My blog is about the scenic, stressful, spectacular life (and everything screwy in between) of a
California girl turned expat transplanted to the land down under: North Queensland, Australia.

November 02, 2010

Three suitcases.

I still happen to be in the process of regulating my mood swings, so this post was supposed to be about something completely different. Then I had a huge fight with the husband, and took a nap. I woke up feeling sad and having thoughts of how so much can change in such a small period of time.

In the beginning of 2007, I ended up having to move from my first solo (with a roommate) apartment in Orange County to over an hour away in Fontana, of all places. I have never lived in this area and never, ever wanted to, but it was kind of an emergency situation, and a great friend offered me a room in his house for half the rent I was paying in the OC. Fontana is GHETTO, so much so that its nickname is “Fontucky”,  I lived a block away from Rancho Cucamonga, a slightly higher notch on the decent city scale, so I would usually tell people I lived there. At this time I worked in Riverside, so Fontana to Riverside was a 25 minute drive versus Orange County to Riverside, which was about 40 minutes. I felt bad for my poor family, who had to haul all my stuff such a long way, but only having a room’s worth of stuff wasn’t too bad: a bed, dresser and nightstand from IKEA; a computer desk that had been assembled and re-assembled too many times to count; an entertainment centre I’ve had since the tenth grade; and personal effects like clothes, pictures and junk. My stepdad and brother-in-law did the heavy lifting, and I had moved into a larger house-but into a much smaller room.

Fast forward 18 months to October 2008. I have a great job as a restaurant manager 5 minutes away from my house, and I’m engaged to be married in December. I still live alone so to speak because my then-fiancĂ© and I are dealing with immigration to get him into the States on a permanent resident visa. His final interview to approve the visa is October 8, and we are about 99% sure it will be approved. I start looking around for apartments for the two of us because I have the means to rent one, and I want to start our journey together in a place of our own. As much as I had gotten used to all the amenities that were at my fingertips in Rancho, I start thinking of my husband’s interests. Australia is a country of 22 million people. California by contrast has 36 million. At this time my husband was in Australia living with his parents to save money-in a town of 8,000. Rancho had 178,000 people. When J had come over to America before, he was fascinated at the size of where I lived, and I never gave it much thought. I mean, Orange County was big. Los Angeles was big. I lived in the Inland Empire! Small potatoes. My job was pretty much set, and I could look anywhere for a place for us as long as I can drive to it. I chose to look in my hometown.

Where I grew up was a small, semi-mountain town that had one main street with street lights and no McDonalds. My grown siblings had also migrated there to start families of their own, and it was just a less threatening place. I scouted the area and instantly fell in love with a two bedroom townhouse for rent. It was just under the threshold of what I could afford, and 30 minutes to drive to work was nothing to me, so I grabbed it. I took pictures of the empty house and sent them to J to make sure he approved, which he did. This move, however, was much more planned out: although I had only a room’s worth of stuff, for the new house I had purchased a sectional couch which was located in Moreno Valley; a refrigerator from Corona; and a donated oak entertainment centre from Chino. My stepdad, brother, and brother-in-law picked up all the items along the way and still had to move all of my stuff out! On October 8 J was approved, and on October 27 he had a plane ticket and visa to come start a life with me in America. Poor J. Two days after he landed I surprised him with tickets to Knott’s Berry Farm’s Halloween Haunt, the 31st was Halloween, the 1st we moved in and the 2nd was my bridal shower. He was a soldier and never complained at the hectic pace. Everything just magically fell into place for us, and we were marching forward to happily ever after. I thought.

I loved our new house. Loved it. The neighbourhood was quiet, the place was huge and spacious, and the weather was always amazing. It sometimes tended to snow in the winter a little bit, and I was so happy to share the “first time” moments I had with J and our journey together.

Hats off to a new life.The Front

Snow at the Corner Jan 10

I always look back at the period right before I married and the period right after, and there is such a disconnect. Right before I was elated that the fight my then-fiancĂ© and I had with immigration was finally over and was more in love with him than I could imagine ever being. The wedding details fell into place and my job was going great. Right after the cracks started appearing in myself, and my anxiety rose to the highest it’s ever been. I honestly think it had to do with having a sense of completion for once in my life. I had the husband, the great job, the great house, the dream car. I was settled and happy. Now what??? I started seeing a psychiatrist to try and level back out. I never did. After months of struggle, I broke. I quit my job with no notice. I dropped out of college, after having started again and getting perfect scores in my classes. Our amazing landlords gave us a three-month discount on our rent to help get us back on our feet, but the rent payment was too much, even after going on temporary disability for my depression. We needed to find a new home.

We got lucky and found a small one-bedroom apartment about 15 minutes from where we were living and got a rent break if we were able to move in three weeks. We never got our $1200 deposit back on the townhouse because we were unable to pay the last month’s rent as well as the new apartment’s rent. Yet again, my family came to the rescue and moved all of our items into our new apartment. It took some feng shui’ing for sure, and even though it was small, it never seemed crampy. We had an upstairs apartment with beautiful views of the west, and of the snow-capped mountains of the east.

