28 July, 2009

The process of settling

We are still settling. Hard to believe how long it takes. Here are some more things we've been doing in the last two days: Shopping then Not shopping On Sunday we were given a larger fridge/freezer. Old but MUCH bigger. Believe it or not, this was an important step to feeling settled. Last week I began to get annoyed with needing to go to a grocery store almost daily. The day after I'd made a conscious effort not to shop, we had a massive blow-up at breakfast, because there was only two pieces of bread for three boys (one of whom usually doesn't eat toast at breakfast EXCEPT this day). The reason why I couldn't stay away from the shops was not because I like grocery shopping, but because our fridge/freezer couldn't hold enough for our family for more than a few days. This was beginning to annoy me. I didn't want to spend so much of my precious time grocery shopping. And that is what happens. Grocery stores in Australian cities are massive and they swallow you up. Once you go in, there is no knowing when you'll get out again, especially if you don't know exactly where what you want is! In Japan it is usual to shop almost daily, although I generally managed to do it only three times a week. Their package sizes are much smaller (except for rice, sake and seaweed). Somehow although our fridge wasn't that small, we couldn't store more than about eight individual one litre bottles of milk at a time. Their fruit and vegetables also seem to go off more quickly. Other important reasons I shopped more frequently include small trolleys (no way I could fit more than a couple of days food for my ravenous three boys into them) and we had a small kitchen with no pantry. No large floor to roof cupboard in which to store the food bought. Shopping three times a week was manageable, though. Because the stores we used were small. You could pop in, get your groceries and be out in 15 minutes give or take a few, depending on the mood of your child/ren. In most cases I only had a choice of two or three brands of the same food. Choosing was easy. So yesterday, after I went to the gym, I girded up my loins and waded into Woolies for a full as-best-as-I-could-plan week's grocery shop. It took an hour. My large trolley was amply filled. It still takes a lot of self control to not buy all those things we've longed for: sultana/fruit bread, fruit cake, Tiny Teddies, sausages, meat and more meat, salt and vinegar chips, dips, cream cheese etc. Best of all, it all fitted into our new/old fridge when I got home (I had my doubts - it looked so much to my "Japanese" eyes). Booking swimming lessons Our boys haven't had much in the way of swimming lessons. That is one of our priorities in our year at home, but of course it is the off season. Finally yesterday one of the places I'd contacted called me back and offered us lessons starting tomorrow - at a cost. I cannot believe how expensive lessons are. I'm pretty sure I learnt at free council sponsored lessons in January school holidays (and it always rained...). Another thing factored into our weeks ahead and ticked off our list-of-things-to-do. It also added a shopping trip to yesterday. The boys are required to wear Speedo-like togs (swimmers). It is winter (even if we're wearing T-shirts in the middle of the day). Likelihood of finding these easily yesterday afternoon while dragging around three tired boys - minimal! But we finally did find something, not exactly what we wanted, but at least they'll be covered acceptably. Found a doctor who will see us Finding a doctor is a challenge whenever you move somewhere new. My habit is to ask around and find one people I trust are satisfied with. Had trouble this time. I hadn't anticipated so much dissatisfaction. In this area there are many 'imported' doctors. Many Australians seem to dislike them, mostly, it seems, because of their poor English. I finally got a couple of recommendations, but when I rang up found that these doctors weren't accepting new patients. So then I faced the choice - do I go back to our previous practise (involving about 20 minutes drive, including the Ipswich motorway) OR do I just take whatever I can get in my local area. In the end I chose the latter. We have a relatively mild thing to consult the doctor about today, so hopefully that will give me a good enough idea about whether to continue there or search for someone better. Centrelink This esteemed organisation is the social services provider in Australia (if you are reading from overseas). Actually, it is not so esteemed. The lady behind me in the line this morning was saying she hasn't had to go there for years and regretted being there at all this morning! Centrelink sent us a several letters last week. One was expected and welcomed, but the other was not. Two very large bills, to be honest. And no explanation. I went in this morning to ask for an explanation. I didn't get one, however the lady on reception gave me a well practised and official sounding version of, "Sometimes the left hand doesn't know what the right had is doing." I also managed to prise out of her that the bill was computer generated and probably not the result of a conscious decision by someone. I was somewhat relieved by all this. Now, however, I await a phonecall from someone who should be more knowledgeable than that computer. I'm just hoping the computer was terribly, terribly wrong. Prayer letter It is that time of the month. Actually it has been two months since I wrote one and people are wondering where we are living, what we're doing. It is time to crank up the prayer letter machine and get communicating with our supporters again. Trick is, I've left Publisher behind in Japan with our old Notebook. Now I have to use Pages on our Mac. Another learning curve. Conclusion Settling takes a long time. I am tired of the process. Actually, I am tired. It is hard to give myself permission to rest, because I know that the process will be longer unless I persist in working through these things.


Mrs Q said...

Just wait until you have teenagers to feed. You need two trolleys then as well as a huge fridge/freezer and pantry (the trade off being the teenagers get to push one of them and help to load/unload). Even so, I still need to shop twice a week for milk. We drink, on average, 27 litres of milk a week. Yes, I do get some strange looks from people at the shops. 'All that is yours??' they ask me. I just mention two words: 'boys' and 'teenagers' and some seem to understand.

Janet said...

I absolutely loathe and detest grocery shopping - these days my husband does it, or I shop online. Maybe you could try that (if your modem has decided to behave itself yet?!). And I agree - swimming lessons are very expensive - and after 12 months or more of twice weekly lessons, neither of my kids is a particularly good swimmer. In fact my 15 y.o. avoids it at all costs. It's practically un-Australian but I comfort myself that we did our best ... not everybody is meant to be a super fish!!!!

I am enjoying reading all your adventures as you re-acclimatise to the Aussie culture and can't wait til 28 September!

-J said...

Settling takes *so* much time! The grocery store is still not my friend yet. Remember the old adage that your first year living in a new country you need an extra hour's sleep each night. I think H.A. counts as a year in a new country!

Wendy said...

Judith, I think I need less sleep in Australia than Japan, to be honest. But perhaps not quite yet.

I don't mind grocery shopping, to be honest, but I do mind when it takes too much of my time.