Saturday, June 11, 2011

Settling in Broome?

Once we'd decided to have the baby on the road, Broome was always our destination. The expected date for the baby to be born was late in June which is pretty much the perfect time to be that far north in Western Australia. By then the wet and the cyclone season is over and daily temperatures average around 28 degrees. It's pretty much as far from Melbourne as you can get, both in climate and distance, while still being in Australia. A little over 6,000km driving the way that we came. And now we are finally here. The baby is due in just over a couple of weeks but is hanging pretty low on Tori and seems to be locked and loaded in the firing position. I guess it could come at any stage. One of our first stops on arriving here was to visit Broome Hospital. Having dropped in for various appointments, tests and scans at hospitals enroute, it felt strange to actually be in the place where the baby will be born. The hospital has been recently rennovated and the maternity ward all looks brand new. High tech beds with electronic buttons for adjusting to a range of different positions. An iPod docking station for playing whatever music you would like the baby to come into the world with (ACDC's It's a long way to the top?). Full ensuite bathroom equipped with a large tub and shower. And a kitchenette with a fridge for snacks or drinks to help make the experience more amenable. Essentially, it's bigger and decked out more comfortably than our van. The midwife and other hospital staff were all very welcoming. In previous towns, it became apparent on visiting the local hospitals that what we were doing wasn't very conventional. It would seem that most pregnant women don't go off gallivanting around Australia in a caravan. When Tori called up the Karratha Hospital to make an appointment to stop on our way through, she was given a lecture by a midwife about how she should already be in Broome where the baby was to be born and that she should be busy preparing her nest. I'm not sure what she was hoping to achieve, but if her aim was to frighten and unsettle Tori and make her unconfident in her own ability to make decisions about her body, then she was entirely successful. It took Tori a few days to get back on track emotionally after that one. I guess I am relieved that we are in Broome now with the baby so close. The drive from Port Hedland to Barn Hill is a very isolated one, the only part of the journey so far that seemed as remote as crossing the Nullarbour. We drove at one stage for a good hour or so without seeing another vehicle. When all around in every direction is just a flat and wide wilderness with no civilisation in site, each glance down at the temperature guages and dials on the dash is one filled with hope of not seeing anything askew. It would not be a good place to break down. But we didn't. The car has been superb and once again hauled the large van easily across the distance to our next destination. When we finally arrived in Broome, it certainly felt like a major goal had been achieved.

Bridget and Oscar
The plan for accomodation in Broome had always seemed a little on the unknown side. I guess to a degree we have been operating on blind faith. Marty and Bridget are our friends who have lived up here for thirteen years now and they said that we could come and stay in the new house that they are currently building. Their expectation was that it would be at a close enough stage to completion that it would provide a comfortable place for us to camp the van and be sort of between that and the house. This is not how things have worked out. There are currently no rooms that are complete and really habitable. One or two are sort of close, but the site is layered in a very fine dust of dried mud and concrete from the unrendered walls. Probably not ideal for the lungs of a newborn baby. Getting to the incomplete bathroom involves walking across a courtyard of red sand and dirt and then up some make shift steps to the outdoor tiled area with toilet and shower. It will undoubtedly be an amazingly beautiful place when it is completed, but currently it is a large building site and completion is a long way off. So instead, we are camped on the front lawn of Bridget and Marty's current abode, jammed in tight with trees pressing up against several windows, allowing the multitude of ants that live here to gain easy access to the van. Bridget and Marty have been incredibly welcoming and have made us feel very much at home. But we haven't really worked out yet how to make it our home. We are half in the van and half in the house. The van is where we sleep amongst the ants and where all of our clothes are. To gain entry involves ducking and weaving through the trees that enclose the van to get access to the door. Marty has warned us about the neighborhood and told us that we should ensure that the van is always locked, even when we are sleeping in it, because the kids in the neighborhood are pretty happy to remove any item that they think may be something that they want. He said that the days of the local kids putting a brick through the window of a locked car to search for money or other valuables seem to have passed, but nevertheless they leave their cars unlocked so that curious hands can enter easily, see that there is nothing of value and just leave the car as it was. When we are not sleeping or getting clothes, we are in Bridget and Marty's very nice but incredibly cluttered house.
It's quite amazing the amount of stuff that somebody can collect. With Bridget being an artist, it is all very nice stuff, but there sure is a lot of it. Yesterday Tori was feeling that this living arrangement was not the ideal environment in which to be having a baby. And I have to agree that it's not ideal. It is difficult at this stage to work out where our own space actually is. And people that planned to come to visit us, I don't see how that can work. Bridget told us very sincerely to make ourselves at home, but we just aren't quite sure yet how to do it. Or how long we can do it for without causing some serious disruption to their lives, which we also don't want. But we don't really have any viable alternative either. It is peak tourist season in Broome and there is nowhere really to move to. And leaving Broome now so close to the baby being born is out of the question. The hospital here is superb and so that is where we will be going. I think that there is also something special about people opening up their home and their generosity to you. Even if it is a bit cluttered. I think we can make it work here. The kids all get on realy well. And certainly seeing these guys after so long has been fantastic. There's certainly a great social time to be had. And having Bridget around once the baby is born will be a huge asset I have no doubt. Both to help Tori emotionally through that tough time when a child is first born and also in a practical sense in dealing with the baby. She loves kids and will undoubtedly want to be actively involved, which will free Tori up to get some time of her own that she may not otherwise get. Today we enrolled Jazzy and Finn into the local school where Briget and Marty's boys, Oscar and Ravel, go to school. As well as preventing them from being bored stupid being stuck around a house for a couple of months with a preoccupied mother and a working father, it will free Tori up further to have the space that she will require both physically and in her mind. It's certainly going to be an interesting time. For the foreseeable future we live in Broome and I think it just might work.

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