It’s time I returned the favour and wrote a blog about my new flatmate Dave.Read More
One from the Colombia Black Hole Archives…
I’m vaguely disturbed about the fact that I may not be cut out for South American travel.Read More
I’ve been hiding something.
Not completely in the closet. Maybe the foot of the skeleton has dangled out a little bit when guests visit, drooping lazily onto the hallway floor so I can casually refer to it at an inappropriate moment for a bit of an entertainment factor when bored.Read More
“If you don’t write the book you have to write, everything breaks.” -A.M. Homes
I have to, I guess then.
If it’s written non-emotionally it won’t resonate with anyone. I can see, just glancing over the catastrophe of words and paragraphs cobbled together on my laptop that the most powerful sentences are those I’ve copied directly from the online diary I kept at the time.
So I need to go back there.
Relive the dusky evening reality shifted and the possibility I’d got it wrong wormed it’s way into my fundamentalist brain.
Access again the consuming wave of grief that morning in the car nearly two years later when God finally died.
Feel afresh the moment I realised that if you don’t make a choice between the man you love and the person you are, he will make it for you.
And so I begin the walk towards what I run from the most.
Think I’m going to need another glass of whisky.
Contracts. Honestly. Is there any more useless way to chew through our natural resources?
Today I opened a Spanish bank account and signed up for ADSL internet. Both companies printed off 20 page contracts which I didn’t read. Mostly because they were in Spanish so I can’t. But also because I never do. Don’t frown. I’m willing to bet any money 99% of people sign these things without ever reading them.
But that’s beside the point. The point is, I have paper I don’t need. Lots of it. This information would be much more convenient as an electronic file. I could search it for keywords. I wouldn’t have to work out where to store it so I don’t forget where it is. And it wouldn’t cease to exist if my house burnt down.
So why do I, in this age where newspapers are going out of business because ‘everyone accesses information online’, need a paper contract?
A signature. That little squiggle I moulded off my Dad’s when I was 17, morphed into a change of last name when I was 21 and is now, at 27, nothing more than a bunch of swirls of differing heights skittering across the page. I squiggled it four or five times on each contract (one for me, one for them) while thinking that this was absolutely the most absurd custom humanity refuses to update.
Not only is the paper contract useless and likely to get lost in a cupboard before rotting away, but the signature its designed for is totally useless as well. Shops require a PIN for me to use my credit card or else ID like a driver’s license. With no more than a couple of hours practice anyone could forge my signature. How long has it been since a judge genuinely asked someone, “And is this your signature at the bottom of the page Sir?”
If its been recently, that’s a problem. Firstly because the judge would be holding paper which has probably had at least 10 photocopies of it made for the various parties involved. And secondly because it would imply we still believe in the uniqueness of a fancy swirl. Let’s not kid ourselves; it was the best we could do for a good few centuries but now it’s time to move on.
There are so many technologies out there that allow us to use electronic signatures instead of real ones. Why is no one making the corporates use them? Why are the corporates not switching to it themselves when it saves so much money in time, paper and storage? If the only thing between all the money I own in the world and a hacker is a set of 8 letters, I’d be more than happy to apply the same security level to a contract in a language I can’t read.
Perhaps alternatives fail us because paper is still so cheap. Why inconvenience customers into signing up for an electronic signature when we can just plough through a rainforest instead? It’s expensive for banks to deal with forgery. So let’s make it expensive for banks and shops to deal with paper. Compulsory introduction of electronic signatures for all contracts. Price-floors. Higher taxes. Something…
Don’t get me wrong. Signatures are a wonderful part of this age’s culture; an artistic expression all of our own choosing that represents something indelibly important about us – our name. I’ll honestly feel sad for my kids if they don’t get to create one. The thrill of signing your signature in front of a complete stranger for the first time is practically a right of passage.
I’m pretty sure though that they’d prefer clean air and natural habitats. And freedom from scrounging through filing cabinets unable to remember whether you filed under date, company name or contract type. For goodness sake…Read More
‘How long have you been travelling?’ he asks.
