What now for Manus?

Urrrrgh.

I bloody hate this situation.

I’ve made phone-calls, including to Peter Dutton MP (Minister for Immigration and Border Protection). I’ve also sent an email to my local member, Bill Shorten MP (Opposition Leader) and Shayne Neumann MP (Shadow Minister for Immigration).

See that below. This sickens me…. and I feel so hopeless and helpless about it.

Check out the statement from Shadow Minister for Immigration here:  http://shayneneumann.com.au/news/immigration-and-border-protection/former-manus-island-regional-processing-centre/ A lot more mealy-mouthed than I’d hoped for. Luckily I saw it when looking up his contact details and could address the icky bits in my email (they’re the bits in red). In the email, when I speak of the “current situation” I’m referring to the situation today. The angle I took was influenced by a phone-chat I had with a staffer from Shayne Neumann’s office.

 

Dear Mr David Feeney MP, Mr Shayne Neumann MP and Mr Bill Shorten MP,

My name is Clare Keogh and I am a young university student living in [suburb], Victoria. I am deeply concerned about the situation on Manus Island that has been unfolding for several weeks and escalated today. I am also keeping the people detained on Nauru in my thoughts, as they should not be forgotten either.
I know that the current situation is not Labor’s doing and that the centres, when Labor restarted them, was intended to be used for regional processing rather than indefinite detention. 
 
However, the fact remains that the current situation is not the responsibility of PNG but of Australia. There have been reports of AFP involvement in today’s crisis on Nauru, after all. 
 
By what right are the men’s phones being seized? By what right are their few belongings being taken and destroyed? By what right have their only means of getting water and shelter been destroyed? By what right has their access to even the most basic medical aid and food been removed? Why has Behrouz Boochani been arrested?
 
I understand that, as you are in Opposition, it makes it harder to make concrete change. But you and your colleagues should speak up about the situation still. Perhaps you are advocating for them behind closed doors. Can you explain, concretely, how? 
 
I am particularly concerned by some of the information that has been presented in the statement produced by Mr Neumann an hour ago: 
 

The situation at the closed Manus Island RPC could have been avoided if Malcolm Turnbull was clear from the start about refugees’ access to essential services at the alternative accommodation in PNG.

Turnbull has a moral obligation to work with PNG to deescalate tensions and guarantee the ongoing safety and security of these people.

Labor accepts that the former Manus Island RPC has closed as the result of a decision of the Supreme Court of PNG.

The men at the closed centre need to relocate to alternative accommodation – such as East Lorengau – to access security, health and welfare services.

Footage and reports from advocates who have visited the East Lorengau site make clear that the “alternative accommodation” at East Lorengau is not ready. No water, toilets, or showers. No power. Inadequate shelter for the tropical conditions. No security and no safety. The locals do not want them there. After all, Manus Island is a tiny part of PNG, with scarce resources for the local population.
 
Has anyone from Labor attempted to go and see conditions for themselves? Where has this idea that the offered alternative accommodation is acceptable come from? Why is the onus on the men to move there, rather than the violence to stop? The men have been asking us to listen to them about this. Why are you ignoring their voices? 
 
 
Nauru is also a small place that is struggling to care for all of its people. Yet today I heard news of a new contract being given to Canstruct to build more facilities (described as “garrison-type”) for those held there. There are children and vulnerable women on Nauru. Can nothing be done for them? 
I thought Australia was better than this. It makes me sick at heart to think of this going on, when it would be so much cheaper and more humane to fulfil our international and moral obligations and either bring them here or resettle them in another country who are willing and able to take them – like New Zealand – while working with other countries in the region to create a viable long-term solution. 
 
The idea that these measures are in place to “save lives at sea” or “protecting Australian borders” is rubbish. There are far cheaper and better ways of preventing people risking lives on boats to Australia, like investing in real regional dialogue and processing, providing support and resources to countries, like Malaysia and Indonesia, where the boats set out from. 
 
The current situation is a punitive measure created to encourage asylum seekers to think that going to Australia is worse than staying where they are. Now that has led to desperate people being treated like animals, denied even the most basic human rights. 
 
Please do something. This is a major sticking point for myself and many others in terms of voting. More than that, making a stand is the right thing to do. Have some political courage, listen to those who are experiencing the crisis, and act, please. The situation has gone on for far too long! 
 
If you reply, please don’t use an automated response but something real. 
Advertisements

Marriage Equality Essay

Last year I took a subject as an elective called Sex, Gender, Identity. It was an introductory subject that encouraged us to explore different aspects of those three things and how “the personal is political” (original quote author unknown). The final assignment for the subject was an essay which we could choose the topic from a list. I chose to examine marriage – the feminist critiques and marriage equality movement. The resulting essay gained me the highest mark I’ve ever received on an assignment. But more importantly, the research I did educated me about the topics and reaffirmed my stance on the issue. Below is an edited version of that essay. Please read.

I’ll note that I’m in a privileged position in writing this article. I’ve been raised in a heterosexual environment, I’m in a heterosexual relationship and I’ve had to learn about these things second-hand. So these are my opinions backed by evidence collected from academic sources as well as personal ones.

 

Marriage: an institution which involves formal recognition of the union of two people, conferring legitimacy on an intimate relationship (3). This formal recognition usually grants a range of social, religious and legal benefits, rights and responsibilities (3) and has existed in some form for centuries (14). At the moment, the most easily-recognised and legitimised marriage is monogamous and opposite-sex – it’s still considered the norm. Challenging this norm, same-sex marriages have begun to be recognised in many countries after the hard work and activism of advocates. For many, this is a positive step for LGBTIQA+ people and society as the gains are seen to outweigh potential negatives. However, other activists are not as sure, as they take a more radical view that marriage should be either changed completely or left behind together. I investigated these two competing discourses and drew conclusions for this piece.

Firstly, the positives. 🙂 It has been suggested that access to marriage is tied, metaphorically and/or physically, to full citizenship rights in society (9). Also, as the phrase, “equal before the law” suggests, in democracies, the law is a place where all citizens should be equal (8). Hence, marriage is seen as a pathway to acceptance and legitimacy, a way of demonstrating that what people feel for each other is real and valuable. A chance to throw a big party and show how much they love each other. The exclusion of LGBTIQA+ people could be and has been argued to be an intolerable discriminatory practice. It has been suggested that in order for LGBTIQA+ rights to advance, all formal barriers to full equality must be overcome (2)(4) before or while other steps are taken – like fixing anti-discrimination laws (10). Due to the prominence of marriage in society, it can be seen as symbolic of other rights and some have argued that governments which do not afford equal respect of and protections for both LGBTIQA+ and heterosexual intimate relationships enable and participate in systemic homophobia and heterosexism (4). It has also been argued that this inequality harms LGBTIQA+ people in substantial, material ways – from subtle exclusion to violence (1)(2)(4). I agree with this – I’ve read very compelling personal accounts from people over the last few weeks and before that (not to mention hearing the lived experiences of my friends) which demonstrate the truth of it (6) (11). I also agree with the contention that one way of combatting the harms is to work towards full equality, including in marriage, for all regardless of sexuality. Research shows that there are particular social, legal and psychological benefits to this.

