Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Immigration (part 1): Asylum seekers/refugees in Australia (the facts)

Well dudes, I'm back from exams and I thought it'd be fun to do a bit of a series on immigration and the process of becoming residents/citizens of Australia for the next couple of weeks. If you have any questions you'd like me to answer, leave them in the comments!

Disclaimer: If my information is inaccurate, let me know. I'll include all my sources at the end of the post. I'll try to remain as unbiased and factual as possible, but this is something I feel extremely strong about so little pieces of bias may slip in here and there. Finally, I'll be focussing mostly on asylum seekers and refugees relating to Australia. Obviously this topic can be applied to almost any country in the world but I'm not a professor and don't have all the time in the world to cover everything. Let me know in the comments how this works in your country. 


So kinda ever since I've moved to Australia I've been interested in the topic of asylum seekers and refugees, mostly because it's such a controversial topic, world-wide and especially in Australia. If you hang around the Aussies for long enough, you'll eventually hear of the "boat people" and get many, many (many) differing views on them. In tenth grade I even did an assignment on them for my religion class (and got a pretty decent mark for it as well, I might add). So here we go! Hopefully I'll cover anything you could have wanted to know about asylum seekers in Australia. 

Just so we're all clear, an asylum seeker is someone who is seeking to be recognised as a refugee, while a refugee has already been given the status of a refugee by the government. Asylum seekers and refugees can leave their country because of religious, racial or political persecution, as well as due to conflict or natural disaster (such as flood, famine, drought, etc). Asylum seekers and refugees are not the same thing, although they are both leaving their countries for similar reasons. 

Seeking asylum from persecution is a human right under the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (Article 14). You can be denied asylum if you've committed a war crime, a crime against humanity or other non-political crimes, and any refugee has the obligation to conform to the laws and regulations of the country that has granted them asylum.

*wipes forehead* Now that we've got the definitions out of the way, let's move on. Australia's history with asylum seekers and refugees has been a long and controversial one. We've had massive waves of immigrants, mostly from Europe, and if you know your history you'll know that most first white Australians (Aboriginals being the first Australians) were Irish convicts. Other immigrants came of their own free will for a better life. But these immigrants weren't refugees/asylum seekers

In 1954, Australia agreed to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which states that seeking asylum is a human right. From about the 1970s to mid-1980s, Australia actually had a pretty good policy regarding asylum seekers and refugees. English lessons became a right for refugees, there was an orientation process, translation and interpretation services as well as other programs and services. In 1986 we even celebrated our first Refugee Week. 

From there, policies became harsher. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Tiananmen Square massacre, there was a massive increase of refugees flooding into Australia. New policies allowed the deportation of "illegal entrants", as well as reserving the right to force the asylum seekers to pay for the cost of their detention, processing and/or deportation. In 1992, non-citizens who arrived to Australia without a visa could be legally detained for up to 273 days, a limit that was later removed. Five years later, the government handed management of detention centres to private companies. Programs were still being offered, such as English tuition, trauma and torture counselling and help with accommodation. 

But that's all ancient history. Most frequently, for about the last twenty years people have tried to enter Australia by setting out, often from Indonesia, in cramped, unseaworthy boats. The Australian government created a policy giving them the power to turn back any of these boats by "any reasonable force" and deny anyone on these boats the right to apply for asylum. Then we've got the Pacific Solution. The policy states that any asylum seekers arriving in Australia without a visa are to be sent to an off-shore detention centre in the Pacific Islands. 

Early October, 2001. Australian government officials claimed asylum seekers had thrown their children overboard in an attempt to gain access to Australia, and released several images "proving" this. It was later discovered these pictures had been taken while the asylum seekers were being rescued from their sinking boat. 


Mid-October, 2001. A boat sinks between Indonesia and Australia. 146 children, 142 women and 65 men drown. The 44 survivors were rescued and returned to Indonesia after about 24 hours in the ocean. Many of the dead women and children were attempting to be reunited with their husbands and fathers in Australia. 

2002. The United Nations releases a report condemning Australia's detention centres, and two years later another report was released, detailing the mental illness children were suffering due to long periods of detention. 

August, 2004. The Australian High Court decided asylum seekers could be held in detention indefinitely, and "that harsh detention conditions were not unlawful." 

February, 2008. The Pacific Solution ends and the detention centres on various Pacific Islands are closed. 

September, 2009. Asylum seekers are no longer required to pay for their time spent in detention (about $100 a day). Remember some asylum seekers could be held for anywhere between a week and five years. 

December, 2010. Roughly 50 asylum seekers drown in an attempt to reach Australia. 

August, 2012. Australia increases its refugee allowance to 20,000 places per year. 

July, 2013. Asylum seekers are processed off-shore and if found to be genuine refugees, they are resettled in Papua New Guinea. A peaceful protest in one of the detention centres collapsed into a riot. 

December, 2013. A new policy makes it almost impossible for asylum seekers arriving by boat to be recognised as refugees. 

September, 2015. Australia grants an additional 12,000 places for refugees due to the Syrian and Iraqi crisis. 

April, 2016. The last of the children leave detention centres. 

