I just got back from the beach and now having Lamingtons while listening to the Hottest 100 songs of the year 2011 on the radio. It's hot outside , It's January and it feels natural to me. Today became my second favourite day of the year after Xmas. Today is Australia Day.
Today is the day I am fully embracing australian culture and REALLY feeling the belonging.
Today is also the day that I officially become ... A TOURIST. Ironic hey ?
26th January 2011 was the day I first entered Australia and was legally allowed to work for one year.
Today I'm offficially too old to renew the working holiday visa and I am now officially a middle aged french woman on a tourist visa until the 20th March. You know, a tourist. with a red nose holding a map , the '' excuz me where iz ze station of trainz?' sort of people Yeah, that one.
So............... , I can talk about Julia Gillard's hair cut for more than 10 minutes, I use a stubby holder , I answer oi oi oi to aussie aussi aussie, I can say that I prefer Melbourne to Sydney , I supported Tommic agaisnt Roger Federer , I had a beer at 5am at the memorial ANZAC day service , I can listen to the Hottest 100 for 6 hours straight, I drink VB and know that fosters in a Pommie illusion, I eat capsicums and egg plants , wear thongs everyday , and I almost ( but not quite) understand the rules of cricket and yet, today i'm officially a French tourist.
It's true that, when you look at it, when you are a foreigner hanging out with the locals , you still feel like a tourist deep inside. But when there is no other tourist around to complain with ( the sort of '' It's so much better back home'' complaints) you have to keep going. and challenge yourself to fit it while keeping your identity intact. Mate, that's the real challenge of travelling.
'' Annabelle, it's a snake!'' Garcon says ( He's the Man I live with . Why this nick name ? Because he thought that posh french women in Paris ( ie ALL french women) were still addressing any waiter in France that way ( with arrogance, of course) . So yes , I decided to call him that. What a french tourist thing to do hey.
What? a snake? I jump , yell, but had my camera ready in my right hand.
''It's a branch , mate but you were so funny''. he says.
'' HAHA. I was acting. Of course I'm NOT scared of snakes or even those deadly red spider thingies. Don't be silly. I'm tough, mate. And no ,I wasn't trying to take a pictures of absolutely everything by the way''
Some Aussies can be very annoyed that that we, Europeans, see australia ONLY as the most dangerous place in the world. Not the most beautiful, the most DANGEROUS. .
'' Give us a break with damn dangerous animals, and get real. How many times have you seen snakes and deadly spiders in a whole year Annabelle ? an Aussie said to me one day.
'' Not many times, it's true'' I answer , understanding why he was annoyed. I'm also annoyed that when people think France they only think '' country of people who are never happy and always on strike'' .
But... the problem is that, in both cases : It IS true!
Yes, in Australia, you have to pretend to be tough and be one with Nature to NOT be seen as a precious tourist who is scared of her own shadow.
Of course, I do it quite bad.
The other week I traveled with a real aussie dude from Sydney to Melbourne. A country guy who has solid knowledge about everything that involves Nature. Surviving in hostile environment is in Aussie blood. Obviously NOT in mine.
And I wondered for hours how to tell him that I was not really the practical kind.
He soon found out when I read the map on his i phone wrong and sent us in the exact opposite direction. Oh and he had read my blog too. Especially the one about common sense and my lack of it.
Then came the moment of caping. In a national park. In the dark.
'' I 'll do it for you'' he says , adding a delicate '' I would not want you to break my tent''
When you're standing there , watching helplessly for the whole 3 minutes and half it took him to put the tent up you REALLY feel like a tourist.
Looking back to a year in Australia I realised how many times I looked like a complete outsider . Especially when I was living in the bush with my aussie parents last year .
'' John ,there is a big toad in my toilet''
'' So? Did you eat it?'' My Aussie dad asked
'' So I went to pee in the bush but there was strange noises''
He then came to remove it.
Then there were bush rats.
'' Annabelle, why exactly are you scared of things that are a fraction of your size. Imagine what they think of YOU''
So we try to act tough.
'' I'm NOT scared. Just a bit surprised''
Then comes the fun bit. When Your culture meets Aussie culture.
'' Are you scared?'' I say to Garcon the other night
'' Yes, clearly'' he answered , quite seriously.
No,we were NOT talking about the fact that I was supposed to stay for one night and , 10 days later, I'm still here....... No. I had just told him that I was going to teach myself french cuisine and just asked him if he wanted to be my..... guinea pig. Yes, ME . COOKING. I've come to the realisation that It's just the best way to share your culture.
2 days and some burnt croque monsieur later I was teaching him ( and myself) how to make french crepes. And we happily shared them with the kids next door.
As I was telling them what these strange pancakes were , They looked at me with awe thinking :
Wow, they come all the way from France and they are still WARM? Then I heard them going in and tell their mum '' Muuuuum we've got food from Fraaaaaance''
Happiness and Feeling of belonging : 200 %.
But, ''The Universe'' clearly wanted to tell me something as it was insisting on sending me every now and then to those places called backpackers hostels ,
I realized yesterday , that as much as I hated it, the message WAS clear :
.'' You're like the rest of them in the end ,mate, you don't really belong here''
So where the hell do I belong? That's when the pain hits you HARD.
But I don't feel I JUST belong to my country either.I'm still proud to be french but '' I'm from France'' is now for me a conversation starter to exchange funny cliches and open people's minds about somewhere they don't really know. I feel the same about England.
That's when you enter your darkest hour. That's when you feel like a homeless looser wandering aimlessly in the streets of Melbourne ( that was me yesterday). You start thinking that you'll be always be a ''visitor'' who will always be offered less because not REALLY from here. And who can seriously LOVE a visitor?
You know, the feeling that everything is a f****** illusion and nothing will last.
But after the painful feeling of belonging NOWHERE comes the blissful joy of belonging EVERYWHERE. You just need to hang on, it will come.
Because in the end, we're all the same...