Raining homesickness

I love Melbourne’s unpredictable weather. Nepal has such distinct seasons – it is beautiful and so reliable – but I can’t help wishing that the rain would suddenly come as I lie listening to the sounds of the suburb which will be my home for the next four weeks.

The darkness arrives suddenly and without warning here, at 6 o’clock it is upon us, but there is still so much movement and noise – the dogs, the car horns, the banging of people amending their houses, the chatter in the street as some pull down the shutters to the store fronts attached to their homes.

Rain would make me feel happy here tonight, and quench the strange and uncharacteristic homesickness I am feeling in my new environment.

When I arrived in Nepal last year it was bucketing down, and the rain fell heavily for two full days and nights. The lightning storm of my first night claimed a large hole in the important and ancient spire of the monkey temple, and I am looking forward to seeing if it has since been repaired to its usual stunning condition. I was told, as the rain drenched the nunnery and surrounds, that the next day the rain would cease and the sunshine filled days would be here – and sure enough, the next day was the first of clearest, blue-skyed days that I have ever experienced, which would continue without fail for the following 6 weeks.

It must be wonderful to know what the weather will be like, but tonight, I can’t help wishing that nature would throw an unexpected curve ball into the darkness and drench us all. Then I could lie in my bed happy, and enjoy the surprise of a spontaneous storm.

Someone across the street begins to play guitar, and a chorus of locals strike up a song that is charming in the night air. Some dogs howl in the moonlight.

I guess that will have to do.

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A kick in the balls – which Melbourne will bounce back from

I was just about to fall asleep when I heard my boyfriend’s half mumbled voice cut through the silence.

“Jacq? Jacq -”

He sounded as though he was half asleep, like this was an after-thought, after his brain and body had already turned off for the night.

“Yes love.”

“You know, even the biggest, strongest guy can be dropped with a kick to the balls?”

“Um… yes. Yes I know that.”

“Seriously – if anyone ever tried to grab you, or hurt you – you have to kick them hard, don’t hold back.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll kick hard.” I replied, and after a while, just before drifting off to sleep myself I murmured, “It’s like someone’s died in our playground…”

“Yes,” he said, “that’s exactly what it’s like.”

I called a client for work last week, and after my standard “Hello, my name’s Jacqueline from *** Melbourne, how are you today?” the client replied sadly, “Actually Jacqueline, I am very sad about that poor girl in Brunswick.” He lived out in the Dandenongs somewhere, and was upset enough to tell the girl on the other end of the phone how sad he was about Jill Meagher’s death.

Melbourne has been rocked. Sydney road and its local residents have been left shocked and traumatised – but also the area’s itinerant community, the always fluid movement of people who migrate to the area every weekend for its cafes and bars, pubs and clubs. Even if you don’t live nearby – it is a home of sorts for so many. 30,000 people marched last Sunday – a blatant show of the emotional effect this has had on the community.

This tragedy has us all remembering about the times we have skipped home from the tram stop, the few blocks to our house alone, the times we’ve fallen asleep in the back of the taxi, and the times we have walked the ‘well lit’ way home because we can hear our concerned mothers’ voices in our heads.

Please – women – we do not have to ‘take back the streets’, and we do not have to live in fear and we do not have to change how we dress. If we stop going out on a Friday night, stop feeling safe, then evil wins. This is Melbourne. Melbourne, where you talk to random strangers on trams, and make friends with buskers on the streets, where women can cherish their independent way of life, free from conservatism that might try to limit us, and where I truly believe, we can have faith that someone would help us in a public space, should the need arise.

We just need to look after each other. We (not just women, but men also) should be wary of how much we drink, and always be wary of what is happening around us. We do not need to look at everyone else in fear, and we should not stop trusting each other. The moment we change the culture that makes Melbourne the way it is – we lose.

Four people walked me to my car on Sydney Road last night. “It’s just across the street!” I said, to which they all protested while we crossed the road together and saw me into my car.

Let’s just care for each other, and be on our guard. This is not a bad way to be – there are places in the world which are far more dangerous than here, so let’s train ourselves, our daughters and our sons to be careful always – but let us not let this tragedy take away what makes this city so wonderful – and we’ll give this sort of evil a kick back where it hurts the most.

The Great Jawlk Forward

So, I’ve started jawlking. That’s right. I neither jog, nor walk exclusively, I jawlk. Basically, I start jogging, and then I stop at some lights and decide to just walk the next block. Or sometimes my iPod starts a crappy song, and so I slow to a walk, fix the problem, and then jog again.

I don’t know if I have just coined a new word for a new breed of exercisers or anything, but you know, maybe I have. Get on it.

Today was my second adventure home, jawlking. Last time – my first time at attempting the mammoth 8km back to my home from work – I walked 75%, jogged 25%, but tonight it was the opposite.

It wasn’t long into my jawlk that I realised that the thermal top, albeit short-sleeved, was not a good idea. Nor, was the lack of a sports bra. (Whilst possibly amusing/enjoyable for watchers on, for me it was a negative that could have been avoided.)

