This one is for lovely Alex – because in this era starting Twitter is every author’s Chapter of Life, at some point or another.
Ia, how does one gain a twitter following?

Ia Uaro12:11

Alex, love your new profile pic 🙂

Here’s Twitter For Newbies:

FOLLOWINGS are those you follow. They are your source of info.
FOLLOWERS are your fans. They receive your tweets.


How to build Followings:

A. If you use your Twitter for PRIVATE PURPOSES

Search their names, verify they are the correct people you’re interested in, click follow. You can follow your personal friends or family members. You can follow celebs you’re a fan of. If you can’t live without their news, you click WHITE-LIST. You’ll know when your favourite musician will perform in your city, what time your favourite tennis player will compete, or where your favourite artist will exhibit. Just don’t expect them to follow you back.


B. If you use Twitter for BUSINESS PURPOSES

(i) In your profile description, mention your category (such as artist and author). Make sure to list your link so people can check your work.

(ii) Search by category, then click follow.

(iii) After a few clicks, follow their followers. First you open a full profile, click on this person’s FOLLOWERS, and a drop-down list will appear. Choose who you’d like to follow, then click follow. Clicking on this list is much faster than doing the search in step (ii).
The ones you click are your FOLLOWINGS.
(a) Do not follow the snobs (those with large FOLLOWERS but few FOLLOWINGS) because they won’t help your cause, as they will never retweet you. If you’re going to die without following them, put them in the White List AFTER you’ve passed 2000 followings (preferably after 3000 though).
(b) Skip the weirdos (those selling followers, sex, and the likes).

Your followings will happily follow you back, becoming your followers, because it is EXPECTED. They understand how important Twitter is. Most have excellent manners and will retweet your promotion.

(iv) When they follow you back, please help to retweet their tweet.

(v) Soon you will get FANS, followers who aren’t your followings, because:
(a) Twitter suggests you to people in the same category.
(b) People will notice YOU because your tweets in step (iv) will visible to others
You are expected to follow back your Fans. Skip the weirdos, but it’s fine to follow back people from different categories.

(vi) Everybody gets stuck at 2000 followings, unless you have equal number of followers or more. This is a cutoff point meant to deter spammers. Here you must use a program to flush your non-followers. I use because I get to make my own decisions – as opposed to automated deletions which may unfollow your best friends.

(vii) At 2000, you’re bound to have built friendships with many fantastic people too. They have cool blogs and websites that you’ll enjoy visiting. Tweet out these blogs and websites. Continue to re-tweet their important tweets. They’ll reciprocate. Your name will reach more people, and they will follow you. Soon you will pass the 2000 follow-backs, and your followings/followers will increase again.

(viii) At 3000+ you’ll get heaps of Fans every day. Skipping the weirdos, please follow them back before adding others.



(C) If you like, using your wit, combine business and interesting info to make your tweets atractive. Tweet them side by side.

There. Have fun!



PART TWO: UPDATE (Aussieland July 24, 2012)

The above started the following discussion on a Facebook wall. I re-post here as it is relevant. Many thanks to friends for their input.

  • (Link to the above post)
  • Jeffrey Getzin likes this.
    • Thomas A. Knight I have to say… I disagree with almost everything in this post. This turns twitter into a numbers game rather than a social platform. Here’s the reality: if you use this approach, 90-95% of the people who follow you will not care about what you post.What you want on twitter is quality followers. People who have followed you because you’re an interesting person or because they see something of value in your tweets. These people are your buyers. Not those who only follow because you followed them. I would rather have a thousand quality followers, than 10,000 shallow followers.

      9 hours ago · 
    • Patrick Freivald I can’t figure out Twitter… I know how to do everything there is to do, but don’t understand why anyone does any of it.

      7 hours ago ·  · 2
    • Thomas A. Knight Twitter is simple to understand: Be social. You talk to people, about
      things that interest you. Preferably things that are close to the genre you write in. Make sure your BIO is filled out and your website link is in your
      bio, and readers will find you.I couldn’t tell you how many of my followers have stepped up to buy my
      book, but lots of them have. And I’ve made some great friends there.

