Sydney Smiles

Sydney Smiles

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Something I left behind...

Day 13: Expat Blog Challenge: Something I left behind...

I've left a lot of things behind. I came to Australia with three suitcases, so there were a lot of things I could not take; clothes, shoes, photos, paintings, videocamera, dvds, diplomas, even my mom's gold plated id bracelet - that was a gift from 10 year old me - the inside of which is inscribed Love, Sami.

Oh, yes, there are many things I've left behind. Nevertheless, to quote Damian the adorable little boy from the movie Millions (2004), "Money's just a thing. And things change. One minute something's there and you can cuddle up to it. The next minute it's gone. Like a Malteser."

For the most part I try not to think about all the things I have left behind, because after all - they are only things - and things change. Somethings are more than that. Somethings I can't help but miss, like my guitar. 

My lovely - beautiful - guitar. Her name is Pearl. She is an Ibanez Exotic Wood Acoustic Electric Guitar. She is magnificent, and I love her. I knew she was mine from the beginning. When we first met - at Guitar Center in Merrillville, IN - I held her, strummed her, and began to sing. I was so moved that tears began to flow & suddenly I was in desperate need for the salesman to not notice me. Music has always been very cathartic for me - so the tears weren't really unusual - besides the whole being in public thing. She was mine - I simply had to take her home with me.

Alas, I didn't have room to pack Pearl with me & it would appear the cost of shipping a guitar from the States to Oz is exactly one arm and one leg. Someday, Pearl, someday... 

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

An Open Letter to Rachelle Louise

Day 12: Expat Blog Challenge: An open letter...

Today for the expat blog challenge I will write an open letter to Rachelle Louise, girlfriend of Simon Gitanny - the man who threw his fiance Lisa Harnum off the balcony of their 15th floor Hyde Park apartment building.

Dear Rachelle Louise,

First off, I would like to apologize, I know you are going through a really difficult time in your life right now and the last thing you need is an open letter addressed to yourself from some snarky insignificant blogger. It is evident by the hostile & snappy demeanor in which you answer any question ever presented to you by the media that all the negative press is really weighing heavily on you. Alas, since you saw fit to be paid for a televised interview for Channel 7, I figured an open letter should be fair game as well.

The old saying is true, Rachelle, love is blind. In your case love is blind, deaf, and dumb. I'm sorry, there is just no nice way to say it. I know it must be hard to have a whole nation collectively "hatin' on you," but, come on - you started dating a man AFTER he threw his fiance off a balcony to her untimely death & then proceeded to defend him. You had to know were gonna catch a little flack for that one, didn't you? I know what you're gonna say, "he didn't do it, he's innocent." Oh, Rachelle, please - it hurts. The whole nation has watched footage of Simon manhandle Lisa, force his hand over her mouth - so she couldn't scream for help, and drag her back into their apartment during her attempted escape exactly 69 seconds before her death. 

Sure, Simon says once back in the apartment he went to the kitchen to make Lisa some tea to calm her down (Aww, how sweet of him) and Lisa just so happened to head out to balcony where she threw herself to her death of her own volition. Ummm.... yeah.... I don't think so.

I'm going to let you in a little secret I learned while working as a youth counselor - if it doesn't make sense - it's probably a lie. Does it make sense that 69 seconds before Lisa's death - Simon was so desperately trying to drag her back into the apartment - then all of the sudden he decides to just let her go & proceed about her business? All of his anger, control issues, and desperation just disappeared upon re-entering the apartment? I don't think so sweetie.

So would Lisa have actually committed suicide? Well, she did have a history of depression... but, lemme just go ahead and point out the obvious - having depression does not mean one is suicidal. Furthermore, lemme go ahead and point out some sure tell signs that Lisa was NOT suicidal.
  1. She packed her bags. 
  2. She booked a ticket home to Canada. 
Rachelle, seriously, suicidal people do not make plans to; leave their crazy controlling lovers - book a flight home - and pack their bags to then just jump off a balcony. It just doesn't happen. You see, if you are going to kill yourself - there is no luggage necessary. What is more, you do not need to book a flight, if you're killing yourself it's a free trip to the other side.

As far as the other deaf, dumb, and blind stuff you said in your interview such as Simon bit off part of a policeman's ear "in self defense." Really? Who really needs to bite off someone else's ear in self defense? Heck, maybe the police officer bit off his own ear? Come on, Rachelle! Biting off someone's ear is a sign of a highly explosive & aggressive person. 

In addition... just because I found it comical (not that is relevant to him murdering his fiance) you also claimed that his previous bust as a drug dealer wasn't actually his fault. He wasn't a dealer. He was just holding for a friend. Wake up, woman! You can't really be that dumb, can you? I. Just. Can't. I give up.

