My Life Abroad: The Adventures of Two Birds
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Sun
12
Aug '12

Expat life in Melbourne

I don’t often talk about how I came to live in Australia, but a recent email from one of my readers has prompted thoughts about how I got here and how I have gotten to where I am today in general – from a “mindset” perspective.

I suppose I easily could have stayed in beautiful Chico,California– the Sierra Nevada Mountains– and continued partying with my same old friends, playing on the pool league with my best girlfriends, singing in a band, and ultimately going no where in “life”.  Fun is one thing but I think I was definitely dying to have my own life, career, and be in love with someone that loved me back exactly the same as I loved him. All of the things I was desperately missing in California.

I’ve always loved travelling. From the time I joined the US Navy in 1988 – I knew I really wanted to get out and see a bit of the world.  I was lucky enough to have travelled quite a bit while I was in the military and I loved every minute of it. My favourite places were Italy and Bahrain.

But, when I met up with Birdie in 2004 some 18 years after we first met, I knew it was meant to be. His offer to come visit turned into what I hoped for – an engagement and invitation to come live in Melbourne permanently.  I do think that we considered living in California but with the job market, cost of living, and economy in a downturn it was the best choice to move to Melbourne.  In my mind it was never a choice.  I don’t think once that I have regretted coming here.  Certainly the support of Birdie’s family and friends made it easier for me and the support of my own family was important to me as well, they wanted me to “be happy”, and sometimes being happy means you have to go far, far away.  I think each year they are finding out that I am not so far away, we visit, and my Mother comes to Australia to visit often.  My best friend in Cali comes to visit and I keep in touch with my friends on FB and through this blog. I will have to say that this blog for me is therapeutic – it is a way for me to share my life with my family (as meager as it is). I believe some think my blog is a bit indulgent, but for me it’s a way for my family and friends to know what I’m doing and know that I am okay here.  I recommend to my expatriate friends to keep a blog and open a portal of communication with your family if you can.  It’s been one of the best things I’ve done for myself since I have come to live here.

My visit to Melbourne for the first time, a 2-week visit, was the most awesome experience I can remember.  Birdie was so good, he took me out to see every part of the city, and we did all the touristy things here and went out to eat in the city and suburbs every night.  He did however, remind me that “it’s not going to be like this if you move here” meaning getting the extra special going out every-night treatment.  But it was a great experience to see a good chunk of where I’d be living.  Melbourne is a metropolis, densely populated with immigrants from all over the world and certainly the South Pacific region. The food here is incredible, some of the best from all over the world – for sure, it’s a foodies paradise. Melbourne hasn’t let me down once, there’s so much to do here and it is by far the best destination in Australia (yes I’m bias).

When I left, I remember giving my car away, packing my things, choosing what to keep and what to get rid of, I even kept some things in storage for over a year in Californa.  Cleaning out that storage unit was a nightmare – Suggestion #1 – don’t keep things you don’t need in storage for over a year especially if your not planning on definitely coming back to live.  We lived in a very small second-rate apartment when I got here… but after I started working and Birdie got a new job we were well on our way to acquiring the things we needed to make our house a home.  It only took 5-years to collect enough shit to furnish a 4-bedroom 3-bath home, and we bought our first home after being in Australia for only 4-years.

My friends, they are still around, some are in my life more than others.  Some I wish were in my life more but ultimately people deal differently than others when “someone is leaving”.  Some didn’t want me to go, some probably couldn’t wait until I left but ultimately you find out who your real friends are when you leave.

Making friends in Australia is something I’ve talked about in detail before – it’s a hard task.  Things are just different here, attitudes are different, and it’s culturally different. – Suggestion #2 – don’t expect Australia to be just like the U.S. (so far from it), it’s a foreign country and just because they speak English (sort-of) here,  doesn’t make it anything like America.  I’m talking about making friends, but also in general – things are just plain different.  I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t been so career focused when I got here.  I easily adopted Birdie’s friends, girlfriends, and wives – and some are still around.  But making friends for yourself is something I found hard here, and something that came very easy to me at home.  It’s taken me the entire 7 years to figure out how to make friends here.

Here’s my two cents of good wisdom for finding friends in Australia (this is what I did):

~ Don’t depend on your partner.
~ Get out of the house and find a hobby, club, or other way to meet new people.
~ Get involved in sport, either playing, or participating as a board member.
~ Work!  Even if it’s only part-time.
~ Once you find a friend, hang on to them – arrange a coffee meet up once a week/fortnight.
~ If you have a child join a local “mothers group”
~ Join an Expat group on Facebook or MeetUp, there are tons online, it enables you to make some friends or connections from your own country – this can make things much easier when it comes to needing a shoulder to complain on… er, I mean cry on.
~ Let your guard down a little, I know you don’t want to get hurt but if you can’t let your guard down and open yourself up to making new friends – it will never happen.

I never would have made it if I didn’t have the friends I have now.  And although most of my friends are expats from other countries who understand the pain of leaving their home country – my Aussie friends are as important as anything to me  – Suggestion #3 – if you think you can make it here with no friends, your kidding yourself. I’ve seen American expats come and go and the ones that make a good go of it would swear by this – you need friends to help you get through the hard times.

I’d say I struggled for about the first 2-3 years.  I start out working a job way below where I was in the U.S.   Until I got one job under my belt, figured out how to put together CV (resume) to work in Australia, and got the courage to go out and look for a new job (which was hard and outside my comfort zone), I really didn’t have much of a chance. Finally, I got a job that enabled me to travel for about 10-months straight all over Australia.  I started getting to see more of Australia than my partner had seen.  Perth, the outback, Sydney, and Tasmania… I’d been everywhere!  I started having to make friends on my own because I was spending weeks away from my husband.

I used to remember flying home on Friday nights to see Birdie, and as I was driving from the airport toward the city, I would see the buildings of  Melbourne and think “Ah, I’m home”.  That’s when it finally hit me that Melbourne IS MY HOME.  I love Melbourne.  And as much as my husband wants to live in the U.S., I can’t imagine living anywhere else right now.  Someday I guess I’ll give up those dreams to go live in America once again to give my husband the opportunity to live in America and have his own expat experience there… but not for many more years (I hope).

