Yes, time flies. It surely went a lot faster than it did our first year in the UK. One tends to stay indoors in England, maybe it is because we were out an about in and around Melbourne half the time.
So what have I learned?
The people are nice. No really! They might say something that sounds assertive, but they do mean well, and they will go above and beyond to be helpful. As a prideful South African, I know that I’m a know it all at times. But after some careful introspection, I realised that I have always been like that. Most South Africans are. Especially those who travelled a bit. We tend to think we know everything, and if confronted for it, we go into defensive mode. Take a step back, and let humility take over, then you’ll start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
Only fools rush in! Take it easy. Getting off at Tullamarine Airport, we had nothing – no home, no furniture, no transport. Over the next three months, we were blessed with everything you need to set up.
Firstly let me introduce you to the ‘hard rubbish’ season. Where Aussie’s use their curb to put out furniture and house hold goods they don’t want use anymore. They do this twice a year. Driving down the street you would see heaps of furniture in-front of almost every house. If this was Africa I would give it a few hours before it all was gone! It just seemed fitting that I try and live up to the challenge. The timing was impeccable. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. My wife DIY’ed the spoils to make it our own. Second hand junk you say? Meh. We’re more than grateful!
We found a decent, modest sized house in the Australian countryside, a 10-minute drive from the nearest beach. We made saffa friends. Fast. Loads of them. We received kitchenware, bedding and loads of other household essentials from many.
How so? How could we be so blessed without knowing anyone?
Because expats understand what it takes. The struggle is real. We know how it feels to lie awake at night, stressing about a visa you do not have yet. A permit you paid hundreds of thousands of Rands for knowing that there is a chance it could be denied, and you can end up losing all of your savings. We know the fear of sending our kids to school and praying that they will still be there when we go pick them up. All types and sorts of English tests you have to pass, the health examinations, the proof of income, proof of education…proof of mere existence! We know how it feels to sacrifice all we have to ensure a better future for our children. We understand the relief and joy that overwhelms our fragile hearts when that email pops into your inbox at 00:05 in the morning saying that your visa has finally been approved.
One thing I’ve been unable to shake was my almost tourist like awe of this place. Australia has such an amazing history, but still, it is untouched by a lot of the scorch marks left by history. Not that Australia hasn’t had their share of fighting, pain and loss, but young wounds heal faster than an old man’s scar. Europe still bears the marks of wars that happened hundreds of years ago. Australians acknowledge their past mistakes, but then life must go on. They don’t ponder on the past. If they lived lives of regret, there would be no room for their contagious humour. Australians stands together. “We are one. We are many…”
1. So relax. Slow down. You might be self-conscious that you are a foreigner, but it does not mean you will be treated as one. Like any country, you will get rude people, but that is a character flaw and doesn’t summarise a nation.
2. Do not take everything seriously. Aussies have a great sense of humour. They would make plenty inappropriate jokes if they thought it might cheer you up.
3. Respect their past and do not judge them for it. Everyone has one.
4. If you don’t know a thing about Footie, then don’t comment on it. They love it.
5. Do not mistake Footie for Rugby.
6. Enjoy what Australia has to offer. Fishing, hiking, camping, you name it! They want you to enjoy it, and they will encourage you to do so.
7. Respect their wildlife. Australia has strict laws in place to preserve the environment and help protect wildlife. I’ve visited places that looks like it has never seen the presence of man. Truly untouched. Clean and well preserved.
8. Choose your words carefully when explaining Africa to them. Just because something in your country is normal, does not mean they will understand it here. If you’ve been through hell, and have to share, do so in small quantities.
9. You’re in Australia now. Stop complaining about Africa. You will irritate everyone around you as it makes you look cynical. Be happy. Be positive. You’ve made it!
10. One thing that I want to add from a more personal point of view, don’t change who you are. Remember, you are African. We left to give our children a future as we lost faith in the security of our country. A bold statement but it does not mean we love it any less. I will always advocate for Africa, and at times, I consider myself an ambassador for Africa. I enjoy educating Australians and Britons (while I was there) on our culture and where the best places are to visit.
Do not be jaded. Look deeper than the pain. Look deeper than your nationality. Start embracing the adventure and consider meditating on what we indeed are — human beings.