23 July, 2018

Re-entry thoughts

These last weeks have been so busy! Our youngest son started at his old Australian school last Thursday. A lot of the busyness since we landed in Australia was focused on getting key things done before he started school. 
This is an old photo from just before we left to return to Japan last
time, when our youngest son (middle) was representing the school in a
cross-country meet. Consistency, like the same school, has
helped us all in these big adjustments. 

Now we're left doing the less urgent, but still important things. For example, me getting to an optometrist, which I did this morning and ended up spending two hours there. 

It was a good experience, actually. Like the school our son is attending, the optometrist is the same one we've been using for years now. She remembered my face, which is a huge help, and has our records. The other big help is that she was born in Asia and came to Australia as a kid, so the idea that we're living in Asia most of the time isn't a big deal for her. The other lady in the shop who I dealt with had an accent too, and I asked her about it (we spent quite a long time together sorting out new frames etc.). She was grew up in Scotland, born to Canadian and English parents. She met her German-Australian husband on a Kontiki tour and now lives here with her two boys. So I wasn't weird to her either.

One things I've really struggled with in these last weeks is explaining. How much backstory is appropriate? At the optometrist it was very appropriate, because they were dealing with lenses that had been made in Japan and that I was less than satisfied with (another story here, about Asian optometrists and how my fears have been confirmed: they do tend to under-prescribe and it's bad for your eyes).

Conversational struggles
So here are some examples of other conversations where I've struggled to know how much backstory to tell:

Last week we visited the Ipswich Athletics club with our boys. Our middle son is doing online schooling and the deal was that he'd join a sports club as well. It's been a tricky experience: joining a club that you know very little about and that is outside on a field with no obvious "office" for enquiries or application. This was all made more complicated by what seems to be wrong start time on the website! 

I ended up talking to several coaches. The president gave me the spiel about the club and showed me where to sign up, but I struggled to explain our circumstances. Did I need to tell him that we'd been in Japan and that our boys had been in an American school there? (School sport is very different and has an impact on what we're doing now, rather than just rolling with the Australia school sports seasons.) Probably not, but it came out of my mouth, to my son's dismay (I could feel the eye rolling). I should have said just that we'd recently moved to the area and our boys were interested in joining the club...then waited to see if he wanted more information. But once you start down the road of giving too much information, it can be hard to stop.

Later in the week I took one of the boys back to the library to see if we could get them to get in a book that was missing from their collection and that he really wanted to read. I also wanted to change to passcodes on our library cards so that we could use the online catalogue, because we could no longer remember what they'd been from three years ago. The librarian had trouble understanding why I couldn't remember the passcode, because they routinely use the last four digits of the member's phone number. I guess we could have looked up our old phone numbers . . . but we just wanted to change the numbers to something more easily remembered for the future. So of course, to my son's mortification, I had to explain that we'd been away overseas for three years and couldn't remember the last four digits of our previous phones. I thought I did a better job of containing the oversharing, though.

But it's hard work every time: how much information do they need?

This afternoon I had to take a boy to the doctor due to an infection. We, of course, needed to update our details with them and it was almost like she was testing me. What was my former address . . . mind blank. I came up with the suburb, and then she prompted me on the street and I came up with the first of two digits for the street number. I lamely said, "We've been away for three years..." But didn't overshare and she was too busy to enquire about where we'd been. I probably redeemed myself by being able to tell her my new mobile number from heart (I've had to do this so many times in the last three weeks, it's almost tattooed on my head).

Benefitting from consistency
Earlier, our son had been shocked to hear that it would be a 20 min drive to the doctor. Why so far? Same principle as the school and optometrist—this is the clinic we've attended ever since our first home assignment in 2004. This was the place that told me I was expecting our youngest. They've got our records and our trust (though not all the doctors are fabulous, generally we've been satisfied, and the huge thing is that we're not new patients, which can be a barrier for getting an appointment). It's given us consistency, in a strange way, to use these same services over the years, even with the big gaps in the middle. The other one is the dentist, who also was born in Asia and loves that we live there, which makes the matter of getting dental work done much sweeter!

This has become quite a long post, but I hope it gives you a glimpse into the daily, probably invisible challenges that we're facing at the moment and tend to sap my strength.

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