I am writing this in Darwin, where it all began for me — my life in Australia, that is. Thirty years ago Darwin was as close to frontier living as I was game for. It had some considerable challenges for this thirty year old Ohio transplant. When I first came here, at the end of our honeymoon, everyone kept telling me how different Darwin was to the rest of Australia. Because I hadn’t seen the rest of Australia, I wasn’t at all sure to what they referred. But it was certainly unique to my living experience. And then of course there was a new marriage to get used to as well. We had spent a total of six weeks together before our wedding day. We knew a fair bit about each other by the time we got together, however, having grown up in the same small town, a story for another post!
Three weeks after arriving to Darwin as newlyweds, Don asked me if I would mind for him to go to the yearly ‘fishing competition’ for the weekend. As an uninitiated newbie to the larrikin character of the Northern Territory, I actually thought is was a competition for fishing. Silly me. I later learned the fishing was secondary to the drinking and crazy behaviour of the participants. Well okay, boys will be boys. I was a fairly independent person and thought I would be fine for the weekend. Silly me, again.
It was a Friday when Don left for the bush, directly from work. I had my own ‘nesting’ plans as I was still trying to convert a bachelor’s flat into something that more closely resembled a couple’s abode. We both ate beautiful fresh mango for breakfast, the way the Asians eat them, cutting the ‘cheeks’ off from the large seed, scoring it and turning it inside out to eat the sections off the skin, one by one. Nothing better than a fresh Bowen mango.
Don gone to work, I set off into town, about a fifteen minute walk each way, to get a few supplies for my weekend. As I walked the sun was already very strong and I was unused to the humidity, even in what was still the ‘dry season’. My lips felt uncomfortable and by the time I got home they were blistered, similar to a cold sore. But it was tolerable, and I really had no idea what to do, and no vehicle or driver’s licence yet to take myself anywhere to see about it. I could have taken a taxi if it was an emergency. I thought the sun had just been very strong and had burnt my lips. What else could it be?
Next morning I woke up, but realised I could barely see out of my eyes. Now I was worried. Very shortly after, a friend and colleague of Don’s who had told him she would call around to check in with me, came knocking at the door of our flat. Oh drat, I thought, a new friend to see me in this swollen, blotchy state! Ivy was a tiny Chinese woman, very wise in the ways of the tropics, and particularly about food. She took one look at me staring back at her through slits that used to be eyes, and burst out laughing! “Have you been eating mangos?” She asked. I answered in the affirmative and she laughed again and said “You have mango poisoning!” If she had not been laughing so much I would have probably been very concerned at anything with ‘poison’ in the description. I have since learned there are a lot of poisonous things in Australia!
She assured me it was likely to pass in a day or so, but she told me she’d telephone later to see how I was. By the time Don returned late Sunday afternoon, I looked completely normal again. It was good I had Ivy as witness because I think he almost doubted my story! It turns out that the mango is in the poison ivy family! Who knew? The milky sap in the skin of the fruit, leaves and branches is the most worrying element, but it turned out over the years I gradually became sensitive to the flesh of the fruit as well.
So welcome to Australia, not only do we have the world’s most poisonous snakes and spiders but the fruit has a bit of a bite as well!
Please let me know if you would like me to write more about my adventures of moving to and living in Australia.