Wednesday, August 27, 2008

you have been poked

Column eight. These are really flying by. Soon I'll have to write some new ones!

I unashamedly love Facebook. I love how easy the social networking website makes it to stay in touch with people. I love finding out what long lost friends are up to, and I embrace the easy access to my friends’ photos.

But, of course, there are cons. I don’t like people inviting me to add stupid applications, I hate that I am forced to speak in third person when updating my status, and I could do without the friend requests from people I met once at the party of a mutual friend.

Additionally, I am annoyed I have the capacity to so closely monitor the goings on of my ex boyfriend.

Clarification: I am not a stalker. I am, however, curious. I am curious to know who exactly Stacey King is and why she’s calling my ex “babe”. And Sophie Chambers, who are you and what are you doing in my house?

It’s not dissimilar to driving past a car accident. You know your stomach will churn at the sight of the carnage but you look anyway.

Mr X has every right to be with someone new, and he certainly has every right to have new friends, female or otherwise. I know and respect this. Truth be told, if he’s found someone else, I’d rather not know just yet. But I check out his Facebook page once every couple of weeks anyway.

In a true sign loyalty, my friend recently admitted to starting her own who-the-hell-is-Stacey? campaign. She’d noticed Stacey had befriended my ex on her “news feed” and pledged her cyber allegiance by following the trail to find out all she could. Turns out that wasn’t much, but it’s the thought that counts.

So, I guess this means I’m going through a new-age breakup. I probably knew this a few months ago when the ex and I synchronized watches and took the plunge to change our Facebook relationship status. Delightfully, Facebook took the liberty of announcing to all 374 of my friends that “Kate Jacka and (insert boy’s name here) have ended their relationship”

It wasn’t a secret, but there are better and more personal ways of breaking the news to people.

Moving on. I have opted to go relationship status-less. I am nothing. It wasn’t right to have “in a relationship” any longer but I wasn’t ready to have the word “single” under my name either. It felt weird. As if single was akin to “ready to pick up, any takers?” Not so for exxy. He is single. Available. No longer mine. Possibly someone else’s.

When the times comes, and I am once more in a relationship, or engaged, or even married, I wonder whether I’ll feel guilty having my ex find out through Facebook.

Maybe instead of “Kate Jacka went from being single to in a relationship” I can arrange for Facebook to let him know that “after what she perceives a respectable time frame, Kate Jacka has moved on and is seeing someone new. She is really happy, and hopes you are too. Despite her new beau, she will always remember you fondly.”

Maybe I should just tell him that myself. Or send a text.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

got a secret?

i just think everyone in the world needs to know about PostSecret. it's one of the most brilliant ideas i've heard of and i wish it was mine.

i want the books. someone should get me one for Christmas. but you should all probably confer first. i don't want 17 of the same thing. and yes, i am flattering myself. There aren't 17 people reading this blog.

in the short time i have known about PostSecret, i have gathered they update this page every so often and then the old stuff is lost to the cyber world. this may not be true but in case it is, click now because there's this wonderful story about a marriage proposal. or am i just a sucker for romance?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

i don't

Seems I was further behind than I thought. Here's column seven, and now I think I'm up to date. As usual, names have been changed to protect those who, unlike me, did not stupidly agree to divulge their personal feelings for cash.

I’ve just been to a wedding. Kathy and Simon. Beautiful couple. I went to high school with Kathy. She met Simon at university. In fact, they started seeing each other around the same time as my ex and I.

The invitation was addressed to both of us. We were together when the guest list was drawn up, and heading down the same path and Kathy and Simon as far as everyone else was concerned. But, for the first time in six years, I was flying solo at the wedding.

What a funny feeling. Watching Kathy and Simon make beautiful promises to each other and not having that feeling of contentment. Not having a man by my side to exchange knowing glances with during the wedding vows.

Kathy is the third of my high school girls to get hitched. Georgie was the first. At her wedding I caught the bouquet. And then do you know what I did? No, you don’t, so I’ll tell you. I threw it away. With a look of shear terror in my eyes, I turned and tossed the bouquet like a hot potato. I’m not joking.

Even through the haze of 74 beers I felt instantly horrible and the guilt became palpable when I discovered my ex had caught it on camera. Even worse, a friend had caught it all on video camera. Ahhh, the memories.

So, what kind of idiot throws away a bouquet? And why am I always inclined to start sentences with the word so? It’s not like anyone was going to hold me to the ‘you’re next to be married’ theory. Anyway, as I’ve mentioned, 74 beers.

