Tomorrow, June 25, will mark three weeks since my kids and I flew into Canberra, Australia, to join my wife and start four years here while she pursues her second PhD (at the Australian National University).
In three weeks, here’s what I have learned about Australian life thus far:
1. Australian winters are brutal for islanders accustomed to tropical temperatures. When we arrived, it was a brisk 14 degrees Celsius; I awoke up this morning to -5 degrees. I knew it would be cold, but this is cold that I have never experienced in my life. Not even close. I mean, Seoul in 2012 gave us 4 degrees at its coldest. Even as I type this at around 1:30 p.m., it’s 11 degrees, while it’s 30 degrees in Manila, and I’m bundled up in a coat and thermal underwear.
For a Filipino used to 34 degrees, it’s rough. I feel my fat solidifying in my joints. My kids are adjusting well, but every day, my wife and I are bundled up in several layers of winter wear. It’s not the best recipe for staying incognito; most other Canberrans are lightly dressed while I do a Filipino version of The Mummy.
There are times when I miss the heat of the islands.
2. Getting around is a dream. The buses are on time and the city’s idea of traffic is a five- to six-car buildup. Between the accuracy of the transportation system–already fantastic, and a light rail transit will be operational by year’s end!–and the efficiency of reloading tickets, it’s fantastic, to be honest.
Also, about a week ago, we also secured ourselves a quality second-hand car. I like to believe that I’m a responsible driver, so upon thoroughly reviewing the ACT Road Rules Handbook, it took me a few minutes to get the hang of driving on the left side of the road and the right side of the car. I don’t do it often, but when I do, it’s such a pleasure to drive because the roads are level and the other drivers so considerate.
3. The city seems so clean and dust-free. I have to tell you that one of the best things about being here is how clean the city is. I look at the white buildings and I marvel at how they’re so white, with none of the unsightly streaks that often come with rain. I look at the sides of the roads and see no oil marks on the rain drains that often come with pollution. It’s shocking.
4. They really do shut down early here. A few friends told me that a lot of the shops close early, and they were right. By 6:00 p.m., most of the stores at the Canberra City Centre (a major shopping mall) were closed; the Canberra coffee shop I like to frequent closes at 2:30… in the afternoon. What this means is more time to do what we love, often with the people we love.
5. We love our home. For the past three weeks, and for the next three weeks, we’ll be staying at this lovely place in Watson, a district of the city. It’s so pretty. The picture at the start of this blog post is a pic of the backyard, where it’s just a great place to relax and enjoy time with your family or God. I love it.