2016-2017. Australia has a minimum of 13,750 places for refugees. This number is only for people who arrive "lawfully" in Australia (not illegally by boat, airplane or people transferred to off-shore detention centres). 

Obviously that's a lot of information. Basically, Australia's policy is to detain asylum seekers off-shore and turn back any boats that are attempting to reach Australia. Australia is the only country in the world with mandatory detention and off-shore processing. 

That disgusts me, but that's another post for another day.

What's the asylum seeker policy like where you live? Do you have any questions you'd like to see covered in the next few weeks? Let me know in the comments!

Sources:

United Nations, 2015, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, viewed 16th of June 2017, http://www.un.org/en/udhrbook/pdf/udhr_booklet_en_web.pdf 

United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, 1951, Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, viewed 16th June 2017, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/StatusOfRefugees.aspx 

Refugee Council of Australia, 2016, Timeline, viewed 16 June 2017, http://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/getfacts/timeline/

Australian Government, 2016, Australian's Humanitarian Programme 2016-2017, viewed 16 June 2017, https://www.border.gov.au/ReportsandPublications/Documents/discussion-papers/discussion-paper-humanitarian-programme_2016-17.pdf

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Tiger stripes

I'm sitting with my knees pulled up to my chest, my toes cold and my fingers hidden in my old high school sweater. Beside me sits my friends on a worn wooden bench, lined up in a neat row like duckling but of course we're not ducklings anymore. Our downy feathers are almost all gone. 


My hair smells of conditioner and smoke, perfume and dog. It's an odd combination but I like it, like the way it smells of me and something less than me and more than me all at the same time. I laugh at someone's stupid joke and attempt to grab another brownie, but it flops in my fingers and some of it lands on my leg. It's supposed to be healthy, chickpeas and zucchini and walnuts and cocoa. Sugar-free. It certainly tastes healthy, and I adore them. 

There's five of us altogether. There used to be more of us, but time and distance has taken care of that. We're gathered around the bonfire, the last dancing embers of the flames settling into the crisp wood. Marigold and tiger stripes, bronze and pumpkin. Apparently, it was an impressive fire three hours ago but now it more resembles a sleeping dragon, something you dare each other to awaken but no one has the guts to step into its den. 

We sit and talk. From the outside, it doesn't look special. It certainly doesn't appear exciting, and it isn't. Not really. We talk about boyfriends and university, living away from home and anatomy, of part-time jobs and TV shows, of politics and shooting stars. One of my friends swears she'll get me a boyfriend, and I agree as long as he can hold an intelligent conversation and give me free food and books, because what's the point of a boyfriend if he doesn't give you free books? We plan get-togethers and reminisce about teachers from high school, lay tentative plans for bike rides and camping trips and complain about university and exams. 

Then someone points out the stars. We're all silent for a moment as we crane our necks to the Australian skies, the smoke from the campfire obscuring our view when the wind changes. We're out in the country so there's no light pollution, and the result is spectacular. Dots of light from heaven poke tiny holes through the obsidian canvas of the night, and the occasional satellite blinks with a reassuring certainty as it treks through the unknown. I want to run my fingers through it, watch it ripple like the surface of a silver dragonfly pool, the stars my constant reminder of who I am and why I'm here. 

My friends are eventually distracted by a joke or a story or a remark, who knows what, but I keep staring. A streak of light flashes across the sky, then disappears. I cry out, more excited than I should be. A shooting star. Desperately, I try to think of something to wish for, and when my mind lands on what I want, what I really want, I stop and wish long and hard for it because what else do you do when you're surrounded by your friends and you see a shooting star? 

I'm pulled back to the present as someone makes a joke about one of us turning twenty. We're all quiet as we digest this. Twenty. We shouldn't be twenty, nineteen, eighteen. I am still seven years old, strawberry-blonde hair and dreams like a honey sunset that slips between your fingers, a splash of freckles and self-confidence like a shattered, bleached skull placed under too much pressure. Butterflies and dresses and old books that stain your fingers with stories the colour of rust, that's who I am. 

But the truth is, I'm not like that anymore. And neither are my friends. We are all of that and less, and so much more all at once. We are ready to plunge into the unknown rabbit hole of being adults, terrified it means leaving each other behind. But for tonight, for right now, we are here. We joke and tell stories, eat chips and grapes and sugar-free brownies, fill our lungs with the charcoal smoke and laugh under the stars, and there's no place I'd rather be than right here, right now. 

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Snippets!

To be honest, I'm so excited about this book. It combines my love of Disney and jiu jitsu and hanging out with little kids and hating physics homework and Star Wars and red rubber boots and long boarding and my little Australian town. It also talks about cancer and death and when words fail and I just love it to pieces. I've been working on it since my gap year, and I haven't had a lot of time to edit it in the past few weeks but I'm excited to start up again sometime. 

Background: The following snippet is from Stella's point of view, who's five years old. Tyler is her best friend, and Xavier is Tyler's best friend, who's in the hospital getting chemo.




