Of course, you have to be in the driveway of a sheep farm in remote western Australia after the owners have been away for a few days so the roos are partying on the grass – cause they know he is one of the only farmers in the ‘hood who doesn’t shoot kangaroos. But I really DID see kangaroos on the front lawn and I told my Australian boyfriend at the time, “I am going back to Canada and telling everyone they can see kangaroos on the front lawn if they go to Oz” 🙂
Of course it amused me mostly because I was Canadian and used to foreigners thinking we kept polar bears as pets or lived in teepees. This was decades before the internet or even cable TV so most people didn’t think the world was flat anymore but detailed knowledge of foreign locales was in short supply.
So, when I arrived in Sydney in 1990, I had very little idea what to expect. Aussies love their country so I was expecting a land of milk and honey based on all the glowing reports I had heard from expats on my three month European tour enroute to “the lucky country”. If nothing else, I had just spent most of the month of December on the Canadian prairie with my parents where a proper “you can feel your breath freezing in your throat” winter had given my Australian boyfriend a taste of the “real Canada” – where the tough people live 🙂
So, arriving from minus 40 to plus 40 in a matter of hours, was enough reason to fall in love with Australia the minute of arrival.
Like the relationships you see in montages on-screen in romantic comedies, there was a reality check. Australia proved to not just be “Canada with lots of sunshine” as I had anticipated. But it was my first expat experience. And there was much to love about the country and the people.
The Australian boyfriend not one of my best ideas… but it was the way I got to his country. I am sure I would have got there eventually but it would never have had the same impact.
Going to Oz was how I grew up. It changed my life forever and I can’t imagine its trajectory without the Australian – or his country. I know it would have been a lot more boring and I am really grateful I got to take the less-travelled path.
This is much to say about Australia – and Australians. I lived there for eighteen months. I have been back twice. And will return for a third visit this November. I wish I had stayed longer and become a citizen – but I tend to have a rather messy personal life. I can recognize an Australian accent – and don’t think they sound English – or South African.
Today’s post though is to celebrate Elizabeth. Because it is her birthday! And also the first year anniversary of this blog! I wasn’t sure if it could be sustainable but I really enjoy writing and – even if there aren’t as many posts as I had envisioned – there is a regular commentary.
I noticed a little while ago that the blog anniversary was coming up and was trying to figure out what the right post would be. And then I realized the anniversary was Elizabeth’s birthday. So the answer was obvious 🙂
As has already been noted, most of my friendships have an unusual genesis compared to the average person. I am very interested in people and happy to put a lot of effort into maintaining friendships with people who impress me.
Elizabeth is definitely one of those! Back in 1990, I was her boss. We were working in a firm of chartered accountants and she was doing a work term so was only 18. But she was so poised and a model employee. I didn’t really have to “boss” her at all so it was easy for a friendship to develop. It was unexpected since she was almost exactly a decade younger than me. But she really wanted to travel.
So that’s how it started. I had only started to travel at that point but had just done a three month tour of western Europe and we talked about travel and Europe every chance we got. I inspired her future travel plans and she reminded me of my own 18 year old mindset.
When I left to return to Canada, we exchanged addresses and vowed to stay in touch. So often that doesn’t amount to much but we were both good at it. In the early days we sent letters and always exchanged gifts at Christmas and birthdays, trying to find something local. It helped me hold on to Oz – and introduced her to Canada.
I also promised I would come back for her wedding. It took a little while… but she had to find the right guy 🙂 Going to her wedding was one of the highlights of my life. She comes from this wonderful family who had always welcomed me as the third child and much fuss was made of the fact that I had come from Canada for the wedding. But I meant it when I told her I was coming 😉
She also came to Germany for one of my weddings (there were three – all to the same guy :)). It was her first trip to Europe. She had finally made the leap and executed the first of the plans we had made back in 1990 for her world travel. Her enthusiasm was contagious and I was still a new immigrant and equally enamored of all the “cute” German towns.
She now has a daughter – whom I will meet for the first time in November. She looks just like her mom. I think she will be 5 by the time I get to Sydney so a really wonderful age to meet someone. I am really looking forward to seeing them all.
Sadly, there will be no kangaroos on their front lawn. It really is a sophisticated, developed country with some of the best wine in the entire world. When I went for the wedding, I took myself on a wine tour of South Australia to get out of Elizabeth’s hair while she was doing wedding prep, and decided a case of wine from different producers with different maturity dates would make a great wedding present. I’ll be able to hear the stories of the bottles in person…
So… in honour of the blog’s anniversary (and Elizabeth’s birthday), I will pour a glass of Australian wine and make a toast to “the lucky country” – and kangaroos 🙂 You should do the same. Aussies do it all well – so pick your poison – anything from sparkling to Shiraz… or combine them and have a sparkling Shiraz, a personal favourite!