Monday, June 30, 2008

Can I Join the Club?

Back in my college days, I became obsessed with Judaism. It was kind of like my Australia obsession with one big difference. I actually WAS Jewish. I'll say this: Being obsessed with a culture/community you're actually part of is much less frustrating than being obsessed with one you're not a part of.

In my senior year at college, I went to Synagogue one Friday evening and met this young man. We hit it off right away and eventually ended up becoming best friends. Matthew was NOT Jewish, but was thinking of becoming Jewish. Seriously thinking about it.

There's a belief in Judaism that if someone wants to become Jewish it means they have a Jewish soul. All they're really doing is returning to where they should be.

Returning aint easy though and I felt for Matthew. I counted my lucky stars that I was BORN Jewish and did not have to go through what he went through. I don't remember exactly what it involved. Probably studying? Tests? I do remember there was some kind of awful symbolic circumcision. It involved his penis, a needle, and the rabbi observing.

Yikes.

And now I find myself in kind of the same boat as Matthew. I want to join something I wasn't born into. I want to be Australian. And sadly....it seems becoming Jewish is easier than becoming a citizen of another country. Well, maybe not easier. I think it's that one takes more effort and the other is more about opportunity. Anyone can decide to become Jewish and then work hard at it and reach the goal. They don't need get their family to agree to it or find an employee sponsor. They don't need to make sure they're in the right career.

I mean some people like me suffer with desire while other people get Australia handed to them on their lap--whether they want it or not!

I can't just sit there and say I want to be Australian! I'm going to work hard and go for it! I have to convince my husband and my son that we should do this. I have to find one of us a job that is needed in Australia. We have to sell a house. We have to find a new home for our cats.

We'd have to dodge guilt trips and tears from the extended family. Although a person converting to Judaism probably has to face the same.

Becoming Australian seems way out of my grasp most of the time. Still, I have fantasies about it. I took the Australian Citizenship test multiple times online and passed with damn good scores. I get all teary-eyed when I read the Australian Citizenship pledge.

From this time forward,

I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people,

Whose democratic beliefs I share,

Whose rights and liberties I respect,

And whose laws I will uphold and obey.


My fantasy of reciting this usually includes Kevin Rudd (Australian Prime Minister) standing before me as I say it.



Then the fantasy turns into a bit of a nightmare because I expect Rudd to say Welcome to the family, Dina. I'm ready for the big hug....or handshake. But then he says "You have one more test to pass."

And they bring out the Vegemite.

Rudd says. Let's make sure you're a TRUE Australian.

I start to tremble. I'm sweating.

Rudd says. No worries, mate. The trick is to spread it on thinly. But I know his definition of thin will be much different than my definition.

I say. I passed the written exam. I know so much about Australia. Isn't that enough?

Rudd says. Nope.

Can't I eat a Tim Tam instead?

Well, I guess eating Vegemite is much better than anything involving a needle and penis.

Who knows what will happen in the future?

I might hopefully one day have to change the name of this blog The Girl Who Became Australian.

Or seeing how the whole Jewish-thing turned out-- I couldn't care less about Judaism now. Maybe that's what will happen with Australia. Maybe I'll move on to something new.

Maybe Islam! This blog could one day become The Girl Who Loved Allah.

Oh! Then my parents would REALLY kill me!!!!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

I No Longer Hate Geography




I love geography. Well, now I do. I used to hate it because it confused me. Okay, it still confuses me somewhat. What can I say? I'm an American. Bad geographical skills are in our genes or something.

I became interested in geography when my son Jack was about two-years-old. In case you didn't know....he's kind of smart. So, we bought these educational placemats. One of them had a map of the world. I decided to try and teach him geography.

I got him to memorize the location of various countries by connecting them to something that might interest him. What country is Snow White from? Where does Pokemon come from? Where does Peter Pan and Mary Poppins live? Where do the Wiggles live?

It worked! My toddler knew basic geography! And then it got a bit scary because he soon knew more than the basics. The kid couldn't talk yet, but he could find places like Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia.

I loved showing Jack off to the world....exploiting my child. Although I didn't go as far as booking him on Jay Leno. We just stuck to friends and family.

Jack's interest in geography must have been contagious. Well, at least I caught it. I found that studying a map helped me understand the world more. Things started to make more sense.

For example, I had kept hearing about Pakistan in relation to Osama Bin Ladin. I didn't get it. But once I actually looked at a map..... "Ah! Afghanistan and Pakistan are right next to each other." And I wondered. Why does Australia have so many Asian immigrants? Honestly, I never understand that. But then....Ah! Australia is very close to Asia.

There are still some things that confuse me in geography. Like the Middle East. What's the deal with that? Is it part of Europe? Asia? Neither?

And then there's Australia. It's the only country that has its own damn continent. Yet, it's also part of Oceania. What is Oceania exactly? Not a continent, right? A country cluster?

Anyway, here are some basic facts about Australia (I think most of these count as geography. Or maybe not? I really do get confused!)

a) Australia has about 8 million square miles. It's about the same size as the continental United States (that means you subtract Hawaii and Alaska--kind of rude if you ask me)

b) Australia is close (but not too close) to New Zealand, Papa New Guinea, and Indonesia.

c) Okay. Really weird. Well, at least we thought it was weird. I always thought that Europe was closer to Australia. I mean it still might be. But it's actually faster to fly from the US to Australia than it is to fly from the UK to Australia. Why? I don't know.

d) Australia has close to 21 million people. Now remember that it's about the same size as the United States. How many people does the United States have? About 300 million!

e) Most Australians live on the coast. Sydney has the most people. About 4 million. Melbourne has a little less than that. New York City has about double that. And New York State has close to 19 million. That's almost the same amount of people in the whole country of Australia.

f) Australia has less people than the state of Texas--where I live.

g) Australia has 7 states and/or territories. Okay, I honestly don't understand this exactly. I met some people from Darwin--which is in the Northern Territory. I asked them what it means to be a territory and not a state. They gave me an answer. I didn't understand it.

Should we talk about the states? Yeah, I guess so.

There's......

1. New South Wales. That's where Sydney is. Sydney is NOT the capital of Australia, but it is the capital of New South Wales. Canberra is the capital of all Australia. Canberra is IN New South Wales, but it's not a part of New South Wales.

2. Queensland. This is where Steve Irwin lived and his zoo still lives. It's also where you'll find the Great Barrier Reef. If you go way up north and you're a dumb tourist, you'll probably become lunch for a crocodile.

3. Victoria. This is where my friend Suzanne lives and it's where my friend Tracey used to live. Melbourne is here too.

4. Tasmania. An island. This is where the Tasmanian Devil lives. It's also where one of my friends live.

5. Northern Territory. Uluru (Ayers Rock) is here. Before I was obsessed with Australia, I don't think I knew what Uluru was. Was I just dumb? Have most people heard of it....I mean outside of Australia? Probably. I mean hopefully I was the only one so dumb.

6. South Australia. This is where McLeod's Daughters takes place.

7. Western Australia. This is where Heath Ledger was from. It's also where one of my Facebook friends lived. But he never wrote me once I left Facebook. So sad.

Okay, done with the states. (Thank you, Australia for not having 50). Here's more stuff.

h) In the United States, the South is hot. In Australia, it's the North that's hot. I've also heard rumors that as the U.S North is snobby towards the South (especially the South East), The people in the Southern part of Australia can be a bit snobby about those up North. And probably for about the same reasons. I'll stop here before I get myself in trouble.

i)) Australia was once called terra australis incognita--meaning "unknown Southern Land."

Now we know it and now we visit it.

If we're lucky, we get to live in it.

I'm waiting to get lucky.

Oh!

