Hema (that's her above) is back at Fair Food. You may remember Hema, she shared Fair Food's customer service role with Kate. Hema came back last week after being away for 8 months on maternity leave raising her new son, Ivan.
About two years ago Hema was the first person from our asylum seeker and newly arrived worker program to move from the packing line into an office role. Like so many businesses in this country Fair Food employs people who have come to Australia with high-level skills who, for lack of connections, fluent English and recognition of qualifications, have to start their working lives over. It's the eternal theme of migration - one generation sacrifices their working lives for ones who follow. I know this but I can't help but think how many Fiona Stanley's, how many Paul Kelly's, how many Cathy Freeman's there are cleaning floors in our hospitals or pulling night shifts guarding office buildings.
Hema has an accounting qualification and sees her future in business administration, she's about as onto it person as you'd see anywhere and everyone loves working with her. But because Hema speaks English as a second language getting that office job in the outside world just isn't going to happen anytime soon. We, however, believe in Hema and we're continuing to give her a go in customer service. We're continuing tosupport Hema with training but we'd also like your help and patience. Hema knows Fair Food's systems very well but English is another challenge altogether - so please, when you call be a little patient and help Hema so she can help you.
I'd also like to welcome our latest set box The Big Salad (that's it up there) which is as it sounds, a box full of salad makings for those who like it raw, crunchy and dressable. Now I've included The Big Salad in the same story as Hema because you may be sensibly using Monday as a bridging day off to get yourself calmly into Australia Day, but like many others, you may have also forgotten to put your Fair Food order in before tonight's deadline. If this should occur and you'd like to get the new Big Salad Box or anything else for that matter then email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Hema on 8673 6288 and she'll put things right.
Remember we're delivering Australia Day Tuesday as normal.
The 2016 Unglut Your Gut Challenge
Week 3 of the challenge and it's Australia Day weekend, the end of summer holiday season. School's going back, you can't pretend you're catching up on emails at work anymore and there's not another long weekend until Labour Day. Now, if ever there was a week to draw some kind of line-in-the-getting-your-life-in-order-sand this is it.So forget your New Years resolutions - with the sheer number of social obligations, holiday situations and days over 35C in January they were always doomed to fail - now is the moment, this is the week to throw yourself fully into selfless self-improvement.
For this very reason we have made this the last week you can join the Unglut Your Gut Challenge - so grab a long intestinal lifeline and commit to four weeks of rebuilding your second brain (aka your beneficial gut bacteria) because if it's anything like mine your first one needs all the help it can get.
IT WORKS LIKE THIS...
To take the challenge thereâ€™s three very important steps (you have to do all of these or you don't get the fermented goodies)
Step 1. Place an order before midnight February 1st
Step 2. Order for 4 CONSECUTIVE WEEKS (Orders need to be $30 or more)
Step 3 Activate the challenge by entering the code GUT in the promo box with your FIRST order
Do all this and weâ€™ll deliver with your 4th order these two powerful probiotic products; a 314gm bottle of Patâ€™s Veg (various flavours) and a 330ml bottle of Kombuchaid Lemon & Ginger or Blackberry & Ginger. Problems - email us or call 8673 6288 for help.
Summer reading continues with The Cabbage Heart of Darkness Part IV
Part IV. Bok Choi
On our flight from Singapore to Sumatra I'm reading an article in the airline magazine entitled MyPerfectAmalfi Romance. Fresh from the salons of Milan the author and his immaculately dressed companion drive their sporty Alfa Romeo down the Amalfi coast road. At a fishing village they board a restored wooden trawler and dive in crystal waters for Roman treasure. As the sun sets they eat a meal of spiny blue lobster risotto with bergamot, peas with marjoram washed down with a fine Franciacorta. They finish their day with a moonlight stroll along the beachfront returning to their hotel for a limoncello nightcap. A gypsy violinist plays somewhere in the distance...... In the photos everything is just as perfect - the couple, the car, the clothes, the boat, the hotel room. Everything is so cool, so clean, so new.
Medan is hot, dirty and old. We breathe in the humid smog. Halfway into the city the freeway ends inexplicably. Funnelled through bone-crunching potholes into a canyon of crumbling buildings, we make bewildering high-speed u-turns before arriving downtown in the middle of rush hour. Medanâ€™s heart pumps rivers of scooters in and out of main arteries and side streets. Our boys stare wide-eyed out the window. Road rules, traffic lights, boundaries between road and sidewalk are meaningless. Suddenly we jolt to a stop outside our hotel and squint at the shimmering tower in front of us. On closer inspection the building appears to be entirely covered in sheets of shiny golden contact.
I fill out our check-in form next to a giant glass bok choi on the reception desk . As we head to the lift I ask the young porter about the sculpture and he tells me itâ€™s a good luck symbol. I ask him why bok choi is lucky he doesn't know but he promises to ask. He opens the door, turns on the TV and air con. I tip him and ask if he knows where I can buy a pair of shorts in Medan. He tells me to come see him at the end of his shift.
An hour later we are in a taxi heading off into the night with Agung, the porter, in the front seat. Agung is a farmerâ€™s son; he has a tourism degree and hopes to start his own rainforest treking business. For now he makes about a hundred dollars a month working at the hotel and taking odd shifts at a burger franchise. On the edge of town we drive through a forest of newhigh rise apartments that have spring up out of the tropical scrub. We stop in front of a very large new shopping mall.
Inside is a retail dreamland; seven sparkling levels of clothing, mobile phones, jewellery, toys, big screen TVs, white goods and home wares. It is perfect but almost completely empty of customers. Our sons chase each other from level to level, their footsteps echo around the under-the-sea themed atrium. We go to eat in the food hall. Teenage servers sleep head down at their counters. I gently wake a girl to order some noodles.
