God’s Own Country

At a seventies party in Jakarta, I found myself in the middle of the dance floor speaking with two afro wearing Brits. Between beverages and outdated dance moves, we had the usual expat speed dating conversation. “Where are you from? How long have you been here? How long are you here for?

To avoid the long winded I’m from a small country town but I went to school in Adelaide and G and I moved here from Perth conversation – I ran with something simpler. “If I tell you where I’m from exactly, you may not have heard of it – it’s just easier to say South Australia”.

“Oh really?” my new British besties were beginning to get excited. “We’re off to South Australia in a couple of months. We’re going on a houseboat. We’re picking up the boat in a place called Renmark”.

It was at this point that I began to hyperventilate. Tears welled in my eyes. I may have been bouncing on the spot. Brimming with home town pride I announced to the entire party “OH MY GOD! THAT’S WHERE I’M FROM!”

At this stage there may have been much hugging, a few tears, and a very embarrassed G who began stepping away slowly from the scene.

The Brits both stood there beaming while I told them how clever they had been with their holiday selection. I relived childhood memories on the water, houseboat trips with friends, and boating adventures with family. In my excitement it’s possible I may have gone as far to use the cliche ‘Gods Own Country’. There’s nothing quite like an Australian out of her natural habitat, I was only a drink or two away from breaking out with I still call Australia home.

I couldn’t shut up. “I’m so excited for you. It’s the most beautiful country, the river, the wildlife, the creeks and the fruit trees amongst the gums. You’ve picked a fantastic place to holiday. It’s just beautiful. You’re going to have an amazing time”.

They didn’t.

They were bored, they had nothing to do. After seven hours of cruising down the river it occurred to them that this was it. Every gum tree began to morph into the next. There were no restaurants conveniently placed amongst “the outback”, nowhere to get a latte, no other children for their children to play with. There were only so many games of scrabble they could play. My idea of “Gods Own Country” had them praying for an end to their holiday.

Is it possible that if there is a “Gods Own Country” it has to be somewhere you have an emotional tie?

My friend Mike swears that his hometown of Swift Current, Saskatchewan is Gods Own Country. This is a town flat enough that if your dog runs away, you can watch it run for days. After suggesting it to backpackers in his travels, they rang him when they arrived with only one question “who is your God?”

Today on twitter I received a new message from a follower who stated his location as “Gods Own Country”. Where could that be? I asked the twitterverse, presuming it had to be Queensland or Texas, immediately someone jumped in with Kerala, India. Controversy ensured. Patriotism rose from the inter webs.

The beautiful Eden from Edenland (if you’re not reading her blog you’re missing out) posted this little gem this morning. For a girl who hasn’t been home for ten months and is six sleeps away from her Australian bed, this was enough to have me humming waltzing matilda while spreading my vegemite.

Today I went along to the Grade Three “Culture Fair” at the little travelers school. Each child had to represent a country they had never been to, and knew nothing about. They then put together a “culture box”. I was fascinated by the little girl on the Australian table who taught me how to speak Australian.  She showed me a hat with corks swinging from its brim “this is what Australians wear to keep the mosquitos away”

“I must get one”.

She looked at me blankly for a moment and decided to continue.

“Do you know how Australians ask “What do you think?”

I didn’t.

“They say whaddayareckon” we both giggled.

Do you know how they say excuse me when they don’t hear you?

Once again I wasn’t sure.

“Aye”

“Excuse me?” I pretended not to hear.

She didn’t see the irony.

Interestingly if you google “Gods Own Country” you’ll find that the earliest recorded use of the phrase was in New Zealand. Yep, they’ve claimed not only the pavlova, but now they want the phrases as well. What’s that? Where’s New Zealand? I was lucky enough to find a map when I was at the Grade Three Culture Fair.  Here it is!

So tell me. Where is God’s Own Country?

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