Thursday, 27 May 2010

VietTUB all aboard!

After an initially abandoned Mother’s Day jaunt to Cabramatta to sample Vietnamese cuisine at home among its community, we rescheduled to Sunday 23 May.  There had been discussions weeks earlier over Twitter, a Wave and any other form of online engagement platform you could think of.  It was the hardened fans that decided that despite Sydney’s delayed but magnificent change in weather that a trip was still in order. So glad we did!  Accompanied by @FrancieJones and juniors 6 and 8, we met at Sydenham Station mid morning to head towards Cabramatta.

One of my favourite things about platforms like Twitter is not only do you get to try out things you haven’t done before but also meet new people.  I had been exchanging messages with Frances for a while and had met her once in person previously.  Having had the benefit of meeting before the train ride was a great way for our respective families to relax and chat before we arrived at our destination.


If you have never been here before you are immediately struck by how ‘other worldy’ it is to other parts of Sydney. It is a distinctly ‘ethnic’ hub and it has a vibrancy that just ‘pops’! This is no sleepy Sunday, commerce is thriving and small business retailers would be envious of the constant foot traffic. The other wonderful surprise is striking up conversations with locals or former residents with distinctly ozzie accents! It is gorgeous.  On several occasions we encountered people willing to help, educate and lend their personal opinion on things we should try and see while we were there.  The hospitality was warm and generous. 


We started out by sampling food from store windows and drinks.  Being of Pacific Island origin we were pleasantly surprised by the feature of banana (plantain), taro and sweet potato savouries.  They were really tasty and dangerously (fried) good.  I got adventurous by trying out the much favoured avocado drink which translates to rich/fat.  And it is.  A really filling and yet lightly sweet drink it is quite a marvel. There is so much of it available that this is where you have to go to buy avocados – they are around in great quantities! We also had to try the obligatory sugar cane juice. Which was for me a little poignant and personal (I am of Fiji sugar cane stock and the indentured labour that was brought to Fiji to build that industry). The magnificent machine stripped the whole cane, followed by an unpeeled orange to add some tanginess to the drink.  It was quite lovely if not a little on the sweet. I ended up at one stage wandering along taking a sip of the avocado drink followed by the sugar cane. They seemed to like each other.


I was positively sloshing with drink by the time we decided to stop at Thanh Binh (not of King Street Newtown fame we were firmly told!) to sample some lovely hot dishes. I won’t bore you with my ignorance by describing the dishes in detail, what was a consistent feature of them all was how fresh the ingredients were and the wonderful explosions of sweet, sour, and salty appearing in each of the dishes.  Fresh herbs enhance and add ‘zing’ to each dish.  Vegetables are crisp and with all the lovely flavours you would not need to force feed these vegetables on anyone!


We headed home full and satisfied sharing a bag of mandarins on the journey home.


Next time I am hoping we can convince @Jenius to lead our tour as she was enjoying the morning with her family that day too!  Because, “hell yeah” there is going to be a next time and this time we’re dragging some local knowledge with us because there is still so much more to discover!

Posted via web from Radhika's posterous

Sunday, 23 May 2010

National Reconciliation Week 27 May - 3 June 2010 #NRW

As a fairly new arrival to Australia I have an extremely limited knowledge of the indigenous culture of this nation. Nonetheless I recognise that as the First Peoples of this land their signficance and status should be given its due recognition. Sadly this is a country where there is still so much division that the declaration of terra nullius remains the cancerous tumour that has not gone in remission despite the tests.

I know this from the attitudes of those around me, those that somehow think the rightful place of an indigenous is strictly secondary to that of an invading culture.   If you hadn't already established I disagree with this type of thinking.  So even as a 'foreigner' on these shores my Twitter and Facebook accounts will bear the image above as my avatar.  My sentiments will no doubt lose me 'followers' on Twitter - but this is an insignificant consequence compared to not being allowed to give birth in a public hospital because of the colour of your skin.



Posted via web from Radhika's posterous

Monday, 17 May 2010

Saving me from my righteous anger...

TED as many of you know is an exceptional forum of speakers and thought leaders – a platform to disseminate valuable information to a wide global audience.  For learners, observers and ‘fringe-dwellers’ like myself it is a great opportunity to tap into the most incredible insights and broaden our own thinking.
One of my favourite speakers is Kavita Ramdas.  Referred to as a philanthropist in her biography I believe she is so much more after hearing her TED presentation.

