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Freshening Up

For a long time, this space has needed a makeover. And not just a cosmetic one. A down to the bones type one.

For a while, it hasn’t felt as welcoming or as inclusive of me with a person of ever evolving opinions and tastes, and that’s because I was afraid of saying what I really thought. Why? Because like every evolving human, I change my mind. And in this new online world, your thoughts on subjects from when you were younger and far less experienced are there, searchable, for all to see. That makes me uncomfortable. But is it the perception of being labelled a hypocrite? Perhaps it is that, in part. But perhaps it’s also about the unseen, unenunciated labels I have placed on myself and the categories I have put myself in. I’m not what I once was.

I want to keep writing, but I also want to showcase more than just my thoughts and opinions on living a life in a different country. I want for The Rebecca Project to be a space that reflects more than just expat issues. I want to share more of my varied interests. And I want it to still be a space for me to evolve and develop as a human.

Quote Andy Warhol

From my window, I watch the big, puffy clouds roll in over the bay. They’re ever-changing, evolving, too. The deciduous trees are starting to gain their first few green buds. The air is still crisp (for the Bay Area). So this is a spring clean, of sorts — both internally and externally. It’ll be interesting to see what comes of it.




Back in California

Little has changed in the Bay Area since I’d been gone — aside from rents that have increased exponentially, something everyone complains about on a daily basis here. And really, the rents are ridiculous.

Getting settled always takes longer than anticipated. But I knew what to expect.

I’ve taken plenty of walks, shot plenty of time lapse down by the bay. Started my new job. Mapped out the new projects for 2015. Taken a roadtrip up the coast. Reconnected with old friends. Started to catch up on the overdue obligations. It’s a interesting time.

It’s still home.
One of my homes.
And it’s nice to be back.







IMG_3002a Make it count

Make It Count

When I sat down to write this afternoon, I felt overwhelmed by all I wanted to say. So much has happened, but where to start? What did I want this to be about? What did I actually want to say? What can you say that isn’t hollow and superficial after you’ve seen something incredibly traumatic?

I wanted to say how sorry I am for those taken hostage yesterday in Martin Place, and their family and friends, who are trying to come to terms with such a violent act.
How much it hurts knowing that two people died, and that the gunman clearly targeted women.
How thankful I am for those in the emergency services who put their lives at risk to help people every single day.
For the cautious reporting of the ABC and AAP.
For the backlash against that horrendous behemoth of a publication called the Daily Telegraph, and (more importantly) the total arseholey-ness of Rupert Murdoch.
And for the solidarity of Sydneysiders who are living the virtues of tolerance and respect through the vocal #illridewithyou hashtag.

Here’s a snippet from Tessa Kum, the woman who started the hashtag after seeing an act of kindness reported on social media:

‘It just seemed that a simple way of promoting that kindness would be to say if anybody catching public transport didn’t feel comfortable just because of what they were wearing, I would sit next to them, so they weren’t alone.

If anything, for any horrible reason should happen, they’re not alone. I don’t think it’s anything that needs to be restricted to Muslims or religious garb—this could go for anybody who has a visible presence which automatically singles them out for attention.’

IMG_3002a Make it count

But the recent felling of a young cricket star — Phillip Hughes — in the middle of the SCG, and the emotional fall out from it, it’s always a timely reminder that we have no idea what is going to happen in our lives. And 2014 has been full of such events — losing two Malaysian Airlines planes, the Brown twins dying, Crimea/Ukraine/Russia, 276 girls abducted in Nigeria, the deaths of Robin Williams and Maya Angelou and Gough Whitlam — to make you sit up and declare “Enough killing time! Let me just get shit done for I may not have tomorrow”.

I scribbled that on a piece of paper this morning, and now I’m going forth and achieving the things I need and wanted to today in a city that is safe, capable and measured.

Life is short.
I’d best get cracking.

PS: He’s a beautifully writen tribute to Katrina Dawson, one of the two people slain in the siege.


