Thursday, 27 March 2014

What a whirlwind!

1 more week and we will have been in Australia for 2 whole months!! I cannot believe how time has flown...from week to week the days pass in a flurry of kiddy activities and domestic chores...and before we know it another weekend arrives and passes. And here we are nearly 2 months later.

For the most part, it has been a rather smooth transition process...there have been hiccups along the way and some down days....and some really down moments. But all in well I would say we are doing well so far.

I ended up taking Amy out of prep 3 days after she started. She seemed to be doing well, after the first 2 days complaining a bit that she missed me and that the playground was too busy. But it was after the Wednesday off that everything changed. Wednesdays are free days for preppies for the first month. We attended a prep playdate in the park that morning, to give Amy a chance to play with some of her classmates and help make some faces more familiar. I found out that morning that most of Amy's classmates were 5 turning 6 shortly and she was THE youngest in her class at 4 turning 5. I was under the impression that in Victoria you are obliged to start your kids the year they turn 5 if it is within the first 4 months. But in fact they only have to be in school the year they turn 6. I was horrified. My poor shy little person, so little...and shoved amongst bigger children with a playground swarming with kids. I felt so I had completely let her down. The next day I took her straight to the teacher, she agreed with my decision to take her out and put her in for next year's prep. We formally "exited" the school in the office and that was that. I found a great 4 year old kinder for her about 200m from our house and after a while of settling in she is happy there.

Dan is still loving his kinder...though I wish I had known of Amy's kinder so close to home before I took him to Bubble which is a 5 minute drive instead of a 5 minute walk. But I think in the long run it is better for him and Amy to have their own schools. Especially Amy, who I realised after all this drew so much confidence from Dan...and then without him she was lost. So she needs this year in her own school to find her own confidence and learn to fly. I think of all of us Dan has made the easiest transition...perhaps because he is younger. He is full of life, happy and affectionate. LOVES travelling on the trains and is his best to just take a train trip. He is doing well at kinder, and he is making friends nicely too. There is a little Indian boy in the downstairs unit of our apartment, Dan calls him "his brother"! Too cute.

Craig has spent hours and hours at his computer, searching for jobs, sending cv's....I have no idea how many he has sent out. The first 6 weeks he only had 1 interview from all of that...and he did not end up getting the job. Then we decided to invest in a professional cv writer (I say invest because it is a big the region of $400 /R4000). The Cv writer did his resume, his linked in and a cover letter that is easily customisable. What a difference it has made!! In the last 2 weeks he has moved through 5 different telephonic interviews for different companies, and is now doing the second stage of interviews for them. So the CV helped him stand out from the crowd...I am so pleased. He was starting to feel a bit dejected about it. It is difficult to apply and apply and see no fruits from your labours. Otherwise, he has remained a cheerful and relaxed dad and husband...99% of the time absolutely positive. I am so fortunate to have him in my life. I love him endlessly.

From my side...I have made a few new friends...lovely people who I can relate to. Accepting all social invitations, that is how you get to know people. It does take me out of my comfort zone a bit...I think I am definitely a bit of a homebody. But putting myself out there anyways. Kids day to day schedules are keeping me busy, they start and end school at different times. Monday and Wednesday I have them home with I need to come up with outings or activities to do with them. Dan does soccer on Saturdays (dad's job) and Amy does ballet on Friday afternoons when Dan is at school. So Friday is a pretty hectic day for me. I am managing to keep up with the housework...though if I drop the ball for even a day the house looks chaotic...starting to understand why people think a bigger house is easier to don't have as much stuff in as small a space.

We have found an amazing church, I feel really almost literally enveloped in love by everyone there. They are so accommodating and welcoming. On Saturday we are going to a church movie night for the kids. Pizza and a Kiddies movie...we are all looking forward to that.

Otherwise, my mom had to go for an unexpected operation last week. Turns out a non cancerous growth had eroded the bone wall between the ear and brain away!! She was actually leaking cerebral fluid out her ear!!! We were all very stressed about the op...and it is the first time I truly felt a continent away from them. It was terrible. But her op seems to have been a success and she is recovering at home and sounds perky. I thank the Lord for protecting her through all of that!!

