May marks our mid-way point before heading back to the USA for the holidays. While Asia has been fun, we decided to head to Australia for a quick stop-over in the more familiar world of tacos, carpeting, and enforced cross-walks. Surprisingly, though, we were wrong to assume that it would be an easy transition. Australia may have many of the comforts of home, but it is not home. It is a country literally on the other side of the world from mine. It is the land down-under, the upside-down. As an American in Australia, I feel like I’ve been transported to another dimension where everything seems familiar, but is actually completely different.
Fall in May
It’s Fall here. Yeah. Let that settle in.
While my friends start toning their beach bodies and picking out this year’s patio flowers, this American in Australia is watching the leaves turn and fall. At this very moment, I am wearing a sweater, sitting under a blanket, and drinking hot tea. I keep thinking I need to start buying Christmas presents. What should I cook for Thanksgiving this year? What am I going to wear for Halloween? Despite the fact that it is MAY, I feel my usual holiday anxieties creeping up on me.
Creatures of the Unknown
I keep kicking myself for not having visited a zoo or arboretum yet, but really, doing that would be a little silly. If I want to see new plants or animals, all I have to do is look outside. Even a walk around the block has Josh and I stopping every few feet to ask each other, “What the sh*t is that?!”
Our backyard has trees with seed pods that pop randomly out of spiky balls that look like toilet brushes. The power lines at the dog park sag due from the flock of cockatoos that rest there… and squawk as loudly as they can. Our front yard is visited by kangaroos in the same way deer do at home. And my new friend that I rely on to keep the mozzies away is a six-inch diameter spider that lives in the kitchen curtains. We’ve named her Princess Kimi.
Today’s Shower Thought: My great-grandparents moved to the USA from a small town in Italy back in 1907. I watched a movie about Italian immigrants once that blew my mind and really made me wonder what life must have been like for Great-Grandpa Dion. Now I am American in Australia, where everything is familiar, yet so entirely different. I wonder if Grandpa Dion felt like that when he came to America, if he saw people that looked similar to him and had similar cultures to him, but in a landscape that seemed so incredibly foreign.
Alternate Dimension Dining
Australia has two major grocery stores: Coles and Woolworth’s (Woolies). In “nipping down to the Woolies”, we see so many familiar packages with so few familiar items. The biscuit aisle is packed with things like Grain Waves and Shapes. The lollies aisle hosts some of the weirdest names with items like Choc Bars and Lumps.
Everything looks edible and delicious, but after a taste of Vegemite, I’m starting to have some trust issues.
Believe it or not, it is actually kind of difficult as an American in Australia to understand what people are saying. They speak English, sure. But the accent and the Aussie’s pension for shortening everything makes it difficult to follow along sometimes.
Then there are the words that just have different meanings. “CBD” for downtown (this one may be Melbourne-specific), “footpath” for sidewalk, “boot” for trunk of the car, “hot chips” for fries, and “lollies” for candy. This is just a sampling of what we’ve run into so far, and that’s on top of the already British words that are common in the Australian language as well, like “pissed” for drunk, “torch” for flashlight, and “lift” for elevator.
Life in the Upside-Down
Thankfully, life here in Australia isn’t full of smoke monsters and demon dogs (although I do find Princess Kimi to be quite frightening). We’re learning to shake out our shoes before putting them on, drive on the other side of the road, and make our trolly deposits.
Our adventures so far have been amazing. I can’t even keep up with all of the great moments we have had. Work has been good, too. Josh should be done with the first draft of his novel by the end of the month, I’ve seen excellent growth with The Places We Live, and if you haven’t seen Josh’s piece at The Open Journal for Arts and Letters about our Penang trip, please check it out. I thought it was beautiful. I can’t wait to share more of our life in the familiar-but-different land down under!
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