Wait.....

j) Australia is sometimes nicknamed The lucky country but there's a kind of funny story behind that. Let's just say something was taken a bit out of context.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Spending my Summer on Drover's Run



My Australian obsession tends to drag me in various directions. New friends. New music. New Experiences.

And new TV shows.

One of my friends in Australia introduced me to McLeod's Daughters. She mentioned the show casually and probably expected me to say, That's nice. Interesting.

Instead, I immediately looked it up online and started watching clips from old episodes on YouTube. A few days later, I knew who some of the characters were; and I knew some of the major storylines.

Last weekend, my husband bought me the DVD for the first season.

I now have something new to love and I'm passing on the love. I got my parents and Tim to watch the show with me. And our roommate Tabitha saw the DVD and proclaimed, This looks like something I'd like!

She took it home and watched the first four episodes. Last night, her friend came over to eat dinner with us. We all watched episode six together. Maybe he'll become addicted too!

McLeod's Daughters is awesome. And I'm so happy to have something to watch while the Others, the Dubois family, and Eli Stone are all on their summer vacation.

I'm having a great time on Drover's Run with Claire, Tess, Becky, Jodi, and Meg. I'm in love with all of them--although Claire really bugs me at times. Oh, and I might have a tiny crush on Alex. Or maybe not so tiny.

I love all the gorgeous scenes of South Australia. And the farm life seems really meaningful and attractive. I mean really. Where else could you work so hard, and all those hours, and still look incredibly beautiful?

My only conflict with the show is I'm a vegetarian. Yeah. And Tim and I just watched a Vegan Propaganda show with Morgan Spurlock. So, it's a bit rough watching the animal scenes. I mean I'm not against farms, but I keep wanting to say to Claire. Can you be a little more gentle with the animals? Talk to the sheep while you're sheering them. Pet the cow. Give him a little kiss.

She IS nice to the horses--I'll give her that.

In episode three or four, Tim questioned Claire throwing away sheep that had died from heat and exhaustion. "Why don't they eat them?" He was probably having fantasies about lamb chops. I think that scene bothered me the most--coming from an animal right's viewpoint. If you're not going to give the guy a proper burial, at least eat him!! Or make a sweater out of him or something!

What makes me feel better is the show has at least made some subtle references to animal rights. There was a scene in a restaurant where they showed the menu a few times. The veal was crossed out. I pointed it out to Tim and asked if he thought that was a message.

Tess acted a bit squeamish about eating a chicken she had seen killed. And when I did some online actor-stalking, I found out the girl who plays Claire is a vegetarian in real life; and the actress who plays Becky is an animal rights activist.

Well, anyway.....I shouldn't be so city-girl squeamish. We're not talking about a factory farm here. It's a lovely life--for the animals and the humans. Well, at least on television it looks that way.

Heck. Honestly? I'd probably rather be a cow on a farm in South Australia than a human girl in the suburbs of Fort Worth.



Glad this blog is not too popular right now....otherwise, I'd probably be attacked by PETA.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Behind the Scenes



As I've said before, Jack and I really bonded with the Sydney Aquarium. Jack overcame his fear of touching animals and lingered at the touch pools.

The staff members and volunteers at the aquarium range from being a bit abrasive to very friendly and welcoming (you can't really blame the abrasive ones. It's hard balancing protecting the animals and being nice to all the hyper kiddos). One day we had one of the very friendly ones. She chatted with us and asked if we had done a Behind the Scenes Tour yet. We said no. What's that? She told us this was one of the perks of being a member.

So, we signed up.

Totally awesome. One of our best experiences in Sydney.

We got to see where they grow their own coral and learned all kinds of neat stuff about coral. Which I have now forgotten.

We saw the place where sick little starfish were kept. So sad. Well, especially when I recognized one little guy from the touch pool.

We saw the kitchen which totally confused me. They had all these fruits and vegetables. I couldn't figure it out. What sea animal eats apples and peaches? Carrots? Then I realized/learned they share the kitchen with Wildlife World. Okay! Got that cleared up.

