Monday, December 10, 2007


Has it been a month since we have last written? I think I almost feel guilty about that. Maybe the secret is to keep the entries shorter but more frequent. If that doesn’t work maybe I will need to make a New Years’ resolution. I am sure that would last about as long as the time difference from Minnesota to here.

The latest and greatest thing that we have done was spend a weekend in Sydney. We had an exceptional time. What made it most fun was that we stayed right in the heart of the city, at an area called the Rocks. This is the spot where the city was first founded and has been transformed several times over the years. What this means is there are small streets and alley ways wherever you turn. It makes for fun walking and sightseeing. The opera house is within walking distance and there are markets, stores, and restaurants around every corner. The opera house is amazing and something everyone should see in person. The Sydney Harbor is stunning and the city is an exciting place to be.

Perhaps the most “touristy” thing that we did was the climb the Harbor Bridge. I was very excited about telling everyone what we did as I thought it to be so unique and different. As it turns out Matt Lauer has already done it and featured it on “Where in the world is Matt Lauer”. We were not to be outdone by a Today Show celebrity. I’m including the web site link to take a look at some pictures of the climb (we aren’t in these photos…they are just photos of the bridge,etc).

They tend to take their safety pretty seriously. They made us dress in special suits and we were not allowed to bring anything with us…no camera, of course that is because they want to sell the pictures that they take. We each had a harness that permanently attached to a cable on the bridge and we pulled ourselves along on the cable until we reached the bottom once again. Every now and again one of the ropes would get stuck on the cable and we’d all get stopped. It was funny when it happened to someone else. They really tend to play up the whole safety aspect but then it does tend to heighten the whole experience. Our climb was a night climb and it was calm, cool, and dry. I imagine in the wind and rain, it could get rather dangerous and the cable would seem like something more than an unnecessary umbilical cord.

The next day we set out to enjoy some of the famous beaches of Sydney. We had heard of a few different places that we should go but I decided on Manly beach…yes, simply because of the name. To get to this place we had to take a ferry which was just as good as a harbor tour. When we got there we struck out to find our place in the sun. We hiked through the town and found a cute little family beach, where we swam and had a good time. We were a little disappointed though because we expected a lot more out of a beach. Before we left we decided to walk to a different part of the town, where we actually found the beach that everyone was talking about. I have been to a few nice beaches before but I was completely over whelmed by this. We picked a day that happened to be some sort of festival and it was filled with people, surfers, sunbathers, swimmers, and volleyball players. Since the surf was up and we didn’t have boards we decided to swim. We had the best time, playing in the water, and just hanging by the beach. We stood on a sandbar that jutted out into the ocean and to the left and right of us were surfers galore. The waves were just as high where we were standing and they absolutely pounded us. When our intake of salt water became too great, we made the long swim to the beach.
I got to experience the best part of Sydney, but then left the next day. Poor Beth had to stay the rest of the week, for work. She didn’t get to stay in the fun part of Sydney (she had a nice view of the airport though) and got to experience the traffic and crowds. At least we got to spend the fun part together.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Simple Life

Saturday was Derby Day in Melbourne and Tuesday was a city holiday due to “the race that stops a nation”…The Melbourne Cup. Women and men dress in their finest duds and proceed in droves to Flemington track where they dine on fine food, drink champagne, bet like crazy, and proceed to get smashingly drunk beyond comprehension.

From our perspective, it’s the first four day weekend that we have had and we decide to forget the races and head out of town and see the sites. Besides, we were invited to a friend’s beach house from Sunday through Tuesday. The beach house is in Walkerville which is near a gorgeous national park called Wilson’s promontory. It’s a jetty of land that was once a land bridge to Tasmania. It is green, lush, hilly, windy, and surrounded by the beautiful turquoise ocean.

The government wants to place a number of wind turbines in this area and the people are divided on whether they will allow this. There are many signs and bumper stickers that protest or promote wind energy on the Gippsland coast. It’s the evolution of paradise I guess.

Eric and I decide to leave on Saturday and stay somewhere along the coast that night in order to maximize the weekend. Of course it takes us way too long to get moving on Saturday and then we decide we should avoid any trouble by booking a room before we leave. There aren’t exactly a bunch of Motel 6’s in Australia and rooms can go fairly quickly. It becomes one of those fruitless searches that makes a person decide that they hate the internet. How can there be all of this information and none of it proves in any way useful?

Maybe we shouldn’t go? What if there is no room? Arghh. There is always a room, right? We are packed; we are ready…let’s just leave and see how it goes. Three hours and only 6 incorrect detours later, we arrive at a hotel somewhere within about an hour’s drive of our final destination. Mind you, the trip to Walkerville should have only taken 2.5 hours to begin with. We go into the hotel entrance and end up in the restaurant. We search every door and after finding the kitchen, break room and restrooms, we have to ask someone the location of the lobby. She gives us a blank stare in return. Apparently, hotel’s in small towns are not hotels…they are pubs…and we have just asked if we could sleep in the pub.
We hide our embarrassment and sneak out the back entrance.

