The Curious Scribbler has moved

The walk to the waterfall always seems to take longer than the return trip back to the car.

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It’s the unknown that is so daunting.

One thing that I learnt from Darren Rowse is to adopt the start-up mindset, to embrace challenges and to step forward into unknown territory. Sure, there will be some failures, but it is more than likely that there will also be some successes.

And with that mindset, I’ve taken the plunge to self-hosting my own website.

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It’s been an exciting few weeks so far of learning about web migration, creating new pages, thinking about what I really want to say with my blog, heck, thinking what I really want to do with my life.

If you’ve come looking for my curious scribbles, please, do come and visit me at my new home: maykuanlim.com.

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a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; — Season to journal

Thank you so much, Susanne Timpani, for allowing me to contribute this guest post on your blog, Season to journal.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; Ecclesiastes 3:5 A Guest Post by May-Kuan Lim, author of The Curious Scribbler I feel a hint of pain when I look at these early photos because my children […]

via a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; — Season to journal

How Kathleen Rushton put the steel back in me

Many things can get a girl down. How she looks. How much she earns. Whether she climbs the corporate ladder. Whether she cares for her children herself. Whether she has children. Whether she is married, single, divorced, separated, uninterested, uninteresting (or so she thinks).

For men? Just vary the variables. Modern life, full of choices and options, can be confounding. It can frazzle. Confuse. Disappoint.

Kathleen Ciwa Browne Rushton didn’t have the luxury of choice. I know this because, last week, I interviewed her daughter, Tricia Rushton.

In the late 1960s, Kathleen was working in a factory in Sydney to support her invalid husband, Meurig, their two teenage daughters, and Meurig’s mother, who was also an invalid. Both Kathleen and Meurig had grown up in Fiji and survived dramatic World War II experiences before migrating to Australia.

‘In Fiji, after the war, there was an attempt to reimpose a very hierarchical colonial structure, and my father in particular would not have that,’ says Tricia. ‘He really loved Indian people. He wanted to maintain his Indian and Fijian friends and equality, and they thought if they moved to Australia, it would be a less racist place.’

Even though Tricia’s parents were quite wealthy when she was a baby, they lost all their money due to health and other disasters. That is how Kathleen came to be making tin cans at the Gadsden-Hughes Factory in Five Dock, Sydney.

Poster 'Can it' from Richard Hughes Pty Ltd
Used with Permission Canada Bay Connections

The factory was full of migrant women. Kathleen was a migrant too, but unlike her co-workers, English was her first language. (She also spoke Fijian and Hindustani.)

‘My mother was earning 75% of what the man next to her earned, because she was a woman and there wasn’t equal pay. A guy called Halfpenny was around’- John Halfpenny was a powerful figure in the trade union movement -‘and my mother was angered at the high level of strikes and that the migrant women were being fooled; they did not understand why they were being asked to put up their hands.’

Dwell for a moment on the the picture of a factory worker, a woman paid 25% less than a man in the same job, a woman so ordinary that it might be hard to tell her apart from all the other women. Factories around the world are full of such women. Bangladesh. Vietnam. China.

Now think of two vocal, forceful men confronting her, men important enough to be brought in from interstate, men accustomed to speaking before crowds, men tackling the big issues of pay and work rights and conditions, men perhaps prepared to use whatever means necessary to reach their goal.

Sit down, they say.

No, she says.

Shut up, they say.

No, she says.

It’s enough to put the steel back in my backbone and rub the self-pity off my educated face. But wait. Kathleen was different to the other women.

‘She was blind. She had sight in only one eye and became very old and there was nothing particularly attractive about her except her love and warmth and she just used her persistence and sense of obligation in the community to make things right.

‘I think I have been shaped by her. If anyone thinks that I am half as effective as what my mother was – with all privileges she sacrificed to give me university degrees, and a senior executive career and all that – I would be incredibly proud.’

