Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Final Post

So, this is the final post on john jenkins: notes from down under. I wanted to wrap up before we left Australia, but real life sometimes gets in the way of blogging. I recall somewhere around February or March of 2008 that I was making the case to David that we should do this (this being moving overseas).  At the time the opportunity presented itself, there were two choices, Sydney and Hong Kong. While I was excited about the possibility of either, my preference was for Hong Kong—I think because it seemed more exotic or more of a challenge (which is kind of ironic, since it was under British rule for over 150 years). As we explored the possibilities further, we came to realize that the best option I was ever going to have if we went to Hong Kong was a tourist visa. The Chinese government doesn’t allow same sex partners to have co-sponsorship of work visas; rather, even though David was getting sponsored to work, we couldn’t apply for me to have a second visa through his sponsorship so that I could. I don’t know if this is still the case, but I would assume it to be. For the record, the United States has only begun to open its restrictions on gay couples applying for visas (work/partner) within the past couple of years. In the end, I’m pretty sure Sydney would have won out regardless, because I think my other half was never that keen on moving to Hong Kong anyway. Looking back now, I can’t believe it has been almost four years ago since we first set foot on the island continent and I have no regrets. The experience changed us and the people we met will be part of our family for the rest of our lives. A friend, who has spent a fair amount of time in Australia, sent me a message before we moved home. He asked, “Other than the word cunt, what else has Australia taught you?” I said, “Alcohol…that’s a conversation we will need to have over alcohol.”

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Penultimate Weekend in Oz

So, this is the penultimate weekend in Oz. And I must admit that I’m finding it incredibly hard to contain myself. This coming week, work begins on our place back home (painting, minor repairs, etc.), so the reality is starting to set in now. To add to the excitement, there’s a job prospect, which will make this entire experience come full circle if it pans out – well, full circle with a slight twist. Regardless of what happens, it’s the possibility of it that gives this adventure a sense of closure that I wasn’t expecting. The week we return will be the official week of Pride in San Francisco, so I keep joking with friends that I don’t want any parades or parties to celebrate our return. Oh, my poor liver…

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Irony of Ironies

Yesterday, I brought our items up from the storage unit to get them prepared for the movers. The irony of ironies is that most of the things we brought with us were never unpacked, but in order to get the items back to the US and through customs with little hassle they need to be removed from their boxes so the movers can repack them. Customs officers in the US are less likely to flag shipments packed by professional movers than they are by ones packed by individuals. There's nothing of concern, but it would be a bloody pain in the ass to have someone go through it all, item by item. By volume, it's not a lot, but it is a lot of little things: artworks, books, personal papers, tools, etc. When we moved to Australia, we purged big time by giving away or chucking most of our things - it was quite liberating. I did a similar exercise when I moved to Washington, but not as drastic. There was a point yesterday that I secretly wished there had been a tube leading to a rubbish bin, so I could toss it all into oblivion. Sentimentality has never been thing. However, there were items I came across yesterday that I had forgotten I had. And that made me smile.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

We have a date

After dragging out longer than anticipated, we have a date for returning home - June 19. So, basically this time in four weeks, we'll be in the air. It doesn't seem real. The irony of ironies is that we have around 16 boxes in storage that were never unpacked. In order to have these items shipped back to the US, we will need to unpack the items from their boxes, so the movers can repack them for shipment in their containers. The reason is to prevent any issues with customs when they arrive in California - border guards are less likely to worry with personal effects that have been pack by a professional moving company. Of course, this won't matter one bit if the shipment gets marked for random inspection. The moral of the story is, if you are planning to move overseas, don't take anything with you that you can't fit into a regular suitcase.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Trip to Killcare NSW

This past Saturday, we went north of Sydney to Killcare via Sydney Seaplanes. It was a going away gift from a friend. The views were spectacular and it was one of the most amazing things I have done since I've lived here. David took most of the photos below, but of course, I had to muck around with them a bit.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

It Is Real

So, around 6:10AM this morning David came into the bedroom and tapped me on the shoulder with his iPhone extended towards my face. He said, "Read." I struggled, because the light was too bright. I took his device and held it at a length so that I could actually see the text. He seemed happy about something - did we get final word on a date for a move?!? Then, the words came into focus: OBAMA SUPPORTS SAME SEX MARRIAGE. The first words out of my mouth were, "Is this real?"

It wasn't long after we moved to Sydney in 2008 that Prop 8 passed in California (my rant, here). The punch in the gut that David and I experienced on that day was devastating and we quietly swore that we would never return to the United States to live. Over time, our anger and hatred towards many of our fellow countrymen subsided (well, at least the hatred did) and we grew to understand (painfully, at times) that our home was in San Francisco and that we would be returning there at the end of our visas in 2012.

I've spent the better part of the morning trying to understand what I'm feeling. I've read all of my favorite pundits and have sifted through the banter on various websites - some of it earnest and some of it nasty. Poetically, today's announcement by the President brings my expat experience full circle. People will spin this thing into every direction possible, but I know deep down in my heart that the country I'm going back to is a little better than the one I left 4 years ago. It is real. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Winter Approaches

Winter approaches and I realize that I'm going to be able to skip it again for an entire year, a luxury. Our timeline for returning should be finalized by the end of this week (though I've been saying this for 4 weeks now!) and chances are likely that we will be back in San Francisco by no later than the second week in June. When we moved to Australia in the last week of August in 2008, I had no concept of what living without winter for an entire year would be like - and by living without winter I don't mean cold weather, but day light hours. When we first arrived, there wasn't a huge difference between the hours in a day between Sydney and San Francisco - we were coming out of the end of summer and going into the end of winter. It was quite a magical experience to have waning days turn into waxing ones in the blink of an eye. My mind played tricks on me the entire first year and I could never really grasp what season we were actually in. After going through a few cycles, I'm now used to it, however there are months that I still get a little confused on the season, April/May and September/October being those times because of the equilibrium of day light hours between autumn and spring. This is compounded by the fact that most of the people I know live somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere and are constantly posting on Facebook during late spring or autumn, "Summer is around the corner!" or "Ugh, winter is upon us." It is easy to forget where I am and go with what I know, rather, have known. The difference this time around is that all of my friends' clamor back home about summer being around the corner is true.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Meaning of Home

With the move back to San Francisco on the horizon, this bit from an article on the meaning of home by Verlyn Klinkenborg struck a chord:
Not that you can’t feel “at home” in other places. But there’s a big psychological difference between feeling at home and being home. Feeling at home on the Tiwi Islands or in Bangalore or Vancouver (if you are not native) is simply a way of saying that the not-home-ness of those places has diminished since you first arrived. Some people, as they move through their lives, rediscover home again and again. Some people never find another after once leaving home. And, of course, some people never leave the one home they’ve always known. In America, we don’t know quite what to say about those people.
I've written about this before, but I recall the first time we went back to San Francisco after moving to Sydney and being terrified that it was no longer going to feel like (or be) home. This was because of the first time I went back to Kentucky and Tennessee after living in Washington for two years (and only briefly for a couple of months in California) it seemed so incredibly alien to me. It made me realize that that region was never home and it was never going to be. I was afraid that my living here was going to produce a similar response when I visited all of our usual hangouts back there and that it was going to feel completely foreign. But that is not what happened at all. From the moment we stepped off of the plane, it felt like a really nice pair of jeans. Our arrival experience was made complete by getting into a huge argument with the taxi driver on the way to the hotel, because he had taken the wrong route. Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of riding in a taxi with me and David will certainly appreciate why this was the icing on the cake for us - we knew we were home.