Words, words, words

I love chocolate. I love good coffee, red wine, and popcorn from the cinema. I love breakfast cereal, more than I could ever express. I so enjoy a good Pad Thai, and I am all about Vietnamese rice paper rolls. However, I can go at least a day without chocolate, cereal and coffee, up to a week without red wine, and even longer without the Pad Thai, rice paper rolls, and popcorn. I cannot, however, live a day without words.

I consume them voraciously, my appetite never sated. I gorge on them verbally, catching snippets of other people’s conversations, following clever talk back arguments on Triple J, laughing out loud at award-winning commercials, and listening to my students whisper about their weekends.

I devour them visually, as words are everywhere I look. I am drawn to them. As I drive I make up words from randomly assigned licence plates: ‘WKD’ becomes ‘wicked’, or even better ‘weekend’. And I am not a word snob. I will read anything, and I will mix ‘n’ match. I will read my cereal packet, a wikipedia page, comments on this blog, someone else’s blog, my horoscope, and the world headlines, all in one breakfast sitting.

If I can linger longer, then there are few greater pleasures than nestling in with a brilliant book. Chick lit, thriller, classic, philosophy, travel biography, Harry Potter, it does not matter what it is, just that it holds onto me until the last page. A mark of a brilliant book, in my book, is when I finish and I feel a loss, because I no longer get to live in the lives of those characters. I miss them even though they are only a collection of words. Such is the power of words; they enchant me.

And of course, there are those words I create myself. I cannot go a day without writing something, even if it is just a list of things I need to write. I write this blog, drafts of my novel, plays for my students, comments on their assignments, and memos, reports and letters at work. I email someone I love, and send a handful of text messages every day. There is even something strangely satisfying about filling in the dense and convoluted forms required to live and work overseas.

I am also a talker (usually – even I have quiet moments). Today I addressed a group of 15 year olds to persuade them to take my subject (Drama) for their senior studies. I had only five minutes, but I talked fast to cram in as many words as I could. I told them about my subject, what they could expect, and what I would expect from them. But my final message, the most important thing I said, was to do what they love, because then they will always be happy with what they are doing.

I do what I love. I consume words; I create words: daily, hourly, minutely. And I am happy with what I am doing.

Red Tape and Pure Hope

I cried at work today.

I hate crying at work. It is worse than crying in front of strangers, and is perhaps exacerbated by the fact that I am a teacher. Kids are sweet and curious creatures, and little distresses them more than a teacher in distress. So, when I showed up for afternoon sport with my tear-stained face and red eyes, concerned students lined up to ask if I was okay. Two even did the ‘Friday Feeling’ dance to cheer me up (this involves a very dorky hip wiggle and some equally dorky arm waving – it makes them laugh, at me, when I do it each Friday). It didn’t work. It just made me cry more.

You see, I heard from the U.S. government today.

They received my application for a green card (good). It is in the queue to receive a green card (pretty good). They are currently processing green card applications prior to March 2002. No, that is not a typo. And yes, that means there is a 6 and a 1/2 year wait list (not good at all).

Suddenly, all the plans that Ben and I are making, including where we will live, seemed to flush themselves down a giant toilet. All I could think was ‘my friends go home to their significant others every night, and I don’t’. The weight of that feeling crashed down on me as I imagined another year or two or three of this long distance arrangement.

I called Ben. He responded as someone does when they are side-swiped. That was 8 hours ago.

Since then I have spoken with my mother (the American – not that the Americans seem to care much about that VERY close family connection) thrice, and she has sent a couple of strongly-worded emails to the American government. I am pretty sure these will not make ANY difference, but I think they made her feel better.

I have also spoken to hopeful friends, and helpful friends (and in times like these, hopeful and helpful are equally welcome). And I got a lovely email from my bestest friend (yes, Ben) also telling me to stay hopeful.

With all this hope and support keeping me buoyant (not to mention two glasses of a very nice Barossa Valley Shiraz), I have searched through website after website trawling for ways to circumnavigate the machinations of a slowly turning government agency. I think I have found my answer.

