Saturday, March 31, 2012

Family story

This month I took part in #b03, Steve Hopkin's challenge to share a blog post every day for the month of March. I have another blog that was already running six days a week and I felt that I was cheating somehow by only needing to do one more post. So I set myself the challenge here to jot down a family story every day.

Over the years, Mum and Dad have shared various anecdotes with me of which I shared 16 during this month. At one stage I sat down and wrote down 20 with the idea to locate the old family photos to tie off the month with these nostalgic images.

However as I went along, I wondered whether I'd recalled the stories correctly so have jotted them down so that I can check the factual accuracy with my parents.

My plan is to complete writing down the stories, I haven't figured out whether that'll be here or simply in the book I plan to create to gift to my Mum for her upcoming birthday.

I attended Trampoline Day today where Niki held a session on the Stories and their Wisdom. She talked about how traditional stories that were passed down from generation to generation usually had a truth in them that was important to the culture. This caused me to reflect on my family story project. In writing about my resilient and entrepreunerial great-grandmother, I know that I've found a source of strength. In writing about my parents and how they really didn't have any other choice but to migrate to Australia, I now have a better understanding of why my parents decided to uproot us and move us to South Korea in the 90s. Dad always said that it's because he wanted us to be adaptable, just in case. I get that now.

I hope that one day I have the guts to make the jumps that my great-grandmother made, that my parents made for my brother and I.

As an auditor, I'm constantly advising organisations to document their procedures to mitigate against the risk of knowledge loss in the event of staff turnover. Now, I'm going to start recommending that everyone documents their family story too!

Read all family stories. Read all of my #b03 posts (not always family-story-related!).

Monday, March 26, 2012

Story 16: Leader of the pack

What my father told me:

I was class captain every year that I was in school and school captain in my final year. When we learned English we thought that it was strange how much emphasis was placed on learning to talk about the weather: in Indonesia it’s always hot and humid!

I arrived in Sydney with two of my other friends. Quickly we learnt that Australian weather changes a lot! We were frugal and picked up jobs as day labourers. After paying rent, the only thing that we could afford was a fresh loaf of bread and a jar of IXL jam. We devoured the lot everyday.

My two friends didn’t think that the struggle was worth it, went back home and went onto become very rich businessmen.

I'm jotting down a family story every day over the month of March for #b03click here to catch up on the stories I've shared so far. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Story 15: Driver

What my mother told me:

I had a driver whose job it was to drive me. He would take me to wherever I wanted and drop me off. If I’d forgotten to leave him a tip for him to buy his lunch, he’d have a long face when I came back. He taught me how to ride a bicycle in the driveway of your great-grandmother’s factory.

He taught one of your aunties how to drive a car. On her first day she crashed and killed a goat. The farmer was so angry and made her buy the goat. So the servants were very happy because they got to have the goat for dinner.

I'm jotting down a family story every day over the month of March for #b03, click here to catch up on the stories I've shared so far.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Story 14: my friend

What my mother told me:

I was the youngest. Your uncle was my closest sibling but he was 4 years older which is still a big gap and he was a boy. I had a little maid who was about the same age as me and we were very close. We played together and every night she would sleep in my room but on the floor. I hated that there was a difference between us. I always asked her to come and sleep with me in my bed but she never would saying, “no no, Miss I’m too dirty.”

When it was decided that I was moving to Australia, we cried lots but I promised her that I’d come back for her and bring her to Australia where we would grow up, have our own children and always be friends.  

One day she was walking down the street carrying a jar of oil, she tripped and fell forward. The glass jar broke and she cut herself badly. They got her to hospital but you can't get any treatment unless you pay upfront. The servants didn’t have any money to pay for a blood transfusion so she died.

I came home to Indonesia for the holidays and couldn’t find my friend. When they told me what had happened, I couldn’t cry. I sat, staring out of the window, silent. There’s this bird that makes a wailing sound. It wailed and it wailed all day and the servants kept saying, “that’s your little maid, Miss – she’s crying to say that she’s sorry she’s not here.”

I'm jotting down a family story every day over the month of March for #b03, click here to catch up on the stories I've shared so far.