***

We visited Xavier in the hospital a few weeks before he was supposed to finish his medicine. He mostly just looked really tired and unhappy. I'd brought the letter from Tabitha with me, and I had also brought a drawing that I'd done in class to make him feel better. It had bubbles and people inside the bubbles, and trees and rainbows and a giant tree and lots and lots of flowers. I'd even drawn in Rapunzel's tower from Tangled

"Hey Stella," Xavier said, and he gave me a tired smile. It looked like the one Mum gave me after she'd spent all day working and was really tired because Baby #2 was heavy and kept jumping on her bladder, which she kept complaining about. 


"Hi Xavier." I stepped around Tyler and crawled up onto the bed Xavier was lying in, even though there wasn't a lot of room. He had tubes in his arm which I tried to avoid because I didn't know how they put a tube in his arm, and as I tried to think about it I realized that it must have really hurt. "I drew you a picture." 


Tyler grabbed it from his backpack and passed it to me, then I gave it to Xavier. "See? Those are bubbles and there are people inside the bubbles, see, that's me and that's you and that's Tyler. Then those are the trees and Rapunzel's tower and the rainbows and flowers..." I trailed off, because I'd just realized that the drawing wasn't very good at all and I shouldn't have given Xavier something that wasn't very good. He was sick, after all. I shouldn't give sick people things that weren't very good. But he just smiled and high-fived me. 


"Thank you Stella, it's beautiful."


"Shall I?" Tyler asked, and I turned around to see that he had a roll of tape in his hands. He pulled it really hard and it made a weird shhhhlerck sound, then he bit one end of it and a giant piece of tape came away from the roll. 


"What?" I asked, but Xavier gave him a thumbs-up and Tyler grabbed my picture and taped it to the wall, and we all stared at it for a second and I hoped they liked it, especially Xavier because the wall was boring and plain and made me sad so it must make Xavier sad too. They both clapped, and I joined them after a moment even though I wasn't really sure if I should be clapping too. 


"How are you feeling?" I asked Xavier. That was what you did in hospitals. You asked how people were feeling.


"I'm alright. They have some pretty serious painkillers and stuff in the meds they're giving me."


"Is the medicine going to make you better?"


Then the boys exchanged a look and I didn't know what it meant, but then Xavier just gave me another tired smile that I hated. "Yep. Now how was school?"


I told him everything and I just couldn't stop talking. I fiddled with my glasses as I told him all about Bailey my friend and Ms Jones the nice teacher who wore bracelets on her ankles and who was really nice and smart, but then again all adults were smart. I told him about how we did lots and lots of crafts and it was really fun, but I didn't tell him about Luke or how we were learning our ABCs because Bailey and some other kids in my class knew them and I didn't and I didn't want the boys to know because they'd be sad. 


Tyler finally picked me up off the bed and set me on the floor on the other side of the room, then pulled a colouring book out of his backpack. "Here, Xavier and I are going to talk for a little bit. Here are some coloured pencils. Colour whatever you want." I settled in the chair and flipped through the book, noticing with a grin that they were all Disney princesses. There were a whole five pages with Rapunzel and Flynn and Pastel the chameleon and Maximus the horse. I wanted to do all the Rapunzel ones first. 


Tyler went and sat down on the chair next to Xavier's bed, and I listened while they talked. It was pretty hard to listen and draw at the same time, but I wanted to hear what they were saying. It sounded like a grown-up conversation, and now I could finally listen in. 


"How're you doing?" Tyler asked. I decided to start with Rapunzel's hair, then her purple dress. 


"Fine."


"Can I get anything for you?"


"Not really."


"A drink, or-"


"Dude, your bedside manners suck."


"I'm aware of that, thanks for the kind reminder. Can you just write it on my forehead or something so I don't forget it? Seriously though, if you need anything then I'm here," said Tyler. I frowned as I searched through the coloured pencils. There wasn't the right kind of purple for her dress. I'd have to choose a different colour. 





"I'm surprised you didn't bring any homework for me."


"I actually have a stack in the car, but thought I'd leave it there because homework sucks and I wasn't going to let you share in that suckage."


"Which isn't a word."


"It totally is. Look it up."


"You passed English how?"


"I think the teacher cheated a little. She just can't withstand my irresistible charms." They both laughed, but I wasn't sure what was so funny.


"Didn't she used to be a nun or something?"


"Yeah, in like 1826. You're so lucky you've never had her, she likes to bring it up every other sentence. And Macbeth's ambitious hamartia reminds me of the time when I met a young man who came into the convent, for I was a nun you see, and he tried to steal the candlesticks!" Tyler's voice went high and silly like in a cartoon, and both Xavier and I laughed but then Xavier frowned right after and tried to stop laughing. 


"Sorry, it just hurts a little to laugh."


"Oh, sorry, I'll stop."


"Hey, can you pop by my house and say hi to Amelia?"


"I thought my restraining order prevented that?"


I imaged Xavier rolling his eyes, because he did that quite a bit. I tried to do it too, but then Mum got upset with me. "Ha. Ha. Ha. Seriously though, she'll appreciate it. She does every time and it just sucks that she's alone right now." 


"Anything you want, anything you want."


