I bake, therefore I survive

One of the topics often discussed among Europeans here in Australia is bread.
It is just not the same as at home. And it is very expensive too, compared to what we are used to, which makes it harder to accept the quality. We miss heavy, crusty loafs full of seeds – and no, you do not get that in Australia, unless you live near an IKEA. Yes, that’s right: IKEA (and no, they do not make it from the remaining saw dust, like some people think). This packet was my savior for the five years we lived in Brisbane:

I just spent the weekend in Brisbane, arriving with hand luggage only, departing with a 17kg suitcase. Our survival is secured for a little while yet.

But unfortunately there is no IKEA in Cairns and no bakery either which make this type of bread. Luckily, when I was in Denmark my friend Nina gave me the recipe for cold risen bread, which substitutes nicely (though it is not dark enough, but I might be able to fix that myself). I thought I’d share the recipe with you, just in case your stomach needs some real love.

350 g of flour
15 g of yeast
350 ml of cold water
1 tsp of salt
1 tbsp of sugar
1 tbsp of oil
1 cup of oats/seeds/sawdust or whatever you like

Mix flour with yeast, salt, sugar and oats. Mix water with oil. Mix it all together – it should be like a thick, sticky porridge. Cover the bowl with cling film and stick in the fridge overnight. This step takes less than 5 minutes. The next morning you spoon the dough onto the plate (no mixing it, leave the air in) to create buns (I use two spoons for this) and leave for 10 min (that gives the oven time to warm up). Bake for 25 – 30 min at 200C. All done.

Look at the love in those! Sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, oats and all. Yum, yum, yum!


I said I like Facebook

I sang an ode to Facebook the other day, but one of the absolute heroes of my life is the guy who invented Skype. And I have met him, as he knew someone who knew someone who knew my friend (because he is Danish… just thought I’d let you know). I shutter to think what I would have done, had I known at the time what a great thing he had created. I didn’t reflect on it at the time. It would not have been beneath me to kiss his feet.

I still remember trying to phone home when I lived in South Africa in 1995. I would get a phone card for 100 Rand, ring up mum and the conversation would go something like: “helloooo hellloooo helloooo” (echo). Then wait for 10 seconds and get a return “Hellloooo hellloooo, how are youuuuu?” (10 secs) “I’m gooood” (10 secs) “whaaat?” (10 secs) “I said I’m gooooood, how are youuuuu?” (10 secs) “we are weeeeelll” (10 secs) “there is no more money, I will call you from Durban” (beep beep beep). Now I just say: “Hang on, I’ll put the kettle on and be back in a tick” and then mum and I talk for hours.

Trust me, Skype is the saver of sanity in many a migrants life. It not only lets us know if our family members are OK, it allows us to connect to them in a much more meaningful way.

And now I’m going to call up their media department (if they have one) an see if I can get a sponsorship dollar out of them. I would be an excellent poster girl… because I mean it!

Friend Request

Friendship has taken a whole new meaning since I left my country a decade ago. It takes time to become friends and it takes an effort to maintain them. Most of all, I have learned how precious friendship is and how much I value the relations I have created through my life.

There are the people I grew up with in the village I come from, who I used to catch up with on a regular basis without really making an effort.There are the other people I met growing up, like my friends from when we lived on Long Island. Or my pen-pal from Germany. Then there are the good solid friends who I have laughed and cried with for decades. The ones I studied with, worked with, went on holidays with. Then there are the two girls I made friends with the three years I lived in Italy. Those were tough years, I tell you, and I could not have survived without those two. I don’t see them much and I don’t talk to them much. But I would walk through fire for them both. Then there are my new friends, people I have met here in Australia. That again is a totally different relationship. For most of us, we are tied together through an experience of being foreign, reflecting on our surroundings. They are from countries I have never had friends in before. Like France. And Egypt.

Many of my friends are on Facebook. I often sit and look at my list of friends on Facebook and I get filled with a tremendous sense of gratitude. I love Facebook for that reason alone. I really do. I LOVE to hear the stories, love to see the pictures and I try to return the favor.

I listen to the scary parts they tell us about Facebook, about being watched and surveilled. But you know what? I sometimes hope they spy on me and my friends. I hope they see how connected we are and how much we care. How much I care. And I hope it scares them.

And then I love it when I get a friendship request and think: who the heck is that girl with bananas in her hair? Do I really know her? OH YES she is lovely! How good is this!

To travel really is to live

There is only one word to describe how I feel at the moment: unsettled.

The past three months travels and all that came with it has been mind-blowing. It takes time to settle back into life, time to adjust to how things are here, time to filter all the new knowledge and let it all find its place. Relationships have been established, built, re-built, strengthened or fallen apart. Options, alternatives, preferences have been reviewed and questions of who I am, where I am, who I want to be, values, purpose, importance, significant others and all that comes with life and living, has been clarified.

I’m in a good place.

I currently feel as if I’m walking at the edge of my capacity. Hans Christian Andersen said that “to travel is to live”. I don’t think I ever understood the truth of this as much as I do now. If you let it, travelling is not just something you experience; it is something that transforms you. Travelling can force you to grow in a way that hardly anything else can. The journey continues for a long time after the ticket runs out.

where my path began

I grew up in a small village. Some people don’t really believe me when I say this, but here it is. 600 people and a miniture grocery store.


There is a hotel and people keep their gardens nice

The main reason my parents chose this location was my dad’s work. He caught a ferry every morning to a research institute. When they named the boat, they took a daring leap and thought outside of the box. Just in case they forgot why they were there.