      7 hours ago via  · 
    • Sydney’s Song Thomas, thanks. What I cover in this is only the NUMBER aspect. There’s also the CONTENT aspect (it’s the account holder’s job to make it interesting, not mine). And the PERSONAL aspect (how intriguing are you?), the PRODUCT aspect (again, quality is the account holder’s responsibility).
      I clearly stated, first you must decide whether your PURPOSE is personal or business.
      If you’re using Twitter for MARKETING you need a huge following – or you’ll be shouting to the void.I added this in reply to a question about automated “thanks” :
      ” Some of those “thanks” are really rubber stamps – they are Auto Reply.I’d recommend acknowledging new followers by retweeting their own tweets. They are normally very grateful and reciprocate by retweeting yours – they understand your marketing need and in Twitter we are being social by HELPING each other. They’ll also send you a personal message when they get the chance (remember, they’re VERY busy just like you). Twitter for marketing works better when you have a massive followers, and you won’t always have the time to chat with every single one of them – and this applies both ways. Try to make your profile description intriguing – many will be interested to know YOU better (so far, my website has served me so well in his regard), and you’re bound to gain wonderful personal friends – from where you knew not – from what is originally a “business” tool.”People in Twitter are like in real life, only a portion of your entire acquaintance will be Quality people – but you still extend respect and courtesy to the Lesser beings. I have many Quality followers who have become my personal friends – several of them have followers over 100,000 but they still follow back their Fans because in Twitter we socialise by helping each other’s business.I was highly skeptical about Twitter and only opened an account in April to be allowed to use its logo on my new website. The experts say Twitter is a great marketing tool. I don’t know about sales – my book isn’t even out yet. But people start to notice that I – and my novel – EXIST. I notice since I reach around 3000 followers, every day I get minimum 50 new Fans – followers who are not from my followings – because they SEE me somewhere in the cyberspace.Whatever your quality, how on earth people will buy your product when they don’t even know you exist?

      6 hours ago via  · 
    • Thomas A. Knight As I said, I disagree. One quality follower is worth more than ten what I
      call “sheep”. People who blindly follow back everyone.If I have 1500 followers, where at least 30-40% are quality followers, that means more than somebody who has 3000 sheep.It’s still a numbers game, but it’s a different kind of numbers game. I’m building relationships, creating connections, and meeting people right in
      my target audience. Many of them have bought, read and enjoyed my book and
      are patiently awaiting the second in the series. When the second book is released, I will tweet it, and they will buy the book, and retweet about
      it. Why? Because I don’t talk about my book all the time. I talk about
      stuff that interests them.When I make a call to action on my twitter feed, I get a HUGE response,
      because I’m not constantly calling them to action. It’s still a business
      feed, but social networking is about being social. It’s not about winning a numbers game.Consider this: I know a number of people who have followers in the tens of thousands. I even know one guy with over 250,000 followers. I get a bigger response when I post a call to action, than any of them. Because my
      follower list is quality followers. People who *want* to follow me.You don’t need a ton of followers to make a big splash. You just need the
      RIGHT followers.

      6 hours ago via  · 
    • Sydney’s Song Patrick. Marketing experts say familiarity will result in sales. Tweets are short news/ads. Millions of people are addicted to it – attached to their screens day and night, checking in every few minutes. (Methinks this is sad, but it’s true.) Your Followers will see your tweet in their feed. Make sure to use your handle each time (for me, it’s @sydneyssong), because when others retweet you YOUR NAME/BRAND will spread like raging fire to thousands of screens. That is, *their* followers’ screens.Here’s in an example. A new following/follower invited me to her website, and I tweeted out her book (she didn’t ask me to). She emailed me a personal thanks. I replied to her email:
      R***, these friends re-tweeted my tweet on your book tonight:
    • @h*** 206 followers
      @k*** 298 followers
      @C*** 1671 followers
      @S*** 1184 followers
      @S_*** 3274 followers
      @T*** 2466 followers
      @T_*** 1984 followers
      There. For the next several days, more followers of mine (some with really HUGE followers, eclipsing the above numbers) have retweeted her book. And guess what? My followers’ followers retweeted *this* tweet too! So *my* name arrived in thousands of screen – when all I intended to do was HELPING out a new follower. That is the power of Twitter.
      Another example is a friend’s promo I saw on Google+, a book on car maintenance,  Grader Gal’s Simple Steps to Car Maintenance: Terri Louise: Kindle Store »  Terri didn’t ask me, but I tweeted it out. It’s been multiplied multiple times too. She’s real grateful.
      In my book, this is being social.
      5 hours ago via  · 
    • Thomas A. Knight That’s not being social. That’s advertising.I’ve spent hundreds of hours trying different approaches to twitter, and
      the ones that get the MOST pay off, are the ones involving real
      conversations with people. Yes, you should help other people promote their
      work, to a certain extent. But I don’t agree with the practice of automatic follow backs. Consider how many people you follow. Now consider how many of those people you actually pay attention to. Are you providing them with
      value beyond your initial tweeting of their book, etc? Do you interract
      with them daily? or are 90% of them just numbers?I suspect the latter.I’m not interested in that. I’m shooting for a base of people that I follow
      that provide me with value. In return, I try to provide value for other
      people, including them. I help promote peoples work when I think it’s
      worthy of promoting, and I have the time, but I don’t promote everything, because not everything is worth promoting.I focus on my target audience, because that’s where I’m going to get the
      most value.

