The Arrival

On Sunday we had another girl. Her name is Kate.

I am in a sublime state of shock.

I figure that the arrival of a newborn gives me two options re my blog in the next few months. The first is not to blog at all, or only rarely; the second is to change the way I blog: short posts that tend more towards the stream-of-consciousness end of writing. I’m going with the second option.

So here we go….

My somewhat prosaic title is actually a reference to a book I have just ‘read’. It is a stunning graphic novel by Shaun Tan called ‘The Arrival’ and it features no words at all. It is a story of immigration; a man who leaves his wife and daughter behind to travel to another country and establish a life there, so that he can bring them out to be with him.

Now that I have daughters (two of them now!) of my own, I find this idea overwhelming – the idea of leaving them behind for months, even years, to provide them with a better life. And yet so many of the students I teach have done just that.

I recently had a Pakistani student, who also has two daughters, and had only seen them for a two week period every two years for the last decade. He worked for 8 or 9 years in Kuwait, and has now come to Australia to do another degree, in the hope of finding work that will lead to sponsorship, that could lead to residency, which would ultimately allow him to bring his family out here to live.

While he was in my class, his father (who was the male protector of his wife and daughters in Pakistan) died suddenly, and then his wife developed a condition that required an expensive operation. He was forced to change, and then defer, his study to reduce his costs here, so that he could afford to fly home for a month to look after his daughters while his wife went into hospital, and to arrange another male member of the family to take responsibility for his family.

He just got back to Melbourne a week or so ago. He is living with his brother’s family in the outskirts of the city, commuting over 2 hours a day, working night shifts at a servo to support himself and his family, and doing a seriously dodgy network security degree at a seriously dodgy private college. He will learn nothing that he doesn’t already know, but it is one of the ridiculously expensive hurdles he has to jump through, as this country uses his desperation to provide a better life for his kids to bleed him dry.

The worst thing of all is that there is a really good chance that after all of the money he has pumped into our bloated economy he will be kicked out of the country anyway. The goal of the Australian Immigration Department seems to be positioning the permanent residency bar low enough to attract a lot of full fee paying students to this country, but high enough so that a significant proportion end up falling short and heading home with their dreams dashed, and their pockets empty.

As I write this, my swaddled 5-day-old daughter sleeps beside me, and it seems so unfair that I get to see her and her sister every single day, and make good money teaching English to students who never get to see their families, and who are only in my class as a difficult means to an end they may never achieve, and all because of the accident of where I was born, and where they were.

Oh dear. I think I’m going to have to reassess this stream-of-consciousness thing. The stream seems to have flowed into a river of White guilt, and if I don’t build a dam soon that river might soon empty into a deep ocean of radically-change-your-life-dickhead-because-you-are-the-undeserving-beneficiary-of-a-disgusting-and-exploitative-system.

At times like this, I find that a little tokenism often does the trick. I think I’ll stop writing now before I do something stupid, and find a website where I can sponsor a little African newborn.

If that doesn’t work, I’ll just watch an episode of House Husbands (that always makes me feel better about myself).

This entry was posted in parenting, Thoughts and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to The Arrival

  1. paris75009 says:

    I too love ‘The Arrival’ and am also often preoccupied by my good fortune/luck, to be born where I was. However it is less about ‘White guilt’ (lots of immigrants from Eastetn Europe here) and more about being grateful for what I have and then trying to share it, like finding housing for people closer to where they work/study with a less tiring and expensive journey.

    • rodbie says:

      You’re right, of course. But I still struggle with the thought that the generous ways in which we use our time and money for others is actually an essential element to the perpetuation of unjust systems – a release valve that stops things boiling over (both for us internally, and systemically) in a way that creates real change. Perhaps I just read too much post-structuralism as a child.

  2. Kate Hall says:

    A son for me.
    An only child.
    The mother/daughter thing won’t happen – i understand. But I have a beautiful child.

  3. go eat some icecream. I like the stream of consciousness idea … keep it going … if kater keeps sleeping.

  4. Kate Hall says:

    Yes I like the stream of conscience too!
    I have met Shaun Tan a number of times and had dinner with his beautiful parents. My ex-partner (also a writer – Matt Ottley) introduced me to him. He is a lovely man and very unassuming.

  5. rodbie says:

    His work certainly suggests lovely and unassuming.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s