Monday, 23 January 2012

Keeping busy

Kinda figured moving to an English speaking country was going to be a very different experience and so far, it is, so no surprises there. What is surprising is how much I miss being different, being surrounded by new sounds and smells, actually being an expat.

Being resourceful, researching stuff, asking questions, subscribing to anything and everything related to one's new local area is all part of the fun of the new adventure.

If you had oodles of spare time, what would you LOVE to do with the time? That's the situation i am in - too much time on my hands! For those friends who are juggling full time work, family, kids, homes if you didn't know me so well, you'd think me so precious :) 

When we left Sydney for Dublin 5 years ago it was for a two year contract – no one knew, least of all DH and I that we would actually enjoy ‘this’ lifestyle and cope being away from family and friends.

Two years in Dublin were great. I flittered between being an expat with the International Women’s Club, and experiencing amazing days out to incredible places of interest, national treasures and the occasional Embassy. We were also able to enjoy being locals with our Dub friends thru MissM’s Montessori and wonderful neighbours. Three years in Japan was awesome, at times overwhelming, frustrating, rewarding, different. Being part of a small, tight knit community had it’s pro’s and con’s but overall it was a lot of fun. There's was always someone doing something.

My days could be as busy or not as I chose.

The school community was close knit. Being on the PTSA (Parents, Teachers Students Association) and making friends with other parents across the school community, getting to know the senior administration and teaching staff was a wonderful experience.

You could plan your week around the numerous parent activities the PTSA organized with the goodwill of parents who volunteered their skills and time. Pop down to Starbucks on Motomachi to find out what’s going on as far as days out to somewhere in Tokyo or Yokohama, who was planning or needing to drive to Costco.

It might be a temple visit, followed by lunch ; or a new shopping district to explore, followed by lunch; or a pilgrimage to China Pete’s or Dirty Dishes (yep, lunch usually followed if time permitted), grabbing the occasional English movie at the cinema mid week, and a lot of the girls were involved in various sports at the Club so that’s what they did.
A day out at Kappabashi checking out the incredible kitchen shops

There were times when the frustration was aimed at one’s personal lack of commitment towards one’s diary – cancelling or postponing things so that you could participate in something a bit more fun and social.

Thank goodness for living in Chinatown! There were numerous occasions when spending the day with friends was more attractive than grocery shopping so a quick dim sum dinner was needed.

Our UK experience so far is very different indeed. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s particularly normal and as we haven’t been normal it’s new for me. A lot of Sydney friends reading this will be laughing – they don’t rely on school as much as I do, nor do their days revolve around school based activities. So, maybe it’s just me getting used to another environment.

Drop off and pick up is NOT the social occasion on the playground YIS was. Most of the kids arrive at school courtesy of the school bus service provided. Those kids, like MissM who are driven to school by a parent, are walked to the front reception area, and no further. Hugs and kisses in reception then the kids walk thru to the Mirror Room and the parents turn and leave. Drop off takes less than 3 minutes.

Pick up is just as quick. MissM is out at 4.10pm and we’re home by 4.18 (we live right around the corner). No one hangs around to chat. No plans are made.  Parents are rushing off to work, or I’m not sure where, but no one hangs around.

So neither do I. It felt really silly, hanging around ………….. MissM has chosen really nice kids to befriend and we’ve started doing a few after school play dates.

Thank goodness I have always been able to create my own fun. And I can use Google really REALLY well.

As some of you know, I have started an Ikebana course with Dianne Norman. She is a Master of the Ohara school of Ikebana in Tokyo. She runs themed sessions, and I asked her for a ‘special price’ as I wanted to do the entire term of classes as well as the beginner’s course (means I get lots of stamps of approval for various Ohara designs as I work thru the course work)

I discovered the Royal Collections website, and found that on certain days of the year the Grand Kitchens of Windsor Castle are open to the public. So, rather than going on my own, I asked a few friends (mainly ex-Yokohama gals who have repatriated) and voila! We have a group of 7 ladies going out for the day.

The Discovery Centre in Winchester has a Matisse exhibition – I mentioned to a few mums I would like to go and voila! Someone said so did they – so, another outing.

MrsW has all her kids at school all day now, so we can meet up and play.

MrsB will be a bit freer once her national awards night is over.

TwinsMum invited me to join her book club which was truly lovely.

Whoopie has started her own business which is hugely exciting, tho her time to play has become limited for the moment while she nutures her new baby.

Aussie1 works part time as a volunteer, but we agreed that we should make a date, once a fortnight to meet up and ‘do something’. Our next meeting we are making lamingtons as neither of us have done so before and we thought the moral support would be good.

There’s no Starbucks hangout, I am one of the few mums who don’t work, and there’s no PTSA parent activities so I have to be my own activity co ordinator or go stir crazy with boredom.

It’s a very different expat life for me – and as I said, I knew it would be. While we are very happy, and life is brilliant, don’t get me wrong – a small part of me wishes to be part of an expat community once more. Who knows where our next adventure will take us. For now, I am content to be my own activity co ordinator, and create my own fun.

For my friends who are expats, involved in an International School, don’t forfeit one minute of the experience – get involved if you aren’t – there’s nothing quite like it.

With friendship

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