The best part came we then got to go and feed the sharks; sea turtles and lovely rays as well. It was so fun. Jack loved it. I loved it. Our hands got a big slimy and gross. But who cares!!

The other great thing is I guess not many people know about this behind the scenes tour so we were the only ones there. Private tour. How cool is that?

We loved it so much that Jack and I signed up for another one. In this one, we skipped most of the preliminary stuff and just went straight to shark feeding. It was a bit nerve-wracking because it was possible for Jack to trip and fall into the shark tank. I was a bit worried, but not overly so. The sharks aren't human-eaters. Plus, it would be QUITE the story to take home. Mimi! Papa! I fell into the shark tank!

I was actually more worried for the poor sharks.

So I held tight to Jack, while trying to take photos and feed my share of the animals....all at the same time. Major Mommy-multi-tasking.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Long Long Time Ago...No, I mean REALLY long ago

To protect the guilty, I won't mention any names. I'll just say I was talking to Mr. X.

We discussed future travel plans, and of course, I promoted Australia.

Mr. X said he wasn't really into the whole Australia idea.

Why?

The country is too new. He likes to go to places that go way back and have a rich history.

I jumped down his throat.

Australia is NOT new. WHITE Australia is new. The name "Australia" is new. But Australia is a land with a rich culture that goes way back. It might not be the white culture a lot of us feel more comfortable with. But there was a culture, and that culture still exists today.

The indigenous people in Australia go back at least 40,000 years. If you're a Christian, that's 38,000 years before Jesus walked the Earth. If you're Jewish, that's about 34,000 years before the Earth even began. (how does that work?!).

To put things more into perspective:

The Great Wall of China was built around 200 BC.

The Egyptians built their pyramids around 3000 BC.

Thousands of years before that, some adventure-loving Asians set off in their tiny boats and landed Down Under.

And some people argue with the 40,000 year thing. They think it may have all began much earlier than that.

I guess the question is......is this Indigenous Australian culture worthy of our respect? Is it worth visiting? I mean did they build anything really cool like Stonehenge? Can we respect a culture that didn't even know how to farm the land?

And yeah, they might be the oldest living culture. But are they happily thriving? Look at the Australian newspapers on any morning and you're sure to see a depressing story about the Aborigines living a horrible life.

Yeah. Okay White Man did some bad things to them. But if they were that great of a culture, wouldn't they have gotten over it? Fought back? Prospered?

I like this little analogy I made up.

What if tomorrow....a spaceship comes down to Earth? The well-meaning, but arrogant aliens give us a greeting that we can't understand. They're nice to us as long as we give up our houses and land to them. If we protest in any way, they kill us with weapons we've never seen before.
Our own weapons have little effect on them.

The mean ones kill us. The nice ones strip away our culture, insisting we follow their more modern culture. Later, they start having sex with our women.....often by rape. The children are born. Half Alien and Half Earthling. The well-meaning aliens decide their culture is superior to our culture; our schools, our television shows, our hobbies, our churches.....all the stuff we're proud of. They decide it's worthless and it gets in the way of their progress.

They could be like the Nazis and kill us all. But they decide to be more "humane". They'll just kidnap our children from us. They break up our families. They look down at us. Okay, yeah. Not as bad as mass extermination. But picture your darling children....the ones you love so much. Now imagine someone stealing them away from you. Might you be a little sad?

We were here first. This was our planet. But now the aliens are prospering and we're not.

What do we do? We find some cheap alcohol and wash away our sorrows. We lose faith and hope. We become less of what we were, but it doesn't change the fact that our culture was fabulous.

The amazing thing about Indigenous Australia (and other indigenous cultures....such as Native Americans) is that despite all the crap that has happened to them, they're still there. And things are getting better for them. The Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, gave a formal apology to the stolen children and their families. Schools around Australia are starting to teach indigenous languages to the children so the languages aren't lost. Museums have exhibits about Indigenous history. Land rights are being returned.

