Although I stepped onto Australian land with mighty expectations, I wasn’t expecting to be greeted by a charming customs officer with a laid-back twinkle in his eye, sitting on his strict chair as if it were a comfy couch. I gather he would have put his feet up if possible but since the aircraft flew in from Thailand it would have been an offense as Thai etiquette dictates not to show the palm of your feet to others.
We find our way into Melbourne without any trouble at all (everything is clear and organized) and I am struck by the cleanliness of the city. You might argue that the contrasting experience from the days before shape my first impression of this southern metropole and though I won’t argue against this interesting observation, I do scout instinctively for signs of trash, but find nothing at all. I am disappointed for some reason. I take out my guidebook and read that Australia is “the best country to live in”, according to Australians. Fine. But I still wonder where they hide their trash.
The exhibitionist skyscrapers and fancy architecture of Melbourne’s city center leaves no doubt about the district’s financial muscles. I find it slightly eery; all I want to do is scrape the surface to see what lies underneath. Unfortunately I have no time for such, as my companions want to rush southwards in direction of the Victorian coastline for some touristic…tourism. This puts me in a grumpy mood for a couple of days, driving, driving, driving along endless motorways through a flat landscape without much variation.
Ah yes. The curse of expectations… Australia is an enormous country. Any attempt “to understand it” requires you to pace down, prioritize and allow the impressions to sink in, slowly. My superficial impressions have been shaped by exciting romantic documentaries and movies with dramatic landscape and wildlife compressed into perfect-sized portions so that the viewer doesn’t decide to switch to another television channel. And like the television-swapper, a tourist jumps like a Kangaroo from attraction to attraction, so he can later tell his grandchildren or care-takers: I was there! I saw! But did it revolutionize his life?
I feel empty and spoilt and I am wasting my time. First impressions quickly turn shallow. The car blurs the landscape and I am hypnotized to sleep, sleep, sleep. When I finally wake up I remember my own mantra: to free myself of expectations. Only then am I able to enjoy wherever, whatever and to respond artistically, interestingly.
So bear in mind that the photographic snapshots I present to you here are just touristic “highlights” and shallow representations, not artistic attempts, but maybe they satisfy a certain basic, preliminary hunger for fragments of “what it looks like”.