A reflection on The Reflection Tour

20 Sep

*The opinions expressed in this piece are purely mine and do not reflect the opinions of Tura or anyone else associated with the tour. These are some thoughts that have been circulating in my brain.*

When you’re touring with a band expectations of glamorous parties, ‘rockin jams and alcohol fueled gigs spring to mind. When you’re touring with a band you expect that everyone around you will have the same enthusiasm for the music you broadcast and advertise, why wouldn’t local communities want to come to the gigs? THE MUSIC IS GREAT.

When you’re touring with a new music/jazz/contemporary band in remote indigenous communities you quickly learn that the music you’re promoting might not be considered important or particularly valuable, and you’re probably only considered rockstar material to a small percentage of the towns, mostly white, population. As we travel from town to town I notice that often we are faced with logistics out of our control, like a gig at the local community centre being cancelled because the town decided to go out fishing, or miscommunication about what members of the band are invited to play at certain events. For example our two aboriginal band members were welcomed to play at a gig at the local indigenous arts center and the white men, rightly so, were invited only to listen and watch. When these sorts of logistics go haywire it reminds me to reflect on two things: 1) cultural awareness 2) reclaiming culture post colonialism. When a town decides to go fishing instead of watching a free gig, it makes it very clear that fishing is evidentially more important than the music we are offering to this particular group of people. In no way does this mean our music isn’t important, but it gently bruises the ego just enough to keep our heads from swelling too largely, and keeps the importance of this project in perspective.

Josiah and I enjoying Emma Gorge

The second point of reflection is that I am constantly evaluating and noticing endemic power structures in place when a group of white people enters a indigenous community. I’m noticing that we, I*, expect things to run according to our schedule. Sure, in any logistics planning process you account for things to go haywire, but I do notice a fervent sense of community ownership within the first nations communities and my sense of discomfort when things don’t run according to our (white mans) schedule. It’s clear to me when I write these thoughts down that a) I propagate and unconsciously encourage a colonialist agenda b) that first nations communities should continue to reclaim and own their daily agendas and activities, without judgment from people like me.

I’m still reflecting and processing all of these thoughts, maybe some true, some false. It’s day 9 and I’m sitting on a verandah in a bush shack that faces towards the nearly deserted and pristine Cape Leveque, and I’m hoping my thoughts develop into some a bit more coherent before the end of the trip.

How lucky I am to be on this trip. It is truly wondrous.


The story of Geese who honked like Ducks

15 Nov
honkey tone

Honkey Tone

Amongst the brawny rushes and reeds of the Western Marshlands, where rivers trickle and trail over fresh sea worms and salamanders, live a gaggle of peculiar geese. There are 3 different types of geese that occupy the western marsh; The Anser gaggle, whose feathers are grey and beaks very long; the Branta gaggle, whose feathers are black and sleek; and the Chen gaggle, whose feathers are pristine white and hate to become dirty. The Geese all make distinctly different sounds when they open their beaks to talk. The Branta make a “HANK!” sound, the Chen make the most familiar goose sounds of “HONK!” and whenever the Anser geese open their beaks to speak, a high pitched “QUACK!” sound bellows out. Whilst the goose families all make slightly different sounds, and have slightly different coloured feathers, this doesn’t matter too much as they are geese after all.

Each family of geese live in in their own section of the marshlands, happily going about their goosey business, doing goosey things day in, day out. Occasionally the geese will fly or float into each other and ruffle one anothers’ feathers. The gaggle of Chen Geese become most annoyed when an Anser or Branta ruffle their lily white feathers, because they claim they have the most beautiful and soft feathers of all of the Western Marshlands. And because they have the most beautiful feathers, they should always be heard.

However, white feathered Chen gaggle did not always boss the other gaggle of geese around. A very long time ago, the Branta gaggle ruled the Western Marshlands and lived in harmony with the land. Their black feathers were perfect for protecting their goosey skin from the harsh, marshland’s morning sun. All the animals in the marshlands lived happily with one another, and treated each other as equals. The slimy green frogs would ribbit and croak as the Branta floated past, and sand crabs would nip and clip their claws toward the sun, as it rose from its sleepy slumber and started to warm the critters, floaters and crawlers of the Western Marshlands.