Marriage can reinforce partnership bonds, facilitate parenting and generate levels of social support for those who participate (7). LGBTIQA+ participation in marriage widens the scope of marriage norms, as non-traditional roles and practices are expressed, intentionally or otherwise (1)(7), providing additional choices and freedoms. For example, with children. It could be said that the very presence of LGBTIQA+ people and families in so-called public spheres changes and destabilises the unconsciously accepted heteronormative view (1) of society. Hmm, maybe that’s why the conservatives get so grumpy about it. Well, they can suck it up, because change is a thing that happens. Changes to societal views of family and so on include what is seen as normal by children – everything from the gender of their parents and/or extended family members, to how gendered or egalitarian their household is. Research shows that in observing and learning about these practices and by educating each other, children become directors of change (1). After all, we’re products of where we come from, influenced by the personal world(s) we inhabit. And if those worlds are more equitable, so much the better. The presence of children also highlights discriminatory practices which occur within the current system which privileges marriage, particularly heterosexual marriage, over other relationships (4). To many LGBTIQA+ people, the idea of only being allowed something separate-and-different to marriage does not work if it’s not seen as legally and emotionally equal to it. Even if/when marriage alternatives were given equal rights, benefits, protections and obligations as marriage, it can be argued that LGBTIQA+ people are still discriminated against simply because they’re still unable to choose between marriage, a civil partnership, or something else (14).

But what about the feminist/queer case against marriage? Feminists have criticised marriage as being oppressive to women due to patriarchal structures of power for many years (14). These power structures are those which reinforce a socially conservative breadwinner model (5) – an opposite-sex relationship of mandated monogamy, working husband and dependent wife bearing the brunt of housework and child-rearing (9). If you think about it, this model has been – and still is – at the core of public policy for some time (5)(15). Non-traditional families – such as single parents, mixed-race partnerships, and LGBTIQA+ families – challenge the model. You can tell this from the way conservatives react. However, I’ve read concerns about whether the model is really being challenged (15). There’s an argument that marriage equality campaigns are being turned into binary debates of for and against. These leave little room for valid critiques of the social and economic institutions of marriage, and how the societal privileging of marriage marginalises other intimate relationships (9)(13). The argument continues that while the potential benefits of marriage should be recognised, the next or concurrent step should be to push for those rights to be expanded to all intimate consensual relationships. There’s a risk, activists argue, that not doing this would go against hard-fought-for feminist freedoms (12) and create a new tiered system within the LGBTIQA+ community of the socially acceptable marrieds held above the rest of the queers. This could lead to a reinforcing of conservative heteronormative marriage ideas, merely expanded slightly.

Despite this, there’s no question that many LGBTIQA+ people do want to get married (4), even as they recognise its pitfalls. Marriage as an institution isn’t necessarily seen as a good thing – but the equality before the law is (2). Marriage is a complex institution and we should resist the urge to press it into one box or another (5). If and when marriage equality becomes reality, then the contradiction of being separate-but-equal (13) is removed. It then becomes a choice for all, heterosexual and LGBTIQA+ alike, as to whether we’ll participate in marriage and how we could or would change the institution for the better. As it currently stands, some of the population have only a restricted choice and how is that choice then free or fair? Alongside this, we then work for the expansion of legal and economic protections, currently enshrined in marriage, to all relationships so that all intimate consensual relationships are valued (5). We could even go further and ensure that welfare rights are fair for all regardless of relationship, employment and monetary status (5). This then challenges the conservative understanding that defending the rights of women, LGBTIQA+ and other marginalised groups undermines committed caring relationships. At the same time, it dismantles the patriarchal heteronormative one-size-fits-all approach and works towards a more caring society, away from the outdated universal breadwinner model to a universal caregiver one. In this latter model, LGBTIQA+ people would be just as accepted for caregivers and caregiving as heterosexuals (5). This opens up possibilities for greater awareness on and attention to other intersectional issues. After all, attending to one issue does not prevent us from working on others and “those of us who are interested in fighting for justice and the flourishing of sentient beings in any of these contexts should be interested in fighting for justice in all of these contexts” (4, p. 77).

 

In other words, I’m in favour of marriage equality, as I’ve previously discussed. Btw, for me, my religious beliefs influence that view positively, as I’ve mentioned before as well. I’ll be unpacking that side of the argument soon too. If the postal survey goes ahead I’ll be participating in it and voting yes. I hope if you’re an Australian reading this that you will too.

If the postal survey goes ahead I’ll be participating in it and voting yes. I hope if you’re an Australian reading this that you will too.

 

References (these got a little muddled when rewriting this into a post, but I’d really encourage you to check them out):

  1. Bernstein, M. (2015). Same-Sex Marriage and the Future of the LGBT Movement. Gender & Society, vol. 29, no. 3, pp. 321–337, DOI: 10.1177/0891243215575287
  2. Bevacqua, M. (2004). Feminist Theory and the Question of Lesbian and Gay Marriage. Feminism & Psychology, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 36–40, DOI: 10.1177/0959-353504040300
  3. Budgeon, S. (2009). Marriage, in Encyclopaedia of Gender and Society, O’Brien J, (ed.), vol. 2, Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, pp. 505-508.
  4. Callahan, J, 2009, ‘Same-Sex Marriage: Why It Matters—At Least for Now’, Hypatia, vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 70-81.
  5. Ferguson, A, 2007, ‘Gay Marriage: An American and Feminist Dilemma’, Hypatia, vol. 27, no. 1, pp.39-57.
  6. Gadsby, H. (2017, August 17). “Probably a good time to repost my anti-plebiscite piece…” Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fhannahgadsbycomedy%2Fposts%2F10155675309518000
  7. Green, AI, 2010, ‘Same-Sex Marriage: Lesbian and Gay Spouses Marrying Tradition and Innovation’, Canadian Journal of Sociology, vol.35 no. 3, pp.399-436. Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org.ez.library.latrobe.edu.au/stable/canajsocicahican.35.3.399
  8. Harrison, JB, 2015, ‘At Long Last Marriage’, Journal of Gender, Social Policy and the Law, vol. 24, no. 1, pp.1-60.
  9. Josephson, J, 2005, ‘Citizenship, Same-Sex Marriage, and Feminist Critiques of Marriage’, Perspectives on Politics, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 269-284.
  10. Lawrie, A. (2017, July 29). A quick guide to Australian LGBTI anti-discrimination laws [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://alastairlawrie.net/2017/07/29/a-quick-guide-to-australian-lgbti-anti-discrimination-laws/
  11. Lawrie, A. (2017, August 9). 2,756 Days. Frustration and love [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://alastairlawrie.net/2017/08/09/2756-days-frustration-and-love/
  12. Marso LJ, 2010, ‘Marriage and Bourgeois Respectability’, Politics & Gender, vol. 6, no. 1, pp.145-53, DOI: 10.1017/S1743923X09990572
  13. Merin, Y, 2002a, ‘Chapter 2: The Changing Institution of Marriage and the Exclusion of Same-Sex Couples’, in Equality for Same-Sex Couples, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 6-60.
  14. Merin, Y, 2002b, ‘Chapter 10: Alternatives to Marriage and the Doctrine of “Separate but Equal” ’, in Equality for Same-Sex Couples, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 278-307.
  15. Wilson AR, 2010, ‘Feminism and Same-Sex Marriage: Who Cares?’, Politics & Gender, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 134-145, DOI: 10.1017/S1743923X09990560
  16. Young, C & Boyd, S, 2006, ‘Losing the Feminist Voice? Debates on the Legal Recognition of Same Sex Partnerships in Canada’, Feminist Legal Studies, vol. 14, pp. 213–240, DOI 10.1007/s10691-006-9028-8.

