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Sylvie

I grew up in Mauritius and my husband grew up in Belgium. We first came to Australia in September 1970 but after only a year here we went to live in Belgium with our two small children. I found Belgium too cold, though, because I was used to the tropical climate of Mauritius so we all went to live in Mauritius. But unfortunately my husband was not suited to tropical climates and became sick. In addition, foreigners were not allowed to work in Mauritius so finally we came back to live in Australia. Now we like Melbourne because here we have all four seasons.

Later, my parents and sister came to join us in Australia and my husband now travels between Australia and Belgium.

In Mauritius we learnt to speak both French and English but when we first arrived in Australia we encountered some problems. Australians found my French accent hard to understand and I found some people’s Scottish and Irish accents difficult. One day I asked for a loaf of bread in a bakery and the shopkeeper said, “Speak up. I don’t understand.” I repeated my request and she said, “Make up your mind. What do you want?” It seems she just didn’t understand me at all.

We came to live in Clarinda because the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’i required another two members to make up nine adult members. Every nineteen days we met in each other’s houses and discussed issues of concern to the Baha’i community world-wide and in the local area. Many of the other members did not have houses of their own so a lot of the meetings took place at our house, which was great.

We wanted to live in a new house so Clarinda was a good place because, at the time, it was a newly subdivided area. I now like the area very much because we have very good facilities. We are close to the city, Dandenong market and the Oakleigh shops. But when we first moved to Clarinda I was not very happy because it was a developing area and the facilities were not very good. There were no main roads, supermarket and or public transport.

In those days everybody had young families and we all knew each other. I was the only one with a telephone and all the neighbours knocked on our door to use the phone. But as their children grew up, many people found they needed more space and moved out of the area. Now we have lived here longer than most other residents and I only know two or three families in the neighbourhood.

In Mauritius everybody knows everybody else but here we have 13 different nationalities in the one street and there is a real language barrier. People hesitate to talk to other people, thinking they may not be able to make themselves understood. Nobody just knocks on a door and introduces themselves. Many people work and get up early in the morning and return late at night so we never see them.

Article Cat. Blended Voices
Article Ref. 144

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