When I was a small child living as an expat in Thailand, a lot of my cultural inputs were American, especially around July 4th (the annual party at the American club featured fireworks, which terrified me) and Christmas. We had a few vinyl records of Christmas carols. I loved the music, but the context confused me: In tropical Thailand, we never had snow or even cold weather. I didn’t know what a chestnut or a holly was, had never seen a reindeer, and Santa’s furry red suit would have been stifling in Bangkok temperatures. Though I longed to experience a “white Christmas” and was excited about decorations and presents, I felt disconnected from the “holiday spirit” that seemed so important to others. This continued to be true even when I later lived in places that did have cold and snow (both overrated, in my opinion).
The weather in Thailand was always different from what I read about in English-language books or saw in movies: we had a hot season and a wet season (also hot). The idea of four seasons was strange. I was never cold in my life (not that I remembered, anyway) until we went through Europe in the winter of 1969 on our way back to the US for home leave.
This is not the first time I’ve used this title on a post – and far from the first time I have put together a new home. It’s enjoyable, but also tiring.
Moving in (two weeks ago) was stressful, even though all we were actually moving was our suitcases and a few other items we’d bought since arriving in Australia (such as a printer/scanner, which we’d needed to get essential paperwork done). We had booked a wagon type car on the premise that this would give us enough cargo space for what we most urgently needed to buy, but would not be too big to park in our new garage.
The car rental place texted me that morning: “The wagon won’t be back in time, so we’re giving you a van.” This turned out to be a huge Toyota Hiace which, had we had a crew of six, would have been ideal – we could have bought everything we could possibly need and brought it home in one day. But there were only the two of us, so the van was mostly just a huge headache to drive and park. Brendan had driven something even bigger than this before, but not often, and Sydney’s streets are not as easy to drive in as American suburbia. (Turns out that the smaller roundabouts are designed for semi trucks to just drive right over – no way they’d be able to negotiate those turns otherwise.)
We knew we’d have to hit the ground running on finding a home to rent. Before we left quarantine, we had already engaged a relocation specialist (Marcelle of Sydney Rental Search – whom I warmly recommend), who gave us abundant advice and insider information on the Sydney rental market. Long story short: it isn’t easy. Over the course of 10 days we visited about 10 places, in a wide variety of styles and locations. It was exhausting work, and we were under time pressure: the new school year started Jan 29th, and we wanted Mitchell back in school ASAP. (One of our non-negotiable criteria was that the school district needed to be good, which ruled out some neighborhoods that would otherwise have been interesting.)
We were up early on January 6th, all of us eager to get out of quarantine. We still had those 10 suitcases we had left the US with (plus our backpacks), and now added to the load the leftover quarantine food that we thought we’d still eat – fruit, cereal packets, and a few grocery items we’d had delivered. We somehow got all this into an elevator and down to the lobby, checked ourselves out of the Meriton, and then rolled it all out of the hotel. A big van-type taxi was parked across the street (I assume the driver knew about quarantine release times) so we piled everything in there and went on to our next place, an apartment-style hotel in Woolloomooloo.
We arrived in Sydney on Dec 23 – a day later than originally expected, but that was far, far less delay than many have suffered. As I was filling out the immigration card just before landing, it was an interesting feeling to tick “Yes” for “intention to permanently emigrate.”
Though there were only about 40 passengers on the plane, before landing we were asked repeatedly to allow plenty of space when deplaning. While we were taxiing to the gate, we were told that we would be met and given instructions by a health official, and should stay in our seats for the time being. Then it was announced that there would be a further delay because another flight had come in just before ours, and we had to give those passengers space in the terminal.