My fitness blog

Visits to TripleA in Adelaide continue increasing, so I thought I’d give a quick update as to where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing since I earned Australian citizenship.

Long story short, I’m still here, and yes, I’m still blogging. However, I’ve moved my writing to TripleA Fitness instead, which chronicles my latest journey, the one from FAT to FIT.

TripleA in Adelaide was my journey as a newcomer to Adelaide and was meant to last until citizenship day (though considering I still get messages and such, I realise now that nobody had a clue about this but me).

Here, I shared anecdotes about culture shock as well as some wisdom to help newcomers survive immigration, get jobs, and adapt to the nation I’m now privileged to call my own.

After citizenship day, I couldn’t resist the urge to continue posting. But quickly, my focused changed to my next journey; not one of immigration but one of health and fitness.

This blog will stay up since its content is still very valid today. My most popular sections are those about job hunting and immigration, so check them out. Surprisingly, my photo galleries are still visited quite frequently as well, though I expect this popularity to dwindle over time as more and more photos are shared on the web. Back when I published, there were only a handful of worthy photos of Adelaide on Google images. SERIOUSLY! There are plenty now.

So that’s it. I’m still around, but I’m elsewhere. I’m happy to have closed my immigration chapter and wish you all the best finishing yours.

Yours truly,

TripleA

Adelaide Hills on fire

I’m going to take a parenthesis from my latest string of posts to share a little about what’s been in the news this past week here in Adelaide.

One of the most lush and beautiful areas of our state is known as the Adelaide Hills, but unfortunately, that is no longer so.

ashestoashes

This hot, dry and windy past few weeks laid the foundation to a wild bushfire of biblical proportions that destroyed everything in its path. Over two dozen families have lost their homes and while there have been no human fatalities (fortunately), the loss of fauna and wild animal life is unquantifiable.

As reported by News.com.au, “About 29 people, mostly firefighters, have been injured in this year’s Adelaide Hills blaze which has destroyed 13,000 hectares of scrub and left more than 1000 properties without power.”

Then there’s this

petsaved

More than 40 pets were lost at a single property that “took care of pets” while their owners went away. All the cats and about a third of the dogs at the kennels were left at the mercy of the flames.

There’s much controversy about why and/or how this could happen, but the fact of the matter is that nothing will bring those animals back and the people who ran a BUSINESS taking care of them should have, at the very least, given them a fighting chance as opposed to letting them burn in cages. Of course, I wasn’t there, I don’t know what really happened. But had that been a childcare centre, not a child would have been left behind (at least I’d like to think so). But because they were “just pets”, nobody gave a damn. Shame on you people. You should be tried for cruelty and negligence.

Now, I’m not a pet lover, but I respect animal life and understand the bond families form with them (and viceversa). So, on a side note, when people give away their pets whenever it no longer suits them, it breaks my heart and infuriates me at the same time. These so called “pet lovers” are nothing but hypocrites and jail masters. If you’re not going to make a lifelong commitment to an poor animal that will depend entirely on you, then do what I do and don’t get one.

An unknown number of horses were also lost as many people who had stables did not have enough carriages and/or vehicles to drive them all out. This is a very different situation to what happened in the pet care facility as it is reported that most of them simply opened the gates and at least let them make a run for it. Orphaned horses have been found around town so at least you know some made it. Efforts are under way to reunite horses with their masters.

Not the bush

While officially called a “bushfire”, the Adelaide Hills cannot be defined as “the bush”. It is was a clean, high status area with big homes, vineyards, stables, signature restaurants, and general businesses, schools and the sort. And it’s just a short 30 minute drive from the CBD, so no, it’s not the bush.

How the fire started is still being debated, but the story that’s floating around is that it started by a rubbish incinerator. Right now, however, everyone is more focussed on getting people out, saving properties, getting help to those in need, and of course, keeping the fire from spreading.

In the words of Ian Tanner from the Country Fire Service, “There is not a fire service anywhere in the world that could put out this fire at the moment”.