‘Oh about 8 years all up now.’ replies Dave with his characteristic slight wave of the hand holding a beer.
There’s a pause. ‘Have you ever thought about living a decent life?’ Corporate yells over the din of the crowded bar.
‘Decent?’ checks Dave. ‘Decent?’ checks I. A nod and a blink.
A look passes between us both. It had been a 2-way conversation with me the awkward sort of glue, being responsible as I was for introducing two men I didn’t realize at the time are polar opposites of each other. It was a nice sort of discussion to this point.
But now it’s war. Dave and I against the Turtle.
‘A decent life?’ Dave begins… ‘With a house, and a car, possibly a wife. A job and a boss?’
‘Working 8 to 6.’ I offer. ‘Maybe a corner office in a decade.’
‘Incremental wage increases. 4 weeks of holiday a year.’
Enthusiastic nods from the bar.
‘Like the life 97% of the rest of the world live?’ concludes Dave. ‘Yeah… no.’
This is Dave’s world, the conversations about what is normal and what is not. 24 year-old Baldy has no chance, you can’t argue about convention until you’ve lived outside of it.
‘You make compromises either way,’ shrugs Dave, ‘I had your life in a way, the house, a job, a cat….’
‘I hate cats,’
‘Perhaps a dog then. Or a snake…’ Dave proposes how long – or short – the snake might be, with his hands. ‘And now I live without all that, which means I compromise on a solid base, a familiar social circle, I don’t know where money comes from next.
But I wouldn’t change it, because if I have the house and the job and the snake I compromise on freedom, on the time I need to make the most of life, on the ability to accept all opportunities when they come along. I choose the most important things for me, if I lived your life it wouldn’t be decent… What do you think?’
He opens his mouth but no sounds come out. We wait.
It comes eventually, as does wet concrete through a straw. Sparky explains how wonderfully free his job is because as long as he meets his sales targets They don’t care what he does.
“So…” I summarise, “As long you do what someone else tell you to do, they don’t give a shit about you?”
More enthusiastic nods.
And I’m only halfway through the white wine he bought me just a few minutes before. I was once told to be bought a drink is His opportunity for a conversation. The longer you take to drink it, the longer the conversation.
Better hop to it.
Now he’s tallying up his travels and wild adventures. In bars with women and a corporate credit card.
‘And have you ever tested yourself?’ nudges Dave, clearly referring to the act of pushing your personal limits.
‘Yes and I’m totally clean.’ This declaration is made pointedly at me. I snort on a mouthful of Sauvignon and then have to drop my head to my lap, hiding my face with my hair as he continues. ‘I tested myself just two months ago. I don’t have HIV or anything…’
Dave’s doing a much better job of controlling himself. I catch his eye through my tears of laughter as he agrees I’m probably very happy about that.
Just, honestly, can’t drink this glass of wine fast enough.Read More
“If it actually has two bedrooms, I’ve just decided I’ll take it on the spot.”
I’m telling this to Max, one of the German Erasmus students who fill Malaga’s short-term accommodation places during their three-month Uni exchange (read: binge-drinking, party-fest) with short-term, high paying rental contracts. AirBnB found me my own room for four days and on emerging from the pleasure of my own uninterrupted company for an entire 24 hours (a luxury unheard of the past 6 months) I discover the rest of this unlit, unkept, tiny apartment is occupied by four of the sweetest 20-somethings Europe ever had the delight in producing. They are to be my salvation.
What they pay for one bedroom in this crowded, paint-peeling student apartment is about three-quarters of the monthly rent of a modern, sunny two-bedroom place I’ve booked to see first thing the next day. So when the place turns out to actually have a second room as advertised (not as common an occurrence as you might think!) I have no worries. Three days later I’ve signed a year-long contract. I think I want to be back in Australia for Summer but you know… details, details.
And so… I’m officially living in Malaga. (Cheers! Applause! Life Altering Decision Made! Wahoo!)
