I have continued writing and developing the story that I outlined in my previous blog post. With the federal election announced for September 14, it is becoming a more and more relevant story to tell.
The night is still
My friend, the night is still.
I feel the cold in your despair
The night is long
My friend, the night is long
I feel hope suspended in the air.
The day is nigh
My friend, the day is nigh
Lay down your arms
Surrender, until daylight breaks the sky
The day is bright
My friend, the day is bright
Today is not the end
My friend, your heart will heal
And soon your tears…
Will run dry
The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him
- G.K Chesterton
My good friend Kari once told me that in Aboriginal folklore, the Kookaburra’s laugh at the break of dawn was a signal to the sky spirits to light the great fire that would illuminate and warm the Earth for the day. It is believed that he is a messenger of the great spirits and as long as he laughs, there will always be a brand new day. Sometimes he is known as a spirit bird.
I have often found solace in this story when tough times have been upon us. Sometimes heartbreak and isolation would permeate every pore of my being. I’d sit in stark, brooding silence and wistfully remember the Australia I once knew, the Australia we all remembered. The one we grew up in had been fanciful and carefree. We were the lucky country; a land ‘abounding in nature’s gifts, of beauty, rich and rare’.
Then all at once it was gone. The only thing we could rely on was that every day the sun would rise. Kookaburra would guide us through the night and deliver daylight once again. He became more than our spirit bird. He was our symbol of hope.
It is nigh on impossible to be certain of a great many things in this world, and yet I can state without so much as a skerrick of doubt, that the year 2042 will be ensconced in my brain until both feet are firmly in my grave. I’m not often one for obnoxious, over-embellished tales of heroics and tragedy. Mine is one of cold hard facts; facts that still, years later, send a chill down my spine. It was the year my parents were killed and worse, the year when freedom was lost for so many of my fellow countrymen.
When I look back, I can almost pinpoint the very moment I realised things had begun to change. Until then I was a relatively normal kid really. Well, mostly. I was always the rebellious type, inclined to do things not ordinarily accepted just to go against the grain. I didn’t like to do what other people expected; my parents fought hard for my carefree, unbound life, and I intended to make the most of it. After escaping a life of terror, for them the town of Willoughby was something of a sanctuary. It was a place where they, and I, could be free of fear. That is, until it wasn’t.
In 2042 I was 15 years old and in year 9 at school. School life was typical. I’d catch the train at 8am and hang out with my friends at school until classes started at 8.45. When the bell went at 3pm, if we didn’t have other plans, every day my friends got on the DART - the Willoughby District Aerial Rapid Transit railway shot from one end of the city to the other in 15 minutes - and they’d disembark in their various suburbs and make their way home. Every day however, I opted to walk the eight kilometres to my house in the northern suburb of Miles Grove. It was a sometimes treacherous walk; one that my parents were always telling me was too dangerous. The crime rate had really shot up in recent years; muggings were frequent and so were break and enter robberies, even during the middle of the day.
“Zafar”, they’d beg, “you must not walk by yourself. You should take the train with your friends”.
Despite their pleas, I continued to walk. I lived for the adventure; it gave me a little rush of adrenaline knowing I was sort of living life on the edge. But more than that, I loved the liberating feeling of watching the world go by in my own little bubble. All the noises, big and small, from the drone of the traffic, to the rainbow lorikeets attacking berries and tropical fruit in the lush trees lining the street, were like the most wonderful symphony. It was almost hypnotic to listen. Little did I know I would relish the relative safety of those peaceful afternoon walks within a matter of months; they’d soon be swiftly and abruptly snatched from under my feet.
Willoughby was always a dynamic and quickly changing city. The southern end had once been home to a number of historically documented cane farming families –as well as the odd cow- but these farms had gradually been replaced with an assortment of housing estates, freeways and bypasses. In the north, the sleepy beach suburbs had become hotspots of pulsing entertainment and local business. Somewhere in the middle, lay the town’s central business district. It was the nucleus of the whole town as far as its government and authority buildings were concerned, but it was not so much the epicentre of the city any longer in terms of the buzz of local business. In fact, in recent years it had really failed to thrive. Over time it had become increasingly crowded with high rise office buildings where stiff and highly strung business people worked at sumptuous desks overlooking serene views of the coastline; outside on the Promenade people wandered lazily and relaxed under palm trees, in a tropical haven strangely juxtaposed by screaming traffic and hustle and bustle. My school, St Martha’s, was an independent catholic school nestled in the outskirts, just close enough to the action to absorb the sterile feel of the inner city.
