warm, like the cinema.It’s a great season for fireside chats and getting lots of sleep.
And as always life powers on- literally- with new life being brought into the world and more to come (congratulations Chris and Simon). And the doctors tell me that the last set of scans show that my tumors are blocked ie. have not grown, and that one of the brain lesions has maybe gotten smaller.
Oh and Jon is also in town, which makes everything better.
Much love to you all, wherever you may be.