 

#MIV2018 Update: Registration is OPEN! 

I’m so excited right now. If you’re interested, follow the links below from the email I received overnight. I’ll be doing that tonight after placement. It’s going to be a blast. Come along!

____________________________________


From the Convenors’ desk…

Hi groovers,

Exciting things are happening in Melbourne. At our AGM a few weeks ago we welcomed Cameron, Gemma and Justina to the committee and we’re glad to have them on board.

And now, for the news you’ve all been waiting for. We are so incredibly excited to announce that registrations for MIV 2018 are officially open!


Register now for the festival and secure your place in the Summer of 69.
We can’t wait to see you – there’s only 6 months to go!

Peace and love,
Alex and El xoxo

Reblog: Resolutions: Good or Bad

I find resolutions interesting. As I commented on Noelle’s post (linked below),

I like ones that are “commitments to try”, so to speak. You know they’re goals and things you’d like to do, but they’re not “have-tos”.

Setting unattainable resolutions can lead to trouble or so it seems – we gain only negative emotions when we revert to old habits after promising to keep to a path for a year.

I remind myself that these are goals, to be practiced and worked on during the year but not mandatory.

With that in mind, some ones for this year are:

  • Do well in my Masters coursework etc.
    – Ask for help if I need it and monitor myself so that the changes of this year don’t cause my grades to drop.
  • To listen twice as much as I speak;
    –   I’ll be addressing this in more depth later, but as I’m a talker and social person who also is a “Feeler” (high F in Myers-Briggs, for example), I worry about my ratio of talking to listening. So I’m working on it.
  • Alongside the above is my want to actively practice my Feeling
    –   Again, I’ll explain in another post, but cultivating my empathetic presence is important to me. These first two are very connected.
  • To get back into blogging
    – I fell off a regular blogging schedule a bit over the second half of 2016, but I’d like to be more consistent.
  • To get back into writing my story.
    – I’ve done quite a lot of backstory-work but haven’t actually done any story-writing for a while. I need to get back into that.
  • To be more active and finding more walking spaces.
    –   I’m not naturally a person who gets active, as I’m not sporty. But I like nature and I like walking and I know I ought to be sitting less. I’m not interested in overdoing it though, as I’m skinny enough as it is.

Idea taken from the post linked below:

What are your thoughts on setting New Years Resolutions? Have you completed yours in the past or are you one of those who forgets what they are? Come read about the good and the bad of setting reso…

Source: {DISCUSSION} Resolutions: Good or Bad

#BringThemHere

https://www.getup.org.au/campaigns/refugees/bringthemhere/upload-your-own-bringthemhere-message

I did this yesterday:

ESP Bring-Them-Here_photo 1.jpg
The Equality, Sustainability & Peace (ESP) Group at La Trobe says: #BringThemHere!

We stand with those on Manus and Nauru – we love you and support you. It’s past time for the government to stop stuffing around and close the camps. Set up some humane processes, open up onshore and offshore detention centres and #bringthemhere to #letthemstay.

Momentum is building – join us!

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/aug/17/this-is-critical-103-nauru-and-manus-staff-speak-out-their-letter-in-full?CMP=share_btn_tw

 

 

 

Intersectionality

Hi everyone.

As some of you may know, a few weeks back I wrote a guest post for Carla. She was focusing on different experiences of women, personal experiences. I’d meant to post it here as soon as it was posted there, but other stuff got in the way. I needed to gee myself up a bit, because it’s personal and posting it here is different to posting it to Carla’s blog. (It’s like that whole idea of degrees of separation…Carla’s is one more level removed than here…) Then I realised I needed to edit it, as I had forgot to talk about some things I ought to talk about. Finally, though, it’s here. Ta-da.

 My #YesAllWomen Story
I’ll just say the obvious – the following are musings from my own thinking, influenced by others. I have no formal training in theology, save what I’ve learned in school, at Mass and elsewhere. What I do have is a sense of discernment which has been nurtured in various ways.

