We've officially been in Australia for three weeks. I've learned a lot in those three weeks, but I must say, I'm still lost.
I'm lost in the grocery store. I have no idea where my favorite items are or if they even carry them. I couldn't help noticing that vanilla here tastes sweet! I made a big scene the other day when I asked where I could find baking soda. After consulting three employees and a grandmother with a straw hat, I realized that baking soda here is called bicarbonate of sodium. Of course, it's sodium bicarbonate! I have yet to find Crisco. I never realized I even cooked with Crisco until I couldn't find it. My cookies and biscuits are just not the same with butter. Would you believe that bell peppers here are called capsicum. Wha? And did I mention that everything is measured in grams here - flour, butter, salt, water. I bought a scale, but I'm still lost. I knew I was in trouble when I couldn't find a single cereal that looked familiar - oh yeah, there's Rice Krispies, I mean Rice Bubbles.
I'm lost on the phone. I can't talk to people on the phone without repeating several times "pardon, could you say that again?" I'd just say "What?" but that's a little bit rude-americanish. I still don't think that handy man who came by today was speaking English. Really, would you mind repeating that. I don't know my phone number. People ask and I look at my palm where I have written it in permanent marker. It would be easier to learn the phone numbers here if they weren't so randomly grouped. It could be xxxx-xxxx or xx-xxx-xxx or xxx-xxx.
I'm lost at school. Yesterday was "student free day" but I had no idea until my children were already in their uniforms. (I'm not sure if student free day meant a free-day for the students, or a student-free day for the teachers, like fat-free or drug-free.) I have no idea how to button the white collars on to their shirts and I confess that until this week I had never ironed pleats.
I'd better master that one soon - I have a feeling that if I took the girls skirts in to the cleaner, he'd probably sigh and say "Oh, St. Margarets. . . " I have yet to figure out how to use the tuckshop (canteen) - at which you can purchase lunch (sushi included on the menu) or morning tea, via a basket system? (Basket system?!) I think the kids are doing well, but at the parent teacher interviews yesterday, their teachers mentioned that they need help in measurment (metric!) and counting money (in Australian $ which has tiny $2 coins and 20 cent pieces).
I'm lost driving. I still can't back out and look over my left shoulder. Half the time I still turn on my windshield wipers when I aim for the blinker. Twice this week I have gone to the passenger side door when I was the driver. I will avoid parallel parking at all costs. I cling to my GPS (whom we have affectionately named "Bruce,") like a security blanket, though yesterday he led me astray - straight over the Gateway bridge (toll $2.95 each way!) We've decided it's better for our marriage if Shon drives - that way he won't have to sit in the passenger seat and cringe every time we turn a corner. It is seriously disorienting to be in the passenger seat and not have control of the vehicle. He's been very patient with me and my new drivers ed. It might help if they put a big A in my window for "American Driver" like they do with the L here - L for "Learning" then P for "Provisional" after one year.
I've been lost for a couple of weeks, but there is one place I know I'm not lost - at church. We showed up at our ward building and I know where to sit and I know that the library would lend me a set of scriptures (because my luggage was too heavy - 60 lb - I only brought a missionary copy of the Book of Mormon) and the children know that primary is after sacrament meeting, and we sing the same songs. I know I have visiting teachers to call if I need help. We watched General Conference 6 days late (because we're 16 hours ahead, the meetings were broadcast in the middle of the night), but I knew I was still sustaining the same prophet, whom I love, and I felt at home - that same spirit of comfort I feel in my own home/apartment/hotel room.
Before we could come on this assignment, we had to have an interview (aka psychological evaluation) in Houston. After asking many questions about the strength of our marriage and our drug/alcohol habits, they asked if we had some sort of support system. We said we were LDS, you know, Mormon, and the woman doing the interview said "Oh, I guess we're done here." Wherever I am, I am at home.