Australia Day? No grazie

Ho fatto una pausa e ritorno in questa strana giornata, di festa e di lutto: Australia Day/Invasion Day.

Australia

Australia Day – il sogno australiano

Siamo dall’altra parte del mondo e probabilmente non molti sanno che il 26 gennaio e’ la festa nazionale australiana. E perché siamo dall’altra parte del mondo, benché sia gennaio, e’ estate. Si celebra nei parchi e sulle spiagge, la cultura australiana in tutto il suo splendore e amore per la vita all’aria aperta: birra, salsicce sul barbecue, football, picnic.

Perché il 26 gennaio? Il 26 gennaio 1788 la prima flotta britannica sbarca a Port Jackson (Sydney). Mentre per gli invasori europei questa data rappresenta un’altra conquista coloniale, per la popolazione aborigena locale e’ l’inizio di un susseguirsi di conseguenze disastrose.

Il governo Britannico dichiara la nuova colonia terra nullius (terra di nessuno) e il massacro comincia.

Non c'e' orgoglio nel genocidio

Non c’e’ orgoglio nel genocidio

Nel 1838 il giornale Sydney Monitor scrive: e’ stato deciso di sterminare tutta la razza nera in quel quartiere”, cioè la popolazione Darug che viveva sulle rive del fiume Hawkesbury, non lontano da Sydney. La popolazione locale, senza armi da fuoco, combatte eroicamente.

Tra il 1788 e il 1920 la popolazione aborigena scende da 750.000 a 60.000, causa violenza e malattie.

Tra il 1890 e il 1960 migliaia di bambini vengono rimossi dalle loro famiglie e messi in “missioni” o dati in affido a famiglie bianche. Lo scopo di queste rimozioni forzate era quello di distruggere la cultura aborigena e promuovere quella europea.

In uno dei paesi più sviluppati e privilegiati del mondo, ancora oggi meta’ degli uomini  aborigeni e più un terzo delle donne muoiono prima dei 45 anni. La durata media della vita  tra la popolazione aborigena e’ dieci anni inferiore a quella non aborigena.

Mi dicono che in un non lontano passato Australia Day passava quasi inosservato. In effetti il 26 gennaio veniva celebrato solo in New South Wales, per marcare l’anniversario del primo sbarco. Solo nel 1931 diviene festa nazionale e prende il nome di Australia Day, e dal 1994, con l’istituzione del premio “Australian of the year” comincia ad acquistare maggior importanza.

Manifestazione Invasion Day

Manifestazione Invasion Day

L’Australia ha tante cose da celebrare ed e’ bello vedere gente felice per le strade, non dover andare a lavorare in un bellissimo martedì di sole, godersi una giornata distesi sull’erba. Ma il calendario e’ pieno di date, pieno di giorni che vorrebbero essere di festa. Questa data, purtroppo, porta con se tanto dolore.

Guardo la gente radunata nei parchi a bere e le bandiere che sventolano sulle case e sento la rabbia salirmi addosso. Non posso godermi questa giornata di festa. Non posso accettare queste celebrazioni, non posso tollerare questa mancanza di consapevolezza e di sensibilità.

Oggi in tutta l’Australia si sono svolte delle manifestazioni per ricordare lo sbarco della prima flotta e la susseguente distruzione della popolazione aborigena. A Melbourne c’erano tanti ragazzi ma anche tante mamme, tanti giovani hippy ma anche tanti signori “di una certa eta'”, tanti aborigeni ma anche tanti bianchi, tanti australiani ma anche tante altre nazionalità. E per la prima volta questa giornata ha avuto un significato.

Penso sia importante ricordare anche questo aspetto dell’Australia. A chi interessa saperne di più, suggerisco alcuni articoli.

