Vegemite, Milo, Uncle Toby’s Honey and Cinnamon Quick Oats, Red Rock Deli Lime and Cracked Pepper chip, Tim Tams…..
What do all these things have in common?
They are only to be found in Australia.
So, when I asked my husband to help me cull from my sagging suitcase that I am taking to Barcelona, I don’t know why it was a surprise to him to find “Australian contraband” articles like, the 450g (ginormous) jar of Vegemite (pronounced Behemite in Spain) or, when he opened my cosmetics case, the two tubes of Vegemite or, when he looked in the shoe compartment of my suitcase, the 12 packets of Uncle Toby’s Honey and Cinnamon Quick Oats!!!
So, I am going a bit nuts, trying to see how much of the everyday Australian comforts I can smuggle in to Spain. But, I have now discarded the ginormous jar of Behemite and, though it pains me, the Oats have also been removed. My husband coaches me through my seperation anxiety: “Maybe just one or two packets, ok?”
I went to Woolworths the other day and found myself staring wistfully at the extra large tins of Milo but talked myself out of it: “NO, Leigh, you CANNOT take THAT in your suitcase. IMPOSSIBLE. Forget it.” Then, I glanced down to the smallest tins of Milo: “Maybe just a little one..just one”. No!
FNC has found a website for a London store stocking all the Australian shit I so love so the soothing voice in my head says: “it’s ok, we can order it online” and my husband says out loud: “it’s ok, mi carinyo, we can order it online”.
It’s ridiculous, but I know when I am feeling homesick that Vegemite on toast can work wonders for easing that twang of missing all that I am familiar with.
One of the things expats say of integrating is that some of them reject their home culture, only to wake up years later and realise the import of one’s culture in shaping identity so find themselves feeling that, with the rejection of their culture, they have rejected themselves. There are others who import all of their culture in to the host country so that their home is a microcosmos of their original culture. The trick I think will be to balance the coexistence of two places, two cultures within oneself. I don’t think this will be as easy for me as smuggling three jars of Vegemite and some Uncle Toby’s Oats in to Spain. I honestly don’t know how. But I think it is mildly amusing to observe the way in which I grasp at trivial emblems of my culture, or what I grew up with as Australian culture, as I prepare to move. And, then, that begs bigger questions, which I believe will be answered for me, along the way, through the experience of difference: “What IS my culture?” “How has it shaped me?” “What are the aspects of my culture that I take for granted to the extent that this may impact my ability to accept other ways of being and doing?
I look forward to the adventure of all this unfolding over time.
And, to hell with it, I am keeping my little tubes of Vegemite! Maybe a tin of Milo…