Until one very humid and stormy afternoon the white feathered Chen Geese rampaged the shallow waters of the Western Marshlands. Hundreds of Chen Geese landed in the spiky reeds and rushes, and honked at the Branta Geese to immediately give them land. The Branta Geese protested and bellowed “HANK! HANK! HANK!” at the Chen Geese. The Chen Geese did not listen to a single angry “HANK!” and soon claimed an unjust victory over the black feathered, Branta Geese homes.

The white-feathered Chen Geese were without a doubt big, mean, bullies. They became very controlling about what migratory birds were allowed and weren’t allowed to stop over and nest in the Western Marshlands. As years past, and the black-feathered Branta Geese slowly disappeared, more and more grey feathered Anser Geese began to float down the shallow waters of the very green and luscious Western Marshlands. Eventually they made their nests, hatched their young and burrowed for worms in the most western part of the Western Marshlands.

The white-feathered Chen Geese became suspicious of the very grey Anser family. Their feathers were a muddy grey, (and looked like they could have been white once upon a time), but had spent too much time rolling in the Marshland’s sloppy mud. To the Gaggle of Chen, the Anser sounded very peculiar. Instead of honking at each other like regular, white-feathered geese, these geese… quacked! They quacked like ducks!

The Chen Geese were very upset and very scared that the Anser Geese didn’t honk to one another like the other geese. The head of the Chen Gaggle, Honky Tone, certainly didn’t like the Anser Geese and one day said,

“I don’t understand this mumbo-jumbo coming out the Anser Geese beaks, they sound like ducks! And I don’t like ducks. They can’t be real geese!”

Honky Tone became very frightened of the Anser Geese, but not because the Anser Geese were bad birds, or because they ever hurt anyone. Honky Tone didn’t understand why they quacked like ducks, and didn’t honk or look like the rest of the white-feathered geese.

You see, when some silly Chen Geese become very scared, and very unsure of differences, they resort to violence.

One day, Honkey Tone professed to all of the geese in the Marshlands,

“We must declare war on all geese that quack! Any Goose that does not Honk like the rest of the normal geese, will be put on a goose chase!”

Soon enough, the grey-feathered Anser Geese were banned from their favourite swimming holes. The white-feathered geese, who controlled entry to the water holes, spread nasty rumours to all of the geese in the Western Marshlands that Anser Geese would try and poison the fresh water for everyone.

The Anser Geese were very upset they were no longer allowed to dive for worms or float and flutter with their friends in the watering hole; a watering hole that was made for ALL geese in the Western Marshlands.

Honkey Tone particularly hated when the grey geese would cover themselves with the cool and very fresh mud of the Western Marshlands, because Honkey Tone liked to show off his white feathers. Some Anser Geese liked to cover themselves in grey mud or beautiful feathers they found in grass, and some just liked to wear their grey feathers without any mud or coloured feathers. Either way, Honkey tone said,

“I find this un-goose-like behaviour confronting,” and ordered for all Anser Geese to wash off the cool, cleansing mud, even if it was against their beliefs.

Honkey Tone encouraged all white-feathered Geese to honk very loudly and very aggressively at grey feathered Anser Geese if they floated past. Honkey Tone thought this was the best way to teach grey Anser Geese to honk like a real, Chen Goose and fit into the Western Marshlands as normal geese. Much to Honkey Tone’s disappointment, the Anser Geese continued to quack, and quack, and quack!

The Anser Geese became very tired of being chased away and excluded from their Marshland home. They quacked like ducks, because that’s how they were made; no protest, honking lesson or attacks on their goosey burrows from the Chen Geese would change their peculiar, and perfectly good “QUACK!

The Anser Geese hatched a grand plan to defeat Honky Tone and his nasty plump of white-feathered Chen Geese.

One very pink dawn, as the clouds fluffed and bloomed above the sleepy, misty morning sun, the grey-feathered Anser Gaggle gathered together on the shallow banks of the Western Marsh. They floated and flew the grassy boundaries, where the Chen gaggle slept, and waited for them wake.

Minutes passed as the pink, fluffy clouds grew and the Anser Geese assembled into a very large love heart floating on the waterhole.

Honkey Tone was the first to notice the very peculiar and very large love heart on top of the waterhole. All of a sudden extremely loud quacks roared across marshlands and filled the pink morning air with a bellow that had been previously silenced.

