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    In the Hot Spot has information and inspiration for people who want to live their dream. Created by, Annabel Candy, who's living her dream in Noosa, Australia, it will help you live YOUR dream too.

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Moving abroad to Australia from Costa Rica and New Zealand and a foray into online grocery shopping

Surfing for Salami Sticks

Last week I was also trying to sort out my grocery shopping. Basically it has been taking up too much of my time since I moved to Australia and I need to get that sorted out. Still, at least I don’t get lost on the way to the shops anymore. But when I do get there it still takes me ages as I don’t know where anything is and I have to read every single price and label before I hit the right combination of cost and nutritional value. Of course, as well as taking so long, it always costs too much as well. But there’s not much you can do about that when you’ve got five hungry mouths to feed, and a serious chocolate addiction to support.

Anyway, we seemed to be heading off to the supermarket every other day, so in a bid to get that under control I decided to take advantage of our local supermarket’s kind offer of free delivery on all Internet orders. This is something I’ve been wanting to try for ages but haven’t been able to as the service just wasn’t available where we lived in New Zealand and Costa Rica.

Well, I have to admit that shopping online didn’t actually save me any time, although it could well do in the future if I make it a regular event. I think you’re supposed to set up internet shopping lists so that your regular items and favourite buys are automatically loaded into the ‘trolley’. OK, I admit, shopping online took me well over an hour. But that’s no longer than it would have taken me to drive to the shop, drag my trolley up and down every single aisle, load in the groceries, queue to pay, then stuff it all in my car. In fact the only down side of shopping from home is that it didn’t give me a chance to catch up on my Hollywood friends by having a sly read of the gossip rags while I wait at the checkout.

Food delivered to my door by a charming man

Anyway, after a good sixty minutes on the supermarket website, I finally placed my order, and organised to pay by mobile eftpos. I was delighted when a large refrigerated van turned up outside my house at 9am on Saturday morning. A charming young man then proceeded to unload everything I would need to feed the family over the weekend and the kids even got involved and helped schlep it into the kitchen. Of course, I immediately noticed that I had been sent me long life milk, not fresh, but the delivery man assured me I could just call the customer service people and they’d refund me, then he would take away the unwanted stuff next time I ordered. Not really a big deal that one, and apparently if I did run out of milk I could use the UHT stuff and still not have to pay for it. So far so good.

A Six Month Supply of Salami Sticks

What worried me though, was the amount of salami sticks I unpacked. Instead of the eight mini salami sticks I had ordered for the kids’ lunchboxes I had been sent about 80 of them. There were enough salami sticks to feed half of Frankfurt. And they don’t come cheap either. When I checked my receipt I saw I’d been charged (and paid) about $80 for them. Ooops. I pictured the wrath of my husband as he shook his head and reminded me how he told me it was a waste of time shopping online. I planned the conversation with the customer service people and decided the best tactic was just to admit my stupid error in over ordering, plead for forgiveness and beg to be able to return the 72 unwanted salami sticks.

So that’s whatI did, but they were real sticklers there at customer service, and quite adamant that it was a fault on their website, and not my error at all. In view of this they promised to refund me the full amount for the preserved sausages and let me keep them too. So that’s how I come to have a six month supply of salami sticks in my freezer. Quite a bonus and the only problem is my freezer’s not really big enough so now I need to buy a new one.

All in all the online shopping was quite a success and I decided to do it again the week after. I had to laugh though, when I logged onto the supermarket website, revisited my previous order and saw that they are right out of stock on salami sticks.

Still Trying to Make Friends

It’s shocking that I’ve already been a bit slack on the blog and didn’t post an entry at all last week. Probably because I was too busy making new mates. I went out surfing twice and met some lovely ladies. The first session there was absolutely no surf what so ever but we gamely gave it a go. If my surfing pals in Costa Rica had seen me they would have been totally unimpressed. My new pals were fab forties like me and seemed like a good laugh.

The next day I went out with a younger crowd of surfing mums. They texted me the location saying “small, clean waves” so I was a bit shocked to see ten foot churners when I got to the beach. Way out of my league. Some of the girls gave it a go and managed to get out the back but even that would have been beyond me. It was scary out there. Still, I had fun riding the white water and getting that rush you get from being churned around in the surf which you just can’t get when it’s dead calm. Definitely good to be back in the surf and hooking up with some other surfing fans, even though it has eaten into my writing time.

