The ExPat Diary: Happy Independence Day, and other freedom-filled musings

It was just a regular day here in Sydney – but back in America the flags were flying with 4th of July celebrations in full swing. I figured it was about time for another ExPat Diary entry, if only just to say Happy 236th Birthday to America. I have to admit, I’m feeling a bit homesick for cookouts and fireworks…but not quite as homesick for some of the other hallmarks of summer:

I am not missing that heat wave sweeping through the States. Stay cool over there guys!

Actually, this isn’t the first time I’ve been away on the 4th of July, but it’s certainly the longest I’ve ever been away. Alex and I have been here for 9 months already, if you can believe it, and for the most part we’ve been assimilating pretty well. Even to the point that a few Aussie slang words that were once a curiosity have firmly planted themselves in our vocabulary. Good on us!

Recently a friend asked me who I was planning to cheer for in the upcoming Olympics: Australia or America (notice I instinctively avoided the term ‘root‘). I said, without the slightest hint of hesitation: ‘America, of course’! But then I felt a little bad for Australia – I’m here after all, maybe I should cheer them on. But then I realized that would make me feel like I was cheating on America, so perhaps I was right the first time. Then I remembered that I don’t care all that much about the Olympics in the first place, so with apathy as my guide I wish both teams equal amounts of good wishes.

Hey, I’m hoping everybody does well in the games. And by everybody I mostly just mean these guys.

I may be indifferent about the Olympics, but I have to tell you that I’ve been a bit caught off guard at the feelings of good, old fashioned American patriotism that have been creeping in over the past several months. Not that I wasn’t a fan of America when I lived there, but its safe to say that I didn’t think about it all that much and maybe took being there a bit for granted. It’s certainly much easier to see what makes a place special the farther you are from it, and you tend to forget the things that drove you nuts about the place too. For example: I haven’t had to endure a single political ad since I’ve been in Australia (yay!), but I also (obviously) haven’t been to a single baseball game this season (boo!). Regardless, absence is certainly making the heart grow fonder.

My patriotic street cred is high – yet still not high enough to be able to pull of wearing this shirt.

Now just because this little love affair with America has decided to emerge, it doesn’t mean that Alex and I are heading back anytime soon. We are still enjoying our Australian life, and are even preparing to file our first Australian tax returns (FUN!)! We’ve even gotten a new taste of freedom (to keep this patriotic theme going) by getting a car. We’ve spent these last 9 months car-free, which was just fine by me – but Alex is another story. He’s a ‘car guy’, and began to make impassioned pleas for us to buy a car, which, he insisted, would give us greater freedom:

  • Freedom to see so much more of Australia (weekend trips!)
  • Freedom from having to lug bags of groceries home from the store (but it’s done wonders for my arms!)
  • Freedom to go to Costco and buy many of our favorite American products in bulk (hello Dr. Pepper!)

All this freedom talk happened to coincide with my watching of ‘America: The Story of Us’ which talked about Henry Ford and how the automobile changed the landscape of America. Quickly seizing an opportunity to close the deal, Alex reminded me that having a car IS ‘freedom’, and honestly, how could I not want to be free?? Was he really calling my American street cred into question?

Long story short, we now have a car. My only criteria was that it was something small, economical and dependable. Alex’s criteria was that it be sporty and something interesting that we couldn’t get in the States. He came home with this:

It’s sporty, red, and sorta, kinda practical! A fair compromise for all 🙂

Alex loves it because it is sporty, Italian, and has ‘quirks’. I love it because it’s cute, was relatively inexpensive (by Australian car standards) and, because, over time, I’m pretty sure I’ll be brave enough to drive it on the ‘wrong’ side of the road without death-gripping the steering wheel and yelling “which way do I turn, WHICH WAY DO I TURN?????”. We’re not quite at that point yet, but continue to practice (on our way to Costco!).

So, as we’ve continued to settle in here, our Australian adventure is starting to feel more and more like regular life, which feels pretty good. But holidays like the 4th of July remind us what we left back home, and we have those moments of homesickness for our families, friends and all of those cookouts and fireworks we know we’re missing. But that doesn’t stop us from celebrating here in Australia like any good Americans would:

Burgers, onion rings, and BBQ Ribs, of course (from the Jazz City Diner)! Happy 4th of July everybody!!

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