This ain’t a travel guide, don’t get too excited. But it IS my recount of the past two days spent in the capital city. Now, one day I would love to call myself a Sydneysider (it’s gonna happen), but having only lived in Sydney for two months, and Canberra for 2 1/2 years, I have more special places in Canberra than Sydney. There are some fabulous places in the city that I have come to adore (and now miss, being a 3hr bus trip away… absence makes the heart grow fonder).
So without further ado, let me take you through my past 36 hours spent in Canberra, with my darling family.
Straight off the bus, my family picked me up and drove to Canty’s, without a doubt the best secondhand bookshop in Canberra, if not everywhere. Three large rooms of floor to ceiling books, ranging from Philosophy, Tin Tin, Thomas Hardy, A-Z of Classical Music, French dictionaries and I even found an “unauthorized” biography of Tom Cruise (get in there before that one goes). We first found this place in 2010, when Mum and I wrote down all the secondhand bookstores listed in the Yellow Pages, hoping to find a new (second) home. Canty’s was second on the list and once found, we didn’t even bother with the rest.
The store is run by a charming husband and wife, who know too much about literature and all things publishable (I didn’t even know that was a word. Well there you go).
For Christmas last month, Zander gave me a lavish $20 voucher for the place. Believe it or not, I bought five (5) books. All wonderfully enticing and holding hoards of secrets I want to discover all at once. Reader, meet my books; my books, meet reader:
Breakfast at Tiffany’s; The Prime of Life; Metamorphosis; Madame Bovary; Lolita.
And what makes Canty’s even more amazing? The coffee shop across the road. ONA is its name: locally owned and based, it is a specialty coffee roasters that will blow your mind. Zander had a Cold Pour Over, I had a Picollo and Mum bought us all sweet, roasted garlic bread for lunch. Mind blown.
Mum was (evidently) chuffed to find a Babar book…. reminded her of Parisian adventures (but that’s an entirely different story).
Next stop: the best fabric and supplies store in Canberra, Addicted to Fabric. This place is out near Woden and needs no introduction.
The only reason we made ourselves leave (NB: “we” is Mum and I. Dad and Zander had lesser things to do) was monetary. But we did come home with a neat little pile of goodies! (yay)
I won’t tell you what I’m doing with all of these, it’s a surprise! You’ll have to wait for a later post… bet you simply cannot wait.
A brief sojourn at home listening to Zander playing Bach or somethingorother —
— we zipped along to Kingston, to the slightly famous and wholly underrated Brodburger. Selling arguably the best burgers in the city, it started out as a caravan beside the lake (the glory days) but has recently moved to a bright, shiny extension of the Canberra Glassworks. Although much of the charm has gone, the burgers are still damn fine, and their new digs means they’re now licensed. Be prepared to wait 20-30 mins on a busy night, but trust me — grab a beer while you wait — and it’s totally worth it.
I would highly recommend getting your food to takeaway and walking down to the lake. There are plenty of benches along the water front and you can admire a) ducks, b)water, c) a few attractive joggers and many not-so and d) the other side of the lake. Nah, really: it’s stunning.
But you won’t notice it till after you’ve eaten:
Eesh. If you’re thinking I wouldn’t be eating for days after my Haloumi, grilled vegetable and aioli burger, you’d be wrong. Because twelve hours later, I was at my favourite cafe-restaurant with my other fave brother, Joel. This place is in Chifley (near Woden) and is like stepping out of Canberra and into Melbourne, complete with mismatched crockery and disheveled staff. I annoyed/embarrassed/bewildered Joel with my snap-happy nature (“WHY are you taking a photo of a SAUCE BOTTLE?!”), but he was soon distracted by his sausages/eggs/toast/bacon/umm what else?
a Bite to Eat isn’t for everyone, but take a look at their website (above), go have a meal (they’re also licensed), and let me know what you think!
And a little present on the wall beside me:
My dear brother bought me my breakfast because I’d spent all my money at Addicted to Fabric. But he’s a doctor and I’m a penniless scrooge. Thanks Joely…
The rest of my time was spent catching up with the parents. They live in Papua New Guinea for most of the year, so I’m making the most of these two months that they’re home.
The past six years have been a turbulent time for the family and relationships have been strained, sometimes to near breaking point. Family has always been an incredibly important part of my life, and being separated from everybody I loved in Papua New Guinea at 16 was a hard adjustment. Certain, awful things occurred in the next few years that prompted me to isolate myself from the family (my erroneous thinking at the time: isolation=independence=strength). This was compounded with my inability to understand and accept why my parents would choose to live in another country. Things came to a head in 2011. And then I went to New York for six months in 2012. For a long time, the song I would listen to for comfort was “In Repair” by John Mayer.
However, moving to Sydney — away from Canberra, the place associated with these memories — has begun a new chapter. I can finally look back at the past six years objectively. Living in NYC forced me to grow up and consider the decisions of my parents from their point of view. NYC also forced me to trust people, see the inherent good in people, and realise that “being loved” is a state, a mindset, entirely independent of external circumstance.
I finally feel like I am through those turbulent years, and I want to foster my relationship with my parents and family. I am a stronger, happier person and do not regret anything I have experienced. These years have most definitely shown me my true friends (to whom I am eternally indebted: you know who you are). True friendships know no borders or boundaries or time and can overcome any kind of struggle.
But back to the family: things are mending, and these past two days have revealed this to me. Families depend on forgiveness, understanding, compassion, and compromise. Just as my dearest friends and family accept me — all of it — so too do I for them. I need to forgive if I expect to be forgiven myself. Love is understanding, selflessness, compassion. But mostly understanding.
There is a strength in the ties of family that should never be broken. Of course they’ll drive you crazy at times, you will hurt them and they will hurt you. Misunderstandings and arguments could last years. But underneath it all, there is something that keeps your hearts — stripped of all the bullshit, laid bare — together.
It is a space nobody can touch.
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