One of THOSE girls: a mile in her shoes

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Walking a mile in the shoes of one of those girls, who used to be my best friend.

Kara is one of those girls whose name is always prefaced with ‘that.’

“She’s becoming like that Kara girl.” “I just don’t know what’s going to happen to that girl.”  “You’re friends with that Kara?”

Yes I am friends with her. Well I was.

Kara had been my friend since the days we sent each other Harry Potter parchment notes. We stayed friends through high school. But my friends were people who though Franz Ferdinand was an Archduke, and her friends thought it a band.

Eventually our differences began to crack the friendship. She thought I was insufferably stuck up and judgemental. I just didn’t understand how she could be happy with clubbing, drinking, and flunking.

I was old enough to be judgemental, and young enough to lack empathy. It was awful. Looking back I know that her lifestyle was a way of trying to escape. She turned to partying, petty drama and sleeping around to get the attention she missed out on at home.

But my 15 year old self was too young to understand that. I just thought she was lazy and possibly a bad person for me to be seen with.

So I made an effort to drift from her. But at 15 we were still close enough for me to be introduced to her new boyfriend.

If I described him as quiet, that would be misleading. Quiet implies some introspective intellectual activity. This guy didn’t talk because the only thing in his head was a grunt when he was hungry or horny. He was a petty thug, wore tasteless clothes and spoke in mono syllables because words of more than three letters were too hard.

As you can see, I thought he was divine.

And being young, and full of the moral certainty that brings, I decided he was the final proof I needed to label her A Rotten Apple. I stopped talking to her.

He cemented my belief that she was the sort of person who I shouldn’t be hanging around with. One of that crowd. That kind of girl. That Kara.

Now that I’m 19, my self-absorption has dimmed to a level that lets me think about others. I have learned to be empathetic. And now that I can put myself in her shoes, I realise what I should have known at 15.

She’s not one of those girls.

The boyfriend isn’t proof of anything, except a girl who was never loved properly. Because when I put myself in her situation, I realise that she is fundamentally scarred by the relationship she has with her Dad.

Her Dad’s attitude to her is disinterested at best; vindictive at worst. So because she needed to fill that gap where her Dad should be, she found the first man available. Ironically, he’s the mirror image of her Dad.

But at 15, instead of thinking she was someone who needed love and help, I just saw her as riffraff.

We don’t talk now, it’s been too long, but I watch her life from cyberspace.

I hate looking at it. She could have been brilliant. Instead she’s stuck with a toe rag. He’ll never realise the effect he has on her, because he thinks that self-reflection is taking a selfie.

And what’s worse, is I could have helped her. I could have stayed friends, comforted her, told her she was worth so much more than him and the life he sucked her into. But I didn’t.

I’m so sorry Kara. I’m so sorry I couldn’t put myself into your skin. I can now. But I’m afraid it’s too late…

 

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Nothing as funny as folk

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I know you’re supposed to describe a trip by the scenery, the food, the cool wind whipping your face as you drip sweat from your lip and curse Rexona. But I don’t like descriptions. Only if they’re of people; people are fascinating.

So I’m going to tell the story of my day in Sri Lanka by describing the people I met. Firstly I met the elephant I posted a photo of, and this blog is a follow up to that post. He was pretty awesome. We bonded over a shared love of bananas. 

After that, I went to an ancient monastery, full of ruins from before the time when Jesus was just a twinkle in Mary’s eye. It’s full of history, religious significance and architectural magic.

But I didn’t give a shit. Not because I’m uncultured (although I do like ABBA and processed bread) but because the lady at the door ripped me off.

I’d pulled out four one thousand rupee notes for the three thousand two hundred ticket. The lady started going on about correct change, and demanding the two hundred rupees. When I explained I didn’t have any, she didn’t understand my English. So I borrowed from a friend. But I obviously had bad karma for breaking English law (never make scene) and the lady kept the extra thousand rupees.  

I tried to protest, so she gave me a lecture about obeying Sri Lankan customs, and when you come to this country, you show us proper respect….

I wasn’t about to start a fight with an old Sri Lankan lady; I was already getting the ‘look at that rude, racist teenage making a fuss’ look from the other tourists in their pristine Kathmandu hats.

 So I thought ‘sod it’ and gave up. It had already cost $35 USD for the ticket, and now I’d lost another $10. Which, despite a reservation for being so tight arsed, pissed me off.

That’s why when I finally got in I wasn’t in the mood to coo over broken pots.

Thankfully I saw a monk in a Burberry scarf which cheered me up. Then I saw the guide. She was surrounded by sprawling temple models, glittering exhibits, and hunks of dense text on religion and architecture. She was also reading Cosmo.

It was like when a kid starts throwing trucks in church. It was one of those moments when, despite everyone straining to be seriousness and cultured and intellectual, reality intrudes. Priceless.

I was further cheered up when we got a guide who looked like a Sri Lankan Indianna Jones. He was tanned, sexy, and bursting with knowledge of Sri Lankan history. But then he asked me what was the main food Elephants eat. I said bananas. He stared politely, and my friend snorted in laughter.

Apparently it’s grass. After that I was too embarrassed to say anything to him. So I spent the rest of my time eavesdropping on some Americans making jokes about dropping their pants.

And so my day passed in a range of emotions and encounters. Whilst I appreciated the beauty of the place, and would have more so if I hadn’t been ripped off, I was just too diverted by the human world.  I’m just one of those people who likes to watch others. In as a non creepy a way as possible.

