When I first arrived in Sydney two years ago, I had in my mind a list of what I ought to expect of a country so far down from home. While I wasn’t disappointed by the development and the better system of things being done, albeit not without a sense of wonder for a considerable amount of time, I have to admit there were things I wasn’t prepared for in any way. Not books, not movies, not even the Internet prepared me for the things I witnessed and experienced down under. Some of these experiences can simply be blamed on the ridiculous lack of knowledge on things on my behalf, and the rest on the difference between everything Nepalese and Australian.
Let me start with the accents. I should have expected an Aussie accent at least. I did not. The result: complete bafflement. Aussie accent is beautiful, I must say. The kind of a person I am, I should have caught on this accent by now. I have not. The reason: Sydney is essentially a city of immigrants. I lived in the suburb of Rockdale for the first 6 months, and you must believe when I say this: it will soon be declared the 76th district of Nepal. Living in Rockdale is like living in a cleaner, developed city in Nepal. We have Nepalese people everywhere, Nepalese grocery, beauty parlours, saree shops, you name it. I studied in University of Wollongong for 4 months but had to move to a university closer to home and city. The Charles Sturt University study centre in Sydney has a rare number of local students, if any. My classmates are mostly Nepalese, Indian or any other Asian lot. I won’t even start with my workplace.
Australia experiences opposite seasons to Nepal. This I knew. Sydney experiences some crazy gusts of wind. This I didn’t know. People here don’t feel the chill at all. Nope, I didn’t know. While I battle through the wind bundled up in double jackets, locals walk in shorts and just t-shirts. It’s insane. And the babies. Back home, and even here I see Asian parents carrying their babies cocooned in warmth, but the locals have their babies’ feet dangling from the baby bag (or whatever they call it), no socks, no cap. It’s perplexing to say the least. And they walk barefoot. Well, not all of them and not all the time. I am used to it by now, but you can imagine my reaction the first time I saw one guy, well dressed (casual, I’ll give him that) and barefoot. We have beaches at arm’s length, I know but even in the city, I have seen plenty of barefooters to know it is indeed an Aussie thing. I have traversed places barefoot myself to see how it feels. Well, the place is not dirty but walking on concrete is hard, however, surprisingly, it feels nice.
Speaking of beaches, nothing could ever have prepared me for the beaches here. They are the best. I have never been to any other beaches but I can guarantee that for me, Aussie beaches will be the best thing ever. They’re the best blue. Notice I have used only best and nothing else. Yeah, cause they are. The best. And people, they swim and surf all the damn time. Morning, under scorching sun, chilly evening, and even when there are sharks nearly.
Another thing that stands out for me is how we buy bananas here. Once, back home, I remember mentioning buying bananas by the kilo by mistake. My mom had laughed at me, saying who buys them by kilos, because back home we buy them by the dozen. You can imagine my surprise to see Aussie people, that’s who, buy their bananas by the kilo. Amazing.
I cannot not mention how Aussies love short-forms. It’s like they like to relax so much, they can’t be bothered with the full words. They have to absolutely abbreviate everything. Like how Australia is Aussie/Straya, Tasmania is Tassie, Wollongong is The Gong, Woolworths is Woolies, McDonalds is Maccas, breakfast is brekky, barbecue is barbie, poker machine is pokie, football is footie, bottle shop is bottle-o, mosquitos are mozzies, sunglasses are sunnies and the lot.
And the store: Kathmandu. In Nepal, hiking/trekking equals North Face. I hadn’t even heard of the brand name Kathmandu until I came here. One day, I saw a guy carrying a bag that had Kathmandu written on it. You can well imagine my pride at seeing the name of the city I grew up in flashing boldly in a foreigner’s accessory. I guessed the guy might have visited Nepal and might have fallen so hard for the city of Gods that he went to the length of having it printed on his bag and carrying it around. Oh boy was I wrong. Kathmandu turned out to be a New Zealand based travel and adventure outdoor apparel and equipment store. And they sell expensive-y good stuff. Every time I pass one of their stores, I cannot help but smile.
But most of the Aussie things have given me nothing but heart-warming joy and made me smile. I miss home but Sydney has become my second home. This is a place I was given a chance to be on my own like I had always dreamt of, be bold enough to travel by myself, try and fail and triumph at things. When I first arrived here, lots of paths had been laid out for me. I chose my own meandering one that led me to who I have become today. In Australia, I have lost and I have found myself. I have lived and I have loved.
Australia had me at hello or…..g’day.
PS. Since I live in the CBD, no life-threatening animals have been witnessed so far.