A Bit Over It All This Week

All right, it’s time to vent.  If you’re an easily offended Aussie, don’t read this, because I am a bit over Australia this week!  I got fired up thinking about it all on my jog this morning and decided I need to blog it off!  This will help me get it all out and realize that I’m just being one big baby, as usual and should be grateful for my many blessings. 

But speaking of my jog, it just made me more irritated.  Why are you people so morose?  It’s a gorgeous morning, beautiful area and you’re walking around all sullen and trying to run over pedestrians in your cars—smile!  Say good morning!  I promise—fake it till you make it is true! 

So many little, inconsequential things have just been getting on my nerves this week.  I have decided to blog less because things are more routine now; I don’t have as many thrilling things to say (whereas previous blog posts have delivered a thrill per paragraph!).  That said, however, I still don’t feel like I belong here, like I fit in.  Either way, this is where we live; this is our routine; the days don’t change too much anymore.

Of course this is a beautiful, fun time of year back home.  Leaves changing, weather changing, football season, Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas.  And of course, I get none of that here.  It’s ALL different!  I know, I know, I went through it last year—I’m a veteran.  Doesn’t seem to help right now.  I must have been still in shock or something that I was actually over here and it all seemed so novel.  I know, I know—Christmas is the same.  But it’s not.  Christmas decorations have been out in the stores for a month now and I’m sure soon that annoying tinsel will start showing up and I’ll get annoyed that I can’t get a nice fresh Christmas tree, and I’ll swelter in 100 degree heat and look at lights without any snow glittering around them.   And I’ll miss my family!  Every holiday with family and friends is always so wonderful. 

The boys have been really hard lately, which always adds to my frustration.  Last week it was pretty much like I had thrown in the towel.  Every word I said was completely ignored; nothing I did for them was done in the correct way; they fought; they whined; they behaved so horribly in every public place we went that I felt like disowning them.   I had no control whatsoever.

Zach has potty trained VERY easily which is incredible!  I think he’s already more reliable at getting to the toilet when he needs it than Drew is!  However, he is going through something emotionally that is very draining to deal with.  It’s also affecting his sleep.  At his daycare, they have been having him spend time in the room for the next older age group on some days, getting him ready to move over.  And, just this morning, they moved him up a level in swimming.  Now he will go in on his own with other kids and the teacher.  I won’t be in the water with him anymore!  I even cried at that sudden news, while I felt a lovely sense of relief simultaneously.  He seems to be hit by too many “big boy” things all at once, the poor guy, and he is clingy, whiny, and fussy and wants to be carried ALL the time. 

Today when we were working out his new swim lesson arrangements, I felt the employees were just SO rude.  I regularly feel that way with this administration, which is a shame because I feel the teachers do an excellent job.  I think I will switch after this round of lessons.  But in general, customer service is NOT up to the level that it is in the U.S.  People don’t care sometimes.  They just don’t make any effort and they treat me like a moron when I don’t understand what’s going on which makes me practically want to spit fire.  I am foreign!  I don’t know what you’re talking about!  And then I get more frustrated, because I believe that every time I ask questions, people immediately get on the defensive and think I am just a rude, snobby American.  Of course, I’m completely projecting that impression of me—-I honestly have no idea what they’re thinking, so why do I imagine something bad?

Yesterday, the real estate agent came to do a routine inspection of our house.  This man is such a rude, condescending creature!  I cannot tolerate how he talks to me!  Renting here has been an ENTIRELY different experience for me in every way, and every question I ask him is met with a snippy remark and blown off.  I can’t stand the man! 

Then, this lovely, intrusive but so helpful government decides that we owe them over $9000!!  Are you kidding me?!  Taxes  here are based on the financial year, which ended in July, so it is now tax time.  I have decided Centrelink and its employees are a bunch of idiots.  Oh, it’s wonderful, right—we had to give them gobs and gobs of information several times and have spent several hours on the phone with them, on their website and in their various offices, but in return, I get paid to stay home as a mommy; we get payments because our income is below a certain level; we get assistance with childcare and school payments.  It’s lovely.  Here’s the problem:  We arrived last September, 3 months into the financial year.  They assured us we would receive maximum benefits no matter what our job situations were for that first year, because we would never make enough to put us over when we were already missing several months.  Even so, we contacted them numerous times to report job changes and income changes, for both of us.   Each time they told us it was fine; thank you for reporting it but there are no changes to your benefits.  Now they have decided they overpaid us and want us to give them $7000 back.  Again, are you kidding me?!  How does a government organization decide that’s ok?! 

Next the Australian government sends us a statement related to taxes and has decided we haven’t paid enough and now owe over $2000.  I just can’t fathom how any of this happened with the amount of time both of us have spent dealing with the various government agencies and giving them our correct information.  At one point, they even cut off Zach’s child care benefits because Medicare (the public health system) determined he was not current on his immunizations—because they had decided that he was born a year later than he was!  The child has a certificate of Australian citizenship and an Australian passport based on his correct birthdate!  Work together people! 

Now I know, I know.  Bad customer service happens all over in the U.S.  Government agencies are frustrating in the U.S. and people often owe more in taxes at the end of year.  And good customer service also happens in Australia.  Our bank = fantastic.   They know us by name and give superb service regularly (aside from the fact that we were being charged $0.60/transaction every time we used our debit card for 6 months because no one thought to tell us we had an old outdated account with ridiculous fees, a vestige of Steve’s former life here—we’ll forget about that one for now and focus on how great they’ve been).  I know all those things.  I know I’m generalizing.  I’m venting.

