Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Home Sweet New Home

Aaaaaaand.... we're back! One of the best, craziest, most unexpected weeks of my life. Try to imagine with me:

the Australian national underwater hockey championships
in Tasmania
living on an Abalone boat
with 2 Aussies, 1 Dutch guy, and Nod and I
sleeping all together on bunk beds below deck
like a very strange summer camp, or an ill-conceived reality TV show.

That's alright, we couldn't imagine it either--at least not until we arrived and reality ended up proving once again to be much stranger than fiction. So much happened in the last 9 days that we can't fit it all into one post, so Nod and I will start writing it up digest style in the days to come--lots of videos and photos to follow.

But to catch you all up to the present, Nod and I returned from the wilds of Tasmania yesterday and began nestling into our new home in Newtown (farewell, Petersham!) where we'll live until the end of our stay in mid-April.

Newtown is a glorious, earthy mix of amazing restaurants, hip cafes, and unshaven people. If Newtown had a personal ad, it might look something like this:

Age: 19-27
Gender: questioning/trans/not applicable
Hair color: pink and ironic gray
Favorite foods: vegetarian vietnamese noodles, tofu ice cream, cheap beer.
Favorite music: obscure
Favorite things: buddha statues, thrift stores, BYOB restaurants, used book stores.

If it sounds unbearably hipster, Newtown somehow manages to walk a perfect line between eccentric and pretentious--it's almost all charming, and there's always something or someone interesting to see.

Newtown is one massive corridor of wall-to-wall restaurants and shops, and almost all of the cafes have big overstuffed couches that face out onto the street. It's perfect for drinking a soy smoothie and gawking at some of the stranger sights, which recently included 1) a woman with a brown paper bag on her head; 2) 4 different people walking barefoot down the street;  3) a woman with green leopard spots tattooed on her partially shaven head; 4) a man riding a blow-up unicorn on the sidewalk; 5) a group of Buddhist monks.

And then when you're done people watching, you can take your fill of all the Vietnamese, Malaysian, and Japanese food you've ever wanted, visit the Vegan Butcher (soy-meat products only), or indulge at the chocolate cafe.

But the best, best, best part about Newtown is our new home. We recently left behind our share house in Petersham, a suburb 2km away (To which we also say: good riddance, Petersham, we never liked you anyway).

We swapped it all for a beautiful, airy, white stucco house where we live with the lovely Ms. A., her teenage son H., and the occasional company of the whimsical and elegant matriarch, Grandma R.

Ms. A is an artist, and her house is all cool white walls, broad wooden floor boards, natural light, and low tables. They live next to a park with massive fig trees that filter out the sun and keeps our bedroom cool and breezy. Everything is tranquility here.

The entire family is warm and wickedly funny--her son H. has social skills that are 17 going on Neil Patrick Harris, and Grandma R. is an entire character unto herself. Grandma R. is a proper grand dame who literally clutched at her pearls when discussing how slang words like "Aussie" or "G'Day" have destroyed the English language here. I stayed up late with her last night as she recounted how she once sailed on her son's yacht from Naples to the South of France, how divine Paris is in the springtime ("You really must go there, darling"), how lovely her little cottage on the beach was in north Sydney before the global recession made her sell all those pretty things. H. rolled his eyes a bit as she mourned the loss of her summer cottage before they both began to recommend the latest book or documentary or play they had seen, or explain the intricacies of Australian politics. I just spent this evening sitting with Grandma R. and listening to a recording of Mahler's Resurrection with her, watching as the music moved her to tears. Just after, H. found a collection of Roald Dahl's short stories that I had never heard of before and lent them to me. They're a generous and kind family. And maybe more than anything, it's lovely to feel the warmth of community again, to have a home where Nod and I can plant our roots for a while.

Returning home from Tasmania also meant a return to French class this morning, where I found Marilou and David were still in good form. Marilou outdid herself by greeting me with Shakespeare this morning: "But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun." Enormously pleased with herself, Marilou then applauded at her own performance. Meanwhile, David had been given a homework assignment to describe the day in the life of a celebrity, for which he chose: Julius Caesar. Excuse me, Jules Cesar. It started off something like, "At 5 am, Jules Cesar wakes up and takes a bath. At 6:30, he plans a war. At 8:25, he rides his horse." Only David kept interrupting himself to explain in excited English how Julius Caesar used to shave his entire body every day, or how he and his men would push logs from twenty kilometers away to build a fort, and so on, completely oblivious to the teacher's attempts to push him back on track. Finally, David resolved that Jules Cesar probably needed to brush his teeth and go to bed, and that ended the activity for the day. Ah, it's good to be back home.

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