Life since my parents left… sad face…

So you may or may not know that we were lucky enough to celebrate birthdays with both my parents IN PERSON. IN AUSTRALIA! BECAUSE THEY BOTH CAME HERE! ON PURPOSE!

That’s right. My parents, who said they didn’t think they’d ever come to see us in Australia, came for their first visit. But that post is coming later. This post is not about that visit. Instead, it’s about what we’ve been up to since they left. Many things. That’s what. Grieving is one, but not the only one.

So when they got back to Canada, my folks celebrated their birthdays with my sister and brother in law. I took this picture over facetime, so it’s like I was there.
We sent back some presents for family with mom and dad, and this is Jessica’s cryptic way of saying she likes the shirt I picked out for her – it has an owl on it.
As usual, I like to visit the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary with my annual membership which allows me to go for free anytime I fancy it. So I went and checked out these spooning aquatic monitors. (I have no idea if that’s what they really are. Probably not).
Then there was the time Dan forgot to take his cell phone out of his shorts when he went surfing… Just kidding. Sometimes the geo-tracker isn’t accurate.
Another visit to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary to visit these new additions to the Lost Valley – my favourite spot. Golden cordobarras. I totally made that up. They have a name and I’ve forgotten it.
One time, when diving through the waves, I thought I went a bit low and scooped up a bit of sand in my togs. This is what happened when I took them off. It was a scratchy ride home…
ANOTHER trip to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary – this time to see the ring-tailed lemurs (their real names!) in the Lost Valley. This one looks awfully human.
Spotted some ducks on a log – I don’t normally see ducks standing up in trees like this so I grabbed a pic.
A mum and her joey.
Some hungry wallabies – rock wallabies maybe?
As usual, I like to do the lorikeet feeding. I’m getting smarter and wearing a hat, or a poop collector as I like to call it.
My dear friend also wore a poop collector, but hers was open on top. I hear excrement is good for our roots though so…
By now you surely know how I feel about birds.
Feeding Rocko the Roo.
We do have some pretty nice sunsets in our part of the Gold Coast.
This one was for dad. His favourite indulgence while he was here was turkish delight. And its always better to not pay full price!
A photo of my office. Here I’m booking travel for our upcoming conference in Melbourne (well, it was upcoming at the time, now its in the past). But how nice is my view?
Then there was the time Dan took me flying up over Murwillumbah. Gorgeous! So much nicer than flying up over snowy dirty fields of Okotoks. No offence Okotoks.
Here’s the view out the window, of the beach just north of Byron Bay – and that’s our shadow!!! Can you see me waving?
Cape Byron, the furthest east mainland point of Australia.
I just like this.
An unedited photo. Look at the colour of the sea!
Here we are in the plane!! Cessna 172 if you’re curious!
And here’s what I do in my spare time. Hay Day. It’s a game. My whole family plays. LIke everyone. Cousins, distant relatives, close relatives, friends, relatives of friends! We’re all out there!

Anyway – so that’s some of what we’ve been up to since mom and dad left. Thanks for tuning in!

The furthest south we’ve ever been…

So it turns out, unsurprisingly, that we are no different than all the other blogs that start with a story to tell and then get distracted and forget about the blog. The other I was driving to the grocery store thinking, gee, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted on our blog. Then I was like, probably a few months now I would guess. Then I looked, and it was actually nearly a year since our last post. Oops! Sorry about that!

So, in order to avoid being boring, but also to catch you up on our lives, here is a photo blog of the last year. I have no idea how long it will be. Probably long because a year is a long time. But I’ll add a few stories in here and there for you. You’re welcome.

Update, it turns out WAY too much has happened in the last year to cover in one post. So I’ll do it in chapters. Chronological order be damned though, I’m doing it in the order my brain decides.

The year before last, we didn’t make many entries here on our blog because our lives were quite boring. This year, that couldn’t be further from the truth! We have had so much going on it’s been hard to get time to write at all! But now here we are, a rainy ANZAC day holiday – on the couch with a chai tea, a dash of vanilla and a splash of cream, and some fresh, crisp market grapes.

So as you’ll learn in coming blog posts, I’m back with a previous employer on another contract doing climate change research – my favourite job ever! As part of this, they sent me down to the Coast to Coast conference in Hobart, Tasmania for several days. The conference was fine. But Hobart, and Tasmania were amazing! Dan flew down on the Friday night to meet me and we spent the weekend exploring Tassie. As much as you can do in a weekend!

Rather than tell you what we did, I’ll show you (and also tell you – pictures without captions are annoying):

 

Here is Dan walking out to the Tasman Sea somewhere in Hobart. I wasn’t paying close attention to where we were because I had to pee!
We stayed at an AirBnB called Wombat Haven on the Tasman Peninsula, where the host, Cheryl, rescues wombats. When she encounters a dead wombat at the side of the road (which are numerous), she doesn’t drive past, she hops out, (dons gloves we hope???), and checks if the wombat is female. If it is, she checks the pouch for joeys! (All baby marsupials are called joeys). She then brings it home, nurses it to health and once it’s old enough, releases it into the wild in a nature reserve in central Tasmania. This is Buddy and the Terror. They loved me as long as Dan wasn’t around. Then they LOVED him and hated me.
My cute wombat buddies.
You can see how excited we both are to be hanging out with these two. There was another slightly older one but he was being prepped for release so couldn’t interact with humans. She also had two baby babies she was nursing inside the house.
The Terror both loves and hates to be held.
Then we did a driving tour of some of the Tasman Peninsula. We saw lots of rock formations – this is the view from the lookout near the Blowhole. Yes, that’s its real name. Look it up.
More beautiful cliff formations caused by wind and water erosion on the sandstone rock walls. I believe this is the view from the Devil’s Kitchen lookout – but can’t be sure…
This is the Tasman Arch.
We also went to the top of Mount Wellington. The mountains down here in Tassie are some of the oldest in the world and I think you can feel that.
More from Mount Wellington.
This is some of the wild country looking inland from Mt. Wellington. Much of this is untouched by humans. Except probably Aragorn and his Fellowship from the looks of things.
We also visited Port Arthur, a prison with a dark history – both recent and distant.
This is some of the mossy beauty from inside one of the cliffs – we were able to hike down into Remarkable Cave (good naming Australia… really…). It was beautiful, but a lot of stairs to climb out.
The stairway down into Remarkable Cave.
Dan, on one of the many short hikes we took along the cliff coast of Tassie.
The lookout near Remarkable Cave.
It felt like sunset started around 1:30 pm. Not sure why… probably because we’re so far south?
A beautiful Tasmanian flower. Bottlebrush I think.
The waves crashing on the cliffs were spectacular.
More cliffs. More waves.
Back up Mount Wellington – that’s what I get for taking two cameras. Yes. Fine. I could rearrange the pictures, but it’s harder than it looks ok?
This mysterious tower at the top of Mt. Wellington. There was a sign near the car park that said often remote locks don’t work here – some sort of electrical interference… gulp….
Dan at the top of the mountain!!
The view from the top. This was breathtakingly beautiful and you could sense how ancient this land is.
Look, Dan takes pictures too – see?
Looking down on the city of Hobart, Tasmania. The furthest south we’ve ever been. (Though fun fact, it’s still closer to the equator than to the south pole!)

So that was our trip to Tassie. More stories to come in whatever order happens.

Backyard Birds of Marilee’s Backyard

I said I’d update you about Crow Away and I try not to lie

This is a post about birds. I love birds. I have recently become a bit of a birder. (That’s a thing. Look it up). One of the ways I know this, is that I asked for, and then received a pair of binoculars for my birthday from Dan! And I don’t just use them for spying on weirdos that drive by on their boats doing calisthenics. I use them for honest to goodness, bird-watching!

Fine. Both.

The other way you know I’m serious is that I don’t just have one bird-spotting guide. I have two. And they’re different! So there’s that. I am a birder.

Evidence of my being a birder. Also of having great taste in furniture.
Evidence of my being a birder. Also of having great taste in furniture.

Another way you know this is that I participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count of 2017. On different days I would sit in my backyard for 20 minutes at a time with an app on my phone and record how many of what kinds of birds I saw!! One day I saw 71 birds!! In 20 minutes!!

The birds that we see around here are many and varied.

But one thing most of them have in common is a need for water. So I got a bird bath – the beautiful base was hand made (so he says) by a guy at the Kingscliff Markets not far from my house. You’ll see it feature in a number of pics. I have also tried to put out bird feeders, but so far seem only to be able to draw birds I don’t like (a.k.a. crows and magpies and seagulls). So the quest continues.

But since I’m talking about crows I’ll let you know that the Crow Away CD worked like a charm!! Within half day of playing it on repeat in the backyard, the crows were gone. About two months later, a handful came back, I played the CD a couple times and they were gone. It’s gone on like that – with a new group swinging by every few months, but as soon as I play the CD, they fly away!!

So that’s good news!

What’s that? You want to see some of the pics of some of the birds? Ok, I guess!

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This is a willie wagtail! We get them in pairs in our backyard, combing through the freshly mown lawn for bugs. They get their name because they wiggle their backside like a sassy toddler. So cute! This one is not in our backyard, this is in the yard of the  Trotter family who generously invited us to the magical farm!
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This is a pair of (I believe) Rainbow Bee-eaters – hanging out in one of the trees on a hillside in Kingsthorpe in the evening. Lovely birds! We saw them on a little hike with our friends M & N (identities have been withheld because I have no idea if they want their names out there on the internet or not).
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One of my faves! This is a kookaburra – they have an amazing call – look it up! This is just outside our backyard.
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Two of my faves in one picture! This is an Australian Pelican and an Antarctic Tern, both after the same school of fish.
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This is a closer look at a Kookaburra – sadly, this one is in captivity.
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Speaking of captivity, here are some ducks and hens from someone’s backyard farm. Aussies call chickens chooks! These ones are in a backyard in Brisbane – so progressive!
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We interrupt this post about birds to talk about how urbanisation has devastated bird populations. Here is an exhibit in Sydney that we stumbled on in our first week – a tribute to the birds who’ve been pushed out by urban sprawl.
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This is a Bushstone Curlew – checking out his reflection in the mirror.
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I like the Bushstone Curlew’s cause they always look like they’re giving you the stink eye. They’re terrified of humans but insist on breeding in residential parks and neighbourhoods – I admire their pluckiness.
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Here we have Dan, kayaking up to what we call, Pelican island, about a 10 minute paddle from our house.
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You can tell I like Kookaburras can’t you! This one is hanging out on the fence of our backyard, making my day.
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The rainbow lorikeets are another of my favourite birds here in Australia. They usually fly around in pairs our fouros and are generally gorgeous – but their call is shrill and unpleasant.
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An Eastern Rosella – for the longest time I thought these were lovebirds. This is why I am glad to have the bird spotting guides!
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Here we see some fearless magpies, checking out Abby. Abby is drooling and fantasising about chomping down on one of these bad boys.
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I used to like these guys until my friend Mack from America told me they’re considered the rats of the sky – carrying disease wherever they go. I still kind of like them.
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At the Australia Zoo (think Steve Irwin), we went to the bird show – it was amazing and tragic.
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DSC_9042 This sombre specimen is a Frogmouth – I think a Tawny Frogmouth, but I honestly have no idea. This was the first time I’d ever seen one when we visited Tanya and Gareth out camping in Murwillembah.
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This was a pair of Red Tailed Black Cockatoos. We tried to walk past them on the boardwalk in Townsville and they squawked at us until we came back and said hi.
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Once while out for breakfast we saw a guy out walking his parrots. No idea what kind. Or why he was out walking his parrots on a leash.
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Here is a handful of Sacred Ibis having a pit stop at my bird bath. Some locals call them bin chickens!
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This chap just started hanging around the other day. It’s a white faced heron!
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Another pic of the white faced heron out our backyard!
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This is a Crested Pigeon. They just look like they have mohawks. I like them.
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These guys hang around all the time. My best guess is a noisy miner or some kind of thing like that?
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This is a gang of sulphur crested cockatoos, hanging out by my bird bath. (Sighs with happiness)
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Feeding the lorikeets at Currumbin Wildlife sanctuary.
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And another of the ibises – these are on North Stradbroke Island on the beach. They’re everywhere.

Thus concludes my post about birds. Or my first post about birds. I like them enough that there may come a second post one day.

Watch this space.

Towns we’ve visited and what we thought about them

Oh! Hi! You’re still here! That’s so nice! Well, here’s our most recent post. I’ll try to add pictures sometime, but for now:

Towns we’ve visited and what we thought about them

…Now, to be fair, every town and city is divided into subsections – most Canadians would call them neighbourhoods, but here they seem to be somewhat more established and see themselves as actual towns. For the purposes of familiarity, I will refer to the larger centres, rather than smaller neighbourhood towns. (For example, we lived in Brisbane (city) but technically, our address listed the town/city as Clayfield. Go figure.

I’ll only review towns that we have stayed at least one night in.

Bundaberg – A little town with alcohol refineries and alright beaches and not much else. May have had some access to the Great Barrier Reef, but we didn’t do that.

Hervey Bay – A little town with a nice long beach and esplanade. The beach is broken up by huge pipes, but is nice enough. If you don’t mind huge pipes. There seem to be a higher than average number of smokers here.

Gold Coast – Lively, young surfer’s dream. One restaurant per resident, amazing shopping, sublime weather, friendly people and more. Small town feel with all the amenities of the city. Environmentally aware and vegetarian friendly shopping and dining. Older people pooh-pooh it.

Sunshine Coast – Quiet, retirement town with good op shops (2 points if you know what that is), mom and pop eateries and bountiful beaches. Older people adore it.

Tweed Heads South – A river city filled with hippies and bull sharks, superb quiet beaches. This is one of my favourite places. Good thing because we live near here.

Brisbane – A very hilly, city like most other cities. So-so public transit. It feels like every other city you’ve ever been to.

Sydney – A big, old-fashioned city. Lots of tiny shops lining narrow streets. Five million people, give or take and AMAZING public transit. Lots to see and do, but very cool in the winter. Dress warmly.

Coff’s Harbour – A quiet, sleepy little town with two fish and chip shops by way of restaurants and a grocery store and a couple of gas stations. Nice beach with squeaky sand. Also, what is up with squeaky sand!?

Coomera – Another quiet Aussie town, with friendly salt-of-the-Earth people who seem to care a lot about water. (Probably owing to this being a drought-y country). I only mention it because the woman we stayed at told us repeatedly to take short showers, there was a timer in the shower and a note in the bathroom to take short showers. Ok! We get it.

Kingsthorpe – A tiny tiny town outside of the tiny tiny city of Toowoomba. Kingsthorpe is a quiet, sleepy place that is much colder (even in summer) than the nearest coast, but boasts great views, wine and fresh fruit and veggies!

Murwillembah – Doesn’t matter what we thought of the town, what a name! Mur-Will-Em-Bah. God bless you.

Point Lookout, North Stradbroke Island – Very quiet, very remote island living. Everyone had a surfboard on their car, but no surf beaches were safe/open. Gorgeous scenery and wildlife (koalas, kangas, dolphins, turtles and my favourite: kookaburras)! Also some sizeable spiders.

Currumbin Waters – Nearby our favourite beach, this town is quiet and packed with gardens, blooming trees, cyclists and bats – and close to our favourite animal sanctuary.

Worongary – Off the beaten track a bit, we loved the remote, jungly feel. People are very friendly, but drive really aggressively.

Burleigh Waters – Sort of a part of the Gold Coast greater area, we found this community very suburban. Winding streets, lots of canals, where the well-to-do park their boats. Not us. We don’t have a boat.

Cudgen – This place was heavenly. Quiet, quaint filled with orchards and farms, rolling hills and countless birds. We loved it’s slow pace and the quiet that comes with.

Palmwoods – What can be said about heaven on Earth? Rolling, fertile mountains nearby the ocean? And don’t get me started on the people. So welcoming – they treat you like family. There is so much to see here – little touristy towns, dairies, orchards and everything in between.

Bilambil – Not far from the Gold Coast, this quiet town is a great place to stay, away from the hustle and bustle of Surfer’s Paradise.

Tweed Heads West – This is our current home and much could be said about it. We live on a river, and we love it. There are sharks and dolphins in our river, but we use it anyway. It’s quiet, green, a little bogan (redneck) and has a dark history, which I’ll share another time. The streets are wide and potholey. It’s a word. Look it up. Don’t look it up. It’s not a word. We’re 10 minutes from the beach. 10 minutes from another beach. 10 minutes from a bunch of other beaches. It’s a good life here.

Perth – Average city. There was lots of green space, absolutely wild drivers who weave in and out of the tiniest spaces, without signalling or checking to see if someone else is headed to the same tiny space. I’d say there was a bit more racial diversity than we’ve seen in Brisbane or the Gold Coast, so that was refreshing.

Fremantle – An odd mix of hipster and industry. Indupster. Or Hipustry. We liked the food choices and the arts scene. We got to visit the Fringe festival (one of the largest in the world if I heard correctly) and visited some of the quiet, calm beaches.

Adelaide – Great shopping, great weather, great food (ate a seafood stew, now I’ll admit I spent the rest of the evening on the “canister” but it was so worth it).

Melbourne – Colder than anywhere I’ve been in Australia, but more great shopping, really friendly people (including a bus driver who took me to the airport, even though I’d gotten on the wrong bus).

Townsville – Ahhh, a warm, sunny place to visit during the harsh Australian winter. Fine, not harsh. Great aquarium, so so beaches (everyone was on croc lookout or jelly watch) and excellent breakfast food. The waitstaff at every restaurant we went to, were the nicest, most helpful, most friendly we’ve ever met.

Stanthorpe – an inland getaway, friendly locals, GREAT gift shopping, cool festivals and a quiet, relaxed, environmental vibe.

This will have to do for now…

 

 

 

 

We run an Airbnb now.

If you have talked to us in the last few months, you probably know that we’re running a little Airbnb out of our house and a few of you might wonder how that’s going.

The answer is: “it’s going amazingly!”

It’s always been a dream of mine to run a bed and breakfast. It stems from the warm fuzzy nostalgia I feel when thinking of the years I spent growing up in my parents’ B&B. It was a very cool life experience to meet people from around the world, talk to people who spoke other language and had been to places I wanted to go, or had never heard of. It was cool.

I’ve always thought I had kind of a knack for hospitality. I’m pretty sure I’m good at customer service. I think I have really good instincts about knowing what people want. (You may also sense that I am not lacking in self-confidence).

Plus, I’ve travelled a fair amount and I know what I like. So I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to run a quality establishment.

Unfortunately, for as long as I’ve been talking about running an Airbnb, Dan has been against it. He doesn’t like people in the house. What if they don’t show up? What if they trash the place? What if they’re really noisy or messy or smelly or use up all the hot water? What if they’re serial killers? What if don’t make money at it? Worse yet, what if we lose money on it?

But one day, all that changed. We stayed in a B&B in Waterton National Park with his mom. I won’t name the B&B because the park is really small and I wouldn’t want to be sued for libel or anything. But the room was tiny. Like tiny. And cold. We were so cold in the night we could hardly sleep. Breakfast, was literally DIY tea (hottish water and tea bags) and a blueberry muffin. How much you ask? $229. Per room. Per night. We had two rooms because Dan’s mom was with us. So $458 all in. For a too-cold bed and a blueberry muffin.

When we left that place, Dan was grinning ear to ear. He said he could hardly believe how much people can charge for so little. And just like that, he was on board with the plan.

So, cut to today.

We run a fairly successful new Airbnb. We have all positive reviews. People love us for the most part. What do we do?

We have two guest bedrooms with queen beds and the usual bedroom furniture. I’ve decorated the rooms in bright, beachy themes. Here are some photos.

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This is the large room. We usually charge between $49 and $75 for this one depending on demand.
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Another view of the large room.
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This is the shared living room.
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Shared kitchen.
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This was the view from the back yard in winter. It’s much greener now.
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A lorikeet in one of the trees in the back.
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This is the little room. For this we usually charge between $39 and $60 a night.

I hope I remembered to go back and add photos. Anyway. Both the rooms are in our house so we share space with our guests. We only have one bathroom so when we have a full house (two guests in each room) we have to be pretty careful with short showers and toilet trips.

Here’s why I think we’re successful. We keep things clean. Because of my mother’s passion for cleanliness (she was representative for the Alberta B&B Association in our area for awhile and absolutely METICULOUS about cleanliness), I grew up very alive to the importance of cleanliness and its relative status vis a vis godliness. The rest of my family can back me up here, that when we used to go stay in a hotel, it was rare that we’d remain in the first room we were given. Once she found a hair on her pillow, once she saw a urine-esqe stain next to the toilet and I can’t tell you the number of times she brought a portable black light to check the bedding for stains.

Zero, the number is zero. But I am sure she thought about it.

So this to say, I am pretty mindful of keeping the place clean. Unfortunately, it is an older house, so there’s only so much I can do.

We also have tried to think of the little things that make it an easy stay for guests like:

  • fans for hot nights and extra blankets for cold nights
  • shampoo, conditioner and soap
  • fresh towels, hand towels and face-clothes
  • strong WiFi signal in the bedrooms with lots of data available
  • hangers in the closets
  • basic information about the area (I just popped into the info centre and grabbed flyers)
  • cereal and milk available for brekkie if desired

Our most positive experience was an older British couple who stayed with us for two or three nights and were amazing! They joined us for tea on the patio and were present when we saw a magical flying wave of pelicans flying up the river. They saw me buzzing Dan’s hair with the electric razor in the backyard and asked in jest if I’d give a trim to Mr. Guest (which I did). They gave me solid advice and even a contact for an interview for a job which I subsequently got (and they asked me to follow up with them about the results of that interview, and were thrilled for me when I got the job)! And finally, they invited us to come stay with them in the UK if we’re ever over there. Amazing people.

Our most negative experience was a young woman who wasn’t great at planning ahead. She was delightful and friendly but maybe a bit ditzy. I was away in Sydney, so Dan was in charge of the Airbnb on his own. On the day she checked out, this girl’s was to catch a flight at 4:30AM but she got up at 2 and was thrashing around in the bathroom so that Dan couldn’t sleep from 2-3:30AM. (I’ll add that when I got home, it looked like SeaWorld in the bathroom). Finally he heard here leave the house to catch her Uber at around 4AM and went back to sleep with relief…

…Only to be woken up with her KNOCKING ON OUR BEDROOM DOOR and asking him for a ride to the Airport. Not cool. Anyway – he was so tired and just wanted her gone, so he gave her a ride (rather than telling her to catch a cab). That was the worst experience, and frankly it wasn’t so bad. Well, it REALLY wasn’t bad for me, since I had a wonderful sleep in a Sydney hotel.

On the whole, we’re still pretty new at this, but we really like it and it is helping us pay our rent. (The place we’re renting is a little more than we’d intended to pay, but hey – a river)! Our landlords are on board and have even asked if we might be interested in running an Airbnb at their other house a few doors down.

So I guess the world is our oyster!

 

Living green in Australia

I haven’t always cared about the environment very much. It took a few peoples’ influence, and one book to COMPLETELY turn me around on the need to look after the planet.

The first and strongest influences I had are my parents. Probably mainly for fiscal reasons, we were taught to ALWAYS TURN OFF THE LIGHTS from a young age. (We had a quarter jar for when we left a light on in a room we’d left. I think my parents used it to pay the power bill).  But my parents have turned in to recycling fiends – throwing away almost nothing! I am very proud of how conscientious they are and glad it influenced me.

Then there was my roommate Amy, who would remove recycling from the garbage if I’d thrown it away – and gently, but firmly remind me to recycle whatever could be recycled. She is also a wonder at using what is available, so nothing goes to waste. Thanks Amy!

And then there’s my friend Andrea, who is into growing her own food, heirloom veggies (veggies that can create usable seeds, and haven’t been modified to be sterile, I think), recycling of course, buying local (so your food hasn’t burned loads of fossil fuels getting to you), and eating less or ethically raised meat. Her influence was also profoundly influential.

There are others as well, such as Milana who was my most powerful environmental catalyst because she introduced me to the book “This Changes Everything” By Naomi Klein (one of my favourite Canadian authors). Milana, this really does change everything.

Anyway – that was a long introduction to say, it seems much easier to live green here in Australia than it was in Canada.

I’ll admit, I am not as familiar with regulatory bodies and certification processes out here, but I commit to learning more about them. Shoot. I probably shouldn’t have published a promise.

What I do know is that large parts of Australia feature a year around growing season – meaning there are in-season fruits, veggies and herbs, all year long. Including in my garden!

Here are the things I’ve done to be more green:

  1. I’ve begun growing my own herbs and some veggies. (Right now I have a huge crop of butter lettuce about to come in, coriander, chives, basil, mint and parsley, and although I don’t cook with it, I have a couple thriving Aloe plants that I use in lieu of skin products). [Update, caterpillars and one massive grasshopper consumed LITERALLY the entire crop of butter lettuce].
  2. Ditch the plastic produce bags. I ordered these reusable mesh bags off eBay. They are much stronger, obviously washable and reusable, but best of all, I get the moral superiority of not using plastic produce bags. That’s right. I said it.
  3. Ditch the plastic grocery bags.  Weirdly, this one has taken more practice and effort than using the mesh produce bags. I’m not sure why that is. It helped to buy reusable bags in colours I like.
  4. I’ve switched to biodegradable ziplocs, but use reusable tupperware-like containers whenever possible. [I have heard, but can’t confirm that biodegradable plastics are a “greenwashing” marketing ploy. Not a real thing. Further research may be forthcoming].
  5. We recycle as much as we can here. Queensland and NSW councils don’t recycle soft plastics, so we collect our soft plastics and take them with us whenever we go to a Coles or Woolworths grocery store, where they DO recycle soft plastics. Allegedly. I’m trying to keep my idealism in tact.
  6. We try to get as much of our produce and dairy products as possible from local, sustainable vendors. We really like the Northey Street Market and the West End Markets. The Clayfield Market used to be pretty close and convenient. Now its the Tugun market, and word is that Aldi is about to go organic, so that will probably be another option.
  7. We’ve tried to buy environmentally friendly products whenever possible, including soaps, shampoos and cleaners (for us, and also for our Airbnb).
  8. I bought a barrel composter that sits in the backyard, and got a book from the library on how to use it. I can’t say I’m doing it right though, because the barrel’s contents look very similar to how they looked 3 weeks ago, and 3 months ago… I’m working on it.
  9. I’ve cut out about 70% of the meat out of my diet (and almost 100% of the beef and lamb I used to eat), and since I do the lion’s share of the cooking (especially while Dan was in school) Dan has also drastically reduced the amount of meat he eats. I’ll admit, I haven’t tried it out yet, but I saw this calculator on Facebook that calculates the amount you save the environment by reducing your meat intake. If you’re interested, take a look.
  10. We both have bikes and try to use them as much as is practical. Dan regularly bikes to and from work, bless his muscular quads.

That is all for now. Go green!

Life Update

Since it’s been a long time since our last entry, I’ll fill you in on a few changes.

I’ve been seeing the doctor for possible treatment options of hypo-thyroid. That’s been tricky since we have only just sorted out our health insurance (you have one year to do it after getting your medicare card), or you’ll be penalized. So the expenses will be out of pocket, since it’s now considered a pre-existing condition. Or I can wait one year, for treatment that will be covered. But I’m tired of the fatigue, the dry skin, the um, weight management issues and so on. So that’s one, not so fun thing.

We’ve moved to Tweed Heads, a little town south of the Gold Coast. (About 1-1.5 hours from the Brisbane Airport, if you’re planning a visit soon). Our new house is on the river and I like it a lot. Life as a river person is nice. Quiet, except the crows. But don’t worry. I’ve ordered Crow Away (like Go AWAY!) Which should drive them nuts. It should arrive any day now. I’ll keep you posted about it’s efficacy. I’m a little worried the CD will be more annoying than the sound of crows…

We officially opened the doors of our new Airbnb five days ago. We’ve had three guests so far, so we’re happy with how that’s going. Dan’s worked out that if we have guests every night and they pay $70, our rent will be covered.  Please feel free to come stay. The link is here.

I’m looking for work, having quit my first Australian job on the anniversary of our arrival in this country. I am having a little trouble motivating myself to leave the river though. So that’s been tough. I have managed to narrow down the list of things I want to do to about 100. Here are a few:

Editor
Writer, blogger, reviewer
Bed and Breakfast owner
Emergency Preparedness Coordinator
Botanist
Politician
Speech Writer
Ornithologist (one who studies birds)
Marine Biologist or Marine Vet
Water Conservation worker
Scientist
Photographer
Event Planner
Dog or horse breeder
Singer
Equestrian show jumper
Park Ranger/Warden
Philanthropist (who doesn’t want this job?)
Environmentalist
Farmer
Activist
Doctor

So really, I’m nowhere.

Dan is loving his new job as an aviation mechanic. The company he works for owns an island and makes their living shuttling people over to their resort on this island. I’m looking forward to staff appreciation holidays 😉

We now live in a new state. We used to live in Queensland. Now we live in New South Wales. So I guess we’re Welsh. Hi Lowri!

There’s a small annoyance with that. First, the cost of switching the car registration over is no small complaint (around $1000). And secondly, NSW uses daylight savings time. Like a progressive state should. Queensland uses no such devices “(If its good enough for the sun, its good enough for us!?)” So living in NSW and working in QLD should be exciting.

We bought a king bed, second hand out of some lady’s storage shed. It’s a little sketchy, but the price was right. I regret nothing.

We’re struggling to get internet up and running. You may recall that last year when we moved in Brisbane, it took nearly 4 weeks to get it up and rolling. This is shaping up to be much the same story, only slower internet,  for more money.

The cats love their new place. There are five neighbourhood cats who come visit. Toothless, Goldilocks, Pumpkin II, Ed and Larry. Toothless is a regular and comes by at least six times a day to flaunt his freedom in our indoor cats’ captive faces. Like America.

We miss our old neighbours. We won’t saying anything specifically bad about the new ones (in case they become friends and one day read this). But they are all smokers. Not that there is anything wrong with smokers (unless you happen to be one of the low-life-smokers who throw their butts on the ground). So far, there’s been no smoke smell in our house though – so all is well. But the new neighbours aren’t as social as our old, nice neighbours. They sometimes feed the crows (grrrr). And one neighbour rolled his green bin (the bin for grass clippings and tree offings) over to our lawn on garbage day without asking. And not that I mind at all! But it would have been nice to meet.

What else?

We’ve got to start the friend-making process all over again. We made some lovely friends back in Brissie, but they are a whole hour away.  I’m sure they’ll be weekend friends, but we need weekday friends too.

I was going to be an uber driver, but our car is one year too old.

My 32nd birthday is coming up soon and all I want is to be in less debt. And a stand up paddle board. And a visit from my family.

And binoculars so I can see the birds. I’ve learned two new local varieties. I already knew about the Sacred Ibis, the magpies of course, the lorikeets, the cockatoos, the Pelicans and the brush turkeys. But in the last couple of weeks I’ve learned to identify the blue-headed honey eater (thanks to a group of birders I follow on Facebook) and Willie Wagtails (thanks to one smoking neighbour). I will probably do an entry soon on the local birds so you can wait with bated breath for that one 😉

That will about do it for me for now. Thanks for tuning in for Dan and Mare’s life update!

 

To upgrade or not to upgrade, that is the question

We have done this long, international flight exactly one time.

Sure we’ve flown Toronto to London, and Calgary to Hawaii but this was our first MAJOR LONG HAUL flight.

I’ll say it. We upgraded. We opted not to ride in cattle class…ahem, steerage… ahem economy class, but rather upgraded to Premium Economy. (I heard angels singing harmoniously while I typed those two words). (I just had an idea for an app – it plays cool sounds when you read something!)

Anyway – we flew with Air New Zealand who have an interesting gambling option for those interested in upgrading. You can make a bid for a seat, and if no one legitimately buys that seat prior to the flight, you can have it for the price of your bid.

We did it. We made a middling bid, and got the upgraded seats. This fancy upgrade included an extra suitcase for each of us, alcoholic beverages, a MUCH fancier meal option, WAY more space and a general sense of snobbery. Which I enjoyed very much thank you.

As a result, we both slept soundly on the plane, and arrived in our new lives feeling rested and excited.

We’re going back to Canada for an extended-ish visit. I won’t tell you when, or for how long, because I’m afraid of the internet. But while we’re looking forward to spending some good, quality time with our friends and families, we are dreading the flight.

Problem 1: To upgrade or not to upgrade?

Problem 2: To sleep or not to sleep?

Problem 3: Plan a party for the day after your return or not to plan a party for the day after your return?

Problem 4: How to handle jet lag?

Those are our questions.

Let’s start with the first problem. A very good place to start. If we were rich, we’d definitely upgrade. Air Canada has told us that in addition to our $5000 flights (this includes two international flights and four domestic Canadian flights – calm down), we could pay an additional $5000 to be upgraded to Premium Economy seats for the long legs of our journey (Brisbane to Vancouver and back).

