You must be glad to be back in civilisation. A year later the same comment is made and I still don't know how to answer, besides giving a half hearted smile. M freaks me out. M feels strangely foreign, even after being away for only several weeks.

Cars, cars and more cars. Toyota, Honda, Suzuki, Ford. And driving along the same road, an old, perfectly shiny, bright frog-green, 60s style car. Faceless seas of commuters, spending a good part of our day waiting on and standing in public transport. A vintage red train screeching to a halt at a futuristic looking railway station. A whole collection of Plants vs Zombies characters along a dashboard - Peashooter, Sunflower, Walnut, Chili, Cherry Bomb. My little sister would have loved it.

Venturing into the city centre and Western suburbs, I hear snippets of familiar hometown dialects. Middle aged Caucasian men, with tattooed arms, holding a bubble tea in their hand looks strangely out of place. Herds of school children push their way onto the tram, making the squeeze as tight as the subway in Asia. I end up overhearing the conversation of two giggling high school girls and wonder if I was ever like them.

A: OMG we were on the lift right. And there were these really, really hot guys! (looks excited, fans herself with her hands)
B: Yeah?
A: And they were looking over, and I was holding my breath. And C pretended that she didn't see anything!
B: Hey, I hate you! Did you have to tell the wholeeee of year eight that I had a friend.
A: Sure, just a friend eh?
B: Yeah why did you have to tell? He's just a friend. Really!

Haha girl, that's so believable. Not. As a high school student maybe I was more excitable, crazy, and giggled endlessly about things that I wouldn't find funny now. But I definitely wasn't boy crazy in year eight.

Across the road in my somewhat alternative, hipster suburb, a neighbour walks her dog wearing bright orange pants, matched with a red top. Walking to the tram stop, there is a girl with too many layers, and another girl with high boots that are split into half black, half white along the middle - it's like she had stepped straight out of an Anime. Down the other side of the street, tall skinny men with classic Hollywood hairdos wear skinny jeans that are tighter than my stockings. Strutting along, backs stooped, hands in pockets, earphones plugged in.

Hello civilisation. Living in civilisation has given me a deeper appreciation for the lines of Solitude that often play in my mind:

Midst the crowd, the hurry, the shock of men
To hear, to see, to feel and to possess...

Civilisation isn't for everyone. Maybe that will be my response next time. Yet, on good days M seems to live up to its expectations of a livable city. Diversity is good, artsy is fun, whacko is interesting, the sun shines, the sky is blue, and I welcome back my appetite with open arms as I tuck into a deliciously crispy roast duck on rice before arriving at my tutorial. And on a day like that, I remember that where I live matters very little. The old idea of home being where the heart is - it's the quality of human ties that makes a place livable, or miserable.



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