Aussie comes north to enjoy the South

Published 1:05 pm Monday, April 19, 2010

From Down Under to the Deep South, Australian Yvonne Mitchell has come to Vicksburg for what she calls “the trip of a lifetime.”

Mitchell’s three-week trip began March 29 and will come to a close Tuesday, as she returns home to Kingsley, Western Australia. However, the first steps leading to her visit began much earlier.

Where becoming “pen pals” was once popular, social networking on the Internet allows instant communication anywhere in the world.

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“Two and half years ago, I met Tammy Davenport on Facebook through some mutual friends. We started talking often and soon realized our similar interests and similar careers,” Mitchell said. Mitchell manages a physical rehab center in Australia, and Davenport operates Good Samaritan in Vicksburg.

Facebook is less than four years old and has millions of users around the world.

Last October, Mitchell made the decision to come to Mississippi to stay with and meet her Facebook friend face-to-face. Also within Mississippi was another interest of hers — music.

“I used to be a singer, and my 18-year-old daughter, Zoe, is in a band,” Mitchell said. “I had heard of the South’s great music, but now I’ve found out how awesome the talent really is.”

To experience that talent first hand, Davenport and Mitchell went on a couple of mini-trips together. First to New Orleans, where Mitchell said she accomplished “loads of shopping” and got to experience the Saints mania head on.

She said, “We watched some of the games and everyone was hollering about something, but I didn’t know why, so I just hollered, too.”

Then, from March 10 to March 13, they went to Memphis. While there, Mitchell said she did even more shopping and visited Graceland, Sun Studios, Gibson Guitar and Rock and Soul.

“Also we went on Beale Street. I can’t even remember all the great bands we got to hear, going back and forth from The B.B. King Blues Club and Rum Boogie Cafe,” Mitchell said.

Some other entertainment, Mitchell noted, didn’t require driving all the way to New Orleans or Memphis.

“I’ve gotten to hear Hunter Gibson, Cucho Gonzales, John Powell and Sam Brady just within the Jackson area.” Most of the musicians, Mitchell said, are local people who perform everything from soul and jazz to country and Latin music. “There is so much to listen to.” Much of Mitchell’s time in America has been spent close to Vicksburg. Around here, she said she got to try crawfish for the first time, do even more shopping and go to restaurants.

“We all went to Sun Koon together one night. I met the owner, and while speaking to him, accidently had a mouthful of wasabi mustard. I swear I blew my brains out! I couldn’t talk for three entire minutes and that is quite rare for me,” Mitchell said, recounting her first experience with the intense seasoning.

But even more so than the music, weekend trips and spicy food, Yvonne Mitchell said it is the people she has enjoyed the most.

“Everyone here is so awesome and giving. I’ve been so many places in town and people have just given me gifts,” Mitchell said, as she sat down with an array of souvenirs around her. “I am a single mom and don’t travel that much, but I’m definitely going to come back here, and next time I’m bringing my kids!”

Davenport said that she, too, has shared in the enjoyment of the trip.

“Something really great has come from Yvonne and I meeting on Facebook,” Davenport said. “I’ve gotten to spend three weeks with her and together we’ve had a wonderful time.”

Mitchell agrees, “The people here are the warmest I have ever met… The world should take a leaf from Mississippi’s book.”