Friday, October 1, 2010

No Place Like Home

Dear No One in Particular,

Well, hello there. Fancy meeting you here.

I bet you thought I had forgotten about this little space. Not a chance.

I'm back from Australia, although I was sorely tempted to become a permanent ex-pat. Seriously: I LOVED it. It was so much more than I had hoped it would be, and nothing like I had dreamed. Something had pushed me to Oz, told me something incredible awaited me there. Not to sound too San Francisco-hippie, but I left the States knowing that the universe had great plans for me.

It's hard for me to recount, what exactly, was so amazing about being there. I wasn't given anything tangible -- not a souvenir, a job offer, or even a picture of a single piece of magnificence -- to hold up and say "THIS. This is why I had to go." But the fact remains that I'm a different person now. Visiting Australia, even for that short period of time, changed me. I can't wait to go back and see what else will happen.

I do, however, have a highlight reel and tons of photos:

If you're planning your Mighty Life List and thinking Australia should be on it, let me be the first to stand up and shout a resounding yes! It's an incredible place and there is so much to see, that I recommend making multiple trips if you can swing it. Or, if you have more stamina than I, take a long, long vacation and travel the entire country. I only made it to the big cities, and my only regret is that I didn't allot time to visit the Great Barrier Reef while I was there.

This is technically a wallaby, but my point still stands.

One thing that every visitor to Australia must do is feed a kangaroo. Honestly, I almost edited my Life List to include this, because I wish I had thought of it sooner. I'd only seen kangaroos in zoos, behind plexiglass walls, so when my cousins told me that I would get the chance to feed them -- feed them with my own hands -- I just about peed myself with excitement. It was hilarious and amazing and kind of cheesy in a really great way.

In fact, all of the Australian wildlife is pretty great:

Case in point.

My favourite vacation fun fact: all of the koalas in Australia have chlamydia.

This is the face of chlamydia.

Speaking of wildlife, the fairy penguins? SO PRECIOUS. I was a bit hesitant to actually drive all the way out to Phillip Island, since I had heard that there were more tourists than penguins these days. I was even more hesitant when they told us to dress extra-warm, since we would be sitting on concrete bleachers at dusk on the beach. But! All of that changed when we saw the first bitty penguin waddle up out of the surf and scurry across the sand toward safety. The Centre is built right on top of the penguins' natural migration path, so you can walk up the hill alongside the tiny tuxedo-ed birds. No joke, it was the cutest damn thing I'd ever seen.
Unfortunately, there are no pictures of this event, since camera flashes scare the penguins. I snapped one photo inside the Visitor's Centre, which conveniently has little peek-a-boo windows into the fairy penguin's burrows.

Real live fairy penguins, in a real live fairy penguin burrow,
having a real live fairy penguin cuddle.

Another "must-do", specifically if you're in Melbourne, is see an Aussie Rules Football game. Don't worry about trying to make sense of the game; the rules are ridiculous and obviously made up by a bunch of drunk criminals who were bored with cricket. It's obscenely violent, but the fans are incredible (they put soccer hooligans to shame) and the players are gorgeous, in a very beefcakey, missing-multiple-teeth sort of way.

Remember how I said that Melbourne was the place I most wanted to see? Yeah, I take that back. Don't get me wrong -- Melbourne is marvelous! The Queen Victoria Market is heaven on Earth and I would kick a puppy to have even the palest imitation of it here in San Francisco. But I wasn't totally in love, ready to drop everything and set up home in Fitzroy -- not for Melbourne, that is.

I loved Sydney. LOVED IT, you guys; loved it like ... I can't even think of a proper analogy, I loved it that much. We had flown out of Sydney to spend a week in Melbourne, and on our flight back in, I remember the plane's wheels hitting the tarmac and sighing internally, thinking "Ahhh ... we're home." 5 all too short days in this glorious city, and it had imprinted itself on my mind as home. Every so often I wake up with my heart strings tugging me back to Sydney, and I want to cry.
I'm not so sure why I loved Sydney more when all signs pointed in the other direction. The food was better in Melbourne (marginally, because I must say the food in Australia is altogether tremendous; it's a country full of foodies), it's much less of a metropolis and more of a cultural hub, etc.

But Sydney, with it's gorgeous weather, delightful people, and cinematic familiarity just felt right. It felt as if the whole sun-soaked city reached out, hugged me close, and whispered "Welcome. We've been expecting you."

I've been mulling this over for months now, wondering why I felt so strongly about Australia in general, and Sydney (Sydney!) specifically. Before I left, I spent months dreaming about Oz and the wonders it held for me. Those dreams still continue, urging me to go back, to return home.

Australia isn't done with me yet, not by a long shot. But for now, I have photos to remember and a special place in my heart carved out for the land down under.


Oh! Before I forget: remember, how, like 2 years ago, I asked Santa to bring me a pygmy hippo for Christmas? I SAW HER. No joke, she now lives at the Melbourne Zoo and I thought I had managed to stop screaming long enough to take a couple of photos of her walking around underwater, but apparently they were so blurry and out-of-focus that the Boy deleted them. But trust me: Monifa (hilarious name) is adorable and wee and just so precious.


Vanessa said...

I didn't realize I never commented on this, but your trip looks like it was so amazing and I'm really jealous. Like times 1000.

[schu] said...

thanks for your post - i know how you feel about the oz and i for myself am looking forward to going there (hope this'll happen sooner or later). like your images, too!