My aunt called from Australia this morning, offering yet again to host me if I were to study in Sydney. A calmness descended on me, a quiet gratitude towards my extended family in the land down under — my aunt’s family in Sydney and my other relatives in Melbourne.

In retrospect, I had a beautiful holiday there. But of course, things are never quite the same when you look back. 

I remember being pleasantly surprised by the carpeted floors in my aunt’s house upon arrival, for insulation, I realized later, or else the wooden boards that actually creaked because everything was so silent. I missed the faint whirring of the fan, a noise I had grown to ignore back home.

I remember the countless evenings spent walking to Woolworths to buy milk and bread, and then lounging in front of the television with their whole family, watching mindless cartoons, my aunt drinking her habitual cup of coffee. In fact, it was the first time I ever watched The Simpsons, Family guy, Friends, and the like. I remember learning about lbw and nine other modes of dismissal of a batman in cricket; how long it took for me to understand let alone appreciate the game.

I remember sun-bathing on Manly beach in Tanny’s swimmers, the sting of the cruel sun on my skin. I remember gaping at the force of the waves, knocking me off my feet and dragging me along as they receded, making abrasions on the back of my thighs as they grazed the sand. I have never experienced anything like it along our coastal shores. 

I remember kangaroos and wallabies burrying their snouts into my palm as I fed them, blissful. The animals were endearing, I took to them immediately. The fairy penguins on Phillip island made me feel like giggling because they were so cute, yet a certain awe refrained me from making any noise louder than a whisper while my cousins and I watched them near their burrows. 

I was brought to many other places, but it’s too bad a cloud of weariness hung over me when I was there, killing any desire to venture out and explore on my own. I didn’t do much research, didn’t care if I saw the Harbour bridge or not, and didn’t even bring a camera. (You should have seen people’s expressions when I told them.)  

But at least I got to catch up with people who had become fuzzy images, clear only in yellowed photographs where I was but a toddler. Granduncles and grandaunts, uncles and aunts, and cousins of all ages. I met my dear aunty Christine whom I’d not seen since I was 6, when she came back and stayed with us for a couple of weeks during medical school vacation. She regaled us with so many tales back then, and today she writes me nice supportive emails. 

Tanny’s leaving for Denmark soon. She’s going to be there for half a year. I’m left here wondering how it’s like for them in the winter where it gets dark by four, if they’ve bought their sofa set yet, and if my aunt has tried making the oyster meatballs I cooked for them the last time.