Back to Brisvegas!

It’s still some months away but it’s pretty much confirmed we’ll be moving back to Brisbane aka Brisvegas aka Home of Happy Hippies. The last one is my personal take on the place. Yay! Perth has been a great ride but we’re longing to put down roots and Brisbane is where HRH’s work is and where the next chapter of our lives await us.

It goes without saying I feel a mixture of emotions: it’s never easy leaving a place one calls home, knows the locals on a first name basis and has made loads of new friends. But move we must and move we shall, back east to Brisbane, this time by plane. If you want to relive my yet unedited (I don’t have the time with the baby) 9-day trip across Australia’s backyard moving from Brisbane to Perth click here.

To coordinate our move back to Brisvegas I have mental lists and paper lists and lists I’ve misplaced somewhere around the house for all the things that need doing. And for that question everyone seems to be asking: are you going back to West End?

Yes, by the grace of God we will. Amen. We will be moving back to live in the 4101. It’s home. I told HRH that for me Brisbane = West End. It’s the only equation I know even though nothing else about the future adds up at this moment. We travel to other parts of Brisbane for food all the time – it’s our family’s “collective hobby” – but 4101 is where it’s at for me. 4101 is home. I’m a WALKER who delights in all the wonders of the area that I can’t imagine wanting to live anywhere else. Even and especially with a baby, I’d still move back to live in an 85m2 apartment. Why? There are a number of reasons but chief of which is Amanda’s education.

In 2 years time Amanda will be off to high school. Living in our area we have the option of sending her to Brisbane State High, the best PUBLIC high school in Brisbane, possibly the best high school, sharing the podium with Grammar, which costs $30k pa. From the value-for-money-education angle, there’s no arguing it makes sense but of course since my mind almost never shuts off, what with the baby waking me 10 times a night (sometimes literally), I’ve had some reservations about this, namely: what if my child is NOT Brisbane State High material? I’m just throwing it out there. She has the highest LEXILE score for her grade (almost double the average grade 4 student) and is doing long division of many numbers and long multiplication of many numbers and will be at least 1 year ahead of the NATIONAL school syllabus by the time we go back to Brisbane (thanks to our wonderful Kumon instructor Ms Amy Lee-Smith of the Dalkeith Kumon Centre which we have been attending since December of 2013) BUT is she good enough to tango with Brisbane’s best? Can she foxtrot and samba her way to a decent OP there?

I laid it straight to her. “Amanda, Brisbane State High is a very big school.”

I showed her the latest edition of Kumon magazine with a grade 4 boy doing the level of math she should be at in 2 to 3 months time. That article got me worried.

HRH chimed in, “It takes students zoned to the area and those who get in on merit. Do you know what that means?”

She nodded. “It’s a big school.”

How big? 4000 students at last count with more on the way. In Malaysia that would be a regular size secondary school but in Oz, 4000 is a humongous number.

HRH said, “Those that get in on merit will be really very, very good.”

It was my turn to butt in, “So do you want to be one of those kids who are in the school just because your parents can afford a house in the zone or do you want to be one of those who deserve to be there?”

Right here is my mountain of a concern: Brisbane, unlike Melbourne that has Macrobertson and Melbourne High, doesn’t have a purely selective school that admits kids into high school from grade 9 onwards based on an entry exam. While I understand the desire for parents to want to send their kids to a local school the BSHS model means that there will be very scholastically capable children and those that will flounder and possibly drown under the weight of such competition. Which will my child be?

They say a mother knows best but this mother is at a loss as to how to proceed. Some friends with kids have said I should put her name down for a private school, just in case she needs that extra attention a public school can’t give her. I am considering that but am I already too late when others have registered before their kids can walk?

Regardless, living within the 4101 will give us the option of sending her there. Perhaps tonnes of others think like me because in my absence I’ve acquired only a thousand new neighbours, in the form of new apartment blocks all around mine. With the new addition to our family, I want to get into a house or something from which my now-crawling baby won’t decide to try his “superman” skills while I am in the toilet. Alas, that will require some serious financial re-jigging which even the thought of gives me migraines.

So in the interest of my sanity the 4 of us (2 adults, 1 child and 1 baby) will move back into our 85 m2 (that includes the balconies) for now. At first the impossibility of “squeezing in comfortably” (an oxymoron in my book) depressed me but then my friend L said, “Remember how you were going on and on about taking Amanda to Museums, art galleries etc? You can make it work! I know you can!”

You’d have to agree good friends make the best cheerleaders. All right. We’ll give it our best shot. I’ve been binging on posts from apartment therapy and www.dwell.com to see just how I might achieve the impossible – taking a leaf or ten out of the books of New Yorkers who have done just that since the advent of skyscrapers. Yes. I will do it. I will “squeeze comfortably” into my tiny pad and make it work. Wish me luck.