The last time there was a fire this big was in 1983, which cost the lives of 28 people.

Back to back

Firefighters and volunteers from our neighbouring states have travelled to South Australia to help us fight the fires, but now fires have broken out in the Perth Hills in Western Australia and homes are at risk. If the weather doesn’t cooperate fast, a horde of tired but battle hardened firefighters will then have to leave SA to fight yet another battle in WA.

For more details, visit news.com.au

A little setback . . . I broke my leg

Right about now I would have been posting yet another before and after shot showing off my newly acquired six-pack abs, but unfortunately, on October 25th, I broke my leg and ankle playing baseball in what’d be best described as a freak accident.

I collided with a bigger and heavier teammate on a defensive play and shattered my leg in the process. Really tough luck, but all things considered, I was quite fortunate. I have medicare and a great level of private insurance and they took the blunt of the TEN THOUSAND DOLLAR hospital bill that ensued (including surgery and two nights at the hospital, each at at well over $1000). I didn’t have to pay for the ambulance either and received the best medical care available at Flinders Private after an emergency trip to Noarlunga Hospital where they took my first X-rays and immobilised my leg. A good friend then drove me to Flinders Hospital and once I was discharged, other good friends drove me home from the other side of town.

Despite being such an asshole me, I’ve got good people in my life.

fractureI had what is known as a bimalleolar fracture, which means I broke my fibula and my medial malleolous (the part that connects the tibia with the ankle).

After a successful ORIF (open reduction and internal fixation) surgery performed by Dr. Shannon Sim from Adelaide Orthosports Clinic, I spent two more nights at Flinders Private and then I had to be sent home in the interest of public safety because the nurses couldn’t keep their hands off me.

Click here to watch a computer animated video of my surgery >

Costs

Apart from the costs mentioned above, it seems that subsequent costs aren’t necessarily covered as they’d fall under the “elective” category. Whether or not you can walk properly again is apparently “elective” . . . whereas patching up a broken leg is mandatory, so I am looking at a series of expenses now that I’m no longer under hospital care. For example, follow-up X-rays which cost $110, the $350 “boot” that replaced my cast, plus the taxi rides to the different clinics I have to go to regularly. Let’s not forget physiotherapy when the time comes. Hopefully my private insurance might pick up a healthy percentage of those bills, but for sure, I’m out of pocket for all transportation which can get very expensive very fast. My nearest bus station is about 1km from my house, so public transport is not an option . . . plus I cannot wait for a bus standing up, as in the CBD, there’s no guarantee there’ll be a bench to sit on.

RIP active lifestyle

Needless to say, I was devastated when this happened for many reasons. This is was the strongest I’d been all my life and I felt great. The prospect of playing my favourite sports all year long, baseball in summer and hockey in winter, gave me a lot to look forward to. Now, while I’ll devote my body and mind to fully recover, I think hockey is out forever. It’s just not worth the risk of ending up disabled. Now, as far as baseball goes . . . it was really a freak accident. This sort of thing doesn’t happen often and CAN be avoided simply by playing in a much lower division where you don’t have to risk your life to make a play. I hope to make a comeback someday.

What about my fitness goals?

Well, these went out the window as well . . . and just as I was starting to get ripped. This, I hated. I really did. So much work and dedication this year to now watch my results dissolve before my eyes. It’s really depressing, but at the same time, I guess it gives me something to look forward to. I learned a lot about fitness during this period and I’m confident I can bounce back. My personal trainer was in a terrible car accident last year, and now, one year later, he’s squatting big weights again despite having busted his knee. I’m sure my leg will heal fine. I hope my ankle does too, because deadlifts and squats are the most complete exercises to build up strength, back and core.

Weightwise . . . well, I’ve cut my calories again to ensure I don’t gain weight during this period of inactivity. I’ve dropped some weight and am now at 67kg. I should be able to maintain this. After 4 weeks, though, whatever little muscle mass I had gained seems to have clocked out until the next shift starts. Fortunately, gaining weight is the easy part and working out hard isn’t something I dread any more. Not now that I know what to do.

