- Sunblock and uniform hats are required for recess. “No hat,
- Swim lessons are part of the curriculum. Simone has a swim
lesson every day for two weeks. Willa will have her swim lessons next month.
- The after school program is sailing.
- No homework for the first two weeks of school.
- 45-minute lunch outside on the grass.
- We are invited to the “Faction Swimming Carnival” where the
school factions (think Hogwart Houses minus the dormitories) compete in swim races. The notice reads, “Dress: faction colours, bathers, towels, hat. While we encourage students to wear school bathers, they are optional.”
I have been here just over a week so keep in mind anything I say or feel falls under the first stage of culture shock, which, according to Wikipedia, is the “Honeymoon Stage,” or rather, the tendency to see things in a romantic light.
First of all, it is hot. Really hot. If this is my honeymoon mouth talking, then it’s actually 50 degrees hotter than how it feels. It is summer in Perth, and apparently it is an especially hot summer, so the heat is somewhat excusable. It is not humid, so it doesn’t feel like Singapore. It just feels like the oven’s on, and you’re inside the oven, and the door is closed, and your thighs are sticky. I am trying to do any necessary body movements (walking, lifting up my arms, moving my head from side to side) in the morning when the sun is still calm. Today, after walking the kids to school, I raked some leaves until it was too hot to be outside (9:30am). I am now sitting on the floor of our bedroom under the ceiling fan. This sort of heat makes a short mundane errand (post office) feel like a massive accomplishment. There have been thunder and lightening storms almost every night, which I love and makes everything smell like Maui.
Perthians, as my dear friend Alex has coined them, are friendly folks. In eight days, there has been one grumpy taxi driver and one silent furniture delivery man. Everyone else, from the wine shop guy to Bruno the school crossing guard has greeted us with enormous smiles, almost as if they’ve been anticipating our arrival. “Yippee, they’re here! Look! It’s a person! Hi Person! May I help you? Well you just let me know if there’s anything I can do for you, anything at all!” This sparkling and down-to-earth attitude has made our first week feel less isolating. Again, this is the honeymoon stage of culture shock. Australians are probably a bunch of assholes.
The Perth landscape is diverse. It is all at once woodsy, barren, Serramonte-like (for you San Franciscans) and tropical. There seems to be approximately one playground for every child in Perth, and one park per family. There are football (soccer) and cricket fields everywhere, and every variety of eucalyptus tree. There are new housing developments with Ice Storm type mansions, and more housing developments under construction. I hear there is a river in Perth (with dolphins wtf) but I have not seen it yet.
We moved from temporary housing into our house yesterday, so… pause for massive sigh of relief… we are HOME. We chose to live in an area called Shenton Park, which I was told by the gal at the art supply store is a suburb of Subiaco, which is a suburb of Perth. Like Boston, few people seem to live IN Perth. There are the Brooklines, the Newtons, the Dorchesters, the Cambridges, the Somervilles, and everything’s close by and everyone says they live in Perth but, when you dig deeper, there’s an alliance and a pride that comes with your district. Keeping with the Boston comparison, Shenton Park is perhaps Cambridge, somewhat in looks (particularly the tree-lined streets between Harvard and Central Squares), and its proximity to Boston proper. Houses are generally smaller than what you might see in Cambridge, and the majority are single-family homes. Our home was built in 1905, and, like many houses in this area, it has a name. Our house is named Henston. Given that we’re in Australia, it needs a nickname (Henny?). The house is absolutely lovely and feels very us. Lots of windows, high ceilings, beautiful wooden floors, a built-in chalkboard in the girls’ room, and… are you ready for it… a pool. Yes you heard me correctly. There is a moth**fu**ing pool in our backyard. Not big enough to swim in if you’re over three feet tall and like to get some exercise, but still, there is a moth**fu**ing pool in our backyard and it is ALL OURS, MOOOO-HAHAHAHAHA (but you can swim in it anytime. But it’s ours. Just sayin.). Our actual street is very Leave it to Beaver. It’s flat with little traffic. Lots of trees, and lots of good smells. We think we smelled citronella on the way to school, and something else related to jasmine. We are a 15-minute walk from cafes and bookshops, and Dave will have an easy 15-minute bus commute to work downtown (the CBD = Central Business District). So again, I know, I’m wearing honeymoon glasses, but come on people, a house named Henston and a pool? Even when the second stage of culture shock (Frustration) kicks in, and this housing situation might turn out to be way shittier than I thought, at least I can drown my sorrows in my own moth**fu**ing pool.
