Tag Archives: family

“the blog has given me a reason and the freedom to enjoy writing again”

Jill Haszard is the author of Just Bung It In, a blog about being a mum, wife and PhD student. She is also my sister-in-law, married to my DJ brother, and mother to my nephew and one of my nieces. After spending a few years in Sydney in the early part of the 00s, she and her family decided NZ was the place they wanted to be and started making a life in Dunedin; her posts reflect the various aspects of family life in NZ’s deep south – school, work, holidays, the neighbourhood, renovating, househunting etc.

Her words and photographs are obviously very meaningful to me as a close family member, but my enjoyment of them is not merely obligatory. I feel her writing style has just the right amount of detail and is very easy to get lost in – not to mention some charming experiments with the structure of her posts. Seeing my niece and nephew grow through her blog is an important part of my life, and it’s also fascinating and informative to learn more about her PhD study in nutrition.

Like most of my interviewees, Jill is a very busy person, but still found time to answer my questions. I suppose that busy people are much better at getting things done!

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Why did you start blogging?

To connect with friends and family that live far away. To share photos of my children with those that I want to be a part of their lives.

Have you ever kept a personal journal? If so, do you see Just Bung It In as an extension of that journal?

I have kept journals in the past but I think the blog is quite different because it has that immediate audience. However, I do see my blog as a diary of sorts. It is a record of bits of my life and I really enjoy reading over past blogs and looking at the photos, as I would a photo album or a scrapbook.

What is your first memory of writing creatively?

When I was 5 years old I wrote a story that was at least a whole page long. I drew a picture to go with it and I felt that I had written this epic masterpiece. Mum sent it into the local newspaper and they printed it – I was so proud but it was a reality check to see my story printed in only two lines…. I guess my hand-writing was quite large when I was 5.

I’ve always enjoyed writing to some extent. What I’ve lacked is the confidence that I’m any good at it and I eventually came to the conclusion that it will never be a great skill of mine. However, the blog has given me a reason and the freedom to enjoy writing again.

Describe something that is beautiful to you.

There are only two things in this world that actually make my tummy flip with their beauty: my children. Sorry to be such a cliché Mum!

My daughter’s smattering of freckles; my son’s brown eyes; their knees; their necks; their skin; their lips; all the little parts that amaze me. When they are busy and lost in their own little worlds I don’t want to take my eyes off them because they are absolutely stunning to me and perfect in that moment. Nothing in this beautiful world even comes close to the beauty that I see in my kids.

You maintain a posting frequency of about once or twice a week, despite being very busy. Do you set specific time aside in your weekly routine to write, or is it whenever you get a chance?

If I go for longer than a week without posting a blog Mum rings me up and complains. I write for my Mum!

I do prioritise blogging because it is something that is important to me. I also know that if I left it three weeks, or more, it would become this massive task to catch up and I don’t have the time to do that. So even if it is just a small story, a thought or a stack of photos, I keep it chugging along so that things don’t get away from me. I don’t put too much pressure on myself to make it perfect, I just do it (hence ‘That’ll do’) and that works for me. Usually a Saturday night offers itself to blogging.

Has your blog helped you in other areas of your life?

Interesting question. I’m going to say yes to that one because it helps to form my ideas and thoughts more. When I’m mulling over something I want it to develop and mature a bit before it becomes a blog topic. Also, having a blog about my life helps me to see the good side of things. It helps me to see myself as worthwhile. Oh, and I can’t forget that the regular writing will probably have been a good thing when I come to write my thesis – eek!

Do you feel that you have complete control over ‘Just Bung It In’, that it has a life of its own and evolves on its own, or somewhere in-between?

I feel I have total control over it. It’s my life story really and I pick what goes in there!

Is there a post on your blog that you are most proud of?

No I don’t think so. The blog posts that I enjoy rereading the most are the ones with pictures of holidays and the little stories of things that my kids and husband do. In the end, this blog is for me.

Name two countries: one you’d like to visit, and one you’d like to visit again.

At this time in my life I have no pressing urge to travel the world. I love New Zealand. My dream holiday is the one that we take every Summer: camping on a classic NZ beach with friends and family. If I won Lotto I wouldn’t change the destination, I would only buy a bigger tent and a flasher beach lounger.

Ask me this question in 10 years and it may be a different answer!

Do you believe in God?

I believe that every individual has their own reality so God does exist for some. I don’t deny the existence of God for others. However, my reality does not have a God. I believe in nature and the wonder of the world. I believe that there is more. But I don’t believe in a God.

