An innate sense of belonging

 

 

We arrived in Australia beginning of January – just after the Christmas holidays.

Here January means summer holidays, and the school year starts at the end of the month.

The kids and I spend most of the time in exploring neighbourhoods and playgrounds. But unfortunately for a newcomer, the city is a bit empty, and a bitter sense of isolation comes over us.

Kids are naturally sociable. So, for me was important to find ways of nurturing this side of them, even when there were no other kids in the playgrounds.

As new arrivals in town, we love to do the touristy things. Museums, attractions, aquariums and zoos are must-see places – to get my kids entertained and to find social opportunities. Fortunately, Melbourne has an abundance of the above to explore.

There are plenty of activities for kids in this big town, even if it is the least active month of the year. Also, house hunting is challenging in January, but I will talk about this in another post.

As a mum, I focus instinctively on fulfilling my kids’ desires. This is the first time in our life that we have lived by the sea. The kids love to spend time on the beach, and we spend time there, until the chilly wind starts to blow, generally in the afternoon.

Finally, we receive the first communications from the school which is about to start, and my daughter can’t wait to meet her new schoolmates.
She is turning 9 this year, and Australia is move number 3 for her. It is a crucial age from a social point of view: schoolmates and friends are an important part of a child’s life. My daughter wasn’t immune to huge sadness at having to say her goodbyes to her friends when we had to leave.

Her strong sense of belonging manifests in many ways, and this time school uniform represents a new entry. She just loves the idea of wearing a school uniform. A) because its colours are purple and golden, B) it’s a kind of “dressing up” that she is allowed to wear at school every day. C) it fulfils perfectly her sense of belonging to her new unknown class.

With a thrill of excitement, we head to the uniform shop, to try on the summer dress – yes, there is a uniform for each of the two seasons – and a mandatory hat to protect from the nasty UV rays, abundant in this part of the hemisphere.
On this occasion, we learn with great curiosity, about the history of the two colours which represent the school values, together with the lion crest dated 1877 and the notable motto Sapere Aude – dare to be wise.

 

 

 

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New shoes and a scooter to discover a new land

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It’s summer when we arrive in Australia. So that means we have plenty of free time before school starts.

Dad is off to work. And me and the kids are off to discover the neighbourhood.

We are equipped with new shoes, scooters and lots of curiosity.

The kids are excited, I struggle a bit with the phone GPS, then I decide it is much better to go the old way: wandering aimlessly. That was the method I used to discover the old silk dyers neighbourhood hidden in tiny alleys alongside the Chao Phraya river canals when I lived in Bangkok.
There is an abundance of Victorian architecture in Melbourne – one or two storey houses built one next to the other, nicely adorned with lace on the front yard canopy.
The Victorian period flourished in Australia from 1840 to 1890, and the state of Victoria saw a gold rush and population boom during the 1880s (see Wikipedia).

These lovely houses have nice front yards decorated with plants and fruit trees. Most of them have a bench or two chairs to sit and enjoy the day. Our eyes are filled by the sight of nice vases, sculptures, a locked bicycle, luggage, lights and signs left from new years eve, kids’ drawings.


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We like to observe and list the known and unknown plants we see on the pathway. Lemon trees are very common, together with more local flora bushes where the colorful parrots and white cockatoo love to visit. Some houses also have rows of tomatoes growing: every centimeter is used to enjoy the outside area.

By walking around I get the sense of the area, I feel the spaces, I smell the fragrances that every corner blows – it might be a flower exhaling its scent or food being cooked nearby. And I am part of the ambient.


The kids sometimes lead the way, propelling their scooters with their strong leg pushes, sometimes they are on their knees observing an ant’s path or another exciting discovery.

At the end of the street we have a big surprise: an Italian ice cream shop!
Great joy for the kids and a heartwarming moment: we have found a tiny tasty bit of our culture in this new city, and we are happy!

When we arrive at a playground we are amazed to observe the majestic height of the eucalyptus trees, that here are called gum trees. Some varieties release red gum if the bark is broken. There are 700 varieties of eucalyptus in Australia, and its oil finds many uses like in fuels, fragrances, insect repellant etc.

Every day is filled with colours, smells, discoveries, sounds and new learnings.
We make our way home carrying virtual luggage: sensory experiences that will inevitably shape my children’s perception of this amazing world we live in.

I feel happily tired at the end of the day, curious about what tomorrow will look like.

 

 

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Landing Down Under

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We arrived in our new host country on the 6th of January – full summer. Yes, in the southern hemisphere the seasons are reversed.
One of our suitcases is lost, and we are surprised to see that so are dozens of others! I have never seen so many suitcases on the floor. After filling out the necessary forms to rescue our missing case, we make our way out to get our car.

As the sliding doors open we are hit by a wave of heat – 42 degrees Celsius! With this temperature and a huge number of cars lined up in the outdoor carpark, for a minute I am confused… Did we land in Las Vegas?

Slowly we manage to fit all our luggage, the pram, the two car seats and ourselves in the car –and set the GPS to our new temporary home.

