In 24-hours-and-a-bit we won’t just be saying goodbye to 2012, but to Australia as well. And the way we spent the past week makes that last goodbye particularly hard. We encountered so many examples of incredible hospitability, friendliness and warmness from so many people to whom we were total strangers, that we can’t conclude otherwise than it’s just sheer nature of Australians to make strangers feel welcome.
It started when a neighbour from a few doors up the street showed up on our doorstep to invite us to their annual X-mas gettogether with several other neighbours. When we got there – oh yeah, and if an Ozzie invites you over for drinks and tells you not to bring anything: bring something. We learned this lesson the embarassing way – we found out that this annual thing was being held for the past 30-plus years, and that all the people there knew each other for decades.
Not only was everybody at this 39-degrees-in-the-shade X-mas party treating us as if we had been part of that group for as long as they could remember, but it turned out that the instigators of the party even had a bag of X-mas presents for Kim and Matthijs! How on earth can you ever show enough appreciation for things like this?
But apparently this kind of reception comes totally natural to Ozzies, we realised when on Christmas Day we went for lunch to Katrina’s parents very close to the Dandenongs. There were all kinds of family there, and they all made us feel as if we were part of it.
The kids showed our mutual gratitude for all this kindness by having the best time of their lives with the multitude of toys and playing equipment that the house and garden offered: Kim was taking care driving herself and almost-two-year-old Charlie around in the life size toy car, and Matthijs cleaned out the play house from top to bottom after refurbishing it (our kids are not of the tradional role playing kind). And yet again laden with presents.
Packed with Christmas leftovers we lunched on for the two days after that, plus the birthday cake Katrina’s Mum made for Noëlle (they figured out the secret behind the name), plus the gingerbread train Nick’s Mum made for the kids and are still snacking from, we went home the happiest people on the planet for that day.
And still that wasn’t all: today we were invited at Nick’s parents to come over for a barbecue. We made the mistake of bringing food (as well as wine, which was a hit) – as if there was any lacking!
Much later than we planned we drove home… with a heavy heart. Laden with the thought that we are leaving all these wonderful people in this incredibly pleasant country behind the day after tomorrow.
But it made us think of home as well. And realise that there are loads of pretty incredible people there who make our lives at home quite wonderful and worthwhile as well. We’re just sorry we can’t celebrate the beginning of a New Year with all of you… If we could only take some of the summer-in-December and endless space from Australia back with us, it would just be perfect back home as well.