Ultimately, I am not disappointed with my decision to move here and I made such a good choice in my partner, Birdie has been so supportive of me in this new country.  He understands my plight, when I have to have a good cry – I have his shoulder, good times or bad he’s there for me and I have to give him props for that because I’m not the easiest person to understand – Suggestion #4 – pick a supportive partner, and know them well before you make a move so far away from everything you know and love.  

When I first came over to live, Birdie and I made an agreement that we would live together for a year before we got married.  I wanted to make sure I wasn’t making a mistake that would land me alone in a foreign country with no way to get home, no family or friends. Our agreement included that he would pay for me and all my crap to fly home should things not work out.  Luckily, after being apart for 19-years it felt like we were able to pick up where we left off and create a life together. I am thankful every day for our meager beginnings here, because it meant that we had to rely on each other and it gave us the struggles we needed to make sure that we were a fit.

Ultimately, to all expats planning to move to Australia in the future… ensure you have a good support system outside of your relationship with your partner and be willing to be open to change, think outside the box and be prepared for everything to be different.  It truly is mind over matter!!

Wed
28
Dec '11

NYE Holiday: The Great Barrier Reef, Port Douglas Queensland

The Great Barrier Reef I’m dedicating this blog to my Gramma, who has recently taken an interest in my whereabouts and blogs and shit (huh Grams?).

It’s been almost six years since we’ve been here, to upper Northern Queensland, to Port Douglas where we spent our honeymoon – this is a very small town, a place that many “Stars” come to get away/visit in Australia. We’re on the Great Barrier Reef and have access to beaches and boats galore. The marina is in walking distance from our resort, and we are just on the main road – there is only one main road in Port Douglas, with little shops, great restaurants, resort hotels and bars. The best way to go is to find a rental apartment with a kitchenette, and the amenities you prefer like a good pool, and restaurant – in the location that best suits your activities. We like scuba and snorkelling so our favourite location is the beach with marina access.

I got my scuba license, after doing about 8 introductory dives in Thailand and Australia over a period of several years (an introductory dive is 1-hour of training and 1:3 diver to trainer ratio for one :30 minute dive), I thought it best after 8 of these to get my certification (which I did in 2009) – Birdie has procrastinated and only just agreed this year to get his certification. So this trip back to our favourite place, Port Douglas, was partially in an effort to get him certified so that we could continue to dive together (as scuba requires a diving buddy). I’m very proud of Rod during his course (I did mine on my own), I’ve been there going through the course with him – watching, participating, and taking pictures along the way – being involved and making him feel as comfortable as possible with this process.

The scuba Open Water Diving Certification Course is as follows:  Day 1 & 2) Online Course, takes aproxiomately 9-14 hours of study and tests.  The water course starts with; Day 3) In pool training with equipment and testing; Day 4 & 5) Open water testing and dives which includes 4 dives over two days and skills testing.  Day 5 is tomorrow for Birdie, he has one more dive and 3 more skills test to complete his certification.

Click pictures to enlarge.

Pool Training: Day 3 

   

Skill Dives and Training – Open Water: Day 4

   

See all the pictures here:  Scuba Photo Album

My own illness over the past couple years has been daunting, and I have had to take some risks in order to dive on this trip, but I am thankful and grateful for the opportunity to be one with the ocean, sea life, and this experience that I love so much. My first dive after being sick and finally going into remission again, well… it’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. I did great on my dives today and I’m so glad that I was able to be with Birdie during his course. It was a great diving refresher for me. This is something that I really love and something that I feel is an experience that not many people attempt. I get to share this with my partner and together we can be one with nature, and IT IS incredible.

After tomorrow (Day 3), the last certification dives for Birdie, we have a lot more planned for our trip in Northern Queensland and Port Douglas. We are already planning to do a couple new things on this trip:

1. Sailing to the Low Isles for Snorkelling with Turtles www.aquarias.com.au

2. Skyrail and Kuranda www.reefandrainforest.com.au

3. Breakfast with the Birds www.wildlifehabitat.com.au/breakfast.html

4. Cape Tribulation Tours http://www.jungletours.com.au

5. Daintree Rainforest Tours www.reefandrainforest.com.au

6. A minimum of one more day of 3-dives on the Agincort Reef (Opal Reef)

I’m looking forward the other adventures we are about to have on this trip, I hope you enjoy following our progress and sharing our experiences with us.

Thu
8
Dec '11

The Cost of Living in Australia

Lately there’s been lots of talk, and a couple of exposè’s on “A Current Affair” about IKEA and how the pricing structure is different in Australia from that of the UK and America.  It’s hard to understand why this is such a big shocker, when some of the prices are as much as double for the same item purchased in the US but I think that the Australians are forgetting to look at the big picture and are picking on IKEA for something that almost every company is responsible for doing here.

Prices are high.  For those of you that live in the US and complain about high prices for your groceries and clothing, cars and even gas (petrol)… you don’t know the half of it.  Prices are so high in Australia that the weekly groceries that used to cost me $100 in the US cost me about $250 in Melbourne.  In addition to not having the variety of goods (by far) that we have in the US, the prices are double if not more for goods that we use everyday.  I’ve tried to gather a price comparison of grocery goods, and other items just to make my point.  I will not use imported products as the cost may be raised due to shipping costs that are transferred onto the consumer.

 Product  US $  AU $
 Local Beer (6-pk)  3.99  15.00
 Chicken Breast (3 lb., frozen)  5.49  13.00
 Canned Green Beans (14.5 oz)  0.49  1.50
 Loaf of bread (12 grain)  1.89  2.49
 Dozen Eggs (Grade A Large)  1.19  4.50
 Cream Cheese (8 oz)  1.00  3.29
 Toilet Paper (6-pk)  0.98  2.00

Groceries are one thing, but let’s not stop there, mostly I am amazed by the beer prices here in Australia, for not only locally made beer like VB (Victoria Bitter), but for beer like Stella (for example) which is a imported beer to the US, but is made in Australia for Australians.  A 6-pack of Stella in the US is $8.99 (which is imported from Belgium) and the same labelled Stella beer made in Australia is $16.00.  In general we pay about $50 – 80 for a slab of beer (30 cans) – and this is the reason we make our own beer – it pays to have a brewmaster in the family.  It certainly doesn’t stop at beer.

Cars are another shocker, today I saw a left-hand drive 77 Mustang for $30,000.  Does that sound insane to you?  It does to me.  I’ll use Volkswagen as my example because they have some of the same cars for sale in the US and AU.  A VW Golf in the US retails at $17,995- $28,995 and the same car in Australia retails at $25,491 – $57,570.

The clothing problem is a constant one, typically a pair of jeans cost over $100, and because there is no ‘Ross’ or ‘Old Navy’ with bargain basement prices, the only way to get a discount is to shop at Target or Kmart.  And Target/Kmart in Australia doesn’t compare to the stores in the US.  Different brands, products, and quality by far.  Definitely not many stores have larger sized clothing, and you can’t find a men’s shoe over 11-12 (which is a problem for my size 13 husband).

What truly impacts these differences?  The cost of living is much higher here, the minimum wage is $17.00 p hour, but how does that impact a chicken’s eggs, or a grocery store loaf of bread.  I’m tired of hearing the complaints about how Australian’s have to pay for for “IKEA goods” when they are paying more for just about everything.

Shipping costs from the US to Australia are quite high, so you can’t afford to buy Australian, and you can’t affort to buy from overseas. Many websites don’t allow Australian credit cards or don’t ship overseas at all.  Luckily there are now more companies shipping to Oz, making an impact on the Australian market and forcing many to consider that even with high shipping costs, we can get cheaper products from overseas than we can buy at home.

Costco is a new thing in Australia, the first one in Downtown Melbourne – and after 1-year it is taking hold on the retail market, before Costco you never saw bulk packaging, no toilet paper over 12 rolls, no diapers over 24, no block of cheese over 16 oz.  It’s changed the market completely and Costco is moving all over Australia, #2 in Sydney and #3 in Ringwood, Melbourne.  I’d love to see more retailers come to Australia, and make a difference. In the last 7 years I’ve seen a lot of new things in Oz, and and I hope to see more changes as new retailers make their mark here, well…a girl can dream!

Fri
4
Apr '08

The Family Tattoo

image.jpgMAdam brought with them, a picture – or symbol – for the Yosemite National Park, where half-dome stands, this to be used as a marking for those that make the trek to scatter my Dad’s ashes this coming July at Yosemite.  Somehow we talked my Mother into getting the tattoo and she was a trooper, obviously my Mother.  We all got our tattoo in a different spot but it was a fun adventure that we took together. As always we went to Taboo Tattoo in Blackburn, to see my #1 tattoo artist Clint, and he did a spectacular job. Rod is next… then Lavette and Greg!  uh-huh-baby!

Click on the pictures below to open, and again to enlarge:

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All the rest of the pictures will be available in the Photo Albums.

Wed
21
Nov '07

Our day at Dreamworld, Gold Coast – Australia

dreamworld.jpg

Birdie flew up last Saturday and we drove out to the Gold Coast to go to Dreamworld and enjoy the rollercoasters and have a nice day together.  It has been almost three weeks now since I have been home so it was good to have Birdie come to Brisbane to see me this weekend.  There are about 4 large coasters at Dreamworld, none quite as good as Magic Mountian or Six Flags fame (as Birdie pointed out).  We did however have a couple good ones.  I am deathly afraid of heights but I so love coasters. 

giant-drop.jpg

Remember last week when I went up in the Q1 Residential tower at Surfers Paradise?  I was on the 77th floor when I took those pictures.  The Giant Drop is a 78 floor drop and I literally promised Birdie I’d only go on it once –  as the 6 person long seat lifted us slowly (and I mean slowly) and raised us to the 78th floor, I was terrified. Not looking all the way up I tried to squint at the top while I was hyperventilating during the very long wait to drop with no notice.  During the squint I could see the entire parking lot of Dreamworld, and the cars were the size of little ants. No looking down for me. The squint ended after only 1 second. 

tower.jpg

I have this thing I do when I ride, I take a deep breath right before we take a dip or drop so that I can keep my stomach and scream bloody murder at the same time.  The problem with the Giant Drop is that it lets you hang at the 78th floor for 1 – 2 minutes.  There really is no way to tell when the damn thing is actually gonna drop.  I keep drawing deep breaths and holding them as long as I can – before I have to let it out and take another.  After about six of those, finally I hear a faint click and we drop 78 floors in a matter of seconds. 

AAAAaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhahaaaaa!

It’s finally over.  As I regain consciousness, we exit the ride never to return again.

Our favourite ride was The Claw.  Lame name, but it was a great ride, we rode this a couple times.  There was a lot of spinning on this ride in addition to “losing my stomach” as we swung wildly through screams and laughter.  This was a great one.  It was really almost like a carnival ride but Birdie and I both voted it was the best!

the-claw.jpg

Other things at Dreamworld include a great zoo.  This is one thing that I enjoy about Australia – they love their indiginous animals and they take advantage of any chance to show them off.  Something great about Kangaroos is that the ones in the zoo’s are domesticated.  They will walk right up to you, they like to be petted and fed, and overall they are pretty tame. Many of the female Roos at Dreamworld had little joey’s in their pouches.  In picture one you can see that this domesticated roo is protecting some food with his paw – saving it for later? In the other, if you look carefully you can see the joey’s little nose and twig-like legs poking out of the pouch.

roos.jpg joey.jpg

In addition to the joey’s there was a baby Koala.  We got some good pictures of the baby, and the handler said it was the first time he’d ever seen the mother away from the baby since it had been born.  I did get a cute video, I’ll have to set up my first youtube.com video with the Koala when I get home next week. I took hundreds of pictures of the little Koala baby – hope you enjoy all the pictures, they will soon be available in my Photo Album for Dreamworld. Here’s one to tie you over!

koalababy.jpg

There were tons of other animals, I truly love places like this because you get to feed, pet, and touch animals. They even take the tigers for walks and bring out the owls for a talk. Good fun! Click on the images below to see the full picture.

tiger-walk.jpg owl.jpg whitetiger.jpg koalamum.jpg gater.jpg

Movember

mo.jpg

That’s right, I said it “Mo”vember.  I think that if Birdie has a reason to grow a “mo” (mustache) he’s up for it. Movember (the month formally known as November) is a moustache growing charity event held during November each year. The Movember participants known as Mo Bros then have the remainder of the month to grow and groom their moustache and along the way raise as much money and awareness about male health issues, in particular prostate cancer. 

Sponsored by his organisation, Birdie has been sporting his mo this month. 

You can do you part for prostate cancer, join the effort today! Its too late to jump on board this year but register next year on the official site www.movember.com

Thanksgiving Eve

As we come back around to Thanksgiving this year we are looking forward to sharing the day with our family and friends as we hold our second annual Thanksgiving in Australia this Sunday, 25 November.  I’m so glad to have our American friends Dawn and Steve and their families as well, its a time that reminds us of home.  Check back for pictures of our Thanksgiving day this year and share in our fun.

Schoolies Update

The “schoolies” week is still underway and yesterday there were 78 arrests of year-12’s for drinking offenses and other bad behaviour.  Two girls were hit by a 17 year old drunk driver this weekend, one suffered a broken foot.  What a great idea to feed our youth booze.  Oh wait!  Let’s give them drivers licneses in the same year they are learning how to be responsible with alcohol.  Okay – now lets fly them all down to the beach for a 10 day drink fest!  Now were talkin.  Wooo HOOooo!

***

Mental Status: Ready to go home Friday, prepare for Thanksgiving, and have a week home with Birdie before I go back out on the  road… next stop: Adelaide, South Australia.
Favourite thing this Week: Birdie bought me a new camera, you can see by the pictures, they are great! Thanks Birdie, I love you.
Book this WeekThe Jane Austin Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

Thu
15
Nov '07

Last night in Paradise

No rant today, I was lucky enough to finish work early today so I rushed off to catch a movie.  I guess I’m starting to like vampire movies, cause I thought this one was pretty good – 30 Days of Night starring Josh Harnett Still, my alltime favourite vampire flick is Shaun of the Dead written by and starring Simon Pegg (hilarious and a great plot).

Annnnyway…

The very long previews before the movie starts usually include commercials, and well, one was for the tallest residential building in the world, Q1.

q1.jpg

Mainly it was just advertising that there is an excellent little observation deck on the 77th floor overlooking the beach up and down the Surfers Paradise.  I rushed off to catch some pictures from the 77th floor of the Q1 building and I got there just at sundown. 

2_25.jpg 

These are some great pictures, towering over Surfers Paradise! Click on each pic to see it full size.

4.jpg 3_25.jpg 11.jpg 7.jpg 8.jpg 

Now I’m off, back up to Brisbane.  Birdie is flying in Saturday and we are going to Dreamworld on Sunday. Check back for more pictures of our day.  I’m lucky enough to get out of Surfers Paradise on the right day.  Friday is when Seniors (or Year-12) kids graduate from High School (College), and they have this ritual of all going to Surfers Paradise for a weekend of drinking and mayhem. In Australia you can drink at 18 so they can go to bars and usually it means trouble.  I still think 18 is much too early to be drinking because it is still an age of irresponsibility. At 21 I wasn’t ready for drinking.  Anyway, I hear it is much like Ft. Lauderdale for College students “Spring Break”. Let’s just hope these young girls don’t “go wild”. 

***

Mental Status: Surfers Paradise has been nice, weather is warm and there are lots of shops, the beach, and restaurants within walking distance, oh! and the Mint Chip gellato… yum.
Favourite thing this Week: Birdie arrives in 47 hours, bring on Dreamworld!
Today’s Song: West End Girls by The Pet Shop Boys
Book this WeekThe Jane Austin Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

Tue
13
Nov '07

Liberal v. Labour

As I am not yet a citizen of Australia, I cannot vote in the upcoming election for Prime Minister including government seats federal and local.  Although, I am concerned about the future of Australia and – since I like to voice my opinion – and because I pay for this website to do so – I am going to share some of the key points of interest that my Gen-X’ers are facing in this election.

Of course, my generation are faced with buying a first home, rising interest rates, increased baby bonus, raising young children, higher education (for themselves), health care and health services, and let’s not forget the war on terrorism.

howard.jpgThe War on Terrorism

The Liberal Party in Australia is the equivalent to Republican in America.  The current Prime Minister, Mr John Howard is a supporter of President Bush and his “war on terrorism”.  We too have lost Australian soldiers lives in the Middle East supporting Mr Bush’s “war”. Most recently I remember John Howard making a statement to the Australian people saying that we will continue to fight abroad and will be sending over more troops to support the U.S. in this fight.  Not even a day later Tony Blair, United Kingdom’s then Prime Minister, announced that he would be pulling out all UK troops. I really think that Tony Blair was brave to pull troops out, going against the U.S. recommendation to stay.  As I see it, John Howard does not have the courage to make his own decisions – instead he finds importance in staying on the “good side” of ole Bushy.

Campaign Promises

Just like the U.S. we are bombarded with ad’s for each party, trying to outdo one another. There has been this recent accusation of “me-too-ism” in this election. John Howard says I want to improve “health care” and the next day the Labour Party candidate Kevin Rudd comes out with is own plan to improve “health care”.  Then the accusations fly about  “Kevin Rudd’s me tooattitude” in the campaign.  Honestly, I would think that each candidate would have their own plans for everything from health care and education to tax breaks and rising interest rates.  If someone is running for Prime Minister and they don’t already have a plan for these things, I would be terribly worried.

If the Liberal Party is the equivalent to Republican, than the Labour Party which is equivalent to the Democrats. Unions are a concern when voting Labour, and most of the opposition ad’s threaten how Unions will take over the government.  Hooey!  Unions provide many industries with fair wages and even now with the Liberal Party in office there were still Nursing strikes only a few weeks ago. Why aren’t we supporting our Teachers and Nurses with fair wages – these are some of the lowest paying higher education jobs available today? Where is the “fair-go” for Australian’s carers and educators? 

You just have to wonder too – with all these great new ideas and promises of billion dollar remedy’s for education, tax reduction and and health care reform, where are these billions coming from?  Why does it take an election for the Prime Minister to do something worthwhile for the Australian people, why NOW are we getting proposals for education rebates and lower taxes?  Yes it is “too little too late Mr. Howard”.

The Environment

Al Gore visited Australia with good intentions a little over 2 years ago, when I first moved to Melbourne, to meet with the Australian government regarding the Kyoto Treaty, and thoughts for saving the environment of our planet Earth. As most of us know there are only a few countries left to sign the Kyoto Treaty and Australia (in the company of China and the U.S.), are one of those.  Not only did Prime Minister John Howard not meet with Mr. Gore, but the Treasurer Peter Costello disgraced himself by publicly refuting the validity of the looming environment crisis. The PM not only refused to say whether he thought Al Gore deserved his Nobel Prize, he pretty much implied that Fat Al was a fraud.

“It is very important when you are dealing with something like the environment not to get carried away with any one individual,” Howard said. “Everyone makes mistakes, and there is a danger that we create an aura around individuals that is not deserved.” (Jeff Sparrow)

In my mind the Liberal government is not taking our environment seriously enough.

Why not John Howard?

First off, a vote for Mr. Howard is not a vote for Mr. Howard – it’s a vote for Treasurer Peter Costello.  John Howard has flip-flopped on this issue.  The Prime Minister has been in office for several terms and has not made a secret of his wanting to retire, however, he will not step down from the election scheduled for the 24th of November. He is still planning to retire during his term and the party would then turn over to Peter Costello.  Down in the polls it seems that John Howard and his large ego just can’t seem to let go in order for his party to stay in office.  Peter Costello is not a a good candidate, though he has maintained a decent economy for Australia, his personality and likableness does not suit the Australian public. 

What’s the difference in Labour

rudd.jpgThere are times in government when a new fresh outlook is needed, after 10-years in office I feel that there are some changes that need to be made. The environment is very important to me, and I want a government that cares about the future of the country where I live. Kevin Rudd has shown great promise for change and it’s about time some changes are made.  I certainly don’t want to vote for someone whose only thoughts are on when they are going to retire and not on the needs of the country.  I look forward to better education benefits and a safe environment for our childrens future, opening land for the building of new homes which will put a stop to the the increased houseing market, these things and many more do not seem to be supported by the Liberal agenda. 

The biggest problems for us

Australia doesn’t have the same problems, as I can see, with such things as same sex marriage or abortion.  This is a country that is fairly open to sociatial changes. The things that are effecting us in our day-to-day struggle are things like regulating industry within Australia such as Supermarket fleecing and out of control petrol pricing, releasing more land for homes to be built which will in turn bring the cost of housing down, give tax breaks for low income families (not low and high alike) to afford private education for their children, dealing with the water restrictions in a way that will eliminate future problems rather than interim solutions, and finally it is important that the governmnet we choose will take the environment problems with ozone and reduction of emissions seriously. 

Compulsory

Land of the free?  Afraid not.  Australia has compulsory voting.  Some argue that compulsory voting means that everyone get’s a say, but not everyone want’s a say.  I know people that go in to vote and write “f*** you” on the ballot.  And those that don’t understand the vote or don’t care may end up putting their vote for an incombent to only keep the same loser in office for 10+ years.

Make your vote count Australia!

Got an opinion? Don’t like mine? Let’s hear it! Click below to leave a passing comment.

Sun
4
Nov '07

Brisbane, Australia

Well today I arrived back at the Gold Coast.  You may remember from my first trip which ended up being admitted to the Hospital with pneumonia.  I’m feeling much better today.  I left a rainy cool Melbourne and secured an exit row seat on a hop to Brisbane in the afternoon.  Lost an hour on the way (due to time zones) and arrived safe and sound to some hot muggy weather.  I’m staying at nice hotel in the CBD (Central Business District) that is a center location to the 3 hospitals I will be visiting this week.  I’m on the 7th floor and got a great snapshot of the sun going down today – can’t post it here until I get home as I don’t have software for my camera phone on my work laptop… anyway.

The first thing I noticed when flying in to Brisbane is that there is a really curvy river that comes straight through the city.  Cool ariel view so I thought I’d look up a pic from the web to post:

me-bris.jpg

It looked very odd as we approached, and from my 7th story window I can see the river and the bridge located in the middle of the picture.  Cool eh?  Seriously what did we do before computers?  ha haa!

So are you saying, scratching you head, “where is Brisbane again?”  It’s in Queensland, the state in the upper right hand corner.  If you want to see my map of Australia, I have posted it on it’s own page, scroll down to the “Pages” list on the left hand side of the blog and you will see “Map of Australia”, click there.

Sat
3
Nov '07

Hummergun @ Barbuka, Melbourne

Our good mate Blair G. is in an excellent original band, heavy rock with some great lyrics.  This is my tribute to Hummergun for finally getting to my first show (due to my recent travels). Barbuka in Melbourne is a crazy little venue with red lighting and candles set into brick walls, this place reminds me of some of the places in Chico, CA that I used to frequent. Kinda felt like home.  Hummergun get’s two thumbs up!  If you want to know more about Hummergun you can find them on Facebook Groups: HUMMERGUNROCKS! or on MySpace at www.myspace.com/hummergun  

hummergun_barbuka.jpg

HummerGun (right: Blair) are a heavy rock/metal group out of Melbourne, formed out of the ashes of two very different groups. Coming together in late 2006, they very quickly gelled into a cohesive songwriting unit, using their knowledge and love of different styles to write heavy and melodic rock songs with tinges of metal. This songwriting relationship continues to grow amongst the band, with later work demonstrating that HummerGun have found a style that is definitely their own.

Counting among their influences everything from the riff laden rock of Led Zeppelin to the acoustic thoughtfulness of Alice in Chains, HummerGun have very quickly gained a loyal following through this unique style, combining melodic elements with huge riffs, and occasionally, and surprisingly, the blind fury of metal.

hummergun_barbuka2.jpg

Performing their first shows in March 2007, HummerGun have very quickly gained a reputation as a phenomenal live band, combining intensity with tight playing to give consistently amazing performances. With front man Mathew Timms stalking the stage, his vocals complemented by the deft playing of Blair Gowans on guitar and underscored by the brilliantly tight and heavy rhythms of Damian Hartin on bass and Damian Boult on drums, HummerGun’s is a live show not to be missed.

What I learned at Cricket

I’ll call this a new segment to the blog, we spend about every weekend at the Cricket Club and I do run into something new each week. This (Cricket) is something I’m still trying to understand, and last week I got to try my hand at keeping score for Birdie’s Cricket match.  Quite interesting, and I actually learned more about Cricket than I probably wanted to know.  I can officially, without help, keep score now.  I’m actually proud of myself.  Of all the partners and wives amongst the Cricketers, I am the first to ask to be able to score.  Ah HA!

What I learned at Cricket this week:

1. Hitting a ball out of the park is worth 6 runs (essentially 6 points, it’s like a home run).

2. Emma’s wallet is much to big for her purse (we laugh about how she has a George Costanza wallet and she doesn’t get it… ) By the way, this picture is real.

wallet.jpg

3. Bella the Cricket baby looks better in my sunglasses than I do.

babyglasses.jpg

4. Aussie sausages look like hot dogs.

5. My Birdie runs a mean BBQ, and he even looks mean doing it (even though he’s not).

bbq.jpg

6. The Cricket Club bar is named after our friend Pete.

pete-barrett.jpg

Thu
26
Jul '07

America vs. Australia

One of our closest friends-couple Lawrence & Norelle invited us to their place for dinner over the weekend and we had some great lamb and potatoes, good drinks, and excellent conversation. Lawrence always intrigues me with questions about the U.S. and because he has never been there we always have enlightened discussion about difference from America to Australia.

This conversation has led me to come up with these lists.  I hope that someday Lawrence and Norelle will get to come to the States and see for themselves:

America is better than Australia because…

mailbox.jpg1.  Those little red flags on the mailbox, that means the mailman can pick up the mail when he drops off your letters.  We have mailboxes in Australia but the postie only drops off mail, they don’t pick up? What’s that all about… I mean, they’re there, why not pick it up too? And the postman doesn’t work on Saturday either.

2.  Food and drink (meaning alcholic) are priced within reason.  A case of Corona in Australia is upward of $50 (on sale), in America $20.  And groceries can cost twice what you would pay in the U.S.

3.  Kids leave home around the age of 18.  Aussie kids in a lot of cases leave home as adults, after they have completed University and saved up for a down payment on a house, usually late 20’s.

4.  You can make a right turn on a red light, usually used as a yield you make a stop then when clear, go right on red.  Of course in Australia we are driving on the left side of the road, so in their case we are talking about left on red.  Not only it doesn’t exist, but you also get a ticket.

5.  Voting is a privilege not a requirement.  All Australians are required to vote, and fined if they don’t.

6.  Stores are open late.  What is great about stores in the U.S. is that they are open late enough for you to do business, banking, shopping (grocery & retail), and just about anything until 7 or 8pm and in many cases even as late as 9p.m.  Stores, other than grocery, close at 5pm 6-days per week and on Thursdays are open until 7.  It is very difficult to get off work and do any kind of business at all after work.  It’s go on your lunch or beat the traffic on Thursdays to get to one selected spot before they close.

7.  Mexican Food is yummy, and the good Medican food joints in Australia are few and far between (almost non-existent).  I’ve had some of the worst margaritas and even worse tacos.  Mexican is an American regularity and I miss it!  Luckily we make our own!

8.  The release of new products and concepts.  For example TIVO came out in about 2000 in the U.S. and it is only being released here in Australia later this year.  The iPhone is not scheduled for release here until mid next year.

9.  We take a lot of pride in our bald eagle.  Bald eagles are sacred animals that are strong and revered.  Australia has two animals on their coat of arms: kangaroo and emu.  And Aussies love to eat… kangaroo and emu?  Fire up the barbie.

10.  Football.  And not the soccer kind of football.  In Australia we call American football “gridiron” but it’s something that I really miss.  Luckily in Oz we get one game a week, Monday Night Football.

Australia is better than America because…

1.  cockatoo_01.jpgSometimes driving down the Eastern Freeway I see dozens of white Cockatoo’s on the side of the road grazing in the grass.  The first time I saw a Cockatoo on the side of the road I remember telling Birdie “oh no, someone’s bird got loose” and then I see two dozen… I thought the zoo had an accident – but no – they are wild!

2.  Nationwide Medicare.  This is one country that doesn’t skimp on Medicare coverage for all.  If you are a resident of this country you get it.  A good amount is completely covered, and this means even if you are unemployed – you have partial medical coverage paid.

3.  On the employment note, Australia is at 4% unemployment. I’d say that almost everyone in Australia has a job. This is good for the market and when looking for a new and better job there sure are less candidates out there looking!

4.  Public transport is great here, you can get pretty much anywhere around Melbourne. Between trams and trains its a good ride, cheap, and clean – only downfall is it is sometimes crowded.

5.  12 months of maternity leave is an option here, with the assurance to return to your same job at the same rate of pay.  Additionally, each baby means the government pays a $4000 baby bonus in the year the baby is born.

6.  LPG (Liquid Petrolium Gas) is an option here for gassing up your car.  Not made from oil this form of gas is three times cheaper than regular petrol. You can buy your car new, or a car conversion runs about $2K and the cost per kilo runs about .48 cents.

7.  More time off from work.  Australia starts employees off with 4-weeks per year vacation (holidays) and this increases with tenure. Not only this, but there is a large population of employees that work only 4 days per week (unheard of in the U.S.).  Additionally you still have the same amount of sick time.  Definitely much more time off from work in Australia.

8.  This is a gunless society. Well, the cops have em, and some bad guys have em, but in general I’d say it’s pretty safe.  There are only 1-5 murders per year with a gun in Australia.  Essentially much better than the figures in the U.S.

9.  Open air markets, something I love about Australia – you can do just about all your shopping at the downtown market including butcher, vege stand, and retail items.  It’s fun and there is a lot to choose from.

10. Australia has mandatory school uniforms in public school.  And not just uniforms, plaid dresses wtih little white hats for girls, and tie’s and blazers for boys.  Cute but also it is good to avoid the pressures of designer clothing at school – especially for those that cannot afford it.

Who’s to say… both are great and they each have their own pluses and minuses. I’m beginning to love Australia more and more as time goes on.  Still, I love my homeland – America the beautiful!  Someday we’ll get to be writing from home. 

Sat
18
Mar '06

Skippy. Fun, lovable, edible?

Forget about Shrimp on tehe Barbe – how bout Skippy?

Well I am anti-Skippy myself.  It may have something to do with my childhood thoughts of how cute and lovable kangaroo’s are… but here is OZ Skippy is a regular on the main course menu.  Much like steak, and prepared rare, it’s not quite as appealing as I would have liked. I have done some taste testing with the whole alternative meat thing since I have been here and I’m gonna have to pass on this one. 

My friend Dawn (also a Grass Valley girl by way of Melbourne) forwarded me some great pictures of a swimming kangaroo.  Much better than eating Skippy, let’s share happy pictures in the surf.  There are more than what is shown here, see the photo album entitled Kangaroo Surf for more.

Skippy, taking a dip

I haven’t done a Recipe of the Week in quite some time so for those of you who want to join the anti-skippy bandwagon, here’s a great original recipe for Hummos Burgers (yes, a vege dish) from my friend Di.  Great on the barbe, these burgers are zesty and tasty and I LOVE THEM!

Di’s Original Hummus Burgers

Combine the following:

700 g chickpeas – canned(tinned) or cooked fresh

1/2 cup plain flour

1/2 cup tahini (thick paste of ground sesame seeds a.k.a. sesame flour)

2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 cup fresh chives

pinch of cayenne pepper

salt & pepper to taste

breadcrumbs

FOR SPICY VERSION add:

1 tsp chili powder

1 tbsp coriander (cilantro)

Avocado Mixture:

 

1/2 avocado

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tbsp mayonnaise

 

Combine ingredients followed by avocado mixture.

Add breadcrumbs to achieve flavour.

Make into balls and flatten.

 

To cook crispy, dip burger in egg then breadcrumbs and fry.

For low fat alternative cook with oil spray.

Makes: 8-12 burgers

Wedding News Update

News on the homefront.  Wedding plans coming along nicely.  We have spent this last week planning and booking our honeymoon in the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland. We are staying for 7 days in Port Douglass at the Breakfree Portsea Resort, and for 3 days at the five star Novotel Palm Cove on the Coral Sea. Click to check them out they are both beachfront resorts.  We have a scuba package planned with certification and dives, we will have gold membership to golf at the resort each day, other fun things: tennis, cocktails, laying out, snorkeling, cocktails, beautiful meals, cocktails, massage, swim-up pool bar, cocktails, and of course cocktails.

In other Wedding news: bridal shower next week!  And our pre-wedding bridal party dinner is tomorrow which includes all the bridesmaids, groomsmen, and their parners. We’ll be having an barbe in the arvo to discuss wedding details and assignments.

*** 

Mental Status: Shopping too much in order to fill pre-wedding void.

Song/Band of the Day: Jason Mraz – Remedy

Thoughts & Prayers: Please God, let me pass Masters Statistics.

Favourite Thing Today: Dinner tonight, first experience with Vietnamese food at Indochine in Box Hill, Melbourne. Excellent and now on the list to take Mom while she’s on her visit here.

Tue
7
Mar '06

All About Town

Take a left at Hay Street

In Box Hill South you can take Hay Street just past St Leo International College and the Friendship Table Tennis Association on your way to see Heather & Blair.  I pass this street every day on my way to and from work.  It makes me laugh to see it – so today I stopped to take a picture.  Picture says a 1,000 words, thankfully because I do not have 1,000 words to say about this picture.  Still on the lookout for Lainey Lane!

It’s where I belong

A little town called Yea

Our local Cricket Club where Rod plays weekly games, set’s up some really fun trips for the families and partners to attend. This week we went to the Races in Yea. I keep saying to my friends here “we’re going to the HORSE races” and they giggle, “um… you don’t have to say HORSE” I’ve been told. Okay so we went to the country Races in Yea this weekend.  Yea is a little town north east of Melbourne – pronounced like it’s written – it was about an hours drive.  This small country town draws a crowd for their races, we had a hell of a time. It was the first Races that I had been to and Rod let me bet on each race ($2.50 minimum to win/split). Here is my winner, got me upwards of $22 bucks!

The winning horse!

Lainey & Rod “day at the races”

Man, did I ever have a blast! I’m not really much of a gambler but it was quite fun. Our group totaled about 30 including kids.  It was a beautiful day and we all really enjoyed being outdoors. I’ve got more pictures of the other Races including the Shetlan Pony Races and some that I didn’t win.

***

Mental Status: Feeling good, Wedding looming… lot’s of planning ahead.

Song/Band of the Day: Madonna – Sorry.

Thoughts & Prayers: In the passing of a very memorable woman, Dona Tibbitts, and the deepest sympathy to her husband and family. Today my heart lives in Paradise, Califorina. Live each day as if it is your last.

Favourite Thing Today: Rod made me Indian for dinner, he’s such a great cook!

Fri
17
Feb '06

Whats new in Lainey Land?

Slogans for a new Lainey

Silly as it seems, this is my new slogan campaign and it cracks me up, so it will remain on the blog for now.  Slogans change every 30 seconds.  Makes me feel like someone behind the scenes is cheering me on. Barrack for Lainey!

generated by sloganizer.net

Koala’s get hot

Some new snapshots shared by my friend Dawn (Grass Valley girl now relocated to Melbourne), you’d think that people would be a little more weary of Koala’s – I hear they can rip your eyes out with one swipe of those claws.  But it does get hot around here and sometimes they just want to relax and take a swim. 

Thanks Dawn for these awsome pictures!

What constitutes a “Boyfriends” when your 10?

