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!

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