Category Archives: Learning

The Wasteful Society

In a time where combating climate change, managing resources and waste reduction are hot topics that will define the outcome of the future of our planet, I have never been more disgruntled. Everywhere I look driving down the suburban streets of Melbourne are piles and piles of shit that people are offloading onto the nature strip. This phenomenon is known as “hard rubbish”, and back in the day it was used to put out larger items of very broken things for the rubbish man to collect, such as couches, beds and bookcases. These days, people are so lazy that they are dumping all manner of things on the nature strip for people to illegally forage or because they can’t be fucked driving down the road to donate it to Vinnies or the Salvos.

Outside the front of my apartment block sat a tub of plates, cups and bowls of a more olden style for a good week, getting rained on. The truth is, somebody less fortunate could have used those and they should have been taken to a charity organisation so that they could be given away to somebody in need. God knows there are enough homeless people on the streets of Melbourne right now that could use a hand with some free furniture, heaters, vacuum cleaners, kitchen ware, bookcases, chairs, prams and all other manner of quality things people are throwing away to “upgrade”.

Handbag, neck pillow, trolley to fucking carry them in… All things that could easily been walked ten minutes down the road to a charity bin instead of getting fucked on the side of the road in the rain and are now not usable.

I can now trot down the road and buy a shitty new bookcase at Kmart for twenty bucks, which is less than an hours worth of work, and when I’m bored of the colour or the shape or need a mix up in my house cause I’m bored as fuck and have nothing else meaningful to spend my money on that I work so hard for, I go to Kmart and buy another shitty bookcase, or better yet, I upgrade to another less shitty brand for the point of being seen to be more trendy. People are buying for the sake of buying instead of for need and then when they have too much shit, they chuck it and clear it all out for the next haul of shit to incorporate into their lives.

Gone are the days of darning holes in socks, reupholstering couches or even bothering to move most of your furniture to your new house when your lease is up. May as well toss that shit to the curb and get the Ikea man to deliver a new batch, because of course, it is a new chapter.

As someone who still wears underpants with holes in them and gets told off by my mother for it, the idea of getting rid of anything still functional to anywhere other than a charity shop appals me. It is the laziness and disregard for the resources that are becoming more and more limited to us each and every day. It is the constant need to feel like we aren’t a failure if everything we own is new and shiny so we can keep up appearances to others. It is the complacency of our easy lives where you don’t even have to drive to KFC to get it when hungover anymore because someone will just bring it to you. So why should I drive my junk to a charity shop for someone else’s benefit. If they want it, come and get it. I’m just going to leave it here, the shortest distance from my door away and if the council gets to it to dump it into landfill before you do then stiff shit. It can go to landfill with all the rest of the shit I turfed out last month.

More than ever before, we need to take action. And while people are up in arms about plastics and biodegradables and cutting waste, fighting the good fight, majority are too lazy to be bothered because of the selfishness of not seeing past themselves. And that right there is not just a sad thing to observe, but a waste of the fucking planet and a waste of the life that won’t exist in as short as a few thousand years because of it. As convenience replaces having a conscience, we collectively give less of a fuck about each other, the environment or the future outside of our direct selves. We waste our opportunities to have a positive mark on the world and our society with our complacent and lazy attitudes. And while it isn’t everybody, there are a number of people who fight the good fight, many can’t be bothered and procrastinate the now. Because I’m not going to know about it when I’m dead and then the waste can be someone else’s problem for good.

As someone who has travelled around the world and seen how little that others have globally, my frustration for the constant moaning by members of developed societies about how hard it is that they have it because they can’t upgrade to a larger television or get pissed this weekend without shelling over a hundred bucks is infuriating. Even students I used to teach in England would snap the pencils I loaned them in half and then tell me to get over it because I can replace it for ten pence. Smash their phones? Whatever, their parents will give them another new top of the line iPhone to replace it as long as they throw a large enough tantrum. There is no inherent value in the possessions that we have anymore and we are more than ever becoming consumption machines that are taking in as much as we can and spitting out what doesn’t suit us anymore without thought or consequence.

