Becoming Australian….slowly

In my step class yesterday, the instructor suddenly told us to “bounce around the back”.  I got a very funny visual in my head of the class, remembering a fun song from my 20s, and then realized she was telling us to shuffle along the back of the step!  Just when I think I’m getting more fluent in Australian…..It is just amazing how literally every word is different, but it’s the same language!

Four out of four.  After four rejections through January, last week we were approved for each of the four houses we applied for—crazy.  We deposited on one, signed our lease yesterday and get to move on the 18th.  We are all very excited.  Drew asks me almost every day to what is in our boxes and squeals with delight when I mention toys he remembers—-Buzz Lightyear, Cars tent, Curious George.  It’s very exciting.  I am in preparation mode and last week, thanks to the help of a visiting friend, went on a huge shopping spree (again—we seem to need a lot of these) and bought a cleaning supplies, clothes hangers, kids’ dishes, etc.  It is a good feeling.

On Wednesday night Drew came down with a stomach flu so we spent an exhausting, heart wrenching night helping him through that.  It is so sad to see little ones so upset and confused by what is happening to them.  The little guy kept saying the most precious things, comparing this experience, puking in Australia, to a time he remembers puking in Colorado.  When he told me he was ‘doing a better job in Australia’ because he was making it into the trash can, he about broke my heart. 

So that slowed down our next couple days and it was cute to see how Zach thought a day where he, Drew and I cuddled on the couch while Drew watched cartoons was about the best sort of day a person could have.  He just loved it!

On Friday morning, we got our first visitor.  Steve’s former co-worker from his summer jobs, a 20-year-old girl named Helen, is on her way to study abroad in Townsville, a town about 11 hours north of here I think that is near the Great Barrier Reef, flew into Brisbane and stayed with us a few days to adjust.   I only found out about the visit (gotta love my well-organized husband, who, bless his heart is completely overwhelmed right now by his commute and figuring out his new job) a couple days before and was a bit apprehensive because I had never met her and she’s so young, but it was actually wonderful.  She seemed to enjoy the boys and was very helpful with them (especially on aforementioned shopping trip—godsend!).  Drew attached himself to her almost immediately and even shy Zach started shouting ‘Emma!  Where Emma?’ after about four hours with her.  It was also nice having another American around, especially someone experiencing this country for the first time.  It made me feel more normal—good to know I’m not the only one who has a hard time understanding people and is blown away by a lot of what I am seeing and hearing!  She left this morning.

So we did quite a bit of sightseeing with her over the weekend.  On Saturday, we all went down to the Gold Coast and enjoyed the big surf, the beach and the tacky tourist traps.  That evening we were invited to a bbq at a friend’s house.  It was a lovely, fun evening, but get a load of this—-it is not currently rugby (football here) season, but they have special exhibition-type games every month or so during the offseason.  Saturday night they had a game called ‘All Stars versus Indigenous.’  Are you KIDDING me?!  Can you just imagine if we tried to pull that in the U.S.?!  And not only to separate out the native people, but to call the ‘white’ people playing against them the All Stars—I just cannot believe that. 

On Sunday we went with Steve’s family and toured another rainforest area.  It was a beautiful day.  Helen and I started to chat some about the American spirit.  Since I have been here, I have started to feel that what strikes me about Americans is their (our) inherent confidence, creativity and willingness to try new things.  A friend asked me to see the movie Iron Lady with her recently and Margaret Thatcher even spoke about it in that—she said that the British think more in terms of how things have been, how things are supposed to be, while Americans think more in terms of what can be, what may be possible.   Our country was founded over 300 years ago, which seems a long time, but I guess really isn’t, and it seems that many of the qualities that drove our founders to separate, start something new and fight so hard to keep it, are still with Americans today.  Helen and I talked about how we see so many similarities between the British and Australian cultures, and such striking differences between the two and the American culture.  It would be interesting to learn of any real studies on the subject, but I feel it is likely because we strongly desired to do our own thing and to get away from England.  While in a way it can tie a country together and be comforting to know that at EVERY holiday and special occasion pavlova will be served as a dessert (basically meringue topped with whipped cream and different fruit—very yummy), and that at any party you go to you can count on ‘party pies’ (individually-sized pies filled with meat and sauce) and sausage rolls (ground sausage inside filo pastry), I also think it’s fun to break the mold a little bit and be creative.  I enjoyed seeing American friends’ posts on Facebook with all the different fun foods they were trying for the Super Bowl—it’s great to experiment! 

