21 February, 2018

Heading back home (which is where?)

This morning I'm blogging from the airport. Again! I'm in shock, actually. I've never gotten to a boarding gate for an international flight so fast. I arrived here less than 45 minutes  after was dropped off! I'm usually a bit of a mess before international flights, especially in and out of Australia, but today I'm feeling calm. And that's after having said goodbye to my son last night! I was even able to eat a decent breakfast at 6am, and that's almost unheard of in my history of flying internationally! I'm in quite a different emotional spot to when I wrote this blog post at Narita airport just two weeks ago.

This whole trip has gone remarkably smoothly. I'm so thankful. Have I said that before? When  big things like this work so well and I'm at peace in my spirit, I really know that people have been praying and that God is very present in the situation (and gone before, preparing so many things). What else can I do but praise him?

I read Psalm 98 yesterday morning and it starts like this:
Sing to the Lord a new song,
    for he has done marvellous things;
Indeed, I echo the psalmist's words today.

Mums in Australia have said to me about leaving our son here for uni, "I can't imagine doing what you're doing." But in many ways that is our life, we do a lot of things people who live in Australia can't imagine. But for those of us who live outside our passport country, it is expected that our children will leave and go to another country to study or work after leaving high school. So this really isn't as unnatural as you might think, and it certainly isn't unexpected. We've been thinking about this time for many years now. 

So I won't say it is easy, but it isn't as hard as you might expect. It's been made much easier by being able to see our son settle into a good living situation. He's with a Christian family who also have other university students living there, one of whom is very connected into the local church and a good Christian group on campus. Knowing that he's secure in his faith is another huge joy. Also seeing the steps he's made just in the last two weeks towards being independent, has been a big confirmation that this is good timing. He's ready for this challenge. (He had a difficult last time he was in Australia, I didn't write much about it on my blog, but just a hint came out here: https://mmuser.blogspot.com.au/2015/02/difficult-days.html That year really distressed me in regards to thinking ahead. What I didn't realise, though, was how much more maturity would come in the following 2 ½ years!)

So, here I sit. At another boarding gate. Preparing to go back to the rest of my family, and not feeling so bad about that at all (it will be nice to be in my own house again, though I've enjoyed all the meals made for me over the last two weeks). It's a new chapter, the next six or so years, as we gradually transition all our boys through their final years of school and into life as young adults. And once again, we're "making it up as we go".

19 February, 2018

Vital community

Book Face, the cool bookshop/cafe where I spent my morning.
I spent the morning at a cafe with some ladies from our Australian home church. It was great. I'm flying back to Japan on Wednesday, so this was the last time to see them before July. Though it was hard to say goodbye, I am delighted that they have been able to keep a corner in their hearts for me to jump in and out of their lives. 

And not just them, there are others too. What a blessing God has given to have special friends both in Japan and here. Even though I can never be satisfied because I always have to be away from one community to be in the other, I'm not without community in either place.

It was timely to see this article up on Facebook this morning. I worked on it (as an editor) a few months ago. It talks about the importance of community in helping new missionaries settle into their new country. Though it was beyond the scope of the article, I think that it really helps a missionary (or at least this one) to have some people who love and accept them in their home country. That's asking a lot, because you go in and out of their lives, something that can make good friendship quite a painful thing. But oh so valuable to have, so that this missionary, at least, can feel "at home" in either place.

16 February, 2018

A different week

This week has looked very different to last week. This week I've dedicated to catching up with certain special/key people/groups. 

I haven't seen my son at all, though we've had some video calls and I'm proud to report that he's doing really well and seems ready to take on the challenge of uni classes starting on Monday.

I'm feeling tired, but really happy. So excited by all the amazing people who still count me as a friend, though I'm not an ideal friend-choice in that I'm absent for years at a time. God has blessed me abundantly!

I said, "Say 'sushi'!" which really did get them smiling.
Today I spent several hours with a bunch of ladies from our home church who meet for Bible study on Friday mornings. I spent a year with them last time we were home and will be back there from July. It was great to be there again and feel loved. What I really love about this group, though, is not how they make me feel, but that there is no pretension.  They're very honest about the struggles they face. There is also a very down-to-earth Australian feel about it all—I'm not on any special pedestal, and I love that.

But I'm going to try to get to bed a bit earlier tonight. It's tempting to stay up later and chat online to my family in Australia (10pm here is 9pm there), but tonight they're at an event at school, so I'm going to try to catch some more Zzzzzs.

15 February, 2018

Brisbane trains

So a bit of a different post from my sojourn in Australia. I travelled on the train today and took some photos of things that are a little bit different to Tokyo.

