When you are born and raised in the northern hemisphere, and then move to the southern hemisphere as an adult, it’s hard to grasp the holiday spirit. Even when I lived in Orlando, and wore shorts on Christmas Day while working at Walt Disney World, it still felt like Christmas. Then again, it was Disney, so we had fake snow and Christmas carols playing everywhere.
Back May, before making my permanent move out here to Australia, I came out for a one week “get to know you” visit. It was a good thing that trip went well, seeing as I had already signed a contract and quit my job. During that trip I went to dinner at my soon-to-be-new boss’s house with his family. His nine-year-old twins and I got along quite well, comparing recess games, favourite foods, and holiday traditions. They have never seen snow except for in the movies, so the idea of a white Christmas was a quite appealing to them.
Last night I happened to notice that A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving was scheduled to air on television in the States. I must confess that this was the first time I actually thought about Thanksgiving, partially because we don’t see Thanksgiving commercials or the corresponding accoutrement in the stores. But probably also due to the fact that as I sit here writing this blog post at 6am, it is already well above 90 degrees, hence the idea of cooking a turkey and eating pumpkin pie in traditional Thanksgiving (i.e. Church of America) fashion lacks appeal.
But I do have SOME thing- many things, actually- but ONE thing in particular to be thankful for. My Thanksgiving is being celebrated in style, in my new house, surrounded by my belongings…. wait for it…. that arrived… from the States! That’s right folks, hell hath frozen over and my ship has come in!
Last week around 2pm my apartment looked like this:
By 3pm, my apartment looked like this:
But, here’s the best part of the story. Back in February when I accepted this job I started watching everything I could on youtube about Australia. I ran across this television series called Border Security: Australia’s Front Line. And, let me tell you, the front line takes their jobs seriously. But in all honesty, I can understand their tenacity. Australia is very isolated and has an incredibly delicate environment. By being vigilant about what comes into the country, they have avoided many of the diseases which have proven deleterious in other parts of the world.
For instance, if you typically fly with snacks, make sure you eat your beef jerky before you arrive otherwise it will be confiscated due to fear of foot and mouth disease. I know, I know, it’s a processed food and can’t possibly spread that disease, but as I said the Australians are cautious, to the point of being almost paranoid. If you plan to come here for diving, leave your wetsuit at home. They don’t want to risk you bringing in any parasites that might be harmful to the wildlife here. When I climbed Kilimanjaro two years ago, my Australian “buddies” gave their hiking boots to our guides and porters because they said they would be confiscated due to the concern there might be a trace of dirt on them once they got home. They said they might as well give them to someone who could use them rather than having them confiscated and destroyed.
Well, having watched Border Security, read lots and talked to friends about what I could “get away with”, I was worried that my bike, golf clubs and wooden giraffe from Africa might meet their demise in Australian Customs. But it turns out flattery will get you everywhere. I wrote the Customs officials little love notes and put them all over my belongings. And they even wrote me back. Here is the note I put on my golf clubs. And as you can see, they responded by welcoming me to Australia:
As I’ve said before, I LOVE coming back into the U.S. after being gone for a long time because the Customs officials always say, “Welcome home!” after stamping my passport. But, after my recent experience successfully receiving my things, I think the Australian Customs Department may be my new bestie- at least on this side of the (other) pond.