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That expat life

Melbourne AustraliaLast week, it came around again. April 9: the anniversary of the day I left Melbourne, by choice but against my will. Four years now, it’s been. It’s definitely feeling like four years. I’m beginning to forget little details, names of restaurants and coffee shops and streets.

I miss it. A lot.

But sometimes I wonder if it’s really Melbourne I miss, or if it’s something else. Like the person I was there – happier, more carefree. Or if it’s being an expat. Because I really, really loved being an expat.

When I was in Mexico City last month, and last year, I got to relive that expat experience a bit. I was only there for a week or so last year, and for an even shorter time this year, but through my friend Jen (a fellow ex-Melbournian, now repatriated) I got to hang out with her impressively international group of friends. This year, in the span of four days I spent time with Americans, Australians, a Malawian, a Bolivian and some Frenchies, including ‘real French’ and a very endearing French Canadian. And Mexicans, of course – the most cosmopolitan group of Mexicans you could ever hope to meet, who seamlessly transition from English to Spanish and back again. I’ve always been so impressed by that ability – when I see someone switch between languages, sometimes mid-sentence, without missing a beat, I fall a little bit in love with them. Also, I’m so crazy envious.

Part of me feels like I didn’t get the full ex-pat experience, living in a country that speaks my language. That is about as close to Canada as it’s possible to be.

Sitting with Jen’s friends in Mexico City, listening to them switch back and forth between English and Spanish, perfectly happy to understand them only half the time, I realized that I’m not done with being an expat. I love it too much not to do it again – hopefully soon, but this time in a place where English isn’t the first language, or even the second.

There are plans in the works. They start with taking Spanish lessons this summer.

And Melbourne? I’m coming back for you, if only for a visit.

Appreciating, Exploring, Learning, Missing, Sharing

Living Overseas // The Highs & Lows and Why It’s Worth Every Minute


I’ve been struggling to get this post right since I left Melbourne. As I left Australian airspace, I was working on this post old-school style, with pen and paper. It’s been over two months and I still haven’t posted it because I just couldn’t seem to get it right. To be truthful, I still can’t. Words are failing to express what my time in Melbourne meant to me, so I’m just going to settle for almost capturing it.

Here goes…

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Curating, Eating, Exploring, Missing, Uncategorized

Melbourne Guides // Where to Caffeinate

Market Lane

When it comes to coffee, Melbourne has ruined me. The city and its residents take coffee very, very seriously, and consequently they do it very, very well. It’s not just the coffee itself that’s exceptional; the cafes are too. Melbournians are fiercely resistant to coffee chains–they all but rejected Starbucks when it opened, and promptly closed, a number of stores. Each Melbourne cafe is one-of-a-kind, a reflection of the personality of both the owners and the neighbourhood.

Since returning to Canada, I have been dying for a flat white, which is an Australian invention and my coffee drink of choice Down Under. If you ask a barista here for a flat white, they look at you blankly until you order a triple short no-foam latte, which is as close a substitute as I can find, but which doesn’t come close to the real deal. First-world problems, right?

As far as I’m concerned, the following represent the best of the best:

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Exploring, Missing, Uncategorized

Time to Go

Flying Home

It’s January 3, 2013, and I’m on a plane bound for Melbourne. I’ve been in New Zealand for 18 days, spending Christmas with my dear friend Cathy’s family, the Keltons. Christmas is a difficult time to be so far from my own family, but the Keltons were terrific stand-in People.

I came to something of a realization while I was on the Keltons’ farm in Te Pahu. It’s difficult to say when this realization began to take shape, but it was Christmas Eve Eve when I suddenly recognized that I needed to go home. Not Melbourne home, but Canada home. We were at a ‘Club 99′ barbeque in the paddock next to the Keltons’. Club 99 is a club made up of the Keltons and a few neighbours with farms closeby (and, as of my initiation on 23 December 2012, me, although I am only an Associate Member). These neighbours are like family to the Keltons, who have lived on their farm for Cathy’s entire life. They are as lovely, warm, and welcoming as the Keltons are, and hilarious. I spent my first days in Te Pahu participating in an elaborate Christmas prank many years in the making. The prank revolves around a giant inflatable Santa, which sits in the yard of Kelton neighbours (and founding Club 99 members) Bronnie and Ian. ‘Big Santa’ (aka the Keltons and their neighbours Ash and Anne) communicates with Bronnie and Ian via letter, issuing challenges by which they can prove their goodness. On the eve of the Christmas Eve Eve barbeque in the paddock, Cathy and I were given our Club 99 initiation mission: to go to Bronnie and Ian’s under cover of darkness and retrieve Big Santa. We did so (dressed in all-black and with headlamps in ‘stealth’ mode, of course), and he was present at the BBQ for one last night before disappearing to fulfill his Christmas Eve duties (a.k.a being deflated by the Keltons and stored in the garage until he reappears next December).