May Sunset

East View from Apt

I happened to quit my job at pretty much the worst time in American history, and my husband couldn’t find a job to sustain us. My disability payments were on the verge of expiring, and we were at a loss. J’s parents stepped in and offered to put us on a plane to Australia and let us start over. After three weeks of serious critical thinking and crunching numbers, we took the offer and planned to move at the end of August-10 weeks from our decision date. My days were spent closing accounts, notifying people of our move, packing boxes, selling things left and right, and throwing things away that had true sentimental value. I had to have my dream car repossessed. I gave my beautiful, loved cats back to the no-kill animal shelter we got them from as kittens. I had to tell my friends and family goodbye, not knowing when I would see them again. We got on a plane and headed to Australia.

My entire life was compacted into three suitcases.

If I’m being really honest, I have to say I don’t know if I’ll ever adapt here. I consider this a test of my strength and inner will. If I leave, I fail. If I stay, I’m miserable. I’ve had the thought do I love my husband more than my family, more than my country and my entire way of life? one too many times here, and a lot of the time I feel numb. I’ve started up therapy over here and have been feeling good over the past week, but I still suffer from mood swings that could come at any given time. I sit and dwell on what would have happened if I just rewound the tape, could just go back and do something, anything different. I believe things always happen for a reason. But I’ve been here for 9 weeks now, and I still have yet to see what that reason is.

I’m back to one room, by the way.


  1. Oh sweetie, I wish I was closer and we could go for coffee or something. It must be so hard to be so far from your family but you are doing all the right things. 9 weeks isnt long. It will work out and you and hubby will build a life. Big hugs.

  2. To be honest, Australia is probably one of the best countries you can be in at the moment, economy wise. You just have to pick the right place to live, and personally, I think Queensland isn't that great. I'm out of here in January.

    You need to make a list of what you currently want out of life at the moment. Don't think about where you want to live, but what you want to have access to. Then pick the best possible place that matches what you want. Heck, Christchurch (New Zealand) is absolutely beautiful, one of the bigger cities in the country, but not too big and foreign for the hubby :)
    Really think about the possibilities.

  3. Hed...I too wish we could do the coffee thing...I feel at a loss after reading this post :) Thank you for sharing :)

  4. I was miserable for the first three months that I was here - I did not even know myself because I was sad, cranky, and cried all the time. Don't underestimate the culture shock and give yourself permission to take the time required to adjust! I can only speak from my experience, but can tell you that I am so much happier now and feel like myself again (mostly). It just took time. Maybe that will at least provide some hope for you...

  5. Ohhhh Sweetie....everything will be all right. I had no idea you had literally just moved then about the time we started chatting. Give yourself a deadline (but a reasonable deadline) and if you're still unhappy at that time, then maybe you should re-think the situation. Perhaps after more therapy you'll become easier on yourself. From what you've told me, you can make it anywhere. Perhaps the holidays are making you sentimental for home? I know they bother me because I can't be with my girls and my son wants nothing to do with me now. Please don't hesitate to ask for a shoulder. I've got 2. Wish I could give you huge hug. So here goes one via email XXXXXXXXXXXXX. Barb

  6. I've been in your shoes, kind of (minus your depression/moodswing stuff). I've been moved across the country away from family, friends and everything familiar to me, in a way that was abrupt and harsh (while pregnant). There is a high that you go through when all the changes keep happening and then there is a low. Where the what now? comes into play. It take a long time to adjust to change. Hubby and I have been in Shitville for three years and we're just now kind of getting a feeling of community and belonging...and now...we're moving again...hopefully. So give yourself some breathing room and take it day by day. If that ends up being too much, take it hour by hour or even minute by minute.

    Hope this helps


  7. I totally understand where you are coming from! My whole family is split up, my mother is in Florida and my dad is in Jesery. I am in Pennsylvania with my fiance and well his whole family and friends are here. I do not have a car so it's not like I can go visit my family or friends. To top it off my job sucks so I don't have the funds to get on a plane to see my mom or buy a car. Though I tell myself daily that I love my Fiance and that everything will work itself out. For 6 months I stayed with my in-laws as we looked for a place to move into together. Let me tell you that was really difficult being uncomfortable in a place that is supposed to be your home. If you were closer we would def go take a walk, talk everything out that we needed to and feel tons better. My heart goes out to you and I think you will get through this. You know why? because you are strong! You have gotten through every other obstacle that has been thrown your way so far and I do believe you will make it through this. Find things that make you happy, try new things, go around searching the place you live now and find new adventures. Try your best to make it work, if not you can always come back home to your family and make something work for you here :) Hope it gets better and you find a little pleasure down under



  8. Hed keep your head up. You can do this! I have been in a downer myself eve considering my dating life now.

    You will either love where you are now or go back to where you love eventually. I personally would love to move away but I have no idea when and where or even if that'll happen. I've only known you a few days but I love and admire what you do and what you have done. You are a wonderful person.

  9. Wow, I didn't expect so many people to relate to how I'm feeling. Thanks for your support, everyone-I'm feeling much better (although still suffering a wicked head cold).

    Mynx and Vicki-I have to make sure if I ever go on holiday in SA or NZ to stop by and get a cuppa with you.

    Dani-that was our main selling point when migrating over here. It's just hard, because although Oz and the US are similar, they are just so different!

    C, Xylina and CBG-I told J that we needed a year deadline to stay in this town, save money, and move on our own somewhere else. I think I have these moments of weakness where I think of something back home and my stomach drops because I remember I won't be going back until I don't know when.

    TAD (that's your new acronym lol)-That means so much to me! I'm sorry I'm a late bloomer on your blog as well, but you seem to have a good head on your young shoulders. <3