Perhaps, if you managed to be very quiet - for a very long time, people could forget how dumb you are. Best wishes, I know this can't be easy with the love of your life being in jail for the next 18-26 years of his life. Stay strong.

Yours Sincerely,

Sydney Smiles

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Down the Rabbit Hole...

Day 11: Expat Blog Challenge: I wish that when I had started my blog I had...

I wish that when I had started my blog I had... are you sure you really want to go there? You really want to follow me down that rabbit hole? I suggest you just leave now... You're still here? Well, you asked for it... Okay, let's go down the rabbit hole...
I wish I was a little bit taller. 
I wish I was a baller. 
I wish I had a girl that looked good, I would call her. 
I wish I had a rabbit in a hat - with a bat
And a six four impala

I wish... wait, hold a minute ***insert screeching tire sounds here***... damn it, these just Skee-Lo lyrics to his song "I wish."  What an epic 6th grade anthem back in the day. Go ahead - watch the video - you know you're curious.


Speaking of Supernatural, that's why we were talking about the Impala, right? Anyway, speaking of Supernatural... Wouldn't it be awesome to ride along with the Winchesters?

Ya'll have no idea how much I love Dean Winchester. Do you think it is inappropriate to ask the Tall Aussie With a Slavic Name That Sounds Full of Dread for Dean Winchester for my Valentine Birthday? Best Valentine Birthday ever!

Right.... so... what was I suppose to be writing about again? I wish that when I had started my blog... I had come up with the perfect name & design... but, even if I had - I'd probably still doubt it and want to make it better somehow... I wish I hadn't neglected blogging so much the past couple of years... I wish I hadn't felt just because I was so sad about the cancer that was taking my dad I wouldn't have been able to share anything worth while, because I certainly didn't want to share my pain. That would have made it real & I didn't want it to be real. I wish I had built up a bigger readership... I wish success had accidentally fallen into my lap. I wish I would have tried harder to build a career. I wish I hadn't settled for jobs in call centers. I wish I would have made the right decisions. Which ones were the right ones again? I wish an employer would recognize my potential & take a chance. I wish I wasn't still unemployed. I wish I were better at interviews. I wish I hadn't gotten up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. I wish I didn't get so down at times... I wish... I wish... I wish...

Alas, the past is past... I can look back and wish to change it, but no amount of wishing ever changes the past. I wish this blog entry was better. But the past & wishes & uncertain futures have drained all my energy & I just can't be bothered to even try to improve this rabbit hole.

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Monday, February 10, 2014

The Color Run: A day in pictures

Day 10: Expat Blog Challenge: A day in photos

February 9th, 2014

5:55am & blurry eyed.

Must brush hair before shower.
Oatmeal, banana, & cinnamon.

Coffee. Dear God - MUST have coffee this morning!

Cab to Color Run

I spot another color runner. I recognize the sweatband.
Primed & ready to go.

C & I - Clean

Color Baby ready for action.

Let's go
Bubble tent. Epic photo bomb. Kudos to you, chica!

I'm off to see the wizard.

So excited! I've never had a spray tan before.

Yah!!! Orange!!!

Color Baby needs a break.
We finish the happiest 5K on the planet. Color Baby is plum tuckered out.

C & I be-speckled with color. 

Color Baby loves selfies.

Awaiting clean up.
Lunch is a McChamp for the McChampion!

The reason Color Baby likes me.

Looking sexy for public transport ride home. They made us wear these.

1st train on the train, bus, train ride home. Gotta love weekend track work.

Color Baby points out where I am supposed to catch a bus. Thanks, Color Baby!
Follow the signs. Find a bus. I'm still wearing that yellow trash bag.

Damn, I'm glad I'm not in Melbourne considering I am wearing a garbage bag. 

Final train home.

One last selfie before I wash away the color.

Clean & exhausted.
Finding the right Bitstrip to accompany my blog for the day.


Dinner. Meat & Potatoes. Screw the veggies. Give me comfort.

Watching the stupidest women in Oz, Rachel Louise.
A big night for Aussie TV. "Schapelle" The Schapelle Corby Story.

Netflix time.

The Office. I love Michael Scott.
Michael saves the day @ Pam's art show. So many feels.

Michael displays Pam's art with pride. :-)

I'm exhausted. Time for bed.

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Feeling upside down? You might have culture shock.

