Sitting around a table the other night at a dinner party for a friend’s birthday, I was ambushed by a spray of questions about Australian fauna.
“What’s the difference between a wallaby and a kangaroo?” “Have you ever had a pet wombat? Do you know anyone who keeps a wombat as a pet?”
It was peculiar enough last year to receive the condolences of strangers on the death of Steve Irwin. Somehow the strangers all assumed I knew him personally. This time around, I couldn’t tell whether the questions were sincere efforts to satisfy curiosity, or a strange if unconscious tactic to reinforce my status among the group as the “resident alien”. I did ask my interrogators at one point, “Are you serious?”, which probably didn’t help my social integration.
It wasn’t quite Mice and Men – no questions about rabbits, no Lenny to utter them – but it was a long time since I’d felt so alien.