Story 13: Snack foods

What my mother told me:

In Indonesia the land is very fertile and there is food literally growing everywhere. One of my favourites was the tallow plant which grew along the road near our house. My little maid and I would go for a walk then when I saw that the tallow plant was ready, we’d grab a few of the plants and run all the way home. The farmers (or people were cultivating the crops and were waiting for the plants to be ready to sell at the market would see and chase us home but we were so quick! The farmers would then knock on our doors ask)ing to be paid for what we’d stolen. The other servants would get upset with me, “Miss! You are making people angry! Why don’t you just ask us to buy this for you at the market?”

I'm jotting down a family story every day over the month of March for #b03, click here to catch up on the stories I've shared so far.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Story 12: [White] Australia

What my mother told me:

I arrived in Melbourne in 1973 and lived with an Australian family. I remember walking through Shoppingtown with the family and people were looking at me. The father reached out and grabbed my hand in solidarity. I appreciated his sentiment but I was 15 and I thought “oh god, does it look worse that this old white man is holding my hand?”

I'm jotting down a family story every day over the month of March for #b03click here to catch up on the stories I've shared so far.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


No family story today. I had an amazing day where I felt engaged with my colleagues after 2.5 days of Enneagram exploration; covered a beautiful fashion show where I got to meet some great new people and see one of my besties whom I haven't seen in TOO LONG; overcame a fear and photographed a writer I admire; dined at a favourite place where I meant to make space to reflect on things but instead got drawn into some wonderful conversations with those around me; got home to work only to find that we've a blackout and no wireless. So I'm going to sit here in the dark and bask in the glow of a fine day in my life. Hope yours has been a great one too!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Story 11: the basic solution

What my parents told me:

They closed down our schools. We had been going to the schools for ethnic Chinese. They closed down the Chinese newspapers and made all chinese change their names to Indonesian ones. Our old schools were turned into jails and people we knew were imprisoned there. There was this old guy we knew, we used to joke about how skinny he was and how plump his wife was. I think he had been a writer for the Chinese newspaper. When we walked by the old school which they had all walled up; sometimes we'd throw a banana peel over the wall and you could hear the prisoners scuffling for it but at least that meant they were still alive. They eventually released the skinny man but his wife had died in the meantime.

I'm jotting down a family story every day over the month of March for #b03click here to catch up on the stories I've shared so far.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Reflecting on the family story project

This business of jotting down a family story every day for the month of March for  #b03 is tricky business! I'm currently pretty busy with my day job, covering fashion week and riding my bike in the moomba parade. And as quickly as I try to jot down a story, ideally within a 15minute block, I spend countless moments thereafter reflecting on the story- how it was told to me, the emotions expressed by the sharer, how the story made me feel at the time and how I feel about the story today.

The first story was told to me when I was doing a year 7 project on heroes and I decided I wanted to write about my great-grandmother. It was a story my mother retold to me over the years as an example of why it's important to be financially independent and perspective: things aren't always as bad as you might think they are... 

My parents told me the story of how they fell in love when we were having breakfast in Paris. Yup. I'd been backpacking through Europe about the same time my parents were taking a cruise in the area and we managed to meet up in Paris, the city of love. I cannot tell you what a special time it was hanging out in Paris with my parents. I crashed my parents cute hotel room by sleeping on a single bed they hired for me. Dad snores so I had to wear ear plugs in order to be able to sleep. During the day, I showed them my Paris- Montmartre and we climbed the steps to Sacre Coeur and attended Mass. 

So on this gorgeous trip that was getting quite ludicrously so, I was being corny when I asked, "so how did you two fall in love?"

and the rest is history !

Monday, March 12, 2012

Moomba 2012

A break from the family story for the latest installment of random shit, Chez!

My friend Lara McPherson ropes me into some pretty random shit. Six weeks after we first met through Twitter, we found ourselves living on display at the State of Design Festival to launch what is now The Ace Fantastics!

Lara is one of the organisers of Melbourne Tweed Ride and the fashion runway at Melbourne Bike Festival. Both groups were invited to be in the 2012 Moomba parade, so off we went!

Dress Rehearsal
Friends know not to call me before 11am on a weekend as I'm usually catching up on sleep I've missed out on during the week. Nonetheless I received a wake-up call at 9.30am one morning to remind (more like TELL!) me that we had dress rehearsal! Despite cursing on my rushed ride over, being greeted by gorgeously costumed singing and dancing kids cheered me up immensely and made me very excited for what lay ahead!

the cutest kid: lara mcpherson
Dress rehearsal: check out the tree man walking on stilts!