All the older locals often described the inner city as having been leached of all its warmth and character. And they were right. If you walked through it at the busiest time of the day, you were still overcome with a feeling of being lost, lonely even. It certainly wasn’t the safest town to wander around in either. By all anecdotal reports, it was once safe enough to drunkenly stagger home after a night on the town to the skirting suburbs quite unaccompanied and never feel at risk of being bailed up by a gang of knife wielding youths. Although my own parents weren’t around to bear witness to this unthinkable phenomenon of perennial safety, the parents of many of my mates were. It was this that had once afforded Willoughby such appeal to young sea-changers around the country. Sadly, that time had gone.
I, however, was sure I was as invincible as they were back then, until one warm afternoon in early April. As I usually did after school, I walked my friends Kari, Iris and Finn to platform number 4 and waved them off, then went on my merry way. I walked to the train station exit on Lawrence Street and made my way down the stairs and across the sandstone pavers out onto the street front and stopped at the traffic light to wait for the green signal to walk. The air was particularly humid and the palm trees lining the median strip were barely moving in the almost invisible northerly breeze. It was sultry weather typical of the tropics during the summer, only the summers seemed to have been getting longer and longer in recent years. It felt as though this year summer would go on forever.
My school uniform of maroon shorts and white cotton short sleeved shirt with the top 3 buttons undone gave me a distinct teenage school boy appearance. The only thing that would have set me apart from anyone else was the green bandana I was wearing on my head and the steam punk clock pendant hanging around my neck. Or it should have been. Despite the culturally diverse nature of Willoughby, the fact that I am Afghanistani –my heritage and my coffee coloured skin- has, on occasion left me open to racial vilification and bullying. I recall one boy, Blythe, at school picking on me for wearing my bandana. He was quite short in stature and, in turn picked on himself for having a girls name, buck teeth and a lot of pimples.
“Hey Za-fart, is that a turban?” he’d snickered one day.
Being a collected sort of a person, I answered calmly.
“No, it’s a bandana”
“It looks like a turban. Hey turban-head are you a terrorist?”
“No!” I seethed, beginning to get impatient.
“But turban-head, aren’t your parents in the Taliban? Everyone says your family are terrorists”
“No!” I shot back, trying to keep my cool.
“But turban-head, that’s what everyone says. They say your parents got kicked out of Arab Land for joining the Taliban. So when’s the next terrorist attack?”
I lost it.
“My parents were nearly killed by the Taliban, you shut the hell up! And it’s not a turban, moron. My family doesn’t even wear turbans”
I had been standing at the cross lights lost in my own thoughts when the signal changed to green. It wasn’t until I reached the other side of the street that I first noticed a middle eastern man about the same age as my Dad and an Aboriginal man who somewhat resembled a taller, billowier and hairier version of my mate Kari, on the opposite side of Lawrence Street ahead of me rushing in what looked like panic. They were in those last stages of walking before it becomes running and their pace was quickening. The Aboriginal man glanced over his shoulder and then turned back to his friend and in an urgent, hushed tone told him “oh man, quick they’re coming”. As they broke into a run, a police vehicle roared from behind me.
Sunday, November 25, 2012
Every time I read an article about these policies, I feel angry and ashamed to be Australian, particularly when I read the comments which are always ignorant, uneducated and narrow minded. People just do not seem to understand the realities of what asylum seekers and refugees are faced with, and I fear that they will pass these views to their children.
So today I was inspired to start mapping out a story for teenagers, about an Australia in the future that is turned on it's head. A story designed to make kids think critically and consider the implications of ignoring the direction our country is heading in.
Here is a taster of what has started to form in my head:
2042 was the year from hell. I’d often just sit and wistfully remember the Australia I once knew; the Australia we all remembered, the one we grew up in, was but a memory. We were the lucky country; our lands were supposed to be abounding in nature’s gifts of beauty, rich and rare. Despite the same old political debates about health, education and immigration policy, the swings between left and right were quite rhythmic and predictable. We felt secure. My future then, was without a flicker of doubt.