So what does this have to do with my realization? It was at this BBQ, after days spent with this lovely, silly extended family (and, full disclosure, under the influence of a margarita, some bubbly, some white wine, some beer, and at least a couple shots of spirits), that it occurred to me: I miss having the kind of roots that Cathy and her family have in Te Pahu. Roots like that take years to grow, and I wasn’t and am not willing to invest the requisite years in my Australian life.

This might seem obvious to those of you who know me, since I always said I was coming home. That never stopped being true, but after my visit to Canada in June, the timelines changed. I went back to Canada expecting to feel an overwhelming relief to be home, and I didn’t feel that way at all. I felt strangely detached and sad. I didn’t feel at home in Victoria or Kelowna, and that was so disappointing and confusing that I came back to Australia with a new determination to make it home. I started embracing Melbourne more than I’d allowed myself to, and opened my mind to the possibility of staying longer.

The result is, six months later, a Melbourne life that I really love. I’ll be writing more about that in the weeks to come, but in short, I’m in a good place. But it’s a place that will never truly be my home.

So there you have it. I’m coming home. Right, now, to Melbourne, but in the slightly-longer-but-still-short-term, to Canada.

This decision has taught me the true definition of ‘bitter sweet.’

So it’s been two weeks since I wrote the above post. I obviously had to write it offline, since I was on a plane, and not one belonging to one of those fancy airlines with onboard WiFi. When I landed, I couldn’t bring myself to post it because I figured that doing so would make my decision official, which I wasn’t quite ready to do. Then I felt the need to tell some interested parties about my plans rather than having them find out on the interwebs. With a couple of exceptions, that’s done, so I’m ready to share. See you soon, Canada. xx 

Both photos by Chelsea Herman.


Missing | Carlton North

During my coffee run this morning (which is no small trip these days; my usual go-to cafes Two and North are both closed for the holidays) and on my walk to and from the deli this afternoon and now, as I pack my meager overseas student possessions, I have been thinking about how much I’m going to miss my quaint Melbourne neighbourhood, Carlton North.

It’s a charming, somewhat grungy, grafittied little ‘suburb’ (to Australians, a ‘suburb’ is not a depressing sprawl of big box stores and cookie-cutter houses in which you settle down and develop a prescription drug addiction, but a borough or neighbourhood that in many cases is very much part of the city). I love it.

When I return from my travels, I will be living in Richmond, which is centrally located and much closer to my uni, but lacks Carlton North’s charm. In Melbourne, there is a bit of a schism between the northern and southern suburbs. The southern suburbs (Prahran, Windsor, South Yarra) are ‘posh’ and the northern suburbs (Fitzroy, Carlton, Brunswick) are the ‘arty’ suburbs (or, as it’s been explained to me repeatedly, ‘where the hipsters live’). I’m not entirely sure where Richmond falls in the north-south divide, but I highly doubt I’ll be running into many hipsters on my street.

But then again, there are a few things about my current living circumstances I won’t miss at all: my lumpy bed, our disgustingly filthy fridge and freezer, the ants in our shower, and my hard-partying, womanizing housemate(s) who consistently eat my cheese (the good stuff!), drink my beer, and wake me up in a variety of unfortunate ways. I’m pretty over all that, and very ready to move on.

In 2011, I had nine (yes, 9! Holy shit!) housemates, and if I’m brutally honest, I only genuinely liked one of them–and, well, I really liked him (so I feel like he doesn’t really count). Clearly I am the (grumpy) common denominator here. I’m getting too old for this roommate nonsense.

What’s your living situation? Do you have flatmates? If so, do they annoy the heck out of you? Do share!