One of the things I’ve strangely been thinking a lot about is what the regulars at the gym might be thinking. Not that I was a gym junkie or had a lot of friends there, but you know, I was going every day and had become a regular. Slowly but surely you start getting used to seeing the same hard workers every day to the point it feels like you’re in school with your classmates. So, just like when a classmate skips class for a while and you wonder what happened to them, even if you’re not necessarily friends, I often wonder if they think I just quit. Even though we weren’t “friends” per se, they had sort of become my secret support network. Seeing them there, sharing our efforts, and the vain hope that one day they noticed my gains kept me motivated. I miss that. I was sooo close. :(

Prognosis

Everyone heals at a different rate and it’s too early to make a prediction, but like I hinted earlier, I’m very fortunate and have no doubt that I’ll recover. I can say that now, but I’d be lying if I said I was this confident before when my injury was fresh.

Being an Australian citizen with medicare and a good level of private insurance, I received top medical care and will continue to do so. I have had and will continue to have out-of-pocket expenses, but in this country, I can afford it. Had this happened to me in the USA, Venezuela or Greece, I’d have been done for life, both physically and financially. Yes, I’m very fortunate despite what happened.

I was also in very good shape and was wearing an ankle brace when the accident happened, which probably saved me from a much worse fracture. My wife has a stable job and my employer has been extremely accommodating. My friends and coworkers have been there for me when I’ve needed them and I live in a lovely house with all the amenities and comforts I may wish for.

The surgeon said 6 weeks for the bones to heal, 3 months to walk, 6 to hopefully run again, and then, I might need a couple of months of recovery after I have the plates and screws removed, but it’s too soon to talk about that now. Recovery comes first.

Flying a plane for the first time

I’ve been a fan of simulators all my life, but ever since I lived in the USA, I’ve been itching to go to Air Combat USA and dogfight with electronic “ammo” in real planes up in the air.

You see, before I was a simracing enthusiast, I was a flightsim expert. I only switched to race cars because I love simulators and the flightsim genre had died. I’m still waiting for flightsims to come back, but it looks like space sims like Star Citizen will take the next turn.

Anyway, since there’s nothing like Air Combat USA in Australia, the options appear to be either a formation/acrobatic flight as a passenger while a real pilot has all the fun or a scenic semi-solo flight at the controls of a light aircraft. There’s no such option in South Australia (that I know of), so I took advantage of a Sydney visit to hit Camden Airport and tick that activity off my bucket list.

curtis_aviation2

I had the company of a very experienced (and completely insane) pilot from Curtis Aviation who let me fly one of their planes without EVEN ASKING if I knew how. Heck, they didn’t even ask me for an ID. I found a deal through adrenaline.com.au for a $250 one-hour flight. Considering I paid about $400 for 7 laps at a racetrack with a V8 Supercar, this flight adventure offers OUTSTANDING value. That is, if you know what you’re doing.

Let me explain. The only instructions I got were about what radio frequencies we’d be using in the air and how to change them manually in case someone crashed at our airport and we had to use another one. Really.

Then, when I was flying over the coast, he said “Don’t crash against that hill” . . . and that was all I got in terms of “instruction”. But in all honesty, there wasn’t much to teach anyway. I’ve been emulating Tom Cruise for years in both Top Gun and Days of Thunder, so I’m a quick study when it comes to piloting vehicles with big engines.

The first shocker came when we had gained some altitude after taking off and I asked him if I could take over the controls . . . to which he replied that I’d had the controls since we took off, while tapping me on the shoulders in a “look ma, no hands” gesture. Good thing I just held onto the flight stick and let our airspeed take care of the climbing. Yet another sign that this pilot either had too much faith in me or was completely insane.