I look out of the car window and see eucalyptus trees swaying in the wind silhouetted in a deep blue sky. The radio is playing “Stand by me”. The lyrics resonate with our mood:

If the sky that we look upon
Should tumble and fall
And the mountain should crumble to the sea
I won’t cry, I won’t cry
No I won’t shed a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me
And darling, darling stand by me
Oh, stand by me
Stand by me, stand by me, stand by me

I feel a sense of bittersweet nostalgia mixed with excitement and curiosity.

We left Europe in a Christmassy festive mood, after having said our goodbyes to our families.

My head is full of thoughts.

The most pounding thought is that we have moved to the end of the world… or almost. One of the farthest places on earth.

And a feeling of isolation emerges (The Big Island). The weird description that here in Australia we are down under. And we literally are! This must be the reason for a headache I have for the first few days. That, and the 9 hours’ time difference with Europe, from where we departed.

Anyway, we decided to move, we packed and here we are.
We put away the initial feeling of disorientation to support our children. They are part of the reason we decided to move down here.
So Melbourne, here we come!

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La mia torinesità si manifesta in strani modi.

giallo Torino

 

La mia Torinesità si manifesta in strani modi.

Recentemente ho continuato a tenere un low profile all’idea di trasferirsi in Australia, Melbourne.

Alla domanda di amici e conoscenti, sei contenta? Rispondevo : beh certo non ci mandano in Afghanistan!

Era il mio modo torinese di non esultare troppo, non mostrare sfrontatamente la fortuna di questo trasferimento capitato per caso a causa del lavoro di mio marito.

È anche un modo un po’ pudico di non urtare chi rimane per anni nella stessa posizione, strada, città. Di avere rispetto degli altrui destini.

Ho sempre fatto attenzione a mantenere armonia e non creare disaccordo. Sarà la mia natura di bilancia.

Torinesi, come ci ha definiti la sociologa Chiara Saraceno: ”  sobri, discreti, perfino un po’ provinciali nel senso buono”.

Solo recentemente ho imparato a togliere quel velo grigino di understatement, dopo aver compiuto i 40 anni forse.

E anche dopo aver appreso un po’ dalla sfrontatezza di mia madre data dalla sua vita non facile.

E allora, che cacchio! mi son detta, una vita sola ho fra le mani, e viviamola a pieno!

 

La conseguenza è stata notare che sorrido molto di più, anzi spesso mi accorgo che la mia risata così sciolta spesso suona un po’ sopra le righe.

E mi sembra di vivere in technicolor.

Adesso che ci penso bene forse è iniziata prima, con la scelta del mio abito da sposa in tutte le nuances possibili del fuxia!

Eh si, in effetti c’è correlazione ….

 

Adesso noto che la mia torinesità si esprime in modi diversi, rimane sinonimo di moderazione, gentilezza, ed eleganza non vistosa.

Ma poi ognuno ha la propria personalità ed il proprio bagaglio di esperienze che modellano il modo di essere nella propria unicità.

 

E quindi alla prossima persona che mi chiederà se sono contenta del trasferimento potrò rispondere : Fair suck of the sav!

Che vuol dire esclamazione di meraviglia  (ne avrò certezza dopo averla sentita dal vero laggiù fra qualche giorno …).

How it started

I had just finalized the name of my blog when my husband comes home with a rumor of a new move for our family to another continent.


“It’s a great opening sentence for an article!” a fellow student in our writing group chat told me.
I was back home after a few days in The Hague attending the annual Families in Global Transition conference.


I swallowed the news and did a Google search for Cross-Cultural Coach in the new destination: the result was 100 competitors already practicing. I was left with a gloomy mood.


From that moment, my husband’s interview process started. I kept following my routine: working as a Relocation Consultant in the morning, full-time mum of two kids, Life Coach and Cross-Cultural Trainer squeezed in the calendar time slots. No sense in starting to plan a move until a signed contract was on the table.


And so it happened, a few months later my husband and I were beelike busy, working on paperwork, school and home hunting, following up reliable recommendations from friends and acquaintances.

 

I started my new career four years ago around an old passion of mine: cultural diversity.
I’ve worked to create my portable job, trained as a Coactive Coach and a Cross-Cultural Trainer. My biggest asset was my personal experience which started abroad as first-time expat in Thailand in my 30s.

 

My aim was to help other families in transition, supporting them in the delicate phase of settling in a new country, where everything seems foreign.


And so I have recently started facilitating cultural integration workshops for the new-comers in the multicultural country where I have lived for four years. An amazing tiny country, rich in diversity with big economic growth, attracting many families from all over the world.

 

Now it’s my turn to assist myself and my family, to face a change in life. To help my children settle in a new community and a new school. To keep the balance between the challenges of the unknown – and the setbacks of an emotional nostalgia for family and friends left behind.

 

As for my job: I will have to start over again. I was not prepared for a change happening so quickly! But the train is leaving and I have to catch it. I will learn on the way, the place I will call home again.

With this blog I want to tell about all the amazing cultural encounters we will make, and be connected to the global nomad families out there.