The first autumn back.

Greetings from Australia. I really hope that you are all happy, healthy and safe where ever you are right now on this chaotic planet.

On the day of writing this, it’s a chilly, grey day in Melbourne. And what else would I be doing on such a day but hiding away at home, social distancing as the responsible koala that I am? To be fair, it could be suggested that I was socially distant before it was a thing, but I will just say that I was ahead of my time. 😉

With the unprecedented events currently going on, I have to be honest and say that while I may still feel deflated over not being in Hong Kong anymore, I am at least grateful for not living through this period in the small and noisy apartment that I used to reside in while I was there. Apart from the fact that I am sure that the flat was cursed, (joking. But serious!) claustrophobia would have gotten the better of me by now. I look at this as one of the silver linings to my situation of being back.

So what does a koala girl do in Australia during this scary pandemic? So far my hobbies for this period have included; baking, comfort eating and/or stress eating, as well as getting fatter (and complaining about getting fatter) from this said eating. So basically nothing out of the ordinary! I’m definitely making up for the lost time where I wasn’t baking in Hong Kong, due to my lack of oven, kitchen space or access to reasonably priced western ingredients.

Another activity I have tried my hand at recently is gardening, given that I now have a large garden to maintain. It’s a blessing and a curse to have such a space; it’s awesome to have a quiet and private area to enjoy the great outdoors on my own in but it so much work to maintain! While I haven’t killed any innocent plants yet, I do note that the most successful growers in my garden are the weeds which is not ideal. Having said that, it does provide fantastic motivation to get out into the garden and hopefully pulling the weeds helps to off set all of the calories from the apple crumbles and banana breads that have been coming out of my kitchen recently. That’s what I’m telling myself anyway!

My greatest triumph however has been befriending the local pigeons, sparrows and another species that I haven’t identified yet. We don’t have bird flu here so the attitude towards wild birds is more relaxed compared to that of Hong kongers since my biggest concern is washing birdy poo poo off my fence rather than worrying about catching an illness. My feathered friends visit my backyard twice a day, expecting their sprinkle of sunflower seed. They coo at me and settle on my fence around 11a.m. and 4 p.m, I could set my watch to it. Today I counted 9 birds patiently waiting around my yard. I’ve literally become the crazy old bird lady, but I’m ok with that. They are quite interesting to watch as they interact with each other and it’s nice to be wanted! I also have to give credit where credit is due, they are very good at keeping their 1.5 metres social distance from us.

While Hong Kong is rolling into summer, Australia has just left autumn behind for another year. Unlike Hong Kong, the weather during the seasons here can be quite defined depending on what state you live in. Hong Kong feels hot and humid for most of the year and while summer here can be hot, it’s cold, wet, grey and generally miserable in my area during the winter months. Without a doubt, autumn is by far my favourite season because the bite of the summer heat has faded but it’s not too cold yet.

Definitely my favourite aspect of autumn here is how the environment changes during the season. I love watching the leaves on the trees slowly turn a burnt orange colour, which makes my ordinarily plain looking street more picturesque. These leaves flutter down the road like natures confetti, decorating the streets with crunchy splashes of red and orange.

Drifting through the atmosphere, the distinctive scent of fire wood as my neighbours have started their wood fires for the season. I have turned the heating on to take the chill off the house, but occasionally I slip outside to feel the cool, crisp breeze. I have to admit, I enjoy the invigorating blast of frosty air but once I go back inside, I warm up with cosy slippers and hot drinks.

I have to say that it felt good to be able to soak up that autumn atmosphere for the first time in years. I now await the inevitable onslaught of grey, wintery days that will soon envelope us. And that is definitely one aspect of the weather I did not miss while I was in Hong Kong; while Hong Kong can indeed get cold in winter, the gloomy, bleak cold that settles deep into your bones is less persistent there than it is here. Christmas also falls over winter in Hong Kong so as cold as it may get, you have that distraction of the festive season to look forward to.

The one thing missing from autumn in Australia is the Mid Autumn Festival which became one of my favourite festivals while living abroad. Autumn in H.K. was a favourite for me for many reasons; The gradual cooling of the weather after the intense summers. The (snowy) moon cakes. The sparkly lanterns. Rabbits, everywhere! The contagious festive spirit amongst its residents.

Perhaps this seems unrealistic right now with every thing going on, but hopefully by time autumn reaches the Fragrant Harbour later this year, enough “normality” returns for them to be able to fully enjoy these elements of their celebrations.

I will certainly miss this annual holiday and already struggle daily with f.o m.o (fear of missing out) Having said this, I can also reflect and feel grateful that I was able to experience this during my life there as I know not everyone will get this opportunity.

And that really sums up the double edged sword that repatriation is for me right now; having the heart in a place that you genuinely love and called home, a place that you are no longer a part of (sad feels!), meanwhile attempting to focus on only the positive memories, lessons and experiences from the time spent abroad and practicing gratefulness for these (happy feels!). These happy feels must of course be managed in a way that they don’t trigger the sad feels. Ugh. It’s a complicated push and pull for the repatriated koala as she tries to find the healthy balance.

On a lighter note; one thing I have added to my autumnal traditions since living in Hong Kong are chestnuts. Chestnuts are a big thing in Hong Kong, especially over the autumn and winter seasons. They pop up everywhere, even in birthday cakes. The only thing I really knew about chestnuts before I lived in H.K. was that according to some Christmas carols, people like to roast them at Christmas time. I have sang about this a million times while belting out Christmas songs, but didn’t know what a chestnut looked like, let alone had eaten one. This all changed in Hong Kong. As the weather started to cool, street vendors would usually set up carts on the street. From their Carts, they would sell chestnuts and sweet potatoes that had been cooked over hot coals amongst other goodies. They would often park outside the North Point Mass Transit Railway (M.T.R) station near my apartment and as you came up out of the station, you could smell the distinctive aroma of the coals burning before you could even see it. They were the perfect winter warmers.

So with this in mind, I recently saw that someone on Facebook posted that they had cooked some chestnuts in their air fryer. I knew straight away that since I had just bought one of these glorious appliances and the thought of warm chestnuts on a cold day seemed so comforting, I had to get some. And I have to tell you, while it was not up to the Hong Kong Street vendor standards, it was still warming and satisfying enough to add it to my regular shopping list.

And so that was my first autumn back. In the life’s pattern of throwing the curve ball straight at my face, this season proved no different! Ha. Thankfully, I can report we got through it despite some rough and uncertain moments but most importantly, we are healthy. Having said that, despite life feeling like it’s at a stand still right now with different issues, I can’t quite believe autumn has departed for yet another the year- at least in Australia!

Autumn, I’ll miss your beauty and majestic nature and I count the days until I will be seeing you again.

Stay well koala fam.

Until next time,

🍁🐨Koala Girl 🐨🍁

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