Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I'm Here With All Of My People

Aah, it's so nice to be amongst your own.

I went to an Australian bar the other night. That was possibly the most godawful fifteen minutes of my life. A bunch of ugly, drunk Australians dancing to pub rock from the 80s, all dressed up in costumes to distract themselves from how dull they and their lives are. I pitied them, in a way: they've travelled to the other side of the world, and what do they want to do? Hang out with people from back home, listening to music from back home, drinking beverages from back home. (Incidentally, here's a quick nationality test for you: do you drink Foster's? If the answer's "yes", you're not Australian.) It was so hopelessly boring, so utterly uninspired.

No, those Australians aren't my people. My people were the nerds at Nine Carols And Lessons For Godless People, a vaguely Christmas-themed celebration of nature, science and freedom from religion. Richard Dawkins and several other fascinating scientists made presentations, and there were numerous comedians and musicians performing too. Waiting in the Hammersmith Apollo's lobby, I noticed that, for the first time, I wasn't the only person hanging around and reading a book. There were dozens of solo readers, and many more who, despite chatting to other people, had books clutched in their hands.

Fuck landing in Sydney. Being surrounded by people who love books and knowledge felt like coming home.

In the show itself, the host asked "Are there any scientists here tonight?" There was an enormous roar. "Are there any particle physicists here tonight?" There was a smaller but still substantial roar. He then made an impenetrably nerdy pun-based joke about particle physics, and the audience lost it. Oh, how nice to be surrounded by people who are amused by popular misunderstandings of the behaviour of neutrinos, instead of being only amused by talk about beer and boobs.

So those are my people. While I miss many people in and aspects of my home country, I don't feel tied down by outdated notions of nationality. I was born in Australia and I'll most likely die there, but in the time between those two events, I wouldn't spit on most of its residents if they were on fire.

Well, perhaps that's a bit harsh. Admittedly, I've found myself hanging out with a lot of Aussies while over here, mainly flatmates. They're friendlier, and we share an instant bond because of our homeland and culture, but they're as disgusted by the boorish and boring behaviour of most Australian backpackers too. Being reminded recently of my fellow Australians' behaviour made me realise that I can be at home anywhere in the world: being in Australia doesn't mean people will understand me any better. Although they may not look confused when confronted with the way I pronounce "vitamin".

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