How is it Almost December?


As quickly as November was ushered in, it has been rushed out. Things seem to be moving faster now, and I find myself worrying again about time. Where did this year go? How is it possible we’re a month today from Christmas? I’m running out of time.


But recovering from this broken wrist has forced me to slow down, to sit. To ponder. I’ve spent mornings reading, enjoyed lunches at my mate’s cafe, afternoons writing and walking the dog, and casual dinners with friends. I tried to listen to what my body needed, and taking care of myself has reignited my creative spark.


There’s a real buoyancy and energy I’ve felt as I’ve progressed through the stages of healing. I’m still months off regaining reasonable movement in my wrist, but it’s slowly coming along. Each time I am able to do something for the first time again, I take note. Three seconds of downward dog? Check. Putting my hand on my hip? Check. I am feeling reenergised in a way that had eluded me before. I can’t put my finger on why, but I’m not questioning it. More please!

The Land

This land recharges my spirit in a way that I so desperately needed. The overexposed summer days. The infinite blues of the sky. The cool green/blue waters. The smell of an impending thunderstorm. The purple Jacaranda flowers carpeting the green lawns. The searing heat with kiln-like winds blowing in from western NSW. The colours are the first thing I miss when I’m overseas. They cannot be duplicated, replicated.



The New Year

I’m returning to the Bay Area in the new year, but not before I have my fill of blinding sunshine and roasting hot sands of summer. I am looking forward to going back, but know that it’ll be harder to leave Sydney, my family and friends this time around. It gets infinitely harder every time.


Surgery, Trakkies and Champagne

The registrar asked if I had seen my x-rays, and I shook my head in the negative. Her face dropped and she said, “Ooooh!” rather ominously, then asked us to follow her into a consulting room. I looked at my sister with wide eyes, and whispered to her, “That’s not good. Not good.”

The next ten minutes were a blur of medical terms, hastily hatched questions, repeated answers and confusion. The registrar was of average height with short brown hair and had the air of a woman permanently tired. Her accent I guessed originated somewhere in the Russian world, and made my multiple breaks sound slightly more exotic. After a short wait, the kindly nurse (who was the doppelgänger of my friend Philippa in California) took me to spend what was left of the night in their waiting ward. It was just after 2am. I was given a shot of morphine in the belly, farewelled my sister and attempted to sleep with the bulky half-cast weighing down my arm.


A few hours later, I was transferred up to the Day Surgery ward where I spent the next two days observing all the comings and goings. Hospitals can be fascinating places, the site of some of the most painful and joyous occasions in life. And I saw this pain/joy dichotomy in the woman who occupied in the bed beside me for a couple of hours. Her sister and husband-in-law had driven her down to Sydney from the western districts of NSW and were waiting with her. Judging by the Professor and his gaggle of med students following him around like little ducklings, her surgery was a big deal.

She had an aggressive form of bowel cancer and the Professor was about to perform an incredibly complex surgery that was due to last ten hours. The ice-blue curtain was drawn all morning, but I could still hear her clear-headed questions, her voice unwavering. She was due to spend at least a week following the operation in intensive care, and her sister was instructed only to bring her children to visit if she didn’t have too many tubes and scary-looking machines. It was hoped that the marathon surgery would rid her of cancer and reconstruct her internal organs, hopefully providing her with a better quality of life than she had previously. And although I waited for my surgery with good humour and a patience unknown in my regular life (patience is not a virtue I possess!), it was still a stark reminder that I only had a broken wrist. It was small fry, comparatively, and I was grateful.


A few hours later, Mum brought a few creature comforts from home that made my day: the black-out sleeping eye mask enabled me to snooze at any time of the day or night, a scarf for warmth and a book to read. I was still in my basketball gear from the night before, so sliding out of the lycra and into trakkies was heavenly! My favourite sports bra was the only casualty. There was no way I could wriggle out of it, so I thanked it for its service, and was promptly cut out of it. Such is life.