Then we all went really quiet for a few seconds, and Tyler decided it was time to go even though I'd only coloured in Rapunzel's hair and her dress and hadn't gotten to the tower yet.


"See ya, Xavier," Tyler said. 


"Bye Xavier!" I said, then ran and gave him a hug. He hugged me back, then Tyler towed me out and we left him there, looking very alone and sad. Dear Lord Jesus, I prayed in my head, which was hard because I couldn't close my eyes or fold my hands while walking down the hall with Tyler. Please make Xavier better. I don't like seeing him so sad. 


Tell me about your projects in the comments! 

(P.S. I shall also be hiatus-ing from posting for the next two weeks due to exams, but hopefully *fingers crossed* I'll get around to catching up on all your posts I've missed.)

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Homesickness in the form of rhubarb pie (a poem)

So I was going to write this really epic post about asylum seekers in Australia for today. It was going to be super well researched and professional-ly, probably with the proper margins and font size and Harvard referencing and the whole shebang. Then I looked up and it was 11:00pm, I had just finished my homework and I still had no blog post written. Hence, I've decided to grace you all with one of my poems I wrote last year when I was visiting Canada. (I am not responsible for any injuries that result to your brain and/or eyeballs from your choice to read the following poetry. I am not a poet. You have been warned.)



The Clouds were Rhubarb and 
Strawberry Cream a Careless Chef 
had Dripped onto the Tile

saskatoon berries
lukewarm tea
cousins
canoes
picnic bench
slivers
pie crust
laugher
canadian geese
fold-up chairs 
relax
plastic spoons
moss
corn-on-the-cob
oversized sweatshirts
smiles
mosquitoes
photos
pine needles
crumbling trailer
family

home

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

In defence of female protagonists

If you've read/read about young adult books in any way shape or form, you're probably familiar with the fact that there are more female protagonists than male protags. According to this random website I found (points for research skills there), 65% of characters in YA books are female, 22% are male and the remaining 13% is shared. Just by looking over my library, I can see that there's way more female protags than males. 

Why is this? 

Not a real human skull, btw. My fabulous brother 3D printed it.

I believe it's because publishers believe more girls read YA than boys (who are off reading sci-fi or non-fiction or manuals whatever), and thus more books are targeted at teenage girls. It makes sense, right? People like to read about people like them, so more books have girls as main characters. (It's the same reason there's such a huge push for books with diverse characters at the moment. It's such a powerful thing to see yourself represented in media, and can be quite damaging when you're not or when you're wrongly represented. But that's a discussion for another day. (It's also why I like Spider-Man so much. I finally get to see my level of awesome on-screen.))

In response to this, there's been quite a backlash across the Internet. We're tired of female main characters, we need more boy books, we need more variety. All the female protags have the same voice, let's do something different! 

I have issues with this. 

First of all, I don't have a problem with male protagonists. I love reading them actually, because it's good to get into someone else's head. The writing style is usually quite different, and the stories end up being very different to stories by female MCs. 

I do, however, have issues with some of the reasons why people want male protagonists or why we have so many female MCs in the first place, or even over the fact that people don't like the fact that there are more female protags than male. But honestly? I think we're all just over-reacting. 

Let's get this straight right off the bat. Boys will read books with female main characters. The end. No arguments. Boys might not read books aimed at girls, which often have female protagonists by the way, which is fine. I don't usually like to read those either. But boys will read stories with female protagonists. To say anything else is to insult and stereotype boys, something I'm not interested in. 

That's also what annoys me about why we have so many female main characters in the first place. Why do publishers think girls will only read about girls? It's the same thing as assuming boys will only read boy books. People are intelligent and open-minded for the most part, especially if they're bothering to pick up a book. Give us some credit. 

Now for the controversial part of my post. I think we're just over-reacting. Look, teenage girls, proactive, strong, independent teenage girls, are so underrepresented in the media. It's ridiculous. Most of the positive teenage girl representation is in book-to-movie adaptations (The Hunger Games anyone?). Most other films/advertisements/TV shows/whatever show teenage girls as shallow and stupid, people who drain their daddy's bank account and get way too obsessed with makeup and boys. I'm not saying those girls don't exist. I'm saying they're not everyone. 

What's wrong with having better representation? Maybe so many girls read YA because that's the only place they can find someone like them having adventures and actually doing stuff. We should stop freaking out over the fact that there are more female main characters and just enjoy the fact that for the first time ever we have a half-decent representation of an often marginalised group of society. What's even better is that people of other diverse groups (for example, people of colour) are getting onto the page as well. Honestly, how often are independent, three-dimensional Chinese-American teenage girls represented in the media? (Answer: not often enough, but there's more than there used to be.)

Let it go, people. Enjoy a small victory. Yes, there are issues with the inundation of female protagonists in young adult fiction. No, we don't need to panic. 

Do you prefer male or female main characters? Do you think there needs to be such a controversy around this? 

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Good days

Lately good days have been hard to find. I have my ups and downs, my slants and my drops but for the most part they're few and far between. But today? Today's different. 

My darling sister brought me back watercolour
pencils from Canada. I have no idea how to use them.

