Back from Down Under
It has been five days since I returned to my mundane life and I am still recovering from jet lag and travel fatigue. I must be getting old! We landed back in Singapore at 9pm local time, which would have been 12mn in Sydney (yah I crossed daylight savings while I was there. So cool!)
Then after finally getting to sleep at 2am Sydney time, I woke up and went back to work the next day. Not a very good idea. Pretty much slept the whole of Saturday away as I had to work on Sunday. We had just launched a new educational campaign and will have to work late for this whole week! I feel like my body is just playing catch up now. So sadly it is going to take time for me to write about my trip to Australia.
But fret not! I have captured it all on my voice recorder and will be testing my multimedia expertise trying to create a movie from my sweet voice and photos from my trip. Akan Datang okay?
However before my memory fails me, let me summarise my thoughts and emotions from this trip.
1. Despite its first world status and Sydney being voted as one of the world’s most liveable cities, Australia is not as developed as I have expected. Many of the towns we passed between Brisbane and Sydney are not very developed, thriving on either farming or tourism for survival. Wireless is a precious commodity and shopping centers are a luxury!
On one hand, I felt like I was being thrown backwards, on another hand, I wondered if Singapore has developed too fast for its own good? I mean in terms of civilised history, both Singapore and Australia were founded in the 18th century. But look at the vast difference in our development.
It is perhaps true that once you have developed and come to expect certain standards of living, it is almost impossible to go back. I felt sad that I have lost that for having grown up in cosmopolitan Singapore. I really wish I could live during a less demanding period. Maybe Singapore would be more liveable then.
2. Food in Australia is very very very expensive. I initially thought that it was just restaurants trying to get a quick buck from us but having bought my own groceries from the supermarket and even local farmers’ market, I realised that eateries have to charge that much just to make a living. Why on earth is food so expensive in Australia?
I can only guess that it could be due to their very strict import policy. When clearing immigration, you have to declare all food products you are carrying before you can enter the country. This is to prevent undue introduction of germs or bacteria into the continent as it has a very delicate, isolated and unique ecosystem. Some 80% of the animals in Australia cannot be found in any other part of the world!
So most food is made in Australia and because they don’t have the privilege of importing food from less developed countries, food becomes expensive. A bunch of six bananas for example cost $6! Even the milk here is more costly than Singapore. One would think with the number of cows they rear it would be cheaper.
What’s comparatively cheaper here though are made in Australia clothes. I managed to buy a nice purple top for only two Aussie dollars!
I overheard a local telling his children that Australians have lost the ability to make cheap toys when his children asked why the same koala soft toy cost so much lesser for the one made in China (5 for A$10) compared to those made in Australia (A$12 each).
Sad but true. In fact, I was loathe to buy any of the cheaper ones as souvenirs – bought in Australia, made in China. That’s globalisation for you. I asked a taxi driver how much a local earned and he estimated about A$18 – A$20 an hour, I guess they have some kind of minimum wage rule here and that works out to be almost how much I earn as a professional in Singapore!
3. We were on the road for 13 days but by the time I was on day 9, I was ready to head home. The weather in Australia was really too cold for my liking in spring. After crossing the border between Queensland and New South Wales, it was like being thrown into a totally new climate. While Queensland was chilly, the sun was hot! But in NSW, it was gloomy for most part of the day, rained torrentially out of nowhere and winds blew at speeds that made walking difficult.
The daily schedule of unpacking, bathing, sleeping, packing again and starting a whole day of driving in addition to sight seeing and stressing over meals for the children took quite a toll on us. Plus the hotels here check out at 10am compared to the 12nn check out that I was used to. We barely have time to dress up and have breakfast before we were rushed out of our rooms.
I had originally thought that I had left a lot of spare time in my planning but even that was not enough. There was just still many administrative matters to take care of with children, whose hands had to be washed every half hour, wanted to pee every hour, to feed every two hours and entertained every waking minute.
But looking back the one thing that I treasured during this trip was finding out how big my Elizabeth has grown. I guess compared to Joel and Benjamin, I had spent the least time with the girl and through this intense interaction with her over the two weeks made me realised that I have such a beautiful daughter sprouting before me.
She’s vain and stubborn as ever but she can now play and joke with her brother in an intelligible manner. And during road trips when Joel is asleep, she is so happy to sit down quietly and just enjoy the scenery, probably with a thousand imaginary stories and questions playing in her mind.
There were also times when tempers flew between Theo and myself due to hunger pangs or fatigue. Theo had left all planning to me and I left all execution to him but we both shared equal responsibility for getting the whole family together to have fun and get home in one piece. So no matter what, we still came together at the end of the day and laughed at our own quirks and stubbornness.
There was one time that I raised my voice at Theo to the point of screaming. From the back of the car, Elizabeth commented, ‘mummy so scary, talk so loud’ to which Joel replied, ‘don’t worry, mummy is just angry with daddy, not you. Right mummy?’ It was really hard to keep my anger and I guess children have ways to totally melt your disposition.
So I guess no matter how difficult, I would still vote for family adventure vacations because there is really no other opportunities outside of day to day working life to experience and learn together with such intensity, and then sit back and laugh at awkward moments over a cup of hot Singaporean coffee.