It was after 6pm when the surgeon came to see me. Some of the other procedures had run long, so I had to wait another day. It really didn’t faze me — I was well looked after and tomorrow was only a few hours away. I was scheduled to be first into theatre tomorrow, but I was a little upset because it meant I would be unable to make it to the footy game that night. “Oh, you’re a fellow Roosters fan!” he exclaimed.
“Um, I meant the Swans, actually,” I said. Different football code.
“Oh,” he replied. “In that case, there’s an opening for surgery late next week…” he joked.


Overnight, the woman two beds over had severe sleep apnoea, and the young guy in the bed behind me tried to harm himself and was moved to a different part of the makeshift ward. Things escalated with him in the morning, and also with a middle-aged Chinese woman who reacted badly to the medication they gave her and went off the deep end, screaming in Mandarin and throwing things at the staff. When you’re in hospital for an extended period of time, you come to appreciated just how hard the nursing staff work and how tough the conditions can be.

Morning arrived. I spoke to the surgeon and his junior sidekick about the plan for surgery, then the anaesthetist (who just happened to be a dead ringer of my friend Ishara in SF). Sometime after 8am, she rolled me out of Day Surgery and down along the corridors, past all the flourescent lights all lined up in perfect rows. When you’re under the influence of morphine, time seems to lack the usual indicators. I chatted to the staff whilst we all waited in the antebellum for theatre, but it could have been a minute or half an hour.


Eventually, we rolled in to the crisp white suite, the space age lights hanging from the ceiling. It was as I pictured it: stark, clinical, but also a little newer than expected. Only the surgeon’s eyes were on display, but he was too far away for me to recognise him minus my glasses. I could only go by his voice. We agreed on what procedure I was having, and I felt comfortable that I would not be having my tonsils removed or my leg amputated in error. But there was no instruction to “count backwards from 100″, just the anaesthetist’s guide that I’d be experience a cold feeling, followed by a sensation of having consumed a few champagnes. From the cannula in my left hand I felt the liquid enter my blood stream and sprint up my left arm as I started to feel drunk, and then…

I awoke in the same bed back in the Day Surgery ward, more than a little groggy from the ‘champagne’. For the second afternoon in a row, my sister came to sit with me. She worked remotely on her laptop whilst I chilled in the bed and napped and recovered. We may not have done a whole lot of talking, and certainly not about anything of consequence, but I really appreciated the company. I know she’s got my back.

The surgery to insert the titanium plate and eight screws had gone well, as did the removal of the extra bone fragments that would have caused me grief. My right wrist felt a million times better than it had only a few hours previously, no longer like it was tied in a knot. Such a relief! I was to keep the half-cast dry and to see the specialist in two weeks to remove the stitches.


At the end of the day, I was finally discharged. Although I had to give away my ticket to the Swans Preliminary Final, my sister and I still made it back home with just over and hour to spare before the game started. I can barely remember it — and I think we each were only able to manage one slice of pizza each — but the Swans beat North Melbourne by 71 points. I’d like to think that I took one for the team by breaking my wrist, but then in the Grand Final a week later the Swans were humiliated by almost the same margin. So it was all a little hollow. But I still had perspective: my wrist had been repaired by the skillful surgeons at St George Hospital and was on the mend, so losing a Grand Final (especially in my morphine haze)  was small fry.

Life’s good.



The Preliminary Final

Sometimes life bites you in the arse. Hard.


I took a tumble at basketball on Wednesday night and have spent the last 44 hours in hospital. I had surgery this morning to have a plate inserted in my wrist. But I cried when it was apparent I wouldn’t make it to see the Swans in the Preliminary Final tonight.


So I have made it home with 90 minutes to spare. My lovely sister is cooking fancy pizza, I’m freshly bathed and morphined up. And we’re going to Cheer Cheer the red and the white from the comfort of the couch.