giovedì, giugno 30, 2011

Social experiments in running

I don't know when exactly running for an hour every day became a sort of necessity, or a sort of craving - a treat I gave myself, like a chocolate bar - instead of something I laboured through. But I think it must have been shortly before I went to Shanghai, because when I was there and running on that mind-numbingly boring treadmill (how do people spend so much time on those fucking things?) I could only last for an hour for one day, and the following days my motivation was gone - basically I forced myself to run 20 minutes or 45 minutes just to help me digest the vast quantities of pig I was eating. And it sucked. I really wanted to run more. But the only way I was going to run outside was if I woke up really early to beat the traffic, and I never did, thanks to jet lag.

So when I got back here, I suddenly realized what a relief it was to run for an hour every day again, through, it must be said, inspirational surroundings. The birds are bloody fantastic; cockatoos, ibises, storks, rosellas, larrikeets, magpies, drongos - if they're not a feast for the eyes, they're a feast for the ears. If we move away from Australia again (and lately, as you can probably tell from my whiny posts, it's feeling like more a matter of "when" than "if") I'll hallucinate hearing magpie and drongo cries for the rest of my life. European magpies are probably my favourite birds in the world, but their barely-related Australian counterparts have the loveliest song you can imagine a bird singing.

Anyways, the lovely birds and listening to them means that I don't need to listen to mp3s, though I do on Monday and Tuesday to prepare for my Mandarin class. However, I've taken to wearing my earplugs all the time. I've been getting too much male attention lately and wearing earplugs gives me an excuse to not look up when I'm being addressed.

It's been my own fault, as far as these things are ever the fault of anybody besides a man who expects a total stranger to be interested in what he has to say. I started a social experiment a month or so ago to see whether country town people in northern NSW are bigger assholes than country people elsewhere by smiling and saying "good morning", etc., whenever I catch anybody staring. And I catch people staring a lot. I daresay that's not because I look so good, but because people here are really bundled up for winter at the moment while I'm running around in a tanktop and, if I say so myself, darling little running skirts. And for a place that's so nice to go for a run, not that many people seem to run here. Also - and I'm serious - I think in this town, as a half-breed southern European, I may count as a visible minority. This place is white as the fucking driven snow as what got some hydrogen peroxide spilt on it.

The experiment was hilarious, at least to me, in its results. 80% of people ignore the greeting, and 60% of those keep staring like great gawping buffoons at a freak show, while the other 40% quickly look away, like I've just taken my cock out. 10% smile and say good morning back; most of those are people over 60. The other 10% are men who think I'm flirting with them and try to strike up a conversation, which obviously I'm not keen to do; I'm running and out of breath; I'm a one-man woman; and even if I wasn't, historically when I've selected a man my modus operandi is more along the lines of taking my clothes off and sitting in his lap. Smiling and saying "good morning" is so distant from flirting, in my book, that men who interpret it as flirting actually creep me out. For heaven's sake. Ideally, I'd like to be polite and friendly to the whole world; that doesn't mean I want to fuck it.

So yeah - the experiment is done. I'm not going to keep trying to be a one-woman army of warm politeness here anymore, and now I hide behind my silent headphones, listening to the birds and enjoying myself.

lunedì, giugno 27, 2011

Big fat fucking fuckwitted sharks

One of the things that irritates me most about Australia is how Australians get pissed off about the wrong things. The cost of living is higher than Switzerland, but boat people are a major threat to the country's stability. The country is practically unpopulated but kids are still getting environmental asthma from all the open-pit mining, and the Greens are kooky. And everybody hates governmental institutions when this place has, I'm not fucking joking, the awesomest, most effecient, responsive, helpful, accessible civil service I've ever even heard of (this isn't just relative to Europe, BTW, but also Canada, which has a pretty wicked civil service) whilst having the shittiest, laziest, most incompetent, shysterly, corrupt and cartel-prone private sector I've ever even heard of.

On my mind because our mortgage has been a comedy, so far. The land title registration was delayed for two months, which delayed us getting a $7,000 government grant (which it's handing out for no other reason than that this is our first home), the offset account, which has an enormous fuckload of money in it because it's my tax savings, hasn't been offsetting . . . so shystery. In Australia luckily you can fix everything with six magic words - "I'm taking this to the ombudsman" and now we're getting a hell of an interest refund - but we have seen with our utilities, internet, phone, EVERY private contract, that you are always going to have some sort of situation. The mortgage one got on my tits the most, obviously, because it's a big amount of money involved.

