What a year 2009 has been! It saw me wrap up my time at Vision Australia, where I was working as a Business Development Manager, travel to Ecuador and the USA to visit Alex’s family, share the loss of loved ones in Samoa where we spent Christmas in 2008, and start a new job. That, of course, is not to mention all the socialising and my involvement in co-compering Cubamemucho (a Cuban dance, show and workshop extravaganza), in September. So many things have been going…and the year is now gone!
So, now, I sit and reflect on the past six months or so. The last blog we published was around our “Window into Latin America” slideshow fundraiser It was an excellent night and we were able to raise over $1000.00 for the Renew the Spirit Foundation. We had hoped for 30 or 40 people, but got well over 60. Our very dear friend Richard deMeester (www.thedemeessters.blogspot.com), after recently having returned from ten months of travelling with his beautiful wife (and equally dear friend and talented photographer), assisted in putting together a slideshow on Latin America. Between Alex and Richard, they did a fabulous job. We held the fundraiser in November, in the studio of the Cuban Dance Academy (Thanks Christina), and it was clearly a great success. Having said that, anything that is able to assist and help others is always a success, in my eyes. I cannot begin to describe the enormous sense of satisfaction both Alex and I derive from the knowledge that others have been helped. On so many levels, we believe that what goes around comes around.
Globally, 2009 was a year of many natural disasters, probably starting off with our very own bushfires in Victoria, but something very close to home for Alex and I was the Samoan tsunami disaster, a few months back. It was exactly a year ago that we not only spent Christmas in Samoa, but specifically on Lalomanu Beach, which was one of the worst affected areas on the small Pacific island country. The first thing I did when I found out what had happened was contact my friend Tina whom I met when I was in Samoa. She is a very close friend of and known to many people who live in Lalomanu (she is a New Zealander but spends a lot of time in Samoa), and this was her response:
“Hey Ombi, not good news. Here’s an update pasted from an email to another friend, sorry for that, but hard to keep up with everyone. Love and light to you guys for your thoughts for our beloved family xxx
‘As you already know, the devastation is heartbreaking. Tai and Sili are both in the hospital, and Tai had surgery last night for her injuries. They are both going to be okay. Tai lost her little baby boy, 11 months old. Mepa lost her eldest daughter, Moanalei, 8 yrs old.”
I was heartbroken; these were people that we had spent Christmas with only months ago. Tina went on to say that she and her partner Greg were going to fly to Samoa and try and help out with things, including raising some money to help out. It’s amazing how “putting out the word” helped raise a decent amount of funds. Tina and Greg have a blog, www.tinadesuza.blogspot.com, where they have documented and written a lot about what occurred. Tina has thanked all of those who donated , and I would like to do the same; thank my friends who not only donated money, but who also sent messages of encouragement and support. The following is what my special friend Kelly Jones had to say:
“So that you can more clearly understand how petty I currently feel, my biggest problems in the last week have been:
• Where to hang the new mirror and are the hooks strong enough to hold it;
• What to cook for a small party we had on Saturday night;
• How do I deal with preschoolers discussing somewhat adult concepts
• How to get the %^# report done for work that I have been avoiding for 2 weeks now;
• Is mersyndol or nurafen plus better for sinusitis?
• How do you get teenagers to be more considerate of your social life?
• What is the true meaning of life? (This one is an ongoing discussion).
That’s it, that’s all I got”.
Thanks Kel, there’s nothing like perspective!
In September, I also helped out with and co-compered Cubamemucho, a three day Cuban dance and workshop extravaganza. Alex was also involved, doing various things to help out. This event saw Cuban artists unite, and show Melbourne what the world of salsa and dance is really all about! It was hosted at Melbourne’s Forum Theatre, by Christina of the Cuban Dance Academy. During three days, a number of workshops were conducted at the Victorian College of the Arts, where the various artists taught everything from salsa, to merengue to reggaeton. The participants loved it! Nighttimes were at the Forum Theatre, and included salsa competitions, national salsa bands and floor shows by the Cuban artists. Three fun packed but full on days and nights….enjoyed by all!
