What is the last book you read?
I have just finished ‘Women of Substances’ by Jenny Valentish which explores the experiences of female drug and alcohol abuse and the reasons that lead them to resorting to substance use and abuse. It was quite a confronting read but it was very well written. My next book will be Milkman by Anna Burns. It won the Man Booker Prize 2018 and I can’t wait to get into it, I try to read the winners each year. After that I think something a lot lighter (and trashier) is in order.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
Living in rural China for a number of years had its challenging moments, especially at the beginning when the culture and language barrier was so vast. It took me about a year to be able to speak Mandarin confidently and I had to work on it every day. There were a lot of embarrassing moments and times I got very lost in translation. Although it was challenging, it was also unbelievably rewarding and allowed me to truly immerse myself and experience the emic point of view of another culture.
If you could meet anyone living or dead who would it be and why?
The fan girl in me would definitely say Elvis. I shamelessly love his music and would have loved to see him perform live. When I was living in the States I drove non-stop from Lawton, Oklahoma to Memphis, Tennessee (around 9 hours) just to visit Graceland. It was the best!
Where is your favourite place in the world?
I would have to say Beijing. I have a real interest in China not just on a political level, but also their long, complex history and unique culture. What I love most about Beijing is that it combines so much of ‘old world’ China with China’s modern capitalist economy. It’s a place where you can watch down the main strip looking in at shiny TAG Heuer watches then stumble across a tiny street food stall where the traditional steamed buns are cheap and still made by hand. The food is Northern China is second to none.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard?
‘If you always do what you’ve always done, then you’ll always be who you already are’ – my Dad used to say this a lot when I was growing up and it has inspired me to be courageous, put myself out there more often and take risks – both professionally and personally.
What was your first job?
My first ever job was at McDonalds. I began working there when I was a teenager and honestly it was a really great place to start. The company teaches fundamental workplace skills such as team work, strong communication skills and working efficiently under pressure. However, working in fast food did turn me vegetarian for life.
What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?
The advice I would give myself 10 years ago would be to practice gratitude daily and stop comparing my experience to others. I truly believe that the minute you compare yourself to others, you stop growing. A decade ago I was travelling around South East Asia, so I would also remind myself to live in the moment and push myself outside my comfort zone.
Who has had the greatest influence on you and how?
My grandparents were extremely influential in my upbringing. My mother’s parents were tireless advocates for greater recognition of rights for individuals living with intellectual disabilities. They founded committees and boards within their local councils and communities and campaigned for more support for families who live with disability. The world was a very different place back then and my grandparents did their best to create equality where it previously did not exist – they were extremely resilient and compassionate.
What skill do you wish you had?
I really wish I could speak more languages fluently! I think being bi or multi lingual is so important in our increasingly globalised world and especially in Australia where we are quite multi-cultural. Being able to knock down linguistic barriers between people is important in understanding the experience of others and being able to connect as humans. When you can communicate you build a bridge between a once cultural divide.
What is your favourite thing to do in your spare time?
‘Long walks and picnics on the beach at sunset’? It actually sounds really cliché but I really do enjoy getting out into nature and going for a hikes, especially through Werribee Gorge. Although it’s a bit of a drive, hiking through Wilsons Promontory is breathtaking. I also really enjoy taking myself to the movies – I really love the Sun theatre and spend time before the film in their bookshop next door wanting to buy everything.