If I had $5000 kicking around, I’d do it in a heartbeat. But without getting whiny, or too heavy or too financially vulnerable – we’re sitting on nearly $20K of debt following the move and our first year here. (Calm down, that’s an international move for two adults and two cats, following a year of underemployment in Canada for both the adults and a year of re-training for one of the adults in Australia – ergo, living off one salary for a year). So yeah. Things are tight.

So 5K to sit in wider seats for 28 hours, doesn’t feel quite right.

Ok. I was hoping that writing this part of the post would provide me with some clarity. I can say that it has not. I remain undecided on problem 1.

Problem 2 – The sleeping on the plane.  On the way out here, our flight left Canada late in the evening and arrived in Australia early in the morning. Frankly, I think it’s a bit of voodoo and I have no idea how that works, but I went to sleep in Canada, and woke up in Sydney, two days later and it was awesome.

The reverse journey leaves mid-morning (Oz time) and lands mid-morning that same day. More voodoo. But I do know this about myself. I don’t do allnighters well. And staying up for two daytimes in a row would be about the same thing. So. Here’s the idea. Before the flight, we may try to stay up all night, so we’re super tired getting on the flight midmorning, sleep for the 14 hour flight, and arrive in Canada, ready to take on our vacation!

I am 10000% sure that will work fine for Dan. He has a history of sleeping everywhere. Here is photographic proof:

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Dan sleeping doing homework.
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Dan sleeping at 3PM on a Sunday.
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Dan sleeping at 2PM on a Saturday.
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Dan sleeping in a car. Mumford and Sons was playing full volume at the time of this photo.
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Dan sleeping while people around him talk.
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Dan sleeping in another car.
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Dan sleeping in a van. I’m fake sleeping. He’s real sleeping.
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Dan sleeping standing up. Its possible he’s just got his eyes closed.
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Dan sleeping on a bus.

 

Anyway. So you can see. Dan will have no trouble falling asleep.  I, on the other hand, can count the number of times I have slept on an airplane. The number is two. Once on the way here, and once on the way to Hawaii. Out of possibly hundreds of flights. My odds don’t look great – so I think it might be a YUGE risk to stay up all night, in case I then can’t sleep on the plane and arrive in Calgary doubly jet lagged.

Which leads me to Problem 3. We want to have a party in Calgary, my sister has gladly been dragooned into hosting, for all our friends in the Calgary area. We loved the goodbye party, and so we thought we’d have a HELLO party!

Is it too risky to plan it the same weekend we arrive? I don’t know.

Finally, problem 4. The biggie. Jet lag. (another sound affect would work here – maybe the Jaws sound effect, or the Beethoven’s 5th opening? Dum dum dum, duuuuuuum).

Here are the tips I have heard for beating jet lag.

  1. Drink constantly. Not alcohol, but water. I’m sure there’s some science about why this helps – but it does. Not just with jet lag, but also blood clot prevention (because of the needing to pee every couple of hours) and also with the skin dryness from recycling airplane air.
  2. Eat on schedule. Even if you’re not hungry.
  3. Try to shock your system into the new time zone, even if that means staying up late, or even all night.
  4. Get up really early and exercise a lot before getting on the plane.
  5. I hope there will be other tips, but right now, this is all I have.

The Road to Australia – A Feline Tail (get it?)

As you know if you’re a regular reader of this blog, in addition to the expense and paperwork Olympics we endured to bring ourselves to this newer, warmer country, we also imported our two Tortoise-shell calico cats – Abby and Lily. I talk about our reasons for bringing them here. And if you’re thinking that must have been expensive, you’re right. The cost breakdown for us and our felines is here.

We hired a company to bring ship them here, which on the whole worked out well, after some confusion and last minute panicking. Our original plan (around which we based our travel plans, accommodations and car rental) was to send the cats ahead of us (flying Calgary, Vancouver, Sydney) and then follow them out, coordinating our arrival date with their last day in quarantine.

Unfortunately, that didn’t really work out.  Dan and I ended up having to drive from Sydney to Brisbane (10-13 hours) without the cats, then a few weeks after arriving in Brisbane, drive back down to Sydney (10-13 hours), get the cats and do the trip a third time, back to Brisbane (you guessed it, 10-13 hours). It’s a long story. And yes, blogs are perfect for telling long stories, but it’s also a boring story – so I’ll spare you. You’re welcome.

After all was said and done, Abby and Lily spent two week stay at the kennel in Calgary without incident and before long were jet setting toward down under!

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Here they are in their little kennel, looking frankly – unhappy. But I’m sure they were fine.

Then it was off to the airport. Our agent, Karen, drove the cats to the Calgary Airport where they hopped a plane to Vancouver. I hear they had window seats and drank way too much. They stayed overnight at the Vancouver airport pet facility without incident (as far as I know).

The next day, they flew from Vancouver all the way to Sydney, Australia. We installed a nanny-cam on their kennels, but it was pretty dark in the hold of the airplane. This is the best image we captured:

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Just kidding. No nanny cams allowed. We have no idea what the flight was like. I’m sure they didn’t love it, but they did survive it. We were told that in the agent’s 14 year career shipping animals internationally, she had only had two cat fatalities. So that was comforting I guess?

As soon as they landed in Sydney, they were whisked away to the Eastern Creek Quarantine Centre for their mandatory ten-day jail term. They made it through fine, though there were a few nervous phone calls regarding Lily’s um… stool.

Backstory: We had elected to keep them in separate kennels, owing to a history of turning on one another when facing stress.

Further Backstory: One time, we got them spayed. We were poor at the time so we went to the City of Ottawa Animal Services vet (who would spay them for around $85, while our greedy, opportunistic vet wanted $299 per cat). Unfortunately, the surgery didn’t take for Lily so she had to go back to be re-spayed. (More accurately, something got caught between tissue layers during the surgery and an abscess formed within a few days – creating a large lump that had to be surgically removed). Yes. We temporarily changed her name to Lumpy.

In any event, after their first round of spaying at the vet, they were still friends. Sore, but friends. After we found the lump and took Lily to have it removed all Hell broke loose (idiom meaning things became chaotic). When Lily returned from her second surgery, Abby would hiss and spit at her whenever she saw her sister. Abby would chase Lily and looked like she wanted to hurt her, so we separated them until Lily seemed well enough to defend herself. Eventually, they learned to get along again. More or less.

That story has repeated itself any time a major change occurred. They stayed with my sister for a few weeks when we moved from Calgary to Ottawa and it took a long time for them to stop yelling at each other. This to say, stress really bugs them, so we didn’t want them to kill one another in quarantine.

Returning to the current story: About five days into their jail-term, we got a call from the quarantine people who said Lily was having some stool troubles. If it didn’t clear up in two days, she would not be cleared through quarantine. (The implication was unclear. Ship her back? Incinerate her? Shark bait?). Amazingly, people who didn’t know us from Adam took our cat’s life in their hands and made sure she was ok. God bless ’em.

At some point during this time, Lily sustain four broken finger nails (think finger nails fully breaking off. Times four).  The vet suspected that she was trying to claw her way out of her cage either in flight or in quarantine and ripped out the nails. Ouch!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Once we were informed that both cats had cleared quarantine and could be picked up, we drove down to Sydney (13 hours due to construction) in a single day, and picked up our kitties. The video below (if it works) should be Dan rushing the doors at the quarantine facility to get to his kitties faster:

 

We loaded them in the car and drove 13 hours straight back to their new home in Brisbane. They did much better in the car than expected. Abby pooped in the kennel one time (before we’d had a chance to show her where the litterbox in the car was), and after that, they took turns sitting on top of the kennel for a good lookout, and on the lap of whichever of us wasn’t driving.

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Inside of this tiny car is a metropolitan cat castle (discomboomerated) and all the cat stuff we need for an epic feline voyage. Also, you can see the tail light is strapped on with a neon strap because SOMEONE smoked it with a suitcase while loading the car.
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Abby, looking a little grainy. Like she’s holding it in, but not for long.
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Lily, establishing her bed in what I think they must have perceived as their new, much smaller mobile house.

Once they got home, figured out where the litterbox is (Dan’s bathroom) and nervously explored every nook and cranny of their room, they got on to the important business of sleeping.

Sidenote: For reasons passing understanding, we have given them the master bedroom and taken for ourselves, the tiny spare bedroom.

Here is a picture of our tiny bedroom. Bear in mind I took the picture from inside the little closet. There is about a foot of passage on the far side and on the end of the bed.

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Yeah, we don’t make the bed. We’re grown-ups and our parents are on the other side of the planet :

For contrast, here is the cat room (aka luxury suite, with attached bathroom and backyard access.

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Anyway – now the cats are happily settled into their new home. Sometimes Abby gets brave and ventures out the front door into the hallway. But mostly they stay inside.

They have had one run-in with a huntsman spider and were victorious. Congrats cats. Keep it up.

Abby had her first trip to the Aussie vet, and had to have a suspicious lump removed from her seven year old back, and didn’t even offer to pay the $993 bill! She is making a full recovery though. We did get a collar for her. I will try to upload a video of her wearing the collar.  It’s funny stuff.

In the meantime, here are a couple more pictures for you to see in order to understand why we brought them.

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Monitoring both sides of the couch.
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Abby – she’s my favourite.
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Lily – she is Dan’s favourite. Good thing the cats can’t read.

The Distractions Post

As shocking as it may seem, we do not spend ALL our spare time at the beach.

We also indulge in our generation’s biggest cultural contribution to society: Binge-watching TV.

Here are the shows that we have watched in full in the time leading up our move (we’ll call this BA – before australia) and the time since we’ve arrived here (AA – after australia). I am well aware both of the acronyms already have established meanings so I’ll try beau (before Australia) and afau (after Australia). No I don’t like that either. I’ll just write a heading to clarify when the shows were watched.

By “in full” I mean, all the episodes that are available.

Leading up to our move to Australia we watched:

Parks and Recreation
The Walking Dead
Downton Abbey
Game of Thrones (Marilee only)
House of Cards (Marilee only)
Friday Night Lights (Marilee only)
How I Met Your Mother (Marilee only)
Happy Endings (Marilee only)
The 100 (Marilee only)

Since we’ve been here, we’ve watched:

Parks and Recreation
The Office
The Mindy Project
Game of Thrones
McLeod’s Daughters (Marilee only)
30 Rock (Marilee only)
Stargage Atlantis (Marilee only)
BBC’s Life (Marilee only)
Glee (Marilee only)
Master of None (Marilee only)
Better Call Saul
Madam Secretary (Marilee only)
Fresh Prince of Belair (in West Philadelphia born and raised…)

It sure looks like I watch a lot of television.

I’m going to write down some of the other things I do, so I don’t feel like such a couch potato.

Go the beach every weekend
Swim at the 50 metre pool some days after school
Attend yoga at the studio near my house
Garden (growing butter lettuce, chives, cilantro (locally known as coriander), basil, mint, aloe, bananas, hibiscus, portulaca and other odds and ends whose names I don’t know yet).
Go to the library every Thursday
Work four days a week as a teacher, sort of
Play with our two cats
Plan and cook delicious meals (I just learned to make amazing fish tacos!!)
Teach our neighbours to play Settlers of Catan
Visit the Northey Street Organic Markets on Sunday mornings
Visit the West End Markets on Saturday mornings

Ok that’s enough. I’m feeling more balanced now.

Money Money Money – Part II

This week’s post will NOT be about jet lag, like I promised. Maybe next week. It will instead be about money.

Unlike Money Money Money Part I, wherein I shared the financial costs of moving countries, this week’s post is about the differences in matters of finance between Canada and Australia. For those of you who are interested. Which is you. I know because you’re still reading.

Money-wise, here are some of the differences.

In Canada, our retirement savings went in to RRSPs (Registered Retirement Savings Plans). Here, they have what are called Superannuation Funds. I am thrilled to report that thanks to the effort of a non-profit called 350.org, a list of superannuation funds that are purposefully divested from the oil and gas industry is available to anyone looking for a Super (they don’t say the whole term here – Superannuation is too long – so they just say Super). I have selected Future Super, to look after my retirement funds, for that specific reason. Since I’m on the topic, you can also switch to a bank that is divested from oil and gas. The list of banks is here. It actually rates all the banks, so you can see where yours falls in terms of investment in the fossil fuel industry. We based our bank choice on that list, for that very reason.

Much like Canadian part-time and full-time positions, wherein the latter have access to medical benefits, paid vacation and sick time, and the former do not. Australia has similar tiers of workers. Casual workers (like myself) may have a slight salary bump (between 5 and 20% more than what a full time employee would make in that position) but have no other benefits. Time off work is time unpaid. Sick time is unpaid. There are no medical benefits through your employer, and perhaps most disconcertingly, you can be let go (they call it sacked here) with no notice. Your employer can send you home with no cause and no notice without penalty. Full time and even part time workers enjoy more job security and the benefits vary from job to job.

The flip side of the casual position, which is supposed to be a benefit for casual employees is the ability to walk out without notice. A casual employee is technically able to walk out the door with no notice, however any case I have heard of here has resulted in a full and complete loss of reference from the employer, no matter how long or well the casual employee had served.

References are called referees here. I’m not sure what soccer referees are called. Probably referees too. I’m teaching English now, so I’ll fill you in. That’s called a homonym. No, a homophone. I don’t know what it’s called.

But I digress.

Other differences? The coins here do not have names. No one here knows what a dime or nickel is. They have 5 cent pieces (5c), 10 cent pieces (10c), 20 cent piece (you get the pattern), 50 cent coins, 1 dollar coins and 2 dollar coins. Like Canada’s new money, the Australian banknotes are made of polymer plastic. They have $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills. I am sure there are bigger ones, but we’re not those people right now.

What’s that? Pictures? Alrighty.

Here is the Canadian currency (with which many of you will no doubt be familiar). This particular set was put together by my wonderful sister and came with me in my carry-on. Honestly, I felt a little home-sick holding the familiar weight in my hands.

 

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The toonie, featuring the Polar Bear. The loonie, featuring wait for it… the Loon. The quarter, featuring the elk or caribou. The dime, featuring the Bluenose. The nickel, featuring the beaver and of course, the (now discontinued penny) featuring the maple leaf.

 

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Coins: $2 has an aboriginal man on it. $1 has kangaroos. 50c has the coat of arms. 20c has a platypus I think. 10c has a lyrebird (I think it looks like a peacock/octopus – a peacoctapus). And the 5c has an echidna. Bills: They all have people on them. I’m not sure who the people are. Yes, this section would have benefited from a tiny bit more research. Maybe tomorrow.

There are a few other money-related differences.

Rent is charged by the week rather than the month here.

The cash machines (that I’ve been to so far) all spit out $50 bills, unlike the Canadian machines which do almost exclusively $20s. [Update – at an ATM today I was given the choice of $20 or $50 bills].

Tipping is not a thing here. You don’t have to tip the person who serves your meal. It is not expected. The odd place has a tip jar, but you don’t get judgement eyes if you abstain from dropping a few coins in. I have to say, this has been a major relief from a problem I didn’t even know I had! It is so nice not to worry about it. I am also happy to report that we have not noticed the corresponding drop in customer service one might expect. If anything, wait-staff here are more pleasant and eager to please than Canada. But that could also be the weather.

Prices on items include taxes. Again, this gave me relief from a stressor I didn’t know I had! If a tray of strawbs says its $3.99 – then when you get to the till, it will be $3.99. If the toaster says $25, it will be $25.  If the set of sheets says $69.99, guess what! It will be $69.99! Novel idea. The only exception is petrol (Canadians, that means gas). If the price on the billboard says $1.19 a litre? It may or not be that price. It seems to be the only area Aussies haven’t insisted on honest labelling. Some servos (Canadians, that means gas stations) have loyalty programs, which entitle you to the posted price. Or others, you only get the posted price if you buy an overpriced bottle of milk, and loaf of white bread. Good news though, there was an industry summit a few weeks ago here in Queensland about this exact issue. I hope they fix it. I’ll keep you posted. (Honestly, I probably won’t).

Since I’m talking about fuel prices I will say we have noticed a HUMUNGOUS variation in prices. The BP near our house might be $1.24/L and the Centex near my work will simultaneously be $0.98/L. What gives? Or, I have seen two gas stations on opposites sides of the street – one priced at $0.97/L and the other was at $1.09/L. AND THERE WERE PEOPLE FILLING UP AT THE SECOND PLACE!!!!

So, I have some theories about this. Sorry if I’ve posted about this topic before and am restating myself, but frankly I think about this a lot.

Theory 1: Australians don’t care about gas prices. They’ll fill up at whatever station when they’re empty.

Theory 2: Some stations have AMAZING loyalty plans that we don’t know about yet, thus incentivising customers to buy their gas even though it’s more expensive, or making it cheaper when they pay than the posted price implies.

Theory 3: The gas is a different quality from different stations. I’m not an expert, but I am literally picturing someone cutting the underground gas tank with water. Or maybe different additives?

There is probably more to say about the differences in money, but I am tired and I want to watch an episode of Madam Secretary. Good night!

 

Our First Guests

Well, it happened. We hoped it would happen, and it did. We had our first guests from Canada come visit. Despite the concerns discussed in this post, (mostly that Australia is too far for most people), Dan’s parents made the trip and we had eight awesome, adventure-packed days with them! I think we saw and did it all.

For weeks in advance, Dan was planning what he wanted his parents to see – sites, landmarks, beaches, experiences, animals etc. And I think we did it all in eight days.

Here’s what we did (with a few pictures thrown in for good measure).

Day 1: They flew overnight from LA and landed at 5:30AM. They had no difficulty  with their visitor visa, or customs or biosecurity. They were REMARKABLY fresh off the plane so tune in next week for their tips for beating jet lag.

First we brought them to our place and gave them the (30 second) grand tour. (We have a very little place). Then they unloaded all the goodies they brought us!!

An inventory of the goodies they brought us? Ok!

  • Three sticks of Tom’s Natural Deodorant – Calendula scented
  • Two tubes of Crest Toothpaste (I don’t like the Aussie toothpaste, more on that another time).
  • 15 boxes of KD (HALLELUJAH!!!! – sidenote, I made one for breakfast the next day).
  • Two soap dispensing dishwasher wands, with 8 refill sponges
  • Kernels dill pickle popcorn seasoning
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Provisions!

Then we were off to the first of many beaches! The first day we hit two beaches on Bribie Island (Woorim and Bongaree, if you’re curious).

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Woorim Beach
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This was the Campbells’ very first taste of the Australian Pacific Ocean. And look, they loved it so much they had to lean on each other to take it all in.

Then we had an early night, because the Campbells were tired. And rightfully so. They had, after all, just travelled over 15000 kms.

Day 2:

We drove up to the Sunshine Coast to begin hunting for Kangaroos. We were told a group of roos resides on the Sunshine Coast University campus, so we went there, but did not see any kangas. They must have been in class. We did however, stop in Mooloolah Park for a little walk and found two large kangaroos in the trees. They were far away, but it was still special, because you never forget your first.

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This picture is incredibly zoomed in, hence the graininess.

We ate lunch at the first of three pig-themed restaurants (the Hog’s Breath Cafe, followed by the Pig ‘n Whistle, and finally the Three Pigs Tavern).

After lunch we spent the day at the nearby Mooloolaba Beach, where we were gently reminded by a roving unit of lifeguards to only swim in the flagged areas. We were boogie boarding pretty close to shore, but he informed us that we were swimming right by a powerful rip and they’d already done six rescues there that morning. Say no more sir!

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A nice lifeguard probably saving our lives.

That evening, we took Ian out for his birthday to Outback Steakhouse (where we learned with disappointment it isn’t even an Aussie chain – its American). Then on the way home we showed Ian and Evelyn the local bats. Evelyn, who is very scared of bats asked us how big they are. “Think a chihuahua with black wings”. She was still shocked to see the size (and number) of bats flapping around in the night sky.

We were very surprised to learn that they are actually considered flying foxes (or bats), and they do not use echo-location to fly (like their North American micro-bat counterparts), nor do they eat insects. They exclusively eat fruit. So – I’m not sure why they fly around at night. Perhaps for fun. Or to meet other bats. Anyway – we’re still learning about the amazing animals here.

Day 3:

We took our guests to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary here in Brisbane. It is the top rated attraction in the city. They were wowed by all sorts of Aussie animals!

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The adorable wombat.
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The amazing kookaburra (one of my favourite birds here). Listen to their song.
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We fed the Lorikeets. Which was a highlight of my day. Possibly my life.
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These critters are adorable, and mate for life.
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Of course there was a kangaroo petting area. Check out this mom and joey. (interesting fact, ALL baby marsupials are called joeys, not just kangaroos – baby koalas, baby wombats etc).
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And of course, koalas, at the Koala sanctuary.

Day 4:

We went to a second animal sanctuary in as many days. The Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary (to which we’d been before) was as amazing as ever.

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This chap is a bush-stone curlew. They always look a bit annoyed.
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People here call these guys water dragons. I’m not sure if they have another proper name.
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And of course, more kangaroos. This burly fellow was my favourite.
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This is a turtle. More than that, I do not know. He liked me.

After Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, we drove down to the New South Wales border. It was the furthest south on the Earth they had ever been. Also it was a gorgeous view of the sea.

 

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A southern family selfie!
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The view from the tower at the border!
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Daniel Campbell, showing off for his parents. He can get up on his board on pretty much any wave now!

Day 5:

We started early and went to Dan’s school. He gave us a tour of the hanger, showed us the planes and choppers they work on, the workshop and we also met his teacher. It was a cool experience!

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Daniel, in his element.
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Showing off a helicopter. We were discussing if we could get it up and running for a zombie apocalypse.
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Then, onto the ferry out to North Stradbroke Island!
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Look how excited Dan is to be aboard!
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Our living room came fully equipped with a bean bag chair, and a single bed! FINALLY!
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Here is the rectangle in which we searched high and low for Dan’s wedding ring. The full story: He was out surfing in the ocean. While he was out, another surfer came out of the water having been stung badly by a jellyfish. As a precaution, I looked up on my cellphone what to do to treat it. Moments later, Dan came out of the water, himself having been stung by a jelly on the hand and arm. His arm started to swell and turn red and burn. We thought he should take off his ring, in case the swelling continued. Dan never loses anything, so no one thought anything of it. A few minutes later, we were breaking camp – shaking out towels, taking down the tent and Dan said, “guys I lost my ring”. I immediately drew a square in the sand, to indicate where he’d been since he last had his ring. We started sifting through the sand, and eventually other people came over to help us. Thankfully (for Dan), Ian found it after 15 or 20 minutes. Pfewf!
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Sunset. Post ring-pocolypse.

Day 6:

Our first full day on North Stradbroke Island started out with a nice (short) drive down to Amity Point. (Jaws fans may notice that the town where much of Jaws takes place is called Amity Island, and there were signs on the waters edge that said higher than normal shark activity is common in these waters). Anyway – at Amity Point there is a short pier, with a staircase that goes down to the water (see Day 7 for photo). Rumour has it that if you tap your hand on the water, a dolphin will appear. No word of a lie – that is absolutely true. We saw a dolphin.

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The first dolphin we saw off Amity point is in this picture. Somewhere.

We were determined to come back the following day and swim with said dolphin. After Amity, we went back to Cylinder Beach (our favourite spot) and went surfing. Evelyn braved the bounding main and came in up to her armpits!

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The bounding main.
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All this adventure tires out the good doctor.

As the afternoon wore on, the clouds grew darker and in the end it was a race to the car before the downpour started.

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Winding down the night watching the episode where the Simpsons go to Australia (because Bart has to accept responsibility for making an Aussie boy take a collect call. Its a long story. Just watch the episode.

Day 7:

We went back to Amity point to go find this dolphin. The bottom of the staircase below is where you can allegedly find dolphins.

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Dan and I, heading out to swim by the staircase – looking for flipper. Or Jaws.
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Sadly, we didn’t see much of the dolphin when we were in the water. Here is what we did see.
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We also saw this fellow. This is a carpet shark. A wobbegong to be exact. Mostly harmless, unless antagonized, which we would obviously never do.
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A fish. Someday I’ll learn names of fish like this. Perhaps a butterfly fish of some variety?
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More fish. The water was pretty cloudy, but I could still watch these little dudes swim around all day.
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This sea-slug was the biggest I’ve ever seen. At least the length of my arm, and twice as thick.

After snorkelling, we got a better look at the dolphin(s).

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A pair of dolphins hanging out at the bottom of the staircase.
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Finally, we headed back to Cylinder Beach, and watched a beautiful sunset!
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In the evening we met this fellow. A huntsman spider. Thankfully he was on the outside of the glass. Which meant I remained on the inside.
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Such mixed feelings.

Day 8:

On our last day on the island, we did probably the best boardwalk-walk I’ve ever done. Or could ever do. On this walk we saw kangaroos, a pod of dolphins, sea turtles, manta rays and birds galore!

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Exquisite views!
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This un-retouched splendour!
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A pod of dolphins!!

As we were killing time, waiting for our ferry ride off the island, we stopped by Myora Springs. The springs themselves were closed, but Ian spotted something in the tree. He was sure it was a koala. I thought the odds of there being a koala in the one random tree we stopped beside on the highway would be astronomical. But once we got the photos home, and blown up – I owed Ian a big apology! He HAD spotted a koala!

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So. In conclusion. To all our family left back home. Pack your bags. We’ve set the bar pretty high.

 

A billion bathing suits

For our long term readers, you may recall a blog post early on profiling why I was taking 22 bathing suits with me to Australia. Other reasons that have occurred to me since: all people should wear bathing suits all the time, just in case. All people should only wear as much as they have to. You never know when you’ll have a chance to go for a swim and might need a bathing suit! Also, if one suit is still wet from wearing it – no problem! You have 21 others!

Hypocrite you say? I get it. I am a minimalist in some areas, but ostentatiously over the top with bathing suits. I’m ok with it.

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If you want to pull off wearing a bikini, put a bikini on, and you’re pulling it off. Note: I did not create this image, the internet did.

As promised, here is an update with me wearing the various suits I brought to Australia. I’ve tried to list the location of the photo in the caption below.

Warning: If you are anti-woman, anti-body, puritanical, hyper-conservative, closed-minded, afraid of seeing skin, straight-laced, body-negative, prudish, or don’t like seeing curvy girls in bathing suits or some other type of repressive, fuddy-duddy body snob, please feel free to skip this post. If my previous sentence made you uncomfortable, I am probably talking to you.

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This has turned out to be one of my faves 🙂 Bright and comfy. (The location is Bribie Island).
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The nunkini. Amen. (Mooloolaba)
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My mother-in-law has a very similar suit, and frankly, it looks better on her. However, we are now so geographically far apart, I wear it with impunity. (Our shared backyard pool).
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I’m very pleased with this online order from zulily. The shoulder strap is removable. Though, if I were being honest, it turned out to not be the last suit I bought before I left – as I said in my first bathing suit post it would be. I bought three more after this one. I hope nobody reads this. (Coolum beach).
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This suit made me feel right at home in my friend Tanya’s tropical backyard 🙂
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Here is a blue suit. Nothing special. This is at Currumbin (the same day Kelly Slater was here).
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And the dalmatian suit. Also at Currumbin.
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And of course my favourite suit of all. The colour is so bright – it makes me look extra tanned and holds everything in a…uh… very dramatic location. Can I say that?

 

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This was one of the last three suits I bought before leaving Canada – bought from Forever 21. And I love it! You can see the bottoms in the next photo.
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I’m so glad I bought this! Everyone and her dog wears two-pieces here! Its nice to fit in 🙂 Bribie Island – surf side).
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This used to be my favourite, but now it is not. I still like it though. I do love a good navy stripe. [Good story Marilee. You should tell it at parties]. (Hervey Bay, pronounced Harvey Bay).
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Another one of my favourites. Stripes or polka dots and I automatically like it. (Maroochydore).
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And here is one of the more adventurous suits. I bought this after arriving here and seeing that all bodies are welcome! Yours, mine, everyones’! (Tweed Heads).
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A colourful one that I like. Teal and coral. God bless ’em. (Bribie Island – the not surf side).

 

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Ok, so this $18 from Costco turned out not to be a winner. I will probably give it to the Salvos (that’s what they call the Salvation Army here). (Hervey Bay AirBnb Pool).
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A new favourite! Bright pink! It takes some adjusting, but is very comfortable and beach friendly 🙂
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Here it is after the adjustment, and I just love beaches! (Coolum Beach).
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Once again, this does not replace my lucky brown suit, but it will fill the gap in the meantime. Also, introducing my new shorter haircut. (Burleigh Heads Beach).
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This has been my favourite bathing suit for a few years. However sadly, 5 minutes after this photo was taken, I had to throw it away, after our photographer (Dan) informed me that the back was 68% see-through in a fairly key area. So, this photo will also double as the retirement announcement for this lovely bathing suit. (Our shared backyard pool).
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No one is a fan of this suit – you can see the unhappiness in my face. I’ll never pull off the mom suit. (Our shared backyard pool).
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And here is a favourite suit – being enjoyed at Main beach in the Gold Coast. (Main Beach, Gold Coast).
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Another classic – a black halter. Notice the amazing weather though – a storm brewing behind me, and the sun blazing down from above. Glorious! Plus that tan! (Tallebudgera Creek Beach)
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You can see how I feel about this suit. (Our shared backyard pool). It’s already at the Salvos.
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I usually only wear this one to the outdoor pool I swim at on my way home from work sometimes, but sometimes it really comes in handy as my car suit. Especially for those unexpected beach days. Lesson learned. Never leave home without a bathing suit! (Burleigh Heads Beach)

Thanks for tuning in!!

What Australians think about Donald Trump

Full disclosure, this post is only what I think of Donald Trump. It takes too much time to ask all Australians anything. I have asked several individuals, and so far they all agree with me.  Honestly, I have yet to meet an Aussie who supports Trump.

So here we go.

If we are friends on Facebook and you haven’t blocked my feed (because of excessively political or feminist posts), then you will know that I am passionate NON SUPPORTER of Donald Trump.

I think he is a serial liar, but can’t say it better than John Oliver does here. So I’ll leave that to John Oliver.

I have, like many people watching the American election unfold, experienced the five stages of grief, as discussed here.

I have watch with shock and dismay as he’s latched himself onto evangelical Christianity and somehow duped people into believing he follows Jesus. (As if  blatant infidelity, heartless, thoughtless greed and oppression of anyone who isn’t a white male is something Jesus Christ would have been down with). But I don’t express my objections to this nearly as well is the New York Times did here.

I am also extremely concerned with the way he views women. In today’s day and age? Really? The number of times he’s been offensive, rude, sexist, chauvinistic and actually cruel toward women are hard to count. But the Huffington Post compiled a pretty hefty list here.

If all this is starting to get to you, perhaps you should tune in here for Stephen Colbert who moderated a debate between Donald Trump and Donald Trump. It’s lighthearted and very worth a watch. Or here to see the AMAZING commercial SNL put together for the Trump campaign.

Fear mongering, patriotic manipulation, overt sexism, violence, threats and racism have all become part of the Trump brand, and I want so badly to remind Americans that your country can be more than that. I can’t say it any better than Jeff Daniel’s character did here, in Aaron Sorkin’s show – the Newsroom (language warning).

I think we need to look out for one another, because we are one species. And Bill Nye agrees:

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So, please. It has to stop. This way lies madness.

 

I did NOT see that coming!

So here are a few of the things we did not expect to find when we got here:

Being the first person down the cereal aisle at Costco at 10AM means that your face is the broom that sweeps up the spiderwebs that have been built over night.

Blockbuster is still a thing here. Like alive and well. I KNOW RIGHT? Yes, to answer your next question – they do have the internet here!

Female patients see female doctors. If I was to need, say, a breast exam? I could only see a female doctor to have this done.  In stark contrast to my first breast exam in Canada during my first year of Uni, during which the my doctor examined the questionable lump in my breast, was unsure what to make of it, left the room to collect four male colleagues and one female colleague, and together the SIX DOCTORS (mostly male) examined the lump. [Turned out to be nothing – thank you for your concern].  Sidetone: It is possible that both of these surprising experiences were specific to a given clinic, but extrapolating wildly is sort of my calling card. So…

This one isn’t that big of a deal, but most of the carts (or trolleys as they call them here) have four fully rotational wheels, rather than the ones I’m used to in North America with two fixed wheels at the back. This means grocery shopping is an abdominal muscle workout just to keep the cart in a straight line. And I’ve run into more than one annoyed Aussie because I didn’t get cart driving lessons like apparently I should have. Oops. Hmmm, maybe that’s a business idea for us – cart driving lessons for ex-pats?

Speaking of business ideas – one this that has totally stymied us here is the cost of an oil change. In Calgary, you get your oil changed every 5000 km or every three to four months and it costs between $30 and $100 depending on where you get it. There are so many lube shops in Calgary – most of which offer a drive-in service. Here? No such thing. There are no lube shops. From what I can find so far, you have to make an appointment at a mechanic to have your oil change done. The cheapest rate I could find was $190, and that was with a first-time discount! They acted like they had given me a deal because they also checked my tread depth! Imagine! (It is possible that you need fewer oil changes here so they’re more money – but come on)!

