Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I Was Wrong.

It is time that I take another look outward - I came across an article in the Washington Post yesterday, but none other than the former First Lady of the United States of America, Laura Bush.


Then, in search of the same article later today, I came across an article about the former First Lady of the United States of America by another Washington Post commentator.


After reading the two articles, I confess that I wrote Laura Bush off many years ago because of her terrible choice of husband. I could not have possibly known that, despite being married to a man that is not known for his strong human-rights record, Laura Bush would be such an advocate for the health and welfare of women around the world. It is hard to imagine that a woman who slept in the same bed at night with a man who comfortably incarcerated thousands for a number of years without charge in Guantanamo Bay could quietly champion issues such as the education of women in places like Afghanistan and the human rights issues of Burma.

Firstly, I need to state that this post on my blog is not another opportunity for me to "Bush-Bash". I think the world has spent far too long discussing the consequences of the Bush Administrations' foreign policy on Afghanistan and Iraq, and to a greater extent, the Middle East. Instead, I am writing today about the way in which Laura Bush overwhelmed me with that first article on Burma. If you have a chance to read it, please do. You will find yourself amazed by Laura Bush's strong and determined position with respect to what needs to be done in Burma.

This blog entry is my statement to the world, admitting that I simply had no idea that Laura Bush championed such causes. I imagine that, like myself, many women outside of the United States saw Laura Bush as the stepford-cookie-baking-white-picket-fenced mother who happened to have two out of control twin daughters, a gun-toting husband and a penchant for lemon-coloured business suits and pearl necklaces. All jokes aside, I have found myself applauding Laura Bush for her article about Burma and its human rights issues, particularly that of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Why is it that I was not aware of Laura Bush's activism? Was I too busy slamming her husband's political stance to understand that she may have had her own opinions and agendas? Did I assume that she would not have been actively involved in humanitarian issues unrelated to that of her husband? Or did I assume that she would only limit herself to "domestic issues" and not stand up on the same large stage as her husband with respect to global humanitarian issues?

Or, am I missing the point completely? Is it, rather, the way that Laura Bush has gone about these issues that suprises me the most?

Is it those who yell the loudest, fight the hardest, and hold positions of greater power that are most likely to be the greatest champions of these issues?

What I am beginning to learn is that this is not the case. You do not need to yell the loudest, protest the longest, or climb to the top of whatever rung of the ladder you consider the most influential. As the second article by Kathleen Parker states:

"In part, it may be because Mrs. Bush's demure librarian-teacher persona has minimized her appeal to the media. But Bush's Texas manners should not be confused with passivity. She is a serious player whose White House tenure provides lessons for the next first lady."

I am slowly learning, in all areas of my life, that by carefully addressing issues at a slow and steady pace, I can actually make a difference. Perhaps I have taken a page out of Laura Bush's book and have realised that I do not necessarily need to scream the loudest, or fight the hardest. I will find my own way to help the world and like Laura Bush, I will one day change lives of those less fortunate than I.

(****On a side note, I am actually quite impressed by Kathleen Parkers' Washington Post articles, a selection of which can be found at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/linkset/2008/10/20/LI2008102001816.html)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

An Open Letter to Eleanor...

Dear Eleanor,

I sat and watched you today. I saw you clench your fists in anger. I saw you bury your head in your tiny little hands in frustration. I saw you demand to use the fork on your own without assistance. I saw your eagerness to step beyond the front door. I saw your tears as you were held back.

I saw me in you.

I do not know whether to celebrate you or discourage you.

If I could sit and tell you what I know about myself, with just two weeks until I turn twenty-nine years of age, I would do so. Yet, I look at you, I see me in you, but I do not know enough to pass on to you just yet.

What I do know is that I am passionate and indeed you are too. I have fought hard for what I believe in and at times, I too have clenched my fists with anger and buried my head in my own two hands.

I have cried tears that I never thought would stop and I have never been afraid to say that I have done so. Your tears are like mine. They are of frustration. They are because you want to understand but cannot.

You will never be afraid to show people the rawness of your emotions because that is who you are.

You will fight to understand why things happen, time and time again.

While you will grow up strong, intelligent and successful, you will not always know why things turn out as they do.