The biggest questions I guess from here are to what consequence? And exactly how long can we keep going at life like this until these consequences seriously set in. My friend has convinced me that to survive the impending apocalypse we should go and learn which native plants we can forage so that we will live when there is no food on supermarket shelves left over. My other friend who worked in natural land management suggested not to do so if I didn’t want to die of heavy metal poisoning. Apparently we are wasting our soil by dumping our toxic products into creek streams without stress of repercussions either.

Nothing makes us sit up and pay attention. Nothing makes us listen. And as our society becomes more and more involved in themselves and how to make themselves look good to millions of others on the internet, or how to make millions of dollars to not share with others, I am wondering what it will take to make this happen. I am wondering how far this is going to go before all hell breaks loose and our option to be so wasteful is taken from us. Maybe I will see it in my lifetime. Maybe I won’t. I fucking I hope I don’t. But somehow I feel this is a large possibility right now.

 

 

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I Probably Should Be An Adult By Now

Yep. At 34, I probably should be an adult by now. That said, I don’t currently feel like an adult, nor do I feel like I am ever going to progress towards being one. I write this as I sit on a camp stool at my desk. My desk is not actually a desk, but a whole bunch of storage boxes that I stacked up, threw a piece of $5 MDF from Bunnings over the top of and then covered it over with some $2 a metre material from Spotlight. No. I didn’t sew it. I used a whole bunch of pins to keep it there because I couldn’t be bothered dealing with superglue. As you can see, I am at the height of adult bedroom decoration. I don’t even have a proper bed, just a mattress on the floor. And you know what? I am actually quite happy this way in my kiddie fort built out of non-adulting materials. For some reason, I find something comforting about it.

Maybe this has something to do with values. I spent quite an amount of time in the last few years pondering what all of the stuff actually means. I certainly can’t say, to quote Marie Kondo, that having a bookcase “sparks joy” for me. What “sparks joy” is being comfortable enough in an environment that is mine but without the feeling of being excessively tied down with stuff. That feeling makes me feel tied down to one place way too much. Maybe I am not quite ready to let go of nomad lifestyle just yet.

Adulting also requires a job. And I am about to start one. And that is scary. But not as scary as signing into a job forever because I have chosen for my job to be flexible and at times of my choosing. In any life adulting requires paying bills and that requires making money, but career focus is not something I can say that I give too much of a fuck about which is also strange for a 34 year old. As I always say, “was great at their job” said nobody’s tombstone ever. Mine will probably say “never effectively learned to adult”.

Dating is also an inherently adult trait and I have been doing a fair bit of it in recent months. I can’t much say I have the adult feeling of having to put up with many of them for too longer a period of time. The truth is, I just can’t see myself adulting enough to be in any kind of serious relationship. Especially if it requires adulting enough to look after another human. That is high level adulting and not something I am capable of while I am sleeping on mattresses on the floor and working at makeshift desks and stealing fruit to eat from trees down the road that overhang the sidewalk.

But then what is adulting? For the better part of my grown life I have made my own money, fed and looked after myself and travelled a very large proportion of the world. Sure I don’t have a lot of impressive furniture, I am fairly makeshift, I don’t have a permanent job but I still manage to pay the bills, and I haven’t found a person I consider worthy enough to keep around for a long period of time. But does that make me less of an adult? Just because I choose to do it differently from the everyday societal norms? So I pose to you….. What even is adulting anyway? Because screw it, I think we need to redefine.

 

Trying to Retain Your Second Language

In the last year, I worked my arse off to become proficient in Spanish. Speaking another language was not something that was held in high regard as I was growing up because in rural, very white Australia, it was not something that people ever used or valued. But as I started travelling the world I learned that there was real value in learning a new language because it allowed you to communicate effectively with so many more new people in the world, and these people have so many different things that they can teach you. Not only this, but studies have shown that learning a new language can change your brain and help to ward off dementia and other issues later on in life. So off I went to Spanish school and I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could.

