His Name is Bob

Victoria is the first overseas place I ever visited. Before came here, I was a little bit nervous of how it would be living in a foreign country, which has a completely different culture as well as language than mine. But then I realised, I was coming to the most livable city in the world, why should I be worried? I was born and grew in SoE, a little town in Timor, Indonesia. The situations there compared to Melbourne are absolutely contradictory. I spent the first month in Melbourne mesmerised by the new things, such as the public transport, the classic old buildings, the beautiful gardens in the heart of the city, and even the self service check out at the supermarkets. They are all amazing. It didn’t take me so long to feel comfortable here. Living away from home and family is never been easy, but being in Melbourne helps me a lot to adapt. This city offers so many enjoyable experiences. However, if I should only pick one thing to share, I will tell you a story about Bob.

Bob was my flat mate. We lived in a flat in Carlton. If Melbourne is well known as a multicultural city, then my old flat might represent it well. We were from four different countries of three continents, Europe, Asia and Africa. Living in a diverse environment has taught me a lot, especially about tolerating each other. Bob is from England. He was a lecturer at the University of Melbourne. Now he has retired. For me, Bob is literally like a walking encyclopedia. He knows a lot of things. He likes to tell stories and I enjoy listening to him, especially when he talks about the history of places in Melbourne. A case in point, he told me about the phrase ‘let’s meet under the clocks’ to refer the meeting point at the famous Flinders Street Station. And even now digital clocks are happening, but the government still keeps these clocks to preserve the history.

Moreover, Bob told me about a lot of events going on in Melbourne. Fortunately, most of them are free. Every weekend, there are several interesting festivals or events around the city or at suburbs. We can know the information through websites or social media. I did attend some of them. Such as Melbourne’s open day, which allowed all citizens to enter public service buildings for only one day. I have lived in Indonesia for almost three decades, but I never went to the parliament house. Here, I have entered the parliament house in Melbourne in my first year of staying. Well, I know about the open day from Bob as well.

On another day, he handed me a free ticket to enter Melbourne Zoo. There was a seminar there, and he got two invitations so he kindly gave me one. I could enjoy the world renowned Melbourne Zoo (and I could see koalas for the first time, not to mention touch kangaroos!) as well as attending an interesting discussion about the environment. In Indonesia we said, ‘one stroke at a paddle, two and three islands have passed’. You may notice I already repeat the word free. I am fond of free things. Well, who isn’t?

Speaking of seminars, Bob also introduced me to many free public seminars in Melbourne, especially held by or collaborating with the University of Melbourne. I was so amazed by the culture of sharing knowledge. And it is not limited to certain groups of people, but it is open for all. I have attended so many public lectures, whether the topic is within my study area or other interesting topics, which surely are also important to know. The one that I still remember is a public lecture by a Nobel Prize winner in physiology or medicine, Sir Paul Nurse, held at Melbourne Convention Centre. It was such a motivating moment for me, to listen directly from one of the world’s most influential scientists. I went there with Bob as well.

In addition, Bob encouraged me to volunteer while I am here. He said, ‘it’s not just you who will give something. You will receive many lessons you cannot get from the class’. He was right. I did volunteer at the Victorian Asthma Foundation and I was able to travel to some places such as Sunbury and Frankston. It was a really great experience for me. As I could get a special opportunity to talk to secondary school students about Asthma prevention and treatment.

The last thing about Bob that inspired me is that he has travelled around the world. I do not know the exact number of countries he has already visited, but it is so many. Even a country that I never heard of (pardon my poor geography knowledge). So, every time I discuss an assignment with him and I mention any foreign country, whether it is in Africa or in Asia, often he will tell me about his experience when he was in there. Bob is the real example of the famous quote about travelling by Saint Augustine, who said ‘the world is a book, those who don’t travel only stay on one page’. His travel experiences really inspired me a lot. He seems to enjoy his life by travelling to countries, while teaching and also learning.

Unfortunately, now I do not live with him anymore, as I moved at the beginning of this year. But I still keep contact with him and we still meet, even though it’s not so often. Undoubtedly, my experience in Melbourne would not be complete if I didn’t know him. I may end up like a tourist who happens to study in Melbourne. I may take things for granted. Bob has shown me many interesting and valuable things about Victoria. And I thank the universe for arranging for me to make friends with Bob..

Sandra Frans' story was a finalist in the Higher Education Category: By international students studying at a university.