Another thing we didn’t see coming is the overabundance of hair salons. Both of us noticed it independently. Every block (residential, commercial or industrial) has at least one hair salon. It’s true! Look it up! Find me a block with no hair salon and I will… I don’t know. I’ll do something.

Stores close so early! Like 5. Or 6. Or on Thursdays – maybe 7 or 8. I do appreciate this (as a former retail worker) [Dan’s sidenote: Marilee worked in a women’s clothing store for three months once]. But I still find it surprising, given that the sun goes down here between 5PM and 7PM.  We have no idea what the Australian people do after dark until bedtime. The streets are empty when we go for walks. All the shops and malls are closed. The best we can figure is that they are at the movies. Or maybe this explains the existence of Blockbuster?

They don’t believe in hot dog buns here. If hot dogs are on the menu for a BBQ? They’ll be served on a piece of white bread. Wonder bread. It’s very weird. They have hamburger buns, so they know about the concept, but for some reason, hot dog buns just haven’t caught on. Except at Costco. But then you have to buy 36 buns. It’s a big commitment.

We were also surprised to find an RBC in Sydney.

And also they have Kmart here. $6 dollar electric kettles.

Cheese is way cheaper here. But they don’t have Beemster Gouda. Also we were surprised that bacon is much cheaper here.

This to say, many things surprised us about life here.

 

A Tribute to my Dad.

What to say about my dad.

If you tuned in a couple weeks ago, you will have learned that I am one of the lucky ones. I am blessed to count my parents among my friends.

My dad and I have a special connection. We see the world very similarly. We usually react the same way to things, are both hot headed, smooth-talkers and we have matchingly misshapen thumbs.

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My dad is one of the people I admire and respect most in the world. He is a kind, thoughtful and generous man who loves the great outdoors and human rights and my mom.

He works tirelessly, for his family, and still manages to give 100% to his small business – which is growing quickly because people are drawn to a man of character, integrity and substance.

I have never hesitated to brag about my dad, frequently calling him the “ethical lawyer”. Probably the only one too.

He has been dealt his share of hardship in the last two decades, including slogging with mom through a failed church plant that hurt them both very badly, deep family betrayal, prostate cancer, injustice in the justice system and the heart darkness that comes with having life kick the stuffing out of you.

He has managed to acquit himself from each of these ruinous disasters with grace, composure and a measure of forgiveness I can’t even fathom. He has thrown himself into the arms of his saviour and his wife who have both walked that journey with him. I think he would agree that these dark nights of the soul have made him into the man he is today – a deeper, tested man trying his best to walk in Jesus’ footsteps.

He is loyal, hilarious, adventurous and has an outstandingly broad taste in music.

He is a published author, an honest lawyer and an amazing father.

He is a mountain man, a life-saver and poet.  He is a friend, a shit-disturber and a father to many more than just me and Jess. He is an instigator, a people-gatherer and a bonafide feminist. He is a traveller, a gardener and a leader.

You are my hero and my daddy and I love you.

How to meet your neighbours. Nine ideas.

Idea 1 – If you have spare time, walk back and forth between your outdoor garage and your front door. I have met nearly all of the other six tenants in our building this way.  I meet them when I’m carrying in groceries, or forgot something in the car or am taking out the recycling. Or random trips when you hear someone outside. That’s not creepy right?

Idea 2 – Ask everyone you see in the building if they’re new here.  If they are, welcome them emphatically and offer to let them use your wifi until theirs is up and running and invite them to borrow a cup of sugar. If they are not new, let them know that you just moved in so you can’t tell the new people from the longterm residents and wait for them to offer their wifi or a cup of sugar.

[Sidenote about Idea 2 – Do not ask this question of the same resident more than once. Not so hypothetical example: A bearded stranger moved into the unit above us and I introduced myself to him as he was pushing his sparkly Harley into the garage. We chit-chatted. He seemed nice. I offered the usual, wifi and sugar. Then the next day I saw a new guy walking through the front door and started the usual conversation. (Side-sidenote: It seems that men periodically shave their beards and look NOTHING LIKE THEY USED TO LOOK). He laughed and said I’d already offered sugar and wifi and wondered aloud if that was code for drugs, which it was not].

Idea 3 – Once you’ve met the neighbours a couple times and exchanged pleasantries (i.e. sussed out whether or not they have any creepy habits like torturing cats, throwing recyclables in the garbage or hosting noisy orgies) invite them over for dinner and cards. Or invite them to walk down the street to the burrito bar with you for a $2 burrito. Or invite them to do something else I guess. If YOU are the creepers who do the creepy things, don’t invite anyone to do anything. Ever.

Idea 4 – Knock on their door and explain that you have a Costco membership and you’d be happy to pick something up for them or go with them sometime. And since you’re already talking Costco, explain that the other day you bought a bag a hot dog buns from Costco, but that it turns out you apartment sized freezer doesn’t have space for 36 hotdog buns and you know – the other stuff that belongs in the freezer and would they like some hotdog buns. Boom! New friends! [Sidenote – I may have mentioned this before, but Aussies eat hotdogs on a slice of white bread rather than a hot dog bun. Note to Marilee: look up to see if the word unconscionable applies here].

Idea 5 – Strike up conversations with strangers on the beach. That has worked once for us.

Idea 6 – Make your friends back home scour their networks for Aussie friends and put you in touch. Then invite yourself over to your best friend’s distant uncle’s place for dinner and a boat ride.

Idea 7 – Meet nice people through work and school. This has worked for Dan – since lots of his classmates are young people around his age and stage in life. Not so much for me, since Michael Scott has proven you can’t be friends with your subordinates (in my case, my students). Though there are a couple people in my class that would be great friends. Maybe when they’re done school. (I can hear Ron Burgundy desperately asking “Will you let me be your friend?? Will you???).

Idea 8 – Decide that friends are too hard, and watch TV instead sometimes.

Idea 9 – Say “Yes” to everything. Thanks bobinoz.com for that one. Even if your invites are limited to watching rugby, repairing fishing nets, or spraying for cockroaches.

 

 

The Campbells will continue to defrost thanks to you!

Update: Our Kickstarter Campaign is now fully funded! Get ready for another year of medium-ly thoughtful insights!

I’d personally like to thank our sponsors:

Dawne and Roy D. – Gold Tier Sponsors
Karen and Martin B.  – Silver Tier Sponsors
The Mysterious Prepper John – Silver Tier Sponsor – thanks for your support!
Tanya K. – Bronze Tier Sponsor
Kelly L. – Bronze Tier Sponsor
Chloe S – Bronze Tier Sponsor
Morgana M. Bronze Tier Sponsor
Donald Trump – Didn’t sponsor me at all. Thanks for nothing Donald.

(Just kidding, I made up the tiers. I am grateful to each and every one of you for your thoughtful and generous donations)! And to many others who couldn’t donate but offered encouragement, which was also tremendously valuable.

So – what did I think about running a kickstarter campaign? It was very OK! It didn’t take long to set up, and was pretty user friendly. All in all? I’d say it was a four-star experience.

Again, I made up the stars.

Thanks again to everyone for your contributions and we’ll see you here again for next week’s post!

And yes, a bathing suit issue is forthcoming.

A Tribute to my Mom

Not many people are lucky enough to consider their parents among their friends. I am proud to say that I am one of those people.

My mom’s accomplishments could fill a book, rather than a blog post, but in the words of Ron Burgundy, I don’t have a book. I have a blog. So let me tell you a bit about my mom.

What do you need to know about her?

She is shy and private, and does not read my blog so it is unlikely she will learn what I write here.

Just kidding. She reads it.

My mom is really nice. She is kind. And compassionate. One of her most notable characteristics is her wisdom. Her wise counsel has saved marriages, heartache, friendships, and more than once, a life.

From the time she was a little girl, she battled poverty, low self-esteem, and at times an oppressively dark, religious upbringing, gender violence and then later in life, depression and thyroid cancer.

Through all that, she has managed to start two small businesses, teach herself how to use technology better than her Millennial Generation daughters, complete her undergrad while raising teenagers, complete her Masters degree in Divinity, learn two extra languages and routinely manages to be the smartest person in a room.

She is on the leading edge of a theological breakthrough. You heard it here first. She is a teacher, an artist, a perfectionist and an academic.

She is a deep pool of still water.

She is an old soul, with a young heart.

She is passionate about equality, Jesus and a good red wine, God bless ‘er.

Mom – this is your birthday, and I am heartbroken that I’m not there with you. I love you so much and am unspeakably proud of you. I hope this is a year of joy, and magic and change for you.

With all my love,

Your daughter.

A Week in the Life of Marilee and Daniel

Monday

6AM – Mare and Dan wake up. Dan showers, they dress, make lunches (usually a sandwich or wrap, some fruit and Marilee likes to take dried coconut), eat breakfast (Dan has a bowl of Toby’s boring Cereal, Marilee makes two scrambled eggs and a piece of toast) then feed and pet the cats. They do not speak much in the mornings. Dan, despite being physically mobile, will still sleep until around 9AM. [Sidenote: Yes, he has been in class for 1.5 hours by this point].

7AM – They get in their tiny, white Hyundai Getz (four-door, manual transmission) and Marilee drives Dan 10-12 minutes to school at Aviation Australia, near the airport. Often, she drops him off with his bike so he can ride home, rather than take the bus. She then drives herself 20-35 minutes to her school in Mitchelton. The roads are windy, narrow and have high speed limits, so the commute is nothing if not exciting.

7:30AM – Dan starts school. His classes mainly involve sitting in a classroom, watching a power point and listening to this week’s session instructor expound on various topics: (pick the most interesting topics and put them here). They break around noon for lunch and have a couple other breaks throughout the day. When they first started, most students took breaks and lunch in the lunchroom, but now, most join Dan outside for some fresh, Aussie air at breaks. There are 14 other students in his class – some fresh out of high school, others on their 3rd or 4th career. Most are Aussie students, though there is one other Canadian. Some seem nervous about their prospects after this course. I don’t think Dan should be one of them. He is very smart. I mean very, very smart. Here is one of the critters he has met while at school on one of his breaks:

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We have no idea what kind of bird he is, and he looks mad about it.

7:45AM – Marilee arrives at work and prepares her lesson material for the day before the students arrive at 9AM. She has 17 adult students ranging from 20 years old, to over 60.  About a third are Aussies and two thirds are international students. They break at 12:30 for a half hour, during which time Marilee wanders around the little neighbourhood, admiring the palm trees and appreciating the local grannies who have knit-bombed the neighbourhood.

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2:30PM – Dan finishes class and either bikes or busses home. Biking takes him about 30 minutes, bussing takes him nearly an hour. If he bikes, he swaps his school clothes for his cozzie and jumps in the pool to cool off.

3:45PM – Marilee finishes school and either bikes or drives home. Biking takes her over an hour (it’s only 11km but with traffic, and Brisbane’s MASSIVE hills and her ambulatory speed, it takes some time) and driving takes her 10-20 minutes. If she bikes, she swaps her school clothes for her cozzie and jumps in the pool for a swim.

4:30PM – Marilee and Dan sit down and cruise the internet (Facebook, Buzzfeed and sometimes some blogging) until one of them cracks and makes dinner. They often BBQ in their backyard, or make Mexican or Indian food for a quick easy dinner. Sometimes they break down and get $5 value pizzas from Dominos. By sometimes I mean a lot of the the times.

7:30PM – Dan sits down in the office to study. The cats chose their viewing spots to monitor is homework progress.

7:30PM – Marilee watches Glee, 30 Rock or McLeod’s Daughters or something on TV, or reads a book for her book club, or occasionally goes for a walk in their hilly neighbourhood. Sometimes she gardens in her herb garden, goes to yoga, or does crossword puzzles, or plays Yahtzee on the mobile with her sister. Very occasionally she bakes. Sometimes she looks on gumtree.com.au for things that they need to buy (current list in order of priority: futon, vacuum, camping equipment, beach tent, surf-board bag, sewing machine, boardgames, friends).

9:30PM – Marilee and Dan watch an episode of some comedy show, or if a new Walking Dead has come out, they watch that, then go to bed in their queen sized bed.

Tuesday

All the same stuff as Monday happens.

Wednesday

All the same stuff as Monday and Tuesday happens.

Thursday

All the same stuff as Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday happens.

Friday

7:00AM – Marilee drives Dan to school for a half-day. While he is at school, she usually Facetimes her family, plays Pandemic with her sister, does her laundry and packs the car for whatever weekend trip they’re planning. If the house is a disaster, she occasionally does laundry or cleans a toilet.

Noon – Marilee either makes or buys lunch for both of them, and fills the car with petrol.

12:30PM – Marilee picks Dan up from school, they eat lunch in the car while driving to one of the beaches located an hour north of Brisbane. Because of the shortness of time, they usually go to the nearest (and most abandoned) beach – Woorim or Bungaree on Bribie Island.

1:30PM – They check the tide, slap on their sunscreen, set up their beach chairs, roll out their beach towels, pull out their books and settle in for some hardcore relaxing.

2:30PM – They go in for a swim. Sometimes they use the boogie boards they got off gumtree, sometimes they just bob around in the water, watching for sharks, jellies and rips.

2:55PM – They climb out of the water, cooled and refreshed, slap on the sunscreen and settle in for more reading. They repeat this cycle until it becomes too cool, too dark, they become too hungry or the sand fleas drive them away.

7PM – They go find a place to eat dinner.

9PM – They drive back to Brisbane.

10PM – They watch some TV then go to bed.

Saturday

8AM – Marilee and Dan wake up, eat their usual breakfasts, pack the car and drive to one of the beaches between one and two hours away.

9:30AM-5:45PM – Marilee and Dan select a beach with as few people as possible, set up their lounge chairs (which no one else here seems to bother with), check the tides (to make sure they won’t be swept away soon) and settle in to read. After an hour or two in the sun, they go for a dip in the water, then return to reading for another hour or two. Then they grab the boogie boards from the car a catch waves for a half hour. Having recently purchased a surfboard, they may also surf. Then they go find some food, or eat their picnic lunch (usually sandwiches, strawberries and watermelon), then return to reading until it becomes too cool or the sand fleas become too aggressive (seems to happen at twilight). Then they get in the car, and find somewhere cheap to eat dinner, then drive back to Brisbane between 8 and 9PM. Once home, they change, sometimes shower, and watch a couple episodes of Parks and Rec, or Downton Abbey or the Walking Dead.

Sunday

Repeat Saturday’s routine. Sometimes Marilee goes to church first.

Extra notes – If the weather is bad (like today) Marilee blogs and Dan reads the whole internet, again. Sometimes he studies or plays with the cats or cleans. They both read a lot. Sometimes they go to Costco or get groceries or drive around Brisbane picking things up off gumtree.com.au

Schedule may vary, week to week.

 

 

Photoblog of our Aussie Lives so far

 

It has come to my attention that the people want more photos on my blog posts. Never one to ignore feedback, I am putting a whole bunch of our favourite photos from our life here so far below with a short caption. Please enjoy:

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My favourite photo of Dan ever.
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A local water dragon. He was totally unafraid. This was not the first we saw, just the one that let us get closest.
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My first delicious seafood pizza from Hervey Bay’s best pizza. Scallies, shrimp and tom-toms. So good!
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When we accidentally dropped a bag of chips on the beach, we had some visitors in short order.
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Dan had 53 sand flea bites at once. They’re like mosquito (mozzie) bites, except 23 times itchier and last three weeks instead of just a few days.
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Abby and Lily when we first picked them up in Sydney. They were excited about our 12 hour road trip back to Brisbane.
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The first Merino sheep (ram) we saw since arriving here. Handsome chap.
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I was impressed with the size of produce here. This celery is obviously humungous!
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Moving our earthly possessions in our tiny, tiny car was a challenge.
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When we moved, I had to have the seat all the way forward in order to fit everything in the car.
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Our first beach/sand art discovery by hippies. Or aliens.
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Our first time driving on the left side of the road.
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Our first time visiting the Sydney Opera House. We did not see a show.
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One of the best pictures of us at Bondi Beach. Heavily filtered. Obviously.
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Our first Hugh Jackman sighting.
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Dan is learning the surfer’s code.
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My most common view at the beach.
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A picture of us in Calgary at our year end Westwinds concert. I don’t know why I included this.
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Our whale watching boat. We did see a bit of the back of a humpback, but the boat ride (free falling 30 feet into a trough) was the highlight.

I’m not quite sure why the pictures get smaller after this. But, hopefully you can continue to enjoy.

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Let’s go to the beach kids! Yaaaah! (This one is for Dan).
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Our second spider visitor. We named her Charlotte.
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A 15 foot crocodile.
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A mob of kangaroos. A mob? A flock? A congress?
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A single kangaroo. Lazily waiting for me to hand him some food. Which I did with relish.
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A six foot croc.
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Dan feeding the laziest kanga.
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Me at the beach.
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Love the colours of the crashing surf. We were too scared to get close.
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Thinking thinky thoughts.
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Dan’s wingspan is like that of a swan.
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Tree kangaroos. The big one is nursing the little one.
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A joey in the pouch.
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A python in a tree.
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Our view from the window of our Christmas getaway location.
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Our first backyard reptilian visitor – a skink.
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Our first huge outdoor spidey.
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Dan at the busiest beach.
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The sacred ibis on the rooftop.
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Our stuff when it arrived from the moving company.
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This is my office in my classroom.
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I attended the climate rally ahead of the Paris Talks. What a day!
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Experimenting with a new look.
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Please give my phone back.
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Our first kookaburra.
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Our first giant pelican.
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Our first sand crab.
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Dan at twilight.
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My first package was from Andrea Baumann.
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One of my favourite views.
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Our first wild, live kangaroos.
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Our first bluebottle jellyfish.
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Some of my plants in the backyard.
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Dan at our little beach campsite. We BBQed on this day at the beach. And needed to be fished out the drink by lifeguards. Oops!
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Crossing the story bridge to go see Riverfire! Like Thunder in the Valley but urban.
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Jess and I playing Pandemic over the internet. It’s a very intricate setup involving at least 3 digital devices with internet.
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Dan’s first day of school at Aviation Australia.
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The cats checking out our first groceries. Very suspicious.
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One of the best pictures I’ve ever taken. See the heart at the bottom?
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Dan meeting the neighbour cat.
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Me reading a book on the beach.
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Dan on a boardwalk
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Mare on the same boardwalk.
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Our house.
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Me riding my first Aussie bike
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And finally, a peaceful picture of a nice beach at 5PM.


 

Profile the Australia-bound Art

Side note: – I wrote this before we moved.

I like art. I love art made by my friends. I am blessed to have so many wonderfully artistic friends.  Here are a few of the pieces of art that I am able to bring with me, because they can roll up and travel pretty well.

Pieces that I will be bringing:

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I got this pair of quilted horse wall hangings at a Calgary craft fair and just love them. So colourful!
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This is the second piece of the set.
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My dear friend Daphne Stephens created this masterpiece for me before I went away to University in Ottawa. It’s followed me ever since and always will.
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My beautiful sister Deborah Millward made this gorgeous piece after a difficult time in her life – and I’m so happy its coming with.
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Deborah also created this lovely fabric art with vegetable dyes and awesomeness.
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My crafting buddy Stephanie Banszky painted this beauty for me for Christmas.

 

 

Being bitten by a snake to an Aussie, is like being attacked by a bear to a Canuck

I don’t really know if my title is true or not, but it’s what I’m telling myself for now to provide comfort for all the shocking stories I’ve heard lately.

What I’ve discovered: If you ask an Aussie if they’ve ever seen snakes in their home or yard, they’ll tell you the most gruesome story involving a snake or a spider that they heard from their neighbour’s uncle’s cousin’s mom.

Aussie 1: We’ll call her Carley, told me she was drawing her kid a bath when out of the drain crept a huntsman spider the size of her fist. When she reached for the shower head, to flood it back down the drain from whence it had come, it leapt toward her. IT LEAPT TOWARD HER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If that happens to me, I’ll be discovered sometime later, dead from fear, laying in a puddle of my own making.

Aussie 2: We’ll call her Molly, told me her dad had accidentally stepped on a taipan several years back. The snake, (one of the world’s most venomous), not knowing the incursion was an accident, bit him twice in the leg. He was rushed to the hospital, where the doctor didn’t believe he’d been bitten at all.  Until his organs started to shut down.  He was in a coma for two weeks, and miraculously survived (despite the doctor’s best efforts) and has had nerve damage ever since.

Aussie 3: We’ll call her Tina, told me that spiders the size of dinner plates sometimes make their way into the house because they leave the door open for the dog to come and go.  They just shoo them out with a broom (likely because killing a spider that size would be impossible).

Aussie 4: We’ll call him Eric (because I can’t remember his real name) told me that he has a four-metre long python living in his garden shed and that he doesn’t really mind.  It took a go at his wife a few months back, but he wasn’t too worried.

Aussie 5: We’ll call him Tyler told me that he was driving through the brush lands with his wife and their car broke down. They both got out of the car to look under the hood when they were overrun by a swarm of funnel web spiders. Tyler and his wife raced back to get into their car, and he made it safely, but his wife was pulled under by a wave of the tiny, black, poisonous arachnids. After she had succumbed to unconsciousness from tiny bites, the small spiders suddenly parted, making way for a mammoth of a spider: a King Ramses Crucifix Spider (known for pinning his victims to a tree before consuming them). Tyler watched as his wife was rolled up into a massive, white net-like web, and carried away by this behemoth of a spider, never to be seen again.

Ok, I made that last one up, thank GOD, but I’m pretty sure something like that has happened.

Anyway. It has me thinking that maybe it’s not so different from Canada. Many Canadians, including myself, know someone who has been mauled by a bear, stalked by a cougar, or surrounded by coyotes. (Not all at the same time).

Most Aussie’s seem content here. They don’t live in fear. They don’t jump every time someone says the word snake. So perhaps there’s an equivalent to be made.

I’m just saying, if you type in “harmless snakes Australia” into google, nothing comes up. There are literally NO results. That should tell you something.

How to be a good housemate (roommate etc.)

So this isn’t really that relevant to our moving to Australia. But I wrote it, and here it is! Please feel free to skip it.

 

 

 

Cleanliness – your room is your own space, and you can keep it as messy as you want, but common spaces must be clean enough for the most tidy person in the group (probably you?) Basic rules of humanity apply – if you use something, put it back, if you break something, replace it.

 

Food – discuss if you’re going to do house meals (I cook M and W, you cook T and Th etc etc) or if its every man for himself, and if so, there might be a household fund to buy groceries every one uses (you each don’t need your own sugar and olive oil, you might share some of these things) but that’s why a house fund is helpful. The only problem arises if one person uses sugar, butter, oil and all the household foods all the time, and others don’t use them as much, but if everyone pays the same, it might feel unfair to the one who doesn’t use it as much. So working out something like that is a good idea.

 

Noise – Work out if you will have quiet hours. This can be more complicated if one of you is on shift work. But for the most part, if you agree to quiet hours like 10:30-7AM on weeknights and 2AM-10AM on weekends or something like that, you should be fine.

 

Houseguests: If you want to have company, no problem just respect the quiet hour rules, or make sure all your roomies are on board if you will break the quiet hour times. Its always nice to invite ALL hoursemates to ALL parties held in the house. Sleepover houseguests should respect the quiet hours as well (includes loud sex noises).

 

Finally, a dispute resolution mechanism is helpful – agree to have open lines of communication and try to all be open to hearing feedback for better or worse, and giving feedback for better or worse. If you’re going to give someone a criticism, couch it in a criticism sandwich. (1 positive comment, 1 negative comment, and one positive comment) i.e. “Jessica I really appreciate that you always wipe your hair out of the sink after you use it. I was hoping that you could put your hair dryer away after you use it because it clogs up most of the counter space in the bathroom. I am also really glad to be your roommate because you sing while you cook” You CAN have a monthly house meeting, but I think that is probably unnecessary.

 

I suppose it is also important to have a rule about money. One person would probably be in charge of paying the rent, and the others give him/her the money for their share. I suggest the rule is every one pays their share on time and in full. No excuses. No exceptions. Make it happen. Never borrow from or lend money (including covering rent) to a roommate. Hopefully that won’t be an issue.

 

Well, my only other thing that I’m not sure how you can address is the biggest risk factor with having roommates: If someone moves out (temporarily or permanently) it can really affect the other roomies by forcing them to pay more, or having to live with a subletter until the contract expires.

 

One final thing I’d put into the house rules, not as a rule but as a guiding principle which will facilitate an easier living situation that will last longer is: Everyone should ask as little as possible of your roommates.  Expect as little as possible of your roommates. Expect them to meet the rules you agree on and no more. When people feel put upon, that is when strain starts to happen. Does that make sense?

The differences between Aussie and Canadian life

Hmmm, where to start.

Obviously, the weather. (See picture above). The seasons are flipped – for those of you who don’t know. Our winter is your summer, and vice versa. Though, parts of the Aussie winter are comparable to parts of the Canadian summer, so there’s that.

Calendar: Apparently they consider summer to start on Dec 1. I’m not sure yet when the other seasons begin. I guess we’ll see as they come up.  Aussies I talked to were very confused about the significance of anything related to Dec 21 or June 21.

Education: Here in Oz, they call grades, years. Someone is in year 12, rather than grade 12. They call Math, Maths.

Driving: Of course they drive on the left, but the speed limit here is much faster on some VERY windy roads than you might expect. Hardly anyone speeds here – apparently the fines are hefty. (We heard someone going 12 kms/hr over the speed limit got a $400 ticket). Roundabouts are widely used here – and people seem ok with it. Of course the driver sits on the opposite side of what we’re used to. But the blinker and windscreen fluid (window washer fluid) are on opposite sides – so I am forever signalling when I can’t see out the front window, and washing the windshield as I’m moving into another lane.  Mercifully, the clutch, brake and gas pedals are not reversed. I know you were wondering.

Langauge: Of course there’s the accent. Aussie’s love to guess our accent, and mostly guess correctly (Canadian vs. American)! I’ve been told pretty regularly I have a BEAUTIFUL accent!

Niceness: At least once a day, I say out loud “People here are the NICEST!” to Dan.  Ask him.

Food: Yoghurt here is better. Butter is worse. Toothpaste tastes like bug spray. (Not sure why this is under food). Kraft Dinner tastes like it’s made with real cheese 🙁 I miss my chemically, salty mix. Anyone want to send me some KD cheese in a care package? The chocolate milk here is chalky (yes, Dan has sampled several varieties). I’d say they have more variety in soft drinks that Canada. Craft beers don’t seem to be as popular.

Home Rentals: Rent is paid weekly, rather than monthly.

Bugs: So far, we’ve encountered FAR FEWER mosquitos than Canada. But the fruit flies are prolific breeders and very determined to overrun our house. Please, let’s talk about ssspiders another day. They just keep getting bigger and bigger.

Animals: We like the geckos and lizards that live in our yard, though they do a piss poor job of clearing out the aforementioned spiders. Most Aussies I talk to hate geckos. They think they’re ugly as sin. Obviously there are so many animals here Canadians don’t see except in zoos (don’t go to zoos if you can avoid it, and you probably can): Kangas, Koalas, Wombats etc. We haven’t seen too many of these. Just kangaroos, pythons, bats, bugs, reptiles, and billions of birds.

The light switches: In Canada when the toggle is up, the light is on. In Australia, when the toggle is up, the light is off. This messes me up all day, every day.

Jeopardy: We have an extremely noisy neighbour upstairs somewhere who watches TV from 6:30AM until we leave for work, then from about 4:30PM until 9PM. So every evening from 5:30 to 6PM we are treated to the dulcet, Canadian voice of Alex Trebec. It took us a few days to recognize the show he was hosting as Jeopardy, because the Aussie show has a lot of metallic, ringing sound effects added to it. I guess they felt it needed a little more zip to appeal to an Aussie audience.

Coconut Oil: My whole life, coconut oil was a white gel-ish substance in a jar that immediately turned to a crystal clear liquid when added to a pan. Here in our apartment in Oz, the coconut oil is perpetually in its liquid state.  God bless warm weather.

Toilets: No I’m not going to talk about the direction the water circles. I have yet to find a toilet or a sink that facilitates observation of that particular phenomenon. No, apparently Australia invented the economical toilet – with two flush options to help you save water. I am a budding environmentalist so am 100% in favour of this development. My problem lies in the fact that the water in the tank is always either too shallow (creating significant, um, backsplash) or too far back (creating, um, skid marks). So going to the bathroom here presents an unpleasant prospect. Unfortunately, I can’t hold it forever, so I’ve discovered that if you position yourself as far to the back of the toilet as you can, and hover, both the problems are um, mitigated.

What else? Their windshield washer fluid comes in tiny bottles of concentrate – you add your own water, which I think is brilliant, again for environmental reasons.

Probably there will be more later. There are a great many subtle differences!

 

Priority One: Make some friends.

Everyone knows friendship is important. We are not rocks (we are not iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii-slands). And everyone knows that building friendships takes time.

The easiest time I have ever had of making quality friends was when I moved to Ottawa. Living in residence put me in close quarters with other people my age, and my stage in life and it was so easy, I probably took the whole process for granted. My first roommate Amy has turned into a lifelong friend – without whom I’m sure I’d be a much different person. She taught me about recycling, and exercising and the Internet.  Then I joined Campus for Christ and my social calendar started on FIRE. I had DGs and STMs and WMs and all manner of acronym filling my university provided agenda [Sidenote: Is anyone able to get their hands on a 2015/2016 Carleton Agenda for me? I’ve never found a better dayplanner].

Quality friends were everywhere.  We had so much in common. We were young, we loved Jesus and we were all at this interesting stage in our lives, where we had an odd combination of unlimited free time, and no free time at all. During these precious years I met my kindred spirit, Andrea (with whom I have a spoken and unspoken eternal bond that gets stronger every year) and of course Dan Campbell, who I went on to marry. And so many other wonderful people who have printed themselves in my memories!

I took friends for granted then. I thought I would always have a robust social calendar, filled with poker nights, movie watching, pranks, making food together, going out for food together, playing Settlers of Catan and pick up soccer and gym dates.

I had no idea.

University is a very special time, during which, if you’re lucky – all the pieces fall into place and strong bonds form. Some which will last your whole life, and others which enrich one chapter of your story and then drift into memory.

Then we moved to Calgary.

And we knew no one.

And we had to start all over again.

And it was terrible.

After a few months of living in Calgary, Dan finally decided to have some work acquaintances over. When they knocked on the door I was the perfect hostess. I was so focussed on being the perfect hostess that I did not even notice one of the people standing on my door step was my roommate from uni – AMY HAD MOVED TO CALGARY! I had a friend!

Other friendships took longer to form. I went on kijiji’s friendship/networking site and responded to other people’s calls for friends. None ever got back to me. Well one did. But she was one of the “internet people”. I think you know what I mean.  Karla, if you’re reading this, please stop tracking my every move.

We went to meet-ups (through meetup.com) and tried to meet-up with people. I went to documentary film showings, and dinners. We went to a no-kids couples meet-up, thinking it would be other young couples like us who either didn’t or couldn’t have kids and so we would bond over all the things we could do that our be-childed friends could not. It was nothing like that. It was a kid-bashing show. The whole time, all people did was talk about how much they hate children and how kids ruin your lives and how their friends who’d had kids were SO obsessed with their own spawn, there was no more time for friendship. [Dan and I subtlety make eye contact and slip quietly toward the exit].

Thankfully, we did end up lucking out and meeting a wonderful couple from the UK at a Dragonboat racing meet-up, of all places. Their experience of immigrating to Canada from the UK, leaving friends and family behind and starting a new life, just the two of them – helped Dan and I take a similar journey. In fact, they were the ones who encouraged us to go for Permanent Residency right off the bat, rather than applying later.

Not too long after arriving in Calgary I began working at a women’s organization. That is where I met most of the Calgary women I now consider friends.  In fact, too many incredible women to name have come into my life through that job. Through the women there, I joined a book club, a craft group and built amazing friendships with strong, creative, vibrant, feisty women.  My favourite!

Cut to now.

I knew it would be hard. But I have a plan.

My plan was to say yes to any invitation.

The problem is, I don’t have invitation to say yes to.

And when I get home from my teaching job, I’m quite wiped, and instead of changing into going-out-into-the-world-clothes and going out into the world, I change into jam-jams and watch the internet and do crosswords and garden by myself in my little garden until the sun goes down at 6.

Not many invitations coming up in the soil.

So, I need a new plan of attack.

1. Join a club.

2. Invite people to do stuff.

3.  Think of a number three, because lists with only two things are sucky lists.

So I’ll keep you posted.

What’s that? You’re on the edge of your seat?

Terrific 🙂

Keep googling your questions


How many beaches are in Australia?

Are there really no deer in Australia?

What is the temperature tomorrow at the beach?

Why isn’t seafood cheaper in Oz?

Why does the sand on some beaches squeak and whistle when you walk on it?

What is a bush huntsman?

What does a horse’s hoof mean?

Does Australia have monkeys?

Flight time Tokyo to Brisbane

Is Glen really dead?

What is a VPN and do I need one?

Brisbane book clubs

How to start a book club?

Why do people hate Hilary so much?

How to get Cert IV in Training and Assessment as cheaply as possible?

