Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Newsletter 2011

What an interesting year it’s been! Another busy one for the Arizona Gelfis.

January: We had a short visit from our friend Jacqui who had come from New Zealand to a conference in Missouri. She stopped in for a few days on her way home and we had a good time catching up.

February: Nathan turned 7! Just a quiet family birthday at home this year. We were still in the apartment and there wasn’t enough room to have a big party. Maybe next year! We did a lot of mineral and fossil hunting at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show.
March: The waiting for our new house purchase continued. When they say “short sale”, they lie! All up it took 6 months.

April: Finally we got the keys for our new home at Sahuarita! Not long after we moved in our friend Helen came from Australia to spend Easter with us. Paul had another birthday and is now a “Miner 49er” much to Nathan’s delight. Annette got promoted at work and is now in charge of the Geology department.

May: At Nathan’s end-of-year dance recital he received the Selected Student of the Season (Student of the Year) award from his dance school. We are very proud of him!

June: We headed north and did a cruise from Anchorage (Alaska) to Vancouver (Canada). What an amazing trip. The scenery was incredible and we loved every minute.

July: Annette continued working on her biggest project of the year at work, the resource model, which consumed almost every Sunday this summer on top of her normal work week.

August: Nathan started second grade and has a fantastic teacher, Mrs. Herndon, this year. He is in a class with other advanced learners and is thriving in that environment.

September: Paul’s brother Greg and his family visited us from Australia and we did a 10-day road trip (Flagstaff, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas) with them. The highlight of their visit was being with them when they renewed their wedding vows for their 20th anniversary in Las Vegas, with Elvis as the celebrant.   

October: Halloween fun and games. We decorated the house and had a party with our neighbours. Paul started going to aikido again after a few months’ break. Nathan played soccer again (his team was the Gila Monsters because of their orange and black uniforms) and did really well.

November: Annette had a birthday and is now a little closer to 40. At the end of the month she was lucky enough to attend a short training course in Vancouver. Two trips to Canada this year!
December: Gearing up for Christmas and another dance recital. Nathan is having lots of fun with his hip hop classes. We are eagerly anticipating having Paul’s mother Pat, his sister Sue and our niece Stephanie arrive in mid-December and stay with us for a month. Another road trip, a bit further afield this time (California, Las Vegas and northern Arizona).

Plans for the New Year

Hopefully we’ll get to see New York and some of the eastern US in 2012. It would be great to go back to Canada again. There’s so much more that we want to see while we are here. It was wonderful to have so many visitors this year and we hope to have more next year. Maybe we’ll even get all our boxes unpacked! Nathan will be starting intermediate school and we look forward to seeing how he does there. We wish for continued, health, happiness and employment in 2012.

Best wishes for the New Year!
The Arizona Gelfis (Paul, Annette and Nathan)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Halloween Is Coming

Halloween is turning out to be one of our favourite American traditions that we have adopted as our own. After four and a half years we have amassed a decent-sized collection of decorations. Last week I put up the indoor decorations and last weekend we invited the family next door over for a low-key Halloween party/BBQ. The kids dressed up, they played games and had a lot of fun, we had a great meal and it was a really enjoyable afternoon and evening.

N and I really like the spooky stuff that goes with Halloween - dressing up, bats, friendly ghosts, creepy fabric, cobwebs - but none of the horror (and the ensuing nightmares). Even the horror movie ads on TV tend to freak N out so we try not to watch the channels that they're on.

One thing that this blog is missing is some photos! I've taken down a lot of the decorations that I put up for the party and it never occurred to me to take photos - what was I thinking? When October 31 comes I'll try to take some photos and post them here. At least having some text to read is better than nothing at all.

On Monday we'll be dressing up: N is going to be a ghoul (easiest costume ever: a black hood that I've had for more than 10 years, two pieces of dark material and two safety pins. He was stoked with it and it probably cost about $5 all up) and I'm going as a Cirque du Soleil character (OK, maybe there shouldn't be any photos on this blog!). It remains to be seen if P will wear his Jack Sparrow hat (although he did insist on going to two different costume shops last weekend so that he could find a hat that was Jack Sparrow enough) but maybe he'll cave to peer pressure and join us. I'm looking forward to handing out lollies this year in our new neighbourhood and seeing all the kids (and a few "big kids") dressed up in their costumes.

An Interesting Question - What Do You Think?

Should a child who isn't an American citizen have to say the Pledge of Allegiance at school each morning with the other children?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A new house, a visitor and a very happy Easter

After almost 7 months of waiting, we finally got to move into our new house at Sahuarita in early April. As I write this I don't have pictures to post but I'll try to get some up here soon. We have the lake in our backyard and we're really close to the local pool and activity centre. We're really glad that we waited for this house - so far we are really enjoying living here. The only complaint that I have about the house is that so far it has just as many scorpions as the house in Bagdad had - for the nine months that we lived in Green Valley we didn't have to wear shoes inside (no scorpions in the second-floor apartment) but those days are gone and we are back to wearing shoes at all times again.
Our first visitor arrived just a week after we moved in. My dear friend Helen came to visit us from Baldivis, Western Australia. She was here for a week and it was just so nice to have a break from work, spend time with a close friend, talk and catch up on the time since we last saw each other (Christmas, but still, we had lots to talk about). I don't have a big circle of friends here to say the least so I really enjoyed having Helen here. She was a real trooper too, helping me to get lots of boxes unpacked and of course, helping me to set up my craft haven upstairs! For the first time in a long while I had a friend who was very happy to go shopping (N likes to shop but like all small children, he'll only put up with it for a short time and isn't interested in clothes or shoes), who understood the need to stop for morning and afternoon tea, and who really knows and understands who I am. Friends like that are rare treasures.
Easter morning Nathan and Helen did the Easter egg hunt before Paul and I had even woken up. I'd wanted to make hot cross buns on Good Friday because they aren't available in America but when the day came I hadn't found the box of recipes yet and I hadn't found my breadmaker (I have a really good recipe for hot cross buns that you mix in the bread machine - so good). Even without the hot cross buns, it was a very special Easter, our first in our new home and wonderful to have Helen here to share it with us.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Too Close to Home