When YUPPIES and Hippies collide.

I’ve got enough friends from both groups – YUPPIES (Young Urban Professionals or Young Upwardly-Mobile Professionals) and Hippies (love the earth, don’t kill ’em animals) – to witness, first-hand, the relationship between the two. At first blush, it seems like YUPPIES have nothing in common with Hippies, but if you ever move to West End in Brisbane, where I used to live, which I fondly refer to as the 4101, after the local postcode, you will see a peaceful, if separate, co-existence. Well, that’s how it is for the most part anyway.

Because for all the yoga classes we take together (or rather Hippies teach and YUPPIES attend), lentil-chewing, recycling, walking and cycling everywhere  (everyone’s into the “green life” to put it simply), there remains a core of beliefs within both groups that clearly do not overlap. What is that core? To put it in a word: Economics. YUPPIES are overwhelmingly capitalist, hence their ascension up the economic and social ladder, whilst Hippies have co-opted out of capitalism, but to their continued chagrin, still find themselves caught up in it’s web, one way or another.

From reading my many posts, you probably already know which group I fall into. For my many attempts at “turning vego” (9 at last count) and my ample admiration of other people’s gardens, I have come to accept that I will never give up meat entirely or be able to grow anything that can possibly die (which rules out all plants). I love visiting farmer’s markets on the weekends and eating organic whenever the opportunity arises (I don’t go out of my way to eat organic food), can be spotted at the Salvos and Vinnies from time to time trying to score a bargain, but if you ask me what gets my fires burning, it’s progress.

It’s progress that brought me to Australia and it’s progress that’s keeping me in this part of the world when I could be anywhere else. Where I’m from, people either progress or they perish into the unforgiving straits of poverty. It’s really that simple. There isn’t a third option.

That’s why you find many migrants singing the praises of the Australian government. In Alice Pung’s memoir “Unpolished Gem”, her grandmother cannot understand why the other oldies at the welfare office look like they’ve been sucking on lemons as she, unlike them, is overjoyed to be given an allowance by “Father Government”, who, let’s remember, is funded by the tax-paying public.

Maybe it’s where I’m from, but I know there is no such thing as a free lunch in the world. If someone is giving you money, then obviously they are going to ask of something from you in return. Recently I’ve heard a murmur of dissent among my Hippie friends about the Australian government’s move to tie child immunisation with some parenting payments. One says their child has never been ill even without the immunisation while another likens it to bullying and thinks AMA and the pharmaceutical giants are behind the change in legislation. And as usual, and this often amuses me, someone postulates how nice it’d be to be exempt from the will of the people who dole out money.

There is a way out of this, good people. It’s called, “Don’t take welfare” because the people funding your welfare have the RIGHT to feel that their children will be protected from immunizable diseases.

“Yes, but my children are healthy! They don’t need jabs from the white coats!” people protest, then they assert, “Immunization only makes the pharmaceutical industry rich!”

Let me tell you: your children may be healthy but if immunization levels fall below 85%, even those jabbed will not be protected from diseases like whooping cough, chicken pox or polio. Babies, who are most at risk from whooping cough, have DIED because people refuse to immunise their children to the disease. So in effect, if you choose NOT to vaccinate your children, you are potentially MURDERING someone else’s. Think about that. Think about that carefully.

People who know me, know I’ve never praised Rudd. In fact, although my 8 year old is his biggest fan (she rips the newspapers out of my hands to read about him), I’ve had nary a good word to say about him or any of his policies until now. This move to make the parenting payment supplement worth an estimated $2100 a year to some, contingent on immunisation, gets 2 big thumbs up from me. I think that if your fellow tax payers are funding your lifestyle, you OWE it to them, to keep immunizable diseases at bay.

I wish there was a less-offensive, more politically-correct way to state the case but there isn’t. Hippies feel entitled to government handouts but do not want to be hampered by the constraints of regular society. For myself, this clash of ideals between YUPPIES and Hippies is something I came to realise when a pseudo-Hippie friend (she’s not really a Hippie but is sympathetic to their causes) brought around to my place a real hippie.

The real hippie seemed contemptuous of my supposed trappings of wealth – the product of a capitalist YUPPIE lifestyle – but was more than happy to use my pool. In response to my “friend request” on facebook, we became friends shortly after. I continued to meet her when our mutual friend organised Hippie-type gatherings but she never, ever, took it upon herself to chat with me even though as mothers, we would have something to talk about.

Soon after my move to Perth was announced, she “unfriended” me. Perhaps what  troubled her about our association is not how dissimilar to her I am but how similar. Perhaps from a distance, it’s easier too for her to believe that I am “evil” just because I live in a place with a pool, dine at restaurants and go on holidays.