The end of the decade is about to hit.
Can you remember where you were ten years ago? The ultimate in era-transcending milestones, ten years ago was the turn of the millennium, not just the slightly-pathetic-in-comparison end of a decade.
I was in the town on Goettingen, Germany, living with a strange family for six weeks on what was touted as a "language exchange program." I like to imagine that the vegetarian tofu-sausage and sauerkraut-eating Hoffmann family found me a complete breeze as a houseguest, and that they were the eccentrics. To my credit, when my host-sister Lena had stayed with my family in July of that year, her parents had separated in the six-week period she was in Australia. Understandably this wasn't an ideal situation, and when I arrived in her home I found that the parents were co-habiting during the weekend, but the mum had taken up with her lover from Monday to Friday. (Their adherence to this offbeat schedule still leaves me pondering the Germanic dedication to timetables.)
The conversations around how to spend the turn of the millennium were fraught with both language challenges and teenage angst. Where were my Australian compatriots going? Was that attractive Kangol beret-wearing boy in town for the evening, or visiting friends in Berlin? Was loud music and dancing a prerequisite for having a good time, or the opportunity to attempt conversation with a strange yet mysterious drunken teen? Were we tempted by the undeniably cultural experience of the local rave, or something more intimate at the local youth club?
The loyalties to our hosts were complex: was I morally obliged to follow my host-sister to whatever party she wanted to go to, just because she was unselfishly offering me a bed and excessive amounts of non-alcoholic beer? I even contemplated the ultimate exchange program betrayal: spending the night with only English-speakers at the local Irish Pub.
We ended up at the rave, hosted by the university’s student body. The stroke of midnight found me searching for some fireworks we had hidden in the bushes near the venue, having spent hours wandering between dance halls with an Australian girl called Bronwyn. We didn't find ourselves any local German boys who wanted to practice their English skills to the frenetic beat of the DJ, and the night's anticlimactic ending foreshadowed many a New Year's Eve over the next decade.
This year I'm in Western Australia for New Year's Eve, and planning a placid BBQ by the Swan River. Miles dragged me out to the supermarket this morning to get all the necessary accoutrements, and we are all set for a grown-up evening of sauvignon blanc, cheese and man-cooked meat. (And did I have you fooled that I was still in my 20s?!)
I am so pleased that I no longer drink alcohol out of white plastic cordial cups, and don’t have to hunt down a man to pash as the clock strikes twelve. Forgive me for sounding senile, but it’s pleasant not to be a teenager anymore. Instead, I’ll probably be freezing my buttocks off and getting eaten alive my mosquitoes.
Cheers, Prost to the Germans, and enjoy tonight, wherever you are, even if you have white plastic cups.
Photo of Perth CBD across the Swan River,
from Australian Majestic Tours.
from Australian Majestic Tours.