I’m a young Australian woman who is both Catholic and feminist. Some would think those two don’t fit. I’m here to tell you that they do – if you reach out with understanding rather than judgement.
I’ve always been Catholic (my parents baptised me into the faith as a young baby). I’ve seen the good side of things thanks to a few well-informed priests (one in particular) and parents, other relatives and friends who have been good examples as well as being willing to discuss things with me and my siblings. I’ve heard and been sickened by the “bad side” of things, the child abuse scandals rocking the Church and stuff. How anyone could do that is beyond me. I’ve also become more aware of the inequalities and hypocrisy in the “institutional Church” (including the flaws which led to the above problem, the handling of which is institutional in many areas).
As I’ve grown up I’ve become more aware of feminism. This has led to an interesting…conflict, you could say, in some matters.
After all, there are certain stereotypes for Catholics and feminism (separately I mean):
* Catholics are (among other things) all totally immovable about rights to life, anti-marriage equality, transpeople and (in certain extremes/ various ways) the role and empowerment (sexually, especially) of women, etc.;
* Feminists are all pro-choice “no exceptions” in many things, including women’s empowerment (sexual and otherwise)…
Total opposites, it seems!
Over time, I learnt that like life, it wasn’t nearly so clear-cut as that. I’m still learning about the different nuances. It doesn’t have to be either/or. Everyone is individual, so we all have slightly different viewpoints about things. I’ve realised that each of us has to decide what we believe in.
Personally, I’m a feminist – an intersectional feminist.
That means that I think that the Church does need to, ah, grow up a bit regarding some things, like sex and women and LGBTI people. However, the Church’s teachings do resonate with me in other matters. I wish to outline a few examples below. It gets a bit wordy, as I like thinking about these things to “get them straight” in my head.
My Catholicism guides me in many ways. I believe that Jesus’ teachings and the teachings of those who follow Him are still important in many ways to our lives today. Like the message of inclusion, non-violence and forgiveness outlasting exclusion, violence and the bitterness that comes from holding onto hurt. Some great theologians (lay and religious), steeped in the Catholic tradition, have said things which resonate with me about authenticity, self-belief and finding one’s path – emotionally and spiritually in particular. I hold onto all of that. Regular readers of my blog will know that by now, given that I do write posts around that reasonably often.
However…
There has been an institutional blindness within the Church caused by an inflexible hierarchical structure of “top-down” solutions. Recent efforts do offer encouragement that this is slowly changing, in the form of baby-steps. I hope that those baby-steps turn into adult steps – soon! If they don’t, then I think it’s highly likely that change will be forced upon them, or else the Church will become increasingly irrelevant.
For starters, the Church has a “women problem”. A lot of Church life is closed off to women, through structures which are still geared towards men. Change is being ‘forced’ upon some parishes already. As more priests retire and no traditional replacements are available, there are more stories of (religiously-trained and lay, married or not) women (and men) leading through necessity. You’ll notice, I also mentioned married men there – I think that there needs to be a rethink on the matter of how they contribute too. We are all people of God – it’d be nice if that was better reflected in what we’re “allowed” to do.
That leads me nicely into discussing LGBTI people. I’ve addressed the “marriage equality” question previously (An Exploration of Equality and Religion and Related Matters). My view is that we should be striving for authenticity as people in all aspects of our lives – including gender and sexual preference. Also, I don’t think Jesus would be that fussed, so long as we “love our neighbour” by practising compassion and mercy. As I say in the linked post above, Jesus was more clearly harsh on those who discriminated and judged others and were hypocrites than he was about their sex lives. The authenticity idea informs other examples, too.
On Carla’s blog, Jenna wrote in defence of her wardrobe. I, too, have had experiences where I’ve been told to dress a certain way. But there was never really that big of an emphasis and it wasn’t because of my gender/sex but because of the occasion (smart casual = Mass clothes usually). I used to not question the general idea. Then, some time ago, I started to. Jenna covered that area pretty well – I dress the way I like to, others’ sense of propriety (and fashion!) doesn’t factor in.
I view the issue of sexual choice and “morality” in a similar way. I’ve grown up with a certain idea thanks to the Catholic faith teachings. I’ve heard some interesting ideas about why it’s “better” to have fewer or none sexual partners before marriage. For example, an idea that previous sexual encounters “colour” the current one, affecting it in ways you don’t want it to be affected if it’s going to last. The problem, as I see it, with the Catholic view (purity and chastity) is that it can lead to shame if the “rules” are broken. This is despite many religious people then saying that we women don’t have to be ashamed – just go to confession and bam! problem solved. That may be nice to hear and feel, but in practice it isn’t always that simple. It still takes time and working through matters.
An overwhelming focus on the sexual (im)morality of certain situations means that miscommunication can result. One person can become guilty over perceived immorality, when the real worry and call for “patience/ abstinence” was actually about emotional maturity. The end result of that is a decrease of communication, followed by feelings of guilt over lying and then hurt from a lack of support/acknowledgement when that guilt prompts the admission of the fact – I’d call that the real sin of the situation, not the sex itself. Thus, the cycle of hurt continues, unless we make the conscious decision to stop and forgive.
Not to mention the issue of shame creates stigma around the survivors of sexual assault and other such trauma, because they’re blamed for “asking for it”. Even when that is also accompanied by blaming the perpetrator, the fact that we blame the survivor continues the cycle of judgement which discourages people from speaking up. It also confuses the issue because in blaming the survivor, we miss the message: no. means. no.
It would be much, much easier if there was less emphasis on the sexual and more focus on the emotional (where the emphasis is/ should be anyway). Then perhaps there might be less confusion and hurt around it. Again – less judgement and more compassion, the way it’s meant to be.
One thing that the Church and some feminists agree on about relationships however: the subject of porn and how it is not good for relationships. It creates unrealistic standards and is demeaning, involving the physical side of things without any context. On the other hand, other feminists disagree. I’m a bit of a fence-sitter on this one.
These ideas and conflicts were reinforced a few months ago, when I went to a Catholic Youth Festival. That Festival was amazing, in many ways. There were so many talks which I gained something from and made me think deeply about myself and my faith. One such talk was by a motivational speaker-type guy, talking about chastity/purity and “love vs. lust” and Catholicism more broadly. Some of the things he talked about were relevant – the emotional content, for example, about “real” love and knowing yourself. There was, however, a lot of “I don’t mean to judge, but girls – stop doing this and start doing this,” and “girls are like this and guys are like that” stuff. Blargh. There were other talks there about faith and love and authenticity which I perhaps enjoyed more – because they were freer of the judgmental talk. There was still a bit of it, but less so. Women – anyone really – should not be dictated to or shamed about their dress or habits, including from other women. It is about personal tastes.
Moving on to another contentious issue: the whole pro-life/ pro-choice thing. This has been an evolving issue for me, as it’s one of those points which many feminists (though not all – see my references) and religious people clash visibly.
Again, I think it is a matter of personal preference and understanding. I believe that by narrowing the debate down to pro-/ anti-abortion (which it often seems to be), we all lose. I believe that contraception and abortion (along with education, healthcare, childcare support, housing assistance and other forms of social welfare…etc.) should be safe and legal. I do not think they should be treated lightly. It’s a delicate balance in my mind. Some have referred to abortion as an “abhorrent form of birth control”. I believe that in the majority it’s more complex than that.
Contraception should be an informed personal choice. Some people have issues about introducing hormones and things into their body, or worry about side-effects and that’s okay. It’s also okay to choose to take them to prevent pregnancy or for other reasons. What is not okay is shaming or pressuring someone else about their choice. I believe that IVF and other supported-fertility treatments have benefits that outweigh the potential “playing with life” label that some religious people might attach, provided appropriate support and protections are given. I’m less sanguine about so-called “designer babies”, where characteristics could be chosen. I accept it on life-saving medical grounds, but I’m leery about other options.
I believe that everyone has a right to life, including the unborn, as I believe life starts at conception. I also believe that “God does not make junk” so to speak, so aborting a foetus just because of a disability, or the circumstances of its conception (and/or designing a foetus specifically to edit out a disability “just because”), is wrong. Of course, there are always exceptions based on individual circumstances. We want all people to have the best start in life. I think we need to talk about these things. My main view is that we should be working on the social reforms which “prevent” abortion by giving better options (like the ones mentioned above), while keeping it safe and legal. I think that it should be the woman’s choice but we need to (in a non-judgemental way) be sure that all lives are valued and that personal conversations are able to happen…not just “you should/not have an abortion because of x”.
Personally, I wouldn’t have an abortion myself. However, if a friend of mine became pregnant and wasn’t sure about keeping the baby for whatever reason, I’d hope that I could help by listening and for her to know that there are options. But if she did choose abortion, it wouldn’t cause a rift. (Things might be a little awkward maybe, but I wouldn’t abandon the friendship just because she made a different choice to my hypothetical one.)
I hope you’re sensing a theme. In all these distinctions and similarities between my Catholic and feminist principles, there’s a common goal: sensitivity, respect for difference and non-judgement.
There are plenty of things where it’s easy (for me) to say that Catholics and feminists agree: care of and empowerment of the poor and disadvantaged communities and care of the environment for future generations among them. Both groups just have slightly different angles.
I gain a lot of emotional support and spiritual guidance from my faith. I support and am empowered by my feminism.
The way I see it, each of us is on a journey, where we have to find our own path. Like I said earlier on, we all have to make our own choices. Just, please, think about using a little less judgement and a bit more understanding.
Below are some links to sites which have informed my views:

