(In no particular order)
1. Taking a walk around Lake Ginninderra, Belconnen, which is just a stone’s throw away from the residences of the University of Canberra. Although it is a manmade lake, nature has populated the surroundings with an undeniable sense of serenity and beauty. In autumn, trees shed their golden-red leaves, and as the season turns over to winter, cyclists, joggers and strollers disappear from the tarred path. The lake becomes barren and quiet. Once in a while, if you’re lucky, you can spot black swans and other long-necked birds gracing the lake’s surface.
2. Jamming and singing with Jess, my housemate—an excellent musician and the person who got me into the habit of drinking scotch during winter, especially before singing. Less than a quarter glass (on the rocks or with juice) would be enough to warm up our voices and get the blood flowing to our numb fingers, even though our buttocks froze on the metal-framed chairs.
3. The open spaces, the starry skies, the clean air, the bush, wallabies hopping by, shooting stars, double rainbows, the beach, grey gulls, going on a road trip, the land, the strange feeling that this was home.
4. Playing guitar for Bethany International church, where practice for four songs lasted two hours and there was always an ample supply of Indonesian food and hospitality awaiting us after. Church population: +/- 20.
5. Busking without fear of being robbed of my guitar/spoils. Although I did this only once, I would do it again. And again. And again. Judith, my Kenyan friend sang in her rich African timbre while I harmonised with a raw Chinese voice and played guitar. Grave accent differences aside, we managed to collect AUD$40+ within two hours, on a slow Sunday afternoon in Canberra’s city centre. I guess many Canberrans have either a really kind heart or too much money.
6. Eating Australian Milo from the tin. Aussie Milo, compared to Malaysian Milo, is smoother, richer and ain’t as sweet. It’s like a prime piece of real estate in heaven. It doesn’t fully melt in your mouth — you have to chew it.
7. Doing a Tim Tam Slam. Ironically, I learnt this trick from someone I met online who lives in the States. You bite the ends off an Aussie Tim Tam (again, the original is far superior to the Indonesian-made ones found in Malaysia), then dunk one end into a steaming cup of coffee. Suck through the top like a straw. I usually like to dip both ends in to wet them, so that sucking up the coffee (best unsweetened) is easier. Watch out though—slammed Tim Tams usually melt quite fast, leaving a chocolatey mess on your fingers.
8. Taking photographs where everything looks crisp and clear under the Aussie sun, versus the muddy colours you get in KL because of the smoke and haze.
9. Being able to wear my Akubra hat out without attracting weird stares. (Then again, the sight of a Chinese girl wearing an Akubra hat will always attract stares even in Australia—probably more amused than weird, though.)
10. The thriving live music and arts scene. Jazz in the basement, jazz in the park, folk, singer-songwriter, film screenings at the university and rock gigs at the refectory left me feeling more ‘cultured’ and a very satisfied soul.
A few days from now, I will make my way once again to the vast land of Australia for a holiday. I wish it were spring or autumn (it’s winter now), but since I can’t change the seasons, I’ll try to make the most of it. At least I can recall the services of my long, woolly winter coat. I’m so excited I can’t work. I can’t wait.