One Year in Beijing: Advice to My Former Self

One Year in Beijing: Advice to My Former Self

Today marks exactly one year since my husband and I arrived in Beijing. It’s been quite an adventure for us both, and as with any life change, I've learned, grown, and changed a lot. Mostly because I did everything ass-backward. There were moments when I've wished that a future version of myself could whisper the secrets of Beijing in my ear and smooth the path before me. But if I actually had the opportunity to go back in time and share such pieces of advice, what would they be?

Read More

How I overcame my fears and spoke French on national TV

How I overcame my fears and spoke French on national TV

Speaking French is not a simple matter of flicking a switch and carrying on with life. It is inextricably related to feelings of legitimacy, falsehood, belonging and alienation. It is associated with anger and frustration, inadequacy, stupidity, and triumph. It is related to who and what I am, my place in the world around me and a constant negotiation and re-negotiation of meaning, intention and power. 

Read More

about November the 13th

about November the 13th

I’ve tried to write something about the attacks of November 13th for weeks. It never feels like the right time, or the right way. Still doesn’t. How can one possibly begin to put words to the enormous confusion of horror, pain, death, anger, grief, emotions, news reports, lack of sleep, tears that was it. How can one begin to describe something that you can’t touch, and which changed the very world in which you live, has coloured the way you see everything, and has made everything Before and After?

How can I, one among millions begin to even try? What right do I have to tell this story?

Like pushing magnets together, my words resist one another. The harder I push, the more violently they slip away into a messy pile on the other side of meaning.

Read More

In Which Our Heroine Goes Bald

In Which Our Heroine Goes Bald

I cut it all off.

There was no ceremony.

With my housemate in the other room I slipped away and unpacked the men’s clipper kit I’d purchased the day before. Inches of wavy hair fell into the sink as I ran the nibbly grille over my scalp. Rawl! Rawl! It growled deeply as it encountered thick patches. Rewl! Rewl! It cried at the short ones. I looked at myself in the mirror. My eyes, enormous now, looked back from between my black eyelashes. My thick eyebrows seemed thicker and I decided to start penciling them again. I ran my hands over my dome, still scattered with the debris of the massacre, and reveled in the tingly massage. I felt Egyptian, ancient, feline.  

Read More

My Love is Pure (As Snow)

My Love is Pure (As Snow)

It was the hardness that surprised me. That something so light and fleeting could pack down into a dense lump of ice, hard enough to get a yelp out of whoever you threw it at. I noticed that my gloves were getting wet. The dry-looking snow was deceitful in its appearance, and the coldness seeped into my hands as I eagerly scraped the bonnet of the car, rolling the powder between my hands. I stared into the middle of the ball, past the billion crystals glittering at me, trying to divine some hidden meaning ... as a snowball sailed past my right ear. Maëlstrom was creeping forward into my territory, pushing a wheely bin in front of him as the first line of defence. Laughing, I pegged my newly formed missile at his exposed elbow and completely missed, showering the wall behind him in a spray of white ice. Two seconds later I cracked up again as Joris nailed me on my right side with a well-aimed throw. I couldn't complain, I'd started it.

Read More

Joyeux Nöel

Joyeux Nöel

It's Christmas time.

In a few days I'll be whizzing towards Brussels, an foreign orphan adopted into my dear friends' family celebrations, but for now I'm on holidays, with nothing to do but savour the achingly beautiful city I now call home.

Within minutes of leaving my building yesterday, I was strolling through the Jardin du Luxembourg. Although it's practically on my doorstep, life and other factors had conspired to keep me out of it for weeks, and I was struck immediately by how much the seasons have changed it. The flowers, usually exploding in a riot of colour from every possible flowerable surface, were gone. And, as put my gloved hands on the brim of a large pot and peered inside, I discovered that they had not simply retreated into their buds for the winter, but had actually been scooped out, soil and all by some unseen hand. Unnaturally geometric patches of lawn remained here and there, evidence of more man-made packing up for winter, and even the ducks who pottered around between the old-fashioned sailboats on the surface of the pond, were gone, replaced by seagulls who circled and cried and made the park feel weirdly coastal. I watched the tourists gamely taking photos of the senat and the pond and felt sorry for them- if only they knew how much they were missing out on! The snow-scenes the tourists and I both crave are yet to come, but at least I will be here long enough to see them out.

Read More

Sharp and Trusty: An Ode to My Pocket Knife

Sharp and Trusty: An Ode to My Pocket Knife

When I was 15 years old, I graduated from Scouts. Hold the applause.

While most associate the legacy of B.P (that's Robert Baden Powell people) with dorky scarves and quasi-miltary organisation, it was actually pretty damn cool. We did cliff forward run-downs, midnight abseiling, multiple day canoe camping trips, lashed together barrels and posts into rafts we sailed down the Swan river, hiked a fair portion Bibbulmun track and spent so much time in tents that we couldn't sleep at home unless we tucked a rock into our bed to achieve the same level of discomfort. Oh and we wore dorky scarves and adhered to a quasi-military organisational structure.

On my final night, I was awarded a genuine Swiss army knife with my name and the year engraved on the largest blade. In the years since, that knife has proved it's worth time and time again.

Read More

As Outsiders: Finding the art of Antony Gormely in remote Lake Ballard

As Outsiders: Finding the art of Antony Gormely in remote Lake Ballard

About half an hour drive out of the remote Goldfields town of Menzies, 51 statues by renowned international sculptor Antony Gormley stand on Lake Ballard, as the exhibition ‘Inside Australia’, which was commissioned for the 2003 Perth International Arts Festival. The entire population of Menzies (plus a few passer-by’s) were scanned in 3D and rendered into cast iron, after approximately 2/3rds of their mass was removed. We made the trek from Kalgoorlie one afternoon to see them.

Read More