It is now the coldest month in Sydney and that is great for this is the season best spent at home cuddled up with your loved one be it your dog, your mum or your partner. In my case, it is my big huggable bear as we hibernate together, away from the craziness called Oxford Street and Kings Cross. However I have not been kept idle at work and that is why I have not blogged for some time (shhh!) but work has eased a little bit of late and so I am grabbing this chance to squeeze in a winter report of the recent happenings, observations and thoughts in my life.
If you have not heard, Australia has a new prime minister, the first female one ever. It was a little dramatic the way she got into the position by ousting the previous guy from her own party which got the news and media all fired up for some time. You would think that a single, red-headed, out-and-proud atheist who has co-habited with her male partner (a hairdresser!) for the longest time (ie. living in sin in the eyes of the Christian fundies) would be a great advocate of gay rights and gay marriage right? Sadly, politics remain politics and Australia remains in the dark ages. However her actions would be under very close scrutiny from now on–her hypocritical pandering to the Christian right as an atheist for political gains must be exposed at all cost.
Still on the gay topic–recently the gay community here got into a bit of a flurry with the release of Sex and the City 2 as well as Kylie’s new album. Well I have watched the movie and listened to the album not because I subscribe to this gay stereotype (I watched because it was a group outing and I had no say; I listened because I do like Kylie and not due to her gay icon status). Of course the World Cup did not help pull gays away from their addictions and actually made things worse. I know that gays being averse to sports is yet another stereotype but if you put aside the folly of stereotyping, there is actually a big element of truth in stereotypes. For me, I got hit in the stomach by a soccer ball when I was young and swore off soccer (and sports) ever since (you can say that it all started with sports-phobia) and I am sure many others were not good at sports or even bullied because of that (especially so in this sporty country). So there is a very good reason behind gays avoiding sports and over time finding them boring. I am sure there is a parallel stereotype about straights not being attuned to their sensitive sides but it is highly unlikely that straight youths are being taunted in schools for not being able to sing and dance well. Though definitely unfair in comparison, I am not going to lose sleep over this (not when it is so nice and warm under my doona these winter nights).
In case you think that I spend my non-working hours doing nothing (but catching up on a highly-recommended series “Brothers and Sisters”), you are only partially right. Recently I hosted a visiting Singaporean friend for one week and we spent a weekend at a bed and breakfast in Hunter Valley amidst the vineyards. I am not a big wine-drinker but there were not many places that could be toured within a weekend that could be booked just a day before. I am glad we did it though as it was good to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life once in a while and totally relax in another world (this one takes place in slow motion). I also had the first experience of getting sloshed in the day. It was nice catching up with my friend and seeing another (albeit touristy) part of New South Wales. My friend lamented that there are no such getaway places within yawn-inducing Singapore and how lucky yet foolish I am for not taking full advantage of this “feature”. Interestingly, I used to feel the same way but now I complain about Sydney being boring. I wonder where my next greener pasture would be…
There is a stark contrast between my working and non-working hours for I guess it is completely logical to have an inverse relationship between how productive one is within the office and without. At the end of a crazy work day, I just want to wind down and do absolutely nothing (that includes not cooking). On the work front, things seem to be progressing well. I just had a week-long training, something that I fought tooth and nail for. Although it is totally ridiculous for an employee to have to jostle for essential training, one can actually work this to one’s advantage. By being aggressive in this regard, you can appear to be pro-active especially when some of your other colleagues are * L * A * Z * Y * with a capital everything!
Also, it seems that I have had the highest percentage pay-increment compared to all my other contractor workmates–my boss divulged this little titbit entirely of his own volition. Well that was a long time coming especially seeing that the company owes me a year worth of increment. During my performance appraisal, my boss (who knows that I am one of the better performers around) asked me how much I would like my increment to be (it was like giving me a blank cheque!). I feigned a sort of uninterested “whatever-the-market-rate-is” kind of response plus a “say-10%” with the knowledge that the current market rate is lower than that. Suffice to say I did not get as high as 10% but am happy that my performance is finally being recognised. In actual fact, a high percentage of a small number is still a small number so what I got did not matter to the company at all. My boss also told me that not everyone received an increment–I really hope the curry-lover did not get it! By the way, there is a running gag amongst the Caltex people that I am working too fast and that I need to be slowed down with more work–I genuinely do not know how to react to this–should I be a team player and try to fit in like the rest by being inefficient and unproductive? Anyway despite the positive outlook I have at work now, I think I still want to talk to my Caltex boss about jumping to Caltex next month (my 2-year anniversary as a contractor)–I am seriously dreading that meeting but for the sake of my career, I just have to bite the bullet and stop procrastinating.
Talking about procrastination, my buying of an apartment has officially moved from a phase of procrastination to one of impossibility (for now). I realised that if one were to borrow more than 80% of the apartment cost from the bank, one would be charged a hefty amount of loan insurance (to protect banks against loan defaults). This means that with the size and location I desire in my item of purchase coupled with the rapid rise in property prices, I cannot afford the 20% down payment at the moment. But I am almost there and when I am, watch out world of apartment-hunting, I will conquer you! To reach that goal, I am saving like crazy and thankfully the bank savings interest rates here are good. The one I am with is the best in town and is at the (risk-free) rate of 6.51% (with the paltry rates of < 0.5% in Singapore, no wonder people are pushed to invest in other riskier ventures). To save a lot means to spend a little and with the high cost of living in Sydney (it is even higher than that of Manhattan–can you believe it?) it means an extreme cutting down of unnecessary expenditures. I think I am doing rather well. I know I should be saving my tax return this year but maybe I should give myself a little treat (not that the amount would be anything decent).
So there you have it, my (hopefully concise enough) winter report. The season is up for a few more weeks and when it ends, I am not going to miss it even though I love it. When it is so cold, it is hard to organise outdoor photo shoots especially when they are of the nude kind (I am currently in touch with four local photographers trying to firm up several projects). With the cold weather, I also cannot be as close to nature as possible, something that I absolutely enjoy. So as Ision and I continue to warm each other up (the biggest winter perk), I will be looking forward to summer when the kits will all have to go!