Kangaroos end a bizarre year

Coming home after a year away is a strange feeling. I think anyone who has spent time away from home feels the same: everything seems so unremarkable. Yet the images and memories from the places you have been keep popping up despite being assailed by familiarity.

We were in Denver, Colorado, with the Rocky Mountains in full view, and the snow falling when we drove to the airport. Those images are difficult to erase. We also left our exchange two months early, due to a family illness at home.

Leaving was both easy and hard. Hard due the scarcity of flights and limited seats on those flights. Hard because of the inflated fares for those flights. Hard to negotiate the bureaucracy of quarantine exemptions. And hard to leave colleagues, students, friends and neighbours with whom we had formed relationships. But easy to leave a place where COVID-19 cases were skyrocketing. Easy to get away from a fractured and volatile political situation. And easy to look forward to seeing Aussie colleagues, students, friends, neighbours and family with whom we have enduring relationships.

Leaving the US, however, was relatively straightforward. Reports of economy class passengers being ‘bumped’ off flights in favour of higher-paying travellers seemed not to apply to the US. Our fellow exchangers in Canada had no such luxury.

I completed the exchange at home by getting up at 2am and logging in to teach at Mountain Range High. By the time the last lesson came around, the sun had risen, and I showed my students the kangaroos grazing outside the front door.

Just another asterisk to the bizarre year that was 2020.