And speaking of generalizing, other people here do it just as badly and that is frustrating me also.  People here are very interested in the upcoming U.S. election and rightly so—the outcome affects everyone in the world; they just don’t all get to vote for it.  But I am tired of people acting like the U.S. sucks; why don’t we take care of anyone else; why is it every man for himself; why would people even consider electing someone like Romney; why are we so against gun laws and public health care when they work so well other places?  People, I hear you on a lot of that and I agree with you.  But the U.S. is NOT THAT BAD.  It is not entirely every man for himself; people can get help.  We were at an income level where we had the kids on a program very similar to Medicare here.  It was government-funded and we hardly had to pay anything at all for the kids.   And, I can say this:  The kids were getting better care then too, that was easier to navigate.  I’m sure it was partially easier because it was the system I knew.  But I can vouch that they were checked out more thoroughly by their doctors and they were in a more solid system where there information was more readily available to anyone who treated them than they are here.

We also got a nearly free gym membership because of the amazing non-profit organizations in the U.S.  I worked with low income seniors in several different organizations and saw them get good care when they didn’t have money to pay for it.  I saw people of all ages get benefits to help them get by when they needed it.  I know it’s absolutely true that the U.S. has a lot of issues—I’ve mentioned several of them in previous posts, and there is a lot the people need to figure out.  But, trust me, it is a gorgeous place full of loving fun people and it has a lot of wonderful things in its favor.  It doesn’t suck!!  Please respect where I’m from and don’t feel like meeting a live American gives you a chance to ramble on about all the misconceptions you have because of the media.  

Also, keep in mind the population differences.  Australia has 19 million people compared to over 300 million in the U.S.  Providing benefits and universal health care is much easier here than it is over there.  The issues are a lot bigger to figure out. 

I just feel like I missing everything way out here.  My brother was telling me how crazy everything is getting over there right now with the election so close and I got sad that I’m not a part of it. 

 I do like it here; there’s so many wonderful things about Australia and I’ve mentioned many of them before.  But seriously, can’t you get the TV shows to start at the correct time?  If the U.S can figure it out, why can’t this smaller place?  To say a show starts at 9:00 and you have to have your TV on a good 10 minutes before that to make sure and catch the start, which may not even happen until 10 minutes after 9:00 is just ridiculous.  Come on! 

And they don’t even put on half the shows that are worth watching; and there’s not even that many that would be.  Most nights we can’t even find a reason to turn it on, something to do together to wind down for a half hour.  One of my favorites, Dancing with the Stars, doesn’t air here ever.  And people say to me “Just watch the Australian version.”  I tried it.  It sucks!  They talk twice as much as they dance and the costumes aren’t as sparkly and the lights aren’t either.  Boo hoo for me!  (But, thankfully, on that issue, a good friend keeps illegally downloading the show for me, so I can take comfort in that.  Otherwise, I would be just way too deprived.)

And organize the streets so people can find their way around.  Put signs up.  Our neighbors just got back from a trip to DC and New York.  They had a wonderful time and she was telling me how easy it was to get around.  She said “I’d always thought numbered streets were boring, but then I realized how practical they are.  I realized if the numbers are going up then I’m going north.”  Hello!  That’s why our streets are organized that way—so people can figure out where they’re going!  We’re not trying to be boring; we’re trying to make sense. 

And then I hear of so many U.S friends going to Madonna concerts this week (thank you, Facebook, this is when you are not helpful to me).  I look up Australian dates and she made some cancelled them.  She blew us off!  Sucks!  I know I’m really grasping at straws right now.  And I’m not done yet.

I can’t find pumpkins.  No gourds.  No cornstalks.  I mention Halloween and some people don’t even know what I’m talking about.  There’s about 4 different kids and adults costumes to choose from and they’re all scary—witch, pirate, ghost, bleah.  This is a time when I love to watch Americans show off their creativity!  It also makes me thankful for my sweet family who sent us fabulous costumes for the boys and fun decorations and crafts to do.  I’m trying to figure out some treats to make.  I did find candy corn the other day and splurged and spend the $6.50 for one bag.  But I couldn’t rationalize the $20 for a bag of mini Reese’s peanut butter cups so I will have to figure out a way to modify the fun recipe I saw for witches out of marshmallows.  I did find normal, all white marshmallows the other day!  Finally!  And I find mini colored ones, so I’m going to attempt rice Krispy treats with those one day and hope they don’t turn out colored.  And I absolutely must come up with a creative costume this year and show my boys that they need to keep that side of them amped up!  Steve’s always been really good at that, so we should be able to figure it out.  I’ll never forget his amazement on our first Halloween together—such a fun night!!  Aaahh….memories. 

I also need to point out how thankful I am for the first friends I met here last year that introduced us to a fantastic Halloween carnival that we will go to next weekend again.  It was a wonderful event and we have great people to share it with.  And, we have two other American families we are friends with to trick-or-treat with.  Look out neighbors!  We’re coming over!

My Mom pointed out recently that it seems like I have made so many friends.  I really have.  (Pretty amazing, considering all my bitching and moaning isn’t it?!)  I also really enjoy getting to know Steve’s older friends better.  They are special, wonderful people and I now realize how much he must have missed them the past eight years.  I am done venting.  I do fully realize how blessed I am to be surrounded by lovely people who truly care about and support us, and to have amazing, special people across the ocean regularly reminding us of their support and love as well.  It’s a wonder I ever even feel isolated, really.  It really is all my head when I do.  I can’t understand how some people get through life without even half the support system I have.  Those are the people who are justified to whine, not me.  I couldn’t do it.  One thing this move has made me realize is that I am a social creature!  You know I’ve never known that about myself before?  I always thought I was more reserved and quiet and Steve was the social butterfly.  Not so.  I need people.  I need my girls.  I need to feel the love!   Is that a change in me, or just something I have never known about myself……hmmmmmm.

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