You will not have the answer to everything. You will not be able to change situations.

You will not be able to change people into who you want them to be.

You will not be able to heal others of their pain. You will hurt, you will cry, you will feel as though all of your energy has been taken away by situations which are out of your control, yet you will seek to control it, because that is the only way you know how.

You will love selflessly and you will be loyal to the core. Despite the amount of times you will be hurt, your loyalty will not waiver, as this is how you have been taught.

You will sometimes love those who do not love you and you will never understand why.

You will feel lonely among a crowd of familiar faces and you will feel no closer to knowing why.

You will never need to change because you will one day, like I have, embrace the fact that that this is who you are.

Much love,
Your Auntie K.

In Honour...

I'm Gonna Make A Change,
For Once In My Life
It's Gonna Feel Real Good,
Gonna Make A Difference
Gonna Make It Right . . .

As I, Turn Up The Collar On My
Favourite Winter Coat
This Wind Is Blowin' My Mind
I See The Kids In The Street, With Not Enough To Eat Who Am I, To Be Blind? Pretending Not To See Their Needs
A Summer's Disregard,
A Broken Bottle Top
And A One Man's Soul
They Follow Each Other On
The Wind Ya' Know
'Cause They Got Nowhere
To Go
That's Why I Want You To

I'm Starting With The Man In The Mirror I'm Asking Him To Change His Ways
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
(If You Wanna Make The
World A Better Place)
Take A Look At Yourself, And
Then Make A Change

I've Been A Victim Of A Selfish Kind Of Love It's Time That I Realize That There Are Some With No Home, Not A Nickel To Loan Could It Be Really Me, Pretending That They're Not Alone?

A Willow Deeply Scarred,
Somebody's Broken Heart
And A Washed-Out Dream
(Washed-Out Dream)
They Follow The Pattern Of
The Wind, Ya' See
Cause They Got No Place
To Be
That's Why I'm Starting With
(Starting With Me!)

I'm Starting With The Man In
The Mirror
I'm Asking Him To Change
His Ways
And No Message Could Have
Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World
A Better Place
(If You Wanna Make The
World A Better Place)
Take A Look At Yourself And
Then Make A Change
(Take A Look At Yourself And
Then Make A Change)

I'm Starting With The Man In
The Mirror
I'm Asking Him To Change His
(Change His Ways-Ooh!)
And No Message Could've
Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World
A Better Place
(If You Wanna Make The
World A Better Place)
Take A Look At Yourself And
Then Make That . . .
(Take A Look At Yourself And
Then Make That . . .)

** pic by http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1f/Cambodian_children.jpg
** Lyrics of "Man in the Mirror", Michael Jackson

Legends Riding Ranch...

This is the beautiful riding ranch in Malaysia where the accident happened.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

B With The Three Loves of His Life....

His coffee, his Blackberry and his GPS!


Playing with Photoshop

Recovering from a Fractured Spine 101

One of the rare moments out of my back brace...

The Accident

I remember the morning of the accident, on my bike, powering up the Malaysia highways in near 40 degrees celcius heat. I remember my body feeling strong, albeit a little dehydrated. I remember feeling invincible, despite feeling tired. I felt like I could ride on forever. That was the bike ride.

I do not really remember too much in the hours after the accident during the horse ride that afternoon. I remember the horse going from a trail walk to a gallop all of a sudden. I remember instinctively making the decision to let go of the reigns. I remember having no control of my body in order to stop my back hitting the ground first. I remember my head in its helmet, slamming against the ground.

I remember the moment I realised that I was not able to get up and walk. I remember wanting to cry but being unable to. From that moment onwards, I do not remember much at all. Apparently, I descended into shock quite quickly. Rain was pouring down and the palm trees were not doing much to stop the water from soaking my body. It apparently took an hour for help to come.

I vaguely remember the pain of being lifted into a car by five people. I recall the slow and bumpy ride back to the horse ranch. I remember Bart's hand reaching into the car to squeeze mine and I remember telling me that I would be okay.

I recall the long ride to the hospital, with every corner, every bump, hurting my back. I remember slowly being loaded onto an emergency room bed, the lights blinding my already sore eyes.

The last thing I recall that night was the feeling of pethidine in my body, like a blissful white cloud consuming me.