I wake up at 7:00am, as usual. It's Saturday but I have to go to work, and I've discovered a long time ago that it's better to wake up earlier than have an extra hour of sleep and be rushing out the door. I eat breakfast (a bowl of frozen fruit with milk) while I listen to my crime podcast, Generation Why. The theories and evidence flies, all real cases, all real people. I am riveted, my mind sunk deep into the pools and twisting rabbit holes the case presents. 

At work, I force myself to stay awake and focus on the customers the best I can. I find that if I pretend to be happy, that's usually what I become. A customer catches me glancing too long in the mirror, yawning, and asks if I had a late night. I was making sure I still looked human. I laugh, a sort of hysterical, strangled laugh, and reply that I've had many late nights. My eyes are rimmed with streaks of boysenberry and I feel swollen, slow, stupid. But still I smile, and somehow I stay happy. 

When I get home, the first thing I do is slide my headphones back over my ears and finish my podcast, then grab my art book and pencils. The rest of the world fades and is replaced with appeals and accusations, cotton candy and cobalt, false evidence and trials, and for a moment I fade away too. I dissolve into the space between my watercolour pencils and the paper, into the sound waves winding through my ear canals. It feels nice to fade every once and a while. Becoming as watery as my drawing is less painful than the sharp edges and unoiled hinges of reality. 

In the evening, after I've done my homework, I join my family as we lay on Mom and Dad's bed. We laugh and discuss dumb movies, eat halva, take selfies, laugh. I curl up and listen, too happy that we're all together for once to say much. I like hearing my sister's voice, my dad's laugh. They've been gone for a month while they visited Canada, and I've missed lying on Dad's soft stomach while we play board games, missed watching obscure movies with my sister. They've been gone for too long, and now that we're all here I don't want it to end. This isn't reality, this is me faded. And it feels nice. 

For once, this is a good day. 

How often do you have good days? What are your good days like?

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Why Appreciate an Artist Week is kinda (sorta (definitely)) cool

In case you've been living under a rock and aren't reading the Internet's #1 most popular Canadian/Australian teen book blog about all things nerdy (which in that case what are you doing with your life?), about two years ago I started a thing called Appreciate an Artist Week. Basically you appreciate an artist during that week. (Raise of hands, who saw that one coming?) (I may possibly be the only person who's ever actually taken part in this international holiday week thingy, but I choose to remain optimistic.)


In the past, I've written to Owl City (one of my favourite musicians/bands/music person thingy) and Patrick Ness, one of my new favourite authors. I've never expected anything in return, of course. The whole point of this exercise is to take a moment to thank the people who have improved my life through their art. Art has majorly influenced my life for the better and I wanted to take a moment to say thank you to the people who I've never properly thanked. (Hence Appreciate an Artist Week.) 

A few weeks ago, I got a letter in the mail. It was from London, which I thought was strange because I don't know anyone in London, but hey. Mail's cool. It had my name on it, right? I tore into it, read through the letter then jumped around the house, laughing hysterically. It was a personalised letter and signature from Patrick Ness, thanking me for my letter. 

Can we just pause and appreciate the awesomeness of this for a second? 

I didn't put a return stamp on it. I didn't ask for a signature or a letter in return. He took time out of his day to buy a stamp and write a letter and put my address on it and pop it in the mail when I didn't even ask for it. Dude. That is amazing. Because I took the time to say thanks, he took the time to say thanks back. It made my month, and to this day it is safely tucked into the front pages of my copy of A Monster Calls, a scanned copy sitting on my hard drive. That is something I'm going to treasure for the rest of my life. (Sorry, I can't post a picture of it for privacy reasons.)

So the moral of the story here is to say thanks every once and a while. You might not get a reply, but they'll probably read it. They'll listen. And it's going to feel pretty good for them too. 

Have you ever written fan mail? Have you ever gotten a reply? Have you read anything by Patrick Ness? (If the answer is no, then go forth and read something immediately.) 

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

A bit of a life update

This post comes to you in a list, because I like lists. Lists are cool. (Just like bowties are cool. *flails with all the other Doctor Who fans* 



1. I've started university. Which is weird. And fun. And hard work. And mostly weird. Can we talk about how much work engineering is? It's a lot of math and driving and sitting and studying, but it's cool to be in the same place as people like me. 

2. The newest Spider-Man trailer came out and I'm dying, it's so beautiful. (Pfff, as if I'd get through an entire post without mentioning Spider-Man. Don't be ridiculous people.)

3. I did some dog sitting! I always love dog sitting. (Hence the photo for today's post.) If you have a dog, I will be there people. It's how I make friends, I kid you not. 

4. I have done next to no writing. To be honest it's a miracle the last three posts have gotten out on time, and let's not even mention my manuscripts. It's been at least five weeks since I've even looked at them, and it's making me very sad. But what can I do? School is school. 

5. There was a flood and a cyclone but we're all good now. Basically there was a lot of people panicking for little to no reason while I sat in the corner like a weirdo and enjoyed the copious amounts of rain being dumped on our heads. 