The Anser Geese offered loving kindness and forgiveness to the Chen Geese. They understood that it could be frightening and very scary to experience another goose culture that they were not familiar with, after all the white feathered geese honked and didn’t quack like they did! The Anser Geese quacked so loudly, and with such loving kindness they filled the hearts of all geese in the Western Marshlands with love, tolerance and grace.

The grey-feathered Anser Geese decided they would neither use violence nor spread nasty rumours, or intimidate the white-feathered Chen Geese, as they had done to them. No, the grey-feathered Geese offered kindness and humility, because they knew that difference was wonderful and to be celebrated! Even though their feathers may be grey, and they quack like ducks, they were still as goosey and loved to do goose things as much as their white-feathered friends.

From that day onwards, Honkey Tone was chased by all the geese out of the Western Marshlands and told,

“Only come back when you can celebrate difference and humility!”

And Honkey Tone was never seen again.

Edited by Robert Partleton

Why men need to start talking about periods; period

5 Nov

*For the purpose of the article, I will be referring to women as those who possess the XX chromosome and menstruate. It is important to acknowledge a small percentage of xx chromosome people do not menstruate nor identify as female.

Photo on 5-11-2014 at 3.08 pm #4

Bodily fluids, blood, vomit, spit, semen, urine and feces are gross. It’s true, we know it, and that’s why nurses and doctors are spectacular human beings who can deal with those fluids without actually producing their own fluids as a reaction. Once a girl vomited in front of me, and then I vomited. It was gross and confirmed why I will never become a nurse. Grossness aside, most adult humans are comfortable with the fact that we produce these fluids for various physiological and reproductive functions.

Of the uncontrollable bodily functions that cause most neuroses for men and women alike, is menstruation otherwise known as a period. As a society we’ve come along way from banishing women* to menstruation tents or rendering them mentally incapable for the week where their insides sheds like a snake and blood escapes their vagina once a month. Unfortunately for some women across the world, these practices of isolating women while they are menstruating are still in use and I must acknowledge my extreme privilege for access to pads and tampons, a luxury many people do not have.

Like a lot of things in the super secret society of females, periods fall under the big umbrella of “THINGS NOT TO TALK ABOUT AROUND MEN”- other topics of conversation include weight loss and ‘spanx underwear’. Sure, a lot of cis men know what a period is, they probably learnt about it in high school, have heard their female friends mention it and for all intensive purposes the hetero, cis men have probably had a partner who menstruates. I’ve never really experienced discrimination because of my period or understood how the mere mention of the word paralyse some males, until I brought up the word at a dinner table.

In a conversation, with a group of people, the word period was mentioned at a dinner table. There were no details of actual periods, certainly no mention of blood clots, blood spilling over ones pad or the awkward blood on your thigh. Just the word period was mentioned in passing conversation- to which a particular male thought it was appropriate to inform me that such topic of conversation makes them uncomfortable and the word should not be mentioned at the dinner table. Here’s a rough excerpt of the conversation.

Them : It’s inappropriate to talk about periods in public, I don’t want to know about these things.

Me: Well I’m not mentioning any details and it’s not like I’m not a adult human who doesn’t have a reproductive system and this event happens to me for 7 day every month. THAT’S 3 months a year I’m menstruating.


Several days past, and a long text message from the particular male appeared in my inbox. The adult cis, hetero man gave me some more thoughts on why the word period should not be mentioned. He compared talking about periods to talking about sex, drugs and alcohol. He mentioned some of these adjectives when describing the word period -“disrespectful” and “insulting”, and he suggested I should adjust my style, so he could feel more comfortable. Like a preacher to his disciples he implied having your period is effectively like leading a rock and roll lifestyle- full of drugs, sex and alcohol and only the adulterous engage in such lurid behavior!

I do not blame the said person for feeling the way they do when the word is mentioned, after all it made him uncomfortable for whatever reason. But it lends itself to the larger problem of educated, adult males who cannot and will not talk about an event that happens in a women’s life 7 days every month for roughly 37 years. If men bled out of their penises for 37 years, it certainly wouldn’t go unnoticed.

Men need to start talking about periods because when you do not acknowledge that this is a process as natural as producing saliva then you fail to recognize and validate me as an adult female. Menstruating does not control ones life, but it’s a process that occurs regularly for most women.