Over the last two weeks, I have had to come to grips with the fact that I am now required to rest, in order to heal the three fractures in my spine - the T9, T10 and T11 spinous processes. In the grand scheme of back injuries, it was not the most serious, for which I thank the Lord with all of my heart. I can only thank the Lord that my spinal cord remained in tact and the fractures were not as serious as they could have been.

Being unable to active is like taking away everything I have worked towards in the last year or so. I have worked hard at training and those who know me well enough know that it directly affects the way I view life and I view myself. As a result, I have descended into somewhat of a dark cloud of sadness over the last week or so. I have no energy, no desire to get up, I cannot see a light at the end of the injury tunnel. When I feel down, my usual coping mechanism is to go for a run, or a bike ride or a swim. Or, even better, travel and do photography. Now, I am back in Sydney, in my home town, back in my old room feeling helpless. I must admit, it is very hard.

I can only imagine how it much feel for those who are permanently incapacitated through spinal injuries. It must be torture. I remind myself of the fact that this too shall pass, and that time heals. Just like heartache. And that those who are broken come back stronger.

In time, I will be that person.

B Attracts Kids Like A Moth to a Flame

Bart starting the BBQ for the Hawaiian Party.

I LOVE this photo!! ha ha ha.

B looking perplexed as a kid asks him how fire is started.

HA HA I love the look on B's face!

The Hawaiian Party @ Casa del Square

The night before biking up to Malaysia, Bart and I held our 2nd party at Casa del Square, this time being a Hawaiian theme! While its going to take a while to get all attendees to get into the spirit of our themed parties, Bart and I were pleased with the turnout! Not a bad turnout, given that I was in charge of the guest list and I have only been in Singapore for 2 months!

Everyone chilling out by the BBQs.

I was the only one that took the plunge and I was sober!

Actually, I was probably the only one in full Hawaiian themed clothes but hey, I was the host! It was my prerogative!

Lynne and Gary, who I now owe so much to - they were riding with me on the trail the day after when the accident happened.

Wen - before the gin and tonic's kicked in.

I love this photo. Firstly, it has the three diving girls (me, Sharon and Wen) plus.. okay, this is a little arrogant, but it also shows my mean set of triceps and shoulders, which are a result of months and months of training. I will get back to that level of fitness! I will!!!

I managed to sneak a ride down the kiddie slide before security spotted me.

Me showing off my famous (or not so famous) Alcoholic Fruit Punch. It was a huge success!

More Shenanigans - Hawaiian Party

K, striking a pose!

J, the Bronzed God, and his female followers.

Drunk man dancing in a floral skirt.

B doing a Madonna-esque "Vogue" pose.

Me, still playing in the water.

A cheeky kiss for J.

Clem giving my punch the "French Seal of Approval". Merci buckets, Clem.

Majella and Jo from RW.

Fooling about with J.

My gorgeous BFF, Wen.


Security: "Have you seen a person wearing a bright orange flotation device, hanging around the 'out of bounds' children's leisure area?"

Kate: "No, Ma'am"

Monday, June 15, 2009

And So The Recovery Begins ...

Hi Everyone,

Annie here again. Just dropping in to post an update.

Kate is doing well, but bored out of her mind and unable to move. In a fair bit of pain obviously, but very upbeat when I last spoke to her.

Mum flies in to Singapore tomorrow and is looking to bring her home as soon as she is able to fly.

Thanks so much for all of your well wishes and messages of support, Kate is extremely grateful! :-)


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bad News Unfortunately ...

Hi Everybody,

Annie here, Kate's sister.

Last night, Kate was thrown from her horse in Malaysia. She was taken to an excellent specialist hospital in Malaysia where she underwent X-Rays and CT Scan to check for spinal cord damage.

This morning, we were advised she has 3 cracks in her spine, in the thoracic region. No paralysis (Thank God) and good prognosis for complete recovery (eventually). She will be being fitted for a back brace ASAP.

She has asked me to post here and on her Facebook to let you all know what is happening with her.


Primarily, because as you would appreciate, she is in a fair bit of pain and not really up for a chat! :-) She appreciates any well wishes or concern, however has asked me to really make clear she cannot talk at this stage!

