It’s 82 degrees (28 C) and sunny in Brisbane today.
I thought I’d better just get that out of the way. If you haven’t just turned off the computer in disgust and you’re still reading then you must love us a lot, so I’ll feel free to wax on about our Brisbane adventure and not worry too much about being boring. Everyone I can think of who reads this from time to time is either in snow today or in Melbourne, where it hasn’t been below 100 degrees for… how long now? All I can say to mitigate the injury is “come visit!”
We are settling in here, after a trip down that was so much better than we expected. After my last entry here, from Fiji, we were actually bumped up to first class for our last flight. Then another first class passenger switched seats with us so that we could have a bassinet. He turned out to be the Papua New Guinean ambassador to Fiji.
We were picked up at the airport by our Rotary Host Counselors, Jeff and Milena Stephens. They also brought along Peter from Rotary, who transported all of our bags in his truck. It was a little embarrassing to be traveling with so much stuff (six big bags and six little ones), but we were certainly glad that Mason got a full baggage allowance.
We spent several lovely days at their house getting oriented (or orientated, as the Aussies say) to the city and trying to work our way around the clock face so that we were eating, sleeping and waking at reasonable hours. We’re pretty well adjusted now, though I still wake up early in the morning, which has never been my m.o. Jeff and Milena were so good to us and we’re continuing to enjoy their help figuring things out and their good company.
After a few days with them we moved to the new apartment, and we’ve now been here a little over a week. That’s long enough to hang the pots and pans in the kitchen and stock up the spice rack, unpack all the suitcases, figure out how to use the washing machine and how to catch a bus into town.
That bus has taken us to the local mall more times in the last week than we went to the mall in the last three years in Asheville, I think, but this mall is also where the library, the grocery store and the doctor are found, so that statistic isn’t quite as scary as it would be otherwise.
Yesterday we had a free visit with a nurse there, who checked Mason out and answered some questions for us. She also weighed him, and after converting from the metric we found that our little Gordito now weighs 14 pounds and 3 ounces.
Australia is such a mix of the completely familiar and the surprising, with a bit of absolutely incomprehensible thrown in from time to time. For instance, Jeff and Milena were very helpful in lining up some gear for Mason before we arrived. Mason, by the way, is a ‘bub’ (baby). They asked their Rotary Club if anyone had stuff they could contribute, and— wonderfully— came up with these things for us:
– a bassinet
– a pram
– a capsule
– a bouncinet
Bassinet – so far, so good. Pram we know – we’ve each been to England and we read all the Harry Potter books. Bouncinet we could kind of guess, and were right – it’s a little bouncy seat with a vibrating function that helps bubs drift off to sleep. Capsule…? We were totally lost. Turns out it’s a car seat for infants.
We have taken the aforementioned pram (or pusher) twice to the park a block away, and enjoyed walks there. The grass is green and the trees are tall and except for the lovely addition of gum trees and wonderfully magical fig trees (for which our part of town, Fig Tree Pocket, is named) everything seems reasonably normal.
Until a flock of parakeets flies by. Or cockatoos. No kidding, there are cockatoos everywhere in the trees. They’re just lovely, but it’s quite strange— and refreshing— to see all of them living outside of cages.
And no squirrels. I remember when my Kiwi friend Jared came to visit the states for the first time and he asked if we had squirrels. I said “Jared, don’t you have squirrels in New Zealand?” and he replied “Well sure, I’ve seen them… I mean, at the zoo.” I’m going to miss those little guys. The fact that there’s a koala sanctuary nearby might soften my sadness, though.
I’ve been to campus a couple of times, have registered for classes and yesterday I got my student ID. The courses are incredibly appealing to me and I’m looking forward to getting to work. Semester one will include Advanced International Relations, Human Rights and Ethics, and Principles of Conflict Resolution in Deep-Seated Conflicts. How’s that for fascinating stuff?
Classes won’t start until the end of the month, so we have the luxury of several weeks to settle in and get our bearings here, which is a real gift. There is a huge housing crunch in Brisbane at the moment and we were advised to get here as early as possible in order to have time to look for a place. As it turned out, though, the Rotary folks found us this lovely place in Fig Tree Pocket before we even arrived (but after we had booked the plane tickets), so here we are with time to spare.
We’re living in a ‘granny flat’ (which we would call a ‘Mother-In-Law apartment’ back home— isn’t ‘granny flat’ much better?) downstairs from the Regional Director of Rotary. The region includes Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia, so it goes without saying that they’re not home much. Actually, we haven’t met them yet, and are looking forward to doing so on the ninth.
We’ve been enjoying the pool in the backyard quite a lot, though, while they’re gone. I know, I know…
Here I am, suffering for world peace.
These really are good days and we’re deeply grateful, though missing our old life as well. We have such fine friends at home, and of course our family. They really came through for us as we tried to pack up all of the physical manifestations of our lives and careers, while doing the two-month-old-baby-parenting thing. I’m particularly thinking of my buddy Cecil Bothwell, who came and fixed up all the stuff on the house that I had been hoping to get to before I left, and still worked on it after we left, and Barbara Gaw who came to hold the baby while we packed, and my sister Kathy who did little else on her visit to NC, and Ron who also helped bang the house into shape, and MJ who hauled boxes between phone calls and emails, shutting down the business and sweeping the floor at the same time, Marni and Lee who held Mason and lent us a car so we could sell ours and still be mobile for the last few days, and Nance and David who jumped in on all of the above, and Mom and Dad who did too and were always available when we needed them, and our Quaker Meeting, who were so supportive in so many ways, Barbie for the boxes and packing materials, Stephanie, Paul and Katherine, Tom and Lynn, and lots of other friends and family who helped and who offered repeatedly, but we were spinning too fast to actually call… so good, and so deeply missed. Sheez… it sounds like I’m accepting a Grammy. You get the idea, though… we’re deeply grateful, and we’re missing folks.
I trust that those friendships and family ties remain strong, but far away is still far away. Still, I need to make myself look forward and not back, and treasure these days right here in the present. So many parents have written to remind us to savor them because they go so quickly. When we celebrated Mason’s three-month birthday this weekend I was stopped cold by the fact that I only get to have a three-month-old for a month. What an amazing, and ephemeral, treat.
Having chosen to make some real sacrifices in order to answer this call, though, and then finding things to be so good here, the words of Rev. Howard Thurman keep coming to me: “Don’t just ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive, because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.”
Here’s to being alive.