I guess after all this upheaval I could not get past that without my immune system completely crashing. Last week I developed a strange swollen gland on the side of my other symptoms until Saturday night when I started with body aches, and then Sunday with terrible chills followed by hot sweats and chills and so on. Monday I went to a doctor...she could not tell me what was wrong, gave me an Antibiotic. I started with terrible headaches through the week, nothing seemed to change. I went back yesterday....and she literally sat there looking at me sympathetically while I tried to explain how horrid I was feeling...and then I would wait for her medical opinion...and she would stare at I would offer some kind of self diagnosis and she would murmur noncommittally "hmmm maybe"...finally I burst into tears. She asked me if I was stressed...geez lady...of COURSE!
Then proceeded to say "ah it must be terrible to be so far from your family when you are feeling so crappy"...yes lady...just rub it in. I told C when I got home that I just paid $40 for a tissue...cos that is all I got out of that. I won't be going back to her. Got some names of docs recommended by Amy's teachers. If I don't feel better soon I am going to go to another doctor. One of the sucky things about moving...finding your new "people" medically. Hope I find the right doctor soon.


Monday, 10 February 2014

The big day...big school starts for Amy

Today my little girl started big school. She looked so cute in her school uniform, and when the teacher took her hand she willingly went with her. I had such a proud moment watching her walk off into this new phase of her life. As for the school, it was the first time I had seen the classroom and I am SO alive...a public school in SA would not be able to compete with this. When we came to fetch her later, we had a little chat with the teacher. Amy had been fine most of the day, but when recess came she became overwhelmed by the large amount of children and started crying. Her teacher was on playground duty so she saw her and comforted her. I have also spent a lot of time with her today talking to her about it. She is a talker like her mom...needs to go over it again and again to work through it. She also said it was too long....and yes 9am -3h30 does seem very long...but it is an adjustment for us all I guess. She has not said she hates it...but I think we may have a bit tougher time tomorrow when we leave. Will have to let the teacher know she needs a lot of reassurance. She cannot get to sleep tonight, keeps calling me in tearfully saying she is worried that she will miss mommy and daddy cos the day is too long

On the other side of the spectrum is my son Dan, who was devastated that he could not join Amy in prep. Not because he is attached to being by her side...but because it looked like so much fun. He was dragged out of her school kicking and delightful. Anyways...on that topic. I have been trying to find him a kinder. A lot of them have no space. One I called kept saying they would come back to me and didn't. So I called them, and then went to have a look. Before I got there I was sure I would take the space they had. But then we got there...and you know when you get that uneasy feeling...and you try and push it down. He was happy enough, running off to play. But the owner/manager seemed very disorganised and could not even tell us the price!! I filled out the form to enrol him...but when we left there I called another nursery school I had seen and asked to visit. What a polar opposite...clean, orderly, structured. They focus on teaching them not only normal work but also good behaviour in appropriate the library etc. The time and place for things etc. I really really loved it there. MUCH more expensive, but I feel better about this place. So then I had the hard task of calling the other woman and telling her Dan would not be coming to her school...argh...I hate doing that, but it had to be done.

Otherwise, we registered for Tax, we did our Medicare today, we bought Myki cards for Melbourne public transport, did some more "seek"ing. Did some more grocery shopping, did washing and drying and cleaning etc. I feel like we have achieved a huge amount of things in a very short space of time and I am proud of that, but also am feeling very much exhausted and washed out now.

I really am starting to pine for our stuff now...I feel like I am nesting in our rental...but without our stuff my nesting is stunted! Container tracker says it is due to arrive in port on the 18/02. Who knows how long it will be in customs. I seriously want my stuff now...sigh.

On the weekend we went to the beach in St Kilda. We of course would choose the St Kilda festival weekend to do it was hectically busy...but the kids had a ball and we all had a good relaxing time there. Beach is perfect for children! No major waves, just gentle ripples...perfect! Then on the Sunday we were invited to have a breakfast bbq at Albert Park. I had not met either of the couples there before, was introduced by my cousin over FB. But they were kind enough to include us and we had a lovely morning with them. In the afternoon we went to an aquatic centre just down the road, again kids had a blast. Was a good weekend. Amy has called me crying again, saying she is too worried to sleep...cos she will miss mommy and daddy...breaks my heart man!!!

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Welcome to OZ!

What a crazy couple of days it has back from Austria, then rushed off to Umhlanga for a few days with my family. Then back for 1 night and off to Australia.

The goodbyes to family and friends were by far the hardest thing in this whole process. So hard to say goodbye to someone you love without knowing when exactly you will see each other again. Been a long time since I shed so many tears.

The flights were a tad turbulent. Kids were good as usual...but we hit some really bumpy spots which left me praying fervently and gripping the armrest with my nails. A misty windy landing in Sydney, a crazy dash through customs with our 8 giant bags and 7 small hand luggage bags and 2 whiney children...our flight was already delayed and then we still needed to catch a connecting flight. Was a bit rushed but we made it.