      5 hours ago via  · 
    • Sydney’s Song Thomas. I interact “behind the visible screen” with MANY – on direct messages, on Facebook messages, or via emails. They’re humans chasing dreams, and many have told me tweets and retweets do increase sales.

      5 hours ago via  · 
    • Sydney’s Song Thomas. I call it being social, because I judge an action according to the motivation. My motive is to help my friends.I call people to take notice. I ask them to check out the books/blogs/etc (I only add “advertising” prompts when I personally know the product). People can decide for themselves whether it’s worth buying.No, I don’t interact with them daily. But whenever I sit on the train after work, if I see them tweeting something of interest, I DM them and we normally end up chatting. I chat more with them on their blogs.

      4 hours ago via  · 
    • Thomas A. Knight See, thing is, what you’re telling me here, is *not* what you told people
      to do in your blog post.My issue is with people who blindly follow back everyone who follows them
      for no good reason other than “It’s polite”. It’s not polite. It’s number-padding. It’s pointless. If you have no intention of ever
      interacting with a person or engaging them in any way, why would you bother following them?If people make no effort to engage with me, I don’t follow them back.
      That’s just the way it is. If they want to unfollow me because of that?
      Well, it doesn’t really hurt me at all. I’m not being a snob. I’m being practical. There are only so many people I can interact with on a daily
      basis. So I pick and choose those people carefully.

      4 hours ago via  · 
    • Sydney’s Song Oh okay, when I wrote the blog I was just focusing to answer Alex’s question on the *technicality*. I will now update my blog that that was only the NUMBER aspect, and will include a few things of what I’ve said here. Thanks for the tip.Again, Twitter has several purposes. Sounds like yours is used for PERSONAL purpose. Mine was intended for MARKETING – but it’s brought me many fascinating *friends* (not of the *fake* variety). A few are *secret* individuals who won’t tell others of their real identities on their fascinating websites.

      3 hours ago via  · 
    • Thomas A. Knight oh no. What I do on Twitter is marketing.It’s called attraction marketing. Where you present something of value, and
      use it to draw people to you, rather than going out and hunting people down.My twitter is very much a marketing platform. I’m just doing a different
      method of marketing than most people do.

      3 hours ago via  · 
    • Sydney’s Song Hey Thomas, mind if I copy-paste this conversation there, so people can see both sides? They can take what’s suit them best 🙂
      3 hours ago via  · 
    • Thomas A. Knight Yeah, that’s fine. 🙂

      3 hours ago via  · 
    • Sydney’s Song Tah! I’m at work without Facebook, looking at this from my email notifications. I’ll do the copy-paste when I get home in a few hours – otherwise it’s upside down with the latest comment appearing first.
      3 hours ago via  · 
    • Thomas A. Knight I look at the thread the same way. Totally know what you mean. 🙂

      3 hours ago via  · 
    • Sydney’s Song Have a great day!
      3 hours ago via  · 
    • Thomas A. Knight You too. Do you work nights? Seems to me that at some point today you should have been sleeping. 🙂

      3 hours ago via  · 
    • Patrick Freivald I believe she’s from Upsidedownlandia.

      3 hours ago · 
    • Thomas A. Knight Yes, I know. 🙂 Which is why i was asking. It’s 2:21pm here… which means
      it’s what… 4:21am there?