Christian feminism: http://godspace-msa.com/2016/03/08/international-womens-day-forging-a-positive-sisterhood/

Baby-steps in Catholicism from the recent Amoris Laetitia document, putting the focus back on dialogue, even if there are still some awkward passages –
Download the actual document here: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20160319_amoris-laetitia.html
Some reactions to it:
http://www.ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/part-3-reactions-popes-reflections-family-life
https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/unity-growth-love-church
One Catholic-feminist mother’s reflection on the document: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/suspendedinherjar/2016/04/reading-amoris-laetitia-as-a-catholic-feminist-mom/
Why it’s only a baby-step (written by a woman who writes a lot of thought-provoking pieces):

we need a theology of the body broken and violated

Dumping the phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin”: http://bethwoolsey.com/2013/10/3-reasons-i-quit-loving-the-sinner-and-hating-the-sin/

On dressing how we want to dress, without judgement and why that’s important: http://www.skirtcollective.com/why-my-self-expression-shouldnt-concern-you/
http:// http://www.patheos.com/blogs/suspendedinherjar/2016/04/the-immodest-consequences-of-modesty-policing/

Fixing traditional marriage: http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=45414#.Vvs5P_l942y

A website for Catholic women – I wish I’d discovered it earlier, it’s been running since 2014: http://www.catholicwomenspeak.com/
(and article describing their mission:) https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/place-table

A website hosting religious blogs & things – the Catholic section: http://www.patheos.com/Catholic-blogs – varies from traditionalist to more progressive-but-Catholic

A feminist-Catholic understanding of Mary, Mother of Jesus:
http: //www.patheos.com/blogs/suspendedinherjar/2016/04/how-feminism-strengthened-my-christianity/

Abortion is a complex thing: http://skinnyandsingle.ca/2015/08/22/abortion-no-its-not-for-everyone/
http:// http://www.patheos.com/blogs/suspendedinherjar/2016/02/abortion-collective-responsibility-and-the-s-word/

Why there needs to be less judgement around contraception:
https:// http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/03/22/i-was-a-devout-catholic-not-being-able-to-get-birth-control-shook-my-faith/

Transgender – not the same as transracial: http://www.upworthy.com/a-black-trans-woman-explains-changing-gender-vs-changing-race?c=reccon1

Sex-selection IVF: https://theconversation.com/choosing-childrens-sex-is-an-exercise-in-sexism-45836?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+August+24+2015+-+3294&utm_content=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+August+24+2015+-+3294+CID_e93b54a12e12cf976f816d0ebf33c746&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=argues

A blog about faith & feminism: http://faithfullyfeminist.com/

Some catholic-trans perspectives:
http://magazine.catholicherald.co.uk/magazine-post/whats-the-truth-about-transsexuality/pugpig_index.html
https://rowanselah.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/god-made-me-this-way/
https://catholictrans.wordpress.com/2013/12/07/what-does-the-catholic-church-actually-say-about-transgenderism/

pro-life feminists: http://www.feministsforlife.org/herstory/

An LGBTI Catholic website tracking progress: https://newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com/

A website for young progressive Catholics: http://youngadultcatholics-blog.com/about/

There are many others. Take a look around the internet – you might be surprised!

 

Japan Days: White Christmas, Freezing Boxing Day, then Mt Fuji

Hi all. The first of my scheduled posts. I hope to schedule quite a number so I can have at least a couple every week during placement.

Here’s the next Japan Trip post. Only one more after this one. Starting on Day 8 of our trip, which happened to be Christmas Day.

For Christmas, we decided we’d go to Nagano via the shinkansen to see the Japanese macaques, or “snow monkeys” as they’re known. You’ll have seen them if you’ve seen this image.

The snow monkeys were adorable and I had so much fun. It was also my first proper “white Christmas” so that was exciting.

We then went back to Toyko and had dinner at a sushi bar.

Day 9: A Trip to Lake Freezing

Day 9 we decided to go off and see Nikko, that was supposed to have a waterfall and nice lake. It also was really, really cold.

First, we visited the waterfall, which was quite cold enough.

So we warmed up with some fish cooked over coals at a stall nearby.

A heap of white coals sit atop a grate on a trolley. In the centre of the coals there is an orange colour from the heat. To the right side of and behind the pile of coals are rows of small whole fish, skewered through by sticks. A the back of the stall there are fridges visible and a flimsy roof supported b wooden beams is also seen.

Then we headed off again, towards the lake. Not perhaps our wisest choice, but still fun in the end. You see, we didn’t know it at the time, but we found out later that the temperature at Lake Chuzenji was -5*C while we were there, not counting wind chill which probably made it a few degrees colder.

To get to the lake itself, we walked into an icy wind and watched as it literally blew snow sideways across the road. An experience I won’t forget and rather fun in a ridiculous way, once I’d got my scarf arranged so that my coat hood wouldn’t fall down. 😛

No real pics here, too busy experiencing it. That and my phone battery decided to quit because it was too cold. It did that at Nagano too.

I did take a handful later though, once my phone and I had thawed a bit. In order (or mouse over for captions): defrosting selfie after the lake, mizuyokan (sweet red bean) sweets and award-winning ramen from a ramen place in Tokyo.

The experience of having ramen in a ramen bar was interesting. You don’t talk in there aside from ordering your food. You’re there to enjoy the food, not to chat. The place we went to with the three-years-running award-winning dish pictured here is, I believe, Michi. Highly recommended, though it has a bit of a wait time as the place is quite small.

Day 10: Mt Fuji

We were off again from Tokyo the next morning to see Mount Fuji. We went to a town nearby with a beach that has pretty impressive views. The beach itself is made of stones and pebbles. Below are photos from the day.

 

At the end of the day, we finished with another well-deserved hot meal and new Japanese experience – Japanese curry. (Second-last row, first column – these pics are randomly arranged.)

A very enjoyable day, with more to come before our trip ended.