This entry keeps getting longer—I keep needing to stop writing and start again another time, over a period of a few days, so more thoughts keep swirling in my head…..

We enrolled Drew in preschool on Monday.  It’s called Kindergarten (or kindy because if a word has the capacity to be shortened, the Aussies will do so) here and our Kindergarten is called Prep.  He will go two days a week from 8:30 to 4:00 and we will receive government help with the fees.  The school is adorable.  If you feel like checking it out, go to www.mpc.net.au.  It’s very open to the outside and looks like great fun.  But it’s a new chapter starting and Steve and I both got teary at the tour and meeting.  Drew is excited, but nervous as well.  We really do need a break from each other, so that will be good.  I am about at my wit’s end on how to parent him right now.  And I am trying to accept the fact that he will likely always prefer NOT to use the toilet—just hope that when he moves out on his own, I get to stop cleaning it up! 

I had an eye doctor’s appointment yesterday, and, thankfully, he was the best one I have EVER been to in my life and the experience was much like previous ones—phew!  He turned out to be a ski addict and actually pulled up his photos on his computer to show me.  And he was so kind to the boys and completely understanding of why they were with me—no big deal at all, and they behaved really well.  That makes it two people in two days that are from here and also very into skiing (the preschool secretary), which brings us to a total since we have moved here, of…two! 

The final issue that has been affecting my mind and mood these past few days is the factual knowledge that a dear family member will finish his time with us soon.  I know it is my personality to internalize situations and to over-analyse, but I think this move and life change has made that part of me more prominent.  Although I will miss him dearly and all he has brought to my life and the life of my family, I keep thinking so much about what his experience must be like right now, and his wife’s.  How does it feel to know that each experience is your last—from the Super Bowl to February to Christmas to your wife’s birthday?  How does a person prepare for his own life to end—what do you think about?  What do you say to people?  Is it a blessing or a curse to have that time and knowledge?  And for his wife, especially, but all loved ones—how do people prepare to live without their life companion, to be alone, to not have that person around that you so want to talk to?  What do you say to that person, to other people?  It makes me just want to sit and cry and we know mothers don’t get much time to sit and cry, which is likely a good thing.  With our visitor here that I didn’t know beforehand, and Steve’s long days commuting, I have felt very alone in all this.  The friends I have made here are lovely, and I imagine would be very kind and gentle to me if they knew what I was feeling, how I’ve been having a hard time with my children lately as well, how I just keep getting down and musing about life and death, but when do you know that it’s ok to take that leap and call someone and really open up?  I am just not there yet, so even though the time difference makes it hard, I continue to be thankful for my parents and for email and for this outlet of a blog. 

Ok, enough tears—I will finish with a success story.  Well they don’t have pumpkins here—our fun, lovely orange ones.  But they do call any winter squash a type of pumpkin instead.  A friend gave me a Japanese pumpkin from her garden, and one of the playgroup fathers mentioned that he figured I would be able to make pumpkin pie with my background.  I was ‘rostered on’ (scheduled) to handle morning tea at playgroup this morning, so I took his comment as a challenge and decided to try making pumpkin pie bars.  ALL BY MYSELF, I chose a Celsius temperature and figured out how to roast this whole ‘pumpkin’, scooped it and blended it and altered a recipe to create pumpkin bars with it—and it was a complete success and hit with everyone there!  I feel a bit lame for being so proud of myself for that, but I am!  I have always wanted to ‘create’ and improvise more in the kitchen and this was the closest I have come.  Since the pumpkin was huge, I also made pumpkin smoothies with it that were delicious and put it in a frittata that evening for dinner.  And, just for emphasis, the dessert is NOT called pumpkin slice, Aussies!  They are pumpkin bars—yes, they are sliced up, but the whole thing is not a slice, they are bars!  😉 

And this was funny, too—I was a bit nervous about handling morning tea for the first time in my life and even Drew knew the significance of the event!  He was very proud of us.  BUT, I forgot to bring one of the most important things—milk!  I would have been surrounded by a lot of angry parents if they were subjected to their morning tea and coffee without milk!  Luckily a convenience store was very close by, so the morning was a success. 

 

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