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A beautiful Sunday in Melbourne/ Una meravigliosa domenica a Melbourne

Today the sun was shining and the air was crisp, perfect day to go and explore Melbourne, I thought! My idea was welcomed by the entire family and within a few minutes we were in the heart of the city. I sometimes forget what a vibrant and beautiful city Melbourne is. “You look like a tourist”, Julia said. I am a european snob and I realise that I don’t appreciate Melbourne as I should. So why not look at it through the eyes of a tourist? We had yum cha in China Town and then walked up Swanston St. I looked up at the buildings, old churches and modern skyscrapers, creating a charming contrast against the blue sky. Flower beds around the town hall added colour and life to the grey of the street. Today is Refugee Day and the city was celebrating. Wonderful to see and be part of it! We headed to Federation Square, so quintessentially australian and buzzing with life. We looked at some pictures of Australian painters in the Ian Potter Gallery and I stopped in front of an image of a pioneer woman. Her face is sad and thoughtful. How hard it must have been for her, in this far away and inhospitable land. I thought of her and of the refugees. I thought of me and how easy it was to get here, how lucky I am.

Oggi era una splendida giornata d’inverno. Il sole splendente e l’aria frizzante, ideale per esplorare Melbourne! La mia idea e’ stata ben accolta da tutta la famiglia e in pochi minuti eravamo nel cuore della città. Tendo a dimenticare che città vivace e meravigliosa e’ Melbourne. “Sembri una turista!” Mi ha detto Julia. Sono una snob europea e mi rendo conto che spesso non apprezzo Melbourne come dovrei. Così decido di guardarmi intorno con gli occhi di una turista. Abbiamo mangiato ad un ristorante in China Town e poi abbiamo risalito Swanston St. Guardavo gli edifici, vecchie chiese e grattacieli moderni, creano un piacevole contrasto contro il blu del cielo. Aiuole fiorite vicino al municipio aggiungono colore al grigio della strada. Oggi e la Giornata del Rifugiato e la città era in festa. Meraviglioso essere parte di questi festeggiamenti. Abbiamo continuato fino a Federation Square, così essenzialmente australiana e piena di vita. Abbiamo guardato qualche quadro nella Galleria Ian Potter e mi sono fermata davanti all’immagine di una donna pioniera, il volto triste e pensieroso. Quanto doveva essere difficile per lei in questa terra lontana e inospitale. Ho pensato a lei e ai rifugiati. Ho pensato a me e a com’e’ stato facile arrivare qui. Ho pensato a quanto sono fortunata. 

Burocrazia australiana

Town Hall - Comune

Town Hall – Comune

Per parcheggiare davanti a casa ho bisogno di un permesso ma da quando ho cambiato macchina, cioe’ circa tre anni, non l’ho ancora rifatto. Oggi, dopo due multe, mi sono finalmente decisa.

Ma perche’ aspettare tre anni e due multe? Pigrizia. Non ho altra scusa.

Sono cresciuta in Italia dove le parole “burocrazia”, “comune”, “permesso” portano alla mente ore di coda in uffici surriscaldati, impiegati svogliati e strafottenti e interminabili moduli da riempire. Nonostante siano anni che non frequento uffici comunali italiani, mi capita spesso di ascoltare le lamentele di amici e parenti e mi pare di capire che le cose non siano cambiate molto.

La burocrazia australiana e’ un sogno e andare a fare un permesso di parcheggio non fa che rallegrare la tua giornata!

A mezzogiorno arrivo in comune, entro e mi trovo davanti una bella signora con i capelli rosso fuoco e una ricrescita di due dita. Mi accoglie con un sorriso smagliante e un “Hello darling!”. Ha le braccia ricoperte di tatuaggi all’henné sbiaditi e un modo di fare affabile e disinvolto. Senza accorgermene mi ritrovo a raccontargli delle mie multe e della mia pigrizia. Lei mi rassicura dicendo di non preoccuparmi, si occupera’ di tutto!

Mi chiede la prova di residenza e le passo con orgoglio la bolletta della luce. Mi sento organizzatissima! Ma quando mi chiede la prova che la macchina mi appartiene il documento che le ho portato non e’ quello giusto. La guardo delusa ma mi rendo conto dal suo sorriso che risolvera’ questo problema in quattro e quattr’otto. Sono in ottime mani, mi dico!

Il mio bel Parking Permit nuovo di zecca!

Il mio bel Parking Permit nuovo di zecca!

