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From the mouth of babes

One of the joys of being back in Australia has been seeing our very cute niece and nephew. The other day, they came by car to visit us at our house. Their mother (my sister-in-law) announced that they had arrived at Auntie Gail and Uncle Andrew’s house. From the back seat our 2 1/2 year old niece called out “China!”

This is Australia

Child with hoop

After returning to Aus we discovered that my Aussie phone was not working but Gail’s was fine. It seems that it was more than 395 days since I last purchased credit and Vodafone consider an account inactive after this amount of time.

After 3 visits to Vodafone, 3 calls to Vodafone service, the purchase of a new SIM card, the purchase of 2 different types of phone credit and $20 in fees my phone was working again with the old number.

I was astounded at the number of hoops I had to jump through to get my phone working and get my old number back. It was very time consuming when the only time I wanted to consume was the time surveying the back of my eyelids. At least all the Vodafone people we spoke to were very friendly and they all told me consistent information.

This situation reminded me that things aren’t always simple and easy here either. It’s just that we can communicate using a common first language to work through the difficulties.

In the office in Shenzhen we had a saying: TIC - This is China. It was occasionally wheeled out whenever something went completely awry or when a situation was completely incomprehensible.


This post comes to you courtesy of the free WiFi in the Hong Kong international airport. We’re on our way home! We’ve spent more than 2 years in China (2 years, 3 months and 1 day, to be precise) and it’s been an amazing adventure. Like all good adventures, they must come to and end, and now this part of our adventure draws to a close.

There’s stil a few stories about things we did in China to talk about, so over the next few weeks I hope to add them to the blog, so that it’s more complete. There will not be any hidden posts, suddenly to materialise now that we’re on the outside of the Great Firewall of China, as some of the more cynical have suggested, just a tidying up of various loose ends or things I just ran out of time to blog about earlier.

See you all soon, in that glorious haven we call Australia.

Getting excited!

You know you’re getting excited about returning to Australia when…

  • You take over cooking duties at a BBQ (admittedly on a 21st floor balcony)
  • You are not alarmed by the falling sky - it always seems to bounce back into place
  • You take an interest in Australian news stories
  • You’re interested in what changes have been made in the latest budget
  • You start saying “Please talk to X, they’re responsible for that now.” rather than dealing with problems yourself
  • You look forward to no longer starting emails with “there seems to be some miscommunication here”
  • Your concentration levels at work vary more frequently than a diabetics blood sugar level
  • You start making last visits to places and restaurants you like
  • You start working out what to buy before you go
  • You know the RMB : AU$ exchange rate to 5 decimal places (6.69287:1 today)
  • You start to not replace things at home when they run out
  • You start giving away or throwing out things that aren’t taking the long journey home
  • You write the remaining weeks on tiles in the kitchen with a whiteboard marker, one tile per week
  • You reminisce about the delightful summer rains, where you don’t mind getting wet
  • You hope for just one more blinding thunderstorm
  • You imagine the bliss of sleeping in a bedroom that is both dark and quiet
  • You look at your ailing dilapidated Metro card and think ‘She’ll be right’
  • You realise that, when talking with Australians, your accent has changed slightly
  • You start mentally planning what to take on the plane - more than a month in advance
  • You start researching on-line replacement items for things you sold before leaving Australia
  • You start bracing for how expensive everything is going to be
  • You make a mental decision to ‘From brain Chinglish put out’
  • Your wife uses the word ‘Bonza’ in an email

An elected interruption

This Saturday just gone we participated in the Australian election. It was quite painless to vote, we just went to the Hong Kong Australian Embassy on the day. We could have voted at any time during the previous 2 weeks, as others did, however we were actually back in Australia during this time.

 Election queue Embassy building

We arrived at 10:30am, along with a fair swag of other Aussies. The embassy is on the 24th floor of the Harbour Centre on Hong Kong Island and the queue went outside the building for about 100m and was growing rapidly. If someone had the foresight to run along the queue with a Starbucks cart they would have made a killing. People were being screened by security on the ground floor and the number of people on the 24th floor was being restricted through manual control of the lifts by the building management.

It was really interesting to see how many Hong Kong people had Australian citizenship. I reckon only 1 in 20 people in the queue were Caucasian.


We had lunch at a restaurant with an Australian family the other day. As we were walking to lunch one of them made the sarcastic comment of "So, just loving China then, can't think of anywhere else you'd rather be?" I was such a normal day-to-day Australian way of asking a question that I was taken by surprise. Most foreigners from other countries don't use sarcasm and I'd gotten out of the habit of using it and wasn't expecting it!

Living and working overseas means that all the colloquialisms, slang and humorous jibes all need to be removed from your day-to-day speech. It made me realise that no-one except another Aussie will truly understand exactly what you mean every single time you say something. Sure, many nations share the ability to speak in English with people from other countries and we can communicate with each other, but it's like a layer of communication gets stripped off leaving just starched raw information, like notes written on a stave compared to music performed by an orchestra.

From that point onwards you can imagine the sort of conversation we had over lunch. The Australian slang just poured immediately back into the conversation, the speed at which we all spoke accelerated (Aussies are speedy talkers!), we talked about all kinds of Australian things, the things we missed, the things we liked, politics, sport, animals, all the while being completely Australian about it.

It felt like for a few brief hours an invisible weight had been lifted.

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