I have now been at SMBC for a whole week – so here are some stories from my first week of my new life here in Sydney, Australia.
It’s a three hour drive from my parents’ place to the campus which will be my home for the next three years. My parents drove me there, which had me feeling a little like a 17 year being taken to uni for the first time. I got set up in my dorm pretty quickly – by the end of the day I was feeling quite at home. In the afternoon a housemate (there will be 9 girls living in this dorm house eventually) invited me to come to the local pub with her and some other students. We got back to campus in time for dinner – an Australia Day barbecue, with sausage sizzle, potato salad and wedges. Perfect first day!
The next day was my first day of classes – three hours of Greek. I was pleasantly surprised by breaks through the time, and the reasonable pace of the material. The teacher is wonderful. This is the 11th language I have studied, and I have had my share of good, bad and indifferent teachers – and this woman is one of the really good ones! One of the breaks was morning tea, which seems to be quite the daily tradition – with admin staff, faculty and students gathering for 20 minutes over snacks and drinks. At dinner I met a girl from my class who it turns out is a TCK, and a native Mandarin speaker – a wonderful connection to make.
Day three was great. I met more people, got my blackout curtains up, and was invited by my friends’ daughter to come eat gelato with them – but the best part of the day was my walk. Walking is my favourite exercise – good for my heart and mind as well as my body, and one of the few easy forms of exercise that doesn’t cause problems for my messed up body. In Beijing it’s been hard for me to walk regularly – the air is so bad, for a start! I haven’t had a good habit of walking regularly since leaving Langfang over 4 years ago. So one of my goals on moving here was to get back in the habit of taking brisk walks daily.
It had rained almost constantly since my arrival but on this day there was a break in the clouds and I actually saw a scrap of blue sky! So I put aside the Greek I was studying and managed to get in a good half hour walk before the rain began again. I saw no less than FOURTEEN houses with frangipani trees in their front yards, 7 with mango trees, and countless more with palm trees. So the South East Asia part of my heart was very happy. There were also lots of Australian natives, of course, like banksia, bottlebrush, paperbark, wattle, and grevillea. So the Australian part of my heart was happy. An older lady was walking two young kids home from school (I think she was Italian, maybe Greek, and I assumed they were her grandkids) and I happened to be at their driveway as they walked in. I’d noticed her limping a little so when she started to wheel their rubbish bin toward the long, sloping driveway, I offered to help her bring it in. It was a little thing, but something about it made me feel… connected. To this place, this neighbourhood. It’s not a dream – I’m really here.
That night I watched an hour of the Australian Open (while studying) with some other students in the common room. Walking home I was amazed by the clear dark and velvety sky pierced by clear and bright stars. This is not a sight I am accustomed to! The next day (day four) was beautiful – the skies were still clear but this time filled with warm sun, although the air temperature remained pleasantly cool. Chatting in Mandarin with my new friend on the way into class just perfected the morning. Morning tea was served outside and quite a few people (including me!) ate lunch outside as well. I took a different route on my afternoon walk, going a little further in the process. I spent the evening babysitting my friends’ daughters and studying Greek.
Friday was the last day of “Greek Week” and a downright gorgeous day – at 29 degrees the warmest since I arrived in Sydney. Class went well, I had a lovely catch up with a friend and her parents over lunch, and in the afternoon I spent two hours in an outdoor cafe with friends from China. I hadn’t seen them for years (as they’ve been back in Australia) but I worked with each of them at some point and they were all surrogate family when I was far from my own. One couple invited me for Christmas one of my first years in China, and the other came with me to the doctor when I cut my thumb and needed surgery. It was so wonderful to see them and catch each other up on our lives and the lives of mutual friends around the world.
I spent Saturday morning covering my wardrobe door with photos/letters while listening to a friend doing the morning show for an Adelaide radio station. I met more new people, including a lovely Singaporean girl – we got along instantly, so I’m excited that she is living in the same house and will be taking a lot of the same classes as me. On Sunday we walked to the local mall together, about half an hour each way up and down Sydney hills. It was a lovely day and an enjoyable walk, although my joints protested later. In the evening I went to church with two students, one of whom lives in the same house as me, which I really enjoyed.
I am amazed at how settled and content I feel just one week in. I do expect the weight of the transition to hit at some point, but I am live on a lovely campus with lovely people and am enjoying studying (so far – ask me again when I am writing essays…)