In the words of one of my husband’s good friends (who sadly passed away a few years ago), “how good’s Australia?!” While tomorrow’s Australia Day means a lot of different things to different people, to me, it essentially represents the time to take pause and celebrate the good fortune living here has afforded my family and I.
My family are of Italian origin. Like many other Italians of their generation, my grandparents came to Australia looking to create a better life for themselves and their young families. In turn, I, like many others of my generation, have had the blessing of growing up in not only one of the most stable, but also one of the most multicultural countries in the world.
I feel absolutely blessed to be a grown woman who has the best of both worlds. Comparing upbringings with my husband, we had a lot of differences. While he grew up at the park with backyard BBQs, interacting only really with his immediate family, and kicking the footy around with the neighbours, I was lunching on Lygon St with my extended family most weekends, bottling tomato sauce with one set of grandparents, and learning to pluck and gut chickens with the other (yes, really). He was eating ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch; I had mortadella and provolone. He went to AFL games with his parents; we went to mass read in Italian with our grandparents. That was the Italian side.
We also had some similarities, from the Aussie part of my upbringing – party food favourites included meat pies with the lids torn off and filled with tomato sauce (ketchup), sausage rolls dunked in tomato sauce, and BBQd sausages in bread, also smothered in tomato sauce. We both learnt to swim as early as we could walk and enjoyed lots of family beach holidays, and we enjoyed frequent walks down to the milk bar with a handful of coins with which to buy a handful of lollies. And you know what else?
Things that make being an Aussie fun…
– We live on a giant island. That means we’re generally never more than a few hours from the beach, the forest or the mountains.
– Tim Tams, lamingtons, ANZAC biscuits, Cherry Ripe, fairy bread, Fantales.
– Chris Hemsworth, Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger.
– You can use the same words to describe a mate and an enemy; it’s all in the tone you use.
– Everyone’s name can be shortened somehow. And the already really short names are better lengthened. Everyone must have a nickname.
– We’re also bloody lazy and shorten as many words as possible. We have breaky, not breakfast. Your wife is your darl, not your darling. You’ll be wanting another bev, not a beverage. And you’ll need to fire up the barbie, not the barbecue.
– Everyone knows the first verse of the national anthem, no one has a clue what the next verse is. And that’s ok, because the first verse is the only one that ever gets played.
– We’re totally cool with our national heroes being a bushranger and a race horse.
– Travelling to Asia is great – I just got to and from Tokyo with a nice, fat suitcase for about AUD$550.00.
– At one stage in the 1950s, a bloke made the Guinness Book of World Records for sculling 2.5 pints of beer in 11 seconds. He went on the become our country’s Prime Minister.
Frustrating things about living here…
– Groceries cost a bloody fortune.
– Don’t even think about taking your date to the movies for under $50. Just for tickets.
– The weather is demented. Last week, Melbourne had a 42°C (107°F) day, followed by a 17°C (62°F) day… ??!
– Bushfires and floods are a very real threat.
– Just about every animal in this country can kill you. Sharks, crocodiles, snakes, spiders… Even the cute ones. Kangaroos are violent AF and koalas have chlamydia.
– Who’s even running the country today?
– Melbourne’s public transport situation. No trains from the airport to the city. Nor do they run on time. Embarrassing.
– We have several sports that qualify as “footy.” You have to be specific.
– Travelling anywhere but South East Asia is a bitch. 14 hours Melbourne to LA, or around 22 hours to Europe. Bleh..
But, fun (and absurd) stuff aside, living here has blessed me with a good life. I was born into a country where women are more equal to men than in many other parts of the world. I grew up taking for granted the fact that I had a full education, because I never knew until much older than many women don’t automatically get that. In turn, that education has afforded me to work hard enough to earn the money to buy my own home and travel extensively.
That’s another thing – I can work. I am lucky to live in a country where women are not expected to stay at home and have children at a young age. I am able to come at go at my leisure, without male accompaniment. I am able to spend my money as I wish, dress as I wish, get tattooed and wear make up and drive and play sports.
I was blessed enough to be born into this country with a very stable economy and government, where coups and war and the such have not affected my generation first hand. I have the ability to step out of my home in the morning without fear of bombs and shootings and soldiers confronting me.
I have the honour of sharing this country with hundreds of other nationalities and cultures and lifestyles. I have friends who are Asian and European, gay and straight, Catholic and atheist. Walking down the main street near my home, I can get Japanese, Indian, Fijian, Macedonian, Turkish and Italian food. I share a community with these people, and everyone exists harmoniously. I see a little old Greek lady purchasing apples from an Italian grocer from a young Vietnamese girl manning the cash register. They smile and chat and know each others’ names, somehow communicating with smiles through heavy accents and big age gaps. It doesn’t matter. I know not every area is like this, but the area I live in is, and I am blessed to be a part of it.
I have the privilege of living in a country where education and health care are readily available. I can turn on my kitchen tap and automatically have clean, safe drinking water. I can jump on a train and be in a big, fascinating, beautiful city within 20 minutes. Or I can walk a few hundred metres and have a picnic by a lake in a beautiful park.
We truly are the lucky country. I know that as the world struggles through tough times, we’ll inevitably feel it here, too. But we’ve been through tough times before, and the Aussie battler spirit will get us through, as it always has. If you’re a fellow Aussie, I hope you celebrate a little tomorrow, and appreciate just how good we have it here 🙂 And if you’ve not visited before, we’d love to have you! We know we’re a long way from everywhere else, but we promise it’s worth the trip!