01 June 2013

Repatriation FAQ

                Yes, we are moving back to the United States.
I want to be closer to my family and the friends I have loved all my life.  I hate my job.  Kevin has been very sick and is finishing treatment and we want to start a new chapter.  We move every three years and the clock ran out on Adelaide last month.  I am bored.  There is no place like home.  Why not?
Do you have jobs?
Where are you going to live?
                That has yet to be decided.
Where are you going to stay?
                Not sure yet.
What are you going to do?
                Ask me later.
Are you taking your stuff?
Yes, the movers are coming on June 24/25.  They do all the packing, so we just need to sort through stuff.  We are selling everything that runs on electricity or explosive fuels.
What about Kevin’s treatment?
Kevin takes his last injection on June 19th and his last pills on June 26 – which is the day we will leave Adelaide!  He’ll have his final blood work done and will be free from the tyranny of his 8 hour eating schedule.  It will still be several months before the side effects dissipate, and he won’t be feeling tip-top by any means, but we just can’t stomach the thought of sitting around, waiting to feel better…he’ll get some meds to take with us, and then we’ll find a doctor in the US for some follow up care.
What about health insurance?
Yeah, well isn’t that a question that keeps people trapped, eh?  We will take out travel insurance to cover any serious accidents, but otherwise we will be paying as we go until we get jobs and have proper insurance that hopefully won’t exclude Kevin from everything.  We are Australian citizens, so worse comes to worst we can always come back and go on the dole…we have an emergency cash fund for such an eventuality.
What about Bad, Bad Kitty?
As you can see from my answers to the above questions, we won’t be very stable when we land.  BBK doesn’t take to change well, and we didn’t feel we could keep her safe and happy, so we decided to find her a new home.  BBK has gone to live on 5 acres in the Adelaide Hills with a lovely American man and his Aussie/American wife, where she will have cat doors, kangaroo meat, a bounty of rodents to chase, and fresh steamed broccoli. They have a good understanding of cat psychology.  They don’ have kids and they have two other cats – which will be a challenging social experiment for her, but hey, it is a time for all of us to spread our wings and fly.  Actually, she got a pretty darn good deal out of this and I suspect will be happier there than she was with us…it has been a tough year for everyone in our household.
Are you coming to Melbourne?
Yes, we will be driving to Melbourne arriving Thursday June 27 for a three day good-bye piss-up.
Are you coming to Sydney?
Yes.  We will be arriving in Sydney on July 1st.  July 4th will be our final night.  I propose a red, white, and blue party, but have yet to organize anything…we will be staying in the CBD, near Chinatown.
                Yeah.  No Shit.

52 Card Pick Up

A little over 7 years ago, our life was in a bit of a lull.  Still reeling from the failure of our Mexico venture and the emotional chaos that followed Dusty’s suicide, we retreated to our house in Northern California and watched the rain fall.  Days became measured by the interval between the morning news and the commencement of happy hour, weeks by the gap in morning news programs, months by the stacks of recycling piled beside the garage.  With no jobs, no prospects, and a dwindling savings account, Kevin informed me that he had always wanted to live in Australia. 

We came over for a 2 month scouting mission, rented a campervan, bought a map, and set out to see if a life could be made here.  We toured a large loop through the eastern half of the country, exploring the capitol cities, visiting significant and insignificant landmarks, and soaking up the flavour of the outback.  (In case you are wondering, it doesn’t taste like a bloomin’ onion, it tastes like red dust and flies.) Although I always enjoy travel and the shift in perspective that it brings, I wasn’t overly impressed with Australia on the whole.  I found it pleasant enough, foreign yet familiar, comfortable yet confounding, exotic yet ordinary.  I concluded that I didn’t especially want to live there.

So naturally, we moved to Sydney.

We settled in Sydney and I quickly realized that living there was much more fun than vacationing there – and yet, when I look back on my time in Sydney, it feels like a paid vacation.  Living and working there provided an anchor, a feeling of belonging, of insideness.  It is a very dynamic city, with much to explore and discover.  The harbour is a magnificent center piece to the city and each morning, click-clacking across the bridge on the train, I would smile down at the Opera House and the ferries and wonder how the other commuters could remain so indifferent.  Sheltered by their personal listening devices and reading material, how could they ignore the majesty passing by just on the other side of the glass – and I knew, that one day, I too would find it ordinary, that the day I crossed the bridge and didn’t acknowledge the magic would be my signal that it was time to leave.