Also, whilst she has the Blackberry, she can't charge it until later this evening when Bart brings it to her. After this point, she will be able to be in email contact if absolutely necessary.

I am more than happy to keep everyone posted on her behalf, but would request anyone wishing to contact her PLEASE do so via me or our Mum at this stage.

All crazy travels are now officially pending re-examination (and Mum's approval LOL!)

l will be posting regular updates for her here and on the blog for as long as she needs me to.

You can contact me on 0425 279 381 or email: adougherty@gotalk.net.au

You can contact Mum (Ros) on email: mamadawgie@yahoo.com

Please keep her in your thoughts at this point and thank whoever your preferred higher power is that this accident wasn't anymore serious than it already is!

Thanks :-)


Monday, June 8, 2009

20th Anniversary of Tienanmen Square

Whilst sitting in the Sky Lounge on the 28th floor of the boutique hotel Jen in Hong Kong, I find myself flicking aimlessly through "CNN Traveler", a coffee table mazagine that had no doubt been picked up by many hotel guests before me.

I flip through the pages and my eyes rest on an article about George Clooney and his work as a political activist in Darfur. I had read many articles, particularly about poverty being the drawcard for many celebrities, who somehow think that by doing charity work it gives credence to their otherwise glamorous lives. George Clooney, on this occasion, was being interviewed by Larry King of CNN and was answering questions about his time in Darfur and his experiences.

Larry King asked George Clooney, words to the effect of
"how did you feel coming back, after witnessing such terrible things in Darfur?"

George Clooney responded bluntly
"I do not want to talk about that. This isnt about me. This is about the people of Darfur."

I was overcome by the sudden realisation that for so many years, I had approached many tragedies, so many cold hard realities about the world, through introspection. I viewed September 11 fearing how I was ever going to trust the world again. I was struck by the enormity of the Boxing Day Tsunami by realising how lucky i was to be alive each day.

Nevertheless, I understood what George Clooney was referring to simply because the night prior, I had accepted the fact that there were things in the world that I was never going to understand, or draw experience from, in the way that I would like. Since coming to Asia, i have learnt that right and wrong in my eyes may not necessarily be right and wrong in anothers. I have learnt that my way of life being normal does not always mean that another's way of life as being abnormal.In Asia, I have learnt that things are not always as they seem. That things are never black and white.

On Thursday, 4 June 2009, I was surrounded by 150,000 people who wanted to show the world that, while things in Asia may not always seem black and white and right and wrong may not always be easily determined, they know injustice. Twenty years before, on that very date, the Chinese population of the world knew that an injustice had occured and twenty years on, they do not forget.

I was standing amongst 150,000 who had chosen on that night to show the world, and in particular, the Chinese Government, that despite the passing of time the Tienanmen Square incident did happen and that innocent young people died as they tried to protest against the communist government of China's rule.

To this very day, the Chinese government will not openly admit that it happened, will not allow their people to acknowledge that it happened publicly, have arrested those who have attempted to speak of the atrocity and for twenty years, they have denied the families of those killed any explanation of why it happened. The Chinese Government, to this day, want China, and the rest of the world to believe that it never happened.

Unfortunately for the Chinese Government, there is still Hong Kong. While region is under Chinese rule once more (after 100 years of being under British rule), Hong Kong still has its own self-governing democratic society - at least for another 50 years.

So on 4 June 2009, Hong Kong was the only region under Chinese rule to be allowed to officially recognise the anniversary of "the June 4 Incident".

And I was there to experience it.

4 June 1989 was the last of many protests which had occurred in China over the previous two months. A number of demonstrations had been held by chinese students and intellectuals, who were witnessing the collapse of many other communist goverments around the world, particularly in eastern europe. The catalyst for these protests was the death of a pro-democracy, anti-corruption official who was killed. Many of the demonstrations centered on Tienanmen Square, in Beijing, but large-scale protests also occurred in cities throughout China, including Shanghai, which remained peaceful throughout the protests.