Bad News About the Salami Stick Saga

I am so annoyed all the kids have announced they no longer like salami sticks.

Thanks for reading, feel free to add your comments below.

Good luck with all your travel plans!


Migrating to and Networking in a Foreign Country

Making friends but Not Exactly Influencing People

I do confess that last week I was feeling a touch lonesome and missing my far flung amigos. So this week I’ve vowed to take a more active role in making new contacts, meeting people and maybe even making some new friends! To do this I have settled on a four-pronged attack. This is following on from joining the Surf Life Saving Club where I am starting to feel a bit more comfortable and getting to know some friendly faces. My poor children though, they aren’t really into the Nippers side of Surf Life Saving and all the activity is a bit beyond them but that’s another story.

These are the four lines of attack I have chosen in my bid to make some mates.

1. Help out at school with reading in Medium’s year three class: I can meet Medium’s classmates and maybe their parents down the track.
2. Help out in the tuck shop: this has been recommended as a great way to get to know the ins and outs of the school, hear the gossip and get to know some of the teachers. Plus, I’ll get to know lots of faces around school and some of the mums (I bet there aren’t any men!) who work or help out in the tuck shop.
3. Find some groovy women to go surfing with: I can do what I love, be active and make a friend or two in the process.
4. Go to the movies on cheap day Tuesday: make myself invite some women I’d like to get to know better and see the latest cinematic offerings, a rare treat and something I’ve been largely deprived of for 12 years!

The Results of My Friend-Making Attempts

So this week I’ve been charging ahead with my plans to meet the people. There’s a lovely lady I’ve met through the Surf Life Saving Club who lives close to me and she very kindly gave me the phone number of a friend of hers who goes out surfing with some other ladies once a week. I took the plunge and called Claudia’s friend who was super friendly, even though we had a Costa Rica style conversation on our cell phones and it took about four calls to organize. To give you an idea of what I mean by ‘a Costa Rica style phone call’ the initial contact went a bit like this:

Me: “Hi, my name’s Annabel, I’m a friend of Claudia’s, I’m interested in going surfing with you.”
This sounds a bit stark but please imagine that I was talking with a smile on my face.
My prospective new surf mate: “Hi, hi…” (white noise, silence)
Me: “Hello, hello, can you hear me? Are you there? Hello, hello? Sorry, I can’t hear you, I’ll have to call you back.” I hang up.

This charade was repeated several times, each time with a little bit more information being relayed, until finally it was agreed that she would text me in the morning after checking out the surf conditions. I have to say she was incredibly friendly and helpful despite having been landed with an apparently semi-deaf newbie to entertain during her special surf day.

Well, I was very excited and slightly nervous about my relaunch into the realm of ladies surfing. Not least because it means I have to get all my stuff ready and deliver the kids to school early so that will be a challenge. To avoid too much stress I located and packed my towel, rash top, wax, hat, dry clothes and tampons. Of course, it would have to be the first day of my period and having a little blue string dangling out of my bikini bottoms isn’t quite the first impression I am hoping to make. But it was a risk I’d have to take.

I laid out my togs the night before and did everything except strap the surf board on the car roof because, after all, it wouldn’t really feel like the morning without a bit of stress. As soon as I got down to the beach for my run at 5.40am I thought the surf date looked dubious. Sorry to boast about the running thing but I had to slip that in. This morning the sea was almost totally becalmed and that’s the first time I’ve seen it like that. Also the beach had changed so much, with about two feet more sand than usual, that I completely failed to recognise my beach exit and walked an extra kilometer leaving me quite literally running late. Of course when I finally got home, soaked from an unseasonal downpour, the surfing had been canceled so we will have to try again next week.

Instead I kicked off the day by helping out in Medium’s class. I get to hear the kids practice their reading which is lovely. I listened to about four of them and they were so quiet and studious it really touched me. The reading levels are hugely different with some children at a very low level and others quite fluent, with my boy being in the latter category I hope! Medium’s teacher is lovely so it’s good to spend some time with her and I met another mum who is helping out lots so off to a good start with my meet and greet despite there being no surf.

I followed up on that mini success by popping into the tuck shop and offering my services there for half an hour. Well, every little helps! Sure enough that was a good move. There were three mums in the tuck room baking cookies and making cakes. They were very friendly, quite funny and a veritable font of all kinds of useful information. In the short time I was there I made garlic bread, filled tiny pots with ketchup, prepared rolls with mayonnaise and lettuce for chicken burgers and got some good insider knowledge on the school scene. I must go back and help regularly. I offered to help on Friday but apparently there are loads of parent helpers there then and they were worried it might scare me off!