Periods are not sexual like semen (but they are necessary for reproduction), as this particular person implied, and in no way comparable to conversations about semen- women don’t start menstruating every time they’re turned on, unlike the ejaculation of semen.

Men need to start talking about periods because when you tell me that conversations about periods are insulting then this implies being a woman is insulting and my body is insulting.

Men need to start talking about periods because when you tell me the word period is disrespectful, then it highlights that you think you are above and better than the ‘dirty’ process of shedding ones uterus. It shows that you think you are owed respect by enforcing silence of the subject rather than discussing the topic in a respectful way.

Men need to start talking about periods because I am sick of getting embarrassed every time I go to the chemist and buy pads, despite starting menstruation over 10 years ago. The embarrassment extends from a sense of shame and a ‘hush hush’ lineage of period culture.

Men need to start talking about periods because in my first relationship at 18, I was too anxious about getting my period when I was around him incase he could smell it. Because I was told that when women get their period they can smell like a fish market.

Men need to start talking about periods. Period.

Context for conversations involving bodily fluids are understandable.I probably wouldn’t tell a bunch of strangers at a dinner table about an experience with an extremely heavy flow and a bunch of blood clots. I wouldn’t want to hear about it either as I was gulping down a steak.

Yet, to deny the mere mention of a word with a group of well acquainted people in a relaxed setting seems insulting and inappropriate to me and my experience as a female.

In an ultimate world, appropriate dinner-time conversations would have no boundaries, as long as all parties involved were feeling safe and no one was being attacked, then there should be no issue. Sometimes we can’t identify why we feel so strongly about a particular issue, yet we must identify these anxieties and work through them particularly if they impinge upon recognizing someone else’s person hood.

So, who wants to invite me over to dinner and have a conversation about periods?

5 things my booty don’t do

13 Oct

Much like the early Portuguese, French and English explorers who managed to miss the extremely large lump of continental mass that has sat in the Pacific Ocean for millions of years, now known as Australia. The modern day media has just discovered the Booty. Land A’Hoy! traversing booty bumblers, two large bumpa-lumps have been spotted on the strangely named continent of Iggy Azalea. Land mass sightings can confirm the fissures in the mass, formerly known as the box gap have been sealed, and excess mass has been magically transferred to the spherical shaped stores in the continental derriere.

2014 is the year of the booty. 2012 was the year of the box gap. Unfortunately for me, I’ve never been qualified to celebrate or bask in the glory of either one. But I hope 2016 will be the year of ‘left boob bigger than the right boob’, I’d probably organize the festival, direct the video clips and be the face (or boobs) of the sexy campaign. Of notable appearance in the booty songs of 2014 including J-Lo’s “Booty”, Meghan Trainers’ “All about that bass” and Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda”. The songs are catchy, and as hot as a 1987 Toyota on a 40 degree day.

Western media’s festishization of women’s bodies, in particular singular body parts, lends itself to the notion of ‘active’ anatomical parts- like their butts actively do things, apart from release gas and provide cushioning for bones. Nicki tames Anaconda’s with hers, Jenny from the block shakes the room with her ass (probably bending lighting fixtures) and Meghan’s ‘Boom Boom’ make men chase her. With all this chasing, rocking and shaking of rooms and inanimate objects surrounding it, I’m mildly surprised booty’s have not been labeled health hazards or formed into a troupe of super heroes. Well I’m here to tell you 5 things that my booty don’t do Photo on 13-10-2014 at 3.33 pm

  1. My booty can’t shake a room and cause fixtures to break

You know that slight over hang of ass at the bottom your underwear that creates a perfectly round, and lifted, silhouette of ass-with appropriate aerodynamics for shaking? No, neither do I.

  1. My booty can’t tame snakes

Not all booty’s were made equal. In fact my ass can’t apply discipline to anything especially not living creatures. Most of the time it just sits there. Maybe it should take up the ‘pungi’, also know as the snake-charming instrument.

  1. My booty can’t make a snack

Part of being an active and healthy creature is preparing healthy snacks like carrot sticks and hummus dips. My booty can’t do that. I wouldn’t be surprised if Iggy’s butt could prepare a quinoa and kale salad.

  1. My booty can’t start a Tsunami

Sometimes when I enter the water at my local beach or swimming pool, I worry the enormous pressurized impact of my butt might move earth plates or distrupt the earths core, like J-Lo’s butt. Fortunately I mostly just have to worry about regularly reapplying sunscreen to my incredibly pale skin.

