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The Wonder Of The Wiggles

6 May

Okay, no doubt there have been countless blog posts and comments about them.  But here’s our rendition on how they entered our lives, our home and saved our sanity.

"Fruit Salad...yummy, yummy..."

Our fascination with them started discreetly.  An innocent purchase of their healthy snacks, the twinlets took an instant liking to them.

However, I thought, food was the limit.  We were going to conciously disband ourselves from their music and all that crazy franchise and over the top concerts.  Avoid all the toddler marketing ploys that only burn a desperate parent’s pocket.

Besides, I had decided that being a lover of music – all types of music – I wanted to introduce my children to what wasn’t mainstream.

Justine Clarke and Play School was as general as our household could be.

A captivated audience...

The rest of the time, we showered the twinlets with Newton Faulkner, Jack Johnson (who’s music they were actually born to…another story, another post) and John Mayer.

Early on in parenting I was going to stand firm and not cave into The Wiggles mayhem.

Then, Nulla Nanna snuck in a Wiggles DVD as a present.

Can I just tell you…it has changed our lives.

The catchy tunes, the colourful scenes, the dancing…it has the boys mesmerized.  Almost hypnotised.

And us parents ?  We are grateful because the Wiggles gives us ten minutes to catch our breath from the daily mayhem of raising twinlets; a distraction for our toddlers on the plane to prevent them from completely losing the plot; they leave me relieved because I know they are educational.

It’s simple.  The Wiggles promote happiness, fun and encourage young minds to be active.

Starting from humble beginnings, forming after the untimely death of a band member’s niece from SIDS, the Wiggles all come from an early-childhood education background.  They take meticulous planning in staying dedicated to their pre-school and family followers and  take their responsibility as role models seriously.

"Hmmm...who are these 'Wiggles' ???"

Their signature finger-waving ?  As silly as it looks, it is their policy to use the move when taking photos with children.  The Wiggles are adamant that touching children affectionately – or otherwise – is always inappropriate.

I believe they even write most of their songs and play most of the instruments.

So, to all those who can’t get their head around the wonder of the Wiggles, questioning how they have managed to earn more money than Kylie or AC/DC – I’m darn proud that they’ve been Australia’s biggest export.

The Wiggles are as wholesome as you can get: they care about children; their inspiration comes from children.

Let’s face it.

How many of us can say we’re in our dream jobs, becoming millionaires doing what we love and deeply passionate about ?

‘nough said.

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Like Bread For Rice

20 Apr

1979 was a big year for my Indonesian migrant family.

We obtained our Australian citizenship.

Well, actually, I didn’t have a say in the matter as I was only eight.  Too young to do the paperwork, but old enough to know what that piece of paper meant.

Kinda.

When my parents showed me the freshly printed document with the Australian coat of arms and all of our names neatly printed, I started to cry.

Looking so official and scary, I thought that citizenship meant a complete conversion to all things Australian.

According to my eight year-old logic, that meant I had to stop eating rice…and start eating bread.

Stupid, I know.

Alas, my world was collapsing.

Yes, the drama started even back then.

I thought that it meant having to surrender what was familiar to me.

Rice wasn’t simply a staple – it was a big part of my identity.

In the kitchen, as I sobbed, my mother pointed to our ten kilo sack of rice and explained that I could eat it whenever I wanted.

No one was going to forbid me from eating it.  Certainly, no one would ever have to force me to replace it with bread.  Ever.

It took me a while to believe her.

Thus began my own personal battle of being first generation Australian.

Unfortunately, school children tend to find themselves as victims of cruel taunting and teasing in the playground and the classroom.

I found racial slurs and discrimination affecting me most.

Being bullied or ridiculed for having slanty eyes and darker skin colour.

Told to get back to the rice fields.

Gladly.  

Yelled at for coming over on a boat.

Actually, it was a Qantas flight from Jakarta.

Suffice to say, growing up in Australia wasn’t easy.

Happily, that’s the distant past.

Thankfully, for my half Indonesian – half Aussie boys, they will be growing up in a different Australia.  A more accepting one.

Since 1979, I see significant changes:  Play School showing Balinese dancers through ‘the Round Window’; a strong Greek accent reading the weather forecast on national radio; a flourish of Asian grocery shops and restaurants beyond the typical surroundings of Chinatown.

Just today, I discovered that a prestigious Sydney private school is represented by 35 nationalities.  Despite being a Catholic  Sacred Heart school, it caters to 23 different religions.  It even has a Buddhist temple.

Every week at their play group, my boys play with other children of mixed ethnic backgrounds.  Namely, a Hungarian-Filipino boy and another boy whose mother is from New Zealand and father is Brazilian.

Too cool.  I’m blown away.

Back in 1979, I was the only Asian kid in my class.

So as you can see, as a mother raising bi-racial children, I am excited about Australia’s future as an ever growing multicultural society.

