Thursday, November 29, 2007

Goodbye and good riddance!

As usual, the frequency of blog posting has skidded to a virtual halt these last few weeks. And as usual, my excuse is the same, so I won't bore you all with the detail. I could not, however, allow this post election week to pass by without some mention of this momentous occassion.

I don't think there is any doubt that I am pretty satisfied with last Saturday's result. It is important to make clear, however, that my joy does not come through any great support for Rudd, but like so many, for my deep disdain of the Howard government. I also take great comfort in the knowledge that the Australian electorate is concerned about more than just their wallets, that they do in fact give a stuff about other things. I don't mean to say that economic management is not a big factor, nor am I oblivious to how important such an issue is to young families with mouths to feed, and minds to educate, and 30 years of mortgage repayments ahead of them. This, however, is not the only issue that holds importance for families, or for Australians in general, and I am most comforted to know that this has prevailed.

While I fully support Rudd's promises to roll back work choices, sign Kyoto, and issue a formal apology to indigenous Australians for the stolen generation, the promise I really want to see realised is the restoration of proper parliamentary processes, and a return to ministerial responsibility. No more passing the buck down the chain to the public service, or private companies doing outsourced work on the governments behalf. Our system relies on ministerial responsibility, and ensuring proper accountability within government ranks is paramount. This, I suspect will be one of the most difficult promises to keep, particularly if the Rudd government enjoys a long stint in office like the previous government. Mistakes will inevitably happen, and ministers will be asked to take responsibility. How Rudd deals with these situations will be most interesting .. particularly if/when his own support as leader is in doubt.

I think Paul Keating summed up my feelings about Saturday's result best. When asked on ABC radio if he felt happy upon hearing of Rudd's win on Saturday, he sternly answered, " .. no, I was just so relieved that the toxicity of this government had gone".

Couldn't sum it up any better. I don't fear a new direction for this country John, I've been hoping and waiting for it for a very long time!

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

G'day Australia

25 degrees ... perfect blue sky. In Healesville. Sitting on a veranda. Cracking open the third VB of the arvo. Eating a sausage in bread. Smelling burning gum leaves from the burn off. Listening to the Melbourne cup. A dog humping my leg. As first days back in Australia go, this one wasn't bad!

It is now been just over a week since we arrived back, and I must say, it's very good to be home. Leaving Italy was a bit sad, and felt just a little premature as we sat on the train heading for the airport. To be honest though, since coming back and embarking on the "Aff'n'Chris magical tour of South East Australia" as we say hello to family and friends, it's really good to be home. The two most common questions Aff and I have been asked by people are: 1. How was Italy ? 2. What's it like to be home ? Question 1 is difficult to give anything like a genuinely correct answer to, at least in the time frame that the person asking the question would probably want. Aff and I seem to be giving different answers every time we get asked it, so clearly we are not quite sure "how Italy was" either. Our short answer at the moment is: Italy was good. The second question though, is my favourite. The answer to it also gives some hints to our answer to the first question as well.

"So what is it like to be back?" I hear you ask. The wannabe worldly traveller in me wants to say how much I miss Italy, how much I miss the culture, the travelling, the food, the language, and of course, the people. To be honest though, the prevailing emotion at the moment is one of relief and comfort. To be back in my own culture, speaking my own language, driving my own car on roads I know, through the familiar dry Australian country-side almost feels like a luxury. In many ways for me, coming home is one of the best parts of the travelling experience. Of course the novelty factor will wear off soon enough, and my daily routine will resume. I expect it will be sometime after this that my thoughts will drift back to Italy, and start to really miss some of the things we got familiar with over there. I will certainly miss the good people we met over there (I already do), the food, the ability to travel so freely. I think Aff and I will both miss the language as well. We both made progress with it, and I felt like I had discovered a whole new part of my brain I had never tapped into before. All these things I expect we will miss more and more as time goes on, and when the memories of all the difficulties we also had to face fade.

So, for the moment at least, it feels good to be home .. very good in fact. As for Italy, to say "it was good" is a gross understatement .. it was a lot more than good ... it was amazing, and I am so lucky to have had the chance to live there, if only briefly.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Arrivederci Italia! Ci vediamo a presto!

What a week! Sitting here at an "internet point" in Rome, being charged €3 an hour for the priveledge, doesn't really provide the ideal time (or environment) to post a summary of all the events that have taken place. The short story is that Aff and I have successfully managed to extract ourselves from our Genovese life, and are now in Rome with three days left in Italy before we head back to Melbourne. As expected, the days leading up to yesterday's departure were as hectic as ever.

We have sent a shipping container of crap (well, maybe not all crap ... my €5 leaning tower mug from Pisa is pretty precious) back to Oz, and packed the rest of our humble belongings into 5 of the most unsuitable bags for travelling (we ditched the suitcase because it weighs too much). No doubt we are still over the weight limit, but there is not much else we can do.

Certainly, the highlight of the last week in Genova has been the goodbye celebrations with friends we have made here. Saturday night was a pizza dinner, followed by drinks at our favourite bar in Genova, Le Lepre. It really felt a bit like an episode of "This is your life (in Genova)", with so many of the people we have met here in Genova, there to celebrate with us. Needless to say, I had a bit of a biggy (I don't know what was in that last cocktail you bought me Richard, but it was the killer punch!).

Sunday was an understandably quieter day, although Aff and I, along with some friends, did manage to finally get to the soccer to watch Genoa fight bravely against the much stronger Fiorentina (from Tuscany) in Italy's Series A. No goals were scored by either teams, but I am very glad we managed to get to a game before leaving. It truly is an Italian experience worth making time for (photos to come) .... and completely safe by the way !

Finally, on Tuesday night, after a somewhat exhausting day spent saying my goodbyes to people at work, and finalising the hand over of my work, we had one final goodbye drinks session at Le Lepre. I must admit, after rushing home from work to pack, and after Aff's exhasting day of organising the mailing of our belongings home, and the cleaning of our apartment (I think I had the better deal to be honest) , both of us were thinking we may have been a tad ambitious organising one last drinks session. After arriving at Le Lepre however, I instantly felt like it was a very good decision. There is nothing like a few beers (in my case, about 6 pints from memory), to get over the awkward goodbyes, and just let the emotions run free. There was hugging, and kissing (on bith cheaks of course), and at one point a rather unexpected grope (not even sure who from). It was the kind of goodbye that truly made me feel like we have connections in this town, and some friends that we will really want to keep in touch with.

This, in fact, has been a realisation I have had over the last two weeks leading up to our departure. As the day got closer, my keeness to get back to Australia seemed to diminish substantially. Of course, Aff and I are both very much looking forward to getting home and seeing everyone... but with unfinished PhD's, and house hunting awaiting us, it's not exactly an enticing prospect. Once the initial excitement of being home fades (probably sometime after our 2 week whirl wind tour of SE Australia, when we arrive back in Canberra), I expect a significant slump in our moods to occur. There is a lot to miss here (but equally, a lot to gain back in Australia). So yes, I expect we will miss this place a lot, but I equally expect (hope) that as we get settled back in Canberra, life will start to feel normal again. Who knows? ... it's all part of the adventure I guess, and if there is anything I have learnt from my time in Italy, it is to expect nothing, and be ready for anything!

Arrivederci Italia!! Ci vediamo a presto!!

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