What I love and hate

This post could also be titled: I has feelings.
Because I do.  I have lots of them! 🙂

  • I love my new work environment.  The work ethic, the people, the balance between work and play and family and social life that is part of the engineering department here, the emphasis on health and wellness.  I love it.  Many of my colleagues are aware of the risks of sitting in front of a computer all day so they try and get out and move around or take walks.  Most of the department (including me!) have desks that can be raised to stand at, and I’ve been standing about half the day and it makes a huge difference.  I think I’m more productive and happier at work than I ever did before.  I feel like I relate to my colleagues more, where as before I felt like I didn’t fit in at all.  I’m really grateful for it.
  • I don’t love that it is cold and that I feel cold, all the time.  The boilers that heat the engineering building are currently broken and before I moved into my permanent office, the visitor office that I was working in was exactly the same temperature inside as it was outside.  50-55 degrees might seem nice for winter, but it makes typing pretty hard.  My permanent office is on the other side of the building and gets morning sun and is full of people, so that makes it a little warmer but there’s still no heat.  And I’ve already been dealing with the cold for so long, I’ve lost all patience for it and do not look forward to another 4+ months of winter!  Just because I’m a Minnesotan does not mean I’m immune to cold.  It just means I know how to layer, and I’ve got a lot of appropriate layers.
  • Love that the people we’ve met have been so nice and welcoming and helpful.  My advisor and colleagues, the lady we live with and her family, the guy Pretty Boy welds for, they have all been great to me and Pretty Boy.  For the most part when we’ve been out and about and shopping or finding out way around town, people have been really nice and friendly too.  Example: when Pretty Boy first started working in Queanbeyan, he was taking the bus.  He was the last one on the bus when it arrived in the Queanbeyan city center and the bus driver asked him where he was heading on foot from the bus stop.  Pretty Boy told him the address, and the bus driver said, “Oh, that’s kind of far, here, let me drive you,” and the bus driver drove the CITY BUS down residential streets to drop Pretty Boy off at the door to the trailer place where he works.  How nice is that!?
  • As nice and willing to help as people are, I still don’t like that I have to ask for help so often.  There is so much I don’t know about the department and office, about living and culture and habits in Australia.  And so much that I don’t have.  Like a car.
  • I like that I can bike everywhere, all year round, and that many times, biking is more convenient than driving because bike parking is always free.
  • BUT I hate that I have to bike at night.  It is already dark by the time I’m heading home from the office, and if we want to go out in the evening, it means we’ll be biking in the dark.  I have front and rear lights on my bike, but they only help so much.  And my night vision is pretty bad.  I just find everything about biking in the dark terrifying.
  • I love that Canberra has a small town feel and as such, small town traffic.  Biking at night would be fifty million times more scary if there were a lot of cars on the road, but if I wait to leave the office after 6 pm, there are almost no car or other bikes on the road.  The reduced traffic has also helped while I’ve been getting used to looking the opposite direction and biking on the opposite side of the road.
  • I hate that the power in the seller-consumer relationship here is entirely with the seller.  So far, I’ve already felt like I’ve been ripped off a few times and felt totally powerless.  In contrast, I think in the U.S., the power is entirely with the consumer, and I’ve been on the seller’s end of that imbalance and felt it’s really sucked fawning after customers for their money, but I think both extremes are not ideal.  And it seems worse to me being here, because we have less store options because there are fewer store and we don’t have access to many of them because of our transportation situation.
  • I love how pretty the nature is here.  And that a lot of it is pretty is a semi-familiar way and that a lot of it is completely novel.  The majority of the trees here are poplar, oak, or eucalyptus trees.  The eucalyptus trees are the most native and don’t change color in the autumn, but there are stretches of roads lined with trees full of yellow, orange, and red leaves, just like fall at home.  The grassy fields and clumps of trees and bushes are actually very similar to the Midwest.  But then there is also a lot of beautiful nature that we don’t have at home in the Midwest, like the patch of jasmine in someone’s backyard that I bike by and smell on my way home every day, or Cher’s vegetable garden grows year round, or the succulents and fruit trees (mostly apricot and citrus) and flowers in so many houses’ backyards.
  • I love that a lot of the unfamiliar nature looks suprisingly like a Dr. Suess book.  Pretty Boy thinks that instead of being super creative like we all thought, Dr. Suess just came to Australia and drew crazy Australian plants and animals for his books, when we just always thought he made them up.
  • I don’t like feeling so very foreign.  Many of the things that Pretty Boy and I find so normal, people are amazed by.  A common response when we tell people about life in the U.S. is, “Oh, like on TV or in the movies.”  And they are always talking about really mundane things, like eating lunch in a school cafeteria (they don’t have school cafeterias here).  We’ve also had multiple occasions where places just couldn’t get our order right: its happened at food stalls and coffee shops, to us and we’ve witnessed to native Australians, when dealing with people whose first language is and isn’t English.  I don’t know if this is a pattern or just bad luck, but it adds to feeling foreign and feeling like I can’t get things to work right here.  But it does help being surrounded by colleagues who are also mostly not Australian.  I also never realized how often I use colloquial phrases in my everyday speech, but I’ve become very aware of it here and unsure how many of the phrases I use translate across the ocean.  And that we never realized how much of our life is tied to ritual/tradition/culture that may be unique to the U.S.  It becomes a lot to deal with on a continual basis.
  • I don’t like how disappointed Pretty Boy was last weekend when we had a bonfire with Cher and some of her daughters for Mother’s Day, and Pretty Boy went to the store to get stuff to teach the Aussies how to make real American s’mores, and he couldn’t find graham crackers or unflavored marshmallows.  The closest he could find was digestive biscuits and strawberry flavored marshmallows.  SO not the same.  We made due, but I might have to make some homemade graham crackers and marshmallows so we can really show them how its done.
  • I like how quickly Pretty Boy found work and how quickly I’ve gotten back into my research.  I was very worried about both before we moved, and it is reassuring that both worked out well.
  • I love the Asian influence and that everyone knows what dim sum is (even if they only refer to it as yum cha).
  • I love how much closer Pretty Boy and I have become, but I don’t love how this move has meant we have to work so much harder to communicate and that there is so much more stress on our relationship.
  • Its not a “love” or a “hate,” but I think its endlessly amusing that one of the students I used to share an office with in Minnesota is currently visiting the ANU, and we were sharing an office again when I was in the visitor’s room.  I moved all the way to the other side of the planet, only to sit in an office with the same student and listen to her eat a yogurt and drink a coffee every morning at exactly 9:30 am.  Every single morning.  Ridiculous.
  • I hate that my food processor (and heating pad and glue gun and hair clippers) turned out to be NOT super useful and good things to bring to Australia because it turns we needed to buy a A$200 power transformer in order to use them. We bought the transformer, and now I’m happy to have my food processor working, but generally I hate how much stuff we continually need to buy.  There is always something more we seem to need for our studio or in life.  SO much stuff to buy.  SO much money.
  • I don’t like that I am struggling with food again.  The combination of stress, increased physical activity, increased mental activity, and the cold make me want to EAT ALL THE THINGS all the time.  And I’ve been eating a lot of the things.  I can tell that I have put on a little weight in the month and a half we’ve been here, and I’ve been struggling finding a balance.  A balance between eating enough so I can think and move and not be overwhelmed by stress but not over-eating so I keep gaining weight.  A balance between wanting to be happy and healthy but also wanting to be skinnier.  The hardest part for me is that I want to be happy with my body no matter what its shape, I should be happy with my body no matter what its shape, because there would be nothing wrong with my body if it was a little bigger – I wouldn’t be less health, my body would still be able to move and think as much as I want it to.  BUT sometimes I’m not happy with my body.  Sometimes I struggle with body image issues and loving my body no matter its shape.  Sally over at Already Pretty has some great thoughts and resources regarding body image and body love that have helped me, but it is still (and probably always will be) a struggle, and it will take time to equilibrate to this new environment.
  • And speaking of food, on a lighter note, I LOVE that Dr. Sam sent me M&M’s in the mail!  Probably the most expensive M&M’s I’ve ever had, but that’s okay because dark chocolate M&M’s are wonderful.  And I love that its pumpkin season.  Cher bought me a pumpkin and I’ve made pumpkin curry and 2 pumpkin pies and plan on making pumpkin breakfast muffins.  I love that pie is really common here – there are pie places EVERYWHERE.  But I love that American fruit pie is still quite a novelty.  Most Australian pie is savory and meat filled, or else more like a tart with mousse or fruit-curd type filling.  Hmm, pie.