We continue on from town to town and find every small motel and b and b to be full. Didn’t we know…this is the annual motorbike festival and rooms have been booked for ages? I’m reminded of just about every road trip I have ever taken with Laura O’Brien where we suffer this exact same fate. We have tried to visit small towns during the annual water ski weekend, tulip festival, art festival, ski racing weekend, and homecoming for the local college, etc. etc.

The shadows are getting long and now we are driving on small country roads that warn of wombat and kangaroo crossings. There is a third animal represented on the signs but we just can’t make out what it is….? Kangaroos are most active at dusk so I’m officially on roo watch as Eric is driving. We pass through the towns of Leongatha, Koonwarra, Korumbura, Lang Lang and Meeniyan and finally pull into one of the motels with a brightly glowing “no vacancy” sign and ask for mercy. Eric sends me in to do the doughy-eyed-pathetic-American-needs-help-in-your-country-thing. The man gives me a list of motels with phone numbers and even calls around a bit for us. At long last we ring a motel that has a cancellation and the room is ours. We stay for the night in a little town called “Foster” which makes us giggle because it seems so Australian and because they have Foster’s beer signs everywhere yet none of the drink is available. The room is something out of a Hitchcock movie but we are glad to have it. We head to the local pub and have a good meal and a couple beers (again, not Foster’s). We shoot a few games of pool and hang out with the locals. At about 10 pm we join in with the mass dart game put on by the bar’s owner and the area high school kids. The owner of the pub explains to us he encourages the kids to come every Friday and Saturday night to host a game and, he says, “It keeps them away from all the booze out there.” It sounds quaint and benevolent until you think about it and the irony hits you that all these kids are now hanging out in the town bar, and most of them are drinking.

We retire at a decent hour because we have plans to rise early and get in a good long hike in the National Park before the others arrive. However, that night the rain starts in and it rains as if to cure Australia’s draught once and for all. It rains through the night and by the next morning someone must have turned the nozzle on high because we have to dash the 5 feet to our car just so we don’t get completely drenched. We spend most of the morning sitting in a delightful cafĂ© drinking delicious latte’s, reading the paper, and eating the worst eggs benedict on the planet (Caesar salad dressing is NOT a substitute for hollandaise sauce, people!).

November 4 marks one year since the death of our beloved golden retriever Tofte and remembering her by waiting out the rain in a small town bakery and coffee shop (which also contains a strangely placed stage since it doubles for the town theater) isn’t all bad. We explore a bit of the town of Foster as well as the nearby town of Fish Creek before the call comes in that our friends have arrived and we are to meet them at the beach house.

The beach house is fashioned in 60’s style as if to say, “Austin Powers was just here.” Its tangerine orange, kelly green, and mustard yellow interior is cozy and warm with a big deck overlooking the sea and the promontory. Our friend Amanda (she’s from the US, but her Aunt is Aussie and this is her Aunt’s place) was standing on the deck and hand feeding wild bright red parrots. The beach house was one level, had sleeping arrangements for 8, and enough chairs to seat everyone comfortably around the wood burning stove. Basically, it was exactly what a cabin should be. There were five of us, but one
(Andrew) was from the area and would be staying with his parents on their farm just up the road.

The next day is cool and sunny and the crew spent the day hiking to the top of a mountain overlooking the park and the sea.
I know it was beautiful there because I saw the pictures of it.

I, unfortunately, spent the day driving back to Melbourne to help with a surgery and then back to Walkerville in the evening. Do I need to say more about this?
Probably not.

At some point when it is hot and sunny in the summer, we will rent camping gear and hike deep into the park and camp on the beach at a place called “Refuge Bay.” It is actually still quite cool at this time of year and most of the campers that we did see appeared wet and miserable…about as miserable as those lousy eggs benedict.

One of the weekend’s highlights was visiting Andrew’s family farm. This is the type of farm from a children’s storybook. If you could romanticize a farm and then create it in reality, this would be it. Now, Mom and Dad, you know I love you both…but if I could have grown up on this farm, I would be in heaven. And Bob and Gretchen, I must inform you that your son feels the same way.
For the sake of the family farm, Eric and I are hoping for adoption by the Landy family.

Imagine 2000 acres of lush green rolling hills that slope gradually down to a light blue sea. About 1 mile of sea is visible and beyond that Wilson’s Promontory rises up out of the ocean and touches the clouds. I took 20 pictures and none of them even come close to doing it justice.