After four months of studying in the school and another eight months of travelling around Spanish-speaking countries, I would think in Spanish, eat, breath, and sleep Spanish and it came so naturally to me. I didn’t have to really concentrate too hard on what I was doing anymore because it became a habit. And then I went home……

After family members getting in my grill about not wanting to listen to Spanish music because it sucks and annoying me while I was trying to watch movies or TV in Spanish, I felt like my language skills were waning. My biggest fear of losing something I had worked so hard to gain was rearing its ugly head. It was most evident to me when I made the massive screw up in conversation talking to a friend of mine in Spanish. We were talking about me going out on the weekend and I said to him “No hay problema, voy a compartirme…. (There is no problem, I am going to share myself)” Comportirme in Spanish means ‘to share myself’. As opposed to ‘comportarme’ which means ‘to behave myself’. Which is what I meant. This was a monumental fuck up and one that I was aware of and I knew. As we continued to text, I realised just how many mistakes I was making because I wasn’t practicing. It made me sad and frustrated. So I set about a program to try and keep it. Here is what I have been doing:

Watching Television

I started out watching Money Heist on Netflix, also known as La Casa de Papel. It is originally in Spanish so I thought it would be great. However it is in Spanish from Spain so at first I found it super hard to decipher and found they were speaking too fast, so I had the subtitles on as well. There were a whole bunch of new words that I learned, having to stop the show all the time to look it up. For example ‘joder’ which means ‘fuck’, or ‘follar’ which means ‘fuck’ or ‘coger’ which means ‘to take’ but also ‘to fuck’. So I am now well-versed in the art of Spanish vulgarity. For listening purposes without subtitles, I find The Good Place a great one because the voice overs in Spanish are quite slow and easy to understand.

Reading Books

I got a bit ahead of myself before leaving Colombia and decided that I would buy a whole bunch of second-hand Gabriel Garcia Marquez books for about a dollar each. The only problem is that Gabo (as he is so affectionately called in Colombia) is a really difficult read in Spanish to a native reader let alone to somebody who has only been speaking Spanish for a year. I took to the online library and found a whole bunch of kids books and started reading about a kid that ran away from home. Great read….. I also recommend newspapers, online articles and reading books in Spanish that you have already read in English, such as Harry Potter because familiarity with the story helps when you get lost.

Online text conversations

One of the best ways to keep up the language skills is to have online text conversations with friends that you have made that speak the language also. These may be friends from language school, online communities or my personal favourite, boys I have met on Tinder that are just passing through or now live here. Talking online gives you time to be able to process what has been sent to you and then to have time to think about how you are going to structure your response. It also allows you time to look up words that you don’t know.

Meet-Up Groups

This I find is the best way to get involved in keeping your language skills. In this setting you actually have to think fast enough to speak and while having text conversations are great, the speed of thought involved with face-to-face conversations is much faster and it is one of the first things to go when you stop living in a place with native speakers. With the large abundance of people looking to meet one another, Meet-Up has become a great way to find communities online that allow you to go along and engage with people that speak the same languages and want to practice. I have met some great people in these groups and they also teach you different slang from their native language while you teach them the same for your native language. It is a great way to make friends and get involved with people who have the same passion in common.

Learning a language and keeping it is hard. But if you put in the hard yards and keep plugging away at it little by little, you will be able to retain most of what you learned and then continue to progress. Good luck with it all!

 

Think Your Job Sucks? Five Jobs That Suck Worse Than Yours

Everybody likes to piss and moan about their jobs every now and then and how much they totally suck and how much they hate them. Most of the time I love my job and even then I still bitch and moan about aspects of it. Every time I want to complain, I think back to some of the shittiest jobs I saw people doing around the world as I travelled. Here are ten jobs that are guaranteed to be way more rubbish than yours and will give you a new appreciation for just how easy most of us have it.

1. Sulfur Miner, Kawah Ijen, Indonesia

These men walk 3km up the outside of a volcano and then down into the abyss that is the crater of Kawah Ijen to collect the 60 to 80kg of sulfur in their bamboo baskets that they then carry back up to the top of the volcanic crater rim and then 3km back down the hill again. They do this a total of twice a day for a measly pay out of approximately $10-$15 USD a day. They are paid approximately 900 Indonesian Rupiah per kilogram of sulfur. Majority of them have severe lacerations and scars in their shoulders from carrying the baskets and their life expectancy is shortened due to the constant breathing of the noxious sulfur dioxide fumes that come out of the crater. These men however are marvellous and you can read more about it in The Marvellous Men Of Kawah Ijen.