I was 14 years old when the New Progressives Party burst on the Australian political stage. Most people I knew, including my parents laughed at the irony of their name and never believed they’d come into power. They couldn’t have been less progressive if they tried: they made the old One Nation party seem tame. Their policies were so close to the White Australia Policy that it was alarming and it really seemed inconceivable to us all that we could possibly regress to that way of thinking - especially me, an awkward teenage boy with skin the colour of iced coffee milk.
My parents came to Australia in 2023 from Afghanistan. They fled in terror as their war torn country fell apart again. The Taliban had instated a new leader and their surge to power left many families either destitute or dead. My Hazara parents did the only thing they could to survive and sold everything they had to board a rickety boat in Java, Indonesia. They believed with every last drop of hope they had, that Australia would offer them a safe and secure future. They were amongst the last to be taken in by this so called lucky country. I was born in 2025 and my parents did everything they could to give me the childhood and the opportunities they had missed out on.
While racism was a problem in Australia, I had a great childhood and felt I had everything to hope for. I wanted to be Veterinarian and hoped to get into Sydney University when I graduated high school. In 2039, everything changed and I was no longer the boisterous young man I once was. That year, the Prime Minister was assassinated and a by-election was held. Voting was no longer compulsory, and as a result many Australians, despondent with the political climate, failed to vote. Our worst nightmare was realised when on August 28th 2039, the New Progressives won 74 per cent of the seats in the House of Representatives. It was the biggest landslide victory this country has ever seen.
After the election victory, there was a sudden spate of violent riots and shootings, and people began protesting the racist government policy that was flooding the media. Soon people began disappearing. Anyone who didn’t fit the government’s ideal of Australian was facing real danger and many went underground to protect themselves. Within months, we had become the war torn country my family had given up everything to escape all those years ago. Our family, together with two other Afghan families eventually had to follow suit and go underground as well. There were refugee camps in PNG to the west of Port Moresby, but most knew that these would lead to certain death. Some sold their belongings to try to penetrate the borders of New Zealand, but were soon deported to PNG for offshore processing. New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs minister, Willis Leary had given a statement that they felt that the rise in Australian asylum seekers was a cause for concern and that he did not want to compromise New Zealand’s national security by processing onshore. Australia had become a volatile nation and nobody wanted to show hospitality to the country who had excised itself from the migration zone to keep “boat people” out. Some said Australia was facing the ultimate karma. Where did that leave me? I was facing a future as certain as the one my parents had back in Afghanistan, and I knew I couldn’t just stand by and do nothing. 2042 was set to be the worst year yet, and I just couldn't watch. I had to fight to save what was once a beacon of hope for the people I loved most.
Would you read this story? What do you think of the federal government's latest policy proposal?
Saturday, September 15, 2012
This time last year I was unemployed. I was unsure if I wanted to continue writing my honours thesis, didn’t know what type of job to apply for or if I wanted to work full time. The financial burden was really hard, but the emotional burden of not knowing what I was doing or if I was going to be able to commit to any job for long was even harder. I suppose I was a bit lost.
This time last year was also the time that I emailed a number of organisations that specialise in marketing and professional writing, hoping that I may be able to tap into freelance writing. It was only via this channel that I was able to begin writing resumes professionally on a freelance basis. I found I really enjoyed finding out the skills and qualities of a job seeker and being able to syphon it into a single vibrant document designed to sell them to a potential employer. I learned that a good resume makes the difference between an employer seeing what a candidate actually has on offer, or reading the first page and tossing it in the bin. I also learned quickly that not having a resume that is effective holds many job seekers back. It is a very big barrier.
It isn’t the only barrier though, and I am soon to discover just how severe and debilitating some of those barriers can be. Writing resumes professionally really tapped into an interest in the employment sector for me, so much so that I have taken steps to further explore it. When I found out recently that I was required to complete a 50 hour placement volunteering in the community as part of a university subject, I decided that I could either treat it as an inconvenience or as an opportunity to learn something about an area of interest, and to learn more about myself. And so it has eventuated that I will spend time in two sister organisations, one which assists job seekers with disabilities, and one which assists job seekers with mental health issues. The DES and Worklink, work hand in hand with one another, and I am very excited and grateful for their willingness to accommodate me and support through a meaningful experience. I hope to keep you all up to date on this placement as I go.