On January 8 this year, we were doing our normal Saturday morning routine. P was at his martial arts class and N and I were heading to Tucson for N's swimming lesson. We had plenty of time so we decided to stop at the Dairy Queen on Ina Road and get ice cream for morning tea. We sat outside the Dairy Queen and just enjoyed each other's company and watching the world go by.

Then we started seeing police cars go by, and they were in a hurry. First one, then two more, then two more, and more until we'd watched about 10 go past. We wondered what was going on - obviously something big but we had no idea what it was. After the ice cream we went to Goodwill (a favourite op-shop) and while we were there we heard a commotion at the register. People were talking with the sales assistant and they looked very upset. Not mad at the assistant, but upset like they'd just got some bad news. I asked the sales assistant what was going on. They said, " Some guy shot 20 people at Safeway and Gabrielle Giffords (Arizona congresswoman) is dead." It was shocking. Obviously that was the big thing that we'd seen all the police cars heading to while we were eating our ice cream. Back in the car I turned on the radio and heard that 19 people had been shot at a Safeway supermarket on Ina Road, only about 4 blocks from where Nathan and I had been sitting about an hour earlier. At that time I had no idea if this person with a gun was still running around Tucson or if they had been arrested, because the radio reports didn't say. It was very scary. It appeared that the shooting was pre-meditated and that the suspected shooter had apparently targeted Congresswoman Giffords specifically. He shot Congresswoman Giffords and a group of ordinary citizens who had come to meet their Congresswoman at a public meeting outside an ordinary supermarket on an ordinary Saturday morning. One of them was a 9-year-old girl born on September 11, 2001.
It is hard to explain what's going on to a 7-year-old who wants to know what all the fuss is about. I did my best to tell N that some people's minds don't work the same way as other people's. They see and believe things that aren't real, and they are sick people who need a lot of help.
My immediate reaction to the shooting was that I didn't want to be in Tucson anymore, in fact, I didn't want to be in America anymore. I just wanted to hurry home, pack our bags and get the next plane back to Australia. Maybe America really was like the movies, a dangerous country full of heavily armed psychopaths. Then I started to think about 9/11.  A mass shooter is just a different kind of terrorist. Maybe we will never understand exactly why he did what he did. And what makes Australia any safer? Port Arthur (a mass shooting in 1996 in Tasmania in which 35 people died and 21 were injured) was for many years the world's worst mass murder (Oslo now takes that record).
I don't want to live in fear, and I no longer feel like I want to run away from America. I accept that guns and gun ownership are an inherent part of American society that I may never fully embrace. The first person (apart from the shop assistant) who spoke to me about the shooting was outraged at how "un-American" it was, and how "that's not who we are." They were very angry. Several people I talked to saw it as a crime against American society and the peace that so many people here strive for, just as much as it was a crime against the people who were directly involved and affected by it. America isn't all car chases and gun fights, and it's not all terrorist attacks and mass shootings. The way that the people of Tucson rallied together and refused to let one person's actions destroy their spirit gives me hope that America is also a country where people truly care about each other and strive for peace and understanding.

Amusing Questions We Have Been Asked: Part 9 in an Occasional Series

"Do they speak English in New Zealand?"
[Yes, they do.]
"And do they speak English in Australia too?"

Friday, January 7, 2011

Please Drive me to Phoenix

In mid-December I had my first encounter with an illegal immigrant. There are a lot of illegal immigrants coming from Mexico to the US, crossing the border near Nogales which is only about 40 miles south of where we are. Particularly near the border (where drug cartels are especially active) there is a lot of violence, and sometimes illegal immigrants are involved. Because of the violence and because of the number of people who try to enter the US from Mexico, there are a lot of border patrol agents working in this area. "Illegals" are sometimes seen passing through the mine area so it is something that we are aware of and look out for while working here. I never expected to meet one up-close and personal.

I was allowed to leave work early one day so that I could finish packing up our apartment in preparation for our trip to Australia (another post on that soon). As I was about to leave the employee car park (yes, I was still on the mine property) a person appeared at my window, indicating that they needed help. I asked what the problem was and the man (who looked about 19 and was covered in dirt from head to toe) asked me to drive him to Phoenix. I said no. He asked me to drive him to Tucson and I said no. He again asked me to help him. I told him that if he came with me to the mine security gate (which was a short walk away), someone there would be able to help him. I locked my car then walked with him to the gate and while we walked he told me that he had walked from Mexico, and that he was very hungry and thirsty. At the gate I explained the situation and got the man some water. The security officer called the border patrol and they came and picked the man up.

I realise that what I did was dangerous (the man could have been armed and he could have attacked me or taken the car, or both) but he looked very scared and obviously so hungry, thirsty and tired that he decided to approach someone and ask for help. I did not feel threatened by him.