As I rapidly approach the six-month mark in my adventure down under, I realize that I haven’t done a great job documenting my experience thus far. I’m going to attempt to get up to speed a bit today. Brace yourself.
The first and most surprising thing to note is: I love it here.
While this may shock you, since I did move here, I always thought I hated Australians and Australia by extension. These feelings have deep roots. I had an Australian “roommate” in my year off before college who moved in for 3 short days (after I held the room for him for a month when he was in transit) and then promptly moved elsewhere and stiffed me mid-season in a ski town. Grrr! That was the land down under’s first strike.
Then an old boyfriend studied abroad in Townsville, and I came to visit him and the college where he lived wouldn’t feed me and I thought I was pregnant the whole time. Strike two.
Then when I traveled in S. America and elsewhere, I ran into so many drunk and obnoxious Aussie kids on gap year, that I essentially had written the country off as a wasteland of drunks, cane toads, and degenerates.
Fast forward to today. I love it. I came here telling everyone I knew that there wasn’t a chance we’d stay longer than the two years that R committed to. I was excited, but admittedly terrified of the move and sure we would not extend our adventure. Now, we both have great jobs that pay us better than we were paid in the States, we have more vacation, we have better work conditions, and they pay for our health care. This immediately puts Australia into a competitive position in my mind.
Beyond that, we have amazing travel opportunities. We spent two weeks backpacking in Tasmania for Christmas and New Year’s. We can get to the beach and the mountains each weekend if we want to. We’re going to spend Easter camping on Fraser Island – a world heritage site of sand dunes, tropical forests, and dingos. Our upcoming travel plans include Western Australia, New Zealand, and Cairns to hit up the Great Barrier Reef. If we have some time on a weekend, we hire a car and pop down to Byron Bay – one of the more magical places I have ever spent time and just a 2-hour drive from our house. It’s simply amazing what is available to us – and we don’t even own a car! (Though we are pretty seriously considering buying a van and outfitting it with a bed and surfboard rack!)
But the thing that most shocks me is that it turns out I like Australians!!! I didn’t think they could redeem themselves. They were in deep in my book and it wasn’t looking good for a comeback, but against all odds they seem to have done it! Though, in fairness, I have to admit, that I don’t know THAT many Australians. Brisbane is a multicultural city, despite what anybody says about it being the world’s largest cow town. My coworkers are from Scotland, Wales, England, the U.S., India, France, South Africa, New Zealand…and that’s just at URS. Walking down the street I hear Spanish, English, Portuguese, French, Mandarin, Japanese, and languages I can’t identify. It’s actually hard to meet Australians. But though I don’t know a ton of Aussies, those I’ve gotten to know really impress me. Particularly the men.
I realize this sounds all wrong, so I will explain myself.
I had a friend in college who was a renaissance man. He grew up with back-to-the-land parents and had been raised with chickens and goats and an industrious outlook on life. The man canned fruit, and cooked, and could build a porch while baking a blueberry pie and mapping groundwater. No joke. He was well-spoken and interesting and I was constantly amazed that a guy could do all these things. He really made me rethink some of my assumptions. And he was, and still is, an anomaly in the world of American men. Yet, here in Australia, I have met more than my fair share of men with the same panoply of skills. Take Mick (yes, that’s actually his name) for example. He showed me the BEST ways to drink Bundaberg rum with Bundy ginger beer, while talking me through the details of making cheese and bottling tomato sauce. He wears Hawaiian shirts to work and has a beard that could house a small nation. He explains me how to speak Australian with a twinkle in his eye, keeps fit, and is always in a good mood. I am enamored with the man. He really impresses me. I want to be an intern to his life and learn how to wear hawaiian shirts with authority while making cheese.
And he’s just one example.
(Don’t get me wrong, the women are impressive too. But women are often impressive and multi-talented. That’s how women roll.)
I have been so pleasantly surprised to learn that Australians are fabulous. It’s refreshing and makes me reconsider my earlier intentions of cutting and running at the two year mark. I love the attitude here. People are caring and neighborly. People are conscious of the community. I love their humor. It’s subtle and understated. I like understatement. I don’t practice understatement, but I appreciate it in other people. I never thought I would call Aussies understated. See? The miracles abound.
Sure, I realize it’s not a perfect place. Australia has many problems, to be sure. They have a fascination with including more vowels in words than necessary, and they have something against he letter z. They lack an ozone. There are saltwater crocodiles poised at the ready to take you on a death-roll into the depths of a billabong if you’re not watchful and spiders hide under the toilet seats to get you at your most vulnerable. The beer is really not all that good. I could go on and venture into the darker depths of the issues, but suffice it to say, the place is not without its faults.
Nevertheless, I am so happy to be here. It feels so nice to be proven wrong in your assumptions. I enjoy myself more and more as the time passes.
Last weekend we had a friend from the states here visiting and we took him down to Byron Bay for a couple days before showing him around Brisbane. You could tell he really didn’t want to leave and head back to Portland after a few days surfing and taking in sun on the gorgeous beaches of Queensland. It was nice to see it with fresh eyes again through his experience. It reminds me of how lucky I am to live in this place, with an interesting and meaningful job, with an incredible man who I am lucky to have in my life, sharing this adventure day in and day out in our little Queenslander with funky pink leather couches and lizards on the walls.
I love it here.