Last week I had additional pages added to my passport. In my visit to the American consulate in Sydney, there was a separate line for American Citizens! In Oz, most of the time it’s more difficult as an American, though not institutionally, just culturally or generally because you don’t understand the difference between Union and Rugby League, or because half the people on the ferry home are already slurring their speech and the double accent means I have no idea what they are saying.
However, every day I’m more and more at home here, even if my accent (which about 85% of Oz assumes is Canadian) sticks out. And now, I’ve applied for permanent residency, which is a long process, and means I’m not even thinking about when I would head back to the states, and plan to be here a lot longer. While this means I won’t see my U.S. friends and family as much as I’d like to over the next few years, it completely changes how you approach every day here.
As a result of applying for permanent residency, I even received a medicare number yesterday. This means that I am now a part of the Australian socialized medical system, though most professionals still carry private insurance. The system here (like any) comes with pros and cons – the public clinics are assembly lines of 5 minute appointments, the private family practices give you 30 minute sessions of attention. A new adventure in medicine begins.
I still am nowhere near being mistaken for an Aussie in Sydney, and I don’t think I ever will – I don’t drink coffee, I can count the number of beers I’ve had on two hands in the last 12 months, and I find the political system incredibly entertaining (instead of annoying). But the ocean, the ferry, the CBD, and the pace of life is now what I think of as “home”.
Physically, I look less and less human every day. This is not an exaggeration. I remember Star Trek had alien races where just a couple of features distinguished them from humans – maybe a pronounced brow line, an extra couple of feet in height, or green skin. Well, I think I have about 10 non-human characteristics. As I look in the mirror, I have to laugh more and more, because Kirk and Spock would have phasered me on sight.
Most of this is as a result of my triathlon training. What? Yeah, yeah – most people as they work out get closer and closer to the ideal norm. Not me. With every run or swim I deviate farther and farther from da Vinci’s man (though that guy did have four arms and four legs).
I recently did some reading on “ectomorphs”, which apparently is my body type:
Ectomorphs find it very hard to gain weight. They have a fast metabolism which burns up calories very quickly. Ecto’s need a huge amount of calories in order to gain weight… Ectomorphs should eat before bed to prevent muscle catabolism during the night.
The high metabolism is a blessing and a curse. Even with eating before bed, I’m looking a bit on the scary thin side, which only accentuates:
- The Spondy in my spine (my back isn’t straight and my L5 and Sacrum don’t seem to agree on where they should connect, so 3-4 vertebrae jut out.
- The transplant scar. It’s faded but people at the pool often notice – maybe here they just see it and think I made friends with a feisty jellyfish.
- The dialysis catheter scar tissue. There’s some protective “tissue” which kind of looks like a little fat protecting a small area next to my navel, but only on one side of my body. Kind of a small bump, like I’m pregnant with a baby mouse.
- My neck. It’s longer than the average neck.
- My rib cage – it’s lower and farther forward than the average, and it makes my whole torso (which is already short for my height) look slightly “not of this world.”
All this, plus generally having the tan of a blind, prehistoric cave fish, makes a decent visual case that I’m not homo-sapien, but AN ADVANCED, SUPERIOR SPECIES.
I hope you welcome your new extra-terrestrial overlord with open arms.