After commemorating my one year anniversary here in Asia last month, I left the continent for the first time to head south–way south, to that crazy continent of Australia. Two of my good friends from work were getting married (again), and I was able to take some time off to go to the wedding, and then stay to travel through the end of term break.
In the past year, I’ve been incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to travel to so many fascinating places in Asia. Since moving here, I’ve managed to travel to Hong Kong, Bali, Thailand, India, Singapore, Vietnam, Burma, Cambodia, and around Laos. Just making this list amazes me a little. With so much to see, the year has flown by (and I’ve come to realize how much my perception of the passage of time is dependent on the seasons-is it really a year later?) and I haven’t left. So my trip to Australia was my first time in a Western country, and a place where English is the native language, in a year. As such, it felt a bit like coming home, even though it was a totally new place. I haven’t experienced much homesickness in the past year, but the break was rejuvenating in a way that perhaps I didn’t realize I needed.
That said, while in Auz, I often asked myself: is English really the native language? My Aussie friends and I have joked a lot about the differences in our “languages,” but in their homeland I got to see the all of their vocabulary in context, which was certainly a source of amusement.
A dictionary of Aussie slang could be massive, so here’s just sampling that I learned:
Arvo: afternoon; Let’s have a barbie in the arvo.
Barbie: barbecue; Put some snags on the barbie.
Brekkie: breakfast; Let’s go out for brekkie.
Eski: cooler; Bring an eski to the barbie.
Footy: football-not soccer, but AFL (a bit like rugby), often used with the article “the”; Let’s have a barbie and watch the footy.
Lolly: any type of candy, or a popsicle when paired with the word “ice”; Wanna buy some lollies before the movie?
Nibbly: appetizer; I reckon there’ll be some nibblies before dinner at the reception.
Pokies: slot machines, found at almost every eating establishment; I lost $30 on the pokies last night.
Servo: a gas station/convenience store; Let’s pick up some lollies at the servo.
Snag: sausage; I like snags for brekkie.
Stubby: a regular-sized bottle of beer (big ones are known as “tallies”); Get me a stubby out of the eski.
In Australia, I spent most of my time in Queensland. It’s springtime in the southern hemisphere, and as Australia’s “Sunshine State,” it was warm and pleasant for most of my visit (the same cannot be said of Sydney). With only 10 days in the country, I didn’t even scratch the surface of Australian sightseeing. It’s a continent–what would you tell someone to do with 10 days in America? So many possibilities. I stayed in the northeast for most of the time, checking out sights on the coast (and as many Aussie animals as possible), and flew to Sydney for my last weekend for a taste of the city. Though there’s so much more I’d like to see–the Great Barrier Reef! Tasmania! The Outback! Melbourne!–I managed to get a feel for the place.
The incredible hospitality of friends and their families, mostly strangers before this trip, played an essential role in my travels. For one, Australia is expensive. The sticker shock coming from a year in Asia was staggering, but I think it also would be coming from the US. The AUD is currently about equal to the USD, which made it very easy to notice the inflated prices. But more importantly, all of the generous people who hosted me made me feel so at home. I joked with a friend that I was doing an “Australian home-stay” with her family, and though that sounds funny, since it’s something usually associated with tours or study abroad, it’s really quite accurate. So many people took me to see special things, gave me rides, and opened their homes for me. And in general (with only a few exceptions) everyone I met seemed overtly friendly and good-natured. I had the most jolly bus drivers I’d ever seen, the ladies working at 7-11 were smiley, and everyone seemed willing to go out of their way to be helpful. Perhaps this is just my perception because I could finally understand everything that was happening, and the scripts and interactions were familiar, but in general, I left with an impression of a very warm and neighborly people.
Now that I’m back, Term 4 at VC is in full-swing. The start of this term marked my one year mark teaching, as I arrived for Term 4 last year, and while I’m learning more everyday, the improvement in my teaching since then has been huge. The change in mostly in my confidence, which trickles down to other teaching skills, like improvising and providing feedback to students. There’s certainly much more I need to work on, but it’s heartening to compare the relative ease of starting new classes–now for the fifth time–this term with one year ago when I was panicking about what to do on day 1.
With five classes, I know life will be hectic again soon, so I’m trying to relish these first few weeks of relative calm. This calm is really only the office though, as the city is currently abuzz with holiday festivities (the end of Buddhist Lent) and the seemingly endless social events of fall. Over the next few weeks, I’ll continue to share stories from my travels in Australia, interspersed with updates on all of the events in Vientiane.