The second shocker was the complete lack of hydraulic assistance (at least none that I could notice). All the controls were mechanical. You’re literally moving the plane’s parts with your hands and feet. Very sensitive to your input, but extremely soft at times and extremely hard at others, depending on what the wind is doing at the time. You have to adjust constantly.

Also, the wind’s effect on the plane is INSANE. The plane shakes all over the place and you’re constantly fighting external forces. It must have been terrifying to fly a light WWI fighter plane with those weak engines they had (and with exposed cockpits) . . . and today wasn’t even a windy day.

The first 15 minutes were very shaky as I was only getting used to the sensitivity of the controls. The next 15 minutes I was doing better but was flying over a turbulent area that sort of resembled the cliffs of Dover. The last half hour I was accurate enough to strafe a moving train with a Stuka.

Following landmarks given to me by the instructor, I flew the entire landing approach until we were at an altitude of around 500ft, at which point he took over and gracefully set the plane down over the grass airfield with machine-like precision.

inflated

On reflection, I guess my biggest surprise was that I wasn’t nervous at all. Zero, zip, nada. Having flown computer simulators for so many years, it felt like I had done this a million times already. But what was more surprising was how quickly he gave me control of the plane without having any way of knowing how good (or bad) I was going to turn out to be.

On top of that, he encouraged me to fly at testicle shrinking low altitudes, to the point where if I’d made a mistake, he wouldn’t have been able to recover from it. There simply would have been no time to correct a mishap flying so close to the ground.

At decent altitude (not that decent, considering we never even hit 3000ft), he even encouraged me to do some heavy banking and even a nose dive. It was interesting to finally feel the pressure as the Gs piled up. I have a strong stomach, but too many of those and I would have probably felt sick . . . assuming I didn’t black out first.

Click here for an unedited video snap of the experience >

Australian MESSurements – Calories vs Kilojoules

The first thing you’ll notice when you’re a migrant working out is that here in Australia, people talk about calories but food labels show kilojoules instead, which is pretty enraging when you’re trying to eat healthy. Joules are the metric equivalent of calories and both are units of energy.

But what’s a joule anyway, you ask?

A joule is the amount of work required to produce one watt of power for one second.

And that’s about as smart as this post is going to get!

So let me help you figure this out. Calories are wrong. What people refer to as calories are actually KILO calories . . . they’re just lazy and skip the kilo part. Calories and kilojoules are both units of energy, so gasoline will also have a caloric value (it’s just not the kind of thing you should be drinking). Also, since gym equipment is usually imported from the USA, they show calories (meaning kilocalories). Yet, here in Australia, food labels show kilojoules instead . . . and most people refer to them as calories.

Yeah, I know. It goes from wrong to wrongER in one watt second.

So here’s a good guide. The recommended calorie (again, these are KILO calories – single calories are never used in food labels) intake for an adult of average build is roughly 2080kcal. In kilojoules, that’s 8700. So the easy way to do the conversion is to multiply every kilocalorie times four to get kilojoules (or divide kilojoules by four to get kilocalories). So, that burger with 4000kj is equivalent to 1000kcal . . . give or take. It’s not an exact math but neither is what you see on food labels.

Ultimate Double WhopperWhile a large Ultimate Double Whopper meal at Hungry Jacks (with a regular Coke) sits at 8200kj – pretty much your maximum caloric intake for the entire day – that doesn’t mean that you won’t gain weight if you replace all your normal meals for that one. This is because that meal is full of sugars and saturated fats, and that’s what makes you fat. You can eat 8200kj worth of lettuce and you still won’t gain any weight in the long run, but 8200kj worth of bacon is another deal entirely.

And just in case you’re wondering which measurement is better . . . I’ll have to say kilojoules. When I did physics in high school, we measured energy in joules, not in calories. It’s the metric way. Also, a kilojoule is always a kilojoule, whereas when people talk about calories, you never know if they mean “calories” or “kilocalories”. Unfortunately, kilojoules are only used in Australian food labels, so you’re pretty much out of luck anywhere else if you get used to that measurement. Also, most of our gym equipment and fitness tips use calories, so this all gets very confusing very fast.

