”It is the sense of belonging that I miss, together with infusions of historical awareness and sensuality.” Jan Morris Home Thoughts from Abroad


I’m four months into my experiment on belonging and it’s only now that I’m realising the enormity of my task. Feel like I belong in Australia in a year? You’ve got to be kidding. This could take a lifetime.

It would be silly to pretend I’m not overwhelmed sometimes, or disappointed in myself and even in others. Or to pretend there aren’t other things going on in my life. I’ve had lots of interesting suggestions for volunteering options and I haven’t even tried one. I have offered my editing and writing skills to a not-for-profit organisation. I imagine they are just as overwhelmed as I am and will get back to me eventually.

As a mother of two young girls it doesn’t take much to throw me into chaos — an important deadline for a hefty and emotional essay (last week), parasites (ongoing it seems and one of the bonuses for living in the subtropics), ear infections (less than the previous years), husband overseas for work (maybe one year he’ll be here for his birthday?). And we all know these are minor minor things. Happily so.

I guess I just didn’t realise that the deeper I get into the question about belonging, the more intense and complex my insights into Australia seem and not everyone will agree with them. Someone once said I couldn’t write about Australia from Brisbane because the other cities are so different. Initially, I thought that person was wrong but now I’m not so sure. Certainly I have lived in Sydney and I have travelled around Australia but I will never be intimate will all areas of this land.

Then there are questions about culture and art and humour and architecture and history and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Did I really think I could take one month for each of these and come away with some sort of understanding? I’ve actually been putting off these topics because they are so complex — and while I’ve been pushing them further towards the end of the year I’ve been asking around and making contacts. Getting in touch with people who will help me on my journey.

You know, the one thing that threw me more than any of this was the amount of time I’d need to spend learning how to use FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn and now Google+. How silly of me to assume most of my time would be spent on research and exciting in-the-field interviews on belonging.

I wasn’t even sure what to write about this month so I’ve settled on The Canada Experiment. The first two weeks of June I’ll be catching you up on our bird-feeding trials, the secret life of dolphins, humpback whales, and my thoughts on kookaburras and looking at Brisbane from Moreton Bay Island. Then June 18 I’m off to Canada for two weeks. I’m going to Toronto to help a friend as she recovers from surgery. As I prepare to leave and while I’m over there, I’ll be paying special attention to how I see my original country now.

Bear in mind, I’ve only lived in Canada for about four years since 1989 and I haven’t lived in Toronto since 1999. I don’t have a large group of friends there but I do have a few close friends that I’ve picked up on my travels and one good pal from university.

All this is a way of saying I won’t be greeted by a large welcoming party at the airport. But hey, let’s look on the upside: it’s summer. I’ve just checked the temperatures and summer in Toronto for June 1 is hovering around the same temperature as the dry season (which some people call winter here) in Brisbane.

Shall I take winter clothes or summer ones?