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One of the sulfur miners getting prepared to go up to the crater rim from the centre of the crater.

2. Leather processer, Fez, Morocco

So these guys literally take the skins of the cows or camels and then they soak them in giant vats of pigeon shit which has a high content of ammonia. Not only is this really bad to be breathing in, but it is awful for your skin. I would be pleasantly surprised if any of these guys live longer than fifty years of age given the sheer amounts of chemicals they are exposed to. After they jump in the giant vats of pigeon shit and pull out the hides to rinse them, they then shove them into giant vats of natural dyes (natural also doesn’t necessarily mean good for you. Pigeon shit is also natural) and then they colour the hides for use. I honestly don’t know how they do it. It’s awful.

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The grey pits in the front are full of ammonia from bird poo and the dye vats are in the distance. You can see some hides on the rooftop drying on the right.

3. Porter – Nepal

These guys, in all kinds of shitty weather, are trekking food, building supplies and two to three persons’ worth of luggage at a time at high altitude for days and days at a time. Many of the villages in the remote regions of Nepal do not have access via road, so the only way to get supplies in is via helicopter, which is expensive, or to have a porter carry it for several days. Sometimes they even carry the most precious of cargo…. one time they even carried me when I nearly died (This Week I Almost Died ) over rock walls to put me in the helicopter. Anyway, the point is, carrying forty kilos or more of other peoples’ shit for days at a time uphill at altitude is a really shitty job and the pay, yet again is a pittance.

Two of the porters with their heavy packs and the head supports they use to help save their backs from ruin, struggling their way through the snow.

4. Mule – Everywhere in the fucking world

If you’re a mule, life sucks big time. Not only are you constantly being made to carry all manner of heavy shit up hills while a human smacks you on the hide for motivation to keep moving, sometimes you even have to carry said humans, because they are too lazy to walk themselves. I at times want to start a ‘Save The Mule’ campaign because they look utterly fucking miserable every single day of their lives. Especially when they are having to carry some fuckwit lazy tourist along a massive five day trek because that tourist wants to go ‘trekking’.

A Peruvian mule on the Salkantay Trek, chilling out before no doubt lugging some lazy arse up over the pass.

5. Silver Miner, Potosí, Bolivia

I have written about the conditions here in a previous blog (Shit I Learned In The Potosí Mines) and it is fair to say that conditions are absolutely appalling. You are breathing in dust that gets into your lungs and is killing you most of the time by the age of forty. Sometimes, accidents happen with explosions and people end up in pieces and dying. It is hot, miserable and dangerous work. Mostly for an absolute pittance.

Inside the Potosi mines, a worker is offering ritual sacrifice of coca and booze to Tio in hope that they will survive the day’s work.

So next time you are moaning about how shit your job is, spare a thought for this lot that are put through the dangerous and shitty ringer every day to make less than what you probably make in ten minutes.

 

Sledgehammers and Slow-burners

The dating world is a brutal place. Most of the time you will find yourself meeting up with people that just aren’t a good fit for you. Disrespect, lack of things in common, complete indifference to anything going on in your life to the point where they can’t even formulate a question, all manner of faux pas. But when you do find those people where there is an attraction and you have things in common, I find things go generally one of two ways. You’re either smacked with the love/hormone sledgehammer and fall so hard and fast that it doesn’t even make sense to you. It is so intense you can’t think straight. Or you wind up with what I like to call a slow-burner, someone that just creeps up on you slowly and continues to surprise you and pull you in little by little each time.

In the game of attraction, sledgehammers are definitely more exciting. It is like you can’t even breathe the air that they occupy without feeling completely drugged up and intoxicated. You hang on their every word, feel like this is it and everything that you have ever wanted after a week. The sex is amazing and all you want to do is be around them all the time. It is dangerous, exciting and total lust at its finest.

But in my experience, the sledgehammers stop you thinking and seeing straight. And before you know it, you miss all of the deal breakers, the manipulation, the games. They invade any rational thought that you have and replace it with the excuses you make for yourself because you don’t want to let go, it feels that good. Before you know it, you’re so far gone that you’re acting like a crazy person, constantly checking for messages, phone calls, any kind of gratification you can get because you’ve developed an addiction. This isn’t love. This isn’t even healthy. And once you recognise it, it is then time to put the hard yards of rehab into place and ween yourself off to avoid the ultimate heartbreak that will ensue.

The slow-burners, however, those are the ones you want. Those are the men that you actually see for who they are warts and all and choose them because of the small quirks that give you that tweak of nerves in your stomach. The ones that work to give you that confidence in them, little by little each time. That impress you with something new that makes you want them just that little bit more. They are the ones that you’re not obsessing about because deep down somewhere you know at some point you will hear from them. They are respectful like that. That you can trust where they are and what they are doing. Because there are no games. You get to know and respect each other and things develop out of a place of friendship and then one day you wake up and realise you made it there without even knowing. This is your person.

It’s not crazy and intense, it is sane and solid. It isn’t a rollercoaster that takes you on extreme highs and lows, it’s a scenic drive through the most stunning of landscapes. It isn’t the situation that ultimately turns toxic and winds up in the most erratic of screaming matches, it is the situation that holds you confidently high with who you are and supports you along the way. It is not the one that fizzles and dies in three weeks, but the one that lasts a lifetime.

So the next time you find  yourself standing in a situation with a sledgehammer, take the time to slow down and seriously look at what you have in front of you. As easy as it is to get caught up in the awesomeness of the moment, you are most likely missing some of the biggest red flags that you can find in relationships. Try and divert yourself into the slow lane and open your eyes to what it is that you really have in front of you and whether this is the best thing for you. If not, start again and maybe next time you meet a guy, try and do away with the hammer and pull out a candle. Who knows? Maybe this time you’ll be surprised by the outcome.

What I Reckon: Tindering

Ugh. That glorious world of online dating. You see, people these days are too lazy, too awkward, or have too little social skills to be able to actually go out and have a real and proper conversation with someone else. Instead we resort to sitting on our couches at 9pm, being judgemental wankers and swiping left and right to people based on the very small information they give you in their bios or through their photos. Myself included.

And let’s be real, some of them can be real wankers. There are an array of apparently headless men on here, one with who my friend jokingly matched with that she calls “Torso Tom” because she was unaware of whether or not he has an actual head. Then there are those who write down all manner of  weird shit in their bio… some fine examples of this would be:

“I think the only thing lower than my dopamine levels are my standards”

“Have my own teeth and my own home”

“Married. Is there a beautiful woman out there looking for company? Interests include gym, tai chi, massaging and meeting nymphos”

“Ethically non-monogamous”

I also love looking at guys take fifteen selfies of themselves sitting on a weights bench in the gym and posting them all up. Which of course is city fare. If you are ever in the countryside expect a million photos of men with fish and cars.

Then once you get past the actual part of matching, you have to get them to actually write you back. Some start with the very boring “Hi” and then don’t really get much more interesting than that for the thirty minutes that you attempt to tease some kind of personality out of them. Here’s a thought….. I have asked you ten questions already. In case you didn’t realise, the question mark is to be found on the bottom row of the keyboard on your phone once you click that little button bottom left that indicates numbers and punctuation marks. You should really thing about using it sometime in conjunction with a little bit of initiative and taking an interest. If you can’t show a basic interest in getting to know who I am instead of spouting a whole bunch of unintelligible shit about yourself or nothing, I am done! “BYYYYEEEEE FELICIA!!”

Some are really entertaining to talk to online when they have some time to think about what they are writing and then they lose all of their shit completely when you meet them because they have no personality in real life. Some choose to message you at 11pm “The night is young! Let’s meet up now!” and when you tell them that real people with real jobs like to go to bed at 11pm on a weeknight and meet crazy types off Tinder in the day time in public places they disappear faster than you can say ‘booty call’. Some don’t even message back at all to be honest because they are just collecting matches for self validation.

