Friday, September 7, 2012

on being back in Australia - instinctive familiarity

It's over 2 months now that I've returned to Australia. I've gone through waves of emotion - from tears welling up being greeted off planes by friends and parents, excitement at seeing my nephews, brothers and cousins, joy of seeing old friends and catching up on the years between hugs, moments of missing the travel, depression at forgetting all that I learnt about myself and why I returned, and thankful to good friends who have reminded me, welling in the depths of 'what am I going to do?' and not getting sucked back into the old life, guiltily eating my way through meal after meal of glorious food without much consideration for 'portion control', delighting in having good coffee seemingly materialise all day every day, happily re-acquainting myself with beautiful coastal walks and at the core of it all, struggling to stay centered but somehow moving through it.

I've been jotting down the odd observation about being back in a place after nearly 5 years way; some are as simple as remembering names of bus passes, or deeper thoughts about the nature of seemingly excessive lifestyles. But I've not yet blogged about it.

And it's time.

The beautiful coastal walk between Bondi and Coogee - Sydney really is beautiful
So here they are... starting with some impressions in the first days:

  • smell of charred bbq-ing meat carried in warm coastal winds. Something just so uniquely Australian. Thank you Yamba in Northern NSW
  • immediate sense of familiarity on seeing things and using words, like travel tens (the bus tickets in Sydney, though they are called something different now) , seeing signs like train boards, that I've not once thought of in the 5 years I've been away, yet are immediately familiar to me on seeing them again, watching the characters that board daytime Sydney buses:)
  • just instinctively knowing where I am - which bus to catch, which road to take, what shops are where.
  • how everything seems excessive and overwhelming in its luxuriousness. Yet not overwhelming in the way bolivia or nepal was in a dirty basic way, but in Brisbane, where I first felt it, the big big houses on small small blocks of land and how much money people spend on coffee and taxis. somehow people spend lots of energy here on things that I don't think matter much. Or that I felt didn't matter when I first arrived back but I've now already been sucked back in a bit.
  • the cost of public transport - i mean, $5 to go a couple of train stations?
  • a perfectly poached egg on toasted sourdough served with fermented black garlic and a side of prosciutto wrapped rocket, roasted tomato and a wedge of avocado. breakfast in hole in wall cafe. only in Australia.

some things I didn't expect...

  • being thrown back into childhood memories, like hungry jack stops with my cousin to grab a vegetarian burger and onion rings when we drove from Sydney to Canberra
  • loving seeing places with new eyes - bowled over at how ridiculously stunningly beautiful Sydney is when you fly in, that actually, i wouldn't mind going and hanging out in Canberra a bit, seeing the museums, sights, riding a bike through the parks where I used to walk through with my grandparents
  • discovering that everything is walkable. for instance in Brisbane, I have been walking places that before I drove. Or in Sydney discovering that to walk from Potts Point to Bondi Beach actually only takes about 1.5 hours - and you get to do a mini forest walk in Bellevue Hill.
  • being nearly quite sure that suburban life isn't for me. The feeling I had just walking through my old neighbourhood on a Sunday - past footpath exchanges on the best way to get property valued, the sound of a car stereo accompanying a spring clean, kids scooting around practicing wheelies. Not that any of this is bad, but feeling that I couldn't, didn't see myself in it.
  • how cool it is to scooter around Sydney. So quick! So easy! So fun! So cheap! You were so right Ceri:)

what I'm getting stuck in...

  • stalling / forgetting about all that i wanted to do. somehow just not bothering to look at the list I made of things to wanted to achieve when I got back
  • getting my story straight about what I want to do. Options are good, but this many vague ones? Need to get cracking on crystalising some...

but what have I actually done whilst being back?

  • spent time with my family - a week in Yamba a couple of days after I got back
  • caught up with primary and high school friends in Brisbane, going to coffee in trendy suburbs that I'd never been to before!
  • being endlessly spoiled by friends with delicious meals while we trip down memory lane and more recent histories
  • stayed nearly a month in Sydney in the thick of Bondi Beach - cat sitting for friends in their beautiful apartment
  • worked the last 3 weeks in a Jewish bakery across the street. How amazing in challah?! (though, how many pounds have I packed on since starting?!)
  • a wonderful week in Albury with my friends and ... loving the slower, more open pace!
  • getting casted for a documentary about being first generation Australian
  • finalising an article for publishing in a motorbike magazine
  • knocking back a job offer to do what I did before (I nearly got sucked back in but luckily was rescued;)
  • sorting out some of my 14 000 pics from travels into photo books

and so, what's next?

I'm moving to the country!!! oh YES. after talking about this for the, well, last 4 years, I'm doing it! I'm being welcomed into my brother's house in Glen Innes in northern NSW and I'm gonna live there:) actually, just writing that makes me feel happy:) I want to ride a motorbike again - the scooter has been fun here in Sydney, but I want to change gears:) I'll help my brother with his solar business, perhaps work in a cafe or what I'm more keen to do - something in waste, water or community support. Some of my friends are doubtful - you'll last 2 weeks they say, but I have a feeling. I'm gonna like it.

Meanwhile, I'm feeling good about having blogged again, and I'm going to try to keep perspective on things. It's hard. I'm easily distracted and not particularly reflective on my own. But i'm very lucky to have friends and family around me who are loving, supportive and keep on track.
Thanks everyone:)

Sydney standard - Opera Bar.
Who knew this is in the middle of the Eastern Suburbs in Sydney?
I LOVE these spiders. I'm a compulsive spider web climber...
This is Akira - one of the cats I am sitting.


  1. Nice to read what happened after you left us. Please keep on writing in your blog, I love to keep track of you. More and more thinking of buying a bike myself. Having had the 2 bikes in my basement brought back memories. Waiting for Jaime to be a bit bigger, he will be 6 in November. Many hugs all the way from sunny Arequipa and when Astrid is her in Nov we will toast you in El Tio Dario. Definate our most favorite restaurant. I owe you big time for that!! Alex

  2. Lovely blog entry Susan :) Thanks for sharing! Can't wait to cu in November :) Until then enjoy the country side! Curious about what comes next. I'm sure you will find the "right" thing soon :)
    Big hug! K.