Little Audreys (did you know that the vinegar skipping girl's name is Audrey?)

The Parade
New tactic to help me get to things on time: tell me to get there three hours before the event starts!

Here are my behind-the-scenes snaps of the food-themed 2012 Moomba!
my bike - I pimped it up with the yellow flowers and garlic, tomato and lemon when we were asked to decorate our bikes with the theme, "food". Extra pink flowers were added by organisers on the day!

Lisa Dempster of Melbourne Bike Festival
Clockwise from left: Dave poses with the blooms we've been given to pimp up our rides; Charlie & Paul; Pip from The Squeaky Wheel gives riders instructions! 

And now here are some little videos that we made along the way!

For more fun times, follow Lara!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Story 10: The Abbatoir

What my father told me:

I'd come down from Sydney to visit your Mum who was living in Melbourne. She'd be busy with school so I'd find myself work as a day labourer to keep myself busy. One of those jobs was in an abbatoir that was in Abbotsford.

It was my job to lead the animals to get slaughtered. The lambs and the cows didn't seem to have any idea and would follow easily but the pigs. The pigs, knew. They fought, squealed like anything and cried.

Afterwards it was my job to clean their blood by sweeping the floors of the abbatoir. In those days all the drains led straight into the Yarra river.

I lasted one day on that job but ask your mother and she'll tell you; I smelt of their blood for week.

I'm jotting down a family story every day over the month of March for #b03,
click here to catch up on the stories I've shared so far.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Circle of Life

The process of writing down a family story everyday has got me thinking about my own life and how I am shaping the next chapters with what I decide to do with my own.

A funny night tonight where I watched The Lion King and Tim Burton's Alice. The hero in the first had to remember who he was and his responsibility to step up. The heroine in the second had to come to her full muchness, kill the Jabberwocky (which I'm told symbolizes fear) so that she could drink its blood and return home.

The story of my great-grandmother is one that I've known since I decided to do a project on her in year 7 in response to topic "heroes". She was brave, industrious, independent and clever. The challenges that she faced and overcame fascinate me. I'm lucky to live in a time where women aren't dependent on their families. I'm in awe of how she managed her lovers while running a company and raising five children. She was by no means perfect...and in those ways I'm inspired to build on her story. Stay tuned?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Story 9: Marriage

What my mother told me:

Your great-grandmother’s business was doing very well, she became rich. Lots of men tried to woo her. She eventually found one and had more children with him but she never fully trusted him and despite his pleas, never married him.

I'm jotting down a family story every day over the month of March for #b03, click here to catch up on the stories I've shared so far.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Story 8: The Beach

What my father told me:

I had an auntie who was very wealthy and she owned a whole beach. Every holiday the family would go and we cousins would swim in the ocean. The area was still quite wild so that when you went to the toilet, if you didn’t go back to the house, you’d have to go in the jungle. There were wild pigs around which if you weren’t careful, would try to knock you over so they could get to your poo. I was little and swimming with all of my big cousins and I really had to do a poo. I didn’t want to go to the jungle and fight the wild pigs so I did it right there. When my cousins saw the poo bobbing around and realised it was me: how they cursed me! They yelled and swam away yelling that because I’d done a poo, the sea water would go up my bum and kill me. I thought they were telling the truth and I got very very scared.

I'm jotting down a family story every day over the month of March for #b03, click here to catch up on the stories I've shared so far.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


What my mother told me:

Your great-grandmother moved her five children into a little village to get away from the in-laws who didn’t like her. She had always been good at making traditional the herbal medicines, jamu. She would go from house-to-house making special concoctions to treat the people in her village. People found her medicine effective and word spread.

I'm jotting down a family story every day over the month of March for #b03, click here to catch up on the stories I've shared so far.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Words and numbers

What my mother told me:

When I was young, I wanted to be a journalist. I wrote some pieces, won a number of writing prizes and even had a piece published in the paper. When I came to Australia, my English wasn’t very good. It was so frustrating to not be able to express myself properly. Then I found mathematics. There was a really good nun at my school who encouraged me and would give me lots of exercises. I forgot about my frustration with words and learned about the beauty of numbers. I liked that numbers were always the same, no matter what language I had to try and speak.