I didn’t bother contesting the bouquet challenge when it was Kathy’s turn. I feigned amusement when my mates dragged me onto the dance floor to take part in the tradition, but the thought of catching it just weeks after splitting from my once husband-to-be was hard to take. Sigh.

It was also too soon to even consider “picking up”. Single by name but not yet by nature. I think being with someone else would still feel like cheating, or like I was somehow cheapening my last relationship. I wonder when that feeling will go away. I wonder if my ex feels the same. Or, on the contrary, I wonder if he’s embracing bachelorhood. Actually, no, I don’t wonder. I don’t want to know.

It’s so funny the way you view life and, more specifically, marriage, as you are growing up. As girls, and I know I speak for the majority of us, we earmark the age at which we WILL get married and WILL have children. As if we alone get to decide. For me it was married at 26, first born (William, in case you’re interest) at 28, and second (Lily) at 30. Now, unless there’s someone willing to marry me and get busy making babies in the next couple of weeks, my optimistic plan is doomed. Any takers? No? Okay, moving on.

It’s worth noting, I’m fine with that. Now that I am 26, it seems quite young to start doing all those grown-up things. I feel there’s so much for me to see and do before I ‘settle down’. Still, I do have a couple of new goals in mind. Married at 30, William at 31, Lily at 33.

A girl has to maintain some kind of pressure.

shoes, glorious shoes

When I departed Australia last month, I left behind glorious friends, a supportive family, a stable career, and a new relationship which makes me gush.

I also left behind about 217 pairs of shoes. It was easily the hardest part of the wardrobe culling process. With my clothes, I gave heaps away. A much-needed cleanout. My shoes, on the other hand, are patiently waiting for my return, save two pairs which hit the charity bins.

Which of my beloved shoes would make the trek to London via South America with me was a near impossible decision. Like picking which of your children you like best, I imagine.

As I will when I one day have children, I favoured the best looking shoes. My mum does the same. I know because I’m the favourite.

So, the joggers were in for practicality. The street shoes were in because I refuse to slump to jogger-jeans. I am not American. The Havaianas were in because I live in them. The black heels were in for social practicality. I MUST have heels and black is the most versatile and great for work.

But, a girl can’t rely on black and I need colour in my life. Purple or yellow? Purple or yellow?

The yellow shoes are my all-time favourites. Canary yellow, scarily high – I want to marry them. Thank you, Mollini. The purple shoes, also courtesy of Mollini, come a close second but I actually get a lot more wear out of them so they won the free flight.

It wasn’t easy making room for two pairs of heels but I made it happen.

Today I left Rio de Janeiro after six weeks in South America. In my backpack, which is now busting at the seams, I had to squeeze an additional five pairs of shoes. Yes, five. Check them out.

Now, five sounds worse than it actually is because two pairs are Havaianas. To be fair, you can’t go to the home of Australia’s favourite thongs and not buy a couple of pairs. They are, after all, sold in every second shop.

On the far left are the originals, the first ever style released. There are better looking thongs but I think it’s kind of cool to have a pair, purchased in Rio. Also, I know first ever is a redundancy, but I prefer how it sounds.

Next to them is a pair original for another reason. Different, at least to me. I haven’t seen these designs in Oz and I am hoping they don’t arrive before I return so I can be a trend-setter. Not that I’m not already.

Next, my new flats. Purchased in Buenos Aires for the bargain price of about 15 Aussie bucks. That night I disposed of my street shoes. These are much prettier. I like pretty.

Skipping to the boots and, as a result, saving the best to last – BA was a boot-a-thon and it was impossible to leave without a pair. These were the winners out of about 20 prospective additions to my shoe rack. I don’t own a shoe rack. I should get one.

Love at first sight

Heading back to contestant number four. Love. Love. Love. My other purchases were justified by the balance of their appeal and reasonable price. These bombed out on the reasonable price card but are justified solely by their beauty. They caused my jaw to drop. Price is irrelevant when a pair of shoes can stir that reaction.

The airport this arv was a nightmare. I left Oz with a 14 kg backpack. My checked luggage today weighed in at 21kg. My shoulders are killing me. My feet thank them.

PS: Siamese Saffron, I thought of you as I wrote this blog. Hope Sydney-town is living up to your expectations.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

what's 4x7? Peru!

Sorry for the wait, again. Column six. Current update: now in London town and so, so happy. It feels good here already.

I threatened to do it, and now it’s come to fruition. I’m running away. I’m packing my bags and leaving the country or, more specifically, I am leaving my problems.

It’s what I do. Run and hide, hope it will go away. Of course, it never does. Once I actually hid a phone bill from myself because it was so big I didn’t want to deal with it. Then I forgot about it and got charged a $15 late fee. Idiot. But I’ve got a good feeling this time.