So naturally, we moved to Adelaide.

WHAT?!?!  Sydney became ordinary so you moved to Adelaide?!?!  And do you also treat rashes with a tincture of poison oak and stinging nettle? 

Sydney is a vibrant cosmopolitan city, buzzing with international visitors.  Adelaide is a provincial cow town, humming with domestic breeding stock.  I can’t really say anything bad about Adelaide – it is an easy, pleasant place to live, convenient, comfortable, safe, and completely uninteresting. 

Circumstances conspired against us to make our life in Adelaide exceptionally mundane.  Kevin’s dream job became a nightmare.  I never had any delusions about my job – I fully expected it to be a nightmare right from the beginning, and I was not disappointed.  However, I did not anticipate just how much my new job would hijack my brain, that it would consume all the energy that I would normally turn towards socializing and writing and exploring.  Like some hideous emotional vacuum cleaner, my job sucked up all of my curiosity, all of my words, all of my joy.  By the end of a work day, there was nothing of me left to invest in making a life. 

Just as we were to conclude that the Adelaide experiment had been a failure, Kevin received a diagnosis of Hepatits C accompanied by a long and convoluted plan for treatment that eventually took two years to come to fruition.  The decision to remain and see it through was clear and obvious, but strangulating nonetheless.  Trapped, life once more became a matter of passing time.  It is a shitty way to live, feeling like you are merely waiting…especially when you are waiting for nothing…

And once the treatment commenced, life became less than ordinary.  Lack of curiosity yielded to paranoid agoraphobia.  What was merely social awkwardness became complete isolationism.  Mild amusement became obscured by a thick fog of depression, happiness only existing in photographs and memories.  And there is no distraction in daydreaming.  The present is currently so dismal, that the future doesn’t even exist.  The pipe dreams and fantasies that normally sustain us through dark times do not bring comfort because nothing seems possible.

I often use a river as a metaphor for life, flowing from humble beginnings, there are times when the swift current keeps you moving, there are tumultuous rapids, and there are peaceful stretches of lazy flat water and there are eddies – still quiet spots where nothing happens.  Against that, my life at present is an oxbow lake – I am stranded outside the main channel, stagnant, muddy, swatting mosquitos.  I can hear the tug of riverboats and steamships…If only a good flood would come wash me over the banks.

So naturally, we are moving to America.

The decision feels both easy and complicated.  From a practical standpoint, it is not logical or financially sound, but emotionally, it is invigorating, liberating.  The dark corners of my mind are now filled with details and plans, and the stress is a welcome relief from the tedium of the last 18 months.  A lot of factors weighed into the decision – family, friends, Taco Bell - but ultimately it is, like most of our major decisions, a matter of impulse.  Oooh, I just hallucinated that I was the captain “Impulse Power, Mr Scott. Take us out of orbit.”

I have no ‘grass is greener’ delusions about the next chapter of our life – quite the opposite, I know moving back to the US will mean a step down in quality of life and financial security – assuming that either of those actually exist.  I know that moving to America won’t make health issues disappear, won’t erase the signs of aging nor automatically bring a sense of peace and belonging, but it doesn’t matter.  It is what I am doing.  I figure, I got about 2 or 3 more major mistakes left in me…

I toss it all around a lot in my head, and depending on the day or the hour, I draw a different conclusions, as if I can distil it down to a singular essence that makes sense to me and everyone else.  Sometimes it is that I want to be closer to my family, sometimes it is that I want desperately to be away from Adelaide and my horrible job.  But if I had to pick 1 reason for making this drastic change it is this:

On June 26th, Kevin will complete the treatment regimen that has consumed our lives for the last 12 months, and while I know that things won’t get better immediately just because he has taken the last pill, I want it to be very clear that that chapter of our life is over.  I want there to be a clear demarcation of life ‘after treatment’.  I want Hepatitis C to be something that happened ‘back there’.

You got to know when to hold ‘em,
Know when to fold ‘em,
Know when to walk away,
And know when to throw the whole deck into the air, watch the cards flutter down, pick them up one by one and deal the next hand.