I'm jotting down a family story every day over the month of March for #b03, click here to catch up on the stories I've shared so far.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Story 5: On falling in love

What my parents told me:

Dad: Your mum was still just a baby when I first met her. She was four years old and still in nappies!

Mum: I was not!

Dad: I was friends with your uncle and so we used to play together and your mum was one of the little kids who followed us around.

Mum: Then when I was 13 and in Indonesia it’s the custom that when a boy wants to date you that he’ll present himself at the house and meet your parents first. I was pretty sure that your Dad would come but he never did. I waited and waited and he never showed up.

Dad: You were too young!

Mum: But I knew that you liked me!

Dad: Then your mum had an operation.

Mum: I had my appendix removed.

Dad: And so I went to see her because I was her brother’s friend and all that. And there she was in the hospital bed. She looked so little in the big bed with all the pillows. And that’s when I realised, “oh yeah, I can't fight it; I’m in love.”

Mum: I was 15 and your Dad was 19 when we knew that we were moving to Australia. We went to the church together and prayed to God that we could be together in the new country.

I'm jotting down a family story every day over the month of March for #b03, click here to catch up on the stories I've shared so far.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Story 4: Saved

I'm jotting down a family story every day over the month of March for #b03

What my father told me:

I almost died a few times but the first time was when I was three or four . There were these large barrels around the house that were used to store and preserve salted fish. I wanted to see if there was any fish in the barrels and climbed up to peer inside. But the barrels had been empty of fish for sometime and were full of rain water instead. I leaned in too much and fell in head first into the barrel of water. I struggled but couldn't get myself out. I remember struggling and struggling and the bright sunlight shining in the water when all of a sudden I heard this almighty bang! My father, your Kung-Kung had been on the roof when he looked down and saw my legs sticking out of the barrel. He jumped off the roof and pulled me out. I was saved.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Story 3: The Factory

I'm jotting down a family story every day over the month of March for #b03

What my mother told me:

Your great-grandmother believed that families were strongest when they worked together so each of her children had a role in the company. Oma Marie was responsible for purchasing supplies; your Oma for overseeing production. I remember following your Oma around the factory, she had a big book that had all of the secret recipes. She gave instructions for the preparation of ingredients, measuring out and mixing but in such a way so that the workers wouldn't know which product that they were making.

As children we used to play in the factory. The maids, drivers and other workers would look after us while our parents worked. I always had so much fun playing with all of the children there. Some were my cousins, some were the children of the workers. Your great-grandmother sent us all to the same school because she believed that whoever was smart enough would get ahead.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Story 2: Australia

Over the month of March, I'll be jotting down a family story everyday as part of #b03

What my Opa told me:
I had five daughters when the soldiers started storing their guns in our home. My sons were all studying overseas at the time but the girls were at home and the soldiers were always around. It wasn’t safe. Your Oma and I met Opas and his wife Stella on a cruise ship in Hong Kong back in the 1950s. He was from Australia and had lost a brother in the war. We had a lot to talk about and kept up a correspondence for years after the cruise. There was always trouble but as Soeharto came to power, I told him what was happening to the ethnic Chinese in Indonesia. He was a Jew and told me about what happened to his people, he told me that he would help.

I'd seen what happened to my people in Europe, to those who didn't leave. There were all the same signs; "A Solution." I told your grandfather that I would help. We made plans, then all of a sudden the correspondence stopped. For months and months, I waited. Then one day I was in the courts when the clerk called me to tell me that there were two Chinese-Indonesian sisters crying and asking for me in the forecourt.

My aunties:
All your Opa told us was to ask for Mr Phillip. I can’t remember how but somehow we made it from the airport to the courts. We couldn’t speak much English, we were very confused. We asked for Mr Phillip. We were told that there might be many Mr Phillips. We cried and they started bringing out these men who each went by the common name of "Mr Phillip". Each one would come out and we'd stop crying, look up and NO! That man doesn't look like how Opa described Mr Phillip! This went on and on, man after man, we crid and cried; where would we go if we couldn’t find Mr Phillip? Then finally a man came out and he knew why we were there and he took us home to his wife, Stella. She was so good to us.