      3 hours ago via  · 
    • Sydney’s Song Thomas. I sleep very little, when my kids are at school.Patrick. I’m from the future, 04:25 of July 24th, 2012.
      2 hours ago via  ·  · 1
    • Hart Johnson ?Patrick – I think the real trick to enjoying Twitter is to take crack. (meaning I am with you–it is just the wrong pace for me–it is too ADHD to look at my regular feed and too much of a time suck to follow a regular conversation because it moves too fast). And I’ve run into a real problem following the number game… NOW Twitter won’t let me follow any more (I follow 2000 with just under 1700 who follow me)–I SHOULD have only followed industry people initially, but instead politely followed back almost everyone. Now when there are people I really want to follow, they won’t let me without a new profile (what a heap of crap THAT is).Facebook and blogging are far more suited to my personality and the way I can commit my time. I do pretty well with both and really only Tweet to share blog posts. Blogging allows for in depth relationships building and facebook allows you to check into a conversation a few times a day without committing to hours at a time.

      2 hours ago · 
    • Thomas A. Knight Hart, you can use a service to unfollow a bunch of people who aren’t
      following you back. That sad part is, there are probably a bunch of people
      who have followed you, got the follow-back, and then unfollowed.I always watch my following-follower ratio. I currently follow about 1100 people, and have around 1500 followers, give or take depending on the day.
      I follow very few people who don’t follow me back. People that I *do*
      follow without a follow back are people I’m really interested in.

      2 hours ago via  · 
    • Patrick Freivald Do any of y’all follow me? 🙁

      2 hours ago · 
    • Thomas A. Knight I believe I do Patrick. In fact, I think I have you listed in my “friends”

      2 hours ago via  · 
    • Patrick Freivald So what’s the etiquette on really obnoxious self-promoters who tweet multiple times a day just to plug their stuff?

      2 hours ago · 
    • Janet Oakley This is a really looooong conversation. A lot of interest here.:> I enjoy twitter and check in a couple of times a day. There are alot of interesting articles on the biz tweets link me to and I’ve had wonderful little chats with authors around the world, some very well known. It’s a social yakking place. A very low percentage of your tweets should be about your books and stuff. You’re there to chat and make friends. They’ll remember when you tell them about a post you’ve put up or a book come.

      2 hours ago · Edited · 
    • Thomas A. Knight Unless you don’t actually have a twitter account, in which case I’m just
      making stuff up. :)Obnoxious self-promoters? I don’t generally follow people like that. And if people turn that way, I unfollow them. I don’t know if this is etiquette or
      not, but I can’t stand to look at it. 🙂

      2 hours ago via  · 
    • Hart Johnson I got Qwitter updates for a long time so I was notified when people unfollowed. Haven’t gotten any more ages, so I suspect it isn’t working anymore. The ones I’d LIKE to unfollow are a bunch of musicians–there are very few I’m actually interested in, but I was being supportive.Patrick-pretty sure I follow you–you snuck in there before that 2000 thing. If I were there enough to see multiple messages of the same thing day in and day out, I’d unfollow those, too–I hide them on FB. I just know on Twitter I don’t notice them as I’m only there about 3 times a week.

      2 hours ago · 
    • Sydney’s Song Hart. Take it at the pace you’re comfortable with, the key is to enjoy what you do.Everybody gets stuck at 2000, I wrote on the blog what to do about it. There’s no need to create a new profile (unless you want a private account). Once you pass 2000, you can follow your favourite people again.Yes Janet. It’s rather like watching TV, we want the ads to be less than the main show. I chat and I tweet out great quotes.Patrick. Just scroll your screen until you see something that interest you. But it is important to tweet out the news/facts about YOUR book at least once a day – people will be aware of it and anticipate your book (hundreds will DM you to ask about it).I white-list ABNA friends.
      2 hours ago via  ·  · 1
    • Marianne Sheldon Waller This is an interesting conversation. I got a Twitter account quite recently, and for the most part just can’t be bothered with it. I check it once every couple of days at most because it just moves too fast for me. And when people do actually say something interesting, (which doesn’t happen very often) I’m not sure of the etiquette for replying back. Do I reply to people I don’t actually know in any other forum but Twitter? It feels downright rude to me to do so – as if I’ve butted in on an overheard conversation. I’m finding my real life social anxiety issues have carried over into the Twitterverse a lot more than they have into Facebook where I have a better sense of who my “friends” are. Oh, and I unfollow anyone who just advertises on it.

