THE first morning Ann Schulte and Andy Holcombe woke up in Australia they heard what they thought was a computer.
Somewhere there was a modem running too loudly, maybe on the edge of failure.
Then they opened their window and discovered it was a magpie greeting the day.
After a year of living in Warrnambool, that delight is what the American couple say they will remember most now they are headed home.
“We’ll miss the magpie sounds warbling in the morning and squawking at night,” Mr Holcombe said.
On Monday morning both will put the foreshore walks and Norfolk Island Pine avenues behind them and return to the Californian city of Chico.
Professor Ann Schulte has spent her time with Deakin University in the south-west examining rural education.
She’s now planning to co-edit a book with campus education co-ordinator Associate Professor Bernadette Walker-Gibbs. “I looked up the faculty and asked if I could come and they said sure ... this seemed like a great place to come and we wanted to live outside the city,” she explained.
“We wanted to be in a community where we could connect with people.”
Mr Holcombe — a legal aid lawyer and former mayor of Chico — spent the year as a “fly on the wall”.
“I’ve had a belated gap year. If I did anything formal I job-shadowed at Brophy a couple days a week in their youth justice program.”
They both absorbed everything Warrnambool had to offer, joining events with The Artery and the F Project.
But it was also a chance to get an Australian perspective on America, Professor Schulte said.
“I was spending some time in schools. The kids were saying what they were grateful for that day and one of the kids said ‘I’m grateful I live in a country where I don’t have to carry a weapon to protect myself, like in America’.
“It’s really sad to me. We definitely have an issue with gun culture, but it was sad to me that it was his reference point.”
She was also a little perplexed when someone wrote into the newspaper comparing the Derrinallum bombing to something that would only happen in America. A few phrases also had them confused.
“Tea threw us off. Someone invited us for tea and we thought that would be snacks and tea but it was dinner — a full-on roast and dinner.”
Only one Aussie stereotype turned out to be true.
“I didn’t think everyone was going to talk like Crocodile Dundee, so it was a little surprising when they did!”