I cannot begin to tell you how much fun our first week in Australia has been. I don’t think it has been like either of us expected it to be – though I am unable to say what, if any, expectations I had.
It is save to presume that we were pretty overwhelmed for the first two days. We had had some contact with our Australian family members to let them know we were coming in the months before and they were as enthusiastic as we were about it. So we gave them a ring when we arrived in Australia (but only after we found a McDonald’s – not because of the food, but for the free wifi because we had forgotten to write down their phone numbers beforehand!) We would be able to meet up with them two days after.
We spent our first night in a so-called backpackers. This is basically a highly overpriced pigsty, but you can have loads of fun there, as well as highly overpriced beers.
One of the reason we might have felt a bit overwhelmed was the euro/Ozzy dollar exchange rate. We knew when we left Asia things would be different: Australia equals expensive. Considering we stayed in twin rooms with attached bathroom for seven US dollars (€5) or so at the most during five months in Asia, paying 30 Ozzy dollars (€24) for a – dirty – dormitory is a whole lot more. We were prepared for that though, and silently sipped our 9 dollar beers counting the coins in our pockets.
We spent two days hanging around, getting to know, discovering – a bit scared to spend too much money – when on Friday afternoon we met Louisa, who is our second cousin, and her family, husband Jono and sons Isaac and Ari. And off we went two spent two wonderful days at Jono’s mother Jude’s beach house in Rye. On Saturday, we all went to the national park at the tip of the bay. We went, to use five-year-old Ari’s words, to where the land ends: Melbourne faces the sea, but at the same time is protected from it by two large half circles of land forming a bay, and that is qhere we stood. We walked through the scenery in the warm Australian sun. We saw the Nepean fort learning the first shot fired by Great-Britain during WWII was in this particular part of Australia. It was so nice to be in nature with such warm, nice people that really made us feel at home.
We exchanged memories with Louisa, who was in the Netherlands about 20 years ago on her own world trip, and babysat us. Turned out her stay with us had left a bigger impression on my 7-year-old self than it had on her, but after a while she remembered our old house and other things. Louisa used to make little balls to juggle with and that is how my brother first started to juggle.
When I explained to Ari, Louisa’s youngest son, that we were related, he wouldn’t believe me at first. I can see how it seems surreal to a little boy that these two people from across the world are related to him through his grandmother’s grandmother. It probably becomes even harder to believe when you subsequently tell him that 20 years ago his very own mom babysat those two strangers. Especially if you feel like your grandmother already lives on the other side of the world “in Holland” when she in fact only lives an hour and a half away in Ballarat, and Melbourne “is Australia” so your mom moved “from Holland to Australia” when she moved to Melbourne at about 22.
Children say the most amazing things! When we took Isaac, who is seven, to the skatepark a few days later, he introduced me to his friend as “Jana; she caries the food, and also a bit of Coca-Cola” just because I hadn’t found a bin to throw my empty can in.
Louisa and Jono were so kind as to offer us their spare room. So we have been staying with them. They helped us to arrange everything. We now have a phone, bank account, tax file number, van with curtains matching the color of the seats, road assist, and a good idea of where to work and what to do. We sent emails to our parents, the insurance (for theft and health), searched the internet, had a few drinks, talked for hours, registered for Iqon, got an orange t-shirt, did laundry, played with the boys and enjoyed it all so much…
Before we knew it, our first week was over and we took a plane to Tasmania. Brian, our mom’s cousin Anna’s husband, races in the rally there called Targa Tasmania. He invited us to come along. So here we are, in Launceston (Tasmania’s second largest city) to join the fun. This will be added to the once in a lifetime experiences-list. Hurray for Australia!