Canberra and I

Canberra, I’ve been with you for nearly twenty-five years. I’ve seen you change the older you became. I remember the first time I met you, the time I fell in love with you.

Canberra, I’ve been with you for nearly twenty-five years. I’ve seen you change the older you became. I remember the first time I met you, the time I fell in love with you.

Comments about this post on ABC Open 500 words – New in town.

Canberra, I’ve been with you for nearly twenty-five years. I’ve seen you change the older you became. I remember the first time I met you, the time I fell in love with you.

Canberra, I still vividly remember a dream, it was dark and I was standing in the middle of a deserted street, I was distressed as I couldn’t find my house. A godlike figure clad in black appeared, then grabbed me and transported me to a cold hard place with his divine power. There the god led me on a walk through dark alleys and unlit roads to a desolate city. The wind was howling all around me and the chilly air cut into my flesh like knives, I was scared, and I ran and ran in a panic to find a familiar face.

Then I woke up, outside the sky was as black as ink, and the wind shook my windows violently. My body felt frozen by the cold. It was my first winter with you! The temperature often dropped to minus 8 overnight and it left thin layers of ice on top of car windscreens, garden ponds and puddles. Then I knew why you were called “the Siberia of Australia”!

I missed the friends in Melbourne. I missed the busy metropolitan city with suburbs of different characters. I wondered who would take my jobs that two companies offered. One of the jobs that had been offered was the envy of many of my friends at RMIT.

I stayed at the Macquarie Hostel reserved for people on the move to Canberra to take up public service jobs in the 1980s. Together with friends from the hostel: Moira from Scotland, Geoff from England, Ratilla from India and Kaoru from Japan, we visited the Caphs cafe and restaurant in Manuka every Saturday for brunch. In the cosy atmosphere of the cafe, I began to like you, Canberra!

I used to sing the Vietnamese song “The sad city” when referring to you. In those days, Civic slept from noon on Saturday through to 9am the following Monday. When I walked amongst the suburbs, the streets were all so quiet. I heard nothing but the sound of my footsteps. Later on, Canberra, it was this peacefulness that drew me closer to you!

I fell in love with you in the first Autumn. I saw the romantic picture of you when the roads were lined with red-leaf trees. I loved the sight of the sky as if it was lowered down with grey clouds.

These days, the older I became, the younger you got. I feel out of place with those noisy hip night clubs and giant modern shopping centres that have mushroomed lately. Trendy houses were born overnight, the long traffic jams in the mornings and in the afternoons frustrate me. I feel the distance between us. I feel my love for you wither.

You’re loved for your renown,
Of leaves dyed red the town in Fall,
Of calm life, city – small,
Of attractions enthrall people.

Yet age makes you hustle,
Houses, shops, clubs jostle for space.
My love dwindles apace,
Busy township betrays my dream.

P.S. The above poem was written in Vietnamese ‘luc bat’ poetry style. For more information about that poetry style read this article on Wikipedia.

Image credit
by Đức-Huy.

Canberra, I’ve been with you for nearly twenty-five years. I’ve seen you change the older you became. I remember the first time I met you, the time I fell in love with you.

Canberra, I’ve been with you for nearly twenty-five years. I’ve seen you change the older you became. I remember the first time I met you, the time I fell in love with you.

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2 thoughts on “Canberra and I

  1. I can relate, especially to the fact that many people find Canberra difficult to like at first. I was too young to remember arriving in Canberra, and if I had not grown up there, I might have found its apparent bleakness off-putting. At one level it certainly seems a sterile, “soulless” city of dull bureaucrats and grey monuments, while at a much deeper level not that at all. It’s not a city you can understand in a week or two, which I think is a compliment.

    Canberra’s soul is hard to see precisely because it’s not so much in the city physically as it is in the hearts of the people. That’s its beauty. It’s probably the most natural city on the planet, and even better than its residents enjoy and value this rather than the conventional attractions of other cities. Canberrans are people who will stop the car to let a family of ducks pass, or who will take an injured animal home and care for it like their own child. My ex-wife had a serious accident at a shopping centre, and within seconds a platoon of people came running up to help. She said where she had come from prior to Australia, no-one would have done that.

    You can see a show or have a meal anywhere, but only Canberra has places of deep beauty and spirituality just off the main roads. Like anything of importance or value, it’s not obvious. What is obvious and flashy often doesn’t have much value.

    I doubt I will ever live there again, simply because I’m too familiar with it. There are probably no new places or experiences for me there. However, I also deeply miss it. It’s because of Canberra that I am what I am. I even miss the bleak winter rain, I may be the only person ever to have enjoyed walking in it. All aspects of seasons are beautiful, except for sameness.

    Compared with where I live now, there is such a difference in depth, soul, and consciousness. 🙂

    Like

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