Today during a guest presentation at work, the speaker told our group that overseas Australia is known as the fight capital of the world..."If you want to go to a country and get beat up, go to Australia" is what he said news programs in other countries report about Australi to which I was very emphatically (and internally) nodding my head. He later wrapped up his talk by bringing it full circle back to this idea that Aus is a perpetual fight club by saying, "Other countries who think that of us are crazy. We are about being good mates to each other....blah blah blah....built of mateship.....help each other.....blah blah blah, mates." And I was thinking, "I think the foreign news stories have got it right about it here," but of course you can't say that as the only non-Aussie in the room!
For all the shit I get from Australians about our lack of gun control in America, I can honestly say I've never felt as unsafe in my life as I have living here and no one I know back home even owns a gun. Granted, I lived in a lot nicer neighborhoods than I do here, but even walking around big cities in the States I felt a lot safer than I do here in my home in Australia.
Before living here I guess I didn't realize the polite segregation that still happens in our society back home. There you have your ghettos, your working class neighborhoods, your middle class neighborhoods, and your upper middle class and then rich neighborhoods. I don't know if city planners here are just dumb or what, but you can have a decent middle class neighborhood and then someone will decide it's an awesome idea to stick a group of housing commission homes (Aus' version of the ghetto) or some kind of pub/club on the corner so you can never just have a safe, quiet neighborhood.
MOTH Dude and I currently live in a neighborhood I'd describe as working class with the immediate houses around us occupied by families and senior citizens. We could afford to live somewhere nicer, but we're saving for the wedding and just saving, in general, for the future so we don't have to buy a place in a neighborhood like the one we are in now. And really with housing commission blocks everywhere it doesn't seem like there are a ton of "nice" neighborhoods for us to move in to anyway. We could spend $100-$200 more per week (that's how rent is paid here, by the way-still find that strange) and we'd be having the same problems we are having now. I should know, my parents' paid a lot of rent money when I was living in a nice place in Newcastle during college and I was still woken up most weekends by people fighting in the street.
This past week I've had to call the cops twice and also heard a horrific story about an incident that happened to one of MOTH Dude's Uncle's friends. Last Friday night, MOTH stayed back at work to have drinks with coworkers so I was home alone and watching a movie in bed, when at about 11, I heard a couple arguing in the street. When I first moved to Australia, it would've been something I would've really tensed up over but now it's kind of a common occurrence so I kept watching my movie, figuring they'd move on. A few minutes later I could tell that the couple had moved in to the little park across the street from us and I heard the girl yell, "Ow, stop, you're hurting me!" so I paused my movie to listen to what was going on and the girl continued to yell this a few more times so I decided to call the cops in case the girl was really getting hurt. I heard her boyfriend tell her, "I'll pull you by your f*ing hair if I have to" and it sounded like that was what he was doing. I spoke to the cops, but at that point it sounded like the couple was moving on. The dispatcher said she'd still have officers come check the park to make sure everything was ok there. I waited 10 minutes at the front door and they never showed up. I looked out the window any time a car drove passed for the next 30 minutes...still no cops! Glad the girl wasn't getting totally beat up in the park or she would have been in serious trouble. It also made me angry because it was obvious that none of my neighbors had called the cops to report the incident, either, even though they were all home, including the family who lives directly next to the park where the girl's screams were coming from.
Tuesday night we ended up having a late night since I got dinner going later than usual and it took longer to make than it should have and we decided to watch a movie while we ate dinner which finished later than we had expected. So by the time we checked emails, MOTH did dishes, and I got settled in to bed to read for a few minutes and he jumped in the shower so he wouldn't have to before his 4:15 leave time in the morning, it was after 11. At some point a car pulled up, but I just assumed it was our neighbor pulling in to his driveway which is right next to our bedroom window and that he must be saying good bye to some friends. They talked on and on and on and I thought, "Alright, Dude, it's nearly 11:30 on a Tuesday night, wrap it up" but then when I really started listening the voices didn't sound like they were coming from behind my head, they sounded like they were coming from directly in front of our bedroom windows. I got up and went to our front room and peaked out of the windows and there was a station wagon with a bunch of guys standing around it, blocking our driveway. Out of all the places to park on the street, they didn't pull over in front of the park or the vacant block/nature strip next to our house or even properly in front of our house, they parked across the end of our driveway. Something about it creeped me out and I turned on the porch light so the guys got the hint, like, "Hey, we're in here, you can shut up and leave now" and they did get in their car, but then they just sat out there in the dark. I went in to the bathroom and told MOTH about them and when he got out he went to the front and peaked out, too. We turned off all the lights to try and hint at them again that we were there and were wanting to sleep, but the car just sat there and we were like, "Are these guys the dumbest/loudest burglars alive or what?" MOTH Dude decided to go out to our laundry room and make sure it was locked up and I sat on our bed waiting for him to come back in. As soon as he got out of the back door, the doors of the car opened and I heard people walking around in our front yard. I started to panic about them going in to the backyard where MOTH was but I couldn't move. Luckily, MOTH came back in and said as he was locking up, he saw the guys walking up the vacant block all the way down to the end of it where there is nothing, but easy access in to our backyard so I said, "Okay, I'm calling the cops." So for the second time in four days, I put in an emergency call and the dispatcher said she'd have someone out here quickly. We waited 5 minutes, heard the guys throw some cans and stuff on our lawn and then their car started up and they pulled away. I started to feel like an idiot for being paranoid and called the dispatch back and they said they would cancel the call out. For the next hour, every little cricket chirp or bat screech had me sitting up in bed and looking out the window to make sure no one was out there. When MOTH's alarm went off at 3:45, I had already been lying awake for nearly 20 minutes. As it got light, I was able to get about an hour's sleep before my own alarm went off. Not a fun way to spend a night and I was a zombie at work on Wednesday.