While listening I was reminded of an afternoon at my cousin’s home around 1998-9.  We were sitting in her lounge along with my mother and sister. She and I were both at law school at the time both having returned to study after leaving other careers (she is 10 years my senior). My sister was graduating from her nursing studies and working in a burns unit.  My cousin’s husband is a well established barrister who at the time was often called to represent in domestic violence cases. He found that when cases involving non-Pakeha (Anglo Saxon) ethnic or migrant families arose he was often asked to provide additional guidance on access to social services which he would discuss with his wife who is well connected in community.  That afternoon we discussed the limitations of NGOs, government agencies and community groups and how they could support women of south east asian descent.  It was no secret to any of the women in the room that day domestic violence was prevalent in our community, it was evident in our own families.
The idea to form Mamta, an Asian Womens Support Group was conceived that day.  I know because on occasion when it was in full operation years later, I found the notes we took that afternoon in my cousin’s desk drawer.  Our thoughts had translated into action (we’re a family of thinkers and do-ers!)! Isn’t that what TED is about?
One of the underpinning tenets of Mamta was ‘reconciliation’.  This challenged the beliefs at this time of the existing social service providers because it was simply unheard of. Domestic violence and action against it had come a long way in New Zealand by this stage.  Police would incarcerate overnight anyone that was engaged in such behaviour and it was working. What could not be understood at this time was that the Asian victims in particular did not want to break up their families. In fact they were so afraid of this that it was a significant driver for the lack of reporting, therein not getting any assistance or support and as a family not finding the right ways to address the usual stressors that would trigger the violent behaviour.
Like Kavita describes in her speech to TED – Mamta saved me from my righteous anger – an anger fuelled by western notions of what the ideal family life should be and trying to seek meaning in the violence that I experienced firsthand.  The ideal set can in part create greater barriers to change rather than help. I only have to recall my own attitudes towards arranged marriages (topic for another post I’m sure!) and acknowledge that I was “informed” by my western education and not my culture. In order to reach a balanced view I needed to understand both.

If you have a spare 18 mins I think you will enjoy listening to Kavita speak, and if anything admire her eloquent presentation.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Childless: How the Most Ambitious Women Choose not to Be Sidetracked by Family

For the first time in history, three women could sit on the Supreme Court. If it happens, two of them will be childless. Whatever the reason for this personal decision by Justice Sonya Sotomayor and recently nominated Elena Kagan, there's a subtle, yet powerful, message being sent to working women across the nation: If you want a perch at the pinnacle of your profession, it's easier without kids.

And not just kids, without husbands. Ever since Kagan was 13 and dressing up in a judge's robe, she has been preparing for this job. From law clerk to Dean of Harvard Law School to Solicitor General, she has been doggedly, diligently riding the legal hamster wheel, checking off boxes and moving ahead toward the ultimate career brass ring. Same holds true for Justice Sonya Sotomayor. But why have they chosen to do it without a family?

Some speculate that there is a fear among ambitious women that they can't rise to a preeminent position if they start a family because of the intense job pressures -- late nights, long trips, the need to be available 24/7. Let's face it, could Justice Sotomayor really schedule car pool from One First Street, N.E.?

This town is littered with examples of women who have given up having a family to advance their law careers. Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice comes to mind. So does a litigator at a high-powered law firm who spends 70 hours a week either on the road or at her desk. Not a lot of time left in that schedule for changing diapers or pushing a stroller in the neighborhood.

Ask any woman who has had the privilege to serve at the Office of the President how long she was able to keep her career together before her family life careened off the rails. Even C.J. Craig, who played Press Secretary and later Chief of Staff in the popular tv series West Wing, was single.

It's easy to turn the lens on my own profession. Uber-star ABC World News Tonight anchor Diane Sawyer, while married to movie producer Mike Nichols, does not have children. And remember Joyce Purnick, who in 1998 caused a stir among reporters at the New York Times for admitting to a commencement audience at her alma mater, Barnard College, that she wouldn't be metropolitan editor if she'd had kids? She said she never decided not to have them, it just happened.

While the pressures for women may be too great at the upper echelons to withstand adding the mommy title to their resume, the incentives also play a role. These high-powered jobs come with perks: proximity to power, financial security, and let's not forget the occasional invitations to the President's box at the Kennedy Center.

But being childless doesn't have to be the only way.

71% of women in the workforce have children ages 6-17. And for the first time in history there are more of us working than men. So why -- with the numbers on our side -- are so many working women climbing the ladder frustrated with the lack of corporate flexibility? Why aren't more companies offering job shares and telecommuting? Why isn't this cacophony of unhappy voices being heard?

The problem lies at the top. Senior corporate executives, predominantly men, with a handful of women who have paid their dues by working 10-12 hour days at the office away from their kids, set the tone and policies for working mothers. If they sat in the cafeteria and listened and watched, they would realize that these mothers, who still bear the brunt of childcare responsibilities, don't need to be at work all week to be productive and plugged in -- thanks in great part to technology.

While some bad apples have tainted "working" from home by underperforming when not in the workplace, the answer is not eschewing flexibility, rather it is incumbent upon corporations to set meaningful performance goals for employees and to hold employees accountable no matter where their desks are.

