AN OPEN LETTER TO TONY ABBOTT FROM THE EDITOR:
Look, I know open letters are a bit April of last year, but I’ve been worried about you, Tony. Since the Leigh Sales interview when you were unable to articulate exactly who you are, I’ve been worried.
It’s a question most Australians are asked every now and again – in job interviews, by partners, by caring friends rolling around on the back lawn after one too many G&Ts, sometimes by our therapists. And as the Prime Minister and a man with more than a fleeting interest in spirituality, I’m sure at some point you’ve asked yourself the question, “Who the hell am I? What do I really stand for?”
But at 7.48 or 7.52 that evening, Leigh’s question seemed to rattle you. You became evasive. So in case you find yourself fumbling for an answer in the future, here’s who I think you are. (Feel free to quote me).
You’re a Christian guy. You’re the Christian guy who, when faced with appalling facts about the ongoing abuse and psychological torment of innocent children in our detention centres, chose to viciously attack the messenger rather than reflect maturely upon the incredibly sad and sensitive contents of the message. You’re that guy.
You’re the guy who condones shoving terrified women and children fleeing rape, persecution and death, (much of which we helped fuel), into little orange boats in the dead of night, sending them back into the darkness and uncertainty they’ve somehow managed to flee, hopeful of our shelter. That’s you with your whole “Australia isn’t for everyone” Jesus thing.
You’re the guy who’s been trash talking the economy for so long, most Australians are afraid to buy a pine-lime Splice let alone a car or a house. And it was you who in opposition said the so called ‘Carbon Tax’ would wipe towns off the map – something about a python squeeze not a cobra strike – when you knew that simply wasn’t ever going to happen. Is it all coming back to you, Tony? You’re that Henny Penny guy.
You’re the guy with the gay sister who stubbornly refuses to change his views on same sex marriage, despite her personal pleadings and the firm belief of most Australians that equality is long overdue. Represent, Tony! Step up! They mean you no harm. And if it’s about saying one thing before an election and doing another after… honestly, let’s not imagine anyone’s going to be too upset or surprised.
While we’re on that, you’re the guy who hounded the previous government TO DEATH over one supposed lie, promising an all adult, no surprises government of your own. I swear it was you boldly proclaiming you can’t say one thing in opposition then do another in office, before making brutal cuts in literally every single area you said you wouldn’t. Ringing bells, Tony?
You’re the guy who says he’s intimidated by the burqa then gets around in a bright red banana sling.
And forgive me for delving into personal irritations, but you’re the Rhode scholar guy who has to repeat everything twice, sometimes thrice, buying yourself time to formulate your next sentence. It’s an old orator’s trick Tony, but every frickin’ sentence?
While I could go on, I’m sure the electronic graffiti artists will be happy to continue this letter for me. And hopefully, next time Leigh asks for a little personal reflection, you’ll have a better idea of who you are. You’re that guy.
OMFG. What a bloody saga and a half. Late last year, I had the Small Child’s passport replaced – passports for kids only last five years and so he’s onto his third one already (well travelled, spoiled brat of a kid that he is). The bureaucratic hoops that need to be navigated to renew a child’s passport in Australia make you go through the whole kit and kaboodle… effectively filling out an entire ‘new application’ form complete with endorsed photographs and a guarantor and proof of existence from scratch.
So this week, I go to get my passport renewed too. I get online, fill out the online form and print it out (Only two pages?! Immediately worry that I’ve missed something) check the list of shit that I need to take to Australia Post to lodge a passport application – old passport: check… printed form: check… two unsmiling photos, one signed by a guarantor: check. Rock up to the Post Office just this Tuesday gone, and stand in line for a little bit, thankfully they’re not too busy, but get to the front of the queue with my form and my photos and my passport and get told, “You don’t need a guarantor for an adult passport renewal”. “Oh I read the checklist for lodging passport applications and it said you did need endorsed photos” (It’s the same checklist for all applications on the Australia Post website btw), but thanks for letting me know.” … “No, these photos are no good, we need ones that aren’t signed on the back”… “You’re kidding right? I got my Small Child’s passport renewed only two months ago and he needed a guarantor, so why does this application not have this requirement? And if endorsed photos are considered superior and actually harder to obtain, why then, are these being rejected?”… somewhat sheepishly the customer service lady, Donna, said, “They just don’t want signatures on adult renewals. Sorry.”