How to stop bleeding shaving cut?

How to get rid of vinegar flies?

Heirloom seed protection

What was the voter turnout for 2015 federal election in Canada?

Will my Costco card work in Australia?

Church near me

Yoga near me

What is an eleutheromaniac?

How to make your own chocolate toothpaste?

What does VRBO mean?

How to get rid of ants

Air conditioning options that don’t require a window vent

Are huntsman spiders poisonous?

Why does the sand squeak on Aussie beaches?

How does a rip tide work?

How many lifeguards drown on the job?

Best vacuum cleaner brands Australia

Best knife brands Australia

Best pots/pans brands Australia

Why is my compost drawing so many flies?

How to compost with a tumbler

Growing season coriander

What is capsicum?

What is rocket?

How to make my own essential oils

Can snakes swim up out of a toilet for real?

Sunset and sunrise times Brisbane

Sunshine coast weather

Travel time Brisbane to White Haven Beaches

Open alcohol in public – is it legal Queensland?

What to do if I’m bitten by a snake?

What to do if I’m bitten by a spider?

How to make a tourniquet?

Can cats swim in the ocean?

Brisbane to Hawaii flight time

Convert Fahrenheit to Celsius

Where is the closest hospital?

Brisbane cheapest gas app

Best Aussie gift ideas to send back to family in Canada for Christmas

Palm tree etiquette (for when your neighbour’s palm drops branches in your yard)

Garage sales this weekend

Where to buy Christmas tree lights?

How to make friends

Sunshine Coast weather

What time is it in Gent?

Is Peru’s leader a woman?

Women’s hairstyles, partly shaved

Phenazopyridine dosage

Outdoor pools near me

Bavarua catering Lethbridge

What time is Melbourne Cup?

Why are grapes so expensive Australia?

 

How to throw a going away party

I’ve thrown my share of parties.

Some things I have learned from throwing good (and also bad) parties is that they require a few basic things:

  • good music in the background
  • something for people to do
  • people that you like, or that like you, or that you want to like, or that you want to like you
  • prizes and give-aways

Anytime I’ve thrown a snoozer of a party it’s been because I didn’t have anything for people to do but “hang out” and “talk”.

Ugh. Talking at parties is the worst.

Things I’ve learned that I will share with you:

  • people are competitive
  • prizes (no matter how lame) are great
  • Cards Against Humanity is NOT for everyone (sorry Grandma, and Lowri)

I have sort of a trademark party thing. I love to plan parties built around a thematic, custom-made Jeopardy game.  Some of the various ones I’ve done are:

  • Geriatric Geopardy (for Grandma’s 85th birthday)
  • Bedroom Jeopardy (for a lingerie shower)
  • Davidson Family Jeopardy (for mom and dad’s joint birthday)
  • All for the Breast Jeopardy (for a breast health awareness event)
  • Junior Jeopardy (for a baby shower)
  • Volunteerism Jeopardy (for a volunteer appreciation event)

For interest’s sake I’ve listed a sampling of questions from the above Jeopardy games for you to try out.

Geriatric Geopardy: Excerpted from the Accounting from the Ages category 

1. What year did the Dukes of Hazard go off the air?

2. What is the german word for 85?

3. What is the roman numeral for 85?

4. How do you spell 85 in morse code?

5. What is the most number of children born to one woman?

[Answers: 1. 1985, 2. fünfundachtzig, 3. LXXXV, 4. dash, dash, dash, dot, dot space (or seven silent dots), five dots, 5. 69).

Bedroom Jeopardy: Excerpted from the What Would Jesus Do? (Sex in the Bible) category. 

1. “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is
better than ______”

a. thy hate
b. riches
c. chocolate
d. wine

2. “He shall lie all night betwixt my _______

a. legs
b. walls
c. breasts
d. arms

3. She takes her lover into her _________ bedroom and asks not to
be disturbed “till he please.”

a. mother’s
b. candlelit
c. rented
d.darkened

4. “My beloved put in his hand________, and my bowels were moved
for him.”

a. by the hole of the door
b. in the cleft of my rock
c. on my burning bush
d. on the peak of my mountains

5. “We have a little sister, and she hath no breasts … But my breasts [are] like ______

a. young fawns
b. towers
c. mangos
d. sailing vessels

[Answers: 1. d, 2. c, 3. a, 4. a, 5. b]

Davidson Family Jeopardy  

1. From what movie is this line quoted:Bow to the Queen of Slime, the Queen of Filth, the Queen of Putrescence. Boo. Boo. Rubbish. Filth. Slime. Muck. Boo. Boo. Boo.”?

 

2. What is the largest number of lobster to have been consumed by Roy at a single sitting?
3. What movie series became a Davidson classic and a New Year’s tradition?

 

 

4. If you get caught salting another player’s claim, where do you go?

 

 

a. Jail. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200
b. The Sawmill
c. The Woodpile
d. The Drunk Tank

 

 

5. Finish this line:

 

 

There are strange things done in the midnight sun…

 

 

(1. The Princess Bride, 2. 12 lobsters, 3. The Lord of the Rings, 4. The Woodpile, 5. …By the men who moil for gold; The Arctic trails have their secret tales, That would make your blood run cold; The Northern Lights have seen queer sights, But the queerest they ever did see, Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge, I cremated Sam McGee).

 

 

All For The Breast Jeopardy (for Breast Health Awareness Campaign) 

 

 

1. What movie is this line from: “There’s a shortage of perfects breasts in this world. It would be a pity to damage yours.”? 

a.Breakfast at Tiffany’s
b.Avatar
c.Titanic
d.The Princess Bride

 

2. Who said: “Whereat, with blade, with bloody blameful blade, He bravely broached his boiling bloody breast.”?

 

a.Mahatma Gandhi,
b.William Shakespeare
c.Abraham Lincoln
d.Dr. Seuss

 

3. What Book says: “Your breasts are like two fawns, like twin fawns of a gazelle that browse among the lilies.”?

 

a.The Pilot’s Lover
b.The Bible
c.The Cat in the Hat
d.National Geographic Magazine

 

4. Who said” “Breast implants gross me out. I don’t think they’re attractive at all.”

 

a.Natalie Portman
b.Pamela Anderson
c.Queen Elizabeth
d.Jessica Simpson

 

5. Who said: “Come to my woman’s breasts, And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers!”

 

a.Mahatma Gandhi,
b.William Shakespeare
c.Abraham Lincoln
d.Dr. Seuss

 

(1. d, 2. b, 3. b, 4. a, 5. c)

 

 

Baby Shower Jeopardy – Taken from the category: Post Partem Perplexities 

 

 

1. How old was the oldest woman who gave birth to a baby in the last 100 years? 

 

a.49
b.66
c.71
d.82 

 

2. What is the most number of children born to one woman? 

 

a.28
b.39
c.41
d.69 

 

3. How much did the heaviest baby weigh on delivery? 

 

a.18 lb 3 oz
b.29 lb 1 oz
c.24 lb 6 oz
d.23 lb 12 oz

 

 

4. All babies are born without:

 

 

a. hearing ability
b. hair
c. teeth
d. kneecaps

 

 

5. A newborn’s head accounts for about how much of its total weight:
  

 

a. 1/4
b. 1/10
c. 1/2
d. 1/16 

 

(1. b, 2. d, 3. d, 4. d, 5. a)

 

 

Volunteerism Jeopardy – Extracts from the category “Who Said What?”

1. Who said: “A different world cannot be built by indifferent people.”

a.Peter Marshall
b.Mahatma Gandhi
c.Barrack Obama
d.Leonardo Dicaprio

2. True or False:

More women volunteer than men.

3. How much is one hour of volunteer time worth?

a.$5.00
b.$20.25
c.$25.00
d.priceless

4. Who said: “It is easier to find people who will volunteer to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience.”

a.Barrack Obama
b.Julius Caesar
c.Napoleon Bonaparte
d.Paul Kagame

5. How many hours per year do all Canadians volunteer?

a. 500 000 (five hundred thousand)
b. 20  000 000 (twenty million)
c. 2 000 000 000 (two billion)
d. 50 000 000 000 000 (fifty trillion)

[1. a 2. True 3. b 4. b 5. c]

We were blessed with having a party planning committee, comprised of Jess, Mehreen and Kaylee plan us an AMAZING going away party! We were blown away by how awesome it was, and how many people came out! Here are some of the highlights:

  • Digital recording studio where people could leave their thoughts and goodbye messages to us, and we could watch them later [Sidebar: we have watched about 1/3 of these. They tend to be very hard for us to watch, because we’re seeing our close friends and family struggle to process our departure, which causes us to struggle to process our departure, but without the benefit of friends and family around to cope. Does that make sense? The videos we’ve watched to date have blessed our socks off and we love watching them and will love the ones we’ve yet to watch]. 

     

  • Amazing food. Mmm, samosas, white chocolate brownies and other amazing delectables. Including a superb guaco of my own making 🙂

 

 

  • People. There were so many wonderful people there from so many different areas of our lives: Dan’s band, his city job, his hockey team, my CIWA friends, my family, our neighbours and so many other wonderful faces warmed our hearts and our home that day. 

     

  • The Game. Thank you Jessica for making an Australia themed Jeopardy you knew I would love for us! It was amaaaaaahzing! Perhaps you’d post a few of your favourite questions for us in the comments? 

     

  • Shopping. What good party doesn’t include a little something extra? Ours happened to be planned between day one and day two of our going away garage sale. So, our friends had the opportunity to browse through our stuff and make it into their stuff! It was a fun way for people to get some cool stuff, buy a piece of us to remember and also support our financial future! Thanks everyone!

All in all, it was a baller party! The guys partied their nards off and the girls partied their oves off!

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There was joking, jesting and story telling long in the night.
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And the players of the wonderful Jeopardy game!!

The difference between moving away and dying.

As the time of our departure slowly marched toward us, I began to notice changes in myself, and the way friends and family treat us. It did start to remind me of the way one feels after the death of a friend or loved one. With a little macabre humour, I’d like to outline a few of the similarities, but also, remind you of a few of the differences 😉

Similarities:

1. Increase in photograph taking prior to imminent departure – perhaps even hiring a professional.

View More: http://creativehazephotography.pass.us/davidsonfamily
Thanks to Cori McMillan at Creative Haze Photography for these 🙂
View More: http://creativehazephotography.pass.us/davidsonfamily
This is Kory, Jess, Mom, Dad, Dan and me. Grandma is just off camera, holding all our bags most likely 🙂
View More: http://creativehazephotography.pass.us/davidsonfamily
The girls. In the centre, you have the driving force behind the photography session. We gave her a hard time, but I’m so glad to have these pictures now!

View More: http://creativehazephotography.pass.us/davidsonfamily

2. Increase in reminiscing of times past.

3. Lots of crying, or long faces.

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I stole this sad moment between Jess and Auntie Karen during our going away party. They’re really, really going to miss Dan.

4. Lots of long, hard looks at what is important, and deciding what you can take with you.

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Apparently lots of stuff from my kitchen was really important to me. I regret nothing. Not. A. Thing.
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Also my wardrobe. In addition to bringing four suitcases between us (Dan will be quick to point out, he had one, I had three) I also shipped a few boxes of clothes. And why not. I like them. They fit me. Why shouldn’t I bring them!?
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And my art. Another important component of settling in I think 🙂

 

5. Giving away of the things of importance and personal value to your friends and family as tokens and keepsakes.

6. You become a little more poetic, circumspect and philosophical when talking about the actual day “it” is going to happen. “Yes, it will be difficult, but we’ll get through it”. “-insert Footprints poem here”.

Differences:

1. There’s no Skype or FaceTime in Heaven (or Hell, or wherever or where not). Though come to think of it – that would be an amazing App – one that lets you talk to people in the hereafter. Google? Apple? Are you guys listening? Can someone work on this?

2. You can always go visit your moving away friends (us), and we can come back and visit you. To the best of my knowledge (I-was-sent-back-people notwithstanding), you can’t come and go from the afterlife as you please.  Though, again, that would be a nifty plane ride.

3. The person moving can always change his or her mind and come back. Again, not really an option with post-mortem-ers.

4. You actually can take things with you forward into your new life in a new country. Mercifully, you don’t arrive at the gates of Australia, naked, with only your passport in your hand. [Sidebar: I’m also not sure if you show up at the gates of heaven, naked with a passport in hand or not. I’ll update this post if I ever find our for sure].

5. You can track down the people you gave stuff to and demand it back. I personally think that would most likely strain your friendship, but it is definitely do-able.

6. Surprise comeback visits are welcome and enjoyable in the case of the living. Surprise comeback visits are terrifying and shocking in the case of the dead.

Month Three in Australia

So, October first, marked the third month of our time in Australia.  (Barely, we arrived August 24, so I’m counting August as a month we were here).

Our first week, we toured around Sydney and got used to the time, and cooler than expected climate.

Then we stayed in an Airbnb in Brisbane for two weeks until we found a place to live: 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Then we began the process of establishing ourselves in our new country in earnest.  We:

Applied for jobs, library cards, credit cards and loyalty program cards. We bought a car, dishes, food, furniture and appliances (major appliances like fridges, dryers and washers don’t come with apartments here).

We sorted out internet, utilities, insurance and renting out our Canadian property.

And we did it all, while spending 100% of our time together. When I went to bed, Dan was there. When he woke up, I was there. All day, every day. It was a lot of time together. Too much perhaps.  Mostly it’s because we don’t know anyone else here yet, but the only person to spend time with, is your spouse. Go figure.

Honestly, we’ve been driving each other nuts. If Dan says I’m not driving him nuts, he’s just being nice. I am. I am driving him nuts.

Dan’s most annoying habits include:

– perfectionism
– wanting to wait until we know for sure we need it, to buy it
– asking how much it is
– asking if we can get it used instead of new
– trying to fix every little problem I have
– not killing the spider on the first swing
– being quiet when he’s tired
– wanting alone time

My most annoying habits:

– recklessness/rushing into things
– damaging things by trying to fix it with a hammer
– wanting everything to be teal, or at least colourful
– caring more about quality than cost
– liking music too loud or having tv on in background
– being too chatty at the wrong time
– thinking its probably good enough
– spending a lot of time on my cell phone

So yeah, I’ll admit it. We’ve gotten underneath one another’s skin at times, but we are sorting it out. I’m learning to give Dan the space he needs, and he’s, well he’s trying to give me whatever it is he thinks I need.

Other update things that you (our faithful readers) may be interested in, include that I have been working as an adult education teacher for a program called Skills for Education and Employment (SEE).  I work for a non-profit, Monday through Thursday teaching adults to read, write, do math (they call it maths here), improve oral communication and build learning strategies with employability in mind.  It’s been fun so far. Certainly a God-send to have a job so soon in our time here.

Dan has started school full time in an Aviation Mechanic program not too far from our house. His classes are 7:30AM to 2:30PM. I drive him to work, then drive myself to work. He buses home. He likes the course well enough. Although he is a born learner, and a curious person, sitting and listening to someone talk from 7:30 to 2:30 can be a challenge for him. (For anyone).

We do go to the beach a lot. And why shouldn’t we?

Our house back in Calgary rented out – thanks to the efforts of our amazing Property Manager, Shannon! Both the upstairs and downstairs have tenants for a year, so that is huge news for us!

I celebrated my 31st birthday here in Australia. We had our first Thanksgiving away from our home country. Oops! We forgot to make turkey! Oh well, we’ll make up for it at Christmas. And hopefully by then we’ll know some people to celebrate with.

Which leads me to our new priority one. Meet people. Operation Get Friends has already commenced.  We’ll keep you posted.

Stayed tuned next week for pictures of our new place in Brissy.

Some people want babies, all I want is a dog.

This is weird to write down.

The other day on the beach, I was watching other couples walking their dog and I teared up. I actually cried on the beach, because of a longing in my heart to have a canine companion back in my life.

For my maternal friends, I will say I’m sure there is a difference between craving a baby and craving a dog. But I so far, have not felt the former, and can’t stop feeling the latter.

My sister asked me why I didn’t put her dog Oliver in the post about saying goodbye to our animal friends. The truth is, it was too hard. I loved my dog Dakota so much it’s hard to describe. When he died back in March, a lot of my love for him passed to his buddy, Jess’s dog Oliver.  I never really appreciated what a good dog he is, until my own dog had died. My sister did an outstanding job of training him! He is almost perfect.

So it was hard to say goodbye to him.  Actually, I am crying freely over my keyboard writing this. It also feels weird to admit I miss a dog so much. Of course I miss my friends and family, but I can talk to my friends and family over the phone or internet.  Animals don’t connect like that.

Hmmm, maybe people don’t either.

We just think we do.

Anyway, here is my goodbye to my buddy Oliver. I’ll share a few of my favourite pictures of Dakota, him and Jess and me.  If you’re in Calgary, drop by Jessica’s and meet this incredible guy.

Dakota & Jess
This is Jess, when Dakota was just a puppy. He was the first dog we cared for and loved from the start of his life, until the end of his life.
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When I was younger, we went so many places together. Here we are in Waterton. I was much, much younger 😉
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Then this little rapscallion entered the equation! The adorable, little son of a bitch in the middle is Oliver.
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Ollie and Dakota went on to become best buddies. They begged for the same food at the same time.
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…helped with construction projects…
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And generally looked adorable, waiting until the next trip to the park.
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He was even there with us when I carried Dakota’s ashes up a mountain in my backpack and we spread them in Waterton park.
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Mom, Dad, Jess, me and Ollie were all there to say goodbye to Dakota.
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Since that time, Ollie has wound his way into my heart. He was there for most of our pre-Australia adventures, including this one swimming in the Old Man Dam this summer. The last time (until next summer)!
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He took to lying on my lap while we watched the Mindy Project. What a guy!
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Which was fine until he made friends with a much larger buddy – Ela, the St. Bernard.
IMG_20150430_222237
…and he taught his friend Ela how to also sit on my lap. A much harder undertaking.
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Ollie came over for a hot dog roast, and did his best to look as cute and feedable as possible.
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It took a lot for him not to eat his dog out of the fire.
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Anyway, all this to say. I miss him, he’s my new best boy.



R ight now, the tiny little apartment we live in (which we love) would be a cruel place to keep a dog. Perhaps when we move somewhere with a yard.  But how can you NOT have a dog in a country where the best dog parks are on the ocean??

My time is coming. I can feel it.

If you can vote, vote.

I hope you are already aware that a Canadian Federal Election is coming up.

I am.

I’ve voted in every election I was entitled to, since I was old enough (and some before that too). I recall as a kid, my dad taking me into his polling station and letting me pick which candidate on the roster of disappointing MP-hopefuls I wanted.  Because what’s the difference when everyone just wants the status quo.

Never mind.

Anyway, I am a card-carrying New Democrat. There may come a day when I wish I hadn’t written this for the whole internet to see. There may come a day when the NDP wish I wasn’t a member. But there it is. In black and white. Or in ones and zeros if you prefer.

I am a left-leaning person. I believe it is every person’s responsibility to look out for humanity. And since it’s hard to be an expert in everything as an individual, we farm out that work for the government to do.

To my mind, Prime Minister Harper has been doing a so-so to lousy job, depending on the topic/law/industry in question. So I’d like to give the NDP a chance.

Now I know some of you think that this is the beginning of the end. But I’m here to tell you something.

Do you think you should have access to basic healthcare for free? Affordable prescriptions?  Access to a family doctor without having to wait for months and months and months? You might be a New Democrat.

Do you think future generations are entitled to breath fresh air, drink un-poisoned water and learn about real, living species of animals like the Polar Bear, and the Arctic Fox? You might be a New Democrat.

Do you think every single person in the world, no matter what their mental health issues might be, their age is, their parent’s income was, their neighbourhood’s crime rates are and the flagging economy should be able to pull him or herself up by her own bootstraps and turn lemons into lemonade? You might not be a New Democrat.

So this to say, if you are a selfish, greedy, individualist who only cares about “me and mine”, then by all means – vote for Harper. But if you think that the planet’s well-being matters, education matters, people’s health matters – then let’s vote NDP this year. I’m ready for something new.

What’s that Donald Sutherland?

I can’t vote?

What do you mean?

I’m a Canadian!

It’s right here on my passport!

What’s that Donald?! Prime Minister Harper has passed legislation so that many many expats (including myself) can’t vote unless I lie about my intentions to move back to Canada?

You’ve got to be kidding me!

You’re not?

Well, now what?

Ooooh, hi blog readers! I forgot you were still listening/tuning in. I have recently discovered that I will be unable to vote in the 2015 federal election (which I will be helping pay for with my tax dollars, as a resident of Canada for tax purposes by the way).

So this blog entry is the digital headstone standing over the grave of my dead, democratic right to vote.

[Sidebar: There is no such thing as too dramatic when discussing the loss of ones right to vote].

 

Remember to say your animal goodbyes

If you are an animal lover (as we are) saying goodbye to your furry friends is almost as import as saying goodbye to your people friends.

Dan, being a cat lover, has had to say goodbye to a lot of feline friends. Here’s our picture story:

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Dan buried in a pile of kittens at the Bickles. Have you ever seen him look happier?
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Dan’s friend Willow – Sarah’s cat.
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Tristan heard about Dan’s cat pictures and wanted to be in on the action.
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He could hardly lift the Campbell’s 22lb cat Rusty.
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Saying goodbye to Auntie Barb’s cat, Emma.
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And of course, with our girls who he won’t see for a while. It’s harder on him than anyone else.

Me? I like dogs.  Here are the dog’s I said goodbye to lately:

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Mr. T, Daisy and Brutus at the Bickles. (Animal Kingdom)
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Jackson who became my buddy this summer at the cottage.
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Dassau, (or as I called him, Pongo) was my buddy at Andrea’s house.
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And Dassau’s buddy Harvey

 

Yes, this post was a little bit of a place holder 🙂 We just got internet up and rolling in our new apartment about 10 minutes ago, so more salient blog info should follow next week!

 

Ta!

Step 35 – Enough with the steps

Well, as of this week we’ll have been in Australia for one month. It’s been a pretty amazing month.

Emotional Update: Neither of us expected it to be this easy, but we have not been very homesick! Thank God! (Or goodness, as you will). I think it’s largely due to the role of WhatsApp, Facetime and Facebook that we’ve felt so connected to our friends and family. Not in a we’re-spending-so-much-time-online-with-our-families-that-we’re-not-really-living kind of way, but in a thank-goodness-everyone-is-always-online-and-we-can-interact-a-fair-amount sort of way. Dan has been there for me – giving a hug or giving me some space if I’m feeling a little blue. He’s been amazing (perhaps, in no small part due to some direct parting words from my father). I have tried to be there for him, but he doesn’t seem to need me too much as an emotional support. I’ll keep you posted. We are having an interesting dynamic start to take effect. He is an introvert, and so gets energy from being alone. I am an extrovert and I find it energizing to be with people. So he’s been getting too much interaction from me, and I haven’t been getting enough from him. It’s getting pretty evident we need to start making friends 😉

Academic Update: Dan was originally planning to start his eight-month Aviation Mechanics course in January, however has recently learned that the school is running an earlier, beefier version of the course for the same price. This one starts in October, so he’s applied and been accepted (obviously – he’s a genius)!

Financial Update: We do not have jobs. We badly need jobs to keep putting food in our cats mouths, and also our own. My own job search has taken a two-pronged approach. I’m looking for A. close-by survival jobs that I can start NOW and pay the bills; and B. career jobs that I will find fulfilling and align with my career goals. The former have included filing applications at: pet shops, clothing stores, nurseries (for plants, not babies) bathing suit shops and farmer’s markets. They will also eventually expand to include coffee shops, bookstores and anywhere else close by. Career type jobs include: event planning, communications, community building, program coordination blah blah blah… If you know someone hiring along either of these two veins in Brisbane, please do let me know! Dan is only looking for something very part time that he can do after school and on weekends. He is pretty stressed about both of us finding jobs. But he doesn’t like to talk about it. [Update: we talked about it and he finally agrees with me that he will just focus on school and I’ll be in charge of the earning of the money].

Feline Update: The cats managed to make it all the way here without enacting any scenes from the movie Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. Both of us were very relieved to pick them up. We drove 13 hours down to Sydney on a Wednesday, and picked them up and drove 13 hours back to Brisbane on Thursday. They did well in the car. It took them a few hours to get their “sea legs” but after awhile, it became clear that if the rest of our lives were spent, the four of us in that tiny little car – they’d handle it. After they’d fully accepted their new car-lives, we brought the home to their/new apartment. Dan and I are sharing the guest room (juuuuuuust barely big enough for a queen bed) and the cats get the master bedroom with the en suite. Seems fair. Oddly enough, this setup was actually my idea to optimize the amazing space in our little apartment. This way, we have two different bright sunny rooms in which we can spend time. Having an extra living space will probably come in handy when Dan is studying and I want to have people over (assuming I make some friends) or watch TV. And what do we need a humungous room for sleeping in any way? So for now, the cats think they own the place.

Communications Update: Our apartment does not yet feature internet. This is a source of no small amount of frustration to both of us. We had NO IDEA how heavily we relied on the internet until it was no longer available. Oops! So now, each day includes at least one, and often more pitstops at a café, library or park – most of which feature free WiFi. This blog post is being written from a gazebo in the picturesque Oriel Park. We are supposed to hear by the end of today about the internet. But we were supposed to have heard by then end of last Monday, then the end of last Thursday etc. So we know the drill.

Home Purchases Update: And now for the most important news of all. I bought a bike. I have purchased off gumtree – a cruiser. It is teal green and has a white basket. It features 24 gears (imperative in our hilly, hilly neighbourhood) and a big, round, white seat for my uh… matching tush? We have also purchased:

A popcorn maker ($5 off gumtree)
A bike rack ($20 off gumtree)
A beach shade-tent ($20 off gumtree)
2 Beach lounge chairs ($100 off gumtree)
2 Beach backpack chairs ($20 per from Mitre10)
A coffee grinder (13$ from Kmart)
Beach Towels (I’m getting bored of putting down costs)

Those are the important ones for now. Once our stuff arrives, we’ll have more pics of our place.

In the meantime, thanks for tuning in!

Until next week…

 

 

Step 34 – Say Your Human Goodbyes (Early)

In the months leading up to our departure, we tried to be deliberate about spending good quality time with our friends and family.  We want to leave on a happy, loving note with everyone.

One thing this has meant is not making new friends.

There have been a number of opportunities in the last few months to make new friendships and both Dan and I have felt resistant to that.

Is that because we’re anti-social jerks?

No! (Maybe)

Is it because we are trying to max out the time we have with the family and friends we do have? Definitely.

We’ve been having dinner and playing board games with anyone who’ll join us (usually Jess and Kory, or Morgan and Evan). We’ve been going to the movies, (not as social), we’ve been to Spruce Meadows with Sam and Rob, to Banff and Lake Louise with Ian and Evelyn. We’ve picnicked at Little Bow Park with Mom, Dad, Grandma, Kory and Jess, done a month of yoga with Steph and driven out to Kimberley and sat by the pool with Ilo and new baby Embrey. I’ve had pub lunch with Lowri, sat around the campfire with Mehreen and Matty, Miss Marg and Mister Bill and hiked in Waterton with my parents. I’ve visited Jojo and Alejandro’s new restaurant (Savoury Milonga) and seen her tango dance with her dad. I’ve had dinner with Wally and Tonia, and left sticky notes for Marie at her new job with the Town of Pincher Creek. I went to stay with and see Newsies with Andrea, and had brunch with Jennifer. Dan had a sleepover at Kin’s house and we’ve eaten dinner with Mike and Leah, and breakfast with Peter and Nakita.  I went to Le Nordic spa with Sarah, ate fajitas with Jami and Tristan, dropped by the pool to visit with Heidi and Jordi and family, and we spent time at the cottage with the Campbell clan. We’ve done a few hikes in Waterton Park with the Davidson clan. Mom and Auntie Karen, Jess and I went to the Chinook Honey Farm and the Saskatoon Berry farm for a day excursion. We played Settlers and played with newborn kittens with the Bickles.

Here are some of the pics:

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Boating with the nephews!
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Bye Char!
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One last Campbell family photo.
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Jake the photobomber.
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Eating fajitas at Lonestar with Jami and Tristan! The continuation of a beautiful tradition!
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Sarah beats me at pool.
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Goodbye Settlers with Trevor, Sarah and Tristan.
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Boating with the Campbells.
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Goodbyes to Heidi and her fam.
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The three Campbell kids behind the boat.
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Visiting the haunted hospital with Kelly and Andrea.
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Hiking Alderson in Waterton with Mom, Dad and Jess.
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Visiting Banff with Ian and Evelyn.
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Hiking the Bear’s Hump at Waterton with Andrea.
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A campfire in the park for Stephanie’s Birthday.
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Settling with Jess and Kory. Move the Robber! Move the Robber!
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Sister’s weekend with Mom, Auntie Karen and Jess.
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The Walking Dead birthday party for Mehreen!
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Meeting the Hargin side of Dan’s family.
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Visiting Aunt Jean and her daughter Linda.
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Staying with at the Campbell’s in Sarnia.
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Visiting the Lakeshore in Sarnia.
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Meeting Jennifer and Eric for the first time!
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The Saskatoon Berry Farm with Auntie Karen.
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Saying goodbye to Ian for quite a while… That was a hard one.
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Traditional Dinner at Community Cafe with Crystal and Steph.
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Settlers with the Bickles.
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One last birthday dinner with Jess at Robster.
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The PPC.
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My dearest Crystal after one of our traditional Community Natural Foods Wednesday dinners.
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My beautiful, perfect Deborah coming to say goodbye.

Here are my recommendations for saying goodbye to friends and family:

1. For the last year before you go, nurture current friendships rather than building new friendships.

2. Try not to cry too much the last time you see someone – instead, focus on the next time you’ll see her and how you’ll stay in touch in the mean time.

3. Don’t think about your departure as a death or an ending, but as the birth of something new and exciting for everyone. I am here to tell you that moving away can actually revitalize deep friendships, and rescue tense friendships.

5. Spend as much quality time as you can with your family.

6. Don’t feel guilty if you take time to yourself, or with your partner, rather than socializing with friends or family.

7. Throw a going away party with lots of stuff to do/buy.

8. Take lots of pictures, and try to tell your friends their pictures might end up on a blog.

(Check in next week for the pictures from our animal-goodbyes).

 

 

Step 33 – A Brief History of our First Week in Brisbane

So. We flew into Sydney. We vacationed there for a week, then drove up to Brisbane.

We stayed in a cute little Airbnb for the first 10 days during which time the following things happened:

  • We visited five different units in the Northern Suburbs before finding one we both really wanted. We waited four agonizing days after our application before we learned we got our dream apartment (pics below).  Dan met the departing tenant at the home inspection and she just adored him – obviously. She reminded us both of Evelyn, as she was so friendly and talkative and generous. She liked us both so much that she wanted to help us start off our new life on a good foot. To that end, she left a bunch of items in the unit for us including (but not limited to):
    – Three-piece microsuede couch set
    – Patio table, four chairs and an umbrella
    – Cat toys, scratchers, and a pot of catnip she grew in the garden
    – Cleaning supplies (vacuum, steam cleaner etc.)
    – Stereo
    – Gardening stuff like a hose and sprayer nozzles
    – Refrigerator
    – Calamari in the freezer for us

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    Our shared swimming pool. Available for use all year around!
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    Our main bathroom. This will be your bathroom when you come visit. Yes yours!
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    The master bedroom. Allegedly room for a kingsized bed and a couch. We’ll see.
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    This is our dining area and living space, looking out onto the patio.
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    The state of the art kitchen. What does state of the art mean?

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    The picture that sold me on the apartment. There’s a veggie/herb garden on the right, and humungous patio doors on the left. Just lovely!
  • We obtained access to the healthcare system but applying for Medicare through Centrelink (their Service Canada).
  • We arranged delivery of our inbound possessions with the shipping company. (They wanted to know how many meters to the road, how many stairs, what kind of floors and so on).
  • We completed payment for the cats we shipped here. We payed Boomerang Pet Carrier around $3000 to safely see Abby and Lily around the globe. Which they did indeed do.
  • We opened bank accounts with Westpac, who are sadly quite invested in the fossil fuel industry – something I’d hoped to avoid. However, they were the first bank we found that would accept us without 100 points of identification.
  • We ordered a govia tag, which allows us to drive on the toll roads throughout the country and automatically charges a device in our car.  Until now, Dan has insisted we remain on toll-free roads which has led us on some wildly circuitous adventures.
  • We bought a car. It’s a second hand, white 2006 Hyundai Getz which we bought 100% because it was the first car that someone who lives here said was a good car. We’ll take it. We’ll take it to go. It has 102000kms, is a manual transmission and was $6100. But we got it for $5900 or something like that. IMG_20150904_155323
  • Dan bought himself a cell phone. He went from an antique phone (anyone whose ever used it agrees should be destroyed immediately), to a perfectly usable iPhone 5C. He’s on a two-year contract with that. Way to tie yourself down Dan 😉
  • We met a nice Irish couple in the process of moving back to Ireland who were looking to offload all their Australian possessions at once.  So for $2350 they sold us:
    – Electrolux 7kg Front Load Washing Machine
    – Electrolux 5kg Dryer
    – Refrigerator (rentals don’t include this most basic of appliances)
    – Outdoor BBQ
    – Patio Table and Chairs
    –  Matching Pair of Queen Bed Frames and Mattresses
    – Matching bedside tables (x4)
    – Matching Five Drawer Dresser
    – Matching TV Stand (including flatscreen TV and DVD player)
    – Matching coffee table
    – Matching end tables
    – Matching dining room buffet
    – Microsuede Loveseat
    – Microsuede Couch
    – Living Room Rug
    – Matching six piece dining room table and chairs
    – Matching corner lamp table
    – Microwave
    – Toaster
    – Blender
    – Hoover (that’s a vacuum cleaner)
    – Kettle
    – General kitchenwares (glasses, cups, plates, knives, forks, saucepans etc).