As the year ticked away, I continued to search for work, and on my birthday (14th October) I was rewarded with a job. I had gone for a few jobs, even getting second interviews for a few. The job I finally did get was as the manager of an organisation called Inclusive Leisure Victoria, which does policy and advocacy work on a state wide level, around the inclusion of people with disabilities in the recreation and leisure sectors. I have now been there for a little over two months, and am really enjoying it. I get to go out and about do a lot of networking, which is right up my alley. In addition, it’s in Northcote and literally two minutes from home. I should be walking, as so many people have told me, but I do use my car for work, so I mostly don’t (walk that is).
I continue to keep fit and go to the gym most days. Whilst not the gym junkie I used to be years ago (some people would debate this), I still take my health and fitness seriously! No use waking up at 50 and trying to find the “miracle cure”! A little bit every day is my motto!
What happened next…Christmas and its over-commercialisation descended upon us like a bull to a red rag! I must say that I was a bit overwhelmed, if not repulsed, by the over-the-top commercialism of the whole event. People seem to have forgotten what it’s all about. I do understand and respect those who are Christian and choose to celebrate what is for them, the true meaning of this occasion. There are also many who celebrate the tradition and want to spend time with their loved ones. What does my head in, however, is the sickening consumerism that so many succumb to! Ridiculously expensive gifts, maxing out credit cards buying things that we cannot afford, trying to keep up with the Jones’…and the list goes on!
A couple of weeks before Christmas, Alex and I spent a few days at another special friend’s beach house in Rye. Laurice and I have been friends since our Santa Maria College high school days. Laurice, her partner Laurie and Alex and I had a great few days down there…just before the Christmas crowds. Apart from going to the Peninsula Hot Springs, and “chilling out” in hot water, so to speak, all we did was laze around, eat, go for walks and relax! Whilst down there, we also visited Harry, who is my friend Rita’s father-in-law. Harry spends his weeks in Melbourne and weekends in Rosebud.
We had a lovely Christmas this year, spent at my brother’s house, along with my sister-in-law Karen, nephew James, Karen’s mum (Anne), her partner Tony, dad Alan, and her nephew Jason and partner Jenny. It was a low key affair, spent with loved ones, and we all had a great afternoon. Later we visited some aunts, and then we went on next door to Skippy and Lizzie’s.
My brother and his family took off on Boxing Day, and they will be spending two weeks in Rye. Alex and I went to visit for a couple of days and had a blast. The weather was perfect; nice and hot as I like it…we relaxed, ate, chilled and went to the beach. We also went for a few walks, and I a run. I can just see it, we will be back at work in no time at all.
We spent the few days before the new year simply taking it easy. New Year’s Eve was equally as relaxing. Alex and I went out for a Vietnamese meal with Dad, and later Alex and I went to Esther’s house (Esther Garcia, now Finocchiaro), where she was having a small gathering. As you may remember my very special friend Rita (Garcia) is more like my sister (she is currently living in Dubai with her family), and I have long sice been the adopted “fourth” Garcia girl. Maribel (Esther and Rita’s older sister) and Emma, her gorgeous daughter, were also down from Brisbane, where they live. So, it was a bit like a family reunion….but, you were DEFINITELY missing Reet! The idea was that Alex and I were later to meet Linda, and Richard and Jo in Linda’s apartment in Port Melbourne, but the skies opened up and there was an alluvial downpour…normally, I would whinge, but Melbourne is so desparate for rain! The lights went out in Esther’s house, and the lightning was pretty full on…so after a few phone calls, we decided to stay put!
5, 4, 3, 2, 1…Happy New Year! Hugs all around,
including Alex telling me that it was the best decade of his life! (We got together in mid 1999).