All is not perfect yet. There's still work to be done. But Australia has an amazing history. And not just the black one. The white history is amazing too.

It's a beautiful story full of mistakes, tragedy, reconciliation, redemption progress, miracles, and hope. Hey! It sounds like an episode of Lost!

Seriously, if you're looking for a historical place to visit on your next vacation/holiday....go to Australia. But do buy an extra plane ticket and take me with you!!!!!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Make Yourself at Home



Contrary to popular belief, I do NOT like to travel. I like BEING somewhere, but I don't like the hassle of getting there. Because of this, I pushed the idea of spending most of our Australia time in one place--one hotel, rather than jumping around from place to place. After the long plane ride, I didn't want to take more plane rides or train rides.....or long car rides.

I promoted the plan as being an authentic cultural experience. We wouldn't be just tourists. I said we could feel like we lived in Australia. I really do love spending a lot of time in one place. I like that feeling of this is home--even if you are leaving in a few weeks.

Our plan was to spend about 2.5 weeks in Sydney, and one week in a small beach town called Port Stephens. The Sydney hotel we stayed at had an apartment-like quality; full kitchen and laundry.

Before we left, we ordered food and other needful things from Woolworths--one of the main Aussie grocery stores. I tried to stay clear of anything American. Not too difficult. There's not much American food in Australia. I wanted us to eat Australian stuff. So we stocked up on Weet-bix, Arnott's Shapes, and Tim Tams. (No Vegemite...will talk about that on another date).

I think having a stocked pantry and a place to do laundry gives your holiday/vacation a this-is-home quality. It also helps to buy regular-sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner instead of using the tiny little hotel bottles.

One great way to make me feel I'm at home is to visit the same places over and over. We got a membership to Sydney Wildlife World and The Sydney Aquarium. They were right near our hotel and I figured we'd go frequently enough to pay back the membership cost. Buying a membership to somewhere makes me feel like a local. I felt so special carrying the little card in the pocket (although it actually took us awhile to get an actual card).

We actually might have gone overboard with the repeat-business idea though, because my friend Michelle started to look at me as if I was crazy. Have you been to the Maritime museum yet?

Uh...no.

Powerhouse Museum?

No.

Australia Museum?

Uh....not yet. Should we go?"

Michelle had to push me to venture out more.

And speaking of Michelle.... that's another way to feel at home. Meet a friend! I think this is the biggest way to make a strange place feel home-like. Find a wonderful friend. I had Michelle's number on my mobile and we arranged some playdates. Nothing can make you feel more at home than arranging playmates with a fellow mother.

I guess in summary, I'll make a list.

Dina's Guide to Making a Place Feel Like Home

a) stay in a place that has a kitchen....and laundry if possible

b) go grocery shopping! I think it's a great way to see a culture. We did many grocery store visits. Jack and I would have so much fun looking at all the different products

c) buy food and toiletries/medicines that come from that country. Although some places (like Australia) are expensive so you might want to take some stuff from home. If you're from UK visiting the U.S....things will be so cheap for you. You might as well not even pack a suitcase and just buy everything once you get here!)

d) Meet a friend and make plans with them.

e) find places you like and visit them over and over again.

The only problem with all the above is sometimes it makes the place seem TOO much like home. And it's really hard to say good-bye.

At least for me it was.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Shark Dive Xtreme




I decided that since I had gathered enough courage to GO to Australia, I should do something brave and crazy while actually there. I signed up for the Harbor Bridge climb (despite my fear of heights) and for the shark dive at Oceanworld in Manly.

I wanted adventure. I wanted some fun. I wanted something to brag about when I got home.

I love sharks and don't have a huge fear of them. Okay, of course if I'm swimming along in the ocean and a Great White appeared, I would not happily smile and take a photograph. I'd probably scream, cry, and then become lunch. But I figured the sharks at the aquarium would be relatively harmless. I did some research and confirmed my suspicions. I'd be mingling with Grey Nurse Sharks, Giant Stingrays, Wobbegong Sharks, and fish thingies. None of them dangerous.

