Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Writing down the curiosity in the alien land...

23 Nov 2009, Monday 8.30 am. It was sunny and windy when we first stepped on the land of Melbourne airport. The sky was clear and the sun shone but it was cold. It's 13 degree Celsius, as told by kind en Din, who took us from the airport to a friend's house at Bundoora, a suburban Melbourne, at the state of Victoria, Australia. It was the beginning of summer here.

At the immigration counter, everything went smooth. We were asked to show items that are subjected to quarantine inspection such as dairy products, foods and medicine and electrical appliances including the frozen expressed breast milk that we brought from home. There were also Baba's spices and variety of stock cubes. We even brought down some leftover of the breakfast meal on board of the airplane that the kids didn't eat. Just try your luck but the quarantine officers commonly thrown it out, the steward on the plane remarked to us.

Thanx Allah, nothing was disposed off. They should cause no problem, the quarantine officer assured us. So, breastfeeding moms, there's no worry to bring EBM on board of the plane and bringing them into Australia, which is very strict when it comes to certain goods under quarantines.

We stayed temporarily at Neezam's house at Bundoora. Neezam, a colleague, went back to the home country for about a month. That would be ample time for us to settle things down.

Arriving here, within a couple of days, there are so many things for the brain to digest. New system of daily businesses, striking different traffic rules and mode of transportation, language and dialects, and even the manner of disposing garbage, are new to us.

After about 4 weeks, we are still adapting the timing of day and night, and the weather too. In summer, the day is long and the night is short. Subuh time is as early as 4 am but the isya' time comes at about 10.30 pm.

Further, the climate here is very uncertain. Days and nite can be very cold and very hot. At most within a month we were here, it was average cold. Changes of weather occur in matter of minutes. We once went out at 5pm when it was sunny and hot, but before we reached back at the house at 8pm that was before dark, the day had become so cold, reaching almost 14 degree c. So, the cloth closet needs to be very flexible. We bring thick clothes every time we go out. Pity my mother who seems hard to adapt to the new climate. But the children easily cope with the different set of situation.

As to the place to reside, after about 1 week of house hunting, 2 out of 6 applications that we made for house rental were approved. we inspected 10 houses around Reservoir, Fawkner, Coburg and Hadfield with certain criteria that we set such as the rent should be below AUD 300 per week, 3 bedrooms, and the location should be near to school and train station. These actually shrink our choices altogether.

The experience of finding residence is indeed stressful and sometimes disappointing. Credit goes to en Shaharuddin and ustaz Khairul who guide us with tip-top strategy in finding house fast in the highly competitive real property market in the city with our stringent parameter.

The first application approved actually ranked top in our choice but due to misunderstanding and communication break (one of the biggest challenge that we encountered here), we missed the chance. Huh, the house is ideal for our need. A primary school is at the end of the road in front of the house and train station is less than a km away. Further, what a lovely, there is a plum tree at the spacious backyard, which Arif loves very much and a row of roses in front with ducted heating system inside. But, one thing is does 'he' afford to maintain such a large garden? I myself don't think so either.. ;-)

Luckily, the application for our second choice of house, which we live in currently, was approved. It's an old house, and indeed looks very old from the outside with faded painting and unpainted gate. But it is beautifully and perfectly equipped and newly renovated with fresh white paint inside, apart of the floorboard which is the main culprit for the cold temperature in the house. The best thing is that it has all the features required for all kinds of weather i.e. gas heating system, (but it is single heating), fan and air-conditioner, which we did not find in any other houses during our course of a week house inspections. It also has a perfect kitchen, with white cabinet plus a big kitchen table that I dream of, gas cooking essential and extra closet to put bric-a-brac (one of my new vocab I found here).

So, there is no problem of spaces to put things. Furthermore, all three bedrooms are equipped with built-in-wardrobe. It also has a definitely marvelous white bathroom with shower closet and bath tub which settle my concern with the issue of how to avoid water to sprinkle on the floor which is not the norm here. Worst scenario is that our bathroom is wooden floored. Water can damage the floor which increases the risk to lose our tenancy bond. But why on earth there is such a bathroom!

The downside is school and train station are not too near compared with the first house that slipped from our hand. Both are about 2 km away from home.

Thus, be it as it may, we have to work 'within our means'. For me that should be the principle to hold when you are thrown far in this pretty alien country ... away from comfort zone that you had previously...

Another stunning distinctive fact from our country (for me at least) is the way to get the basic needs here. The availability of good but cheap second hand items is so extensive. We bought 2 sets of white good looking furniture for our study room, 2 bar stool, 2 fin heaters, plates and saucers, which most of them are ikea brand, from a Malaysian student going back after completing his study and the price is not more than AUD70. There are also many goods we bought from 'garage sales' which are commonly held by residents here at their private homes during weekend to clear their clutter.

There is also a place called 'trash and treasure', a.k.a 't&t' which is held every Sunday at a wide space not far from Coburg lake park, about 4km from our home. Things such as clock, clothing, carpet, blanket, bedding and what not can be bought as cheap as 50 cents. Be fussy in your choice, you'll get very good quality items. If you are lucky, you can get a new item (I mean it's never been used and come with tag). I got a new pretty gymboree gown for my niece for a dollar only.

As to the most needed electrical appliances such as fridge, washing machine, dryer and tv, we bought from a shop selling second hand goods, recommended by a good friend. They come with one year warranty that is good enough for preloved vintage goods.

We also got some items such as sofa and mattresses which are still good without any cost from someone disposing off his goods. It is also common here for people to clear their clutter by putting it near street and anyone who in need of it can just take it.

I can say that in all a family such as us, with small baby, requires about a month to settle down before we can comfortably get to have a kick start in our work. Thanx Allah for giving us all the facilities at the challenging start of the journey. Special dedication is also to Malaysian students here who dutifully lend their hand assisting us in so many ways. The caring attitude and kindness shown are remarkably startling which is beyond our capability to repay and only Allah can reward.

Being parents with 2 creative and proactive heroes together with a tiny little baby in need of extra constant attention while both of us studying undertaking the biggest project in our life, we both determined that things are harder than we expect. Hence, discipline and sacrifice would hopefully yield outstanding result near the corner.

- writing during several journeys by train.

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