15 August 2010
That's how you're supposed to do the date in Australia...trust me, it seems easy, but every time someone asks your date of birth the instinct is to say 12/20/66...and that's not really a problem for me b/c everyone can figure out that there is not a 20th month. But if Tamara were to sayd 4/1/67 they might think her DOB is January 4th, 1967 when it's actually April 1st, 1967.
And that's just one of the many, minor, but easy to mess up things in Australia. The bigger things are driving on the left side of the road and sitting in the right front seat of the car to drive. The turn signal stick is on the right—resulting in my turning on the windsheild wipers with annoying frequency when trying to signal a turn. Serviettes are the pieces of paper you wipe your mouth and hands with when eating, asking for a napkin here will get you some odd looks at a restaurant since people will wonder why you want a feminine hygiene product at the dinner table of their establishment!
Our house is purple...and apparently that's OK here...that or we're the brunt of a funny joke in the neighborhood.
Getting here was laborious—from door to door, Hawaii to Port Macquarie was 40 hours + including actual travel time and layovers. And I've never been more proud of my kids. They were patient, helpful, and even cheerful throughout. They didn't complain about the food, accommodations, waiting or confusion. Then, the real kicker to the travel stress...we inadvertently left our most important bag on the final bus from the train station to Port Macquarie—the one with thousands of dollars of US and Australian cash, our travel documents, our passports, key paperwork for my license and Visa, Tamara's computer, and a number of other irreplaceable items. We didn't notice until the bus had left us. As it turned out, our cabbie was another exceptionally friendly Aussie, and the bus depot is literally less than ¼ mile from our house. While everyone was gone that night (it was pretty late), Saturday morning Tamara was able to walk to the depot, have a minor meltdown for one of the bus drivers who promptly determined that getting rid of the crazy hysterical American had become his top priority. He went on the bus, found the bag and sent a very relieved Tamara on her way.
It seems that all the people are nice. They're exceptionally friendly and welcoming really. One guy at the train station, seeing us with more bags than hands to carry them had walked all the way to the end of the platform, then turned around and came back offering to help. Another couple called a cab for us and another offered advice of when and where we could find groceries late in the evening on a Friday after we arrived after overhearing our conversation. Amarra has already befriended 6 of the neighborhood kids...it took all of 5 minutes to become one of the gang.
The town of Port Macquarie is quite nice. Peaceful with just gorgeous beaches, everything is small enough to be conveniently close. There's a Target, plenty of grocery stores, a nice little mall. We really like the town. We're heading to one of the parks on the beach in the downtown area today for a family picnic and a stroll along the river and ocean. We'd love to stay here.
But that, still, is an uncertainty. Due to the very poor handling of my paperwork, and worse communications with the hospital, if I'm to work here it will be a minimum of another 4 weeks before my license can be approved, realistically it'll be 8 weeks, and theoretically it could take more than 12 weeks if it takes a while to get the mandatory interview in Melbourne scheduled and completed and then the college takes as long as they're allowed to approve my application. And that is, by far, the most discouraging and frustrating thing we've encountered so far. I'll meet everyone at the hospital tomorrow (Monday) and hopefully be able to get a better idea of the timeframe for things.
Depending upon how that goes, we will either stay here and spend some time traveling about Australia while simultaneously trying to be as frugal as possible (everything is expensive—good luck finding a bath mat for under AU$20) and biding out time until my license comes through. But I'm also looking into possible placement in a more remote area of Australia (called an Area of Need (AON)) either for our entire time or for a couple of months until my license here comes through—this is a non-AON hospital and thus the much more arduous pathway to get a license. We're looking at New Zealand as a possibility too, though that'll take at least 20 days after they get all my documentation (which could take a bit since they need a letter from my medical school).
Either way, we're here. We're adapting and relaxing. We don't have internet access at the house, unfortunately, and probably won't for a while since the hospital isn't willing to pay for it and since we don't know for certain that we're staying here yet—I don't want to contract for service then have to leave. My iPhone, is allowing us some internet access, but it is slow and expensive—so we won't be Skyping for a while. We have no phone in the house, but Tamara and I have Australian pre-paid phones (my iPhone is unlocked so I just have a prepaid sim and am able to use the iPhone here), but we're not going to give those numbers out since the international call cost is outrageous. Email will be the best way to stay in touch for now.
School will start Monday in Nixa, Missouri...and so will it start here in Port Macquarie, Australia for the kids with Ms. Tamara as their teacher. Should be interesting getting that process going and seeing how our kids do in a totally different atmosphere.
I know this is a long blog post—I apologize for that, but appreciate anyone who suffered through it. Hopefully most won't be quite so long, but I felt like it was important to get our experiences and emotions and such for this first week down.