Friday, December 09, 2005

where is everybody?

While this blog is mostly just for me -- I am inclined to actually write in it, as opposed to pen-and-paper journals, which, despite all intentions to the contrary, I assiduously avoid. And I've yet to tell any of my friends about it (partly because that would imply that I think it's worth reading, and I'm not convinced that's the case). But, like most frustrated writers, I have to confess to a faint hope that somebody, somewhere, reads it. Yet googling "secret wombat" yields nothing at all. For a while it showed up on Yahoo, but for some reason it's dropped out of there as well. And I think all but one of the very few comments I've received have been spam. It's tempting to mention "I have a blog" to a couple of friends -- at least to those who have blogs themselves. They might be prepared to do an "I'll read yours if you read mine" deal. And there are still a few people out there who are less tech-savvy than I am, and who might be...if not impressed, then at least not unimpressed. I could tell them about it, too. On the other hand, it would be nice if people just discovered it out of the blue. But it seems that the world's search engines don't like secret wombat. Where is bloody secret wombat indeed...?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

exercising demons

Four days of nonstop rain ... it's supposed to be the dry season now. I've hence temporarily forgone Tuesday and Thursday soccer for 30+ minutes of swimming laps at the staff housing pool. First time in my life that I've swum for exercise. I'm actually enjoying it (especially the endorphin-induced sense of wellbeing afterwards).

Usually, I don't enjoy exercise for its own sake. I'm happy to play a sport for hours (if I enjoy it), but if I start jogging, I quickly get this horrible itchiness in my arms and legs and give up in about 5 minutes.

My first-ever attempt at exercise for its own sake (or for vanity's sake) was doing weights in the Adelaide Uni gym in my first year (1990), around the time I turned 18. I was tall but pretty scrawny, and I had an absurd idea that I'd do weights and beef up. I did a half-baked couple of sessions per week for one term. I was trying to gain weight -- instead, I lost it and became even scrawnier. Summer holidays rolled around and when Uni started the next year I forgot all about it.

A year or two later, I seemed to do the natural "filling out" thing and have since hovered around 95-98kg for the past decade or so (I'm 6'5", so 98kg isn't as heavy as it sounds). I did tip the 100kg mark in 1994, when, for a few months, a dislocated kneecap rendered me unable to do anything more active than eat.

My second effort at exercise for its own sake was a far more sensible attempt to increase fitness by riding my bike around Lake Burley Griffin while living in Canberra in 2003 (I'd long since gotten over being vain enough to step inside a weights room at a gym, though I confess to thinking that a slightly more svelte profile -- i.e., my body shape as is, minus the paunch -- could be a pleasant side effect). I'd head off from work at lunch, don my minidisc headphones and pedal around listening to the Stone Roses, Silver Jews, Mountain Goats, Will Oldham, and Preston School of Industry. For whatever reason, these were the bands that rode with me in my noble quest for moderate fitness...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Stuck to my desk just now is the following handwritten note to myself:
A, you SERIOUSLY have to work efficiently over the next two weeks & get BOTH drafts written
I'm referring to two stories I have to write about the projects I visited in Bangladesh and India in October. And I am excruciatingly aware of how sad this is (writing myself such a note). It's also spectacularly unsuccssful: I've been procrastinating all bloody day.

And I don't know why I emphasised "written".

It's hopeless ... without the pressure of a looming deadline I'm useless
– but I can't stand the stress that comes with tight deadlines.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Fish in Sabang, Puerto Galera

rich white sexpats

A few weeks ago, D finally got paid by the NGO she works for. They owed her at least three months’ salary, but they only paid two. The next day, they asked for about a quarter of that back because they were running short of funds. It’s extraordinarily frustrating – the NGO (which promotes and advocates family planning and reproductive health in the Philippines) has excellent goals and does some very good work, but the management at times seems very poor.

In her interview, they asked D about her lovelife (Philippine standards of confidentiality are a bit different to Oz’s). When her first pay was due and she was told she wouldn’t be paid, management said to her that she’d “be able to borrow money from her boyfriend.” It’s true that as a (white) foreigner here, I’m perceived as rich. It’s also true that, relative to most Filipinos, I am. But, coming from a staunchly middle-class family in Oz, I have never felt rich in the way that many Filipinos think I am. Having said that, I acknowledge that simply being from a developed-country’s middle class makes me “rich” compared to the vast majority of the world’s population.

People often assume I’m rich. Far worse than that, people often assume, when they see me with D, that I must be paying for her. When you see a 50+-year-old, fat, ugly Australian/American/European, it is possibly reasonable to guess that they aren’t an example of beautiful romantic serendipity. However, as a non-obese 33-yeat-old, I’d like to think that people wouldn’t tar me with the sexpat brush. No such luck. There are three main types of assumption:

  1. Filipinos. A few times, Filipino men have called out some crude remark in Tagalog, which D will, after my insistence, reluctantly translate for me. (This when we merely walk past next to each other – not even holding hands.)
  2. Expats who look down their noses at us. They wouldn’t be so crass…
  3. Sexpats themselves. This is by far the worst type of assumption – the fat, ugly Australian/American/European whose eyes light up and throw me a look that says something like: “Phworr! Nudge nudge wink wink, good on ya mate!” (That’s the Oz translation, anyway. I don’t know the German for “Phworr!”)

It bothers me less now than it used to. D said that one of the highlights of her trip to Oz was being able to walk around (in the cities at least) and have people completely uninterested in us as a “mixed-race” couple (quote marks because it seems so absurd that you’d ever have to bother describing a couple as “mixed-race”). The truth of how D and I met is quite banal – she was a friend of some Oz friends of mine living over here when I arrived. In Oz last xmas/new year, though, we decided that if anyone asked how we met, we’d say that I chose D from a catalogue. I don’t think anyone believed us…