But here's the thing. If this shystery crap happens all the time, its because it can. This fucking country is a bunch of fat, fuckwitted sharks swimming around in a tank with a bunch of retard fish, a critical mass of which obviously haven't learnt the phrase "I'm taking this to the ombudsman" yet or else the fat, fuckwitted sharks wouldn't keep trying to eat them. ARGH. We left Europe partly because of this sort of thing, this dynamic of every fucking contractual commercial transaction being a fucking struggle. Oh well. At least it's in English now. And if I think back on the Belgacom shysterism - that was far more shystery, and more difficult to resolve. In Brussels there were shysters knocking on your door, claiming that the gov. would get you if you didn't pay them Euro 80 to clean the heaters. And of course, in Belgium we were dealing with the most unhelpful and incompetent civil service in a continent full of unhelpful and incompetent civil servants. There's no doubt things are better now, in short. All the same, my tits are well got on.

domenica, giugno 26, 2011

Real estate websites

I've started doing it again - started researching real estate elsewhere, as I was doing so frequently in Brussels for L---. Germany, Catalonia and southern Italy to be exact. You've heard all my cultural problems with Australia and they don't need repeating; personally I'm as bored of them as I am by Australians at this point. What has really turned my head lately and got me combing over Art Nouveau penthouses in Berlin and 16th century palace rooms in Naples and sea views in Barcelona and whatnot is the financial angle.

I've been on and on about how expensive Australia is compared with everywhere else (besides Singapore, but Singapore has an excuse!) but somehow it's only in the last week that it's fully sunk in that if our plans work out and if there are no major shifts in global economic trends (two pretty big ifs, no doubt), in five or six years we'll be quite wealthy by European standards but still banging along in the worried section of the middle class by Australian standards.

And if our plans don't work out and unless there's a major shift in international economic trends (two, frankly, even bigger ifs; I think I'd be pretty hard for my firm to dispense with; the F-word's qualifications, which I doubt anybody else in a two-hour radius is shopping around, are getting him a lot of casual teaching work; and call me a blinkered economist but my professional research isn't really indicating that things are going to stop being as they are for a good few years in many respects) we simply won't be able to afford to live here.

In short, this place, which I had been planning to make our home forever, seems to be our Dubai. Luckily it's a Dubai crawling with intense natural beauty, even if that natural beauty is frequently scarred by open pit mining astonishingly close to where people live; and it's a Dubai where we won't get arrested or have our passports taken away for fucking on one of the splendid beaches or for having a drink with friends. And it's a Dubai where I have a massive garden and mature fruit trees and a year-round growing season. It's a pretty fucking phenomenal Dubai, in short. But a Dubai it is.

There is one final massive fucking variable in the mix, of course, and that is what will happen to our brains when we make babies, and I can't think of how I'm going to be when that happens. I can already see pluses and minuses: I don't want them growing up monolingual, with no second-language education, as they would here. In the Australian cities we could get them into a good language programme, but we can't afford to live in an Australian city - it would be madness to choose to live somewhere as expensive as even Brisbane (the cheapest) when we have the option of moving back to Europe; in Brisbane we could only afford to live in a high-rise or a cookie cutter suburb as effectively isolated in some ways as L--- and a fuckload uglier and colder; in Europe we could afford a house with a garden in a city.

But one of the reasons I left Europe is because I don't want my children growing up learning everything by rote and being left with the terrible synthetic abilities of your typical Italian or French person. So now I'm researching broader European pedagogy too . . . but really, I'll have no idea what's going on with how I feel about where I want to raise children until I have the children, and get to know them.

And then there's my family, of course. Taking children to visit them from Europe will be pricey . . . taking children to visit them from Australia, once they pass the magic sit-in-my-lap age, will be the cost of a new car. That might be the deal breaker, especially since I can't stand the F-word's extended family, except for a few lovely exceptions, and neither can the F-word, he's discovered.

And sometimes I reckon I'm just a malcontent who has decided her itchy feet aren't a problem. And you know what, I'm alright with that. And I think so far we've turned that handicap into an asset. Every move I've made since ditching North Bay in disgust fourteen years ago has worked out for me in some 'practical' sense that I've inherited from all those British bankers and lawyers in my gene pool, who would never have allowed me to swan off to check out in Nepal with all the Israeli draft dodgers, or to join a cult in India, and who forced me into grad school in Paris when I decided to just hang around there screwing Bluebeard - no grand-daughter, etc., of theirs was going to be some lady-gigolo clinging to a rich Swiss guy, idly watching her developmental years pass her by. In short, all of this globe trotting might just be me. It might just be who I am; and possibly, psychologically speaking, I'm not looking for a "forever" home, but just want to keep exploring, like the farfallone men in my Italian gene pool. I might just be a person who doesn't have the mental equipment to settle down in the same place for sixty years.

And thank god, I'm with a man with the same tendencies. The F-word's moves have also been practical and smart as well as, you know, artsy-fartsy, and his chronically itchy feet are itching once more. I think if we can figure out how to extend that practicality to take our children's needs into account, we can do a good job of whatever we do.

Anyways, we're talking YEARS before we move, if the plans work out. So I really need to stop looking at real estate sites all the damn time. Itchy feet are fine but enjoying the present for the present is even finer.