 

Hi there!

Thinking lots of thoughts atm.

One of which is that I ought to schedule some posts for the next few weeks… I don’t like not posting anything but that’s what happens when you’re busy.

I have just finished my first week of placement for my final year of Masters of occupational therapy. It’s in mental health in two different settings and I’m finding it really interesting.

It’s tiring, but I’ll learn lots over the next eight weeks and it’ll be really rewarding.

Let’s see where things go!

MIV2018 Festival Wrap-up

Hi all. It’s been a couple of weeks…but very good ones.

MIV2018 was a blast. So much fun. I challenged myself in a few ways,  participating in different social events in ways I hadn’t done during my last IV. Here’s an idea: participation pays off. I had a really good time and even won a few times at different social things – which I was not expecting. Participation would have been prize enough. Enthusiasm leads to fun!

I’m not going to lie, it was full-on. IVs always are, especially the first half. Rehearsals for six hours a day, then social events in the evenings. This time, being Social Secretary, a part of me was always busy – mentally or physically – making sure things were running smoothly. By the end of the day, I was quite tired and rather “peopled out” – unusual for me!

I loved organising the social events though. I really like being (one of) the host(s) and seeing people having fun, making new friends and participating – like I said above, it all pays off.

The rehearsals were really good – we had a really good conductor who engaged us well. Patrick Burns got us – or at least me – thinking about the music in particular ways and working together to produce the desired quality sound. We had sectionals where our assistant conductor Leonard Weiss worked with Pat and us in two halves – sopranos and altos in one group, tenors and basses in the other.

One thing I love about rehearsing and performing in big choral groups is the journey from a diverse group of voices just starting to learn the music, to a cohesive group who’ve learnt their parts and sound confident and powerful. It’s bloody fantastic and with IVs, the process only takes ten days! I remember the first time we started feeling really cohesive (for me) – I was singing along as we ran through a piece. I heard the rest of us singing and realised, “This is going to be a great performance.”

I was right. 🙂

We sang really well, if I do say so myself. We heard great audience feedback afterwards too. It was a real treat to sing the pieces – I don’t know if I can pick a favourite, but all have taken turns popping up in my head since.

Thanks, MIV2018.

(Click on the pic for a caption – they’re not in date order, just for fun.)

MIV2018 Festival Opens Today!

After many months of prep, today is the day! Hooray!

If you’re coming, I’ll see you at camp dinner this evening. If not, maybe I’ll see you at the concert? 😛

I can’t wait to see all my friends and have a fantastic time.

Get tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/light-the-dark-tickets-39366091038?aff=es2

See the Facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/305903166591081/

And doesn’t our concert flyer look amazing?

(Link to a shareable version here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BwdTWPS792Wnajl5a2w1anlxUzBQTm5OOVpvV0NCTnVvRU9F/view )

If you can’t make it or even if you can, please share these links and the flyer around. The concert is going to be really good, I can feel it, and I want everyone else to hear about that. 😉

MIV2018 Update – Six Days Until We Open the Festival!

MIV2018 logo: Teal background with pink and white lettering spelling out MiV (pink and white): 69th Intervarsity Choral Festival (in pink) Melbourne 2018 (in white).

Can you believe it?

In six days at time of publishing, the Melbourne Intervarsity Choral Festival 2018 opens. There’s such a lot planned. Rehearsals during the day, social events most nights. I’m excited and have been putting in place the finishing touches for my portfolio: I’m Social Secretary so I’m n charge of the fun.

Over 100 people are going to converge on our venues for the festival. As I was writing this post yesterday evening, I realised that it was pretty much a week to the hour until my first event starts. Eep! 😀

It’s not all just games, traditions and fun. Over ten days we’re learning several pieces to then perform on Saturday 20th January at 19:30. Get your tickets now!! I’d love to see as many of my Melbournian (is that word supposed to have no ‘o’?) and Victorian friends as possible at the concert. It is going to be bloody amazing I can already feel it.

Bring it on! 😀

Here’s the ticketing link with some information: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/light-the-dark-tickets-39366091038

MIV 2018 is proud to present Light the Dark, a moving musical programme offering hope in a time of global turmoil and upheaval.

The concert features Vaughan Williams’ Toward the Unknown Region, Brahms’ Alto Rhapsody, Parry’s I Was Glad and the jewel in the crown, Elgar’s Light of Life. Conducted by Patrick Burns, featuring reknowned soloists Liane Keegan, Andrew Goodwin, Anna-Louise Cole, Raphael Wong and accompanied by the Melbourne Opera Orchestra, this concert will be a once-in-a-lifetime performance, and we hope that you will join us as we make history in the glorious Melbourne Town Hall.”

Would you do me a massive favour, especially if you’re reading this from a Melbourne or Victorian address (and/or through my Facebook) and “share the Dickens” (as one of my friends, a co-convenor, put it) out of this link? Even if you can’t go, pass the information along in case someone else in your circle might want to. Thanks heaps! I hope to see you at the concert – or at MIV, if you’re an IVer reading this.

*makes excited noise*

 

P.S. Take care of yourselves weather-wise! In Victoria, the next couple of days are scorchers, with more to follow later in the week (I’m very glad of aircon with MIV!). Meanwhile, in the US there’s a hell of a snow event happening atm, I gather. So yeah. Stay safe!

Japan Days Part 2

My Japan trip was really really fun. We experienced a lot of Japan, its food, its people, its culture. I was quite busy so didn’t end up publishing any more trip posts. But here’s one and the other one or two will be up soon, once I’ve had a chance to do some work for MIV. I’ll update you on that front tomorrow…

 

Day 4 consisted of exploring various places in Kyoto. A few stand-outs included Nijojo Castle, the Nishi Market, a couple of shrines and Kinkakuji – the Golden Temple.

A woman (Clare) stands in front of a stone entranceway to a castle. The entranceway is white with grey stones at the bottom and a black roof and gold highlights. The woman (Clare) is facing the camera and wears purple jeans and jumper under a black coat, with sunglasses. She has a backpack on and is being passed by other people in the left side of the picture.A gateway into Nijo-jo Castle - the arch is decorated by gold overlay with red and black wood and has a particular curved design.Womble sits in the foreground in front of a lake at a Japanese Castle. Behind the lake there are trees and part of the castle area.A shot looking up at some Japanese text naming the Nishi market which is on a coloured background. Below it are drawings on a canvas screenA copper drum is roasting chestnuts in a shop windowHeadshot of Clare wearing a purple jumper and black coat with a hand holding an open chestnut towards the cameraSkewers of meat, probably seafood of some kind, cooking and waiting to be cooked at the marketA shrine offering box which is bright orange with green and white overlay. The box has a roof like a house and sits on an orange post.Part of a shrine. The building has a black and red roof that is shaped like a rectangular pyramid. The body of the building is rectangular and white with red accents. It has a balcony of sorts. The sky is blue and people are moving around the building at the bottom of shot.Another building at the shrine complex - a very tall pagoda which has several stories, each with a red and black decorative roof. The body of the building is red.A shot of the golden temple across the water so a reflection is mirrored there. Trees surround the edges of the shot.Golden Temple from a different angle. The top two floors are gold and shining in the setting sun. Their roofs are black as is the entranceway. The temple is still reflected in the water and a tree is obscuring a part of it on the left side with more trees behind it.A woman (Clare) stands in front of the lake before the Golden Temple. She is wearing a black coat and purple jeans, leaning against a railing.

