I wondered if others realised that the face in the photograph had a personality, was animated with a well-honed sense of humour, and found the procedure of applying for and obtaining a passport, that would be her identification for the next five years, tiresome. I knew. Those twin faces printed on shiny photograph paper had been taken at the post office a few days earlier. Showing of teeth, as in a smile, was out. Wearing glasses was frowned upon, and as I clutched my spectacles, with narrow frames, in my lap, hidden from the camera, I was conscious of little … my eyes are not what they used to be when I was younger.
As I studied the photo I found it difficult to believe the old face was mine. A few weeks ago that same face had caught my eye through the side rear view window of a car I was passenger in. For a moment I frowned trying to recollect where I had seen that woman before. She looked cold and sad and lonely. Surely it wasn’t me? The face in the photos didn’t look cold, nor sad, nor lonely, just expressionless. However it was necessary for me to renew my passport. I had no immediate plans to travel, but being a resident in a country not of my birth necessitated the holding of a recognizable, by the authorities, form of identification. Five years this unflattering photo will serve as my official identification. Whenever I travel abroad, whenever I need to prove my identity, this photo will be peered at by whoever is asking.
Personally I would prefer to have a photo, for official purposes that showed me smiling. I like smiling. It is a friendly emotion and one that opens an individual to participating in all types of conversations, especially on public transport, which I use when a journey of several hours is undertaken. Here in Western Australia long journeys are the norm and when I feel the need to visit family and friends in my homeland my passport will come into its own.
I arrived in Australia several winters ago. Winter in Australia is like a cool summer in New Zealand, and that first winter was as unlike any winter I had ever experienced in New Zealand. There were no icicles with their cold crystals clinging to the insides of the bedroom window and no need to have numerous layers of bedding weighing down on my sleeping body as I attempted to keep warm, there was no coal range providing a welcome warmth to the kitchen, there were no clothes draped on a wooden clothes horse, nor frozen ground that made digging carrots or parsnips a finger numbing exercise, and no sheets as stiff as boards crackling as a bone chilling breeze whipped them against the adjoining towels or carefully hidden underwear that competed for space with socks and face cloths on an inner line.
Summer crept upon us relentlessly, its heat and flies and dust a new experience. Thankfully I had a room to call my own, a room that sported an air con system. I had been pre-warned not to indulge in the cool benefits of air con until the temperature reached at least 35 degrees. I persevered. As the morning warmed and the sun rose in the clear blue sky I doggedly stayed out of its direct rays, drew drapes and gradually adjusted to Australian summers.