      2 hours ago · 
    • Hart Johnson Marianne-I think people love comments to their comments–it makes them feel clever to have earned a response, so go for it on that front (at least for the not super famous people–sadly, Nathan Fillion never answers back *shifty*)So, Ia-once I have 2000 followers, I can follow again? is that the trick?

    • Thomas A. Knight Hart: It’s the 10% rule. Once you hit 2000 following, you can *never* follow more than 10% more than are following you.So if you have 3000 followers, you can only follow 3300 people.

      about an hour ago via  · 
    • Hart Johnson So when I get a little over 1800 I can start adding again?

    • Hart Johnson ?1818…. that looks like it should be the magic #.

    • Thomas A. Knight yup.. thats right.

      about an hour ago via  · 
    • Alison DeLuca I’ll give you some Tweety-ish shout outs, Hart, to help get you there 🙂

      29 minutes ago ·  · 1
    • Sydney’s Song I’ll RT that Alison!

      8 minutes ago · 

Don’t shout to the void. Those likely to tweet you out are the ones you retweet.


The above discussion illustrates the many possible use of Twitter – and you can always combine them.

For further read on Twitter as a marketing platform for authors, I recommend Jonathan Gunson’s Twitter For Authors (check out where he outlines the following steps:

– Building Book Visibility

– Building Large Twitter following

– Converting Your Following Into Book Sales


Happy tweeting and have a successful life!






Smart girl Patricia Macias held a Facebook event titled “Join me on Twitter” this week. Good one! This is the easiest way to invite all your Facebook friends and subscribers to follow you.



I started my Facebook, intended as a business platform, with a heavy heart, and only because others said I must. I knew nothing so I must obey the experts: go out and be loud. Every marketing tools and everything about promotion looked distasteful to me. I longed for the old days – when school friends discussed my work near me, not knowing I was the writer.
But now, half a year later, most of my FB friends are no longer fake friends (to borrow my little son’s terminology). I have discovered they are all humans. They all have their dreams, their ideas, their interests. They have feelings and wishes. Ambitions and anxieties. Many have rich life stories too, and it’s so surprising how much they can give others.
Above all, they are social  beings who like, and need, to connect with one another. My writer friends are humans chasing the dreams. They need friendship, they need recognition. So yeah, I actively do whatever is within my capacity to help. I have about 2000 emails from Facebook saying that I have initiated my friends’ friendships. That’s right, I give them connections, and introduce them to groups. Good work, huh? I have created 2000 friendships out of 287 friends. (That’s right, not all 400 of my friends participate. I have a list of who don’t, and I respect their wish to be particular.)
Is this for business only? Wrong. You can’t believe how good I feel, each time I see them either joking, sharing, or deep in thoughtful conversation discussing ideas. Not all of the 2000 of course, but many of these friendships have flourished, with the friends finding the most comfortable corners where they feel they belong to, where they can be with each other, as real friends.  I can hear their laughter and their shouts of outrage across many walls, celebrating and commiserating.
I always attend every single Facebook event I’m invited to. Because it’s daunting to hold an event nobody attends. Do I  buy the product there? Not always, but I always invite my friends who will buy, and I can be counted to cheer up the host. I expect nothing in return, but so far, the other party guests – people unknown to me – always come to know that I exist. (I’m loud, yeah. I normally bring spectacular Aussie fireworks). Each time I end up getting many likes from strangers.
My friends are all free to share my wall yes, although so far everyone of them has the manner to ask me first before posting a promo. Now this has become easier, because for a week now Facebook has given me a free PROMOTE button.  This is a brand-new feature, and my friends are baffled because I am the only one among them who have  this. With the PROMOTE button, all I have to do is click this, and FB says all my friends will be sure to see my friends’ important posts. How time-saving this feature is, I don’t have to click “invite” one by one anymore, so from now “formal” invitation can be reserved for very special events. Today I was told, I’ve been given this button because my wall posts have way over 400 “likes“. And it isn’t a fan page – I haven’t created one yet.
I’m hoping in time all my friends will earn this button too, and they’ll share/promote for each other so all their FB-friends can see. One day soon, I hope the “united-friends-of-Ia” will have a Twitter-like effect. On Facebook. Hopefully.
On Twitter? I started a few months ago. I didn’t even know what a hashtag was, now I show newbies how to build Twitter followers. People start to notice that I exist and retweet my tweets – daily mentions supposedly reaching minimum 20,000 people. Again, mostly I tweet other people’s work (they say it does increase their sales, and many of them have become real friends too). But I love great quotes, I tweet them too. So friends’ promo and quotes side by side . (Come to think of it, on Facebook I have pics and posts side by side too.).
How will all that work for SYDNEY’S SONG when I’ll release it in September? Dunno. But I sure am having fun. Here, one of my tweet:  “People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.” -Dale Carnegie #quote


