Remembering 1997: The Sweetest Year in My Life (Part 6)

Although it was already midnight, the Perth airport terminal was very busy with hive of activities from arriving passengers.

Perth International Airport at night.

We have just settle all of administration matters as well as having our entire luggage collected without troubles. Doddy and his Australian friend helped us carrying our luggage to our minivan on the outside.

Upon exiting the airport building, I was greeted by a very cold weather outside. So much that vapor come out from my nose and mouth whenever I exhale. I told Doddy’s friend that this was the coldest weather I’ve ever had. Being used to live in tropical country with warm and humid climate, I’ve never had this kind of weather before. But I don’t mind. I found it really exciting!

As the van driver, which we called Hans*, arrived we began to load up all of our belongings into the van. Once all bags are in, Doddy and his friend bid farewell and return to their house. Hans* took us to our destination: my lodging, and the hotel where my father and my sister will stay.

It was late at night, and the Perth metropolitan area was already deserted. We drove past the largely empty main street of Perth. It was the first time I visited a real western country, not a pimped up and heavily westernized Asian country like Singapore. The scenery truly reminds me with those that I see in the Hollywood movie, unless this time I experience it by myself. The shops, the restaurants, and the car dealers that we passed through, they’re all like what I see in the movie!

Typical night life in Perth.

Sometime we pass through some level crossings. Although back in 1990s my railway enthusiasm was largely dormant, I’m curious to know what type of train that plying the railway line in Perth. I remember we passed through one level crossing with overhead wirings above it. I later learned that it is part of Perth suburban train system, called Armadale line.

As we approached the city center, on a freeway (not toll way as the entrance is free), the houses and small shops gave way to office blocks. Yes, there are tall skyscrapers in the downtown Perth, although not impressive as what I see in Singapore. From what I look, it is just a very modern, but largely deserted city (since it was wee hour in the morning).

Our driver, Hans*, introduced himself as a German migrant who have lived in Australia for around 20 years. Although he has been in Australia for long, his thick German accent is still audible. He used to work as a sailor, and sailed to many places around the world. But it was in Australia where he met his future wife, whom now works in the college where I will study. After his marriage to his Australian wife, he decided to migrate to Australia. For the first few years after his relocation to Australia, he still worked in the maritime industry. But he eventually retired, and works in land so he can get close to his wife and children.

Throughout the journey, he also act as some sort of tour guide who explain interesting places that we passes through or around the street that we drive on our journey, such as the Swan river, Burswood casino (which at that time was said to be favorite gambling  playground for one of Suharto’s son who was a chronic gambler and also some corrupt Indonesian officials), Curtin University’s Bentley campus, the city center, Perth railway station, and also my college itself.

Burswood Hotel and Casino at night.

After about half an hour journey, we finally arrive at my house in Perth. It is located at 170 Grosvenor Road, in the suburb of North Perth. The place is a middle class suburb, where many of its inhabitants are working class people or senior citizens. Perhaps, due to lack of garage, or for practical reason, many of them parked their cars on the grasses between the road and the pavement.

170 Grosvenor Road at North Perth. As seen in Google Map Street view in 2017 (20 years after I stayed in the house). The main entrance door can be seen in the middle, while Shah Jehan’s room entrance is on the left corner of the veranda.

Many of the houses in the area, including mine, are old houses which seem to be dating back from the 1960s or even before that! Indeed the house where I live seem to have 1950s design. Its front lawn has been paved over with concrete painted in red. Amazingly, it has low fence (which could potentially expose the house to would robbers) despite of its close proximity to city center and major road.

Although the lights at veranda are on, the windows look dark.  I wonder if everyone has already sleeping? Hans* knocked the front door. After some effort, the owner came and opened the door. He greeted me and my parents with warm and friendly welcome. The landlord name is Siraj Haniffa, while his wife is Feroza. They live with their 2 very young children, named Suhail which is 3 years old, and Shimla which is only a few months old. They are Sri Lankan Muslim migrants who have lived in Perth since their wedding in 1994. They are really friendly and hospitable people. This gave me sense of comfort.

I’m not the only foreign student who lives with them. There are also another 2 Indonesian from Jakarta who lives there. They are Dani* (pronounced as “Danee” or “Danny”), and Erick*. Dani* studies Hotel Management, and currently on an internship program in one hotel, while Erick* is an IT student at Curtin University. Contrary to the warm and friendly host, they seem to receive me with slight ignorance. Although they were initially friendly, they gradually become colder and occasionally hostile towards me. I was pretty much an outcast in front of them. More of them will be described in latter chapters.

And aside of those arrogant Indonesians, actually there is another student who lives in the house. His name is Shah Jehan, and he is also a Sri Lankan Muslim. Indeed, he is actually the brother of Feroza. He is studying IT at Edith Cowan University. Although he stays in the house, his bedroom is located in an isolated narrow alley in front of the house, which is only accessible from the outside.

After I settle all of my belongings in my bedroom, my father and my sister bid farewell to me and my host, Siraj, before Hans* took them to their hotel.

Well, it’s the first time that I’m in an environment where none of them speak my language and all foreigners! A few minutes after I settle down, both Dani and Erick left the house to do their business, and now I’m all “alone”. Although still, they’re Asians and Muslims. Shiraj, showed me around the house so I can get accustomed with the house and the surrounding environment. He shows me where the kitchen is, how to use microwave, the washing place, the bathroom and toilet (I’m surprised that both are separated!). He also told me that my college is quite near to the house, and within easy walking distance. For shopping, he recommend Coles supermarket which is located a few hundred meters to the north.

Being a Muslim, he said that if I want to attend Friday congregation, he can come home and go to Perth Mosque with him and Shah Jehan. He said that the college normally allows student to come home early in Friday for this.

In addition, Shiraj also gave me an old boxy device with faded light brown color that looks like a fan, unless that it has temperature controller. I wonder what that is. Shiraj said it’s“room heather”. Since I’ve never heard such device before, I haven’t figure out how that device would help me to sleep. So that’s why I don’t use it on my first night in Perth, despite of freezing temperature.

An example of electric heater fan. Mine was an old boxy one.

Well, it’s getting late so I said goodnight and settling into the bed, switched off the light to help me rest. It was really cold and quiet at that night, with occasional noise from passing vehicles or neighbor activities. The coldness seem to bother me , so I put additional blankets to make me warm. To entertain myself out of boredom, I tuned in into my Walkman. Since it is also equipped with radio receiver, I’m curious to know how radio shows in Australia sound likes. I tried to tune in into some local radio channels. Amazingly some of them still broadcast their shows. Some have uninteresting talk shows, while others playing songs of varying genres. But there is one which was nice. It was Paul McCartney’s “Silly Love Songs” with gave classic ambience to my night in Perth. I think that was good enough to entertain me, and I dozed off.

*Name in asterisk are fictitious name used to describe real life figures that I forgot their real name.



About bagus70

I'm an adventurous railfans who love to seek out the world of railway, beyond the border of my office.
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