Reflections On Australia After 6 Years Away
Australia is a beautiful country, full of fabulous scenery, amazing animals and friendly people.
I always knew this, even while I yearned to explore the rest of the world and immerse myself in other cultures. And despite loving Australia, I left to chase my dream.
Although I’ve only been home for three weeks, I’m really noticing the beauty of my homeland and the friendliness of the people (even the customs officer on the way in was friendly, saying “welcome home” as he stamped our passports).
I’ve had a bit of time to reflect on things because I’m not zipping around as much as usual, hampered by almost constant hip and stomach pain. (WHO designed this awful state of pregnancy, I ask you?)
So much seems to have changed since I left Australia in 2007.
Here are some of the things that have jumped out at me since I’ve been back:
Prices are crazy
I thought I was prepared for Australia’s higher prices, which really sting when you live in a low-cost country like Vietnam. But 165.9 cents a litre for petrol? $6.20 for a pie? $16.80 for a serve of takeaway fish and chips? It’s insane. (And if you say I’m showing my age, I’ll poke you in the eye with a sharp stick.)
The television landscape has totally changed
Darling Man often laments my stupidity in putting my stuff in storage in 2007 when I set off on my “three months or so” adventure, pointing out that my old TV won’t even work anymore because Australia has switched from analogue to digital TV. As well as the signal changing, the stations have changed. There’s now a bunch of strange new channels, called things like Gem and Go, instead of the old stations with the creative names of Channel 9, Channel 7, Channel 10, the ABC and SBS. There’s also ABC1, ABC2 and ABC3.
In previous trips home I hadn’t really noticed what was on TV because Dad had pay-TV (which he hogged) and I was busy doing stuff. But at the moment I am spending a lot of time beached in front of the box, quietly thanking my fellow taxpayers for ABC2, which broadcasts non-violent kids TV shows during the day.
Too many people aren’t here anymore
My Dad is gone, that’s something that has been really hard to deal with over the past two years. I’ve been in Mum’s too-quiet house enough to be used to the lack of Dad-noise. What I wasn’t prepared for was living in a house with no dogs (who are people too, in my opinion).
My wonderful best friend, Molly the cattle dog-cross, died in 2008 after 18 months of living with Mum and Dad and their two dogs.
Earlier this year, Mum’s husky had to be put down and then, on the day Miss M and I flew into Sydney — five days before we were due at Mum’s house in Queensland, Mum had to put her second dog down. I was so looking forward to hanging out with Sam, the ever-loyal Staffie-cross with the fat tongue that audibly slapped his head when he licked his lips. The house is so quiet and still without dogs wandering around, sighing and snoring and vacuuming up stray food. Mum’s new chooks (chickens for my North American readers) really aren’t an adequate substitute for intelligent and loyal dog-love.
Both my grandmothers also died since I left. So many people missing … and Miss M is at that stage where she can get totally fixated on a topic. So guess which topic is her favourite at the moment? That’s right — death. We have had seemingly endless conversations about who’s died and why they died and how they died and where they are and whether they woke up again and whether the doctor fixed them. And for some reason Trang Hung Dao, the Vietnamese military leader who repelled the Mongol hordes in 1200s, often rates a mention in these conversations.
Australians have really been sucked into consumerism
This revelation may be the result of more than a year with out newspapers or television, and therefor ads. (Ads that I can understand, by the way, because the Vietnamese advertising is just white noise to me.) Or it could be related to the fact that I’ve lived with minimal stuff for six years. But everyone has so much stuff … and everywhere EVERYWHERE there is advertising urging you to buy buy buy. It’s a bit frightening, really — the cars are huge, the people are huge and the shopping centres are huge and choc-full of people shopping.
There are other things I’ve noticed but forgotten now I’ve sat down to be profound, something I’ve never been good at. It’s nice to be home, though. It’s nice to have a friendly chat with the person next to me in the bank queue or the checkout operator. It’s nice to drive alongside other well-mannered drivers. It’s nice to be able to cross the road in front of cars and buses that have stopped. Oh, and sea breezes … SO NICE. I hadn’t even realised I missed proper breezes until I got home to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
Until next time, G’day from Australia, maaayyyyyte. And chúc mừng năm mới (happy New Year)!
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