On kangaroos, markets, and Tim Tams.
It occurred to me this morning that while I’ve been talking endlessly about writing, my WIP, the publishing world, etc., I haven’t actually blogged yet about living in Australia, which is probably one of the more interesting things I could talk about. So here goes.
One of the reasons I haven’t really talked much about it is because for me, right now, it’s not all that different from living in the U.S. except that my family can’t turn up unexpectedly (which is both good and bad), and when I wake up in the morning there’s about a thousand unread tweets because most of the people I know live while I’m asleep (which is both good and bad). It’s winter here, which doesn’t mean much to those of us who are used to needing kitty litter, a ski lift, and a lot of hoping to get up our driveways in the winter. It doesn’t get that cold here, but it does get chilly, rainy, and windy, a combination which makes it rather unpleasant to be outside most days. So the weather is pretty conducive to huddling up indoors, and because I’ve been voluntarily huddling to finish my book, it’s been a pretty good arrangement.
For me, Australia is a second home. I’ve lived here once before (with the same people I’m living with now) and while that first time took some adjustment, it didn’t take anywhere near as much as I was expecting. It’s life in another country–there should be some culture shock, some homesickness, right? And yes, true, there was a little bit of that, but not much. Australia ended up being quite a bit like the U.S., only with a different brand of stupid people than the ones we’ve got, and they talk kind of funny. (And actually sometimes so funny that I can’t even understand them, and vice versa, despite the fact that we are in theory all still speaking English.) For me it just means that I’ve got a suddenly higher concentration of my friends all in one place, a dog instead of a cat, and a bicycle instead of a car.
While I do have about ten thousand times more experience in Melbourne than in, say, Sydney, I must say that I completely love this city. Not only are there like a million chocolate and book shops (not combined, although wow, how awesome would that be?) the public transportation is great and you can get basically anywhere, and there are restaurants and museums and basically the best massaman curry in the world. Plus they make TIM TAMS here, which, if they cotton on and start making a flavor with peanut butter in, would be the best cookie (biscuit?) in the world too.
Australia is a strange mix of the best parts of American life and the best parts of European, or more specifically, British life. In the mornings I often bike to a set of shops near the house that contain a butcher, a baker, (no candlestick makers, although there is a homewares shop), a fruit and veg shop, a fish store, and a ton of other things. I feel so very European when I do this. Some mornings though I just sit and I make instant noodles and watch TV, because hey, okay, I am also still American.
Everyone travels here. It’s just what you do. In the U.S., I would say I was going to live in Australia for a year and the proclamation would be met with shock and amazement and gasps of “Wow, I didn’t know you could do that, that is so cool/stupid/puzzling– oh! Okay, you must be going there for school and/or employment purposes!” Whereas here, I mention that I’m an American living here for a year, and I mostly get “Oh, well done,” a slight nod, and then a move on to other subjects. Sometimes I’ll get a “How are you liking it so far?” and the conversation moves on to a mutual rapture of the glory of Tim Tams. This is because a much higher percentage of Australians spend vast quantities of time overseas, months or even years at a time. And yeah, some of it is for studying abroad, but a lot of times they just GO. They go to see the world outside Australia.
I have a theory that because they’re an island country that is more like Britain/Canada/America/etc. than it is anything else, and they are so separated from their more similar countries, they have to travel pretty far to get someplace familiar. In fact, in Australia, you have to travel pretty far to get anywhere that is not Australia, except for New Zealand, but that’s another story. So it doesn’t seem like a big deal to do it. Mostly, though, I always find myself wishing that Americans saw more of the world. I think it’d do us good as a people. I think everyone should spend some time living abroad if it’s at all possible–and that’s not just for writers and artists.
Today I am heading to the South Melbourne Market, which is a permanent market that sells everything from kangaroo tails (our reason for going, the dog eats them) to cauliflower to fresh pasta to dim sims to doorknobs. When you go you are expected to buy hot jam donuts and wander around eating them and getting sugar everywhere, and then when you get tired you sit at one of a myriad of coffee places–permanent shops that exist within the marketplace–and have a drink and form your plan of attack for your next foray into the wilderness of stalls. It’s a huge place, and tremendously easy to get lost in, but not even the biggest market in the Melbourne area. And I can’t think of many things you can’t buy there. Okay, okay, I don’t think you could buy a car there. But you could probably buy enough car parts and accessories to make up most of a car, it just wouldn’t run very well, I don’t expect.
And people eat kangaroos here, too. It is in fact a very popular meat. And delicious, I must say.