Forgive me for my great tardiness in keeping you all abreast of our move to the New World. It has been five weeks, and yet it feels scarcely a fortnight. And yes, I have been watching a Jane Austen film this evening, in case you thought the rest of my email would be unintelligible.
I write from Upland, Indiana, an extremely small University town in the very middle of the State with wide expanses of blue and bright skies, corn fields, clumps of natural forest, lazy brown rivers and sparkling lakes, and HECTARES of freshly-mown lawns.
I suppose it is a good time to be writing, as we are coming to a milestone tomorrow. Our furniture and "effects" (who came up with that word?) are arriving tomorrow after a long wait in a rather empty house. As we have not had a dishwasher, it has been somewhat of a blessing to have only four place settings to wash, along with a few plastic cups.
Despite the transient nature of our decor, we have settled in surprisingly well and I (at least I speak for myself) have not had any bouts of homesickness. The reason for this partly is that we have been caught up in a whirlwind of social engagements, classes to teach (and study), formal events and informal events, church services, chapel services, informal worship services (if they can serve it, you name it they will serve it). Three separate Sunday Schools for the children (one on a Wednesday, just to keep us on our toes), women asking me to tea, men asking Nicholas to exercise (they don't drink beer here, so they just run around instead). Football matches to watch, icecream socials, Bible Studies, homegroups, lunches, picnics, swimming, apple-picking, apple-coring, apple-cooking, apple-eating...
They do everything together.
This is a great thing when you may at some point feel homesick, because you very rarely have the space and time to think about yourself or anything else.
Our main challenge, you may have guessed at this point, is finding some balance and learning to say no. We were warned when we arrived, but it is something you can only learn through your mistakes.
In practical terms, Nicholas is enjoying teaching. The students are great, and one of the best things about being here is that the majority of the local young people are the kind we would like our children to grow up into. They are kind, polite, thoughtful, devout, responsible, hard-working and happy. And amazingly attractive too, probably because they wash their hair and don't wear too much makeup. The neighbourhoods are so safe that friends of ours leave their keys in the car in the driveway (then they don't have to look for them madly on their way out). Everyone leaves their front doors unlocked all the time. The other day, I let myself into a friend's house while she was out, made myself a cup of tea and spent half an hour relaxing before she arrived. Her neighbour's son (a nine-year-old), playing on his own in the nearby forest, watched me park my rusty old van outside the house, and go in. He told his mom "I knew Gwen was out, but I didn't worry because the lady looked nice". This story illustrates two things - 1. I look nice to children from a distance and 2. everybody knows everything you do here and a third actually - there are still places in the western world where children can play safely on their own in the forest.
I am taking two classes (Logic and Expository Writing) and finding them a hell of a lot of hard work. Since when was University a breeze? I was trying to compare this experience to University of Cape Town. I cannot decide whether the accountability there was lacking, or whether I just managed to get away with a lot of free time, but I feel like I always have an assignment due here, and I guess the difference is now it competes with children, animals, laundry, housework, cooking, grocery shopping, and the three hundred or so social events in any given week. In terms of the direction of my studies - at this point I am trying to find fifth-gear in brain function, and then hopefully I will have a creative hiatus and discover my "unique voice" (thanks Megan). So watch this space.
Some of you may be wondering whether a third child is in the planning. Well no. Have you read any of the above?