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yu-en-me ´a man who leaves home to mend himself and others is a philosopher, .. he who goes from country to country guided by blind impulses of curiosity is .. a vagabond.´ - oliver goldsmith

homeward bound: Dorothy of Oz meets Avril of Angst

AUSTRALIA | Tuesday, 9 October 2007 | Views [987]

back in may, when i first started revealing to close friends that i was going back to melbourne in november, i was so chuffed by the reciprocated enthusiasm: 'i can't wait to see you! we have so much to catch up on!' but as the months rolled by, i was surprised by the increasing amount of anxiety i felt about my return. in movieland, these few months would be compressed into 10 seconds: the ang lee of my life would have had me wandering in a random city, smiling dreamily at the ground thinking of everything i'd do back home, when suddenly i would stop and raise my face as the camera zooms in on me from above, highlighting the widening eyes indicating that reality had hit. 'can't wait to see you; so much to catch up on' - f#ck! that's a lot of pressure! would everyone expect me to be like speedy gonzales? would i be judged by not being up to date on the state of the property market in the south eastern suburbs?

such was the nature of my thoughts as i explored high altitude peruvian and bolivian towns, the lack of oxygen doing nothing but fuel my nervy state. i was slightly comforted by knowing that my worry was normal; lots of people seem to get stressed about reuniting with friends/family, and i've heard not a few 'what have i done?'-style laments when plane tickets are paid for and realisation sets in. slightly comforted, but not enough. my bandaid personality has always been in the quick-rip category rather than the slow-and-careful-peel, so halfway through yet another restless night of worrying (this time: 'what if i don't join facebook?, will i have no more friends in australia?'), i thought screw it, i'm not going to wait for the departure date to come to me, i'm going to go to it.

within a week, i'd left the shores of lake titicaca, was scammed crossing the bolivian/argentine border (including 20 minutes' worth of tv-like drama when 3 stern police officers got on the bus on a coke raid), waited 14 hours between flights in auckland's airport, 3 hours at sydney's airport, and arrived in melbourne at midnight a week after i'd made the mohammed/mountain-esque resolve.

it's nice being home. everything's so clean, familiar, safe, clean, convenient, new, clean, and user-friendly. and everyone's so clean, polite, friendly, clean, enthusiastic, clean, and willing to help. it's all just so nice, and i definitely understand why almost all visitors here, once they've been through melbourne, count it as one of their favourite places in australia. i regret that i can't rediscover melbourne's music scene with 24-hour-party-nico, that i couldn't take el colo-loco to any fringe festival shows, that i can't invite funky chicken patty to tour my favourite eating spots, nor trail my guachita vivita on a shopping spree down bridge road, - not to mention all the other people i've met along the way. yeah, miss dorothy was right; there really is no place like home. but i have to say that this time, i'm giving my vote to canadian philosopher, avril lavigne, when she says 'it's amazing what a couple of years can do'.

it would be hard to pinpoint specific changes in the essence of melbourne life, or any particular change in me, but somehow things have all mixed and reacted together, with the result being that not only have lots of things surprised me, but i've been surprised by the fact that i've been surprised. for example, - and there's no exaggerating here, - i was honestly thrown off by the fact that the toilets at auckland's airport were clean, well-supplied, and you could flush toilet paper down without clogging the pipes. i even took some extra toilet paper for my personal stash for future use, and only realised much later (when i got to sydney's airport, and stole more paper), that i could expect all public toilets from here on to be regularly cleaned and supplies topped up. and i wouldn't even have to make sure i had loose change to tip the person doing it.

other things wowing me include how much the men's health and beauty market has exploded, the intensity of the government campaign on crystal meth, the amount of support for the breast cancer foundation (although i only just realised that there was a designated breast cancer month), how new all the cars i see are, and also how many more cyclists there are on the roads. i'm still a bit bewildered about how self-conscious i feel surrounded by so many groomed, toned, and fragrant people, all with even teeth and smooth hands. it might sound like i'm blowing this out of proportion, but if you'd gone so long without plucking your eyebrows, used cooking oil as moisturiser, and washed only when the opportunity arose (far less frequent than you'd want), you'd also feel you were at a fancy-dress party when out and about looking 'presentable'.

i haven't really had much interest in going back to my former behaviour - buying music and clothes impulsively, for instance. And even though i'm sincerely happy for the friends who are settling down with mortgages, baby ideas, and few-week holiday plans for the future, i guess i'm reassured that the comfortable deal that i could have here in melbourne, as great as it is, isn't (yet? ever?) enough to pull me back. in a somewhat detached way, i'm quite curious to see how long these feelings will last, and whether my personal behaviour will change as 3 weeks 'back home' turn into 3 months. i guess that'll be for next time though; stay tuned.

ps. despite myself, i ended up joining facebook, too insecure to experiment with the consequences of non-membership. i wonder what that says about me and the way we communicate now...
pps. i'm now showering (almost) daily, and my legs are (kind of) smooth. just so my melbourne friends know that noseplugs and sunglasses won't be (technically) necessary when we catch up.
ppps. i've just realised that i hadn't given the full story of my temporary return. one of my cousins is getting married in malaysia, a great pretext to come back to this corner of the world to enjoy tim tams and kath & kim, preferably at the same time. after a fortnight in malaysia/thailand, i'll be back in australia mid-november, before using my one-way ticket out of the country 2 months from now. i'm going back to south america, because there're some unfinished dreams that i'd like to.. well, finish. but i can't say more on that because i'll jinx myself. so in the meantime, please be warned that i'll continue to send these long-winded emails at semi-regular intervals.

Tags: Culture



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