Australian MESSurements

If gym equipment were made locally and Australian fitness professionals stopped sucking the US tit, then we’d all be using kilojoules in true and accurate metric fashion. But since they mix it up with the imperial system, now we have this big mess of measurements. Same with heights. Here we use the metric system and yet lots of people still use feet for height and have no idea what their height is in meters.

But hey, at least nobody talks about feet, pounds and ounces.

I have nightmares about it, but at least I can still sleep at night over it, knowing that we’ll never fall that low.

How I made thousands off my bank!

If you’ve got a home loan and ask your lender for a better deal, you’ll get it. You just have to ask the right way.

Interest rates are currently as low as they’ve been in a very long time, and yet people aren’t acquiring as much debt as the government and the banks (is there a difference?) would want them to, so there’s fierce competition among lenders to secure new business.

But just as in the job market where existing employees don’t get raises but new ones get paid more, in the mortgage lending market, current customers don’t get the best rates. New customers do.

My broker came to the rescue

supermanSince switching home loans usually incurs in fees and what not, and I’ve only had my loan for a little over a year, I figured I had no options. But then I spoke with my AWESOME broker Greg Campbell (0412 249 737) from Mortgage Choice and in just a few minutes, he armed me with the ammunition I needed to hit my bank for a discount that ended up saving me thousands!

He told me exactly what other banks were offering and after taking the savings into account, switching loans would still save me money based on the considerable difference in interest rates – valuable information I could use to renegotiate with Westpac. By the way, that was a courtesy phone call. He doesn’t make any money out of this.

If you’re ever in the market for a loan, give Greg a call. He was a bank manager for many years and knows exactly how to press their buttons. Moreover, he’s helped me and other followers of this blog immensely. Let him know Alex the blogger sent you.

Haggling done right

brian_haggling_costume

I called Westpac’s Retention Unit and a lovely lady picked the phone on the other side. I explained to her I had noticed how generous they were being to new customers and that as an existing customer, I was hoping they could offer me the same savings. To show that I was serious, I also mentioned I had been in touch with my broker and was considering switching my loan to either ING or Bankwest, and described in detail the advantages of both to prove to her that I had done my homework.

She asked if I had home insurance and offered Westpac’s option. That’s fine, it’s part of her job (since they know they’ll have to give you a discount, they’ll try to make up the money by selling you another service). I explained to her that I had just signed up with SGIC and that they had insured my house for $100,000 more than Westpac would for about half the price. She mentioned Westpac had revised their insurance offerings to be more “in tune” with their competitors, but I diverted that conversation by saying that insurance companies were just like banks and gave the good discounts to new customers as opposed to existing ones, so next year, I would indeed consider what Westpac had to offer. I also stroke a familiar tune by highlighting that by the same token, if she got a job at another bank doing the same thing, she’d be paid more money than Westpac is currently paying her. She could not disagree.

Be nice!

csrAlways remember, you’re the one who is after something and you’re dealing with a human being. Find some common ground and resonate with your customer service rep. Flirt if you can. It’s harmless and brightens their day. Most people who call them are assholes, so they WILL work harder for a nice customer.

Also, customer service reps who take these phone calls already know what they can or cannot offer to a customer in order to retain them. That whole charade about putting you on hold to see what the manager can do is simply to give you the impression that they’re going above and beyond to help you out, but the truth of the matter is, they’re just placing you on hold while they twirl their pen for a minute or two. I know because I have been that person.

From 5.18% to 4.86%

I was paying 5.18% interest, including a 0.8% discount for the life of the loan.

One of the advantages of sticking with Westpac as opposed to switching to another vendor was that the only way for Westpac to lower my interest rate is by increasing my discount . . . and once that discount is increased, it cannot be reduced and stays with you for the life of the loan!

