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An Aussie in Lahore: How one man is celebrating Australia Day without beer or bacon

Tony Ozanne is a world away from Australia's annual festival of beer and barbies.

The Gungahlin businessman uprooted his life in Canberra earlier this month for a job in Pakistan's cultural, intellectual and artistic hub, Lahore.

But how does one indulge in the more jingoistic Australia Day pursuits in a country where you need a permit to drink a beer? Where an egg and bacon roll for brekkie is off the menu? Even his Australian flag is boxed up and still being cleared by customs.

"So now I find myself here on Australia Day eve with what I am sure will be 'another day' with not even a chance to celebrate, have a beer or fly the flag," he writes on his blog, An Aussie in Lahore.

"I may be able to sneak a beer at the hotel tomorrow night, as a non-Muslim I can get one in my room, or in the 'secret' bar that has been found, but it will be a table for one, and a chance to reflect alone."

What the lonely ex-pat is reflecting on is his "good luck" to be Australian.


In the short weeks he's spent in Pakistan, he's found there are two questions he's usually asked: where are you from and can you get me a visa there?

The country hosts about 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees who've fled poverty and war and face an uncertain political status.  

It's a country of Mughal monoliths and mysticism but also one the Australian government is currently advising its citizens to reconsider travel to. 

"I've sat in a cafe in Karachi googling 'Australian immigration visa requirements' and trying to find out what is involved to show/help/guide several people," he said.

What has become stark in his time in the city is the relative ease of life in Australia.

Their population, about eight times greater than our own, is squeezed into a land mass that would fit around eight times into our own wide brown land. 

"[In Australia] you go to shops, petrol stations, restaurants, hotel (anywhere really) without 1, 2 or more men armed with machine guns, pistols and [sawn] off rifles at the door," he said.

"You don't need to have in the back of your mind, 'what if' in different scenarios. Don't get me wrong, there have been NO safety or security issues here with me, but every day you read about a shooter here, a bomber there or something else, and in a different context to home."

He said regardless of whether you see January 26 as a day of celebration or invasion, it is a day of reflection - especially when you're alone, sober and sans sausage sanga in a city where Australians are few and far between. 

"For me, Australia Day is simply a day to celebrate our country, our friends, family and the good luck we have for living in such an awesome place, regardless of being white, black, brown, yellow, Catholic, Christian, Hindu or Muslim (or any other combinations or missing categories). WE are Australia, and WE make Australia a great place, so it's a good day just to relish what we have," he said.

"[Today] I'll remember my family whom are still there, and in the process of coming over [to Pakistan]. I'll remember my friends and business colleagues who know who they are, the ones who hang with me, work with me, listen to me and hang it on me. I'll remember my home, my home town – Canberra and ... everything about it that I have sacrificed to live in Pakistan.

"Generally, I'll think about just how awesome it is to be Australian."