Thursday, 6 February 2014

Here for Life...I think

Today's post is a query: would you move to another country after this?  Sounds exhausting.  I've already lived in 5 countries, and it's hard enough to pack up and head out with a couple of suitcases and a few extra boxes of stuff.  I can't even imagine moving house, much less to another country.  Sure, it would be nice to experience a new place for more than a few weeks at a time, and if I had a chance to live and work somewhere for a few months, I might leave my husband to his own devices for a short while, but another proper move just wouldn't happen, unless there were very extraordinary circumstances.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Meanwhile, at the airport...

I used to put pictures of my travels up on the blog.  Now, they end up on Facebook instead.  Instead of a handful, there are hundreds, and it's where I go to look first for my holiday pics.  This past weekend, I headed to Canberra for a couple of days.  When I first asked people for recommendations of things to do there, I was told to 1) watch the traffic lights change 2) check out Costco and 3) see if the Rex Hotel is still around and whether they do break in those little flower pots still (Bill Bryson reference and on a sidenote, if you haven't read his book about Oz and live here, it's a must read). I'm glad I've paid attention over the years to the one or two people I know who went to Canberra and loved it.  It's definitely a museum nerd and wino's paradise.  There's even some spectacular food and beer, so I'm not sure what there is not to like.  Anyway, this is how we felt about Canberra.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

In Hindsight...

Today's post is meant to be a reflection; looking back at my 5th post ever on this blog, over 8 years ago, I can't believe how quickly the time has flown.  I can vividly remember all of the experiences I describe in that post, and how exciting all of the mundane elements of life were, my first week living in the UK.  The individual bits and pieces aren't as important as the overall experience, and the small things were key.  This is probably why my writing has slowed down.  All of the little new experiences have just morphed into the everyday. The expat experience isn't as exciting to write about anymore, as it's just normal life these days.

Monday, 3 February 2014

An object that makes me feel at home


Mentally walking through all of the rooms of my house, and at the same time reminding myself that the word home doesn't necessarily mean the place of my origin, I settle on my bookshelf.  It's one item that contains many.  I spent years after moving abroad looking through second hand adverts online for a bookshelf with character; my antique barrister bookcase back in Chicago, which may or may not eventually make a trip to Australia, still contains many of my most beloved books.  I bring a few back with me every time I visit the US, and am amassing a collection on this end as well in the meantime.  They needed a home, preferably one with glass doors, and nothing too new.  It took me 4 years to find a bookcase I liked, and when I did, it took us two trips to collect it from an hour away (it didn't fit in the truck the first time around) and a lot of manpower to get it into the house. It's now a solid, sturdy home for many of my treasures, which include more than just my books.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

"Not all those who wander are lost." - J.R.R. Tolkien

The theme for today reminds me of a quote I keep on my blog home page, by James Baldwin: "I met a lot of people on holiday. I even encountered myself."  In some ways, I feel like I've grown into my adult self since moving to Australia; becoming a wife, homeowner and permanently settling in my forever home has not only been confronting, but stabilising.  I always knew I wanted to live somewhere other than Chicago, even if just for a trial period.  As much as I wanted to experience living in another country, I also wanted to escape the bitter cold of the Midwest winters, which keep you inside for months at a time.  Add that to my love of travel, and it was a given that I'd end up somewhere else.  In the beginning, it's all an adventure.  Then one day, years down the road, you look up and realise...this is it.  The adventure is over, and it's just plain old life.  Same shite, different country, but you're all grown up.  The past 10 years have blown by, your greys are getting well and plenty, and people back 'home' say you talk different now.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

The View from Where I Write


This month I'll be attempting to keep up with the Expat Blog Challenge.  28 days in a row seems a bit ambitious, given my lack of writing over the past few years, but a kick in the pants never hurts.  The theme for each day will be in the subject line of the post, and today's topic is the view from where I write.

Whether I write in my cosy office at the back of the house, or sitting on the sofa in our front room, when I look up, I see eucalypt (gum) trees soaring overhead.  They tower over the neighbourhood homes, constantly dropping nuts, leaves, and sometimes even branches as thick as a body builder's leg and longer than a pick-up truck.  The interesting thing about gumtrees is that no matter how big they get, whether they threaten to fall on your house or person, you cannot cut them down.  They're protected, and once they get to a certain size, as beautiful as they are to look at, they can become a real pan in the arse.  I could spend hours every week cleaning up after these monsters, clean the gutters three times a year, and have enough kindling to last all winter.  It's a love hate relationship, similar to expat life.  Something to enjoy the beauty of, you never quite get over the uniqueness, but the labour of it all can be exhausting at times. 