- Middle of the night steak cravings
- Curse-muttering to oneself
- Staring at the wall
- Bananas are tasty
- Inability to read more than three consecutive sentences
- Ability to watch more than three consecutive YouTube clips of The Ellen Show
- Thinking about bananas
Why are we in Perth? What is happening? What is this Perth business? As you may know, Dave works for Chevron. He went to work there soon after Simone was born. Part of what led to Dave joining Chevron was the
opportunity for all of us to live abroad at some point. It’s the same reason
Dave chose to go to INSEAD. Hey, here’s a convenient excuse to leave our
beloved home for a dedicated amount of time and explore another country (and of course, INSEAD is the best school ever and this post is sponsored by INSEAD go INSEAD). But after Dave joined Chevron, we settled into life in San Francisco, both in incredibly positive ways (my career, the girls’ school, family & friends) and in difficult ways (my dad had Alzheimer’s and we couldn’t imagine leaving). In 2013, my dad passed away, and soon after that, we started having conversations that went something like this: “Maybe we should move somewhere. No way, no one’s going anywhere. Where would we go? No one’s going anywhere. No I
know no one’s going anywhere but you know, what if we just did it? But you love your job and I love my job and the girls are so happy and they’re learning freakin’ Chinese for god’s sake and we have a cat and we love our house and we have amazing friends and oh my god my mom and our east coast family.”
Like having a baby, or eating a hot pepper, there is never a
good time to move abroad. It makes no sense and is irrational in every way. But if you want to eat a hot pepper, goddammit you’re going to eat that hot pepper and that’s just what’s going to happen.
And then Perth fell in our laps. Perth. It was not unlike when Dave learned he got into the Singapore campus of INSEAD and we were like, “Singapore! Awesome! Um, where exactly is, Singapore?” Perth, Australia. All I knew of Perth was that at some point, roughly 50 years ago, everyone in Perth turned on their lights when Americans were orbiting Earth and Perth became known as the city that can be seen from space.** We started researching Perth, and talking to people there, and discovered that Perth seems to have quite the solid reputation. Its classmates Sydney and Melbourne get all the attention for being hip, pretty and smart. And Brisbane and Adelaide are sitting on the side of class being all, “we’re best friends and wear our hair in perfect braids and don’t have anything to prove and don’t need anyone.” And Cairns is smoking in the corner looking super hot, drawing really impressive but sort of filthy cartoons on the back of his notebook. And then there’s Perth. Perth is a bit shy, but beautiful. She’s happy being alone. She knows she’s not necessarily the first thing outsiders think of when they think of Australia, but she’s fine with that. She knows she’s got it.
So Dave accepted the job on a Tuesday, on Wednesday we asked
the girls, “you want to move to Australia?,“ on Thursday and Friday we told our friends and family, and on the following Tuesday, I gave notice at my job I love. It was a done deal. We were moving to Perth.
That was October. The girls saved their Halloween candy “to eat on the plane,” and on January 25th, the stale candy, along with eight suitcases, and four exhausted but excited humans boarded a plane (two planes)
to Perth, Australia.
**this is totally accurate factual information but you may wish to double check it.
Uncle Toby hadn’t been seen in years. Turns out he’s been in his basement taking Cheerios, smothering them in sugar, repackaging them, and shipping them to Perth. Well played Uncle Toby, well played.