I’m going to do all I can to ensure that my boys will be confident school children, proud of their own mixed heritage.

That they will also embrace the diverse identities of their peers and school friends.

To see the playground and the classroom free of  discrimination and hurtful comments.


“Harmony Day” is held annually on March 21.

It is a day for Australians to celebrate ethnic diversity.  It is also the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.  Managed by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Harmony Day events do not receive government funding.  Australian schools are left to their own devices to arrange their own activities to commemorate the day.

Does your local school celebrate “Harmony Day”?  If so, drop me a line.  I’d love to hear about it.

“I’ve Been To Bali Too”

16 Feb

“Indonesia ?  Hmmm…where is that ?  Is it near Bali ?  I’ve been to Bali…”

Growing up in Australia in the 80’s, this was the response I would constantly hear when I would tell people where I was from.  It left me puzzled.  Yes, even at the age of 9.

How can we Australians not know that Bali is a part of Indonesia ?

So here’s a quick refresher:

Indonesia is not that far away.  It is Australia’s closest Asian neighbour.

Although we couldn’t be any further apart culturally or demographically, we need each other.  Both economically and for the sake of national security  (Dare I say, in regards to the latter issue, Australia is more reliant on Indonesia).

The problem is that we don’t know enough about each other.  And what we do know, is sadly, only the negative depiction on what we see on television – the bombings, the natural disasters, the extreme poverty, the harsh judicial system that still enforces the death penalty.

Last week, the question of the Indonesian – Australian relationship was raised again. There was much ado from politicians regarding a 450 million dollar project that the Australian government provides to the Indonesian government in aid to build Indonesian schools.  There has been talk of cutting these funds.

I understand that when it comes to foreign aid and what the Australian government provides to developing countries can be a sensitive issue.  However, along with many Australians, I believe that by ending this funding – which is for the betterment of Indonesia’s education system, – would in fact, in turn, be detrimental to our relationship with Indonesia.

An Indonesian school boy's daily commute to school - through the rice fields

Here are three very simple, yet crucial facts about the country that is Australia’s closest channel to the rest of Asia.  If there’s anything you can take away with you from this post, please take this.

Indonesia is:

  • The fourth most populous country with 240 million people
  • The 3rd fastest growing economy in Asia
  • Australia’s 5th largest market in ASEAN and 13th largest trading partner overall

A prominent professor at Melbourne University who specialises in Asian law and is fluent in Bahasa Indonesia made an interesting point.  He says that those who have a personal or private interest in the Australian – Indonesian relationship are tolerant and understanding of both sides.

Enjoying some fresh coconut with a mountain village family near Candi Dasa, East Bali

 

Well guys, being born Indonesian and raised Australian, I can only say that the relationship between these two countries is a topic that is extremely close to my heart.

Educated in Australia, I feel damn lucky and proud:  The abundance of free educational resources from pre-school right up to high school; the freedom to study whatever I wanted, wherever I wanted; and most importantly, knowing that I wasn’t hindered by finances when it came to my tertiary education because the government had a system that I could pay back my university fees when I was financially capable of doing so.

Yet, when visiting relatives in Jakarta during my childhood, I was reminded of just how tough my cousins had it.  (And these guys were the lucky ones as they were able to have an education).

During some of these holidays, I would go to school with my extended family and saw how exhausting the two hour commute (each way) to school was.  I would sit through classes with them, sweating from the stifling heat and dense humidity as there was no air-conditioning. The playground was a concrete courtyard.  As for the school toilets – this is where I learned how to hold my breath, shut my eyes and do my business with great expertise.

Yet, I don’t ever recall them complaining about homework, their teachers or their insane early 7 am starts.

So now, to make things even closer to home – to help you understand how the future of these two very distinct cultures and countries is important to me – let me introduce you to some of my family.

This was at our wedding reception.

My family were performing a traditional ceremony where family members offer the newly wed couple their sincere wishes and blessings for a prosperous and happy life together.  Accompanied by (rather loud and raucous) traditional music, each family member holds up the colourful, woven cloths as they dance towards and around the couple before wrapping the blanket as a sign of protection and love from the family:

Hubby and Me: Bombarded with blankets, blessings and love

And here are some cousins, a brother, a niece and a crazy, yet loved, sister-in-law (can you guess which one she is ???):

Lastly, but certainly by far not least, the most important reason(s) – to me – why our two countries need to get along…my half Aussie, half Indo munchkins:

Okay, I’ll step off the soapbox now.

But just before I do, I hope that I’ve shed some different light about a country that we know so little about, yet sits so close to us that there are domestic flights to get there from Darwin.

I hope that by giving you a glimpse of the warmth, colour and laughter of my family, you can see a more personal side to Indonesia and realise it’s not a country that’s all about political and social turmoil.

I hope you can understand that by helping to improve Indonesia’s education system, Australia is making a long-term investment.  It’s work in progress to build a relationship with a vibrant Asian country that offers great economic potential.

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