Life has been relatively mellow this past week. Last Monday, the boys finished their swim lessons for the year—the lessons stop for four weeks for the Christmas/summer school break, and we walked down to the local pub for dinner with our neighbour friends, because kids eat free on Mondays. J Tuesday we attended a very well presented Christmas program at a nearby library, and then I had to spend a very long hour in a government office with the boys terrorizing the place to work out some identification stuff related to our government payments. On Wednesday, the boys had a great time at a birthday party in the morning for some twin friends of ours who turned three—the party was a pirate theme and the kids were asked to dress up—cute idea. I threw something together last minute for Drew that worked out very well—little like Captain Jack Sparrow I think (a little!) and he was proud of it anyway. She had commented to me at one time that she liked how American boys’ swimsuits (togs—more on that later) had the mesh insert and in Australia all she has found are plain shorts and thinks little boys would do better with the form fitting layer underneath. I had my sweet mother send over two pairs with our Christmas package and my friend was absolutely thrilled with them! It was a good feeling to be able to provide someone here with something “American” (made in China?) that they couldn’t normally get here.
That afternoon I was able to leave the boys with Steve after the birthday party and go on my own to the Christmas party for the playgroup I have really enjoyed. Everyone had their kids there except me, so I had an absolutely lovely time! Eating, chatting, relaxing in the sun—gorgeous day. It’s fun how interested people are in my impressions of Australia, what confuses me, what strikes me as odd—it makes for fun conversation. I really enjoy these women and am bummed we’ll be farther from them. They’ve said they want to organize a ladies night out for my birthday which would be SO much fun if it works out. It amazed me later that, on this day, after not quite three months of being here—I googled the directions to the house and drove there alone in our car, and spent 3 hours comfortable with and truly enjoying friends—-nothing that occurred in the sentence I just wrote was in my life not even three months ago (the town, the car, the side of the road, the people….). It blows my mind just to contemplate what can happen in life in that short amount of time.
The boys and I went to another Christmas party at our church music group on Friday. I LOVE to watch Drew try so hard to sing all the songs and fully participate (again, remember, none of this was in his life 12 weeks ago either). It is beautiful to witness how he is blossoming (I won’t go into too much detail now then about how absolutely HORRID his behaviour is towards Steve and I right now! He has turned the corner on the potty though—I think that’s official! Yippee!!!)
On Saturday in Zumba, the teacher gave us all Zumba wrist bands with jingle bells on them and she dressed up silly Christmas to teach the class. It was very cute. I have been enjoying that class—-that was my 4th time doing it I think—I can dance as kooky as I want because I don’t know anyone and won’t be at that gym in 6 more weeks! J This past week and the week before, this teacher has begun taking Drew around after class and showing him how the different weight machines work. He is proud as punch and absorbs it all like a little sponge. She is wonderful with him—and Zach’s starting to get in on the act as well—and I think it’s so kind, again, without knowing us, that she spends this kind of time just hanging out with him after teaching two exercise classes on a Saturday morning. He thinks he is a true big boy learning so much about how to exercise and loves to tell others about his knowledge.
Steve got to fish that morning with our neighbour friend, out in his boat on the bay, and he relished having that experience back in his life. We had people over for dinner and Steve grilled the snapper he caught (although they say bbq’d here—but it’s not the actual bbq flavour; the grill is called the bbq and food on it is called bbq).
On Sunday, the boys and I had another sweet morning at the church—great, kind people, very comfortable there-and then we did some fun Christmas crafts at home (this crafty side of me is just blossoming! Yeah, right. Wait till they’re older than 4!). That evening, we went back to the church where Drew reprised his role in the children’s play (although this time as a shepherd) for a Christmas carols service. It was a special evening, and again, I am touched by the community spirit in this country. It was a gorgeous evening, in spite of the mosquitoes, and I would guess about 150 people came, several kids, mostly families. Everyone got a free “sausage sizzle” (apparently our first of many of these—I have been hearing of them everywhere—seem to happen regularly, part of an Aussie party I guess)—a sausage, piece of white bread, grilled onion and sauces to choose from. Everything but nutrients. Then the children’s play, carols, a few prayers, and finished off with a visit from Santa, little parting gifts to all the kids, and then free tea and coffee and sweets that all of us who’d been going to the church for services contributed. I thought the whole experience was a great idea and the evening was very heart warming.
