Life is moving fast, and its pace has been difficult to keep up with. Early July is when my little baby girl is due to arrive, and instead of the lead up being a peaceful time for me and the Lainz, a spanner gets thrown into the works and life shifts into another direction, quite unexpectedly. Six weeks ago, we were given notice to vacate the premises. The landlord needed to move into the house so we were kicked out. Thus, the frantic search to rent somewhere affordable and decent around Sydney began.
It’s hard to explain the amount of crap there is out there. Dim, filthy, mold-ridden houses smelling of damp dot the Sydney rental landscape, their grease infested kitchens rendered into foul spaces covered with a melange of rancid oils and age-old dust, the two making a venomous alliance that is more evil than the sum of its unholy parts. Obviously, what used to be in our price range last year is no longer there. So as the search continued, our CBD proximity perimeter expanded to allow for the over inflated rental prices, and we saw ourselves moving out of lovely, pristine Earlwood and into the strange suburb of Flemington (or Homebush West).
My first impressions of Flemington gave me conflicting emotions. Though the area brought the promise of the new and exciting, it lacked the familiarity I share with Earlwood’s mainly Cypriot/Greek population, where the Mediterranean waters seemed to have brought me and my ex-neighbours together in a celebration of all the history we share. But Flemington has none of that familiarity. Apart from some Indian stores, Flemington possesses a strong Asian identity, with Chinese and Vietnamese seemingly the most prominent. I love Asian food, and I am fascinated with and intrigued by Asian culture, but I do not pretend to posses an ounce of insight into Asian life. Walking down the main street in Flemington makes me feel like I am in one of Lili’s recent Vietnam blogposts, with shops that have more incomprehensible signage than I’ve ever seen in a western country. I hear languages I have no hope of understanding. Words are noises to me with none even remotely of Latin origin. I am an alien in a planet where your average citizen has never bought a bottle of olive oil, where cheese making has not yet been invented, where milk comes from the soybean cow and forks are abandoned for two wooden sticks that require a dexterity of a far more evolved being. Here, red ducks and hunks of pork hang in shopfronts and a single store proudly announces “we sell coffee”. Strange looking produce is on display and every recognisable vegetable sits next to five obscure others. Beside the packets of wrinkled bean curd are jars of unidentifiable and threatening looking dried organic items that apparently help restore a man’s fire. Wheat is also unheard of. Rice is king, with bags upon bags of rice noodles sitting where my spaghetti would have claimed its proud spot. And the bread. Crisp, brown sourdough fresh from the oven toasted and smothered with lashings of good butter and organic jam. Not here, for neither butter nor sourdough are likely to be part of the daily diet. There’s just the $1.50 loaf of bread from the local Vietnamese bakery, and it’s hardly a product of an artisan, yet still the shop does a roaring trade. Monosodium Glutamate is as fundamental a seasoning as salt is, and homes unabashedly spike the flavours of their dishes with a sprinkle or two of the stuff. Butchers and fish mongers are open seven days a week because, well, people need to work. Flemington is rough and loud. She’s a tough cookie and a haggler. You know there’s no nonsense here when her graffiti tattoos scream at you. There’s no room for Strathfield’s mansions. Flemington’s a suburb with jagged edges and where, as I was unloading my furniture, I got asked if I wanted to buy a cheap home entertainment system, TWICE, by two different yet equally suspicious looking truck drivers. I have momentary doubts whether I want my baby to experience her first year on Earth here, but these doubts quickly dissipate. Three days into living here and I love it. I can’t wait to dig into all Flemington has to offer.