Day of Mourning

It was only last week that I learnt that Australia Day has only been celebrated on January 26th since 1994. The public holiday started when I was too young to have any concept of dates and months, let alone public holidays and why they’re there.

The discovery left me quite shocked. I’d always thought it had been celebrated for many decades, and that the date had been picked well before people had any idea about cultural sensitivity. But, no, it was just 1994 — a mere 27 years ago.

In school, we were taught the history of the First Fleet, and Captain Arthur Phillip, and how the British came to Australia. It seemed like there was some logic behind choosing January 26th for Australia Day. But, of course, there’s only so much we are taught when we are really young.

It was probably not until high school that I started learning about the genocide and dispossession.  The history of Australia is nothing short of barbaric, and it seems cruel to celebrate the anniversary of when it all started.

Every year for the last however many years (I’m not sure exactly how many), there have been protests to “change the date”. It is a day of mourning for indigenous Australians, not a day of celebration. And it always seemed strange to me that it was so hard to change the date, but it’s even more strange now that I know how young this public holiday is.

Astounded by my own ignorance, I did some browsing of the internet to see what else I didn’t know. I found this article, which I think is a good summary of essential information:

Worth a read, especially for anyone who’s got the day off because of the public holiday.


I hate ants

Yes, I hate ants. 

Ok, sure, they have an important ecological role, but I’m still allowed to hate ants, aren’t I?

I wouldn’t wish to eradicate ants from the world, or even from my neighbourhood, but if they are in my home, I must get rid of them.

In Australia, I think it’s inevitable that you will get bugs in your home now and then, no matter how careful you are. It wasn’t until a friend of mine went overseas on exchange for a year that I discovered that not everywhere in the world has ants everywhere. And flies and mosquitos and spiders.

The other creepy crawlies I can kind of understand — I don’t think I ever really expected them to be everywhere. But ants — ants! I thought ants were so ubiquitous that they would be found in and around every corner, city, and country, all over the world.

I think the problem with ants is that there’s never just one or two ants. If you see one, there’s probably masses of them not too far behind. And ants are equal parts foolhardy and cunning. Leave a crumb in the middle of the floor, and they will find it. Sit down at the park to eat lunch, and they will try to eat you.

In primary school, my sister had an ant farm for a while as part of some kind of science experiment. They were fascinating to watch, but it gave me nightmares about ants crawling all over me while I slept. Thankfully the ant farm (and the nightmares) didn’t stay around too long.

I wish I could finish this post on some kind of philosophical platitude, but I can’t really think of how to turn this around, and, besides, I just wanted to write about how much I hate ants.

To be fair (if “fair” is the right word here), I hate other bugs too — mosquitos are always annoying, and wasps are scary.

a small win

A big part of what I do at work is checking chemotherapy order forms and batch sheets — making sure patient details and treatment details are correct, and making sure these have been correctly transferred onto batch sheets so that we can compound or make each dose for each patient.

In the course of checking an order this week, I noticed that my colleague had omitted what would appear to be the patient’s middle name. This usually wouldn’t be a big deal — we never include middle names on the batch documents — but this was not an English name. I recognised the name as Chinese, and for a number of Chinese people I know, the “middle name” is actually part of the first name. 

I considered the situation for a minute: There were other patient identifiers on the batch documents, so it was very unlikely that the patient would be misidentified or that any other treatment issue would arise from the omission of the second name. However, it seemed disrespectful to omit it just because we’re all used to seeing names consisting of a one-word first name and one-word surname (including when it’s hyphenated, which makes it count as one word).

So I emailed the team and explained it gently in a “you might not have realised, but just thought it would be good if we added this in” kind of way.

I sent that email pretty early in the morning, and got no response all day. I asked a colleague if he’d seen the email, and his response was that he agrees, but everyone else seemed unconcerned. I went home feeling despondent and agitated. I didn’t want this issue to be ignored.

The next day, contemplating how I could bring it up again, and at the same time wondering if I should just concede defeat in this matter, I happened to receive another order for a patient with a Chinese name. And this time all three names were included on the batch documents! It actually brought a smile to my face because this was not the colleague I’d spoken to (the one who already said he agrees) but one of the others who had seemed unconcerned the previous day.

It felt good to know that I helped bring about this change, and it felt even better to know that I was capable of helping to improve cultural awareness in my workplace. It is one thing to continue to learn, but it is another to help others learn as well.

in the house of Bolkonsky

Perhaps this will seem rather random, but I’m only writing this post in order to remember this early part of War and Peace. I’m quite sure that if I don’t write progressive notes (which will take the form of blog posts for my own ease of reference), by the time I finish the whole book, I could very well forget a lot from the earlier chapters.

At just over 200 pages in, I already reread some parts of the first few chapters in order to remind myself of who did what and who said what. And I am still referring back to the “principal characters” guide at the start of the novel now and then.

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