Grrrr! Is it too much to ask for a bit of bloody consistency? Will have to go home, get some more photos (foolish me for only bringing the 2 with me that I thought I needed instead of all 8 they gave me when I had them taken!) and go later in the week. What a waste of time. Le sigh. :/
Fast forward to today, Friday, and back I go again. Same lady, Donna, behind the counter. I hand over my unendorsed photos, my passport and my application form and then watch as she puts some template thing over my photos and says, “These photos are too small, and they have a red tinge to them. They’re not acceptable.”
Hold on a minute, lady. At this point (after a bad day of poor legal advice and BDM Registry bullshit), I was in no mood for more bureaucratic bullshit and certainly not from Australia Bloody Post. Unfortunately Donna had just put herself squarely in the firing line! “Excuse me, these are the exact same photos that you rejected on Tuesday because they were inadvertently endorsed, and on Tuesday you said nothing about them being too small or having a reddish tint to them. Is it too much to ask that if the application was going to be rejected, that the ENTIRE application be checked to ensure there is not more than one problem with it? Why did you not tell me that these photos did not meet the photographic requirements on Tuesday?! What the fuck, sort of Mickey Mouse operation are you lot running here?!? To which Donna replies, “I’m sorry, I didn’t check them on Tuesday, I only looked and saw they were endorsed and they shouldn’t be. Would you like me to take some new photos of you now?” … “You didn’t check them on Tuesday which is going to necessitate me coming back for a third time! No one has time for crap like that. And NO! Look at me? I’ve been doing housework all morning, my hair is not neat, I’m not wearing any make up, I’m an absolute mess – and you want to take a washed out ghost of a photo for a document that I have to live with for the next TEN BLOODY YEARS?! I don’t think so. So that’s a NO. I don’t want you to take my photo right now, but thanks for wasting my time!” And I stormed out. Very. Fucking. Pissed. Off.
Grrrr, Grrr and fucking grrr, some more. Abso-fucking-lutely furious and ready to fucking explode at anyone who looks at me sidewards. ARRRGGGHH!
Whinge at Mr K and yale that the cunts at Australia Post are completely incompetent and then finally calm enough to switch into problem solving mode. I am NOT wasting more time coming back for a third attempt to lodge my passport renewal. What to do, what to do. Spy a discount pharmacy! That’s a good start. Walk in, find the Revlon counter, grab a tester of Colourstay Natural Light Ivory and a mirror. NEVER in my life have I tested make up on my face (too much of a germaphobe for that sort of thing), but desperate times call for desperate measures. I start liberally applying foundation in the itty bitty mirror when a sales clerk comes past and says ‘Can I hel…” she gets a look from me that very much say, “What of it?” and moves on past me rather quickly. Next, some eyebrows… have a hunt for some suitable eyeshadow… done and done. Look at the eyeliner testers and think ‘No way, not now, not ever!’ (my inner germaphobe obviously has limits and was absolutely not going to let me stick a tester eyeliner anywhere near my eyes!). So I grab a nice brown eyeliner off the shelf, and a Maybeline ‘Blackest Black’ mascara. Sprint to another aisle and pick up some cheap hair combs and head to the register and out with the fantastic plastic to buy some make up I didn’t really want to buy today!
Quickly found the nearest shopping centre ladies room, and finished off my hastily started make up job and combed my hair. Sigh. Need to calm down for a minute and let the boiling fury dissipate until my face regained it’s more accustomed non-rage fuelled complexion. Breathe. Just breathe.