6. I bought some fish? It was a very spur of the moment thing but already I love them half to death. I've never owned fish before so we'll see how long they last before they go belly-up. (I'm optimistic. I've managed to not kill my indoor plants so far so this is a good step up.)

How's your life been lately? Is school driving you absolutely insane? Comment below, peeps.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Rearranging your bookshelf

Eventually, we all come to a time in our lives when Spider-Man swings through the window and - wait, no. We all come to a time in our lives when the Doctor lands his TARDIS in your front yard - um, no, that's not where I was going with this. 

What was I saying again? Oh, that's right. Rearranging your bookshelf. 


I would like to officially claim the title of Queen Whose Pictures Never Match Her Posts.

I tend to avoid rearranging my bookshelf for the obvious reasons of it taking forever due to the crazy amount of books I own. Besides, it takes forever to remember where I put everything because I don't organise them like a normal person by author or alphabetically. (My method is usually hey! That goes there! And that goes there! That would look nice over there!) So I try to avoid rearranging it. 

However, eventually we all come to a time in our lives when things need to change. (Ha, got there in the end.) For me, the first time I rearranged my bookshelf was when I ran out of room and had to upgrade. The second time was when I moved to Australia, and let me tell you that was an impressive undertaking. Anywho, that again took quite a bit of time. 

There's something magical about rearranging your bookshelf, though. It's like putting the world back in place, bit by bit. It's putting a ballast on your unstable and forever-shifting life, grabbing an weight of paper and ink to anchor yourself to while the storms of life drag you every way but the direction you want to go. It's rebuilding your life, book by book by book. And it's beautiful. 

How often do you rearrange your bookshelf? Do you have any specific methods of doing so? 

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Run, it's Debbie!!!

Last week has been a little bit intense, I won't lie. It's been a few years since Cyclone Marcia has torn through my little town, leaving trees and debris and rising flood waters in her wake. This week, it's been Cyclone Debbie giving us problems. (To be honest here, I can't be afraid of anything called Debbie, hence the very sarcastic name of this post. Can you imagine? "Oh no, Debbie is coming! Run!") 

I managed to not get a single picture of the storm. *hangs head*

Luckily I'm too far south for Debbie to hit me directly, but I still suffered a little from her wrath. (If something called Debbie can have wrath, of course.) Heavy wind and rain, flooding, and a whole lot of panicking on my mom's part. The news has been stuffed with cyclone updates for days now and it's getting a bit old. I wasn't able to get into school for a couple of days due to flooding, but beyond that we didn't lose power or anything. Our frangipani tree was uprooted (again) so we had to prop it back up with a bit of spit, prayer and duct tape. 

We were extremely fortunate, thankfully. Nothing was damaged, whereas in places up north roofs were ripped off and trees are uprooted. Now, the flood waters are closing in, and apparently the town next to us is going to struggle with a 10 meter rise in the river in the next few days. Schools were closed across Queensland to protect kids and parents from the dangerous roads and weather. I haven't heard of any deaths, but people have lost their homes and possessions due to flooding. Your thoughts and prayers would be appreciated. 

I love a good cyclone, though. It's always so exciting. 

Have you ever lived through a cyclone/hurricane? Or even a bad storm? Do you enjoy lighting as much as I do? (Hint, it's a lot.) Also sorry for the random blog schedule, life's a bit crazy right now. 

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Life has shredded my word count

Hi. *takes deep breath* This post is the most writing I have done in two weeks. This is very unusual for me. 

The reason? Stuff has happened. Namely, university. (And it's great so far, by the way. Just in case you were wondering. I haven't gotten severely lost yet, which is wonderful. I might do a post next week about my experiences so far, so hang in there with the questions.) 

FYI not a tattoo, just plain old ink.

I'm beginning to remember how life can happen. And when life happens, my word count disappears into a little hole in the ground, pulls a pillow over its head and wails like a small child who's recently dropped the cone of their favourite ice cream (chocolate, by the way). (It also has a little tantrum like Anakin Skywalker when people tell him what to do. (Pick your favourite simile and go with it.))

Have you ever heard the phrase "writers write"? The point is that you are a writer if you write. The end. You don't need a fancy badge or degree or published book to be a writer, which I absolutely love. 

But can I be a writer if I'm not writing right now? 

My mind is filled with to-do lists and math, of pre-reading checklists and timetables. I'm not thinking about my writing. I'm not thinking about my blog, about reading. I have other things to think about right now, but that doesn't mean I'm giving up with my dream of being an author. 

I'm still a writer. I'm just not writing today. I probably won't write tomorrow. And my identity as a writer is going to change as I transition through life, but just because I'm going through a busy time in life doesn't mean that I can just drop part of my identity. 

Does life ever eat your word count? Have you had to give up something you love when life gets busy? 

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

The Perfect Afternoon (gap year wrap-up)

As of the day I'm writing this (Sunday afternoon), this is my last day of freedom. Um, gap year. (Same thing.)



