An interesting development. Chile has had an earthquake. This one measured 8.8 on the Richter Scale, its epicentre closer to Concepción than to Santiago, the country's capital.
It has been a tiring night. My eyes have been glued to all the news channels on Foxtel - Sky News, CNN, BBC World... trying to see pictures of the places affected by this latest disaster. In between watching the news reports, I have been intermittently calling the numbers of relatives in Santiago, in the hopes that power has been restored and someone might happen to answer a ringing telephone. Skype and email have remained open all night, just in case the cousin I regularly maintain contact with, happens to log on, for whatever reason. Nothing...
So I remain pasted to the news channels, watching carefully to see if I can spot a relative in the background of some footage, perhaps even looking out, in the hopes that a member of my mother's family is actually interviewed about their experience by una periodista, a journalist.
I'm feeling helpless. There's nothing I could do anyway... even if one of them did call me and ask for help. I take comfort in the fact that these people are more built for such an event than someone like myself. My older relatives lived through the 1960 earthquake that reached 9.5 on the Richter Scale - the biggest one on record. Apparently, tremors are a regular occurrence... something they're used to.
Still, I'm seeing images of upside-down cars on collapsed bridges, huge cracks in major highways, multi-storey buildings split in half and caved in. I nervously wonder if one of my relatives might be lying underneath all that rubble.
Last night, the death toll was 78. I awoke this morning, after a restless sleep, to find out that it had climbed to 216. I'm sure that this figure will be higher, as more bodies are discovered in the resulting devastation. I am not religious, but, nevertheless, I find myself praying that my family members are not included in these figures. I wait...
And as I wait to find out more, my mind wanders to possible future developments...
I was planning to leave Australia in June to buy a property in Santiago, the ultimate goal being to set my mother up in her own abode, mortgage free and close to her relatives. I would have used this place as a home base, riding up and down South America, teaching and helping others along the way. Despite being terrified at the prospect of living in a new country, I was looking forward to the idea of helping indigenous people in South America, working as a volunteer if needed, teaching English, maybe assisting in setting up a community library or two. I could think of nothing more satisfying than helping those less fortunate than I, putting a smile on the face of a child or an adult who has strongly suffered from the consequences of political advancement and the viral spread of world-wide capitalism.
Now that this natural disaster has happened in Chile, I am undecided. Don't get me wrong - I still want to go to South America and pursue those dreams. But, to set my mother up there? I have my doubts now as to whether or not that would be a wise decision.
Again, I find myself going through the pros and cons, this time for a very different, and far more profound, reason...
PROS (of buying a house for my mother in Chile):
- She would be close to family, which she needs more and more as she gets older. I won't always be at hand to provide her with support if she requires it.
- She/I would own the home outright, no mortgage, debt-free.
- The cost of living is significantly less than living in Australia.
- She would be living in the country's capital, in the CBD. She would have access to all amenities, doctors, hospitals, shops, other people.
- She wouldn't have to start over, as I would. This is the country she was born in. Even though she has lived in Australia longer than she has in Chile, she knows its culture, its ways. Her need to acclimatise would be significantly less than mine.
- Gone are the days of General Augusto Pinochet. No longer do Chile's people live in fear of death and torture at the hands of a maniacal military despot.
- Medical services, for myself as well as her. The Chileans are about a decade behind in medical options for the treatment of MS. My options would be severely limited. Plus, relying, as I do, on many medical services for the issues I have to deal with as a result of my motorcycle accidents, I would no longer have the luxury of charging all of those costs to the TAC. I would be paying for those services myself. My mother is not getting any younger. I know that one day, I will have to face decisions such as retirement home placement, possibly respite care, maybe even cancer treatment options? She did have a breast cancer scare a few years ago and had to undergo radiation therapy. So far, nothing has recurred, but who knows what the future holds? Somehow, perhaps because I'm a creature of habit, I take more comfort in the idea of the Australian health system, despite the complaints Australians make of it, myself included.
- I would have to completely get out of my comfort zone. I am in two minds about this. On the one hand, a mundane, predictable existence in Australia, surrounded by the habits and ways I am used to, is an abhorrent thought to me. However, this is the safe route... particularly for someone like me, that has to contend with debilitating health issues that require attention every now and then. On the other hand, the excitement at the prospect of getting out of that comfort zone has always been something I have aspired to, even sought out at every opportunity.
- As much as I hate to say it, I have almost been pushed out of the Australian property market. The only way I can buy a decent property for my mother in the surrounding suburbs of Melbourne, or any of Australia's capital cities, is to start another home loan and keep going to that full-time, 9-5 job that I have grown to resent. If she stays in Australia, my only option is to buy her a place in a rural area. I have started investigating - affordable properties are turning up in places like Wodonga, Horsham, Warracknabeal, Moe, Sale, etc... *cringe* The one that most appeals to me is Wodonga, as it's as close as we can get to living in a city, with amenities and other services we are accustomed to. Of course, I have yet to investigate my options in other Australian cities. Perhaps I can afford something for her in Hobart or Perth? Doubtful, but worth exploring.
- My mother will be more isolated than she is now. She has no friends or family. I'm it. Considering my last point about only being able to buy her something in a remote, rural area, and the fact that I have plans to travel, she will be even more alone and mostly without a support network. The guilt I feel for this is quite overwhelming at times.
So, you see my dilemma...
At the risk of sounding extremely selfish, I would really like to enjoy what's left of my thirties, while I still can. The first half of what is supposed to be an amazing decade in my life has already been robbed. Melodramatic, I know, but I can't help it... that's the way I feel.
I am of the opinion that I have been spending most of my adult life making other people happy and forgetting about making myself happy. I got married because I thought that it was what everyone must do. Perhaps because that was such a bad experience for me, I am cynical about the institution of marriage these days. For some, it works. For me, it didn't. I have decided that I don't want to venture down that path again.
Because of my age and my health problems... and because of the fact that I choose to ride a motorcycle, I have decided that having kids is not an option for me either. I remember a time when I desperately wanted one, even two... My ex-husband put a stop to that idea - the details of which I will not delve into here. But now... now that I am in my mid-thirties, partially disabled from the accident I had in 2001, and starting to notice more complex issues associated with my medical condition... I have come to the conclusion that I will never have children. Shit, I already have a child! My mother and I have role-reversed. I take care of her, she demands of me. I certainly don't need to have children to take care of as well!
Besides... these days I convince myself it's for the best. This world is severely over-populated as it is. The last thing it needs right now is another mouth to feed. I'd much rather focus my attention and efforts on helping at least ONE of the starving millions already in existence that reside on this planet at present...
The more I think about the state of the world and the problems associated with it, the more my desire to make it a better place, grows. I know that what I have to contribute is meagre, even non-descript in the grand scheme of things, but being an eternal optimist, if I can just put a smile on someone's face, and make their life more rewarding and enjoyable, then I will die a happy person.
But, alas... first, I have to solve the problems at home before I get the chance to venture out and find that special opportunity...
I hope I live to see it eventuate...