Australia is Big, But Not That Big

Over the past two years, as an Aussie expat in Canada, I’d roll my eyes and grit my teeth every time I’d meet somebody new and they’d ask if I happened to know the other Australian they’ve ever met, who was from the other side of the very big country.  Sure, compared to Toronto, Perth is a small city and I’m likely to have at least heard of every other doctor.  But, no, I don’t know the friend of friends living on the East coast that you met 5 years ago while backpacking.  Last week I felt a little guilty though when we landed in Brisbane and realised that we knew a few people now living in Queensland and maybe Australia isn’t that big after all.

 

Saturday evening we caught up with Jimmy, Chris and Dean.  We ate Japanese on Southbank then walked around the touristy but still pretty area in the thick humidity.

Sunday we spent the morning with Chris.  I had intended to make half of the morning session for the workshop I’d flown over specifically for but we drove to Fortitude Valley following Chris’ directions.  Chris has only lived in Brisbane 8 months and has yet to become familiar with the many one-way streets in the CBD.  What should’ve have been a 2 minute drive took us 15.  By the time we’d finished and I gave up on ever getting back to the hospital before nightfall both Dan and I were mercilessly teasing Chris about what is now termed, “Chris Directions” (hopeful random guessing which direction to turn, repeating it with a little more certainty then again, as if it were definitive).  We decided to head to the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) to see the Charles Blackman exhibition.  Chris managed to direct us in a giant circle, starting on Ann Street, then eventually getting back on Ann Street.  Chris announced, “So we’re back on Ann Street… So… that’s good!”  I really liked the painting of his wife and daughter, “Barbara and Auguste“.  In real life the whites are bright and you can’t help but notice the painting from across the gallery.  I wanted to take it home.  This painting is older than my mother.

Barbara and Auguste 1957 Charles BLACKMAN

We said goodbye to Chris and drove an hour South, past the Gold Coast towards the Queensland, New South Wales border.  We spent the afternoon with Jay and Jenni and their kids, splashing about the spa and pool.  We ate prawns while catching up on the past ten years (how is it ten years since we were interns!?).  Jenni must have spent all morning preparing ever type of side dish to go with the roast chicken that Jay had created a stuffing for.  There were potatoes and cauliflower cheese, pumpkin, beans, corn, carrots.  The kids were exhausted and went to bed.  We looked up at the stars, after the storm clouds cleared, and sat in the warm spa water, contemplating life.  I don’t understand why we could see Orion’s belt, which we could see from the Northern Hemisphere in Iceland.  Surely we should be looking at the universe from the other side of the planet?

 

Even though we’re all grown up with “real jobs” it was a great pleasure to see Jay’s enthusiasm and spontaneity persist; his home is a chaos of several passionately considered but incomplete projects.  There’s a pond without water under the washing line decking; there was a goat, 8 ducks (only $5 each!), a jack russel and now an infinity pool.  I was sad we were only staying one night.  Must remember to send a card or follow-up Thank You email.

On Monday while we were lying on the wooden floorboards deciding whether to drive back to Brisbane via the Gold Coast or Dream World I got a Facebook message from Sandi.  I had forgot she’d moved to Brisbane.  After two years of rolling our eyes at every Canadian asking if we knew some person from the other side of the country we found ourselves on the other side of the country bumping into lots of friends we’d forgot we knew.

Sandi and Frankie
Sandi and Frankie

We met Sandi and her youngest son, Frankie, at the food court in the Westfield in Caradine. It was a whirlwind catchup.  Like Jay, Sandi is now a parent with young children.  Frankie was being adorable but simultaneously incredibly cheeky.  We ate yum cha, then played in the playground before Sandi left to pick up her eldest son and we drove back to the airport.

It was a good weekend.

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