What I was nervous about was not the sea-life I'd encounter, but the scuba diving bit. I had never been scuba diving. I didn't know if I'd do well with the breathing. I also didn't look forward to the wetsuit. I hate uncomfortable clothing; and a wetsuit looked like it could beat out any uncomfortable clothes I had ever worn.

I left our hotel early Monday morning and headed to Manly.

My first surprise was the group I would be diving with. I think I imagined a large group of tourists. Well, not huge. Maybe five our six of us? I don't know. It turned out to be two guys and me. They were both from Sydney. I was the only female. I was the only tourist. Well, actually there was a female there....a girlfriend. But she was just going to observe.

I think in most cases, I'd love to have two handsome Australian guys all to myself (plus the shark dive instructor-man). This was not one of those times. I guess because I was nervous. It would have been nice to have a girl with me.....well, especially when it came to the point of putting on the wetsuit.

The guys all got theirs on immediately. They were dressed and ready to go. I struggled and struggled. The three guys were so sweet and supportive, but I was too mortified to enjoy or truly appreciate it. And then I had to actually go out and have the shark dive instructor help me zip up my suit. I don't know how much of my ass he saw. I have blocked that out of my memory. I'm thinking....HOPING that we wore a swimming suit under the wetsuit.

My other most embarrassing moment of the day was when I asked what turned out to be an inappropriate question. They mentioned the fact that the animals might approach us and interact with us. They might come near us, but we shouldn't worry. And I asked Are we allowed to touch the animals?

The shark dive instructor gave me this worried look and said No. And I got a lecture. I mean all I meant was that if the animal comes and swims very close, can we reach out to touch them? The way the instructor looked at me--it's as if he thought I was going to chase down the poor animals and molest them.

Okay, finally it was time for the actual shark dive. We went into this starter-pool thing that leads into the shark aquarium. As we got our masks on and practiced breathing, this giant sting ray came over and brushed against us. It was such an amazing exciting experience. The best way I can describe it is when you're pregnant and the baby kicks or does a flip inside of you. It's that kind of amazing feeling--to have this giant creature touch you. I got the gist of the game by then. They can touch you. You can't touch them.

All was okay (besides me still feeling mortified and a complete loser) until it was time to go underwater. We were supposed to give the okay sign if all felt wonderful. And the three guys looked happy and wonderful. I felt like I was drowning. I wanted to be brave and strong like them, but felt I should be honest. I gave the sign for "Not quite okay." They had me come up and asked me what was wrong. I told them I felt like I couldn't breath. They assured me I was fine and I could breath. They encouraged me. We were all smiles.

We went in with the sharks.

Lots of exciting animal encounters.

I wish I could have enjoyed it.

But I never quite caught on with the breathing thing. Obviously I was breathing because I lasted thirty minutes down there and I'm still alive today. I'll just say it wasn't comfortable breathing. I felt horrible. I wanted to enjoy it all, but mostly I was just wishing it would all end so I could breath normal air.

There was one really cute thing that happened. A big orange Wobbegong shark plopped down right in front of us and stayed there for quite awhile. It was like when a cat plops down on the book you're reading and waits for you to pet him. Too bad we were not allowed to pet Mr. Wobeogong. That would have probably kept my mind off the whole suffocation thing.

The whole thing finally ended and I was so thankful to breath regular air again. Only one more problem. I had forgotten to bring the required towel and had to put on clothes while still soaking wet. One more chance for me to prove to Australians, how dumb American tourists can be.

Later, I started to realize that I'm probably a nose-breather and breathing through my mouth was very hard for me.

I vowed that day to never scuba dive again, but since then I've had second thoughts. Maybe I can practice breathing through my nose--do snorkeling and all that. I would love to be with sharks again and actually breath well enough to enjoy it.

