I’m home. What better re-entry to Australia can one ask for, than with a front-page story and photo of a python consuming a crocodile? Ahh, it’s good to be back.
The past month has been a whirlwind of activity – staying in 13 different beds, in 7 towns, across 4 states – making my time in Swaziland look positively lazy.
First stop was 2 days in Brisbane: Sharing a wine with cousin Emma & Alex; counting out piggy bank savings with cousin once-removed Francis; listening to little cousin Brandon try to recite the TMNT (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle) theme song; being shown an amazing Cai Guo-Qiang art exhibition by Tim; lunching on wild rice salad with Rozi; checking out inner-city markets with Mia; learning about family history with Aunty Val; catching up with my bro, Alex; playing cars with the school-going nephew Max; drinking iced coffee from a beer bottle with Liz H; lunching by the river with Maz; stumbling upon a random religiously-painted wooden kimono art exhibition in the gothic Anglican cathedral; having a beer with Rebecca; and racing to the airport where computers have taken over the entire check-in process.
Then it was on to Rockhampton, where I spent some time catching up with the parents and checking out their new wheels; meeting nephew Charlie for the first time; reading books from my childhood with nephew Dylan; drinking cups of tea with best friend Liz; joining her family for an explosive GPMP (guinea pig multiplication program); visiting the neighbours; catching up with school-mate Anna M & Julie, and befriending their beautiful and much-grown children; downing coffee with Anna D; and feeling very Australian as I cruised past the eucalypt-filled bushland in the ute with country music blaring and wallabies bounding past on my way to Calliope to see my sister Rachel.
Next stop was Melbourne: drinking coffee at a street-side cafe with Tegan; meeting up with Myles for live music and jugs of beer at The Evelyn; attending pre-departure training for my next stint in Zambia (more on that later); running into fellow returned volunteer Pip on the street corner and realising I wasn’t alone in this job-searching predicament; plotting Zambian take-over and rise to international development stardom with Pip; enjoying rare Melbourne sunshine upstairs at Damask with other budding volunteers; lamenting the new fashion trend of beard and pony tails among hipster Melbourne men; all-you-can-eat dumplings with the Southern African crew; getting my vegan and corona fix with Farnsy; duck watching with Dr Loz; having a four-hour, seven-jab tropical disease health interrogation; wandering the native gardens at CERES; joining Suz for a comedy night in Fitzroy; pasting the ANZ bank wall with pictures of refugees for Harmony Day while putting my body on the line for refugee issues; Nepalese reunion with Mel, Brad & Chad, complete with dahl bhaat and language lessons; a night of swing music and dance with Claire, Mairtin & Juicebox; afternoon tea with May & Teegs; gaining 2kg in as many weeks.
In between all of this were two little rural stints. One was a weekend with my sister Cecilia, where I caught up with my ever-friendly, ever-talkative, 4 year old niece Zoe, and got to meet my train-loving nephew Dominic for the first time. We headed out to her property in Gormandale for a weekend of trampolining, play dough, swings, train sets, cow spotting, eating, bath time, pool, board games, and the occasional tantrum and tears (not from me…..this time).
The other stop was Wedderburn, an hour outside Bendigo, to spend a couple of days recuperating at ex-Swazi volunteer Julie’s place, enjoying the quintessentially Australian environment, feeding the sheep, sinking a few at the pub in the scrub, starting a world-dominating moisturiser business, and working out the seven degrees of separation with bar flies at the Wedderburn Hotel.
Finally, I spent a fantastic few days in Sydney, catching up with my Aunt and Uncle on the Ross side, as well as having drinks with cousin Ben, and dinner with the cousin Kirrily and her entire Burnes crew (some of whom I hadn’t seen for 16 years!). I also hit downtown Sydney with Goddo and Fulto from Uni days, brunched with Kirby while overlooking the harbour, and dined with Roly, Gazal and their dynamic duo of cuteness, Jacinda & Eli.
Now, I feel a real sense of homecoming as I touch down on Western Australian sand, and catch up with Jodes, Wayno, Cass & Matt, before inundated a Public Health Advocacy crowd with my life’s history, before flying up to Geraldton for a month of beachy bliss.
Yes, it has been a whirlwind of activity, with barely a moment to ponder what I have left behind and what I am going to. Yet in these brief moments of contemplation, the only change I’ve noticed is no real change at all. Everything here seems so familiar. Yet, at the same time I feel like a stranger, no longer immersed in this life but instead watching it all from the outside looking in. The sensation is comforting, eerie, and affirming, all at once.