I need to get a few more of my thoughts out related to this recent trip and our dual-hemisphere life. One of the biggest differences I noticed from this visit to the last is this: For the last trip, we had only lived here 9 months and I felt like I was bringing my boys back home, back to their familiarity. On this trip, it was painfully obvious to me that I was bringing the boys out of their home, out of their familiarity, to a fun place to visit. They are no longer American boys living in Australia; they have seamlessly become Australian boys who were visiting America. It was kind of weird.
The whole experience was a big, exciting adventure for them. One of their odd fascinations was with American toilets. They flush with a lever on the side as opposed to a choice of buttons on the top, which Zach loved because it meant he could flush the toilet with reckless abandon, not needing to close the lid and climb up to reach the top first. American toilet bowls are also filled with much more water than Australian toilet bowls, which swirls around and around, along with all of their contents, on its way down. Both boys would repeatedly flush the toilet and then stand and watch the subsequent show in awe. I think this activity took about three weeks to lose its appeal and become commonplace.
Another fascination was light switches. As it turns out, they are more often placed lower on the walls, again making them easier to reach for Zach. The switches themselves are also in a couple different shapes. Turning lights on and off therefore became another fun pastime for them and I don’t think it lost its appeal over the entire 5 weeks, which succeeded in annoying almost every person whose house we spent time in.
A third source of new fun was found in door stops. They’re on the end of a spring in the U.S. and make really fun loud BOINGGGG sounds each time they’re flicked. It’s amazing the little things you stop and notice when you’re in a child’s world.
Their Australian accents REALLY stuck out. I knew they’d picked them up, but it wasn’t until they were the only ones around who sounded like that, that I realized just how strong their new accents are. That was more a source of entertainment for everyone they were around! A couple people here have already made comments that some of their pronunciations are more American. That made me a little sad, thinking, “Are my little guys going to draw comments for the way they sound no matter which country they’re in on an ongoing basis?” Everyone means well and I think they’re not affected by it; it’s just my sensitivity. I’m happy to report that it was unanimously pronounced that my accent has not changed one little bit! I’ve got to keep something from my “past life”, don’t I? 😉
It’s actually pretty funny over in the U.S. because Americans love accents and would try to imitate the boys. Everyone in my family ended up saying rubbish and bin instead of trash, as well as footpath instead of sidewalk. The funniest was listening to my Mom playing Dominoes with the boys one afternoon, when she kept loudly saying “My go.” Such good sports! I love them.
To clear my head, I also need to get down a bit of a list about what I miss and what I have found a new love for. I’m not sure why, but I do.
-My family. Obviously.
-My friends. Again, duh.
-The mountains and all the views.
-Driving on the right side of the road.
-Colorado’s affinity for fitness and outdoor sports and activities, and deference to pedestrians and cyclists.
-The food: Specifically good microbrews, margaritas, tortilla chips, salsa (pretty much all Mexican/TexMex/Southwest cuisine), healthier grab and go snacks, greasier and cheesier pizza, fresh berries of all kinds, a plethora of vegetarian options at restaurants and grocery stores
-The sports. I miss skiing and hiking. Also, it was so fun being around for college bowl games and college basketball and even hockey. One of the things we didn’t fit in was getting to a sporting event. Next time….
-The weather. I miss the seasons. I had forgotten how mild Colorado’s winter is. I miss snow with a blue sky and bright yellow sun to set it off and fall colors. Plus my skin cleared up within days of arriving. It got dry and cracked as well—ahh, tradeoffs.
-The holidays. Hardly any of them are the same and the ones that are, are celebrated so differently that they don’t hardly seem the same.
-The prices. I went out for a glass of wine and dessert the other night here and spent almost the same amount as Steve and I spent on an entire dinner that included four cocktails and an appetizer.
-The language, or I should say, dialect, and the accent. I can understand everyone, and it just all makes more sense to me and makes me feel more comfortable and at home.
-The vegetation and the animals. No special reason. I just love them both and they’re familiar to me.
-The customer service. Don’t get me started.
-Americans in general. I can’t put my finger on it, but I am becoming convinced that there is a difference in the way we interact. Whatever that difference is makes friendships seem to gel more easily and interactions just make more sense. I remember no one “got” Steve’s humor when he lived there and how difficult and frustrating that was for him. Even though I can’t put my finger on what the difference is, after living in both places, it definitely makes sense to me that there must be a difference, quite a large one. After all, we literally inhabit two different worlds, as the above list testifies to. Anyway, I love the positivity of Americans, the tough can-do attitude, the friendliness, the openness, the easy laughter, the creativity, the confidence…..still can’t put my finger on it.
Now, for what I’ve come to appreciate here and why this will likely remain our home:
-The people. Kind, generous, open, supportive friends who are so quick to lend a hand and extend an invitation. People here have just welcomed us, made us one of their own, no questions asked and I love that. They put up with me! All my homesickness, American snobbiness, whining and weird habits and they still come around. I have to pinch myself to believe it’s true!
-The beach. Going to the beach used to be a summer vacation for us and now we can go for the day, or just for a picnic dinner. The water is so soothing and beautiful to watch. I have always loved to regularly sit and watch waterfalls, babbling creeks or river rapids, but watching the ocean waves was a rarer treat. Now it is reversed. It’s nice to spend 35 years of one’s life appreciating some things and then the next several appreciating other things.