Last week I was offered a one-month placement on an amazing volunteer program in Peru. I’ll be there next month.

I’m finding it difficult to convince people to take me seriously on this subject during these early stages of planning. I guess because Peru was always my backup response to any question for which I didn’t know the answer.

Montevideo is the capital of which country? Peru!
Which country hosted the 1948 Olympic Games? Peru!
Luiz Incacio Lula de Silva is the President of which country? Peru!
What’s the time? Peru!

I’m the girl who cried Peru and I’m being attacked by wolves.

Anyway, regardless of what people believe, in less than four weeks I will be in Cuzco working for a not-for-profit organisation called Peru’s Challenge. Briefly, I will be part of a small team of volunteers working towards improving child education, health and hygiene standards in the area.

I expect the placement to be a huge challenge. For starters, I don’t speak Spanish. I can say ‘buen venidos a Miami’, which means ‘welcome to Miami’ (thank you, Will Smith, circa 2001) but I’m not sure that’s going to get me far in South America.

A beginners’ course is probably a sensible idea but teaching this old dog new tricks has never gone down well. I hate being crap at stuff. But I am making an effort. I have bought myself a Latin American Spanish phrasebook but am still at the stage of trying to find phrases that make me laugh. “I can’t get it up, sorry” immediately followed by “don’t worry, I’ll do it myself” are the winners so far.

Thankfully, English will get me by in my next stop: the UK.

My stay in London, at this stage, is indefinite. I am asked daily how excited I am. My response usually falls flat. The thing is, just weeks from departure, somehow, I am not particularly excited. I know I will be, but right now I am consumed by loose ends which need tying.

I need to sell my car (Barina, anyone?), move my stuff into storage, organise immunisation, finalise my new home loan and, most importantly, work out which shoes to take.

Taking this column full circle, because I worry I won’t get everything done in time, I am spending a lot of time pretending there’s nothing to do. Will I ever learn?

I can picture departure-eve right now. After desperately convincing mum to sell my car for me, store all my stuff in her spare room and take over my mobile phone contract, I’ll start to pack.

A few days later, I arrive in Peru undie-less, but with eight pairs of heels and my iPod speakers. Priorities.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

bye bye peru

I have spoken about home visits before. They can be heartbreaking and heartwarming. My last home visit produced both but, unfortunately, the former was most dominant.

During this excursion I met Manuel, a father of five. His home, which he built with his own arthritic hands, was as simple as the rest in Pumamarca. A “living room” full of potatoes, a kitchen full of smoke and, upstairs, a bedroom with two basic beds and a shrine to Jesus.

When I returned downstairs (I had ben taking photos of the bedroom for the family’s file) I walked in on one of the most heartbreaking sights of my Peruvian experience – of a lifetime of experience.

Manuel was in tears. Blubbering to the social worker and our volunteer manager because of the life of poverty he was “providing” for his family. At the time, I couldn’t understand a word (my Spanish is as shocking as it was when I left) but his sentiments were obvious. He was a beaten man, but also a grateful man – grateful for the assistance offered by Peru’s Challenge.

As we were leaving, with tears in his eyes once more, Manuel showed me his hands. They were destroyed from a laborious life. Black, torn apart, crippled. I put a sympathetic hand on his shoulder, he burst into tears and hugged me. I shed a couple myself.

These experiences have been unique and touching. I am reluctant though to say, they have been life-changing. Firstly, it’s a wanky cliché I would rather avoid. Secondly, although such tales put my life, my comparatively pathetic troubles, into perspective, they haven’t lessened said troubles.

Somehow, for example, I was still pissed off on the plane from Lima to Buenos Aires when I let a girl take my window seat, even though I wanted to say no, only to discover my (HER!!) earphone jack didn’t work. Grrrr.

Anyway, it’s important for me to remember home visits weren’t always teary. Visit number two this day was to a pregnant mother with five boys and a little girl already under her wing. “Home visit” wasn’t the correct term on this occasion as the boys, playing in the dirt in the front yard, didn’t let me past the gate. Instead they took my camera hostage, pulled stupid faces and cracked up upon review each and every time. Gorgeous.

And so, I leave Peru as I arrived: amazed by the locals’ happy faces and the complete juxtaposition of their bleak lifestyle. In the end, I had a similar contrast going. The time spent sick put a dampener on my month in Peru and there were times I would have happily left. But, on the other hand, there were times, many times, the kids of Pumamarca – their bright smiles and unyielding affection - made it all worth while.

Still, my next holiday will likely be less third world country with strangers, more beach paradise with friends. Anyone?
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