Move over Plan B

 

I am a uni drop out again. I enrolled in a masters of social work in a hope to find some certainty to that perennial ‘what do you do‘ question in this far from sure world.  There’s dysfunction dripping thus demand for social workers is high and I wanted to find a ‘secure’ profession.

But life had a trail of little wakeup calls. I was shaking after a colleague downloaded about her abusive boyfriend and hearing yet another stress leave story, found me in bed contemplating:

What is driving this decision? And for whom am I doing it?

I am a slow learner. It takes me several times around the block over the same terrain for things to become clear. This current vocational plan (there has been many..) is yet another time I’ve placed onus on Plan B as a protection from owning up to my true desires, Plan A. It gets exhausting trying to hoodwink your soul. This conflict is something many artistic creatures face as following your passion in the arts is a hard, bloody road, not helped by society perpetually questioning its relevance, legitimacy and economic prospects.

But is it really a choice?

I lay there quietly asking the deeper parts of myself, and the answer was no.

After years of feeling like I need to find a career- an answer tied up with a pretty bow,  it was there all the time.  When I stood at the photocopier at my graduate job for a multinational, a poem licked my face. From the recovering heroin addict with a PhD in mathematics who helped change a flat tyre on my courier bike to the elderly lady who asked me (a support worker) to collude with her by hurriedly changing her spotted blood dressing gown so she could look ‘put together’ before the resident nurse came to do an in home assessment, stories have coloured my life. As I tidied away the decay in her Mosman apartment, we chatted early days at Women’s Weekly, her role as editor and laughed about the wickedness of life. I stood poker faced when asked if she was fit enough to remain living alone. Later I got a call from Deirdre’s son with a heartfelt thank you and news that she passed away peacefully in her own home weeks later.

I remember being asked ‘What do you want to be?’ upon graduating from high school for our school magazine. With ‘unthinking’ speed I answered

A constant Kombie cruiser

I have lived up to that. I have found by seeking new places, experiences, jobs and people- I find endless material, stimulation and variety that feeds my writing. Not good for a CV per se but when you are called to write and reflect on what you see in the world, you can’t turn it off.  Where do you learn how to be a writer? Yes you can do university and always get something out of it. But the qualitative research comes from living life. And maybe that’s what I have actually been doing, even when I felt I was ‘failing’ at this career game.

In Maleny, I am waiting tables, gathering dialogue and indulging in voyeurism. Chatting with customers and asking questions to tap into threads that hold opinions together. Moments that may find another life one day now I’ve fired Plan B.

I’m sitting here naked ready for Plan A-rse in the chair work of dancing whispering ghosts with grit under my keyboard.

Wish me luck and thanks for reading thus far.

Love Amy

 

 

 

 

Greener Pastures

So for those who’ve been here since the beginning, you may remember my post about our landlords and their attitude to children, in particular noisy children.https://bangonaboutbattambang.com/2014/08/20/peace-in-paradise/

After Beau managed to put a dart through a fly screen; pull a wicker cupboard on top of him smashing the mirror on his head, beautify the wall with crayon, get trigger happy on the bum gun one too many times, we’ve parted ways. The landlords eager to find us a new place and us eager to feel like we weren’t living with our parents.

 

Our New Digs

Our New Digs

According to our previous landlords, this place was just waiting for us. The owner is a judge who moved to Phnom Penh a while ago, not desperate to rent the place remained elusive. That was until our previous landlord desperate to find us a new domicile accosted her calling up to ten times a day and a deal struck.

We now live further out of town amidst paddy field green and buffalo tracks. The kids can play rough and tumble in the garden lined with 4 dragon fruit trees (large succulent sculptures), mangos, limes and passionfruit. We have an extra bedroom that’s swiftly been utilised as a kid free zone as it has a lockable door. This is where I’m shacked up to write this piece.

These beauties in our garden

These beauties in our garden

The local neighbours are Khmer and have already inquisitively scoped out our joint. Quinn and Beau can be found out the front with any number of sticks or swords in action.

Goat Curry ?

Goat Curry ?

These four legged friends were seen on our first bike ride to the market. The market being a cross between an abbattoir, a farmer’s market, hardware store and a bargain shop. All live or not so lucky critters (eels,crabs, insects, chicken, goose, duck, pork, beef, snails, snake) and fresh vegies/fruit are rolled out on grass mats for your perusal. Best to get there early because after the sun is higher in the sky, so are the number of flies.

Quinn turned 7 this weekend. It feels like quite the milestone for all of us. He’s growing into a thoughtful, sensitive and artistic young man. He was full of home made pinata and commando course building ideas for the party. None of which actually happened…but water pistols fights and pass the parcel sufficed.

Chocolate cake! Quite a rarity

Chocolate cake! Quite a rarity

We had quite a turn out. Tim being the social broadcaster he is- invited everyone we’ve met since arriving 3 months ago. It turned into a beautiful motley crew of Khmer and Expat- from the hotel owner and porter from the Royal Hotel where we stayed when we first arrived, to our old landlords, to work colleagues, new French friends from Beau’s preschool to the entire staff from our local, backpacker bar Here Be Dragons. 8 kg of barbecued meat later and eons of coconuts, beer and sweet cakes, everyone was suitably porky. Even a souped up ice cream van Cambodia-style came who must have got the call up.