Flexible work arrangements may not have been possible in 1957 when Sandra Day O'Connor made a choice to stay home for eight years and raise her three children before returning to the workforce in 1965, first as Arizona's assistant attorneys general, and ultimately as the first female Supreme Court Justice. Nor would it have been as easy when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was raising her two children; Jane, born in 1955 and James in 1965.

As a working mother of three (10, 6, and 2), I can vouch for the fact that holding down a full-time corporate job would have been easier without the endless middle-of-the-day doctor appointments, teacher conferences, and "Mom have you seen my soccer cleats?" phone calls. But it was doable thanks to my BlackBerry.

Of my four best female friends in Washington, three are lawyers, one is a business woman. All are or have been at the upper echelons of their professions. All of us have two or more children. We do it. We juggle conference calls and crying babies, we tuck in kids before going out on a weeknight to business dinners; we schedule time to look at email while on vacation. And while my friends and I are making it work, we'd all tell you it takes a toll on your health, and your sanity.

Recently, I traded in 60-minute daily commutes and 10- 12-hour days in an office building for the flexibility of owning my own company and setting my own hours. I've never been happier. But not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur.

I know many women who struggle each day to find the elusive balance between work and family. If being childless is not an option for you, it's time to raise your voices, demand flexibility in your workplace and show the world that yes, you can work full-time and be productive members of a corporation without being chained to a desk just because that's the way it's always been done.

Lauren Ashburn is President of Ashburn Media Company in Washington, DCand worked as a Managing Editor for the Gannett Company for ten years.

At a time in my life where I am facing this question - am in awe of women that manage to do it and am torn over whether I can too without detriment to my children. How have you done it my beautiful sisters?

Posted via web from Radhika's posterous

Monday, 10 May 2010

How fairy tales really end

Warning: Not suitable for Children


Snow White

Little Red Riding Hood

Sleeping Beauty

Jasmine (Aladdin)

Belle (Beauty and the Beast)

The little mermaid

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Sunday, 9 May 2010

An Attitude of Gratitude

Its Mothers Day today, the day that we celebrate that we were brought into this world by marvellous creatures, and equally had our lives shaped by a collection of striking influences who form the collective “mother”.  Fundamentally we set aside the day to truly embrace the powerful state of gratitude.

After a big week this week I was delighted to end it on a pleasant note and one that caused me to reflect on one of my favourite values – gratitude.
Image from

It started with a training session for one of the graduates in our company.  A young woman, fairly recently out of university and embarking on her career.  We experience a few hiccups during the session but with good humour & grace we managed to plod along and I got to know her a little better. She will soon be joining our area on her next rotation so it was nice to get a little “advance screening” of the new team member.

A couple of hours later I received a Rewards Value recognition (a scheme recognising employees for living the company values as nominated by their peers) for Team Work.  It was an official way of saying “thank you” (registering with HR and your manager) so it was truly kind deed on her part.

I acknowledged the gesture and sent her a ‘thank you’ email letting her know how much I appreciated it.  Within minutes and like a true kindred spirit she wrote back: 

You can’t say thank you for me saying thank you! Hehe.. you’re more than welcome, I really do appreciate the time you had put aside to help me (and also others). You’re just wonderful, have a great weekend J

This gorgeous wee girl (that’s a little joke cos’ she’s about 6 foot!) had no idea how much joy she filled me with!  Barely out of grad school, she left me in little of doubt of how far she would go in this world because she embodies “an attitude of gratitude”.

Saying ‘thank you’ is a personally fulfilling exercise for me and I would even go so far to say that it does more for me than perhaps even the recipient! To be on the receiving end of a ‘thank you’ is also a wonderful place to be.

A few hours later I was reminded again that being recognised is just as rewarding no matter what station we have in life, how great our successes, or how esteemed our careers. Catherine White (aka @DivineMissWhite) posted a message on Twitter expressing her gratitude for posting an excerpt from her blog post which had struck a chord with me. In fact this is one of the great things about Twitter as a medium and the fact that it attracts more than its share of very self aware people. Gratitude is expressed openly in this forum and it’s a blessing that it is.

So while the sun goes down on this weekend and you’re preparing for the week ahead I hope you decide to wear an “attitude of gratitude”. I doubt you will be disappointed with the results.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Sketch | The littlest asylum-seeker - Robin Dickinson

Following on from my previous post about the right to seek asylum, I am so warmed by this beautiful image from Robin Dickinson. One of the tasks that made my life a little more bearable as a refugee determination officer was interviewing children. Less to do with deciding the claim but more as a way to reward them for waiting so patiently in the reception (sometimes in excess of 4 hours).

They were always wide-eyed and full of hope and my 'interviews' with them often entertained their parent & their legal counsel. It was also the one small way I could make them feel important enough to have their 'own' interview. We often discussed school, teachers, their impressions of this new strange country they wanted to call home, and their future dreams. It was the only time during that career that I could be brought to visible tears.

Posted via web from Radhika's posterous