Mi suggerisce di andare dalla polizia, proprio dietro l’angolo, e di compilare un modulo per dichiarare che la macchina e’ mia. Due minuti dopo sono in commissariato dove un giovane poliziotto mi consegna il modulo e mi rassicura che sono abituati, non avere i documenti giusti e’ apparentemente una cosa molto comune. Non posso fare a meno di notare che ha un orologio di Topolino. Ovviamente non e’ sua intenzione essere troppo intimidatorio!

Torno all’ufficio dove dopo pochi minuti ho il mio permesso. Pago 32 dollari, “Take care, dal!” mi dice la signora. Il tutto si e’ svolto in meno di mezz’ora. Esco con un sorriso sulle labbra e la sensazione di vivere nel paese dei balocchi!

Quando in Australia si andava in nave – Storie di donne migranti

Un paio d’anni fa’ ho trovato un annuncio sul giornale locale: cercasi persona interessata a leggere in italiano ai residenti di una casa di riposo. 

Dopo aver letto per anni libri italiani alle mie bambine, temevo davvero che la mia carriera di lettrice “a voce alta” fosse finita. Invece no! Ogni lunedì ci ritroviamo nel nostro salottino/biblioteca, comodamente sedute, con scialletti e copertine e ci abbandoniamo a storie di guerra e tradimento, amori e passioni, drammi e tragedie!

Queste meravigliose signore, oltre ad essere splendide ed attente ascoltatrici, hanno valigie si storie da raccontare e, puntualmente, riesco a strappare qualche ricordo. Ed e’ da qui che sorge l’idea di raccogliere questi ricordi e trascriverli. Ne parlo con la mia amica Claudia, fondatrice di Expatclic, e mi propone di scrivere un articolo per il sito.

Le mie signore sono subito entusiaste di partecipare al mio progetto ed ecco qui il risultato: QUANDO IN AUSTRALIA SI ANDAVA IN NAVE – STORIE DI DONNE MIGRANTI

Buona lettura!

 

Discovering Melbourne, one basketball court at the time

I am not a keen driver and I don’t like sport. In particular I don’t like driving at night and sitting in cold (or very hot) venues watching people chasing a ball. How did I find myself spending all my friday nights driving around unknown outer suburbs, searching for basketball courts?

It is well known that Australians love their sports so it did not come as a surprise when my little Australian girl at the age of 8 decided to join her first basketball team. At first it all seemed pretty simple. Nigel loves his sport and he was going to look after this activity, enjoying every minute of it. For me going to the games was optional. I did sporadically attend and I loved watching my little one chasing a ball and occasionally catching it. I had no particular interest in the rules of the game although I was well aware that the aim of the game was to throw the ball in the basket. The extent of my technical knowledge ended there and I liked it that way.

Basketball champions! Their smiles makes it all worth it!

Basketball champions!

When Sofia started as well my attendance grew, but not my knowledge or my enthusiasm for the game itself. If my daughters were on the court I would try to watch but when they were on the bench I didn’t hesitate to find a welcome distraction in chatting and dreaming.

All this happened on Saturday, mainly in local courts and even though, sometimes, we had to drive further away, Nigel was always at the wheel and I did not have to pay any attention to the road. I just sat back and listen to the music.

All this changed when both girls decided to play representative basketball. I had heard of this friday night competition, where venues could be as far as Geelong (another city…on the other side of the bay…over one hour away…) but I never dwelled on it. After all my girls had some italian blood and I was confident their passion for sport wouldn’t extend to friday nights nightmarish crossing of town competitions.

As it often sometimes happens, I was wrong. They did want to play, they loved basketball, they wanted more and more. It was very simple, I had to be a good mother and step out of my comfort zone, I had to drive to unknown places at night. My basketball honey moon period was over, it was time to get serious.

Although I consider myself a pretty adaptable human being, it did take me a few seasons to adapt to my new condition but then, all of a sudden, last year, I found myself looking forward to the beginning of the season. At first I dismissed the feeling. What was I thinking? Long dark roads, wrong turns, panicked phone calls, cold stadiums…did I forget all that? But the closer we got the more excited I became.