May a blessing go with them back to Ireland!

  • Dan toured his new school and learned of a program that will be running from October to May, instead of January to August. He was very pleased with the school and the people he met there and is actually looking forward to starting classes!
  • Dan set up internet for our new place, utilities for our new place and basically all the boring tasks that I hate. He made me apply for a Tax File Number. I wanted to go out for a walk in the glorious sunshine to visit the rainbow lorikeets that live in the woods outside our house, but Dan said, “No, you’ve got to do your taxes.” It was one of the saddest things I’ve ever been told.
  • We registered for Go-cards, the bus passes and learned how to use the transit system. It does not hold a CANDLE to the transit system in Sydney, but we’re getting used to it. Also we have a car now.
  • We did a day trip up to the Sunshine Coast which was amazing. We visited Bribie Island and Caloundra – where we bought a HUMUNGOUS bag of tomatoes for $5 that a farmer named Billy had picked the previous day.  I’m still eating tomatoes in and on everything.
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The nice beach on Bribie Island – we saw dolphins in the water just off to the right of this shot.
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Off the beach in Caloundra – part of the Sunshine Coast. I just like saying Sunshine Coast. I think saying Sunshine Coast boosts my Vitamin D.
  • We successfully transferred our Albertan driver’s licences to Australian ones. I did not have them transfer my professional, commercial licence over, just the regular Class 5. [Side note: We haven’t seen a single school bus since we landed in this country. Not-a-one].  Anyway, to get our licences, we didn’t have to do anything. No driving test. No eye test. No medical test. They just saw we had a licence from Canada and said, “no worries, mate” and sent us on our way!
  • We also met lots of local wildlife. Pictures will follow in a future blog when I sort out a better camera but for now I’ll say that in the wild (not in a zoo or anything), we have seen:
    – one living kangaroo
    – three non-living kangaroos
    – three possums
    – one python
    – two geckos
    – two pods of dolphins
    – one pair of humpback whales
    – millions of various birds (shrikes, thrushes, magpies, pigeons, doves, egrets)
    – seven galahs (type of bird – I think it looks like a pigeon mated with a flamingo)
    – 60+ Australian or Sacred ibis…ibises…ibisi?
    – 60+ bats the size of crows
    – 60+ crows the size of pelicans
    – one pelican the size of a golden retriever
    – zero spiders larger than a dime
    – zero jellies
    – zero sharks
    – zero crocs
    – three mosquitos
    – Dan was attacked by a tiding of magpies. That’ll teach him to go running in the park!
    – and of course we had one of the rarest sightings of all: Hugh Jackman!

Now if you’re paying attention, you will have noticed that we have got duplicates of a few things, so I’m looking forward to trying out my kijiji-skills in the Gumtree arena. Wish us luck!

 

Step 32 – Hold a garage sale for all that stuff you couldn’t ditch on your family

[Here’s a post I didn’t have time for from before we left].

My sister and I are avid garage-salers. Some summers we got out every Saturday morning as early as possible, grab breakfast at McDonalds, and go out hunting for the next great deal.

Some things you should know about going garage-saling:

  • The early bird, really does get the worm.  The best deals are obviously the quickest to be snatched up, and you’re competing against serious people like my sister and me. So get there early. Most garage sales start at 9, so it’s good to be on the road by then.
  • Last call can also be a winner. Sellers are a lot more willing to barter when facing the prospect of packing everything up and taking it to Goodwill or the Thrift Store. That’s why the end of the day can be a great time to garage sale too.
  • Hoarders are real. Don’t make fun of them. Don’t be one of them. We’ve all seen that lady driving around in the 1982 minivan with stuff packed to the ceiling, and other stuff crowding the passenger seat and some stuff falling out whenever she opens up the door. Only buy stuff you need or really want.
  • Barter, but be reasonable. Nothing is more annoying for a seller than a shopper picking up at $70 item and offering $5 for it.  Decide what you are willing to pay and offer that amount. If they don’t agree to your offer, then walk away. But a smile goes a long way!
  • Embrace the drive-by. Buzz past a prospective stop. If you see stuff you like, or get a good vibe, park.
  • Don’t park like an idiot. Don’t block driveways, don’t park on the wrong side, don’t block the lane-way. If you have to park a block away and walk, it will be good for you.
  • Don’t comment on the weather. They’ve had that conversation already.

Some things you should know about holding a garage sale yourself: 

  • A well-signed garage sale makes all the difference.  Make sure you post good, recognizable signage all over your area. Use bright neon colours, or different shaped signs that people can recognize. The should each say the date and address. Don’t forget to take them down after.
  • Use the internet. Post ads in the Garage Sale section on Kijiji and Craigslist. Find any way you can of getting out the date and the name of your street. (Don’t put your actual address, or people may show up the night before for a sneak peak).
  • Try to get your neighbours involved. The more chum there is in the water, the more sharks will stop by.  Whoa!! But really, from a shopper’s perspective, if there are lots of sales in the area, it will definitely be worth a trip to your neighbourhood. Post it online as a “Parade of Garage Sales” and indicate the name of your neighbourhood or area.
  • Price every item. There’s nothing worse that people asking you constantly, “How much do you want for this?” Just put the price down. It takes some time, but makes life easier.
  • Have lots and lots and lots of change.  Most people will pay for a 25 cent item with a twenty, so make sure you have lots and lots and lots of change.
  • Have a power supply for people to test electronics.
  • Only sell things that work. If stuff doesn’t work, make sure to mark it.
  • Hope you get nice weather. If the weather sucks, the turnout will blow.
  • Decide ahead of time if your goal is to make money or get rid of stuff.  If it’s to make money, be prepared to barter with people and reject low-ball offers. A wry smile goes a long way in price negotiation. “Come on, what’s your real offer?” If your goal is to get rid of everything, accept every offer, but be prepared for the major lowballers.

For interest’s sake, and because we’re not really holding anything back on this blog, we sold about 95% of everything we put out, and cleared about $1900.  Not a bad couple of days.

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Bedding and textiles
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Men’s clothes and shoes
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Random stuff of life.
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Lots more stuff here.
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Pictures, trinkets, shelves, the works!
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Movies, decos and electronics.
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more electronics.
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Of course car stuff.
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Camping and gardening stuff.
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Sports and garage-y stuff.



Step 31 – Start with a Vacation

We have been in Australia now for 168 hours.  In that time we have had some tired, self-induced, apartment-based solitude, and some curious, self-guided, public-transit-based tourism and everything in between.

Day 1: See last week’s post. (Summary: Got phone and groceries and went to Coogee Beach in a thunderstorm).

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Coogee Beach in a thunderstorm. Totally worth it.
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We learned how to use the bussing system. Pretty easy. Just ask google. Google knows.

Day 2: Went to Target. Went to Bondi Beach, saw Hugh Jackman doing a photo-shoot. Went downtown and saw Sydney Opera House. Good Day.

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Dan, thinking about the cost of tickets to the Sydney Opera House and knowing it will be a long time before he gets dragged here again.
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Dan, looking amazing at Bondi Beach.
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Hugh Jackman doing a photoshoot at the ocean pool. Hi Hugh! (He probably didn’t see us, otherwise I’m sure he’d have said hi).
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The stunning view over the coastal boardwalk at Bondi.
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Our first wildlife sighting.
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A tempting park bench. We did a lot of walking on this day.

Day 3: Went Whale Watching. Here are some pictures of all the whales we saw.

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There are no whales in this picture. We saw no whales 🙁 But its ok. Its hard to pin them down – they don’t carry smart phones I guess.
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Here we are on the boat – excited to see some whales (though the future versions of ourselves will be disappointed because, I reiterate, we did not see whales).
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The boat ride was pretty amazing thought! We were frequently airborne on this thing!
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We did also see one pirate ship (and two New Zealand seals). But no whales.
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And on the way home, the Sydney Opera House. Iconically whale-free.

Day 4: Was mostly a stay at home day. We did venture out to buy a GPS, go to a mall, and discover the AMAZINGLY cheap groceries at Coles, Kmart and the Big W (not affiliated with Walmart).

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Notice, Dan is not actually wearing that kangaroo t-shirt. He just didn’t want to be topless in the picture. (He asked me to add that he’s a prude).
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Our cluttered little nook.

Day 5: We attempted Whale Watching again. Great news! We saw a pair of humpbacks heading south to feed in Antarctica! I have to admit, it was a little underwhelming.  We occasionally saw their backs break the surface, and once or twice, a tail. But no breaching, no swimming over to the boat. In fact, they were zigzagging as if to lose us.  Ok, whales – we can take a hint.

After the whale watching, we did a self-guided walking tour of the Royal Botanical Gardens.  Once we calibrated our expectations to winter greenery – things because a lot nicer. We found Canadian maples, so many varieties of bamboo and of course so many kinds of ficus – which is a fun word to say.  We also found the eel ponds. Apparently they drain the pool and remove all the eels, but within a few nights, eels can be seen wriggling over the grass to get back in.

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Here we are, eagerly (and a little achy still from the last trip) looking forward to whale watching, again.
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If you can spot the whale tail in this picture, you got about as much out of the trip as I did.

Day 6: We managed to get ourselves to the rental car place, psych ourselves up, and drive it home. This was an achievement for two-reasons. First, we are not accustomed to driving on the left and second, Sydney is a city of 5 million aggressive drivers.  But we made it.

After that, we did a walking tour of Sydney, which took us to the Opera House, Campbell Cove, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Hyde Park, the QVB, the Barracks, numerous historic churches and malls and lots of other interesting sights. Totally worth the zero dollars we paid for it! (It was a free tour, but you pay the guy what you think is fair – which I think is a TREMENDOUS way to do business).

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Queen Vicky, overseeing her loyal, criminal subjects.
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The beautiful dome inside the QVB.
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The Sydney Rum Hospital piglet. Not sure of its significance.
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Dan, taking in the facts, learning the data, assessing the information, retaining the salient details and so on.
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This was a beautiful spot – Angel Place. Empty cages representing the 50+ species of birds driven out of the Sydney area by urban sprawl.
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The ubiquitous Sydney Harbour Bridge.
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And me – congratulating myself for walking 2 billion kilometres with a glass of Australian Shiraz (or as Siri likes to say, sure-ass).

Day 7: We packed our stuff and headed out of Sydney. Our second time driving the car on the left, was directly through downtown, over the 1.3 kilometre long Sydney Harbour Bridge and out onto the Pacific Highway North.  This day also included seeing our first, living kangaroo (as well our our first three, dead kangaroos) and arriving safely in the NICEST AIRBNB WE’VE EVER STAYED IN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Some pictures below.

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Here we are singing along with the road trip playlist I made months before we set sail. Fine. I was singing and I requested Dan open his mouth for a picture.
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Picturesque scenery along the highway. At different times we thought we could have been in Ontario, Alberta or California.
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We saw a gorgeous sunset. As so many people here do. And also people other places.
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Here is our first kangaroo encounter. He hopped across the driveway in front of us, then stood in the bushes watching us. He’s tough to see except his glowing eyes.
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And now for the nicest AirBnb we’ve ever stayed in.
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Gorgeous comfy couches (from which I am presently writing this post).
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Thematically adorable bedroom overlooking the ocean.
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And this little creepy-crawly who was also here to greet us. He was much bigger in person. I was too scared he’d eat anything I put near him for reference.
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Here I am at the beach in Coff’s Harbour. This beach was also an off leash dog park. I found heaven.
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Dan looking happy with his life choices.
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Lastly, we stopped off in Byron Bay where we observed some stoner, beach-people enjoying a drum circle. And saw this sand-beauty. We also ate sub-par Mexican food for dinner in this town – but who cares – look at that sand!

So that was our first week.  Stay tuned to next week’s blog for our first week in Brisbane.

 

Step 30 – Move.

So there’s a lot of juicy blog-worthy stuff that led up to our departure, and I’ll come back to some of those next week and in the weeks ahead.  For today though, I’ll update you in a more timely way, cause yesterday, we moved to Australia.

The last few days before we left, we saw an uptick in time with family – which we loved. Dan’s mom came out to stay for a few days, and we went down to visit my parents for a few days before that.

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Here we are packing the motorcade that would take us to the airport.

My immediate family and Evelyn came to see us off at the airport. It was like a wake, waiting to go through security. No one wanted it to end, (us to go on through security) but it was torturing us all.

After hugs and tears, we finally walked through security:

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I admit, neither of us looks misty-eyed, but seconds earlier, we’d been pretty overcome.

We got through Canadian security no problem, and flew just over an hour to Vancouver.  In Vancouver we ate our last Canadian meal at Milestones and I had a glass of my last Canadian wine.

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My glass was as big as Dan’s head.

Then we boarded the big mama flight.

I have to say, this was probably the best flight experience I’ve ever had.  Air New Zealand has this auction option, where you can bid on unsold seats in the tier above you. So we bid for Premium plus seats and WON!!! It meant we could each bring a second suitcase and a second carryon for free. (We were planning to anyway, we’d just have had to pay for them – like chumps!). So this was better. In addition, it featured so much leg room, power for our devices, unlimited drinks, gourmet food and all the little perks of the rich – like hot towel service, and a flight attendant named Mark who only wanted to make us happy for our 14 hour flight.

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Look at all the leg room Dan has!
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Dan with all the swag.
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This isn’t dinner, this is the appetizer!

The icing on the proverbial cake was that Dan booked us in the Window and Aisle seats, hoping to deter another person from selecting a middle seat. We lucked out and the seat between us was empty for the flight. There was enough space I was actually able to sleep on the floor! Dan slept at least eight hours, I think I got between seven and eight. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! (And also two Benadryls, one melatonin and two glasses of wine).

[What’s that? You want a side note on compression stockings? Fine. Compression socks and staying well hydrated definitely kept my body feeling pretty balanced – though I’ve noticed when going for a walk today that my calves were seizing up. Maybe atrophied from too much sitting? Maybe uncompressing after too much compression? But even though I looked like an old lady, I’d do it again].

So we landed in Auckland, nothing too special to note – no earthquakes. I will say that Air New Zealand has the most creative intro video (you know, the one where they show you how to buckle your seatbelt?). So after a final 3.5 hour trip over to Sydney we were done.

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In contrast, this was our breakfast on our last flight in economy.

29 hours in transit. 13694 kilometres travelled. Seven movies watched. Seven hours of sleep (not bad). Three meals in a row that were breakfasts.  The usual travel stuff.

Then on arriving to Sydney, we were nervous and hoped we had all our ducks in a row.  We have heard about the Australian Border Force and the television show that makes sport of catching fraudsters, mules, illegal importers and the like.

After boarding, its like cattle – you do what the people in front of you do.

Stop 1. The bathroom.

Stop 2. Immigration.  I don’t know how this happened, but there were two planes disembarking at the same time. 400-500 people all making a run for the same four Border Services Agents. By the time we got there (near the back of the pack) we were expecting a line-up, but there was no one. I do not know where they all went. When we got there, there were maybe 10 people in front of us. We were standing in front of Mr. Immigration inside of five minutes.  He stamped our passports, approved our permanent residency and welcomed us to Australia with a friendly smile.  (Said, smoil).

Stop 3. Baggage. By the time we walked up to the carousel, our four long-suffering bags were just popping out of the entrance, waiting to be picked up. We literally had enough time to grab two carts and get the bags. Then we walked over to the quarantine area to declare our goods. There, six of the friendliest Border Services Agents you’ve ever met peppered us with questions about Disneyland vs. Disneyworld. They approved our stuff in less than five minutes I’d say!

Then we walked to the exit as permanent, bonafide, Australian residents.

Stop 4. Get a SIM card.  Thanks to Tanya, I had an idea of which company we should go with to start with. The pimply teenager in the phone kiosk set my phone up, gave me an Oz number, and sent me on my way.  Thanks buddy!

Stop 5. Get a cab. We did briefly entertain the notion of using public transit to get to our Airbnb, but soon realized it would be impossible with four fifty pound suitcases, and four carry-ons totalling another ninety pounds. No thanks. Pass. The cabbie sussed out whether we knew the city or not (could he take the long, circuitous route, or the direct, simple route) but thanks to my pimply teenager activated phone, I was able to spit out enough info to convince the cabbie he couldn’t pull one over on me.

Stop 6. Get to the AirBnb. We’re staying in a burb called Randwick.  Then after arriving we walked down to the beach, picked up some groceries (coffee (me), apples (Dan), coffee cream (me), carrots (Dan) etc. etc. etc.

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And everything will be ok, because here’s my first cup of Australian coffee. Thanks Andrea for teaching me to make this right 😉

 

Step 29 – Liquidate Your Assets


List your stuff online. 

If you are regular reader of this blog, you will find numerous (some might even say, excessive) references to kijiji.ca.

I love this website.

This has been our first line of defence in liquidating our assets.  [Some people use Craigslist, though I’ve found …uh, better success with kijiji. Fewer seedy people… fewer dirty underpants for sale… fewer ads for “massage parlours”].

Some tips for selling things online:

  • Start early. The longer your stuff is out there, the better chance you have of catching the interest of someone who will pay you a fair price for it.
  • Price fairly. Do your research to find out what your item was worth new, and what others like it are selling for online. You’ll get fewer people lecturing you on overpriced goods if you price your stuff reasonably.
  • Post lots of pictures. People really do respond to the visual stimuli – use it to your advantage.
  • Add lots of detail to your ads. When people have to ask for lots of information, it wastes your time and theirs, and delays prospective sales.
  • Make your ad stand out. Tell a story. Give funny details. For example, I add the line: “Whatever you do, do not look at my other ads” to tease people into viewing my other ads.
  • Reply promptly. The faster you reply to inquiries, the more success you’ll have capitalizing on people’s instant gratification reflex.
  • Be prepared for low-ballers. There are some people out there just looking for the deal of a lifetime. They’ll offer you $10 for something worth $500.  To combat this, decide ahead of time what is the lowest you’ll accept for a certain item, then politely reply with “Sorry, that’s too low for me.” Sassy responses only result in online harassment, so don’t waste your time.
  • Negotiate price online. You’ll come out on top if you agree to a price ahead of time rather than negotiating at the door.
  • Use common sense when setting up a meeting place. You can meet in a public place, take someone with you, let someone know where you’re going if you’re going alone. If you’re not comfortable with people calling and texting at all hours, don’t put your phone number on the ad.
  • Be prepared for no-show-ers. I’d say about 1/3 of the people who say they’re coming to pick something up do not show up.  You can email a reminder on the day of to remind people to show up. And be polite in following up with no-show-ers (i.e. Hey, I figure you’re not able to make it today. I hope everything is OK – let me know if you’d like to reschedule).
  • Disregard the crazies.  The internet is chock-full of loonies, lonlies, lollies and trolls. Don’t engage with ANYONE who baits you.
  • Watch out for scams. There are jerks out there on the internet, making their livings stealing from you and me. Key words to tip you off to these people include Pay-pal, money transfer and requests not to text back. Do not engage. You can report them to kijiji and forget about it.
  • Repost. Repost. Repost.  As often as you can stand it, delete your old ad and repost it in as a new ad.  It will keep your ads at the top of the pile and makes all the difference in the world.  Do not leave old ads up, or make multiples of the same ad.  Kijiji shoppers find that SUPER annoying.

Here is how we’ve done:

Item Asking Price Amount received
Art Three panel canvases 30 25
Blank canvas (1×3) 35 30
Pair of Massive Canvases 150 75
IKEA flower canvas 10 10
Beatrix Potter Art 50 20
Moroccan Canvas 15 15
Framed horse photo 30 20
Moroccan Canvas II 15 10
Music Painting 35 15
Scotland mounted poster 35 15
Collage Picture frame 40 25
Teal, Black and white canvas 125 120
Colourful Bedroom Canvas 125 50
Pair of Nautical Pics 40 30
Dog Painting in City Park 50 30
Sports and Outdoor MEC Backpack 35 35
MEC Sleeping Bag 135 135
Women’s Bike 350 300
Women’s golf clubs 75 75
Large Cooler 30 25
Elliptical Machine 125 100
Ski Goggles 30 30
Ski Goggles 15 15
Air Mattress – single 20 15
Pair of Patio lounge chairs 50 40
Golf Caddie 30 30
Bike Rack 40 35
Bird Feeder 20 10
Men’s MEC Sleeping Bag 85 50
Men’s Golf Clubs 500 500
Women’s Outdoor Cleats 30 30
Men’s Outdoor Cleats 30 30
6 Birdhouses 50 40
Women’s Rollerblades 45 46
Mini Cooler 8 8
MEC Gators 8 8
Hockey Socks 10 5
Small Grey MEC Backpack 15 10
Orange OR Backpack 15 15
Large Blue MEC Backpack 15 10
Men’s Mountain Bike 225 150
Men’s Indoor Soccer Shoes 30 20
Tennis Rackets 100 60
Electronics Battery Charger 15 10
The Clapper 20 18
iPod dock 100 75
CPU Case 10 10
Joystick and Flight Sim Games 25 25
VCR/DVD Combo 40 40
Other iPod Dock 30 20
Flat Screen Sony TV 175 175
Fitbit 85 70
Computer Speakers and Sub Woofer 15 10
Samsung Galaxy S3 – broken 30 30
Underwater Camera 10 10
Garage Space Heater 20 20
Printer 40 35
Purple iPod Dock 20 20
Tube TV 10 10
Bluetooth Earpieces x2 25 20
Hair Straightener 30 25
Computer Speakers 10 5
Books and Movies Bibles 5 5
Black Stallion DVD Series 30 20
WWII DVDs 6 6
Disney VHS Collection 25 25
Piano Book – Les Mis 10 5
Piano Book – Hunchback, Newsies 20 20
The Office Season 9 10 10
Star Trek Seasons 1-3 100 50
Furniture Craft Bin – black 15 15
Built-in bookshelf 75 75
Built-in Bookshelf – small 40 40
Purple Chair 35 25
Oak coffee table 75 60
Corner Shelf 250 200
Green Couches (2) 175 125
Craft Bin – white 20 15
Four IKEA coffee tables 50 70
IKEA Kallax 75 75
Red Wicker Chair 40 35
Little Filing Cabinet 10 10
Piano 2400 2000
Wet Bar 100 80
TV Stand 40 30
IKEA Computer Desk 50 40
Rolling Office Chair 20 20
Bar Stool 45 40
Dining Room Table (and 8 chairs) 600 300
King Bed 200 200
Clothing Tea Party Hat 50 30
Wedding Dress 200 150
Lip Purse 35 35
Kitchen Blender 20 15
Bridesmaid Dress 20 20
Food Processor 150 150
Minifridge 100 100
Kitchen scale 8 5
Table Runner 15 12
Apple Pealer 15 10
Electric Can Opener 10 5
Electric Hand mixer 10 10
Cream Table Cloth 10 10
White/Green Dish set 60 60
Deep Freeze 40 35
Automotive Rooftop Carrier 120 120
Chevy Cobalt Car 1000 1000
Toyota Highlander SUV 5500 4500
Crafting/Hobbies Cards 5 5
Cat Door 50 30
Misc. Fabrics 10 10
RC Park Flyer Airplane 70 60
Settlers of Catan Seafareres 35 25
RC Jet 60 60
RC Transmitter/Controller 40 25
RC Helicopter 100 80
Air Master RC Float Plane 150 100
Battery and Charger 20 20
RC Accessories 50 50
Jet-a-pult 50 40
Spitfire 100 140
Field Box 25 25
Trumpet 1000 900
Pet Stuff Cat Tree – blue 35 35
Cat Feeder 75 40
Fish Tank – fully loaded 100 90
Dog Kennel 30 30
Dog House 150 100
Bin of dog balls 15 10
Dog Bed 25 25
Dog collars and bed 40 35
Leash, poop bags, clippers 10 5
Cat Crate 30 15
Cat Tree 80 75
Lighting Aztec Lamp 50 50
Pair of teal lamps 35 30
Pair of lampshades 30 15
Trio of lanterns 35 35
Black lamp 20 20
Antique Lamp 15 15
Black Lamp 15 15
Tools Scroll Saw 225 180
Drill Press 85 70
Belt and Disc Sander 50 50
Band Saw 100 90
Jig Saw 50 40
Steel Toed Work Boots 100 40
Home Décor Red Couch Pillows 35 20
Decorative Boats 8 8
Teal Pillows 12.5 5
Nautical Reversible Duvet Cover 10 10
Queen Duvet Cover and shams 30 30
Other Aircast boot 50 45
Cash box 30 25
Single French Horn 250 200
Garden Ladder 75 45
Maple Syrup 15 10
House Plants 5 to 25 3 to 15
Plant pots 5-40 5-35
Bathroom Scale 30 20
Poker Set 50 40
Boggle 5
Toothpaste/Tin Foil 15 10
Christmas Decorations 35 15
French Door 75 80
Space Pen 20 15
Office Chair Mat 15 5
Cream Area Rug 100 80
Teal Area Rug 225 180
Face Creams 20 20
Music Stand 40 30
Kitchen Faucet (1 handle) 40 30
Shoe Rack 15 15
Kitchen Faucet (2 handled) 20 20
Shoe Rack 8 8
Carry On Suitcase 15 15
Two Binders 5 3
Totals 19913.5 16472

Step 28 – Start Penny-Pinching Hard (Money updated)

Here is an updated cost-breakdown. You may recall our third blog post was about money, so the additional expenses are in italics:

Initial Application:
Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) Application: $5507.24

Engineers Australia Application:
Engineers Australia Application: $586.49
Dan Passport Photo: $7.34
Lawyer Certification: $45
DHL Postage: $91.06

English Language Assessment:
Tutor: $25
IELTS Application Fee: $309

Medical Costs:
Dan Medical Exam: $295
Dan Chest X-Ray: $50
Dan Followup Exam: $40
Mare Medical Exam: $295
Mare Chest X-Ray: $50
Mare Second Urine Test: $10
Mare Passport Photo: $7.34

Criminal Record Checks:
Mare Police Clearance: $73.50
Dan Police Clearance: $73.50

Renovation Costs:
Floors (supplies and install): $1300
Cabinetry (supplies only, Dan installed): $2000
Appliances: $750
Foundation Coring: $200

Travel Costs:
Flights: $1339.32 (total for both of us, one way)
Accommodations for first three weeks: $1695.13 (AirBnb)
Car Rental: $315.93
Luggage Overage Costs: $390

Moving Expenses: 
Shipping our stuff: $3477.03


Human Total to date: $17221.92


Abby Rabies Vaccine and Microchip Implant: $92.50
Lily Rabies Vaccine and Microchip Implant: $92.50
Abby Rabies Neutralising Antibody Titre: $315
Lily Rabies Neutralising Antibody Titre: $315
Travel Kennels: $120
Department of Agriculture, Fish and Forestry Import Permit: $370
Cnd Food Inspection Agency Endorsement and Courier Fee: $135
Vancouver Transfers and Overnight Boarding Care: $225
Airfreight for 2 Cats Calgary to Sydney: $1136.16
Airline Surcharges: $70
Boomerang Pet Carrier Service Admin Fee: $600
Handling, Taxes and Tolls: $164.75
Abby 10 day Quarantine:$1500
Lily 10 day Quarantine: $1500
Abby First Internal Parasite Vaccine : $51.95
Lily First Internal Parasite Vaccine: $51.95
Abby Second Internal Parasite and Frontline Plus: $51.95
Lily Second Internal Parasite and Frontline Plus: $51.95


Feline Total to date: $6843.71

IMG_20150808_121236

 

Upcoming blog posts:

Liquidate Your Assets (Part 1 and 2)
Say your people goodbyes
Say your animal goodbyes

Step 27 – Learn the Language

I know. You thought they spoke English in Australia didn’t you.

Dan calls it the Queen’s Good English. Or the Good Queen’s English. Or Queen Anne’s Lacy Cakes or something like that. That’s the version of English they speak.

IMG_1027

I’ve been practicing my accent but have to admit, I don’t sound very convincing. On my best day, my accent devolves into a mix of lower-land Welsh, Cockney and Afrikaans.

IMG_1037

Every time I meet someone from Australia I try out my accent. Without fail, I immediately get asked to stop. Apparently massacring is something that can be done to a language. Who knew?

In addition to the accent that I will apparently not be able to mimic, there is also the matter of dialect. Aussies LOVE – and I do mean LOVE to abbreviate words, (avocado becomes avo) add “ie” to the end of shortened words (Australia becomes Aussie) and so on.

Here is a short quiz you can take to test how well you might do translating Aussie speak. What does each word/phrase mean:

1. Barbie

2. Lorry

3. Lift

4. Blotto

5. She’ll be apples

6. Thunderbox

7. Click

8. Googies

9. Chuck a berko

10. Crickey!

11. Tenno

12. Arvo

13. Din-dins

14. Preggas

15. Sunnies

Answers: 1. BBQ 2. Truck 3. Elevator 4. Drunk 5. Everything will be fine 6. Toilet 7. Kilometre 8. Eggs 9. Lose your temper 10. Wow! 11. Tennis 12. Afternoon 13. Dinner 14. Pregnant 15. Sunglasses

I already use barbie, din-dins, sunnies, click and crickey pretty regularly. Obviously I’ll be using thunder box instead of toilet from now on. I’m sure you will too.

If you have nothing to do right now, you can check out this humorous video teaching you/me/us to shorten words.

Step 26 – Decide to stay in touch

I was done with Facebook before people who are now done with Facebook, were done with Facebook.  If that makes me a pripster, then so be it. (A pre-hipster).

Just kidding.

I haven’t had Facebook for a long time and part of me misses it.

Frankly, I’m thinking of backsliding – to facilitate keeping in touch, of course. I’m not sure if it will be a good idea that allows easier access to my beloved family and friends, or if it will be a trap that stops me from ever going outside and helps me quietly creep distant acquaintances’ twice removed profiles in my Australian basement.  That’s the real danger.

We have a lot of friends our age who have moved away from everything they’ve known. They’ve picked up and left friends and family and moved to another continent.  Sam and Rob have come here from the UK and think this [frozen hinterland] is the place for them. (I added the bit about the frozen hinterland – they think of Canada as an adventurer’s playground).  Lowri moved here from Wales for school and hasn’t left – and she’s as tight with her family as anyone I know! Chloe moved here from Ireland and loves the snow, the ice and the hypothermia in lieu of the rain.

(It is worth noting that the people who’ve come here from Morocco, Mexico and Lebanon that we’ve talked to FULLY UNDERSTAND and support our move to warmer climes).

So, thankfully we do have some trailblazing friends who’ve been a wealth of encouragement, information and insight.

There have also been friends whose experience has been more negative and they offer honest caution to Dan and I about our impending move. Trudy’s husband moved here from New Zealand and the separation from his family for so many years has been very trying. Amina moved from Pakistan and travels back every chance she gets and feels homesick pretty much constantly.

So we hope we’re in the first camp – the people who have a great time having moved abroad.

Some things to think about:

1. We haven’t really discussed with anyone how permanent this move is with ourselves or our family/friends. My friend Deborah (who moved from the UK to Mexico, and then Mexico to Canada) says to treat the early weeks as if you’re on vacation. it changes your psychological attitude from “I’m so out of my element and scared and lonely with this huge change” to an adventurous one “I can’t wait to see what other new things we can experience”. Then before long, these new things are familiar and comfortable too!

2. I think we are good candidates for being able to keep in touch efficiently. I have FaceTime on my computer. We both have Skype on our computers and I have it on my unlocked cell phone. We’re both familiar with apps like What’sApp and Viber. We’re no stranger to phone cards either if push comes to shove. Plus I’ve got this blog, and Dan has Facebook. Neither of us do Twitter or Instagram but that’s probably for the best. You’d end up with tweets like: #hashtagIdontgethowtousehashtagscorrectlysAmIdoingthisrightThisisgettingcomplicatedIssomeonefollowingmeHowmanycharactersdoIgetbeforeitcutsme

So I think that we probably won’t just vanish into thin air.

3. We fervently hope that our friends and family will come visit us – but we’ll still go, even if no one visits. Mehreen’s already looking at tickets. Andrea’s looking at booking time off.  And their impending visits encourage me so much as I think about us setting up our new lives out in Australia.