We visited the farm on a sheep shearing day. Actually it was only a partial shearing for which the details are probably best left out of polite conversation. But, we did get to watch the dogs herd the flock and we watched the farm hands at work. The land was rather wet from the recent rain and our shoes were covered in all kinds of unmentionables. One of the girls in our group began laughing when she got stuck in the mud and said that she felt like Paris Hilton in the show “The simple life”.

Andrew’s parents took us in, fed us dinner, and gave us a proper tour. They are terrific company and very interesting people. We fed carrots to the horses and Andrew’s mom packed us a picnic basket of tea and cake which the five of us took down through the fields to an amazing expanse of beach. The beach was so beautiful that it was the spot his sister had chosen as her wedding site 5 years ago.

Never before have I seen a farm with a beachfront and ocean view.
It really was a place created from the imagination of a children’s book.

It’s nice to know that land so beautiful is only a short drive from here. We returned to Melbourne this evening and with horse races over, it’s back to work tomorrow. Sigh.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Around the Bay in a Day

When I wake up in the mornings I turn my computer on. My homepage is the Startribune website. Lately I have been noticing that the temperatures are in decline, it almost seems unfair that I get to report that we down here are warming up.

Last Sunday was a popular Melbourne bike ride titled “Around the Bay in a Day”. It is an annual event that, as you probably can guess, rides along Port Phillip Bay. Beth and I had already planned a ride with a friend of ours and as the details were being finalized our friend (Amanda), suggested that we partake in the riding festivals. Besides, the web site promised a nice ride with friends, a park where we could relax and listen to a band at the half way point, and free stuff like water bottles and t-shirts.
Our options for the bike ride were 50k, 100k, 210k or a measly 250k. Since none of us felt like we were in great shape, we decided on the shortest of them. I am glad we did. That day turned out to be the hottest October day on record. Temps were in the mid 90’s.

Melbourne seems to have a lot of organized activities. The events have been one after another since we arrived here. The Fringe festival, the International Arts Festival, the Melbourne marathon, and now this bike ride have all taken place in the last seven weeks. These are only the few that I know about. I am sure that we are missing some. The difference between these activities and other activities that I have participated in is the organization and participation. As you may have read in the last blog entry I think that Beth and I were the only people out cheering for the runners in the marathon. Since we didn’t want to be the only people on the sidelines for the cycling event, we decided to participate. We found out on the website that we could sign up between 4:30-8:00 AM. Naturally we signed up at 8:00 because the ride didn’t start until 8:30, who wants to get up at 4:30? The riding officials must have decided to start early because as we were signing up thousands of bikes started whizzing by, which of course throws me into a panic because I don’t want to be left behind.
It has been my experience that when there is an event such as this, a route has been blocked off completely for the participants. It is not the case here. The beginning of the route is in the middle of the city and as we started we were in the midst of hundreds if not thousands of madly peddling people on bicycles. One would think that the roadway would be cleared. It was in parts, but for most of the time we were supposed to stay in the bike lane, which is a little too small to accommodate so many people. Not only that, we are also supposed to obey the regular traffic laws. So here we have a mob of people on bicycles peddling like the wind so they can make the next traffic light. Of course we didn’t always make it. So we would wait patiently for the light to turn green and get our feet cranking again to beat the next light. Of course we wouldn’t make it ……and so on, and so on…..I think it took us about an hour to go 5K. It was shaping up to be a very long day.
After we got through the heart of the city it wasn’t so bad. The biggest challenge was going to be the Westgate Bridge. Imagine the High Bridge in St. Paul but longer…a lot longer. Did I mention that it was starting to get warm out? The advantage that we had going over this particular bridge at this particular time was that we had the wind at our back. I did mention that it was starting to get hot right? We had a strong north wind that day. You may be thinking ahh a cool northerly breeze, remember everything is different here this air comes from the desert, not the tundra we know as Canada.
We had achieved the bridge obstacle and we were now about a quarter of the way through. The half way point was the promise of the band and food and refilling of water bottles.
We reached the park at Altona (the half way point) without much incident, only to discover that the food wasn’t free for the riders. The website said something about enjoying a muffin while listening to a band, drinking from your new water bottle and wearing a fancy new shirt. So far there was a band playing cover tunes, I brought my own water bottle, we didn’t get a shirt yet and now I have to pay for my food. I am glad I brought some money. Some of the advertising promises had come true, we did enjoy the company of friends. We have about 6 friends in Melbourne at this time and we actually ran into 3 of them. With the addition of our German friends Mirko, Rachel, and Eric we became a traveling bike convoy of 6.
After resting in the shade and replenishing the water stores, it was time to head back. Remember the desert winds that helped us across the bridge? Do I need to say anymore? We did get a chance to stop at the bridge apex and take a few photos, you can make out downtown Melbourne (known as the CBD) behind us. Back across the bridge into the city, waiting for the traffic lights, into the park where the rewards awaited.
Finishing a race is always exciting, the roar of the crowd as you come down the shoot, the inevitable photographer capturing your image, food, drink and all the goodies that come with the enormous entry fee. As we and the rest of the stragglers turned to bend to come into the shoot there was no crowd, just like when we were cheering for the marathon. The guy with the camera was there though, but he was changing the film so he missed us. Yes, I did say film. Everything will be alright because the feast awaits us. We dismounted our tired bicycles and made our way to the food tent. As promised a table full of nourishment was in front of us, we made our way into the line and were told that this line was for the people who rode the 100K ride. What we ended up with was a sub par mini-muffin.