  1. My booty doesn’t have a preference for music

I like to play the trumpet, which is in treble clef and sometimes I play trombone in bass clef. I used to worry that my ass would violently disagree with my choice in a treble instrument, like Meghan Trainor’s butt, who has a preference for bass. Luckily that hasn’t happened in the past 22 years.

My booty can’t move mountains and probably couldn’t take a on a super hero persona. It doesn’t carry enough #jigglewiggle to feature in Red Foo’s video clip either. But god damn, it provides a pleasurable seating experience.

The story of the very tall, very smart and very strong feminist high horse

24 Aug

 In the darkest, most damp corner of my back shed, where mildew garnishes the attic sheets and spider’s webs overlap into chains of nonagons and obscure hexagons, lives an old feminist high horse. She is steady on her hooves despite her inconceivably long, wirey horsey legs. Sometimes when I visit my feminist high horse to feed her a daily bucket of misandry, her brown horsey brow furrows at the sight of me- a young woman who looks defeated, angry and exhausted. She encourages me to hop onto her feminist high horse back and ride her all day. But I just can’t seem to reach.

A very long, long time ago, indeed, the feminist high horse lived in a magical queendom. In her queendom, the feminist high horse would parade her very long, very strong and very fine mousy brown tail to the other horses. Her average looking, yet exceptionally strong and accurate tail was made to swat and swipe away pesky man flies, who would try very hard to land on her very long, very strong body and make her feel itchy and uncomfortable in her own skin.

The feminist high horse was nothing spectacular compared to some of other horses, her abdomen was spotted black and rounder than the others, her flanks were thicker than the other horses and sometimes they would touch- unlike the other horses with flank gaps. The feminist high horse had legs that were longer and ganglier than a giraffe. She towered over the other horses and despite her less than spectacular exterior, the feminist high horse knew she had as much right to exist in the Queendom as the other flies and horses. 

The magical queendom, was truly a spectacular place. When the feminist high horse felt thirsty she drank from an ever-flowing, crystal clear trough of white cis man tears*. When another horse told her that her mane looked raggedy, and curly and she should try styling it like the other horses, she brushed her hair with bristles made of micro aggressions. With every stroke of her unruly feminist high horse mane, a bristle fell to the ground and tiny bristle screams echoed in the air, “why the long face?”, “only high horses hurt their calves”, “don’t talk to horses with long legs they will steal things”, they screamed. The feminist high horse continued to brush her entire body with the micro aggressive bristle brush, in the style that made her feel most comfortable and like the confident and smart feminist high horse she is. She brushed her hair so thoroughly that all of the little bristles had fallen to the ground and could no longer affect the way she thought about her own feminist high horse body or those around her.

The feminist high horse galloped all throughout the queendom draped by a bridle of voting rights and equal parliament representation. In the queendom over 50% of the horses in parliament were feminist high horses and the Minister for mares was in fact a female high horse too, and not a stallion like the previous minister. The feminist high horse lived in a magical equine world that would not tolerate sjambok whippings and violence towards 1 in 3 mares. The feminist high horse would neigh very loudly, huff and make a great deal of noise with her hooves when other horses told her she had taken her high horse feminism “too far”. Sometimes the other horses told her she needed to go back to her stable, stop clicking her hooves, eat some hay peppered by systemic misogyny. The very strong, very clever and very fast feminist high horse never let hurtful things other horses said control the direction she would gallop in.

Until one day a stallion who was quite familiar to the very tall, and very strong high horse told her, “you need to get off your feminist high horse”. According to the stallion, the high horse had taken her feminism too far. Particularly when she told the stallion that it is not okay to enquire about another mare’s relationship status immediately after the stallion had been informed that this mare is the most successful young business horse in all of the queendom. The feminist high horse, felt broken by the stallion. She felt as if her legs had been cut in half, and that she could not trot, swat or gallop around the queendom anymore. The stallion made her feel inferior for directing attention toward the mare’s achievements, rather than questioning why she has not managed to catch a horse partner.

Just like the broken high horse, I have also been told to stop riding my feminist high horse too. I imagine these people picture us as feminist cowboys- buckling up our saddles of responsibility (because feminists are expected to solve all the ethical problems), ready to ride through the idle deserts of misandry and shoot down every man in our “warped, and extreme tunnel vision sight”, (direct quote from person who suggested I get off my feminist high horse). Who has the warped sense of reality now?