Teaching Four Year Olds Karate

Next stop was Small’s school to watch her karate lesson. The four year olds look adorable in their karate suits and I met a lovely mum and her son so that was a bonus. Small was practicing her blocks, kicks, scary looks and screams of “back off” with gusto and it is nice to think that one day she may have a fighting chance of defending herself should the need ever arise. I haven’t really told my kids much about ‘stranger danger’ mainly because there hasn’t been much of a need for it in the small communities we’ve been living in, but I think it’s a different story here. Small’s not shy so when they sat down at the end of the lesson to talk about ‘staying safe’ she was an eager participant.

“If a stranger said they had some kittens, puppies and sweets in their car would you go with them to see?” asked the teacher.
“Yes!” yelled Small enthusiastically. Those three items must be about her favorite things ever and it’s scary to think that some pervert could use that against her or any other child.
“Don’t you think you should ask your mummy or daddy first?” asked the teacher, concerned.
“OK” nodded Small, happily getting up to come and ask me.

I think that the ‘stranger danger’ thing is going over her head at the moment but I’m sad to say that I know she needs to be made aware of these things as do all our children. The age of innocence is over.

Anyway, all in all I think that my forays into friendship have been a great success so far. At least the scheduled ones. There was an awkward moment this morning at the end of my walk when I greeted a neighbor cheerily with a beaming smile. It swiftly turned to a look of revulsion as I felt the need to point out:

“Your dog’s just done a poo.”

Thanks for reading, feel free to add your comments below.

Good luck with all your travel plans!

Typing, Running, Shipping Stuff to Australia and Childcare

Post Traumatic Typing Syndrome

Kiara helping us remember what life's all about

Kiara helping us remember what life's all about

There is one cause of great frustration in my life at the moment and that is my typing. I actually thought I was quite a good typist to begin with, reasonably fast, but I made a lot of mistakes. So I decided to follow the Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing CD ROM and it is a nightmare. First Mavis evaluated my skill level and pronounced it to be 8 words per minute. The same as my ten year old! Basically, I am having to relearn how to type and it is taking forever. After four hours and 40 painful minutes of hard work with Mavis I have attained a top speed of 24 words per minute. Big deal. I’m sure that I was much faster before I took the lessons.

So the question is not whether an old dog like me can learn new tricks but why she would want to. Poor Mavis has been cursed and trashed mercilessly throughout the progress, despite her never ending patience and kind words of encouragement. Apparently I am a great typist in the making! Hardly the kind of thing I aspire to I can tell you. But this is a means to an end and if it helps me write faster it will all be worthwhile. The big problem is that I have to do it all Mavis’s way. It seems with typing there is no room for creativity and little need for style. In short its is all rather a yawn.

One Day Later in the Battle to be a Terrific Typer

I have now done five hours and thirty minutes of typing practice. The net result of all this hard work is that my speed is now 24 words per minute. The same as before! In the interim I was promoted to intermediate level. A huge hurdle that really made me think I was finally getting somewhere. Then I got demoted back to beginner level. Truly demoralizing and all because Rich was talking to me during a test. Mavis is a cruel task master who shows no mercy. She keeps making me repeat the home keys when even a child could see that it’s the critical full stops and commas that are slowing me down. That and constant petty errors as my fingers struggle to control themselves and stick to their allotted keys. If it was a football game there would be a lot of whistle blowing and calling “off side”.

Personal Challenge to Run Non-Stop for Thirty Minutes

I decided to step up my running as it was going to take too long to be able to run for 30 minutes on the trot so this morning I ran three lots of ten minutes. The typing is going worse than running – still only 28 words per min after six hours of effort!

Shipping personal effects to Australia and Childcare

It turns out I wasn’t as mean as I thought I was and I shipped loads of toys and other children’s paraphernalia over to Australia. Small is finally asleep with at least 20 stuffed animals. The little lamb is just not going to sleep in the evening and I think she has been sleeping at childcare. They encourage all the kids to lie down and rest after an early lunch. Well, force them actually. Small said she got told off for fidgeting during rest time. I will have to broach it with the teachers.

Thanks for reading, feel free to add your comments below.

Good luck with all your travel plans!

