Friday, June 7, 2013

In the Land of Oz

"The French have a different word for everything," proclaimed Steve Martin with faux astonishment in one of his comedy routines.

Smiling in Brisbane, even with burned, straight hair.
That line keeps going through my head as we explore Brisbane.  Ostensibly Americans and Australians speak the same language, but when Gloria gave me half of something that looked just like a papaya and called it a "paw paw," I knew we weren't in Kansas anymore.

Paw paws are very yummy here, especially with lime.

When you use a credit card, you have to proclaim "credit" immediately or the clerk says something that sounds like "saav-ens, creee-deet or xweoimns" and looks at you expectantly.  We figured out that "saav-ens" is "savings," synonymous for "debit card."  The second choice is "credit" and the third must mean, "Pay with your first-born."

We are staying in the home of our generous friend, Mark, while he's in London performing a series of piano concerts.  He left us a lovely welcome gift of a basket of Australian "lollies" (bags of candy) along with three bottles of Australian wine and three of his piano CDs.

And two coffee mugs:  One that says "Happiness is the way not a destination" and the other "I [heart] the universe."  No question, Mark is of our tribe.

He relegated one job to me:  Make Gloria--his 90-year-old "mum" who lives in the unit downstairs--a cup of coffee each morning.  I was delighted to be given this task until I encountered the massive chrome machine.  I felt like a time traveler from 1850 transported to 2013, asked to get behind the wheel of a Maserati.

The directions he'd written out to operate the monstrosity rivaled a Microsoft Word user's manual.  Not only that, but you can't just plug in things here.  You have to turn on the electrical switch next to the  outlet.

Speaking of outlets, the current here is a raging animal.  I discovered that when, while curling my hair, the top plastic piece of my curling iron melted off into my hand.  When I pulled the metal barrel away from my head, a chunk of my hair came with it.

I'll spare you the details of the finding-a-curling-iron-in-Brisbane saga that came next, but if anyone ever came close to a divorce over a hair appliance ...

Fortunately, we chalked up the literal and figurative melt-down to jet lag and quickly re-found newly married bliss.

In the face of these Australian differences, I'm being quite enterprising.  When I discovered that "half and half" does not exist here, I made my own by mixing a carton of cream (which is an eerie yellowish color) with a carton of milk (which is the usual white).

parrot in Gloria's garden
Every morning we wake to cacophonous birdsong emanating from the lush green yard.  That in and of itself reminds me I'm "elsewhere"--the merry old land of Oz.

We've had some lovely days exploring beautiful Brisbane.  One day was in the company of Simone--a former student of mine--and Beci, an Australian we were introduced to via an American friend.  To greet Simone (whom I'd last seen on my California campus) and Beci (whom we'd "met" only on Facebook) was surreal and wonderful.

with Simone and Beci

It's been just a week since we left our home to embark on our world travel adventure.  Yes, there are times Santa Cruz drifts through my mind, and I feel a pang of missing home--even though we no longer have a home there.

It's funny, though, how soon some other place begins to feel like home.  Just this morning as he stood in the kitchen in his cozy sweatpants and sweatshirt brewing tea, Dave said: "It's strange, but it feels like we live here now."

The humongous chrome coffee maker is now my friend.  I  pronounce "Cairns" (where we're headed tomorrow) "Cahns" like a native.  We've done yoga in the living room (on our newly-purchased yoga mats) which adds a home-vibe to anywhere.  It's these little settling-in details that create a wonderful balance of freshness and familiarity.
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