Wow—ever since I last wrote about our trip (seems like ages ago), all has been well barring major homesickness on my part. I realize this has happened every year at this time, 4 years in a row now—even the very first couple months we were here. Although it was slightly less so last year, because we were planning to head over to the U.S.—we left on the 6th of December.
Fall and the winter holidays are a tough time to be away! SO much to miss! I start out missing college football Saturdays, changing leaves, and visits to pumpkin patches filled with all the wonderful fall crops—like winter squashes, gourds, hay, cornstalks, etc. I miss all those decorations in shops and people’s houses. For some reason missing those intensifies the fact that I miss country music, which is a year round thing….weird.
This year it all intensified the day of my first experience at a school fete. Fete is Australian for carnival or fair, and Drew’s school has one as its major fundraiser every other year (they say every 2nd year here—I’m just going to point some of these out to drive home that SO much is different in the way we talk!). It was a fun, interesting day, which had a great community feel to it. There were rides, unhealthy food booths (called stalls here), contests, entertainment, etc. It was really cute.
Well my head had been itchy for a week or more and we couldn’t figure out why. Steve looked at my hair a couple times and didn’t see anything abnormal, so we kind of just wrote it off to a strangely dry scalp during this very dry season, even though I’ve never had that problem before, living all my life in semi-desert climate. Again….weird. That day it itched really badly, under my hat on an extremely hot, sweaty day. After we got home and Steve was bathing the boys (still pronounced with the short “a” sound over here, which to me makes a noun into a verb and is very odd) and suddenly yelled out that Drew had head lice! He said Drew started scratching his head like crazy after he got out of the tub (a word not used here. Neither is bathe. It’s all bath—for the noun, the verb, where it takes place, etc.), so he checked him and found the bugs. We then discovered them on Zach and of course on me.
Now my only memory of lice as a child in a dry, largely bug-free climate, is waiting in line for some school employee to comb through our hair once early in my school years. That’s it. That’s what my Mom remembered as well. I knew people all around here talk about it A LOT—they’ve all had it, as kids and sometimes as parents as well, and notes have come home in school bags before, but I still naively figured it was something that Really only happened in movies. I’d heard it was more common in girls, because of their often longer hair, so just hoped we’d escape it.
Well, those nasty little bugs are Real and they are Disgusting! That night I actually caught them crawling around in my hair—I could pull one out on its own and watch it wriggling in my fingers! Terrifying! That started my complaining to Steve—he just wanted to sleep and for me to be quiet.
The next day we bought special combs, and read up on treatments online. Steve decided he’d like us to treat it naturally because the most popular treatment is a very scary known carcinogen that apparently should not be used on people under 100 pounds or under 6 years old. Yikes!
We did our treatments and thought we were doing well. Then our neighbor showed us the eggs, called nits, in the boys’ hair. They are tiny, white disgusting things that stick onto the hair shaft and are SO hard to get out! We had Multitudes of them and didn’t even know!! We shaved the boys’ heads. They needed summer haircuts anyway. Steve, too. They were fine after that—thankfully, because searching through hair for those nits plays serious mind games on me.
Mine, however, seemingly would be eradicated, but then come back every few days. I guess in my mass of hair, those nasty little nits could just hide too well and survive the natural treatments. I had an overdue haircut scheduled that I was So looking forward to (I adore getting my hair cut. That’s all I ever have done to it and I go 4 times a year.), but I had to cancel—you are not allowed to come if you have nits.
At the 3-week mark, they reappeared again; my haircut was rescheduled for a few days away and I tearfully begged for the nasty chemicals. That opened the floodgates and the homesickness just unleashed! (By the way, my terrified husband did relent and agree to the chemicals that night, when he couldn’t stop by ocean of tears; I got my hair cut the following week and I have been clear since. He even got them one day as well and used the chemicals on himself immediately. If I never do again, it will be too soon. So, so wrong and gross!)
Halloween came a week after the lice hit and I just don’t like the holiday, my formerly favorite holiday, over here. I miss it in the States A Lot! An American friend here disagrees with me, but my perspective is that it’s much more focused on scary over here and missing the cute parts, which, of course, are my favorite. I don’t like scary. I should be thrilled that it’s taken off so much here, astronomically since we arrived 3 years ago—but I’m not. I just don’t like the direction it’s heading. Most people dress up as something scary (you basically see witches, skeletons and zombies)—even the youngest children. Parents dress up little bitty kids like dead things—zombies with face paint and fake blood and all. I don’t like it.
