Picasso in the pool
The cap tugs my thin hair, pulling it at the roots, right near where I have my goggle strap. It really hurts, but is nothing compared to the ice cold water that awaits. There is no easy way to get into a pool and get it over with. I’ve tried all the options and attest, nothing works to assuage the bloodcurdling jolt it gives your heart on entry.
I scan the poolside. The serious set is here. One broad shouldered amazon does her arm swings. She twirls from the shoulder blades like a whipper snipper.
I place my kick board at the slow lane as a swimmer shoots off from the wall end, gliding beneath the surface of the water in pursuit of the next lap. That is the thing I paddle and splash for. That kick-off from the wall. Even in the slow lane, you never feel slow doing that.
Picasso en la piscina
El gorro de nadar hala mis cabellos delgados desde sus raíces, muy cerca de donde el caucho de las gafas se ubica, realmente duele, pero no se compara con el agua congelada que me espera. No hay una manera más sencilla de entrar a una piscina y terminar de una vez, sin embargo después de agotar todas mis opciones e intentos, nada funciona para reducir los espantosos escalofríos del primer contacto con el agua.
Al revisar la orilla veo que la bañista elite está presente, hombros anchos y poderosos sacuden sus brazos haciéndola girar como una guadaña.
Esto sucede mientras ubico mi tabla de patear sobre el muro que marca la línea destinada para los nadadores lentos. En la siguiente vuelta se que esta es la razón por la que remo y salpico en el agua al notar que pronto me alejo de la pared inicial. Sin importar que te encuentres en la línea lenta, nunca te sientes lento haciendo esto.
Translation: Fabian Rodriguez
Nick the Greek
Sometimes childhood recollection seems stronger than present experience. I know this sounds all very Proustian, only for me today, it is not the smell of steaming madeleines, but rather the tart astringency of my mother’s yoghurt. Mum learnt it from the Greeks. At 25 she was on a ship to Athens via North Africa. Fortunately she turned down the marriage proposal of Nick, the Greek soccer player she met on her way or else this story, as much as its author, would never have come into fruition.
I learnt how to prepare it, and also how the Greeks prepared it. Apparently, every household had a pot that was left at the front doorstep overnight. In the early hours of the morning the milk man would come past each door and fill the pot. By breakfast time, it would be ready for the family to haul into the kitchen from the hot Mediterranean sun.
I could tell by Mum’s tone that she wished we had a milk man to fill our yoghurt pot, as in Greece. I guess she made her own yoghurt out of a frustration with the gelatinous farce that was 1980’s shop bought Australian yoghurt.
I’d drag one of the wooden chairs, with intricate wood carvings in recession, across the wooden floor to the kitchen bench top that overlooked our jungly garden. Climbing the chair to add to my 5 year old height, I’d soon be by Mum’s side as she prepared the milk. She would boil, mix and finally pour it into her brown earthenware yoghurt pot.
In the scorched summer mornings Mum would place the pot, brimming with milk, out on a wooden chair under the sun, wrapped in a tea-towel, to incubate. By dinner time, after a few hours of refrigeration, we would cup our own cool bowl filled with it, scooping it into our mouths as it swum in the mahogany juice of home stewed plums.
Today, I echoed my mother’s frustrations for shop bought yoghurt. It’s sitting by my window garden now, waiting to incubate while I write at the library. Though ironically, given the Melbourne weather, it’s started to rain.
Oh! For a Mediterranean sun!
El Griego Nick
Se que esto puede sonar muy Prusiano, pero algunas veces los recuerdos de la infancia parecen más fuertes que las experiencias del presente. Para mi, hoy no estuvo presente el aroma de las magdalenas al vapor, pero si la fragancia de la tarta astringente del yogurt de mi madre. Ella lo aprendio de los griegos cuando tenia 25 años de edad y mientras viajaba por barco desde Africa del Norte rumbo a Atenas. Afortunadamente rechazό la propuesta de matrimonio de Nick; el futbolista griego que conocio durante su trayecto, de lo contrario esta historia junto con su autora nunca hubiesen sido posibles.
