After two weeks of house and cat-sitting in Ballarat, Australia, the homeowner returned from her holiday. Carolyn offered me to stay for a few more days, so I could figure out how to get my prescriptions from a doctor there, and then offered me the opportunity to spend Easter with her family.
Carolyn and I worked in her back yard, trimming bushes and watering the plants while we caught up. It had been unseasonably warm and dry on several days, so the grass wasn’t doing very well. I was told just to water the plants, which I did, but with the heat, I should have watered the yard more. I thought it was turning brown because it was fall. I tried my best to help Carolyn with trimming some things up. My ex-husband and then a gardener did my yard work in Los Angeles. Carolyn chuckled as she taught me how to use the shears forcefully so that it would cut the bushes.
Carolyn’s granddaughter and grandson came over for a few hours. Arabella was around six-seven years old, and Teddy was around three. They were adorable, fun, and smart. Arabella told me about how she wrote a movie script for her uncle Tom, who works in the movie industry in Melbourne. She explained that Tom was able to pitch the movie and start getting it made into a cartoon. For Christmas, uncle Tom gave her a movie poster with all of the characters.
Carolyn and Tom later told me that Tom was able to have a co-worker design the characters and create a movie poster as a gift to her. Unfortunately, it wasn’t actually going to be a movie. Arabella started telling classmates about how her story was being made into a film. They were now stuck with explaining to her that the movie was on delay due to budget cuts. I thought it was a cute idea to turn her story into a poster and bring it to life. Arabella was working on her next story, and she was confident it would be made into a movie with no budget cuts.
I wanted to be productive and thank Carolyn for letting me stay longer, so I built a couple of tall chairs for her counter that she had purchased. As I was building the chairs, Tom (Carolyn’s son) came over. He would be staying a couple of nights because Easter was coming up. Tom lived in Melbourne, had dark hair, was fit, about 5’8”, and was 33 years old. He had been separated from his wife for the last three years. Tom told me that he loves the U.S., and he’s been a few times.
I asked Tom what he liked about the U.S., and he said, “Everything!” He had recently spent some time in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, snowboarding. Then he drove to Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. Tom said that he loves the American accent, which was probably the first time I had heard that. We Americans love the Australian and English accent, so finally, someone liked my accent!
Carolyn, Tom, and I walked to the neighborhood park with the kids. It was a beautiful day outside, and the kids loved “cool uncle Tom.” Playing with the kids at the park reminded me of my nephews and nieces. When we got back from the park, Arabella put some temporary tattoos on my arm.
Jess, Carolyn’s daughter, picked the kids up and went back to their house. For dinner, we ordered fish and chips at a local restaurant. We waited an hour and a half for it to be ready and then drove to pick it up. The small place was packed, and they put the food inside huge prices of construction-type paper. Then Tom bought a Cherry Ripe candy car at a gas station for me to try. We laughed at all of the differences because I had to keep clarifying what things were.
- Ketchup is called tomato sauce
- A napkin is called a Serviette
- A gas station is called a petrol station
We enjoyed dinner while talking about relationships and dating. Tom and I stayed up to watch a movie while drinking wine. Carolyn had suggested that the next morning, Tom could show me his favorite hiking spot, Halls Gap.
After breakfast, Tom drove me two hours to Halls Gap and Grampians National Park. We chatted during the drive as I got to know more about Australia. It was dry outside, and they’ve had issues with bush fires in that area (this was several months before the historic bush fires devastated the country). When we arrived at the park, it was super crowded because it was Easter weekend. Tom showed me the small town area with shops, and we ate a sausage roll.
Then Tom drove to the start of the hike, and cars lined the road because the parking lot was full. It was sweltering outside, and I wore jean shorts – something I would regret. I didn’t wear my typical hiking attire because Carolyn and Tom said it was a relatively easy walk. I would go on to discover that when Australians call something a “walk,” it’s a steep hike for several miles. A “bush walk” usually involves rock climbing. I think our definitions of hikes are very different in the U.S.
The trail was crowded, and we climbed up a steep mountain. It was strange because it was flat during the whole drive until this small mountain. It wasn’t a mountain range like we’re used to in the U.S., it was a mountain that just sort of popped up out of nowhere.
After climbing and climbing, we reached the top! It was beautiful, with vast views of the valley below. Some vineyards had recently been harvested below.
We walked around the other tourists and saw a plaque dedicated to a young child that had fallen from the cliff. It was a steep drop-off and was heartbreaking to see the plaque.
We continued walking around on the rocks at the top and came to a part called “nerve rock.” Tom is an experienced rock-climber and walked across it. I stayed back because of my fear of heights. All of a sudden, Tom jumped over to the other side, leaping across a chasm. I just about had a heart attack, but he made it safe and sound.
On our way back down the mountain, Tom and I talked about our divorces. Tom said that he and his ex-wife fought a lot and ended up just being roommates. I could relate to that because I felt like I was just a roommate to my ex-husband. Tom and his wife had been together since they were 17 years old but were only married for two-three years before separating three years ago. We bonded over our lousy Tinder dates and the rude awakening of the dating scene.
As we drove back to the small town in the valley, Tom pulled over to a field where Kangaroos were hanging out. They’re used to humans in the area, but there were signs instructing people not to feed them. I was so excited! It was the first time I had seen a kangaroo in person. A couple of them got close to me, and I wanted to feed them so badly. They varied in size, but most of them were just a couple of feet tall. Their hands looked so strange, just tangling in front of them. When they hopped away, I loved watching them!
On the way back to Ballarat, we stopped at KFC so Tom could show me that their KFC tastes different than our KFC. I don’t eat at KFC often, so I couldn’t tell the difference. The drive was flat and dry. As the sun started to set, Tom had to watch out for Kangaroos because they are most active at dawn and dusk.
When we got back to Carolyn’s house, we changed and then drove with Carolyn to her daughter’s home. Jess and her husband had recently built a beautiful house on some acreage. It was modern with a barn-type design. Kangaroos hopped around the property as we drove down the gravel road. Jess was in her 30s and was a lawyer. She gave me a tour of their house, and we had some drinks.
Jess and her husband were doing a traditional Australian BBQ, and I was excited to see how it differed from the U.S. Her husband cooked sausages, burgers, and chicken skewers. We sat down at the table, and they showed me how to put the sausage diagonal on a piece of bread. I asked why they didn’t just use buns, and they explained, “Why use a bun when we have bread?” It was indeed a traditional Australian BBQ.
For the salad, I asked if they had salad dressing. The family said they don’t usually use dressing, but offered some oil. I would go on to discover this was very common in Australia – they often don’t put any salad dressing on a salad. The U.S. does not eat a salad without some sort of dressing.
We had a great time laughing about the differences in our countries while enjoying some delicious food. They genuinely welcomed me into their home, and it was really considerate. It had been almost three months since I left the U.S. for “round two” of my travels, and it felt great to connect with others.
After dinner, we started to watch the American Tale with the kids. The kids hadn’t seen it before, and I explained that it was one of my favorite movies growing up. Across the room, Jess asked me about President Trump, and we talked about politics for ten minutes. Before the conversation got too involved, we left for the night. It was a great day, and I was genuinely grateful for all of their hospitality and kindness.
Thanks for reading! Hit the Like button or leave a comment below!