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Getting Ready for Winter

Sat around the table on a Friday at 4:30pm surrounded by my co-workers, my Mom, who is visiting for 3 weeks, was surprised by how many people don't have proper climate control in their homes here.  I've been telling her about it for years, but I think hearing it from the locals, and so many of them, drove it home.  It is that time of year in Australia when, despite it still being 29C out, we turn our thoughts to the cold weather coming.  In addition to the actual weather conditions this year, I'll also be thinking about my health during the long, wet season, and not just my physical health.  Whilst seasonal depression is often thought of as a Northern hemisphere problem, it can just as easily creep up on you in the Antipodean region.  While the months between May and September creep by, the dark comes upon us early, and the rains keep coming, nights at home without heat (either because you don't have it or you can't be arsed to start a fire in your combustion heater) get long and exhausting, even if it is only 14C/60F in your house most evenings.  I generally crawl into my waterbed with my dinner, and watch TV from about 7pm onwards.  That doesn't help keep me motivated and active enough, so this year, I'm making a few changes, particularly as winter will show it's face soon after one of my international visitors leaves.  I plan to use my 3 month old gym membership at least twice a week, and I have a stack of books to read.  I've also joined a few interest groups and am actively trying to meet more people and get out of the house more.  That combined with a few practical heat savings tips around the house, sealing up gaps in the walls and completing a big ensuite reno with a nice new shower...and heat lamp, and this winter should be mint!  I'll let you know how it all goes.  If you see me blogging more, that's a first indication it's all working.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The 5-year mark

I am a very firm believer that Facebook and other social media outlets are literally shortening our attention span.  Someday there'll be research on this.  The fact that I haven't blogged in over a year is evidence.  Why write a paragraph when I can just as easily shout out a line or two that gets more of a response and greater (instant) interaction.  Seeing my nieces and nephews with iPhones and other devices makes me cringe.  I want to buy them a plug in phone or a book...or a passport.  There's nothing like a good read or some overseas experiences to broaden your mind.

I started out just wanting to travel, then wanting to live abroad for at least a short period.  As we know, meeting a sexy foreign dude sometimes changes the path considerably.  In a little over a month, I will have lived in Australia for 5 years as a permanent resident.  I've gone from provisional permanent, to completely (independently) permanent, to a proper citizen.  Knowing from Day 1 of my (2nd) arrival in Australia that I was here for good hasn't always been a pleasant thought.  Thankfully, those days are over.  Although my other half still gives his workplace too many hours of his life, I've had time to develop my own interests, and I can say without a doubt that I'm happy here now.  Hmmm, maybe Kafka was right when he said there's no point to writing when you're happy.

Today, I got home from work, checked the mailbox, and saw an envelope from the Department of Transport.  Knowing full well my car rego wasn't due for a few months yet, the only other thing I could think of was a speeding ticket.  Before I even opened it up, I thought I might have to run to the JP at the local council to pass it along to the old man, as he's been driving my car quite a bit, and we all know who the creeper is in this little family.  But lo and behold, it was my driver's license renewal.  Who would have thought I'd been living here long enough to need to renew my license.  What a thing - times flies, when you'e enjoying your life.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Integration, Part 2

The other day it was suggested to me that I shouldn’t allow locals to join the Expats in Adelaide group.  I hesitate to even post this, to be honest, as I don’t want to risk anyone not joining on this basis.  It was a one off and to me, bizarre complaint, which ended in my apologising to the person that the group was too inclusive for her, at which point she removed her membership and advised me she’d be letting people know how awful I am.

Then this morning, I got an email from an expat web site that stated that it was too restrictive to call themselves an expat site any longer, citing that these days, there was a need to be more inclusive, and that expats need to integrate into the wider culture, hence they would now be focusing on the greater community as an audience.

Aussies who return home from overseas, and even those who move states within Australia often join up to the expat group.  They’ve been away and come home to find that they’ve changed and they need a little something more than their high school friends, they miss the international atmosphere, or they come to Adelaide from Melbourne or Sydney and just want to meet more people, Aussie or not.  We even have some Adelaidians who’ve always been here but are keen to try something new.  One of the most difficult things for expats here can be meeting locals, so I encourage them, and am pleased when I see an Australian join up.  The more the merrier I say!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

In Support of Integration - A Letter to the Editor

Who knows if they'll publish it, but here's my letter to the editor at The Australian:

While reading the article in The Australian, Hygiene lessons will help migrants integrate, I was reminded of my orientation day at university in England, where we were given a list of English customs we would not be familiar with as newcomers.  This included topics such as queuing, health care and tenants rights, amongst other things we had no knowledge of.  Had I not been given these helpful bits of information, it's very possible I might have done exactly what I was used to doing in Chicago - standing around then going straight to the front door of the bus when it arrived, easily offending those lined up patiently.  Knowing the right thing to do in a new place is not common sense, and even coming from an English speaking nation originally doesn't prepare one for the many cultural differences in everyday life.

Teresa Gambaro raised an important issue in relation to immigration; that of integration and the fact that the Government is failing to assist new migrants on how to fit into Australian culture. Taken out of context, one might easily judge Ms Gambaro.  I'm dissappointed to see migrant advocacy groups take immediate offense, rather than seeing that Ms Gambaro might actually be an advocate herself for new migrants.  Diversity training in Australian workplaces is not only a good idea, but a necessity, for both current and new Australians, so that we can learn about each other.

Look at the bigger picture instead of grabbing the most negative aspect.  Perhaps Ms Gambaro should not have included a potentially offensive topic such as body odour, but her overall message of doing more to assist new migrants to integrate into Australian culture is something we should all pay attention to.  Long term, what will the future Australia look like if we stick to ‘our own’ and don’t work harder on integrating cultures.  We have an opportunity right now that will pass us by.

And to read what Teresa Gambaro's message actually was (back in September), look here.