We got back to routine on Friday. The boys are back to their rambunctious, spirited, crazy selves and I am thrilled for them. They had such a good time at their swimming lessons that morning—I could tell they were just as happy to be out again as I was. They had felt pretty cooped up.
On Saturday we had our first dinner invitation from new friends in our new neighbourhood. It was such a fun evening. It is a family with a daughter in Drew’s preschool class and the two of them are buddies. The mother grew up in Fiji, but went to college in Hawaii and the father is from Michigan. We could have talked to them all night—talking about life in the U.S. compared to here, what we have found tough, what we like, how it is with distance from families, etc. All the kids had so much fun playing as well; plus they made us delicious food! We have been blessed over here, and it is such a wonderful feeling to meet people that we really enjoy visiting with, and they invite us into their home. It really helps us feel like we are establishing roots.
On Sunday we went back to the church where our playgroup is held and we like it ok so far. We don’t go to church that often anyway, so as long as we feel comfortable with one, that is fine for us. We will likely try out a few others as well.
Monday of this week actually saw us starting our new ‘routine’ and it worked great. We all left in one car that morning; I caught the train near Drew’s school; Steve handled the school drop off and pickups as I worked a longer day, and then he worked longer today while I handled it all. It all went surprisingly smoothly and both boys are doing really well. Zach does cry when we leave and doesn’t eat or sleep well while he is there, I think in protest, but overall enjoys himself through the day and I feel confident that he is in a good place.
Due to the level of government benefits we are receiving, Drew’s school costs us $1/month, which I find absolutely unbelievable. We still haven’t fully figured out the cost of Zach’s because his benefits hit a glitch due to his immunization record. The government needed proof that he has had his immunizations in order to continue his benefits and we did not get them in soon enough, so they are on hiatus while we get it all sorted out. It’s funny—in the past few years, since meeting Steve and more people from other countries, I would wonder why the U.S. always talked so much about being ‘free’ and all the ‘freedoms’ we enjoy, thinking that many other countries in the world were just as free so why do we act like we are the only ones? Well, since living here, I have realized that the U.S. is definitely freer than Australia; however, being so free does not necessarily seem ‘better’ to me at this point. In the U.S. we are so protective of our freedoms, of everyone making it completely on their own, of being totally independent. It galled me to think the government here needed proof of Zach’s immunizations (we are not required to immunize him; we can submit a form saying we object to the practice; however, to get government benefits he needs to be immunized)—what business does a government have in my child’s medical history? However, by complying with these requests, we get really good benefits. As long as I can accept that government is ‘bigger’ here, more involved in our daily lives, I can realize that we actually are able to enjoy a better quality of life thanks to that same government. I don’t feel we are really losing anything in the way of true freedom, but we are certainly gaining in assistance in ‘making it’ through life. It makes me wonder that if we as Americans were more willing to share our information, and our lives, that the greater population would benefit more and people would be happier as a whole…..food for thought.
Continuing on with great benefits, I learned today that I definitely do accrue sick leave and vacation time at my 10-12 hour/week job, and I get paid holidays if they fall on my scheduled days. I also am not taxed on the first $18,000 I earn in a year (no one is), which is more than I will earn at this job. Those are incredible benefits in my eyes, in addition to them contributing 9% to a retirement fund for me. Almost better than all of that though is the attitude towards work here. People take time off; they are encouraged to use their sick days and vacation days, encouraged even to take more than a week at a time. Maternity leave here is far ahead the U.S. but it is a pretty known fact that the U.S. is at the bottom of Western culture when it comes to mother’s benefits. There is also paternity leave here.
We continue to struggle with all of the little things that come up when moving countries that one would normally not think about. When we booked our U.S. flights last month, we had to use our U.S. Southwest credit card because we cannot get an Australian credit card yet because we have not lived here employed long enough. The Southwest site blocked us from using our card, because, naturally, it looked like an unauthorized transaction to be booking flights originating in Australia on a card we had not been using. We spent an hour back then on the phone with them and online sorting it all out. Last night we tried to book one of the U.S. domestic flights for that trip, and again, the site blocked us. After another hour or so dealing with international calls, standard bureaucracy, etc., we found that this time they were blocking the transaction because we had a balance of $6 on that credit card. That charge came back in December when I was purchasing credit to make calls through Skype and had not realized that I needed to change the currency I was using to Australian dollars and my Australian debit card. Ay yi yi. Our U.S. taxes have been more complicated for the same reasons—trying to bank while not local, and Steve has been struggling with one of his U.S. student loan companies ever since we left. It is so odd how all this can add up and how much time it can consume, even months later.
Well, I will close this entry by mentioning that Saturday was special to me because I was able to reach my aunt by phone, have a lovely chat with her, and also talk to my sweet uncle briefly. I got the news this morning that he died and I cannot believe how fast it happened. I am thankful that his suffering is over, but I hate that all this happened in the first place. I miss my family and am sad I cannot be with them at this time. I looked up a flight out of curiosity, knowing we couldn’t afford the $2000 or so extra dollars, only to find that a flight tomorrow to Atlanta would cost $9,000—unbelievable! It is sad to me that companies can charge that much—more than the cost of all four of our flights in June combined. The world lost a beautiful person today; all of us who knew him are that much better for the experience, and I got to call him family.