I need to preface this blog by saying I don’t want this to be a whinge about the place that we call home. If you follow our blogs regularly you will have seen that last week we blogged about the top ten wonderful things about this place… https://thejobfamily.wordpress.com/2013/03/03/kims-top-ten/ so we thought we needed to show the other side of the coin as well.
People have accused me of being too nice in my blogs and not really sharing life as it really is… but it is hard to share your struggles on such a public forum as the possibility of being misunderstood is so great.
We also recognise that there are negative aspects to any place you choose to live! We certainly don’t miss the traffic jams, traffic lights and winter’s mornings in Croydon.
Again these ideas are not in any particular order… So here are a few of the things that challenge us here…
Dogs are everywhere in Numbulwar. They follow their owners to the shops, into church and into the school grounds. Occasionally one has even been seen sneaking into offices or the clinic. Many of these dogs are flea ridden and hungry. For most of the year, the dogs aren’t interested in you as you walk around. But for a small period of time during mating season, they become quite savage and aggressive, forming packs and attacking anyone that comes close. During this time, even walking with a stick or one of those dog repellent devices won’t keep you safe. The car is the only way to travel.
Mosquitoes. For me (Kim) this is one of the most difficult aspects of Numbulwar life, as mozzies seem to love me. In the time Jason might kill one or two mozzies biting him, I will be covered from head to toe with bites and running inside for safety. Dawn and dusk are the times when they are in abundance, which sadly is also the times it is cool enough to go outside and do something out of the house.
Bugs! In our food supplies we have found cockroaches, weevils and ants. Before moving to Arnhem Land I had never encountered ants that can get into plastic bags! We opened a bag of sweet biscuits this week (yes very rare for us … I usually make them) and the biscuits were crawling with ants. The packet was still fully sealed. How do they get in there? We’ve had cockroaches that survive the heat of the microwave and toaster and live on to run across your feet in the kitchen. We have invested in lots of plastic containers since being up here. Everything goes in one really. Anything sugary or chocolatey lives in the fridge even before opening, just to be on the safe side. So far cockroaches and ants haven’t figured out how to get in there yet… but now that Sam can open the door and leave it open… it won’t be long till that is part of their dominion too.
One of the most frustrating and stressful parts of living here is frequently not understanding what is going on around me. So often I see things happening around me that makes me wonder what is going on… Why are these ladies not including talking to that lady? Why is everyone waiting around in the town square? What is the man saying over the loudspeaker that is making everyone so mad? Who died? I know this frustration is a normal part of life in another culture but nonetheless it frustrates me and pushes me on to ask more questions and learn more language, so that I can be a bigger part of the community.
Living so far away from resources and facilities that I have always taken for granted before has its frustrations. Just one example… Numbulwar has no formal post office. Gove’s post office is only opened during business hours. So for people who are only in town on weekends (like us) simply buying a stamp is a challenge. For the last few months we have had Jason’s parents post us stamps. Thankfully they run a post office! This is just one example of the way our life is more complicated because of where we live. We love that Numbulwar has a clinic with full time nurses and visiting doctors, but if you need an xray or an ultrasound an hour flight is needed to access those facilities. Mail can take up to six weeks to reach us, unless it is sent Express Post. People often don’t believe me when I tell them that, but it is system of planes, barges, and a small plane involved in the process. Thankfully because of online services and shopping, we can get most of what we need, when we need it… but you just need to plan wwwaaaayyyy in advance.
Violence is something I struggle to understand here in Numbulwar. Whether it is bored kids smashing windows for something to do or people settling disagreemtns with the use of a spear, baseball bat or their fists…. It is something I don’t understand. As mentioned before, this is probably one more example of things in the culture that I need to ask more questions about. But the effects of this violence the town and on its people, regularly breaks my heart.
In our favourite things about Numbulwar I mentioned how much we love living by the beach. This is true! But it is also one of our frustrations too… when we live in a place where we so often long to be cool, a swim in the sea would be perfect. But we can’t swim , or really even walk along the beach with a two year old, because of the reality of crocodiles. So on hot sweltering days we sit in our air conditioned house, dreaming of a swim, as we look out on our sea views. Jason has been known to take a dip in Sam’s wading pool, but I’m not that brave yet!
Frequent illnesses and infections have been a constant battle for us over the last year. Colds, gastro, ear infections, scabies, bites, heat rash, sore throats, infected bites, and more have all been our companions at least once recently. We have been told that most newcomers to the Northern Territory go through this process of adapting to tropical bugs and germs but it has seemed never ending this year. I have been the worst sufferer, sadly my immunity from years of teaching, doesn’t count for anything up here. Going to playgroup frequently with lots of babies and toddlers probably doesn’t help either but I refuse to stay home and see no one all week. So thankful for the clinic here that helps us out with all our odd itches, bumps and sneezes.
We find sleeping difficult here. Indigenous people keep different hours to us! They like to socialise until the hours of the early morning and then sleep late. It is not unusual for kids to be outside playing until after midnight. Unfortunately in our house, we have a pilot who starts work at 8am and a toddler who thinks 6am is a great time to wake up… We try to be in bed about 9pm and the alarm is set for 6.30am, not that we often need it with Sam around. Our sleep patterns don’t seem to fit in with those around us. It’s different to what we are used to and we struggle to balance family life, sleep and our ability to join in town activities. For the past few months we have been sleeping with all of the windows closed and one air conditioner on all night that cools down our room and Sam’s room. We have been sleeping so much better. Perhaps we should keep doing this all year round.
Did you know that northern Australia is hot? So hot that sweat runs down your back from the slightest activity? It is often 30 degrees in the evening, hours after the sun has gone down, or when you are trying to sleep. Jason tries not to publish too many photos of himself looking like he just got out of the shower wearing his uniform, but that is how he looks most mornings after doing his pre-flight checks. For me, I have become a little more hermit-like during the “build up” season, telling myself it is just for a few months and then it will rain. Well we are now about four months into the time when it should be a little cooler and a whole lot wetter, but the rain hasn’t come this year. We have had occasional rainy days every now and then, but not the daily downpours that characterise a true “wet” season. It is getting very monotonous and now I long for the dry season, where it is cool enough for long sleeves and flannel pjs.
Well now I’ve made myself feel depressed… focusing on the negative all the time (or even long enough to write this blog) has an impact doesn’t it? Think I’ll go back and revisit my Top Ten great things about this place and put these facts in perspective.
We hope that by reading this you might have a better idea of some of the things that we struggle with in our lives here. Perhaps if you are a praying person this list could help you to pray for us in a little more detail. On most days, like in all places, the good and the hard balance out nicely… but on those days when the struggles and challenges outweigh the joys, things can be tough.