Back I go to the Australia Post office, I’m sort of hoping I get the same chick at this point… but I didn’t. One of her colleagues took some more photos for me, and then the damn application, that I was truly sick of the sight of, was lodged within about ten minutes flat. Now the stupid thing was out of my hands, I realised that I had *maybe* over-reacted towards poor Donna, who kinda also bore the brunt of the fact that I’ve been getting bad info from some lawyers, the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registry and Monash University this week, and was completely over all types of bureaucratic administrivia bullshit for one week. I admit that I did go a bit over the top in asking Donna to self assess if she was completely incompetent, and decided to apologise to the poor lady for my reaction to the bad advice she gave me earlier in the week. Yes, I know. It was a sort of backhanded apology… she gave me bad info, but she certainly didn’t deserve the both barrels of foul temper which I blasted her with earlier. She seemed relieved after I spoke with her, and I hope she didn’t go home saying to her family ‘Customer are fuckers’… which is what I would have done if I had made a mistake like that, and then copped it big time from said fucker/customer type.
Le sigh. When did we all become so inflexible. It’s not like the photo isn’t going to be scanned into a computer then scaled to exact preferred size anyway? Harumph. Too many fucking rules governing every little thing we do… or can’t do. 🙁
My anger at the passport renewal cock ups did take away from the usual tinge of melancholy that sometimes occurs whenever I’ve renewed a passport – all those stamps in my passport going into the memories and not still alive and well in my current travel history. This passport took me to New Zealand (six times), Vanuatu, New Caledonia, UAE, all over Turkey, Pakistan, Canada, and all four corners of the US (Alaska, San Diego, Florida and Maine!). One thing I won’t miss though is the Pakistani Visa that was front and centre in my passport causing me to be held up by Homeland Security each and every time I went through an airport in the US… oh dear lord did that thing get me some funny looks and a lot of furious tapping at computer terminals by every customs agent and TSA officer I encountered…
On February 9th, I received a phone call from York Region Public Health, informing me that Griffin, alongside my mother and I, was potentially exposed to the measles virus while attending a newborn weigh-in appointment at my doctor’s office in Markham on January 27th.
Griffin was 15 days old at the time.
I was informed that someone who later developed measles sat in the doctor’s waiting room between 1 hour before and 30 minutes before we arrived. I was also informed that measles is regarded as “airborne” and can stay in the air and on surfaces up to 2 hours after the infected person has left.
I was then asked if I had had the measles vaccine. I had.
Griffin. Griffin had not. Can not.
I was advised to not be around small children. If I worked in such an environment I would be written off work. I do work in such an environment; my home. Where I now sit with Griffin and my 3 year old, Aurelia, who has only been able to get one MMR vaccine so far. She is now, technically, exposed too. We are to sit tight and watch for symptoms: fever, cough, runny nose. If we develop any of these we are to call my doctor and arrange to come in under official medical precautions. We are to wait at home, in isolation, until February 17th, after which the 21 days of possible incubation will have passed and we are clear.
So, Griffin is now Schrödinger’s baby. Simultaneously with measles, and without it. Until he develops symptoms, or until a further 7 days pass. One or other.
And I’m angry. Angry as hell.
I won’t get angry at or blame the person in the waiting room. I would have likely done the same thing…you get sick, you go to the doctor. I have no idea what their story is and I will never know. But I do know one thing:
If you have chosen to not vaccinate yourself or your child, I blame you.
I blame you.
You have stood on the shoulders of our collective protection for too long. From that high height, we have given you the PRIVILEGE of our protection, for free. And in return, you gave me this week. A week from hell. Wherein I don’t know if my BABY will develop something that has DEATH as a potential outcome.
Now, let’s unpack this shall we. All out on the table.
You have NO IDEA what this “potential outcome” means. NO IDEA. I do. Unfortunately, I do.