New customers are currently getting a full 1% discount, so that was all I was entitled to negotiate. Yet, probably because I was cool with the lady I spoke to, joked around and flirted a little, she rewarded my efforts by offering me a 1.12% discount (a 0.32% increase to my already active 0.8% discount). That just goes to show how important it is to be nice to people, especially when you need their help.

This extra discount managed to bring my interest rate to 4.86%, which is more in tune with what new customers are getting at other banks, and will result in savings of over $22,000 over the 29 years remaining on my loan . . . or about $12,000 if I manage to pay it off within my goal of 10 years (so far so good).

A penny saved is a penny earned

If people focused as much effort on saving money as they do on trying to make it, everybody would have at least twice as much in the bank or in assets.

That’s how I’ve always managed to live well and have a nice cushion, even more so than people who make twice as much as I do. My friends often ask me how I can own so much nice stuff when I don’t make a lot of money. To keep the answer short, I just say “I don’t drink”. But the secret is to take ownership of your finances, to not spend on what you can’t afford, to plan for the future, to not waste money on vice, to marry someone who values money, and to save. That’s how.

And if you even hear yourself saying, “Go on, you deserve it!” Then you’re on the wrong path to financial freedom (if there’s even such a thing).

A 0.32% additional discount on my home loan’s interest rate for the life of the loan. That’s a hell of a lot of money for a day’s work.

Adelaide Hyperlapse Video

A few months ago, a prolific visual artist and fellow migrant published a fantastic video of Adelaide that, frankly, puts the official video from the South Australian Tourism Commission to shame.

Gabriel Rivera, who coincidentally happens to also be from Venezuela, spent countless hours making sure he placed each shot just right and did it all out of pure love of this lovely city we now call home. Kudos to him on a job well done. Adelaide isn’t too big, so I hope I get to shake his hand someday.

You can read more about how his video came to life here >

Just look at his creation:

Check out his website here >

The LSD trip

The “visual artists” from the South Australian Tourism Commission, on the other hand, were high as fark when they made theirs:

I’ve been waiting 5 months to say this about this video . . .

Seriously . . . WTF!

This video is so absurdly random that it could be for ANY city in the world. It’s like they bought a video template from iStockPhoto.com and simply placed the South Australia logo at the end.

It’s a good thing though. With promotion so bad, maybe we’ll stop getting so many god damn migrants! 😉

Applying for Australian Citizenship

Last May, just over 4 years after I arrived in Australia on the skilled immigration scheme, I applied for Australian citizenship.

Minutes after submitting my online application and paying the respective $260 fee, I received an email confirmation instructing me that I’d be taking the citizenship about 30 days later, along with a link to where I could find the study material.

Our Common Bond

The guide that you need to study outlines the absolute most basic stuff every Australian needs to know. A little history, the national symbols, your rights and obligations as an Australian citizen, and how the government is formed. That’s it. Most of it is plain common sense, and if you’re familiar with US or UK law and government, very little is actually different.

Downloadable from the official immigration website, this EASY guide consists of a testable and a non-testable section. The non-testable section also contains information you SHOULD know but won’t be tested on. Learn it too. You’re getting citizenship after all, so you might as well earn it.

The testable version is also available as a series of youtube videos, which are great to watch WHILE you read the guide. Don’t use the videos as your only source, though, since there’s stuff in the guide you won’t see on them.

Yes, ANY working Australian will pass the citizenship test

You’ll often hear that most Australians would fail the citizenship test, but that is utter nonsense. They might not score as well as we would, but that’s solely because we STUDY for it. They don’t. The test consists of 20 questions, out of a pool of 200, and you have 45 minutes to complete it. On top of that, you can revisit your answers as many times as you wish. If you get 15 right, you pass. So, with a low pass mark of 75%, you really must SUCK to fail it.

To support my hypothesis that ANY working Aussie would pass it, I did a little test of my own and had nearly 20 Australian-born coworkers complete the sample test. They ALL passed with 16 or 17 questions right. One had 18 right. One only 15. . . but frankly, she wasn’t very bright at all.

