No Ticker Tape Parades For Expats (I mean, they don’t even live here)

I happened to be in Australia a few years ago when Australian cyclist Cadel Evans won the Tour de France. While many Australians don’t give a toss about sport I think it’s fair to say the majority love a national sporting event, and in particular a national sporting event in which an Aussie has a chance of winning.  On the morning of the Cadel’s win just about every paper had Cadel’s beaming face on its cover, morning television was full of banter and bleary eyes of those who had stayed up to watch the win. Politicians were asked their opinion and a ticker tape parade was discussed.

It didn’t take long for someone to voice a difference of opinion, this is imperative on morning television in Australia. Morning television in Australia does not survive without two people sitting on opposing couches with opposing positions. It makes for riveting television. No it doesn’t. It’s mind numbingly AWFUL.

“I think all children should climb trees”

“I think children who climb trees will die”

“I think parents who don’t let children climb trees are evil”

“I think parents who do let children climb trees are involved in a blatant form of child abuse”

On the morning of Cadel’s win the conversation was about the fact that the celebration of his win was unwarranted. The argument being that we needed more ticker tape parades for scientists, doctors and international peace keepers. I agree, and I believe that as soon as ESPN and nine world of sports can work out how to turn these occupations into competitive televised spectator events it will happen.

I slurped my warm coffee and nibbled on my toast with lashings of vegemite while the debate continued.

Cadel is a legend.

Cadel is merely a person who can ride a bike, fast.

Cadel is a national hero.

And then it came, the old chestnut.

“But he doesn’t even live in Australia?!”

As an Aussie who lived abroad I immediately took it to heart. Cadel had been training and living in Europe and as far as the commentator was concerned once you left, you were done. It appeared I was out of the running for a ticker tape parade.

I understand that when you leave your home country it may be viewed as desertion. Out of mind out of sight and all that. Often what happens as an expat is completely the opposite. When the two questions you’re asked most often are “So where are you from” and “How long are you here for?” you may find yourself thinking a little deeply about home and its essence. While living in Australia I never once thought of investing in a flag, an inflatable Aussie hand, a socceroos t-shirt or a Wallabies rugby top. This was before I needed four different international day outfits and found myself cheering like a woman possessed for the socceroos in Qatar. We now have a house full of Aussie paraphernalia, not only for the fact that we want it, but we need it.

After the 24 hour Odyssey to get home we finally landed in Adelaide at 5.15 in the morning. Our excitement upon landing somehow instantly removed the fact that we were jet lagged, smelly and in need of a shower. As we exited the airport each one of us put our faces to the sky and took in a deep breath.

“It’s so clean, how come it smells so clean” the second traveller had an enormous grin.

“WE’RE HOME!” said the first taking in a 360 view.

“It’s cold, I love this weather, it’s so good to feel the cold. I miss you cold!” said the fourth.

“Look Mum! Rain! On the ground. Nooooooo we missed it! Do you think it will rain again?”

In the maxi taxi our driver explained he was studying while driving a taxi a couple of days a week. He’d lived in Mumbai, California, Melbourne and now Adelaide. We listened to the local news and talked about newsworthy issues in Australia versus other countries.

“They’re so lucky here. No big wars on their land. Good health. Fresh air.”

I agreed. “I’m embarrassed to admit that I took it for granted in the past”.

“I love Australia” said a small voice from the back seat.

It’s a phrase that our fourth little traveller Henry Hotdog has said repeatedly in the past 24 hours. In the supermarket aisle “I love Australia”, listening to the rain fall while laying in bed “I love Australia”, driving along the esplanade looking over the beach and out to sea “I love Australia”.

It was Henry who noticed our lemon tree in the backyard was now heavy with lemons. He couldn’t believe our luck “Mum, being in Australia is just like when someone gives you something for free, you’re already happy and then it’s like ‘Wow! And this too? Thank you!'”

I agreed, the first few days are always like this. You watch the television commercials in wonder, so entertaining! You want to congratulate and thank the policemen and women who do remarkable things like efficiently direct traffic and assist people in the street. You stand motionless in the dairy section of the supermarket stunned for choice, so many different brands of cheese! You caress avocados, sigh out loud as you eat the local yoghurt, and gasp at the freedom of speech had by radio announcers, entertainers and game show hosts. All of these feelings and observations will fade, by the time we leave in August they will become normal, everyday, expected.

Until then though, Australia if we could throw you a ticker tape parade we would, and one day I hope that even though we don’t currently live in Australia, you’ll feel the same way about us.

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