It was a year ago today that we arrived in Australia with our six suitcases, three carry-ons, a car seat, and a stroller. Despite everything that has happened since, I can't say that I feel like this is "home" yet. Partly this is because we still own our old home in Atlanta, as no one has yet made a serious offer on it for nearly 17 months (we've now lowered the asking price to below what we paid for it). But the main reason is that it's going to take more time than I thought to develop real friendships--a "social support network," as they say in my field--to replace what we lost by changing continents. Sure, we still have contact with many of our friends and family members back in the States, but the effect of the great physical separation that now exists is tremendous. I think if we had moved to San Francisco instead, for example, it would have been much easier because we would be only a couple of time zones and a $400 flight away. Now, we face $6000-9000 plane tickets for the three of us to go back, in addition to lots of logistics when it comes to planning a time to make phone calls.
The effect of not having of a fully developed social support network was quite acute this week when V. was knocked down with severe back pain. On Wednesday night she suddenly woke up screaming because she was unable to move. The next day her physician arranged to have a CT scan of her lower spine made, and it turned out that she had 2-3 herniated discs! It appears that V. has been living with back pain on and off for many years, but never really dealt with it. This probably got worse recently due to our long plane flights and her having to lift heavy luggage and Will during our travels. The doctor immediately ordered V. to go on bed rest for a week, prescribing a strong painkiller and another drug to reduce the inflammation. Since Thursday I have been taking care of Will during all his waking minutes, and this will continue until the end of the coming week, except when he is at daycare. I will need to do all the shopping, cleaning, and cooking while trying to catch up with my work. More importantly, I have had to cancel my July 9 trip to the States, which included visiting my parents in Arkansas and Oklahoma, because it is unclear when V. will be functioning again. She can't even pick up Will from his crib at this point, so leaving them on their own for 10 days is impossible. I have far too much to do at work, so all of this couldn't come at a more inconvenient time. Alas. I suppose health problems never come at convenient times, do they?
As some of you know, V. was on bed rest for nearly 4 months when she was pregnant with Will, so being bed rest veterans, I know we'll be OK. A big difference this time, however, is that we don't have all our friends around to help out like we did back in Atlanta. If you are ever contemplating moving to another part of the world, don't underestimate the presence of your friends in your decision. Some people can do quite well on their own, as we have, for the most part, but I can assure you that making lots of new "old friends" requires much more than a year when you move to a new country.