Monday, May 25, 2009

I love Australia

So it has been well over a week since Little One and I set foot on Australian turf. And we have been having an amazing time - enjoying our holiday and learning all kinds of life lessons along the way. Time spent Down Under has been illuminating indeed. So allow me to share some insights.
Discoveries I made before leaving Jozi:
1. In all the four years my brother has been happily settled in Sydney, he has never encountered a single frog or cane toad. So I assumed that despite my frog phobia, I would be safe on holiday even in the face of their rampant cane toad problem. (see previous posts for more info).
2. An open packet of wine gums left in a kiddie's car seat in a black car parked in the sun will turn into warm gelatinous mass. Should the kiddie who occupies this seat find this treat and submerge her hands into it before you can get to it, the goop can spread alarmingly far.
3. Should the discovery of a dollop of melted wine gums spread down the side of your car drive you mental, relax for a while and let it cool. It will peel off easily.
4. Work colleagues who torment you mercilesslessly because of your frog phobia will be nice to you on your last day of work. EvilIncarnate even gave me a small bottle of Dettol as a goodbye gift after hearing that the stuff is poison to he cane toads riddling the country.
Discoveries I made during the trip:
1. Despite the fact that you have to provide all your personal details, show your passport and all the rest, airlines apparently do not automatically recognise people aged 4 as kids. Kiddie meals are lumped along with vegetarian, seafood, halaal and other special order dishes that should be specifically requested before your flight.
2. Grilled salmon with liquidised potatoe and greenish vegetation (the menu description might be somewhat more exotic but I like to tell it how it is) will never meet the approval of a fussy four-year-old.
3. Sydney airport has also had those temperature scanning machines installed to check incoming passengers for swine flu threats. Just like the machines at OR Tambo International Airport.
4. A flushed and barefoot four-year-old dashing towards customs yelling at the top of her voice "I'm in Australia everybody! I'm in Australia! Is this really Australia, hey mom?" will be targetted for temperature scanning.
5. Australian customs officials have absolutely no idea what chakalaka is. They have to do a lot of checks on it, but it remains among the few food items that are not banned from entering the country. You can happily enter with two tins of it for your brother.
Australian discoveries:
1. Four-year-old girls recover a whole lot quicker from jet lag than their mothers do. I was checking e-mails and pondering the universe at 2am for three nights straight while Little One took to slumbering for 12 hours straight after only a single weird night of adjustment.
2. For frog phobics: the fact that one's brother has gone four full years without seeing a single frog is no guarantee of anything. On day six of my holiday a frog hopped in through the door of a house a bunch of us rented in Kangaroo Valley just outside Sydney.
3. Just because those self-service check-out tills look so quick, convenient and easy to use for Australians does not mean that this simplicity applies to foreigners. It is possible for them to freeze and crash four times when you are trying to buy just one single item, even when a patrolling supervisor reboots the thing in a flash and assures you it's the machine that's problematic. I still think it's personal. I could have queued and paid for a trolley full of groceries quicker than making that self-service purchase.
4. I would totally suck at being a journalist here. My news sense is geared for Jozi and I reckon I would not know a lead story here if I stepped on it. The Sydney Morning Herald lead story on a Sunday: the chemical made famous by Erin Brokovich in America on her quest to help ailing communities is leaking into some or other river in the city. My own feeling is that the Erin Brokovitch story is only sensational because it was turned into a blockbuster movie starring Julia Roberts and that without this weird little news angle the Sunday paper would have been sadly lacking a front page burner.
A lunch time radio news flash I heard while roaming in a supermarket: some local guy was arrested and charged with child abuse after smacking his son, pulling his hair and flicking his ear. It's a sad realisation that an incident like this rates less than zero on the news scale in a city where most murders go unreported altogether.