On 4 June 1989, military tanks cleared Tienanmen Square, Beijing. Violently. Without mercy. Without forgiveness. Many civilians were killed or severely injured. The number of deaths is not known and many different estimates exist (allegedly as a result of the failure of the Chinese Government to admit that the event actually happened). There were early reports of Chinese Red Cross sources giving a figure of 2,600 deaths, but the Chinese Red Cross has denied ever doing so - perhaps as a result of the Chinese Government's control over the organisation. The official Chinese government figure is 241 dead, including soldiers, and 7,000 wounded. (see wikipedia). Needless to say, the violent suppression of the Tiananmen Square protest has caused widespread international condemnation of the PRC government even to this day.

When you are born into a democratic society, you do not understand what it is like to live otherwise. I have also realised though, that in the alternative, if i lived in a communist country, I too would not understand what it would be like to live otherwise either. In Australia, democracy is promoted by a high degree of freedom of political communication (note: not freedom of speech, as many often incorrectly state as being held by all Australians), and to a great degree, freedom of access to media. While the Australian people tend to make criticism of our political representatives a sport, we are given the right to choose who represents them and we place a high degree of trust in our society as a whole to ensure that issues with our political representatives are dealt with publicly, so we can all make a judgment as to who can represent us.

In China, there is no such choice. Society is run by a one-party state under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party who continues to eradicate what it perceives as threats to the social, political and economic stability of the country. It jails political oponents and journalists, regulation of religion, and suppression of independence/secessionist movements. In other words, media is not free. It is Government controlled. You do not elect your representatives. You are ruled. You know only what you have been told - through sources that control what you hear, see and read. You cannot revolt or rebel or raise questions about the way the country is run. It is what it is. Since arriving in Asia, I have been told many stories about China. When they held the Beijing Olympics, they allegedly had pamphlets handed out telling people how to dress. Homeless people were removed from the area. Factories were shut down to stop pollution. China stepped up its efforts to ensure that there was no negative press about the way China was being run. Despite the Olympics being over, they still allegedly interferred with communication channels, TV signals, block out certain channels, block certain reports by CNN, they shut down blog outlets - in fact, they recently blocked Blogger, so some of my friends who live in China cannot read my blogs any longer.

On the anniversary of June 4 Incident, China shut off the area completely. Heavy security cordoned off the entire area to ensure that no person could pay their respects. Mothers of the dead students, particularly those who had been vocal in the past about demanding justice, were placed under house arrest for over a week leading up to the anniversary. This was to ensure that there would be no group gathering to mark the event. Huge numbers of journalists reported interference whilst trying to relay communication from inside China to their countries about the event. Plain clothed police stood in front of CNN cameras as they tried to broad cast.

A week before the anniversary, at the local university, some students had tried to appeal to students to wear white on June 4, as a mark of respect for the dead. On the day, guards were at the gates of the university, allegedly stopping people from entering the university wearing white. When asked why guards were there, the university simply indicated that "there was a special function" on and that required security.

In addition, all Chinese websites that marked the anniversary were shut down on the day. In Shanghai, it was another ordinary day for its citizens. Throughout China, no one spoke of the event.

Hong Kong needed to speak to the world on behalf of its mainland brothers and sisters.

Is this right? Or is this wrong? I will not make any comment about this. Why? Because i have grown up in a society which taught me that democracy is the way to live and that it is a right that I was given when i was born an Australian. Who am I to criticise the way China rules its society? I would only be giving criticism based on my own upbringing. The only thing I could do to mark this event was to support the Chinese who want things to be different. Why? Because they have lived through it, only they know what it is like to live in, what I feel, is a repressive society.

So, I stood as 150,000 chinese took their seats on the ground, ready for the vigil ceremony to begin. I then quietly left as they lit their candles. It was not my place to mourn the dead, or to protest again the Chinese government. It was my job to pay my respects and leave them to it.

As George Clooney rightly said, it did not matter how the event related to me. This event was about the Chinese, and on this occasion, it was clear that they felt that this event should never be forgotten.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Hong Kong - Night Lights

Hong Kong - Ordinary Lives

Contemplating Life in Hong Kong...

Reading the News...

Star Ferry, Hong Kong

Star Ferry Steward

Aboard the Star Ferry

Street Art

Roots spreading across the wall...

Looking down from my HK office...

Umbrella Hat!!! I love them!

Hong Kong By Day