Day 9: Expat Blog Challenge: "'Expat Syndrome' is a condition whereby many expatriates see mostly either the best of their own nationality and the worst of the locals, or see the opposite." - T. Crossley

Today's prompt is to address the quote, "'Expat Syndrome' is a condition whereby many expatriates see mostly either the best of their own nationality and the worst of the locals, or see the opposite." by T. Crossley

In my experience, this statement can be a very true statement! If you don't believe me - just for fun, head over to an American expat forum - and make a very mundane comment such as, "I really don't like the cheese in Australia. Where can I get some American cheese?" Sit back & watch the fireworks. ***Your responses might look something like this...***

  • "Ugh!! I know! Why is everything such a weird color??? Gimme Kraft singles any day!"
  • "Try out the shop next to XYZ train station. They sometimes carry American cheeses."
  • "If you hate Australian cheeses so much why don't you just move back to 'Murica already?"
  • "Don't even get me started. I would literally kill for a jar of Cheese Whiz. Australian cheese is the devil."
  • "Wow. Since, I've moved to Australia I've tried so many wonderful cheeses! I LOOOVE Australian cheese! American cheese is disgusting! Cheese whiz? Seriously? I tried that once, and puked my guts out for three days. Never again. P.S. I hate America. I will NEVER go back!!! Australia is sooo much better. My life is exactly 1 million times better here than in the US. Australia is my forever home!!!"
You think I am kidding, right? Maybe, just a little. But, seriously I have read similar posts. Perhaps, it's just the forums I choose to associate with - but, I doubt that.

This phenomena is really nothing more than culture shock. Literally, a symptom of culture shock is to over-value your own culture & de-value your host country's culture. (I suppose it could go the other way as well. I'm gonna be honest on this one. I am sure the scholarly literature on the subject exists - but, I did not go above and beyond researching the subject matter for this blog post.)

So, have I experienced this to be true for myself? Yes, indeed I have, but it's not gonna be what you think. Junior year of college - I studied abroad. My college really valued the study abroad experience and took a special effort to prepare their students for the challenge. In addition to actually applying and qualifying for the adventure - you were also expected to read literature about culture shock & attend lectures on the subject matter.

I was so excited about studying abroad. I was diligent. I read every piece of literature they gave me. I was going to be prepared for this culture shock thing, gosh darn it! Except in the course of reading the material I had a realization, I already had culture shock! 

How could this be? I was attending college, in the USA, in my home state as a matter of fact. Well friends, culture is much more than just one's nationality. Sure, I grew up an hour and half away from from where I attended college - but, honestly the two felt worlds apart to me. One's socio-economic status plays a big part in one's culture.

I was born in small town - in rural Michigan to a working class family. My parents were hard working factory workers. I loved to learn & was excited to go to college. My parents always encouraged me to go to college so I could fulfill my dreams of being whatever the heck it was I wanted to be. They never told me that when I got there, I was gonna think everyone was a bunch of rich little brats.

My cohorts were mostly from suburban upper middle class families. Our upbringings were just different. It's difficult to express just how different our lives had been up to that point. In a nutshell (and generalizations), I was greatly appreciative of the opportunity college provided to me. They felt it was an obligation - something they must do - they didn't appreciate it. I worked 20 hours a week so I could make monthly payments to cover the costs that my loans & grants didn't. They didn't have to work, did they? They would say such ignorant things about the poor - my heart would set fire - and I would rage.

I was young & naive in a lot of ways. I was only used to my small corner of the world. I recall my puzzlement when I first heard a fellow student speaking ill of labor unions. I honestly didn't know there were people out there that were against labor unions (I mean other than the actual oppressors of the big bad past.)

Long story short... I was surrounded by a new culture... and I was in shock. I started to over value my own culture (salt of the earth - working class) and devalued their culture (privileged - upper middle class) I unfairly hated them - before I ever got a chance to know them - because they were rich & spoiled. I'm sure I missed out on becoming friends with some great people because of it.

I was amazed to find out what I was experiencing was culture shock... and even more amazed to find that when I went to live in Scotland to study I did not actually experience any culture shock. I had already been through the ringer - lived through culture shock long & hard back in the States - and to tell you the truth I found the transition to Scotland much smoother. Go figure.

And now... cause I know you're curious... I'll include some pictures of my hometown of Reed City, Michigan & my college town of Holland, MI.

 Reed City, MI, USA

H&D Chuckwagon: My Very First Job

We have lakes. Reed City, MI

This is what the country looks like.  Reed City, MI

Nartron: A factory in Reed City

Winter in RC

Sunset in RC

Holland, MI, USA

8th Street, Holland, MI

Voorhees Hall. I used to live there. Holland, MI, USA

Lake Michigan, Holland, MI

DeZwaan - The Windmill. Holland, MI, USA

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