Sometimes I forget I’m in Australia. Yeah, there are those kangaroos hopping across the street in the middle of town while I walk up to the U.S. Embassy (really, this happened to me this morning…truly bizarre), but most of the time it just feels like I’m living in Somewhere Else, U.S.A., or maybe Another Place, England, since we are driving on the other side of the road.
Things are just very normal and predictable and orderly here. Kinshasa was a constant assault on my sense of place. I KNEW 100% every day when I stepped out of my house that I was not in Kansas, or North Carolina, any more. It’s easy to forget that here. Easy to walk through Target and Costco, take C to swimming and other after school activities, and just forget that I’m not in a familiar country that I belong to, and that belongs to me.
But, strangely, there is one aspect of living here that leaves me feeling bewildered every time I try to wrap my head around it. Something about red leaves falling from the trees and chilly mornings requiring gloves and a hat – in May – makes my brain malfunction. Kentucky Derby in the fall and Fourth of July in the dead of winter?! Whaaaaat? My mind just short circuits at the thought.
It doesn’t seem like it should be that hard to comprehend, especially since I spent the last two years in a constant state of summer. But, for some reason when it’s summer during Christmas and summer during July 4th, my brain was able to adapt. Something about the complete reversal of the seasons is throwing me for a loop. It feels like I should be pulling out my Halloween decorations and starting to think about buying Christmas presents, but instead we just celebrated Cinco de Mayo and are planning Memorial Day celebrations while at the same time pulling out our sweaters and winter coats.
C is equally confused by having switched things up. Just this morning after I told one of our neighbors that C was in “Year 1” (first grade), she said, “I should be in Year 2.” I tried to explain that, no, she would still be in first grade in the U.S. (and Kinshasa) because the Northern Hemisphere school year isn’t over yet and she wouldn’t start second grade until September, but that was beyond her ability to comprehend and she just stuck to her guns about being in the wrong grade.
It’s all fine and good now – I just sound a bit stupid when I tell people we are going skiing in New Zealand this summer and they look confused and say “Ah, but you should go in July, the skiing is much better in winter.” Luckily, they can’t see that inside my head there is a little crazy person running around in circles and waving her arms in the air at this kind of comment, so I just keep smiling.
Who knows what will happen when we go back to the Northern Hemisphere – my mind may just implode when it tries to reverse course and think about July as summer again, but I’ll worry about that when the time comes. Since we’ll start bidding for our third tour in the next few months that time may be sooner, rather than later, but, in the meantime, I’m headed to Costco, with my coat and gloves on in May, and maybe I’ll see some kangaroos on the way to help me know my place in the world – at least for today.
3 thoughts on “Forgetting my place”
Lovely as always, thank you for writing. I will say having been in the British system that year 1 typically designates kindergarten. My fifth grader is the equivalent of year 6 and a senior in high school is the equivalent of a year 13. That being said Southern Hemisphere schools often follow an opposite calendar which can make it very difficult when moving from one to the other. Chin up, sweater on, and enjoy the ride.
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Chin up and sweater on – I think that will be my motto for the next few months!
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So glad the three of you aren’t anywhere near Congo at this moment!! Have a great time skiing in mid-summer.
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