Microwave my socksThis morning I was forced to dry my underwear and socks in the microwave. It all began when I had the unfortunate timing of washing a load of laundry at the exact same moment that the rain started to fall here in Melbourne. And that was five days ago. For the most part, the rain has been falling ever since.

So, when I hung up my laundry to dry on the clothes rack, they naturally didn’t dry, but instead, remained completely damp until they began to stink up the house where I am staying. As a result, I had to wash all of my clothes again, but afterward, with the rain continuing to fall, they still would not dry.

When it came time for me to dress this morning, I really didn’t feel like spending another day without wearing any underwear and furthermore, both the one pair of socks I’ve been using for the last five days and my two feet really needed a break from each other as well. Hence the microwave and the drying of my underwear and socks on the popcorn setting.

Anyway, this short tale is quite a good indication of how my 2011 has started. Apart from having to heat my underpants on a plate and wear a somewhat damp and stinky t-shirt, I’ve spent most of my visit to Melbourne so far dealing with conjunctivitis and an allergy to what I thought was my friend’s cat. It turns out it’s an allergy to pollen, and unfortunately, pollen is much more abundant all over Melbourne than is the dander of my friend’s cat.

My daily routine has generally gone something like:

Sneeze, sneeze, coughing attack, sneeze, goo in my eye, eat Indian food, coughing attack, goo in my eye, sneeze, sneeze, eat a peach, sneeze, coughing attach, attempted sleep.

Yes, it has been as fun as that sounds.


I’ve barely slept in two weeks, my clothes stink, my lungs have not enjoyed a full breath of air in a long while, my left eye is more gooey than I’d prefer and I’ve barely been able to go outside much lately due to the rain.

Wait a minute.

I’ve barely been able to do much because of the rain? I’ll admit, I actually said these very words this morning while sitting on my friend’s front porch, looking out at a garden full of 19 sunflowers and waiting for the rain to ease up so that I could run down the street to the closest tram stop and head into the city.

Again, I’ve barely been able to do much due to the rain?

In case anyone hasn’t heard yet, large parts of Australia are in the midst of severe, record flooding right now. Entire communities are under water up in Queensland, homes and business completely washed away and human lives lost. The photos and videos I’ve seen are mind-blowing and for thousands upon thousands of people, their lives will never be the same again.

Yet here I am complaining that a light drizzle has prevented me from going downtown and eating another plate of Indian food with some friends. Sure, perhaps my day, or even the past few days, has been interrupted by the rain, but try complaining about that to someone from Brisbane, whose entire life has been interrupted by the flooding and whose home has been reduced to a massive pile of rotting debris. Now they must pick up the pieces and build a new existence from scratch and I can’t even begin to imagine the strength needed to face such a challenge.

Due to this current situation in Australia, I’ve also spent a great deal of time this past week reflecting on other natural disasters that have occurred around the world recently. And it only took me a few minutes to realize that the number of people whose lives have been completely upended, or in many cases, cut way too short, is beyond staggering.

I often think that the sheer magnitude of such disasters is simply too great for the human mind to even comprehend, which is the reason why the rest of us can so easily carry on with our lives despite the large-scale suffering of so many others. If we witness a tragedy with our own eyes, right in front of us, it will affect us deeply, but when such a disaster takes place on the other side of the planet, to people we don’t know and in such numbers that just don’t seem real, we have a remarkable ability to distance ourselves from the situation.


About an hour after I sat there this morning complaining that my day was ruined due to the rain, the clouds parted and the sun came out. I then hopped on a tram into the city center and strolled along Elizabeth Street to my favorite cafe where I ordered a cup of white hot chocolate, sat down at a table and turned on my laptop. My goal was to write a post about the struggles I’ve endured during my first two weeks here in Melbourne, including that feisty case of conjunctivitis and the pollen allergy.

But before I began to type, I took a minute to read another online article about the flooding in Queensland. And halfway through the article, I read this:

“In Toowoomba, it emerged that schoolboy Jordan Rice, 13, who was scared of water and could not swim, told bystanders to save his 10-year-old brother, Blake, as fast-running waters engulfed the family car. Seconds later Jordan and his mother, Donna, were sucked to their deaths.” (Full article)

And so, I’m not going to write about my ‘struggles’ over the past two weeks. Instead, I’d much rather keep this a short post and spend the rest of the time I would ordinarily spend writing, thinking about those people in Queensland. I’ll also be thinking about those people in places such as Pakistan, Haiti, Tibet, Chile and Burma who are truly suffering right now in the wake of unthinkable natural disasters.

Sure, I know it doesn’t sound like much to just sit here and think about those human beings, but it’s a start. In the midst of all this blog writing and tweeting and all of the traveling from country to country, it is far too easy to lose sight sometimes of how fortunate I am in life. And today turned out to be one of those days where I had temporarily forgotten this fact.

Thankfully, I have now been reminded and as a result, I can take steps to ensure that I don’t forget again any time soon.

And I sincerely hope you’ll join me in taking a few minutes out of your own day to think about those who are not only less fortunate than us, but who would happily accept a light rain, damp t-shirt and a case of conjunctivitis as the only interruptions to their day.