Saturday, February 8, 2014

Have you settled in yet?

The question I've been asked most lately is 'Have you settled in yet?' In nearly equal parts I feel so happy to be home to a most wonderful comfortable life in Australia surrounded by our big family and good friends, while also thinking longingly of all the good things about life in Bhutan, the camaraderie we felt there and the daily adventure and excitement of living somewhere so unique.

A welcome home party with our friends, Aussie-style.

We arrived home with a plan to find a house to rent immediately, but after a couple of intense days looking at rental properties we found that the very best properties were coveted by many other people and the competitiveness to secure a place meant it could be a long wait. Meanwhile as luck would have it, a good friend was headed overseas for a month and agreed to let us stay in his place which gave us some breathing space to make some big decisions.

Staying in this house (which is incidentally where Bob and I lived many years ago before we were married) has allowed us a sense of stability and normality. We have all the essential 'things' of life so we can get on with eating, sleeping, watching tv and using the internet!

It gave us the space and time to look into buying a new home in the area near my school, and fortuitously we saw one house, felt it ticked all our boxes and are now just waiting for the settlement day to roll around in about a month.

Meanwhile Bob and I have started work, Xavier is at school and Remy at kindy.  Settled or not we all have responsibilities to get on with!

Our next step will be to stay in a short-term rental apartment once our friend returns home - until settlement on the house. At first daunting, now the prospect is appealing as we can stay in a unit right on the beachfront and enjoy an afterschool swim. Until we move into our home we are still living out of our suitcases (mostly filled with Bhutanese national dress and textiles!) so we are unhindered by all our worldly possessions that are still in storage for another month. As time goes by I start to long for some of those 'things' - it will be a fascinating experience to unpack all the boxes and find long forgotten belongings - some of which I'm sure we can really live without.

Every weekend we have been taking the opportunity to see and do favourite things and visit  places that for Bob and I are familiar but for the boys are brand new. It's like they really don't remember many of the details, big and small, of Australian life (from Weetbix to vacuum cleaners: so many questions!) and similarly I guess in time our memories of Bhutan will fade. It's so clear to me that it is all impermanent: the frustrations, the inconvenience, the freshness and novelty. A lesson learned in Bhutan: enjoy the present as it's all we have.

The boys are rediscovering (as if for the first time) all the different playgrounds on the Gold Coast.

Enjoying fun in the sun - back to the beachside life-style.
Such an incredible array of fresh produce available - we're really enjoying healthy summer salads.
Healthy outdoor eating - enjoying the long Queensland summer.

So, settled is not the word for how we feel! But maybe that's a good thing. I was speaking to my sister-in-law recently who went to live overseas for 6 months with her family and came back to their own home, just as it was before they left. She said in a way they slipped so quickly back into normal life that it made their adventure and life away feel like a distant dream. I think prolonging the process of settling is giving us more time to contemplate where we've been and also where we're going to next.

For me, the prospect of a return to Bhutan in the mid-term future is something I think of often and helps ease the 'homesickness' I feel for such a special place. I don't want Bhutan to be a place only from the past, I want Bhutan and the people I loved there to be part of my future life story. Bob's thoughts are focussed on the present: he has worked hard to do all the tasks related to buying us a home and is looking forward to move in there and enjoy the Australian lifestyle of outdoor entertaining and having room to spread out.

Meanwhile Xavier (like his mother) has been bitten by the travel bug and I enjoy chatting with him and talking about all the future adventures around the world we want to have. Certainly for this year we feel satiated but it's fun to dream and work towards new goals together.

Are we settled? No! Perhaps 'settled' is not a state that I aspire to! A sense of home for the present is going to be lovely, but ultimately I'm probably a restless soul looking onwards to new places and faces and adventures.

Cheers! Enjoying a homegrown Mango Daquiri at Bob's sister's place.