After months of excited anticipation, Rani, my much better half, and I finally landed at the Canberra airport on August 21.
We are normally light travellers; in fact, we often don’t even have any bags to check. This journey, au contraire, was anything but light. We had seven large checked suitcases between us plus two carry-on bags – the largest we could get away with – and a couple of smaller items dangling from our exhausted arms. As I began unloading the long row of overstuffed suitcases from the belt, my first awkward words to Kirsty, who had kindly come to receive us, were, “We normally don’t travel like this.” The silly grin on my face was too transparent to hide my embarrassment.
Kirsty, however, was totally nonchalant. She had fully anticipated the situation and had arrived with her muscular husband, two large vehicles, and little Ellie who rushed to give both Rani and I a big warm hug even though we had never met her. What a welcome! I knew right then that we had come to the right place.
That was just the beginning. As we opened the door to our new home “Bimbimbie”, Aunty Agnes Shea, 84, and other Ngunnawal Elders were waiting to welcome us to our home, which of course sits on their ancestral land. Aunty Agnes presented us with a Message Stick and explained what it represented: A traditional symbol of welcome and to protect the spirit of a traveller through the country. Wow, what an amazingly beautiful approach to life! What other cultural riches could be lying obscured by our inattention? What an opportunity for me to learn! Yes, we had come to the right place.
As Murphy’s Law would have it, we hadn’t even had our fill of the excitement of rediscovering Australia when Rani came crashing down with flu – about the nastiest I have ever seen her catch. However, no worries mate, as my Aussie friends would say; the help came within an hour in a form that I had no idea still survived anywhere in the world – a house call by Dr. Ross Newberry! Really? I had to pinch myself to confirm this was really happening.
If you’ve met him, you would know that there’s only one Dr. Newberry. He arrived carrying a box the size of a small refrigerator that he later told me he bought at a fishing-tackle shop! He is clearly a man who lives with the sole purpose of curing people, and nothing was going to stand between him and his mission. And it didn’t. Another visit to check on the patient, numerous phone calls and long conversations, a couple of dashes to the UC clinic with me in tow to fetch supplies… Rani was back on her feet in a jiffy, from being unable to move to running around like a horse within just over three days. How could this not be the right place?
And then there was the warm welcome, as I officially took up my new role at the office. The emails, the Facebook posts, the phone calls, colleagues dropping by, the handshakes everywhere I walked around the campus, the curious looks and smiles… from staff and students alike. We had indeed come to the right place!
Thank you, UC, for this unforgettable start. Thank you very much.
Now, how can I begin to return the favours?
Image: Rani, Aunty Agnes Shea and Deep