It occurs to me, long after the thing is done, that my blog is missing a lot of the good stuff. I did this in the TCI too. Shame really, the stories in my head are so much richer than the ones on the net.
On the flight home I’m reading The Geography of Bliss by NPR correspondent Eric Wiener (another book written by a journalist – my new favorite genre.) The gist is that lucky Eric gets to investigate the happy places of the world. Though, to be fair, he also visits Moldova, supposedly the least happy country on earth. It does sound rather depressing. Not rather – it sounds exactly like a destitute, troubled, and forgotten former Soviet republic. But the rest is pretty focused on happiness; what it means, how to quantify it, and why ping pong balls are necessary to Bangkok’s happiness factor.
One part in particular spoke to me: something called “cultural fit”. Some people have profound moments, Eric explains, where they realize they would be happier in places other than where they are born (he doesn’t mention it, but I notice all the stories he cites are from Westerners). In the journalist world, these folks are referred to as having “gone native”. (p. 179)
Interesting aside: An American, on hearing that 90% of Bhutanese who study abroad return to Bhutan even though they have “seen what they are missing” (enjoy a more Westernized life, as it were) commented: “Now, why would they do a thing like that?” (p. 90) For an American ex-pat living in one of the happiest countries on earth, that seems like a sad statement – the poor dear is clearly missing out on all that happy.
My point is, I realized I’ve never documented some of my proudest “fit” moments in Australia. When I got my Victorian driver’s license, for instance, I felt like I’d officially arrived.
More instances: My computer’s power cord needs a converter… in the US. I don’t watch sports but I love watching Aussie footy. Heck, I don’t gamble, but I put money down on that last game. Every encounter with a New Jersey driver has me desperately wishing to just get back “home” – a term I now use interchangeably for separate continents, but in this case refers to a place where road safety is a national priority and completely manageable because there are only 2.2 million people to monitor.
Someone had told me in the TCI they thought I’d gone native, so maybe it’s just the “when in Rome” mentality, but ever since I saw that rhinoceros beetle in Cairns 3 years ago, my fascination for Australia has grown.
AND I could go on and on about my fundamentally non-western view of the land. I don’t know any indigenous people in the US … not anyone close to their roots, anyway… but that’s the majority of who I know in Australia. It skews my view in very interesting ways that I should have dissected in a blog long ago. One of the first things I knew about Melbourne is where the sacred sites stand.
I hold little love for Sydney and as I flew in today I caught myself rather viciously thinking that it was a town of unappreciative (and anti-Melbourne) folk who don’t deserve to inhabit the beautiful patch of land they were lucky enough to take over. I thought a similar thing flying into LA. Imagine those majestic hills without the straight, non-native tree lined suburbia cutting across it. How often do we think of the “before” of our native lands? Before us.
But I digress (is there really a point here anyway?). All I wanted to point out is that I’m not done with this country. At the hot springs the other day we met a group of hostel jumpers listing off their incredibly interesting and ambitious travel plans. How jealous was I?! Their Aussie time was just beginning, and mine was nearly done. There were so many things I hadn’t done yet. The young travelers commiserated, having only been 2 weeks in the country and still awed by Aussie awesomeness (still a paradise).
“Don’t worry,” I told them, “I’ll be back.”
They seemed surprised. Maybe they’d agree with Eric who pointed out, “Our time abroad is supposed to be a fling. Nothing more.” (p.178)
But sometimes, a place just fits.