Monday was the three-month anniversary of my plane touching down at BNE, so it seems like a good time to reflect on my experiences here so far. It’s really strange–sometimes I can’t believe it’s been a whole three months, but then other times it feels like so much longer! Although I have a ton of work to do for my PhD, I’ve been trying to take at least one full day of the week (usually Saturday) to explore, relax, and maybe go on a day trip.
In the past three months I’ve seen a lot, learned a lot, and started to really get comfortable here. I know which bus routes take me into the CBD, and which ones go to my great aunt’s house. I have a mental image to go with many of the suburb names on the map, and an idea of the topography and landmarks in different parts of town. I know where the post office is, where the university campuses are (although I rarely go to them), where the markets and the malls and the movie theatres are, and where to find cool hidden bars.
More importantly, I’m better at understanding the Australian accent and I’ve figured out what arvo, goon, and Macca’s are, among other Aussie-isms (afternoon, boxed wine, and McDonalds, if you’re wondering). Plus Australians are partial to shortening any and every word they possibly can which leads to words like exy (expensive), brekkie (breakfast), and mozzie (mosquito). They also describe things simply as “[something] as” without bothering to finish their thought so you might be told, for example, that a party was “fun as” or that a movie was “sweet as” and you’ll be left to imagine an ending to the sentence yourself. When I first got here these words and phrases were jarring (and honestly downright incomprehensible at times), but now they’re just standard to hear and I wouldn’t be surprised if I started saying some myself fairly soon.
Now, a bit about the weather and seasons. When I first came to Australia, it was the beginning of August which is considered winter here since the seasons are obviously flipped on this side of the equator. However, since it was 20+ degrees Celsius and sunny most days, it didn’t feel anything like what a Canadian would call winter and it seemed like overkill to see restaurants advertising “warming soups for winter!” True, at night it dropped to 10 degrees and you had to pack a sweater or light jacket for walks home, but when you’re used to -10C as an average winter day, +10C is phenomenal. One odd thing that I didn’t think about before coming here is that Brisbane is much closer to the equator than Toronto is (27.5 S vs. 43.7 N) which means that there’s less seasonal variation in the length of days. In Toronto, winter days are a good six hours shorter than summer days, and most of the daytime hours gained are in the evening. Here, it seems like the majority of the daylight gained in the summer is on the dawn side, so that sunrise is before 5am, while the latest sunset is never after 7pm. Since I often come home after 6pm, the only times I see Brisbane in the light is on my walks to work and on the weekends; because of the rareness, it’s actually strange to see places during the daytime. Because of the early-morning sunshine, Brisbanites on average seem to be early risers. The hot climate also means that any outdoor activity becomes unbearable real fast, so most running and biking clubs meet between 5:30 and 7am! A few weeks ago I had to wake up at 5am to take a bus to the coast, it was already bright out, and at 5:20am as I walked to the bus stop I saw there were already packs of cyclists zooming by on the bike lanes.
When I first got here, I loved how different plants and animals are from the ones back home or in Europe–I still do. We have a trio of possums that live in our backyard, climbing from one palm tree to another with long tails for balance. It seems like they’re a family since one of the three is smaller, and jumped onto its mother’s back when it spotted me. There are also enormous bats called flying foxes that wake up and take to the skies around sunset–once I saw a whole cloud of about 200 bats fly by! I also had a closer encounter with a bat one night soon after I arrived. I was at yoga in the park in South Bank, the cultural precinct by the river, and during the final relaxation pose I heard some rustling above me in a tree and opened my eyes and I was suddenly staring at an upside down bat that was staring right back. After another minute frozen like that, it let go of the branch it was holding on to and did a bit of a dive toward me before it unfurled its wings and flapped away. Just another thing to add to my list of “things that don’t happen in Canada”! There are “heaps” of other cool animals and plants as well, but I’ll save those for another time.
Three months ago, after over 24 hours of travel in three planes across 15,000km and four airports, I was welcomed into Australia by a customs officer who called me “mate” not once, not twice, but three times.
Australia, I reckon our mateship is gonna be sweet as.