The old and wise feminist high horse, who used to sit small in the dampest, coldest and most dark corner of my shed once again stood tall and straight. She wriggled her long mousy brown tail and asked me to hop on so we can ride tall together.

 Once someone tells you what you believe in, like gender equity, is inherently wrong or stupid -sometimes you start to believe it. Until the day where a woman wins a gold medal at the commonwealth games and her relationship status (or lack thereof) receives less attention than her sporting achievement or when you find out a young woman of 27 has reached a senior management position and earning of $120,000 a year in a field dominated by men and no one asks about her relationship status immediately after, that is the day I will come off my feminist high horse. Until then, you’ll find me amongst the tumbleweeds riding the feminist high horse, tall and strong throughout the feminist desert and queendom (and definitely not killing first nations people like a regular white cow boy).

*No men were harmed in the making of this story.

When your partner has depression

18 Aug

I used to joke that only men with depression were attracted to me, because that’s the only experience I have had with long-term boyfriends and a variety of short-term flings. I’ve never dated anyone who hasn’t been on anti-depressants or seen a psychiatrist in their life. Dark, brooding, introspective types fascinate me. I have always been able to empathise with this type of person as I have experienced my own difficulties with anxiety, bouts of light depression and am becoming a social worker. It is not until recently that I’ve been able to adequately actualize my thoughts, experiences and coping techniques one must employ when they are in love with somebody who probably cannot love them back in the same way.

I aim not to detract from the experiences of the person with depression, or even contend that my experience as a partner of someone who is depressed is remotely anywhere near as awful and lamenting as their experience. But to provide perspective to the many, many partners who have sat in silence with their loved one, watching them eat for the first time in 2 days because their brain has been a fog and their muscles hurt and their bed is the only safe space for them to hide in.

When you’re in love with someone who has depression, it can seem really life changing to connect with someone who was previously unable to connect with anyone else. You feel special because your presence makes their bad days less frequent and good days more common. When you’re in love with someone who has depression you swear to yourself that you will never see them for their illness but for the intelligent, dynamic and thoughtful person that they are. That chain of thought usually stays strong and true right until the end.

When you’re in love with someone who has depression, the seemingly lonely and isolating disease somehow manages to wrangle you in too. Their bad days become your bad days as well. Instead of going out on a date to the movies or going to a restaurant, sometimes your together time is just lying in your bed cuddling for three hours at 2 pm, because that’s all the energy they can muster. Depression depletes your energy and sends waves of lethargy and exhaustion crashing through both your bodies. When the person you are in love with has depression, you don’t sleep because the conversation you had with them earlier today went along the lines of them not seeing the point of being alive anymore. You don’t sleep, because life without the person you are in love with seems more excruciating than the pain you are feeling for them currently. And the anxiety this causes for you turns into compulsions- if you don’t think about them, their disease and caring for them, then bad things will happen to them. You feel the need to be constantly thinking how you can help them next.

When you are in love with someone who has depression, sometimes, but not always, your phone conversations for a week or two will revolve around them scheduling their appointments with a new psychiatrist, contacting the Disability Support Liason at University, their 3 doctors appointments and their visit to hospital for routine tests. You are their pillar of support, because you love them.

In retrospect it is easy to see that the way I tried to handle myself and my partners depression was not healthy or sustainable. By the end of several relationships, I was left feeling exhausted and depleted of my coping tools and ability to look after my own wellbeing. If your partner has depression, I can recommend seeking your own counselor who can equip you with some skills to learn to cope. Nobody teaches you how to look after yourself, when you look after others. And you cannot be the best support system for someone else if your own mental health is impacted from his or her depression. While I was in Canada I joined a 12 week Mindfulness Based Stressed Reduction course that helped with my severe and debilitating anxiety over my ex boyfriend’s depression.

I have never regretted choosing to pursue a relationship with someone who has depression, mostly because their illness is not what made them attractive to me. I do however regret not establishing firm boundaries and support networks when I chose to become someone’s lover and sometimes carer. Despite its symptom’s depression is not a solitary or selfish disease. It affects everyone in the individual’s support network and is by no means the individual’s fault.

