Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Letter From Australia

Letter from Australia

(written from 3 – 5 AM, this is my brain on Australian time!)

This place is fantastic. I've spent the last hour trying to figure out how to get all of my friends in Germany over here on a skilled workers visa. And yet, part of me wants to keep the place a secret too. It's too good to be true. I sit listening to the kookaburras battling it out with the cockatoos right outside my bedroom window and yet I can hop on the train and be in the center of Brisbane within 45 minutes.

The Aussies are a frightening people. They take a little getting used to mate. Like all that smiling and speaking to one another. Complete strangers even. It's hard to shake em off your tail. Like that intrusive couple on the train into Brisbane who insisted on showing us to Queen Street. And then spent half an hour chatting with us once we were there. Beware of an early morning walk too. The local wildlife, dressed in walking shorts and sun hats, sat down on a park bench with Damon yesterday and held him up for another half hour. Like they were really interested in him.

I guess what I'm saying is that a typical ''how are ya, mate?'' takes half an hour.

We're a pretty exotic species here as well. Americans? Like we come from another planet. Our European past is of mild interest – you've been all over sort of thing – but it's America that holds their interest. What's it like over there? When I tell them the Brisbane suburbs remind me of a milder, less developed Florida – one that has shopping malls, and Target, all within easy walking distance but hasn't completely destroyed the native fauna to put in subdivisions – they don't believe me. Go, I tell them. See the Great White North. (A lot are interested in Canada as well.) But I can almost guarantee you'll come back here.

Having said that, we are the first residents in an unfinished gated community here in Lawnton. Sure, they have koalas in the neighborhood, they tell me. That's why they kept that big gum tree up next to the pool. Nesting. Like any self-respecting koala is going to nest in a tree surrounded by townhouses. So that we're already encroaching on wildlife habitat just by moving in.

The local wildlife I do see every morning though appeals to me. Somewhere between 5 to 6 AM, depending on if the property manager is here or not, a herd of ''Bob, the Baumeisters'' shows up ready for work. Young, tanned and topless by 9AM. Yay for me. Other than that,and the chattering kookaburra and flocks of wild cockatoos, lorikeets and magpies, we have no neighbors. The rest of the complex still needs to be completed, final stages being delayed by an unusually rainy October which brought the drought hungry water levels up to 90% from 20% in just 30 days. The Connors are here. We tend to bring rain and snow wherever we travel. Switzerland had to close its ski slopes last October due to the unusually heavy, seasonally early snowfall when we were there. You're welcome Brisbane. Any other parts of Australia need a little watering?

We can't decide whether to register the kids for school today or head to the beach. I'm thinking beach. Cause the school will still be there tomorrow. No worries there.

You can't imagine what a joy it is to migrate to a country where immigration, health insurance and school offices all greet you with an ''easily done'' after coming from a country where the bureacracy doesn't greet you at all and then gives you a look of severe disdain and a ''nicht moeglich“ (not possible) when you have the audacity to ask them for help.

I've already had to explain to one older lady, who had gone back to Germany to learn about her Jewish past, that it wasn't antisemitism that made the Germans so rude to her. I think it's lack of sunshine. Really. Has anyone investigated the lack of Vitamin D on attitude? Just look at what happens to the Brits when you give them a little bit of sunshine!

The convict thing has come up already too. Apologetically. As in, well my ancestors were probably arrested for stealing a loaf of bread or something like that. Except that the penal colony in Brisbane was for severe offenders, as in my ancestors were probably arrested for murder and were darn lucky not to be hanging from the gallows. As if America was founded by a bunch of Puritans.

Oh that. Good publicity and excellent early public schooling. You don't learn about the indentured servants and other European social outcasts – the tired, the hungry, the poor – until later on, when your hormones are too fixated on the biceps of the guy sitting two rows in front of you to pay any attention.

As for the rest of my roots, well, I'll see your ancestor convicted for murder 200 years ago and raise you a race that slaughtered the Jews only 60 years ago.

But the sun is out, the birds are awake, and my ''Bobs'' are scheduled to arrive within the hour. It's a new day and anything is possible.

So that I really have to decide whether to tell everyone how fantastic it is here. Or keep up that great Australian conspiracy.

We ARE at the ends of the earth. One step to the East and you fall right off. (This has GOT to be the most fortuitous – for us, not the indigenous people – pitstop ever made. Thanks James.)

Creepy crawlies and slimy slitheries everywhere. So small you don't know what hit you. Of course,only the funnel spider is deadly, and even then you have plenty of time to call 000 and get help. Pressure wrap, boys. Pressure wrap. And yes, the property manager did tell us that we had nothing to worry about since the only poisonous spider around here, the redback, doesn't have enough venom – and here she looked the twins over carefully – to kill anything but a wee infant. Might sting quite a bit though, she added.

So that if the spiders and snakes don't scare you off, we've got the box jelly fish. The most deadly animal in the world. With long, transparent tentacles that DO deliver enough venom to kill you within minutes. Antivenom on the beach though. If you can get there in the few seconds before paralysis sets in.

And sharks and saltwater crocodiles. None of which live in the suburbs of Brisbane.

The latest deadly Australian animal, only recently discovered, is Quantas airlines. And yes, we were one of the next flights INTO Singapore that morning when the pilot announced – in typically British subdued fashion – that there was some debris on the runway and we would have to circle a bit until they cleared it off. He did NOT mention that the debris was the better part of another Quantas airplane's engine. Having no newspaper or internet access in the Singapore airport, I was calmly reading the superb safety record of Quantas airlines in our Travel Australia guide as they were picking up pieces of one of their airplanes only meters away.

Just goes to show I still do nothing quietly. How nice to be living on an island big enough – where the birds are loud enough – that I'll fit right in.


  1. I heard about that airplane and my first thought was about you guys 'trying' to get to your new home.

  2. Now I need to find a way to move to Australia! I liked reading this wander through your mind. Thanks for letting us in on this place ;)