Gut instincts about settling back in

28 Mar

The plane pulls into the terminal and I see a mob of red and white kangaroos – the symbol of Australia’s greatest airline and an icon of the hours I used to spend travelling as a corporate employee. It’s been ten months since I earned points for my silver Qantas frequent flyer account but it feels much longer, especially when I think about all I’ve done.

In all-Australian fashion, dogs are sniffing out the crowds – beautiful pedigrees – and laid-back officials deal instructions to visitors trying to make sense of the system. “Go ahead mate”, “You’re gonna have ta get a move on if ya wanna be out by this arvo”. I laugh because I’ve learnt how difficult it can be for others to decipher Aussie slang.

The electronic chip in my passport enables me to skip queues at immigration and I can’t contain my excitement when customs officials check the items I’ve declared. “I’m so happy to be home,” I tell the woman who examines my chopsticks and other wooden items. “Welcome,” she smiles and lets me through the gates without scanning my belongings.

Brisbane is just as I left it, except for areas damaged by the floods, including the Southbank beach pictured (photographed the week before I moved to Vietnam).

I expected everything to feel backwards – driving on the other side of the road, eating with a knife and fork, cooking dinner at home, even spending every hour with my partner instead of my friends – but, instead, everything feels just as it should. It’s familiar because it’s the same as I left it.

It’s only when I walk around the area that I get an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach. It takes up to one whole minute for a car to pass me in the city. It’s so quiet I wonder if something horrible has happened to Brisbane! There are no motorbikes or obstacles on the footpaths, no people calling out “hello” or trying to sell me something. I often run across intersections when the signal remains red because I can’t stand to wait while there are no cars in sight like everybody else. “You think this is traffic,” I think, “You should see Ho Chi Minh.”

To celebrate my journey home, my partner shouts me a great big feast for dinner at The Smoke BBQ restaurant in New Farm. My vegetarian Vietnamese diet is forgotten as I devour half a rack of smoky beef ribs, spicy chicken wings and french fries. It tastes even better than I remember.

As I finally lay to sleep in the most comfortable bed in the world, my mind shifts back to Ho Chi Minh where my closest friends remain. My first day in Brisbane has proven that it won’t take long to settle back into Australia and my life in Vietnam will soon feel like a distant dream. It brings a tear to my eye and I fight back more when … uh oh … like a sledge hammer to the gut, I get a painful warning that it really is going to take me, and my body, a while to get used to Australia again.

By Marissa Toohey

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One Response to “Gut instincts about settling back in”

  1. Orr March 29, 2011 at 6:21 PM #

    We miss you too Em!
    (and I miss the quiet sometimes too…)

    O

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