Tuesday, January 19, 2021

My first Aussie summer: Battling homesickness (and sunburn)

Air-con, sunscreen, and cricket dominated this FOB's first Australian summer experience.

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

The new year is here, and the summer of 2021 is underway… or is it? As an international student spending my first summer in Australia instead of running off to India to enjoy that extended vacation, I expected blistering hot days. I was promised cool waves, endless beach days, and sitcom-esque adventures.

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Instead, as I sit down to write this, a cold bottle of water within arm’s length, it’s come to my attention that it’s been comparatively timid weather.

Sundaes have remained intact upon exiting the ice cream parlour and the occasional jacket has snuck its way out of the closet on an overcast day. The ‘bloody hot’ Sydney summer hasn’t quite bared its teeth.

Growing up in Bangalore, a city known for its moderate climate and cold beer year round, I’ve never had to experience particularly hot weather. To me, anything above 22 degrees is hot – and anything above 30 degrees is outright burning. But, I was ready to test my mettle against the Aussie sun.

Perhaps a boon rather than a bane, this year’s summer has stayed a manageable affair, sparing me from those amusing incidents of checking my seat for sweat-stains or needing to duck into a convenience store to take shelter in the A/C. (Or air-con, to use the lingo of the land.)

As I soon came to realise, it also offered a chance to salvage unproductive days with the seemingly never-ending daylight. Is 8 PM too late for a workout? Is 9 PM too late to run errands? Surely not, if you can make hay while the sun shines, in its most literal sense.

READ ALSO: Australian summer checklist

scg match
SCG or Wankhede Stadium? Photo by: Rhea Nath

Even as the dust settles on the last leg of AUSvIND matches, the pleasant weather has also meant a relatively good summer of cricket. I’m hardly the most ardent supporter, but it’s a terrible mistake to discount the electric stadium atmosphere. Any homesickness gets wiped away sitting in the stands when, for a brief moment, the loyal fans transport us to Wankhede Stadium, flags, chants and all. This time, of course, with the welcome option of a mid-game beer.

Still, the most amusing anecdotes have come from conversations with family back in India as I complain about the rare humid day… before I notice their jackets and shawls, scarfs and hot teas, and remember that we are, of course, in the southern hemisphere. Summer activities in December and January – it still takes a second to wrap my head around it! (still #freshofftheboat, guilty as charged.)

summer clothes
Source: Kristin Hardwick/ StockSnap

Discovering my version of Oz summer fashion has been an interesting affair. What does one wear for those sweltering hours in the sun? Jeans are but an abomination, socks are an unwanted nuisance beneath our soles, and during a heat wave, even a dress feels like far too much clothing. This year, we have had cloth masks to add to the equation. Every day as I lather on the sunscreen, I think of next season’s potential trend – sporting strategic tan lines across half our faces.

But I can’t really complain. Maybe it’s the lingering New Year spirit hangover, but I find that it’s almost comforting to be able to enjoy this summer. To savour the days. After all, from bushfires and protests, restrictions and all sorts of distance, the past year was a challenging one. As the vacations rolled around and we were able to venture outdoors (staying COVID-safe, of course), it almost feels like we weren’t being handed anything we couldn’t handle.

Will I be cracking eggs on the pavement to see if they cook in the heat? Nah.

Instead, almost like a mantra for the new year, you can find me looking out for more sun tan and less sun burn. (PS: Seriously, don’t forget the sunscreen though.)

READ ALSO: Aussie Lingo: Expressions that work differently on a FOB

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Rhea Nath
Rhea Nath
Rhea L Nath is a writer, editor, and content creator studying at the University of Sydney.

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