Joe Hildebrand brings Drunk, Dumb, and Racist to the small screen and successfully lifts ABC’s rating, makes hundreds of thousands laugh and laugh—and makes hundreds of thousands of Australian hearts cringe to face the truth.

But how much truth is in it? And is it the only truth?

I feel I can’t just laugh (yes, I’ve been a fan of Joe’s satire for years), shake my head, and get on with my life on this one. I’m a true Australian, albeit born overseas, and this stereotyping hurts me no end.

I can tell you how drunk we can be. But I can also tell you no one can beat the Icelanders for maximum damage yet, although Pommy and Irish friends boast how they try.

I can tell you how dumb we can be. But I can talk for hours about many great achievements our Australian scientists have contributed to the world lately, too.

I can tell you how racist we can be. But are we more racist than others?

Once I worked for an inbound Australian call centre in Sydney. Hearing my accent when I answered the calls, some people said the following. I include what would have been my responses- had I been allowed to voice them.

“Ahhh… a new Australian.”

New? New??? I’ve lived in Sydney longer than any other place I’ve ever been on earth!

And, “How’s the weather in New Delhi?”

Never been there in my life, mate. Go google the world’s weather.

“I want to speak with somebody who knows better English!”

Nobody in my office knows better English than me. I know legal English. I know finance and business English. I know biology and medical English. I know physics, mathematical, and IT English. I know geophysical and geological English. I know electrical and mechanical engineering English. I know philosophy and theology English. I know Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Harry Potter. They all have very different vocabularies—wanna compete with me? I’ve done linguistic work in those fields, written essays and speeches, been invited to speak in a major international conference, and I live with a hubby who can only speak English. You think having an accent equals being dumb? Think again.

However the majority of callers said, “What a lovely accent! Where are you from?”  And I haven’t spoken my mother’s tongue for at least 20 years. My native people have disowned my belonging-to-nowhere-land unrecognisable accent.

Furthermore, the above facts and experience aside, I strongly disagree with stereotyping Aussies as drunk, dumb, and racist, because those are not the only facts and experience I’ve encountered, and not the only truth I know.

Let me start with how friendly the people of Jakarta were. During my high school years, which began as a new kid from Sumatra, a parentless one at that, the feeling of acceptance from kids and adults of various ethnic backgrounds was gratifying. I was a charity case at a prestigious Catholic school and had wonderful Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, and Confucians for friends, as well as fabulous atheist Russian teachers. But at 18, moving 200km away to a university town called Bandung, I was rudely forced to face racism for the first time.

Unlike the mix-raced kids from Jakarta, students fresh out from the provinces looked down on others who were “different” and were very reluctant to speak the national language. The two most dominant groups were the Javanese and the Minangs, although there were at least 20 major ethnic groups—each with different language, cuisine, tradition, religion, culture. The Javanese said the Minang’s lively dances were uncultured, the Minangs said the Javanese aristocratic class were snobs.

My Minang friends criticised me, a Minang, for not being active in the Minang Dance Club—never mind that I was a very poor dancer. My Javanese friends in my hang-gliding and aero-modelling club spoke Javanese all the time, trying their best to make me one of them—never mind that our sport had nothing to do with culture. A Muslim friend complained about me being close to a Christian Chinese. A Catholic disapproved of a Balinese Hindu. Why? I wasn’t close to these individuals because of their faiths or origins, but because they were people.

Another friend was furious with me for feeding a starving, vegetarian English friend. She said if I lived in the land of the white people, they would not care for me, and would never be bothered about my special needs. But I had not fed this friend because she was white! We had just come down from the mountains, hungry and cold, and the only available food was for the meat lovers. She was a human. I remember crying for days, couldn’t get over the heartlessness and intolerance.

