So I haven’t been missing Australia as much as I expected myself to at this point, one month into my travels. Sure, I miss some of the home comforts from time to time… or should I say place to place? Generally though, I’ve been feeling pretty okay about being away from the only place I’ve been for 21 years. Which is why I was quite surprised by an experience I had on the Greyhound between Mobile and Orlando.
No, I’m not referring to my experiences with the rednecks in Alabama. Nor am I speaking of the crazed, drugged up Floridian felon that sat next to me for several frightening hours. Rather, I’m talking about a hallucination of sorts that I had late that night. I was so tired that I didn’t know if I was still in Exhaustion County, or whether I’d crossed the border into Delirium State. In this near-sleep state, I looked up at the moon and was surprised to see John Howard’s face was there, looking down at me.
Now, I should be clear here. The craters of the moon didn’t look like regular John Howard. They in fact looked just like his caricature: the image I’ve seen time and time again in the political cartoons in the West Australian. The likeness was uncanny, and as Johnny Eyebrows looked down his glasses at me, I wondered not for the first time on this trip whether I was losing my mind.
I shook my head and rubbed my eyes to see if it would fade away, as some hallucinations do. It didn’t. For the rest of that night, each time I looked out the window, little Johnny was there looking down on me.
I wondered what this meant.
Anyway, at some point over the following 48 hours, the idea fermented in my mind that I needed to go to the movies and watch Baz Luhrmann’s Australia to see if I was secretly pining for the homeland. To see if it would affect me at all.
So I saw it. To be honest, it didn’t offend me. I know. I’m as surprised as you to hear that. I was bracing myself for it since it came out. I really thought it was going to make my cringe factor break Mach 3. So now I’m not sure what to think. I came out of it neither hating nor loving Australia, which I guess sums up also how I feel about the homeland now that I’m not in it. This is a step up I think, because I really didn’t like the place very much when I left.
I also tried to gauge the reactions of the Americans that were watching it with me. This was hard to do. I was the first person in the cinema, and wasn’t expecting any more, but in the end it was almost full. It’s hard for me to make an assessment. Most of the people were speaking about it in Spanish when we exited. A lot of the women were teary and emotional. Most of the guys didn’t seem to give a damn. The she-male looked decidedly undecided in her/his opinion, which I found fitting.
One thing I do know though, was at the end, when the screen said something about Australia abandoning the assimilation policy in the 1970s, a surprised noise filtered through the audience. And when the final words on the screen said that the Australian Government apologised for this in 2008, about 90% of the audience gasped.
Make what you will of that.
Oh, and also, everyone cheered when the Aboriginal elder speared David Wenham good. He makes such a good bad guy….