 

We’re not tourists, darling, we’re not like them…

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Today I read a fantastic blog about Jane Austen and reputation. It sparked off a tangent in my head. I started thinking about women whom Austen would describe as being of independent means, with a tolerable mind, but nonetheless victims of the craving for romance and excitement. How would they look today? Like me, really. This is the post they inspired.

We’re Not Tourists, Darling, We’re Not Like Them….

A tourist never identifies with the label ‘tourist.’

In our minds, we’re a local. Well if we’re not quite locals, we’re at least Experienced Travellers. We know the real country. We’re not one of those tourists. Not one of the burned and blubbery masses, drinking imported beer on the beach.

To convince ourselves we hear the real beating heart of the country, we experiment with ways of being local.  I discovered the funniest manifestation of this: the Sri Lankan beach boy/rich white women coupling.

White, pretentious young things like me always want to get with foreign guys when we travel. It makes us feel like we’re really experiencing local culture. Plus it’s exotic! Refreshing! Culturally sensitive!

We probably shouldn’t do it. But we do. And it’s hilarious to watch.

I’m in a beach town at the moment. It’s a place full of white women in ethnic prints, and mandatory French fries with every meal. I like it though. It’s an urban safari where my Sri Lankan friends point out the beach boy phenomenon.

The beach boy is a manifestation of the ‘getting local’ game.

Sri Lankan friends explained its’ a running Lankan joke about foreigners. What happens is that women of independent means, as Austen would say, come on holiday here. To continue ‘getting local’ game, they hook up with beach combing Sri Lankan guys.

The girls think they’re getting with a Real Local…But, as my friend put it real locals don’t live in places that advertise 10 gelato flavours.

The guys get women with cash, libido and interest in them. I can see why they’d do it.

Admittedly this is a jokey stereotype, and I’m sure a number of these couplings are true love. But today I’ve seen three 50 ish spherical white women making out with a gorgeous Sri Lankan twenty somethings.

Some sly voice in my head, that sounds uncannily like my Dad, says she’s there for the exoticism, he’s in it for the Mastercard.

Now I don’t care who hooks up with who. But it’s funny the extremes we white girls go to.

We buy apparently Sri Lankan things, which we show to our non Sri Lankan friends, as proof that we have experienced the real Sri Lanka. (Can I just ask how many actual Lankans you see wearing anklets and elephant print purple harem pants?)

The local guy is the next thing we collect as proof that we’ve done Sri Lanka, man.

And watching myself, and people like me, with  our silly games and exotic fantasies is hilarious. No wonder Sri Lankans are so happy and friendly; they’re laughing at the comedy of White Woman on Exotic Holiday. 

DP:blogger of repute middle class liberal bunny

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What’s my reputation?

I’m one of those pretentious young things whose God is Science, and bible the declaration of human rights. I’m white, middle class, and young. So naturally I think the world should think like I do.

Not when it comes to individual choices. The individual can do what they want (yay for tolerance!) But when it comes to broad level assumptions, on topics like morality or science. Here, I am one of those people who believe everyone should subscribe to liberalism, objective morality, human rights and organic yoghurt.

I’m the people they invented skinny mochas for. People who argue passionately for things they’ve never experienced (Immigration policy, state schools, benefits.) People who buy paisley print harem pants from The Warehouse.

Being in Sri Lanka has made me aware of how irritating people like me are. My Sri Lankan friend pointed out that New Zealanders like me think that everything can have a peaceful conclusion.

She also explained that growing up in a war torn country makes you cynical. You stop believing that it can be talked out over a nice cuppa. Not everyone can be happy all the time. There is no clean solution.

This made me feel like a green little bunny.

Now I’m not saying that she’s right, or I’m right, or that this is something that can be easily solved. But the observation rammed home to me that whilst I think my beliefs are right, they’re entirely based on my experiences in Australia, New Zealand and England.

So how can I expect the world to agree with me, when the world forms their opinions from their experiences? I’m not going to go all first year arts student on you, and tell you everything is subjective. (“All morality it relative…Nothing is fixed…accept your inner albatross …”) But when experiences play such a role in determining your beliefs, I’m naïve if I think everyone’s going to agree with me.

This means that my reputation, for smug, morally superior tolerance, may have become a little less deserved. I hope it means I’m a little more open to other views, a little more understanding of disagreeing parties, a little closer to enlightenment, man.

But I’m not getting hopeful. It’s probably just a summer fling with a more mature world.

Sri Lankan Badass

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I’m in Sri Lanka, and the guy driving this wears an orange sarong, no shoes and an open striped red shirt showing off some serious ice. He has clipped nails on his right hand, talons on left, and he waves, claws the air and shouts whilst driving at break neck speed through the jungle.  He’s the definition of awesome.

Plus his name sounds like Sugar.

Apparently he’s a thug, besties with the President, and ‘broke down’ for 40 minutes, in front of a leopard eating a pregnant deer, so his safari passengers could see some action.

Basically he’s the sort of guy I’d fall in love with. If I could speak Sinhalese. And he wasn’t older than my Dad. And if my Dad’s reaction to me bringing him home would be to hide my passport.

But as such terrible obstacles lie between us, and I feel our deep love is ill fated. Plus, it may not be the most enduring love; I’ve fallen in love with everyone from the Customs official to the wild boar.

So I’m just going to have to sit in quiet reverie, nursing a bowling ball bladder and unrequited love. But it’s not a total loss. Today I have had my first brush with true badass.