Nice to hear from you Kang. Quite a surprise. What’s paying for your bibimbap nowadays? Sentimental for old times? That’s not allowed until you have killed all your enemies, stolen the kingdom, and retreated with twenty concubines into luxurious degeneration.
Me? I’m in critter shock, trying to work out where a place called Australia went. Yeah, I know, you want to say that it never existed except in my imagination… Whatever. Stuff around here in Australia is strange. In the twelve years that I was away something has happened to my head, or to the natives, or both. Members of the species under 30, male or female, are now mostly covered from head to toe (and apparently on more private parts too) with amazingly ugly tattoos. To harmonize with this, uh, branding, every orifice in their body is punctured with silver studs, punched through the skin, and no doubt receiving coded messages from another planet. Today I saw one of these beings with a bar-code tattooed on her arm. I suppose that makes it easier at the cosmic checkout where they are bought as pets. Meanwhile the elders of the original tribe, fed on a pure diet of sugar and pain killers, drift about like enormous balloons, and make grunting sounds that sound for all the world like swamp frogs. I speak here of my ethnic forebears, the Anglos.
The streets are now also populated with huge numbers of celestial citizens pretending to be Chinese students, while the government, apparently in fear that they will wake up one morning to find Beijing’s blood red banner flying on the Prime Minister’s limousine, has now admitted an equal number of Indians (almost invisible here twelve years ago) to work in the 7/11 shops when they are not coding math to keep the country running, Original Australians of course all gave up maths in junior high school, when they had learned enough to fill out a lotto ticket. I guess the devious hidden master plan is that the Chinese and the Indians can fight each other to the death while the Anglo Aussies get on with drinking beer.
Here is a note to mark the end of twelve years in East Asia (China 1998–2000, South Korea 2000–2007, China 2007–2010). Well, I was indeed thrown out of China on the cue of turning 65, regardless of being awarded a PhD a few months before. My employers in a joint Chinese-Australian venture were ineffective (inert?) on this matter in changing the mind of China’s all-powerful and murky Public Security Burea. My students, at least, were indignant. These links to a farewell note from one class, and from one student, can put this more eloquently than I can. Here is a link to my farewell speech to the Middle Kingdom, which actually never got made thanks to clever obliteration by a KTV party. In vain I made three short, shaky videos to prove that I wasn’t entirely decrepit: one in my classroom, Teaching is Fun; on a speech to graduating students, The Journey of a Passionate Skeptic; one of me running, Born 1945 and Still Running Strong. Naive of course – no bureaucrat is interested in actual reality. Continue reading
Australia Calling Home
I remember burning beaches and the rush of salty waves,
I remember long cool drinks in the shade of old tin shacks.
There were dusty tracks through bushland to hidden mountain pools,
And brainless boys who lived to tell of leaps from walls of rock.
We grew to slicked down teens on the hunt for bimbo blondes,
And our rusty hurtling cars were the terror of the streets.
We were careless of the hard bright sun, of booze and friendly smiles,
Then fell for love, the fix was in, Australia was our home.
(Port Macquarie beach, NSW; image courtesy of www.sydney-australia.biz)
.. for other examples of Thor’s poetry, see Time Passing
Centre country scene:
A thousand miles of desert,
Ten thousand miles of shimmering heat.
In and out the Dead Heart,
Only one great vastness;
Up and down the Diamantina,
Sand torrents stopped and stilled.
Hills dance like rainbow serpents,
Mirages race like shadowed giants,
Trying to vie with the sun in their reach.
A wild eye is needed
To view this wilderness decked with blue
In all its unforgiving beauty.
Thor (cheerfully ripping off Mao Zedong, “Snow”)
The original 2004 posting of this material is still on my old website, here. Other articles dealing with cross-cultures: “Cultural Operating Systems – Thoughts on Designing Cultures“, 2010; Ethnicity and Racism – Stirring the Pot, 2005; “Korean, American and Other Strange Habits – You Do It Your Way – two books reviewed“, 2003; “When Is It Rude To Be Rude? – Politeness Across Cultures and Subcultures“, 2001; Individualism or the Group“,2001; “The Price of Freedom – an Escape from Vietnam“, 1984
Many readers of this site are expatriates of some kind. For various reasons they have chosen to live beyond their native borders. Some are absent from home for a fairly short time before heading back with a quota of after-dinner tales. For others, home is where their bed is, and the point of childhood departure is a distant memory.