So, here we are in 2010, and I cannot but keep asking myself, “Where did the last 10 years go?”
I remember so very clearly living in Ecuador in 1999, and counting down the months and then the days to the new millennium! So, another decade just bit the dust!
My promise to myself is to write more often in the New Year, as it’s so hard to “summarise” when you let so many months slip by. I have not mentioned my dear friend Rita and her family having come on a couple of occasions this year from Dubai where they live, and my friend Maria’s 50th, just last week. Then of course, there was Kobie, Liz and Daniel’s visit from the USA in October. They came for Kobie’s sister’s wedding, as did her mum, Maggie and partner Matt. All of these people mean so much to me and are truly special… but the list could go on and on.
I want to finish this off by saying that I feel honoured to have so many special people in my life, and you all know who you are. 2010 not only saw current friendships made more solid, but also saw new ones flourish; Rachela and Havanah, we welcome you. May 2010 bring every one of you much health, happiness and joy, surrounded by those whom you love, and who love you right back! 2009…Going, going…gone!
But…we already have lots to look forward to, including another visit from our dear friends Yuko and Nashville San from Japan, who will come to visit us again in June, as well as having booked a trip to Sarawak, Malaysia, in July…
…2010…here we come!!!
Dedication 1: For all of those affected in the tsunami in Samoa, and especially Tai and her family. Not because Tai was the only one to suffer, but because we personally met her.
Tai, our wish to you, Sili and your known and loved ones is that you may find peace and tranquillity in 2010. We will never forget your strength of spirit, and the hospitality you showed us on Christmas Day 2008. We are glad that we were able to give something back to you, and hope it has helped to rebuild your lives in even a small way. Tai, you will always remain in our hearts.
Dedication 2: For my husband, partner, best friend, soul mate and love of my life, Alex. You bring peace to my heart, and joy to my soul. Thank you for your unwavering and constant love, support and passion. You are a truly special and unique human being, and I feel honoured to have you in my life. I adore and admire you, and your character makes me proud to be around you. If what goes around comes around, you have nothing but amazing things to look forward to! Thanks for helping make me who I am today. I am a better person for having you in my life, and you have taught me more than you could ever imagine. I will always be here for you as you have been for me.
“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.” – Mohandas K. Gandhi.
(Photos: 1.- Ombi and Alex cooking “patacones” (fried plantains), an Ecuadorian speciality. 2.- With Jo and Richard at the Victoria Market, night market. 3.-Memories – Lalomanu Beach, Samoa, Christmas 2008, before the tsunami. 4.- The beautiful Tai, strumming her guitar, Christmas Eve, 2008. 5.- Alessia and Seo, teaching and struttin’ their stuff at one of the Cubamemucho workshops. 6. – Ida opening up her Christmas present (I have known Ida for over 20 years and used to work in the house in which she lives). 7.- Ombi and Brandon (Brandon works at the gym I go to, and he invited us over for what can only be described as a veritable banquet! 8.- Harry Adams, Ombi and Alex at Harry’s house in Rye. 9.- James (my nephew) with Nanny Anne and Nonno Dino. 10.- At Rye beach with James, Fulvio (brother) and sister-in-law, Karen. 11.- With my “sisters”, Esther on the left and Maribel on the right – the only one missing is Rita, who lives in Dubai. The Garcia Clan adopted me years ago! 12.- Havanah. 13.- Happy 50th Birthday Maria Brancolino. 14.- Moi and Alex! 15.- Dad and Gerry O’Connor, a very special family friend who lives in Yea. 16.- Ombi doing acrobatics at Rye beach. 17.- L to R: Linda, Ombi, Richard and Jo, the world travellers, having dinner at Linda’s house. 18.- Ombi with Maggie and Matt. 19.- Alex and Carmela Carey ( I used to work with Carmela at Vision Australia). 20.- L to R: Kobie, Alex and Liz, with Daniel in the front.)