One thing I’ve been noticing lately about Australia and the people—many people here are fiercely protective of their “uniqueness” and “threatened” almost by being considered “American.” There is an Australian version of the song Jingle Bells, which makes the Christmas experience unique to this country and summertime. I heard it first Friday and thought it was nice that there are songs that relate to the heat here and it’s a bit sad to see the fake snow on houses here and hear all the snowy Christmas songs, when that’s not the reality here. But then I thought, wait a minute, a LOT of the world has a summer Christmas—South America and Africa are large continents made up of several countries, and there are more countries in this south Pacific area as well. I happened to be sitting next to a South African woman for a bit last night that I have really enjoyed talking to, and during this song, I whispered to her asking if there’s a South African version of the song as well. She laughed and said No! She said to me that whenever this song starts up and people start to sing the Aussie version, they all look so pleased with themselves and she has told her husband that “it’s pretty lame really.” We had a good laugh over that. It is a cute song, and it’s nice to have a song that describes the modern Christmas experience in this country, but, honestly, there are no popular songs in the U.S. that describe the modern Christmas experience either.
A friend asked me the other day if it’s getting easier yet. That question surprised me, because most people familiar with this situation tell me that it gradually gets harder, and I frequently here that the 6 month and one year marks are pretty tough, which makes sense, because early on, we were almost like on vacation; I haven’t been away from my familiarity and people for that long yet, etc. Plus, it is now the Christmas holidays, which typically makes anyone away from home struggle and miss people and home. She asked me if I’ve realized that everything is pretty much the same here. That really surprised me and I said that actually everything is different and that’s where the difficulty lies—absolutely every little thing is just different enough to make it confusing, or harder. She and her husband were shocked and said they were under the impression that Australia is completely Americanized and “we” have shaped everything that they have here. I have heard many similar comments, in worried tones—“This blah blah blah—is American, isn’t it? That…..is from America.” I said to them “I know. It seems a lot of people here feel that way, but you shouldn’t worry, because you’re nothing like America. You’re completely Australian and no one would be able to say any differently.” They were pretty stunned.
Also, I’ve said this before, but it continues to be a tough adjustment for me. Americans get a bad rap for diet, but Boulder hands down eats much better than this area of Australia. It is tough to generalize a country as large and diverse as the U.S. just as it is with a country as vast as Australia. I am appalled by other people’s diets pretty much any time I leave Boulder and this “trip” is no different.
Another weird finding—racism here seems to be alive and well. Especially among older “Christian” people. I have been blown away by some comments I have heard that would not be tolerated in any public setting in the U.S. Last week at church, the very sweet, elderly reverend was giving a sermon and talked about his experience at a Jewish synagogue. He referenced the “skull caps” they were wearing, and then gave an impression of the “Hebrew gibberish” they were saying. OMG! He DID NOT just say that—in church!! Yes, he did! Then yesterday an older woman was talking to me about our upcoming move and Steve’s job. She told me that her son teaches in the outback and is having some stress-related health problems because the job is so tough. She said “Well he’s teaching Aboriginal children. That’s like beating your head against a wall. You can’t teach them anything.” WHAT?!!!!
Wow, I really digressed. I have an entire list now of words and phrases to compare, but…another time. And I almost forgot the big news of the day—aside from our visit to Santa at the shopping centre this morning, where BOTH boys sat happily on his lap (Amazing! I think the big brother influence truly helps Zach because that was a major shock. It’s also the first time Drew has ever gone willingly to him—he’s heard so much about him this year that he really psyched himself up for the visit), the Australian government has officially deemed me worthy of holding a paying job, as of the 21st. We’ll see where that leads—I am enjoying being at home much more than I ever thought I would. However, we definitely need the income, but hope I won’t have to work more than 8-15 hours a week—AFTER we get moved and settled (sometime this spring, or is it fall?). Merry Christmas!