Low Socio-economics

Today I met the most extraordinary girl who has come from the most extraordinary circumstances.

And I wanted to cry for her.

A 16 year old who could not read or write. A 16 year old who was pulled out of primary school by her mother and ‘home schooled.’ A 16 year old, who, after some discussion and the use of open questions, explained that ‘home schooled’ meant looking after her kid sisters and brothers whilst her mother inhaled, injected, used and abused whatever drug she could find. A 16 year old who has never met her father and has never known his name. A 16 year old who lives in an isolated rural community and doesn’t have any friends.

I wanted to cry for this girl.

She was small in stature and thin. She obediently answered my questions but in a timid voice. She had the equivalent of a sixth grade education and could not read the forms I gave her. She’s 16 years old and she can’t multiply. She can’t divide. She can’t add. She can’t subtract.

I wanted to cry.

Her world is so far removed from my world. And yet we live and belong in the same world. How do we as a society let this happen? How did the system fail her? How did the system fail her mother? Low socio-economics isn’t just something that I’ve read about it in my theory books at university. The reality of low socio-economics is now staring me honestly and vulnerably in the face.

And now I have the opportunity to make a difference. To help her. To improve her quality of life by helping her to get an education. By giving her something to strive for. By motivating her to rise above her current situation and avoid the situation that had befallen her mother.

Now I don’t want to cry anymore. Now I have hope for her. Now I can almost smile for her.

And I will also pray – not just for her, but for her mother too.

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Our Share House

Having recently upgraded our living arrangements, from a flimsy non-water resistant tent to a large sturdy shed, Ben and I have taken advantage of the luxury that only a tin roof can provide.

Our new home is not dissimilar to a one-bedroom loft equipped with antique-like dresser and wardrobes, large canvas artwork, open plan lounge room with suede lounge suite, a gym set and a bathroom in the midst of being built.

I love our new comfortable, clean and organised surroundings. It may be a shed but it’s OUR shed. It may not be Four Seasons, but it’s home.

Unfortunately, and to my great dismay, Ben and I have some unwanted tenants who have also decided to move right on in. Did they have the decency to ask us if they could move in? No. Have they offered to pay rent? No. And each time I come home from work, there they are.

Mosquitoes. Spiders. Flies. Kermit the Green Tree Frog, the entire rodent population of Maryvale (it seems). Crickets (not so bad).

Living with these creatures have made me a tougher broad. Really. I don’t scream when I see a spider in the shed. I just start looking for the heel of a leather shoe instead. I don’t flinch when I see a mouse skittering around. I don’t even flinch when I see a dead mouse in the shed (thanks to Ratsak). I’ve learnt that a good hardcover book is better than a paperback book for swatting those blasted mozzies. And the crickets get scooped up and deposited into Dodo‘s – our hen’s – cage.

So if you live with some annoying, messy, weird human tenants, thank your lucky stars. I’d be happy to trade with you any day!

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Life in Melbourne’s Fast Lane

A famous quote states “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…” and I apply this to one of the Great Loves of my Life. No I’m not talking about New York which is by far my most favourite city.

I’m talking about Melbourne, my second most favourite city in the world. And here’s why…

The Food.

You get some of the best food in Australia in this city and often at bargain prices! I have favourite restaurants spread across the city from Libertine (French) in North Melbourne, to Izakaya Chuji (Japanese) in the heart of the city and even Kanela (Spanish) in Fitzroy. Whatever takes your fancy, you will always find it in Melbourne! Even African and Jamaican food!

The Watering Holes.

Like any metropolis, there is a new bar opening in Melbourne it seems every week. And they cater to different crowds with different taste in music. If you want a grungy underground place reminiscent to CBGB’s than St Jerome’s at 7 Caledonian Lane is your place. The Vineyard is great for an afternoon beer out in the sun located in the hub of St Kilda. Or try Friday night drinks with a mix of the eccentric fashion and after-work crowd at The Carlton.

The Fashion.

As much as I like Brisbane for it’s breezy summer dresses and endless choice of bikinis, and Sydney for it’s label-crazy ode to all things high fashion, Melbourne is still my favourite for all things fashion due to the eclectic, eccentric and ‘anything goes’ mentality. It’s not quite London and definitely not quite New York, but you get more variety than the other cities combined. It could just be my love of small time upcoming designers like Lady Petrova and Anthony Capon’s a.concept label.