That said, I did just read a bobinoz blog post where he said there are four criteria for knowing whether or not your friends and family will come visit you so far away in Australia, and I must admit, the list does worry me a bit.  It sounds likely to be true. Here is the list:

  • They need to have a history of travelling.
  • They need to be able to financially afford it.
  • They need to be able to find the time to come.
  • They probably should have a strong desire to visit Australia.

His experience (and the experience of the people who commented) was all consistent.  He did say in the post the week following that “In all likelihood, close family, irrespective of their past history with those four criteria, will come to see you. If they didn’t travel much before, they will now. They will find the time and they will find the money. Because ultimately they do have a strong desire to see you again.”

So that is good news, but I guess we do need to be realistic and recognize that for most of our friends and family, Australia is simply a bridge too far.

That said, I hope you come.

You, yes you. Specifically you.

[Do you get the significance of the image at the top of this post?]

Step 25 – Google all your questions – Part 2

So here is what I learned from last week’s highlighted google searches.

  • Can I bring my down feather pillow? Yes.
  • What colour car should we buy? (light colour for cooling, or spiffy colour for being awesome)? Select the lightest possible exterior and lightest possible interior. Also test the AC.  
  • Why are all the windows of rentals covered in chain link fencing? Provides security, while still being able to keep the house open to fresh air.
  • Will Australians be really weirded out by us having strictly indoor cats? Yes.
  • Do the trees really stay green all year around? Yes.
  • How cold in the summer and hot in the winter does it get? Average low at night: 9.5 Degrees Celcius. Average high in daytime: 29 Degrees Celcius. 
  • Why do people rent units by the week instead of by the month? Many people get paid weekly, and its more convenient for short-term renters.
  • Will I be able to bring my expensive lotions into the country? My vegan deodorant? Yes. 
  • Average Brisbane weather Average low at night: 9.5 Degrees Celcius. Average high in daytime: 29 Degrees Celcius. 
  • Do i need to bring long-sleeved clothes to Oz? Yes. For sun-protection and when it gets cooler. 
  • Canadian embassy in Australia – One in Perth, one in Sydney.
  • Is fracking allowed in Oz – Yes. For now. 🙁 
  • Can I swim in Sydney in August – Yes, but you probably won’t be swimming with the locals. 
  • How long is Australia’s growing season? depends on the product being grown. 
  • Are there distracted driving laws in Australia? Yes. Very strict ones. 
  • Small house movement – alive and well.
  • Buy bathing suits online – shipping costs higher to Australia 
  • Are there puffins in Australia – No. 
  • Do Australians use miles or kilometres? Kilometres.
  • Are the clutch, brake and gas pedals in reverse order on the right side? No, they are in the same order as North America, just on the opposite side of the car. 
  • Australian city populations – Vary by size.
  • When is rainy season in Australia? November to March.
  • Brisbane aviation school – is a real place. 
  • Flights to Cairns – are no longer necessary for us.
  • Australian holidays (for 2016):
    January 1 – New Year’s Day
    January 26 – Australia Day
    March 25 – Good Friday
    March 26 – Easter Saturday
    March 28 – Easter Monday
    April 25 – Anzac Day
    June 13 – Queen’s Birthday
    September 26 – Family and Community Day
    October 3 – Labour Day
    December 25 – Christmas Day
    December 26 – Boxing Day
    December 27 Christmas Day Holiday (substitute for Christmas Day)
  • Turkey burgers too moist – use more crumbs.
  • Australian healthcare system – see this post.
  • Sydney Animal Quarantine centre – soon closing.
  • What happens if I scuba dive while congested – you might die. 
  • Netflix Australia – not as good as Netflix USA.
  • Will my netflix work in Oz?  Yes. 
  • Australian minimum wage $16.87
  • Australian edible fish – there are lots. 
  • Is there Air Conditioning in Australia? Thankfully yes.
  • What fruits and veggies are indigenous to Australia? See here. 
  • What is a Queenslander house? A house lifted on stilts to improve air movement and keep cooler. 
  • Are tarantulas poisonous? Yes. 
  • Survivalists Group of Australia – see here.
  • Australia vulnerable food chain – Yes. To aggressive introduced species, environmental threats and over-harvesting. 
  • Online shopping shipping costs higher in Australia – Oh yes. 
  • Convert CAD to AUD – Almost the same. 
  • RV Australia – Can be rented or bought, just like here. 
  • Do they have MEC in Australia? No. 
  • How the hell does cricket work? No one knows. 
  • Are super-spiders real? Not yet. 
  • Calgary property management companies – don’t need one – thanks Shannon!
  • Starting a small business in Australia – do-able
  • What airlines fly Canada to Australia? Lots.
  • Clear-bottom kayak – This is the very top of my wish list. 
  • Mac power cord power supply Canada and Australia – bought off calgary Kijiji
  • Where to live in Australia – depends on what you want.
  • Is Costco in Australia? YES!! 
  • How long to become a farrier? Nevermind.
  • What happens when you microwave mold? Not safe to eat. 
  • Quantas airlines more expensive – seems to be.
  • Is bobinoz a real person? The internet thinks so. 
  • Water conservation in Australia – Very important.
  • Shark attack statistics – not that scary.
  • Should i get a hybrid bike or a mountain bike for commuting – hybrid.
  • Cat meme (this one was Dan)

By the way – if you want to check out an amazing poem, go to my sister’s blog and read this.

Step 24 – Google all your questions – Part 1

Moving to the other side of the planet without ever having been there is a bit risky. There are so many unanswered questions that crop up every day, from the quirky (why do Australian creatures have 30 times more poison than is needed to kill their natural enemies?) to the practical (what is the currency exchange rate between CAD and AUD?).

So I dug through my internet history from when we were accepted as permanent residents in Australia and here are my Oz-related google searches from the last 25 weeks. (I’ve put any explanation in parenthesis).

  • can I bring my down feather pillow?
  • what colour car should we buy? (light colour for cooling, or spiffy colour for being awesome)?
  • why are all the windows of rentals covered in chain link fencing?
  • will Australians be really weirded out by us having strictly indoor cats?
  • do the trees really stay green all year around?
  • how cold in the summer and hot in the winter does it get?
  • why do people rent units by the week instead of by the month?
  • will I be able to bring my expensive lotions into the country? My vegan deodorant?
  • average Brisbane weather
  • do i need to bring long-sleeved clothes to Oz?
  • Canadian embassy in Australia
  • is fracking allowed in Oz
  • can I swim in Sydney in August
  • how long is Australia’s growing season?
  • are there distracted driving laws in Australia?
  • small house movement
  • buy bathing suits online
  • are there puffins in Australia
  • do Australians use miles or kilometres?
  • are the clutch, brake and gas pedals in reverse order on the right side?
  • Australian city populations
  • when is rainy season in Australia
  • Brisbane aviation school
  • flights to Cairns
  • Australian holidays
  • turkey burgers too moist
  • Australian healthcare system
  • Sydney Animal Quarantine centre
  • what happens if I scuba dive while congested
  • Netflix Australia
  • will my netflix work in Oz?
  • Australian minimum wage
  • Australian edible fish
  • is there Air Conditioning in Australia?
  • what fruits and veggies are indigenous to Australia?
  • what is a Queenslander house?
  • are tarantulas poisonous?
  • Survivalists Group of Australia
  • Australia vulnerable food chain
  • online shopping shipping costs higher in Australia
  • convert CAD to AUD
  • RV Australia
  • do they have MEC in Australia?
  • how the hell does cricket work?
  • are super-spiders real?
  • Calgary property management companies
  • starting a small business in Australia
  • what airlines fly Canada to Australia?
  • clear-bottom kayak
  • Mac power cord power supply Canada and Australia
  • where to live in Australia
  • is Costco in Australia?
  • how long to become a farrier?
  • what happens when you microwave mold?
  • Quantas airlines more expensive
  • is bobinoz a real person?
  • water conservation in Australia
  • shark attack statistics
  • should i get a hybrid bike or a mountain bike for commuting
  • cat meme (this one was Dan)

See next week for the results of the searches. Or search the ones you’re curious about yourself.

Step 23 – Share the Crazy *%$# You Hear While Driving the Bus

You may or may not know that in addition to preparing for a worldwide move, renovating our home, selling all our earthly possessions off and generally up-ending every corner of our lives, I was also driving a school bus this year.

What? Why?

You might be thinking, Marilee, You have a degree in Human Rights and Law!! What are you doing waking up before the crack of dawn, bundling up against the bitter cold, climbing into a giant, yellow day-care on wheels, channeling your inner mechanic until it finally starts, combing the darkened streets of Calgary for drowsy teenagers and delivering them to their school?

Good question!

The answer is, I don’t really know.  It seemed like a good idea. Driving a school bus has added some structure to my days, given me a break from renos and supplied a little extra income while we prep for our move. A very, very little income while we prepped for our move.

Yes its horrifying. I love to sleep in, I definitely don’t like the cold and I’m not wild about teenagers. But somehow, I’ve spent a couple hours each day this year, taking 50-odd 12 to 18 year olds to school and home again.

And I want to share with you, some of the gems I picked up this year.

Bear in mind, most of the swearing has been edited out. I’ve left out a tiny percentage (maybe 5%) to give you a sense of what it’s like.


“I hate him so much I want to cut off his dick, cut it up into pieces like a carrot, make a soup out of it and eat it”.

Which lead to: “I heard that most guys who lose their penises actually transform into girls”.

Which lead to: “No, scientifically its been proven that if your dick gets cut off, doctors can take one of your fingers, sew it back on, and your body regrows a new dick”.

[My mom’s question about this was “does it have a fingernail?”]

I swear this happened. If you find this too shocking, you would be well-advised to skip my blog until next week.


Another time I learned that “All black people have genetically bigger nips”.


Another time I overheard two boys getting into a bit of an argument. I tuned in to see if I could figure out what they were yelling about. (Names have been changed to protect me).

Tommy: “You’re such a f&$#-ing retard! You don’t even know what the hell you’re f&$#-ing talking about! You’re so full of s&$t!!”

Timmy: “No! You’re full of s&$t, you f&$#-ing, dick-faced b—ch!”

[Tommy holds up what appears to be a granola bar of some kind] and screams: “Shut the f&$# up! You don’t know anything!! This is a FibreOne Bar! If I eat nothing else but this all day, I’ll still be able to take a shit!”


Another time, the most foul-mouthed kid on the bus who never shuts up looked out the window and saw a semi blowing black smoke into the air as it drove away. He literally screamed: “F*&#-ing Ni$$a!!! Look at all that pollution! I have to breathe this air you f*&#-ing bastard!!!” It actually made me like him more.


Another time they were talking about the most powerful people in the world and one kid said “Oprah’s a bitch”. Then the same foul-mouthed kid rose to Oprah’s defence yelling, “F*&# off! Oprah is the most powerful woman in the f*&#-ing world you a–hole! She makes more money that you ever will and she knows what she’s about! So shut the f*&# up!”


One day, all the kids on the bus were discussing the difference between regular love and TRUE love. Here’s some of what I learned about love.  “You don’t know what true love is BITCH!” “Shut the f*&# up!” [Older girl steps in and says:] “No, this is true love. When a couple decides to be together and not spend too much time with other people. That’s true love.” [First boy retorts:] “NO! True love is when you stay together until you both die!”


Another day, two boys sitting next to one another had this conversation:

“Ni$$a! Let’s use your iPad.”

“I didn’t bring my iPad.”

“I didn’t bring mine either.”

“What are we gonna do?”

[…Long pause…].

“I guess we could just talk.”


I overheard this odd conversation between a few grade 10 boys – though I guess it’s good to know they have boundaries.

“What’s the youngest you’d punch a person in the face?”

“I’d punch a grade 9 for sure”.

“I’d punch grade 7”.

“I’d hit a grade 3”.

“Yo, there are laws against that – you better not say stuff like that.”


“How far have we driven so far?”

“8KM”

“That’s how long my dick is.”


 

Other miscellaneous things I’ve overheard:

“I would lick his balls for chicken McNuggets.”

“Mrs. Bus driver? In the Canada, is Calgary East or West?”

“I have a dick behind my dick. Is that gay?”

Found written into the fog on one of the windows: “Platypus Jack” and “vag lips”.

“Touch my orange and I’ll put you in a coma”.

“There is a silent “r” in subtle.”

“All white people, I mean every last one, has seen the movie Taken”.

“I never date poor guys”.

“F–k off! I’m texting my mom!”

“I had these black scabs on my skin. The doctor sliced them off with a hot knife, now they’re gone!”


There is literally never a dull moment. And to anyone who might say I should have more discipline on my bus, I say: You. Weren’t. There.

You don’t know what it’s like.

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Step 22 – Ship your stuff


So in case you missed it – we’re moving to Australia.  We’re getting rid of most of our stuff, and moving as permanent residents to a country neither of us have ever set foot on.  We’re taking with us our two cats, Lily and Abby and as little stuff as we can manage to bring. Highlights include:

  • Our clothes (summer clothes only – cold weather clothes we’re consigning, garage sale-ing and/or giving away).

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    The clothing pile. We’ve heard clothes are expensive… Also we like our clothes.
  • Our DVD player – so we can watch the Canadian DVDs we’re bringing.
  • Our cats – Abby and Lily who are not helping in any way with the preparations. Moochers.
  • Bedroom light fixture – its just too pretty and unique to leave behind, though we’re going to have to rewire the lights in it once we arrive, so as to prevent house fires. light
  • The blue pottery Mrs. Campbell had made for us at Hutton House in Ontario.
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  • Our favourite artwork, as long as it can be de-framed and rolled up.  I’ll post photos of the artwork that’s coming later on.
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  • Three of Dan’s five Radio Controlled airplanes and some parts.
  • 4 photo albums.
  • 3 power adapters (to convert the Canadian electronics we’re bringing to Oz power).
  • Our towels – On our wedding registry, I placed the finest quality towels money could buy (your money – thank you). Face clothes were $14. Hand towels $28. Full towels were $69. We got a full set of 8 of each.  I have loved them from the get-go. Dan has loathed them from the get-go (add loathing to the emotions he feels I guess). For the first 1-5 years (depending on which of us you ask), these towels shed tiny blue fuzz balls any time they’d dry us off.  It’s only been in the last couple of years that they’ve really, completely stopped blue-fuzzy-ing us. So I want to take them. We’ve invested so many years into making them fuzz-free towels that we can’t leave them now!
  • My favourite wine-glasses – these have colourful stems. Have you ever tried to find wine glasses with colourful stems? Try it sometime – it’s nearly impossible.
  • Some technology (my Kindle, my iPod, our laptops, my unlocked Nexus 5 phone etc).
  • 1 bin of Christmas decorations (I love my Quilted Jim Shore Nativity)!
  • 1 camping tent – in case we can’t afford accommodations.
  • 3 blankets – to be honest, these are more for colour and accent purposes than warming purposes. One is for comfort.
  • Our fave board games (i.e. Settlers of Catan and Pandemic) – cause this is how we’re going to make new friends.
  • Our snorkels/masks/fins (though we’ve heard the Oz quarantine rules may not allow us to bring them. Apparently, if your equipment has ever been in a fresh water lake environment, it may carry pathogens forward into Oz’s oceans and kill the local sea life.  Which would obviously be tragic. But our equipment has never been in a fresh water lake. Because they’re physically too cold to swim in here in Canada).
  • Dan’s rollerblades – he has awesome hand-me-down rollerblades from his dad. They’re nicer than any other sport’s equipment we own. These rollerblades might get my seat on the plane.
  • Dan’s wetsuit.
  • Some kitchen stuff (Tupperware bowls, a teal brie dish, my lucky spatula).
  • A few knick-knacky things (Mexican mask, hourglass vase, Hawaiian stone).
  • A wicker basket I really like
  • And of course my 24 bathing suits

Logistically, how it will work is: on June 24, we shipped our heaviest, most compact things that we want to bring (books etc). Really, anything that we know we want to bring, but can live without for the next few months. We sent that stuff via groupage.

What is groupage? We share a shipping container with everyone else who is too cheap/poor (or too economical) to get their own container. Once the container is full (once enough people have contributed to it), it will sail over to Brisbane – which will take between 75 and 110 days. They charge by volume, not weight.

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Here is some of what we’re shipping.

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We’ll pick it up on the other end and have Christmas in September. Or October. Or November, or whenever it arrives.

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Here is our stuff inside the truck.
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And the truck, getting ready to drive away… all the way to Australia.

The rest of our stuff will be coming with us in the up to six suitcases we’re allowed to bring.

I can only assume since you’re still reading, that you’re interested in knowing what specifically was sent. Here is the somewhat itemized list of what has shipped to Oz – though this still isn’t everything. Some items were thrown in last minute.

CLOTHING
Coats
Navy Raincoat
Cream Raincoat
Red Joseph Ricoff Blazer
Black and White Joseph Ricoff Blazer
Columbia Brown Wind breaker
Teal Button up jacket
Black Manly jacket

Scarves
Cream Scarf
Polka Dot Scarf
Fall Colours Pashmina
Purple, Green, Brown best scarf ever

Dresses
Blue/white striped dress
Teal Birthday Dress
Plain Black Zip Dress
Teal Strapless
Brown full length dress
Grey/Teal Dress
Green Mindy Dress
Polka Dot Zulily Dress
Navy Beach dress
Black Beach Dress
Navy Wanderlust dress

Lingerie/Bras/Underwear
…details removed to protect some semblance of privacy…

Bottoms
Khaki pixie pants
Khaki shorts
Pinstripe shorts
MEC Longjohns (for snorkelling – great sun protection).
Navy Crop shorts
Navy and white stripe PJ pants
Brown shorts
Black shorts
Checker shorts
Grey skort
Grey/Pink track shorts
Black long johns
Black clam diggers
White paisley crop pants
Neoprene shorts
Dan’s pants and shorts

Bathing Suits
Navy Polka Dot
Nunkini
Dalmation
Swimco Stripes
Lingerie Red
Zulily Strapless
Blue/Teal Zebra Tropical Print
Black Ribbed
Brown and Teal
Black Racer Back
Black Hibiscus
Blue/Teal Tankini
Brown Tie up bottoms
Brown Bottoms
White Tie up Bottoms
Teal and Coral Tankini
Pink Flower Mom Suit
Orange floral Tankini
Navy Stripes Tankini
Purple Reversible
Black Bottoms

Shoes
Navy Tommy flipflops
Navy striped Joe Fresh flipflops
Navy Joe fresh flip flops
Teal flats
Steel Toed shoes
Columbia Hiking Boots
Black Leather flats
Men’s Navy Vans
Black Leather kitten wedge heels
Navy Flats
Steel Toed Runners x2
Leather Moccasins
Black Men’s Dress Shoes

Shirts
Jones New York Cream Flower T
Lucky interview blazer
Teal Polka button up sweater
Grey Long Sleeve T
White T
Grey Jana Infinity Shirt
Navy Anchor Sweater
Grey Target T
White Rash Guard
Beige fishnet sweater
Blue old navy T
Black yoga hoodie
Cream/Navy tank
Cream tank
Red yoga hoodie
Cream beaded tank
White beach hoodie
Red T
Burgundy Tank
Yessica Netherlands T
Light teal button down
Blue striped tank
Navy and green polka dot button down
Coral columbia sweater
Red pull-on cover up
Coral rash guard
TH Red w/ black dots
Old Navy button up tank – magenta
5 Spaghetti strap tanks
cream lace tank
Old navy white long sleeve t
teal tank
white workout t
white tank
white navy tank
cream polka dot button down
white and navy striped t
white ukrainian tank
red tank
Old Navy button up tank- black
Navy beach coverup
Black tank
Navy tank
Old Navy button up tank – navy white dots
Navy adjustable tank
Heart sweater
Green jacket
Pink/orange beach coverup
orange tank
orange white stripe long sleeve t
neon pink workout t
pink t
Red vest
Navy and white stripe top (nordstroms)
Yellow long sleeve t
black gathered t
20 T-shirts for Dan
5 dress shirts for Dan

Bags
Bag – pink, mesh beach bag
Bag – Swimco woman art x2
Bag – orange/teal bible verse
Laptop bag – silver zip
Laptop bag – teal with white polka dots
Purse – Black Leather Nine West
Purse – Navy, leather strap
Cooler – Costco
Backpack – Blue MEC
Purse – Teal Polka dot – fossil

Accessories
Glasses – small horn rims, prescription
Glasses – orange, prescription
Sunglasses – brown, polarized
Sunglasses – brown x2
Sunglasses – white, sporty
Watch – artisan teal
Watch – artisan brown
Belt – large, black, stretchy

Toiletries
2 bars Dove Soap
15 Venus Razor Heads
Burts Bees Lip Chap
Veggiewitch deodorant (pumpkin chai) 🙂
Tampons Box
Tom’s Deodorant – Calendula
Tom’s Deodorant – Lemongrass x2
60 Pantyliners – Umbra
6 Sunscreens
Makeup Kit (Inc. B-Team Makeup and Mary Kay stuff)
Cilantro Toothpaste
Sinfulicious Lotion from Mehreen 🙂

Textiles
Green shooky blanket
36 microfibre rags
6 Navy towels
Cream soft blanket
Teal Microfleece blanket
7 Handtowels – Navy
9 Faceclothes- Navy
1 Navy pillow case
1 white pillow case cover
12 Dish clothes

Paper
Beware the Mare Bumper Sticker
3D Card
Some cards and letters
Some pictures and notes

Games
Cards Against Humanity
Anomia
Settlers
Card deck – airplane
Pandemic

Decorations
Mexico mask
Dakota hearts
Hawaii Stone
Potted Woman Vase
4 Glass Coasters
Teal Mason Jar Candle
6 hanging eye catchers
Red soapstone heart
Africa Jewellry Box

Randoms
N95 Mask
Fabric Tape
Garment Bag – Laura
Confectioner’s Box from Mehreen
Little Black Apron

DVDs and CDs
Engagement pics CD
Wedding pics CD
Personal shower CD
Steve Bell Pilgrimage
Tin of music CDs
Les Mis
Parks and Rec
The Office
The West Wing
The Mindy Project

Photo Albums
Shutterbug Photo Log
Light green photo album
Brown ornate photo album
Green photo album

Art
Tiny Flower Canvas and easel
Japanese Wall Hanging
Daphne’s painting
Deborah’s Fabric Art
Steph’s Cherry Tree
Australia Poster

Electronics
Pelican 1010 Yellow case
4GB SD card
Stylus – green
Retractable micro USB/USB charger
Nortel Green 2GB Flash drive
Lowpro Black/grey zip case
Tripod – bendy Joby
Bike lights and USB charger
Head lamp
Black stylus
Green headphones – westjet
Cobra Walkie Talkie set
USB Adapter x2

Books
The Red Tent by Anita Diamont
Travelling Mercies by Anne Lamott (my favourite author)
Grace (Eventually) by Anne Lamott
Imperfect Birds by Anne Lamott
Stitches by Anne Lamott
Small Victories by Anne Lamott
Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott (you may have noticed a fave author)
Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
Archon by Catherine Fisher
Women Food and God by Geneen Roth
The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane
Majestic and Wild by Murray Pura (another one of my fave authors)
Mizzly Fitch by Murray Pura
The Poets of Windhover Marsh by Murray Pura
Pilgrimage by Steve Bell (one of my favourite artists)
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
The Mark of the Lion Trilogy by Francine Rivers
The Golden Compass Trilogy by Philip Pullman
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. RowlingThe Girl Who Loved Horses by Paul Goble
Children, Can You Hear Me? by Brad Jersak
It’s Useful to Have a Duck (Riiiiight?!?!) by ISOLSongs of Creation
The Blessing Seed
Encyclopedia of Animals
Ocean
One More Thing
The Night Guest
Women, Food and God
Magestic and Wild
Disposable People
The Archon
I Like You
2 Crossword Puzzles
1 Journal
3 other boxes of books we didn’t catalogue

Miscellaneous
Bike pant clamp
Bike tire inflator
Garage tools – 4 boxes
3 RC Airplanes and accessories

Step 21 – Explain why we’re taking the cats

Now that Dakota has died, the most common question we get asked is “Why are you taking your cats?”

This is a good question. As you’ve seen from the Money post, it’s almost as much money to get them over to Oz as us!

Well, there are a few reasons, some superficial, and some serious.  Ok, mainly superficial.

  • cause they’re cute
  • cause they’re comforting and remind us of home
  • cause we’ve spent so much money on them already
  • we want to keep them together
  • pets can’t choose us, so we try to be loyal to them
  • mainly because we like them

One of our major roadblocks though, is that we’ll be bringing the cats.  We’ll have to rent a car that’s ok with us putting animals in it, we’ll have to rent a place that’s ok with us having animals in it etc.

We wanted to arrive in Oz at least one month before the cats so we could tootle around the country, and pick a place to live.  (We thought about buying an RV or camper when we get there and bringing them with us for the country-tour, but we’d have to leave the AC on in the car for them while we go to the beach. Also what if they escaped into the outback)? But this plan hasn’t worked out.

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These two are pretty oblivious toward the plans we have for their futures.

We have been preparing the cats a bit for their imminent move. We’ve been explaining it to them in teachable moments, though it’s really not clear how much is truly sinking in.

But more recently, we took them on a trial car ride to see what they’d be like out of their kennels during our 900km drive from Sydney to Brisbane.

The results?

Freaked, but not overwhelmed.

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Abby doesn’t understand why the floor seems so unstable.
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Lily is alarmingly apathetic.
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Though Abby does like the view from the back window.
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Family selfie! (Probably the most dangerous photo I’ve ever taken).

I have been trying to convince Dan to take them up for a flight in one of his little planes at the flying club so they can start getting prepped for that part of the journey.

So far, he doesn’t seem keen.

I’ll keep you posted.

Step 20 – Get your house ready to rent!!!

We have decided not to sell our house in Canada. Instead, we are renovating the basement and the upper level to be two separate rentable units.

The upstairs has remained more or less the same. We’ve replaced my beautiful french door with a solid white door (boring, but more secure).1428954590171

We bought a washer and dryer to go upstairs. When we bought the house, the laundry was upstairs, but one of the renos I insisted on was moving the laundry downstairs, because it’s just what I know – washing clothes in a cold, stinky, cement room no one else uses.  So we already had the hookups upstairs and down, just needed the appliances. Thank you kijiji.

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We’ve also changed the locks for the whole house, as well as put double sided locks on the door separating the two units. Here is what the upstairs looks like:

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The upper guest room.
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The dining room, obviously.
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The master bedroom/en suite.

Downstairs is quite another story.  Here is a photo journey of the downstairs’ progression.

Projects took place in two main rooms. The big bedroom and the kitchen.  The big bedroom went from being this messy, bare-floor, walls-only-primed, cat-stanky mess:

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The messy cat room.

cat tree blue

…to a simple, clean, bedroom of large proportions. Hmmm, I can’t seem to find a photo. I’ll add one later. In the meantime, you can use your imagination.

All we had to do was move all our junk (and stuff for sale on kijiji) into the other room, paint the walls my favourite Ivory Cream, paint the trim my second favourite Delicate White and we were off to the races. Next we hired the same people to put in the same carpet we already have in the rest of the basement, into the large bedroom.

And voila! Master bedroom is ready!


Of course, the most costly, and time-consuming project has been the kitchen. We were happy to discover that although our house was already zoned correctly, the basement kitchen area already had the necessary plumbing and electrical components needed to fulfil the code requirements.  The previous tenants had put a wet bar and book shelves in over top of where their kitchenette had been:

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This is the wet bar area with the built in bookshelves.

When we took out the wet bar and the humungous built-in bookshelves, we found a 220 volt plugin for the stove, five power outlets (the breakers for which had left us very confused!) and of course the necessary plumbing for a kitchen:

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Of course we had some patching and wire-moving to do.

The layout was all there in front of us, we just had to rebuilt the kitchen onto the existing skeleton. First we replaced the carpet floor with linoleum/laminate:

Laminate.
Laminate.

Then we bought and installed cabinetry and countertops (Dan hates it when I use the word cabinetry – he thinks it should just be “cabinets”). Cabinetry, cabinetry, cabinetry:

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Dan is a perfectionist.
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He built this kitchen with his bare hands. What a guy!! (Yes, that’s him in the cupboard).
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This is with the cupboards mostly done.
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These two freeloaders didn’t help at all!
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And the mess! The renovation mess!!

We got the showpiece handles from Habitat for Humanity’s Re-Store:

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Then we bought appliances – thank you kijiji for the stove, and Best Buy for the fridge. Then we bought and installed the backsplash (eye-catching if you ask me):

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We laid them all out so we could put the nice pieces in nice places.
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Putting up the backsplash.

Then we installed the sink, installed the appliances, put on the rest of the cabinet doors and we were done!

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Look how happy Dan is to be done! Or is that pride??
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The finished product. I hope we get to live in a place this nice!
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From another angle.
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And another still.
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Pretty much everything but the cabinetry and countertop are from Re-Store or Kijiji.

I am using the royal “we” pretty liberally. But to be honest, Dan designed and built and installed almost all of it. He’s renovation superman, but doesn’t think he could make a go of it professionally because he’s too slow. (That’s because he’s a perfectionist). So now we’re done renovating.

Once we sell the furniture, we can start renting out the basement!

 

Step 19 – Explain 22 bathing suits

As I mentioned in Step 10, I am bringing 22 bathing suits with me to Australia.

Since Step 10 was written, I’ve bought 2 more.

WHAT THE *%$#&??? You might be thinking.  (Hopefully not, cause that’s rude).

What does a person need with 24 bathing suits you might say?

And I say, don’t judge me. I like bathing suits.  I collect them.   I had an awesome one, then wore it so many times it went see through in some key places.  No good.

I have searched high and low for a replacement bathing suit in the same style or colour or both and have found nothing like it.  But what I have found is 24 other bathing suits I like second best.

What’s that? You’d like to see them?

Sure!

So, I’ve taken some time to photograph each of the 24 bathing suits for you. What I plan to do is run this blog post in two parts. First is obviously this post. However, I pledge to you today, to wear each of the 24 bathing suits to 24 beaches, take 24 pictures and I’ll post the 24 bathing suits doing what they’re meant to do.

Hanging on a hanger? Taking up room in a drawer?

NO!

Being worn!

And finally – here’s what all the fuss is about.

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Two of my favourite colours: Teal and Corral
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I think this is a bathing suit Cruela DeVille would wear. (It’s not made out of puppies though – I think it just makes me look like a Dalmatian).
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The classic, navy polka dot. I (like most women who frequent Pinterest and have large chunky glasses) LOVE polka dots.
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This is the closest I’ve come to being able to replace my most favoured of suits. I wish it were plain and halter top.
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The black halter. Boring, but basically ubiquitous.
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This is my A-team lane swimming suit. Off a MEC clearance rack. Thanks MEC 🙂
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This is for those days when you just want to stand out. Which for me is every day. I wear this every day.
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This is a two-in-one suit (reversible).
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This is the other side. Yes I count it as two suits.
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This was the only time I’ve ever paid more than $100 for a bathing suit. Totally worth it.
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This one is the classic black with a twist – it can go strapless for a more even burn.
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If I were a mom, this is the suit I’d always wear. Roomy and comfortable – its an easy go-to.
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This hot pink suit actually came with a beach cover-up too! Awesomeness to the power of awesomeness.
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This, believe it or not, is a one piece. I admit, in this photo it looks a little like lingerie. It isn’t.
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The nun tankini. The Nunkini. You heard it here first.
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Stripes. I love stripes. And dots. But mainly stripes.
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Speaking of polka dots…
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Weird pattern but I like the colours.
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More stripes!
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A nice tropical print.
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Once again, I’m trying to recreate that first, awesome suit that was my favourite. This I like, but not as much.
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Another bold print. I love this one! I love them all!
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And the boring black racing suit.
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And here is the last one I bought/will buy before going over. Ordered it online – which was the first time I’d done that with a bathing suit. It worked out swimmingly 😉

 

So, in summation, I will reiterate that I like bathing suits – and that it’s important to let your body go outside and be loved by the sun and the sky and by eyeballs! It’s a beautiful body!

Vote on the best tree in Toronto!

My dear friend Andrea has entered the great Toronto Tree Hunt put on by LEAF – an NGO that protects Toronto’s urban forests.

She has nominated two trees in two different categories. The top five trees in each category will be adjudicated by a panel of judges.

Please go to this link and search Baumann to find her nominations.  They are called Imperfect Beauty and A Steadying Presence.  You can vote (as many as 20 times) on every device you have!

She has written a thoughtful entry for each tree (which is quite a bit more than most of the other participants).

Thanks!!

In case you’re just tuning in…

…In case your just tuning in now, Dan and I are moving to Australia to become permanently warmer residents than we are now (we’ve got permanent resident status in Australia).  We’re doing a weekly step-by-step on what it’s like to move from Canada to Australia. You can look at recent posts on the left hand-side of this page.

Here is a snapshot of where we are as of today:

Yes. We are taking our cats. Yes. It’s ridiculous. And pretty expensive. They are not helping in the process at all.  Total free-loaders.

Yes, our families are supportive (emotionally and financially) and also crushed that we’re leaving. But it’s ok – I explained the reasons to them in a blog post. Now they are fine.

