They suddenly sprouted around Melbourne like spring flowers brought about by the overnight December drizzle. The father with spectacles in the baggy sweater, the brother with the camera slung around the neck, the sister tagging along trying to hide the protruding rabbit teeth and the mum who is inevitably the shortest of the lot. Of course at the head of this little tour group is the flashy guy or girl, with hands pointing around like signposts on the street.
They swoop upon places with style over substance, eating in places such as one where Bill Clinton had his first bowl of pho even though the store two streets over serves pho with 30g more noodles and 10 extra slices of meat for the same price. They go to exquisite Greek and Italian restaurants, with menus so exotic that they sound like foreign language. Then smugly the head of the mini entourage will tell the rest what a Moussaka or Parmagiana is, bathing in the glory-ness of the resulting oohs and ahhs. Too bad it will be short lived as the father will inevitably denounce that it was too high cholesterol and the mum said it was too salty. Not to mention too expensive.
They also went to the shopping centres like Myers and David Jones and the myriad of Direct Factory Outlets, their mental calculators going overdrive as they compare the price of the Adidas shoes and Tommy Hilfinger shirt with the equivalent in their home countries. They brought chocolates, key chains, koala bear miniatures, ticking off relatives names off an imaginary list as they went on. They walked, trammed and taxied, showing their faces in famous places and again, inevitably, got a piece of themselves captured in other people's photos and then unwittingly got cursed upon when the photos were developed. Ah, the photo would be perfect, if only those tiny ants weren't there!!
Then on a certain rainy day, you will see all these tiny sets of people congregate together, and wondered why they all looked familiar. Most certainly because they were there when you were admiring rocks on Great Ocean Road or Penguins on Philip Island. And that day will be the day when they see their cash cow - the flashy tour leader they send over as a greenhorn calf three or four years ago - got the stamp of approval from some Australian University as "fit for the market". Smile of contentment will be on their face. Another success story to boast to their neighbours back home!