July 2, 2020
At home

Expats at home – South Australians chat from overseas vol.7

We track down some more South Australians living overseas. Here are their stories.

Antonia Cardone and Michael Thornton.

Where do you live?
I live in the Lower Haight, a neighbourhood in the city of San Francisco, California with my husband Michael and our cat Oliver. We have a small second-floor apartment in a group of six. While our indoor space is quite limited with just one bedroom and a total of about 900 square feet, we are fortunate to be surrounded by a leafy garden and airy aspects from windows on all sides.

What is the current feeling in San Francisco?
We have been under Shelter-in-Place restrictions since March 16. San Francisco and its neighbouring Bay Area counties took swift and strict action to contain COVID-19 and as a result, the deaths in San Francisco have only just reached 50. While we are buoyed by our relatively good local results we are very troubled by the increasing cases and deaths across California and the USA these past weeks. The Mayor has begun to lift some restrictions and some businesses have reopened: restaurants and food service establishments can serve take-away meals and allow some outdoor dining provided patrons remain six feet apart. It is still compulsory to wear face masks when in public, so we do. Some stores have re-opened with curb-side pick-up options which is just fantastic! Our TV went kaput a few weeks ago so we bought a new one online then drove to the store, pulled into the parking lot where a masked sales associate came to the car, scanned our QR code on the phone, brought back the TV, put it in our trunk and we headed home. So quick and easy! I hope they keep this option going forward!

We are also observing a pivotal time in US society with the Black Lives Matter protests. This has rallied communities across the country to come together for a clear cause.  And, while there are many challenges, we do feel that this is a time of change and that we have a unique opportunity with a critical mass of people and a shifting of national sentiment to really make a difference. There is a tiny hint of optimism in the air.

How has your job been affected?
I am a workplace strategist with Cushman and Wakefield, a global commercial real estate services company. As soon as COVID-19 emerged as a highly contagious communicable disease, we went into high-alert. With a significant C&W workforce in China, we learned from their experiences and especially from how they worked with our clients to help them return to their offices in the safest possible way. With our expert team I worked intensely for the first few weeks to gather that information and publish “Recovery Readiness: A How-To Guide for Reopening Your Workplace”. Then the phone blew-up. Since then I have presented dozens of webinars, recorded podcasts, and been interviewed for my perspective on how we can work effectively from home and in time how we can come back to our offices, practice some new protocols and develop a feeling of safety in close proximity with our colleagues. My days are long as I connect with my European colleagues early in my morning, then my US colleagues and clients throughout the day, and end with Australia and Asia calls in the evenings. Somewhere in amongst all those video conferences, I try to get some quiet work done. All this is happening from my new desk and computer in our bedroom. My husband normally works from home as a genetics software programmer so we can’t be in the same room because his work is mostly quiet and I spend all day on the phone.

How have you been spending your spare time?
In my spare time I have tried to focus on my health and wellbeing. Twice weekly I have a virtual workout via Zoom with my personal trainer. While it’s a really good substitute for gym sessions, it’s not as motivating as being in-person. We don’t expect gyms to open yet for many weeks to come, although one gym nearby puts equipment on the sidewalk and conducts personal training sessions in the open air! Since the weather has been lovely I am trying to get outside everyday for a short walk. Lots of other people are doing the same thing. The City of San Francisco has declared some “slow streets” where traffic is restricted to local vehicles only thereby allowing pedestrians to use the full width of the street to walk and exercise while keeping good social distance. It’s a real pleasure to use our streets that way and get a different perspective on our beautiful Victorian architecture. I’ve also been taking short rides on my bike, especially on weekends. I go into Golden Gate Park and along Ocean Beach where the roads are closed to vehicles so it makes for a really easy, casual ride. Now lots of cyclists are wearing masks too, so I’m not sure how that will work when the weather gets hot.

How have you been connecting with family/friends back in SA?
It’s been a little more challenging than normal because my work days are so long. But, with WhatsApp and Facetime, we can connect as always. We did plan to vacation back in Australia later in 2020, but we are slowly giving up hope of that now. Last night I watched Ride Like a Girl on Netflix and felt the pangs of homesickness. I’m guessing that will increase now as thoughts of a trip home anytime soon are fading. My family have shared with me how committed South Australia was to avoiding community transmission of the virus and that has made me really proud. When my friends here ask about the safety and wellbeing of my Adelaide family, I am delighted to tell them of your success. May it continue.

Jeanne McInerney, USA

Jeanne McInerney at the Art Institute of Chicago.

You spend half your time between Chicago (where you are now) and SA. How does that work?
I am a legal permanent resident of Australia (as of February 2019) living in Hahndorf. My husband and I grow sauv-blanc grapes with a smattering of pinot noir. We are beyond fortunate to have a 30-year history in South Australia that began in 1988-1989 when my husband did his ophthalmology corneal fellowship at Flinders University and we had the first of our three children while living in Adelaide.

Our family travelled Down Under every year and our Aussie friends reciprocated by coming here to Chicago. Over the years we have hosted well over a hundred Aussies … several for more than a year. As our kids grew up, they formed lifelong friendships with their Aussie peers and have travelled together, performed music together and even dated each other.