The E-3 visa is a new kid on the block, and is open only to Australians who have a university degree, AND who have a job offer in the U.S. I have two out of three, so all I need now is someone stateside to take a chance on an Aussie girl who is bright, hard-working, resourceful, and creative. Oh, and the biggest plus: the E-3 takes about 2 days to secure an interview, and about 30 days to process.

So, now I (hopefully) line up interviews for my September/October visit to Seattle. Then, (hopefully) I will find an employer who sees the benefits of hiring a brilliant Aussie woman, who just happens to have some red tape stuck to the bottom of her shoe.

Diner’s Regret

This will be short and sweet.  I’ve coined a phrase. 

Yesterday as we left a delicious lunch, my father rubbed his full stomach, and bemoaned finishing both his entree and main.  “I enjoyed it, but I shouldn’t have had the lamb shank and kidney pie.  I should have had something lighter.” 

“Do you have ‘diner’s regret’ Dad?”

“Yes, Darling,” replied my bemused father.

Then we agreed that ‘diner’s regret’ is a perfect phrase to describe a myriad of post-dining states.

‘Diner’s regret’ can refer to those instances where your eyes are bigger than your stomach, but you ignore the groans from down below, and keep eating every tasty morsel.  The regret kicks in about an hour later, when you want to go somewhere private, undo your waistband and loll about until the feeling passes.

‘Diner’s regret’ can also follow ‘menu envy’.  This is where everyone’s food arrives to the table, and you look across with envy.  “Ooh, that looks good,” you say, eyeing off the plate of food opposite you.  From here ‘menu envy’ can dissolve as soon as you take your first bite, and reaffirm your selection despite a brief moment of doubt. 

OR, it can take you to the dark place of ‘diner’s regret’, and you will spend the rest of the evening regretting your stupidity.  You should have known better.  You should have ordered the chicken.

On rarer occasions, ‘diner’s regret’ can just mean that the place sucked, the food sucked, the service sucked, and you were a sucker for paying for that meal.

Yes, ‘diner’s regret’ is a commonality that connects us all.  Next time someone says to you, “I have diner’s regret,” you can nod, and reply, “I feel your pain”.

Green (card) = Red (tape)

I want a green card.

Not a thick piece of paper coloured green, but permission to live and work in the USA indefinitely.

More accurately, I want my third green card, because I have already had two. I got my first when I was ten, because my mother relocated my sister and me to the U.S. I got my second when I was 19, because I relocated myself to the U.S. Within 2 years of getting the second one, I realised that I could not support myself stateside AND attend university, so I returned to Oz and the card expired.

Now I want another one.

Ben has secured a terrific position in his chosen profession, and will be moving to Seattle within the next couple of months. I am completely proud of him, and wholly support his decision to accept the job. And because we are both over the commute (to see each other), I will be joining him in Seattle at the end of the year – green card pending.

Stage One
On arrival to Perth last week, my mum and I sat down and pored over the forms and requirements for the green card application. She will petition on my behalf as she is a U.S. citizen and fortuitously, my mother. We spent the better part of two days filling in forms, assembling documents, making phone calls, and double checking websites to ensure that our delivery of the application to the consulate would go smoothly.

On the third day, armed with a thick folder of every document relating to our family history, and all forms painstakingly completed, we drove into the city. After 35 minutes of searching we opted for a one hour parking space. The consulate only accepts these applications for three hours a day, four days a week, and we didn’t want to miss our window.

We walked briskly to the building and caught the elevator to the fourth floor. We then endured a 15 minute security check, where we were stripped of everything but our clothes and our documents. Into another elevator, we rose to the 13th floor, and went through security again.

We waited in the inner sanctum, and when it was our turn, the woman nodded and smiled as she accepted all our forms. A frown formed on her pleasant face as she read through them. The forms we had filled out in quadruplicate – there was a problem. Yes, each form was identical, except for the 3 letter code on the bottom left. We should not have filled in the first form and printed it four times. She gave us new copies. 4 each. We stood at high benches and used crappy pens – attached with chains to the bench – to fill them out. Again. Our pens, my mum’s glasses, and my sanity were all locked away downstairs.

