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!


Know your Aussie

Australians can be divided into two categories: the Holden people and the Ford people.
You think I’m kidding, but it starts already at birth. Have a look here:

This picture is from a market in Townsville, but it could be anywhere in Australia. The European in me asks the question: where are the “I ❤ Ferrari” and “I ❤ Lamborghini” T-shirts? Because honestly! Which Aussie who would not chose one of those over a Holden? Or maybe they wouldn’t… now there is a scary thought!

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.


Pathway of stories

Last night I had this dream. It was really clear and I still remember it very vividly. That rarely happens. I was in a forest, with a friend and we were following a trail made out of concrete. It was about 1.5 meters wide and wound itself through the forest; we could see quite some way back, from where we had come, though much was lost because of a curve in the trail. Looking forward, we couldn’t really see where we were going. Only very little. The only way for us to move forward was to write a story on the concrete path with a piece of chalk. We took turns doing this. Sometimes we would walk back where we had come from, around a corner to check something we had written in the past, so we could write the current story correctly.

It was not a bad dream, the forest was light and the sun shone through. Every now and then we got tired from the writing and sat down for a while. At some point we got frustrated about how slowly we moved forward and how much hard work we had to put into the writing, into moving forward.

I don’t think I need to explain the analogy. I woke up thinking about my own story and how my life has been a road with many, many curves, twists and turns. And how so many people have written their lives into mine. How my focus is generally in the present, more than the past or the future. In the last month though, it has been very much in the past; I’m pretty sure it has to do with going to Denmark, trying to prepare myself for going there, thinking about the people there, my life there. I think I’m trying to prepare myself for reverse culture shock.

It has made me a little sensitive today, emotional and quiet. One of those days where Leonard Cohen makes you cry. Writing stories on a pathway between cultures can do that to you.


Compared to the Danes, the Australians don’t really celebrate Easter.
The only real hint of Easter I see in Australia is the massive  amount of chocolate in the supermarket. As for the rest… not really. No decorations, no Easter food, no special public events. There is no “come together in the local park for an Easter concert” or “see the special Easter exhibition at the art gallery”. There is no meeting up with friends and colleagues for Easter lunches. Today, Thursday, is not even a holiday. And not many people seem to have a clue about the religious background of these days, what actually happened.

Every year I wonder about the same thing: why do I care? I’m not even Christian. Why am I so keen to celebrate an event of a church I don’t belong to? The closest I can get, has to do with culture. It’s a big thing where I’m from, Denmark being protestant by constitution and all.

Easter in Australia is just another day. It flows on as the other days. You get a few days off, but it could be for any reason. Life in Australia is a lot like that and I realise that I miss the markers in time, the special days. “We got together for Easter” or “How was your mid-summers day?” or “Where should we watch the sun dance for pentecost?” (which we do, where I’m from).

So I have begun to mark them myself. I believe that we are the carriers of our own culture, a personal interpretation. I would like to integrate into Australian culture and sincerely try to make an effort, but that does not mean I cannot continue to carry my own culture. The tricky bit in our household is, that Mr Husband isn’t a carrier of the same culture as me, being Italian. And culture, I have discovered, has more meaning when shared with people who know what you are on about.

But we are giving it a go. I have started decorating the house and we are going to have an Easter picnic. This year I even found some branches that would hold the eggs.

What are you doing for Easter?