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This interview is part of Inside the Bloggers Studio, an ongoing project of short interviews with bloggers I read and admire.  (Apologies to James Lipton.)  To view the archive, click here.

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“Inaie the blogger is the one who cannot keep her mouth shut, and she tells on all other Inaies”

At Yosemite, California

Inaie Ramalho is the author of Inaie – out and about, a blog about her life and travels as a serial expat. Her homeland is Brazil but she has lived in Australia, New Zealand and the UAE, and is currently based in Bahrain with her husband and two daughters. She writes mostly about her and her family’s travels and lives, with plenty of accompanying photos, but also about all the people close to her in her life.

‘Out and about’ is certainly true, then, but one realises that she has her eyes wide open with curiosity as she goes from place to place, person to person, experience to experience. Her writing is typically open-hearted and direct – she has little use for self-censorship – but a sense of what really matters to her shines through, as well as a desire to learn and understand more about herself and the world around her.

I discovered her blog after she left a comment on mine, and was immediately intrigued by the fact that she double-blogs in English and in Portuguese (which she clarifies further below). Having looked into her archives and found them at times hilarious, at other times moving, I asked if she would answer a few questions, and she responded in record time. All photos used with permission.

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Why did you start blogging?

When I left Brazil I started writing  emails with “my stories” to friends back home. They were emails with my feelings, my discoveries and a bit about everything. A way to stay connected. 10 years later, I was still sending the same emails, but my “receivers” list was much larger and incorporated friends from all countries where I lived. I was writing my emails twice. In English and in Portuguese.
If I were tired, fed up, or just had nothing to say and did not write frequently enough, these friends would send me angry emails, complaining about my absence.
Because of it, I made a point of writing regularly, but Yahoo was blocking my account every other day, calling me a “spammer”. Every time I was blocked I felt so p’off, I would promise I would start blogging. But then Yahoo would unblock me, and I would forget all about it.
I also had several friends asking me to start blogging. BLOG! BLOG! BLOG! they would say…
Recently I met a FAB lady who is a professional blogger, she translates blogs from several languages, she does a pretty serious job with this blogging business. When she told me I should blog, I thought: Well, maybe I should. ‘A’ is someone who knows what she is doing… she has not been my friend for long and has no reason to say things just to please me.
I started the blog, thanked her for “making me do it” and received furious emails from all those friends who have been saying the same thing for ages, with no result.

Bridge near San Simeon, California

Do you keep a journal? If so, what relationship do your blog and your journal have with each other?

Nah. No journal. My mother used to break the lockers to read my teenager journals. Initially I would make up these horrible stories, about unthinkable things, just to terrify her. After a while I just lost interest. If I could not be true to my journal because my darling mother would read it, what was the point? I never went back to journal writing, unfortunately. Today, my revenge is to write things she would not want to know in an open forum – and I know she still reads it.

What is your first memory of writing creatively?

I always enjoyed writing, I remember being 8 or 9, and spending hours making up stories… As I grew up, I realized real stories are far more fun!

Describe something that is beautiful to you.

This is going to sound so tacky, but my girls’ smiles are the most amazing sight. When they look at me and smile, the whole world changes colors, all sounds seem far more clear and beautiful. It is just amazing!

I have pictures of them on my phone; when things get rough, I just look at them and smile too.

Ramalho girls in Santa Barbara

You blog in both English and Portuguese. Do you try to convey the same feeling in both languages, or do you attempt to express yourself with the difference nuances of meaning to which each language lends itself?

You are mistaken. My blog is both in BAD Portuguese and Pidgin English, as I explain in the first line of the blog, but your question has its merit. Initially, my idea was to write in one language and then translate to the other – but as I started doing it, I found it just impossible. I write one story, then when I tell the other one, I remember different facts, I use other visuals; I just write all over again instead of just translating it. Sometimes the texts are completely different, although they talk about the same thing and they are both true.

Have your experiences living and travelling in various different countries changed your belief system(s)?

They sure have. This lifestyle taught me to be more tolerant with the world and see people under a different light. I used to think WE were right (whoever we were) and THEY were wrong. Now I don’t believe in us and them. People are just submitted to different stimuli, grow up under different circumstances and form their values based on these experiences.
People behave different because they see things different. In most cases, there is no right or wrong, in my opinion.
All this traveling made me want to travel more, want to know more, to learn more… life is a fascinating journey!