Sof had grown into an excellent navigator, and the gps in my phone helped a lot. We still occasionally got lost, but we always allowed plenty of time for unwanted detours and, generally, we arrived to the games on time. In fact I almost enjoyed the challenge of getting somewhere far and obscure. I had learned to dress appropriately to face the arctic temperatures of some courts and to appreciate the coolness of the rare air conditioned ones, in the hot summer nights.

Once again, once I stopped fighting, I had adjusted!

What I did was look at the wider picture. Let’s face it, basketball was never going to do it! I had to dig a little deeper to be able to find pleasure in the experience.

Because Melbourne is so vast, every suburb has a distinctive character. I have enjoyed getting to a basketball court and finding myself in a different world.

On the road again. Week-end bb tournament, finally a bit of day driving!

On the road again. Week-end bb tournament, finally a bit of day driving!

Driving east, through tree lined boulevards and big victorian mansions I walk through the door and find myself surrounded by blond, tall people, wearing classy casual clothes and drinking bottled water.  A true middle class, white, Anglo-Saxon environment and it is here that I really feel like a foreigner.

Crossing the West Gate bridge we drive through big empty roads, bordered by dark factories and smoke spitting chimneys. The west is the industrial part of Melbourne and even if, somewhere out there, I know there are lovely sandy beaches, I don’t see them and I am left with the awkward feeling of being a long way from home. The stadiums are somehow more cheerful, people are louder and more boisterous. I spot ugg boots and tracksuit pants and I smell hot dogs and chips. I feel hungry and on some occasions, I surrender to temptation!

When we head north I feel more at home as I have spent most of my Melbourne life around here. The roads are familiar and I generally know where I am going, which is certainly a bonus. I like the multicultural feel in the stadiums, the accents and the diversity that makes this world less alien to me.

I analyse and observe people, I embrace different worlds, I experience stadium’s cuisine and I develop my driving skills. No wonder I haven’t had time to grasp the rules of the game and learn to score. There is more to my friday nights then basketball!

 

 

Cultural drinking

My first encounter with a group of rowdy Australians was on the ferry from Ancona to Patras in 1987. In those days my knowledge of Australian culture was inexistent and the three days spent on the deck of the ferry opened my eyes to a world of a group culture I admired and feared. Unruly games, unintelligible jokes, exuberant songs all topped with lots and lots of beer and other alcoholic concoctions. My friend and I watched from the outside but we found ourselves being drawn to this wild, new world and before we new it, we were in it. A gentle soul took us under his wing and became our educator, explaining to us, in very simple english, how Australians loved groups and drinking.

Since I started this blog I have being wanting to write about the drinking culture in Australia. The different approach to drinking definitely classifies as one of the more obvious cultural differences between Italy and Australia but I have been concerned about sounding too critical or condescending in expressing my views.

My family (and possibly my friends too) roll their eyes whenever the subject comes up and I have to admit that I have a tendency to rant about it for a little too long. So this is why I approach this subject with a bit of apprehension and I hope I will do it justice.

That ferry trip came to my mind this morning and it forced me to see the matter with different eyes. The eyes of a 22 years old, discovering a brand new world, where drinking beer meant, beside vomiting off the deck for hours and snogging strangers, a shared experience and an undeniable, if a bit superficial, sense of belonging.

Australians love to identify themselves with their passion for drinking. When I say that I don’t drink people look confused and sometimes disappointed. I used to feel the need to justify myself but lately I just let them draw their own conclusions. I might be a recovering alcoholic or an extremist teetotaller (please grant me the use of this word, ever since I’ve heard it I have been wanting to put it in a written sentence, I wouldn’t dare to pronounce  it though 😉 ), whatever they think I hope it will envelop me in an air of mystery!

The first time Nigel came to Italy we went out to a bar with a group of friends and ordered a beer. Yes…that was it…one beer. Nigel sat patiently waiting for the next round but it never came. We don’t do “rounds” in Italy.

My mum finds this love a beer quite endearing and she never fails to buy a couple of bottles whenever Nigel’s visit. I guess is her way of making him feel at home!

Last year Julia turned 18 and the first thing she did was going to the bottle shop to buy a bottle of champagne. She wanted to have the thrill of buying alcohol legally! She was a bit disappointed because she wasn’t asked for her id.

Growing up in a country where there was never any prohibition I struggle to understand her excitement. We did get drunk at parties but we didn’t have to sneak alcohol hidden in paper bags. 

Drinking is part of every celebration at the end of high school, being the celebration in the morning, afternoon or evening and after exams there is a whole week of “schoolies” when kids go away to a party and, of course, drink.

The first week of university, orientation week, is spent going to barbecues and drinking, on campus, while subscribing to different clubs where you will be able to get, amongst other things, cheap drinks.

I remember women talking dreamily about the glass of wine they will drink when they got home after our morning playgroup meetings and parents laughing amiably at their children’s 18th birthday speeches, while they talked about the great achievement of finally being able to get thrashed in pubs.

It is not uncommon to see people walking with big slabs of beer on their way to a barbecue or a picnic in the park.

From the age of 16 kids find ways to have fake IDs so they can go to pubs and clubs. Most parents know it and give their blessing. I’d like to think that some of these kids want to go to pubs and clubs to listen to bands and dance, not drink. But they can’t do it legally. 

As a 22 years old, Australians and their drinking culture might have had a certain appeal but as an adult I fail to comprehend a society that put such strong rules on drinking for minors while accepting, and on occasions even glorifying, drinking in adults. 

I conclude by saying that this is not a post about “in Italy is better because we do things different”, in fact I am not sure that, having a very different approach to alcohol, the situation is actually better in Italy. In fact I hear the problem of youth drinking is growing. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nanny state – Stato tata

In Australia si vive bene. La vita e’ tranquilla, ci si sente sicuri e c’e’ spazio per tutti. Questo e’ risaputo. Ma forse non tutti sanno che parte di questa sicurezza e tranquillità ci viene “imposta” con una serie di regole e regolamenti, leggi e divieti che a volte hanno davvero dell’esagerato e, in alcuni casi, del ridicolo!

E’ opera del “Nanny State”, lo “Stato Tata”, che si prende cura dei suoi cittadini come fossero bambini irresponsabili, avvolgendoli nella bambagia e proteggendoli contro ogni pericolo, attuale o eventuale.

L’Australia e’ l’unico paese, insieme alla Nuova Zelanda, in cui e’ obbligatorio mettere il casco per andare in bicicletta. Anche solo per andare nel negozio in fondo alla strada, con la mia biciclettina da città, con la spesa nel cestino e velocità di poco superiore alla camminata, devo mettermi il casco. Da buona italiana ho provato a ignorare la legge. Fermata dalla polizia e rimproverata per la mia irresponsabilità! Le mie figlie mi avevano già sgridato e mi hanno detto che me lo meritavo. Niente multa per questa volta, ma la prossima volta $57!

Per questo il servizio di Bike Sharing in uso in tutte le città europee e’ fallito a Melbourne. Non molti turisti viaggiano con il casco nella valigia!

Pedoni: marciapiede chiuso, usare l'altro marciapiede

Pedoni: marciapiede chiuso, usare l’altro marciapiede

Da un paio di giorni stanno sostituendo le tubature del gas nella nostra via. Questa mattina il marciapiede davanti a casa era chiuso per questi lavori e un segnale suggeriva ai pedoni di usare il marciapiede dall’altra parte della strada. Io dovevo fare circa 50 metri, la strada e’ molto tranquilla e ho pensato di non attraversare ma passare al lato del marciapiede. C’erano ben due persone incaricate a fermare i pedoni “ribelli”! Una signora in divisa e’ venuta gentilmente a dirmi che dovevo passare sull’altro marciapiede e poi attraversare al semaforo! Nel caso non mi fosse ancora chiaro il concetto, al semaforo c’era un altro lavorante pronto a dirigermi sulla retta via! Tornata a casa ho raccontato a mia figlia che mi ha guardato stupita e mi ha detto: Ma se quella e’ la regola!