 

Day 5 was the start of our Japan Rail Pass. We used the Shinkansen (bullet train) to get from Kyoto to Hiroshima and Miyajima.

A shinkansen train pulling into a station. The front with its sub-nose is visible and it is pulling up behind a barrier.View of a station from a shinkansen window.Womble sitting in a shinkansen seat next to the window. The seat is blue with a white headrest. Womble is brown with yellow pants and a patterned top.

Hiroshima was sobering and a little eerie. We heard many stories of how the atomic bombing affected the lives of the people.

A shot of Hiroshima from the river.The shell of a destroyed building near the epicentre of the bomb strikeThe peace memorial to the dead. It has a large stone archway with a platform running out underneath towards the water. There are flowers in front of it with a descriptive plaque to the side.A stopped clock showing the exact time when the bomb hit, as well as the date of the attack in Western and Japanese styleImage of an exhibit showing what Hiroshima looked like from the air after the bomb hit. The children's peace memorial which has a plaque, several towers and flowers.Another shot of the original peace memorial to lives lost, showing the Japanese flag and the full archway. The foreground has brown grass.

Miyajima was quite beautiful. We visited another shrine and went exploring and looked through gift- and food shops. We finished the day with okonomiyaki from a place next to Hiroshima station.

Miyajima Gates lit up at night. The tide is coming in so soon they will look like they are floating in water.

Okonomiyaki on a plate with a second one at right-angles to it. It's a dish with noodles, egg pancake, veggies and sauce. The sauce is very visible as are the noodles. It fills the whole plate, which rests on a wooden table. A glass of water

Day 6 was a travel day. After exploring the last thing on our list in Kyoto, the Place of 1,000 Steps (or Gates), we boarded a train headed towards the snow country. We changed trains at Toyama for a wide-view train, then travelled on to Takayama. The scenery was pretty good – enough deep snow to make me a little excited. But Takayama, while pretty with old buildings, had no snow. After another train trip, we arrived at our stop for the night, Kanazawa.

Day 7 was another travel day, from Kanazawa to Tokyo. We explored Kanazawa a bit before leaving, seeing another market and some gardens (and more snow! 😀 ).

We arrived in Tokyo late in the evening. It was Christmas Eve so after finally locating our apartment, we dumped our stuff and ended up going to a Vigil Mass at 22:00. Midnight in Australia. I mentioned it briefly in my Christmas post, but it was a moving experience.

 

That’s all from me for now, I’ve got a busy day ahead. Next up will be my White Christmas and related exploits before a final post after that to tie things up. Both of those will be out next week – tomorrow is MIV-related. It’s ONE WEEK OUT TODAY!

2017 Soundtrack 

It’s that time of year again, where I compile a list of songs that mattered to me this year.

1. Think of Meryl Streep (from FAME!) – due to a powerful political moment by Meryl Streep at the start of the year that I blogged about then.

2. Bread and Roses (and maybe also Power in a Union). First one is a folk song, the second is by Billy Bragg. They reference the Women’s March and surrounding politics.

The next are a bunch of love songs that speak to me. I first listened to them on Triple J and they remind me of feelings I felt then and feel now.

3. Thinking Out Loud (Ed Sheeran)

4. Say My Name (Tove Stryke)

5. I Want Something Just Like This (The Chainsmokers)

The next one is one of a bunch I heard when watching my first Eurovision Party this year.

6. Eurovision 2017:

Running on Air (Nathan Trent)

Lights and Shadows (O’G3NE)

Origo (Joci Pápai)

Where I Am (Anja)

My Friend (Jacques Houdek)

Grab the Moment (JOWST)

Story of My Life (Naviband)

Beautiful Mess (Kristian Kostov)

I Feel Alive (IMRI)

Yodel It (Alex Florea & Ilinca)

Gravity (Hovig)

Fly with Me (Artsvik)

Flashlight (Karsia Moś)

Amar pelos dois (Salvador Sobral)

City Lights (Blanche)

Don’t Come Easy (Isaiah)

Never Give Up on You (Lucie Jones)

Next are some from the concerts of the year:

7. Te Deum (from the MonUCS May concert, Choral Icons). First time I’d heard this song and I still remember it well. From the same concert, other standouts included Five Eyes and Vivaldi’s Gloria.

8. Peace/ EquipYourself for Life, Pink Telegram, 0808, and other songs from the John Monash Peace Cantata – a highlight of the year and one I’m proud to have participated in. My only regret is that uni prevents me from participating in the overseas performance next year.

9. Pirates of Penzance (from MonUCS’ performance). I find myself humming songs from the production at times still. I’m not singling out any because they were all very good.

10. Finally, Christmas songs. This year, those include adapted versions of Winter Wonderland and White Christmas as for once they were almost appropriate. As well as “Green Book Carols”, from MIV carolling hugs and LaTUCS’ carols performance. Also the Vaughn Williams’ piece, Fantasia on Christmas Carol. I was reminded of the piece at the start of December and realised that I really had had a good year, as the last part of the piece hoped.

There might be more, but I think ten is a good starting point! Happy New Year everyone. I’m currently finishing this on a plane that’ll land back in Australia from Japan in a bit under an hour. I’ll post this then.

Keep an eye out for the rest of the Japan Trip posts this week and I hope you have a good year ahead of you. I reckon I do, but I know it’ll be busy too. MIV2018 starts on the 11th after all…

Merry Christmas to You

I haven’t yet had a chance to put together a complete version of days 4-7 of the Japan trip. Hopefully that’ll occur soon. Before a “days 8-11” post anyway.

Instead I’ve opened this draft about Christmas. It was originally going to be mainly a collection of Christmas songs, as I did last year, but then I got thinking.

Christmas and other Year’s End celebrations are a collection of rituals. There are the obvious thematic ones – religious and secular. Then there are the family/ cultural ones which are interconnected but distinct.

For example, I celebrate Christmas as a religious commemoration with Mass. While the way I believe has changed as I’ve grown up, being unable to continue the tradition of going to Mass at Christmas (and during the year tbh) would feel strange. So I’m glad we’re able to do it while travelling still.

Then there’s the secular side of things. Santa Claus promoting gift-giving and receiving with the “season of goodwill” – or season of consumerism! 😛 I follow the guide of “something to wear, something to read, something they want, something they need” when picking presents to give.

