If…

That small but insidious word is starting to creep into our daily conversations. If we move back to Sydney. If we are here next year. ‘If’ is doing my head in. Uncertainty about the future isn’t what you need when you’re home with a two week old baby and too much time to think. I still don’t want to leave, but it seems increasingly likely that J won’t have a job here next year. Which makes my mind start skipping ahead…

If we leave, some of the things, both big and small, that I will miss are:

Short drives. L often complains if we have to drive into town, which is a short fifteen minute drive away. I keep telling him that in Sydney we used to drive for over an hour just to visit a friend for the morning, then would drive for an hour home to get home again. I don’t know how he and R will handle this if we move back!

No traffic lights. Related to the short drives is the lack of traffic lights up here. There aren’t any, full stop. They put a temporary one up while they did roadworks a while back and every time we had to stop L would sigh and say “This traffic light is pretty annoying, isn’t it, Mum?”

Constant learning and culture. Living and working side by side with people from another culture means you are constantly learning and/or feeling out of your depth. It is an ongoing challenge, but one that I think helps you grow as a person. It is also a double-edged sword in that I often feel guilty when I don’t make the most of being here. Looking back at our photos yesterday I realized how much more time I spent with Yolngu family last year, and how comparatively little this year. Of course there are factors like me working and being pregnant to consider, but nonetheless I do feel bad about it.

The kids not needing shoes. L and R often don’t wear shoes here. They’re simply not needed. We can go to childcare, the pool, the park, preschool, the oval…basically anywhere in the community or in town…and no-one will even notice if they’re bare footed. It is a small thing, but it is a definite freedom.

Not wearing seat belts every time we get in the car. This sounds terrible, but I often don’t strap the kids in if we’re just driving down to childcare. My excuse? It’s one minute down the road, the community roads are mostly empty, and we drive at about twenty kilometres an hour. If I was in Sydney there’s no way I’d anywhere, no matter how close, without the kids strapped in, but here it is standard procedure amongst locals and definitely makes life easier when you’re only going a short distance.

Big house. Here, we have a three bedroom house with a huge garden. If we go back to Sydney we’ll probably be squeezing into our apartment-sized two bedroom brick cottage on 250m2 of land. The flipside of that is that we’re close to great parks and a bike track and the climate is human-friendly enough to let us use them year-round.

Living close to J’s work. In Sydney, J used to commute for over two hours a day to get to work and back. Here, he walks three minutes up the road. This has a huge impact on our lifestyle and the amount of time he has available to be with the kids.

Kid-friendly venues. There aren’t really any great restaurants here food-wise, but at least all the eating-out venues are kid friendly. They have play equipment, a pool or grass and gardens to run around. Despite the fact that restaurants are much cheaper and better in Sydney I don’t see us doing much eating out, as keeping the kids seated and well-behaved in that kind of setting is pretty much a mission impossible.

Small community. I like seeing familiar faces and it’s nice for the kids to know so many people in the community – wherever we go we are likely to run into a friend or two they can play with.

And of course there are many more things too. Individual people, the fantastic family-feel childcare centre, the lack of financial pressure, the outdoors lifestyle in the dry season, the spectacular landscapes…there are really too many to list!

But I won’t miss:

Power and water cuts. In the past two weeks, while I’ve been home with our newborn Baby, there have been power cuts every day, leaving us stuck in a sweltering house. These were scheduled works, but it is not uncommon for the power or water to just go out unannounced. This would pretty much never happen in Sydney. It has reached the point lately that L arrives home from childcare and asks, “Is the power on at the moment?” Yet despite the inconvenience, I think it’s good for the kids to have the awareness that power and water are limited resources and not a ‘given’. Lots of people in the world live without running water or stable power. We are comparatively very lucky.

Relying on the barge for food. If you go to the supermarket, and the barge isn’t in yet, the shelves will be half bare. There will likely be no meat, wilted fruit and veges, and few dairy products. This would be okay if you knew which days to go to shopping, but the barge is often late making timing unpredictable. On top of this, if you need something particular for a recipe, forget it.

Missing family and friends. Flights out of here are prohibitively expensive, which means we have had to miss many things like weddings, birthdays, funerals and family celebrations. It would be nice to be closer and to be able to see more of our family and friends.

Anyway, it is all one big maybe at the moment. We are trying to stay positive about being here next year, but also putting out feelers for childcare and work in Sydney. If. If. If.

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