No ticket gates on many stations (i.e. a place you have to swipe your transit card to get through). You have to "level-up" and remember to touch your transit card to a "post" on the platform somewhere (short, yellow pillar in the middle of the photo).

Train stations with park-and-ride car parks, and dedicated drop-off areas. The former I haven't seen in Tokyo and the latter is uncommon. Also, the areas around train stations in Tokyo are generally really built-up, not necessarily so in Brisbane. 

As an aside, this train station seemed to be next to a train workshop and they appeared to be testing the horn of the yellow train you can see in the picture behind the cars. It was LOUD!

Inside a Brisbane train is designed for less people. Most Tokyo trains only have seats lining the sides so a maximum number of people can fit (standing) in the carriage. There are also many more things to hold onto in a Tokyo train, again, because many people ride them standing up.

It's hard to see, but also in this photo is a button next to the door that you have to press in order to open the doors. All the doors open whenever you stop on a Tokyo train—one reason that they are so overheated in winter, because otherwise it would get quite cold inside with all the door opening.

Ah yes, and the big elephant: many, many less lines. I didn't get a photo of the timetable, which reveals how few trains actually run on these few lines. Train travel is not as convenient as Tokyo. You have to be more careful about when you get to the station, so that you aren't waiting 29 minutes for the next train.

I was surprised at how long we stopped for at most stations. In Tokyo you get very little time to hop on or off for most stops.

12 February, 2018

A week into my time in Australia

These magnificent gum trees are a huge part of reminding
us we're in Australia. I love them!
I'm on my seventh day in Australia. It's feeling a little less shocking to be here. On that first day or two you feel almost raw with the change and it's a struggle not to tell everyone you met that you've just got off the plane after being away for so long.

However, as I meet various people I'm acutely aware of how I have been away and how much I've missed. Like I've been in a time capsule, I'm asking:
"So what is your daughter doing now?"
"What happened with your marriage difficulties that you were struggling with three years ago?" (Yes, sounds pretty direct, but this lady was pretty open about her struggles with her ex in the Bible study I went to at our home church.)
"How is [a mutual friend]?"
"How is your knee (a friend I knew had a significant knee issue)?"
"Who's child is that?" (Especially at church yesterday.)

No wonder I'm feeling a bit worn out. That's on top of these ongoing sagas with establishing our son in Australia:
  • A smart phone that has a not-yet-activated SIM card in it because he doesn't yet have a card for his bank account that allows online/internet banking. That card should arrive in the mail this week.
  • He hasn't got concession transport fees yet on his transit card. There seems to be a mix up between needing Centrelink approval (Australia's social security institution) of his student status...which he doesn't have yet and just needing a student number at an approved institution...I'm not sure why there is a problem still.
  • And yes, the doozy that is his Centrelink application for an allowance for student who come from low income families. This is the one that's asked him for details of his employment over the last six month, which countries he's lived in and when over his whole life, and won't accept an international phone number for his parents! But we're trying to stay positive: if the government is willing to give you money, you do your best to jump through the hoops the present to you.
Last night we did a three-way video call via Messenger (David in Japan, me in Indooroopilly, and our son at his place), he made a bit more progress on the application, but it was an interesting way to "be present" but not quite at his side as he worked his way through the application. The difficulty is that he's not been allowed to start applying for this until he landed in the country and showed his face at one of the branches, proving he's a real person and living in Australia. So now he's not only adjusting to all the "perks" of adulthood (bank, phone, groceries, buying bigger ticket items like a bike, etc.) and adjusting to Australia as an adult (finding a church, learning about his local environment, finding friends, interacting with Centrelink, etc.) but will soon be adjusting to life as a university student too. We are both really thankful it's all in English. And believe me, after living in Japan for all these years, we don't take that for granted.

But these are some of the successes of the last week:
  • A couple of hours at uni netted: a student card, a second-hand text book, and, for one subject, a necessary (but hard to find) workbook.
  • Ordering a bike that should arrive this week.
  • Learning public transport and the general geography in the local area.
  • Learning how to buy stuff using his debit card.
  • Getting back to the wrestling club and he will sign up for membership this afternoon.
  • Meeting up with some friends he knew from last time.
  • Catching up with some family members.
  • Going to our home church yesterday, and it really did feel like home, though we'd been away awhile.
  • Phone/transport card/Centrelink/bank: they're all in the process of being solved, just not quite yet.
  • And not at all least is getting to know the six other people in his new home and liking them.
On Saturday, while my son caught up with some friends, I got to wander around a shopping centre I visited many times last home assignment as I met with people. It was really nice to have some time to myself. I did some shopping too, some things to fill up the now almost-empty suitcase that helped our son get his stuff to Australia.