You think you are protecting your children from thimerosal? You aren’t. It’s not in their vaccine.
You think you are protecting them from autism? You aren’t. There is no, none, nada, nothing in science that proves this. If you want to use google instead of science to “prove me wrong” then I am happy to call you an imbecile as well as misinformed.
You think you are protecting them through extracts and homeopathy and positive thoughts and Laws of Attraction and dancing by candlelight on a full moon? You aren’t. I PROTECT YOUR CHILD. We protect your child. By being concerned world citizens who care about ourselves, our fellow man, and our most vulnerable. So we vaccinate ourselves and our children.
You think you are protecting them by letting them eat their shovel full of dirt and reducing antibiotics and eating organic? You aren’t. As an unvaccinated person you are only protected by our good graces. WE LET YOU BE SO PRIVILEGED thanks to our willingness to vaccinate ourselves and our children.
You know what vaccines protect your children from? Pain. Suffering. Irreparable harm. Death.
And you would be the first to line up if you had an inkling of what the death of a child feels like. You would be crawling through the streets on your hands and knees, begging, BEGGING to get that vaccine into your precious babies because that is what I would have done, if I could, to save my daughter.
The fact is, there was no vaccine for her. Not for her illness. And she died. She died at age five and a half, and she is gone.
And I watch these arguments trotted out on Facebook and twitter citing false science and long discredited“studies” that just won’t stop and Jenny McCarthy quotes and “it’s MY choice” to not vaccinate…and I think…what would you have done if your child lay dying? Would you give them a scientifically proven, safe and effective vaccine and risk the minuscule likelihood of a side effect? Or would you let them go, knowing that at least they won’t develop autism (which they wouldn’t even develop anyway because SCIENCE)?
And don’t you DARE tell me that you wouldn’t vaccinate them then. Don’t you dare. You have no idea what it feels like to go through what we went through.
So, look at Griffin. Tell me why he gets to bear the brunt of your stupidity and reckless abuse of our protection? Tell me.
Seven more days until I know that my baby is safe. Seven more days.
How is your week going, anti-vaxxers?
(From Jennifer Hibben-White via Facebook).
Just how many ‘Trips of a Lifetime’, can a person squish into one lifetime? Well, looking at my travel history, I’m thinking as many as you want to prioritise in your life! We have one car. I don’t like fashion. I don’t shop for shoes (ever – it it’s avoidable!) We’re sensible with money (most of the time) and we don’t miss out on much – but we think of money spent on travel and travel memories is money well spent. So onwards with planning more adventuring!
For this years trick – we are off to JAPAN. Well, it started as a trip to Japan, but now it’s a trip to Japan, China and Hong Kong! And I am sooo excited! We are flying to Tokyo in early July and having 11 days in Kyoto and Tokyo to take in the Gion Festival and check out the crazy anachronisms in Tokyo – Mr K is planning on climbing Mt Fuji, while I onsen of course! Then we have booked to go on a 17 night cruise all around the country to see some of the more remote areas of Japan that travellers don’t get to that often. Going with Princess of course (can’t let that Elite free laundry thing go to waste!).
This trip is on the enormous and very impressive looking Diamond Princess. We haven’t been on this ship before, but it’s about 1/3 bigger than the Sun/Dawn and Sea Princess ships that we sail on out of Australia. Should be pretty interesting… I’m keen to try out the Japanese Baths in the Sanctuary.
After our 28 days in Japan (did I say how much I was looking forward to the Gion Festival in Kyoto?), Mr K and I are flying to China! We are doing an organized tour, which is rather uncharacteristic for us, as we usually prefer to be self proppelled which gives greater flexibility, but when you don’t know two words of the local language and customs are so entirely different to what we are used to in the West, it kinda makes sense to get onto an organised trip.