We could at least look forward to the fancy new shirt, right?

When we quizzed one of the volunteers he told us that if we signed up the day of the ride we wouldn’t get a t-shirt.

After all the promises the advertisements made, the goodies we were left with was a day with friends…..and a water bottle.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Where is the Crowd?

Sunday was the Melbourne Marathon. It is a rather large event that is sponsored by Samsung, not unlike the Twin Cities/Medtronic marathon. Since neither of us was in any shape to run this year, we had to be content to stand on the sidelines and watch with the rest of the mob. The route took the runners down the road where we used to live, so we knew that mile marker 24 (don’t ask me to convert that to kilometers) would be a good place to watch. Since Beth’s boss was running the half marathon we wanted to time our arrival to the race where we could see him pass. Quickly we jumped in the car, drove down Toorak road near St. Kilda road where we were sure to spot him. Hoping we could get close enough for a good parking space, Beth sped down the road and we were in luck. As we were pulling up a spot opened not two blocks away from the runners. Off in the distance we could see people running, how fun to be a part of the crowd to cheer these people, who had worked so hard to get in shape, on. To our surprise there was no one there. Even the volunteers for the race seemed to be too busy talking to each other to cheer these people on. Being the experienced marathon/half marathon support people that we are, we started cheering. GO RUNNERS!!! clap clap clap YOU LOOK GOOD!!! clap clap clap YOU LOOK STRONG !!! clap clap clap. I think we actually frightened most of the people. We had a few of the runners smile and say thank you, but for the most part we just were on the receiving end of strange looks. Fortunately we did see Beth’s boss and he seemed appreciative of our loud, obnoxious cheering.

Now that we have a car it is much easier to do things like go out of town or go shopping. We have needed to make a Target run for some time now, so we took the opportunity. Yes they do have Target stores here, and as you all know the Target run is an essential part of living. We drove to what would be considered the Mall of America so we could get all of our shopping done in one place. After visiting a few stores it was time to go to Target. We picked up a few things and then started looking for the essentials:
Soap, laundry detergent, toothpaste, toilet paper, etc etc.
None of these things are found at Target. After further inquiry, we found out from the Target employees that these things are found at Coles, a grocery store. You now may be asking yourself “what is Target good for”? We have asked that of ourselves and are still looking for an answer.
By the way, when we Skyped with Matt, Andy, and Alice, the other day we showed them the little sculpture that we brought with us and Alice exclaimed "oh look, it's Woodchip". So I guess we have a name.

One of the more fun activities that we can now do is go for a drive in the country. The Mornington peninsula is about an hours drive south of here, and the Yarra valley is about a 45 minute drive northeast. Both of these places are known for wine. We have now been to both places and would recommend the Pinot Noir. Not only do they have wineries but other fun places to visit as well. In Healesville we discovered a dam that was built around 1900 to act as a water catchment and reservoir for the city of Melbourne. We spent the better part of a day walking around and quite pleased with ourselves that we had found this place. What we didn’t know was that Healesville is known for the animal sanctuary. You can imagine the amount of teasing we get when people find out that we went to some dam instead of a blissful place full of roos and wallabies.
Just for a sense of scale, that is me standing next to the dam.
That's all for now.
We miss you.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Learning to Walk

While shopping at the market today, “Land Down Under” by Men at Work played over the speakers. Tonight “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” is the movie special on Television. People were happily spreading vegemite on their toast this morning in the coffee shop. Today was warm and sunny, palm trees were blowing in the breeze, and tall tanned people were everywhere. Isn’t this what everyone imagines Australia to be? It was one of those days where we actually feel like we are witnessing a stereotype come to life. Perhaps this really is what it’s like in the summer time.

Nah. Can’t be. It’s too predictable.


We are continuing to enjoy life in our spacious apartment and still trying to get the hang of things. We equate it to learning to walk.