Just as mum was about to faint and I was about to cry from the cramps in my hands, we finished and returned to the counter. The pleasant lady completed our transaction, and told us that ‘they’ would go through my forms and documents, and then send me the next batch.

The only thing left was to pay for the application. When I was about to sign the credit card slip, I spotted the amount in Australian dollars, and queried it. “Oh, I see,” I said, noticing the incorrect exchange rate, “you have the Aussie dollar at only 85 cents. It’s 96 cents at the moment.”

“Oh,” she said smiling pleasantly, “that is the amount set by our financial manager.”

“But he doesn’t set the exchange rate – the world market does,” I said, laughing incredulously.

She shrugged as pleasantly as she smiled. “That’s the rate he set.” I was dumbstruck, but was not going to labour the point, as ultimately I want ‘them’ to let me in to their country. Mum and I shook our heads as we walked out, amazed at the arrogance.

Wrung out we walked back to the car, knowing we had overstayed our one hour limit. A nice fat $50 ticket sat smugly on the window. I used my millionth expletive for the day as we got into the car.

Stage one was completed.

I have no idea what the next stages will hold, or how many there will be, but I am steeling myself, because I want a green card, and I will do whatever ‘they’ ask to get it.

And I must say that my mum is a champion, because she says she will do whatever ‘they’ ask too.

Thanks, mum.

Window seat

I am not a window seat kind of a girl.

I say this metaphorically, and literally.

In life, I do not like to sit by the window and watch. I like to get out there in it, and invariably I end up a bit mucky for my efforts. But this is my preference. I actually feel for the ‘watchers’, those people who say stuff like, “I wish I could do that” or “If only I had [insert attribute or asset here], I would be happy”. I much prefer being an active participant in life, and sometimes I get injured or have a set back, but I often feel great joy.

I am not a window seat kind of a girl on a plane either. I prefer the aisle – the aisle affords me freedom.

Two days ago, I flew from east to west to visit my family and friends. Still at the terminal, I sat in my aisle seat patiently waiting for those who would be seated next to me. They didn’t come. As the plane pulled back, I realised I had three airline seats to myself, a rare pleasure.

I stayed in the aisle seat for about as long as it took for the young family across the aisle to make more noise than young families should in a confined space. I moved to the window seat, and stretched my legs across the other two. I had appropriated 2 pillows from the overhead locker above my head, so I was as comfortable as a person can be in coach.

My ‘special meal’ came 30 minutes before the meal service started, and I watched a film I had wanted to see for some time. Does airline travel get any better than this? (Well, yes, if you’re Ben who gets upgraded every time he flies, just for showing up.)

I even had a nap. For forty-five minutes!

When we started to make our descent, I lifted the window shade I had lowered for my movie viewing. The sun streamed in, as although it would be raining on landing, we were above the cloud line. We descended through the clouds and I watched as the earth emerged through the wisps of white.

I rarely see this type of view, because I almost always sit on the aisle.

The topography changed several times in as many minutes. It was beautiful, and the best part of a really good flight.

I felt a twinge, because I knew how many times I had missed this exact feeling.

I took shot after shot. The earth was drenched, and the colours vibrant – every shade of green. Then there were scars, great gashes of red earth ripped through the bush. Farms presented a patchwork of neat borders and varying shades and textures. Vineyards appeared, with their perfect rows of vines pointing the way to grand houses and wineries. And then the outskirts of Perth itself, where trees pepper an urban landscape in dark green tufts.


earthen scar



It is my home.

I love Sydney, which is why I have lived there nearly eight years. I love other places around the world, and I am sure I will love living in Seattle next year. Western Australia, however, is home. I will always come back here to see it, and my loved ones who live here.

It is so easy to take the familiar for granted, but on Saturday I got to see my homeland through fresh, somewhat misty eyes. I felt pride mostly, because it truly is incredibly beautiful and I cannot wait to show it off to Ben.

And I had this small, but significant joy all because I took a window seat.