Peta and the boys eat while Agung takes me to a jeanswear store. At a desk tucked in the back, dressed much younger than his years is a very drawn looking man. Agung introduces me to his uncle, the owner. I donâ€™t catch his name. He stays seated making the briefest eye contact before he turns back to his laptop. Three young shop assistants help me find my shorts. I choose two pairs and pay a ridiculously small sum. As we leave I wave thanks to Agungâ€™s Uncle and think I should have bought more. He doesn't look up and I know it wouldn't matter if I bought fifty pairs, itâ€™s only a matter of time before his unpaid bills bleed him to death.
The next day itâ€™s raining hard. Across the South China Sea Cyclone Ruby is tearing Filipino villages to pieces. Her tail has swung around and is flooding Sumatra. Ishmael, our dreadlocked driver from Berastagi, arrives at the hotel to take us to the Giant Cabbage. He tells us the road back is washed out and weâ€™ll have to go the long way around via Lake Toba. Agung loads our bags into the van. We say our goodbyes and then as we are buckling the boys in Agung remembers to tell me that he's asked and nobody at the hotel knows why the bok choi is lucky.
We drive out of Medan. Ishmael talks the whole way. He is a Batak, the dominant ethnic group of central Sumatra. Ishmael explains Bataks are direct people, very different to Javanese Indonesians. He tells us he and his wife talk openly about sex, which would make a Javanese very uncomfortable. As we drive Ishmael talks a lot about how he and his wife like to talk a lot about sex. I listen feeling very uncomfortable. I'm not sure if Ishmael is trying to prove his point or is grooming us to join his Batak swingers group.
The rain eases. We stop on the roadside for the boys to pee. Ishmael calls me over to the edge of the rain forest. From a tree he cuts a small square of bark and holds it up for me to smell. I close my eyes and think pancakes - itâ€™s cinnamon. From a neighbouring tree Ishmael snaps off a cluster of green flower pods. The musty scent is like the Speculaa biscuits my wifeâ€™s Danish family eat at Christmas, I guess cloves. Ishmael nods.
I donâ€™t know if Ishmael is just being a good guide or is making another point. Both our lives have been shaped by these minor pantry items. In the 1600's my European forebears muscled their way into these rainforeststo supply the global spice trade. Their business model was simple; kill anyone who gets in the way and dragoon the locals to do the hard work. For three hundred and fifty years they treated Indonesia like it was their own golden goose. Ishmael hands me the raw spices and helps the boys back in the van.
We flash past endless Doorsmeers offering scooter repairs, soft drinks, deep fried snacks and petrol in recycled water bottles. In bamboo cages out front fruit bats hang upside down for sale. With undisguised scorn Ishmael explains that local Chinese eat them. We drive through a freshly planted palm oil plantation. Windrows of half burned branches and stumps are everywhere, the exposed red earth looks raw. I offer Ishmael one of the chocolate digestive biscuits I bought in Medan. He takes a couple. Curious I read the ingredients panel, palm oil features prominently.
I imagine my biscuitâ€™s journey in reverse - the supermarket checkout, the biscuit factory floor, a palm oil refineryâ€™s chimneys flaring, the long knives harvesting palm fruit, bulldozers clearing rainforest. I put the digestives down in the centre console and brush the crumbs off my new shorts. Ishmael takes another one and asks if we are going to see the orphaned orangutans at Bukit Lawang. I shake my head. I donâ€™t ever want to see the orphaned orangutans at Bukit Lawang.
A huge tip truck steams past us hauling blackened palm oil fruits to some distant refinery. The fruits look like a fibrous pile of decapitated alien heads. I picture a palm oil farmer, burning mounded up piles of bulldozed rainforest. Probably someone like Agungâ€™s father; someone with dreams of sending his son to university, shopping at malls and maybe one day taking his wife to the Amalfi Coast. Is there any difference between him and my grandfather, clearing New Zealand bush for his cows and sheep, wanting a good life for his family?
In the middle of nowhere we come across an enormous water park. In the warm rain we ride on the water slides and pedal boats. Later in an open sided restaurant that only serves pizzas and burgers we eat lunch. I go to pay but canâ€™t find my wallet. I check the change rooms, our bags, the car. I borrow my sonâ€™s goggles and scan the bottom of the wave pool. Nothing. My stomach churns. I remember taking out cash in Medan that morning, thinking it was the equivalent to six months of Agungâ€™s wages. Teeth grinding, I go through our bags again, the pool again, change rooms again, the car again. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck! .
Just as I give up looking I remember the pedal boat and run back to the hire kiosk. Please, please, please, please. A smiling woman with a teenage girl and a little boy is speaking with the hire guy. The hire guy points at me and laughs. The woman turns and is now smiling at me. She is also holding up my wallet. I thank her over and over, almost crying with relief. She shows me behind the seat of the pedal boat where her daughter found it and says they knew Iâ€™d come back here eventually. Overwhelming love pours out of my heart, I want to kiss and hug them.
I invite them to join us in the open-sided restaurant. The woman, Ita, introduces her daughter, Citra, who is home from high school for the holidays. I offer her little boy a chocolate digestive. He takes one and wanders outside to watch our sons clamber around on the monkey bars. The boy turns out to be her neighboursâ€™ son. Ita explains his parents died the day before in a scooter accident . She is looking after him while his family organises the funeral. The boy slowly brushes his feet through the plastic blades of the artificial grass.
And there in the water park, surrounded by a scarred rain forest, we sit sipping our mango smoothies watching the empty space around the boy - strangers thrown together by, bad weather, a large brassica, a kind act, a road accident and a sort of human proximity of goodness. And right at that moment I'm all at sea and everything is as unfathomable and arbitrary to me as a lucky bok choi.
Have a great week
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