We'll see......., marine life, sharks

Monday, June 23, 2008

Australian Fiction Writers





In the last ten months, I've been very obsessed with Australia. And in that time, I've tried to read a lot of Australian literature. It hasn't been extremely easy because our library and used bookstore have a limited supply. I have found a few books and also picked up some books while we were in Sydney. One of the few negative things about Australia is that the books are SO expensive there--even the used books. It's a bit shocking.

Anyway....here are some of the authors I've read so far.

Tim Winton-He's from Western Australia and writes about Western Australia. I don't know what it is about Western Australia, but I find it incredibly sexy. Maybe it's Winton's writing. His books aren't overly erotic though. Or who knows? Maybe in a past life I had a fabulous sex-life in Perth or something.

The first Winton book I read was Cloudstreet. I think it's pretty famous in Australia--was turned into a play. I was about to say "Broadway" play. How ethnocentric could I be? Anyway, I was somewhat confused by Cloudstreet, because there was actually a mistake on the cover jacket. It named the daughter of a character as being the wife instead of his daughter. Let me say....that REALLY messed me up. I was totally lost. And you really don't expect there to be mistakes on the cover jacket. I, of course, thought the problem was with me. I kept reading paragraphs over and again, trying to figure out where I went wrong.

My favorite Winton book is The Riders. Very spooky and sad, but thrilling. My only problem with the book is I didn't understand the ending. I was left feeling lost and a bit dumb. The thing about Winton's books is they aren't EASY reading. Well, at least not for me. I have to really concentrate and end up having to read some paragraphs multiple times.

In contrast to that, there's Monica McInerney. Easy beach reading. Chick-lit. A mixture of romance and comedy. Sister stuff. A little dose of tragedy. You laugh. You cry. Your brain gets a rest. I love that stuff. I've read two of her books. The Alphabet Sisters and Family Baggage. I hope to read more.

I hope NOT to read more of Peter Carey's books. I feel bad saying that, but I just don't like his books. He's pretty well known though and I think he's even won some awards. So, my opinion is definitely not in the majority. His work is just not my cup of tea. And I've tried three times. First, I read Theft. Not incredibly boring. There were some interesting aspects. I just didn't like it. Next, I tried The True History of the Kelly Gang. I found that to be very boring. I gave Carey one more chance. I read The Unusual Life of Tristian Smith. I think that was the one Australian book I didn't finish.

My mom keeps telling me I need to read The Thorn Birds. I think I did read it--when I was very young. Maybe I should read it again now that I'm into the whole Australian thing. Back then, I was probably just looking for the sex and forbidden love scenes. Recently, I've read two other Colleen McCullough books. One was a weird short novel, The Ladies of Missalonghi-- set in the Blue Mountains. Fitting that it's weird because as much as I love the place. (It's beautiful!!) There's something a bit eerie about the place. My cousin will agree with me. She ran into a toy museum that has a nice little Nazi toy collection. Okay, and also there's been some crazy domestic murders there recently.

The other Colleen McCollough book I read was Morgan's Run--about a convict. Interesting subject, but the book got a bit old after awhile. I got to the point where I was whining. Will this ever end?

I read one very lovely book by Janette Turner Hospital. Oyster. It's about a cult in a small rural town. Spooky and weird, but in a good way. Very thought-provoking. Okay and honestly. I think it's hard to go wrong with a wicked-cult book. Those are usually fascinating. And Janette Turner has a poetic writing style and says these deep things. I kept wanting to stop reading and write all these quotes down. But I was too lazy and too much into the story. Then I went back later and tried to find the quotes and got a headache trying to do that.

I looked forward to reading a book by the Aussie feminist Helen Garner. Cosmo Cosmolino I heard good things about her. . Unfortunately I was disappointed. I didn't like it. I want to give her another go though. Maybe I'll try some of her nonfiction.

I read one book by Murray Bail. Eucalyptus. It started out promising. Great premise. A man won't let anyone marry his daughter unless the potential suitor can identify every single Eucalyptus tree in his collection. But then Bail fills the book with these stories...or maybe more like vignettes. And the little stories--well, I didn't like them too much.