On the road in California

In your Blogger profile, you mention ‘several Inaies living together under one identity’. Would you say the ‘blogger Inaie’ is distinct from the others, or more an attempt at representing all of them?

Inaie the blogger is the one who cannot keep her mouth shut, and she tells on all other Inaies. She is the gossiper. She would get in trouble, but would not lose the opportunity to tell her story. With my life story, I do live many different realities in one. I am an only child, but I live far, far away from my parents. I love my dad desperately, but I have not seen him in four years. If you ask how I would feel if I did not see my children for a year, I would say it would just not happen. I could not survive without them. Both of them. I am Brazilian, but I am not your “regular” Brazilian. I am a workaholic who is in a huge crisis because I just found out there is life beyond the office desk (but don’t give me an office desk, I will get stuck in it), I am all for equality and sometimes catch myself being so totalitarian. I am a walking contradiction. I have always been told I am different, but no one ever managed to explain “different” how – and it haunts me. I would really like to know who I am. Sometimes I have no idea what I want or how to get it…

Michael, a friend of mine, once gave this close definition about me:

‘I want it all – and I want it now…’

That sounds pretty real.

Is there a post on your blog that you are most proud of?

To be honest, my blog is a window into my soul. It is not supposed to be pretty, fun or anything specifically. It is just meant to be a piece of me, to tell my story, my thoughts, my feelings. And to register my journey… I am not afraid to show my ugly sides. I have plenty of them. I guess I am proud of having my blog, and I am sooo grateful (and surprised) people actually read it.

Sunset in San Simeon

Name two countries: one you’d like to visit, and one you’d like to visit again.

I would love to visit Iran. And Morocco. And India. I also would like to visit Oman and see sea turtles. Mexico too. I would like to go to Turkey and fly over Capadoccia. Ireland is in my list of countries to visit, so are Vietnam and Lebanon… oh, sorry – you said ONE! But there are so many other places I would like to experience…

A country I would revisit? To be honest, I am not ito revisiting places. Given the opportunity, I will always choose the one I have not been to. In saying that, I would like to take my teenage girls to Egypt and to Jordan, to share the beauty of these places with them, especially because we are so close and these destinations are so magic…
I would not consider going to these places again if it were not to show them to Anita and Lia.

Do you believe in God?

I sure do. I just feel very sad for all the atrocities men do in name of Him. I am sure it pisses him off too.

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This interview is part of Inside the Bloggers Studio, an ongoing project of short interviews with bloggers I read and admire.  (Apologies to James Lipton.)  To view the archive, click here.

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NOW THAT YOU’RE GONE IT HIT US

I’m having to get this out slowly over a long period of time, as computers in India’s cyber cafes aren’t quite as cooperative as one might hope. Here’s what happened around the 24th of August.

On Friday (the 23rd) I said goodbye to my landlords Tetsuko and Kotaro, the sweetest folks one could hope for. The other housemate cooked an incredible Mexican dinner and T & K gave me a Japanese-style bandana, which was a wonderful gesture. A wise person said that once you’ve gotten past the surface of Japanese people and spent enough time with them, they will do anything for you, like they’re investing something emotional in you that they so rarely do.

I was to see this on an even greater level the next day. Mika, fellow teacher mentioned a couple of posts earlier, had said she would come to the airport to see me off, so I thought we’d have lunch or something and then say our sad goodbyes… instead, the whole family turned up – Mika & her husband, Koji, her mother, sister and sister’s 4 kids (2 of which I taught). At this point I understood what people mean when they say ‘my Japanese family’, because really, I felt completely accepted as if I had the same blood.

As if that wasn’t enough, the kids handed me a stack of 6 envelopes and inside each was a letter from a student in the class with a special message for me. “Do your best in India and please come back to teach us again.” “Enjoy eating curry!” “Please write to me and tell me about India.” There were drawings, too, and some more photographs from the party, plus an incredible moving card from Mika. After I went off through security and out of sight, I thought about what had just happened and the cards that were now wedged in my bursting laptop bag, and shed a few tears in the immigration queue. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better send-off, a better final memory of a country I’d come to believe I no longer wanted to function in. I’ve still got my shit to say about Japan and I think it’s valid, but every moment of the experience was worth it just for those last minutes in the country.

