I arrived in Brisbane airport, one I am so very familiar with now, about 2 weeks ago. I was tired, and a bit hungover. I wasn’t sure what to expect – only that I was going to be suitcasing it up and down the east coast to tick boxes and fit everyone in as best I could before departing. Some I am certain I will see again, others I’m not so sure. Age plays a bit part in the uncertainty of repeat visits – but true to my word I made it back to connect with my Maltese family here in Brisbane.
Not being one to reveal myself, nor the identity and privacy of my friends, family or those I meet on my travels – It’s a little hard to express this visit in a blog.
What I wish to say though, was that leaving this part of my family after just three and a half days in their company – having met a number of people who I never knew existed – sharing stories, photographs and filling in the gaps of a bit of family history, was harder than I imagined.
I was treated like a long lost (which I suppose on one level is true) much loved member of the family. Stories were shared of my Maltese grandmother – the Aunt of the relative I was staying with – and her time here in Australia 60 years ago with my father and his father.
The three of them arrived in 1950, when my dad was just 8 months old. They arrived on a boat, as many did, as “ten pound poms”, as many did and left two years later, as some did. Their time was short, but the memories have held fast for many years. They left, but other members of my Nana’s family stayed, having permanently relocated here from Egypt. And so the Maltese side of my family set up their lives in Darra, Queensland.
I was so fortunate to be invited into this world, and welcomed so openly. I ate fabulous Maltese and Italian food (They are a Maltese-Italian family), drank homemade wine, fresh coffee, listened to Italian conversation and found a piece of myself in these people. I met a number of second cousins (My dad’s cousins), their spouses and their children and was told I had barely scratched the surface.
There are two sides of my family here in Australia. On my mother’s side there are my Grandmother’s brothers and their children. Many of these I had met from various visits over the years, and who I have happily reconnected with, as well as cousins I had heard of but not met until now.
But back in January last year, shortly after arriving from the UK after my Christmas break I’d had lunch with a cousin of my mum’s and was walking back to another cousin’s house where I was staying when it occurred to me that these weren’t the only people in my family who lived in Australia. I had no idea where my dad’s family were living, or even if they were still alive. I just felt I needed to do something – I thought it would be nice to locate the house my dad lived in as a toddler and take a photo of it, so I called him and asked if he could find the address. What do you know – the next day I had jumped on a train and was spontaneously knocking on the door of a total stranger to me, who I’d been told was my second cousin. After an understandable amount of confusion I was welcomed in for a cup of tea, and then sent to another house a few doors away to repeat the same speech to another cousin I hadn’t met before. It was a mad decision to jump on the train that day – with no notice and just arrive at someone’s door – but perhaps one of the best decisions I have made so far, as I unearthed a whole group of interesting, loving, caring souls who welcomed me as though we’d known each other for years.
It’s worth mentioning that I never came to Australia to specifically meet any of these people – I came on a mission of my own to find my own way, answer some questions and to see what I could do for myself here in Australia. Everyone that has come to me, or become part of my life here has been such a wonderful bonus that they deserve a place in my blog.
Brisbane from Mt Coot-tha where I was taken for a visit.
On to Mackay…
Weather: sun and cloud
Temp: 20-25 C
I had to get up at 3:50am today, to get a bus at 4:10, to get a 6:am flight, 2 infact, to fly all the way to Brisbane and then back up to Mackay. Why? Mackay was the easiest place to get back to the bus from. That’s really all there is to it. There is nothing else there!
There is no public transport from Mackay, to go 6km to the city centre. The options are hiring a car or spending $20 on a taxi! Hmph.
I arrived at Gecko’s Rest hostel and went to check in. Bed wasn’t made, so I went back to reception, to leave my bags and pass the time looking for a much needed coffee.
“So what I can I do here?” I asked the receptionist who seemed just so bored of her life. “My budget’s low, so where should I go today?” Despite the array of tourist paraphernalia adorning the walls of the reception, her response was; “there’s nothing much to do here.”
Me – ever bright and positive: “Well, I’ve heard that the sun is going to come out later, so I’d like to go to the beach, how do I get there?” “There is no beach here, and no buses; you need to take a taxi” What?? If it costs me 20 bucks to get here from the bloody airport, I shudder to think what the price of a round trip to the seaside 16 km away would be!
As a last resort I asked for a map, and said I would like to have a coffee and breakfast so she got a photocopied map and reluctantly highlighted the “main” streets for me and just about managed a smile as I wished her well and sloped away. I was exhausted. I hadn’t got up that early since catching a red eye flight to Barcelona last summer, so all I wanted was to sink into a comfy chair with a large coffee and ask the Lonely Planet what to do. Could I find such a place? Don’t Australians drink coffee? Do they not need breakfast? Is it not the school holidays? Where IS everybody?!
I spent the day wandering around, in and out of a few shops. I found a charity shop, which made me happy. I found a nice place to sit down and try and sunbathe at the Bluewater Lagoon, which I enjoyed until the sun went in and an ant bit me on the bum. I browsed a few shops and finished a very long day off at the cinema, which as you’ll now know is a rare treat!