May 14, 2020
At home

Expats at home – South Australians chat from overseas vol.2

Take a trip around the world to check in with some South Australians living overseas to see how their lives have changed and how they're adapting.

Josh’s Friday night trivia drinks are complete with colourful outfits.

Josh Pugh, USA

Where do you live?
New York City (East Village, Manhattan)

What is the current feeling in your country/region at the moment?
The “city that never sleeps”, is gone! The background noise of the city has completely disappeared, there are very few people wandering the streets, and most people are too afraid to use public transport or go anywhere beyond walking distance. While NYC has come over the top of the peak and we’re seeing numbers decline, the country in general is still seeing increases in many states, and the general feeling is that we’ve got a long way to go. I can’t imagine the city is going to open again for months if at all this year, and it’s going to be a very long time before we see anything like what it was 6 months ago. All the fun reasons for visiting New York have disappeared for the moment!

How has your work been affected?
I work with two different hats: On one hand, in websites and digital marketing, we’ve lost a number of clients and the future of our work has dried up almost completely. We’re seeing a lot of companies uneasy with the idea of committing to anything long term and therefore projects are being downsized or postponed indefinitely. I’m lucky to be able to have any work and be employed though compared to so many millions of others around the country and the world. The other hat is a community and website that helps Australians move and live in New York City. With that, I’ve seen a huge uptick in demand for information, assistance, and advice! I’m meeting hundreds of Australians virtually and getting to know everyone through lots of Zoom events and online groups. It’s great to make some people smile when we’re all going through such a rough time.

How have you been spending your time?
I live with my girlfriend in Alphabet City (the lower East area of Manhattan) and we’ve spent a lot of time inside. We didn’t really venture beyond our apartment (except for a few visits to our roof when it got warm enough) for around 55 days, but we’re now taking daily walks just to get outside and remind ourselves what trees look like. We’ve been doing puzzles, building Lego, baking, making cocktails, drinking cocktails, and I think we’ve almost finished Netflix. I’ve also been hosting virtual Friday night drinks and trivia competitions so that people can get together and chat, and I’ve been interviewing professionals from around the country giving advice to others in my position. All-in-all, it’s actually been busy but in a very different way than we were used to.

How have you been connecting with family and friends back in SA?
Lots of Zoom, lots of video chats, and an endless array of funny posts on Facebook. The only downside is that the difference in timezones isn’t very helpful with it almost being the complete opposite wake/sleep schedule. I’ve had lots of very late night chats and very early calls, but it’s worth it to check in with family and friends, and I’m excited to watch Adelaide and SA come back to life from afar in the coming weeks and months.

 

Sophie Gardner, Canada

Sophie Gardner worked in the arts in Adelaide and is missing the summer arts festivals in Vancouver.

What’s the feeling like in Vancouver at the moment?
Overall, I’d say mostly positive, although there’s a lot of lamenting the closed restaurants, pubs, festivals and live music venues (and absolutely for all of the workers who have been affected). Normally, coming into summer, everyone is raring to be out and about as much as possible. Downtown is basically a ghost town with boarded-up shops, though street artists have painted colourful murals on a lot. Everything went into lockdown in mid-March, and we have just been advised that restrictions will go into “Phase 2” from mid-May, meaning that a lot of services can start a gradual re-opening, and that we will be able to gather inside in groups of six. Even though everyone has had to stay home, and the borders all closed, we’ve always been allowed to go outside for socially-distanced walks and bike rides; it’s an incredibly outdoor-orientated culture here so I think people would go crazy otherwise!

It was also a hard blow that most of the upcoming summer and arts festivals have had to be cancelled, along with all live theatre. Understandable of course, but I worked in the arts in Adelaide and have had many wonderful experiences volunteering for them here and attending shows – it’s how I met some of my closest friends and it’s also just an incredible atmosphere to be part of. We live in hope for when everything will be able to be safely up and running again.

Lastly, I’m really appreciative that the health ministers Dr Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix have been at the forefront of the daily media briefings, and that they are looked upon as trusted advisors. Unlike our neighbours to the south… The most memorable thing our Prime Minister has said was “speaking moistly” (yes, that was a thing). Like in a lot of cities around the world, at 7pm every night there is a “cheer” for all of the health workers, and living in high-rise buildings you can really hear it from everywhere … even boat horns on the water! Someone’s even started letting off fireworks, which I’m not entirely sure is allowed…

How have you had to adapt in your role at work?
I feel very fortunate to still have my job (Communications and Events in the Department of Asian Studies at UBC), although I can tell you there’s not so much of the “events” side happening right now. I’d normally be planning our student events for the new academic year in September, however at the moment there is a ban on any large group events until June 30, so we’ll just have to wait and see. The communications side has remained largely the same, along with lots of web and social media updates, and it’s been useful having the well-drilled IT dept to assist us all with getting set up at home and having virtual access to Zoom and all of the usual platforms we use.

I do miss the office though. I don’t think the work-at-home life suits me as well! I miss having a separate place of work than home, and commuting to the campus which is currently beautiful with cherry blossoms. We are also quite a fun, social office with faculty and students constantly dropping in for a chat. For now, Zoom meetings will have to do.

