As an expat Australian family living in the Philippines we have lots of new experiences. This was one which completely took me by surprise.
(Image via wikipedia)
For those not up to date with Australian politics it’s just been election time and voting in Australia is compulsary. Being away from the shores of our lovely land we were required to visit the Australian embassy. A new experience for us. It’s located in the financial centre of Manila and the first thing we noticed there was SERIOUS security. We’re sadly quite accustomed to seeing men with big guns but this was different. The big guys, guns, dogs and electronic passes were not just for show. Ironically such “safety” measures always make me very nervous. My hackles went up instantly. A funny, little old lady almost immediately asked us if we were Australians coming to vote. Despite the swarms of people we were still conspicuous. Anyway she was there to do the same thing so we tagged a long with her to our first check in point. After showing passports and filling out forms we got electronic passes to make the lifts work. We weren’t told which floor we were going to but only to swipe the panel on the right and it would stop at the correct floor and we were to turn left as we exited. And so we did.
Then it began. Despite more bag checking, scans etc things changed. The coat of arms, the photos of Australians, the Aussie accents and a thousand other subtle things I couldn’t even identify. It FELT like Australia. Even as I type this and remember I’m teary all over again. It was the most bizarre and unexpected thing! As we left I felt desperately home sick. I just wanted to stay and talk ….
For me this was the first time in 15 months I have felt “at home”. I don’t socialize with any Australians here – not deliberately – so I don’t even hear Aussie accents much at all. The whole thing was such a bolt from the blue.
Anyway, afterwards we battled some serious Manila traffic to go and have ice creams and a play in a nearby park. We cursed the traffic all the way, lamented the lack of nice outdoor spaces but then gave ourselves a quick slap and enjoyed our ice creams. Fantastic Italian gelati and less than $1AUD. For all the negatives there are plenty of positives too. So that’s what we shifted our attention to. The moment passed and we all moved on.
I have to go back to the embassy soon to sort a new passport for my eldest son and I’m curious to see what its like second time around ….