I read two of John Birminham's military science fiction stories. Mainstream novels. Pretty easy reading. One day I'm going to have to read the last of the trilogy. I guess that shows that I liked the books, but didn't love them....well, since I haven't yet rushed to seek out the finale.

I read one book by Patricia Shaw and hope to read more by her. She writes historical fiction about various places in Australia. I read Dream Seekers which is about Germans settling in Queensland. I haven't been able to find her books in Texas, but saw a lot of her books in Australia. If I had known I'd like her book so much, I would have bought more. Oh well, I guess it gives me something to look forward to when we go back to Australia. Yeah, as if I needed more to look forward to.

Oh....last and not least. But really damn awful. Emily Maguire. She's an amazing writer, but I hated her book. I wish I had never found it. I wish I had never read it. Taming the Beast I like sad books. I don't mind a little tragedy. But I'm not fond of depressing books that leave you feeling dirty and suicidal. You know that movie The Ring. And after you watch it, it just feels like all joy has been sucked out of you....that the world is an awful evil place and you'll never be okay again? That's how I felt after reading Maguire's book. It's not horror. It's erotica. So actually, I was all excited to read it. But this book takes all the beauty and fun out of sex--makes it all seem very demonic.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Can Jealousy Ever Be Good?

Jealousy has a bad rap. And with reason. It makes us feel bad. It makes us act bad. It can ruin friendships. It can cause divorce. It can make you turn an awful shade of green that does not go well with your new hair color.

But sometimes it can make good things happen. Or more precisely, it can make you make good things happen.

Around 2005, I developed a little crush. Not on an uncle or movie star, but a country. I started to have this thing for Australia. Kind of came about from some dreams I had. Not a huge thing and I didn't talk about it much. It was more of a mild attraction.

I did want to visit Australia, but I pretty much put it in the category of NOT going to happen.

I'm not plane-phobic, but I don't enjoy long plane rides. I especially couldn't imagine doing a plane ride with a young child. I figured...MAYBE when he got older. Or maybe I'd just wait until my next life. I would request to be reincarnated somewhere in Australia.

I was actually fairly okay with all this. The wish would appear in my brain every so often, but I would just push it away.

Then two things happened that changed everything. I don't actually remember the order though. But anyway....

A) my sister's husband casually announced that he and my sister were going to travel to Australia. They're free and childless and could do such insane things.

I was incredibly jealous.

B) My cousin sent an email out announcing that their family was moving to Sydney.

I was incredibly jealous

Nothing happened immediately. Well, just the fact that my cousin would send me photos of their life in Australia and I'd come to close to exploding. On one hand, I loved looking at the photos and seeing their adorable little Aussie life. Well, my mature-self did. My less noble self would scream out. Why can't it be me??????

In August (about two months after my cousin moved to Sydney), we got passports for an upcoming family cruise. It had taken us months to finally get this done--major procrastinating.
After we left the official government building place, my husband jokingly asked where we should travel to. I chuckled a bit and did my usual speech about waiting until our son was older (he had just turned six). I said the cruise was enough.

About a week after that, I had a very rough day. I read my cousin's blog and she was having a rough day too. One thought led to another and I suddenly decided I should go visit her in Australia. The I soon turned into we, and when my husband came home I asked if we could go to Australia. He had been dying to go anywhere overseas and agreed immediately. We searched for good plane tickets and bought tickets by the end of the day.

We had three months to plan the trip. And in those months my little crush on a country became ....well, a bit of an insane intense crush.

I feared I'd end up being disappointed by Australia. Sometimes our fantasies are much better than reality. But in this case, that didn't happen. Australia was as wonderful as I imagined. I feel I was meant to go there, but I don't think it ever would have happened if it wasn't for my sister's planned vacation and my cousin moving there.

So there you go.....

Sometimes jealousy can be a positive thing.