For the month that we lived in the hotel, Eric would go grocery shopping about a mile away. The tram service was slow down that street and he ended up walking it all the time. The night before we moved out, we went around the corner from our building to what looked like a small 7-eleven store. It turned out that the store really opened up once you entered and it was an enormous grocery store. Poor Eric looked ill. He didn’t want to talk about it. This is precisely one of the ridiculous things that happen when you are new to a country. There are oodles of these things in our lives right now. We are just trying to figure it all out.

Driving is still not natural and we have both become back seat drivers. I think it may genuinely be more difficult for each of us to sit in the passenger seat without a steering wheel to hold on to. We still get a really big kick out of it when the other person turns on the windshield wiper instead of the blinker. We laugh a lot at what dorks we often feel like here.

The language barrier still poses somewhat of a problem – I think it just takes a while to get in tune to the accent. They are used to the American accent since it is all over the TV and therefore they understand us...but I can’t always understand them and I am embarrassed that I say “what” so often. It doesn’t help that some medical terms are not the same either. It’s exhausting to strain to listen. I collapse on the sofa after work because I am so tired from listening, driving in a new city, meeting new people, and trying to take it all in. Occasionally there will be a meeting at work where everyone is gabbing quickly back and forth and suddenly (out of nowhere it seems), they all burst into laughter. I think at those moments I probably have a grimace on my face as I fain understanding and laugh along with them. I’ve even noticed that my boss will talk one way to my coworkers and then slow down and speak very slowly to me. “e..l..i..zab..e..t..h,…I…want…to …” ugh.

The Aussies also have all these funny slang expressions and they like to use dramatic verbiage such as “shocker, fantastic, and diabolical.” I have a meeting in Sydney next weekend and my coworkers asked me if I was going to get frocked up for the occasion. Apparently everyone gets frocked up at these things. My really fun colleague Jo told me her day was going well and then it all went suddenly pear shaped. The standard greeting is “Hey you going?” Other popular phrases include the expected, “good day mate”, and the unexpected proper English phrases “I reckon” and “a bit”. They also regularly use the term "fortnight" which makes us feel like we are in a Shakespeare play. I guess it’s just my pigeon to learn these regularly used terms and I don’t want to be labeled as tall poppy about it.

Frocked up = dressed up
Pear Shaped = day turned upside down
Hey you going = how are you
Your pigeon = your responsibility
Tall poppy = very important person (seen as rude)

Eric and I have established some favorite spots and are trying to scout out the fun things to do and the cool parts of Melbourne. The food here is terrific…almost diabolical (ha). Even the small shops where we wouldn’t expect much have really been impressive. Sometimes it feels like a mini New York City; great food, multicultural, horrid traffic with no parking, good public transportation, and much to see and do.

Work continues to be challenging, interesting, and frustrating. How can I love and hate my job on the same day? Just like in the US, we work some long unpredictable hours. They don’t seem to call as much after hours for the unexpected things…but they do have pacemaker and defibrillator implants at all hours of the day and night. Scheduled midnight and 1AM pacemaker cases were something I didn’t have to deal with in Minnesota.

My first case at one of my hospitals out on the western side of the city afforded me the opportunity to meet the entire cardiology department at the hospital. Things went terribly wrong and they called a code and within a minute about 30 physicians and RN’s came pouring into our tiny catheter lab. In the end, all turned out OK, but it was a reminder of how scary and on the spot this job can be. That’s an introduction I won’t soon forget.
(Perhaps this photo that I took last weekend should have foretold my week ahead...)

Well...that’s all for now. I’ve got to watch the end of some bad TV movie that was too rotten to ever show in the US. We get a lot of that here. I guess I could flip channels to 'Australian Idol' instead...hmmm.

Keep checking in on us, and keep the blog comments coming. We love to read them. MOST IMPORTANTLY…PLEASE DON’T FORGET ABOUT US OVER HERE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Rainy Days and Footy

Hi All. Sorry for the lack of recent blogging. Melbourne has been a bit rainy and cool and we have been a little blue and homebound. It doesn’t make for very exciting writing. Everything had been moving forward at rocket speed and we were due for a slow down. That is now upon us. We are a little bored without friends and entertain ourselves with card games, cooking, and spinning contests on our rotating bar stools. It’s amazing how fast those things can go and how dizzy one can become. If you come for a visit, you will have to try it.

We have moved in to our new apartment and it is absolutely lovely. I guess we knew it would be good to be out of the hotel, but we had no idea it would be this nice. Our building is a bit of a monstrosity in a beautiful neighborhood surrounded by big houses and wonderful greenery. Our apartment is located near the Yarra river which provides access to good trails and an excellent bicycle path. It’s bit of a walk for coffee or groceries, but we like our oasis in the center of the city. It is springtime here and the flowers are starting to bud and the trees are growing bright green, unnatural looking, leaves. The air outside smells like Eucalyptus trees and apple blossoms.