Ha ragione ed e’ proprio qui che io, dopo anni di vita a Melbourne, mi sento ancora un pesce fuor d’acqua. Perché le regole sono fatte per essere infrante…o no?

No, qui no. Le regole sono seguite ed e’ forse anche per questo che l’Australia rimane per tanti un paese di sogno. Ma a volte mi dico se in questo modo i cittadini/bambini impareranno mai a prendersi le proprie responsabilità? Se lo stato decide continuamente cosa e’ meglio per noi quando avremo la possibilità di fare quegli errori che aiutano a crescere?

 

 

My journey through school – first step, primary school

Here we start!

Here we start!

Julia is about to close a big chapter of her life, her last year of school is almost over. As we are getting closer to the end, I find myself thinking about these years and my journey through the Australian school system. A journey not always easy and at times foreign and unfamiliar but, ultimately, a journey that left me feeling very positive about my daughter’s education.

My journey started at playgroup, when Julia was barely one year old and the conversation between mothers went to what school to choose and…waiting lists! It was one of those “fish out of water” moments that often happens in the life of us migrants and I sat there feeling confused and slightly inadequate.

This is the first big difference between the Italian and the Australian school system. Particularly at a secondary level, parents often choose to send their children to a private school.  Paying to get an education sounded weird enough to me, but paying to be on a waiting list from the age of one was just beyond belief! I decided that day that I was never sending my daughter to a private school and started my “public school” campaign with Nigel who soon turned the corner and became the first in his family to send his children to a public high school!

Area 2

Area 2

Julia’s primary school was local and a bit alternative, it looked like fun and at the age of five, fun seemed pretty important.

I was used to a very different environment and approach. Classrooms, desks with set places, teachers behind a desk, books and daily homework. Spensley Street Primary school had no classrooms but “areas”, desks were used only for special projects, kids usually sat on the floor, no text books and absolutely no homework. Of course I had my moments of discouragement, asking myself if in this environment my daughter was ever going to learn to read, let alone doing anything else vaguely academic. She certainly loved going to school, where she dressed up, talked about her favourite teddy bear in front of a group of attentive pupils and painted fabulous pictures with her fingers. When I asked the teacher when she was going to start reading, she was now in grade 2, the teacher told me not to worry, she was taking all the right steps in that direction and she would get there in her own time. I must admit I wasn’t reassured, seen that some of her friends where going through the first Harry Potter book while Julia had absolutely no interest in putting more then three words together!

Different ways of learning, using floor or desks!

Different ways of learning, using floor or desks!

Needless to say I was wrong and, yes, the teacher was right. She took her time but Julia did learn to read and developed a passion for books and learning in general.

The way of learning is certainly very different to what I was used to. In primary school there are no specific subjects, no history or geography and even maths seemed to be taught in a very “practical” way. I never heard my girls reciting the times tables like I used to do, but somehow they appear to have learned them. There isn’t much memorising involved in the australian system, the learning is done in a more “organic” way, kids are getting there through their own path. It does sound like a lovely way to learn and still I spent years worrying about my girls path to learning. Could they actually become responsible adults without having learned the structure of the Greek city-states???

End of primary school assembly

End of primary school assembly

As we are approaching the end of her school years I am very pleased with what Spensley St Primary school taught Julia. The move to high school went smoothly and she took with her the skills she learned to help her settle in a more structured environment. High school has been another journey, but I will have to write about that some other time!

 

 

 

Life in the world’s most liveable city

IMG_2049

City life

For those who haven’t heard, Melbourne has been voted the World’s Most Liveable city by the Economist, for the fourth year in a row.
I wasn’t going to write about it as, in the past few days, it has been everywhere and perhaps everything has been said. In fact, it is impossible not to have an opinion. Today I was thinking about my life here and, I have to admit, I do feel pretty lucky. Melbourne is definitely a very liveable city.

Life in Melbourne is easy. People are generally happy and, on the surface, very friendly. It is not unusual to have a conversation with a total stranger when I walk the dog and shop assistants are, mostly, very helpful and polite. The streets are clean, they feel safe and the traffic is not bad if you compare it to the rest of the world. When you walk around you don’t see much poverty, there are very few beggars and the buildings are well looked after. There are good schools, good hospitals and good all around services.

