12 July, 2018

Unexpected changes

It's been over a week since I posted here and a lot has happened. Instead of listing all that out for you, I'm going to give you a story that might answer some questions, or maybe will produce extra questions.

I'm typing this in a library that doesn't look like a library (we're still waiting on internet at home). It should be a familiar space—it was our local library for the last two times we were back in Australia. One of the hardest things about coming back to Australia is finding that things you thought would be the same as you remember them, have changed, and we're finding this one quite unsettling.

The area that we've moved into is similar to where we've lived before: in 2009/2010, and 2014/2015. It's an older area that is rapidly expanding on the edges. I vaguely knew, through social media, that there were library changes, with a new library opening up in one of the newly developed areas, but I didn't know what those changes looked like.

I now know this familiar library-in-a-park has turned into a place that looks more like a bookshop. The decor is black and grey, the space we can use has more than halved, and there is no sign of Dewy Decimals. Most disturbingly, there are very few books here. The ones that are here are on free-standing bookshelves with little backboards amongst the books announcing things like "Pop science", "Award winning", and "War".

It's great if you're just looking for something to catch your eye, but if you're searching for a specific book or topic, you'd be better off staying at home and looking up the online catalogue and reserving the book you want. I'm very much in favour of online catalogues, but I do feel a little short-changed here, like the comfortable social experience of wandering around in a library has been pulled out from underneath me.

We woke up this morning in our newly rented house, the fourth morning in a row that we've done so. It's getting to be a familiar place. We know where many daily things are, we've had a few showers, and the washing machine has done some loads. I've been able to comfortably cook a couple of evening meals there, and we have all we need to basically function, physically. 

But it takes longer to feel "at home". Outside of the house we feel a bit like we're in a foreign country, like strangers looking on. Of course we blend in better than we do in Japan, so it isn't easy for others to see that we're feeling a bit unsteady on our feet.

Starting work?
One question we're fielding is: "When are you starting work?" Well, I guess in a strange way, we've already started work. Work on home assignment is a multi-faceted thing that doesn't have clear boundaries. We've already caught up with more than half a dozen friends/supporters. How do you define that: work or pleasure? It's part of the purpose of home assignment, but we'd never like any of our friends to think that catching up with them was work-only. I've been answering email and dealing with work-related editing/magazine management stuff online, though much less often than usual as we don't have wifi at home, other than via our phones.

Other work-related things we're doing in these two and a half weeks between arriving in Australia and having our first official "appearance" at an event includes medicals and debriefing with OMF and psychologists.

Stepping into the library this afternoon was disturbing and we struggled to hold back our exclamations about the changes. One boy struggled to hold in his anger. But for me, at least, one short exchange helped. 

The librarian found us blundering around and asked if she could help. I explained that we'd been away and were struggling to take in the changes. She explained what was going on and then offered to change our membership details. As she changed our details, she vaguely remembered us, remembered this family of three boys who usually live in Japan who were here before.

That made it feel like I had come home, at least in a small way. That I could be something of a local here, even if temporarily.

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