Grand Final Day 2005
Through Jim-Bob and Mary-Lou, I score an invite to the Australian Embassy to watch the big game on the even bigger screen. VB, meat pies, Twisties and Caramello Koala’s are all on offer. I choose champagne. It is strange to watch another Grand Final without a Victorian team to represent us, but as Sydney is the old South Melbourne, I cheer for the boys in red and white.
I’ve only been in Japan for five months but I can’t describe how good it is to be around a heap of fellow Aussies. Everyone is so easy-going and relaxed. I had almost forgotten what it is like. It is refreshing to note the ease with which I can order a drink at the bar without having to rehearse something in my head, indeed without wondering, “How the hell do I ask for that?”
The thing that impacts the most is the similar sense of humour. I’ve met plenty of Americans and Brits but there are very obvious differences in our respective national humour. It is a joy to watch the game, listen to the commentary and hear the whole bar uniformly crack up at some of the things being said. On the whole, the afternoon is hilarious, topped off by a rivetting fourth quarter that finishes with the Swans on top – just!
Drinks in the Bunker Bar (truly) turn into another invitation to participate in a quiz night organised by a couple of expats who live on-site. There are many apartments within the embassy grounds – huge, multi-room apartments that make The Den look like a walk-in closet. Mary-Lou and I are allocated to different teams so I am left to fend for myself. The wine flows freely and there is a general air of joviality. I usually pride myself on my intellect, but I fail dismally in the quiz. I like to think that my mind is full of ideas, creative plans and philosophies, but the sad reality is, my general knowledge is non-existent, certainly poor at best. However, between rounds, merriment ensues and I meet some really interesting people. One of the guys lives here in the Compound and went to school with Matt and Charlie. Crazy days!
At the end of the evening I walk out onto the balcony for some air (read, have a smoke) and notice the view. It is magnificent! Tokyo Tower dominates the landscape, beautifully lit and sparkling magically. I relish the sight, which is only slightly marred by the presence of my host. He has been in Japan for five years and is heading home in a couple of months. He is well sick of Tokyo and the cultural differences that can make life, shall we say, a little difficult. I understand this, but as he lives in the embassy, mixes with other Australians, talks about Australia and has the luxury of ordering absolutely anything he wants from Australia (thanks tax payers!), I’m surprised he even knows he’s in Tokyo. The embassy world appears to be small and insular, a recreation of the Australian lifestyle in a different country.
As I mentioned, it was refreshing and a lot of fun, but at the end of the night as I walk the quiet, backstreets of my neighbourhood, I decide that I am happy doing what I am doing. I am constantly frustrated that I can’t communicate but that’s for me to resolve and learn the language. Other than that, I relish the differences and the daily challenges. After all, that’s why I am here.