Upon arriving in Melbourne, we caught a taxi to our hotel. Then we had to look for dinner and went for a walk into what seemed like the Asian quarter...lots of lovely Chinese and Vietnamese restuarants etc. Lovely vibe and good (expensive) food. That night we slept...fitfully...woke up at 2 am wide awake. The only one who slept through was Dan.

The next day was a blur...caught a taxi to our apartment, got the keys, tried to unpack. Went out shopping for appliances and a bed...the kids were a nightmare!! Cannot blame them when they were not only jet lagged but bored and in need of a good run around to get rid of energy. They focused that energy on competing between them for the worst behaved child in the store. Was honestly embarrassed...they have never been so crazy. Finally made it back to our new home. Last night we finished unpacking and got some better sleep thank goodness.

Today we received all our appliances and our queen bed...that was a story in itself. The base of the bed was too big to fit in the narrow guys ended up leaving it downstairs while we figured out what to do. Finally, C and I bought some rope and between the 2 of us we hauled the base up onto the outside balcony. We are on the 3rd floor! But we got that base up here...and now we have a wonderful bed instead of an air mattress! Yay for better sleep!

We also popped by to Amy's school. She will be starting on Monday. Looks like a lovely place! We will be going uniform shopping on Saturday! My little girl is growing up :(

Finally at 6pm after a quick dinner of 2 min noodles, we took the kiddies to a little park near us. Played there for a while and then took a walk around a block or two. Kids loved it and it was good to have some relaxing time.

So far we are loving it here. Quite something to find the shops we need etc. But having a good time exploring. We have not yet met 1 person who has not been friendly and helpful. I find Aussies to be really wonderful welcoming people...really appreciate that.

Tomorrow we look for a Kindy for Dan and try find a car to buy to replace our rental. Another crazy day ahead.

Love Australia :)

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Wintery fun in Austria

Amazingly enough...with 2 weeks to go until we spend our first night in Melbourne...we are currently in Austria on a skiing holiday with hubby's family.

It is seriously the most strange thing...up until the moment we left for Austria last Thursday, all our thoughts and efforts have been surrounding our impending immigration. But since we arrived in this wintery wonderland, it is like our immigration is the most distant thing on our minds. I have for the most part not spoken or thought of it in days!! And when I do remember for a moment, I feel completely I have forgotten the most important event in our lives...only weeks away now. It is almost like a guilty feeling...weird!!

I can hardly believe that we are so close to our immigration now...I am feeling really scared and panicked. Nothing more I can do to prepare our family for this huge is now out of my control and we need to go with flow from here on out.  I am not so good with feeling out of control...but I am trying my best to just relax. I still have some major emotional moments...guess I can forgive myself for is such a huge thing I cannot just sail through it calmly.

A funny thing that happened the other day. We were signing the kids up for Kindergarten Ski School. The lady asked which country we were from...and before I could answer she guessed "Australia"!! And then when I hesitated she said "South Africa". So I answered that she was right on both accounts! She herself in Aussie! And she said she thought my accent sounded a bit Australian. Was so funny! But nice at the same time.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

A home without personality is an empty place...

So the container left on Thursday. It is now Monday and the past few days spent in our house has been somewhat strange.

We have lived here for almost 5 years in this house. Made so many memories...but goodness me...take away the personality - in the form of decorations, photos, stuff etc - and you are really left with a shell of what once was.

Everything is echoey and we keep opening cupboards to get stuff that is no longer in there. Really mind warping stuff!  Funny to think of all our things bobbing away on the ocean soon...quite unbelievable really. Sometimes I wonder if I have fully wrapped my mind around things yet...

We stuck around at home over the weekend. People were fetching things we had sold, and some popped by for a visit to say goodbye. In between people we were all going stir only have a backpack each of toys. They were really forced to be innovative...and I played so many games of hide and go seek...think we are clean out of new hiding places now.

It feels like a new kind of limbo now...we playing the waiting game. Thank goodness it won't be too long. We are off on holiday on Thursday night...and this week is packed full of visiting and finalising the last few things. So hopefully it will be a better week.

Speaking of wrapping up the last few things...I had better get a move on with that.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

The Story up until today 9th January 2014...

We decided in November 2012 that we no longer felt South Africa was the place we wanted to raise our children.

Immigration was something we had been discussing since we were married...but it became more serious once we had kids. We started to view things more concerned about things that never concerned us before.

Finally hubby was not happy in his working environment and was considering leaving. So we decided after a lot of prayer and endless talking and talking that we would start the process to immigrate to Australia.

