I haven't gotten around to posting much lately, between clinic, exams and the internet at my house being down. So here's a couple of posts I've written...
So, what’s it like to be living on the other side of the world? Australia was a mythical world to me before I came here, glimmering like a distant jewel in the southern hemisphere, a kind of promised land of sunshine, surf and The Great Barrier Reef, where tall, tan, laid-back people wearing broad-rimmed hats chase crocodiles and throw boomerangs around. A fellow English-speaking, “first-world” type country where the US dollar could buy more than it would in the US… What’s it like? I keep asking myself that, wondering how to figure it out. How will I remember this time in my life? What are the beliefs that have been shattered, how has my world-view changed?
For me, it’s more than just “being in Australia.” I came here for more than just holiday, and in fact I’m working very hard. The one word that’s been in my head for the past week has been “humbling.”
Humbling! More than just not having the comforts of home. It’s everything. Figuring it out in a strange country. Even though they speak English here, there’s still the odd word or way of saying something that throws the whole meaning of a sentence off for me. Like calling a wrench a spanner. A marker is a texter. Clinical placement is also known as a roster. Australians are blunt but also polite and held-back, and I’m still not really sure what that’s all about. I think it’s the British influence, which I’ve been told is stronger in Adelaide than on the east coast of Australia.
Then there’s the money thing- everything just being more expensive, so I try not to spend on frivolous things. Not to mention I don’t want to accumulate items that I will have to ship home later. So no shopping therapy… Cooking at home has become the staple, and these past couple of weeks have been challenging, trying to find the energy to shop, cook and clean.
At home I got used to the idea of being a contributing member of society, going out for dinner and drinks, driving myself around to get to work, grocery store, go hiking, visit a friend, you know, be civilized! Here I don’t even really have clothes to go out in- and more than a few times I’ve had my backpack with me when I go out because I’ve come straight from school to go somewhere, and I’m on my bike. Lucky for me Australians are so laid-back!
Most stores close around 5pm, except for Thursday nights in the suburbs, and Friday nights in town. It seems so archaic! Once I was really hungry on a Sunday afternoon, after spending all day at home studying. Around 5 I rode my bike up to Fat Chicken to get some takeout- It was closed! Whatever happened to the American dream? There’s money to be made, it’s ripe for the pickin’! Oh yeah, we’re not in America… There’s a whole new paradigm here, a whole new way of living.
Maybe it’s about enjoying life? Those folks who work at Fat Chicken get to go home and have a nice afternoon chasing crocodiles and throwing boomerangs. When you can’t go to the store after 5, other priorities pop up. You are forced to relax. RELAX?? What’s that! For me, it’s been work work work. I can always fit in one more patient. Every little bit counts.
I mean. I think it’s a generally capitalistic philosophy. If there’s money to be made, go out and make it, right? I mean, who’s out selling bacon-wrapped hot dogs on the street in front of the clubs in Hollywood every night? Who started keeping Kinko’s open all night? When I say jump, you say how high!
But here it’s different.
Instead of making waiters work for their tips, they actually pay them a living wage. So food costs more, but you don’t tip. Manual skilled labor also pays quite well here, or so I hear. They’ve got a pretty tight control over immigration, so you don’t get undocumented workers slaving away for pennies. Young people from certain countries can come here on working holiday visas and earn pretty good money working for a few months here and there in different parts of Aus.
It’s been a humbling experience, to come here. Humbling and empowering at the same time.
Humbling because I came without much in the way of material items. All I could fit in a suitcase and my electronics in a carry-on. None of the comforts of home, none of my prized possessions that I’d accumulated and made me feel at “home”. I had to buy a blanket for the bed, and a towel to dry myself off. My room here is sparse and PAINTED PUKEY PINK! The chair I sit on makes my butt go numb and it’s covered in tacky, worn out fabric. I don’t have time or money to outfit my place for just a few months. The knives in the kitchen are dull, and I listen to music from the speakers on my netbook. (I’m not complaining here, I’m just painting a picture.) I ride my bike or wait for the bus. I don’t have a phone book full of friends to call, and everyone back home is asleep by the time I’m home and have time to chat. None of it is really bad, but it’s all stuff I wouldn’t have put up with back home. Come to think of it, I was really acting like a princess back there!
I ride my bike every day, in weather that’s getting colder and sometimes rainy… Although I really do enjoy that, and will miss that ride for the rest of my life! It’s really one of the most memorable moments that I’ve spent here, especially the bit from Port Road down Henley Beach on the way home, where it’s all downhill and I speed past the brilliant green of the park surrounded by eucalyptus silhouettes, beautiful any time of day or night. OMG I LOVE that part!
And here’s where we get to the empowering part. Even though it was hard initially to think about getting on the bike every morning, working my sore muscles into shape again, I now have none of that trepidation. And I feel lucky. I got to come to Australia to study manual therapy at one of the meccas in the world for physiotherapy!
Food and sleep. Two things I’m having to give up on now to get through these last two weeks at uni. I haven’t even had a chance to post the last post I wrote, much less write any more. But I’ve been inspired tonight to write. This week has been a rush, finishing the first in a barrage of assignments (staying til midnight at uni to do it), and then somehow not feeling run down, but energized… I guess I’m just excited about leaving, about travels to come… Everybody’s walking around in a daze, with tired eyes. (That’s going to be me tomorrow, even as I stubbornly sit here and write more, even after being at school for a 14 hr day…) It might have been the strangely warm weather, enough that I stopped the bike to take my jacket off halfway through and enjoyed the wind and the beautiful ride… As long as I stay on point with my assignments and continue to sacrifice certain things - it’s come down to food and sleep! But on the other hand, I’m just being dramatic. I just didn’t have time to eat dinner tonight, and I’ll make up for that tomorrow, as we go out to breakfast with our clinical educators to celebrate the last day of clinic… And sleep… well I usually get 7.5 hours, so to get by on 6 feels like less than it actually is! I really am a lucky girl, and I’m really enjoying the view down under, a life turned upside down.
Oh, a couple of things I forgot to mention.
I learned to do cervical manips!
I like to ride on the right (ie, wrong) side of the street when I’m coming home down the road to my house, and feel really sneaky when I do, but then when a car comes I go over to the left so I don't confuse them and come to an unfortunate end.
People in Adelaide are pretty respectful- I haven’t been experiencing uncomfortable moments when you walk by a construction site and guys stare and whistle as girls walk by.
I got Pri to send me Starbucks instant coffee because that’s how badly I miss coffee (I don’t normally like Starbucks!) It’s not bad at all! She also sent me lots of junk food for studying because the brain needs sugar. Thanks Pri!
I miss home!
Things South Australians say: “Heaps good!” “Off you go” “Pop your shirt off for me” (wait, that sounds weird… Overheard in the clinic!) "Fussed"- as in, "I'm not too fussed about being on time to class tomorrow" "Stuffed"- as in, "I think I stuffed up my ankle" or "My back is stuffed!"
Today I've noticed the weather getting colder and colder, raining on me and my bike =(, not so fun to anticipate the ride home anymore! But who am I kidding, you know I love it.
We've done two exams so far, and next week some more... The stress is wearing on everyone, and as one of my classmates put it, it's interesting to see how everybody handles it differently. Most importantly we have to stick together and it's really been a great group of people here.
I'm going to miss you all!