ANZAC DAY – 25th April

Today, 25th April 2015 is the centenary of the Gallipoli landing. Many of those I’ve met oveReconstruction Task Force 2 in Afghanistanrseas have no idea what ANZAC Day is and indeed for many years, it wasn’t something that was really taught in Australian schools either, but that’s all changed now.

The history is taught to school kids not just about the troops themselves, but of the animals who supported them, and one of the most well know stories is that of Simpson and his donkey.

People in Australia take pride in remembering the ANZACs; children march in the parades held all across Australia wearing their forebearers medals, from all wars that Australians have been involved in. The memory of those who gave their lives for the freedom we enjoy today is commemorated and honoured.

Remembering the history is so important as it shapes our future.

Michelle

HAPPY AUSTRALIA DAY

It’s already Australia Day but, where I am, here in my little flat in Ecija, Spain, rugged up in 4 layers of clothing with the heaters on, it’s not yet the 26th. I am however reflecting on my journey to becoming Australian.

I wasn’t born in Australia, but then again, neither were so many others that call this country home. My entry to Australia was relatively easy as I didn’t need to sit any IELTS tests, apply for sponsorship or come on a boat seeking asylum. I am very grateful and blessed!

I first visited Australia as a 19 year old travelling overland from London to Athens on a bus, flying to Bangkok and Singapore to visit friends and family before landing in Sydney and heading to Canberra before eventually travelling up to Darwin to visit more family members. Little did I know that Darwin was going to play a big role in my future.

It took me a great many years to become completely comfortable living in a country that was so totally different to where I spent my childhood – the Middle and Far East – even though I went to the UK for my final years of schooling. I felt like a fish out of water for a very long time because it was so culturally different to what I was used to. I didn’t really identify as any particular nationality even though my passport said British, and I rather suspect, this was due to my global upbringing and not having a fixed home base. Home was wherever my parents were.

On reflection, I was lucky to have ended up in Darwin as it’s undoubtedly the most multi-cultural city in Australia, a real melting pot where everyone lives side by side and there are no enclaves of particular ethnicities.

Today, I most definitely identify as Australian and consider myself extremely fortunate to live in a country that offers wonderful opportunities and provides, a predominantly, safe environment for children, as well as a warm welcome to those who manage to make Australia their home, even if there are lots of hoops to jump through and things are not always quite as some of us would like them to be.

I applaud all those who work so hard to make Australia a better country.  I give kudos to those in our armed forces who fight to protect our liberty and our freedom and I congratulate all the wonderful people who have been honoured in the 2015 Australia Day Awards. It’s especially pleasing to see Rosie Batty, a domestic violence campaigner named Australian of the Year, her story is truly inspirational and shines the spotlight firmly on a topic that is all too often avoided.

Australia Day Ball 2012 with special friends
Australia Day Ball 2012 with special friends

I’m missing the Australia Day Ball and other festivities, both madcap and serious, but I will be bringing a little bit of Australia into my Spanish classroom tomorrow.

Thank you Australia for all you have given me. I am proud to call you home.

Happy Australia Day!
Michelle

 

Homeward Countdown!

Today is my last day in Spain for 2014 and I’m just a little bit excited about heading home for Christmas. My little suitcase has nothing in it except for my swimsuit and presents as all my summer clothes are waiting for me in Darwin.

Alexa Van Buerle Vargas
My gorgeous niece Alexa Van Buerle Vargas

Last weekend I had the pleasure of catching up with my gorgeous niece Alexa in Seville where we went Christmas shopping and despite the awful weather had a great time together. It was fun to explore the shops and I stand by my earlier opinion that the season is not as commercialised as in Australia or the UK.

Yesterday the Academy where I teach English took all the staff out for a lovely tapas dinner. It was a great evening that, in typical Spanish style, saw us head to the restaurant just after 9.30 where we sampled a variety of yummy dishes and finished off the meal with a very decadent chocolate brownie, complete with thick chocolate and strawberry sauce, cream and ice-cream followed by a sort of port with which we toasted Merry Christmas. It was well after 1 pm before I got home.

Sasha and Jonathon - many Christmas's ago!
Sasha and her cousin Jonathon when they were much younger.

Christmas is the one time of year when I feel it’s so important to be with the family as without them it is just not the same. This Christmas will be extra special as I have seen Alexa, my brother Robert is in Australia and my cousin Michael also has the holidays off for the first time in years. Sasha has done all the shopping ready for us to start making the rum balls, mini-cheesecakes, cupcakes and all the other wonderfully fattening delights that we enjoy at this time of the year. Can’t wait to get home!

The journey from Spain to Australia is not exactly a simple one and will start at 6.30 am tomorrow morning when a lovely chap is driving me from where I live in Ecija to Cordoba (45 minutes away) to catch the AVE, a wonderful high speed train, to Madrid. From there it’ll be a dash to the airport and then onto Dubai, Singapore and finally Darwin arriving at 5.20 on Monday morning. It reminds me a bit of the trips I used to make when at Rishworth and heading home to Nairobi for Christmas except that Australia is little further away than Kenya.

Michelle