Our town even started a safe trick-or-treat street last year and we went to that and I would see kids I recognized from school and think, “Oh, how cute—she’s a cowgirl!” Then she’d turn around and be painted like a zombie.
There’s not even much chocolate. The main candy given out now are these horrible gummy disgusting pieces of candy (lollies) shaped like body parts—ears, tongues, teeth, etc.
People still don’t trick-or-treat around their neighborhoods and several parents I talked to opt out “because their kids don’t like scary stuff and they feel they’re too young for it at this point.” These are kids aged 6 and 4 or so—the perfect age to be creative and let their imaginations run wild—the ages I feel Halloween is best for! When it’s done the way I like it anyway….
Of course the schools don’t celebrate it—as they don’t celebrate any holiday really, except for Christmas and Easter. I am sad that my kids don’t get to grow up with classroom parties for Halloween, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, etc. I’m sad there’s no such thing as Spirit Week at schools here. And, obviously no history lessons about the pilgrims and plays depicting the first Thanksgiving. They’re having a school experience that is foreign to me and I feel left out and a bit lost. Once that homesick ball starts rolling……
Thanksgiving of course, is right on the heels of Halloween, which, for obvious reasons, is non-existent and then Christmas of course is not long after. It’s a triple holiday punch in the gut! The days are getting longer and hotter, instead of shorter and cooler, but it’s not the weather differences that get to me. Christmas overall is different—from decorations to church services to community celebrations. Some are great. Some bug me. The sports are all different. I even got annoyed the other day at my sons’ new Little Athletics track and field program, just noticing how differently people dress here and the fact that they say Warm up and Warm down instead of Warm up and Cool down. So weird!
I guess the past couple months have just reinforced that I still often feel like a fish out of water (or maybe more appropriately, a marmot out of the mountains?). After three years, I thought I’d feel more like a local, would be more fluent in the language, etc. I really changed everything when we came here—I don’t even work with seniors anymore, the career I had for the 14 years of my previous working life. Sometimes it really feels like I’ve led two different, completely separate lives—there’s the American Kathleen, that no one here has met, and the Australian Mommy to Drew and Zach, that my longtime friends and family have nothing in common with. It’s such a strange feeling.
My boys now tell me when I say things “wrong.” I don’t like that. I served butternut squash the other night at dinner and they told me it’s actually called pumpkin. Bleah! It happens regularly now.
I even pulled out on the right (as in wrong) side of the road the other day—thankfully by myself in a rural area! And I sometimes still fumble with the money—forgetting that I actually have quite a bit of cash because all the $1 and $2 are in coins not bills (a word not used—it’s notes here). It makes me wonder—when do these “new” ways of doing things become ingrained enough in my brain to surpass the “old” ways?
I Really like a Lot about living here, as anyone who’s read my previous crazy ramblings knows. There’s just So much I miss as well. No easy fix.
Thanksgiving, although again bringing feelings of homesickness, was really beautiful for us here last weekend. It’s odd that there’s no public holiday, but we were able to bring together pretty much every other part-American family we’ve met over here to share a traditional dinner and the Saturday evening was just fantastic. It was people who feel just like me and we were all together, making the most of our holiday, despite missing loved ones and traditions. Just gorgeous.
And, overall, things have been really good, and I have nothing to complain about. It’s been a bit tight financially getting this new yoga business going, but not bad as business has grown steadily, and I do really enjoy it as well. Steve earned a temporary promotion that will impact our finances in a big way next year, and allows us to get a 2nd, more spacious car.
The boys are doing really well. Zach finishes preschool next week and is all set to be a big kindergartner (Preppie) next year. They are both becoming great swimmers and Drew had his school swimming carnival yesterday (what we would call a swim meet, but for every kid in the school—it’s just fantastic).
For the most part, I feel I do a better job focusing on the positive and being thankful for the amazing abundance in my life. But it does help just to vent sometimes……of course as parents, we keep a brave, happy face always for our kids, and it’s nice to get it out here in my blog, and then put the smile back on and keep plugging along, working it out as I go.