‘Right up until her deathbed,’ continues Tricia, ‘she was writing to the council, writing to people about things that weren’t right. For instance, when Medicare was first introduced in Australia, it was called Medibank in those days, she noticed that there was a gap. She was a pensioner by then. The Medibank gap inhibited people from going to the doctor. One day she received a phone call from the Commonwealth Minister for Health. “Neal Blewett here. What can I do for you?” She explained the gap problem. And they fixed it.’

Fixing. Lots of things need fixing. There is a lot to do, regardless of one’s employment status, one’s marital status, one’s parenthood status (I think I just coined that phrase).

Perspective. Kathleen’s story gives me perspective. I am part of a larger narrative.

Laughter. I hear the laughter and energy in Tricia’s voice and ask myself, when I am dead and gone, what is it that I have done today that will matter?

I feel like inserting an expletive here, directed at the little pesky problems that get me down. Generally speaking, I don’t swear. However, I want to very forcefully say that I’m not going to let those &*%$! things get the better of me. You know what I mean.

Next Friday: Magpies and me. Warning: it’s not a pretty story.

An Interview with MacArthur ‘Genius’ Viet Thanh Nguyen — Longreads

2017 MacArthur fellow Viet Thanh Nguyen discusses questions of justice, diversity in literature, and empathy across cultures.

via An Interview with MacArthur ‘Genius’ Viet Thanh Nguyen — Longreads

Just placed The Sympathizer on hold at my local library. Can’t wait to read the spy thriller set in Vietnam, narrated by a Communist double-crossed agent, that melds humour, politics and literature.

An Interview with MacArthur ‘Genius’ Jason De León — Longreads

‘Anthropology is what people leave behind. It could be as recent as this morning.’

‘Smugglers are complex human beings.’

To paraphrase this classically trained anthropologist.

One of the photographs in this piece really moved me. There were no people in that photograph, which shows me that this anthropologist is right. Objects move us, but only because of their connection to people.

The anthropologist studies the objects left behind by migrants as they cross the border.

via An Interview with MacArthur ‘Genius’ Jason De León — Longreads

A time to plant, and time to pluck up what is planted.

Thank you Susanne Timpani – I didn’t know this story behind Newman’s Nursery. I love the place and have lovely memories of enjoying high tea there surrounded by beautiful plants.

Season to journal

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted

Ecclesiastes 3:2

6791998594_1876dd3a9a_zIn the late 1800’s, the Neuman family immigrated from England to the fledgeling colony of South Australia. Following a tough beginning, including the loss of their son on the voyage, they eventually took a significant business risk. When they established a plant nursery in a remote area on the outskirts of the city,  many considered it madness. Yet it was a huge success, attracting customers from all over Adelaide to purchase plants.

I hiked into the area recently to view the old ruins of the homestead. Isolated tracks such as Perseverance Rd and Torture Hill reflect the challenging setting. In the remote location, I found it difficult to imagine a thriving business. And then I noticed clusters of tiny orchids growing amidst the native flora, seeded from plants of previous generations.

7223023796_a58e1d4bd9_zIn 1912 a major flood ruined…

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Rohingya in Singapore?

 

BY THEOPHILUS KWEK Over 400,000 Rohingya have fled persecution in Myanmar since August, the latest episode in a cycle of conflict and displacement that has afflicted the predominantly Muslim community. …

via Safer Waters: An Asylum Policy for Singapore? — Singapore Policy Journal

Writer and researcher Theophilus Kwek points out that despite Singapore’s size, the island provided ‘immediate rescue’ to over 32,000 Vietnamese refugees from 1978 to 1996, on the condition that they were repatriated or resettled within 90 days.

In today’s context, Kwek suggests that Singapore could provide short-term territorial asylum, receive unaccompanied minors, or allow Rohingya to work in Singapore, a country heavily reliant on foreign labour. Neighbouring Malaysia is giving 3-year work permits for Rohingya to work in certain sectors, as Jordan is doing for highly skilled Syrian refugees.