WOW – A Year Down Under. I can’t believe we made this anniversary...What can I say about the past year?
We arrived in April and went to OAA, basic and somewhere I was keen to leave. Once we got our money, we found that cars keep their value well as there is little to rot the cars like rust. Cars are not so much expensive as they do not depreciate so fast. We found that suburbs like Aldinga and Willunga, although beautiful, were too far out for us to have access to the kinds of options we felt we needed in order to settle. We found that more urban suburbs meant you had views mostly of the inside of fences around your property and we didn’t want that-we wanted a more open feel and found that in the southern suburbs.
Our rental in Sheidow Park was a good base from which to explore the south. Woodend School, the zoned school for the area was a great start for a nervous 10 year old who was quickly embraced by the Aussie system. The eldest was zoned for Seaview High – in our opinion, a poor school as Emily really sank here, into a big low/ depression and it took a while to recover. She did struggle to cope without her friends and I won’t lie and say it was easy. It was devastating to watch her be so upset and yet to be so insistent that she remain here. I think what made her most upset is that she knew we wouldn’t back down.
Registering for being a teacher took longer than we thought and getting work took much longer than we had planned for. You will have heard it before and I will say it again - in Adelaide it is who you know that is important! Teachers are needed, or good quality ones are, but the population of teachers already in employment are waiting for their pensions and are in no hurry to retire. British teachers are needed but not necessarily in the metro areas (i.e. around the city). We registered with an agency which although helpful to get day relief meant we would be $100 down on the amount paid to us for in govt schools. I got a temp position in term 3 at a boy’s school. Bob worked in term 4 and then got a perm position for Jan. Sadly this didn’t work out and he was really unhappy. I got a job starting term 2 and so Bob resigned.
We found our house here much earlier than we thought we would. It is not the sort of house I thought I would have and even now, I am not sure if I like it. We were filmed by the BBC 3 days after moving in and it was a very stressful time. We bought all our furniture here and I think that made it harder to settle almost – seeing all this stuff in a new house, well, it felt like being on a long holiday. I’d look round and see sooooo much new furniture that I couldn’t recognise it as our home. Now it is fine, I have bashed some bits and pieces, got dust on the tops of bookcases and it looks like my place now.
Emotionally, Bob was like a dog with 2 tails from the second we arrived. He felt he had come back to his spiritual home. The girls and I were keen to support him but his expectation that we would all feel the same as he did caused a bit of stress. I am not one to keep my thoughts and feelings to myself although I was naturally reluctant to tell my delighted beloved that I did not share his joy. He took it well and stopped putting me under pressure, however well meaning, to enjoy it instead changing comments from ‘It’s great, isn’t it?’ to ‘what do you feel about it?’ His constant patience and obvious care to not add to a maelstrom of emotions was quite honestly incredibly touching. I then felt able to relax a bit more and now I quite like Australia. I doubt it will ever be a place that I feel totally at home with, preferring above other places, but it is the land I have chosen to bring my children to and therefore I stay. That being said, I have told Bob that 10 mins after the wake finishes I am leaving for France so he had better live longer than me if he expects me to stay here for the rest of my days.
Both girls are settled now, and are at Reynella East schools, our local state schools. We did think about sending them to Woodcroft but they had no spaces in one of the years. It was either both of them go or neither of them go so we chose govt schools as a result. We have heard mixed reports since about Woodcroft but have no real experience of the school and am therefore unqualified to comment meaningfully on the school. In our opinion, Reynella East schools are really good and we are really pleased with our decision.
We bought a dog from one of the many pet shops that line the malls here. I could not bear to hear the puppies barking as the shutters came down when the shops closed. Although I had planned to buy a rescue dog, I am pleased we bought our Groodle. He is lovely, with a heart of pure gold, a breed I would buy again although not perhaps a Golden Retriever x Standard Poodle, maybe a smaller one. He helped the girls settle though as they felt we had roots.
We knew that leaving family and friends would be hard and in the end decided against a party. I wasn’t strong enough to cope with seeing all my nearest and dearest on one room together at the same time to say goodbye. We spent 2 weeks travelling around, spending days here and there with each group individually which meant that we had quality time with each other. A really lovely time. We had not planned to have anyone see us off at the airport but my aunt, bless her cotton socks, refused to accept our decision to leave the country without anyone waving us off. That was kind but having already said goodbye in private, to say goodbye again in public was very hard. I was also not ready for the continued distress that our departure caused both her and my sister and their tears every time I phoned made it hard to settle. I still miss my sister terribly and can’t wait to see her. My niece has just turned one and I have spent the last few months playing peek-a-boo across a computer screen courtesy of Skype – the mind boggles at what her reaction will be when she sees a walking, talking computer programme come into her house!
Over the last year I have learnt that I really need to trust my husband!!!!! He has spent years researching house prices, exchange rates, cost of living, land prices, furniture shops etc. While I was stressing over money, he was absolutely confident that we would be okay. And much as it irritates me to say this, he was right. At each stage, (1 month, 2 month, 3 months etc), financially we were exactly where he said we would be in money terms. The importance of planning and research is made clear...
I have also learnt the importance of communication – the flow of information to kids as well as from them. I know now that it is best sometimes to say “I don’t know, but I am working on it and this is how" rather than “it will be ok.” I have learnt my children are far stronger than I thought in just about every way and all in all, I am sooooo very proud of my girls. They are awesome. Five addresses in 7 months was ridiculous but they took it in their stride.
Medical stuff has been more expensive in terms of prescriptions as everyone pays for them regardless of age or condition etc. But the plus is that you see docs etc much much faster and everything is very efficient. We have seen a variety of consultants in the last few months and with no more than 4 weeks as a waiting time.
We knew that coming here would be hard. For that reason, we made sure we had no escape route – we sold our house, our furniture, resigned from our jobs – and we did not ask them to hold them open for us in case we wanted to go back. Our decision was the right one for us. I do not see us going back to the UK.
The support received from this forum has been wonderful. For that reason, I feel it very important to be able to return the favour and help others. I also feel it that the trips that are run every couple of months offer a chance for women to network and find friendships.
Above all, I have found that there are some amazing people in Adelaide. People who have gone out of their way to support me and my family when we have struggled for whatever reason, and I want to thank you. I have made some great friends, you know who you are, and I feel very lucky to have such lovely people around me.
Libby, Bob, Emily and Sophie