Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Relocating to Australia!

A two year assignment to my company's research lab in Melbourne presents our family with a wonderful opportunity for adventure and learning. 

This blog will attempt to record some of these adventures and my musings along the way. 

Given how complicated the whole relocation process was, it may also provide some bread crumbs of information to others considering relocation as an option. 

July 27, 2013-  I have had the most wonderful morning. It’s hard to know what to attribute it to except perhaps jet lag is easing its ferocious grip on my poor brain and I’ve had a chance to actually look around and experience my surroundings.  Also, today was the first morning I woke up in my small apartment hotel room, knowing that I could start to unpack my two huge monster bags (yes, just like those ones you see at the airport headed to Islamabad) and I could take the tram to work rather than piling into a taxi. Because of the big Liverpool vs Melbourne soccer game that brought 95,000 attendees and caused all the hotels to sell out, I had been traveling between 3 different hotels over the course of 3 nights.
Walking down Little Bourke street on this quiet grey morning to catch the tram, there could be no doubt in my mind that I had traveled to a new and wonderful place – somewhat reminiscent of Europe, with Asian overtones and yet very unique and Australian. I caught a tram that was not at all crowded , either because I was late getting out this morning or because it was about the 7th tram in line going up Swanston street.  Walking the couple of blocks over to the lab, I stopped in at the Italian coffee shop (the ones my colleagues have assured me is the best of the 5 or 6 in the immediate radius of our building), and got a large cappuccino and a chocolate-nut-berry muffin. Seven dollars later I had my breakfast in hand and headed upstairs … not to my office, but to my space, shall we call it. Not sure if I should be alarmed or exhilarated at the trend, but some time ago I was in a large office with windows in our Hawthorne NY building. When we shut that building down and converged all the researchers our Yorktown lab, I had a smaller office with no windows (none of the offices have windows in Yorktown – apparently Eero Saarinen decided the glare would be bad for all those scholarly [male] computer scientists). Now I find myself in our fledgling lab, built to be lean and innovative with a start-up mentality and I have NO office.  In a very democratic fashion, everyone sits in open spaces, including the lab director, which I expect may be designed to make us feel young, vibrant and energetic. Who knows,  it could be working  :)

I would not want to claim in any way or pretend that ripping up a life by its roots and moving 18,000 miles away is an easy thing, or something to be undertaken lightly. In a perfect world we would have picked a departure date that got us into Melbourne on a Friday evening and had a couple of days to find our way around town. However, as we know, the world is far from perfect (but at times it can be just grand).  So my son and I dashed for an airplane on Friday evening in NY, the last possible moment we could catch one and still get him to his mandatory orientation on Monday morning. We landed on Sunday evening and by 8 am the following morning he needed to be at orientation. I started work on Tuesday morning.
Jet lagged brain is a funny thing. I tried doing a Google search on it and mostly what comes up is tips on how to ‘beat’ jet lag and the fact that continuous exposure to jet lag can cause permanent brain damage.  No surprise. My impression of jet-lagged brain is one’s ‘executive planning’ function (this is a real brain function that can be tested with standardized tests) goes away. What’s interesting about this is that some less forward-thinking, organized and measured part of your brain takes over, and realizes that the exec planning guy is no longer in residence. In order to deal with this, the chicken-little mind produces alarm interrupts – possibly to compensate for the fact that there is nobody minding the shop. In reality the chicken-little guy doesn’t have a clue about where things stand or what needs to be done, but he figures if he fires enough alarms he might possibly cover the bases. So the lesser brain alerts … where is the visa document … it’s gone … I had it before and now it is gone! Quick look, look, look for it! Oh, I already realized it was important and I took it out of my purse and put it on the desk. All is well. Until the next interrupt arrives. Do you have your purse - quick check for your purse. Yes, it is on my shoulder where it always is.  And so the day wears on, with interrupts ranging in scale and intensity. All very tiring, which is kind of silly, because the reason your brain is doing this in the first place is because it is tired! Anyway, the worst part of this seems to be past. Now I just have regular exhaustion that kicks in early in the day, and by the time the sky is starting to darken (rather early here given 'winter)  it feels like my brain has turned to mush.