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.