After 7 yrs, we finally came home to Bendigo. In 2011, Leon and I had barely been married for a year when I came for a teaching exchange in the lovely goldfields town of Bendigo. Located about 1.5 hours north of Melbourne, we were perfectly situated to visit other parts of Australia. That year, I taught French to middle school students. It wasn’t what I was usually assigned to do, but I made the best of it.

In 2011, Leon and I finally had a house that was ours, in the same location, and we started to become “we”, instead of me and he. We celebrated our first anniversary in Gippsland, learning how to surf.

In that year, we made some great lifelong friends, not the least of which were Milton and Judith. They had not lived in Bendigo for very long and found a great way to meet new people was to get involved with the exchange teacher program (ITA). So that year, they hosted us, took us to visit other parts of Victoria and just became good friends to us. You can understand why we were especially happy to be staying with them for a few nights.

In that time, they hosted a bbq with some of our ITA buddies, took us on a tour of the downtown area aka memory lane (where the fruit bats, large as cats, still hang from trees in a downtown park), took us to the Edith Head fashion exhibit at the Bendigo Arts Center and shared some good food and great conversation with us. In short, they treated us like dear friends.

I also had a chance to catch up with some school colleagues, namely Jenny who taught French with me and Kerri who had visited me in BC while on her own exchange. Perhaps the most momentous occasion was my meeting with school buddy and friend, Sunnie, who invited my exchange partner Donna to lunch.

When I announced that I was visiting Australia, my former colleagues in Ottawa told me to say hi to Donna. The thing is, exchange teachers take over each other’s homes and jobs, but we take up our own lives in our new environment. I had only met Donna once before when I returned from the year exchange.

Our meeting was unusual yet we knew all the people we wanted to catch each other up on. The conversation was rapid fire with little explanation required. I reflected long that evening wondering how to categorize my feelings about this. I can only say that it’s like knowing someone because you’ve read all about them but have never met them.

At any rate, we had a lovely chat and Donna, ever thoughtful, even brought me a small jar of delicious olive spread as a gift. More proof that she knows me well although we hardly know each other.

The visit ended with our drive back to Melbourne to return the rental car and board a plane to Perth for a weeklong visit to the west coast.