You know the first time you tug on a dress for Summer? Entering My apartment after 6 months on Others beds was just the same feeling. I ran around opening windows, checking cupboards, turning on taps and confirming the location of light switches for a good half an hour, like my friends’ dog doing circles before it beds down. Then I went to the markets and bought salt, pepper, butter and garlic as well as the usual meats, veggies and bread. Then I went to IKEA and bought an entire suitcase full of items (yes, I took an actual suitcase. I just pretended that’s how we did it in Australia), including a garlic press, hand towels and some candles. Then I went to LUSH for my first ever purchase of ridiculously priced soap and bought 150 grams of a blue one for the bathroom and 300 grams of a sunset coloured one for the kitchen. As a housewarming gift to myself.
I know, I know… it was only just over 6 months ago I was thinking how amazing it was to be whittling my life down to one suitcase and no keys. And no regrets. I highly recommend it even just for the exercise of working out what you really need. And for the story to tell your grandkids.
I’ve discovered though there’s only so long you can live looking at a blank slate before you start to get bored with it.
Blank slates are just begging to be drawn on. And I am SOOO ready to draw. This little apartment is going to be a very happy base for… some life purpose thingy that will reveal itself soon hopefully 😉
And so, fluffy towels in the bathroom, nice scents playing with the breezes and lamps lit for the approaching dusk…
A home? TICK.
Now for some wine and friends to fill it with laughter!
I’ll start with this one, my new flatmate 😀 If you’re after some inspiration to quick your day job, check out his website!Read More
Even though I’m craving my own space like I imagine an astronaut must crave gravity, there are benefits to living in a hostel and sharing a room with 10 other people. The first is the 9-euro a night price tag. The second is the ability to meet Swiss brother-and-sister-travellers who agree to an overnight road trip to Sevilla. Win!
I need to see other parts of this country. Dismally, I’m starting to doubt whether Malaga is the place for me. I’m like some kid on a limited budget in a pastry shop, panicking at the thought of choosing the wrong goodie and spending the next few months wishing I could eat that cream puff instead of this custard tart. In our 7 euro a day hire car, we set off for a night in what was, half a millennium ago, the Gateway to the Americas, with a stop at a little town called Ronda on the way.
It’s like Ronda fell out of a Lord of the Rings movie. Bright-coloured buildings frost the edge of a giant chasm under which white water rushes. A huge bridge towers over walking paths criss-crossing their way down to the rocks. Black clouds burst from the watchtower, which according to legend were both prisoners’ quarters and execution site, before morphing into birds, wheeling over my head and dropping away to surf the patch-worked Spanish countryside all the way to the horizon.
I could definitely live in Ronda.
And Sevilla. On a Friday night the University students the city is known for are decked out, heading this way and that to bars I don’t know and, frankly, can’t be bothered with tonight. It’s raining a little but a pair of rowers are out, smoothly slicing through the lamp light reflections in the city’s wide Guadalquivir River. The sun is setting and the entire city is bathed in a purple-blue glow. It’s buzzing and serene at the same time.
I could definitely live in Sevilla.
One would think that finding two new cities I could live in made the dilemma about Malaga harder. But actually, walking back to our hostel the next evening, I see it all in a new light. And realize why I’ve been so confused.
When I’m finding it difficult to make a decision, I’ve realised, it’s because I’m attempting to marry what I really want with what I think I ‘should’ want. Or with what other people want for me. Sometimes we need to explore, evaluate, understand and choose in a cocoon of our own voice.
Once we can work out, or more often, admit to ourselves what it is we actually want, decisions are as easy as slicing through jelly.
And I want to live in the city.
Everyone wants to live by the beach, and I understand that, but aside from one pretty awesome facebook update of the view from my lounge room (aka: caption, “Living Everyone’s Dream!!”) I don’t want to. I want to live in the city because I love the life of it. I love the buzz of people in the street looking for somewhere to eat at 9pm. I love the host of coffee shops, cozy restaurants and beautiful stores. I love the musicians playing on street corners and the fact I can ‘pop out’ for tapas just a couple of streets away at a moments notice.
Who knew I was a city girl? Not me. But there it is…
And so here I am.
In Malaga, Spain. Looking for an apartment in the city. A little burrow to call my own.
And just like that, once the decision is made, the answer arrives.