How have you been spending your time away from work?
I was the lucky person who had just visited family in Australia in mid-March, so had to self-quarantine at home for the first two weeks I was back! Thankfully I have a balcony with a lovely view and was able to get set up working from home. I have a close group of expat friends and I cannot wait to be able to get together for a potluck dinner or movie night again soon because we really are each others’ family over here. I’ve been meeting one friend at a time to go for evening walks, and when I feel motivated I’ll do an easy online workout. I’ve gotten into the Amazon Prime series The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, which is just divine. Plus I’ve watched several of the National Theatre productions on YouTube. Lastly, like many others, I love baking. I don’t have as many occasions to make and share treats right now, but if I can recommend one recipe, I’d say make these homemade Oreos. They will change your life. I’ve made them at least 20 times in my life, particularly when meeting new people or starting a new job, and you basically watch people spontaneously combust from the inside.

Have you been connecting with family back here in SA?
Yes – I was lucky to get to see them all in March, but I also keep in regular touch with them on Facebook via messaging and video chats. I’m thankful that my parents and brothers are quite healthy and safe in the country towns they live in, and overall that SA appears to have done so well to keep the numbers down.

 

Corey Taylor, Germany

Corey Taylor has been spending time at home chipping away at a novel.

What’s the feeling like in Dresden at the moment?
Fairly chilled. Just need to pick up a history book to see this place has survived some harsh times, although it also has an incredible pre-war history too. The weather is picking up so plenty of people having beers on the banks of the River Elbe. Construction barriers shuffle you to the important stuff like the bars and the Eisdielen. Solid running weather at the moment too. You can feel that things are easing up a bit but I’m personally adding two weeks to any deadline for reopening or relaxing of restrictions because this virus is a jerk.

What do you do for work and how have you had to adapt your role/way of working?
I work as a researcher in computational chemistry, mainly in systems that contain radioactive nasties like actinides. The home office has been upgraded with a new keyboard and a place for my emergency cricket ball. I’ve not felt a significant difference with respect to work, really, as I run all of my calculations on a couple of supercomputing clusters. That said, do miss my colleagues and the lovely back-and-forth that happens in research. Getting direct access to groups of talented and critical nerds for your own problems is a huge missing piece.

How have you been spending your time away from work?
Mainly writing, short stories and chipping away at a novel. More exercise – keeps the snacking kgs off. Been a musician since I was a kid so still pick up the guitar to keep my chops. My band, based back where I did my PhD in Marburg, finished an EP so we’ve been keeping tabs on how things change for a possible launch. Absurd circumstances demand harebrained schemes, though, so my muso friends and I set each other challenges like “learn this song in 10 minutes” where we record video of ourselves listening to the song, talking and fumbling through all the changes and finally a performance. There’s also the Euro life stuff us expats fantasise about before moving, like a quiet coffee on the balcony of some Euro-looking street eavesdropping on family arguments.

Have you been connecting with family back here in SA?
Yeah, with Mum mostly but nowhere as much as I should with Dad or my sisters. So, in other words, my habits haven’t changed at all (sorry everyone). Been having beers and chats in a semi-regular video chat with friends dispersed throughout Germany. The banter ain’t the same but also they can’t smack me, so, swings and roundabouts.

 

Bob Sibson, USA

Bob and Sally Sibson have been taking scenic drives and trying to stay clear of crowds.

Where do you live?
We live in a small city just north of Seattle in Washington State.

What is the current feeling in Washington at the moment?
There’s been a recent uptick in people’s outlook. Washington was the epicentre of the initial outbreak in this country. Since that time, effective leadership and management of the outbreak have helped with a feeling of control at the moment. People are very wary of another spike. The schedule for lifting restrictions is still very fluid and data-driven.

How has your job been affected?
We are retired and considered to be in a vulnerable group. Our ability to continue our usual living patterns has been impacted, but we are very lucky we don’t rely on a job for our income.

Our experience has been shaped by the fact that, for the first time, we are in a defined age group considered to be at high risk. It’s quite a shock to realise that, for the first time. It brings a sense of mortality, at least for me, that I hadn’t felt before. Intellectually we know that we’re in the autumn of our lives but something like this really brings it home. Given that we don’t want to shorten any more than we have to we decided to behave ourselves for a while.

How have you been spending your time?
We have taken up baking a little, reading, listening to music, walking and exercising and keeping in touch with our family and friends locally and around the world over a variety of digital media.

Our morning coffee group has gone by the wayside, and our regular dinners with friends don’t happen any longer. Instead of eating out fairly regularly, we are cooking at home, and as a result, we’re having to plan low-risk visits to the supermarket and our local Costco. I think the most noticeable thing about this time is having to think about everything you do in terms of the risks associated with it, every time you do it.

We are taking drives to scenic spots where very few people are. That way we can keep in contact with the world around us and appreciate that not much has changed from Mother Nature’s perspective. That happens about once a week, and it’s been a lifesaver. I’m not sure what we would do if we weren’t able to do that. Other than that we take a walk early every day. Fortunately, we live in an area that has a relatively low population density. The bottom line, we do enough to maintain sanity and fitness levels.

How have you been connecting with family/friends back in SA?
We use digital media, quite often. In times like this, the communication frequency has increased, so in some respects, we have all recognised what is important

 

Are you a South Australian overseas? Email your lockdown experiences to zoe@salife.com.au

 

Share —

Subscribe to SALIFE digital – it's free!

The best of Adelaide and South Australia

Subscribe now and go in the monthly draw* to WIN a $100 voucher!

Welcome back!

Did you know it's FREE to subscribe to SALIFE digital?

Subscribe now and go in the monthly draw* to WIN a $100 voucher!

Subscribe to SALIFE digital – it's free!

The best of Adelaide and South Australia

Subscribe now and go in the monthly draw* to WIN a $100 voucher!

Welcome back!

Did you know it's FREE to subscribe to SALIFE digital?

Subscribe now and go in the monthly draw* to WIN a $100 voucher!