Our places of chaos and calm
Melbourne— "If Melbourne is home, we would like to welcome you home." My heart leaped when the flight attendant said this upon touchdown.
It's my third time in this city that remains on the list of the world’s most livable and most desirable to live and work in.
I’m here as one of the journalists from Southeast Asia who were given media fellowships to cover the Harm Reduction International Conference that gathers thousands of global delegates to discuss human rights, public health, drug policies and ways of reducing the harms of drug use.
The last time I was here was in July 2014 — during Australia’s coldest month— to cover an international AIDS conference. It was noteworthy because it was also the time that a Malaysian Airlines plane was shot down while flying over Ukraine, carrying some of the delegates en route to the conference. The tragedy turned the usually festive event somber.
My first time being here was in October 2001, attending another event. It was unforgettable because I got to experience the city for the first time, its lure of old- and new-world Victorian-era suburbs and sophisticated urban charm. It’s easy-going and laidback. Even the birds played it cool because they would come near me as I was chilling in a park.
But during that time, the city’s unhurried bearing was distracted by famed American nude photographer Spencer Tunick’s photoshoot of hundreds of naked people who lined up along the Yarra River, which was in the newspapers the next day.
The first thing I looked for upon arriving this time was the colorful trams that made their way through the city’s streets. My heart leaped when I saw the first tram, wanting to hug it like a friend I haven’t seen for a long time. The city’s public transport also doubles as a “tourist guide” of some sort as I get to see the stylish houses, galleries, parks and shops, the funky bars and the coffee shops that are both trendy and quaint.
Just like the people who live here, you can walk barefoot in the park or promenade, jog, run and bike whenever and wherever you want.
Melbourne has the plumpest and reddest strawberries I’ve ever tasted, the tastiest pastries and the most unforgettable coffee, called “long black.”
People here are self-assured and unperturbed, looking like they will never allow anyone to mess up their enjoyment of life – a far cry from the place where I come from, where, if you don’t know how to take care of yourself, you will be pulled down into its erratic happiness quotient.
It also has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, again, a far cry from where I’m from, where people can be ruthless and violent.
Melbourne doesn’t usually land in one’s must-see, bucket list destinations, and it doesn’t care because it doesn’t beg for it. This amazing place is simply there for anyone who longs to be quiet and leave their troubled places to be in this city that offers calm and peace.
Diana G. Mendoza is a longtime journalist based in Manila. Send feedback to email@example.com.