“Oh, you want a Power Pat do you,” my dad asks Bubble, one of my folks’ two new cats that I am not at all jealous of. The other, of course, is named Squeak.
A wicked grin spreads across his face as he rubs the cat down with a vigour I’ve see him employ while chopping wood. The feline purrs as if it’s just spotted a milk tanker with a slow leak.
We’ve already giggled with mum about her daggy house-clothes and discussed whether the neighbour a few farms down is buying wood with her pocket money.
It’s hilarious post-sausage-sandwich entertainment.
As I soak up the winter sun, just east of Tamworth, I notice how sweet it is to be home, sitting and laughing with my beautiful parents.
The final few days in Shanghai were impressive with Tsingtao and tequila by night, dumplings and noodles by day.
My local mate from India treated me to the best street food of my trip. I’d wandered aimlessly through the French Concession with some new pals from Denmark and Russia. We’d watched the dancers dance, the kites fly and the musicians fill Fuxing Park with their Oriental tunes.
It was the perfect goodbye to my tumultuous love affair with the Far East.
I was torn at the airport; excited about wrapping my arms around my Nanna, sharing tea with my girlfriends (it’s been a complete boy-fest in China with few female companions) and curious about my new job. But I hated the idea of myadventure ending.
A well-timed email from my ever-pragmatic mother informed me that I would “come down to earth with a bang when you get back here.” The promise of avocadoes and brie drove me toward the departure gate.
And, it has been splendid.
The sunrise, after my 5am arrival in Sydney, was one of the best I’ve ever seen. It reminded me of Australia’s bountiful offerings. I’m lucky to call this country home.
My Nanna’s hug a few hours later was more warming than a glass of vintage liquor. She squeezed me hard, noting the six kilos I’ve carefully collected on my already-voluptuous frame. “You need to do some shrinking,” she instructed me.
“Aw, c’mon Nanna,” I pleaded with her. “It just shows I’ve had a great time.”
She frowned at me, clearly unmoved by my grin.
“Men love women with curves,” I cried, clearly clutching at straws.
“Not that many,” she laughed at me. I winked at her, delighted by her cheeky company.
I cooked a lamb roast, ate my (enhanced) body weight in salad and we looked at photos, lazing around like well-fed pandas.
Coming home ain’t so bad, I thought.
The dollar issue is a sore point, but my finances are so sorry I’ll just skim over that briefly. The cost of a bottle of milk is the equivalent of a night’s accommodation in China. That roughly equates to about 6 beers.
The Australian political landscape is also a sorry sight.
But, what Australia lacks in political smarts, it makes up for in the deli section. I decided to continue my train affair, broadening my rail horizons with a ride to Tamworth. It was the perfect time to catch up on some cheese-eating with my old pal Costello blue.
I luxuriated in the stark open paddocks with Dorothea Mackellar ringing in my ears. The contrasts to the obsessively-cultivated Chinese landscapes were fascinating. The stretching plains screamed to me that I was home.
My cheese-cravings were obsolete by the time I hugged Ma and Pa at the station, tears brushing at the corners of our eyes.
The detox plans I’d cleverly crafted a few nights ago flew out the window as I took in the contents of my parents’ cellar. We sat by the fire talking and laughing, as Dad’s queries about my trip became increasingly inquisitive. Luckily, my honest answers impressed my mischievous father.
Today, we cleaned and chilled, happy just to be back together. Ma even attached her halo and did my washing! I called a few mates and went for a jog. Pa and I rode bikes around the lucerne paddock and made plans to go fishing tomorrow, after our Mexican feast.
Now, as I sit in front of the fire at my folks’ pad with a glass of Pinot and Dad vigorously patting the cat, China feels like a hazy memory. That bang my Mum predicted I’d face – I’m determined to brush past it, my resilience honed after 10 weeks on the road.
The next adventure is about to begin. And, I’m certain there will be another adventure after that.
Reality: it’s what you make it.