Pre-school graduations, eating kangeroo meat, and serious sunburn were all part of my fun in Australia. Whilst it may be a very Westernised country with a mass British population, there were still plenty of things that I experienced for the first time during my month and a half stay in Australia. I:
- Got sunburnt. Okay, maybe I’m stretching the truth here a little bit, but I have never got as badly sunburnt as I did when I spent too long on Broken Head beach in the midday sun. Mad dogs and Englishwomen. Clearly the people I was hanging out with were mad. My thighs hurt so badly and I got through a bottle of aloe vera after-sun within a couple of days. Ouch.
- Ate kangaroo. I worked at an event where they served up kangaroo burgers and I watched the guests chomp away, complimenting the chef as they did so. I wanted to try some. The next week my friends cooked up a roast dinner; kangaroo styley. It tasted gamey. Kangeroo meat is a good option because it’s so sustainable and, apparently, because kangeroos aren’t hooved beasts, their impact on the environment is also diminished.
- Slept with a giant spider somewhere in my room. I got too tired of hunting it that even the prospect of it being truly dangerous and life-threatening wasn’t enough to keep me awake. Not only did I get to experience this Huntsmen spider, but I also had the privilege of seeing some more of Australia’s recognisable creatures: cane toads, wallabies, and a kangaroo in the distance. But no koalas. Dammit.
- Swam in a tea-tree lake. Okay, I didn’t really swim. The spot that I chose for a drip wasn’t really deep enough. Maybe I should have gone to the proper tea tree lake at Lennox Head. Regardless, it was a gentle, beautiful outing designed to heal my body and soul. Or at least sort my skin out.
- Did RSA training. To work in any establishment in Australia that serves alcohol you need to get your Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) qualification. I can’t say that the course was the most interesting afternoon of my life, but I got work out of it and I made a new friend. Bonus.
- Swam and surfed in warm seas. To not start a shivering frenzy within a few minutes of getting in the water was amazing. It was still refreshing, but I never got bored of the warmth. At night it was a little chillier but still pretty pleasant, and a scattering of phosphorescents made a midnight dip even more special.
- Kept an eye out for sharks. Back in England, sharks were never something that I would have thought about whilst out for a swim or a surf. But in Australia, the bliss of the warmer waters means that our sharky friends make the odd appearance. My eyes were open but I saw nothing other than schools of dolphins. Twice over. Happy times.
- Broke a surfboard. This was horrible. I hadn’t been in Byron long and I managed to crumple the nose of my friends minimal. Badly. It put me off getting in the water (if it’s mine, fine, if it’s someone else’s, more hesitant). And then not too long later, the bike helmet that I had borrowed from another friend got nicked. Bad times.
- Went to a pre-school graduation. Oh yes. Really. Those heading off to public school sported capes and mortar boards just like in a proper university graduation ceremony. If it hadn’t been for the join-in song of ‘we’re going to big school… we’re going to big school… and that is really cool’ I could have been fooled: the kids posed professionally for photos, picked up their scrolls and took it very seriously whilst parents wiped their eyes. I don’t know really how common practise this is in Oz, but I did wonder: if this is the norm for each school transition, by the time they do actually graduate from uni will they be so blasé and bored by the whole thing?
- Confirmed some Aussie traits. I learnt that Australians are generally very positive people, which I loved, but the juxtaposition between boozy and healthy (very anti-smoking, pro sport) was a strange one; Aussies haven’t gotten to the ridiculous levels of being PC like we have in Britain, but some things can just come across racist to a foreigner (such as using the word ‘wog’ to refer to southern European immigrants); and words are nearly always shortened to the most simplistic syntax.
So many other experiences, wonderful times, good people. Thanks Australia.