Well we finally made it through the good-byes, the shipping of boxes, the packing up of the house, the finishing up of jobs. One of the weirdest parts of all that to me was the number of keys dwindling one by one, until I was left with no keys at all. I now owned nothing that I could unlock—funny how a sense of belonging can be tied to keys.
The day had arrived to head to the airport. No more planning, organizing, packing—the time had come to actually leave. Funny how that was the part I was the most stressed about—the logistics of getting my children and their important belongings to the other side of the world, freaking out about how they would handle over 24 hours of straight travel. Oddly, that was the smoothest and easiest part about this whole venture so far. The most difficult part of the travel was walking away from my Dad at the airport. He can be so calm, but when it hit me that he was not going to walk away until we were out of sight, I couldn’t keep it together. We were a travelling clown show with all our carry on bags and strollers and trying to organize them all for the security check, and he was still there. I told Steve and Chuck (our friend who happened to be travelling on business that same evening and turned out to be a Godsend in the Denver airport) “We have to organize this stuff later and get moving, because my Dad is not leaving until we are out of sight and I can’t do this while I’m crying and trying not to look at him one more time.”
The boys handled the flights amazingly well. I have learned that the trust young children have in their parents to do right by them is one of the most beautiful realities of life. The biggest stressors of the trip were realizing that there were a distinct lack of porters in both LA and Brisbane, which we had planned on using to help transport all the luggage, and so leaving us on our own pushing three trolleys full of luggage and herding two children around the airport and through customs. Other than that, the travel was really quite a breeze. Why was I more stressed about that than about learning to drive on the other side of the road, learning new brands of foods and toiletries, learning a new culture, learning a new currency, finding jobs, finding a place to live, making friends…..I wonder if maybe I made my mind focus on the one issue out of all those that I could visualize, while all those other concepts are so foreign to me, in every sense of that word.
So on Day 1 in Australia, 21st, September 2011 (see I’m learning how to write the date differently, too!), we landed at 6:45 a.m. local time, and arrived at Steve’s parents’ house, our “home” until we find our own, later that morning. His parents were thrilled to see Steve and meet the boys, and fed us a nice lunch at around 10:00 and showed the boys lots of new toys. Again, the trust children have is amazing—to be so warm and considerate towards three people they have never met, on the other side of the world, after all they have been through, makes me feel like a real B—— sometimes. The day was pretty uneventful, and I honestly cannot even remember much of it. I know we walked down to the water and I am already well aware of how beautiful this place is. I love listening to the sounds of all the many different birds, and looking at the lush vegetation and brightly colored flowers—absolutely gorgeous. Of course, being able to see the sea so regularly is very soothing as well.
The most memorable part of the day was Drew’s meltdown at bedtime. The little guy had slept about 8 hours on the plane, and a half hour in the car from the airport and that was it. He had been unable to nap that day and was just wired since we arrived. The poor guy just shattered at bedtime and it broke my heart. However, it didn’t last long in hindsight and then he slept right through the night—lucky bastard, and ever since has been fully on Australian time. Zach has had trouble sleeping since we got here, and has some severe separation anxiety, so, needless to say we all have not been getting much rest and are still feel somewhat like shells of our true selves, which is an improvement from the feeling of being hit by a train that was the overwhelming feeling of the first day. Luckily, most people understand our fatigue and need to rest and get oriented.
The first full day in town, the 22nd, we tried to take it easy and just get our bearings, We were mostly around Steve’s family, who were in and out of the house all day, starting early in the morning. We did make it out to the grocery store, so that we could feed ourselves for a few days! Talk about overwhelming! I have been in Aussie groceries before, but being on vacation is a much different feeling than realizing that I actually have to figure this out and get proficient at it for the sake of my family’s health! Steve’s parents, knowing we need to be extra careful about money right now, directed us to a cheaper, warehouse-type place called Aldi.
Thank goodness we were all together, because that would be a hard trip for me and just the kids alone—-because of how the carts (trolleys) are handled. We had to park along a street about ¼ mile away from the store and then pay a deposit to unlock and use the trolley, then get it returned when you put it back. However, you have to take all your groceries back to your car, load them and then bring the trolley back to the store. Yikes! It sounds small, but that was a lot for me to absorb. Looking at all the food options just literally made my head spin. I was trying to buy foods I know the boys like and buy ingredients to be able to make meals for the crew and I recognized hardly anything. Graham crackers are considered a sweet and are called biscuits (cookies), so I finally found those although felt like a bad mother for feeding my children biscuits daily as a reasonably healthy snack! I was able to piece together ingredients for a few basic meals, but am not sure at all what I’ll make on a regular basis—thank goodness for Anna’s Mum’s offer to bring dinner on Sunday so I can sort of take my time to get to that point!
The other thing that struck me about the store was how crowded and chaotic it was—on a Thursday late morning. Apparently, school is out right now (for a 2-week September holiday—nice!), but still….I think there are less big stores here and populations are more condensed because I have always felt the stores are insanely crowded here, even on previous visits. Another thing I noticed was how friendly and helpful the employees were, but only when you need them and there was a certain genuine quality to it. The boys were quite a nightmare in the store and broke some eggs (nothing like drawing attention to the foreigners) and the girl cleaned it up with a laugh, teasing us and welcoming us to Australia when I joked about this being our first shopping trip in the country. We had to go to a fruit shop next door to get better, less expensive produce. It definitely takes more stops, more stores to get things done here, but that’s nice in a way…unless you’re in a hurry.
The weather is much like Denver’s current weather, even a bit cooler, but that’s likely more due to us dressing like it’s summertime. That breeze off the water can be cold! Drew insisted on swimming in the pool here and we also took them to the park nearby for a bit and it was cold!
Today, the day I am writing this, is our 3rd day, Friday, the 23rd. We are still in pretty much the same mode, and today made it out to run a few errands, picking up some household basics that we needed and opening a bank account. Today’s shopping I liked because we were inside what we would consider a giant shopping mall the whole time, but it included a grocery store and had lots of fun, free stuff for kids to do, so I could feasibly spend an entire morning in one of those, getting all errands done and keeping the kids entertained as well. Also, the employees at the bank were very nice and helpful and I think more understanding of the kids and their behaviour (Wow, spell check is making me spell that word with a “u”!) than I would find back home. It’s hard to say though—there are nice people everywhere and cranky people everywhere.
Prices so far have been quite on par with Boulder prices—some things more, some less, some the same, and I do like that the taxes are built right into the shelf price, so it is easy to know what your total will be when you check out.
A couple things I have been pondering about the lifestyle:
-Steve applied for unemployment yesterday. Apparently, it is very commonly done here, not a big deal to be in between jobs for a while for travel or any reason, and they enabel everyone who needs it to have cash coming in, and there is no shame in asking for it. You can quit your job and apply for it, travel overseas and come by and apply, etc. It just gives you some assistance while you are “in between”.
-I was realizing that Steve’s parents have a very nice lifestyle, much on par with my parents. Both couples have worked hard their whole lives, been frugal and careful with money. However, neither of Steve’s have degrees—his stepfather worked as a truck driver, and his mother as a preschool aide. I think Americans would have to work more than just those two jobs (one for each person) to attain the kind of lifestyle they have today. Also, both are fully retired, and not worried about their future lifestyle, and they are about the same age as my parents, who both work part time.