As America entered the Iraq war my husband and I grew dismayed at the far right turn the USA was taking. We vowed that if President Bush was given a second term we would buy a property in South Australia and begin to set down roots. True to our word we began the search. Thirteen years ago we settled into our property, entered the wine business and began the seven-year process of applying for permanent residency.

This year I reluctantly decided to return to America in March as my husband had to resume work and my three kids (now adults) work in the entertainment business and live in Los Angeles. I’m sure you would agree that no one wants to be away from their family during a pandemic.

What is the current feeling there at the moment?
I saw Australia, as a country, and my friends in Adelaide taking COVID-19 very seriously from the start. One close friend brought her daughter home at the beginning of March from NYC where she was going to university. All of my friends had cancelled both business and holiday travel plans by mid-March. Social distancing was taken seriously by the first week in March. I admire the way my adopted country has handled the pandemic.

I think the world is in disbelief at how the USA has gone from a credible world leader to a chaotic, divided country with an out of control pandemic, racism shamelessly on public display and 40 million people unemployed. We have no public health insurance and today alone (July 1) 50,700 new cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed. Mask wearing has become a bizarre political statement and it just feels like we have lost our way. The stress of being here is causing great anxiety in everyone I know.

How has your job been affected?
I facilitate workshops called Heal Chicago for non-profits in Chicago. The courses aim to build resilience in people who work directly with marginalised populations such as the homeless, addicted, refugees and vets with PTSD. These types of employees range from teachers to healthcare workers to social workers often experience secondary trauma and really benefit from direct support. I actually modelled some of the program on the SAHMRI program on community health and resilience that I heard Gabrielle Kelly speak about at the Adelaide TEDX conference in 2016. Previously I was director of Healing Racism Chicago Southland for 17 years along with dabbling in my side passion – the restaurant business.

I usually do my writing for the program when I am in Adelaide from December to May and teach the program here in Chicago from May to November. This year has flipped that on its head as everything is over Zoom. The program is really designed to increase listening skills, alter our reactivity cycles, help us make deeper connections with each other and improve our flexible thinking. As these are skills best taught in-person I have adapted by holding group meetings on the trauma people are facing with attempting to be effective with those in dire need while working remotely. It has been stressful, to say the least.

With the Black Lives Matter movement taking hold across the country and my academic and professional background in race relations studies, recently, I have been asked to hold webinars on how to take a stand against racism. Those start July 21 so I have my work cut out for me for now.

How have you been spending your time?
I spend my time trying to be a support to family, friends and colleagues. I am grateful that I really enjoy cooking so not being able to eat out has not presented too much of a strain. We have had Saturday night in Chicago/Sunday brunch in Australia “cook together” events with our friends via FaceTime. It is so fun, we choose the recipes together, gather our ingredients, cook and sit together virtually and dine. It has been a real source of connection while we are so far away.

I also walk outdoors for exercise but the variability of runners, bikers, walkers wearing masks makes every venture outside feel like you are dodging bullets!

On the positive side, my Adelaide friends have been so caring. Someone reaches out daily to see how I’m doing. This means so much to me it is hard to put into words. They are all saying “come home!”. I think this entire global event has made me incredibly grateful to be a new Aussie.


James Clark, USA

James giving husband Branden a makeover.

Where do you live?
New York City

What is the current feeling in your country/region at the moment?
The United States seems anything but united at the moment. The pandemic is occurring against a tumultuos political and social climate, where there is huge spread of misinformation and even mask-wearing has become politicised. Some states that opened up too quickly are seeing huge spikes in new cases, an overwhelming of the local healthcare systems, and are closing down again. Here in New York City, we just entered Phase 2 of reopening where people can dine outside at restaurants, get their hair done at salons, and shop in stores. These things all feel like huge luxuries after being shut down since mid March. I think people feel a mixture of quarantine fatigue and wanting to get back to “normal life”, as well as fear of new virus spikes.

How has your job been affected?
My husband, Branden, and I are entertainers. We are a cello and vocal duo who usually perform extensively across the USA as well as in Mexico, the UK, Australia and as headliners on cruise ships. All of our performances since mid March have been cancelled and, whilst some dates are still being held, we have had most work for the rest of the year postponed until 2021 or put off all together. We have performed 12 virtual shows from our apartment, utilising live-streaming platforms like Stageit, or YouTube and Facebook Live to generate income and entertain our fans. We have three performances scheduled in July in front of real live audiences, but at 50 per cent capacity. We are very much hoping these shows will happen, but things change drastically on a daily basis so we just have to roll with the punches.

How have you been spending your time?
We have been trying to stay creative during this time: filming new music videos and recording new music from home. We have been exercising more, but also eating and drinking a lot of wine too. We have learned some new skills, like giving each other haircuts and there’s been a significant amount of soul-searching as well, because the future of live performance is so uncertain right now.

How have you been connecting with family/friends back in SA?
Thank goodness for the internet! There have been lots of FaceTime calls and Zoom hangouts, as well as connecting over social media. We’ve been comparing notes about our COVID experiences and I’m really proud (and envious) of the way South Australians have handled the pandemic.


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


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