1 Month Down (Under)

I’ve been living in a foreign country now for 35 days. The language barrier, the stark cultural differences, my inability to blend into the crowd… all things I do not really deal with that much. I’m in Australia, our English-speaking neighbors who couldn’t live farther away if they tried. “Doesn’t that mean they’re not neighbors?” you ask. Well, yes. That’s true. 

Aside from their infamous slang and the constant threat of poisonous creature attacks (but not guns, as Aussies rightfully remind me every time I bring this up. Touché, Aussies, touché), it has been as comfortable a transition as one can hope for when moving across the world. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been without its lessons, however, so I’ve decided to celebrate this month with a list of what I’ve learned thus far into my Australian adventure, both about the country and life itself.

THE COFFEE IS NEXT LEVEL

I am an amateur coffee enthusiast. That’s short for I know nothing about coffee except that I like it. I’m not one to claim a refined palate. If there’s one thing in my almost 29 years of life for which I’ve strived the most, it’s to have as unrefined a palate as possible, in order to not only engage in, but enjoy, a wide variety of meals in a wide variety of circumstances, on a wide variety of budgets* (except anything to do with mushrooms because I’m not a psycho).

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This little guy courtesy of Ortem, a cafe in Toowoomba, QLD, where, side note, I also had one of the best salads of my liiiiiife.

So when I heard that Australia has good coffee, I mostly assumed I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Wrong. There have been at least 5 occasions where my jaw has physically dropped whilst simultaneously forming some version of “Jesus Christ that’s good” and 5 times is a conservative estimate. It just happened again today actually. The flavor is smooth and bold, the bitterness somehow a touch sweet. The Australians have managed to take joy and pour it into a cup. And it’s expensive. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere. The best things in life are…expensive? I don’t know, I’ll work on it.

AUSTRALIANS ARE AFRAID OF SPIDERS

There’s a certain nonchalant attitude about the creepy-crawlies that traipse around this continent, so when confronted with a spider whilst watching a movie at a friend’s house, I tried to make it seem like I too carried this apparent nonchalantness.

“Oh there’s a spider,” I said faux-calmly whilst simultaneously planning my escape route and trying not to pee my pants. Throw in a “wondering what the heck made me decide to come here in the first place” while you’re at it.

When it came to my friends’ reactions my expectations were: “Oh, no worries, let me just grab a shoe and squash it. One sec.”

Instead, the reality was: “OH SHIT!!” followed by a mad scramble to find anything that would eliminate the threat, which was clearly a level 10. 

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A real clip of Cory from Boy Meets World imitating an Aussie who sees a spider.

I’m so glad they managed to keep a cool head in a crisis.

Every Australian I’ve told that story to has responded with the same sentence: “No one likes spiders”. I’m not kidding. Word for word. “No one likes spiders.” I see right through you, Australia, you’re just as scared as the rest of us.

THEY’LL TELL YOU THAT SEEING ANYTHING POISONOUS IS RARE. IT’S A LIE. 

This has a similar theme as the above in that I believed the lie but I don’t anymore. On a hike through Springbrook National Park—which is stunning and I highly recommend— my friend, who shall remain nameless, had just finished telling me that she’s “not worried about seeing a snake down here because it’s moist.” This was her attempt to quell my fears about any potential snake confrontations except that this sentence makes, you guessed it, absolutely no sense. If someone asked me to provide a list of words describing the ideal habitat of a snake, “moist” would easily make the top 3. I let it slide; I wanted to pretend it was true, and besides, being pedantic in that moment wouldn’t haven’t stopped fate because guess what happened 5 minutes later (I’m not exaggerating here; it was at most 5 minutes)?

If you guessed: “Your friend almost stepped on a tiger snake that came soaring between
you two as she sprinted one way and you the other, barely making it out with your lives had the snake not been just as afraid as you were,” then you guessed right! Good job! Who saw that coming!? Me. I did. Because it was hot. and. MOIST.

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What the viewer sees: a beautiful, relaxing waterfall in the paradise that is Springbrook National Park. What I see: a snake-infested hell swamp.

After a series of expletives, with hearts pumping and legs shaking, we hadn’t even finished the first half of the (fortunately only two-hour) hike and continued onward, jumping at every noise and rustle in the brush that was almost always some lizard, who was clearly just there to screw with us.  We stopped once to pretend to admire a waterfall. Truthfully, I was glancing up at the sky waiting for a helicopter to land in front of us and fly us to safety because I like to have realistic expectations.

I learned after the fact that tiger snakes are one of the most deadly breeds. It was only my second time hiking in Australia and my 10th day there overall.

THE GOOD WILL COME WITH THE BAD AND THEN BACK TO THE GOOD. JUST WAIT.

Ultimately, snakes and spiders are just a small part of my time here. If there is a number one lesson I’ve learned, it’s that something good will happen, followed by something bad, followed by something good again or even better and that it just takes a little (or a lot) of patience to see how the dots connect. I prove this in the following examples:

  1. Upon returning to Sydney after my travels up north, I arrived at my Airbnb to a girl who clearly had no idea who I was. After a complicated story that I won’t dive into here, the 5 girls who lived there allowed me to stay the night. We drank wine and celebrated one of their birthdays. The next day, I moved to a new Airbnb far away from the beach. It wasn’t ideal and I figured I’d move back to Bondi in a week or so. However, immediately after arriving to my new locale, I knew that this was the part of Sydney in which I belonged. Serendipity?
  2. I found a more permanent place to live within just a few hours of searching and was told it was mine. The next evening I returned to drop off a few things and deliver my deposit, only to find out they had given the room to someone else. I was livid. I was the hulk on steroids. I was so mad that I wished the lady would sleep through her alarm the next day and be late for work! The day after that fiasco, I took my vengeance out on my room search and found a better room in a historic house just a street over from where I initially wanted to live. Built in 1870, it has its original wood floors, decorative tin ceilings, and fireplaces that I can stare at for days and find new details. Plus, I live with a retired lady who makes me cocktails when I need them. Does it get any better?
  3. I lost my wallet in a shopping center—the first time, surprisingly, given my penchant for losing, well, everything. Naturally I didn’t realize until after the shopping center was closed. The cafe in which I had been somehow found me on Instagram to let me know they had it, despite the multitude of Megan McFarlands there are in the world.
  4. I left my phone in an Uber the night after I lost my wallet. After waiting until 1:15am to get it back from the driver, I swore to myself I would keep a close watch on my phone from that moment onward. That meant I lost it again the next day, but this time on the beach. Nice change of scene. After a 45 minute search which included a bout of defeat as I began to walk back to my friend’s apartment before going on to ask four different lifeguards about it, it was finally returned safely to my buttery little fingers.* Faith in humanity restored big time, however briefly.
  5. Now I am simply applying this mentality to my job scenario. We’re still in the “bad” phase, apparently.
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The sun sets on my first month Down Under (okay, this picture was taken a couple of weeks ago, but it’s a metaphor.)

IN CONCLUSION

We have reached the end of the lessons for now. There are many more where these came from and I’m certain there are many more to follow. So much has happened in this first month that I kind of get winded just thinking about the second. We’ll see how valid this feeling is 30 days from now. My educated guess is that it’s very valid.

*wide variety of budgets = mostly being poor
*I want to point out that I have never once lost my wallet OR my phone, but had 3 cases of this within 48 hours. Then I left my water bottle at my friend’s place just to hit the whole thing home.


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