Welcome to my first Oz-blog. First impressions: sweaty. I’ve arrived in a bit of a heat-wave, with the temperature around 30 degrees despite the onset of autumn here. I stepped off the plane in the evening light and felt the wall of heavy heat that I associate with exotic holiday destinations press against me immediately. It felt quite fitting, as I feel like I’ve entered a new ‘relaxation’ phase of my travels after the frenetic sight-seeing of NZ. I will endeavour to carve out my own slice of the famously laid-back ozzie attitude and slow my pace down for a while.
I’m staying with my lovely friend, Abi, and her hubbie, Tim, and unfeasibly cute two-year old, Isaac. Her sister, Esther, is also out here on a working visa, so it feels wonderful to be part of a bustling, laughing family home after all my lone travelling. As a reaction against the space restrictions in tiny dorm rooms, I’ve had a ‘backpack explosion’ and am luxuriating in having my own room by spraying every possible surface with my belongings.
Abi, Tim (complete with broken hand) and Isaac – my brilliant new hosts.
Yesterday I did approximately and blissfully nothing, except for a very heat-slowed meander into the University of Queensland to meet Abi for lunch. The university is clearly modelling itself on Oxbridge – with a sandstone-block central building complete with internal quad and cloisters, and live-in colleges called ‘Christs’, ‘St Johns.’ etc. I was struck by how incredibly young the students looked, and I don’t think it was just denial of my own advancing years. Sure enough, I found out that university students can be as young as 17 here – phew.
Life in the cloisters at the University of Queensland.
In the evening Abi treated me to a delicious Vietnamese meal downtown as a belated birthday present, lucky me. What made this even better was arriving by high-speed catamaran along the Brisbane river. What a fantastic introduction to the night-time city, with huge fruit bats flapping past, possums cackling from the tree-tops and the wind in my hair.
An initial, and surprising, observation about Brisbane life is that, in seeming contradiction to the laid-back reputation of the ozzies, daily life starts and finished very early. To make the most of the cooler weather and daylight hours apparently everyone gets up at around 6am and is in bed by around 9pm – I may have found the ideal home for my personal circadian rhythm! At first I found this hard to believe, especially as Abi was not known for her ‘morning freshness’ when we were at uni together. However, both mornings so far I’ve found myself breakfasting with the family before 7am. It just feels right here – the day is completely alive by 6am so it feels natural to join in. So different from the UK, where the morning doesn’t seem such a friendly, welcoming presence – rather a grumpy, antisocial bugger that reluctantly draws you into its cold clutches.
Anyway, I’ll leave you with a few photos of some of my new neighbours, seen on a walk round the university grounds yesterday. On this, this morning I was party to a funny demonstration from Isaac of ‘animal noises’, as is the wont of toddlers. But instead of the usual pig, cow, sheep etc that I am so used to from my own nieces and nephews, he was adept at the vocal impersonations of kookaburra, mynah bird and gecko – awesome.
Close encounter with a large water dragon.
There are hundreds of these white parrot-like birds in the trees – I’ll find out what species they are…
Australian white ibis – considered a bit of a pest here due to their prevalent cockiness. Apparently they often steal food from the hands of the unsuspecting. Hmmm, we could fall out…
And finally, not a particularly great photo of ‘Isaac’s gecko’ – a resident baby gecko that lives above his bed. I LOVE geckos.