This year has been... incredible. Amazing. There have been a few bumps along the way, of course, as always, and some stuff has happened that I would have never imagined happening twelve months ago. But here we are. I've gone to Orientation for uni, I've bought my brand-new beautiful laptop, I have all my notebooks and pens and textbooks and a very expensive calculator, and I have all my pre-reading for Monday's classes done. First up? Fundamentals of Engineering. (I've decided to rename it Ninja Fundamentals, though. (Statics is Time's not Static (it's wibbly wobbly, timey wimey) and Applied Mathematics is Balance of Probability, my dear Watson, because I'm weird like that.) 

I'm scared out of my mind. (But that's ok. That's how we grow.) 

I cannot express how thankful I am to have had this year. I've grown so much as a writer and as a person, and none of it would have been possible without the amazing support of my family, friends, and of course God. (Let's give credit where credit is due.) I have had the most amazing time this year, and I couldn't have done it without a couple of amazing people. 

There have been a few specific afternoons that have been absolutely perfect this year, and that's how I want to remember it. I want to remember my curtains swaying in the breeze, my skin stained with ink as I fill pages of my journal. I want to remember dancing around the house with my music blasted, spending hours curled up in bed with a really good book, drinking too much tea for my own good. I loved the silence in the house when it's only me and my thoughts, the weight of everything I can't control off my chest for a few short hours, learning how to draw, learning how to write, learning how to speak French, learning about what it means to be me. Those are the afternoons I want to remember. They were the hours when my soul could finally breathe, and I am so thankful to have had them. 

And to everyone considering taking a gap year, let me assure you that I'm completely at rest with my decision. I have no regrets, no second thoughts. It's not right for everyone, of course. Think about your options, your reasons behind it, what you're going to do. Then take a deep breathe, plunge into whatever your decision is and don't look back. 

Did you take a gap year, or go straight to college/university? What's your perfect afternoon? 

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Life's Like That (that time we almost got tackled in airport security)

Life being the way life is, my dad, brother and I were heading back from Canada a few months ago without my wonderful mom and sister. We had been traversing up and down British Columbia and Alberta in Gertie, talking to so many people, getting less than the recommended amount of sleep a night and had just gotten off a thirteen hour plane trip. (It was a great trip, of course, but in case you didn't get the point we were pretty tired at this point.)

The sis et moi.

We've been a fan of this TV show called Brooklyn Nine-Nine and we were able to watch the Christmas special during the plane ride. My brother and I had a good giggle over it on the plane, but Dad was sleeping so he was left out of the conversation. 

In the episode, a police officer wants to give the captain a Christmas present but he continually refuses. She decides the best way to get the captain to open her present is to wrap it in an unmarked box, disguise her handwriting and leave an unsigned note reading "Open me now". As this is a police captain, he immediately yells "Bomb!" and puts the precinct under lockdown. We all got a good giggle out of that. 

So we landed in the Brisbane airport and were standing in line for security. Security being boring, we were all catching up on the movies and TV shows we watched on the plane and Brooklyn Nine-Nine came up. We hadn't discussed it with Dad yet, so we were all re-living our favourite parts. 

Dad's eyes went wide, he grinned and yelled "B-"... then realised we were in security. 

He almost quoted the captian yelling "Bomb!"

In airport security. 

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Movie Review: Hidden Figures

I have been very excited about seeing this movie for a long time. As someone who is a) a female, b) starting engineering school in a few weeks (although c) not African-American), d) a huge fan of the time period and e) also a huge fan of civil rights movies, I could not wait. 

Source

During the Space Race, three brilliant African-American women (Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson) worked at NASA to launch the first American into orbit. I was actually having a pretty bad day when we went to see it, and I came out so happy that I was literally bouncing around the movie theatre. Basically it's got science and math and amazing role models and everything you could ever need in a movie. Go see it. Immediately. 

The characters were perfect, the costumes and sets beautiful, the score incredible, the story flawless. I was cheering and cringing and laughing, and if we weren't in public I would have given it a standing ovation. The film showed *gasps* black women having fun, falling in love, being human. It was beautiful. It taught me something. It gave me hope. 

Sorry for the short review, but when I have nothing to criticise my reviews tend to be shorter. Have you seen Hidden Figures? Would you like to see it? (Now excuse me, but there's a book that I'm off to get my hands on...)

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Driving Misadventures (part 4) (in which we get stranded in the middle of nowhere)

So a couple of weeks ago my friend Sarah, my sister M and I decided to go to the ice rink that was in town for a couple of weeks. It had been forever since M and I had been skating, and what better way could you spend the afternoon than in ice skates? 

We showed up to the rink and to our horror, the door was locked. We banged on it for a little, double-checked the website then wandered around for a little to no avail. No one was there. Just as we were about to leave, a truck pulled up and a guy stuck his head out the window. 

"You girls here for the skating?" We nodded, probably looking pretty confused. "Can you come back at three o'clock? More people usually show up then." I checked my phone. It was ten o'clock, and it was a forty-five minute drive back to the house. Hmmm, not likely then. 


We bought smoothies and tried to decide what to do, and eventually driving to the top of a nearby mountain came up. Seeing how none of us had ever done it before and we suddenly had lots of time on our hands, Sarah plugged the route into iMaps and away we went in my old reliable car, without telling anyone where we were going. 

