|Predictably, I petted my first one of these guys|
before I'd been here a week.
I didn't quite know what to expect from Australia. I'm a foreigner, but one who shares the same native language, albeit with a different national bent. I'm a student, but an international one whose studies take place at least half the time in a language native neither to this country nor to my own. And I'm a traveler, looking forward to learning the ins and outs of this country that is my temporary home. Where would I fit in, in Australia, on campus, in class, I wondered? Australia, with its laid-back sense of welcome, seems to say "fit in wherever you like, mate!"
That's one of the things I'm slowly realizing is a big part of what makes Australia so appealing: its unquestioning acceptance of whoever happens to show up. Sure, you have to certify that you're not a criminal and aren't trying to wipe out any of the native species to get through immigration but, once you're in, the welcome is universal. It isn't overpowering or over-eager, like a scene in a musical where every member of the cast is dancing with manic joy in the middle of the street; it's a casual "Hey, how're you going? Glad you could make it," that's extended to everyone from the man who's lived around the corner all his life to the tourist who arrived yesterday and is still fumbling with the currency.
|Do I look relaxed yet?|
The first country other than my own that I lived in long-term was France, for which I fell head-over-heels instantly, swept off my feet by the rich colors, textures, scents and sounds of everyday life, so different from what I grew up with in the U.S. Australia is more subtle - less intense, more easy-go-lucky and much less passionately opinionated - but no less convincing. Already, I find myself relaxing in a way I rarely did in the U.S., not just on the surface but right down to my bones. Despite the fact that classes are now in full swing, stress is becoming a distant memory. "No worries," which you can't help but hear every day in Australia, isn't just a phrase, it's a way of life, one that seeps into every pore and which, I have a feeling, may be impossible to get rid of once it's made its way into your system. Then again, why would you want to?