Tag Archives: Friends

Where the Forest Meets the Lake Meets the Sea

It took less than two hours from the time I touched down at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport to the time we were packed and in the car, headed down the coast to Lake Conjola. I shook off the Chicago winter, popped on my thongs/flip-flops and threw myself into the southern hemisphere summer. IMG_1994A IMG_1997A It’s a part of the world where the forest meets the lake meets the sea. You can see how much the trees have grown since I last took a photo from the above spot, too. Another reminder that time has moved on here whilst I’ve been gone. IMG_2001A IMG_2003 When you find yourself in sunshine this bright, it makes the past — and the present — feel like a dream. Was I ever in Chicago? Was it a regular -12C only a day or two ago?  Now my legs are being whipped by a refreshing southerly. I emerge from the cool blue waters of the Tasman Sea refreshed, reenergised.

For me, homesickness can only be cured by a trip back. And a big part of returning is soaking up the colours that I only seem to be able to find in Australia: the infinite blue skies, the spectrum of greens in the flora, the pinky tinge to the Sydney sunlight, the blues-greens-and-inbetweens of the ocean. These colours, this salty air and Mediterranean food recharges my spirit.  IMG_1998A IMG_2004AIMG_2002a

It’s great to be back.

The Emotional Rollercoaster of Expat Life: Assimilating (Part 3)

This is the third post in a five-part series about the emotional component of the expat experience: leaving home, settling in and the issues faced in adjusting to life in a new country.
Missed the previous posts? Read ‘Part 1: Leaving Home’ and ‘Part 2: Acclimatising’.

So, now you’ve settled in, sorted out your living arrangements and located your local supermarket. Now, it’s time to start carving out a new life for yourself. And for me, building a solid foundation of friends is one of the most important parts of settling in.

I have put a great deal of thought into this aspect of expat life, and lately,  I’ve been busy trying out my own advice as I establish my own network here in the Windy City. I like to think of friendships as an investment: it’s an investment in yourself, in others, and in happiness. Life is always more fun when you have people to share the experience with.

c&c 3

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That thing where…

That thing where…
you become disheartened over nonsense, your mood sours and you start wallowing. So you take yourself outside to enjoy a beautiful, warm afternoon wandering new routes through the city, experiencing new things, tiring yourself out.
As you wander home you run into your friend, fresh from a frolic in the lake. You ditch the surplus clothes and dive into the cool, fresh waters. You walk home happy, content.
Then you receive an email inviting you to an impromptu get together with new expat friends the following evening. And you start to feel as though you’re — finally — part of the fabric of the city.


Happy 4th of July!

I have a confession to make: I don’t really get into most American holidays. For starters, I can never remember which one is which (Memorial Day? Labor Day?), and one that can be taken to the enth degree is Independence Day. There’s something very overt about the chest-thumping, flags waving proudly on the exterior of every home you pass. But I feel just the same way about Australia Day, too. Our American friends may not parade around with the Stars and Stripes as a cape like every second yobbo at home, but they have their own brand of overt patriotism.

I don’t begrudge anyone an opportunity to decorate their SUVs but overt patriotism is just not me.

Happy Independence Day!

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In Transit

I feel as though time has stopped. I’ve felt like that a lot since I departed Sydney a few days ago. It’s a combination of different time zones, emotional exhaustion, odd sleeping habits and anxiety. Singapore is a nexus: I’m not at either of the places I call home. I am getting impatient, too. That pool of anxiety about the flight, the time, the weather. There’s nothing more I want than to just climb aboard and settle in.


So I am waiting in the Snooz Lounge where the American and I spent some time in the middle of our 37-hour flight all those months ago. My body cries out for a nap, but I want to use the time aboard for such things. Outside, a tropical storm is rolling over Singapore, and I am watching the spectacle from the comfort and safety of the best terminal in the world. Little people below race around in oddly shaped carts servicing the Singapore Airlines 777 that just arrived to Gate B2.

It’s been a very emotional few days for me, and I am just spent. It was so hard leaving my family and friends, and it always is. But this was extra hard. I’d spent three months back in home with the whole crew, and so it’s understandable that the bonds are stronger than usual. It’s getting harder and harder to leave them. One day, I don’t know if I will be able to.

But I know that even in this state of fogginess, I’ve been so incredibly lucky to be able to spend this time with my family and friends. And time is the most important thing: you can’t make more of it. All this emotion reminds me that I am alive, that I am loved and that I love. A good friend of mine told me that ‘crying is feeling life physically’, and I appreciated hearing that. These tears are a happy, sad, tired, anxious tears. But the one thing these tears are not is regretful. I have lived these last three months fully, and I am proud of that. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

And so in the midst of wallowing in the sadness of not being with my family and friends back in Sydney, I turn my focus to this next phase. I am about to board a flight back to SFO, back to the place I have chosen as my home, and back into the waiting arms of the man I love. I’m incredibly fortunate to have such lovely people around me in Sydney and San Francisco. When I get there, I will unpack and prepare for the next chapter of my American life. But there’s always a piece of my heart still back in Sydney.


Notes on an Engagement

Tonight, two of the greatest people in the world stood up in front of their friends and family and formally announced their commitment to each other. There were fancy cocktails, jugs of Pimms and Mediterranean antipasto plates. Dresses, gravity defying hairdos, half-dancing and big hugs. It was a night to celebrate love and the momentous decision of forever. And it could not have been more perfect.

Friends from all of the various circles the happy couple runs in were represented, including some teammates from the days of UNSW softball. Being back with them, calling them by their softball-specific nicknames, and reliving old Australian Unigames adventures was so energising. It felt as though we were speaking our own language. I barely made it around the people I knew before I called it a night.

Over the years, I’d shared a good amount of time with both families after crashing on their couches. It was touching to hear both fathers reveal their softer sides, and how welcoming they are of the official alliance between the Harris’ and the Hodges. Mums Hodge and Harris baked phenomenal cupcakes for the occasion and were great conversationalists.


“If you gamble everything for love, you’re gonna be alright.
– Ben Lee

As I drove home, I couldn’t help think about how surreptitious life can be. These two independent women were once unknown to each other. But they took a gamble and said yes to love, yes to the adventure. And I’m so pleased they did! It has taken them all over the world, through multiple degrees, new jobs, saving for an apartment, the purchase of valuable Sydney property, the renovation of said apartment, and to adopting an adorable Corgi mix, Dudley.

For over a decade, these ladies have been such an important part of my life, and are still very special to me. They’re the type of friends I can go years without seeing (being that we live on entirely different continents) but we kick off exactly where we left off. No need for explanations or side notes. Now that’s a good ol’ fashioned friendship.

Seeing them together makes me smile. My heart filled with joy when I heard the question had been popped and that the recipient said yes. Their love is tender, respectful, honest, elevating. They treat each other with kindness and are not afraid to disagree. They complement each other perfectly. So it was marvellous to see the overflowing goodwill towards them tonight.

There’s something special about making it ‘official’. And I can’t wait to see how the next phase will play out for them.