Working abroad in Australia, Costa Rica and New Zealand

Hats Off To All Career Mums

I now feel the need to mention that I am currently striving to be a super mum. I get up at 5.30am six mornings a week to exercise. I have three kids who all need food, clean clothes, love, attention, reading practice and exercise. And a hubby whose needs overlap with the kids in several areas. Husband and wife are both busy setting up a new home and home business in a foreign country and are still jumping through hoops to do this. For example, yesterday the whole morning was taken up with a trip to Maroocydore half and hour away to get our medical cards.

But that one-off chore isn’t really the problem. I find that there are always things to be sorted out because we’ve only just moved to Australia. There’s life insurance, medical insurance, standing orders to be set up or stopped, bank accounts to be opened and closed, term deposits to be opened in the hope that we can earn some interest on our house money, gardens to be weeded and mowed, a pool to clean, teachers and kids to help at school, shopping, cooking, cleaning, car maintenance and so much more.

What I’ve actually never been able to understand is how mothers who work full time actually manage to fit it all in and still have any time or energy left over for their family and themselves. Some women make it look effortless too. Always in a stylish outfit with brushed hair and make-up, always talking patiently to their children, never rushing or breaking into a sweat despite the tropical climate. Heck knows how they do it, but I am striving to be more like them! One key area I am determined to save time on is cleaning. To this aim I am dropping my standards as much as possible while still maintaining minimal hygiene and some semblance of tidiness. In Costa Rica I was blessed to have the wonderful Rocio come to our home for two full days a week. Not only did she handle all cleaning, laundry and cooling with quiet efficiency but she also provided me with lovely company and acted as a great Spanish teacher. I miss her cleaning and sympathetic ear.

On the networking front I am getting on well with the kids’ teachers who all seem to be lovely, professional or friendly. Several of them even manage to exude all three of those qualities. On a scale of one to ten of how happy I am with the kid”s school and childcare I would give an eight. I think that this is partly because I am so grateful, after a year in Costa Rica, that my children now have the opportunity to spend time with well-trained and highly experienced teachers in a caring environment with excellent facilities. The local state school here is a huge contrast to Luke and Medium’s school in Costa Rica. There I had to buy desks and chairs for them as there weren’t enough to go around. There didn’t seem to be any books at the school. One time I noticed that Medium’s pencil supply was constantly dwindling and he said that other children broke them. When I asked Medium’s teacher about it she said “Oh yes, it’s terrible” and produced a huge back of broken pencils from her desk. She went on to tell me that there was nothing she could do about it, that some of the boys were very badly behaved and there was a lot of violence in the school. Not exactly the kind of thing you want to hear from your child’s teacher. Another time Medium actually had to have stitches in his head when falling over as he ran away from classmates who were throwing rocks at him. This time it was put down to the usual child’s play and the protagonists were never punished as they said it wasn’t them!

At the boy’s new school there is a library, music, PE and Italian lessons and clean classrooms full of bright artwork, books and games. I’m looking forward to helping out with reading three times a week in Medium’s year 2/3 class. One of the nipper mums recommended I volunteer to work in the school tuck shop. She reckons it’s a great way to get to know the teachers, kids, school news and gossip and as a bonus your kids get a free lunch on the day you volunteer. I really want to do that. But how to fit it all in! In Costa Rica I was aiming to write for two hours a day when the kids were out. Here I would like to boost that up top four hours. Four hours isn’t really enough of course and even that will be hard to fit in. I will need to be truly disciplined in terms of getting home fast after dropping them off. I won’t be able to go surfing during the working day and things will get even tighter when we start cycling to school on a regular basis. I should be able to do it though so I can keep updating this blog regularly and also finish off that half-completed novel.

I can’t drop the exercise though. It’s pretty essential to my physical and emotional well-being now. I am attempting to train myself to run three times a week for 30 minutes each time simply because this is the fastest and most efficient way for me to get some aerobic exercise. I am already able to run for 24 minutes in three eight minute slots and have worked out that if I carry on at this rate I will have achieved my goal some time around July! Slow but steady wins the race:)

The Financial and Emotional Cost of Moving to Australia with Kids

When the sofa finally arrived there was no room for grown-ups

When the sofa finally arrived there was no room for grown-ups

In which we broach that delicate, some would even say taboo, subject of money

I thought I’d wait until I’d been down to the Centrelink office to write this one. Centrelink is the government department which deals with dolling out family tax benefit and childcare benefit, two wonderful little surprises that have been offered to us here in Australia. All very handy if you have three kids and limited cash flow. We haven’t quite managed to set up our new business yet but it is in the pipeline and in the mean time we have to tighten our belts. I don’t think they had these benefits for big families like us in New Zealand, or if they did, they kept very quiet about it.

