We hit the house hunt hard this week and it looks like our work is about to pay off! We spent a lot of time online searching; Steve looked at a few places on his own before and after work, and the four of us visited five more houses over the weekend. I am so impressed at how well my boys have behaved through all this. Hour long drives each way, sometimes just to look at one house, often at times when they would normally be eating or sleeping. Zach especially has to wonder why we are even walking through all these other people’s houses! They have been exceptional—I am so proud of them. After compiling several wonderful tips from friends, we improved our applications and submitted four of them by Monday morning.
Yesterday we got the call that we had been approved on two separate houses. Does this mean that after all this we may actually have a CHOICE?! Now I’m not getting too excited after last week’s experience until money has been exchanged and papers have been signed, but I am feeling pretty confident! Steve and I discussed it all last night for quite a while and settled on the one that is slightly more expensive, slightly larger, slightly more modern, and available on the 18th of this month.
Once I was able to put the house hunting in perspective and stop whining about it, we had a pretty good week. The boys are back in their swimming lessons and doing really well. Drew moved up to the next level and is very proud. I feel so much better knowing they are learning how to be safe around all this water. It rained almost all day every day this past week, so the boys and I got pretty creative on how we passed our time, while poor Steve tried for hours to get through the flooded roads on his commute. Luckily, it stays warm, so one fun activity for the boys is to run around naked in the backyard in the rain—so cute! We also made collages from magazines, baked, read, colored, built with blocks, etc.
Playgroup started back up last Wednesday, and I really enjoy those ladies and that group. Even though I hadn’t planned to go back to this group after Christmas because of moving, it is nice that I can for a few more weeks. Also, on Friday one of the women invited us over to play in the morning. This was great for us, because it was just what we used to do a couple times a week back in Colorado. We had no organized groups, but we had good friends, and we would just plan to meet up either out and about, or at someone’s house for the kids to play and us to chat. It was more formal and ‘proper’ here, as most things are, but I thought that was refreshing. When your host goes out at 6:30 a.m. to get a ‘morning tea bun’ and then puts out nice snacks and pretty teapots, you definitely feel valued and catered for. I feel like life is more relaxed here and people go to a lot of effort for each other. Back home we were always on our own for food, and we would just bring for the kids anyway, and of course, always shared. I know I was working part time as well and more harried in general, especially when planning the move began, so I know that adds to the feeling that life felt more rushed and stressed there than it does here. We were also concerned enough about our waistlines never to eat frosted pastry in the morning! But it is a nice treat…..as long as I can keep exercising six days a week anyway! These women are in great shape, so they must do a good job with their food choices and lifestyle. It was a fun morning.
Thursday, the 26th was a BIG holiday here—Australia Day. It is similar to Independence Day, although there was no fight for independence here; it celebrates when the first ship of English settlers arrived. It also is the middle of summer and consists of lots of bbqs, drinking, water play (including many people wearing the flag in some form—t-shirts, swimsuits, flip flops, etc.) and fireworks. I unfortunately came down with a stomach bug overnight so we had to regret our bbq invitation, which I hated to do. It was from another American woman I’d met in Playgroup, from Illinois, who has been here 15 years and we were looking forward to it. As we were planning to move, Steve found a blog he enjoyed reading by an Englishman who moved here. It was called BobinOz, and one of the most valuable tips he shared with me from it was to “never turn down an invitation” where you are new and trying to meet people. It makes such good sense and we have tried to stick to that. We have been fortunate to receive lovely invitations, so I was sad to have to turn down this one. The upside of the day was that, since it was a holiday, Steve was off, and helped out tremendously with the boys so I could rest!
On Saturday, after our house hunting, I got to have an absolutely fantastic, treasured girls’ night out! It started by taking the train to get down to a friend’s house, and enjoying an hour alone to read and relax. Then four of us girls went out in the city of Brisbane, and enjoyed cocktails, appetizers, desserts and fun conversation. It was such a treat! I also got to spend the night at her house and take the train back the next morning, so I didn’t have to worry about finding my way around the city at night, and driving in the rain, especially after drinks.
And, on Sunday, we had lunch with Steve’s family and some friends of theirs, who happened to work in real estate. They were lovely people, and it was the tastiest, healthiest home cooked meal I have had since I arrived here. He agreed to act as a reference for us, and we believe that may have made the difference.
I have a couple interesting musings related to cultural differences:
-I have found myself getting frustrated at times when we meet people, often older and friends of Steve’s family, who although very warm and interested in me, say “So you’re American!” I always say, “Yes, we are.” I am irritated because they are just talking to me and I could not figure out why that bothered me. A wonderful friend who is a psychologist said very matter-of-factly the other day, “Of course that is annoying. They are separating you out from your family, making you the one who is different.” It made such good sense! In my eyes we are ALL American and we are ALL Australian, particularly the boys, so to leave out that fact has been bothering me.
-I also get frustrated when people ask me how I like it here and seem disappointed when I don’t gush over how amazing it is, as if I am supposed to be kissing the ground in appreciation or something. I like it here; I think it’s a wonderful place. But I can also see downsides to it, as with anywhere. I also like where I am from and think it is wonderful as well, so it is not like I escaped from a horrible place to come here. Steve and I had a great discussion about that. He also ran into people in the U.S. who would seem completely amazed that he still liked Australia, after experiencing life there. It is great that people are proud of where they are from—I like that; it is a good sign, but it is also good to recognize that yours is not the only country that is an attractive, happy place to live. I recently saw a study that rated Australia as the number one place to live. I thought, “Oh no, I wonder where the U.S. ranks”. It was 4th. Both countries must be pretty great, eh?
-We also discussed how I get defensive when people knock the U.S and its policies. It frustrates me to no end that people, especially here in this country, think they ‘know’ that all Americans are obese with horrible diets. But, people also think the country is practically disintegrating because of the economy, that we don’t get good health care; it’s horribly violent….on and on. It’s all media based and it makes me sad. I agree that our impressions of places we have not been are formed by the media, but I do feel people should acknowledge that when an actual citizen of that country sets the record straight, they should believe that person and not just look at me doubtfully and retain their previous viewpoints. Again, Steve encountered the same ignorant comments about Australia while living in the U.S., so it was nice to be able to talk about our similar experiences and how best to respond to people.
Hope to have an update soon with an official residence!