Those are some of the many feelings I’ve been having after living in Canberra for over a month and a half.  Sometime I miss home a lot.  And sometimes it doesn’t even register that the life I’m living now is so drastically different than the one I was living just two months ago.

3 responses to “What I love and hate

  1. holly croskey

    You has feelings! Thanks for sharing them! I love how you are sharing your experiences, all of the details pull me in so it feels like I’m right there with you. And I’m so happy to know your work and living arrangements are fitting so well. The other day when you shared how cold you have been I envisioned you as you were in Beijing for winter-you ate a lot of beef balls which kept you warm! Love you so much, miss you so much and I too often disbelieve that you are on the other side of the planet. And I miss that Pretty Boy!

  2. Genny Croskey

    Love all your descriptions of your work and the food there. As a friend of mine said “life is a series of adjustments” and I think you are experiencing that but I’m sure you two will adjust very well. Take care and keep writing. Love you much, Grandma

  3. All so much a part of learning to live in a completely new place (magnified by the fact it is a different country). It is so incredibly exciting and so terribly frustrating all at the same time! Little-by-little, things will start to settle, feel a tad more familiar, and before you know it, two years have gone by and it almost feels like a second home… And I SO know what you mean by the closeness, yet complexity, a move like this brings to your relationship – Chris and I experienced the same thing. Keep breathing and love the fact you get this opportunity to experience this expanded view of, not only the external world around you, but of yourself within. HUGS to you both!

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