Anyway, in December 1983 I visited Aussieland for the very first time. Several first impressions stayed indelible. At the foremost, was how my Australian friend, a former exchange student at my high school, had sent me all her savings so I could visit. How could I view Aussies as selfish and racist after that?  Once during this visit I stood on the side of the road about to cross it, and, to my surprise, a car stopped to allow me to pass. Where I came from, nobody would ever do that! And the people I met face to face, how friendly, helpful, and polite they were to me, accent and all. When I returned to my then home, a Chinese acquaintance asked, “Your Australian friend is white and beautiful—how come she is willing to be your friend?”

Three decades later, after being in more places and becoming an Aussie myself, I can safely share we aren’t anymore racist than others. My Belgian friend says, “When a Dutchman dies, he is buried facing Belgium, his dreamland.” Don’t start me on what my Scott friends say about the English, or the English about the Irish. I have a Fijian friend whose mother complains all the time, “Your husband is kind, but his skin is so dark!” I had attended a birthday party where only friends who were university graduates were invited. And I have been among Indian friends who talk happily among themselves in languages that I don’t understand. There was this Asian shop in Coolangatta, filled with merchandise from Thailand. Once, wanting to brush up my rusty Thai, I asked the lady at the counter whether she was from Thailand. Bristling, she snapped, “No I’m from China! The Thais are brown! Can’t you see I’m white???” Will I label the Chinese as rude and racist? Stuff it. I have a few wonderful Chinese close friends.

I have also worked with French, American and British colleagues, and everywhere I have encountered more helpful ones than not. Methinks racism and prejudice aren’t national traits, but individual’s.

Continuing the tradition: my little one with his best friends

My little one has two best friends, from Kenya and from the UK, and they are very happy together. My old white Aussie friend and I are like family—our kids sure can’t stand a chance having two mothers mothering them since they were babies.

Stop slinging mud, people. Methinks promoting friendships is more beneficial for you—and all humanity.


“But your schools give you condoms in your first week in high school. They openly teach tweens on how not to get knocked up. Girls over there are quietly immunized against herpes and other contagious sexual diseases, at school, at 12-years old. I know all of this for a fact, you know.”

“They’re just our government’s methods to minimise the risks; to lower the health costs for those who choose to be sexually active. `Cause in Australia the government has the obligation to provide free health care.” 

“But it drives very young kids to experience sex early! That means you Aussie girls are worldly!”
“Not worldly…”

That’s a passage from SYDNEY’S SONG that I posted on Tonight’s news says, in a world first, free Gardasil vaccine usually given to high school girls to prevent cervical cancer will be extended to 12 to 13-year-old Australian boys from next year, due to the high level of anal cancer among gay boys.

“It’s a very exciting journey, an Australian invention, a world-first vaccine for women and now a world-first vaccine for young men.” Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek announced. Four out of five people are believed to have been exposed to human papilloma virus (HPV). “It is estimated that a quarter of new infections will be avoided by extending the vaccine to boys.”

Professor Ian Frazer, Australian of the Year in 2006, is the brains behind the Gardasil vaccine.Judy Wilyman from Wollongong University argues in an article published by the British Society for Ecological Medicine that 90 per cent of women infected with HPV don’t develop the disease. But Steve Hambleton, the president of the Australian Medical Association, disagrees and adds that HPV also is also linked with anal cancers and penile cancers. He says today’s announcement will make Australia a leader in the battle against the sexually transmitted virus.

The vaccination program for boys is expected to cost $21.1 million over four years, and include around 870,000 vaccinations, an information campaign, a vaccine register and monitoring of adverse reactions.

“But—at 12-year old???” hubby questioned, looking dubiously at the very childish 10 and 14-year olds, ours and our friends’ son, sitting at the back seat. We were driving in the highway, listening to the news from the radio.

After dinner, I travelled in my friend’s car with the girls, while her hubby joined the boys’ car in our holiday trip. Again, the topic came up to us clueless pafrents. How old do gay boys know that they are gays?

My friend Diane Philipson, retired teacher, asked last time we did a community work together, “What would you do if your child was gay?” Why, if the “child” was an adult – his private life would be his to live. If underage, I’d take him to the nameless Clinic 16 at the Royal North Shore Hospital to take the gene test. Hopefully they know the chemical composition for the gay gene. What is it anyway? Anyone knows?