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.

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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 …talk..with..you.” 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.

5 comments:

Amy Brenengen said...

Ooo! I am so excited that I am the first one to comment. I just read the last two entries and I confess am fearful for any visit our children might one day have to the white palace. But I adore the luxury! And, at least during the boring times you have white plush and not crappy hotel. // Who would have thought that the cultural piece would be so challenging? I claim total ignorance there. We are proud of you two for mastering the mundane - it sounds frustrating but I love that you laugh about it. And, I'm so glad you have each other. It sounds like you appreciate each other on a whole new level. Lots of love and support from home! Amy JKB et al

CalypsoArt said...

Hi Guys,

Finally got a moment to get back and visit your blog. Great that you are keeping us up to date about whats going on. Sounds like you're having a great time living in Australian luxury. Vegemite and Toast? I should check for that at Einstein's.

Isn't driving on the correct side fun? Remember, take your time at the intersections. I wonder, is Australian rules foot ball as indecipherable to you as American foot ball was to me? (You know the football they play with their hands.) I'm sure Eric remembers me asking “why did the guy with the ball run into the pile of other guys? Shouldn't he just run around them?”

This week I was working with an Aussie and mentioned that my friends had just moved to MelBOURNE (pronounced like Jason Bourne) He twisted up his face and corrected me with MelBUN, MelBUN! (As in Bun, Vietnamese noodle salad) At any rate, he did mention that each state has it's own beer you should make sure you drink the local brew of your location so as not to stick out.

Eric, you know Dave sold the Trimaran. I was disappointed to see it go. Even more so since I sailed the Columbus Day regatta on Saturday. There were three similar tri's in the race. They were rockets. One sailed the entire reach flying a pontoon. (did I mention they are Australian boats)
Since selling the Tri Dave had a hankering for another boat. I took him up to central Florida yesterday to pick up a Nacra 5.5. A mini rocket. I'm really scared of the thing. I'll have to get a wet suit if I want to sail on this one. I wonder if they make them with expandable middles. This youtube is similar to the boat he got.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbyZ8tvA4PQ

Take a gander at the picthpole and crash videos and you'll understand my fear. You know of course that the Aussies are excellent sailors and boat builders. I understand that it will be summer soon there, I expect it will be nice sailing weather?

Take care, & keep having fun

N

Anna said...

As usual, reading your blogs is a true joy. I hope reading the comments posted by us all the way over in Minnesota makes you feel as much a part of our daily lives as we feel a part of yours when reading your entries.

Adam and Megan have moved in and there are pumpkins on the front stoop! I have not seen too much of them (work continues to be insane), but the other day there were two little blonde children running through the hose naked! At first I was very confused, and then remembered that children live next door now! Sally still barks at them (which is embarrassing, maybe because she expecting treats.

It's getting chilly here, after a 90 degree weekend (crazy!). Nothing much new is going on, although we hope to have good and exciting news to announce soon : ) We'll keep you posted.

We continue to miss you terribly, and have in no way forgotten about you!!! Have a traditional aussie cocktail for us and we will continue to think of you and have a drink in your honor on Sundays at Sweeneys.

Anna and Brandon

Live Ink said...

I never got used to riding in the left-hand side passenger seat in Melbourne. Kept shooting my foot out to brake the car.

Back in MN, we heard the dog barking next door the other day, looked over the fence, only to see Anna and Brendan running around their yard naked. Diabolical!

Adam

Anna said...

Hahahahahaahahah Adam - that might be funny if Brandon didn't yell at me almost daily for walking around/letting the dog out naked : )