It looks like this year is starting a fair bit better than 2009. We began last year with no jobs lined up after June, and I, inexplicably, lost the hearing in my right ear, by Day 3. 2010 begins with us working in a new country, with plenty of challenges and opportunities. We’re both in pretty good health for our age, particularly Helen, and have set ourselves up pretty well in Guangzhou. We are in the position of being able to make choices in our lives, which puts us way ahead of many people on the planet.

Coming back to Australia for the holidays reminds us that it really is The Lucky Country. Yes, there are a lot of Australians who aren’t going as well as they should be and we are becoming one of the fattest countries around, but it is still possible to see the qualities that make Australians who they are, in most people.  By this I mean the ability to help each other in adversity, and to do what needs doing. Common sense is part of the culture, even if the media dwells on those who don’t always show it. Australians can see the humour in almost any situation, and can bounce back as a consequence. We know how to play hard, and most of us still know how to work hard.

Despite the growing club culture and the (according to the mass media) rising alcohol-fuelled violence, New Year’s Eve celebrations indicate that people don’t need to be drunk to have a good time. Helen and I ended up having a very quiet one – a picnic in a park, the early fireworks on TV and a fairly early night. Consequently, we could get out for some exercise this morning. Maybe we are getting too old, but late nights wipe us out, so we choose them carefully.

The only negatives I could ascertain in our fleeting trip home is how low the media set the bar. Free-to-air television is appalling, in the main, and the radio shock jocks still rate well. An example is the so-called “current affairs” programs in the early evening. The headlines proclaim all sorts of controversies, but, in the main, even after the producers spin the stories, it seems that most items are about people who have done something stupid and/or dishonest. Green Day sing about the “age of paranoia”, but I think it is also the “age of irresponsibility”. Most people seem to want to blame someone else for their situation in life, rather than take the proverbial good, hard look at themselves.

The tragic death of a little boy, before Christmas, killed by a car in his own front yard, brings home the reality that we cannot predict our own futures. We can make plans and set goals, we can speculate about how society might change, but we really can’t see what is around the next corner. All we can do is our best and hope that those of us who get the opportunity to make choices make wise ones that benefit others as well as ourselves. As the Dalai Lama has said, “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions”. I think I’m getting a bit better at this, but I still have a bit to learn. Maybe it will all fall into place this year.

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