Thursday, 12 January 2012

My First Australian Christmas

I hadn’t planned to be in Perth for the festive season, it just kind of worked out that way. When Jonathan’s family invited me for Christmas I was at first apprehensive but they were so welcoming I was soon looking forward to returning to them for the festivities.

The run up to Christmas had been very low key in Manjimup and that combined with the hot weather made the reality of Christmas very easy to ignore. The week before hand I started to get anxious and I did avoid the Christmas songs where possible. I started by telling people I was looking forwards to it but the strain was too much and soon I was admitting I didn’t really like Christmas and wanted it to be over. I was however looking forward to seeing Jonathan’s family again and spending time with them after Christmas. Therefore when I was collected from work the Thursday before Christmas I was very happy to be going back.

The thing is as much as I was dreading Christmas I knew they were looking forward to it so I tried my best to go along with it. After all I didn’t really want to be a Grinch, that’s just mean. I am sure if I had explained things then I would have been excused joining in but I didn’t want that either. These people were kind enough to include me in there celebrations so I was damn well going to join in.

The first Christmas dinner was on the Friday. One side of the family all came over and we had a traditional Christmas dinner with Christmas music provided most willingly by yours truly; well I had to contribute something! It was great fun. Everyone had been warned about my presence previously and I had some great conversations not to mention a lovely meal. The evening was without a doubt a success and I was rather pleased with how I was handling Christmas so far.

The next day was Christmas Eve and I had to go in to the city as I hadn’t bought a single present. I had one of the family with me for guidance and we managed without too much drama to get presents for everyone. That evening we watched a very bizarre Finnish film called Rare Exports which despite its weirdness was quite enjoyable. We did stay up until after midnight but not too long after as the next day was to be rather busy.

Christmas day arrived and though there were marked differences it was also remarkably familiar. One major difference was the weather, it was close to 30 degree and there was not a drop of rain in sight. We all got up in the morning for breakfast and present opening. You’d think that being a backpacker so far from home I’d have not a lot to do but both my families back home were well prepared and had sent me presents aplenty, not to mention the generosity of my Perth family. After much mess and ooooing and ahing it was time to go to the first family gathering where there were silly presents to be shared and a late breakfast to munch on. I still think my favourite was the parachute man possible because it’s a family tradition and I got one making me feel all included and warm and fuzzy inside. Once again I was not left out and though it was a family occasion I was often chatting with one family member or another. Silliness over and it was back to the house for a light lunch and a swim. In the evening it was time to gather with the other half of the family and we all headed over to another family members house where once more I was warmly welcomed and made to feel included. This was probably the hardest part of the day for me. This was Jonathan’s family and it was a very traditional dinner. One of the ‘children’ was missing as he was working abroad and his cousin raised a toast to absent friends naming him of course. My mind though went to Jonathan and I raised a silent toast to him, letting him know as always that he wasn’t far from my thoughts. I had a quick look around and I don’t think anyone noticed. Thankfully it was then time to eat and we were all preoccupied with the delicious food. After dinner we moved into the garden to sit by the pool. As everyone else moved off I took a few minutes for myself to think of my friends and family back home and those we have all lost. It was a sad moment but something I needed to do. After that I was able to collect myself and rejoin the festivities by the pool. The rest of the evening was as pleasant as the rest of the day had been. We eventually felt we had room for desert before moving back to the garden for more drinking and chatting. I took the time to call Jonathan’s parents as it was obvious we would not be home in time to skype them before they left for their own Christmas dinner. It was hard to be apart from them but doing something completely different did make the day easier and I think they were pleased for me even though I know they missed me too. The fact I called from the party meant that a few other were also able to chat to them and I think everyone was happy to be able to chat even though we were separated by physical distance. Eventually the night came to an end it was back home where most went to bed but I stayed up a little longer.  I  skyped my parents to thank them for the fabulous presents and wish them a merry Christmas. It was lovely to see them and I was very impressed with their laid back day where they organised the meals around the TV schedule. I was also pleased to see my dad looking well, no doubt grateful for the break in his treatment as well as the tasty meal my mother was preparing.