As I’d also like to further pursue professional corporate and resume writing after I finish university – I have a facebook page, Sky High Professional Writing – I want to start offering job seeking advice and resume tips on this blog to support the process of entering in to such a venture. To start, here are my top 8 tips for applying for jobs:
1. Your resume is your personal marketing document. Make sure it reflects who you are. It should be 3 pages at most unless you have 30 years’ experience and everything is relevant. No employer will read it if it is 10 pages long.
2. Start broadly from the top of your resume. Key competencies or qualities first, career objective, education, career history, key skills and achievements, community involvement, and then specifics like computer skills if relevant. Only put in work experience which is relevant for the job you apply for.
3. Tap into qualities and assets that employers love, for example your superior problem solving skills, your ability to relate to internal and external customers on every level, your ability to acquire knowledge rapidly, your commitment to ongoing professional renewal, your passion for social equity or going above and beyond to deliver exceptional service.
4. Adjust your resume for EVERY application. Make sure it speaks to the organisation you are applying to work for.
5. Re-write your cover letter for EVERY application. Employers can tell when you have done a cut and paste job. Address the criteria in the ad. Visit the website and show that you know the organisation by telling them how your skills align with the services they provide and how your qualities and previous experience reflect what is in their mission statement. They want to know why you want to work for their organisation, or your application will end up in the bin.
6. Write letters and send your resume to organisations that aren’t advertising. Most jobs are not advertised and most organisations love it when you take the time to show an interest in their business or service. But again, write specifically to the organisation. Cut and paste is a big waste of time.
7. Apply for full time jobs even if you want to work part time, and part time jobs even if you want to work full time. If you get their attention and present well in an interview, you never know what they may be willing to offer you.
8. Check your spelling and grammar. Your job application is not Facebook. Recruitment officers can and WILL throw your application in the bin if you have careless spelling errors and don’t know how to use an apostrophe. They can and ARE that picky. Your professional literacy matters to them even if it doesn’t to you.
Hopefully this might help some stressed out job seekers out there. Don’t forget to check me out on Facebook and recommend me to your friends. It’s a cut throat world, but a good resume is a secret weapon!
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Or will it? I guess that is the starting point for resurrecting my blog. I feel a need to write. I always have. I write about current affairs and topics of interest online in certain forums, I get a nerdy kind of buzz from finishing assignments, and I have slowly but surely been plodding along with my novel. It may or may not ever be published. Sometimes none of those things are enough though. Sometimes I write poetry and sometimes I write my feelings out, just like this but never hit publish. It is hard sometimes to put yourself out there, but it is also one of the best ways to get it out of your system. I wish I had the courage to do it more often.
I digress. Going back to the world being at my feet, or not: I have come to a realisation. I will probably never feel like it is. And there is a reason for this. A highly personal one. No matter what path my career takes, or how much I write, there are things I just cannot see changing. I am 32 in a matter of days. I am single. I am childless. I can’t afford to be a parent on my own. I’ve secretly stopped believing I will meet the love of my life. I feel as though I’ve missed the boat.
It’s funny. I expected that the longer I worked with young children, the more I would grow to appreciate my peace at knock off time. I thought I’d be able to hang out with the kiddies, have my patience tested daily, and then go and home and be grateful to have time to myself. I thought maybe I would want children less. That I’d stop waiting for love. That’d fix me up, right?
Instead, I appreciate my peace and quiet, but somehow want children more. Having other people’s children drown me in cuddles and tell me they love me; watching them reach milestones proudly and learn so much - from me - seems to serve only remind me of what I am missing out on. There are babies and children around me all the time. So many friends are having babies now. I am at that age. By the end of the year I won’t be able to count on both hands the number of people I know or am acquainted with who have had babies, just this year. In fact I feel like every time I log in to face book I am confronted with pregnant bellies, new babies and announcements of engagement. And then I go to work and spend all day around kids.
