That Dingo Ate My Baby Monitor

There’s no doubt that traveling overseas can open your mind. Perhaps because it offers you the opportunity to understand the concepts behind the culture of others. Or maybe it’s experiencing or watching something you’ve never seen before which provides an instant wow factor. There’s a moment when you realize that something you thought to be true, is not.

But sometimes the biggest lessons come when we’re asked to explain our own culture. Why we do what we do, eat what we eat, and play what we play. As expats we quickly learn that events which we hold close to our hearts can mean absolutely nothing to others. They flash by without fanfare, no newspaper headlines, no television coverage. Whether it’s an Australian rules football grand final or an ashes series that you’re desperately trying to find a venue to watch.

I hosted a baby shower yesterday while my beloved football team played in a final. One of my little travellers who shares my obsession with the game came to me intermittently with updates. “Twelve points up” she whispered into my ear as I served the pavlova.

While pouring the champagne a fellow Aussie enquired if I’d heard any election results. “What for? Which election?” asked a Brit. The Australian Federal election was understandably not front and centre in our American, South African and British friends thoughts.

As the presents were opened a new baby monitor was unwrapped. Its ability to pick up foreign sounds displayed on the box. Two of the naughtiest Aussies stood at the back of the room (one may or may not have been me) “That’d be handy for when the dingo came” an inappropriate but so very Australian comment whispered between two Aussie women. Giggles were snuffled, a girlfriend talked of stick figures on the back of the car “that dingo ate my stick figure family”. More silent giggling.

As the baby blankets and onesies were opened I tried to inconspicuously look for both a footy and election update. I shared my screen with a friend. Here we were in the middle east, one of us currently working for the Australian government, reading the headlines. We were set for a new Prime Minister.

When the shower was over, I sat with a couple of close friends and asked if they minded if we watched the last ten minutes of the game. A Brit and an American, it took them a few minutes just to get past the shortness of the shorts. “Is he wearing spanks under his shorts?” “Why is the ref wearing a fluorescent shirt and the team’s wearing the black and white stripes?” I was monosyllabic, I needed to concentrate, it was three points the difference. The game I love, I had no words for. Could they ever really understand what it means to me? That truly it was about standing next to my Dad and his mates on a sunny winters day. That it was about tradition, memories and years of feeling one hundred different emotions in two an half hours. That it was about beers at half time and getting a cherry ripe from the little shop in the corner of the clubhouse. That at the very moment that I was cheering in my lounge room in Qatar I knew my parents were doing exactly the same thousands of miles away. And that they would be thinking of me as much as I was thinking about them.

After the game was finished, the songs were sung and my British friend declared that Nathan Buckley looked more Russian than Australian, “wait until he opens his mouth” I promised. I was trying to imagine Nathan Buckley addressing the Collingwood football club with a Russian accent.

I think William McInnes said it for every traveler when he wrote “Away from home, you watch more, see more, feel more.”

While I’ve read my morning headlines and social media feed, I’ve giggled at the vastly opposing views of my friends. Some are dancing in the street while others are sitting in a dark room rocking back and forth. Each of them though, shares something in common. They were allowed to vote for their government. They live in a country where they write a letter to their minister, speak freely of their dissatisfaction, and can tell or draw a politically driven joke and share it with their friends without fear. If they don’t like their current government they can throw them out and get a new one in a few years time. They have a system they trust, learn about in school, and watch operate on a daily basis.

Some may consider it a luxury they can only dream of.

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