Yesterday we went back to our home church and were welcomed with open arms. Literally! I had more hugs from friends yesterday than I think I've had in the last year. Japan just isn't a huggy-kind of place. After much talking with people after church we went to a friend's house for a BBQ and a number of friends from church also came. After five hours there, I was really tired, but my cup was full. So many people who haven't seen me for nearly three years who still have hearts big enough to welcome us back into their lives. We're so blessed!

This week is a little different for us both. Last week we worked hard together to achieve the above. This week he's off to uni for a couple of days of orientation. I'm free-er to meet up with friends and family and even make some inroads in preparing for the rest of us coming back in July. Hopefully it's a little less frantic. I'm glad that we went at it hard, though, because uni actually starts a week earlier than I thought—though I'm sure I looked up the date several times—due to the Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast in April (when they will have an extra week's holiday). Classes start next Monday and I fly back to Japan next Wednesday (21st).

But now I really probably should stop writing here and get some other work done. Like some magazine article editing that I didn't get done before I left Japan!

08 February, 2018

Day three of settling our son into Brisbane

Another busy day today. We went out into the country west of Brisbane to access our storage container on a friend's relative's property. Found some useful stuff for our son, found some junk too! Amazing how hard it is for a 16 y.o. to assess what he'll want/need 2 ½ years later!

After that we had lunch with my parents and one of my sisters. They live west of Brisbane, so where we were was something close to half-way for meeting.

As beautiful as Brisbane it, it was gorgeous getting out of the city. I spent a lot of my young adulthood driving around south east Queensland in the area west and north-west of Brisbane. It's very nostalgic to be out there again. We had lunch at a restaurant in a park, and it was great therapy to gaze at the magnificent Australian gum trees.

On the way back into Brisbane we did some Op-shopping (shopping at "Op" shops, or secondhand shops). The goal was clothes, but I think we got an equal amount of books!

Then this evening we've had dinner with friends who have supported us in many ways since we first began this journey into mission. As former missionaries themselves (and the wife a former TCK herself), they have great insight and, as always, wonderful conversation.

But we're getting tired. Lots of information, lots of conversation, lots of busy-but-not-fun stuff. Transition is exhausting.

Tomorrow morning we're both taking an "at home" morning. Both of us have computer work to get done, but a slow start is sorely needed.

07 February, 2018

Re-entry shocks

We've been in beautiful Brisbane just over 36 hours and have done quite a lot already. But jumping in and out of cultures and countries it really is a bit of a shock to the system!

Beautiful Brisbane. So much green in this city. We're not in the
inner-city, but in the next outer ring (this photo is at Suncorp stadium, about 3 km from the inner city). Our son is living about 9 km from the inner city.
It is always a challenge to know how much backstory to give people you meet, especially people in the service industry. And it's often a surprise to see how they deal with your unexpected revelations. It was actually a relief to just say at the library, "My son has just moved to Brisbane to start uni and we wanted to get him a library card." No need to explain where he'd been before this . . . not like at Centrelink (the government social security arm) who needed that information and then presented us with a special form designed to help prove that you'd moved to Australia. Yes, even if you've got a passport, you still need to prove residency, which is harder when you've only just got here as an adult for the first time.

Little things give re-entry shock, but they aren't all bad. Small things I've had to adjust to these last 36 hours:
  • What's my bank card/credit card pin number again (it's been two and a half years since I used it)?
  • Oh, I can do my McDonald's order on a large touch screen instead of awkwardly staring at an unfamiliar menu while an impatient employee hops from foot to foot.
  • Which way is it to drive from this familiar place to that familiar place?
  • How does one act on a train again?
  • When half-naked people walk past...
  • Prices just seem so high.
  • There are so many white people around...
  • Not all Asians speak Japanese.
  • Wearing shoes in the house.
  • Putting so much rubbish into the same receptacle.

But it really is good to be looking forward again, looking at the future, rather than looking back and saying goodbyes. Mind you, I took my son back to his old wrestling club this afternoon and that was a good memory. This has been a big week for him with goodbyes, travel, hellos, and lots of new information. Wrestling was a good antidote.

Tomorrow we're getting out of the city to retrieve some stuff we have in storage and to meet some of my family for lunch. It'll be nice to go for a bit of a drive and not have to deal with any service staff (except to buy stuff) or bureaucracy.

But I'm also looking forward to another good sleep tonight. I'm enjoying being able to retreat to my own room. I'm staying with friends across the river from our son.