My time to gloat

gloatingI finished my test in 4 minutes and scored 100%. They could have asked me the 200 questions and I still would have gotten a high score. That doesn’t mean I’m super bright (which I am . . . “my mother had me tested”). What it means is that I CARE.

I CARE about Australian society and culture.
I CARE about Australian values and their way of life.
I CARE about Australia and its history.
I CARE about embracing Australia with the good and the bad.
I CARE because I’m grateful that this country, and its people, have welcomed me with open arms.

And most importantly, I CARE because my life depends on it . . . and I LOVE the life this country has allowed me to live.

So if you’re an immigrant about to take that test, don’t just cram for it. Your life depends on it too.

Not a smart cookie?

smartcookieNow, don’t panic. Australia has stupid people too, some of them may even make it to Prime Minister one of them already has, but that doesn’t make them any less Australian (and I mean that in the nicest possible way). They know this.

So if you fail it, they’ll let you take it again. If you fail it again, they can discuss other options with you. That’s how lenient they are.

Things you should know

You DO NOT need to have been the primary applicant in order to apply for citizenship. In my case, for example, my wife and I came on Skilled Visa Subclass 475 and “she” was the primary applicant in that instance. We had to apply for Permanent Residency (Visa Subclass 887) together, but for citizenship, we actually applied as individuals. Provided you’ve met the criteria for citizenship, it doesn’t matter whether or not you were the original primary applicant when you came to Australia. You can still apply and each application (for every adult) will be treated independently.

Make sure you use your FULL NAME in your application. Also, in the section where a qualified witness needs to sign your photo and application, make sure they too use your full name. If not, you’ll have to resubmit it and you’ll only find out on test day.

DO NOT forget to bring every original version of the documents you submitted with your online application.

Have some common sense

And in case you missed it it, read my previous post:
Australia is a multicultural society . . . but still

Australia is a multicultural society . . . but still

On the day I took my citizenship test, one of the things I noticed was that I was sticking out like a sore thumb (if you don’t know what that means, perhaps you should study a little harder for the test).

What I mean is that I dressed up for the occasion . . . or rather I should say, “I didn’t dress DOWN for the occasion”. In other words, I wore my usual smart casual attire, just as I do for work. “SMART” being the keyword here. I also arrived 30 minutes before my appointment, rechecked that all my documents were in order, had a last read of the study guide, and smiled at everybody.

While I sat there, I paid attention to the people around me and was shocked to see that only a lovely Chinese family and a couple of single men had made some effort to . . . behave for the occasion.

The other 30 or so people looked as if they had just walked out of bed or like mannequins from Disney’s “It’s A Small World” ride. Traditional dresses, turbans, men in sandals, and everybody, except those who were alone, speaking in their native language.

itsasmallworld

I know I’m walking on thin ice here, and I know that Australia is a multicultural society that welcomes different cultures, but while I tried HARD to not pay too much attention to it, one question kept looping inside my head . . .

Have you forgotten what you’re doing here today?

TODAY, you’re in an office of the Australian Government to take a citizenship test and to PROVE that you ARE Australian. Dressing like a poster boy for a World Vision marketing campaign and loudly speaking in a foreign language is actually proving what you’re not . . . not what you want them to believe you are.

Now, I’m not saying you should stop being who you are or that you should renounce your cultural heritage. Not at all. What I’m doing here is reminding you what your purpose is on THAT day, so . . .

At least ACT like it

There are TWO DAYS of your LIFE when you should cast aside your “pride” and simply “blend in”. One is when you take your citizenship test and the other one is when you take the oath of allegiance to Australia and its people AS AN AUSTRALIAN.

This is not an attack on multiculturalism. This is simply a desperate call to all of you, my fellow immigrants, to have some COMMON SENSE, and most of all, show some respect on the TWO DAYS of your life when you’re trying to prove, as an Australian, that you’re ONE OF US (Australians) as opposed to ONE OF THEM (foreigners).

