(or: why I still call Australia home)
Let’s start at the other end by first making things clear – I love Taiwan. I was born there, after all. The food, the convenience, the people; it’s a great place, and at the risk of sounding like a tourist ad for the motherland I will say it is definitely worth a visit.
Rewind, the people. The sheer numbers present in Taipei are staggering, even compared to Sydney. It’s both a huge culture shock and a death-defying experience every time I go back; I don’t think I’ll ever get used to pedestrians not having right of way, even at zebra crossings. Privileged, I know (re: couple posts back), but seriously thank goodness for Australian traffic laws. I had my first ride on a motorcycle this time when I went back to Taiwan, and it was fun – but I’ll never understand how a) motorcycles are not hit by cars and b) people are not hit by motorcycles, right in front of me. Cutting it close is not an adequate descriptor, not by a long shot. Traffic is endless! Such is life in a city that never sleeps – a stark contrast to my beloved sunburnt country* where businesses might close at 6pm or earlier. (We Aussies are a laidback people, take it or leave it.)
I’ve just Googled the definition of first, second and third-world countries and am no clearer on the concept than when I started, so I’ll just say that I feel beyond lucky to be living in Australia, with its ‘pitiless blue sky’*. It is rare to see blue sky in Taipei, a city where many inhabitants wear those surgical facemasks daily just to avoid the pollution. The very beaches are grey – though I’m willing to put this down to a difference in geology rather than the sole effects of pollution. Nevertheless, there is no denying the atmosphere; my nose gets blocked once I enter Taiwan. It clears when I set foot in the Sydney airport. Crazy, right? (And no, it’s not just a cold; my uncle, who’s an ear-nose-throat specialist, checks. And prescribes me nasal sprays for the allergies. Even I can barely believe it, it seems so laughable to be allergic to the air one was born in.) And I’m not the only one – several friends face the same problem.
Onto another point – Australia is renowned for its deadly and exotic creatures, but we’re pretty lucky to have such diverse wildlife at all. How many of you have seen flocks of lorikeets feeding off bottlebrushes sometime in your life? Well, once a single lorikeet was perched on an electric cable outside NTU Hospital and people from all over rushed to take its photograph. Yeah.
All this paints a rather bleak picture of a country I do love, but I guess the point I’m trying to make is – Australia is my home. Though times are changing, there are sadly still people out there who will discriminate on a racial basis. To those people: I hope you’ll understand that Australia is our home too, and we love this land as much as you do. There is a cultural divide – I won’t delve into cultural differences now, perhaps another time? – but for all we are proud of our traditions (as you are doubtless proud of yours), we love this country no less. We are those who’ve come across the seas, and these are boundless plains to share** so –
Happy Australia Day. (And do visit Taiwan, if you get the chance.)
*My Country by Dorothea Mackellar (one of the few poems I have studied and actually enjoyed)
**Advance Australia Fair!