-Fruits and vegetables that taste like fruits and vegetables. I was appalled by how bland and tasteless produce was in the U.S., after what I’ve become accustomed to here. I had no idea what I was missing! It’s easier to eat healthier when the food is packed with that much natural tasty goodness. Plus now we eat what is in season. Seeing fresh pineapples and berries served in land-locked Colorado in the middle of winter made me realize that our carbon footprint is now less than it used to be. Americans are GOOD people with good hearts and good intentions and in most cases don’t even realize how our typical way of life USES so much more than people in other parts of the world do, without even batting an eye. How much energy and resources do we use flying those types of food in so we can eat them whenever we feel like it, and pay low prices for them as well? Things we do daily and take for granted, like using a clothes dryer in such a dry, sunny climate, are not done in the rest of the world and we don’t even realize it.
-Brown eggs and white cheese. White eggs and yellow cheese are NOT normal! That can’t be good for us!
-I’m not a huge fan of the sports here yet, but I do admire that pro athletes here are not paid obscene amounts and elevated to god-like statuses. The main take-away related to this topic that is a reason I like living here is:
-The wages. I like that people can work hard at a fulltime job, no matter what that job may be, and earn enough to support themselves. I hated watching housekeepers and food service employees in the retirement communities I worked in bust their tails for over eight hours a day and then head straight to a job at a fast-food restaurant for another six hours and then come home to six people in a two-bedroom apartment. It’s just not right. I like that my husband and I have more time with our children now and don’t feel guilty about taking more time off for them when we need to, yet we can still support ourselves and save money for the future. This point leads me to another one:
-The work-life balance. It was ironic here to come back and hear people complaining about not getting much time off over the holidays and naming off the 5 or 6 days they got in addition to weekends. I thought about all our American friends we’d just seen who only had Christmas Day and New Year’s Day off. People are less stressed out over here and I think that’s where the laidback reputation comes from. They work hard when they work. But everyone understands that “life” is more important, including employers. Again, this point leads me to:
-Free health care. I believe that good health is a basic right, right up there with “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” It has helped our family tremendously that we are able to spend far less on good health care than we were prior to moving here. In fact, whenever I complain about Australian prices, I remind myself that we pay so much less for quality healthcare that it likely balances out. Plus we are making Australian wages. And someone here pointed out to me that prices have to be higher when people are paid living wages, which I clearly support.
-The plants and animals. They’re all new to me and utterly fascinating. I love the multitude of flowers and their heady scents. I love how green it is and am fully aware that you need more rain in order to have more green, so it’s ok. In fact, I learned something interesting on our visit home: I probably annoy people (especially those who think I grew up in an ice cave, which is well, everyone) when I complain (often) about missing sunshine, because I am from a place with 300 days of it per year. Well, when I was jogging one day a couple weeks ago in Colorado, thinking how beautiful and sunny it was and how I wish I could bottle up that sunshine to take back here with me for all those rainy days, I decided to actually look up the amount of days of sunshine in each place. Well, guess what? I need to quit my whining, because they came out quite comparable, with Brisbane slightly ahead in the article on each place that I read. Ok, I’ll shut up about that one now!
-Gun control. Now I believe that several of the factors listed above lead to the lower rate of violent crime here, as of course the mind-boggling-ly smaller population, including free health care, improved work-life balance and higher wages. However, I think gun control adds to it. Now, I get annoyed sometimes with what I consider to be “freedoms” that I feel are impinged upon here. But we are safer here and there is no getting around that. Through mutual friends we know a student and a teacher at Arapahoe High School, and at one gathering the subject of the shooting there the week before came up and we all heard about how each of them got out of the school, found his parents, kept her students safe, etc. That broke my heart. People shouldn’t have to experience a school day like that. What broke my heart even more is that every single person we spoke to, without exception (well, Texans), including my most conservative right-wing friends, would like to see some basic regulations. They’re sick of it. And it’s sad that those regulations could very well likely never come….so so sad.
So, there it is. Those are some pretty big issues. As much as I love Colorado and the United States and all that they both have to offer, and all their people, it looks like we are staying here for the foreseeable future. And it sounds like I should spend a little less time being homesick and a little more time being grateful. Waaahhhh! I will. I will. I promise! Writing this has also helped me realize that some of the things I miss the most about home are some of the most fun new experiences I have currently available to me and I need to make the most of that.
Anyway, this is super long, but important to my head. Our two weeks back have been great, really. Friends have been so kind and happy to see us and I had three days with my two boys all to myself. It was funny—I felt like through all those 5 and a half weeks of traveling, I wasn’t really WITH them because it was so busy. I adored those three days and am very thankful for them. We have had a lovely three-day weekend as a family as well, including an “all you could ever ask for”, perfect, relaxing fun Australia Day holiday yesterday at the beach with good friends. And school starts tomorrow! First grade for Drew and preschool (kindy here) for Zach two days a week. My babies are growing up on me. Again, waahh! But beautiful at the same time. A summary of my life, eh?