Starting off in Sydney

It was late at night, when we touched down on the Australian continent. We started looking around for a taxi, and found one fully equipped with a Greek driver who seemed about as alert as we were after not sleeping well for three days, being jet-lagged and having been in a nine-hour long flight.

Orit asked me to keep him awake on the 45-minute drive from the airport to Barak and Na'ama, and this was easier said than done. I have no problem starting on an hour long filibuster, but here the point was to keep him talking, and that was a more complicated task. After this cab ride, I think I know all a person needs to know in order to get along well in Sydney, especially if that person is Greek. Turns out, by the way, that knowledge of the English language is not, as I thought, a prerequisite, and the driver was living proof of this fact. I sure hope his Greek is better.

As soon as the taxi stopped in front of the house, Barak and Na'ama came out to help us with our luggage. The cats, more prudent, decided to stay in the house and supervise the process. Misty had a suspicious look in her eyes. Chat-chat just seemed surprised to be a cat. He's like that.

It was not until weeks later that Orit and I learned that the room we got, which was very comfortable, at other times belonged to the felines. This explained many things to us. Mostly, it explained why Misty and Chat-chat were trying so hard to break into that room. Misty planned, strategized, gave instructions, provided diversions, and mostly looked innocent whenever we caught Chat-chat red handed. He somehow managed to fumble whatever it is she was trying to get him to do, be it pick the lock, keep us busy, or just hide her. What Misty couldn't conceal very well, and slipped by every now and then, was her look of "See what I have to work with" glance, which she directed accusingly at her would-be partner in crime.

The most amazing thing about this story (except for the fact that every word is true) is that much more often than you would expect, the cats would manage to slip unnoticed into the room despite our best efforts to keep them out, and would often remain there for many minutes before somebody caught on. Once, Chat-chat even managed to go as far as climb on the window looking out from our room, meaning he successfully negotiated not one but two safe-guards.

After we had settled into place, Orit got an early birthday present: lion-patterned pajamas. She switched into these immediately.

Misty, in her devilish shrewdness, decided that she and I can work a deal between each other, and after we both sniffed cautiously at each other, the deal was done: She got a good patting, while I got a foot-warmer.

Soon, all of us were off to bed.

The next morning, we were up for our first Australian adventure: breakfast. This included many things that you would not expect to find in any sane person's breakfast, the most notable of which was the Australian national food: Vegemite.

Vegemite is the Australian version of Marmite, celebrated as the best source of vitamins in the known universe. In truth, this is yet another case in which Australians decided to prove their superiority over the rest of the human race, by showing that their stamina can endure even something as vile and obnoxious as Vegemite. A good example of this quasi-food substance and what it can do to you is available in this link.

More prosaically, let us just say that it's a wonderful thing to spread on toast, if you happen to like eating yeast (which is really what it is) and don't mind spreading a mush of 100% salt solution on your toast as thick as butter.

Now, Na'ama told me that this presentation of Vegemite is insensitive to other people's cultures and traditions, displaying cultural ignorance and narrow-mindedness. For the record, Na'ama testifies that she likes Vegemite very much.

If you ask me, here's what I've got to say: I think that the Australian immigration authority is wasting its time on all manners of forms and paperwork, when they could have solved the question of "who is Australian?" in a much simpler way. All they need to do in order to check whether a person is - or should be - Australian is to put him in a room and offer him some Vegemite.

If said person says "no worries, mate!", you've got yourself a winner. If, on the other hand, said person bolts out of the room in shrieks of horror, you have a non-Australian on your hands.

Na'ama and Barak, by this test, proudly qualify as pure 100% Aussies. If you want to test your own Oz-ness, ask them to send you a jar. Decide for yourself what you think about it. Don't let me influence your opinions.

Having survived breakfast (by not eating any Vegemite), we headed off to our first outdoors adventure in Australia. This was a visit to Manly beach: a place of white sand, blue sea, green-covered cliffs, friendly seagulls, and very expensive mortgages.

Orit and I had a long walk along the beach, quietly agreeing with each other that we found heaven. Orit decided that she found a place she can afford and wanted to stay,

but I managed to speak to her with the voice of reason, convincing her that we don't really need a place in the most expensive part of the city. Take a look at things that are a walking distance away from the house of Na'ama and Barak: