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 cliché 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.