The drive there was absolutely beautiful, with gum trees dotting swaying fields of grass and the road stretching out in front of us like a pair of faded jeans. M blasted the music and we all sang along. 

Eventually, we hit a dirt road. My car could handle it without too much difficulty, so onwards we went, winding deeper and deeper into the Australian bush. The ever-present symphony of the Australian insects surrounded us, with patches of sky peeking through the canopy above. 

After a little while, we came across three men in a truck. They were loading leaves and branches into the back of their ute, and looked like complete bogans. Two of them were wearing the typical Australian tradie uniform, which was a thick yellow button-up jacket with reflective stripes across the chest. I had to do a double-take with the third one. He had a mullet. An honest to God mullet. Pair that with a muscle shirt, board shorts, a pair of flip flops and a cigarette and it didn't take long before I was locking the doors. After all, three young girls alone in the middle of nowhere with three bogan men? It was just a little scary. 

We passed them without too much difficulty and continued on our way, still laughing about the mullet guy. Eventually, a sign reading "Private Property" marked the end of the road. We glanced around, the mountain rising from the ground to our right. iMaps had obviously told us to take a wrong turn, and we had gone around the back of the mountain. 

We shut off the car and, laughing, took a few pictures to sum up this spectacular fail of a morning. First the skating, then the mountain climb. But hey, it was an adventure, right? Adventures always made for good stories. 

The truck with the three men rumbled over the road, and we squealed then hopped back in the car and locked it, stories our moms had told us of the girls who never made it back home running through our heads. They passed us without a word. Our photo session wasn't quite finished, so we shut the car back off and posed for a few more pictures. 

Once the mosquitos and the heat had become too much, I slid back into the driver's seat and turned the key. The engine sputtered then died. I blinked, then tried again. The car struggled, then was silent. We all stared at each other, the full reality of our situation suddenly clear. 

"We're all Christians, everyone start praying," said M as she pulled out her iPad to record our crisis. I frantically turned the key again and again to no avail. It had to be the battery. 


"Is there signal out here?" I whispered. 

"No!" Sarah laughed, which I found a bit inappropriate, considering our situation. Then again, I often decide to laugh instead of cry, so I could kinda of see where she was coming from. After all,between the three of us we had very little experience with mechanics and it would take us a good forty-five minutes to walk back to the main road, and another few hours to get back to civilisation. 

There was a roar as the ute with the three bogans rounded the corner. Completely terrified, we climbed out of the car and waved them down. 

"Could you help us? Our car... stopped starting." Sarah offered a weak laugh at her inability to string together a sentence. I wasn't going to judge as my own lips were sealed. 

Bogan #1 and Mullet Guy jumped out of their ute and started poking around under the hood of my car, and eventually declared that the battery had died. They had jumper cables back at the house, so they headed back in their truck and left Bogan #2 with us. What followed was the most awkward situation I've experienced in a long time. After all, what do you say to a stranger while you're stuck in the middle of nowhere with him? We made a few passing remarks about the strangeness of the situation, of the car, of the weather. The buzzing of the insects filled in the gaps. 

The men came back after a while and plugged the cables into the batteries, and before long the car was gasping for breath but was at least alive. We thanked them a million times and headed off, barely able to contain our laughter at our adventure. 

Has your car ever broken down in an inconvenient place? Has a dodgy person ever helped you out of a scrape? 

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Reading non-fiction is weird (and also kinda wonderful)

So for a good many years of my life, I was sure that non-fiction was a crazy genre and no one should ever read it. As a kid I could never get through a whole non-fiction book, and I considered them to be for adults who spent their evenings discussing politics, the price of gas and the economy while they drank red wine with their colleagues. (Please excuse my ten-year-old self.) Fiction was much more appealing, with the dragons and wardrobes and adventures through time and space. 


In high school, my opinion of it didn't change much. Sure, I recognised that my view of non-fiction was just a little narrow-minded, but that didn't encourage me to start reading it. I spent enough time stuffing my brain with facts and figures as it was, and every time I went to read something that had a lack of magic I'd find myself trying to figure out how to in-text reference it and watching the page numbers so I could refer to it in my essay. (And obviously that was about as much fun as driving a mallet through a dolphin's brain.) I needed the escape that fiction provided, compared to feeling like I was still doing homework. 

This year, I haven't had much formal education beyond a few French classes. As a result, I've found myself more and more attracted to non-fiction and all the wonderful knowledge I can extract from it. I'm a student at heart (despite my issues with our education system, which is a whole other post) and I love to learn, love the never-ending game of knowing. I've learned so much this year about topics I love, whereas before I was so busy trying to get essays done to bother with hurting my poor brain with yet more knowledge. 

I've learned about bees and beekeeping, about China and Mongolia and genetically modified organisms and insects. I've learned about the conflict in the Middle East, about women's rights and feminism in both developing and developed countries, about surviving a plane crash in the Andes. And that's pretty cool. I don't know if I'll be able to continue with my self-education this year, but I'm looking forwards to the day when I'm no longer in school and once again feel the tug to pick up a non-fiction book. 

Do you read much non-fiction? Do you feel school has ever discouraged you from reading non-fiction in your free time?