The Black and White Devil
Since arriving here in Australia, I have had to grow accustomed to the many differences in culture, slang, and even ecosystem from home. For instance, here the sun rises about 5:30, and most people are awake by then. Back home waking up before six was torture to most people. Here it is completely normal. They have different words for ordinary things. I was at the bank and commented on how cute the little boy’s galoshes were. I got a strange look and he said, “Oh you mean his gum boots?” Gum Boots. Sort of makes me think of boots to walk through massive amounts of chewed up gum in a mystical candy land. Then there is the climate, terrain, and wildlife. Obviously I knew that I was going to a beach town and that it would look a lot different than my mountain valley home of East Tennessee. But dang. Even their trees and bushes all look different.
So the first night, we are sitting down at the dinner table having a very lovely supper. I’m just chatting with my host, Joanne, and she casually mentions that in Australia there is a terrifying bird called a Magpie. They are a unusually territorial bird that nest in the spring time. Which even though it is September and the leaves are changing color at home, it is just beginning of Spring here. These Magpies guard their nests possessively and will attack anyone they consider a threat. In fact it is suggested in Australia during this time of year to wear sunglasses at all times just in case, so your eyes won’t be poked out! No big deal. Just keep your eyes out; well in actually, you’ll definitely want those to stay inside your skull. It’s rather unlikely to happen to you. They always nest in the same spot, and I know where to watch out for them.
Okay. Okay. I can handle this. It’s quite rare, and how often do you actually see a lot of birds.
So day two arrives. I need to go finalize some things at my new bank and exchange my American dollars for Aussie ones. Jo send me an email, and says if I am up for it the mall is just a walk away and I could find my bank’s branch there. So me being the independent woman I am, look up the address and find it on maps. The walk says it takes about 50 minutes to get there. I wonder how it knows how fast the average person walks, but that point is mute. I see that the bank opens at 9:30. I decide to leave at 8:30, just to be safe. I wanted to get it done with so I could relax before the kids get off school. Just to make sure I knew the way I took screenshots of the directions and the map, you know because I am such an excellent traveler.
I head off. The directions say turn left, but that looks like the completely wrong direction in my head. It went into a neighborhood. So obviously the map had it wrong and it meant for me to start at the next road after I turned right. After about 5 minutes of going my way I quickly notice that none of the roads mentioned on the directions are where I am. Plus my phone cannot run the maps app because I at this point didn’t have an Aussie sim card. Because of my idiocy I end up taking a 15 minute detour that went in a large circle and came right back to the neighborhood I lived in.
This point I had to accept that I indeed was wrong and that maps must be right. I need to actually follow the directions this time. So I go left. Finally I find the roads and turns my directions had. Plus I left with extra time, if I walk quickly I can still be there when the bank opens.
Think again. This time I am walking and the sidewalk ends. There are no road signs no directions on which way to go. I have a choice. Go towards what looks like a small strip mall or more neighborhood. Obviously I chose the small strip mall. Walking across a very busy street I get there and it is called Robina. Finally a sign in the right direction. I walk around it trying to find a mall, but end up near a 7–11 in a very industrial neighborhood. I stop there and ask for directions. The lady was very kind, but said I must have gone the wrong way. I must go back the way I came for another 20 minute walk. I retrace my steps and walk over the busy street that I had already crossed at least 3 times. Finally in the distance near some neighborhoods I see the giagantic mall. It had only taken me nearly 2 hours to get there, but that’s alright I got my exercise and now know the roads better.
I walk up to the bank. I had already set it all up online. The final step was to sign some paperwork in person so I can authorize my account. I walk up to the counter and show the consultant my paperwork. They look me up and check my ID and talk to me for a bit. Then they inform me that they were packed with customers and that I would need to come back at a later time say like 1. It’s like 10:30. I was exhausted and did not want to argue. So I just leave. After coming all this way, I actually got nothing accomplished except for getting lost and making an appointment I probably could have made on the phone.
Oh well, at least I know for sure my way back. I find my way out of this very confusing mall and am on the other side than which I entered — which was good because it was closer to home. However, it was a part of a deserted greenway system and it had started to drizzle. When it rains it pours I guess they say — lucky I am that it didn’t quite pour on me!.
I am really tired and not paying too much attention while walking on this green way home. I hear some birds. Not that out of the ordinary since on my way in I saw at least 10 different kinds of bird. White ones with red heads. Ones that look like crows. Pigeon sort of birds. Strange vulture black and white birds. Ibises. So naturally I am growing pretty accustomed to lots of birds being around. Then I feel wind coming quickly towards my face. I look up and now feel feathers touch my forehead. The MAGPIE! I walk faster — I foolishly wasn’t wearing sunglasses since it was raining and all. Then I feel its wings again! This time I flat out run through the grass as fast as possible to the next corner.
Phew! It was a near escape. I luckily made it out alive and with both eyeballs in tact. Sure my heart was racing and I am not sure I will ever trust a black and white bird again. But Day 1 and my adventures had already began.
— If you would like to see what the magpie looks like go here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_magpie#Swooping Notice the whole section on swooping people!