With such a selection, it is a wonder we even bother at all to be honest. There are married men looking to screw around on their wives, angry psychos, guys who are completely full of themselves, guys that know exactly what to say to get you where they want you and then disappear when they do, doms looking for subs, couples looking for threesomes, some polyamorous folk and a whole load of boring. To be honest, where are the nice intelligent and funny men? Oh yeah, married and not on Tinder. Or maybe married and still on Tinder.

It has never been a sadder time to be single and trying to make a connection. The world has gone mad with too much choice and easy access. There is no working for anything anymore. Even when you do have a great conversation on the internet, it very rarely translates into anything more. People are poisoned by the idea that if they settle down and choose just one thing that they are going to be perpetually missing out on all of the other awesome options floating around out there that they could have. But I ask, what fucking options? Because I am not looking at any really great ones on Tinder right now.

Relationships and forging real connections with people is hard. Much harder than swiping left or right and because of this grand idea that there are always loads more to swipe on we become complacent and lazy in the efforts we make to show ourselves to others and to take an interest in them in return. Maybe it is time to go back to the more authentic way of meeting people. Maybe it is time to balls up, walk up to the hot person in the bar and strike up a conversation, and if they are boring, or there’s no spark, move on, it will take up five minutes of your life and will be far less than the actual amount of time you spend talking shit to someone on Tinder and then organizing to meet them only to discover that you are not compatible. Real spark happens in real life. So grab it by the proverbial balls and get offline and go and find it.

To Live, To Love and To Learn To Let Go

That age old saying. You have to learn to live, to love and to learn to let go. It’s a funny saying. Because so much of it is up to interpretation. These days the one of these things I find the easiest is the letting go. But I feel that maybe sometimes you can let go too much. And sometimes you can let go of the things you probably should be holding on to. At what point do we start to find ourselves in the position where we let go of things that are just too hard and walk away when we should probably stick it out?

My life in the last ten years has been so transient that everything comes and goes and learning to let go was a coping skill that you needed to develop to survive the heartbreak of constantly making new friends, only to have them leave, or meeting the most amazing guy and having a fling for a week and then having to leave. Of falling in love with a place and it’s people, and then having to leave. It has gotten to the point where I am so used to someone leaving or to me leaving something, I feel so comfortable with this trend. I now continue subconsciously choosing men, friends or situations that are leaving because it is the pattern that I know and can deal with. But what if I didn’t? What would happen if I chose things that were more permanent? Maybe it is time to let go of the notion of temporary. To let go of the belief that I need to protect myself from all of the impermanence. Maybe it is time to stick with something for a change? However, within reason.

The idea of starting everything a fresh is quite daunting. But as I sit looking at all of the things that I need to do to get my life on track I feel like I am sitting in front of a giant pile of Lego blocks. I get to choose which blocks I want to use to build my life and my story. If I don’t like the colour, or the block doesn’t fit, I toss it back in the pile and find another. I don’t have to pull down an entire house to get rid of one broken brick. I can cull those broken bricks as I go. It is an interesting situation to be in.

I have realised that once I choose my bricks, I also need to cement them in or the house will ultimately fall down. There is no letting go of things that are too hard this time and running away. It is time to make better choices from the start and that is hard. That is hand choosing every single brick that I believe will make the best house and placing it in the best position. Sometimes it might mean turfing out the pretty coloured brick for one that will be more structurally sound and it is always hard to get rid of those ones, because they are so pretty and alluring.  But game on! Let’s do this. It is time to make better choices. It is time to open myself up to the pain that comes with not walking away from anything and everything that might be good for me and clinging on to those things that aren’t.

The valuable life, the one that is full of real, deep love, the one where you feel content with every single day you live. It doesn’t come from a place of being afraid and letting go of everything that might hurt even a little. It is about facing that fear and saying ‘shove off’ and then choosing to stick it out no matter how scary it might get. No matter how afraid you are of the hurt. Because while the minor highs of minor commitment to anything will feed the entertainment meter for short periods of time, it will never permanently fuel the soul like something deeper that stems from actually having to stick it out and work for it. It all starts with a choice. So which block are you going to choose first?