To Oz & Back Again

Posted on January 12, 2011


This post has sat midst memories and worn luggage receipts for overweight bags. The trip was busy and hectic as we were living out of hotels the entire time.

Even though we’ve been back for several months, there are some nagging impressions that I can’t get out of my mind. I don’t know that my experiences reflect an entire country, but I came away changed yet again.

Somewhere during my flight from Brisbane into Melbourne I was struck by glowing fields of yellow flowers. In a matter of minutes, the terrain changed to a rugged mountain range with valleys and twisting rivers.  I smiled.  This is why I love Australia so much.  The diversity, the unexpected, the old comfortably residing next to the new.  Those I themes I see over and over.  For some reason, it hit me as such an obvious thing while I looked out of the plane window.  Must’ve been the yellow patches quickly turning into dark green and brown mountains.

While I was happy with my newfound appreciation, a program was playing on the small TV screen in front of me.  From the corner of my eye I started to see an interview with a Country Music star. (No, not Keith Urban) It was Troy Cassar-Daley.  The fascinating thing was the connection with my thoughts at that time. He is Aboriginal and Maltese-Australian. Troy told stories about growing up with all kinds of music: aboriginal folk music, American Country, even the Eagles.  He started performing at 11 years old.  At 16, he toured with his band in New South Wales.  He talked about all these influences and how passionate he was about playing and performing. 

I looked out the window again at the changing patchwork of colors and textures.  Soon everything became more urban and familiar as we approached Melbourne. In the distance you could still see the mountains.  Yup, this is what I love.  It’s all in harmony.  All the differences. City and Country. You could look at the skyline one minute, and spin around and see the mountains reminding you of the wide open spaces and wild country nearby.  Maybe that’s why Aussies seem so well grounded to me. Well, at least the ones I met.  They remember their traditional foods and customs.  They use their Aussie sayings that have probably been around for generations. 

I think in my own experience, Americans change alot with the times. We have fads, trends and cycles.  It even affects the way we talk and the phrases we use. Although most of us have some foreign ancestry, we tend not to eat those traditional foods or live our culture.  It’s more of a mashup.  Just an observation… It’s not bad or anything.  As a second generation Puerto Rican, I can tell you that I don’t cook much traditional food and my kids barely know Spanish.  My own generation was already diluted.  I learned Spanish in school; not at home.

So back to Australia… We did travel to Queensland which is more tropical than Melbourne and I met Alan’s wonderful relatives. They’re all characters and I wish we could’ve spent more time with them.  It was so much fun getting a glimpse into my husband’s family.

Alan’s uncle made pork and chicken on an open fire in their tremendous backyard which is actually a few acres of woods. I almost felt like I was in Puerto Rico. See, we’re not that different. When he put the pork out, he asked me if I wanted Krackle.  I looked at him and said, What?  He showed me the crunchy pork skin. “Ah, chicharones, pork rinds! I love that!”   I asked him if he was really Puerto Rican and not Aussie.  We both had a great laugh and crunched happily. It was yummy. This post is getting long, but I wanted to share my impression.  This last trip was very different. Nothing touristy, but very much about family, cultures and lots of good Aussie Tucker.  But that’s for another post: My Mother In Law – Queen of the Kitchen. (I would weigh 400 lbs because everything she makes is soooo scrumptious!)