Inner city street

Inner city street

My favourite thing about Melbourne is the strong sense of community. Even thought it is a very big city I have found that suburbs can have their own individual “village” feel. I guess in my case it started when I had children. In Italy people don’t tend to move a lot and they have  families nearby to provide the support they need. Here a lot of people, like me, has no family around. This is where play groups, kindergartens and schools offer an opportunity to create your own support network. Over the years I have had the previlege to experience the community getting together to support people in need and I have found it extremely powerful and reassuring.

Melbourne nights

Melbourne nights

I live inner city, in a middle class suburb, where people have enough money to own their houses and do big renovations. The local state schools are full of parents wanting to help, they organise fund raising and help with maths and reading. Our kids have access to a lot of resources that kids in poorer, outer suburbs can only dream of. We have a good public transport system, we can get to the city by tram, train and even bus. But Melbourne still doesn’t have a train that goes to the airport and a lot of outer suburbs have to rely on cars to move around.

I have access to good doctors and never have to wait for more then a week if I need to see a specialist. I work for an organisation who supports women who are trying to sort out their life. One of the women I work with has been trying to access some drug and alcohol counselling for the past few months. She is desperately trying to get her life together. The waiting list for rehab is almost a year. The only counsellor we could find can see her every second week, if she is lucky to get a spot, there is no way of booking an appointment. More fundings have been cut.

I doubt she feels like she is living in the world’s most liveable city.

Life in Melbourne is easy. I sometimes feel like I live under a glass bell, everything is beautiful and safe in my world but when I walk outside I realise that, perhaps, there is a dark side even in the world’s most liveable city.

 

 

 

 

In Australia, at last!

Moving on

Moving on

At the beginning of the year I started visiting the guests of a nursing home. They are all italians and I go there once a week to read to them and chat.

For the first few months the residents lived in a small home where the staff was mostly italian and the food was only italian. Whenever I walked in I was enveloped by a comforting smell and it was like walking into my grandmother’s house. It wasn’t a fancy place, the furniture was old fashioned and all the tables had tablecloths on. The home was in a quite pocket of an inner city suburb, not far from where I live.

Most of the residents came to Australia after the war. They travelled by boat, some of them with their families, others by themselves, many are women who did the long trip with their small children. They all left loved ones, familiar places and everything they knew to come to the other side of the world. They didn’t know anything about the country that would be their home but they were brave and adventurous and when they tell me the story of their trip they laugh and make it sound easy, as if it wasn’t a big deal.

I can’t even imagine what they must have felt. Most of them had never been outside their home town, most of them had never even thought there was a world outside their home town. They arrived and started their new life, settled in their new houses, had children, met the neighbours, found a job. They created a community where they were comfortable and they could spend the rest of their life in.

A few years ago they moved to the nursing home. One last move, they thought. It was scary but they soon felt at home, their families are nearby and they drop in all the time, they made new friends and decorated their rooms with the memories of a life time.

Then the news came that the home was closing down. The residents would be moved to a new place. A brand new building, five storey high, not far but on a busy road.

The weeks before the move were very hard. The atmosphere had changed, often I met with only a handful of residents as the rest preferred to sit in their rooms, thinking, praying, crying. There was a lot of sadness and fear of the unknown. The biggest worries were to do with food. Not enough, not good enough, not italian enough!

But the day came and their new adventure began.

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With some of my nonnini

This time the home was not an “all italian” place and they were not happy. And, as predicted, the food was a big big problem. Sandwiches for lunch??? No oil or salt on the vegetables?? Tasteless meat drowned in salty gravy?? This was all too hard to digest!

Of course they took it all in their stride. They are such resilient, wonderful people, they couldn’t let another change get in their way. We  laugh a lot about australians and their cuisine, or lack of. It has become our favourite pastime, forget about the news of the world!

They are adjusting to life in their new home and, after 50 years, they are finally in Australia!