Our 14 nights takes in Beijing, Xian, Guilin, Li River, Yangshou, Chonquing, a 3 night Yangtze River Cruise, Yichang and Shangai. Places I never thought I’d get to travel to. We’ll be seeing the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Terracotta Warriors, the Yangtze Three Gorges Dam and loads of beautiful scenic places in between… I am particular fascinated by the Reed Flute Caves. It looks like other limestone cave systems that has been lit up with beautiful coloured lighting systems to make a kaleidoscope of colourful stalactites and stalagmites. Looks gorgeous and otherworldly!
After China (I’m going to copy the full itinerary into the bottom of this post) we are heading off to a short stay in Hong Kong for Mr K’s 40th birthday – I have no idea what we are going to be doing in Hong Kong yet… I haven’t got that far! 🙂 Hopefully I’ll find somewhere cool for us to stay and some fun things to do before we head home.
So much travel and so many adventures… I am truly fortunate.
Day 1 Arrive in Beijing
Your guide will greet you outside the baggage claim area at the Beijing Capital Airport with a welcoming sign and then take you to the pre-booked hotel. The rest of the day will be left on your own to explore this amazing city.
Day 2 Beijing
Begin your explorations in Beijing today by paying a visit first to the largest city square across the world, Tiananmen Square. The square is one of the most beloved sites among Chinese citizens, especially the flag raising and lowering ritual held here at dawn and dusk, draws in scores of spectators every day. Opposite to the square across the road is the magnificent Forbidden City, one of the most recognizable landmarks and cultural symbols of China as the former royal residence for five centuries. After your tour of the Forbidden City you will continue your day with a visit to Summer Palace, the massive garden and summer resort for royal members only during the imperial times. (B+A La Carte Lunch)
Day 3 Beijing
The tour today starts with the remarkable Temple of Heaven, where emperors of Ming and Qing Dynasties performed ceremonies and rituals to pray for good harvest and blessing on the country. Afterwards, you will be taken to the Mutianyu Great Wall, a comparatively less tourist-trodden part of the 1,400-year-old fortification system. An easy, comfortable round trip cable car transfer over the picturesque scenery is included while certain amount of time would be given for you to climb the wall. Lunch will be served at an elegant restaurant. Our touring concludes with a stopover at the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube on your way back to hotel. (B+L)
Day 4 Beijing-Xian
After breakfast, hop on a rickshaw for a Hutong Tour through the most characteristic, maze-like neighborhood. Afterwards, you would be taken to the railway station for the high speed rail train to Xian, which takes approximately 5 hours, and along the way, feel free to admire a total different scenery of the countryside. Upon arriving at the Xian North Station, the tour guide would pick you up and escort you to the hotel. (B)
Day 5 Xian
The highlight of the tour today lies in the world-renowned Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses. It is reputed as the largest underground military base in the world. After lunch, you will have the opportunity to explore the ancientXian City Wall, the largest and best-preserved wall extant in China now, running 13.75km, enclosing the old capital. In the middle of the old block of Xian stands the Great Mosque, the oldest and biggest Islamic mosque in the country, determined to have been built in mid-7th century. Around the mosque is the Muslim Street that is bustling every day with loads of the most authentic fine eateries and souvenirs shops. Also we would stop at the nearby Bell Tower & Drum Tower Square for some great photo opportunities. (B+L)
Day 6 Xian-Guilin
After breakfast at the hotel, the tour guide will take you to the Xian Museum, a museum housing 130,000 pieces of archeological items, located right at the foot of the Small Wild Goose Pagoda, one of the two most significant Buddhist pagodas in Xian, which was built around early 8th century. After enjoying a special A La Carte lunch, you will be transferred to the Airport for your flight to Guilin. Upon arrival in Guilin, you will be met by your guide and transferred to your hotel. (B+A La Carte Lunch)
Day 7 Guilin