We’ve been selling off our stuff on kijiji. Please let us know if you’d like any of it!

We’ve hiring a moving company to take send of our stuff groupage. It will arrive just after we do, if we send it by the end of June. I’ll post a list of what has made the cut once we decide.

The rest of our life, we’ll be stuffing into the three suitcases each we’ll be bringing. (The first suitcase is free. The second suitcase is $70.  The third suitcase is $125).

When we land, we’ll be staying six days in an Airbnb in Syndey (unless any of you have an aunt living in New South Wales you didn’t tell me about??) **looks around hopefully??**  We’re looking at Airbnb rather than a hostel because I want to make sure I have a nice, comfortable place to bawl my eyes out when I get there. This is my way.

Then once the cats clear quarantine, we’ll rent a car and drive to Brisbane with the cats and our six suitcases. Which will be fun.

[Secret Confession of Dan Campbell: We had a “talk” the other day about how that drive is going to go. Marilee wanted to lay down some ground-rules. Actually, just one ground-rule.  No meowing.  She made it clear she wasn’t talking about the cats.]

We will probably also do Airbnb for a few weeks once we get to Brisbane until we can find a place to live with our kitties. Unless I can line something up ahead of time.

So much is TBD. Our lives are TBD. If you ever try something like this, get used to TBD.

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Look how OK we are with TBD

Step 18 – Assemble the Best Travel Music of All Time

Music is a powerful force in our lives. Both of us will be leaving behind community bands with the Westwinds Music Society. (I’ve learned to play French Horn, Dan has been playing Trumpet for years).

I use music to cope with difficult situations, to celebrate high-points in life, to reminisce about the past and to fill-in quiet space in the background.

Some of our earliest dates were seeing Wynton Marsallus play at the National Art Centre in Ottawa and seeing the Transiberian Orchestra play the then Scotia Bank Place.

It seems only fitting then, to look at the role music will play in our move.

[Secret Confession of Dan Campbell: I only really feigned an interest in music to be more appealing to Marilee when we were first dating. She told me early on that she liked how into different types of music I was. I think she’d heard me listening to Les Mis and assumed that if I liked Les Mis, I must be pretty well-rounded re: musical tastes.  I’m slowly working up to telling her that I only like Les Mis. I don’t really like other music that much.]

So here are the best songs I can think of for moving to the other side of the world:

Travelling songs:

Jet Airliner by Steve Miller Band
Steppenwolf- Born To Be Wild
The Eagles- Take It Easy
Queen- Don’t Stop Me Now
Clash- Should I Stay Or Should I Go
Nora Jones- Come Away With Me – for the mellow days
Brand New Spaces – Calgary’s own Michael Bernard Fitzgerald
Send me on my way  –  Rusted Root
Life is a Highway  –   Tom Cochrane
Time to Move on  –   Tom Petty
Tokyo  –   Bruce Cockburn
Open  –  Bruce Cockburn
Wildflowers  –  Tom Petty
California  –  Phantom Planet

Missing home songs:

Never Let Go – Florence and the Machine
Keep Your Head Up – Ben Harper?
Lightning Tent – Wildlife
The Bliss – Fortunate Ones

Please feel free to add your own ideas.


**Update May 27, 2015

Amy K suggested Home by Michael Buble

Chloe S. wanted to add the following songs as well:

Shut up and Drive by Rihanna
Mustang Sally by Wilson Pickett
Jack and Diane by John Cougar Mellencamp
Golden Years by David Bowie
Don’t Stop Believing by Journey (incidentally this is one of my favourite tunes!)

Step 17 – Fantasize about the Future

If life were a choose your own ending adventure, I would definitely read the following chapters:

The Campbells’ start a Bed and Breakfast in Oz and charge $180 to sleep and an extra $45 for a muffin for breakfast (that happened to us once in Waterton Park. That was the day Dan really got on board with the idea of us running a B&B).

Marilee opens a hamam in Australia.

Marilee and Dan start an airtour company called Barefoot Pilots.

Dan and Marilee open a dive shop.

Marilee and Dan open a snorkelling tour and boat rental company.

Marilee opens a retreat centre called Idlewild Retreat Centre. (I just like the sound of the word).

Marilee becomes a used-objects (or found items) shopping expert.

Marilee runs for Parliament.

Dan owns an airline of island hoppers.

Dan and Marilee flip houses.

Dan and Marilee only work 13 hours a week each, and learn to subsist with less.

Marilee becomes an environmental researcher and discovers a way to save planet Earth from its inhabitants.

Dan becomes a house-husband and loves it.

Dan and Marilee discover a way to transform people into mer-people and we make the change to life under the sea.

Dan opens up a pizzeria, specializing in only pizzas he likes (big crust, heavy sauce, light cheese, onions, green peppers, pepperoni and beef).

Summary: We’d like to work for ourselves, and we’d like to never get back into the “Rat Race”.

PS. Thanks to Andrea B. for letting me use her gorgeous picture of the cherry blossoms in Hide Park. You can vote for her photo in a “Tree Hunt” contest after June 1 here – just search Andrea in the “View Entries” section.

Step 16 – Take another break from all the steps

Maybe this week you’d like to look at some of our favourite quotations from favoured books and movies:

Marilee’s Favourites:

“She loved the big proud bodies of the women in the choir, and how they could swing, and how planted on the earth they seemed, and with no apology for taking up so much space. It was as if they assumed they were beautiful, and only needed to decide what color to dress their beauty in. (Anne Lamott, Blue Shoes).


“My heart trusted in him, and I am helped” (Psalm 28:7).


“One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands alone and throws one’s head back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvellous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one’s heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun — which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so. And one knows it sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in some one’s eye”. (Ben Weatherstaff from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden).


“It was such a miserable hovel that it could not make up its mind which way even to fall, and so it remained standing”. (Hans Christian Anderson, The Ugly Duckling).


“Someone must have taken it,” Said Eeyore. “How like them,” he added, after a long silence. (A.A Milne’s Winnie the Pooh,  on Eeyore missing his tail).


How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

[Sidebar: This is the poem Dan recited from memory when he proposed to me].


“Closing Sohrab’s door, I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded, not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night” (The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini).

“Sohrab’s silence wasn’t the self-imposed silence of those with convictions, of protesters who seek to speak their cause by not speaking at all. It was the silence of one who has taken cover in a dark place, curled up all the edges and tucked them under.” (The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini).


Mongrel

A puppy dog without a collar
Annexed me on my evening walk;
His coat suggested fleas and squalor,
His tail had never known a dock.
So humble, trusting, wistful was he,
I gave his head a cautious pat,
Then I regretted it because he
Accompanied me to my door-mat.
And there with morning milk I found him,
Where he’d slumbered all the night;
I could not with displeasure hound him,
So wonderful was his delight.
And so with him I shared my porridge-
Oh! How voraciously he ate!
And then I had the woeful courage
To thrust him through the garden gate.
But there all morning long he waited;
I had to sneak out by the back.
To hurt his feelings how I hated,
Yet somehow he got on my track.
For down the road he sudden saw me
and though in trees I tried to hide,
How pantingly he sought to paw me,
And yelped with rapture by my side.
Poor dirty dog! I should have coshed him,
But after all twas not his fault;
And so I took him home and washed him,
-I’m that soft-hearted kind of dolt.
But then he looked so sadly thinner,
Though speckless clean and airy bright,
I had to buck him up with dinner
And keep him for another night.
And now he is a household fixture
And never wants t leave my side;
A doggy dog, a mongrel mixture,
I couldn’t lose him if I tried.
His tail undocked is one wild wiggle,
His heaven is my happy nod;
His life is one ecstatic wiggle,
And I’m his God.

Robert Service


We have to repent . . . not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. (Martin Luther King Jr.).


“We shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts–for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments.”  (Woodrow Wilson, speaking to Congress on April 2, 1917).


Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish; Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal. (St. Thomas More).


Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from weak minds.” (Albert Einstein).


A Blessing

Just off the Highway to Rochester, Minnesota
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

James Wright


…she imagined herself as some sort of vessel to be filled up with love. But it wasn’t like that. The love was within her all the time, and its only renewal cam from giving it away. (Kim Edwards, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter).


The truly powerful ideas are precisely the ones that never have to justify themselves. (Dallas Willard, Divine Conspiracy).

Absurdity reigns, and confusion makes it look good. (Dallas Willard, Divine Conspiracy).

[instead of random acts of kindness, practice ] “routinely purposeful kindnesses and intelligent acts of beauty” (Dallas Willard, Divine Conspiracy).


Just then she looked up at the cliffs above her head and started with surprise and delight. In a tiny crevice of the rock, where a few drops from the trickling waterfall could occasionally sprinkle it,w was a single plant. It had just tow or three leaves and one fragile stem, almost hair-like in its slenderness, grew out at right angles to the wall. On the stem was one flower, blood red in colour which glowed like a lamp or flame of fie in the early rays of sun. Much afraid started at it for some moments, noticing the wall which completely imprisoned it, the minute aperture, through which it had forced gives way to the light , and the barren loneliness of its surroundings. Its roots were clamped around by sheer rock, its leaves scarcely able to press outside the prison house, yet it had insisted on bursting into bloom and was holding its little face open to the sun and burning like a flame of joy. (Hannah Hurnard, Hinds Feet on High Places).


It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices. (Albus Dumbledore speaking to Harry Potter, J.K Rowling’s Chamber of Secrets).


…taught me that you could be all the traditional feminine things – a mother, a lover, a listener, a nurturer- and you could also be critically astute and radical and have a minority opinion that was profoundly moral. You could escape the fate of your mother, become who you were born to be, and succeed in the world without having to participate in traditional male terms – without hardness, coldness, one-upmanship, without having to compete and come out the winner. (Anne Lammott, Travelling Mercies).


But love not too well the work of thy hands and the devices of they heart; and remember that the try hope of the Noldor lieth in the West and cometh from the sea. (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Simarillion).


“Ram Dass, who describes himself as a Hin-Jew, said that ultimately we’re all just walking each other home. I love that. I try to live by it. (Anne Lammott, Stitches).

If I see the word “God”, I sure don’t mean an old man in the sky who loves the occasional goat sacrifice. I mean “God” as Jane Keyton described God: “I am food on the prisoner’s plate…/the patient gardener/of the dry and weedy garden…/the stone step/the latch, and the working hinge.” I mean “God” as shorthand for the Good, for the animating energy of love; for Life, for the light that radiates from within people and from above; in the energies of nature, even in our rough, messy selves. (Anne Lammott, Stitches).

It would be great if we could shop, sleep or date our way out of this. Sometimes we think we can, but it feels that way only for a while. To hale, it seems we have to stand in the middle of the horror, at the foot of the cross, and wait out another’s suffering where that person can see us. (Anne Lammott, Stitches).

Whether I’m wrong or not, though, most of us have figured out that we have to do what’s in front of us and keep doing it. We clean up beaches after oil spills. We rebuild whole towns after hurricanes and tornados. We return calls and library books. We get people water. Some of us even pray. Every time we choose the good action or response, the decent, the valuable, it builds, incrementally to renewal, resurrection, the place of newness, freedom and justice. The equation is life, death, resurrection, hope. The horror is real, and so you make casseroles for your neighbour, organize an overseas clothing drive and do your laundry. You can also offer to do other people’s laundry if they have recently had any random babies or surgeries. (Anne Lammott, Stitches).

[Sidenote: I really liked Anne Lammott’s book: Stitches].


Doktor Eklund was unhappy with the way the Prime Minister had interfered with his recruiting process. And Allan, for his pain, felt the negative vibe in the room and for a moment was reminded of the first time he met Soong Mei-Ling. People could do what they wanted but Allan considered that in general, it was quite unnecessary to be grumpy if you had the chance not to. (Jonas Jonasson, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared).


“Let me give you some counsil bastard.” Tyrion said. “Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.” (Tyrion Lannister in George R.R. Martin’s The Game of Thrones).


They all attended Hester’s church, which Dellarobia viewed as a complicated pyramid scheme of moral debt and credit resting ultimately on the shoulders of the Lord, but rife with middle managers.” (Barbara Kingsolver, Flight Behaviour).

The better part of friendship might be holding one’s tongue over the prospect of self-make wreckage. (Barbara Kingsolver, Flight Behaviour).

Nobody truly decided for themselves. There was too much information. What they actually did was scope around, decide who was looking out for their clan, and sign on for the memos on a wide array of topics.” (Barbara Kingsolver, Flight Behaviour).

And even while he warned her of these caveats, Dellarobia felt a settling down of her lifelong plague of impatience. He did not claim that God moves in mysterious ways. Instead he seemed to believe, as she did, though they never could have discussed it, that everything else is in motion while God does not move at all. God sits still, perfectly at rest, the silver dollar at the bottom of the well, the question. (Barbara Kingsolver, Flight Behaviour).

[Sidenote: I obviously also really liked Flight Behaviour].


Say I’m working at N.S.A. Somebody puts a code on my desk, something nobody else can break. So I take a shot at it and maybe I break it. And I’m real happy with myself, ’cause I did my job well. But maybe that code was the location of some rebel army in North Africa or the Middle East. Once they have that location, they bomb the village where the rebels were hiding and fifteen hundred people I never had a problem with get killed. Now the politicians are sayin’, Send in the marines to secure the area ’cause they don’t give a shit. It won’t be their kid over there, gettin’ shot. Just like it wasn’t them when their number was called, ’cause they were pullin’ a tour in the National Guard. It’ll be some guy from Southie takin’ shrapnel in the ass. And he comes home to find that the plant he used to work at got exported to the country he just got back from. And the guy who put the shrapnel in his ass got his old job, ’cause he’ll work for fifteen cents a day and no bathroom breaks. Meanwhile my buddy from Southie realizes the only reason he was over there was so we could install a government that would sell us oil at a good price. And of course the oil companies used the skirmish to scare up oil prices so they could turn a quick buck. A cute little ancillary benefit for them but it ain’t helping my buddy at two-fifty a gallon. And naturally they’re takin’ their sweet time bringin’ the oil back, and maybe even took the liberty of hiring an alcoholic skipper who likes to drink martinis and play slalom with the icebergs, and it ain’t too long ’til he hits one, spills the oil and kills all the sea life in the North Atlantic. So my buddy’s out of work and he can’t afford to drive, so he’s got to walk to the job interviews, which sucks ’cause the shrapnel in his ass is givin’ him chronic hemorroids. And meanwhile he’s starvin’ ’cause every time he tries to get a bite to eat the only blue plate special they’re servin’ is North Atlantic scrod with Quaker State. So what do I think? I’m holdin’ out for somethin’ better. Why not just shoot my buddy, take his job and give it to his sworn enemy, hike up gas prices, bomb a village, club a baby seal, hit the hash pipe and join the National Guard? I could be elected president. (Matt Damon as Will Hunting in Good Will Hunting)


“The more civilized we become, the more horrendous our entertainments,” said Frex. (Gregory McGuire, Wicked).


He had learned that it was the smallness of people that filled him with wonder and tenderness, and the loneliness of that too. The world was made up of people putting one foot in front of the other and a life might appear ordinary simply because the person living it had done so for a long time. Harold could no longer pass a stranger without acknowledging the truth that everyone was the same, and also unique and that this was the dilemma of being human. (Rachel Joyce, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry).


We’ve all got a monster inside of us Clark. And we’re all responsible for what it does when we let it out. (Lincoln in The 100).


““Best friend” isn’t a person Danny, its a tier” (Mindy Lahiri in The Mindy Project).

Dan’s Favourites: 

Call this an unfair generalization if you must, but old people are no good at everything. (Moe, The Simpsons).


Aeronautics was neither an industry nor a science. It was a miracle. (Igor Sikorsky – Inventor of the helicopter).


Caution: Cape does not enable user to fly. (Batman costume warning label, Wal-Mart, 1995)


Eighty percent of success is showing up. (Woody Allen)


Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait. (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)


All my possessions for a moment in time. (Last words of Queen Elizabeth).


Let us have faith that right makes might; and in that faith let us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand. (Abraham Lincoln)


Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. (Thomas Edison)

You cannot make your decisions based on criticisms. You have to do what you think is right. (Rosalind Carter)


A jury consists of twelve people who determine which client has the better lawyer. (Robert Frost)


Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names. (John F. Kennedy)


The old law about “an eye for an eye” leaves everybody blind. (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)


I’m sorry Mr. President. I don’t dance. (Jack Ryan – Clear & Present Danger)


You gave control of America’s nuclear weapons to a foreign country? If you can call Canada foreign. Or a country. (Canadian Bacon)


Behind the rabbit? It is the rabbit. (Tim the Enchanter)


Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. I sense much fear in you. (Yoda)


I’ve been doing pushups since I was a fetus. (Jerry Seinfeld)


I see you’ve played knifey-spoony before. (Simpsons episode about Australia)


Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote. (Grover Cleveland, former two-term Democratic US president) [Dan likes this ironically I think].


It’s not normal for a woman to read! Soon she starts getting *ideas*, and *thinking*… (Gaston – Beauty & the Beast). [Also ironically].


I like strong magnets. (Peter Eddy)


Mr. Skinner, I got carsick in your office. (Ralph Wiggum)


When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return. (Leonardo da Vinci)


Tristan is wearing his helmet because he is fresh off of his lobotomy. (Jason Parker)


Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try. (Homer Simpson).


Within all of us is a varying amount of space lint and star dust, the residue from our creation. Most are too busy to notice it, and it is stronger in some than others. It is strongest in those of us who fly and is responsible for an unconscious, subtle desire to slip into some wings and try for the elusive boundaries of our origin. (K O Eckland, ‘Footprints On Clouds’)


Miss Flamiel: Yakko, can you conjugate?

Yakko: Who? Me? I’ve never even kissed a girl!

Miss Flamiel: No, it’s very simple. I’ll conjugate with you.

Yakko: Good night, everybody!

Step 15 – Identify the things you’ll miss

So, as the date we leave looms closer, I find myself thinking of the things I’ll miss.

I will miss these noisy jerks:

United States. Black-billed magpie (Pica pica).
Magpies.

I will not miss maple syrup.  I am perhaps the only Canadian who thinks its a bit overdone.

I will miss Arby’s.  Specifically the Great Canadian. Although I do wish they’d calm down on the mustard a bit. Any time I ask for a Great Canadian with no mustard, what the staff consistently hear is “Please use all the mustard”.

I will not miss shovelling snow.

IMGP1780
Dan’s such a great shoveller. Our moving is really squandered talent.

I will miss being less than a two hour drive from these guys,
familyor a four hour flight from these guys.

IMG_20150504_123630

I will not miss having to do this every spring and fall:

IMG_20150415_132947
Changing to winter tires. Am I right?

I will miss my house which we have renovated to be our perfect dream home – filled with light and colour, and openness with a garbage can and kleenex box in every room.roomcouch3

PANO_20141209_141036

I will not miss the neighbours dogs barking between 11PM and 5AM.

I know its lame but I will miss my unlimited everything Mobilicity phone plan. (Unlimited incoming and outgoing texts, local and long-distance calls, unlimited data, American calling etc. for $35 all in).  Do they even have smartphones in Australia?

I will not miss the cold. The infernal cold.  The accursed cold that lasts for 13 months of the year.

I think I will miss the ketchup. I like ketchup on so many things. Apparently the ketchup in Oz is different and I best get used to it. Also the cheese and dairy products are different (though I’m told its for the better).

Dan would like to add that he will miss lower prices on everything, 5% tax, as well as family and friends.  When pressed for which family and friends, he pretended he didn’t hear me and went back to looking at videos on youtube. [Sidebar: he just showed me what he was looking at – obviously Grace and Frankie is going to be my new favourite show]!

Finally, maybe you didn’t notice the theme, or the amazing flower at the top of this post. Remember as a kid ripping the petals off flowers one at a time, playing the “he-loves-me-he-loves-me-not-game”? Well, this entry was like that game so I asked my own father for a couple of his favoured flower photos (he’s a stellar photographer) and he shared that one with me, as well as these ones below.

Thanks Dad! I’ll miss being close to you, and your mountains and your flowers and your walks.

flower1
Bear Grass
flower
Indian Paintbrush

 

 

flower4
Butterfly with flowers
flower5
Snapdragons. What a great name! Oops, they’re not snap dragons. Still a great name though.

Step 14 – Acknowledge that you have some doubts

I think mis-givings about an adventure like this must be normal right?

What if it doesn’t work out?

What if we hate living in Australia?

What if we can’t find jobs we like?

What if one of us loves it there and the other one hates it?

What if one of us gets eaten by a shark?

I think these are pretty normal questions to ask when embarking on a journey of this magnitude […she said as if she were the first person in the world to unroot and settle somewhere else]. To be honest, I am really nervous about some of these questions for real.

We are OK financially and I think our families would pitch in to buy us a plane ticket home if some catastrophe struck us. That is a nice safety net to have, most definitely.

But it’s actually the day-to-day things that make me most nervous.  I have always been close to every member of my family.  Of course there are ups and downs blah blah blah, but I love them all so much and wonder how I’ll do without them in my immediate life.

What if it turns out I really do miss four seasons?

What if shovelling snow was the glue that held our marriage together?

I guess I’m trying to prep myself in advance that I will be homesick. I will definitely cry. I will feel like a fish out of water. I will want to come home. I will miss hearing people speak with my own accent. I will probably feel we’ve made a big mistake.  It wouldn’t be the first time – but I don’t regret a single major decision I’ve made so far, so why doubt now?

Anyway – to help allay my fears, I’ve written a little song:

You’ve got to AC-cent-uate the positive, E-Lim-inate the negative, Latch on, to the affirmative, don’t mess with Mr. In-between.  

Fine, you got me – I didn’t write this.  But it will probably help.

Step 13 – Learn about Healthcare in Australia

Healthcare is important to me. I get injured a lot.  Not always very seriously, but definitely regularly.  To illustrate, here is a (non-inclusive) list of some of my injuries:

DSCF3421
Sitting in a wheelchair outside the ER in Netherlands.

August 2014 – While bike-riding in Netherlands, I fall off my bike and my knee bends 43 degrees the wrong direction. I go to emergency where I am laughed out of the room by the on-call doctor – it turns out the Dutch only go to the hospital for life-threatening reasons – which I suppose explains why I was the only one in the ER.

 

 

image-2 October 2013 – While playing my second (and last) floor hockey game with Dan’s boy-heavy team, I fell to the ground – thinking I’d been slashed by another player. Writhing on the floor in agony, I screamed at the tiny Asian girl who’d been closest to me, demanding she explain why the &*$# she’d slashed me??? Dan ran over and assured me she hadn’t slashed me, that I’d just fallen to the ground. I found out later that an Achilles tear can feel a lot like a slash – but that if it’s going to happen to you, it won’t matter what you’re doing or where you are. It will happen.


October 2012 – I get cleared off the back of a trotting horse by a low-lying tree branch (yes, just like the movies), land on my head, get a serious concussion and while in the hospital, contract Norovirus.

That’s just the last few years!

Other injuries have included:

  • doing a hockey side-stop on rollerblades resulting in a hard fall wherein tiny fragments of my femur broke off, penetrated my quad muscle and calcified, necessitating months of ultrasound and physiotherapy;

 

  • getting clotheslined across the thighs by a taut wire holding up a snow-fence while playing with the dog causing massive bruising across my legs;

 

  • moving logs and posts off trucks as part of a fundraiser, and pulling, while dad pushes a log which gives way, right into my forehead;

 

  • falling off a wall in the backyard and scraping open the flesh on the back of my legs etc. etc. etc.
IMG_20150410_161926
Post post picture (get it?)

 

This to say, I’m not a careful or graceful person, so healthcare is important to me.

So here’s the overview:  Australia has universal healthcare coverage, with a private system available for those who want it. Pharmaceuticals are heavily subsidized, as are hospital stays and many other healthcare needs.

We will be covered almost as soon as we land in the country.

It’s a comprehensive healthcare system.

As long as you aren’t an aboriginal…

[Dan says I need to research this a little bit more. He says some of the stuff in here is not correct vis a vis Australian healthcare. He thinks I spent too much of the post illustrating why healthcare is important and no time at all actually talking about healthcare. How true].

Step 12 – Buy Tickets

We’ve booked our flights.

I need to say thanks to Russ and his new book (Stop Dreaming Start Travelling – which comes out June 23) for so much valuable info on travel: booking flights, staying places for free and thinking like a local rather than a tourist. You can check out his website for yourself here.

I’ve been watching for cheap flights for months now – but very seriously for the last month.  Russ’ book told me about great tools and websites and ideas for getting flights cheaper.  Up to now, the best I’ve found (once taxes and currency exchange were factored in) was about $940CAD.  The flights we bought were $669CAD for each of us.

I was afraid it was going to cost us $2000-$3000 to get us both to Oz – when in actual fact, these flights worked out to $1339.32.  Very civilized. So thanks Russ!

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Dan is excited about booking flights to Australia!

As of today:

Abby and Lily will be leaving the country on August 17 (Jess’ B-day) and will be flying from Vancouver to Sydney direct.  Dan and I will be following on Aug 22.  We’ll fly through Vancouver and Auckland for a 26 hour trek of a lifetime.

We’ll hang out in Sydney for a few days until the cats are released from jail. Then we’ll fly up to the warm part of the country!

Unless we find a great deal on a car in Sydney, in which case we’ll drive up north.

A few days in a hot car with two cats who don’t speak the language can’t be that bad right??

More later…

Step 11.5 – Logistics update

So, by way of an update on the planning and preparation, this week’s entry will be dedicated to an overview of where we’re at.

We’re still in Calgary. I’m working part-time. Dan is working full-time on renos in our basement so we can turn it into a rentable secondary suite.  Our plan is to rent out the upstairs and downstairs as a source of income, and as a backup plan.  More on the renos another day.

We haven’t booked tickets yet, but we’re looking to leave Canada mid-August at this point. We must be there by September 9, 2015 to activate our PR visas. We’re still working on whether it will be direct (expensive but less traumatic) or indirect (cheaper, but more traumatic – so far the best we’ve found is $710 per person but has stopovers in Vancouver, Abu Dhabi and Auckland).

We plan to spend about a month in Ontario before we go spending time with family and friends our east before peace-ing out.  We still don’t know when that will be, but probably it will be the month of July. We’ll spend most of the time in Huntsville – but will definitely be making trips to Ottawa, the GTA and possibly to the Maritimes somewhere.

We’re still selling our possessions slowly.  The house is emptying out a little more each day (see next week’s blog post). This is making our imminent departure a little more real.

We’ve hired Boomerang Pet Carrier to look after the cat transportation process. The owner Karen has come to our house, won over our cats, delivered their deluxe travel cabins (kennels), sorted through all their paperwork and is working with Australia’s pet import authority to pave the way for their move.  I wish there was someone who’d do this for us.  I’ll sleep in a kennel.  Our cats will have enough space to turn around – I doubt I can say that for the seats on our flight.

I’ve signed up for email notifications for rental units in Townsville, Australia that will let us keep pets. I’m trying to learn the market so we’ll have an idea what it will be like when we get there – and maybe even have a place to move into.

We’ve completed our Open Water Dive certification to be able to scuba dive as deep as 60 feet. Now that we’re back from this vacation in the Bahamas, we are fully certified open water divers!

Neither of us have seriously started looking at jobs in Australia, or at school in Australia.

And most important of all, I’ve been accruing warm-weather clothes for cheap (during Canada’s 10-month off season) including my 22 bathing suits.  Yes, as promised, there will be more on them in a future post.

 

Step 11 – Dispel some of the myths of life in Australia

So sometimes people (who want us to stay in Canada and shall remain unnamed) or people on the internet, share “facts” they’ve “learned” about Australia.

Today, I’m going to clear the proverbial water and dispel some of these so called “truths”.

(Sidebar – I’m reminded of when we moved from Ottawa to Calgary a few years ago. My dear friend Sarah helped us pack, and surreptitiously wrote “facts” about Alberta on each of our moving boxes like, “Ontarians have a higher quality of life” and “All Albertans are unhappy” and “Alberta sucks” to deter us from leaving – bless her heart).

Here are some of the weirder rumours we’ve heard about Oz:

Myth: Australians don’t have Air Conditioning.

Truth: When you google “Air Conditioning Companies Australia” – 127 million results come back. I feel like that’s a pretty good indicator that AC is available down under. Also, its a billion degrees and people must need to cool down. I almost hope they don’t have AC, and we’ll start a company and get stinking rich, freeing sweaty Aussie’s from the sun.

Myth: They sleep on straw mattresses because good mattresses are too expensive.

Truth: I have found new king sized mattresses between $600 and $11000. Some people have said buying a mattress in Oz is a cinch – others (like one of our favourite ex-pat bloggers bobinoz) have said that he recommends bringing your own mattress from your home country – even if you have to “shove it in your suitcase”.  Since finances preclude us from bringing our own, and flight regulations prevent us from shoving it in our suitcase, we’ll have to take our chances with the Aussie mattress scene.

Myth: Kangaroos are like deer there. It’s as common to hit a kangaroo there as it is to hit a deer here.

Truth: There were 1500 kangaroo accidents in at five year period in Queensland (population four million at the time) compared to about 5500 deer hit by cars in Alberta (population 3.2 million at the time) during the same five year period.  So fortunately, I’m less likely to hit a kangaroo there, than a deer here.  Does that make sense? Does that matter?

Myth: They are all racist, chauvinists, homophobes.

Truth: Like anywhere, there are racists and chauvinists and homophobes. Also, its hard to quantify racism and chauvinism and homophobia. However, I think I can comfortably say that the above statement is a myth, since its unlikely ALL of Australia’s population is racist, chauvinistic and homophobic. But I’ll keep an eye out and get back to you if my experience says otherwise.

Myth: They are 30 years behind in entertainment.

Truth:  They may be behind, but they aren’t 30 years behind.  The movie Thor was released in Australia in April 2011 and didn’t get to Canada until May.  Though, Thor is Australian – so that could have had something to do with it  (1 month earlier than Canada).

My favourite movie, The Princess Bride was released in Canada in September 1987, and didn’t open in Oz until December (3 months later).

My second favourite TV show, Parks and Recreation, aired April 2009, and didn’t air in Oz until December (8 months later).

My first favourite TV show, The West Wing, aired first in North America in September of 1999, and in Oz in November of 2000 (14 months later).

Now, to be fair both of my favourite TV shows are American centric – so I understand there may be a small/medium bias.

Myth: Flights to Australia are prohibitively expensive, so we’ll never see you again.

Truth: Depending on where you’re looking, flights are getting cheaper. I’ve searched loads of flights – Calgary to Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne, any date range and found round trips for the following prices:

Google’s Explore gave me $1500 to $2500.

Expedia gave me $1500 to $2300.

Rome2Rio gave me $1000 to $1700.

Whichairline gave me $648 to $1300.

Dear friends and family: Please feel free to use the above websites to come visit us once we move to Oz. Cheaper flights = more frequent visits right??

I’ll also take this opportunity to highlight my friend Russ’ travel website, on which you can find info on his book which is just about to be published.

Myth: They get snow in parts of Australia.

Truth: This one is true. But we’re hopefully not going to live in whatever part that is.  I think I could be totally happy never seeing another snowflake again in my life.

winter

Myth: Everything, especially food, is so expensive there – that’s why people go for a year and then come back.

Truth: Lots of people go for a one-year work visa then come back.  While some things are more expensive (imported foods like Doritos and Haribo Gummy Bears), Australia grows much of its own food.  Naturally occurring fruits and vegetables include: apple, bananas, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, figs, grapefruit, grapes, kiwifruit, lemons, mandarins, honeydew, watermelon, nectarines, oranges, peaches, pears, persimmons, plums, quinces, raspberries, strawbs, artichokes, asparagus, beans, bean sprouts, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, capsicum, carrots, cauliflowers, celery, chillies, cukes, eggplant, fennel, leeks, lettuce, mushies, peas, taters, pumpkins, rhubarb, spinach, onions, corn, tomatoes, turnips and zucchini. Fishing for sustainable seafood is an option which can keep prices down. And who could forget the infamous cattle industry, made famous by Hollywood for those meat-lovers among us.

I’m actually looking forward to growing our own food! You can bet there will be a future post on that.

Myth: Minimum wage is $45 an hour.

Truth: The national minimum wage is $16.87.

Myth: Most of what you bring with you will be confiscated on entry to the country.

Truth: There are strict restrictions on wood products, food and beverage related products, animals, insects and other items that may affect biosecurity.  But if you plan ahead, your stuff won’t be impounded on arrival.  Things not to bring: wooden picture frames, glazed ceramic-ware and electric fly-swatters.

 

Step 10 – Sell your possessions

So over the past several weeks, we’ve been posting all of our earthly possessions to kijiji.ca. I’ve been learning a lot about used goods, questions to ask, over-selling, under-bidding, low-balling, no-showing and late-coming.

 

I’ve also met a lot of interesting people.  I met a guy who loved Robert Service and wanted to share how his family used to act out the cremation of Sam McGee in the summer and one year, he got to play Sam. I met a brash, fake-and-baked smoker, desperately trying to convince herself that the man she’s engaged to marry is the one though she will be his fourth wife in a row.  I met a man who travelled to Townsville, Australia (one of the towns we are strongly considering) and attended a Toastmaster’s meeting on a whim. The next day, while wandering the town looking for a bank to exchange currency, he bumped into no less than three Toastmasters – one at the bank (who exchanged his cash) and two in a pub (who bought him lunch and drinks).

 

I’ve always been a huge fan of kijiji, and have gotten some UNBELIEVABLE deals over the years: a matching set of couches for free, our cats etc.

 

When we first started selling off our possessions, we were thinking we’d take most of our stuff with us. Here’s how its gone:

 

November 2014 – We’ll definitely take all of our clothes, books, DVDs, photo albums, and personal items. We’ll basically just get rid of our furniture – except the king beds – we’re taking those. And that nice corner shelf I love. We’ll take that.  And obviously we’re bringing our colourful area rugs, the plant cart, all of my clay garden pots and that light fixture, and all of our decorations and our lamps and bedding and artwork. The piano can fit too right? They charge by volume not weight!

 

December 2014 – turns out our DVDs won’t work in Australia. There’s an invisible line, that once you cross it, all digital data is erased! (Kidding, but the globe is zoned, and DVDs manufactured for one zone, cannot be used by the DVD players in another zone).  WHY!!!????????

 

January 2015 – We get some moving quotes back (in the 15-25K range) and realize we’re not as attached to our stuff as we thought! We decide we’re not taking furniture at all.  Who can afford that!? We’ll figure out beds when we get there (though we’ve heard that a decent mattress here, would cost 3-4 times as much there, so people sleep on straw beds. Not sure if that’s a myth or not).

 

February 2015 – We get the rest of the moving quotes back (cheapest one is 11K) and all of a sudden, we’re minimalists.  Just like that!!

 

March 2015 – We’re burning our family photo albums and childhood mementos so we don’t have to take them with us.

 

Kidding!

 

So, this is a long way of saying, we’re selling it all! (Mostly).  We’ve had some great advice from strangers, friends, relatives and distant acquaintances.  Brendan, who’s moved from Oz to Canada and back again said ditch the furniture and bring only the most important sentimental things (i.e. photos).  Tanya, who’s recently moved to Oz says pare down to the basics. Strangers on the internet turned us on to Gumtree – Oz’s Kijiji.  Etc. etc.

 

We’ve sold as many books to Fair’s Fair books as they’ll have from us.  All my winter friendly clothes are presently on consignment at Clothes Up and Personal Consignment. I’ve got stuff on MEC’s Gear Swap page and of course – did I mention our 80 to 100 ads on Kijiji?

 

In addition, we’re planning to have going away party/auction closer to our departure time, followed by a garage sale, followed by a hopefully small trip to the Salvation Army or Goodwill to deposit any of our stuff no one in Calgary wants.

 

So as of today, we’re taking with us to Australia:

 

39 books

25 movies/dvds/seasons of shows we can’t live without

A DVD player to watch said movies/tv shows

Our clothes

Our cats

Bedroom light fixture (red)

The blue pottery Mrs. C gave us

Our favourite artwork, as long as it can be de-framed and rolled up (paper or canvas)

Dan’s bike

Dan’s RC Airplane and some parts

5 photo albums

2 CD binders

3 power adapters

My tennis racket

Our towels

My favourite wine-glasses

Some technology (kindle, iPod, our laptops, my Nexus 5 phone etc.)

1 bin of Christmas decorations

1 camping tent (in case we can’t afford accommodations)

3 blankets

Our fave board games (Settlers of Catan, Pandemic, Risk, Monopoly and Life)

Our snorkels/masks/fins

Dan’s trumpet

Dan’s rollerblades

Dan’s wetsuit

Some kitchen stuff (Tupperware bowls, a teal brie dish, my fave spatulas)

My 22 bathing suits

 

Everything else is on kijiji.

 

Yes, in a future post, I’ll be explaining 22 bathing suits.

Step 8.5 – Share the sad news

So remember how two weeks ago I was talking about what we were going to do with Dakota? And then the week after that how I was writing about the emotional toll this quest was going to exact?

Well it turns out both of those were important precursors to a sad event which happened Thursday night.

We had to put Dakota to sleep.

It was actually kind of perfect.  The day before, Dan and I had taken him for a walk to go get pizza from our local watering hole.  (Side-note – it was a dive, the pizza was awful and featured at least two hairs belonging to the kindly senior couple who’d prepared our food). The day he died was sunny and bright. That morning he’d been totally fine – running around like a puppy and greeting the kijiji-ers that came to our house.

When I left for work at 2:30 in the afternoon, he was looking a little green. He’d thrown up breakfast, tried to re-eat it (GROSS!!) and thrown it up again.

Shortly after I left, I got a concerned text from Dan – saying Dakota wasn’t looking well. I suggested feeding him his meds with the gastrointestinal-friendly-wet-food – it was his favourite!

When he rejected it completely, Dan knew something was seriously wrong.  He called me to come home.  By the time I got there, he was laying down, unresponsive and clearly in agony (his body was trembling, his breathing was laboured and every few minutes he’d let out a little whine).

We carried him on a blanket into the house and tried to let him rest.  I called our vet who (was about to close at this point) and recommended we give him the night to see how it goes. After about 20 minutes of resting, Dakota tried to get up and follow me into another room.  He made it about 3 feet before he couldn’t go any further.  He had one leg with a massive lump on it, and that leg was dangling helplessly underneath him. He looked miserable. His back half was all hunched and contracted painfully.

That’s when I knew we couldn’t wait until tomorrow.

I called the vet back, and she said it was too late to go herself, but recommended a mobile vet who would come to our house and assess Dakota. Fortunately, he was in the neighbourhood and said he could be there in about 30 minutes.

So for 30 minutes I laid beside Dakota on the basement floor. He sensed my presence and smelled my smell – though he was very unresponsive.  His whining came more regularly and his eyes began to roll back into his head.  I petted him and we waited for the doctor.  I wondered if he might die before the vet arrived.

When Doctor Deken arrived he was very gentle. He assessed Dakota and confirmed what we already knew – that Dakota was passing a threshold of no recovery.  His gums were bright red. His heart was racing. He was trembling.

Doctor Deken explained what he was going to do, and what we could expect from Dakota. Which is exactly how it happened. He gave him a relaxing needle into his back, which calmed Dakota’s breathing, and sedated him. At that point, I don’t think he knew much of what was going on, but at least he wasn’t in pain.

Then he shaved a little patch off his leg, and put the second needle into the vein, which stopped his heart.

I wept quietly and held him in my arms while he took his last breaths.

Then he was gone.

Dan was so great. He was also moved by what was going on, but kept comforting me. He paid the doctor, while I took few minutes to say goodbye. Dakota the dog I’ve known for nearly 15 years wasn’t there anymore. Just his shell remained.

We carried him out to the vet’s car, where he was taken away to be cremated.  I’m not sure what we’ll do with the remains. I plan to take most of them down to the Dam near Pincher Creek and spread his ashes at one of his favourite places to walk with me and dad.  I might keep a few of his ashes and have him made into a jewel of some kind to carry with me.  I don’t know yet.

But you know what?

This is Dakota and me, sometime during his teenage years.
This is Dakota and me, sometime during his teenage years.
This is Dakota and me, minutes before he died.
This is Dakota and me, minutes before he died.

 

We’re OK.  I’m OK. Because Dakota lived a full, long and healthy life! He was loved every day from when he came to live with us at 8 weeks old, to when he died at nearly 15.  He met so many people, and dogs! He travelled many thousands of miles with different members of our family.  He’s peed in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, BC and Saskatchewan.  He’s rescued people, met famous people and charmed strangers his whole life.  He’s charged at diesel trucks, scared the daylights out of postal workers and chased more cats than I can count.  He’s been skunked, porcipine-d, bullied by horses, stalked by deer, scratched by cats, hunted by coyotes, impaled by tree branches, he’s fallen off a 13 foot wall (and walked away without a scratch), he’s admonished a grizzly bear for making us leave our campsite, he nearly drowned the Campbell’s cat Rusty and he has begged for people food through it all.  He’s had a girlfriend (Ilo’s Shasta) and two best buddies (Alaska and Jess’s Oliver).  He was my camping buddy, my hiking buddy, my walking buddy, my watching West-Wing buddy.  He never complained when I blamed him for my farts and he was always excited to see me – no matter what.

IMG_0511

And I have so many fond memories with him!

I love him so much and will always miss him, but hope he is happily running around Heaven – chasing Pumpkin, peeing on everything he can see, barking at squirrels and forgetting everything he ever knew about arthritis.

R.I.P. Boo Boo.untitled

Step 8: Prepare emotionally

We’ve joked about becoming jerks to our friends and family, so it will be easier on them when we go.  But turns out it’s not so easy to do.

We are both a little worried we’re emotionally unprepared for an adventure of this magnitude.  I’m very attached to my family and friends and have a history of experiencing homesickness. (Once I faked being ill to come home from a weeklong camp, 30 minutes from my home).  When I moved to Ottawa, the hardest part was not the study of heinous human rights violations, or trying to sleep with *noisy roomies next door. It was missing my family back home.  I cried a lot those first weeks away from home.

And to be fair, my family didn’t make it easy on me.

A story you say?

I’ll tell you two.

Story One: It’s Thanksgiving.  I’ve come back to Alberta to visit after just a few weeks away at school in Ontario.  My parents have driven me the two hours to the Calgary airport and are seeing me off to the security checkpoint.  They even brought Dakota along for the trip.  We say our sad goodbye, but I am emotionally barely-keeping-it-together.  I’m teary, but not weeping.

I take my bags through security and make my way to my gate.  I notice that there is a clear glass wall separating my gate from the people on the other side of security. Mom and Dad are standing on the other side of the clear glass and dad is just barely-keeping-it-together.  He steps closer to the pane and puts his hand flat on the glass.  Like a moth to the flame, I walk toward my side of the glass and place my hand flat against his.  We can’t hear each other, but we see one another’s hearts break and both of us fall apart.

(I’ll pause while you get a tissue).

Our hands stay on the glass, until the flight attendant calls my row to board.

Story Two:  It’s midway through my first semester at Carleton.  I’m getting to know my roommates, I’m fitting in, I’m stabilizing emotionally.  I’ve met my now, life-long friends Andrea and Amy. My phone rings and call display says its Dad.  I answer “Hi Dad!” cause i haven’t talked to him in a couple weeks (In actually fact, I almost definitely said “Hi Daddy!”).  He says “Honey, I’m so sorry but Dakota was hit by a car and killed.” I burst in to tears of grief and shock.  Dad immediately realizes the depth of excrement he’s stepped in and says “Kidding!!!!!”

I hang up.

He calls back.

I ignore.

He calls again.

I ignore.

He calls a third time and I answer tearfully to receive his earnest apology.

These stories illustrate that I experience emotion on a visceral level. I feel it in my bones.  I experience emotions of my own, and empathetically for the people around me.  I’m very emotive.  I laugh loudly, and cry regularly. (Except that one time I stopped eating sugar for a year – didn’t cry once).

In contrast, my dear husband recognizes and can identify exactly three emotions.  Happy, sad and angry.  He feels the full gamut, just like everyone else, but he only knows the names of those three.
IMG_20150309_212538IMG_20150309_212546IMG_20150309_212552

 

 

 

 

For example, he doesn’t know to describe himself as elated, when after three months of research, he manages to rescue all the lost files from his broken hard drive.  He simply calls me up, and plays me a youtube recording of the Hallellujah chorus in full.

So this should be fun right?

I’m hoping this will bring us together as a couple, but honestly do worry that the emotional roller-coaster will be difficult to handle.

I’m trying to learn how other people have handled it.  People have told me to:

  • Just be apathetic
  • Embrace new experiences and try to maximize each day
  • Accept that you’ll feel sad, lonely and missing home
  • Find other ex-pats
  • Avoid other ex-pats
  • Be as social as you can be
  • Open yourself up to try new things.

Do you know of anything else we should try?

Of course there are practical things that we can and will do, such as having a good long distance plan, or our friends from the UK, Sam and Rob said they use Skype for just about all international calling.  We’ll make sure we can FaceTime, and I’m trying to learn about how international texting works.

But, at the end of the day, this adventure is about pushing forward, and part of that will be opening up to new friendships and a new life. The people here in Canada will still be a part of our lives and have shaped who we are (for the better obviously).

Step 7 – Answer the most important question of all…

What does it all mean? What is the purpose of life? Does God really exist?

No, none of those!

At least once a week, and sometimes daily, I am asked, “What are we going to do if Dakota is still alive, and its time for us to board our flight to Oz”?

To allay your initial fears, we are most definitely not the people to put a dog down for convenience.  I firmly believe that animals can’t chose whether or not to be a part of our lives, so its up to us to make sure we treat them with respect and care.

*Marilee steps up onto soapbox:

(I have a real soft spot for animals generally, but especially wild animals who don’t understand how interaction with humans can be dangerous for them.  There is a meme of two giraffes crossing the road and one falls into the other. People add these clever captions like “Let’s get you home!” and “Dammit Frank, keep it together!” And everyone laughs at these clumsy giraffes. But giraffes don’t understand that what pavement is.  They don’t understand that their hooves slip on the smooth roads. There’s another one – a gif of a herd of elk running from highway traffic, but they’re running down the highway, rather than away from it.  (I tried to look it up, but grew too sad with all the videos of hooved animals falling on wet pavement).  The video shows the elk herd panicking and falling into one another. It looks like racing cyclists – when the front runner goes down, the whole pack goes down in a tangled, mangled mess.  It makes me so sad.  Anyway, so animals don’t understand how dangerous we are, so we need to do our best to protect them).

*Marilee steps down from the soapbox and returns to blogging. 

Back to the topic at hand, Dakota has been a beloved member of the Davidson family since he was a puppy.  If you’ve heard the story, you may skip the next paragraph.  I’m actually borrowing this text from the pages of one of my latest reads: my dad’s own autobiography.

 

 “Then, there was Dakota. This is a good one! Dawne and I were on a little trip to Vancouver. The girls were old enough to be left on their own. We were away for about one day when we got a call from the girls. The neighbour’s dog had puppies, can we get one? NO! Aww, can we at least look after one while you are gone? NO! Please! Well, ok, but it can’t come in the house, under any circumstances. It will have to go when we get home. Then, almost every day after that, we got phone calls from our friends saying we should really let them keep the dog – it is so cute. Elvis was its name. We softened. We decided it might be nice for Jessica to have a dog. On our way home, we bought a kennel and food. When we arrived home and opened the garage door, we could see that the girls had been true to their word. I had not said the dog could not go into the garage, so they had their beds set up out in the garage so they could sleep with him in between them. But, we played hard to get. I snarled at the dog and asked why it was still there. (I was mean!) The girls were on pins and needles. When we had our stuff in the house,  one of the girls bravely ventured, “Can we talk about Elvis?” OK, let’s sit down in the living room. They had a presentation for us. First, a song. “Our dog, is an awesome dog…” to the tune of “Our god, is an awesome god…” Next, charts and graphs showing how irresponsible they had been pre dog and how responsible they would be post dog. And, they had a petition signed by everyone we knew and a lot of people we didn’t even know. Finally, the Governor General had been to town to open the new museum, and although she would not sign the petition, the girls reported that she had told them she thought they should be able to keep the dog.  

Well, we had already decided they could keep the dog, but Dawne responded with, “OK but Elvis has to go.” She didn’t like the name Elvis. They didn’t get it. I said, “Girls, the answer is yes.” They still didn’t get it and sat with long faces. You can keep the dog, we said, and then the lights came on. And, Dawne explained how she didn’t like the name Elvis and his name would have to change. We all settled on Dakota, and Dakota became a part of our lives. He’s such a handsome lad!” 

Cutest puppy of all
Cutest puppy of all

Dakota has been with our family through thick and thin.  He’s helped dad discover a lost quadder and because of this, an actor dog played him on Animal Planet!

He’s been skunked, hunted by coyotes, stalked by deer; he’s been nailed by more than a few porcupines, run away from home twice (only to be found on the neighbours stoops, thinking it was our house, politely waiting to be let inside), and travelled with us to Ontario and back.

Koda
He’s been a fixture in my life since I was 16 years old. So the idea of putting him down to suit my schedule is preposterous.

Yet, at least once a week, often daily – I am asked what we’ll do with Dakota when we go.

best

Here’s the sad truth.

I don’t know.

Here’s what I think – that it is humane to let go of (read euthanize) an animal who is suffering.  Uh-oh, I feel another Soapbox coming on!

*Marilee steps up onto soapbox:

(I am very much in favour of allowing people to die with dignity, with the assistance of a doctor, surrounded by family, in a comfortable environment.  It always bothers me when people say it’s playing God, when we’re already playing God in the first place (without medical intervention, many of us would have very serious medical conditions, debilitations and sometimes premature death – so I think its a little unfair to allow doctors the credit of knowing what’s best in life, but refusing to allow them to help a person to choose when and how and where and with whom they can die).  Of course there must be oversights, so you don’t have people offing themselves so as not to burden the family, or greedy kids hurrying rich mommy along to death’s doorstep so we can have the inheritance already! But I want to be able to move into whatever is next without the torture of suffering in old age.  Since when has quantity trumped quality? Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. Insert other related platitude here).

*Marilee steps down from the soapbox and returns to blogging. 

Regal King
Air Dakota
As I was saying, I feel like there is a threshold of humane-ness for treating animals in the end of life.  I think Dakota is already past the leading edge of the threshold.  We’re managing his pain and arthritis with Metacam (a pain-killer and anti-inflammatory). He has numerous lumps all over his body, but we can’t afford to biopsy them, and even if we could, we most definitely couldn’t afford to treat whatever is in them.

He can still walk well enough. At times he acts like a puppy, and at these times I cannot imagine ever putting him down.  Then other times, he’s lethargic and achy.  He does fall from time to time and I think that’s probably how he’ll go.
 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
I’m trying to plan how to let him go, without pre-greiving him.

Ideal plan:

Take him to the park across the street, and have the vet meet us there.  His friend Ollie can come, they can play around for a few minutes until Dakota gets too tired, and lays down – as he usually does.  Then I’ll hold him, while the vet euthanizes him.  He’s so scared of the vet’s office, I don’t want him to die there – in a place of fear.  I want him to die in a happy place, and a place I can come back to if I want to.  Whether or not this is what happens is unknown to me, as I seem to be unable to read the future.Just Looking Good

Anyway – this is a more macabre than I meant it to be, but its hard to talk about dying without talking about dying.

If however, he is exactly the same level of wellness in August as he is now, we’ll have to look for somewhere for him to stay.  He has always lived with either me, or dad (except for a brief time living with the Jones’).  And I know it will be hard for us to find someone who will take a dog whose circling the drain. So I’m hoping beyond hope it doesn’t come to it.

Mwomp, mwomp. (I don’t know how to spell the Debbie Downer sound effect).

Step 6 – ACTUAL Australian Killers are not so bad

As you may have noticed, last week’s post was slightly exaggerated (read completely made-up). Things aren’t nearly as grim as that, and like most dangers,  preparation and education are the most important components to survival – much as it is in the wild, wild west of southern Alberta.  I know this, because I am a survivalist.  (Yes, there will be a post on survivalism later on).  But let me back up a little:

 

So, to prepare for life in Australia – we’re learning some new skills.  Dan and I are taking a weekly swimming class through the City. Its like a Master’s swim, but easier. I’m having a pretty easy time of it – its a nice workout, but Dan has to work a quite a bit harder (his shortage of body fat helps him sink, while my non-shortage of body fat helps me float).

One time, my dear friend Lowri was describing the difference between her and her husband’s feeling toward swimming.  She said Keith is very focussed on perfect technique and trying not to drown, meanwhile she’s out there pretending to be a dolphin. That pretty much describes Dan and me. Because I’ve been swimming since I was in the womb, I feel very at home in water, and can swim pretty well.  Dan on the other hand is …improving his technique… He complained after our most recent class “How come all the interests we have require us to be so teachable?!?!”.

Also, we’re taking our Open Water Scuba Dive Certification at the end of this month.  We were in Mexico a few months and tried out scuba for the first time.  We saw eagle rays, reef sharks and oodles of other amazing sea-life. Both of us fell in love with scuba.  We’ll complete the theory over the course of a weekend, then when we go to the Bahamas in March, we’ll do our four dives to complete the certification process. Maybe this could be a career option… Dan and Mare’s Dive Shack.  Dive Down Under with Dan and Mare.  ‘neath the seas Dive Shop.  I could go on.  Under the Sea with Dan and Mare.

I’m also thinking of getting re-certified to teach swimming lessons, lifeguard, teach lifeguarding courses and whatnot.  I look back fondly on the years as a lifeguard at the Pincher Creek Swimming Pool.  Though I am a little scared of rip-tides.

We’re not sure what else we can do to prepare ourselves for life down under.  Fake and bake?

Only kidding. Those tanning machines cause cancer. Which leads me to my main point.  A lot of people have warned us to use sunscreen (which we will) because sun damage kills (which it can) and that skin cancer is the leading cause of death in Australia (followed by shark attacks, followed by spider bites).

However, in actual fact, melanoma doesn’t make an appearance on the list of things that kill Australians until number 16 for men, and doesn’t even make the top 20 list for women! Its behind the First World usuals: Coronary heart disease (1st) and diabetes (7th/8th for women and men respectively).

Since I’m on the topic of mythical Australian killing phenomena, (and in light of last week’s post) since 1791 (I guess that’s when they started counting death by shark), less 1000 people have been attacked by sharks.  Of those, only about a quarter have actually died due to their injuries.

By way of comparison, since 1996 in BC alone (a province, not a country/continent), there have been 192 deaths by avalanche.  That’s an average of 10.6 per year. Compared that to an average of 4.5 shark attacks per year.  The statistic drops down to less than 1 per year if you count deaths rather than attacks.

I’m going to leave the death by spider statistics alone for now, because my initial spider research led me to scary spider pictures and I’m feeling a bit creeped.

Perhaps sometime during the daytime, I’ll sit down in an empty room in the middle of the floor and do some research on this, in order to write the perfunctory blog post on spiders. And then maybe I won’t feel like something is crawling on my neck whilst I type.

Until next week. (**shivers uncomfortably**)

Step 5 – Dangers We’ll Face

So, in order to make sure I’m doing my due diligence ahead of our trip (and to honour those of you who’ve requested we look at the downside of Oz), I’ll now be highlighting some of the top killers in Australia.

Everyone’s heard of the Tazmanian Devil (a la Taz, from the Looney Tunes), however my recent research has uncovered a spate of Tazmanian Devil attacks across the continent of Australia.  Apparently, one of the Tazmanian devil’s primal instincts is tree climbing, which causes it to hide at the top of staircases, inside people’s homes.  There have been over 300 cases in the last 11 months of people falling down the stairs after being startled by one of these unexpected marsupials.

Kangaroo “kickings” are one of the leading causes of injury for teenage and adult Australians so far in 2015.  Although no deaths have yet been attributed to one of these “kickings”, the increased number of attacks are raising red flags among biologists specializing in macropus giganteus.  So far, of the 71 reported attacks, not a single one has been on a person under 14. In fact, around Christmas 2014, a kangaroo entered a crowd of children, and sought out the teenage babysitter, kicking her to the ground.  Although there was no lasting injury, all present were extremely shaken.  This of course begs the question, why they don’t target children? Of course neither Dan nor myself (though very youthful looking) are under 14 – this is something we’ll have to watch out for! 

Of course, no list of Australian dangers would be complete without a acknowledging the Great White Shark.  Although made popular by TV programs like Shark Week, movies like Jaws and even humanized by humorous meme campaigns, the great white is actually responsible for most ocean related injuries and deaths in Australia.  Statistically speaking, 1 in every 4 Australians who live within a 30km range of the ocean will have an encounter with a Great White this year alone.  Of those, 33% will be attacked and of those, nearly all will succumb to their injuries. We really will have to reconsider swimming as a favourite pastime.

Surfer gangs have been an ongoing threat since the mid-1960s.  Although things calmed down somewhat in the 80s and 90s, there has been an increase in violent outbursts since 2005.  The 2005 World Junior Surf Competition saw a major upset, in which the entire Aussie team was disqualified due to a computer glitch which added 10 years to each of their ages. This was allegedly attributed to a Finnish hacker, which favoured the Finnish surfing team – who incidentally, went on to win that year. Since that time, turf wars have escalated, collateral damage in otherwise quiet tourist towns has become a leading cause of insurance claims and gang members have been recruited out of younger and younger grades at school (even as young as grade 4).  Residents of most coastal communities are encouraged to stay inside after dark hours.

Finally, movies like Anaconda and Arachnaphobia have demonstrated Hollywood’s perception of spiders and snakes, however research shows, they don’t even scratch the surface.  Most Australians have their homes fumigated for insects twice per year, leading to a HUGE rise is what is being called “super-spiders“.  Apparently, previously lethal spiders are not just growing in size and growing immune to the poisons used in fumigation, but are building the poison into their DNA and combining it with their own venom to become even more dangerous to humans. Great. Just great.

Finally, the second greatest cause of death in Australia (behind the obvious: skin cancer) is unexpectedly at-home-heat-exhaustion.  Air conditioning, though popular in North America has not yet caught on down under. As a result, every year, thousands of people die in their homes of heat exhaustion.  In 2014 alone, 211 551 people across the country of all ages succumbed to this plague-like problem.  Numerous importers have tried to bring various air condition units and technologies into the country, but the Department of Technology and Culture has repeatedly blocked, saying that the invention is a threat to Australia’s national identity.  I guess I’ll be smuggling mine in.

In conclusion – there are undoubtedly a great many threats to face in our new home – however, we are not deterred.

My thanks to CBC Radio’s This is That, for the inspiration for this entry.



dangerous-australia

Step 4: Take a break from all the steps



One of my favourite TV shows is Parks and Recreation. I like to think I’m a little like Leslie Knope at times – positive, excitable, enthusiastic…  One of my favourite things she says are the weird “Anne, you…” expressions. So what did I do? I watched the whole series and wrote down every “Anne, you”.  I looked online for such a list, found none and promised myself that if I ever had a blog, this would most definately be an entry.

If you’re not currently, or likely to ever become a Parks and Rec fan, please skip this week’s blog post.

“Anne you…

…coy bastard

…devious bastard

…beautiful rule breaking moth

…beautiful spinster

…beautiful tropical fish

…beautiful, naïve, sophisticated newborn baby

…tricky bastard

 …beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox.

…(ringer Chris Traeger) my fallopian princess.

…cunning, pliable, chestnut haired sunfish

…poetic, noble land mermaid”

…tricky minx

…perfect sunflower

Thanks Leslie Knope 🙂


Update – Monday, May 2, 2016

I rewatched the series and realized that I hadn’t added Leslie’s final names for Ann from the last episode:

…rainbow infused space unicorn

…beautiful sassy manaquin come-to-life

…opalescent tree shark

Step 3: Money Money Money

Some of you are asking how the whole process breaks down cost-wise, so here it is (all in CAD):

Initial Application:
Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) Application: $5507.24

Engineers Australia Application:
Engineers Australia Application: $586.49
Dan Passport Photo: $7.34
Lawyer Certification: $45
DHL Postage: $91.06

English Language Assessment:
Tutor: $25
IELTS Application Fee: $309

Medical Costs:
Dan Medical Exam: $295
Dan Chest X-Ray: $50
Dan Followup Exam: $40
Mare Medical Exam: $295
Mare Chest X-Ray: $50
Mare Second Urine Test: $10
Mare Passport Photo: $7.34

Criminal Record Checks:
Mare Police Clearance: $73.50
Dan Police Clearance: $73.50


Human Total to date: $7465.47


Abby Rabies Vaccine and Microchip Implant: $92.50
Lily Rabies Vaccine and Microchip Implant: $92.50
Abby Rabies Neutralising Antibody Titre: $315
Lily Rabies Neutralising Antibody Titre: $315
Travel Kennels: $120
Department of Agriculture, Fish and Forestry Import Permit: $370
Cnd Food Inspection Agency Endorsement and Courier Fee: $135
Vancouver Transfers and Overnight Boarding Care: $225
Airfreight for 2 Cats Calgary to Sydney: $1136.16
Airline Surcharges: $70
Boomerang Pet Carrier Service Admin Fee: $600
Handling, Taxes and Tolls: $164.75
Abby 10 day Quarantine:$1500
Lily 10 day Quarantine: $1500


Feline Total to date: $6635.91


 More to come:
– renos on the house to make it rentable
– moving expenses
– flights

Photo on 2015-02-03 at 10.25 AM #5

Step 2: Explain why you’re moving to the other side of the planet

If you didn’t actually comment on Step One to ask “WHY?” you may have been thinking it.

So here’s what’s what.

First, its cold in Canada.  It’s hard to argue with that.  While once, the notion of lacing up some skates and gliding like a human popsicle from Carleton U to Parliament appealed to one or both of us, these days it just seems too cold to bother.  Dan seems to have a coughing fit every time he steps outside.  I’m not sure if that’s his melodrama trying to make a show, or if his lungs really don’t understand how to separate the O2 in the air from the ice particles.

Second, its the warmth everywhere else.  Also hard to argue with that.  Because my dad is something of a Native historian, I grew up wondering to myself how they did it.  Without thermal undies, micro-fleece, built-in hand-warmers, electric heating and other modern amenities, I can’t see this country being very liveable 10 months of the year.  In comparison, look at much of the rest of the world.  Its 20 above in lots of the world right now (not here) and in many of those places its night time! Morocco, St. Lucia, Mexico and yes – Australia.  Why not go to one of those places? Riiight?

Other things Oz has going for it include:

  • Warmth – oh, I said that already? Sorry.
  • English speaking: Dan and I are both pretty good at English, so that was a plus.
  • Somewhat familiar culture – although we’ve never been there, collectively, we’ve read like 5 books about Australia, we’ve seen Mad Max and Finding Nemo and we think we recognize some aspects of the culture. Thanks to my dad, I already call barbecues, barbies, scallops, scallies, I say “no worries” and “cheers” like I invented them and I call wallets, walnuts (that’s not an Aussie-ism, that’s just dad).
  • They wanted us: Dan is an aerospace engineer. Australia thought that sounded pretty sexy and decided to let us in.  No where else was as eager to have us.
  • We’re pot committed: So far we’ve spent quite a few dollars on this, and at this point, its better to stay in.
  • We love the activities that you can do year-round in Australia.  We know Canadians love their hockey and their skiing. There was even a time in both our lives when we enjoyed those, and snow-shoing, sledding and even the odd snowball fight.  But now, things like sailing, snorkelling, swimming and scuba appeal to us more.  Alliteration aside, we also like basking in the sun, reading on the beach, walking out doors, rollerblading, horseback riding and camping. I think we can all agree, most of those are more enjoyable without hypothermia.
  • Both of us want to re-train and venture out into new branches of our careers. For me, that looks like environmental sciences (at this moment) and Australia is pretty green apparently. For Dan, that may look like becoming an aviation mechanic.
In summary, there are lots of reasons we’re moving, and none of them is that we don’t love our families and friends. We do love them/you very much and will miss you too much for words.

Step 1: Tell everyone you know you’re moving away.

So as you may know (and many of you do not), Dan and I are moving to Australia sometime this summer.  We’ve been accepted as permanent residents, and if we live there for 4 of the next 5 years, we’ll be eligible to become Australian-Canadian citizens – which is our plan at the moment.  (Side note: long-term, there is a possibility we could become American citizens as well, and move closer to family – say Hawaii?).

We haven’t pinned down an exact date of departure – there are still many, many things to work out, but we have to get there by September 6, 2015.  We’re planning to hold off a little while so we can have one last Canadian summer, then hop on over to the same climate of the Australian winter.  Also, our sister-in-law Kim (and hubby Mark) are set to have their first baby in June, who we’d really like to meet before peace-ing out to the other side of the planet.  There are a lot of other reasons, but those are the main ones for now.

Between now and whenever we have to:

  • figure out what we’re doing with our house (selling, renting, furnished, unfurnished, renovating into two units or keeping it as the whole house, property management company etc.)
  • hiring a mover (which is hard when we don’t know what to take and not to take yet)
  • buying flights (hard, cause no travel dates yet)
  • sorting out the cats’ travel requirements (yes we’re taking the cats with us – Abby and Lily have become family, and I think it will be comforting to have their familiar presence with us on this adventure)
  • selling off things we can’t take (anyone need an SUV? Some couches? A piano?)
  • planning for Dakota – he’s 14.5 years old now and sometimes he’s a smelly, old a-hole, and sometimes he’s a puppy! I don’t know what we’ll do if he’s still alive and healthy come departure date.  Come to think of it, I don’t know what we’ll do if he ISN’T alive and healthy come ever.
  • figure out where in Oz we’re going to go (our dream plan is to fly into Sydney or Adelaide in the south, buy a car and drive along the coast to Cairns and pick somewhere to live in between).
  • figure out what in Oz we’re going to do for jobs and accommodations (if you know anyone, I’m just saying…)
So this post is to inform you about our plans for the nearing future.