I guess I just wonder how long I can keep ignoring the feelings of inadequacy and pushing them away. How long can I ignore the pangs of strong hateful jealousy I feel toward anyone pregnant or newly bestowed with a baby? I’m happy for those people at the same time… but, is it healthy? I’m just doing my best, but I still feel like I’m not doing enough. What did I do wrong in my life to be alone and childless at 32? I don’t think any ambition I ever had was as strong as the one I had to be a mother. Yet it may end up being the one ambition I never fulfil. I think I understand how people with fertility problems feel. That want and urgency pokes at your insides daily. When people say “oh you have plenty of time”, and “it’ll happen when the time is right”, I feel even worse. It may not. I haven’t got plenty of time. I have very little. My biological clock might chug to a halt before I find myself in a position to make it happen.
How do I accept that this may be the case? I can’t find peace with that outcome yet. I can handle being alone. But I can't imagine living my life without my own children.
Am I just being dramatic because I turn 32 in less than 2 weeks? Or is this a normal feeling?
Monday, December 12, 2011
Climate change is a topic which constantly surfaces in the media and provides much fodder for fierce debate. Today however, this debate has been taken one step further by Adelaide University’s Professor of Mining Geology, Ian Plimer with the release of his new book “How to Get Expelled from School: A Guide to Climate Change for Pupils, Parents and Punters”. The climate change skeptic has outlined 101 questions to ask teachers to challenge their collective environmental activist stance which apparently has no basis in science. This publication is being backed by ex Prime Minister John Howard.
I’m no expert in the field of climatology or environmental science, but since when were “environmental activism” and “science” mutually exclusive concepts? Also, moreover, why do some people feel they are above scientific fact and choose to disbelieve something for which there is overwhelming evidence for? It almost seems as though people are frightened that any research, reports or policies which are funded by a governmental body might be a conspiracy and designed to brainwash the masses into believing a specific agenda. The Chemtrail Conspiracy is a perfect example of this. Yet I for one find it difficult to believe that the world’s science professionals, who devote their lives and careers to research, and whom are trained to analyse and synthesise data using very specific methodology which accounts for all kinds of variables which can affect overall results, would be contriving research evidence to fit with government agendas. I’d go so far as to say I think science is the one thing we can rely on to be clear and evidence based.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) spend years researching and compiling reports based on “unequivocal evidence” suggesting that humans are impacting global climate trends more and more every year. The IPCC’s 2007 report stated that numerous experiments have been constructed (and many more since this publication) which clearly indicated that the steep trend in global warming cannot be explained by natural causes. Though there are, of course, natural trends such as el nino and la nina which occur irrespective of human activity, it is almost bewildering to suggest that human activity (namely the dramatic increase in carbon emissions) is not impacting the delicate balance of the Earth’s atmosphere and stratosphere. Really, how could it not be affecting us? The Earth’s population has increased in the last 50 years from about 3 billion, to 7 billion. Folks, this is an extra 4 billion peoples’ worth of waste, as well as use of utilities and services, and most importantly electricity. In this age of technology and more extreme weather, the use of electricity has probably quadrupled or more in the last 50 years. There is no possible way that this is not having any effect on climate trends.
In May this year Professor Kurt Lambeck of the Australian Academy of Science affirmed this notion of human contribution to global warming in science/health journal The Lamp.
‘The role of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is qualitatively well understood. It is known that increasing the atmospheric concentration of CO2 leads to higher mean global surface. It is known that CO2 has increased very substantially during the last century to the highest levels seen in the last 800,000 years,’ he said. ‘It is also beyond serious question that some CO2 from human activities remains in the atmosphere for a very long time, as is the message that unless greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, an upward trend in global temperature will continue.’
(No Doubt about Climate Change, The Lamp, 2011)
The global temperate has risen over 0.4 degrees Celsius since 1979, and 0.74 C in the last century. This means that more than half of this rise has been in the last 30 years. Eleven of the last 12 years “rank among the 12 warmest years in the instrumental record of global surface temperature since 1850”. If this doesn’t concern you, this is what our future could look like if we don’t act soon, and act big:
We need to act. We need to be open about how we can collectively make changes that will reduce our emissions of Carbon. The UNFCCC climate change pact is a great step in the right direction. And in my opinion, even the newly passed carbon tax has its positives. Small steps are better than none at all. But when are the naysayers going to admit that science is proving them wrong again and again?