I happen to have started life as an Australian. The identity tag, ‘Australian’, still has some resonance for me, although not quite in the way your average Bruce in a Sydney leagues club would understand it. Now it has dawned on the Australian Parliament that out of twenty million citizens, around 800,000 of us are folk like me — living away from ‘home’. This has led the Honourable Members to wonder a little how (or whether) they should account for the interests of these scattered brethren. To that end, the Legal and Constitutional Committee of the Australian Senate has been accepting submissions on “The Status of Australian Expatriates”. My submission below may interest some folk. Since it has now been tabled in the Australian Parliament, it can be viewed on the website of that parliament at http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/legcon_ctte/expats03/submissions/sub437.pdf , while links to a full list of submissions to the inquiry can be seen at http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/legcon_ctte/expats03/submissions/sublist.htm . Note that all of these submissions are covered by parliamentary privilege (i.e. their author’s have full legal protection for whatever they may have submitted).
Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee
Room S1.61, Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600
Telephone: (02) 6277 3560
Fax: (02) 6277 5794
Senate Inquiry on the Status of Australian Expatriates, 2004
submission author : Thor May, South Korea
This short submission has several elements:
a) It puts forward a view of what it is to be ‘an Australian’, and hence what it may mean to be an expatriate Australian. The view expressed might be somewhat at variance with the normal assumptions of nationality, and hence the premises which a Legal and Constitutional Committee could bring to bear on the status of Australian expatriates.
b) It outlines my own circumstance (at various points in the paper), as a particular instance of an expatriate Australian. This includes some suggestion of why I became an expatriate, and why I continue to be one.
c) It indicates why an individual such as myself can make a greater contribution to general Australian prosperity and security by contributing as an expatriate rather than as an Australian domestic resident.
d) It itemizes several handicaps in the Australian civil context encountered by expatriates such as myself.
1. The Concepts of Nationality and Culture
SATURDAY AUGUST 13, 1994 – A SMALL KISS, AN ODD DREAM
Dreams are tufts of cloud in the blue-black yonder. One second you almost have them, the next you have tumbled a thousand metres through space into another wooly concoction. Is the truth so insubstantial? She was small and grubby and freckled. If all little girls are meant to be cute, she was the one god forgot. She stood in my way with fierce determination, pulled me down, and said in a tiny voice “I love you.” Then she kissed me lightly on the lips.
We seemed to be in the hallway of some kind of apartment building. There was a sense that her mother had drifted in with another lackadaisical one-night-stand, and that for no particular reason I was the only person around who looked like a reasonable human being. No I don’t know what it all means. Only that a very few dreams have a long aftertaste.
This longish poem, Seventeen in 1962, is a pretty accurate description of my first job in Nundah, Brisbane, in 1962. I was a stranger in the city. My family came from around Sydney, and had just retreated, nearly bankrupt, from a failed migration to north Queensland where southerners were unwelcome. The bitterness of tone persisted for much of my first ten years in unskilled jobs after leaving high school, partly perhaps from disappointment after having topped the school academically, then colliding with the incomprehension of working class parents and the indifference of general Australian culture. The people I knew or met seemed to resent intellectual curiosity. They wanted to be respected vegetables in a very small garden plot. As a complete outsider without money or any social skills at all, it was a friendless time.
Seventeen in 1962
The wait was over, the growing done,
Just the filling out to come;
Time of promise, time to fear,
First job, be-clerked, minnowed and shoaled
With the eight o’clock tide, be-tied.
And the manager, Minikin, said marry yourself
To the company, boy-man to be made;
Tuck in your shirt and swear
Here will be done as your elders have done,
Let all debtors be blessed, amen
And wipe the smirk off your face.