NorthSouthEastWest: Expat Dispatches
It’s fast approaching the end of the year which means we have time for just one more Expat Dispatches for 2011. As always, your faithful expat dispatchers from the four corners of the globe are:
North: Linda (Yours Truly here) in The Netherlands (http://www.adventuresinexpatland.com/)
South: Russell in Australia (http://www.insearchofalifelessordinary.com/)
East: Erica in Japan (http://www.expatriababy.com/)
West: Maria in Canada (http://www.iwasanexpatwife.com/)
The December edition of NorthSouthEastWest is something very dear to our hearts. It’s the thing or things that drive us crazy as expats.
This month’s theme is therefore an open invitation to have a good ole fashioned rant and is called It’s driving me round the bend!
Visiting at In Search of a Life Less Ordinary, Erica shares her (absolute lack of) love for packaging in Japan.
Over at I Was an Expat Wife, I discover the discomfort of discomfort.
While at Expatria, Baby, Maria is breathing a sigh of relief to be free of the expat hierarchy.
And here at Adventures in Expat Land, Russell is wondering ‘why it’s so flamin’ hard to get any sleep around here’.
So sit back, enjoy these four no-holds-barred posts, and look forward to a wonderful festive season wherever in the world you and yours may be!
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I used to be a wonderfully deep sleeper. I’d wake up refreshed and ready to take on the day, confident in having achieved the requisite eight hours of undisturbed kip.
I now wake three hours too early in the morning to the sound of kookaburras cackling like rabid hyenas outside my bedroom window.
(The first time I heard a kookaburra sing, I thought I was being attacked by feral beasts and jumped right out of bed into the arms of my future father-in-law. You don’t need to know why he was in my bedroom. You do need to know that these birds have the potential to scare you witless.)
Kookaburras are impressively large specimens that sing in pairs and that start their singing all too early in the morning.
They also wake up the surrounding native birdlife who join in with their own brand of morning song.
Extremely loudly. Just outside my bedroom window. And three hours too early.
Soon after, the ‘tradies’ hit the road. Carpenters, builders, plumbers, electricians. Anyone with a trade begins work in Australia as soon as the day breaks. Given Sydney’s woeful traffic congestion problems, they usually head off bright and early which, in my neighbourhood, equals 4:30 am.
By now, I’m wide awake. My tin-pot, two-bit house is a proud example of the glory of Australian house building. Homes are uninsulated, sometimes built of wood (like mine), and come without double-glazed windows. (Popular opinion says that double-glazed windows are either a fanciful decoration for the wealthy or a must-have for those that live in the frigid northern hemisphere.)
So not only is my house freezing in winter and a sauna (not a naked one) in summer, but I can readily hear a sparrow fart outside the front door.
I turn up at work strung out and half asleep, incapable of doing anything other than blog posting (that’s my excuse, I’m sticking to it). Whoever said that Australia is the ‘lucky country’ was blatantly wrong.
It is the ‘noisy country’ and it’s driving me round the bend.
Aside from the early morning wake-up calls, I have neighbours who insist on playing with power tools each and every evening. Mr Angle Grinder lives next door. For three years, Angle Grinder has singlehandedly ground the living crap out of Lord-knows-what in his non-soundproofed garage next door. He’s either building a replica of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in his grinding frenzy or he’s just a twisted old man with a sad grinder fetish.
Opposite live the Don’t-give-a-fricks, the family from the bottom-end (as in arse, not South) of the UK who wholeheartedly enjoy life in the land down under and mostly enjoy it late on a Saturday night. I’ve given up asking for the music to be turned down. Now we sit in our front room and watch the TV in time to the Euro techno baseline coming from across the road.
Let’s not forget those pesky birds. At 7pm, they return to haunt me. The lorikeets and cockatoos squawk overhead and the fruit bats swoop from one tree to the next letting forth the most ear curdling of sounds as they do. The possums screech out mating calls, depositing small brown parcels onto our car as they crawl along telephone wires and into the trees. With this cacophony of hoots, shrieks and wails, I often feel like a visitor to the local zoo.
Once the darkness descends on the neighbourhood, you’d assume the noise would also die down. But this is close to the witching hour, when young spotty P-platers with all-too-powerful Utes prove their manliness by screaming away from street corners in a cloud of burning tire smoke and a roar of their V8 cylinder 6.0 litre petrol engines.
The problem is that Australia is blessed with the kind of perfect weather that drives most people and most things outside for most of the day and the rest of the night. The wildlife thrives, the tradies work from dawn ‘til dusk, the kids party all evening, and the rest of us lie wide awake in our beds crying out for some peace.
The serene green fields of England, with well-mannered sparrows and robins chirruping from under the eaves of the houses, church bells gently pealing in the distance, and the odd guttural moo from a fully-fed cow feeding close by are but a distant, diminishing memory. Sleepy villages and idyllic countryside are no more, replaced by noisy, badly behaved antipodean creatures of all sizes, great and small.
Image Credit: avilasal