I now have a social security number and a bank account. Americans still use cheques regularly, so I’ve got a cheque book for the first time ever. I have yet to use a drive through ATM. They make sense when it’s snowing (so do the drive by coffee kiosks.) There are those vacuum tubes they have in Kmart so you can make a deposit (at the bank, not the coffee kiosk). Apparently they don’t like coins. Sinead recently tried to deposit coins and the bank contacted her the next day to let her know they had managed to fix the tube and retrieve her money.
I’ve been feeling like a slow learner, more than usual. The main reason is probably that my first driving attempt during this trip went so disastrously and Kelly has declined my offers to drive again since. I started driving down the left hand side of a road that had a concrete median strip and he got a bit excited at me, not in a good way. I later realised that my main problem was being on a one way street before the turn, so I was legally on the left hand side of the road. When I went to turn left it just felt normal to stay left. There are a lot of one way streets in the down town area, so I will have to watch that and have a little chat to myself at every intersection.
I also felt particularly dumb when I went to cross the road last week and wasn’t sure whether the sign said ‘cross’ or ‘don’t cross’. It was a lit up, white man and he looked like he could have been walking or waiting. When the sign changed to a red hand I felt more confident that the white man meant ‘cross’. (He would have been green in Australia). So now I know that the sign means all white men may now cross the road. Or something like that.
Similar confusing situations arose when I went to Europe after uni but it has been so long that I forgot what it feels like to be so incompetent, and you really think you’re past that at 42, and in another English speaking country. I am also disappointed to find out that it will take months to process my teaching qualifications and translate them into something recognisable to American employers. That could make banks look on us less favourably too, when we apply for a home loan. Relief teachers get paid a lowly $65 a day. Never mind. My qualifications should be evaluated for the next school year, and I will cross my fingers that there are still some positions.
Kelly and I have been driving by lots of houses with the hope of buying something and there are plenty of options.
Tangent: I have almost got used to the American way of numbering streets so you could, for example, be looking for a place on the corner of 6th street North and North 35th Street. It's all about your numbered grid, although there are anomolies. What's more, if you have numbered streets and you are looking for a house at number 1235, that tells you it is on the block after 12th Street. Yet another thing I worked out is that there is not necessarily a house to correspond with each number, so you might live in 1303 Datura Street and your next door neighbour is number 1308. It's like they take a number line they want and stretch it out to make the house numbers cover it.
Back to my story about house hunting: We have mainly been looking at mid sized houses on tree lined streets. (I am really looking forward to Autumn, or Fall.) That way we will have room for us, Casey and Sinead, who is moving back to Billings soon for a few months, and a guest room. We are looking for a house that will rent out well so when Casey goes to College next August we might live in the shed at Blue Creek while we build, and the house hopefully pay for itself.
Supermarkets here are huge with so many choices, especially in canned and frozen goods. The only thing I am still trying to source locally is tea leaves without going to a designer boutique. There is now a great Thai restaurant which sells good curry paste so I have already made a good laksa which went down well with Casey. When the weather warms up we will go to the famers’ markets and buy all the local fresh fruit and veg we can, but that won’t be for a month or more. Clothes are cheap and the op shops are amazing. We bought a really good iron for $3, and it seems that a lot of stores dump their out of date stock, as well as lots of quirky finds. We got some great dress ups for Casey’s 17th birthday party; the theme was ‘Thrift Store Chic.’
We celebrated Anzac Day on the 25th with a Big Aussie Breakfast at dinner time. There was a quiz on Australiana (spot the frustrated teacher!) covering topics from vegemite to our flag. They had to translate “I hope your chooks turn into emus and kick your dunny down.” Casey was the only one who got it right but there were some amusing interpretations that got the spirit of the curse right.
Today we picked out a Subaru Forrester for my car from a good second hand dealer. Subarus are reliable all-wheel drive vehicles, much safer on icy roads and snow. Kelly is looking for a ute (pick up) that will be helpful at Blue Creek, hopefully one with a couple of dings in it already so we won’t mind if it gets a couple more in it. Mike and Mick have plans to build a bridge over the little creek and name the creek Alice Spring.
I should be ready to start some relief teaching next week, and I’ve got my head around the process for getting my Aussie qualifications evaluated. If there are not teaching positions still available for the next school year starting in August I’m sure something will turn up. The Karma Fairy is being pretty good to us at the moment.
And here's a squirrel because I think they're great, and I like they way they sound with an American accent; sqrrrl
Thanks for emails and phone calls. It helps keep the homesickness at bay. It’s good to know the blog is still useful and what might be interesting to friends and family. Love you all biggest mobs.