Boxing day is always a laid back affair in my parents house but not so in Perth. There was a big barbeque organised with loads of seafood and drinks by the pool, a proper Aussie Christmas. It sounded fabulous but the strain of Christmas and too many late nights caught up with me and though everyone who came was again warm and inclusive my head decided it had had enough. My headache came and went all day and I spent most of it inside with the air con. Late afternoon I gave up and went for a nap. I did get up and try again but I felt like I was sleep walking and decided to call it a day and head to bed. I felt bad that I had been rude but trying to make coherent sentences was harder than it usually is and I found it difficult to concentrate. Typically after thirteen hours sleep I woke up the next morning feeling great and raring to go.

The days following Christmas were very low key and relaxed. I worked my way through two books though I did manage to drag myself away on the promise of Turkish food one night which was totally worth it. Having read two books I then got my act belatedly together and arranged to meet up with some friends. I enjoyed one friends pool whilst we compared the sunny weather to the vastly different conditions we had met in during the snow storms of 2010. From there I made my way in to the city to meet up with a friend I had made in Sydney who was working in Perth. Typically one drink turned into many and though it did eventually occur to us to eat it was too late. We made our way to our respective home knowing we had indulged a little too much. Being me I then continued to indulge and have been assured I drank an impressive amount of wine before someone decided i needed food and kindly provided chicken nuggets. I wish I could remember this but I don’t, I only know what I was told. I paid for it the next day though thankfully I was able to convince my body to sleep through most of the hangover. Of course I would do this on new years eve eve! New years eve was a lovely day. I was taken to Freo for a wander round and I finally got to visit the Little Creatures brewery, they don’t make a the tastiest cider in Australia but the view and surroundings were fabulous. From there we went for some fish and chips before heading home to bring in the new year watching the Sydney Fireworks (three hours delayed) and toasting the new year with some Gentleman Jack and whiskey and coke. I always say I don’t want people to put themselves out for me and if everyone else had gone out and left me I would have been perfectly happy however I felt very well taken care of and that made the new year easier to bring in than it has been previously and I am very grateful that these kind people took it upon themselves to make sure I was ok.

2012! It started wonderfully. I had some very quiet days and made sure I got in to the pool at least once day whilost I was still in Perth. On new years day we had steak pie which had been made especially for me as its traditional with both my and Jonathan’s family. Sorry folks back home but it was a pretty awesome steak pie. On the second I tagged along with my friends to her friends for dinner where I had the most awesome paella made to a genuine Spanish recipe. The company was as good as the food and I was sorry that we had to rush off but we had tickets to see a film at an outdoor cinema so it couldn’t be helped. The experience was fun. We had cheese and biscuits and chocolates and wine and I was glad of the wine since the film was less than impressive. It was called “the kid with the bike”, had received five stars and was supposed to be a moving film about the relationship between an unwanted child and his unlikely friendship with a woman who eventually becomes his foster mother. Personally I found it hard to feel for the characters, maybe something was lost in translation as it was a subtitled film or maybe I am just a philistine but either way I was disappointed. Disappointing film aside it was a lovely evening and a good end to my holiday in Perth. The next day I was being chauffeured once more back to Manjimup and the farming business that is necessary for my second year visa.  Before I left my friend (and driver for the day) and we had brunch at a local marina where I enjoyed a decadent breakfast of smoked salmon scrambled eggs on toasted muffins knowing I was about to return to my monotonous diet of sultana bran, sandwiches and rice with assorted vegetables. It’s not exciting but it’s cheap, easy and more or less healthy. My friend invited one of her friends along so she would have company on the way back and we had a lovely drive south. We stopped at Bridgetown for afternoon tea and scones but too soon we were in Majimup and it was back to reality for me. 

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