To just pull up to someone's house and block their driveway when the whole street is wide open and full of regular spots to pull in to is just weird to me. As a teenager, I'd sometimes pull over with a friend to have a chat in front of a random house, but it was always in a spot in front of the house, not blocking anyone's driveway and we hardly ever got out of the car so the people inside the house would not be woken up by us.
Finally, the last concerning incident happened Sunday night: Before we got in to bed, MOTH said, "Oh by the way, Uncle B's friend left the local club the other night to walk his friend, who had had too much to drink, back to his house which was only about 300 feet from the club when people started harassing them from a car. They must have yelled something back and 3 people (including a girl) jumped out of the car and immediately knocked the drunk guy out and proceeded to beat and stab Uncle B's friend. He is now in a medically induced coma." The club they were walking home from is about 2 miles from our house and is in a really quiet neighborhood. I was shocked and felt sick to my stomach. Luckily, two women came out and stopped the attack and managed to get the license plate of the car and all 3 people who were a part of it are now in jail. The police think this attack is linked to another one that happened about 5 miles in the opposite direction from our house a few weeks back where a guy was walking home from another club and a car randomly pulled over and beat him with a metal bar. These people were just out cruising, purposely looking for people to hurt.
WTF?!!? I feel like at least at home if I got shot it would be because I walked in to the middle of a gang showdown or in front of a deer a hunter was about to take down, but here I am hearing about random, violent attacks like that one more and more often. I'm starting to get really paranoid. I'm afraid to go out in to our laundry room which is right outside the back door at night, even though MOTH has just installed a flood light for me. Every bump in the dark has me immediately awake and on edge waiting for someone to break in and hurt us, especially since for awhile we were having problems with people stealing stuff out of our laundry room or I'd go out there and notice something random was out of order or that the toilet in there had been used. So creepy to think someone was out there walking around our house while we were asleep!
My fears (however unfounded they may be) coupled with the stress I am feeling from work and my general blues from not seeing my sister in over a year and my parents in nearly a year have caused me to start compulsively picking at my arms in an attempt to comfort and soothe myself, something I haven't done to this degree since I was about 14 years old. My arms have multiple gaping, and in some cases, infected holes on them. I know they look awful and I know I should stop, but I haven't been able to. I've finally decided to cover the spots with bandaids and wear long sleeves so I can't get at them through the day. I still find myself unable to stop picking tiny little bumps I think I see on my shoulders before bed, though, but at least my arms are starting to heal. MOTH was getting really, really worried about me and honestly, I was starting to get worried about me, too.
I think I just need a breather. I need to get out of Aus for awhile. I need to see my family. I need to get away from customers telling me I'm incompetent or a f*ing asshole because they don't like the privacy laws I have to follow in dealing with their or their husband's or their grandma's accounts. I need to get a solid month's worth of quality sleep in a place where I can fall in to a deep sleep comfortably. I need to just get away with MOTH Dude and have some fun, rather than be like roomies who see each other at the end of a long day for an hour before passing out, which is how I feel our weeks are going right now.
I'm not sure what the solution will be once I get back here, but, for my sanity's sake, there may need to be some changes put in to place. Every day I wish the solution could be moving back to California, but that is not an option at this point so I'll just need to do a better job of sucking it up.
I also know this post has me coming off timid and weak and probably a smidge (or more?) crazy, but I'm exhausted and beat down to my core and beyond caring right now.
Four weeks from tomorrow I will be in Kauai and as I stated as my Facebook status the other day: "Hoping the next month will fly by and I'll magically wake up in a jacuzzi in Kauai with a mai tai in hand, hanging with my parents and Moth Dude."
Here's hoping for nicer, saner things to blog about soon...