Now, they do encourage you to wear your country’s traditional clothes on the day of the ceremony (not the day of the test). In spite of this, however, I still would stick to smart casual clothing or perhaps even a business suit.

Why? Because . . .

When in Rome, do as the Romans do

bush_clothing

The photo above shows President Bush, not the brightest person in the world, wearing a traditional garment of the country of his host. This isn’t to look cool. It’s merely a GESTURE OF RESPECT.

What would happen to a western woman applying for citizenship in a religious Middle Eastern country while speaking English, wearing a short red dress, high heels, flamboyant hair, jewelry and perfume?

Apart from the obvious reprisals, what this western woman would be showing is a complete lack of respect for the culture she is trying to become a part of. Rather than covering up her hair and dressing appropriately for the occasion, she chose to go over the top in her “self respect” and left her common sense at home, along with any shred of respect for that country’s way of life.

Some of you won’t agree

For the record, my lovely wife disagrees with me, as I’m sure many of you probably do too. She says that the major difference in that scenario is that “there” such things are not allowed and that “here” they are. A valid point indeed.

But by the same token, just because in some other country I’m allowed to stone women to death, it doesn’t mean I’ll keep a pocket full of stones just in case I happen to stumble upon a potential target.

mankiniAnd ON THE DAY I find myself in Kazakhstan applying for citizenship and trying to prove that I’m one of them, I WILL WEAR A GREEN MANKINI just because I know that’s how they dress there . . .

. . . even if my favourite mankinis are pink.

The “real” Australian way

And if what the Departpent of Immigration wants is an ethnic show at the Australian Citizenship Ceremony, then I propose they ask us to choose a traditional dance from our country of origin . . . dress up as Australian aboriginals (or rather, undress like them) . . . and dance it Yolngu style.

Now THAT would be logical choice for the occasion.

What do you do for a living?

I’ve been meeting many new people lately, so I’ve been thinking a lot about something these last few weeks.

assasssin

When people meet someone new, they often ask, “what do you do for a living”, as if that would give them a better insight about who that person really is.

I rarely feel the need to ask that because I have the very dystopian view that none of us make a living doing what we really like. If we did what we really liked, then we wouldn’t “have to” work now, would we?

If I ever ask something like that, it is merely in case I might need a trusted accountant who can help me hide my multimillionaire offshore income from the prying eyes of government.

But sometimes, when I feel tempted either out of pure curiosity or because I actually care about the person I’m talking to, I ask the following question instead:

What would you do if you didn’t have to work for a living?

Not only will you be making it clear that you care more about who they really are as opposed to what they are forced to do in order to survive in our merciless dog-eat-dog society, but you’ll learn a lot more about that person that you can actually use to judge them assess their character.

The sad reality is that so far, everyone I’ve ever asked (including myself), needs at least a couple of minutes to actually come up with some sort of answer.

Just how low have we fallen in the food chain to reach middle age without ever having even considered what we’d do if we actually OWNED our lives?

I’ll leave you today with an extract from an outstanding observation written about this very same subject:

Do what you love [DWYL] and you’ll never work a day in your life! Before succumbing to the intoxicating warmth of that promise, it’s critical to ask, “Who, exactly, benefits from making work feel like non-work?” “Why should workers feel as if they aren’t working when they are?” Historian Mario Liverani reminds us that “ideology has the function of presenting exploitation in a favourable light to the exploited, as advantageous to the disadvantaged.”

In masking the very exploitative mechanisms of labor that it fuels, DWYL is, in fact, the most perfect ideological tool of capitalism. It shunts aside the labor of others and disguises our own labor to ourselves. It hides the fact that if we acknowledged all of our work as work, we could set appropriate limits for it, demanding fair compensation and humane schedules that allow for family and leisure time.

And if we did that, more of us could get around to doing what it is we really love.

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