On a downer
By Kazuya Muto
Three months have passed since I came to Australia. In that time I've encountered a lot of people from many different backgrounds, and each encounter has been a learning experience in some way.
Take, for example, the Indian family I am staying with. I enjoy living with them, but there have been some problems I hadn't anticipated.
Sharing a house with a family is hard, particularly if you're a university student because of the difference in lifestyle. I'm often invited to go to a pub or a party by other students, but I turn them down, because I don't want to inconvenience the family.
Secondly, they seldom speak English. They speak Hindi. That's understandable because it's their native tongue, but still, it's stressful for me. I have no idea what they're talking about, and — I know it's paranoid of me — but I suspect that they are sometimes speaking ill of me.
Then the other day, something happened that really soured relations. It made me decide that I could no longer live there. I had to move out.
It wasn't to do with the flickering lights, the faulty shower or the limited Internet access. I could live with those without problem. It was to do with the electricity bill.
It was more expensive this time. They showed me the bill, which comes every two months, and told me I had to pay the extra amount on top of the amount we had agreed on when I moved in. I said that wasn't fair and there was nothing to show that I was responsible for the extra electricity. They said their lifestyle hadn't changed in the last few months so it must be me.
Finally I gave in. I paid, but it was at the expense of any trust between us. I became suspicious of everything they did. Gradually I withdrew into myself and seldom talked to them. It depressed me, and it began to affect other parts of my life. I began to doubt the sincerity of people who said they were my friends. I'd never really felt that before.
But my friend Robert helped me through this.
One day, he asked me to lunch. We started talking about the usual day-to-day stuff. He seemed to be enjoying his life in Sydney. You could see it in his eyes. I said to him, "You're always so positive. Haven't you ever had any bad experiences that have really got you down?"
To my surprise he said he had been a little depressed when he was in Germany. "I was fed up with everything when I was there. Once I started to think negatively, it was so hard to get out of that mind set. But I thought it through. I worked out what I could do and what I couldn't do. You know, we're both so lucky. We're in Sydney, and we have so many chances to experience new things that we can't experience in our own countries. We should take advantage of that. We should learn from these experiences — whether they are good or bad."
His words raised my spirits. I felt a burden lift a little from my shoulders.
"You know," said Robert as we said good-bye. "You express your emotions very physically. When you feel sad, you can't laugh. So when you find you can't laugh, just remember what I said."
Shukan ST: July 7, 2006
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