Opinion

AT RANDOM: So close, yet so far away

As Canadians we are used to travelling long distances as a way to connect with one another.

We spend a lot of time in cars and airplanes just to throw our arms around those closest to us.

Many of us have family spread around the planet. And so, if funds allow, we travel even further distances for that connection when Skype or email just won’t do.

I can relate. My father comes from South Africa and my husband is from Australia, two countries that couldn’t be further away from Canada.

As a child, I was blessed to visit South Africa a few times to see my grandmother, aunt and other relatives. But since my grandmother has passed on, and that Aussie fella came into my life, we have saved lots, and I mean lots, of pennies for three trips Down Under. There are a lot of folks to visit where the Tropic of Capricorn bisects the rather isolated and sunburnt continent.

The latest trip came just this month to celebrate my father in-law’s 80th birthday. Crossing that giant ocean known as the Pacific with two young kids in tow was well worth the mileage. Our route took us 10,281 kilometers to Hong Kong and another 4,604 kilometers to Sydney, according to the air miles calculator.

But who needs sleep when you have in-flight entertainment? I caught up on all the Oscar nominated films as well as a few indies. (I highly recommend Frances Ha and The Trip, featuring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon; the latter had a few people glancing over at me in bewilderment as I could not stifle my laughter.)

Despite the 20 or so hours in the air, and many movies later, the instant we got off the plane and saw the smiling faces of family, and the burning orb known as the sun (yep, it’s still up there!), sleep became an afterthought.

All the melatonin in the world couldn’t make up for reuniting with my husband’s family –all 23 or so members of them– and friends. (I believe that tally was 27, kids included.) Six years may have passed since we last saw most of them, but the time slipped away as soon as I heard that distinctive, “Hey Doll, ‘ow ya been?”

These are some of the most beautiful, smart and fun people I have ever met and I am not just trying to score brownie points for the next trip.

Australia is a pretty cool/hot place, but you’ve probably heard that already.

I could regale you with the tales of learning to body and board surf, seeing a python wrapped around my daughter’s neck (supervised at the Australian Reptile Park), waking up to the crazed laugh of a kookaburra, seeing Neil Finn (of Crowded House/Split Enz fame) at the Sydney Opera House, and eating those delicious chocolate-coconut infused confections known as Cherry Ripes and Lamingtons.

But that would be cruel.

What was most important was making that tactile connection with the people that matter most.

I’d give anything to hear my niece tease me for saying “eh.” Yes, I am a bogan. (Ask an Aussie or Kiwi what that means.) Or sharing a nice Margaret River Sauv. Blanc with my beautiful sister in-laws. Or hearing the jeers and cheers while watching a footy (rugby league, this is New South Wales after all) game on the telly.

It’s hard not to feel sad as I sit back here staring into this computerized abyss knowing they are on the other side of the globe. If only continental drift would reverse, eh?

 

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