Unlike Friday the 13th, February the 14th rings in (mostly) love, love confessions, proposals and a blitzkrieg of consumerist deals and discounts, and even exorbitant offers. I must admit, I have never really had a ‘Valentine’ so to speak, or even went out on a ‘Valentine Date’ in my 28 years of existence. Heck, I don’t think I went out on a proper date till about 4 years ago! So you could concur I am rather slow to these shenanigans. This is not to say I haven’t secretly harboured a desire to one day actually go all mushy and have someone take me on an over the top romantic date. But even as getting older makes you wiser, it also makes one (read: moi) more cynical.
So 14th February, 2017 is when I landed in Melbourne to commence my PhD journey. PhD travails notwithstanding, I now often like to see this date as the day I when I not only start a new inning of my research ambitions, but also a new tentative, and perhaps a more mature relation not only with myself, but also with the city of Melbourne. If Rotterdam was where I felt I found my confidence, voice and strength, Melbourne was where I could stretch my confidence more. I was initially reluctant to let go off my love for Rotterdam, like that guy/girl you fell deeply for and have trouble forgetting him/her, and can never help but compare. Melbourne could never match up to Rotterdam I felt.
The comparisons haven’t disappeared completely, and neither has my fondness for Rotterdam, but this Valentine’s Day I realised I complete exactly 2 years in Melbourne, and have somehow grown to embraced it! Not to mention that I have also found myself in a situation that perhaps 2-3 years I would have never imagined to be in! Having severely pulled a muscle in my lower back due to improper and excessive exercise, I am now barely mobile and restricted solely to my bed, kitchen and bathroom for the coming days. 3 years ago if my current self time-travelled back in time to tell me I would be religiously going to the gym, learning how to swim and pole dance, I would have scoffed! But here I am, and realising how since my arrival here I have hesitantly and slowly tried to push the boundaries of my physical and mental endurance, strength and fitness.
My father is an avid runner and loves to participates in Marathons. I never understood what compels him to run for an hour, or why when he pulled a muscle in his feet it depressed him he would no longer be able to run. I now understand, the high that physical activity gives you is incomparable, and I am already upset at the thought of losing strength because of my current injury. But Melbourne hasn’t just been about fitness experiments!
Melbourne has also been about learning how to order ‘white’ coffee (cappuccino or latte) in the city’s famed coffee culture, to trying and getting a hang of its slangs. Pour exemple, the slang ‘prawn on the barbie’ might have the layman imagining a prawn on top of a barbie and go huh?! But for your regular Aussie, it means barbecuing prawns!! The city is perhaps most renowned for its highly predictable, unpredictable weather. 40 degree celsius at 3pm, and then by 7pm it drops to 22 degree celsius! No wonder my hair has never really had a good hair day courtesy the weather. But I shan’t bore you anymore with my (love/hate) rants for a city that has grown on me as I discovered a delightful poem on Melbourne by John Forbes, that perhaps is fitting on my second anniversary with this city!
after Max Jacob
The incessant trams are the colour of the skin
after a course of suntan pills and your opinions
have to change a lot, like the weather but more deliberately;
where the fashion is argued for, is true love like two speech balloons
merge, even before the attached figures have met?
At least your blinding headaches will modulate to a
slow wastage of the self, as your drugged and artificial suntan fades.
Then a voice you have never heard before – your own – will say:
‘Be a caricature, John, and not a cartoon, if you want to lose
your nostalgia for the sensual, glaring sun!’