The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - Mar­ion Birken­beil Re­view this­life@theaus­tralian.com.au

“Good onion,” he said with a big smile. I smiled back, al­though I was thor­oughly puz­zled.

“Onion? What a funny ex­pres­sion,” thought. “Must be Aus­tralian slang.”

I was a for­eigner, born in Ger­many. I’d never learned this ex­cla­ma­tion of praise, which amused me again and again. I had al­ready lived in Bris­bane for sev­eral months be­fore I found out the spell­ing and fi­nally un­der­stood: “Good on you!”

The first time I came to Aus­tralia was for a hol­i­day in 1986. I had just fin­ished my ap­pren­tice­ship as a gar­dener. I vis­ited rel­a­tives in Mel­bourne and trav­elled up and down the east coast.

I fell in love with the ex­otic veg­e­ta­tion, all the in­ter­est­ing flow­ers and an­i­mals — and then with a man.

It took me 11 years to meet him again, and a fur­ther year to marry him. A for­mer boyfriend called him “Crocodile Dundee”, and in­deed we had hiked to­gether in the lush rain­forests near Cairns, and I’d al­ways ad­mired my hus­band’s ad­ven­tur­ous spirit.

Now I have lived in Aus­tralia for al­most 19

I years. It was hard to find a job at first. But even­tu­ally, while work­ing part-time in a nurs­ery, I started my own busi­ness as a land­scape ar­chi­tect. I got to know plants with funny names like ‘Yes­ter­day, To­day and To­mor­row’, ‘Good­bye Neigh­bour’ and ‘Wait-a-While’ (but I never dis­cov­ered any ‘Good Onions’).

I am still thrilled by the beau­ti­ful land­scapes and the friendly peo­ple in this coun­try. At the same time, I am sad that a part of my fam­ily lives over­seas, so far away.

A few years ago, I was won­der­ing what to send my mother for Christ­mas, and I de­cided to write a book for her. With­out a plan or any ideas, I started to write in Ger­man. To my own sur­prise it be­came a story about the ad­ven­tures of two kids, their friends and dogs in Queens­land. Al­though it is fic­tion, the book re­flects my love of na­ture, wild an­i­mals, and won­der­ful or­gan­i­sa­tions such as Surf Life Sav­ing Aus­tralia and an­i­mal res­cue groups.

In 2013 my hus­band and I were stuck in the hor­ren­dous flood­ing of Bund­aberg, and I will never for­get the amaz­ing as­sis­tance of so many peo­ple. Even strangers lent a hand, helped with food, wa­ter, shel­ter and the clean-up.

Aus­tralia is a great place to live, and I am happy to be a ci­ti­zen now. Last week I re­ceived a young plant, a gre­vil­lea ‘Moon­light’, dur­ing the cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­mony.

Just af­ter I had planted it in my gar­den, some friends gave me a bot­tle­brush called cal­lis­te­mon ‘Cap­tain Cook’.

They said: “No other plant could be more ap­pro­pri­ate for a new ci­ti­zen.”

wel­comes sub­mis­sions to This Life. To be con­sid­ered for pub­li­ca­tion, the work must be orig­i­nal and be­tween 450 and 500 words. Sub­mis­sions may be edited for clar­ity. Send emails to A gra­ba­tol­o­gist is a per­son who col­lects what type of cloth­ing? Who com­posed the in­ci­den­tal mu­sic to the Hen­rik Ib­sen play In Morse code, which let­ter is rep­re­sented by four dots? Which fa­mous Aus­tralian ac­tor was born John Hadley Payne? In which decade was the first of the Coffee Club restau­rants opened?

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