“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.”
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