Set your boundaries. Have your own support system in place. And understand despite how much you love them, how many hours you cuddle them for, you will never be able to cure them. They are the only person alive who holds the key to their own healing.

How university exchange has changed me

1 Apr


The middle-class sabbatical of University exchange is something I’ve realized I’m not very good at. I’m good at plenty of things like getting people to reveal deep secrets, eating dumplings, singing and dancing to soul music. But I’m rather bad at doing middle class white girl rites of passage in regular fashion, like the time I went to ‘schoolies’ in Byron bay and joined a cult for a week or accidentally became a Christian for a while over the 2009 Christmas holidays. In irregular Lou fashion, my time on exchange has been, a quirky one at that.

You see I have really enjoyed my time overseas. I have met some inspiring, humans, like my manager at the Women’s Centre, Nadine- a woman who possesses a kind, fierce, super human soul and warms the room with every sincere word she says. Or the 90 year old Wiccan, first nations, tarot card reader who I happened upon in Seattle. Who up to this point has made some weirdly correct predictions about my life and my loved ones.

 But here’s a couple of reasons why my exchange has been a little different from what I expected:

I’ve nearly stopped drinking alcohol while on exchange

 That’s right, I’m an exchange student who has just about stopped drinking. Sure, it doesn’t sound too radical but the culture of university exchange is so embedded in what is technically considered ‘long term binge drinking’, a regular activities with my friends can consist of going to a pub/drinking venues on a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening. To stop drinking, despite nearly all your social interactions with the greater university community relying on the presence of alcohol is a really difficult thing. Never in my life has bed at 11.30pm been so seductive.

 I have begun meditating.

That’s right, I started meditating, everyday. Who travels across the world ready for crazy party adventures and instead finds themselves in bliss and solitude? Me. My weekly 4 hour Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Class (MBSR…google it) has taught me so many skills to control anxiety, depression and homesickness. Without it, I’m not sure I could have lasted up until this point in time in Canada. I have managed a silent 6 hour meditation workshop, a silent weekend retreat is up next in Melbourne.

I suffered a bout of depression and anxiety

There’s a strange expectation (delusion?) when you go on exchange that many of your problems will simply dissipate or stay at home waiting for you. My anxiety while on exchange has probably been sitting at it’s worst in over two years. When you move countries, attend a new university, move into a new home, make new friends and then live through a Canadian winter, life can become extremely tough and disjointed. Thoughts about people in your home country ruminate and become obsessive, your new friends are lovely but you don’t want to burden them and the world despite all the beautiful privileges you have been given can become grey and lifeless. Luckily enough, everything passes. And what was a difficult time, on reflection was also a brilliant strength and coping exercise.

I learnt to play the ukulele

Yep. Having no job and studying on a pass/fail basis makes plenty of time for new skills. And as a result of learning the ukulele I’ve been asked to perform in a group at the Melbourne Fringe Festival in September.


I have three weeks left of exchange and my 3 and a half months in Canada could probably be compared to the Rocky Mountains, (which I had the pleasure of exploring over the past 4 days)- modulating, intimidatingly beautiful summits, cloudy, fresh and healing. I have met some of the most inspirational women who are leaders of their own fields at my University, like Habiba my gender studies teacher who is a middle age Muslim woman from Bangladesh who holds a PHD and rocks an admirable FTP attitude. She smashed down every engrained stereotype of what a muslim WOC is ‘supposed’ to look like or think. A true inspiration. The admirable, tough women I have met through my time volunteering at the women’s centre has been a constant source of inspiration and comfort whenever I felt lonely, overwhelmed by sexism or needed a cup of tea and a piece of cake.

My time is not quite yet finished here, and I have plans to tear the New Orleans Jazz festival up at the end of exams. But as I start to clear out my small room on residence I can say that my time on exchange was simultaneously difficult and rewarding. And I would strongly recommend it to anybody who has flirted with the idea of flipping their life upside down and moving across the world for 4 or so months.

P.s final word of advice; if you are in a romantic relationship either break up with your partner before you leave or go into it on an ‘open’ basis, so if you happen to kiss somebody or become involved with another then you’re not ‘cheating’. Of all the relationships that have kept on going while over here (and that’s not many) those are generally the ones in an ‘open’ style relationship . But then again, just because you’re on exchange doesn’t mean you’re going to get a whole lot of sexy loving’ cuddles from hot men/women. Trust me.






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