On the 5th January 2013 we both wrote the IELTS English Test to prove proficiency in English. This was the first of many steps towards lodging an application for the skilled visa we were hoping to secure.

We decided not to go with a migration agent in order to save money. Our application was a very straight forward expected issues. So I spent hours on the immigration website, printed the them and reread them and highlighted important notes. I joined an immigration forum, from which I had so much valuable help and was one of the best things we did along this process. Not only a source of support from others who understood but also gained from the personal experiences of others who had gone before us.

So we passed our English tests, hubby with flying colours. We worked through the process of the skills assessment, we gathered all the unabridged documents. It was a lot of work...very time consuming. After all of this we were finally ready to request an invitation to apply for the visa. This was the 21st April 2013. We received our invite shortly afterwards and then lodged our application and paid (gulp) the huge visa charge. 3 weeks later we were contacted by a case officer working on our visa and on the 28 May 2013 we were granted our Permanent Residency Visa. It was a really good day :)

After that we started to plan a trip to Australia. We needed to activate our visa, and we also wanted to see the country before we took the final leap and moved there for good. In September we had the holiday of a lifetime and visited there.

From the moment we stepped on Australian ground I was totally in love with it. It was world's away from the life we knew in South Africa. I noticed constantly the types of freedoms people have there that we don't have living in South Africa. Barbeques in the park after dark, walks on the beach alone without looking over your shoulder, no electric fences, no security bars, self service checkouts...things that were hard to fathom. Aside from all that, the friendliness of the Australians...and they are so kind to children. This trip made a huge impact on us. When we left after an amazing trip we truly were reluctant to come back to SA.

But came back we had to. We were still unsure as to when we would make the big move. A few months of limbo and finally at the end of November we decided to get on with it. Hubby resigned and we started our plans to leave End Jan/ Beg Feb 2014.

Since has been a blur of sorting household items, doing flight bookings, looking for accommodation, etc etc. Things just seemed to fall into place, we got the routing we wanted for the flights, my cousin contacted me out of nowhere to offer us his flat to rent in Melbourne which was in the exact area we were looking in. This enabled us to enrol our daughter into her first year of school...without a rental we would have not been able to do that. This took a huge load off our minds. Having a rental meant we had a floor layout to work with to decide what furniture to take and leave. We have booked a Self store in SA to store our extra things that we still want and when we are ready and have moved into a bigger place in a year or so we will send them on.

Finally we get to today...after a few weeks of sorting and throwing out and selling stuff...yesterday everything we were taking was packed by the Container company. Today the container arrived, everything was loaded and it drove on it's long journey across the ocean to the land of Oz. Very poignant but exciting moment for us. Our flight to Melbourne via Sydney leaves on the 3rd 31st Birthday. I think it will be a rather auspicious birthday for me...bittersweet...but definitely memorable. Kids are beyond excited and play "Australia" themed games everyday!

Emotionally...this has been quite a crazy time. We are both very sure about our decision, that has never come into question. But it is undoubtedly hugely difficult to say goodbye to family and friends. Many mixed reactions throughout this whole process from various people. Some supportive and understanding, others upset and resentful. This decision does not only affect us, but also those who care for us.

Personally, I have had many moments of wondering if we are out of our skulls to be doing this. Moments where I have cried and cried into my pillow thinking of everyone we leave behind. Despite all this, I still truly believe in our decision and the reasons behind it.

First and foremost, we want a fairer future for our kiddies. A chance to get a great education, a chance to study anything you want based on how hard you have worked to achieve the results needed for that. We want a safer environment where our children can be children and not know of evil and danger from such a young age. My 4 year old often asks me if we are safe from the bad guys. You try protect them...but it is a fact you have to be on high alert in this country. We want to be able to enjoy the outdoors, go on hikes in lonely forests, go for walks on lonely beaches...etc etc.

Aside from the benefits for our children. As time has passed and bad experiences have mounted up hubby and I have started to feel bitter about things here. It is a horrible feeling to actually feel twisted up inside, and with everything more that happens it twists you even more. That is not the feeling we want to have, we are not those kinds of people. It will be good for us to distance ourselves from the things that make us feel that way.

What a beautiful country we will be leaving...and that in itself is so sad. A country you love but feel you must leave. And in all honesty, there is no perfect place. Australia will have it's problems too, it has it's crime. However, we are looking forward now. This is a new adventure for our little family, a new country and a new life. Starting again from scratch, applying the things we have learnt so far. We see this as a grand opportunity that we cannot pass up.

"You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore" - Christopher Columbus.

Onwards and upwards we go :)