Suzuki City cum Mr Whippy

Suzuki City cum Mr Whippy

So we are adjusting to our new digs peacefully. It feels like a new chapter has begun for our time here.  Whenever, I leave our walled garden and ride my bike along the country lane, I feel like I’m in a movie- the seated fishermen by the irrigation ditch with their home made fishing stick; the local jetty made out of a few pieces of bamboo easy to replace after heavy rains, smells waffing from outdoor ‘kitchens’ of the neighbouring corrugated huts.

What year is it? What century are we in?

Peace in Paradise

Meet Beau

Meet Beau

I made a promise to myself, and my readers to write honestly about the good times, and the harder. There is often that feeling that writing about potentially negative stuff isn’t what people want to read. But being real, is just that.

We are in our eighth week of settling into our new home.  We are all feeling emotional as we navigate new territory, trying to establish a connection with a place, and its people.

We miss our family, friends, school and little shrines of familiarity. My whizbag, jelly foam pillow that miraculously has a memory, to cherish all the hours we’ve spent together.

Quinn misses his top bunk haven with its secret compartment hidden from his brother’s tenacious, prying fingers. Here, the 2 brothers share a double bed, one mosquito net and numerous cuddles or wrestles depending on their romantic mood.

Tim misses his tools. and his man cave made out of a converted shipping container. Far enough down the garden path, and nestled into oleander, to give him much needed solace and privacy.  Not a dude to ever frequent our local Umina pub, this space, for both artistic pursuits and thinking time, is his temple.

Beau being the most rambunctious of our lot, and the youngest, seems quite content, being a toddler mutant ninja turtle, as long as his family are within earshot. But even he is showing signs of mild distress, mainly I feel through soaking up our frustrations.

We are all a noisy, vibrant bunch. Putting it positively, we are gregarious. But now we live within a compound, with our landlords and another foreigner, a British guy with a demanding job overseeing the removal of all landmines across Cambodia. He is often away in Angola. But he isn’t showing much paternal penchance and is more interested in Asian women.

Our landlords, have worked hard in the US, leaving in 1980 in the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge, Tong worked as a security guard and Pheak, his wife in an electronics factory, her job was to put the battery part into the ubitiquitious ceiling fan. After 22 years of being migrants in another culture, and working 6 days a week 12 hours a day, they decided to return to their homeland. They had saved enough to buy a big house and live out the rest of their days in peace.  They are examples of the resilient spirit that many Cambodians, and migrants world over exhibit. I stand in the face of this story, humbled by privilege and a fanciful nature, that has been able to grow wild in my garden of fortunity.

So there is a big adjustment by all parties in this microcosm. Our children make noise, bouncing a ball and squealing as they ride their bikes. Yes they are loud, and surely improvements can be made, but they are also children. Tim likes to play his guitar, it is a lifeline soothing a deep thinking, sensitive soul. He has been asked to play quietly and not outside at night.

And then there are my actions. It is time for one of those self reflecting mamma moments. You know those times when you see, are forced to look, at how yes, I’ve been yelling a bit too much. Possibly it starts as a reaction to the kids’ continual chatter, I have to raise a few decibels to be heard.  But it is also wielded as a tool upon deaf ears with…no effect. So the cycle begins, ends and continues.

I’ve been coping with the change, with the kids lack of friends and subsequent boredom, by resorting to the comfort of cooking. Cutting up onions and discovering new herbs, has become a relaxing pastime for me. But ironically, whilst I’m enjoying the aromas of fried garlic, the kids are running amok in the courtyard. And my lack of supervision is seen as neglectful.  Yesterday during a particularly large downpour, a welcome relief to the heavy cloak of heat of past few days, Quinn and Beau were delighting in waterfalls coming off the roof.  Quinn then decides to start riding the downpipe like a horse, the end breaking off. Tong seeing all of this, needless to say wasn’t happy. It is fixable. But the point has been made, that I can’t control my kids, and Tong is worried they will hurt themselves one day.  That very morning, Beau was trying to lift up the water pump cover. His curious fingers could have met with 240volts.

We’ve  had a family meeting with the kids about ‘out of bound’ areas and respecting other people’s stuff. It is a learning curve. A life lesson for living in a society with others.  Quinn at nearly seven gets it. Beau at three, was thinking about the zombies that live in the blue house up the street.

This parenting gig is HARD. Even when you want to escape to places in your imagination or  hide in the linen press, they require your attention.  Quinn amazed me with his insights- I asked him how should I tone down my yelling- ‘mum, I could post signs up all around the house for you?’. Bingo. Reminscient of a movement called Orange Rhino ( http://theorangerhino.com) that I discovered then forgotten about back in Oz. A great exercise in consciously trying to change your behaviour and getting your kids to help.

I just want to salute all the parents out there.  A difficult job without a manual, and this generation of parents are steering into unchartered waters. Without child labour, industrial revolution and corporal punishment as a basis for discipline, societal pressures and occupying kids’ time, how things have dramatically changed over the last century. 

Has anyone noticed how joyful and well behaved your kids are when you give them time and your undivided attention?

Always a juggling act.

Motherhood