What’s more the Australian Government is, even as I write, rolling out stimulus packages designed to keep the economy ticking along during these times of what’s being called a global recession. We’re not the only ones trying to keep to a budget. While some people are being laid off left, right and center, we are boldly seeking employment. Rather untimely of course, but we remain undaunted. We’ll have to wait and see, but it’s possible the stimulus package could give us a small cash injection which would certainly help to pay for those school uniforms, school books, karate suits, Surf Life Saving Club kit, SLSC membership, swimming lessons, drama lessons, basketball lessons, computer software and, well, maybe it won’t stretch quite that far!

Financial Cost of Moving Abroad

I know that for most people the expense is one thing that puts them off moving abroad. For us I have to say it’s been much less expensive than we imagined. The main cost of moving here has been buying new furniture, kitchen wares, electrical items, outdoor toys and computer equipment. Because we were originally leaving New Zealand for Costa Rica and those two voltage systems are incompatible, we sold or gave away all electrical items. We also got rid of most of the big items of furniture to cut down on the cost of storage, which as it turned out, was for 18 months, and reduce shipping costs. That’s why, when we finally did find a rental house after three weeks of searching, we all slept on mattresses on the floor for the first few weeks. With our travel track record these kind of things don’t really phase us much and the kids are equally adaptable. In fact, Hubby and I are still on a mattress as we are having our bed made to order by a lovely wood craftsman who is pleasingly called Mr. Wood. It is a wonderful firm king-size version, an upgrade on the queen-sized versions we slept on in NZ and CR. But I digress.

The Rental House

So, the house was pretty empty when we loved in. We bought a knackered old dining table in a Salvation Army store, mainly because it came with six pretty good modern stacking chairs and we had the mattresses of course, and a camping chair, but that was about it. This house has a big living area with a tiled floor and the kids had a lovely time running around screeching in the echoey spaces. It just about did our heads in. We moved in here on December 18th and even now we still have no sofa so the living room looks very bare. Who’d have thought that it would take eight weeks for a sofa to arrive? I certainly didn’t. At least we picked up a $200 sofa in Ikea for the kids. For a while there we were eating off plastic plates too before I got hold of some china ones. But looking back it is amazing how much we have managed to achieve in two months.

Shipping Personal Effects to Australia

The stuff we got shipped from New Zealand was hugely delayed in getting to us, mainly because the local Waiheke Island removal company were a bit slow off the mark, so our boxes and furniture arrived in Oz right before Christmas. Before, during and after the festive season the Brisbane ports and docks people go into some type of seasonal limbo. They don’t care if you are reduced to eating your Xmas lunch at a Salvation Army table. In fact, they quite possibly gain considerable pleasure from holding your beautiful recycled kauri table hostage in their warehouse for as long as possible.

So reluctant were they to let us have that table that they actually broke it in the end. A quite considerable feat when you consider that this is a solid wood table with all surfaces about four centimeters thick. Well done guys. It must have been much easier, and probably more fun, for them to break our two green shelves and knock three large castor wheels right off the bottom of them. But they were kind enough to hang on to the wheels and get them back to us so all is forgiven. Of course, we had taken out insurance for our dearly beloved personal effects and best items of furniture so no harm done. Except, really by the insurance company whose brilliant excess limit of $500 was just about equal to the cost of the repairs so not worth our while putting a claim in. Hey ho.

But the time is nigh when I must do the school run and collect our dearly beloved children from school and childcare. Then I need to take one of them to the doctor for a skin scraping to find out whether we have picked up some virulent tropical parasites as a souvenir from Central America, or if it is something more pedestrian which is causing the blistering skin rash around one little Candy’s hips and thighs.

Thanks for reading, feel free to add your comments below.

Good luck with all your travel plans!

Culture Shock for New Immigrants to Australia

Nippers relax after training at the Surf Life Saving Club

Nippers relax after training at the Surf Life Saving Club

So Much to do, so Little Time

After some serious procrastination I am starting work only two and a half hours after getting home from dropping the kids off at school and childcare. Plenty of room for improvement there so that’s good.