The People.

Not only does Melbourne have some of the most friendly, open and intriguing people in Australia but most of my family and friends live there and that’s saying something! You get such a variety of people in Melbourne that if you’re tired of one set of friends, there’s such a large pool of people available that you can always exchange them for an entirely different set of friends!

So of you’re in love with Melbourne too and want to add anything else to this list, feel free to post your thoughts and share your experiences. I look forward to hearing your views!

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A Survival Guide to Living off the Grid

If you’re a city girl, like me, and moving to a rural setting and want to live off the grid, here’s some advice that might make your transition easier:

The mosquito net makes our bed look much more exotic and inviting than it otherwise would be

1. Get a mosquito net for your bedroom and hang it up around the bed (or wherever you happen to sleep). You can also arm yourself with mosquito coils or mosquito/insect repellent. I learnt this the hard way and now I look like I’m recovering from a nasty bout of Chicken Pox.

2. Get a shovel and start digging. When nature calls and you have to go to the toilet, not to pee, but to, well, you know… you’ll be prepared and you’ll thank me later.

3. Buy a pair of knee high gum boots. By far the smartest thing I have done since moving from the city. Not only do they prevent mosquitos from attacking your shins, but they are a good guard against snakes and creepy crawlies and a godsend when it rains.

4. Water supply. If you don’t already have your water tanks in place then get a barrel, put some netting over it to prevent insects and bugs from diving in, put a tarp above and angle the tarp so that all the rain water it collects pours straight into the barrel. This works so successfully that the barrel can, and will, overflow. Best to organise this setup away from your living quarters.

5. If you don’t live near a creek and water supply is low, then get the wash cloth out if you need to bathe. It’s not convenient but it does the trick.

When we first planted our veggie patch

6. Start digging again. This time you’ll need a source of food and there will be times when the only food you eat is the food you’ve grown yourself. In our veggie patch, we planted tomatoes, lettuce, silverbeet, cucumbers, zucchini, capsicum, bok choy, jalapenos and herbs. When the floods hit and we were cut off from the outside world, we still had our food supply growing out the back. Since that time, let’s just say if I never saw a silverbeet or zucchini I’d be okay with it 🙂

7. Get some candles. My friend, Michelle from Earth Wear Eco Fashions makes them herself with local bees wax, but for someone not as resourceful (me included) just buy them. Candles always come in handy so ensure you keep a stockpile.

8. Collect fire wood. A bon fire is the best source of light when the sun goes down and you’re not ready to turn in with it. Bon fires and a starry night have often been the backdrop for many of our deep and meaningful conversations as well as our sexual escapades. Just being honest 🙂

9. Desperate times calls for desperate measures and when you run out of body soap, you can substitute it with shampoo. Or in my case, when I ran out of both, I reached out for dishwashing detergent. Don’t try this at home kids!

10. Slip Slop Slap. Remember that there is no faster way to getting wrinkles and sunburn than being out in the sun unprotected. So get some SPF 15+ and wear a wide brimmed hat.  And if you’re anything like me, and don’t have any hangups, you can get an all over, even tan walking around in the nude. But remember the insect repellant and to slip slop slap! 

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Writing nakedly

I have kept many journals over the years in which I logged my grievances with people and situations (but mainly with people), captured moments of happiness, jotted down brilliant film dialogue, words I’d never heard of before, attempted ballads, haikus and poetry and wrote pages of short stories (from erotic fiction through to childhood memories)

As such, I’m not a writer who writes according to a particular writing formula. I write because it is in me to write. I write because it satisfies in me a desire to express who I am, in the moment that I find myself in.

I don’t apologise for expressing the truth of how I see and interpret this world. My world. I am the observer of the world around me and it is my observations that I put out into this world. If you disagree with me, or find my words irritating, than I challenge you to disagree with me and put forth your own observations.

I dare you to open yourself up to others, to stand up for what you believe, not in shield or armour but as your naked self, baring your heart and soul and exposing yourself to the critique of others. Because if you can do this, you are courageous. And someone who has the courage to own their words, will always gain my respect.

