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?"