The apartment is white on white and it feels luxurious. Our landlord is my coworker’s mom and she is treating us well. Her daughter was living in the apartment but is now an expat in the UK, so we can live here until she returns. She basically just packed her clothes and left the country…kind of like us. So, the home is fully furnished with everything from utensils to a big flat screen TV. Our landlord bought us new sheets, new towels, new plates, artwork for the walls, a new couch, a patio set for our balcony, and a little orange tree for decoration. The bed is the most comfortable bed we have ever slept in and we feel like we are living in a five star hotel. The all white everything has us a bit nervous and every time we want to eat dinner in front of the TV, we line the couch and floor with towels and blankets. The first night we were here, we just plunked down on the plush carpet and giggled ourselves silly.

My high school reunion was last weekend and I am sorry to have missed it. It sounded like it was a fun event. Some of the photos of the event were sent via email and I sat on my (white) couch here and wondered who those people were. There were only 77 people in my graduating class but I couldn’t tell who a couple of those folks were! I think they were imposters. This happens to everyone, doesn’t it? Perhaps it was a good thing I wasn’t there with my foot in my mouth.

Today in Melbourne is the “Super bowl of Australian Rules Football” so we are hanging out in our apartment watching the grand footy final. Neither of us knows what is going on but it has that general football feel...the day is cool, the excitement of the game is on, and we are nestled in with a good supply of chips and chocolate. Good Saturday activity. Geelong is absolutely killing Port Adelaide and the announcers are saying things like “It’s a serious boot bashing for the Power here today…or…Moody can now join the orgy of Geelong kickers” Eric is even reacting to the disappointment and successes on the field. It’s pretty funny. As I write, he is stretched out on the carpet having a good nap and emitting the occasional snore. He’ll come to life in a few minutes and deny that he was ever sleeping.

Speaking of Eric, he is having someone help him get his CV Australia-ready and will hopefully begin some interviewing and job activities soon. I fear things are a bit dull for him but I will brag that he now knows how to make the perfect poached egg breakfast and absolutely divine coffee. He can also cook up a mean pizza and has mastered our extremely complicated washing machine. I’m so happy to see him here when I get home and he is equally happy to have me walk through that door.

Tomorrow is Sunday and we will probably have breakfast in an interesting neighborhood called Fitzroy and then head out of town to the Yarra Valley vineyards in the north.

Well…footy is almost over….my sleeping Eric awakens…and it is time to get out on our bicycles. It’s 2:05AM at home right now and I wish you all a good sleep and pleasant dreams.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

July 14th

Can we talk about our wedding? We left so quickly that I feel cheated out of my right to talk about this for months on end. Dang. 10 years of dating, finally setting a date, and then Poof, we leave the country. The international move is getting all of the attention. It’s very unfair of Australia to occupy all the limelight.

I don’t want to forget about the bigger event that just happened - our wedding! I wish to give it its rightful place of honor and go on about it until I feel full and satisfied. September 14 just came and went here and neither of us even thought about it...we’ve been married exactly 2 months. Eight weeks only. Shouldn’t we get to bask in newlyweddedness for 12 months?

So…let us begin the wedding banter. I would like to start by saying that we had SO much fun. I guess that’s the thing that no one ever tells you about…your own wedding is an absolute blast!

Standing at the main doors of Lutsen Lodge on Friday night and seeing people we know stream through the door was unbelievable to us. Eric and I kept saying, “look, there’s so and so…” and each time it was said with surprised shock as if we couldn’t believe the luck of running into someone we knew at such a remote location.

There was so much to do in the planning and details for the weekend that we got lost in it all and woke up just in time to revel in it and enjoy the events as they unfolded. I think one just goes on and on with the planning and suddenly the day is there. Wow, it’s really happening. We were so wrapped up in all the details that we forgot there would be an actual event at the end of it all. And what a wonderful event it turned out to be; we were honored by number of friends and family who came to celebrate with us, we were blessed with beautiful weather, and we were indebted to all who used their talents to help us make the weekend unique. Thank you all for dancing, celebrating, participating, witnessing, laughing, enjoying yourselves, tipping a few back, enjoying the food, enjoying each other, and smiling back at us. I have never had more fun and more meaning in a weekend in my life. Eric and I sat at our little table on Saturday night and just looked out at all of you and smiled. I think I’m normally a half empty kind of gal, but that night I felt full. My head spins when I think about it.

There. That’s good for now. I’m satisfied with wedding speak, but bear with me if I go on about it from time to time even though this is our ‘Aussie’ blog. Tonight it’s about the wedding for me, not Australia.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The buying of a car

Driving. The left side of the road thing is coming a bit more naturally at this point and we decided to take on the car buying process. Some people really like the buying and selling of cars; unfortunately Eric and I don’t enjoy either process. Where is the Australian version of Matt Brenengen when you need him?

The first thing one needs to do when buying a car over here is throw out any preconceived notions of realistic auto pricing. Australia imports everything at a steep premium and cars are no exception. Most cars are twice the price of a US vehicle. Because of the cost of car, cost of gasoline, and limited car parking in the city, we have decided to become a one car family. We set out to test drive anything that looked like it wasn’t HUGE but could be good and functional for my work stuff, transporting any visiting friends and family, and general road trips. I have been seeing dealerships all over the place when I am lost coming home from work (a daily occurrence). Unfortunately, because I was lost at the time, we couldn’t find any of the dealerships when we drove around. They weren’t listed in the yellow pages under any header, we don’t know the number for information (something you never think about until you need it), and everyone we talked to pointed us in a different direction. After two hours of driving around we had used ½ a tank of gas and done nothing productive except eat a fantastic bag of salt and vinegar potato chips. We were in good spirits and our predicament became funnier by the minute. When we finally decided to give up and have a late lunch, we rounded a corner and found a Honda dealership. One test drive later we bought a nice used Honda CRV. It seemed to fit all our needs and we just couldn’t imagine spending all our time in search of a car. The only detriment is that the car is silver…the color I said I’d never buy again because statistically it is the color that gets hit the most. If you need proof, just ask me. Oh well, it’s great in every other regard.

Oh, and did I mention that the car has seat heaters? Seat heaters are a feature Eric and I both longed for in the cold MN winters and now we are in a country with mild weather and we have seat heaters. Go figure.

With car purchase done, next comes a place to live. We have found housing for the next six months in a furnished apartment in a district of the city called Toorak. Apparently, from the reactions of people, it’s like telling them we are to live in Edina, Crocus Hill, Summit Avenue, Aspen, Evanston, or Tiburon. “OOOOOoooo” they coo, “Toooorrrakkk”.
I just think Toorak sounds like a great name for a cat.

We plan to move in next Saturday if all goes well. Eric can’t wait to get out of the all-brown-all-the-time hotel. He spends much more time there than me, so I guess I can’t blame him for wanting to move on.

Work is going well and now that we have our Aussie Visa’s, the pressure is on to become independent. Since it’s the same job I did in the twin cities, it is very similar here. In many ways it’s like the same play, same characters, but we are now doing a road show in a brand new country. Learning my way around the hospitals will take time and getting to know all the staff at all the hospitals will take even longer. I realize now how simple it was to get something done if I knew who to speak with. Now I have no idea who to speak to and I’m not sure I’d understand them anyway.

My accent is a real problem for the patients and that is something I could not have foretold. Many of the patients at the public hospitals are first generation Australian immigrants and they understand limited English and then only that with an Aussie accent. I kept telling one particular patient to wait in the hallway and he simply stared back at me with a look of panic. I may as well have been speaking a foreign language. Finally, my colleague yelled out, “to the corridor with ya” and the patient happily obliged. Note to self, the word “hallway” is meaningless here.

Additionally, I seem to miss out on the quick witted humor that bounces around the cardiac cath lab. They use a lot of slang and I just miss out on the jokes. One of my favorite slang terms they use is “POM” which refers to a British person. It’s short for Prisoner Of her Majesty. Perhaps we should use that in the US.

I still haven’t figured out if they have a nickname for us. Maybe I don’t want to know.

Friday, September 14, 2007

What do we call it?

Before we left Beth’s dad told her “two moves is like one catastrophic fire”. He is right. We got rid of a lot. It is surprising to see how ruthless you can be about the possessions that you have accumulated over the years. Objects that meant a lot to you now don’t seem very important because the room that you have to ship is limited. Of course the limitation is financial. It is expensive to send a box over here, the books you bought during university (college over here means prep school), that you haven’t opened up since then, become expensive…..again.

Just because you state a clichĂ© doesn’t make it any less true. We were going to peel away layers of an onion. I know that Beth doesn’t like onions but if you peel away layers of a tomato you just get a big mess.

We started by getting rid of what was truly not necessary, namely garbage, papers that had been sitting around, recycling, and clothes that I had purchased in 1985. That was the easy part, each time it becomes exponentially more difficult. My 1995 clothes that I had just recently stopped wearing still had some life in them, after all a hole in the right knee doesn’t mean that the left knee isn’t still good.

Hour after hour we labored at this task, which items move with us, which go into storage, who among our friends and family wants this or that, and will Goodwill take the rest?
After weeks of this pain and misery we had finally found it. Our life had been boiled down, and the essence of our onion, was in eight bags of clothing, and four boxes.

Two of the boxes are our bikes. We knew that we would want these over here, and we had heard that bikes were very expensive and whoever had told us that is right. Generally things are costly, and if we were to buy bicycles in Melbourne I think we would have gone without them.