Aprendi a como prepararlo y tambien como los griegos lo preparaban: Aparentemente cada hogar dejaba un recipiente en la entrada de la casa durante la noche, que luego muy temprano en la mañana, el lechero pasaba de puerta en puerta llenandos. A la hora del desayuno, el Yogurt ya estaba al punto debido al calor mediterraneo, asi que esta vasija podia ser arrastratrada hacia la cocina para la familia.
Por el tono de mi madre deducì que ella deseaba que nuestro yogurt fuese como en Grecia. Y creo que apartir de su frustracion por la gelatina artificial disponible en las tiendas de los 80’s que dio origen al yogurt australiano, ella empezo a preparar su propio yogurt.
Yo arrastraba una silla de madera, con grabados intrincados en el espaldar, atravez del piso tambien hecho de madera, para ubicarla junto al meson de la cosina que tenía vista hacia nuestro jardin selvatico, al treparme a esta silla ganaba más altura de la normal a mis 5 años de edad, de esta manera podia estar a su lado mientras preparaba nuestro yogurt. En el proceso ella hervia, mesclaba y finalmente vaciaba la leche en una olla de terracota oscura destinada para el yogurt.
Durante las mañanas calurosas de verano, mi madre sacaba al sol este recipiente rebosante de leche, previamente envuelto en un paño y sobre una silla de madera para que se aliñara. A la hora de la cena y despues de algunas horas de refrigeracion, ya podiamos llenar nuestras tazas con el producto final, el cual lo degustabamos al mezclarlo con el jugo caoba de los duraznos guisados en casa.
Hoy repreti la frustracion de mi madre por el yogurt comprado en la tienda. Por eso ahora mi propio producto esta reposando en el jardin de la ventana para que se aliñe, mientras estoy en la biblioteca escriendo. Ironicamente pienso en el clima de Melbourne porque ya empezo a llover.
Opa! Por un sol mediterraneo!
Translated by Fabian Rodriguez
Two dehydrated love birds burst into the peaceful Aēsop QV Centre store one Sunday afternoon.
“We want beautiful skin for our nuptials”, they declared.
The ever attentive and fastidious Aēsop man smiled, his eyes glowing as much as his well hydrated brow.
The two love birds exclaimed and ooh-ed and aah-ed over the plethora and bouquet of bottles and receptacles, each encasing little elixirs for skin, coiffure or even ambience. Don’t we all dream of an elixir for ambience? They even chuckled over the naughty potty humor behind the Post-Poo Drops with their swift aroma, the key to turning your smelly bathroom to a refreshing chamber as zesty as tarte au citrôn.
One little lovebird, whose skin was ever so dry after daily early morning bird baths was recommended product so supple. With its pannacotta texture, Primose Facial Hydrating cream sorted her our pretty quickly. The other little lovebird was mended of his flakes and frazzle with Purifying Facial and Exfoliant Paste (a supple scented paste with fine pieces of shiny quartz) and the decadent Camellia Nut Hydrating cream.
The two little lovebirds were so enthused and heartened by the aromas and the beauty of life in general, especially given pending nuptials and their now suitably glowing skin.
The wise Aēsop man declared they were so cute and silly that he would like to give them a wedding present. Which they bashfully received before fluttering off to their next rendezvous albeit fragrant and impeccably hydrated.
Since its inception in Melbourne in 1987, Aēsop has risen to become a much lauded and adored worldwide skincare firm. On each entry Ms Divageiger is overwhelmed by the courtesy, intelligence and good humor of all it’s employees to date and wishes in particular to thank Mr Aēsop man, who shall remain as arguably anonymous as the famed writer Aesop but as memorable as his fables.
In a stately garden in Toorak there grows a Magnolia. Huddled in my cape, ears ensconced in chocolate brown rabbit fur ear muffs, fingers clad in red gloves that never quite fit their length, I walk past her. As I push the gloves down at the crevice between each finger, trying to match their length with that of my digits, I look up. And there she is. A blooming magnolia framed by a wrought iron fence.