This blog is a tribute to how I own my words, provide a means in which people can communicate with me, and don’t hide behind a facade or a pen name – this blog captures the essence of what I’m about, in all its contradictions and imperfections. But although I own these words, at the heart of it, they are still just words. They are but a slight portion of the whole portrayal that is “Jennifer Nini” at any given moment in time. And they can change – as well as the thoughts behind them. They are bound to.

Because change, as we know, is the only constant in life.

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The Great QLD Floods

The bridge into Maryvale moments from being entirely submerged

Thank God we live on higher ground!

Tuesday’s stormy weather, unrelenting rain and precariously rising waters culminated into my first ever experience of flooding in the history of my life.

Moving to QLD should have been all sunshine and gloriously perfect summer weather. My recent months here could not be further from this truth.

Maryvale, where we live, situated near The Great Diving Range’s Cunningham Gap and25kms west of Warwick was flooded in with the nearest creek rising over the only two bridges connecting us to the “outside world.” Although we were flooded in and we live closest to the creek that was rapidly rising, we were safe due to the property being on higher ground. Unfortunately the tent we called our home for the last 3 months barely survived and the mid-section caved in.

Thank God for the shed (and for the people who built it – Ben, John and Paul!)

The office where I work, Campbell Page, located on one of Warwick’s main streets, Albion Street, and closest to the Condamine River also found itself in an unlucky circumstance and in 30cm of water throughout the building when the Condamine River spilled out over its banks. This subsequently caused one of the main bridges, and the only access into town from the Cunningham Highway, to be closed and shutting down many local businesses. Two weeks ago, these businesses where hit with the Christmas floods finding themselves cleaning out their premises, assessing the flood damage and making insurance claims. This time around, the same businesses were better prepared (thanks to the ABC and the governments Bureau of Meteorology) however it still did not stop the floods from doing damage.

The creek already four times the size it usually is...

Thank God for mobile phones!

Living in the shed in Maryvale (that we now call home due to the collapse of our tent), we do not have any power and our battery-operated radio chose the most awful time to stop working and thus further isolating Ben and I from the Rest of the World.

Keeping us informed of the going ons of the Outside World were concerned family and friends and the car radio providing us with up-to-date news commentary.

My heart and prayers go out to the families in Toowoomba and surrounding regions, that have been very hit hard by this “once in every thirty years” flooding and especially to those who lost family and friends. At last count, there were 12 people deceased and 80 people missing. Mother Nature sure does have a way of putting you in situations that highlight just how important it is to cherish your family and friends, to have compassion for others, to foster community spirit and to appreciate life!

... and the creek only an hour later

... and the creek only an hour later

Last but not least, thank God for Ben!

Ben got me to one of the outdoor toilets when I desperately needed to do a very untimely No.2, got us out of a pretty hopeless situation when my beloved Toyota Celica got bogged in, and his calm and collected presence has been a blessing throughout this crazy ordeal. Fighting a flood disaster and savagely extreme weather is easier when you know you have a strong shoulder in which to lean.

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I dream of Fashion in 2011

 

My new closet, not the same as my walk-in in Melbourne but definitely a work in progress

I might live an hour and a half from the closest CAPITAL city. I might even be called a reformed City Slicker. I may even spend more of my time in knee-high black gum boots…

 

BUT I have not and will not release my tight grip on what is happening in the Fashion World. A world away from my world but within my reach nonetheless.

When my beloved sister Jennilyn came up from Melbourne to spend some time with me the days after Christmas, we hit the shops in Brisbane’s Elizabeth Street Mall for some much needed retail fashion therapy.

And even a nit-picky, extremely fussy shopper like me could not be disappointed with what was on offer. Warwick shopping has nothing on Brisbane shopping (and I should point out, Brisbane shopping has nothing on Melbourne shopping but ya’ll already knew that :)).

But I came back with the meanest coral print backless tie mini dress and matching long gold bohemian necklace, a designer silk low back green/print mini dress and a designer silk brown skirt with a carefully placed ruffle and some black and mint green ballet flats. Not the biggest shop I’ve ever done (which is hard to beat considering it was in New York when I did it) but pretty damned good considering I spent $120 in total!! Good effort considering I have spent double this amount on just one silk dress!

And better things are still to come… I’ll be in Melbourne and Sydney over the next two months! (Did someone spell P-A-R-T-Y?)

But you know what’s better than seeing my BFF’s?

It’s going shopping with my BFF’s!! 🙂 Ladies, you know you’re up for it!

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