What do you think about climate change? Do you think we are doing enough?
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
It's funny how things change... but then again, so do people. Feelings. Desires. I guess life wouldn't be a journey if they didn't. I hate the word journey. Remind me next time to use the word quest. Or voyage. Ha! We are all on life's voyage to the Nether Islands of Infinity.
Ok sorry, I've kind of lost my point. I really just wanted to say that the following is a piece I wrote about when someone turns out not be who you thought they were, and when you wake up one day and realised that something has shifted and you've moved in a different direction to where you expected. Probably for the better. It is about that moment of wistful nostalgia. Or is that nostalgic wist? Wait is wist even a word? My trusty dictionary says the word is whist, meaning silence or hush. Well this would have to be one of the most random blog entries I've ever written. Maybe I'll write up a big spiel about the carbon tax next just to mix it up.
Here it is.
You used to take my breath away
You couldn’t have known how much I cherished you
I held onto your words like they were pearls
But the wind changed
I used to give so much
That at night I’d dream of you
You were always inside my heart, my thoughts
But the wind changed
You used to get inside me, underneath my skin
You were something magical and new
You gave me hope, and vision
But the wind changed
And so did you
You used to be my reason to believe
A grain of integrity and truth
To love you was an honour
But the wind changed
Now I don’t even know you
And you haven’t got a clue
Somehow I’m still submerged waist deep in this dream
But the wind changed...
Saturday, October 29, 2011
“Right, that’s it!! I’m going on a diet!!”
“But Mama, are you coming back?”
That was the conversation that took place with my mother when I was just three years old. I didn’t know what a diet was, the word ‘going’ meant to me that a diet must have been a place. Oh how innocence is lost quickly. Mum was often on diets when I was growing up, she struggled with body image and the more she tried to control her weight, the harder it became, especially after having my two younger sisters.
We are not a lean family naturally, but nor are any of us big exercisers and we all love eating. I was always a smaller framed person and at 5”1 most of my adult years have been spent teetering between about 50 and 55 kilograms. I can’t honestly say I have ever been happy with my body, but I didn’t used to want to do any exercise to obtain my ideal body either. I hated the fact that genetically, even at a lower body weight, I’d always carry extra weight on my face and arms and I’d look like a hideous fat person in every photo because of where I carried that weight. I hated the ‘love handles’ around my hips and I hated my flabby arms.
At my heaviest, after leaving a job that I hated and being unemployed for a period of time, then another job that made me unhappy, I think I weighed about 59kg. I was still only a size 10 but I didn’t like my body at all, I didn’t like where my life was going and I didn’t really like myself very much. For me, Body Love is all about a journey of gaining self-esteem and confidence. Something that has been a struggle my whole life. In 2008 I finally returned to full time study and though life is never easy, I think it was the best decision I have ever made. I believe in myself so much more than I ever did before. The last year has been tough to tell the truth. I have suffered with some depressive episodes that have forced me to actually face and deal with my tendency toward depression, anxiety and poor stress management. I’ve realised that you can’t hide from something living inside you.
I think for me, dealing with these things has been the catalyst for my journey to the land of Body Love. I have finally lost the dreaded few extra kilos that had bothered me for so long. I have learned to enjoy exercise and not give in to the chocolate cravings quite as often! I know, it’s a miracle! I’d be lying if I said body image was no longer an issue for me, I think it is for many women for their whole lives. At 47kg, I still have days when I look in the mirror and see non-existent fat and cellulite. Days when I feel myself slip. I think about how many calories I’m consuming often. And I worry that I’ll put weight back on.
And that is why I decided to participate in the I heart my body 2011 project. I haven’t had babies (yet), or a bad childhood or a chronic illness. I’m just “Lucy in the sky with diamonds”, often “elsewhere” as someone put it the other day, and I’m just learning to be me. And be okay with me… mostly on the inside. But on the outside, today, I am going to celebrate my little curves and my cheeky smile and realise how lucky I am to have a body that is healthy and works just the way it should at 31 years of age. What do you love about YOUR body?