Magnolias bloom at their fullest in the bitterest hyperborean weeks of the long Melbourne winter. On naked branches they exhibit their folds and hues so affably it’s hard to understand how they do it given that their branches look so sparse, gnarled and stark.
My external environment of late, is pretty sparse, gnarled and stark at times starting with my 4:30am alarm. As I get up, my body aches with cold not to mention my mind. How do Magnolias do it? You really have to admire them for more than their beauty.
Gelati in hand, for something new, I’m walking briskly down the boulevard today. Then I hear it. The unmistakable sound of someone being taught to read. Regardless of the language, there is something unique in the intonation of a reading session. I turn to my left and there they sit. She with bended head over a picture book. He in a cap and glasses, slowly sounding out. Slowly. I hear her patient tones- dulcet and warm. I don’t slow my pace. I just speed past. 6 metres later however, I turn in hesitation to look back at the duo sitting on the bench. Should I? Inhibition aside I return my steps. Standing in front of them armed with only one big wide smile and my fractured Bulgarian, I tell firstly him, “Bravo. You are reading so well!” Then I turn to her. Her face is all bright with a grandmother’s love and patience. She explains that her 16 year old grandson speaks Spanish and some English but he has relocated to Bulgaria. Now he must learn to read and understand Kirilica. A laboursome process. I know that well. Her wizened index finger points to the little pencil strikes she has placed to mark the accent in each word. Every word, has been painstakingly annotated with the little graphite dashes. She explains her method. It’s a daily ritual often conducted on the main boulevard of Sofia.
I am then asked the regular question… Where are you from? I give the regular answer and tell them a little about myself. Why I am here. What I do in Australia. She nods her head in understanding when I explain my job as a “logoped” / speech and language pathologist. I then find myself talking with her about opera. Her eyes twinkle. She loves the opera. She asks me who my maestra is and nods her head in recognition at my answer. Indeed, 50 years ago she says that she attended a soiree on Ulica Alabin, in some downstairs basement where Nadia Afeyan, my maestra’s mother had a soiree of arias. My heart jumps a beat at the serendipity. There on Boulevard Vitosha, my two worlds coexist.
Sometimes it is difficult switching between 2 careers- Opera and Speech and Language Pathology. The switch is harder to the latter. I’m about to fly home and hit a lull in inspiration, a lull in cognition, a lull in creation. As much as I enjoy therapy and regard it as a noble profession (only noble in the event that one is efficacious), I lose a part of myself when singing is reduced. But maybe this is the point. Maybe we need to lose more of ourselves. I don’t know.
I was often asked on completion of my Masters why I was going back to singing? Wasn’t I now a speech pathologist? Wasn’t that enough? People were puzzled. I wanted to blurt out- “Why are you breathing?” Same question. Same answer.
I leave Sofia in two days, arriving in Melbourne at 9:30pm, I’ll start work some 11 hours later. There I have therapy rooms full of kids who have had no access to an education. Teenagers who had no civil rights and have fled war regions, moving from rural poverty and persecution to urban poverty in affluent Australia. I have a boy, who also is 16, who wants to learn to read. He can’t follow class work but he wants to be an engineer. He wants to go to University and return to Afghanistan and make things “just a little right there”. “Even just a little, would be enough”, he told me once. I have students who can’t converse with their peers. Who shuffle early into class so they don’t have to walk in to a crowded room and fight the pressure of not knowing who to sit next to. “It’s easier if I’m there early, then they have to choose where to go instead”, they tell me. “If I’m late, I am scared. I don’t know where to go.”
Today was a bridge for me. A glimpse into the working life that is on hold, waiting for my return. After seeing this boy with Down Syndrome and his grandmother, therapist and supporter all in one, I am ready to leave. So if you ask me, why am I going home to Australia for now, I will ask you, “Why are you breathing?” For the answer is the same.
They are waiting. They want to learn, as much as I do. God, may I help them, may I make things just a little right. Even just a little, would be enough.
- The Belly of Sofia- Le Ventre de Sofia (msdivageiger.wordpress.com)