Life is slowly moving forward here in Oz. Things have sorted out at the Uni (for the most part). By next week I should be officially a staff member (sessional for the unit I teach), and I SHOULD have access to buildings and to the bike locker (and not be entirely dependent on the tram system). Teaching is becoming easier as the rush of the start of the semester has slowed down, and I’m finally feeling like I can breathe a little with regards to the structuring of the unit. I know how to get around on my trams and have even ventured onto the train system as well. I no longer require my GPS navigation on my phone to be constantly running, and have generally learned where I need to go to get my groceries, cosmetics, clothes, etc.
Overall, I feel pretty good. But of course there are moments where I sit back and think “how on EARTH did I get here?” It’s completely overwhelming for me still, even now nearly 6 weeks in. Every minute of every day I need to be tuned in. I need to think about every step, every action and every conversation because if I don’t, I will miss something.
When you go on holiday somewhere, it doesn’t really matter if you meet people or not. If there’s a bit of a language or cultural barrier, well, that’s annoying for the two weeks you’re there, but it’s not really going to slow you down. On holiday you have a plan. Places to see, hotels to lodge at, and a checklist to work through. When you are living somewhere, there is no “plan.” The plan is just, living. Living where you have always lived is easy enough, there’s a pattern and rhythm you’ve adopted. Living as an expat is hard.
Even at the young age of 25, I feel like I had really developed strong ties to my home country and state. My “roots” were deep, you could say. Moving to Oz has kind of felt like I’m still this full grown tree, but with all my strong roots chopped up and carted away. I’m confident in myself and knowing who I am and what I want, but all the ties and connections I had in the states are nonexistent here (well technology makes it work, but you know what I mean). I’m starting entirely over, and it’s a bit overwhelming…but then exciting as well. I feel a bit like, if I can make a go of it here, I really can do absolutely anything.
I’m making friends at the Uni (though none of them are PhD students as my course still doesn’t start until April), but it’s hard being the one that doesn’t have an established world. I know I will. I have no doubts that I will EVENTUALLY, but it’s a challenge for me right now. So I’m learning to take it day by day, but then know that in the grand scheme of things, I don’t need to rush my new life here. I’m miles ahead of where I was just a month ago. I’ve learned so much, and I’ve made some really good connections.
I can now enjoy a good cuppa (cup of tea in Aussie slang). I’ve learned that candy is a completely unused term here and that they consider anything non-chocolate to be a lollie. Then there is the less descript term “treat” which my Aussie workmate demonstrated for me by bringing in chocolate covered strawberries. Evidently treat can be used for anything, but I rather like it when it describes things that are chocolate covered. I also finally figured out the word “partner” here can mean a boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, and (unlike in the States), does not automatically suggest a homosexual partnership. That one was a weird concept for me. It’s just a term that isn’t used in the states too much outside of that one way, and here it is a very general term used more than any other title. This week I also learned how to open and close a binder (trust me, it isn’t easy when the rings have mechanisms that remind me of a mousetrap). And it’s good to note that a binder is not a binder here. What we Americans call a binder, Aussie’s call a folder. The obvious question that follows this, what do they call a folder? Why, a manila folder of course!
So yes, friends, they speak English here, but this is NOT the English I have grown up with. I truly am learning a new language, and I love it. It’s frustrating, overwhelming, and sometimes a bit ostracizing, but it’s also a challenge. And I love challenges. I’ve laughed this week more than I have in quite a while. I laughed mostly at myself and my inability to perform the most basic functions (like opening a binder-folder), but also with my work friends as they take on the challenge of understanding my Americanisms (how’s that for a word). I even had one of them ask me if I wanted a “cup of joe” yesterday. I responded that I think I’d prefer a cuppa.
Being an expat is hard, but I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.