There are no major streets or avenues in my hometown. It is all very small and quiet. When we practiced driving to get our drivers licence we had to drive 20km to exercise  stopping for a red light. We had to drive 50km to practice driving through a roundabout (it was completed as a class excursion). Now-a-days the village hosts one roundabout. Modern times!
Many of the houses were built for the fishermen. They are small and quite cute.

The house I grew up is on the front row facing the water.

Much can be said about growing up in a small remote community, especially when you are a teenager but no one can complain about the view.


Angry Bird is just scared

I just read my posts from this week. I wonder who commissioned Angry Bird? Probably me.

As you know, I’m heading North very soon. Tuesday next week actually. It’s made me a little jumpy as there are SO MANY THINGS to get organised, when you go away for 3 months. The stress is enormous. This is my big project, my PhD, the thing I’ve talked passionately about for 7 years. The time is now. I’m doing it.

Somehow I have convinced other people that this is a good idea. Somehow I managed to get funding for it. It is costing an arm and a leg, which (in my world) means I have to get it right. I’m not getting a second chance to do this fieldwork. I HAVE to get it right. I broke out in a sweat just writing that.

I have been in a constant state of panic for the past month. I can’t say I’ve slept very well. Last Sunday I spent three hours crying into Mr Husbands chest, because it all just became too much. Oh the patience that man has. EVERYTHING sets off a new spiral of anxiety. The current list of topics for sleepless nights looks something like this:

  1. The thesis. What if it is based on wrong assumptions and everyone laughs at me. Or reject me as being stupid and naive. Oh the shame.
  2. The project. Nobody wants to be interviewed. The project is dead. I keep thinking this will happen, despite only having met excitement from the people I have talked to. Except for the politicians. They don’t answer my emails. I don’t know why I’m worried about that, because I don’t really need their opinions for anything…
  3. My abilities. I say something stupid, which gets me in trouble. This is a real option.
  4. Mr husband. I’m leaving Mr Husband behind, we will be apart for three months. That in itself I’m not so worried about. What I’m worried about is what I will do without him if something goes wrong. For years I’ve only had him, he is my sounding board for everything. When I venture into the world he always says “no matter if it goes well or you fail, I will kiss you.” What if I need those kisses?
  5. Denmark. Returning to my country. How much have I changed? I really don’t know. I know that I have changed, but not if it makes a difference. What if I don’t fit in? What if I arrive in Denmark and find I no longer belong there? What if I have disappeared?
  6. Facing the hurt. When you ask people to love you and then leave them for as long as I have, they get angry with you. Even if it is not their intention. It is my responsibility to carry that. I inflicted that pain and I feel guilty about it.

So Angry Bird is really not so angry. Angry Bird is just a bit scared.

The wicked thing is, that despite the anxiety, this is something I really want to do. And I AM excited! I really am. As much as I am worried, I’m also really happy to be going. It is AWESOME! I’m going to see my family! My friends! I’m going to Greenland! I will be meeting people I have wanted to talk with for years, asking the questions I have wanted to ask for years.

And guess what? I have this guy waiting for me on arrival. I look at this picture and know I will be fine. If nothing else, I can throw my arms around his neck as I obviously have since I was a wee little one. It’s all going to be just fine.

Me and my older brother

you are talking about me

From day one, I doubted if Twitter was a good place for me to be. Day four and I am involved in a massive argument. Because I’m wasting time on an idiot. This is how it started:

Tweet: University of Canberra journalist school passes ‘fail’ students http://bit.ly/IW7LAl
(enter article, insinuating foreigners cheat their way through the Australian education system). Another tweet commenting on this article:ok, now put your journalistic investigationing skills to work, on imported doctors v’s home grown

and then Signe got pissed off. I now know I should have just turned off Twitter. Instead I wrote and hence the argument began:

Signe: I’m from overseas, done my masters here, now my PhD. Do you want to challenge my ability?
Tweet: Good for you (oh the condescending nerve)
Signe: and, so far, good for Australia! Continue to make everyone believe foreigners are incompetent cheats and we leave

And on the argument goes. I have sent my last post on the matter, a condescending return of “Well, good for you” (I couldn’t help myself). But people, it hit a nerve! A really sensitive one, which I am fiercely annoyed with: the general discussion that educated foreigners are not qualified for Australian standards. It can be one of two things. Either our education back home is not good enough OR we cheated our way through uni, because we all know that people with a non-english language background buy exam results, have other people sit exams in their name and only make it through because we are a money machine for the university.

Well, I didn’t! And I don’t know anyone else who did! I and my fellow foreign students worked our arses off to learn your language and learn it well enough to write an Honours thesis that would qualify us to do a PhD. Between my Masters and PhD I worked 4 years paying taxes to your country with no right to claim anything. I am not covered by medicare and never have been. I am forced to pay for an insanely expensive medical insurance which gives me almost the same cover as medicare, but not entirely. If I don’t, I get kicked out of the country. I cannot get social welfare. If I had become unemployed while working, I would have been kicked out of the country. That is how a 457 visa (sponsorship) works. My Masters cost me $50.000 all together. Right down in your coffers. 

And then I get it (and you have no idea how many times I have heard this): “But we are not talking about you.” Because I am white. I am from Europe. I am not a doctor from India. Well pardon me for clearing this up: the only difference between me and the doctor from India is the colour of our skin. We have gone through the same visa application process, taken the same exams, applied the rules of the same system.

So when you talk about the cheating foreign students, you ARE talking about me. And I challenge you. Anyone who has lived the experience will. Push me, and I will challenge you further: then I will call the racism card.