Originally, I signed up to a 3 month contract for this gig, but it’s been pretty obvious since Day 1 that there was a very high risk that I wouldn’t get home at the beginning of August as planned. So it was no surprise that the other day when a paper seeking approval for additional funding for my role, for an open-ended period, made its way to the Ministerial sub-Committee that I report to. Since then, a few of the wheels have fallen off the project, so right now I’m in limbo a bit about when I might be leaving.
I’ve been extra homesick the last little while since I spent my birthday away from home for the first time ever. On the upside, the US dollar is going up against the Aussie which, since I’m being paid in USD, is all good stuff.
As each day passes, though, I notice that I miss different things from home. In a later post, I’ll ponder the things I love about being here (and there are plenty of those), but here’s what’s breaking my heart right now:
1. My dogs, Max and Tyler
That's Tyler in the front, and Maxie coming up the rear. They are playing their favourite game: rubber chicken. (Tyler never lets Maxie at the chook; he is SUCH a top dog)
I reckon if I had my boys here, my longing for practically all other home stuff would be completely bearable. Add to this the fact that Maxie had a big operation on his wrist, which was riddled with arthritis and left him limping in pain every step; my faithful Mum has to look after him almost totally on her own.
I often close my eyes and imagine them here, hugging and kissing them on their fluffy cheeks, burying my face into their soft lush fur.
I miss their “night noises”: the little snores, grunts, taps, breaths and mid-dream barks that come out of them as they sleep on the ground next to me. I love when they roll onto their backs and shove their feet high into the air, comfy as can be. And Maxie’s midnight visits to the side of my bed when he scratches at the sheets to grab my attention and steal a cuddle while his brother isn’t looking.
I miss walking them, their zig-zagging across my path, nearly tripping me, sniffing and weeing like crazy dogs. Locals stop to ooh and ahh over how beautiful they are, and pat them just so they can touch their beautiful fur.
And what makes it worse is that dogs (especially big dogs) don’t last that long and I feel like I’m missing a big part of their lives. Enough said.
2. My mum. She spends her days looking after my boys, and missing me. I have tried to brace her for a longer stay here, but I can tell she wants me home right now. I’m her best buddy and, even though I speak to her on Skype at least 3 times a week, it’s not the same.
To make all this up to her, I have a long list of “spoiling Mum” activities listed in a file on my iPhone, which I’ll deliver on when I return. I’ll take her and the boys up to our favourite cottage in the Blue Mountains for a couple of weeks and watch the boys (including Maxie, with his healed wrist) run and play on the enormous property. We’ll go to Haberfield for ricotta cannolis and mini paninis. And to Cafe Sopra for pancakes and spaghetti meat balls.
There’s little doubt I’ll spend many years living this absence down. The vague (long-shot) of a possibility that this job might lead to more opportunities elsewhere in the world both thrills and scares me.
3. My mates. Seriously, I miss you guys heaps, and love getting your emails and chatting on the phone. I can’t wait to catch up with you for coffees and for meals when I finally return.
4. The Sydney Morning Herald. Seriously, this is number 4.
Every Saturday and Sunday morning at home, I spread myself out on the couch on my shaded verandah and meander through the paper. My boys flop down next to me and, every so often, Tyler marches up and shoves aside the paper with his snoot, demanding a hug before giving a grunt and sinking to the cool, tiled floor beside me.
Reading the paper online is no comparison to the luxury of spreading out its unwieldy broadsheet, folding it over on itself and making my way through the more serious sections (News, News Review, Business) before I reach the lighter, more fun stuff (especially Spectrum, and Sunday Life). Plus, if I read it online, I’m always accidentally finding out who gets booted off Masterchef before I see the actual episode, around 14 hours after it airs at home.
Last week, I actually asked mum to mail me a copy. But it turns out that, to get it here even in 3 months costs $28…errr, not worth it.
My little sweetie pie, Maxie. Right now, he's hobbling around, his left leg totally wrapped in bandages.
5. Sydney’s supermarkets, especially Thomas Dux
. When I first walked into a supermarket here, a wave of horror clutched my throat. I recognised almost NO brands, and the variety of fresh fruit and veges was terrible. Most items are imported from the US, and comprise the usual horrors (American cheese, anyone?) so I really had to look hard to find what I wanted. Over time, I’ve gone back and managed to familiarise myself with the contents of shelves, and David has taken me to a couple of different places so I can get some variety.
With the help of locals, I’ve discovered places to buy fresh items, like the Saturday morning markets where fish are filleted and sliced up right there on the pavement by the water and stalls of fresh fruit and veges and home-made rum line a covered area across the water.
Still, I have dreams of walking into Thomas Dux at Lane Cove each week and spiriting away my favourite gourmet items, including – yes you read it here – some vegemite.
[Photo credits: Kim Sbarcea, the boys’ dog-mother. See Kim’s adventures of moving to rural NZ at Daily Oxford – link on the right]