The most distinct difference and a very obvious one for us has been with Mantam’s schooling. It is a complete contradictory experience when compared to that in India. Back home, there was always focus on writing, the kids learnt by repeatedly writing and there was less focus on reading. But here there is no
importance at all on writing, there is so much stress on reading. Mantam’s class teacher was amazed how they could write so well even when they couldn’t read words. Also, in India Mantam had learnt cursive writing in UKG. Here, they are supposed to write in print writing so that as they read, they automatically know the words and symbols and can imitate the same while writing. Well, personally I love cursive writing but they lost touch now. In terms of curriculum or syllabus, there are no text books as such. They just have a framework of what the kids should be taught and I dunno how the teacher teaches them. I’m happy as long as they are learning via activities. They speak of continents, natural disasters, emergency handling, water cycles, life saving skills and Abbas and I just listen with our mouths open. In India, these topics were ‘taught’ by asking the kids to create charts/presentations/model on them and it would be an exercise for parents more than a learning for kids. Here they know a lot and at times, we learn new things from them. For example, the other day we went to the beach and they found a rock pool and even explained us how rock pools are formed.
Again speaking about kids, the kind of facilities that kids have makes me envy them at times. The parks are constructed in such a way that the ground surface is so soft and there are no chances for them to injure themselves on having a fall. The library conducts wonderful programs round the year for kids for free, they have bank accounts where they deposit a dollar or two every week by themselves and get a token and once they accumulate ten tokens they get a gift from the bank of their choice. We go to any offices / restaurants / banks, they have a corner with books, toys or colouring sheets with crayons for the kids to be occupied.
I dunno if I had written about libraries in any of my posts earlier, but I was taken aback by the kind of provisions that people are entitled to at one. There was free wifi for everyone, there were desktops to be used, scanners, printers, study rooms for students, workshops or classes conducted from time to time, justice of peace (like our notary) and books ofcourse. And all this is for free except for taking printouts, which is at a nominal price. How awesome is that? We were scared about taking membership as we didn’t know how much it would cost as there are so many facilities to boot. We hesitantly asked the lady at reception how much it would cost? She was surprised by the question and told that we had to pay only if had an overdue, otherwise there was no money required at all.
One other good thing of course, is the feature to allow pedestrians to cross the road at each and every junction. You need to cross the road, just press the button and wait for a while for the single to turn green for the pedestrians. I remember how difficult is was to cross the road in Bangalore at major junctions like Marathahalli where you would never be able to cross unless you join with a crowd who jay walk into the traffic. It was also very risky and Abbas would always call me every evening at the same time to check if I had crossed safely.
So many things are automated here, it may be a good thing to have technological advances but I do miss the personal interactions and rapport building.
We recently got a few things like an enclosed shoe rack, a bedside cabinet and a centre table from Ikea. Each of these was packed in a compact carboard box in bits and pieces and came with detailed instructions on how the piece of furniture had to be assembled with pictures. Abbas and I spent more than half a day assembling all of these. Though I enjoyed the process and was also proud at being able to do it on our own, Abbas was very grumpy. He was so irritated at the fact that everything had to be done by yourself in this country 😀
I really do not appreciate the carelessness when it comes to the usage of resources. My heart sinks at the amount of printouts people take at offices unnecessarily, the way people do not bother to turn off the conference room lights when they leave, the way people use ziplock bags / take way boxes to pack their food to work and then chuck it in the bin to save the trouble of washing the containers. I am not judging anyone and I too keep a stash of ziplocks bags and takeaway boxes with me as they come in handy in a few situations. But I do try my best to generate less waste to the best of my ability.
The medicare facility provided by the Government to cover the health related expenses of it’s citizens was a surprise too for us. We come from a land where people turn bankrupt due to illness in some cases. You could consult doctor, get tests done, vaccination for kids done, get treated in a hospital – all for free. We pay only for the medicines. There are private insurances too that people opt for, but we are yet to think of a reason why it is worthwhile.
There is a government run body called Centrelink which paid us during our jobless days for childcare. Once we got the jobs, we are not entitled to that claim but can continue to claim daycare rebate of 30%. Also, there are other allowances that one can claim in scenarios like when one is unable to work as they are taking care of their child or a sick adult, single mums, youth allowances and the like. One also gets a lump sum amount on a baby’s arrival (I heard that this is gonna be stopped but it has been there for a long time)
I miss listening to the radio stations and hindi songs. I miss being up to date with the new movies coming up and watching the trailers and waiting for the movie. I do get to know from FB or whataspp but they are only a few and far between.
The worst of them all is the access to food, mainly street food. Sigh!!