After breakfast at the hotel in the morning, start today’s tour with the Reed Flute Cave, a huge cave featuring a walk of about 500 meters, lined up by countless grotesque yet thrilling stalactite formations; and Elephant Trunk Hill, the most representative and favorable landmark of the city of Guilin, which is apparently a hill bears quite some resemblance to an elephant standing in the water. Later in the day, a trip to the Seven Star Park is also on the schedule. (B+A La Carte Lunch)
Day 8 Guilin-Yangshuo
This morning your guide will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to Zhujiang Pier for your impressive cruise on Li River towards Yangshuo. Upon arrival, you would be transferred to a local family for the authentic rural China experience. On the way there, please take your time to admire the gorgeous country view of Yangshuo. Check in to the hotel at Yangshuo and enjoy your night out on the small town. (B+L)
Day 9 Yangshuo-Guilin-Chongqing
This morning, drive back to the airport in Guilin to catch the flight heading Chongqing. Your Chongqing guide will pick you up from the airport and take you to the Panda House at Chongqing Zoo where you would have a close encounter with the adorable giant pandas. Later in the day, visit the historic Ciqikou Old Town which is an old town dating back to the turn between 10th and 11th century. Before the day ends, embark your luxurious Yangtze River Cruise ship which will weigh anchor at 10.30pm. There is a necessary Safety, Orientation & River Briefing presentation for you upon embarkation. (B+A La Carte Lunch)
Day 10 Yangtze River Cruise
Sail along the Yangtze River today. Go ashore for an excursion to Fengdu Ghost City or Shibaozhai, depending on the water level condition or different cruises. The exciting Captain’s Welcome Party will be held in the evening. Just sit back and enjoy the Chinese folk dancing and music performance, and be a part in it. (B+L+D)
Scenic Spots: Fengdu Ghost City is dubbed as the final resting place for all souls in Chinese mythologies, hence the series of temples and grotesque images ubiquitously found in town. Shibaozhai is a 56m or so tower leaning against the Yuyin Hill. The tower and the land around it were specially isolated and encircled by a moat after the Three Gorges Dam project in 2003, rendering it a gargantuan bonsai besides the Yangtze.
Day 11 Yangtze River Cruise
Continue sailing pass the jaw-dropping view of the Qutang Gorge and Wu Gorge. Disembark for an excursion to the Small Three Gorges, also known as Lesser Three Gorges, consisting of Longmen, Bawu and Dicui Gorges. Later take an excursion to Badong and experience a small wooden boat trip on the magnificent Shennong Stream. Return to the ship and enter the western section of the Xiling Gorge. In the evening, the cruise ship is slated to pass through the massive ship locks if weather permits. (B+L+D)
Day 12 Yichang – Shanghai
After breakfast, you will disembark for a visit to the grandest hydroelectric project in the world, the Three Gorges Dam. Indulge yourself with a tour around the colossal dam and perhaps the phenomenal scene of millions of tons of water being discharged if it happens to be rain season. Then go back to the ship and prepare for the check-out. As the ship arrives at Yichang, your guide will meet you on board and take you to have lunch. Afterwards, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight towards Shanghai. Upon arrival, your Shanghai guide will meet you and transfer to the hotel. (B+L)
Day 13 Shanghai
This morning commence your tour of Shanghai with a visit to the Shanghai Museum, a massive museum housing over 140,000 pieces of artifacts, displaying the history and cultural scene of Shanghai. Later you would take a walk at The Bund, the most prestigious landmark and best-preserved demonstration to the glamour of the old Shanghai, and Nanjing Road, the busiest shopping area in the metropolis or even across the whole China. After lunch, visit Yuyuan Garden, where you can marvel at the stunning view of the garden and have the most local experience by strolling around the nearby Chenghuang Miao bazaars, and New Spot (XinTianDi). Enjoy a Huangpu River Cruise to appreciate the scenery of Shanghai at last. (B+A La Carte Lunch)
Day 14 Depart from Shanghai
According to your flight schedule, our tour guide will pick you up at the hotel and drive you to the airport to catch your homeward flight. (B)