I was feeling great, and only slightly affected by a few odd stares or ogles by people on scooters/in cars/walking/smoking at tram stops. See – I have a bag. It’s not heavy, but it’s fairly bulky, and I tighten it up high on my back and hold each strap with my hands as I run. So, I look either seriously unco, or really, very hardcore.

But I’m not hardcore. (Maybe I should get some sort of gadget, like a pedometer watch/heart rate monitor.)

Last time I jawlked home, I took the footpath on the side of St Georges Road, avoiding the bike track that runs up the main road. It’s made for people who exercise and it can be busy.

Tonight, I headed straight for the Exercise Highway, the Expressway of Motivation – straight for the St Georges Road bike way.

I crossed the road, and let about 5 bikes and two runners go in front (they didn’t have bags – oh, and I’m slow), and some nice smiles hit me suddenly.

The whole jawlk home I had felt a bit self conscious, a bit out of whack, but here, here I was A PART OF A COMMUNITY! Everyone was doing something a little bit awesome! Sure there are some tools, but the people I saw today were nice. Some of them dinged their bells when they passed (I was meandering a bit too much on my side), some said “Thank you!”, and then there was that guy on the unicycle.

Seriously, there is a guy who rides a unicycle.

But here we are, some sort of crazy, liquid, ever flowing, always transient little group of like minded people, mostly travelling in the one direction. There are the seriously lycra-d up people speeding past all of us, the odd people like the guy on the unicycle, the easy-going hipster girls on their high-handled bikes with the flowers woven into their baskets, and then just the average Joes and Josies, travelling home from work by bike or foot to escape the traffic, the transport and the hoards of people.

I know what you’re thinking – two days of trekking home and suddenly she’s a usual, and part of a community? Fair play, it’s been two days, and I’m sore as hell, but I’m excited about the jawlking – and hey, I think it’ll catch on.

Is it a tram. Is it a plane? No – it’s an earthquake in Melbourne!

Yes, there has been an earthquake in Melbourne. And whilst the online media is reporting that the tremors of the quake (the epicentre of which was reportedly in Moe) were felt ‘as far as the inner-city and Pascoe Vale’, I can confirm (through my hundreds on Facebook friends and family) that it was felt as far as Bendigo and Ballarat.

For over half an hour no news was available online about the tremor that most Melbournians felt, and I kept reasuring myself and my housemates – “just keep watching Bikie Wars… they’ll flash some news about it along the bottom of the screen in a minute.”

Well, wasn’t I wrong to put such faith in our media/governmental agencies to report an incident such as AN EARTHQUAKE to TV viewers.

I CLEARLY have lived in countries were the receipt of important information is a given. In Japan, you feel the tremor, you turn on the TV, you get the info through the scrolling thingy along the bottom (I know it has a name but I don’t know what it’s called) and you know the epicentre, the magnitude and injuries/deaths suffered. But they also have trains that come every 15 seconds so… perhaps the standard of service in Japan is just a little higher than ours.

Ah well.

Remember when Princess Diana died? 1997. We all knew, because it came up on the TV.

Bikie Wars didn’t even contain a news update in the ads. Come on people, (as far as) I know no-one was hurt – but that’s not the point. When things happen, the people need to know. A well-functioning society is one where information gets out to the people – because in some situations, information is what saves peoples’ lives and allows us to function in emergencies.

Just because we don’t have over a thousand earthquakes a year doesn’t mean our system can’t be on par with other countries.

Maybe by the next one.

Mosquito rumble

The nightly mosquito cull has gone on for many months now. The average quota taken is probably 10 or 20, give or take 10 or 20. I jump around on the bed in my underwear – I mean, my summer nightie, Mum – and whack the things with any clothing on hand (but definitely not with the boyfriend’s new Ghanda T-shirt – that does not go down well). As I mount the furniture to get better height, and my 6 foot boyfriend uses his unorthodox swiping action to erase the insects from the ceiling, the dog runs wildly around us, barking and attacking our legs.

Last night however, after a smaller cull than usual – about 6, I wake to see my boyfriend (the lights on) standing up, T-shirt ready, on the hunt.

It bloody bit me 8 times! He says, and sure enough, his body is littered with bites.

It’s alright Babe – I got this. Go to sleep, you have to work tomorrow, I say, in my best knight in shining armour voice.

But this was no normal hunt, oh no. This bastard was fast. Not like the usual small and dopey, and certainly less aggressive mosquitoes. He darts around, taunting me, evading my Thai fisherman’s pants with great craft. I HATE him. I HATE him! I make contact twice, but he battles on, somewhat lame, but still managing to avoid follow-up blows.

He’s flying low! I can’t track him! I yell to my sleeping boyfriend.

The minutes pass, and I walk around the room, flicking my pants on the curtains, the shelves, the lights, much like a priest anointing the congregation with the swinging incense burner, trying to tempt him out for the final showdown. I eye the insect spray can, and picture myself spraying the entire room, just to know that he is gone. And that I have won. I spray a little behind the dog’s armchair, in case he’s hiding. Coward.

But then – oh yes my friends – it was all over. Leaving a streak of blood on the ceiling as long as my little finger, I pump my fist, and hop into bed.

Great shot love, mumbles my boyfriend, eyes closed.