One last remarkable thing was to happen. I had intended to call someone just before getting on the plane, and was literally striding towards a payphone and reaching for my wallet when my phone rang for the last time. It was her; she’d had no idea when my plane was leaving, nor obviously did she know that I was, at that moment, about to pick up the phone myself. An extraordinary coincidence. More than a coincidence. I stepped onto the plane confident that Japan had been good for me, I’d been good for Japan and that the universe was aligning especially for me.

I’m now in Bangalore, it’s been kind of an odyssey to get here, worth it for every moment. That’ll be the next post…

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ALL YOUR MEMORIES ARE AS PRECIOUS AS GOLD

In February of this year, I was visiting my friends Mika & Koji in Chiba, which is about an hour and a half away east of Tokyo. The traditional Japanese way is for the family unit to remain very tight throughout the lifespan; it’s common for newly married couples to live with one set of parents for a good while, and for their respective families to spend a lot of time together as a unit. So, when I visit them, I also visit their parents, siblings, nieces, nephews and in-laws. It’s always a delight. They’re all such open, honest, loving people.

I was thinking to myself, why don’t I come here more often? Mika telepathically understood this, and suggested we start an informal English class for her two school-age nieces and their friends. Great idea, I said. The class would be held every Friday, but I would only teach every second week because it would be a bit expensive paying my costs all the time. And so it was, from March up until last Friday when we held our final class & party.

Now, the job I worked in until June was fine, but it was for a big corporation and that makes it harder to connect with students. I met a lot of really wonderful people there, and did forge some pretty good connections, but apart from rare cases I was always the ‘Teacher’ and they were always the ‘student’. These pre-defined roles were hard to get around for both them and I, so we didn’t put as much effort into actually genuinely caring as we could’ve. (Be warned, mashed , mushy bananas ahead.)

This Friday class (or classes, as we had two groups of six children), however, has been the highlight of my fortnight for just this reason. The kids were all brilliant (and impossibly cute), I was ‘Barnaby-sensei’ but as much their mate as their teacher, and Mika was a wonderful person to teach with and just generally be around. When it came to that farewell deal last week, I was really sad that it was ending. These kids, these people, really meant something to me and I would miss them. Still, it was rowdy fun like it always is – plenty of laughter and a good amount of craziness.

Most of their parents had turned up to see how I’d indoctrinated their precious little ones. Each one of the children stood up and did their little self-presentation, something they’d studied for pretty hard by the sounds, and they all nailed it as though it was second nature. Mika said they’d struggled the week before. Not this time. I couldn’t stop grinning, they did so well. Then we set up a table with food and drinks – typically unhealthy kids’ party fare, That’ll do would probably keel over at the sight of it – and Mika’s sister came over to us and gave us both a bag, saying ‘arigatou’.

We’d been doing it for our own pleasure (and, let’s be honest, a bit of money in my case), but gifts? Well, thank you, OK. Inside were the items I will treasure for my entire life: a t-shirt with all the kids’ hands stretched out into a circle, and a huge card with a photo of each class and a handwritten message from each child (in Japanese). “Thank you for teaching me English.” “It was a lot of fun.” “Please come to Japan and teach us again.” “You’re always cheerful.” I sat there for about five minutes looking at the pictures and their messages, and had a quiet moment of reflection: if this is where your life has led you, this point here, this feeling, then you are doing something right and everything has been worth it. This soon-to-end time in Japan (more on that soon) has been challenging in many ways, and I’ve done my fair share of bitching about the place to friends and family and basically anyone who’ll listen, but even if there was nothing else to be pleased about – which there is in spades – I’d have this, and it would all be worthwhile.

Then I realized I was being rude not talking to anyone, and played some games with the kids who had long since finished stuffing their faces with crisps and were tearing about like… well, like kids. One girl from the younger class came running up to me, hugged my legs tightly, looked up at me with a huge smile on her face and said, “Daisuki!” (“I love you.”) Usually I’d laugh such declarations of affection from children as either attention-seeking or just being playful, but at the age she was, I could see she was pure in the moment and genuinely meant it. There’s a wonderful lack of pretence about Japanese children up to the age of about 8 or 9, before they’re aware of themselves and how badly they need to be exactly the same as everybody else their age, immediately. They just do and say what they feel. Needless to say, I was touched.

When it was all over, I went and had sushi with the family, and played loads with M & K’s nephew who was too young to join the class. At the end of the day I made the long(ish) trip home, tired and very happy. Mika sent me a text saying she thought we’d had a good experience. I sent her back a slightly overdone essay about it being my best memory of Japan and a group of people I’ll never forget. Not unlike this, I suppose.

Thank you, everybody.

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