Monday, January 28, 2008

Who's the grownup?

A park in Dulwich Hill - Australia Day 2008.

A small 7 month old baby cuts a solemn and lonely figure sitting in her stroller in a childrens playground. She stares across the asphalt to two adults in the middle distance. The pair are in their mid to late 30's, one male and one female who are busy spinning around like complete fools on a roundabout and killing themselves laughing.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Mr Belly goes to Washington

Being a rabid animal lover somedays I get very down in the dumps when I think about all the terrible things that are done to the lovely creatures of the world - it's depressing, sad and sometimes I feel like I am one of the only people that cares. Now I know that's not true but when you hear about the things that happen every day to animals you have to wonder how people can be so cruel. However occassionally I hear a story that convinces me that all is not lost. This is one of them.

Back in 2006 Ed and I were lucky enough to work in Thailand as volunteers at the very amazing Elephant Nature Park which as the name would hint rescues and rehabilitates abused asian elephants. It's a wonderful place run by the inspiring Lek Chailert who apart from her love of elephants has also rescued a motley collection of other animals from cats, dogs and even a couple of little cows that fell off the back of a truck on the way to the abattoir one day.

The 39 dogs in particular are a big feature of park life. They are everywhere..sleeping in the shade of trees, running about, chasing sticks, dodging swipes from elephant trunks (who hate dogs) eating, squabbling, barking and generally having a very good doggy time of it. However as Ed and I quickly discovered life in Dog Paradise is not always so great for some. With a well established pecking order the dog pack had its underdogs.These poor bedraggled underlings were constantly monstered by the big bullies of the pack - the sinister "Big Head" and his general "Bite Bite" and lived a life in the shadows skulking around, eating last, living life on the fringes of dog society. One such underdog was a young pup called Belly. Not only was Belly somewhere on the last rung of the pecking order with the dogs but he was none too popular with several of the humans at the park too including one Thai mahout who would chuck stones and threaten him.

Belly didn't have a lot going for him. He had a short shout and bulging blood shot eyes, coarse ginger fur and funny floppy ears, short legs and freckles. Like a dog made out of discarded parts of other dogs. Belly also didn't have a very lovable personality, he was nervous and insecure which often manifested itself in growling, snapping and even biting. He just wasn't a Hallmark greeting card kind of an American volunteer observed one afternoon "even his butt is ugly". And it was true - some kind of skin disorder had defoliated his bum leaving it pink and scabby looking.

Despite all of Belly's shortcomings there was a quiet dignity about him - it was like he knew he didn't have much to offer but he was proud of who he was. Over the days Ed and I made an effort to get to know him and he would often come and sit with us. He would let us pat him but he always seemed tense and on the lookout. As time went on Belly trusted us more and he used to escort us home through the dark to our treehouse in the evenings. Later, for a couple of nights he even had a sleepover in our room nestled at the end of our bed. You got the sense that Belly, if he had his very own people to love, could be a better, happier boy.

Well the latest from the Elephant Park is that we weren't the only ones to see something in young Mr Belly. A lovely American couple called Jess and Tim worked at the park for a few months and fell in love with the naked bummed Belly and asked Lek if they could adopt him. She said yes and the wheels were set in motion...this couple flew back to the states to make arrangements and then flew back to Thailand specifically to go and get Belly and go though the rigmarole of quarantine to allow a Thai dog into the States.

So now Belly lives in the lap of luxury in the US - in Washington of all places. Having once been a jungle dog apparently he has had to get used to life walking in snow and ice, touring landmarks like the Capitol building, living in an apartment and going for walks on leads...but overall what I can't get over in the picture above is just how happy he looks. It warms my heart too to think that rather than buy some fabulous looking designer pet this couple spent thousands to make this funny little grumpy dog their own. Good on you Belly boy, I wish you a very happy life, and here's hoping that hair on your bum grows back before you freeze it off in the snow.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

the wrap up

Me, blissfully ignorant staring down the barrel of the beginning of 2007..if I could have seen what the year had in store for me would I have made a run for it?

Well it's 2008 and I have to admit at times last year I never thought I would make it. But here I am in a reflective mood thinking back to the big year that was. A friend of my sisters is into numerology and two years ago predicted that the following couple of years would be huge according to my particular numbers - and it seems she was right. During 2005 and the beginning of 2006 Eddie and I barrelled around the globe getting into all sorts of scrapes and adventures (hence this blog) before landing back in Sydney and attacking it with the enthusiasm of an animal park in Bolivia. Before we knew it we moved from Bondi to Leichhardt, got jobs, I changed careers and before I knew it I was having a baby too.....all very exciting but little did I know that my adventures were only beginning.

