Australian arrivals bring excitement
July 14, 2014
by Jenni Sebora

“Heaps,” “Massive,” “Ya ya.” The Australian vocabulary states heaps of fun, versus loads of fun; and massive, versus large or huge.

I told our three teenage Australian visitors that I was going to start using these terms in honor of them.

The week these “down under” teenage Future Problem Solvers stayed with us was a whirlwind of activity.

We, along with three other families from our community, picked up our guests from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on a Sunday evening, and it was fast forward from there.

Well, except for some needed sleep when we all got to our homes.

Twenty hours on a plane meant jet lag, empty stomachs, and tired bodies. After a good night’s sleep, our guests were ready for an American baseball game (somewhat similar to their diamond cricket), a cook-out, and s’mores the next day. Hershey bars were a favorite. S’more, s’more, and s’more.

Mall of America was the next day’s trip agenda. Most of the girls from Australia could not get enough of it. They were mesmerized by the size of the place, and the prices. I don’t know how they fit all of the clothes and shoes they bought back in their luggage, but they must have found a way.

The three girls who stayed with us were a bit more conservative in their purchasing. They spent a good amount of time in candle stores and left the mall with several candles.

“We don’t have all of these scents in Australia,” one of the girls stated. “The selection was massive.”

Even a s’more scented candle was part of their candle-smelling excursion. America – the land of choices.

Evening entertainment included the girls playing their ukuleles and clarinet and our keyboard, and my musician son playing a couple of his instruments.

One of the girls was a wonderful pianist. The other was a clarinetist, who, when she was done with her trip in the US, was on her way to Europe for an orchestra tour. We literally had a small band. Now, my youngest daughter wants a ukulele.

American spoons, and Australian speed (two card games) were part of the entertainment, as well. In fact, the last evening they were with us, they all stayed up until 2 in the morning playing instruments and just one last game of cards.

I did not have the heart to tell them all to get to bed, as they had to board the bus in the morning to head to Iowa. But, it was good, healthy fun, and a snooze on the bus would help the time go by quickly.

The last full day of their stay with us, we took in a movie, “The Fault in our Stars.” Most of the girls had read the book.

Now, of course, they have movie theaters in Australia, but a movie ticket is more than double the price than in the US. We paid $5 for a matinee ticket, and the girls were again in awe. Twenty dollars will get a person a single movie ticket in Australia. And we thought going to a movie was “highway robbery” (as some people say).

A stop at a coffee shop was next – the quaint Mocha Monkey – with many choices.

They have coffee shops in Australia, but coolers, presses, lattés, mochas, smoothies, gelato, cappuccinos, frappes, and any flavor and combination of flavors is the American experience. America – the land of choices.

Before our new friends left, they gifted us with a plethora of Australian goodies – hot pads and dishtowels, key rings and refrigerator magnets, T-shirts, a handbag, a beautiful scarf (for me, of course – at least I claimed it), and food goodies, including Tim Tams (cookies), crackers, candy, and tea.

Last, but not least, they gave us Vegemite, which is basically yeast, salt, and lard. I like just about everything, but I did not have the heart to tell them it would take me a long time before I acquired a taste for their popular Vegemite. Well, until two of the girls said they did not like it either.

Gracious, gracious. We also gifted them with some American goodies – T-shirts, lotion, some local school cheering attire, and some magazines, including People, which had an article about Hillary Clinton. Some American candy was part of the goodie giveaway – of course.

We gained some lifetime friends and memories. And, in fact, we received correspondence from all three girls a few times already, sending their gratitude and words of friendship.

They all said that when they left and boarded the bus for Iowa, they felt like they would come back to our home, but knew they wouldn’t, and that felt odd to them.

My house is always busy, with adults, teens, and young children, but it felt a bit odd when they left, as well.

And yes, I did shed some tears when they departed. New friendships were formed in a short amount of time.

Proud “parents” we are, as the girls let us know that they placed third at the International Future Problem Solvers competition in Iowa. That is amazing and very well-deserved. We went on their school’s website, which posted their project, and it was well done. I felt like a proud parent.

We also received an invitation from one of the girls and her parents. If we ever travel to Australia, our family is more than welcome to stay with them.

I might learn to like Vegemite.

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