I left Canberra over 12 months ago, with plans to explore new opportunities overseas.
It was a reluctant departure. Over the course of 18 years, I grew to love the territory in a way I could not have imagined when I first arrived in ’93. Though the sheep paddocks could still be found, I had been lucky enough to be exposed to the “secret” Canberra, the one which locals have long preferred to keep hidden from tourists.
I’ll refrain from giving too much away, lest someone across the border reads this.
And yet, the world seems to have caught a little gleam of just how incredible Canberra is. From that New York Times article to social media viral images of monster smoothies and hand made ice creams and world-beating baristas, right through to the adulation poured on Canberran expats making waves in sports and show-business, it’s hard to go a month without some mention of the nation’s capital here in the US.
It’s not just “outsiders” who are praising Canberra. I’m so happy to see a constant stream of fantastic blogs and social media posts and reviews and articles from locals about the happening in the city, of which there seem to be no end. I’m so proud of what I’m witnessing from a distance, and so thankful that forums such as the RiotAct exist.
To see so much growth and activity in Canberra in such a short time makes me miss the routine I had built.
To work in a little office complex at the Isaacs shops, where clients could park for free and grab a bag of bagels after getting their legal affairs in order. So very Canberran, the duality of formal business with creature comforts so at ease with each other.
To hike Tidbinbilla on Sundays, then brunch in Kingston or Manuka and spend the rest of the day alternating between a cuppa and a beer at what seemed to be a new place every week.
To have access to food from around the globe within a couple blocks of each other, never once worrying about the quality of the ingredients or the care with which they were prepared, knowing whether a food truck or restaurant, everyone was striving to outdo each other and therefore were making the very best food they could.
To be able to meet and befriend athletes and judges and students and professionals and politicians and musicians… is there anywhere else with greater access to a wider variety of people? It’s like being on a university campus every day.
Canberra is unique in that for all the planning and detail that has gone into shaping the physical part of the city, the emotional and cultural side has been developed organically not by the demands of an increasing population, like most cities, but by the collective interests and passions of a community that genuinely wants to be there.
So why this outpouring of affection for Canberra tonight?
I suppose it’s mainly because of the recent story of Canberra basketballer Kalie Kamara, who recently ran a crowdfunding campaign for a knee reconstruction.
Kalie was a refugee from Sierra Leone. I came across him in one of the programs the Big Bang Ballers ran for at-risk kids. Within a year he was helping me run camps and clinics, and by the end of the 2nd year he was managing our Night Hoops program for migrant and at-risk kids in Belconnen, coaching our sponsored girls’ teams and running our program at Bimberi Youth Justice Centre.
Kalie is a proud and wonderful kid. He dedicated his time and energy and passions to the youth of Canberra, in spite of his own hardships.
So to see how quickly Canberra responded to his need of help has been so wonderful. It’s a Canberran thing to do. Mo fuss, no fanfare, just good old fashioned help.
I miss the things of Canberra so very much, yet it’s the people who really have my heart. No wonder former PM John Howard tried to have “mateship” put into the Constitution – he had been in Canberra for a couple months at that stage, right?
I miss you, Canberra. I’ll be back soon, someone put aside a Territory flag for me signed by you all.