I feel like I’m writing a column for Sex and the City but no… this couple is only 10.  I don’t mean they have been together 10 years, they are 10… oh, excuse me… almost 11. While chatting onlinen this morning to my friend Leanne from Chico, I was trying to remember what was it like to have that first boyfriend.  She was so proud to tell me that she had a “boyfriend” and that he formally asked her and against her mother’s wishes she said “yes”. Mom got online to confirm that there was no approval on her part. But back to Leanne and Bryan – my first question of course is what constitutes a boyfriend at 10 years old? Is there hand holding involved?  Do you kiss when your 10?  Aparently they sit together at lunch and that’s about it – aside from being able to say “I have a boyfriend” which is pretty cool in itself.  Even 10 year olds (almost 11) want to know that someone cares about them.  So congratulations and I wish the very best to you, Leanne, and your boyfriend Bryan, may you have many wonderful and special lunches together.

The New Sofa

Our living room is really so big – we decided to fill it with something nice. We have traded in our bright blue sofa’s for this great sectional.  It will be nice for the wedding reception having the extra seating but it is really great that we don’t have to fight over who get’s to lay down and watch tv on Sunday!

 

New sofa and suede chair

The accent chair was a great addition to the room as well… unfortunately the cat’s love suede and have made a little bed for themselves.  They are not allowed on the new furniture but when I woke up this morning I think they thought being together on the chair was better than sliced bread.  They even posed for a picture.  Bad kittys!

bad kittys (pete & patsy) on new suede chair

Lawn Bowling Adventure

In my first couple weeks of work I got to experience a really cool “Department Nite Out” where we went lawn bowling.  This game is like shuffleboard on grass – you roll wooden balls one side shaved off a bit the other side filled with a weight. Bowling down the grass you try to get your ball closest to the marker at the other end.  Each bowler or team of bowlers have 6 balls to bowl each and take turns with the other player or team trying to get their ball either closer or by using their ball to knock the other players balls away from the marker to make theirs closer.  These department events allow for wives and partners to attend. Here’s Rod making his attempt.

***

Mental Status: Spirits are up… wedding is coming up so soon… very busy!

Song/Band of the Day: Buddy Holly – Weezer

Congratulations to: Happy first birthday to Alex. Congrats to Dawn and Warwick on their recent engagement!

Favourite Thing Today: Rest. This week has been crazy and today is complete relaxation for me.

Tue
27
Dec '05

Cricket at the MCG

My First Boxing Day

It was quite an experience, at the Cricket on Boxing Day, they say that the first day of the five day series is the most attended. We had great seats on the second level and had a great angle on the game. You can see in my picture below…

Australia v. South Africa: Boxing Day Cricket

     

                The MCG Stadium               MCG Crowd                                      

I know I’ve gone into some detail on the rules of cricket in other posts – you can see here that the game is played on a 22 yard (20 meters) dirt “pitch”.  There are two wickets at each end and the bowler (pitcher) bowls the ball in a overhand motion six balls to each wicket (called an “over”).  Each day consists of 90 overs. There are three two-hour sessions and we stayed for the first session before we went off to eat lunch.

We made a quick stop at Depot bar in Melbourne and met a fantastic couple there that hung with us the rest of the day. Fiona & Dave are from New Orleans and recently suffered the effects of Katrina and Rita.  Fiona is an Aussie and Dave originally from New Orleans – they are in the process of moving to Canberra (the capital of Australia). We took a great picture at our second stop (or so called bar crawl) The London Tavern

Heather & Blair, Rod & Lainey, and Fiona & Dave

Can’t say we ever made it to lunch, it was more like liquid lunch, but we had a great time and made it for dinner at Heather & Blair’s house. 

Lainey & Blair

Now Rod and I are off to the “after Christmas” sales to do some shopping.  We are planning a big camping trip before I start work in January so we have to start stocking up on the camping goodies.

***

Mental Status: Hung over, tired, but ready to shop.

Song/Band of the Day: Maybe tonight – Kate DeAraugo (2005 Australian Idol)

Thu
13
Oct '05

Melbourne Top Ranked City

My New City

Melbourne has retained its position as the best city in the world to call home. Often derided as Bleak City by Sydneysiders, Melbourne topped a survey of 130 cities, narrowly beating out the other four Australian capitals surveyed – because its weather rated the best. Sydney lost ground because its crime rate was rated on a par with New York and London. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) survey ranked Melbourne, Vancouver and Vienna as the best cities for expatriates to live, with Perth fourth and Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney equal sixth. Geneva was ranked fifth, while Papua New Guinea’s capital Port Moresby kept the title it took in the last survey in October 2002 as the worst. “Melbourne pretty much top scored in everything,” said survey co-editor Jon Copestake. “But the difference between all the Australian cities is minimal. One thing Sydney had different to the other cities was a higher crime rate, and it’s climate. Its level of humidity was worse than Melbourne’s.” The London-based EIU assessed the level of hardship for expatriates in the 130 cities, using 12 factors including housing, education, recreational activities, health, climate and terrorism. Cities were rated one to five in the 12 categories, with one meaning there was no hardship and five indicating extreme hardship. Melbourne received the perfect one in each category, including its unpredictable weather, to give it an overall score of one. The other Australian cities were all given a two for climate, while Adelaide also received two for housing; Brisbane and Perth scored two for transport and Sydney for its crime. Port Moresby received five for crime and an overall score of 80. While Perth was given an overall mark of 1.1, Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney scored 1.2. The heightened terrorist threat only had a minimal impact on western cities, even those in the United States, largely because of newly developed security measures. The highest ranked US city was Honolulu in 19th on eight points, while New York was 51st with 16 and Washington was the lowest of 16 American cities in the survey at 57th, mainly due to a higher risk of terrorism giving it an overall score of 19. London was equal 45th, along with Los Angeles, Madrid and San Francisco. Kuwait fell the most places, dropping from 87 to 97 because of the war in neighbouring Iraq, while Harare suffered the greatest actual drop in living standards as a result of ongoing unrest and slid eight places to 118. The Iraqi capital Baghdad was not included in the survey.

Only Seven Days

Well just seven days until the cruise – I’m getting really excited and getting things together already!  It’ll be good to see Mom and to see the “family”.  Check in from Oct 24-Nov 1 for updates on the cruise and pictures from the boat and the stops!