Tourists don’t ride the bus. Well, I do, but I’m not like other tourists.
So it was wonderful to me when a few people, a husband and wife, I think, and their son asked me for directions. And there was no mistaking that accent. They were Australians. Or from New Zealand. I’ve heard those are actually two different countries. The important thing is they were from two hemispheres away.
“Could you tell us which bus we need to get to the Parthenon?” the woman asked.
I nearly fell over my own tongue starting to answer. The Parthenon is the centerpiece of Centennial Park which, for years, was the site of the largest Australia celebration outside of Australia. This was a fun annual event in September attended by the likes of the Australian ambassador to the U.S. and Colin Hay. I loved being around bona fide Aussies, hearing them drop terms like “g’day” and “dinky-di” so casually I could almost believe those were real words. There would be a tent where they sold food and beer, except they called it “tucker” and “ice cold tubes of the amber fluid”.
It was also the only place I could find Vegemite. I’m not kidding. I love the stuff, but that’s another story.
The festival ended several years ago when the original organizers moved away, and I wasn’t sure whether this family was even aware of it since this was early June. We were near downtown, but fortunately standing on West End, a large road that leads directly to Centennial Park. I told them all they had to do was catch the next bus. I could just as easily have said, “Follow me,” since I was going the same way, but I was struck by a sudden and overwhelming shyness. There were so many things I wanted to ask. What brings you here? Are you having a nice time? Can I help in any way? What part of Australia are you from? Where in Australia is Wellington? Do you have any Vegemite? Don’t you love that song about the bunyip of Hooligan’s Creek? Instead I just smiled politely.
“Is the Parthenon easy to find?” the woman asked.
“Oh, yes, very easy. There are two or three stops along the front of Centennial Park, and you’ll see the Parthenon as you go by.”
I gulped and hoped that made sense. When the bus arrived we boarded. I made my way to the back while they sat close to the front, watching out the windows and checking a map. I desperately wanted to call in to work and say a couple of dingoes had got me and I’d be waltzing Matilda on walkabout, and maybe throw in a “crikey”. Instead as I disembarked I merely smiled and said to them, “I hope you enjoy the Parthenon. It’s just a few blocks away from here.”