When I was much younger and not so bright (actually, I think I was way brighter then than I am now but let me not go into hard facts right now), I used to love those connect-the-dots activities. You start at one point, feeling very confident, get confused every now and then until a brainwave hits you and you just know the next correct dot to take your line to... half a day later you emerge from the sheets, feeling proud of yourself at drawing an elephant or a rabbit or a tree.
It doesn't occur to you that you might have churned out a better piece of art, had you not followed someone else's dots. It is one of the simplest forms of puzzles, shall I say, before you progress to simple word crosswords and cryptic ones. Some of us slower people never get to that stage because by the time we've mastered the simple puzzles, we hit one called Life and there starts a real adventure.
My first few weeks in this new country started off with looking for a suitable accommodation. Other than actually scouring the real estate sites for descriptions, making appointments with agents, one of the most important activities it involved was finding the location. I never used to be a great map reader (thank God for husbands) but I learnt to make out enough not to go too far out in the wrong direction. The Translink website is a guiding angel telling you exactly where to get on and get off, whether to take a bus, ferry or train.
Somehow, with all these aids and a good dose of the husband's instincts for direction, we managed to arrive at every one of those apartments, on time, and evaluated it as best as we could. Each time we liked or thought a place was not too bad, we would look around for convenience stores, super-markets, transportation and anything else I might need, in the vicinity. In addition, I looked at houses (drooling at the ones I could not afford) and landmarks to go on my mental map of the suburb.
Now that I have settled in, the husband and I have been trying to walk around and familiarize ourselves with the area. The husband seems not to be awed by what we find, partly because he already knew it and partly because he suspected it. I am thrilled. Whenever we head out and walk around, I connect a handful of dots, squealing in excitement per dot I connect and when I get home, I feel equipped with new knowledge.
I have concentrated mostly on a handful of suburbs, so it should not be a wonder that the streets around us are mostly recognizable. I never realized it back then, because we did one or two apartments per day and each time took a different route (the best, per Translink) to get to a place. Yesterday, we walked from the station to the Rosalie Village and as I read out street names and found stores and restaurants we had passed through earlier, I went through a range of mixed feelings. Excitement at being able to connect the dots and map my suburb. Ah, the feeling of knowing! Surprise that I was surprised to find so close, places that I had never known were so close to where I stay. I was surprised because I did not know but it is a surprise that I did not know because they are right there!
Confusing? Well, no, should not be. The tangles are slowly un-knotting themselves. To be familiar with a strange place, finally, puts you in a happy place.
I had never missed home food before but to find three restaurants of home cuisine within walking distances makes you miss home, home food and want to go. Two down, one more left. Ice-cream parlours, cinema, late night grocers, wine stores, varied cuisines, pubs, parks... all of them and more than one... within walking distance... How cool is that? Eh?
Like a friend said to me the other day when he came visiting, "This is a really nice place, it was worth waiting this long to find the right place. It was a good decision". It was, wasn't it?
The right place. Yes. This feels like home. The old couch with one improvised seat-back, the bright patio furniture, the walk-in robe, the pretty cushions, the warm polar fleece throws, the inviting bed, the open kitchen, the study, just about everything seems right. Just as I like it.
To start from here, match the dots and return, armed with the complete picture, is a lovely puzzle to solve. That is the beauty of the dots, they guide you till the end with a promise of treasure where the rainbow ends... A promise that is sure to be kept.