Happy I Tell You!

The process of returning, the re-entry, had its usual narrative. An epic journey (I swear it took me about 5 days to get home). I arrived at the final baggage carousel looking greasy and creasy. I’d picked up a cold somewhere between Brisbane and Hong Kong, my nose was red, my skin dry and I’m fairly sure I smelled. G looked slightly scared rather than lovestruck when he first eyed me coming out of arrivals. It was then home, a drive where I rambled on endlessly about the blog conference, I kept talking, because I could. 30,000 feet high in a tin can can quieten the most enthusiastic extrovert. There’s only so much conversation you can weave from the chicken or the fish?  Once home, the shower was perhaps the best I’d ever had, or since the last time I flew.

I swore I was going to wake up optimistic about my desert surroundings. So what if there was no beach-house, no favourite morning paper, no zipping to the local bakery or breathtaking views of almond blossoms, vineyards and Adelaide Hills.  So what if the eggs didn’t taste like eggs. It was good to be home, back to a routine, back to work, back to school – back with friends I’d missed over the summer. You will be happy! I told myself. Do you hear me? Happy!

After standing in front of the wardrobe with a fixed grin on my face (happy I tell you) for longer than I care to admit to, I realised I had no idea of what is was that I wore in 45 degree heat. After three months of winter, of tights, shirts and scarves – nothing in my wardrobe made any sense. I looked longingly at my new winter boots and then gave up. I threw on bathers and a sundress, I would follow my own re-entry rules and do laps at the pool. I packed a towel, goggles and cap, deposited the children at school and decided I’d exercise before work. It would keep me happy. Happy I tell you!

“Sorry Maa’m, no pool.” the security guard was blocking the doorway.

I stood in my sundress, goggles and swim cap in one hand, I used my towel to brush away the drops of perspiration that were now running down the backs of my legs.

“Why no pool?” In less than 12 hours I had returned to speaking the language of broken English.

“Chemical Maa’m, they burning the skin of the peoples.”

“Are the peoples all right?” I had visions of friends running from the pool in flames.


I tried for elaboration.

“Children peoples or grown up peoples?”

After three months of living in a world where the local baker had greeted us with a “G’day, How’s it going?” and newsreaders threw in slang and idioms, and the newsagent made small talk about footy cards and newspaper deliveries – I was back. Back to a world where my world is not your world. Where everyone brings their own world to the one place and tries to make it all work together. An experiment in international life. This is the world we chose, the world we love, this is exactly what I like about this world, the difference in culture, nationalities, lifestyle – but it was going to take a day or two to get my head around it again. Language was only the beginning.

“When will the pool be open again?” I was now melting, it was 8am and already 40 degrees.

This time it was silence but with a smile and a shrug. He looked amused that I’d asked, in a you don’t come here often kind of way.

I went home and showered. Pulled out my laptop and began to work. Periodically I’d look over to the corner, to a pile that needed my attention, the last of the unpacking. I had of course unpacked all the good stuff, the stuff you can’t get here: the treats, the clothes, the new shoes, the bucket size jar of vegemite. Like a bowerbird I’d marvelled over my new shiny things, finding places for them in my wardrobe, drawers and kitchen shelves. As always I’d left all the boring stuff in the corner: the washing, the study, the wet pack.

I opened an email from my Mum “glad to see you’re all home together, but sad that it’s so far from us.” That was it. Tears. Silent, staring out the window over the mosque, the construction, the sand and the dust, tears. Happy I tell you!

These first few days are a process of transition for me. I tread carefully. A lunch with friends here, a meeting for work there. I will push thoughts of another life to another time. I will move quietly from one life to the other. Happy I tell you!


Anyone else have to make a conscious effort to move from one life to the other?

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