Back to school and Emigrating to the U.S.

It’s totally weird emigrating from a country where the school year logically ends at the end of the calendar year to America where the school year ends halfway through the year! Yet I accepted it unquestioningly on first year here. We left at the end of the school year in Summer and landed midway through, in Winter.

We landed New Year’s Eve 2011. What a shit-show of a trip, that was. Five kids. Eighteen pieces of carry on luggage including three strollers.

I have to say that the Air New Zealand staff were arrogant and rude on the flight out. I had one baby with a shit in their diaper and I was lining up at the cabin door after handing all our boarding passes over,desperate for assistance and I was told by some prissy trolly dolly: “No, you can’t board yet”. Finally we got on and I spent a good ten minutes wiping poop outta cracks. If I’d been able to get to it when it first happened it wouldn’t have been so¬†bad.

The stench didn’t leave the aisle for about twenty minutes after take-off. I deflected the side-eyes with smiles and pretended it was someone else’s kid. Or maybe the old man across the way was incontinent, I suggested with glances and a tilt of my head.

The service started when we arrived at SFO. The dour looks of the Air NZ staff changed to smiles and assistance. That’s what it is to receive service in the U.S. On one hand, everyone is equal but on the other hand, if you’re in a position of service, you go above and beyond. The culture around tipping has a lot to do with it. On part of both the tipper and the receiver. Where I come from, it’s not uncommon to hear some bitching about the tipping culture. “Oh that’s so hard”! “I’m so glad there is no tipping in New Zealand. One word, folks: “Tight”. Probably a lot to do with ancestry. New Zealand ancestors are largely Scottish and English, particularly Northern England and who wouldn’t want to emigrate from some of those towns that never see Summer. My own ancestors came from a town near Manchester. Good dour, swarthy breed on that side. Not tight. Good with money. Business people. Every one of us has started or married a small business owner.¬† Tradies by nature. House painters, roofers and builders. I broke the mould by marrying a tech guy. Except when I met him, (A) he had hair and (B) we were both students with no apparent future to speak of. It’s only in hindsight that I was lucky and I found a Keeper. He built and sold a business to Silicon Valley and¬† now here we are!
I’m still a tradie by nature. I’m in charge of our rentals which are meant to provide a stream of income for both our kids education and our old age. Oh the sights I have seen being a landlady. You can’t run rentals without Street-Smarts. I’m always on the lookout for this quality in my kids.

#1. Has the street-smarts. I’ve never worried about him. His survival instinct is finely tuned. You could drop both him and I in the roughest part of Oakland and we’d both stroll out smiling. I’d have made a bunch of new friends and he’d go in with a Hundy in his pocket and come out with Five. Not a bad rate of return.

#2. Whereas #1 was walking home from school at the age of five, I didn’t let #2 walk home until he was ten. Because he would get in the car with anyone. Prime target for Redo the Paedo.

Tipping is easy. If you can’t tip then you’re not as smart as a fourth Grader. Percentages, folks. If someone goes above and beyond, and my hairdresser does on a regular basis, it’s 25%. that’s 10% * 2 and half again.
10% of a Hundy is 1$10. Double that and add half again. Easy, right?¬† $25 bucks that goes straight into the pocket of the other person. Because you can guarantee the wage they are paid won’t cover their living expenses. Especially here in the Bay Area. And there is none of the minimum wage bullshit in these parts. You get paid what the market deems. If you can’t live on that, then you get a second fucking job. And if you’re sick or on leave. You don’t get paid. No show up to Work?¬† No get paid. A bit like when I was young. My first wage was $2.78 an hour. Double time on Saturdays. I was a fifteen year old shelf stacker at our local supermarket. The union guys used to come in and we used it as an excuse for an extra smoko:

“Smoko”,is a term used in¬†Australian English,¬†New Zealand English¬†and¬†Falkland Islands English¬†for a short, often informal,¬†cigarette¬†break taken during work or military duty, although the term can also be used to describe any short break such as a rest or a¬†coffee/tea break. Among¬†sheep shearers¬†in Australia, “smoko” is a mid-morning break, between breakfast and lunch, in which a light meal may be eaten.

So. We arrived in SFO. New Years Eve 2011. People rushed to our assistance. We prepared to queue for ages to get through immigration. But no! Either we looked like a hot mess or SFO is just great at anticipating customer flow, but to our surprise, an immigration official came up to us! “Come this way”!
They opened up a separate immigration desk for us! The benefits of having a large family.

And so began our journey to these shores. A shit in a diaper; a glass of wine crossing the equator to celebrate the New Year, some shirty air hostesses in the air and smiles and assistance upon landing.

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