Last week was a busy one for us former jungle and island dwellers. Last month I met a woman who’s recently moved here from Barnsley, London who said how quiet she finds it here on the Sunshine Coast of Australia. Personally, and I think I can speak for my whole family here, we find it quite frantic. There are people, cars, bikes and buses everywhere. Heck, they’ve got motorways, roundabouts and there’s even a set of traffic lights in between our house and the kid’s school. This is in sharp contrast to our last place or residence in Costa Rica. There I scoffed when the children did a project on road safety which included making a model of a traffic light out of an old milk box, speculating that many of the children may never have seen one before, the closest set being about 50 kilometers away. Still, I guess that’s why they had to make a model of one. But in all seriousness, I think here is just the right amount of busyness.

We are thoroughly enjoying all the amenities on offer including a cinema with heaps of new movies being screened and a library with free books, dvds and workshops for the kids. Best of all, a concept I find totally revolutionary for a library, and liberating for it’s users, especially me, there are no late fees! There is even a public swimming pool a few kilometers from our house with an Olympic size pool, another half Olympic sized one and a lovely kiddie pool with squirty jets and bubbles. I’m telling you we are really being spoilt here. There are clean, comfortable, regular buses, that I’ve never seen broken down, cruising by the bottom of our road and you can walk to Noosa National Park which isn’t to be sniffed at.

Noosa National Park

From our house you just head straight down to the white sand beach, turn left and twenty minutes later you’ll be sampling the delights of Noosa National Park. There’s a choice of tracks through the national park, either following the coastline with its sparkling blue seas, where you can often spot a turtle paddling around, or over the hill and through the shady bush where, if you’re lucky you’ll spot a koala and if not you’ll just end up with a crick in your neck from looking. Either way, when you come out on the other side of the park you can trot on down to Hastings Street or the main beach for refreshments to suit your taste and budget and some excellent people watching. Or, and if you don’t feel like walking then you can hop on a bike and go for miles, along rivers, beaches, mangroves and lakes. I told you we’re spoilt.

First Week Back at School Causes Meltdowns

Anyway, what with all the excitement of starting school and swimming lessons, carrying on with the Nippers Surf Life Saving Club program three times a week, and cycling to school whenever possible some people have had a bit of a meltdown. Large, our first born, now aged ten is a lovely lad. Sensitive, studious and cerebral, he can also be quite emotional. So, after an apparently great week at school and excellent participation in his sporting activities he had a bit of a meltdown in the privacy of his own home on Saturday morning. Then his dad had a meltdown too, then I had a meltdown as well so we all ended up feeling thoroughly miserable.

Very disappointing on our first weekend back at school. I dream of having a lovely mellow time at home on the weekends, but it’s interesting that our children who normally get on pretty well, just snapped right into arguing with each other after school on Friday. I wonder if the cause is tiredness, stress, food-deprivation, attention-seeking or a combination of all of them. Anyway, I hope that our weekends aren’t all going to be like that.

Noosa Woods and Noosa Spit

Thankfully the day improved and we all had a great afternoon down at Noosa Spit where the deep, wide Noosa River ebbs out into the sea. This is a special spot with wonderful seabirds on the far shore, the calm of the river contrasting with the chop of the sea, the orderly paths perfect for cycling or walking in the otherwise natural beauty. Sometimes it can be really windy down here and the kite surfers come out in force speeding around the river mouth, swooping and vaulting like birds. But on Saturday it was perfectly calm and the low tide meant we could dive into the deep river then float along with the current for a few hundred meters before climbing out, running back to the starting point and doing it all over again. The kids loved that and also had a blast excavating tunnels into the sand walls the river had created and bashing them in again.

Surf Life Saving in the Australian Tradition

On Sunday morning we went along to Nippers with the organised chaos of about one hundred kids (or more) playing games, and doing running races in the sand and in the surf. The waves were too big for paddling or swimming, much to Luke’s relief. There are a few friendly faces down there who I hope to spend more time with and many other people I’ve not yet had a chance to talk to properly or at all. I suppose that this time next year we’ll be settling into a social network and a group of friends but at the moment there’s definitely a feeling of being an outsider for me and I hope the kids don’t feel that too.

I think it’s good that they’ve had their boundaries pushed and been thrown in at the deep end in Costa Rica, going to an unfamiliar country and a school where they speak very little Spanish. But there comes a time when you just need the comfort of the familiar around you and the feeling of truly belonging. I am ready for that now and I’m sure the kids are too.