In early 2007 I learned to cope with throwing up in public places, nothing new for me really except this time I wasn't hungover. I learned that travelling in Thailand when you are pregnant entails being called a 'buddha' and results in being clapped and given the thumbs up wherever you go. Ed also received the thumbs up but was far more interested in improving his hammock skills.

Apart from changing careers and achieving my long yearned for dream of being a full time journalist (rather than prostituting myself to corporations during my sponsorship career at the Opera House) I also stumbled upon a second career of sorts. Somehow I stuck my big head into a couple of cheesy tv commericals and photoshoots and things snowballed from there. Being extremely pregnant didn't seem to be a deterrent either as I nabbed a gig in a very glam photoshoot for Getty Images playing a working from home mummy complete male model husband, million dollar beach house and golden retriever...strange but fun and rather good pocket money.

By March 2007 I also learned what happens when you become an L plate driver. In a last gasp attempt to finally get my drivers licence I attempted to break all records by wanting to get my P's before the baby arrived. This resulted in many, many early mornings of driving lessons with my 'bad cop' driving teacher Michael who liked to dole out a bit of tough love in the teaching department until I cried one day and scared the bejesus out of him. I endured many hours circling Marrickville learning to change lanes, reverse park, do shoulder checks with an ever growing belly and of course get used to the abuse hurled my way by other oh so mature drivers. Special thanks goes to the fifty something man who honked his horn and screamed at me for stopping at a stop sign, what a gem. A special mention too, to the guys who thought it would be funny to speed up to my car in their ute while I was attempting to drive the cross city tunnel and then scream into my open window- I'm sure it would have been hilarious for them if I'd driven the car into the wall killing myself, Ed and the as yet unborn bird, what a laugh.But Karma bit those naysayers on the arse and despite even the warnings of my driving teacher that I was not ready I took the test and passed with 100%. Take that - bullies of the road.

Once my driving caper was out of the way I had a slightly more pressing engagement - with my soon to be born baby. I finished work, bought unfeasibily small socks and waited. As recorded faithfully in this blog young Ivy bird was born and life changed completely. The downside: learning to cope with broken and sometimes no sleep, wondering who the hell this cranky little package is and whether I will ever actually like them? Dealing with boobs like Dolly Parton that seem to a have a mind of their own, learning more about sleep and sleep cycles and bums and wee and poo and bathing and breastfeeding than I ever thought possible. Learning what a breastpump is and how to use it, walking around with cabbage leaves down my bra to try and get rid of painful blockages and lumps.

The cranky package

On the upside? Slowly falling in love with the cranky package as she grew, unfolded and began to turn into the sweetest and funniest person I've ever met, meeting a whole lot more friends including my rocking Mummies group who despite my fears turned out to be a mostly hilarious bunch of cool women who are far more interested in talking about trashy gossip, politics, travel and going to the pub rather than babies, bums, poos and wee.

Another upside was having the most cheerful, patient, handsome and kind co-parent in the form of one Eduardo Holmes who certainly did it tough in those early weeks often coming home from work to find two hysterically crying women and a slightly hysterical cat and still managing to make dinner for us all.

Another unexpected bonus was learning be a local; hours spent walking with a stroller and a baby means people talk to you and now I know half the people in Norton Street. For the first time in my life I feel like I actually live in a community and I really like it.

The final upside to this whole baby thing is that despite all the stupid things people tell you will happen when you have a baby I worked bloody hard to make sure they didn't. I was told I would never....sleep, read a book, watch a movie, write another sentence, eat out, go to the beach balh blah blah and so on. I am happy to report I have probably read more books, seen more films (with Ivy in tow), eaten out and even started writing and working on a freelance basis from when she was 10 weeks old, I quickly learned that if you are organised, flexible and at times have an ability to do things with one hand they can still be done. As for sleep we got lucky, Ivy has been a champion night-time sleeper from very early on and Ed and I usually get about 8 - 9 hours solid. So apart from that scary crazy first 8 weeks of Ivy's life things have been pretty sweet with little Miss Ivy May..... so much so I'm even crazy enough to start thinking I might do it all again sometime.

So now we come to 2008 - I'm sure there will be plenty of adventures, of the domestic kind, afoot. Though I am hoping that my learning curve this year won't be quite as steep, afterall it was a blissful kind of ignorance I lived in at the beginning of the year. Now I look back and wonder who that person was who didn't know what to do with a stroller, a highchair, a nappy and a real live baby? Or even for that fact a set of car keys? How things have changed and I suspect with Ivy May keeping me on my toes things will change again this year. Stay tuned for tales of starting childcare and me going back to work, probably with a patch of vomit on my shoulder. Happy New Year!