The other two boxes are filled with the few books we couldn’t part with, electronics like power cords and ipod essentials, a few sheets and towels, files that we will need, etc.
Strangely we did not bring very many photos. I think the reason for that is the computer. Most of our pictures are stored in a digital format. I guess we can print off whatever we want.

We were not able to ship any clothing, so we elected to pay the money for extra baggage. Strangely enough this is the cheapest way to get things from Minnesota to Melbourne. Since I could only pack things that were purchased in this millennia, it was easier for me. It was more difficult for Beth because of work suits and besides she is much more stylish than I am. Shoes are always the biggest issue because they take up so much space.

One of our prized possessions that we had to find a way to pack was a gift that was received from Alice for Beth’s bridal shower.
For some reason it has become the symbol of home and the people that we care about. I am not sure how this little guy made it through customs, but we are happy that he did. As you can see from the couch and pillow in the background he is the most colorful and artistic piece in the apartment.

The problem now is we don’t know what to call him/her. So we are taking solicitations. If you have an idea let us know and we will consider it, of course Alice will have the final say.



Thursday, September 6, 2007

E&E Downunder

Hi All,

Greetings from 9,641 miles away.

Who wants to get on a plane and come for a visit? It’s a short 21 hour trip – but Qantas eases the pain a bit with little built in TV’s and all the movies you care to watch. We arrived last Tuesday morning and after gathering our 8 bags, we were busted by the airport sniffer beagles. Apparently, the banana that Christine gave us is contraband and it lead to a complete search of our entire carefully packed luggage. It made for an interesting entry.

We were greeted by two people from the BSC Melbourne team, Beth’s new manager and clinical director. I’m sure they loved the look of our dishelved travel weary selves. It turns out we couldn’t check into the hotel until 2 pm, and so we saw a bit of the city and had a coffee and lunch with the team. Melbourne by the way considers itself the coffee capitol of the world, so far the coffee has been excellent and strong.

We still can’t really believe we are here. The mornings cause quite a bit of disorientation. Oh, yeah, we’re in Melbourne…that’s right. Hmmm.

We are staying in an apartment-hotel for the time being. Admittedly, not the best of places. It is a bit dingy with everything in it being a solid brown color, but it has a kitchen, clean-up services, and is located right on the tram line. The lobby has a place to get coffee in the morning, so all can be right with the world.

It took a while to get over the jet lag we are still finding that we are getting tired at about 8pm. An interesting phenomenon for a night person.

Everything is new to us and it is surprising how long it takes to get oriented. The trams are still confusing and we often get on the wrong one. Looking right, then left before crossing the road is completely counterintuitive, but yet so essential. Getting in a car on what we think should be the driver’s side is even more frightening. Beth had her first driving lesson the other day and her manager has warned everyone to stay off the roads at that time. (Australians love to tease).

Not only are the roads different but the flora and fauna as well. Since it is now spring heading into summer, the trees are budding and we are seeing some very interesting flowers. There is even a tree that is called a bottle brush. The reason it is called this is because the blooms look like bottle brushes standing straight up.

We have seen roos (kangaroos), wallabies, possums, koala, even the swans here are black instead of white.
We have yet to see a live roo in its natural environment. The reason I say that is because we went to the Melbourne zoo where we got to see them hop around. I also say this because they are like deer. They have a tendency to hop out into traffic, and like deer usually around dawn or dusk. You know what happens then.

We are currently in search of a place to live and a car to buy. However, we can’t get these things until we have our visas. It’s a little frustrating but we can’t do anything about it. We are immigrants with no rights at the moment. What a perspective.
We have found some housing that we consider to be long term temporary. One of Beth’s co-workers mother has an apartment that she will rent out for the next six months. It is two bedroom in a very nice part of town. It is not quite our style but it will do until we can find something that is more us.

We are also trying to learn the language. It sounds like English, looks like English, but isn’t anything like what we are used to. They use a lot of slang words and phrases and most things are stated in an opposite order from what we are used to. Sentences tend to end in an upswing and for this reason we often miss what is an actual question. Perhaps they think we are slow or dim witted because we take so long to reply, or don’t reply at all. It’s as if everything has to run through internal filters, resort, define and then be processed before we can actually understand them. By that time, they have usually moved on to the next topic.

We have now started to do some socializing. We had a contact from the US before we got here. It was a friend, of a friend type of thing. Through them we have found a couple that we have started to spend some time with. In fact we went to their place for the weekend. It is further south and east to where we are now (if that is even possible), to a town called Sale. From there we went to see the lakes region and to a place called 90 mile beach. And yes there is a reason they call it 90 mile beach.

Melbourne is open for visitors and more power to you if you can find a legitimate business reason to get here.

Love to you all, and we miss you.