It’s been a long time between blog entries but I’m officially back and coming to you from the wonderful Brisbane in Australia. Our expat sojourn is over. We’ve staggered through airports (“Yes we ARE moving country”), adjusted our eyes to the quietness of Australia (“Where’s all the traffic?”), rediscovered our home, reacquainted ourselves with our family/ friends/ cat /neighbours, negotiated a new school/ activities/ business etc etc. It’s been HUGE but great. Living in Oz is VERY easy and I hope we can all hold onto that. I love that our 6 year old still thinks it’s cool you can drink water out of the tap! And I LOVE sleeping in our bed again!!!
More on the business ventures (both of them) soon …. plus a new adventure – New Zealand in the New Year. The first for quite a while. Til next time ….
As an expat Australian family living in the Philippines we have lots of new experiences. This was one which completely took me by surprise.
(Image via wikipedia)
For those not up to date with Australian politics it’s just been election time and voting in Australia is compulsary. Being away from the shores of our lovely land we were required to visit the Australian embassy. A new experience for us. It’s located in the financial centre of Manila and the first thing we noticed there was SERIOUS security. We’re sadly quite accustomed to seeing men with big guns but this was different. The big guys, guns, dogs and electronic passes were not just for show. Ironically such “safety” measures always make me very nervous. My hackles went up instantly. A funny, little old lady almost immediately asked us if we were Australians coming to vote. Despite the swarms of people we were still conspicuous. Anyway she was there to do the same thing so we tagged a long with her to our first check in point. After showing passports and filling out forms we got electronic passes to make the lifts work. We weren’t told which floor we were going to but only to swipe the panel on the right and it would stop at the correct floor and we were to turn left as we exited. And so we did.
Then it began. Despite more bag checking, scans etc things changed. The coat of arms, the photos of Australians, the Aussie accents and a thousand other subtle things I couldn’t even identify. It FELT like Australia. Even as I type this and remember I’m teary all over again. It was the most bizarre and unexpected thing! As we left I felt desperately home sick. I just wanted to stay and talk ….
For me this was the first time in 15 months I have felt “at home”. I don’t socialize with any Australians here – not deliberately – so I don’t even hear Aussie accents much at all. The whole thing was such a bolt from the blue.
Anyway, afterwards we battled some serious Manila traffic to go and have ice creams and a play in a nearby park. We cursed the traffic all the way, lamented the lack of nice outdoor spaces but then gave ourselves a quick slap and enjoyed our ice creams. Fantastic Italian gelati and less than $1AUD. For all the negatives there are plenty of positives too. So that’s what we shifted our attention to. The moment passed and we all moved on.
I have to go back to the embassy soon to sort a new passport for my eldest son and I’m curious to see what its like second time around ….
This week is the first anniversary for my husband in his new job …. The one that has brought us here to Manila nearly a year ago now. And what a year it has been! One of our goals in coming was to travel as much as possible and we’re staying commited. Though sometimes it’s hard …..
Now that we’ve been here almost a year we’re passing a significant milestone. Most things have been done once. The first 3 months when life for me at least crawled by and everything was new in an exhausting way. The “welcoming” gastro attacks. Our gradual inhabitation of the house, room by room, slowly claiming it as ours. The first days at school and changes of friends. First trips away and returns. The first Halloween and Christmas. Birthdays. The first visitors from Australia. The shift from calling Australia home to calling Manila home. Surviving our first wet with accompanying mosquitoes and unrelenting heat/humidity. First “winter” …. a wonderful reprieve! You almost forget how intense it had been. We remember now that it’s back! The first new friends. Gradually we’re carving out a new social network.
Still other things mark you being away in a different way. Significant things that you miss. My Grandpa died. My Mum got engaged (we haven’t met Kevin yet). Friends having babies. Little people growing up. Friends and family going through hard times that we can’t be there to help with.
Just recently I was in my local supermarket and I saw a woman several cash registers away who was clearly not local (we blondies are VERY conspicuous) with her 5 year old son and a facial expression I recognised in an instant. I just knew she was fresh off the boat. That mixture of utter frustration, despair, confusion, “what the hell is this place?” and “they call this bread!” as she scrutinized a loaf of local white bread. I so wanted to get her attention and provide some support. The bread here is generally AWFUL and the only decent bread (good and cheap) was only a shop away …. but she was too far away and we were on a time line precluding leaving the line. The other expats here and those that preceded and advised us have been lifesavers. The community really is amazing. There isn’t anything you can’t ask. To find myself on the side of giving out the advice was a turning point and helped me realise how far we have all come.
We still miss all sorts of things, most especially our outdoor lifestyle, but we’re almost at the point now of being closer to going than arriving. We can now say we’ll be home “next year” (some time). Things are largely familiar and thats far more comforting than I ever thought it would be. We’re thinking about what we’ll take home in both the physical and psychological senses.
I’m not sure exactly what has kicked of my reflections but I guess my internal compass is subtly changing direction, reorienting us all toward Australia over the next 12 months. I’m curious to see what shifts in attitude etc go with it as we head into our next stage. Suffice to say we continue to live in interesting times.