And the family traditions… each is different – and subject to change as circumstances change. Though this is where one feels a change the most.

When I was growing up, we’d open presents once everyone woke up on Christmas morning. We weren’t allowed to get up before 07:00 though. We might go to Mass at 09:00 or have gone the night before.

We’d have Christmas lunch at home and probably try out a few presents. The big event was in the evening. We’d head off to Grandma’s to see all the aunts, uncles and cousins on that side of the family. There’d be backyard cricket and games, plenty of talking and catching up, a large spread of dinner and dessert, then the family Kris Kringle.

If we weren’t at Grandma’s we’d have headed up north to see my other grandparents.

In recent years things have changed a little. I’ve moved away from the family home and I have a second family in my partner’s now too. I don’t know what the future holds, but last year had the feel of a new tradition being built. Not to replace the old entirely but to enhance it anew.

Then of course, there will always be years where circumstances are just different, full stop.

Like this year, where my Christmas might even be a white one.

Christmas carols

There are more carols than the following but here goes. Favourites

LaTUCS 2017:

Songs I learnt as four-part harmonies and sang with my choir this year.

  • Away in a Manger
  • Ding-Dong Merrily On High
  • God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
  • Good King Wenceslas
  • Hark the Herald Angels Sing
  • It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
  • O Come, All Ye Faithful
  • O Little Town of Bethlehem
  • Carol of the Bells

Others:

  • Silent Night
  • O, Holy Night
  • Sleep, Little Baby, Sleep
  • The First Nowell
  • The Shepherd’s Farewell
  • Fantasia on Christmas Carols (Vaughn Williams, a beautiful one I sang last year)
  • A Merry Christmas To You (/ Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)
  • O Come O Come Emmanuel

Japanese Christmas:

Went to 22:00 mass and everything was in Japanese. But the parts of the Mass were familiar, and some songs sung were carols. If I had had the phonetic writing of words instead of just the Japanese characters in front of me, I could’ve sung them as I knew the tunes.

  • Come All Ye Faithful
  • Angels from the Realms of Glory
  • O Little Town of Bethlehem
  • O Holy Night
  • Joy to the World

Japan Holiday Day 1-3

Hello all from Japan!

I flew out of Australia on Monday. We started the first leg at a very early hour, then had a lunchtime layover before starting our second leg.

Plane trip photos:

Remember Womble Bear? He’ll be in some of these photos – after all he is my travel bear now.

Our first night was spent in a lovely guest house only a short train ride from Kansai Airport. The managers were very welcoming and we slept on futon mattresses on tutami matting. A true Japanese experience.

We’re now staying in a tiny apartment in Kyoto.

Catching the train everywhere has been good so far (excepting yesterday morning), though it was easier once we didn’t have to carry our big luggage around. Also, maps and even the supposedly very good app can’t account for everything. So we’ve been very grateful to the friendly locals who’ve helped us out.

Yesterday was a full-on day. We started the day by exploring the edge of Osaka, near to where we were staying and the airport. We were going to walk it when the lovely guest house offered bikes!

It was the first time I’d been on a bike in a while and I was a bit wobbly at times. But it was so. much. fun. 😀 We cycled around down the main street of the area towards the beach. There were bike paths around there and we made good use of them. I’m quite pleased with myself, tbh. Especially since I even managed to go up hills a few times. The starting was the main annoyance because I was always a little wobbly at first, the bike weaving about a bit as I tried to push off effectively.

Some context: I learnt to bike ride late, because I have mild coordination and processing problems. It was difficult to balance and stay on the bike without wobbling too much to continue, and I hated hills because they were too difficult – a problem given that the area I grew up in was full of them.

My best biking experience came when we went overseas to Holland, which is super flat. At a bike path there, I could ride quite well. That was a while ago though and I haven’t really been motivated to practice bike riding.

This year, I’ve wanted to bring my bike from my hometown to Melbourne but haven’t yet. After yesterday, I’m re-motivated.

The other activity of yesterday was to go to Nara and see the Giant Buddha and the deer. The Giant Buddha is indeed impressive. Imposing and magnificent.

The deer were cute but also pushy. They know how to get food from humans. Did you know that an impatient or upset fawn sounds like a squeaky door?

I didn’t get many photos of the afternoon at Nara because my phone died on me. I’ll grab some from others later.

I got lucky on day 3 though – my phone lasted pretty much all of the day. After some mucking around with transport details (let’s just say trains can be confusing if you’re not a local, until you get used to them), we got the right train and settled in for a journey to Himeji Castle.

The Castle itself was pretty cool. Once inside the main keep we had to take off our shoes and replace them with provided slippers. Climbing steep stairs through the six floors to the top is tricky in slippers! The views were pretty good though.

The castle was refurbished only two years ago so we could see it in all it’s glory. It’s a magnificent structure.

We finished the day with a look at the harbour of Kobe on our way home.

Today we’re exploring Kyoto to see places like Nijo Castle, Nishiki Market, and Kinkaku-Ji (Golden) and Ginkaku-Ji (Silver) Temples, among others.

“An ORGANic Christmas” Concert Review

Last Saturday’s concert from MonUCS (Monash University Choral Society) was really good. It had fun pieces and grand pieces and carols. An organ accompanied some songs.

Their opening piece (Regina Coeli from Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni) began with quite the entrance. The choir walked in two columns between the audience seats in order to get to the front of the church to perform from. I thought that was pretty cool.

There were the pieces I hadn’t heard before, sung with vocal strength and expression. Operatic choruses which were gorgeous to listen to and surprising, emotional and sweet by turns. Some of these pieces had soloists – all of whom performed very well. These pieces included the Priest’s Chorus (from Die Zauberflote), Chorus of Enchanted Islanders (from Alcina), Dido’s Lament and Final Chorus (from Dido and Aenea) and even a humming one, Humming Chorus (from Madame Butterfly).

I thoroughly enjoyed myself as I watched my friends perform after weeks of hard work. I also enjoyed singing along to some of the carols as we were encouraged to do – though only at mezzo piano volume so as to hear the actual choir. The carols were not all your usual fare – in fact, two of them I only knew thanks to the carolling gigs last week. That made it all the more fun. Carols included Infant Holy Infant Lowly, Zither Carol, Gloucestershire Wassail and others.

The choir were balanced beautifully, each section blending well (the ultimate goal) while holding their own parts in a superb manner. Each section also had its chance to shine, enabled by the range of songs chosen. For example, it was noted that the tenors sang “without hesitation … and with a wonderful lightness” as one friend put it. The altos were the smallest section of the four, but it didn’t feel like it. The basses carried the bottom range as they are supposed to, giving strength and resonance, while the sopranos were glorious on top.

Bravo, MonUCS! I look forward to seeing what you’ll do next year – and to singing with some of you at MIV. Well done!