And although I am particularly fond of the state where I live, I'm still not all that interested in waving a big American flag around; in fact, it is difficult for me to think of a worse article of clothing than a button-down shirt splattered with stars and stripes. In my eyes, the American flag should be flown but not worn.
All of this was rolling around in my brain as we set out early in the morning to celebrate Australia Day, which celebrates the first fleet of British ships' arrival on the continent. I didn't have much time to think about the historical significance of the day, however, because I was walking with Jackson, who was headed for the Harbour, armed with goggles.
I had planned on participating in the Aquathon, but between preparing ourselves and our home for this year's travels and the road trip we took when we first got here, I had to face the fact that I simply was in no shape to compete. Luckily, I'm the mother of a hearty 8 year old that was game for competing despite the fact that he had no time to train, either. He has done something like this once before, and even though this swim would be 3 times longer (150m) and the run would be more than 4 times longer (2k), he was undeterred.
A mere year and a half ago he wasn't self-conscious about how he looked, but he has now reached the age where he didn't want me taking pictures of him in his swim cap.
We all watched him until the yellow swim caps were indistinguishable from one another, and around the first turn I saw a small but growing number of stragglers whose forward motion was not so strong and figured he was in that bunch. We had swam this distance in the saltwater pool, but holding onto the sides and taking a few breaths between each lap is not the same as being in the open water with a gaggle of other kids splashing around you.
I was so thrilled when I saw his familiar stroke and black goggles approaching the shore earlier than I had expected, and tears spring to my eyes when I saw his huge grin. He looked like he was having a ball.
Swim Stats: 7:51. He placed 29th out of 49 in his Category of Under 10 Boys.
He set out on the run, and by the time we saw him again crossing the finish line, he still had that same grin on his face.
Not amazing times, but they are solid and what I'm most proud of is his willingness to compete despite the lack of opportunity to train, and the great attitude and fun he had while doing it. Later, Jackson would describe the highlight of his experience to his grandparents as being the free fruit he got at the end of the race, illuminating what he clearly sees as impoverished eating conditions in our daily life despite the continual intake of food, especially fruit. Gotta have something to give them to talk about with their future therapist, right?
There was plenty of merriment to be had at the rest of the Australia Day festival; I honestly found myself wishing I had some Aussie paraphernalia to adorn our family with--their flag looks cooler than ours, and it would be nice to have some things to take back home with us when this whole dream ends next December.
Although I didn't end up buying Aussie merchandise, we still found plenty of ways to spend our hard-earned American dollars to celebrate the fine country of Australia at the carnival that was set up a block from our condo.
We also spent a mind-boggling $15 for the three boys to spend 5 minutes in a bouncy castle. Yay Australia!
While the rest of my family enjoyed ice cream, I did not--a shocker for anyone who knows me. I'm not one to turn down an offer for ice cream, but on this day of celebrating my temporary country, I only had eyes for...
freshly squeezed sugarcane juice, with a little lemon and lime tossed in for good measure.
I could live on this stuff; it was more delicious than I imagined it would be. I watched in awe as the skilled juicing master fed huge stalks of sugarcane through a machine that extracted the juice. Sorry Vita-Mix, you're playing second fiddle to me now because I want one of these babies! Never mind that it would take up most of my kitchen, who needs a refrigerator when you have sugar cane?? I looked online and it seems as though there's a business operated out of Hollywood (of course!) that offers cane juice as part of a master cleanse detox-type diet. Ha! Healthy? Who knows. Thirst-quenching, sweet and delicious? Definitely!
After dinner that evening, we celebrated with the quintessential Australia dessert, the lamington. Aside from the fact that it sounds more like a town than a sweet treat, it's pretty good--a square sponge cake dipped in chocolate and rolled in finely shredded coconut.
A mere 26 days after the New Year's hubub and fireworks, Australians muster up the energy to do it all over again. We watched the fireworks show from our balcony.
Australia, I like you. We have so many reasons to celebrate right now but I'm more than happy to take a day and celebrate you and this year we get to spend together.